August 19, 2014
Easy Lover

Hello, and welcome to the latest edition of RPG Elements. It's been a little while since the last edition, but we are back in fine form this week. We have two special guest reviewers this time, Michael Cunningham and Sam Marchello. First up is Michael who is reviewing an UDON Entertainment art book for us. Sam, on the other hand, is changing things up a bit with a book about trying to find your geek soulmate. I also have a quick story about another exciting board game adaptation from Fantasy Flight Games.

With that said, enjoy the read.

Review by special guest: Michael Cunningham
RPGamer's #1 Falcom Fan

I was recently able to drive into Ys: The Art Book from UDON Entertainment, and I have to say that I'm very impressed. This nearly 300 page book features concept art along with world and character sketches from fourteen different Ys games along with the Ys Heroines Calendar and other miscellaneous illustrations.

The game included in this book are:

  • Ys: Memories of Celceta
  • Ys vs. Sora no Kiseki Alternative Saga
  • Ys Seven
  • Ys I & II Chronicles
  • Ys Origin
  • Ys: The Oath in Felghana
  • Ys VI: The Ark of Napishtim
  • Ys I & II Complete
  • Ys II Eternal
  • Ys Eternal
  • Ys V: Ushinawareta Suna no Miyako Kefin
  • Ys III: Wanderers from Ys
  • Ys II
  • Ys

From the first few pages, you get a good look at some bonus art featuring characters from the most recent offering, Ys: Memories of Celceta on PlayStation Vita, including a drawing of Karna showing off a lot of leg. The book then takes you through a scene-by-scene break down of the opening cinematic from Celceta before jumping into the game's character art.

After that, the book falls into a similar pattern for the next few games, showing off some wonderful scenes from Ys Seven and lovely character art from Ys vs. Sora no Kiseki. And while there is plenty of female character fanservice, there are also a few gratuitous shots of Adol and the male crew as well.

To make sure that this book is not too focused on Adol, there is a very healthy section dedicated to Ys Origin with tons of character art and concept art focusing around images of the world of Ys. UDON also does a great job with some of the older titles in the series that you might not expect to have as much art available for by including drawings from the illustrated instruction manuals as a supplement. The book also teases the North American audience with art from the only numbered game yet to receive any sort of English release, Ys V: Ushinawareta Suna no Miyako Kefin. While there is nothing that points toward any sort of a remake, it does leave me hopeful that we might get one someday. Wrapping things up with these older titles just helps to highlight just how far the series has come over the past twenty-five years.

If there is one thing the Falcom artists are proud of, it's their female characters, as the closing Heroines Calendar shows off. The Ys series has typically featured some strong female characters, and many of them are put in the spotlight in this section. Thankfully, it's fairly classy, as the women's outfits are not too revealing.

All in all, this is a fantastic book for a fan of the Ys series. It highlights characters and scenes from over twenty-five years worth of gaming, and is a delight to look through despite only being a recent convert myself. This book is packed from beginning to end and offers very little filler over its nearly 300 pages, which is great for someone like me that just wants to gawk at all of the fantastic Falcom artwork.

Verdict: Worth it for Ys fans.

Publisher: UDON Entertainment
Publication Date: March 19, 2014
Pages: 280, Color
MSRP: $44.99
Current Amazon Price : ≈$35.00

Review by special guest: Sam Marchello
RPGamer's resident voracious reader

Having trouble getting a geekette's attention? Struggling to figure out this whole dating game? Well, Eric Smith, author of The Geek's Guide to Dating wishes to lend you a ton of friendly advice.

What's great about The Geek's Guide to Dating is its presentation, and the fact that it is written as a role-playing game. Player One must go through a variety of quests, side-quests, and even face bosses in order to win the heart of his princess who might in fact be in another castle. Furthermore, the book opens looking at the type of "geek" one is, labeling this as classes with strengths, weaknesses, bonuses and skills. Interestingly, Smith's approach works well for the majority of the text. What doesn't work so well is the level of shoe-horned in pop-culture references, which often feel out of place or added for the sake of extra nerdiness.

What I do love about this book is its personable approaches to dating. There's a lot of great ideas, as well as the usual common sense that believe it or not, folks often ignore. There are plenty of simple rules, proper etiquette and some great advice for the dos and don'ts on a first date or, heck, moving in with someone. Furthermore, there's a charm to the writing that keeps it engaging, and coupled with the layout and presentation, it makes for a very accessible dating/life style guide. While the gaze in the book is quite male oriented (which is a bit problematic), a lot of the advice and content is very universal and something either a dork or dorkette can use and appreciate.

Overall, this is a great little coffee-table book full of amusing anecdotes and quirky advice. However, I think it's a book that might not appeal to those who aren't in the subculture in some way. Still, the book has some great ideas for how to potentially win over a fellow geek, and if anything, it's just a charming read that could help someone in the long run.

Verdict: Worth Trying Out.

Author: Eric Smith
Publisher: Quirk Books
Formats: Hardcover, ebook, and audiobook
Publication Date: December 13, 2013
Pages: 208
MSRP: $14.95
Current Amazon Price :≈$10.00

A New Take on Enemy Unknown
Let's see if this is a huge hit too

Fantasy Flight Games, the maker of several popular board games has announced that it is teaming up with Firaxis Games to create XCOM: The Board Game. The game, which is based on XCOM: Enemy Unknown, is a one to four play cooperative time that has players taking on various department head roles within in XCOM to repel an alien invasion of earth. The game requires the use of a free digital companion app that teaches players the game as well as track alien activities in real time. Fantasy Flight Games describes the game like this:

"In XCOM: The Board Game, you and up to three friends assume the roles of the leaders of the elite, international organization known as XCOM. It is your job to defend humanity, quell the rising panic, and turn back the escalating alien invasion coordinated by the game’s innovative, free digital companion app. Where the world's militaries have failed to stand against the alien invaders, you must succeed. To do so, you must make strategic use of the resources available to you. You must launch Interceptors to shoot down alien UFOs, assign soldiers to key missions, research alien technology, and use that technology to defend your base, all while you try to keep the world from collapsing just long enough that you can coordinate one final mission to repel the invaders for good.

Destroy UFOs. Research alien technology. Defend your base. Uncover the alien invasion plan. Should you fail, humanity is doomed."

The game looks very interesting, especially with the required companion app. I'm curious to see if the board game can capture all of the tension and drama that accompanies a typical XCOM play through. Knowing Fantasy Flight Games' pedigree, at the very least it should be a fun and high quality game, even if it doesn't manage to capture the exact feel of its video game counter part.

The game will retail for $59.95 and is expected to launch in fourth quarter of 2014. You can read a full description of the game and the rules here at the Official Site.

That's it for this week. Many thanks to Michael Cunningham and Sam Marchello for sharing their thoughts with us. For more from Michael, be sure to follow him on twitter @FinalMacstorm. You can find Sam at @Merrygodown.

If you plan on picking up either one of the books mentioned above let us know in the comments. I'd also like to hear what you think of the XCOM board game.

Until next time!

Emanuel Merino

Follow me on Twitter: @MerinoEm

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