Welcome, you absolute legends, to the Rice Digital Friday Letters Page, a place where we come to relax at the end of a hard week, ponder some tricky questions and maybe have a bit of fun in the process.
This is a regular feature that takes place every Friday, and absolutely anyone can take part — whether you’re a regular correspondent or new to Rice Digital, we’d love to hear from you!
Got something you want to know about the site, the team or the things we’ve been playing? Ask away. Been working on a cool creative project you want to share with the group? Shill yourself silly! Found a funny picture of a dog eating an avocado? We certainly wouldn’t say no to seeing that.
To get involved, simply hit up the “Write to Rice!” widget that is visible on all pages of the site. Pop in your nom de plume and your message — it can be as long as you like, and no personal info is required — and we’ll get back to you the Friday after you send it. We look forward to hearing from you!
For now, here’s the pick of this week’s mailbag:
You should watch Blue Reflection Ray
Can you do an article or something explaining why people should watch Blue Reflection? Like, the article could be titled “You should watch Blue Reflection Ray”. And you could explain why. There is an idea.
Your wish is our command, TKWolf. And I agree, you should watch Blue Reflection Ray, because it’s a thoroughly lovely anime based on an even more lovely game. And, if the early looks at the sequel Blue Reflection: Second Light are any indication, it seems like some elements of the anime may well creep into the new game, too.
We actually published a few articles around the time Blue Reflection Ray started airing, though time constraints meant that doing an episode-by-episode rundown wasn’t entirely practical for our small team. If you’re unfamiliar with the anime, these are a great place to get a feel for what it’s all about — in the context of the magical girl genre it places a relatively strong focus on interpersonal interactions and relationships rather than all-out action, giving it a distinctive feel.
That’s not to say there’s no action, mind; the interesting thing about Blue Reflection Ray is that its action sequences inevitably feel like they carry real meaning, because the very heart and soul of the people who are being defended is at stake. Much like the original game that Blue Reflection Ray is based on, it’s very much about being in touch with your emotions — and about showing a willingness to let others in.
In today’s world, although many people put up a brave front on social media, a lot of people still find it quite difficult to talk about real issues that are weighing on their mind. There can be any number of reasons for this, ranging from simple embarrassment to serious concerns over their own wellbeing and safety if they reveal too much — but what Blue Reflection Ray (and its companion works) tells us is that having people “on your side” and willing to listen to what is bothering you is super-important.
There are people out there who are willing to listen without judgement. It can sometimes be a challenge to find them, but they’re there. And you should treasure them when you find them, because you never know when you might need them to change into a frilly dress and kick the snot out of someone trying to steal a sparkly flower right out your chest, y’know?
Alone in the dark
I’ve been enjoying your breakdowns of the various Chilla’s Art horror games recently. I’ve seen a few VTubers playing these of late but haven’t really looked into them much myself, so it’s nice to find out a bit more about them.
Two questions: which one is your favourite, and what is your all-time favourite Japanese horror game?
Either you’re attempting to lead me on with that pseudonym, or you’re just a Vocaloid fan. I’ll work on the former assumption and note that you will probably be pleased to hear that the Project Zero/Fatal Frame series are my all-time favourite Japanese horror games. If I had to pick a specific installment? That’s tricky, because I love all of them… but I’d probably have to go with the fourth one, Mask of the Lunar Eclipse.
The fourth one, if you’re unfamiliar, was only ever released in Japan, but an excellent fan translation is available and not horrendously difficult to apply. Supposedly you can apply it to a non-modded Wii, though I had already modded mine to play the US version of Trauma Team by the time I became interested in trying Mask of the Lunar Eclipse for myself. If your Wii is already modded, it’s a (relatively) easier process to get it all up and running; information is readily available online on how to do so.
Anyway, the reason I like Mask of the Lunar Eclipse is not just because it was a minor pain in the arse to get working and thus I was predisposed to feel like all that effort was worth it, but because its atmosphere and narrative is absolutely unparalleled by anything else I have ever played. Incredible environmental and sound design, appealing characters, well-crafted encounters and solid gameplay — it really is (or should be, at least) a benchmark survival horror experience. Here’s hoping it gets a remaster and western release after Project Zero 5 hits today’s platforms.
As for the Chilla’s Art games, I haven’t finished playing through all of them just yet, but so far I think my favourite has been Missing Children. The investigative aspect of that one really worked well and added a pleasing sense of structure to the game as a whole; it was also well-paced and managed to create an unsettling atmosphere without relying on jumpscares.
It’s worth noting that out of all the ones we’ve covered so far, there hasn’t been one that I’ve felt was “bad” as yet. Inunaki Tunnel is probably the hardest sell, as I can see people getting put off by the deliberately disorienting nature of the environments in that one, but the story in that one was fascinating — even more so due to it being based on supposedly real things, or at least real folklore.
I’m intrigued to try some of their more PS1-style ones, and the few they have that are specifically marketed as “survival horror” rather than “narrative games” — we’ll be looking at those over the course of the next couple of weeks, time permitting.
Apex Apex Apex
What’s the big deal with Apex Legends? I thought it was a big old load of nothing when it first came out now it seems like it’s super-fashionable for streamers and VTubers to play all the time?
Hello Zenith, I see what you did there. Assuming that was deliberate and not a happy coincidence.
Anyway, to answer your question… I honestly don’t really know. I also thought that Apex came out, resonated like a wet fart in a padded room with the broader gaming community and was doomed to obscurity, forever to be dominated by Fortnite and PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds. But these days it seems like PUBG has somewhat fallen out of favour and Fortnite is so big that it can’t really be compared to anything any more.
I tend not to have a ton of interest in multiplayer shooters myself — particularly ones on PC, where hacking and cheating can often be a problem — but I must confess, I am at least semi-tempted to give Apex a bit of a go simply in an attempt to understand what about this game specifically has captured the attention and imagination of such a worldwide audience.
It’s interesting that you mention VTubers in the mix here, because a lot of the VTubers who play Apex are Japanese — and the first/third-person shooter genre, particularly in multiplayer, historically hasn’t resonated all that hard with the Japanese audience, aside from outliers like Splatoon. But there’s something about Apex that seems to really “work” for everyone worldwide; right now, I’m not sure I see it, but that might change after spending a bit of time with it.
I wonder how much of its popularity is due to Hololive’s Amelia Watson? When she hit the scene, she made a point of highlighting that she enjoyed games like Valorant and Apex Legends, so perhaps she opened the door for a lot of people or helped stoke some interest in it. More recently, we’ve had Nijisanji EN’s Selen Tatsuki, who is a formidable Apex player; she’s even been collaborating with non-VTuber pro players of late, which has doubtless been helping spread the good word far and wide.
Seems like something worth investigating, at least. We’ll explore and see if there’s any insight we can provide!
And there you have it for another week. Join the party by clicking the Write to Rice! widget over on the right and we’ll get back to you the following Friday. Can’t wait to hear from you! Loveyoubye!
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