Monday, July 18, 2011

Villains and Vigilantes - Great Bridge

As noted in my review of The Centerville Incident, it was probably inevitable that anime influences would start finding their way into the new material for a superhero RPG with a loose universe like V&V’s. So it wasn’t really a surprise to see one of V&V’s trademark villain books released with a selection of anime-inspired malcontents for your campaign’s heroes to battle should the GM come up with a reason for them to be in the Land of the Rising Sun.

The whole thing seemed a little lazy to me, though. For one thing, not counting servants or alter egos or even power suits used by other listed characters like the roll call on the “back” does, it contains 20 villains. Whereas the previous villain books for the system have always had 30. Also, while the idea behind the book is the villain profiles are taken from the files of the Department-88 agency, D-88 just sounds like a Japanese version of CHESS from the rulebook, with samurai-esque names for ranks replacing the chess piece-based one (ronin, bushi, samurai, shogun, etc.).

The villains themselves will look very familiar to anyone who’s up on their anime. Maybe a little too much. There’s a robot built by a scientist to replace his dead son, a kid whose power is owning a bunch of monsters in little containers, a catgirl, a bishonen, two characters in mech-suits and frankly something of an overabundance of embittered otaku given powers through contact with a mystical object considering how few characters the book contains in the first place (four, maybe five if you count the bullied kid who found the monster boxes). Including a withdrawn overweight guy who turns into a feisty super-strong girl, and one whose powers come from her school uniform and is afraid of perverts seeing her panties.

For that matter, given the tone taken toward the book as being a dossier on file at an anti-supervillain organization, I don’t really get why it’s specified Agent Stone was in her underwear when she got the offer from the guy willing to give her a more exciting career (especially how Department-88 would know that and think it worthy of mention).

Maybe I’m taking this book too seriously, though. After all, on the table of contents there’s a little blurb in the bottom left supposedly from D-88 correcting Americans on various cultural gaffes like the proper way to eat sushi and that geisha =/= prostitute. It even shows the Japanese are capable of cultural errors by thinking the phrase is “when in Greece.” Since this book was put together by Americans, though, it falls kind of flat as a joke.

And while I’m still on the subject of culture, was it some kind of comment on how we’re Not So Different that the markers for the American and Japanese reporters in The Centerville Incident were just recolored versions of each other?

But back to Great Bridge, as with The Centerville Incident I’m just not that impressed with the characters inside, and I blame that mainly on not automatically being impressed by anime-style art anymore. Few of the characters inside fired my imagination or held my attention for long. Plus, the creators added another qualifier to their target audience, which already included “superhero fan” and “gamer,” and with this now also included “anime fan.” And I just don't imagine there are many people who are still fans of a game that's been dormant since the late 80's that are excited by the sheer existence of anime.

And to harp on D-88 again, the ranking system sounds like it was written by a fanboy who watched a couple Lone Wolf and Cub movies and wrote down all the "ethnic" words they heard. That kind of stuff was sort of okay back in the days of Search for the Sensei and Enter the Dragon's Claw: Honor, when we were excited about ninja but knew nothing but what brainless action movies told us about them, but seems kind of lame here in 2011.

It makes me think of a Champions product called USA-50 West, where, bland as it was, they specifically made a point not to make each state's local hero some kind of ridiculous stereotype based on the area. I had respect for that, if nothing else.

Characters are trite, you only get 2/3 as many as usual, and if you want to run an anime-themed RPG, you probably already have one. Not recommending this one.

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