February 23, 2008

Ace of Pantsu

It must have been 30 years ago when a totally unique idea came around: a book-based video game. It was called Ace of Aces. The system was a series of boxed sets, each of which included two books. The core of each book was maybe 120 pages, each of which showed a cockpit view out of a WWI plane, facing towards an enemy plane at some distance in some orientation. If the enemy was directly in front of yours, the picture showed your guns firing. If your enemy was facing towards you, his guns were shown firing.

At the bottom of each page was a table. There were a series of symbols representing maneuvers you could perform, and next to each was a page number. But there was a catch to it:

Each guy would write down the symbol for the maneuver he wanted to perform next -- easy left, or hard right, or barrel roll, or Immelman, or whatever. He'd write down the number that was next to it.

Then each player gave the other player that page number. Each guy then went to the page number he'd been given, again looked up the symbol for his maneuver, and went to the page number shown there. And if everyone did everything correctly, both players would end up on the same page -- and the art was reflexive in the two books. If one player's book showed himself shooting at the other guy's side. the other book showed the enemy plane coming in shooting from the side.

Quite the fascinating concept. A friend of mine and I spent a lot of time at work playing it, during lunch breaks. (It was the same guy I used to play Ogre with. Ah, the good old days.)

I think there were eventually four different sets of books for the series, and the cool thing about it was that as long as you used the "A" book from one set and the "B" book from the other set, it would still work correctly.

Eventually the same guys came up with another game, based on a similar idea, but this one was a fighting game. The books were smaller, and they were sold in singles. Each book represented a single fighter, and had maybe 32 (?) pages showing different positions the fighter could be in, plus showing which moves were possible from there. (If you'd just been knocked on your butt, for instance, you obviously couldn't do a grand weapon down-swing on your opponent's head, right?)

I don't recall the details of that game all that well. It wasn't really quite as good. I did buy several of them, though.

It seems that idea is not dead. The Japanese have turned it into a panty-fighter game. I think I'm in love.

It's called "Queen's Blade" and I just noticed it while looking around at J-List. And because it is a panty-fighter game, all of the following links are NSFW: characters named Menace, Erina (who has nekomimi!), Irma, Risty, and there are a bunch of others, including a miko with a katana.

The FRP version from 30 years ago was printed in books which were trade paperback in size. Given that these are not just games but also "hentai art books", I wonder how large the pages are?

But the coolest thing of all? There's a Moetan book for the series. And reading the descriptions, it seems that the original game I remember was called "Lost Worlds" and came from a company called "Flying Buffalo". (That sounds right.) And these new books use the "Lost Worlds" logo, which means they have formally licensed the gaming system.

I wonder if this is the kind of thing that Kinokuniya would carry? It's a long ways away, especially in winter, but sometime when the weather is warm, I might rouse myself and walk over there to see. Probably it would be wiser to look it up first, though.

Japanese book, so it's got a Japanese title. Looking at the graphics, seems to be クイーンスブレイド ("kuinsubureido"). AND a search comes up empty. But that doesn't prove anything. The title in their database may be different.

UPDATE: Curse you, Amazon! I tried looking up "Queen's Blade" and came up with 7 American fantasy books. Useless. So then it occurred to me to try looking up "Moetan", in hopes of turning up the book specifically about her.

And after turning up 3 hits, none of which was useful, Amazon included the helpful "related search" kodomo no jikan.

Ack! Ack! AIEEEE! Keep it away from me!

UPDATE: Here's the Japanese home page for the product. According to Wikipedia, there were two different series. "Queen's Blade" is straight fantasy fighters; "Queen's Gate" features actual characters from anime. The Moetan book is probably one of the latter, which were announced in December of 2007, so it might be the first.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in General Anime at 11:32 PM | Comments (13) | Add Comment
Post contains 819 words, total size 6 kb.

1 Dear heavens!  I haven't thought about Ace of Aces in at least 25 years!  I want to say the first set of planes were the classic foes, Sopwith Camel vs Fokker Dr. I.

There was at least one other set (Fokker DVII vs SE 5a?  SPAD XIII?) that I can remember (a look at the Flying Buffalo page for the game indicates a third set, for balloon busting).

While I liked it, it never really caught on with my circle of friends for some reason.  Probably because we were raised on TSR's Fight In The Skies, I suppose... not that there's anything wrong with FITS, it's still one of the best beer-n-pretzel games I've ever played.  Heck, it even got me into a Gen-Con (XIII, I think) for free one year, when I GM'd a game.  Wayyy back in the old days, when the con was at UW-Platteville.  Pfalz DIIIs vs Hanriot HD.1s in a battle of the forgotten fighters...

Sorry, topic drift.  Now I wish someone had created a GOOD computer version of OGRE...


Posted by: Wonderduck at February 24, 2008 12:23 AM (AW3EJ)

2

There were three boxed sets of planes plus the single book for the balloon. Two of the boxed sets were biplanes, the third was for the first generation of monoplanes. Or so I remember it. The monoplanes were a bit of an anachronism; I don't believe any monoplanes saw combat in WWI.

Or maybe what I'm remembering is that they planned to do a set of monoplanes, but never released it. Damn, that was a long time ago.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at February 24, 2008 12:36 AM (+rSRq)

3 OK, I wasn't wrong. There were three. First was "Handy Rotary", second was "Powerhouse", third was "Flying Machines". Fourth was "Balloon Buster".

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at February 24, 2008 12:41 AM (+rSRq)

4 It's coming back to me. "Flying Machines" wasn't monoplanes, it was older stuff, even lower performance than "Handy Rotary".

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at February 24, 2008 12:56 AM (+rSRq)

5

This will probably get me into trouble, but...I've been in trouble before, god knows.

Kodomo no Jikan is a, uh, "confusing" series.  My sister-in-law (!!) gave me the manga to read last time I was in Japan.  I was prepared to be appalled, but the problem is, it's really well done.  The art and layouts are great, and the storyline is surprisingly interesting and full of unexpected twists.  I've read so much manga I can often guess where a story is going just by the setup, but Kojikan has thrown me for a complete loop three times so far.  That's pretty rare.  The central conceit of sexually precocious ten-year-olds is difficult to come to terms with (even in Japan), but I guess the way to treat it is like other "unacceptable" things we regularly find in entertainment, like drug use, theft, adultery, etc. (And wasn't the Portland school system giving out the pill to nine-year-old girls?  Real, live girls, not ink on paper?)  Anyway, while some scenes are pretty shocking, I've noticed two things--first, Rin is always in control of the teasing.  The few times (via misunderstandings) her teacher has seemed to make a move on her, she's been horrified and fled.  Also, the mangaka (a woman, BTW) has quite deliberately left unanswered the key question--WHY is Rin so precocious?  I think she's moving towards an explanation on that, probably soon. 

There.  Defended the indefensible.  I await my punishment. (I think it makes a difference that I've seen the true hard-core loli manga in Japan--may the gods scrub my brain with a wire brush--and Kojikan isn't even in that same galaxy.)

I remember Ace of Aces, too.  Very popular at my school for a few months.  I was a dreadful player, alas.

Posted by: Toren at February 24, 2008 12:59 AM (np/4k)

6 I haven't seen the manga of Kodomo no Jikan (the American release was scuttled due to public outrage), but I've seen some of the anime and I've heard from people who have read the manga, and what Toren says sounds about right.  It's disturbing because it's a cute comedy that deals with a child with what we'd consider psychological problems.  The teacher is fully aware that Rin's behaviour is inappropriate, but it's his first year of teaching and he doesn't know how to deal with it.

If the writer follows through and tackles this as a real problem, then it could be a good (if somewhat disturbing) series.  And the signs are that this is where it's headed.  While the jury is still out, I'll certainly take this over Moetan so far.

Plus the closing credits have dancing chibis.  Bu bu bu!

Posted by: Pixy Misa at February 24, 2008 02:01 AM (PiXy!)

7 And on topic, I remember Ace of Aces and Flying Buffalo, but all my pocket money went into D&D so I never actually played it.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at February 24, 2008 02:19 AM (PiXy!)

8 I vaguely remember the flying book game - I think my cousin had one of the sets. Also, I agree with Toren about Kodomo.

Posted by: mparker762 at February 24, 2008 06:37 AM (+7Nyv)

9 We're all going to hell.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at February 24, 2008 06:41 AM (PiXy!)

10 "I don't believe any monoplanes saw combat in WWI."

The Fokker Eindecker , Fokker DVIII (aka "Parasol"), not to mention the Morane-Saulnier N, were all monoplane fighters.  In fact, the Eindecker was the cause of the "Fokker Scourge".

They just weren't as famous as the better known, late-war (1916-1918) planes, is all.

"There were three. First was 'Handy Rotary', second was 'Powerhouse', third was 'Flying Machines'. Fourth was 'Balloon Buster'."

Ah, that's right!  It also fits with my memories of the Camel/Triplane and DVII/SPAD combos.  I don't know if I ever saw the 'flying machines' version, but it looks like the DH.2 (or F.E.2b?) vs Eindecker... early-war fighters.

I wonder if I still have my copy of the Rotary books at my folks' place?  I'll have to check the next time I'm over there...

Posted by: Wonderduck at February 24, 2008 06:55 AM (AW3EJ)

11 I think I played Ace of Aces (probably the WWII version) about 20-25 years ago but I remember another very similar book game called Dragonriders of Pern by Nova as we played that one a lot more often.

Here's a link for that Pern game.
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/game/5735

An overview of game books that have that game system or very similar. http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/1570/item/29681#item29681

Posted by: ColoradoJim at February 24, 2008 06:57 AM (bmMmk)

12 According to Amazon Japan, the Queen's Blade books are B5 (7x10 inches). Here's a helpful list. There's also some anthology comics, which I suppose are for the solo game.

-j

Posted by: J Greely at February 24, 2008 09:38 AM (2XtN5)

13 There's a better set of pictures here. Turns out they also sell figurines and mousepads.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at February 24, 2008 11:50 AM (+rSRq)

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