Akihabara Thoughts

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The fact that places like Akihabara exist, but are over 6000 miles away is both and exciting and painful one. Existing and constantly evolving through the years Akiba’s place as the worlds greatest anime mecca is certainly well known, but I feel it’s vastly underappreciated by tourists and even those who are on a pilgrimage of sorts to the Otaku Holy Land.

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Countless shops, eateries and other mostly otaku culture themed places sprawled throughout its blocks, yet for most the effort is just not made to discover what it really has in store. From the oblivious tourist who wander the floors of a club sega looking lost and only giving a random game a literal poke. To those whose giant backpacks who block the paths through a store. Their presence is only becoming more pronounced as Japan continues its major up-climb in tourism.

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There’s a massive amount of oddities and charming shops to be found with a little exploration, I discovered down a street I have not really traveled much in this most recent trip, what I could only presume to be the worlds first maid optometrist shop. I would have never guessed that such a thing would exist but there it was. It’s really easy to get lost down the main strip of Akiba, and while there is definite excitement in wandering up the floors of a Sofmap or trying to find something in Yodobashi Camera, coming across a mostly empty retro game store manned by a 90 year old lady is what makes exploring the Akiba area fun.

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And to those who look through the arcades and stop and play a House of the Dead 2 game from the 90’s, give one of the modern titles a try. The rhythm section pretty much requires no Japanese knowledge and any of the modern games will have such a long and complex tutorial when you play for the first time, you will have no problem figuring out out to play after a short while. It sure beats looking rather gloomy and lost when its blazing hot and humid outside.

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To bring this all to a wrap, Akihabara still has all the charm and wonder than it did when I first visited a mere 5 years ago. There are parts that are different, and you can still get flooded by tourist traps and busloads of people at the wrong times. But there’s still so much to be had. As I was wandering about killing time before my flight back home, I came to the realization that there was a small section that I never even though about existing near Suehirocho station and gave it a look and found a few fairly neat stores that I may have bought from had I not been already packed.

 

tldr: Akiba is still awesome.

Ongeki

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The latest in rhythm game crazes to take over the arcades recently is Ongeki from Sega. For those who have been there, the rhythm game culture can be a bit intense as they often fade from existence as soon as they hit their time in the sun. Games like Love Live which used to have lines that extended for day, are now barely noticeable.

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Control wise, the game features 6 face buttons as well as two larger buttons on the side a few inches off the ground, as well as a joystick to control your character movement. The game is ambidextrous and will have at times swapping between left and right handed play and things can get really crazy on later difficulty levels.

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The general gist of the game is that you control your party on screen to dodge enemy attacks as well as navigate a course that you travel down as the song progresses. The notes that you hit on screen are you “attacks” so to speak that take down the enemies health gage. The character movement being controlled directly by the player is a nice touch and adds a level not often seen inside a rhythm game.

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Completing the various levels rewards you with cards! The game features cards you directly unlock in-game via spending currency that you earn though playing. It also has a gacha system at the card printing machine where you can spend credits to roll for super rare cards the easy way. One thing to note, the game is actually a pretty good value on Yen to play time if you avoid spending extra on booster items. Ongeki uses the new style GP system seen in most major titles these days. With a 300yen purchase (if the arcade allows it) easily being enough to cover 30-45 minutes of playtime depending on the song. The downside to this however is that the machines are often crowded with a line forming at every hour but the very early ones.

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Upon finishing a a song, your characters gain exp and relationship points which enhance their stats to various degrees, although only the story characters have the Relationship points. The various collaboration characters only had the standard levels.

All in all I had a blast playing this game, the side buttons do start to hurt your hand after a while and the game does recommend these rather hilarious fingerless gloves that can be found in many stores for a few hundred yen. All of the hardcore players seemed to use them as I found my hands hurting after about 30 minutes of play. Mostly due to the side button use. While I highly doubt we will ever see this game come to the US since it is a Sega developed one, I look forward to playing it again.

 

Odaiba Report

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Heading out to Odaiba to see the new Unicorn Gundam and check out the Gundam Base as well, the weather was kind of gloomy and raining but that wouldn’t be enough to stop a Gundam. Sadly though the ever faithful leisureland in Odaiba closed down with its wacky assortment of attractions and gimmicky games. So It’s hard to justify many trips out here unless you are into shopping malls and shopping malls.

Even so though every fan of Gundam owes it to themselves to make the pilgrimage at least once. While definitely not as iconic as the old RX-78 Gundam that was standing here till last year. They really upped their game with the work involved as the Unicorn Gundam is really rather stunning.

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It features the gimmick of being able to transform into its NT-D mode that is often featured during the Anime, as well as several video synced performances, one of which is pretty much a 5 minute summary of the Unicorn series that could very well serve as a place holder for watching the actual series.

But that is not all that is featured out here in Odaiba for Gundam fans. The Gundam Base has since replaced the Gundam Front, though it is quite a bit different in scope and scale.

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The Gundam Base serves primarily as a museum to all things Gunpla as well as what I would have to think is easily the worlds largest Gunpla store, as well as several other types of merchandise such as clothing and some trinkets. The size of the place is truly impressive, even though it takes up roughly the same space that the old Gundam Front did, the open atmosphere makes it feel gigantic.

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The store features essentially every single Gunpla in existence for sale, and carries on for as far as the eye can see. Many of the model kits are also featured on display so you know what you may be buying if you are unsure.

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Many limited edition exclusive gunpla are here as well such as the RX-0 Diver City version which is a real grade style kit… with two types of internal lighting for both versions of the NT-D that are featured. I can only imagine the difficulty of piecing this kit together matching the hefty price tag of 10,800 JPY. A note to buyers though, aside from the various limited editions that are only sold here, many of the kits can be had in places such as Akihabara for much cheaper.

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While the Gundam Base is neat, I do miss the old attractions that the Gundam Front had, such as the entry video or the Photography section. It does look like the Base has various time limited tie in events. The current one being a Gundam Build Divers event which I have not personally seen, though it looks kind of strange. I could see a main stream event with a UC series being worth seeing.

Soul Reverse

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A newer game to hit the arcades is Sega’s Soul Reverse, using the same cabinet that Fate/GO uses without the card printing ability. The control layout is similar but a little more complex with 4 buttons instead of 2. It’s not bad value wise as everyday you get a free credit to play with, on top of being able to buy more “time.” Time being the system inplace that newer titles have been using such as Kantai Collection and Fate/GO, where you can buy a limited amount of time to play and then that timer ticks down constantly as you play.

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Soul Reverse features a pretty standard console like equipment screen where you can change out your settings and view stats. Your characters appearance dynamically changes as well. I should mention that the character creator is actually pretty good for an arcade title.

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Gameplay plays out on a rather large map with two teams fighting in real time to take over territory and capture objectives. A few bosses exist through out the map for each side as well that are actually quite strong can obliterate you with ease. Throughout the map a few action spots exist where you can mount a raptor or man a cannon, though they didn’t seem to have much use in the early stages.

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As you fight forward you can fill your special Soul gauges which allow you to transform into a several types of heroic legends and you gain some pretty massive bonuses. They seem to be pretty much required to have a chance at killing the enemy’s bosses, at least at the early levels.

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At the end of every match your rewarded with what everyone loves, loot. Your not guranteed loot for your main class, but it also allows you to switch classes whenever you feel like it so that’s not really a bad thing. You can liquidate any excess loot as well for materials to strengthen your equipment as well.

All in all it’s a fairly fun game, but I feel like it’s just short of being awesome. It doesn’t seem very popular currently, but I would like to see it gain some legs, maybe the upcoming Persona collaboration will help.

 

 

Fate/GO Arcade

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Riding off the massive success that is the Mobile Game, it was really only inevitable that an arcade version would be in the works. And it sure is something, Aside from everything being rendered in decently sharp looking anime style 3D as opposed to the 2D sprite based mobile game. It offers rather simple gameplay that even non Japanese speaking players should be able to handle without much difficulty.

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The controls consist of two buttons, the smaller attack button which is mashed and mashed to attack and the larger Noble Phantasm button which unsurprisingly unleashes your current servants Noble Phantasm, aka Super Move, for those who are unfamiliar with the Fate franchise. As well as the fake joystick which is controlled with the smaller joystick on top to move around. I often tried to pull the entire stick. A pretty odd design choice.

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As anyone who has played the mobile version will see, the UI is practically identical with few arcade only exceptions such as the GP meter or card reading button. Thats right, card reading button. Using the same system as Kantai Collection, at the end of every mission you complete you are offered the chance to summon a servant or craft essence for 100 yen. You can also do a 10 pull gacha for, you guessed it, 1000 yen. When you do your summon, you get a rather nice looking card printed off that you can then take with you and use. The downside is the game can be ridiculously expensive if you start pulling after every mission. I would recommend scouting out several card shops in the area and direct purchasing the card you want. On the flip side, once you have everything you need you can play for a long period of time off the 100 or 300 yen buy in.

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Noble Phantasm in action.

I haven’t seen the full card list yet, but It seems like currently a lot of the popular “waifu” class servants are missing in action. I suppose it is smart of them to roll them out slowly so the whales spend hard every so often.

To go back to gameplay, it’s controlled in a full 3D space where you can run around and dodge at will the incoming attacks. You only control one servant at a time as opposed to the three in the mobage, each with their own attacks. The Arts Buster and Quick system also makes a comeback as your attacks are chosen randomly from your servants stock and those effects from the mobage also take place.

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Caesar got the short end of the stick with his character…

Right now I feel as if this game is a bit too shallow in story mode, there is a PVP mode which I have yet to try that seems to be fairly popular that I will need to give a go. For now though, unless your a major fan of the Fate franchise I wouldn’t invest a lot of time in this game, there are simply better out there.

 

Akihabara Report – Day .5

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Arriving around 5pm to my hotel, I wanted to settle in and deairplane myself for a bit before getting down to business. Wanting nothing more than to hit Pepper Lunch before heading to any arcades that was the first plan. There’s no image or anything special because it was gone just about as quickly as it came. With that in order, it was time to check out some stores before they closed at 8pm, nothing major just some scouting.

Night one was just a brief reintroduction to the arcade culture as its been a year since the last visit. And a year makes all the difference. new games come and old games go with new games such as Fate GO popping up based on the mobile game, while others like Border Break have dwindled considerably.

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Fate/GO…More to come later.

While the old standbys like Kancolle and Love Live still have their space, they are old news. Kancolle mostly due to Azur Lane supplanting it as the Ship Girl of choice mobile game, and Love Live’s in a downturn between series.

My personal favorite Wonderland Wars is still going strong, while not as promenant as it used to be at my primary arcade, its still notably popular and the other Sega Arcade nearby having many more machines than it used too, my guess is they moved several over.

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New Character event in progress!

The hot rhythm game this year is Ongeki, it looks like it has a very interesting style setup where its almost like a cross between Theathrythm with Museca. As you have a party of characters who fight towards an end goal but its much more intense.

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It comes with a Joystick and 8 buttons to deal with, the gameplay looked neat an I look forward to trying it out.

That about covers it for the few hours that I had for the first night. Many more hours to come!

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Akiba @ Closing

 

 

Initial D Zero – Location Test

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Today marked what I think is the final location test for Initial D Zero before it releases in March. I had missed the August one, and I was certainly not going to miss this one. I arrived early to the arcade where it was being held. The Sega nearest the Akihabara station exit. There was a decent sized line for being midday, but I guess a lot of Tokyo’s residents don’t really have much to do.

First things first some impressions on DZero and how it has changed from its predecessor D8.

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Absolutely the most prominent change is the addition of a full gated shifter, It was actually much higher in quality than I thought and expected something along the lines of what Wangan uses, but this felt much more like an actual car’s transmission. Its easy to select gears and it opens up a whole new method of technique by being able to straight shift from 6th to 2nd instead of having to progress downward sequentially.  If you make a mistake while shifting the “neutral” position switches the car to Automatic until you fix your gear shift so you shouldn’t have any races ruined via a shifting mistake either.

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The cabinet itself is also much sharper since its the first time the cabinet has been upgraded since Initial D 4 back in 2007. The speakers are better, the seats are nicer and the screen is 100x better than D8 which can be seen next to Zero in the above image for comparison. My only complaint would be that the wheel felt just a touch too small, but that can probably feel normal after playing for a bit.

The game also runs a good deal smoother and sharper, I believe the general engine is roughly the same as D8, but the framerate is boosted and the resolution got a serious bump up, My guess would be from 720p to 1080p

The small but noticeable changes to the screen really do bring out the detail in the courses though as well as increase the sense of speed while racing.

Gameplay wise, its hard to judge the game with a Spec 0 car, but even from Spec 0 you can tell the entire physics are overhauled, it seemed like Sega wanted to take away a lot of janky techniques are are so commonplace in D8 and trying the execute them would pretty much torpedo your race as observed even with people with higher spec cars (they upgrade pretty quickly, though this could just be for the test). The cars in general can really drift around corners without much effort and it felt much more like Initial D than the prior entries to the series.

Also the speed range has been dramatically shifted on a lot of courses. Hakone for example runs a great deal faster than it had in D8 while Akina runs a great deal slower, owing for more along the lines of the anime than the games.

The only downside to the entirety of DZero is the elimination of Eurobeat to some generic trash, I wasn’t the only person who felt this as some would opt to turn off the BGM completely, maybe Sega will realize what their fan-base enjoys and go back to some Eurobeat? Though I suspect this may be more inline with what the Studio behind the D movies wishes and not so much on Sega’s end.

Overall, DZero is a dramatic upgrade from the previous iterations, I really hope it comes to the U.S. sometime, but I’m really not holding my breath. As the addition of the gated shifter and overall enhancements to gameplay and making the entry barrier a lot easier to cross. The Aime card addition is nice as well as it’s one less card to carry around. I am glad they kept the driver portraits and the character customization as well.

 

 

A Wondrous Poem

The world has been prone to terrible power once.
The “oblivion” the force. It took the hope from the human mind,
it took the mind to believe,
take away also future heart and love, it was a great ruin.

Match fight people exposed to “oblivion” lamented,
and doubt each other, in order to destroy all visible.

Love you hope to their hearts,
no longer to be “I want to cherish”also, memories also,
I had not left everything.

-Wonderland Wars

Sega really should invest in someone who can… translate engrish to English.

 

Wonderland Wars 2.0

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This past weekend has seen a major update come to one of the most popular Arcade games throughout Japan in Wonderland Wars. This update changed a good deal of content and overall added a lot to the overall game.

First and foremost all the rankings were reset, so everyone started back at the very first level, but they drastically changed how leveling works. Though…. this changed irked me quite a bit, when I first came to Japan my goal was to obtain a AA Ranking…. which I was just one day away from.. when they reset it. The reset is both bad and good… as every now and then you can come across a massive skill gap when a newer player faces a veteran, but it hasn’t happened all that often and playing with the once high leveled people has helped me personally gain some new techniques. Also of note is that some of the hardcore crowd have really been power leveling their characters up… one guy had over 700 plays next to me at one point and he smelled like death and forced me to move, I don’t actually think he had left Akihabara since the update came out.

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It uses a numerical system that upgrades the look of your in-game pen and drawing trail and you can even customize it as you unlock more items. The rating is determined by the overall level of your characters and how highly leveled they are.

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Its fairly easy to rise up in levels quickly by spreading out your character play, but its also hard to play characters you don’t care for much. Gone are the Overdrive cards of old, instead they gain the EXP directly. My new goal is to power to level 100 in the month or so I have remaining, I think I should be able to hit it, but you never know.

New characters were added, Sega tends to add about one every 2 months or so as it stands. The first new character added in based on Snow White and is a up close but really fun to play hero since she can kill enemy minions with out much problem, for those who have played she plays somewhat like a cross between Rin, the blonde girl, and Scarlet the assassin. Aladdin is going to be added in after Snow White’s event ends early next month.

Each older character also got a new skill and balance changes, some of them are hard to use, but some are pretty devastating. A large amount of new support cards where added in to, with a decent amount of original style mechanics and combination bonuses for the first time.

Also ushered in are numerous Quality of Life changes, as you no longer have to level up the characters to unlock their item and skill slots, which makes it much easier to spread out play. Also the character select screen has been dramatically improved with the separation of the 3 classes and increased picture size.

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Inside of the game itself, there’s now a short planning phase where you can sort out your teams positions and move to the correct spot before the game actually starts. This has alleviated much of the frustration that can occur when no one really makes it clear where they plan to go (which is just a simple press on the mini-map). There’s also a slight graphical upgrade with some effects and the overall presentation is a touch sharper than it was before.

Also changed in game, they removed many of the pauses that used to happen whenever a tower was destroyed, leaving the only pause that happens still being a soul spawning. This change has helped the flow of the game quite a bit, though you do have to pay attention to the visual queues when either your or the other teams tower gets blown up. They also added in a teleporter to go from one side to the other that can be used only a few times on the edge of the map which makes it possible for one side to assist the other.

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Overall, Sega has improved upon whats probably their most popular arcade game at the moment. I’m glad that they plan to support for the foreseeable future, and actually they overall scene seems to be growing here in Japan for Wonderland Wars. None of the PC MOBA’s have really taken off here, so its kind of surprisingly to see an arcade one succeed but the atmosphere of a Japanese Game Center is pretty special.

 

Next Up: Love Live Arcade. (if the line is ever not 76 people long)

Powdered Cheese Burger Meal Kit

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Wandering about a local supermarket recently here in Japan, I stumbled upon these magical delights. This meal set of sorts, only needs water and a microwave to make, and knowing that arcades can’t be the only thing to blog about, off I went on a culinary adventure.

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Everything you need… in powder form.

Opening up the package, there’s several packets, that comprise various parts of the set. A packet for the bun, patty, cheese, ketchup, fries and a drink. The instructions are pretty easy to follow so I figured that after looking at everything that they would form some type of sugary imitations that would be more like candy… if only that were true.

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This is what french fries look like… right?

The first step, is to empty the french fry powder into its designated mixing area, and then add two droplets of water and start to mix, it’s actually pretty difficult to mix this stuff together as it really did not want to stick together all that well. After muscling it around for a bit, I was able to get it into the flat form, and whisk it in to the microwave for 40 seconds.

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After their stint in the microwave, they formed kind of a fry colored patty with a pungent smell, my expectations were rising by the moment that this would be a treat to remember.

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French Fries.

With the side portion of the meal completed, it was time to start on the main dish, the bun and the burger itself. Starting with the patty, the very first thing to notice is it smells strongly of spices and maple syrup. It was at this point, that I realized this was not supposed to turn into some kind of candy imitation… but supposed to taste like the actual thing.

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Grade A Beef.

The bun followed suit, and thankfully didn’t smell all too strong, but was surprisingly more batter like than I would have thought from the powder and water ingredients.

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Filling up their tray and ready for their short stint into the micro wave, I was getting excited, after all, it is not every day you get to eat such cuisine.

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After their 40 seconds in the microwave, the batter turned into actual bread, though the burger “meat” just seemed to congeal and take on a really bad smell, one that is really hard to describe. But a hamburger meal this is not, so of course we need to start on the cheese!

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Cheese..

The cheese was terrifying, as it smelled strongly of Easy Cheese and had all the texture of goo. Though it did smell like cheese… kind of at least. At this point, we are pretty much good to go and create the final product, though we can’t forget the Ketchup for the fries and burger.

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By far the most horrifying part of the set, as this looked like cherry koolaid with weird things floating inside of it, I’ve never been a big fan of ketchup… but if this was all that was offered to me on a desert island… I would starve.

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At-least we have the standard thimble of soda to wash it all down with afterwards, this actually smelled really good, and I did look forward to trying it after sampling the main delicacy.

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……

So here we have the final result in all of its glory. Up first, of course the burger, biting in, I experienced a conundrum of flavors that tasted nothing like a cheeseburger at all, just some kind of horrible monstrosity. What ever the spices are that created the ungodly aftertaste should be stricken from the planet at once. Moving to the french fries, they kind of did taste like what you get if you ate an old, cold McDonalds fry, not ideal… but certainly better than what ever the burger was. The ketchup… tasted pretty much what I imagine vinegar mixed with sugar would taste like.

With the melody of crap still lingering in my mouth, I pinned my hopes on the thimble of cola. If anything could save me from this suffering, it would be it. I was wrong. Somehow, someway, the cola only served to magnify the other remaining flavors in my mouth and caused me to gag. Luckily I had prepared a head of time with a Dr. Pepper from the nearby vending machine.

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I think this item, might only serve as a gag gift you bring back home from vacations and what not, I can’t see anyone truly enjoying this, the flavor profiles are all out of whack, and it just tastes wrong, not bad, but wrong.