Review Grading Structure

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For reviews, The Otaku’s Study adopts a letter grading system based on the general system you would generally find in schools (A – E), although the letter S is used to identify top reviewed releases. Each individual category is given a single grade (A-E) with a finalized grade being given. An individual grade is not just based on just the game in comparison to others released in the past and present, but games in the particular genre, development of a series and so forth.

For example (of Game Review – Design), if today they were to release Disgaea 5 on the Playstation 3… if they provided visuals similar to Disgaea 4 it may receive an A or B grade, if they were to release one using Disgaea: Hour of Darkness visuals it might recieve a C grade or below dependent on other factors.

As a number of different products are reviewed here, different grading structures have been identified and adopted for a couple of years now. These are as follows:

Anime Reviews

Category

Description (w/ Examples)

Storyline

The key element to any anime release.

  • Is the storyline enjoyable or well-detailed?
  • If part of a series does it contribute well to the series?
  • Does it rely too heavily on filler episodes?

Design

  • Is the visual quality of a good standard?
  • Are the characters and environment well detailed?
  • Is the DVD/Blu-ray quality suitable?
  • If the series adopts some unique aesthetic, does it work?

Music / Voice Acting

  • Are the opening and ending sequences enjoyable both musically and visually (In some older reviews, this has been reviewed separately)?
  • Is the variety and quality of music in the episodes of a good standard?
  • Is the English / Japanese voice acting suitable to the respective characters / pleasing on the ears?

Extra Content

Only applicable for DVD / Blu-ray Anime Releases.

  • In the release, is there a good selection of on-disc / off-disc extras and goodies? Eg. Commentary, Clean OP/ED, Artwork, Slipcovers, Artbooks etc.

Personal Opinion

Does not generally affect the grade of the review. My overall opinion on the series, using my own enjoyability of the series as a standard.

Overall Score

The overall score of an anime release, taking into account Storyline, Design, Music/Voice Acting and Extra Content.

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Manga Reviews

Category

Description (w/ Examples)

Storyline / Character Development

The key element to any manga release.

  • Is the storyline enjoyable and/or well-detailed?
  • If part of a series does it contribute well to the series?
  • Is it too heavy on the filler chapters?

Design

  • Are the artist’s drawings aesthetically pleasing to look at?
  • Are the characters well detailed?
  • Do environment designs used “White Backdrops” frequently or do they pay attention to environmental and character designs?
  • Do the character designs help immerse the reader into the world they are trying to develop?
  • Does the artists individual drawing styles work for a manga of this nature?
  • Is there solid print quality?

Extra Content

  • Does the author/artist/publisher provide any added bonuses at the end of the volume?
  • Translation Notes?
  • Added writings?
  • Bonus Mini-chapters?
  • Next-Volume previews?

Personal Opinion

Does not generally affect the grade of the review. My overall opinion on the series, using my own enjoyability as a standard.

Overall Score

The overall score of an anime release, taking into account Storyline/Character Development, Design and Extra Content.

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Game Reviews

Category

Description (w/ Examples)

Storyline

While perhaps less important to a game than anime/manga/visual novels, is still an area I personally put emphasis on.

  • Does the game offer you some free reign of storyline or side-stories?
  • Is the storyline enjoyable and/or interesting?
  • Is there ample character and world development?
  • If a single game, does it leave many loose ends?
  • If a part of a series does it contribute well?
  • Is the storyline well written overall?

Design

  • Taking into account capabilities of current-generation consoles and the genre / intended direction of the game, are the visuals aesthetically pleasing?
  • Do they provide a wide array of rich and well detailed environments?
  • Are the character designs well detailed / work well with everything else in the game?
  • If using an interesting visual mechanic, does it contribute to the gameplay experience?

Music / Voice Acting

  • Does the game have any unique lyrical tracks to it? Are these enjoyable?
  • Is there both quality and quantity when it comes to background music in the game?
  • Either way, are individual tracks overused?
  • Are the English or Japanese dubs of the game of suitable quality and suit the characters they represent? (Note: For games with an English dub track, this will be the only dub I will review. For games with only a Japanese dub track, the Japanese dub will be reviewed instead)

Gameplay

While all the other elements of the game contribute to the experience, evidently gameplay will be of the heaviest weight in a review.

  • Are the games easy to grasp but provide ample challenge for those who desire it?
  • Are the gameplay systems well implemented / enjoyable?
  • Is the game linear or offer you some freedom in terms of side-quests, open world etc?
  • Does the game get repetitive or offer new and exciting features throughout?

Replayability

  • Does the game encourage you to continue through to the end?
  • Does the game encourage you to continue past the end through end-game bosses/levels, New Game+ etc?

Personal Opinion

Does not generally affect the grade of the review. My overall opinion on the series, using my own enjoyability as a standard.

Overall Score

The overall score of an anime release, taking into account Storyline, Design, Music/Voice Acting, Gameplay and Replayability

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Visual Novel Storylines

Category

Description (w/ Examples)

Storyline

This does not include any adult content however focuses on the overall storyline of the game.

  • Does it have an innovating or interesting storyline?
  • Does it have multiple paths or is the storyline linear and if so, was it the best choice?
  • Are the characters interesting and well developed?

Design

More or less asking the question “Does this game look appealing”.

  • Do the characters appear to be well designed or look like they have been drawn on an etch-a-sketch?
  • Do the designs look interesting and suited to the tone of the storyline?
  • Does the CG Art go with the setting and how are they designed?

Music / Voice Acting

Whilst storyline and design are greater priorities, I believe that music is the one element that can keep a visual novel from being an excellent read.

  • Is there a wide selection and diversity of songs?
  • Does the voice acting sound like it is being read with passion or just reading lines off a sheet of paper?

Adult Content

As I most probably won’t be solely reviewing 18+ titles, there is no score given by this (Given either a Yes or No). Instead I will sum up my thoughts on the value of the adult content if applicable in terms of the storyline.For example, if a great storyline suddenly descends into pointless sex and it ruins the storyline, I will scold it and adjust the overall score accordingly.

System

  • How is the text displayed?
  • Is there a mini-game mode or any other extras?
  • CG Viewer?
  • Music Player?
  • Event Viewer?

Personal Opinion

As with all my reviews, I believe that my personal opinion should always have some voice as a series that is stellar in everything can be a complete bore to me. I generally do not adjust my scores on this, but I do like to give my own personal enjoyment level for the title.

Overall Score

The overall score of an anime release, taking into account Storyline, Design, Music/Voice Acting, Gameplay and Replayability

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Artbook Reviews

Category

Description

Content

Is there enough content for ones buck? This one will be reviewed on a book by book basis, so if it is a book purely dedicated to artwork I would expect to see more than a single small image per page or if it is like this release… a design compendium I would expect to see content of different degrees of development, comments, thoughts et cetera.

Layout

Is everything in the book easy to read? If they have diagrams or comments are they legible to read? Is artwork correctly sized to be viewable in the intended detail? Is the image quality high?

Extra Content

While not usually considered a major role when it comes to the overall score – is there any added bonuses which provide something different to the reading experience? Interviews, Artist Biographies, Comments from others or guest artwork?

Personal Opinion

Did I enjoy this book overall? While this comes down to my personal preference, it does not have as heavy a bearing on the overall score and I will try and put my comments in respect to both myself and to those of different preferences.

Overall Score

The overall score of an anime release, taking into account Content, Layout, Extra Content and Personal Opinion

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Note 1

These are generalized review structures, and on occasion new sets or adaptations have been produced in order to cover titles which are none of these products. Two recent examples of this include No Starch Press’s “Manga Guide” series which would not fall under the artbook or manga category and a review of Sony’s RDH-GTK33iP Mini Muteki Audio Docking System which none of the review structures would have facilitated. Either way, all of these are marked with at the very least a final letter grade.

Note 2

The letter grade system was adopted in Early-2011. Prior to that a number system was used, but is pretty much self-explanatory.

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