[8.5] Assassin's Creed Unity Arbitrary Review

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Welcome to my first of a new review series called "Arbitrary Reviews". These reviews may or may not be for older titles, but are either written closely to the time that I have finished a video game/show/comic/novel/etc or are on a topic I have fully experienced from beginning to end that I am well versed in. 
Few sites that do reviews offer to return to older titles that might have been improved since, and many reviewers in large commercially funded organizations are often paid to write positive reviews for topics they may not have fully experienced. This is why I am happy to present you with an honest review on my general experience with titles that I have fully experienced, so that you can get a full opinion on a particular product. Thanks for reading!! 

Spoilers will be present to allow me to write a full assessment of my experience. _____________________________________________________________________ 


"When this is over...who then will we be? Assassin Mentor and Templar Grand Master? The continuation of the old, or the beginning of something new? Will we shape the future of our world, or will we retire quietly to the countryside to raise goats? I do not know what the next days, months, years will bring. All I know is that we shall remain Arno and Élise, and with that, I am content. Je t'aime, Élise"


Assassin's Creed Unity was released in November 2014, and since then it has seen a world of improvement. Long ridiculed over the past 2 years for it's unstable graphics, engine problems, mechanical glitches, and other bugs- Unity is a title that deserved so much better than it received from the general public's reception, one I cannot blame gamers for giving it. 


The misfortune of a game that I view as being great having such a poor first impression is something I view as a total travesty, and over 2 years later from it's launch I fully experienced it and found a wealth of entertainment and a story that will last with me a while. 

As I said it's first impression on the world was poor, I am thankful I didn't get around to playing it until late 2016, I am happy I did and without the glitchfest that was present when it's launch occured. 
That being said, if you've ever tried Unity and it wasn't for you or the initial bugs turned you away, give it another chance.

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Assassin's Creed has grown to become an incredibly successful and huge franchise in less than a decade. I started experiencing the Assassin's Creed games in early 2014, and I was instantly hooked. I worked my way through ACII, Brotherhood, Revelations, and ACIII very quickly, then after a short break continued on through Liberation HD, AC IV Black Flag, Rogue, and finally made it to Unity. 

Out of all of those stories and sagas about the Assassin Brotherhood versus the Templar Order, I found rich entertainment following Ezio's story through Connor's, Aveline's, Kenway's and Shay's journeys. For me there was even a lot of learning about places I hadn't originally cared about, like Florence, Constantinople, the Caribbean (I love pirates but given the chance to explore it a bit in a realistic setting was great), and more. After AC Liberation, IV, III, and Rogue, I was very excited to return to Europe and plunge into Paris for Unity.

In Unity you take the role of a gamer who is using the modern version of the Animus (a device made to relive ancestral memories) which has made its way from being top-secret corporate tech, to making it into consumers' living rooms in the guise of a home gaming console. 

Every AC game has managed to introduce a new form or version of the animus in some way, with the exception of IV and Rogue sharing similar use as an entertainment development studio's research analyst tool. 

As you begin your journey with this new animus, Assassin hackers contact you and request that you spend some time in the genetic memories of Arno Dorian, you proceed to do so, and Arno's story begins.


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Something I love in storytelling, is when a future title connects with a previous one. Assassin's Creed has had one hero or group handing off the torch to the other for quite some time. Even with the time skip between AC III and IV you are still aware that the Assassin's are still out there, somewhere, because IV was the first game to have no direct connection to Desmond Miles, the first main antagonist who's genetic memory was connected to some of the most important Assassin's of all time. 


Rogue, which was released alongside Unity (originally an attempt for Ubisoft to toss one more previous gen title at those who didn't have a PS4 or Xbone so they didn't feel left out) takes you through the story of Shay Cormac, an Assassin who turned to the 'dark side' and became an Assassin-slaying Templar, one of the most notorious ones in history. Shay basically carries out what I call the Assassin's Creed version of Star War's "Order 66" against the Assassins, and if you know what that is I need not say more. 


But why am I talking about Rogue? Shay's days of Assassin slaying are slowing down as he ages, eventually he stopped by Versailles and made his way to assassinating Charles Dorian, the Assassin father of Unity's main protagonist, Arno Dorian. 

You pass by little Arno and Elise de la Serre who plays a big role in Unity, just before doing the deed and escaping in one of the last moments we see Shay. 
As fate would have it, Arno is taken to live with his childhood friend Elise's father, a Templar. Arno didn't know either were of either faction, but it set the stage for Unity, and as soon as Arno's story begins you are right there as child Arno- even seeing Shay's boots walk by. 

 Unity's story unfolds as one of the most unique games in the series so far. Arno, who I am not alone in thinking has many features and shades of infamous Master Assassin Ezio Auditore in his early days, is a very like-able character right off the bat as you play as Arno escaping some blacksmiths after stealing back his fathers watch he had lost in a bet. 

Arno has witty remarks which carry on through the game until the end, he's very young-spirited and a welcome breath of fresh air after playing Shay Cormac (assuming you're playing in order of story) who, don't get me wrong is a freaking cool bad/good tormented Anakin Skywalker (sort of) type guy of the series. 

 Arno was the child of a rich family and Assassin father who lived in the Palace of Versailles, early on thanks to Shay everything changes and he still remains in the upper crust life in Versailles while growing up with Elise's family. 

Things change yet again for Arno, and this time for the worst, when he sneaks into his old home in Versailles for a celebration to see Elise who he hadn't had the chance to see in a while- his one true love. 
After finding her the two are reunited all grown up and while leaving the Palace, Elise's father is killed, and Arno is found at the wrong place and wrong time. The story continues with Arno being thrown in prison at the Bastille, where he encounters an Assassin, Bellic, who found himself in the Bastille as a fellow prisoner so he could search the Bastille walls for mysterious symbols only visible with an Assassin's "Eagle Vision". Bellic finds out Arno can see them two and realizes Arno has a gift and trains him to fight while in prison. Some time later, the famous event in the French Revolution where the citizens raided the Bastille occurred and Arno and Bellic escaped together through the debris, with Bellic giving Arno instructions to find the Assassins. 

Broke and destitute with no where to go, Arno seeks out the Assassins.


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Every Assassin main character in the franchise has their way of getting into the Assassin Brotherhood. For Ezio, he was born into it but the murdering of his family forced him on a path to revenge that ended up reuniting him with his Assassin uncle and a journey that led to Ezio reforming the Brotherhood as a whole into one of it's most powerful periods in history. Ezio had his loves and losses, ultimately ending with him old, happily married, and living a mostly peaceful life after contributing years of service to the world as a Master Assassin. 


Connor found his way into becoming an Assassin, while there was nearly no Brotherhood present most of his life thanks to Shay Cormac, he still tutored under a Master Assassin growing up after losing friends and seeking revenge on Charles Lee, which led Connor through the American Revolution and effected the Templar's level of power in North America, fixing some of Shay's damage. 


For Aveline she was a free spirit often tired of the fancy lifestyle her father's family lived, and was trained by her swamp-friend who used to work with her mother, also an Assassin. Edward Kenway the most awkward of them all, meeting a dying Assassin and pretending to be him, which led Edward through a series of events that had him living the Assassin life.


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Arno finds his way into the Assassins HQ in Paris after escaping the Bastille and reunites with Bellic. From there he passed their trials and did work with Bellic to shadow him as an apprentice. Arno grew quickly in skill but it was yet again (as it is with most Assassin heroes) revenge that drove him as well. I feel like revenge is becoming a bit of a rehash in the series, yet it is disguised based on different forms happening in whatever AC story its in, so its not so bad. 

It is a powerful story overall as Arno seeks out the chain of Templars who had a hand in killing their fellow brother, Elise's father who Arno was framed for killing. This takes Arno on a very wild path through the underbelly and the high life of Paris all the same, meeting some famous historic characters and also some as low as rats, but eventually the path does lead him somewhere. 

Unity's story is in fact one giant murder mystery story, coupled with Arno's series of misfortune in his life as things go from good to okay, then spiral to bad, then worse, then terribad, then alright again. All the while he is on the trail, the Assassin Council has their feelings on his actions, his choices, and begin to doubt him as the Assassin Brotherhood and the Creed does not allow for revenge, but fosters a Brotherhood that respects murder as a means for justice and only does what is absolutely necessary and agreed upon, usually. 

 Arno always means well, but Unity is a prime example of how even the good guys (The Assassins) can even have problems as a conspiracy ignites within the Council after the death of the Council's leader, Mirabeau. 
Arno takes it upon himself to find Mirabeau's killer and is shocked to learn it was Bellec, his mentor and friend, who is very passionate about the philosophy of the Creed and present Brotherhood, feeling that Mirabeau was weak for helping Arno so much but didn't understand Arno's situation as much as the other Council leaders. 

Arno, torn by his personal beliefs and the Creed and his love for Elise and even anger for the death of Mirabeau, fueled him during a duel with Bellec where he killed him. Oh boy.


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During his Assassin days and Sherlock work Arno was also trying to get into contact with Elise, who when he did meet with, found she was not the prim and proper lady he thought she was but a fully suited and skilled Templar, like her father before her. 


The story begins to portray the heavy weight of Elise's duty to the Templar Order and Arno's commitment to the Assassins, and at first it appears that Arno and Elise would be enemies. She continues to send him letters and Arno soon finds out Elise was being hunted by her own kind and needed help, offering an alliance between her and Arno's friends, the Assassins. 

Queue a scene where Arno decides to bring Elise, a Templar, into the secret Assassin HQ but doesn't forget to blindfold her to keep it secret. Elise, amused at the use of the blindfold, recites the exact number of steps and turns made to enter the base, everyone 'facepalms' at Arno and the council asks that he might as well take the blindfold off for pete's sake. The Assassins metaphorically eyeroll Arno yet again for bringing a Templar to their base and tension is extremely high, and also a bit hilarious for the viewer. I loved that scene.

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Arno and Elise work together despite the Assassin's opinions. I just loved to be able to see two childhood friends/lovers, both on different sides, all grown up, working with each other for mutual interests, defying the Assassins and Templars but while very much still being an Assassin and a Templar, and all the comedy/awkwardness/badassery that came from Arno and Elise's relationship. 


Later in the game during a moment of peace is a memorable scene in a hot air balloon where Arno and Elise finally kiss in the sky above Paris. Things begin to seem great! Arno gets to see his girl and he's making progress on the trail of who killed Elise's father. 

That's when life decides to smack Arno in the face, yet again. For one of the first moments like this in the series, we witness Arno being kicked out of the Assassins even when he is about to reveal to them his discoveries of a Templar Grand Master with grandiose plans. (Its like a Jedi telling the council a new Sith Lord has appeared) They don't listen to him, and yet again Arno takes things into his own hands anyways and continues being an Assassin anyways. 

Teaming up with his girl Elise, they fight their way through to the end.


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One interesting thing about the Unity story (I mentioned this briefly earlier) to me is that we not only see some faults on the Assassin's side, (which honestly began more-so in Rogue even though most of those events were just unfortunate rather than corrupt) you also see the Templar's growing weaker in an aspect where they are trying to reform themselves and killing off those who oppose the inner-circle of Templars who are trying to get back to their roots, led by the new Grand Master and Sage, Germain. 


Thinking about this it all made sense, since Haytham Kenway had died (via Connor in ACIII) when Arno was a child or possibly just before he was born, there was most certainly some years for the Templars that carried a bit of lack in the leadership department. It makes sense that someone would eventually come along and try to strengthen and reorganized them, something Germain explains when Arno finally kills him.


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Tragically, Elise dies in the fight against Germain who weilds an ancient Sword of Eden, turning Unity into a tragic love story and life giving poor Arno another slap in the face. Unity's regular story ends this way with Germain dead and the Templars in Europe in a decent disorder, but for Arno his love of his life is dead, he is separated from his Assassin brothers, and has nowhere to go, yet again. 


Unity actually ends this way. Wow, right? But if you play the Dead Kings DLC you get an epilogue that softens the burn, just a bit, but is well worth it.


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Dead Kings shows Arno on a sabbatical in Franciade, drinking his life away from the pain of what's happened to him, when suddenly he reunites with De Sade, a flamboyant character he meets early on in his Assassin days who offers to pay his tab at the bar he's racking up and also offers him passage to Egypt if Arno wants to leave the country. 

Of course, this comes with a price, which Arno decides on in helping De Sade recover a relic that he wants so Arno can leave France behind as there is nothing but pain there for him now. 
I found this amazing, just the aesthetics and how Dead Kings plays out overall, really playing through the protagonists depression here, and the style of Dead Kings also have a more gothic, rainy, death-like feel to it. Franciade doesn't have it like Paris, most of the buildings are poor or run down, the big church you can see from anywhere in the city is half-constructed and hollow, looking more like a bony corpse than anything.

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Graveyards are abound, and Franciade also has many tombs where France buried it's kings. 

The whole epilogue in Dead Kings portrays Arno's mood almost better than Arno at times. Bittersweet Arno hallucinates thinking he sees Elise at one moment, and begins to remember he final letters that were very very bittersweet but serves as a bit of an awakening for him to snap out of it and try to move on. 

Arno meets a child who he befriends that thinks he's some kind of hero, and together they actually solve some puzzles and get mixed into another subplot where Arno's old buddy Napolean is trying to seek a powerful artifact, Arno secretly keeping him from getting it.


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Unity is jam packed with things to do, at every turn there's chests, side story quests, companion missions, collectible cockades, and even the game's own Murder Mystery mini-game quests. 

Some argue that the sheer number of these things may be the work of Unity's developers supplying filler content to make it last longer- but I certainly didn't mind. 

Battle in the game is pretty simple, a combination of swinging whatever weapon you pick and parrying. At first I discovered that Unity's combat system had a mild learning curve opposed to the previous game's blocking, parrying, and combo systems, it was a rude awakening at first and I was getting stabbed a lot. Over time you get used to "I just hit the circle button when I see that flashing yellow light over an enemies head" and suddenly you're a champion of combat who parries even the most dangerous foes. Even better later on when you get takedowns or finishers, and heavy weapons are a lot of fun. I myself used polearms (halberds/spears/pikes) through most of the game, but had some fun playing with the heavy mace and watching some of the brutal animations unfold. Guns are the usual for the most part, this time allowing you to have a rifle of your own too. Much later on in the DLC, you get Guillotine Guns which feel a bit wasted being in the DLC if you're just bursting through it for the story. Its not too recommended to do the DLC before the end of the story for many obvious reasons you'll discover, and by that point I had done everything, so those special gun-axes are a very short memory to me. Fun, nonetheless.


Character progression begins with the unlocking of a few skills and collecting gear for Arno (head, chest, arms, waist, legs, and weapons.) There is a plethora of gear to earn and collect in Unity, most requiring money with the option to hack it unlocked using Helix Credits, Unity's micro-transaction. Even with the micro-transaction that is snuck into the game, it certainly isn't in your face or mandatory and all of the game is playable without buying a single credit, but using Helix Credits does speed a few things up. When I decided to invest as much time as I did into the game I had purchased just enough credits to get the Map unlocks- these were extremely useful for any completionist, as it didn't unlock anything tangible, but uncovered locations on the map for you that you would have to had simply 'passed by'. 


With my map fully loaded I set out to open every chest and complete every quest and mystery in the game. I would have the platinum too if it weren't for that slyly disguised 100% sync trophy that has a description of "complete every single player mission". I found this pretty ridiculous because of how vague that actually is, with Unity having 13 single player sequences (chapters) and a ton of single player side story missions, and more. It should have read "100% sync every story sequence".


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With loads of games in my backlog and a lot on the horizon, there's no way in heck I would find myself going back through Unity's sequences to check off every sync check-mark in what I imagine as a rage-inducing-nightmare. But in my mind, I have the platinum, or at least bragging rights. I did everything. All 400-something chests, all 20 something multiplayer missions, all the murder mysteries solved, all companions assisted, my cafe theater and social clubs were fully quested up and renovated to the max at the highest proficiency, I had all the assassin legacy costumes unlocked, 98% of all the gear and a full skill tree, and every darn cockade from every nook and cranny that the developers hid them. I beat the game, I don't care about the 100% sync that you can fail because you didn't knife a guy the required way or cut the alarm before the soldier finished his tea.


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What you see above is nothing, triple those icons possibly quadruple them.


But speaking of gear though, Unity has a nice amount of it. I am a big fan of games that let you equip gear and then see those pieces on your character. You can also upgrade your gear using another type of currency you earn through doing Assassin tricks (it adds up on it's own honestly). 


Playing the Income game was one of the most enjoyable features, I strove to upgrade my cafe and social clubs early on so I could get that sweet 43k every 18 or so minutes. Trust me, this helps a LOT when you're dealing with more difficult enemies and can obtain good gear as early as possible, starting with your weapon. Any foray into southern Paris is a rude awakening to those used to the majority of the north. Unity has the most customization options I've ever seen in the AC series, it really can be a blast. 


The entirety of the non-story related content is a game of it's own, and almost all of it was pretty enjoyable. Some companion missions felt a bit lacking but it was only due to their short length. Paris Stories quests always offered intriguing or unexpected missions and situations, sometimes being multi-part or branching into others that overall created what side-quests should do, generate a short and sweet story off to the side of the main tale. 


The Unity app for smartphones and tablets is also a nice way to build up some funds on the side and create your own small brotherhood of assassins outside of the game to assist you in unlocking rewards that do appear in the game. Unlike some other apps that link to video games, the Unity app is pretty fluid and stable, and I recommend making good use of it to get the most out of your experience.


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Co Op even had it's own very minor stories or, 'situations'. Co Op in Unity is pretty enjoyable, I was entertained off the bat, feeling like I was working together with my Assassin brethren. Aside from some rare bugs, the general co op experience is pretty grand. There's a good chunk of Co Op quests too, and doing them several times reaps various gear drops, extra skill points, and money. Co Op quests are littered everywhere on the map, however it is much more manageable to view and select them from the all-new Progress Tracker menu. 

Grouping is usually easy, but sometimes glitches in rare cases, causing a complete restart of the game. There's also the two or three missions that sometimes glitch, locking you and your fellow assassins in a limbo of a completed but never recognized mission-goals by the game, prompting an exit and re-entering of the mission, sometimes re-grouping with friends in the process as well. 
Progress Tracker is an absolute necessity in this game, which is filled with literally hundreds of things to do. Graphs show your progression and percentages of completion, and open when you select some of them to show how much you've earned where and how to obtain more money, skill points, sync points (a co op exclusive way to earn extra skill points), and a whole lot more. 


Last but not least I should also mention those Helix Rift missions, a system of traversing the Helix server to save fellow Assassin's that have been trapped between gateways. During these missions you are on a limited amount of time to collect floating data fragments and unfreeze fellow Assassin's, all before jumping into the rift as the world crashes around you. Its a nice way to earn a few extra bucks and there's only a handful in the game. What amazed me the most, was that they take place in completely different time-frames in France, some deep in the past in medieval France, some during World War II, and some in the 1800's.


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Unity is also a very beautiful game, it's engine and all the patches that has followed release, allow for a pretty stable open world filled with life. Even more beautiful if you're playing on a 4k setup. Sometimes a hundred NPCs will be on screen in the streets of Paris, protesting or giving speeches. Oftentimes events will break out before you, with the Extremists committing crimes or harassing citizens, or women shouting "thief, get the thief!" prompting you to chase another NPC in the crowd that stole from her.


Moving around has never been more fluid in an Assassin's Creed game. A new system and engine allows us to practically glide over everything compared to some 'sticky' assassins in the past. Arno flies down buildings with a system called "Controlled Descent" which even awards you some upgrade credits when performed successfully. While running in the game, climbing anything just means holding the X button, and going down usually means just holding the circle button. Easy stuff and sometimes its a rush. Please Ubisoft, more of this!


Still present however are those face-palming moments the franchise may never get over, when your character jumps gallantly into the air in an unfortunate direction, often falling from a great height, or right into the enemies detection.

And darn it Arno, just...just climb IN the window, now around it!!
Most of those issues are easy to shrug off or even laugh at, but you may feel your blood pressure rise once or twice when you have to redo a mission or screw something up because of it. (And that's why I don't touch 100% sync)

Unity's soundtrack isn't bad but it's what you'd expect, a general orchestra and some epic style tracks. There certainly isn't any memorable songs like the Sea Shanties of ACIV: Black Flags or the overal AC series themes like the one in ACIII or ACII that had the potential to stick in your head for a while.


 Verdict: 8.5/10.00


Do not underestimate the size of this game! Judging it as yet another Assassin's Creed game or comparing it to any previous title does not do it any justice. 

Playing casually and then a bit more seriously towards the end, Unity lasted me a good 5 months and would have been longer if I didn't get a couple shortcuts or became more dedicated in the last month and a half or so. Its honestly one of the larger games I've played, and might as well be the Skyrim of the AC franchise. 
If Unity wasn't connected to the franchise through it's lore and story purposes, it could have been it's own complete stand alone game. 
That being said, this game definitely has some bang for your buck, which by present time might be somewhere around $10-$15 USD or so. That 'bang' runs deep and content heavy, but you also have the choice to just play sequence by sequence and just enjoy the story as well, which is still very much worth it. 

Assassin's Creed Unity connected to Rogue and the rest of the franchise, and for me created some thought-provoking moments about the Templar Order and even the Assassin's. The love between Arno and Elise is something that will be difficult to forget for some time, even if that experience for me (being a completionist) was spread out over those months of playing. I liked that it wasn't packed with lovey-dovey gushy moments, but that the couple faced being on two different sides and the ramifications that came from their individual lives. 


Arno's tale really bordered on being sad or bittersweet, but had its ups and lows like life does, and I think it's amazing that Unity was able to provoke those emotions. I am left with good memories of my time in France, and overall I am very glad I met Arno and Elise and followed them closely through their story. 

If you've finished the story and completed everything in the game, the only real replay value present is the 100% sync where you'll be replaying many of the story missions you completed. As someone who doesn't want to do that but beat the game and all of it's content, there's no reason to replay again unless it's to pop the game in to assist a friend in Co Op who's making their journey through the French Revolution or reading up on the vast amount of history and facts that accompanies this historically placed game. If there was a new game + or other ways to accomplish the game's goals or different outcomes to forge, I would probably upgrade the score to a full 9.0. Throughout the game you do have a choice to be a slick sneaky type or a guns blazing blade-wielding warrior, but the outcomes are the same and everything is finalized in the end.
All of the games trophies can also be acquired in one playthrough as well.

Finally, I must say that advertising to me was a bit misleading, and I know people who have also thought that Unity was heavily Co Op. Instead you will find a living and breathing Paris to romp through in your mostly single player adventure, teeming with many characters who need your aid, and tons of discoveries to be made and mysteries to solve on your own. 

Also, those guys next to Arno on the game's cover, aren't real characters, just stand-ins to represent Co Op players. Still, Co Op was done the way I'd expect AC to deliver Co Op. Neatly and on the side. 

+Story
+Protagonists
+Wealth of Content, Size of Game
+Multiplayer
+Enjoyable Character Progression System
+Controlled Descent
+Large, Free DLC Epilogue
+App Integration

-Slight or Initial Battle Learning Curve Sting

-Minor Climbing Irritations
-Minor Existing Co Op and Grouping Bugs
-Advertising and Initial Game Launch and Existing Stigma





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About Hikaru Kazushime

Hikaru Kazushime is an American entrepreneur from the USA who lives in California and is the creator of Run Around:Network, a brand that brings Visual Culture to life. Kazu (called for short) is an active personality in the anime and gaming industries and sub-culture scenes. Kazu resides in his hometown of Sacramento, California where he manages RA:N from his home office. Learn more about Kazu by clicking the "About Hikaru Kazushime" link at the top under the "About" tab.

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