Wednesday, April 18, 2018
Passed over localization during 16-bit era, the fifth mainline Final Fantasy title keeps Nobuo Uematsu as composer, with the opening theme, "Ahead on Our Way," serving as a linchpin for much of the soundtrack, given several remixes in different moods. It does feature the main theme and prelude common to most entries of the series, and some tracks, such as the battle theme for the main antagonist, Exdeath, seem to take inspiration from other composers such as Dragon Quest musician Koichi Sugiyama, and there are nods to classical composers such as Georges Bizet. This is definitely what a soundtrack should be, given the central theme, and is recommended listening for fans of videogame music.
Tuesday, April 17, 2018
The second installment of author Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments series opens with a description of Manhattan’s new downtown condominium tower, the Metropole, along with the summoning of a demon named Agramon by the warlock Elias and Valentine, holder of the Mortal Cup. Early on, Jace goes missing, and Clary’s mother Jocelyn is still in the hospital, not recovering from unconsciousness during the story, although a woman named Madeleine appears in the epilogue promising a method by which to wake her. Another one of the franchise’s eponymous Mortal Instruments, the Mortal Sword, plays part as well.
One character becomes a vampire, as well, with Jace finding himself in captivity as well aboard a ship. There is also occasional confusion as to whether Maryse and a character referred to as the Inquisitor are the same person or different individuals, and overall, the second entry of the series definitely isn’t as strong as the first, feeling more like a tale of human (and in some cases supernatural creature) interest rather than hard contemporary fantasy. The first Mortal Instruments sequel certainly won’t appeal to everyone, given the presence of occasional confusion, but is by no means a bad story.
Monday, April 16, 2018
I had a mixed attitude towards this title's gameplay, although the visual and aural presentation were vastly superior, the latter presented by Masashi Hamauzu, with his work being near-note perfect, given the centrality of the various themes, with several remixes of the same tracks, particularly with regards to the battle and victory themes. Some might complain it's repetitive, but the soundtrack definitely feels unified, and is highly recommended.
Sunday, April 15, 2018
In the inaugural entry of author J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter pantheon (the titular MacGuffin called the Philosopher’s Stone outside the United States), the Dursley couple claim to be normal parents who don’t want to mingle with the alleged pariah Potter family, with Petunia, the Mrs. Of the family, having not heard from her sister in a while. In their town, the wizard Albus Dumbledore meets Professor McGonagall, with the news that Lord Voldemort is dead along with two of his victims, Lily and James Potter, whose son Harry survived the dark lord’s assassination attempt for mysterious reasons.
Against McGonagall’s desires, Harry is left with his remaining living family, the Dursleys who have also recently had their own infant son Dudley, and are basically Muggle supremacists attempting to suppress all knowledge of Harry’s magical heritage. The main story picks up a decade later with Dudley’s birthday, and since the Dursley’s babysitter Mrs. Figg is unavailable due to a broken leg, Harry, against the boy’s wishes, is taken to the zoo, where to his surprise, Harry is able to communicate with a snake, the glass protecting it magically vanishing, and Harry consequentially punished for months in addition to confinement to the crawlspace beneath his home’s stairs.
To the Dursleys’ surprise, Harry gets a mysterious letter, although his bigoted relatives play keep-away, in which instance the letters keep repeating themselves, driving the Dursleys to check into a hotel, where the letters too attempt to reach Harry, and they consequentially stay at a shack out on an island, with someone coming when Harry’s birthday arrives. The stranger is Rubeus Hagrid, Keeper of Keys and Grounds at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, who gives Harry the intended message stating that he is invited to a magical education at the academy.
Harry is quested with obtaining the supplies necessary for his magical education, Hagrid helping him along, and luckily, Harry’s deceased parents left behind a sizeable fortune at the bank Gringotts, where an attempted break-in is made known throughout the early chapters of the story. After another month of torture with the Dursleys, Harry is left at King’s Crossing Station in London, where he must find the elusive Platform Nine-and-Three-Quarters, and fortunately, the magical family Weasley helps him to the train taking off northward for Hogwarts.
At the school, the Sorting Ceremony places Harry into the Gryffindor House, with the fledgling wizard having a recurring dream involving greenish illumination. After an incident involving broom-riding instruction, Harry becomes Seeker in the magical sport of Quidditch, and challenged with a duel by his nemesis Draco Malfoy, which turns out to be a false errand, during which he and his friends Ron Weasley and Hermoine Granger encounter a forbidden chamber defended by a Cerberus named Fluffy.
Harry receives a special broomstick for his first Quidditch match, where he magically loses control of his broomstick (before which a troll causes brief terror for the students of Hogwarts on Halloween), with one of his Professors, Severus Snape, suspected of interference. For a few nights, Harry encounters the Mirror of Erised, which plays a role towards the end of the novel. He and his companions also research the enigmatic Nicolas Flamel, with Harry further receiving his late father’s Invisibility Cloak as a Christmas present, opening for him a world of shenanigans.
The titular Sorcerer’s Stone doesn’t play much of a role until later in the story, with things such as Professor Snape’s motives unrevealed until the end. Overall, this is definitely an enjoyable children’s novel, although it somewhat falls apart when exposed to outside logic, for instance, with dozens of wizarding families undoubtedly preferable to anti-magic bigots such as the Dursleys and likely to be happier to take Harry under their wing, along with the fact that the story would have had easier resolution had the Sorcerer’s Stone been destroyed before the main events. There’s also the question as to why Harry couldn’t have just been allowed to stay at Hogwarts instead of being sent back to his bigoted relatives, but regardless of these flaws, the story is definitely memorable, and worth a read.