Friday, December 31, 2021

Final Gaming Update of 2021

Currently Playing

Dust: An Elysian Tail (PlayStation 4) - I had played the iOS version and wanted to play this hi-def, and as it was one of my top personal favorite games, I wanted to see if my previous opinion was warranted, which it still mostly is.

Slime Forest Adventure - A bit of a slog, albeit educationally, and I'm getting up to the thousand-kanji mark.

In My Backlog

Baldur's Gate & Baldur's Gate II: Enhanced Editions (Nintendo Switch) - I'll probably sell this back and eventually get the PlayStation 4 version, due to the PS4 giving games more lasting appeal in the form of Trophies.

Ultima II: The Revenge of the Enchantress - Don't know if I'll ever get to this.

Ultima III: Exodus - Likewise.

Commission by Anaboo


The Silent Fleet

The Silent Fleet (The Messenger #4)The Silent Fleet by J.N. Chaney
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The fifth entry of J.N. Chaney and Terry Maggert’s The Messenger series focuses on protagonist Newton “Dash” Sawyer and his crewmembers continuing to expand the capabilities of the space station Forge, with Dash himself practicing the disability of a Golden missile through his giant mech, the Archetype. The remnants of the projectile he brings aboard the Forge, with one of his allies, the monk Kai, discovering things about the ancient race, the Unseen. When Dash and company seek to go on an excursion, they leave Leira behind to hone her skills, and they visit the planet Orsino, where they enter a pillar-shaped structure and see Unseen print.

Dash eventually receives information about an antediluvian armada, the eponymous Silent Fleet, which could turn the tide of their war against the antagonistic aliens, the Golden, although they need a significant crew to pilot the vessels. The company thus seeks assistance from a group of pirates known as the Gentle Friends, ironically named due to their piratical disposition, spearheaded by Benzel, although they do ultimately agree to help. Shortly afterward, other antagonists called the Bright, led by the Purity Council, attack, and they send calls to the Golden, with a climactic battle against them concluding the fourth entry.

The book is definitely an enjoyable piece of contemporary science-fiction, with plentiful action and development, although there are occasional issues such as errors like the monk Kai called Kay at one point in the story, not to mention similarities to other sci-fi media such as the videogame Xenogears and its spiritual predecessors the Xenosaga trilogy. Regardless, the narrative is definitely a fun, well-paced diversion from the standard norm of the sci-fi genre, given its well-described battles and background, with the conclusion leaving plenty more to come, and I would definitely recommend it to like-minded readers of such literature.

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Back to the Outback


Australian animated film on Netflix about several indigenous animals in captivity that yearn to travel to and live in the country's outback. Had plenty of good moments and a few good twists or two, maybe one gross moment, but I still fairly enjoyed it.

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Pokémon Shining Pearl


A Shining Pearl among Pokéremakes

When I got my Nintendo DS as a Christmas gift back in 2006, one of my aims was to experience Nintendo’s beloved Pokémon series, which before then I had yet to experience, and thus dove into the franchise via the Diamond/Pearl generation. I did somewhat enjoy what time I spent with it, although there were various issues that to me prevented it from truly excellent. As remakes would be a tradition for the series, developer Game Freak would during the Nintendo Switch era produce full rereleases of the two games, Brilliant Diamond and the iteration I experienced, Pokémon Shining Pearl, which features many improvements over its precursors.

As with prior Pokémon titles, the player can name and customize their protagonist, afterward beginning in a small village from which he or she travels to record all wild Pokémon in the Pokédex a professor grants them, dealing with the ambitions of the sinister Team Galactic along the way and ending with the challenge of Pokémon combat’s Elite Four and the Champion that ranks above them. There’s some good backstory, although there are repeated tropes such as the rivalry with the main character’s best friend, and Team Galactic is a bit too similar to Team Rocket, and once you’ve experienced one game’s plot, you’ve experienced them all. The translation is definitely legible and free of spelling and grammar errors, but there is a bit of a Japanese feel such as the titles prefacing the names of NPC opponents, and some stylistic issues such as the use of “OK” instead of “okay.”

That leaves the gameplay to shoulder the burden, and happily, Shining Pearl does a good job in this area and is overall an improvement over the original version’s mechanics. The combat mechanisms function much the same as in other entries of the series, although much akin to the original generation, fights with wild Pokémon are still random in areas such as tall grass and caves, the player able to nullify encounters with lower-level ones with different types of repellant spray. As in RPGs in general, moreover, the random number gods can often be cruel in terms of encounters with specific Pokémon, especially if players fudge their chance to capture certain rare ones.

When beginning a wild encounter, the player has a number of available options such as attacking with the Pokémon leading their party of up to six, or attempting to capture the adversary via one of several different types of Pokéballs, although at the outset doing so with only Quick Balls is advisable since they have the best chance of acquisition when commencing one of said engagements. Normally, weakening the opponent as much as possible guarantees the highest chance of capture when utilizing other types of Pokéballs, although one can find it difficult to do so without accidentally killing the opponent Pokémon. Trying to capture foes once again can invoke the cruelty of the random number gods.

If the player wishes to battle, each Pokémon can have up to four abilities of different types and effects, with a roshambo formula where certain abilities are super-effective against certain enemy types, standardly effective, not very effective, or with no effect against others. This naturally adds a layer of strategy to combat, necessitating that the player forms their party carefully, usually with a mix of different Pokémon types, with many possibly having up to two different elements. One major improvement over the original generation is that if a player has previously killed or captured a certain Pokémon, the game indicates the effect moves will have against the enemy.

Another significant superiority to the initial generation is that offing an enemy Pokémon (in addition to capturing one) nets all of the player’s party not fainted experience for occasional level-ups, in which case their stats increase and they may receive the opportunity to learn a new ability, with the chance to replace a current one if at the max of four. This makes raising even weaker Pokémon easier as they don’t have to actively face the enemy to obtain experience, although those that personally face the enemy obtain the bulk of experience.

To obtain money for purchasing new goods such as healing items, the player must face NPC Pokémon trainers in between towns and in caves, having to pay a monetary penalty if they lose. A certain accessory any Pokémon can equip doubles the amount of cash obtained from these battles, and later in the game, the player gains a Pokétech Watch application that can allow them to reface these NPCs in combat. When these nonplayer trainers are close to one another, the player might have to face up to two at once, in which case the Pokémon leading the player’s roster go into battle, with the protagonist able to swap them out during their turn.

However, swapping a Pokémon consumes the player’s turn and makes it vulnerable to the opponent’s attacks, a step down from the superior systems in other RPGs such as Final Fantasy XBreath of Fire IV, and Wild Arms 2. The endgame where the player has to face four champion trainers and their leader can also be irksome given the inability to back out and that if they lose against them, that have to reface them from the beginning, although luckily, players keep whatever experience they obtained at the time. The game mechanics generally work well in spite of their flaws, making the gameplay experience of the series significantly more accessible than in prior titles.

Shining Pearl also interacts well with players, with easy menus and an always-convenient save-anywhere (except in the middle of battle) feature, along with a message below the menu options providing clear direction on where to go next to advance the central storyline. The Pokétech Watch the player eventually acquires also allows them later on to revisit previous towns with the Fly Hidden Move, players no longer needing to make their Pokémon learn these skills in order to use them, although one can potentially overlook certain things without the assistance of the internet. Regardless, interaction is well above average.

The soundtrack is one of the game’s highlights, with plenty of catchy music on the routes in between towns and rockin’ battle themes, along with distinct cries for the various Pokémon. The sound effects are good as well, and the near-death alarm when a Pokémon reaches critical health is significantly less annoying than in the original version, dinging only thrice to indicate low HP. Generally, the rerelease is an aural delight.

Shining Pearl looks the part, as well, with the original incarnation’s chibi sprites remade in three dimensions, although battles render the various characters in more anatomically-correct proportions, with endless gorgeous Pokémon designs that don’t have any reskins whatsoever. The environments are pretty as well, with vibrant colors and minimal jaggies and pixilated textures, although there are minor issues with the indirect contact of Pokémon in battle when executing moves against one another. Regardless, the graphics are some of the strongest on the Nintendo Switch.

Finally, the game can last players a while, with half-decent replay value in the form of significant postgame content and catching all Pokémon, although a guide may be necessary to do so, alongside the divergent incarnations of the same game, slight in-game hell, and the various things that seem to add a few unnecessary hours to the game such as unskippable battle text (although turning off Pokémon battle animations can lessen the padding a little).

In summation, Pokémon Shining Pearl is very much what a remake should be, given the drastically-increased accessibility of the core game mechanics, tight control with clear direction on how to advance, the superb soundtrack, and the polished graphics. There are issues, however, that mainstream gamers need to consider before purchase such as the irritating in-game, the ability to overlook certain things without referencing the internet, the generic Pokémon plot, and the lack of refinement regarding the localization. Regardless, I firmly believe that if the remakes indicate the direction in which the series is headed, it very much has a bright future.

This review is based on a playthrough of a copy borrowed by the reviewer to the standard ending.

The Good:
+Easier to raise Pokémon than in original generation.
+Good control with decent direction.
+Great soundtrack.
+Polished graphics.

The Bad:
-Somewhat irksome endgame.
-A few things easy to overlook without a guide.
-Typical Pokémon plot.
-Localization lacks polish.

The Bottom Line:
More accessible than the original version.

Score Breakdown:
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Game Mechanics: 8.0/10
Controls: 8.0/10
Story: 6.5/10
Localization: 6.5/10
Music/Sound: 9.5/10
Graphics: 9.5/10
Lasting Appeal: 6.5/10
Difficulty: Variable
Playing Time: 30-60 Hours

Overall: 8.0/10

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Commission by Panda-Jenn (Not My Art)


Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Marvel Cinematic Universe series that focuses on the eponymous organization, primarily focusing on Phil Coulson, who occasionally appears in the films, that deals with various worldwide threats such as the antagonistic Hydra organization. I found it largely enjoyable though it steeps at some points in human interest.

Sunday, December 26, 2021

The Dragon Reborn

The Dragon Reborn (The Wheel of Time, #3)The Dragon Reborn by Robert Jordan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The prologue of the third main Wheel of Time novel focuses on the Children of Light, who hear stories about Rand al’Thor proclaiming himself to be the Dragon Reborn, with the Myrddraal manipulating them. The main chapters open with the same motif of wind like the book’s predecessors, with Perrin Aybara being among Shienarans, and a girl named Leya seeking the Aes Sedai Moiraine in the camp of the Dragon. The tainted masculine half of the One Power, the saidin, continues to tug at Rand, which could potentially attract the Myrddraal to his location.

Sure enough, Trollocs attack the camp, with Perrin’s lupine allies helping repel them, suffering casualties, Perrin wishing the wolves buried among the human deceased instead of harvested for pelts. Rand leaves the camp to spread word of his coming, fearing the Dark One is hunting him and that the seals at Shayol Ghul are weakening. Rand’s ultimate goal is to make it to Tear to take control of an enigmatic sword known as Callandor stored in the Heart of the Stone, and stops in a village called Jarra along the way, performing for a wedding.

Egwene al’Vere yearns to go to the White Tower at Tar Valon for training as an Aes Sedai, where rumors of the Black Ajah abound, and Darkfriends infiltrate. Although the Amyrlin Seat wishes Egwene and her fellow trainee Elayne to hunt Liandrin, a potential member of the Black Ajah, the two trainees fear being stilled, and hear of the Soulless, the Gray Men, who sacrifice their souls to serve the Dark One as assassins. Mat Cauthon is recovering from recent injuries at the White Tower, with several in the Aes Sedai headquarters visiting him in his unconsciousness and coming-to.

Dreams among various characters abound of Rand reaching for the crystal sword Callandor in the Heart of the Stone in Tear, with said confederates of the Dragon Reborn ultimately making it their destination as well, rare updates of Rand’s progress given throughout the story. A conflict with one of the Forsaken erupts at said location, the third entry of Robert Jordan’s magnum opus ending satisfactorily with plenty plot to come in future installments, though he again obviously had influence by the Star Wars franchise, and viewpoint characters in different locations sometimes shift within chapters instead of having clear segregation.

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Saturday, December 25, 2021

Annabelle's Wish


Christmas film about a boy named Billy who lost his parents prematurely, consequentially went mute, and lives with his grandfather, although one of his aunts seeks to gain custody of him. Meanwhile, the eponymous calf is born, and Santa Claus gives her and the other barnyard animals the gift of speech during Christmas, with Annabelle yearning to fly like Santa's reindeer. There are some decent twists throughout the special, and it's definitely one of my favorites, although as with most animated Christmas specials, artistic license is taken with reindeer, which in reality have moose-like snouts rather than button noses.

Friday, December 24, 2021

Tails of Iron: Crimson Knight Edition


Ratsylvania: War of the Vermin

Three students from the Norwich University of the Arts in Britain founded the Manchester, United Kingdom-based game development studio Odd Bug Studio, with its first title being the 2017-released PlayStation VR game The Lost Bear. Two years later, the developer, under the publishing moniker United Label, began development of the multiplatform RPG Tails of Iron, which would see its release in 2021. As has been a habit with most major videogame releases, United Label would unleash an upgraded version of the game with additional content, Tails of Iron: Crimson Knight Edition, and afterward release a patch with a more casual difficulty, certainly a decider in my decision to purchase and play the game, but was it worth it?

Animals with some semblance of intelligence form the cast of Tails of Iron, with the plot’s primary focus being on Redgi, heir to the Rat Throne, who must restore his shattered Kingdom by vanquishing the Frog Clan and their despotic leader, Greenwart, meeting many colorful characters during his quest. The game interestingly tells its story, with the animal characters not having actual dialogue, but rather pictographic speech bubbles that narrate various actions, locales, luminaries, and the like, with the common translation by the narrator, which is why I said the characters have “some semblance” of intellect. The narrative style works well for the most part, although there are occasional oddities such as alternate reference to one of Redgi’s brothers as “the Chef” or “Chef,” the latter bringing to mind the South Park character.

Fortunately, the gameplay serves Tails of Iron well, with plentiful inspiration from the Soulsborne subgenre of roleplaying games, although mercifully, especially on the easiest Fairy Tail difficulty, it doesn’t bequeath the negative elements of its brethren. That the action occurs in two rather than three dimensions certainly helps, with Redgi outfittable with a singlehanded weapon, a shield, armor, a two-handed weapon usable in combat and clearing away thick debris in environments, and different types of ranged weapons helpful to off aerial foes. Redgi executes his single-handed weapon attack with the R1 button, and can block with L2, with enemies luckily and most of the time giving indicators as to what kind of attacks they’re about to execute so that the rodent prince can react in kind.

Redgi also carries a bottle of bug juice that can restore his health, with plentiful dispensers of the beverage present throughout the various areas. He can also lace his equipped weapon with poison for heightened damage against enemies, with more venom initially available to purchase in shops, although later on there come vials where he can replenish his supply. At his castle, moreover, players can use ingredients to cook recipes that increase his maximum health or give the blacksmith blueprints for new weapons and armor, with the opportunity to equip what results or send it to storage, weight and resistance to certain adversarial types warranting consideration before outfitting Redgi with new gear.

The game mechanics work surprisingly well, with minimal wasted playtime given the frequent presence of benches where Redgi can sit to record the player’s progress, with the selectable difficulty levels certainly accommodating towards players of different skill levels, from more casual gamers to those looking for a challenge on par with those of the Soulsborne subgenre. Even the endgame of Tails of Iron is fair, with the final boss of the main storyline potentially being a quick affair, and genuinely cheap adversaries are minimal at best. There really isn’t much of which to complain in terms of the gameplay, which in the end is certain to please even the most unpleasable player.

Control serves the game just as well, one of the most useful features being the in-game maps of Tails of Iron that show where the player currently is and where they need to travel next to advance the primary storyline and even a few sidequests, some of which are necessary to continue the central plot. When finding new equipment, moreover, the player has the chance to equip it or send it to storage, with boxes containing excess gear luckily and magically connected and players needing not memorize where they sent certain gear and thus take forever to recover it. Given the sidescrolling exploration and combat, the game also has a bit of a Metroidvania flair, which definitely isn’t a bad thing. Pretty much the only major issues regard the in-game clock, which players can only see when loading a save, and which is also somewhat slow, but otherwise, interaction is well above average.

The aurals also have many things going for them, such as good music with strong instrumentation, great sound effects, and a general good ambience, although the reliance on ambience is perhaps and admittedly the weakest link of Tails of Iron. However, the character “voices” in the form of flat-tone flute sounds one can consider slightly adorable, and the coherent English narration definitely help the sound aspect, so things could have definitely been worse.

The visuals, however, are another high point in the game, with a gorgeous two-dimensional hand-drawn style consisting of pretty environments and beautiful character and enemy sprites, all with vibrant hues. There are some nice touches as well such as enemy sprites becoming more bloodied when close to death, and aside from some loading for the graphics, Tails of Iron is visual candy, very smooth even on a PlayStation 4.

Finally, the game isn’t a lengthy experience, with playtime ranging from four to eight hours depending upon whether the player wants to acquire every achievement or partake in post-game content.

Ultimately, coming from someone who doesn’t care much for games of the Soulsborne subgenre of RPGs, Tails of Iron was definitely a welcome surprise, given the accommodation of different gamer skill levels with its two-dimensional gameplay, the tight control, well-told storyline, nice ambience, superb graphics, and significant degree of lasting appeal. There are only a few negligible issues regarding the general lack of memorable music and nitpicks with the game clock, but the game is very easily one of the strongest releases of 2021, and is worth a purchase and/or download regardless of what platform the player desires.

This review is based on a playthrough of a copy purchased by the reviewer to the standard ending, with 72% of Trophies obtained.

The Good:
+Great sidescrolling combat with different difficulty settings.
+Clear direction on how to advance main plot and sidequests.
+Great story interestingly told.
+Superb two-dimensional visuals.
+Short and sweet with plenty lasting appeal.

The Bad:
-Game clock somewhat slow.
-Sound a bit reliant on ambience.

The Bottom Line:
One of the best releases of 2021.

Score Breakdown:
Platform: PlayStation 4
Game Mechanics: 10/10
Controls: 9.5/10
Story: 9.5/10
Music/Sound: 9.0/10
Graphics: 9.5/10
Lasting Appeal: 10/10
Difficulty: Adjustable
Playing Time: 4-8 Hours

Overall: 10/10

Christmas Art 2021


The Matrix Resurrections

  The Matrix Resurrections.jpg 

Often feels like a retread of the first film in the series, but has some pretty good action and effects.

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Star Forged

 Star Forged (The Messenger #3)

Star Forged by J.N. Chaney

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The third book of authors J.N. Chaney and Terry Maggert’s The Messenger series opens with the crew of the Slipwing traversing a jungle on the planet Gulch en route to an Unseen outpost where they can supposedly find a power core for the Archetype, although natives of the planet briefly capture them. A woman known as Freya receives her introduction, as does Ragsdale, who serves as Chief of Security and advisor to Governor Khyber Wallis. Most of the book’s action occurs in the wreckage of a ship from the hostile alien race, the Golden.

However, creatures known as the Dreadfoot pose a threat while Dash and company scour the crashed vessel for information, with the ship showing signs of being self-aware, and Dash finds himself able to sync with the starship through a process known as the Meld. When they find a corpse of one of the Golden, they seek to bring it with them, although the vessel gradually comes online, and Golden bots impede their progress. One of the crewmembers of the Slipwing becomes grievously injured, with the ship’s medical system necessary for healing, the action concluding at a hospital.

Overall, the third book of the science-fiction series is enjoyable like its predecessors, given plenty of sci-fi action and elaborated mythos on the antagonistic Golden, with the authors doing a nice job as well of having a good percentage of the action occurring on the wreckage of one of the alien vessels. However, there are a few issues such as inconsistent capitalization of things such as the word “the” before terms such as “the Forge” (alternatively called “The Forge”), and there are a few minor errors such as a misuse of “it’s” when “its” would have been appropriate. Regardless, the good outweighs the bad, and I would recommend this story to those who enjoyed its precursors.

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Saturday, December 18, 2021

Semi-Weekly Art by Me, 12/18/2021


The Great Hunt

The Great Hunt (The Wheel of Time, #2)The Great Hunt by Robert Jordan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The first sequel of the late Robert Jordan’s main Wheel of Time series opens with a prologue centering on a masked man named Bors and his followers, where the repetition of “the main who called himself” is somewhat unnecessary. Bors hosts guests from many nations in the known world, among them being Aes Sedai, Trollocs, and Myrddraal, owing allegiance to the Dark One. Ba’alzamon and others in the meantime are at the foot of Shayol Ghul, and news abounds of a boy with a heron-marked blade destined to become the Dragon Reborn and his companions, with Bors making Tarabon and the Almoth Plain his targets.

When the main chapters open with the same motif Jordan and his successor Brandon Sanderson use, the wind rises in the Mountains of Dhoom, blows southward across the tangled forest of the Great Blight, tainted by the Dark One’s touch, and reaches the walled town of Fal Dara, ending atop the tower of a great fortress where the Warder Lan instructs Rand in the art of swordsmanship. The leader of the Aes Sedai, the Amyrlin Seat, comes to the city, with Rand thinking he is a target, given that he attempted to channel the One Power whose masculine half the Dark One tainted eons ago.

The city gates are sealed with the Amyrlin’s arrival, with events across the world raging such as false Dragons ravaging the land in Saldaea, Murandy, and Tear, and street riots occurring in Caemlyn in Andor. Meanwhile, Lady Elayne has safely arrived in Tar Valon to commence her instruction as an Accepted, with Moiraine Sedai further presenting Egwene and Nynaeve as candidates to learn the ways of magic. Rand is still believed to be the true Dragon Reborn, and in a dream fends off a Trolloc with his companions Mat and Perrin whilst in a farmhouse, Padan Fain, Ba’alzamon, and Black Ajah with them.

Most of the first sequel’s action revolves around the stolen Horn of Valere, said to bring long-deceased heroes back to fight for good, and Rand ultimately departs with Ingtar to seek the MacGuffin. Portal Stones occasionally teleport Rand and company, who eventually cross paths with a woman named Selene, who too seeks the Horn, and wants to go back home, although beasts known as the grolm delay her plans. In the meantime, Egwene and Nynaeve train with the Amyrlin seat aboard the River Queen whilst fearing Rand to be in danger, the latter accepted into the White Tower after a series of tests.

Rand soon finds himself in the company of Loial the Ogier and Hurin, a tracker, finding their way to a man named Barthanes Damodred. A royal succession war is also imminent, and the sequel introduces new adversaries known as sul’dam, Holders of the Leash, who use cuff-and-collar pairs known as a’dam to shackle Aes Sedai, who enslaved are known as damane, with sul’dam able to sense One Power users within ten miles. The search for the Horn of Valere and a tainted dagger intensifies late in the book in a conflict centered around a location known as Tomon Head.

Overall, the first Wheel of Time sequel is very much on par with its predecessor, and while there are dozens of characters, it’s not terribly troublesome to keep track of them, and the series effectively weaves some of its own mythos, given things such as the unique terms involving the enslavement of the magical Aes Sedai. As with before, however, the late author seemed to be a fan of the Star Wars cinematic franchise, given the enigmatic One Power and its light and dark sides, although those who enjoyed The Eye of the World will most likely enjoy The Great Hunt.

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The Matrix Revolutions

The final battle between the humans of Zion and the machines that have enslaved them for some time. Pretty good action and effects, although the conclusion feels somewhat Pyrrhic.

Saturday, December 11, 2021

Semi-Weekly Art by Me, 12/11/2021


The Matrix Reloaded

 Poster - The Matrix Reloaded.jpg

Machines are due to reach the real-life human settlement of Zion in seventy-two hours, and it's up to Neo to battle the forces within and without the Matrix to stand a chance of survival. Largely on par with the first film, and despite having seen Reloaded in the theaters when it first premiered, I ironically haven't seen Revolutions at all, ironic given that the first Matrix sequel ends with a cliffhanger.

Thursday, December 9, 2021

Commission by Dawgweazle (Not My Art)


Commission by Vizelius (Not My Art)


The Dark Between

The Dark Between (The Messenger #2)The Dark Between by J.N. Chaney
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The second entry of J.N. Chaney and Terry Maggert’s The Messenger series opens with protagonist Dash Sawyer aboard the space station Passage, where his ship the Slipwing and mech Archetype are, with an introduction to Leira’s mechanic cousin, Amy Anson, who agrees to repair Dash’s vessel on an IOU. The crew agrees to fly to the Archetype’s place of origin, a space station known as the Forge, whose security system activates once the Slipwing approaches it, although they do make it aboard and explore. There they learn about the eponymous Dark Between, between real space and unSpace.

Dash seeks power cores to increase the strength of the Archetype, having one, although he learns that the Forge cannot produce them, and the space station eventually finds itself under attack by alien vessels, with forewarning of more attacks, and a level two power core deemed necessary to withstand another assault, expected within three days. Dash and his companions debate on how to proceed, and ultimately proceed to planet Shylock, where they find an order of monks that expected the coming of the Messenger, and many of them, spearheaded by Kai, join the crew of the Slipwing.

Battle and its aftermath conclude the events of the book, which is overall just as satisfying as the first one, sure to please fans of science-fiction and even similarly-themed videogames such as Xenogears and Xenosaga, not to mention anime such as Gundam and Neon Genesis Evangelion. Granted, the second entry like its precursor seem somewhat derivative of said franchises outside literature, and while characters such as Conover receive good development and even a bit of backstory, luminaries such as crewmember Viktor somewhat seem to lack depth. Regardless, those who liked the first story in the series will most likely enjoy the second.

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Saturday, December 4, 2021

The Eye of the World

The Eye of the World (The Wheel of Time, #1)The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The first main entry of the late Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time saga opens with a prologue occurring a long time before the chief chapters, and likely before the prequel novel New Spring, where Lews Therin Telamon, titled the Lord of the Morning, once wore the Ring of Tamyrlin, sat in the High Seat, summoned the Nine Rods of Dominion, and is negatively termed Kinslayer, wanders a palace seeking his love Ilyena. A black-cloaked figure who used to be Elan Morin Tedronai, defeated at the Gates of Paaran Disen, and is termed the Betrayer of Hope, converses with Lews, who is immolated when he attempts to channel the tainted saidin, the male half of the True Source.

In a motif repeated at the beginning of the main chapters of all subsequent Wheel of Time books, the eponymous metaphorical clock turns, and wind flows, in the first entry’s case through the Mountains of Mist, blowing past protagonist Rand al’Thor, a sheepherder and the son of Tam al’Thor, who treks towards his hometown of Emond’s Field, with a strange rider keeping an eye on him and playing part in latter chapters. Several important characters receive their introductions, including Mayor Bran al’Vere’s daughter Egwene; Nynaeve al’Meara, the young village Wisdom; Matrim “Mat” Cauthon, who played a prank on a villager’s dogs; and blacksmith apprentice Perrin Aybara.

The Village Council of Emond’s Field is somewhat worried at the coming of the Aes Sedai sorceress Moiraine along with her Warder Lan. A gleeman named Thom Merrilin comes too for village celebrations, with the mentioned black-cloaked rider sought after, during which demons known as Trollocs attack Emond’s Field, with Rand’s father injured in the process. Rand ultimately makes it a point to leave his hometown with several of his friends, the Aes Sedai, and her Warder, with Egwene along the way proposed to be a sorceress too, the magical order’s headquarters at Tar Valon made the party’s primary destination.

Lan further trains Perrin and Rand in the art of swordsmanship, and break from their journey at the Stag and Lion inn within the city of Baerlon. Rand regularly has dreams of the demon Ba’alzamon, receiving the warning that the Amyrlin Seat, the leader of the Aes Sedai, will allegedly use him. Children of the Light, termed Whitecloaks, on regular witch-hunts for Darkfriends, supporters of the Dark One, also occasionally harass the characters, with their leader, Lord Bornhald, interrogating Rand and Mat. Despite these interruptions, the party continues to the abandoned sylvan city of Shadar Logoth, aiming to get across a river so that Trollocs will stop pursuing them.

Encounters with the Trollocs ultimately separate the companions, with a battle on a ship called the Spray occurring, and Rand and Mat becoming its newest passengers to the chagrin of Captain Bayle Domon. Nynaeve, in the meantime, is with Moiraine and Lan, with Perrin and Egwene traveling with vagrants known as the Tuatha’an, or the Tinkers, Perrin receiving bondage to the wolves that plays part in later entries in the epic fantasy franchise. Several events occur in the city of Whitebridge, with The Queen’s Blessing in the city of Caemlyn Rand and Mat’s new destination at Thom’s insistence, the gleeman separating from the party too.

The false Dragon Reborn Logain, a troublemaker of sorts, has also been apprehended and brought to Caemlyn, with Rand and Mat yearning to meet him. They also meet an Ogier named Loial, son of Arent, son of Halan, ninety years young in the city, with its citizens further divided into support or opposition towards the current monarch, Queen Morgase. Desperate to meet the false Dragon, Rand climbs the walls outside the royal palace, being discovered but still brought before the Queen, who has an advisor in the Aes Sedai Elaida. The companions soon reunite, with the book’s eponymous Eye of the World made their new destination, the Dark One allegedly wanting to “blind” it.

The first entry concludes with a journey via Waygate to the wastelands where the Eye exists, and a battle at the location that receives a tie-in to the series’ first sequel. Overall, the inaugural Wheel of Time book is an enjoyable read, with good characters and plenty of fantastical beauty in the author’s writing style. Jordan was obviously a fan of the Star Wars franchise, given the nods such as the One Power, which has light and dark sides, but despite this derivation, the initial entry of the epic fantasy series definitely warrants a read from fantasy aficionados.

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The Matrix

 The Matrix Poster.jpg

Watched this on HBOMax in prep for the new Matrix film coming out later this month. A bit of an unintentional period piece, given some of the technology, but I generally enjoyed it.

Sunday, November 28, 2021

Gaming Update, 11/28/2021

Currently Playing

Pokémon Shining Pearl - Another loaner from my younger brother. The original version ended my Pokémon virginity, and the remake is definitely much-improved, given that all Pokémon in your party gain experience from leveling when you kill an opponent Pokémon, and I'm at Oreburgh City, ready to face the gym.

Slime Forest Adventure - A bit of an odd duck. Another Japanese-learning RPG with 8-bit overworld and dungeon visuals, although the battle graphics are a bit of a step up, and you have to type in the meanings, readings, and whatnot of whatever Japanese characters your mostly-slime opponents speak. Don't particularly care much for the total absence of music, and there is a bit of a learning curve (luckily, in-game tutorials are available), but I'll press on. I just rescued the princess and have gotten to a desert island where I've been grinding and learning on the overworld, since part of the game's challenge is that enemies in dungeons don't show you correct answers.

In My Backlog

Baldur's Gate & Baldur's Gate II: Enhanced Editions - On hold again due to my younger brother having lent me Shining Pearl.

Ultima II: The Revenge of the Enchantress - Low priority right now, and when I do finally pick it up I'll try to seek patches on the internet and apply them so I don't encounter the same issues again with reloading my past save.

Ultima III: Exodus - Will, of course, only play after I beat the second game.

Star Ocean: First Departure R

Star Trek: The RPG

Once upon a time, I played the original Super Famicom version of developer tri-Ace’s first production, Star Ocean, via a fan translation, and while I did enjoy what time I spent with it, there were a multitude of issues that made it feel like an Obvious Beta, such as many glitches largely involving its item creation system and a secret character hidden in the code. An enhanced remake for the PlayStation Portable, First Departure, would resolve many of the issues affiliated with the Super Famicom iteration, and around two generations later afterward would it receive a remaster for the Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 4 consoles (the latter version this review covers) entitled Star Ocean: First Departure R, which has some new content, but is generally the same improved experience as it was on Sony’s first portable system.

In a nice break from most science-fiction stories, R tells its largely initially through the perspective of its intelligent alien creatures, in its case a few Fellpool teenagers on the planet Roak, basically humanoid with pointed elven ears and monkey-like tails, a little, but not exactly like, the Genomes (protagonist Zidane’s race) in Final Fantasy IX. Hero Roddick Farrence, with his cohorts Millie Kliette and Dorne Murtough, go on patrol in their hometown, after which they receive notice that a nearby community is suffering a plague that petrifies, but doesn’t kill, those it infects. Visiting a nearby mountain, they encounter two humans, the starship Captain Ronyx J. Kenny and his first mate Ilia Silvestri (parents of one of the sequel’s main heroes, Claude C. Kenny), with all characters determined to find a cure for the ailment that ultimately plagues and turns Dorne to stone.

Unfortunately, the host of the disease, Asmodeus, exists several centuries in the past, prompting the healthy humans and Fellpools to visit the planet Styx, where a time gate exists that sends, but separates them, to Roak in the past during Asmodeus’s time, where they seek to reunite and encounter an excellent character cast that includes a winged warlock and his sorcerous sister, a lycanthrope martial artist, and so forth, four mandatory characters and only four of the optional characters recruitable, with different story scenes depending upon whom the player recruits, and dozens of variations on several different endings satisfactorily concluding the narrative.

The story, however, certainly isn’t shy of its Star Trek influences, R’s Underdeveloped Planet Preservation Pact (UP3) very much mirroring Trek’s Prime Directive, and time travel isn’t exactly a novel concept, being ever prevalent in previous games such as Chrono Trigger and Tales of Phantasia (with some of that particular title’s staff having founded developer tri-Ace), and several other non-gaming media such as movies and television. Furthermore, there isn’t too much time spent in the franchise’s eponymous Star Ocean, most playtime spent on developing worlds, although the good in the plot very much outweighs the bad, and the narrative in the end is very much a nice diversion from the typical fantastical Japanese roleplaying game norm.

The localization is definitely more than adequate, given legible dialogue, virtually no spelling or grammatical errors, and a good naming convention for the various characters belonging to different races, although there are a few issues such as there being no fathomable reason, except alcohol, why anyone would think it natural for people to shout the names of their special skills in combat (it may sound really cool in Japanese, but just doesn’t work in English), some redundant combat dialogue, inconsistent naming in the closing credits, and a censored cross (its horizontal portion missing) appearing whenever a magician casts the Cure-All skill in battle.

Fortunately, solid gameplay backs the narrative experience, with randomly-encountered real-time battles where the player controls one character (preferably Roddick), while the AI controls the other three participants, although luckily, the player can switch control among the maximum four battlers. If controlling a melee character such as Roddick, the player outside combat can assign two MP-consuming skills to the L1 and R1 buttons for easy execution, or have them attack with standard physical assaults, with an option of automatic or semiauto targeting, in the latter case where the player can press the square button to change targets among antagonists, helpful in instances such as the encounter of spellcasting enemies that can easily decimate the player’s active party.

Eradicating all adversaries nets all participants the currency Fol and experience for occasional leveling, with the acquisition of higher levels earning characters skill points they can invest into personal skills outside combat (with new ones acquired from special facilities in towns), although players will likely want to hold off on doing so until they acquire the Determination skill, which reduces the costs of these active and innate abilities that can dictate things such as how much experience is necessary to obtain the next level, stats such as attack power, casting time for magic spells, effectiveness of how attempts at item creation fare, and so forth.

Much akin to the Super Famicom and PlayStation Portable versions, R has a deep item creation system that the latter iteration refined with plenty ideas from its sequel’s similar mechanics, with characters having the potential to acquire new talents, which dictate how effective they are at certain kinds of synthesis (especially if the player uses the Orchestra Super Specialty), and so forth. In fact, becoming effective with the item creation system is almost necessary to having an easier time with the game, given the potential to acquire some powerful weapons and equipment, the latter even granting the possibility to receive healing instead of damage from the potentially tough-as-nails final boss’s abilities.

The battle system generally flows well, given the potential quick pace in combat, aside from the unskippable magic spell animations (although the flow of combat receives no interruption from melee characters’ physical abilities), although there are a few cheap enemies, namely the magician foes that can easily decimate the player’s characters and lead to easy game overs (with no opportunities to restart the lost battle and needing to reload a previous save), with one particularly-tough boss fight in an optional dungeon occurring without a nearby save point, otherwise rarely with iffy placement. The AI is also occasionally inconsistent in terms of effectiveness, but regardless, the gameplay shines.

R is for the most part a user-friendly game, with plentiful positives such as largely-clear direction on how to advance the central storyline through exiting a town during a Private Action session (though there were occasions where I had to reference the internet to discover things such as the secret entrance to one dungeon and an extra dungeon where I could ditch one character for a certain replacement), the ability to tell whether equipment from a shop increased or decreased character stats, an “equipment wizard” that automatically outfits characters with the best gear the player owns, being able to buy different item types simultaneously, and so forth.

However, while there is easy conveyance among harbor towns on Roak, there unfortunately isn’t a universal fast-travel option, which can really necessitate long treks to inland towns or revisit certain dungeons, in the former case especially if the player wants to perform Private Actions in said settlements so that they can have some influence on which character endings they receive. There are also no maps for the dungeons, a few areas unindicated on the overworld map, some iffy placement of save points at times, unskippable cutscenes (though text speed is adjustable and most voicework players can cut short if they would rather read than listen), and no pausing during the ending, and ultimately, there are a few kinks in interaction the developers could have worked out.

The sound is another one of the game’s strongest points, being an early effort by composer Motoi Sakuraba, with plenty of nice, catchy town tracks, rockin’ battle themes, good cutscene music, fitting sound effects, and a choice of three different voicework tracks: the English version, although its quality is somewhat inconsistent, especially in battle; the original First Departure’s Japanese voices; and new Nipponese voice acting on part of the cast of the original Super Famicom iteration’s performers.

The visuals took a cue from the first Star Ocean sequel, with pretty prerendered environments and two-dimensional character sprites that increase or decrease in size depending upon how “close” or “far” they are to the player in a particular area, battles utilizing the same sprites, with great emotion and animation on part of both the character and enemy sides of combat, plentiful feelings such as laughter expressed outside encounters as well, along with pretty anime cutscenes. There’s even a choice of new character portraits during cutscenes somewhat resemblant of the original Super Famicom version’s artwork, though these don’t change the style of the anime scenes and aren’t fully consistent with the spritework. Moreover, there are issues regarding the many palette-swapped enemies and occasional pixilation of the spritework and overworld environments, and while the graphics are generally good, there are quite a few rough spots.

Finally, R is just right in terms of length, potentially taking one as little as twenty hours to make a straightforward run of the game, although things such as sidequests, playing with item creation, and a postgame dungeon potentially boosting playtime to around thirty hours. However, things such as acquiring all PlayStation Trophies, collecting all voice clips for a main menu selection that becomes available after completing the game at least once, a post-game dungeon, messing around with different recruitable characters during subsequent playthroughs, sidequests, and so forth, can very easily prolong playtime, although there are a few hindrances to going through the game again such as unskippable cutscenes and no New Game+.

In summation, Star Ocean: First Departure R is for the most part a great remaster of a remake that itself had resolved some of the issues associated with the original Super Famicom version such as its various glitches and Dummied Out content. The great game mechanics one can easily “git gud” at, the controls are generally tight, the storyline is engaging with a great cast and potential variations, the soundtrack is pleasant alongside three different voicework versions, the graphics are decent with two alternative forms of anime designs, and there’s plenty to keep players coming back for more. However, those who don’t especially exploit certain aspects of the mechanics may have a hard time, fast-travel is limited at points, there’s not nearly enough time spent in outer space, the localization and graphics have a few rough edges, and there’s no New Game+ alongside the already above-average lasting appeal. Regardless, those new to the series will relish the chance to soar into the slowly-but-surely expanding Star Ocean universe.

This review is based on a singular playthrough to the standard ending of a copy digitally downloaded to the owner’s PlayStation 4, with 34% of all Trophies acquired.

The Good:
+Great game mechanics you can “git gud” at.
+Good control.
+Solid storyline with variable endings.
+Nice soundtrack and three flavors of voicework.
+Decent visuals with different portrait styles.
+Plenty to keep players coming back for more.

The Bad:
-May be a little hard for some.
-Limited fast-travel options.
-Not enough time spent in titular Star Ocean.
-Localization a little rough around the edges.
-Same for the graphics.
-No New Game+.

The Bottom Line:
A great remaster of a remake that largely fixed the Super Famicom version’s issues.

Score Breakdown:
Platform: PlayStation 4
Game Mechanics: 9.0/10
Controls: 8.0/10
Story: 9.0/10
Localization: 7.0/10
Music/Sound: 9.0/10
Graphics: 7.5/10
Lasting Appeal: 8.0/10
Difficulty: Variable
Playing Time: 20-80 Hours

Overall: 8.5/10

Saturday, November 27, 2021

(Semi-Weekly) Art by Me, 11/27/2021




Netflix film that's largely the brainchild of three writers from The Simpsons and the director of The Simpsons Movie, though luckily it's devoid of the things that led me to stop watching the show ages ago (and I'm perfectly content without seeing the movie at all). It follows two mammalian creatures with donut holes, Op and Ed, their species known as the Flummels, in the time of Charles Darwin when he's en route to the Galápagos Islands, with a time travel flower leading them to contemporary Shanghai, where they discover their eventual extinction, and thus go on an adventure through time to try to prevent that from happening. Actually a pretty cute and funny film, with a good musical number as well, that I definitely wouldn't hesitate recommending to those who subscribe to its respective streaming service.

Friday, November 26, 2021


Monastery Resident Evil

The videogame genre of survival horror saw its inception with the original Japanese release in 1996 of the PlayStation game Resident Evil, itself influenced by games from prior generations such as Sweet Home, primarily with the intent to frighten characters through their ambience and tension. The concept would worm its way into other game genres such as RPGs, a notable example being Parasite Eve by Square, and one of the company’s former employees, Hiroki Kikuta, known for his compositions for Secret of Mana and sequel Trials of Mana, spearheaded a similar contribution to the concept of the fusion of RPGs and survival horror, entitled Koudelka, developed by Sacnoth, published by SNK in Japan, and released internationally by Infogrames, no stranger to RPGs given prior roleplaying productions Drakkhen and Dragon View. Is it a good contribution to the hybrid subgenre?

Koudelka begins with the eponymous Romani gypsy, Koudelka Iasant, who visits the alleged haunted Nemeton Monastery in Wales, and encounters adventurer Edward Plunkett and Catholic Bishop James O’Flaherty, who unravel the violent history of the castle, and meets some of its living but inhospitable inhabitants along the way, along with plentiful spirits of the deceased. The story has a few decent ideas, with some backstory on the manor and various characters along the way, although one could very well describe the game as a Resident Evil occurring a few years before the turn of the twentieth century. There’s also horrible direction on how to advance the main storyline, and the plot in the end never reaches excellence.

There is plentiful voiced dialogue in the game, although there are unfortunately no subtitles, sure to turn off hearing-impaired gamers, and while most of what little text exists is legible, there are occasional errors, mainly during the closing credits, and some of the lines come across as hammy at times. Many of the names of items such as weapons and armor also contain some one-letter compressions of whatever full words compose their names, with little explanation given as to what type of equipment they actually are, and ultimately, the localization never reaches excellence.

One could say the same of the central game mechanics, with a relatively low encounter rate, Koudelka and her two male allies squaring off against at most three foes on a grid-based battlefield in whatever formation they establish in the game menus. Each character, when they reach their turn, can move around the battlefield (although similar to the original Final Fantasy Tactics and its War of the Lions remix, the player can’t undo movement), attack with equipped weapons occasionally gained from random enemy drops or occasionally treasure at various points within Nemeton, wait for their next turn, use a consumable item (with the same rules of random drops or monastery treasure applying), use MP-consuming magic spells, or attempt to escape, this option naturally not working all the time.

Successful and repeated use of weapons and magic grants a character points for occasional powerups akin to Secret of Mana, although weapons may break after excessive use, unfortunately with no indicators as to how close weapons are to breaking, and weapons can very well be in finite supply, given how the random number gods play out. Moreover, while magic spells have charge times, there is no telling when spells will eventually execute, and a turn order meter showing things like this would have definitely been welcome, with a few enemies sometimes receiving more turns than the player’s characters. Battles in general also have a relatively glacial pace with regards to the execution of attacks and spells, not to mention the death of enemies and disappearance from the battlefield, with an unceremonious game over if the player’s guide and victory should the player eliminate every foe.

One positive aspect, however, is that experience levels, points gained for every character who was still alive in the completed battle, tend to rise quickly, with occasions where they might gain multiple levels, especially against harder antagonists. Upon leveling, a character gains four points the player can invest into various stats such as strength, vitality, dexterity, agility, intelligence, piety, mind, and luck. Strength determines attack power, with the game itself encouraging players to invest equal points in dexterity, which determines offensive accuracy. Vitality determines hit points, agility combat speed, piety maximum magic points, and luck determining things such as random drops from combat. Finally, intelligence determines magical attack power, Koudelka further suggesting the player applies equal points to mind, which decides magical accuracy.

Leveling also fully restores a character’s health and magic points, with the use of permanent save points, unlocked mostly through completing boss battles (which may also yield additional magic spells), restoring both as well. Available as well in certain chambers of the monastery are “temporary” save points that the player can save only to a single memory card slot (although these luckily don’t delete upon loading), the mentioned holy water save points largely gained from beating bosses the player can use in multiple save slots. Other things to keep in mind before playing the game include the absence of scan magic to see enemy strengths and weaknesses (with some weapons and magic healing instead of damaging enemies, depending upon their elements), and that during a significant stretch on the third disc, Koudelka has to fight alone when separated from her allies.

Generally, the gameplay doesn’t work nearly as good as it could have, given the various issues such as the ratchet movement in battle, the general lack of availability of weapons and armor (given that both have relatively low drop rates), the finite inventory space (with most consumables, weapon, and armor having some decent redeeming aspects), the fragility of weapons with no indicator as to how long they have to last, some lopsided difficulty at times, the absence of scan magic and need to use a guide if having trouble to discern the strengths and weaknesses of many enemies, the lack of a turn order gauge in combat, the glacial pacing of enemy encounters, and so forth. There are some positive aspects such as the building of weapon and spell levels being meaningful, the full restoration of characters upon leveling, the above-average frequency of gaining levels, among a few other things, but all in all the game mechanics don’t work as great as they could have.

Easily the most terrifying aspect of Koudelka is its control. While there is an in-game clock, easily-navigable menus, and frequent save opportunities, there are issues that bring things down. Weird default controls? Check. Wonky character movement including button-mashing to traverse stairs and ladders? Check. No auto-dash? Check. No in-game maps early on? Check. Some horrid disc transitions without save opportunities? Check. Some annoying puzzles necessitating referencing the internet and/or taking notes? Check. Limited inventory with no place to store excess items? Check. Doors, stairs, and ladders not always being obvious? Check. A few points of no return? Check. The negative aspects in general just vastly outweigh the good, and the game strays far from the realm of user-friendliness.

Sound is one of the game’s more positive aspects, but that’s not saying much. What little cutscene and FMV music exists is okay yet unmemorable, but the main battle theme and final boss tracks have some memorability. However, the normal boss tune sounds off-key, and during the great amount of standard exploration, there is no music, mostly ambience. There is voice acting during cutscenes, which is okay for the most part, although there is much hammy dialogue, and while the characters are allegedly ethnic, they certainly don’t sound like their respective nationalities and come across as ethnically-vague. In the end, the sound of Koudelka is, for the most part, nothing to write home about.

The visuals are another of the game’s better aspects, though again, that’s not saying much. There is plentiful prerendered scenery that very well conveys the dark tone of Koudelka, although things such as doors, ladders, and stairs don’t have explicit indication. The character models look okay in and out of battle, if a little blocky and pixilated, although the scenery in combat consists only of a pixel-laden floor in dark blue space (though the enemy design is reasonably macabre and devoid of reskins). Still, the character models show no indicators of lip movement or expression other than flailing around. Perhaps the high point of the graphics are the FMVs liberally strewn throughout the game’s four discs, but ultimately, the visual aspect is for the most part nothing nobody’s seen before.

Finally, the game is relatively short, around twelve hours minimum to get through, although less-lucky players may need to spend up to sixteen. Despite the low playtime, there isn’t much motivation to go through the game again, given its rather lackluster disposition, ability to perform all sidequests and see all endings in one playthrough, and no New Game+ or story variations.

Overall, Koudelka was definitely one of the far-weaker contributors to the hybrid of roleplaying games and survivor horror, given its deeply-flawed game mechanics, loose control, average storyline, lackluster localization, mediocre aural and visual presentation, and the lack of any real reason to go through again, underclassing even the grayer contributions to the genre fusion such as the original Parasite Eve. Adding insult to injury is that physical copies are nigh-impossible to find in reasonable condition at acceptable price, with the game nonexistent within the digital world except in emulation, and besides the links to its sequel series Shadow Hearts, there’s really no point to try tracking the game down, purchasing, or playing it.

The Good:
+Story is okay.
+Some of the music as well.
+Many decent FMVs.

The Bad:
-Glacial combat pacing.
-Loose control with annoying puzzles.
-Terrible plot direction.
-Lackluster localization.
-Little memorable soundtrack.
-Graphics a bit dark.
-No lasting appeal.

The Bottom Line:
There were better PlayStation games in its time.

Score Breakdown:
Platform: PlayStation
Game Mechanics: 2.5/10
Controls: 1.5/10
Story: 5.0/10
Localization: 3.0/10
Music/Sound: 4.5/10
Graphics: 4.5/10
Lasting Appeal: 0.0/10
Difficulty: Moderate
Playing Time: 12-16 Hours

Overall: 3.0/10

Art by Lukaryo


Thursday, November 25, 2021

The Messenger

The Messenger (The Messenger #1)The Messenger by J.N. Chaney
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The first installment of J.N. Chaney and Terry Maggert’s Messenger science-fiction series opens with protagonist Newton Sawyer, nicknamed and mostly referred to as Dash throughout the novel’s course, perusing the Needs Slate, a listing of errands throughout the known galaxy. Dash is a bit of an alcoholic, and wants to revisit unSpace, helpful in traversing lengthy distances across the galaxy, with his ship the Slipwing, which ultimately encounters battle. Dash lands on the frontier world of Penumbra, leaving just as quickly as he arrives, with new adversaries, the zealously-religious Clan Shirna, coming to mind.

Dash soon commandeers a different vessel, the Halfwing, which a capital ship chases and renders derelict. He has a near-death experience that involves his pursuit of a light, after which he hears an ethereal feminine voice from an A.I. known as the Sentinel, who refers to him as the eponymous Messenger, who becomes the pilot of the mech called the Archetype. In his acquired mech, Dash is able to see details of unSpace he hadn’t noticed before, with the ending chapters launching him into battle with Clan Shirna, the epilogue seeing him back with his crew of the Slipwing, where he vows to prevent war at all costs.

Overall, the first entry of Chaney and Maggert’s sci-fi literary franchise is definitely enjoyable, and a good contributor to the mecha subdivision of the genre, which I definitely appreciated given my experience with science-fiction-themed videogames that have had similar emphases upon giant mechs, titles such as the Xenosaga games coming to mind, especially given the book’s religious overtones. Granted, its similarities to said videogame titles is its primary weakness, although it does do a decent job standing apart from other science-fiction book series occurring in our own universe, and I recommend it for audiences seeking something (mostly) different in the genre.

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