Wednesday, March 31, 2021


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Animated fantasy sitcom by Simpsons creator Matt Groening focusing on rebellious Princess Beam, her elf companion Elfo, and her personal demon Luci, who go on a variety of misadventures, with the Kingdom of Dreamland later on finding itself under siege from various outside entities. Definitely preferred it to Groening's other work, given its relative lack of topical humor (since it is a fictitious world after all).

Monday, March 29, 2021

The First Human Rider

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This novella, which combines elements of reality, fantasy, and science fiction, opens with the old wizard Myrddin seeing the forces of light gather via a cauldron, with a meteor heading for Earth. There exists an order of Dragonriders, with a female among their ranks largely unheard of, although a blind girl named Alex is a prospective candidate for the group whom he intends to get to the world of Middang3ard, initially thought of as a mere MMORPG that she enjoys. Despite being blind, she is somehow able to see in the game’s virtual world, and encounters the Hindu deity Shiva, being one of the only players to survive a special trial, finding the Jewel of Qa.

Myrddin is the CEO and creator of Middang3ard, lauding Alex for her skill in being one of the few humans to pass the trials. She eventually wakes up back in her home, with her parents appreciating her gaming hobby, although there is concern about Middang3ard being a real place. Manny, an odd creator called a Beholder, visits the family, initially shocking them, and gives Alex the gift of sight in real life. Myrddin himself visits, with the family taken to the real Middang3ard, her parents initially reluctant to allow her to go to war at her age. Alex too has mixed feelings about this, although she is glad to show her parents her virtual world, with the story ending around this point.

All in all, this was a short but sweet novella that’s definitely easy to follow and a nice break from the more convoluted stories in the fantasy and science-fiction literary genres, very well combining elements from both with a hint of reality, with occasional cultural references such as to the Star Wars franchise. Both authors also end with notes written a few days before Christmas back in 2019, with one of Vance’s children having a troubled birth, and Anderle hinting he might be on the autism spectrum like I am. There is admittedly a bit of confusion such as the nature of Alex’s blindness, and some odd names such as Middang3ard itself, but I’m definitely not hesitant to recommend this book.

Saturday, March 27, 2021

Charlotte's Web 2: Wilbur's Great Adventure

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Fairly formulaic direct-to-video sequel following the footsteps of those Disney was perpetually releasing during the Eisner era, with Wilbur befriending a black lamb named Cardigan, who is sold to another famer, and Wilbur and a few of his friends, including three of Charlotte's daughters, running away from their farm to meet him, with a subplot of a villainous fox in search of food. Plenty of recycled elements from the first film, and while it does have some musical numbers, they come across as a bit infantile, and in the end the movie doesn't have the same effect as its predecessor.

Friday, March 26, 2021

Queen's Peril


This canon Star Wars novel occurs prior to, during, and briefly after the events of The Phantom Menace, initially focusing on Padmé Naberrie’s election as Queen of Naboo, adopting the regnal name Amidala. Alongside the standard numbered chapters, there are various subdivisions termed with characteristics such as “strength” that focus on various side stories, the first about a girl named Tsabin who hates studying at the Theed Conservatory, and whom Quarsh Panaka, head of the Royal Security Forces, recruits to be a handmaiden for the Queen-elect. Naboo politics have been without scandal for decades, with the planet’s Galactic Senator Sheev Palpatine being a rising star in the galaxy’s Senate.

For added security, the recruitment of handmaidens to serve as doubles for Queen Amidala plays a significant role throughout the story, which also focuses on other characters in the Star Wars universe such as the enigmatic Darth Sidious, his Sith apprentice Maul, and Obi-Wan Kenobi, not shy in his distaste of politicians. Viceroy Nute Gunray and the Trade Federation plot against Amidala, attempting to strongarm her into signing a treaty that she resists. There are also some occasional factoids about Naboo such as its lack of prisons, with its primary moon serving as a pokey for the planet’s criminals.

Queen Amidala’s pages and handmaidens see through their training, with Panaka continuing to find more prospective candidates for the positions. The narrative ultimately intersects with Episode I, with Padmé leaving Naboo with her entourage, including Jedi Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi, and traveling to the desert planet of Tatooine, where they temporarily lodge with the Skywalkers. The Queen eventually gets the idea to rally the Gungans against the Trade Federation’s forces and return to Naboo, retaking the planet, with Sheev Palpatine ascending to the position of Supreme Chancellor after a vote of no confidence against the incumbent galactic leader.

Overall, I definitely found this to be an enjoyable canon Star Wars novel that packs a punch despite being only around two hundred pages long, adding good backstory and parallels to The Phantom Menace, filling in many of the holes the film admittedly leaves. There are occasional witty lines in short perspective changes such as “Anakin loved flying” and “Anakin really loved flying” that provide good effect, and the fact that the book doesn’t focus on Amidala alone is a definite draw. The political overtones are definitely engaging, as well, and while some knowledge of the prequel films is somewhat necessary to make sense of the book, I would recommend it to the most unpleasable Star Wars fan.

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor 2 Record Breaker

 Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor 2 Record Breaker Box Front

The Fittest Survivor

Atlus’s Megami Tensei franchise dates back to the 1980s, when Namco published early installments, with North American gamers receiving no exposure to the series thanks in part to the moral guardians’ sensitivity towards even the slightest religious overtimes in videogames, largely seen as a hobby geared towards younger audiences. Fortunately, the gaming industry would somewhat loosen in this aspect, with early MegaTen titles such as the first Persona seeing English release, although Atlus hadn’t quite refined their localizations, the North American PlayStation release of that particular game attempting often poorly to mask its Japanese origins.

It wasn’t until the foreign release of the third mainline Shin Megami Tensei title, subtitled Nocturne, that the franchise would achieve its contemporary following outside Japan, and since then, most entries of the series has seen English releases. The MegaTen series would grow to include dozens of spinoffs with varying game mechanics, among them being the Devil Survivor subseries, the franchise’s take on turn-based tactics, sort of spiritual successors to the untranslated Majin Tensei series that were strategy RPGs as well. Both games in the spinoff series would see initial release and localization on the Nintendo DS, but then see enhanced rereleases on the 3DS, the second being Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor 2 Record Breaker.

The first and only Devil Survivor’s sequel’s port follows completely different characters from its predecessor, still occurring in Japan, among them being the male protagonist whom the player names and his best friend Daichi, both leaving a mock examination. On their cellular phones, they receive video messages from the website Nicaea, which foretells the death of a friend via a video showing their demise. The hero, Daichi, and their female friend Io become Devil Summoners to battle demons instigating the events, and encounter the organization known as the Japanese Meteorological Agency, specifically its Geomagnetism Research Department, colloquially called JP’s (pronounced “jips”).

Record Breaker features a narrative structure similar to the first game, where the player can select different events from a list during city navigation, each consuming half an hour, with one only able to view a finite number before needing to participate in a story battle necessary to advance the central plot, which contains two primary arcs: The Septentrione Arc, and the Triangulum Arc. The sequel generally tells both stories well, with the countless variations adding plentiful lasting appeal, although the latter portion of the plot has some derivative elements such as amnesia. The translation is largely free of error, and ultimately, the narrative is a chief draw to the game.

Like how great this game is.

Fortunately, solid gameplay backs the experience, with Record Breaker mechanically similar to the first game, being devoid of random encounters, with fights instead occurring as the player wills. As in Overclocked, there are two main modes of combat: free battles, from which the player can withdraw anytime if they aren’t succeeding whilst keeping experience acquired for characters and demons, not to mention “cracked” skills (with this particular system working much as it did in the first game), and storyline battles, from which the player can’t retreat. Free battles always have the objective to eliminate all enemy demons, with a data chip sometimes present letting one of the collecting character’s demons to learn a grayed-out skill, giving a new assignable ability, or extra money.

One major improvement over Overclocked is that collecting these treasure chips doesn’t cause the game to crash occasionally, and another facet that helps reduce wasted time in storyline battles is that on the casual difficulty, Blessed, losing one of said engagements allows the player to restart with all experience and cracked skills retained, which can definitely be a blessing in that certain fights may have more skills than the player’s four battling teams are able to learn. Another addition to the sequel is the Fate system, with all acquirable party members having up to five levels that may advance when viewing a cutscene focused on one particular character.

Advancing one Fate level provides a character one or two natural elemental resistances that reduces the need to equip passive skills that provide them, two the ability to “joint skill crack” with the protagonist who can consequentially to acquire a skill for the party when defeating an enemy targeted by the ally, three an additional fusible demon, four the ability to send an assigned demon to the hero in the middle of battle, and the maximum of five another potential demonic fusion. The system of combining demons to create more powerful incarnations works much the same as in Overclocked, players mercifully allowed manual selection of bequeathed abilities, and able to register fusions in a compendium for future retrieval at a price.

The other main method of acquiring new demons is the auction, with paid membership level advancement sporadically offered throughout both quests. Sometimes when purchasing demons via auctions, specials occur where the player can obtain other demons for lower prices than usual. As in the first game, the player assigns three HP or MP-consuming abilities, three passive skills, and one auto skill that activates for the party when triggering skirmishes, to each of the human characters, each who can have two demons in their respective teams, up to four participating in any mode of combat. When starting a battle, the player can scan the battlefield and its foes, and set their characters’ starting positions, though they aren’t always critical to victory.

Once a battle begins, the player’s characters and the enemy teams take their turns depending upon agility, with a turn order meter, expected of any turn-based RPG, luckily showing who takes their turns when. Whenever one of the player’s teams reaches their turn, the player can move them around a given range, use skills such as healing spells or demon race abilities to perform tasks such as reducing an adversarial team’s movement range to one when they reach their turn, one per unit in a turn. If enemies are still out of range, the player can simply end one of their team’s turns, but when in range, the player can initiate a skirmish that takes them to a separate combat screen.

When a skirmish begins, the player inputs commands for the leader and his/her two demons, with both sides’ units exchanging commands depending upon agility, with some foresight thus being necessary as in most traditional turn-based RPGs classic and modern. If a unit on either side exploits their opponents’ weaknesses, they receive an extra turn allowing the player to execute another command for all units who have acquired them, with no retribution from the enemy unless they’ve also gained supplementary turns. The death of the leader of either opposing team, or each side failing to eliminate the other in their respective turns, ends the skirmish, with experience and money rewarded, the former proportional to a character or demon’s level and the latter dependent upon how well the player performed.

Story battles sometimes have special objectives such as preventing certain NPCs from dying, which are luckily fair most of the time, especially on Blessed difficulty. Sometimes after a skirmish, moreover, the player may acquire a skillset bonus that they can use on a prospective fused demon to unlock grayed-out skills that the player has cracked from combat. All in all, the game mechanics work superbly, with most fights rarely dragging out, and the different difficulty settings are sure to attract players of divergent skill. Pretty much the only real hiccup is the aforementioned issue with turn order during skirmishes, although Record Breaker definitely demonstrates that Atlus learned from whatever mistakes they made in the first Devil Survivor.

The refined strategic gameplay of Overclocked, minus the suck of freezes.

Devil Survivor 2 is very easily one of the most user-friendly strategy RPGs in the history of its subgenre, with crystal-clear direction on how to advance the central storyline, given the relative linearity, easy menus, the aforementioned ability to choose skills for fused demons manually unlike the roulette system in olden MegaTen titles, an accurate in-game clock, the suspend save, and especially the fact that it doesn’t crash like its predecessor’s updated rerelease. Pretty much the only major issue is the slight tedium of assigning and changing the active and passive abilities of the player’s characters, but otherwise, control leaves little room for improvement.

SaGa composer Kenji Ito and series regular Shoji Meguro collaborated on the soundtrack, and the results are predictably solid, with most of the battle themes bearing Ito’s catchy, signature style, Meguro’s electrical pieces being just as good. Record Breaker also adds voicework during cutscenes, with all voices fitting the characters and generally being tolerable, and while there are some shrill performances, the player can almost always cut short the voiced dialogue, so the game really doesn’t force the acting down their throat. Ultimately, the sound helps the game far more than hurts.

The same goes for the visuals, which, while largely similar to those in the first game, definitely have more going for them than against them. The human character and demon designs are superb, with the former showing a wide spectrum of emotion during cutscenes, and no reskins whatsoever among the latter. The battlefield graphics also look nice, with photorealistic 2-D prerendered environments and character/enemy sprites containing good anatomy, the former having nice animation and effects such as flipping open their cellphones. The various 3-D elements on the bottom screen are smooth and fluid, the top screen interface using the 3DS’s three-dimensional capabilities well. Pretty much the only real issue is the inanimation of foes during skirmishes, although the attack and ability effects look nice, and Record Breaker is far from an eyesore.

Finally, the port will last players a fair amount of time, as little as two days total for a straightforward playthrough of the main quest, although one can potentially spend up to four days with the second quest tacked on, with plentiful lasting appeal in achievements and the New Game+ where the player can purchase things to bequeath into either campaign from the start.

In summation, one can adequately describe Devil Survivor 2 Record Breaker with many phrases: a fun RPG, a vastly-improved sequel, a more-than-functional port, a bucket list game, a title accessible to players of most skill levels, one of the best Nintendo 3DS games, one of the best strategy roleplaying games, one of the best entries of a storied franchise that has its share of good and bad installments, a modern masterpiece; the list can continue endlessly. In my lifetime as a gamer, I never thought that a tactical RPG, which I consider least-favorite roleplaying game subgenre, would turn out to be one of my all-time favorite games. It’s incredibly difficult not to recommend this game, and I sincerely hope others have the same positive experience I did, should they choose to play it.

This review is based on a playthrough of a digital copy purchased by the reviewer through both main storyline campaigns.

The Good:
+Refined tactical gameplay with adjustable difficulty.
+Very tight control, with no bugs or freezes.
+Great storyline with some variations.
+Localization doesn’t mask Japanese setting.
+Excellent soundtrack and voicework.
+Superb artistic direction.
+Plenty reasons to come back for more.

The Bad:
-Skirmishes sometimes require foresight.
-Slightly-derivative story elements.
-A few shrill voices.
-Some recycled graphics from the first game.

The Bottom Line:
One of the best entries of a series that has its share of good and bad installments.

Score Breakdown:
Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Game Mechanics: 9.5/10
Controls: 9.5/10
Story: 9.5/10
Localization: 9.5/10
Music/Sound: 9.5/10
Graphics: 9.5/10
Lasting Appeal: 10/10
Difficulty: Adjustable
Playing Time: 2-4 Days

Overall: 10/10

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Ember's End

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The final entry of author S.D. Smith’s Green Ember series opens with a rogue rabbit, Tameth Seer, vowing vengeance upon Picket Longtreader, whom he dubs as “Kingslayer” due to his alleged involvement in the death of Prince Bleston, and the princess Emma, whom he sees as “the Red Witch.” Picket and company travel to the Harbone Citadel, which the antagonistic army of birds of prey and wolves have decimated, with casualties on both sides of the conflict. Picket and Heather’s Uncle Wilfred rallies the forces of good, with Lord Morbin doing the same, wanting the good lagomorphs to suffer.

Meanwhile, Picket’s sister Heather Longtreader is trapped with her regal rabbit friend Small, both feeling that they won’t make it out of their possible tomb. The rabbits gain intelligence from an enemy prisoner of war, and there is a bit of a role for special flowers known as True Blue. Dragons also play some part in the narrative, with a keeper antagonizing Heather and Smalls when they meet him. Several battles and occasional twists round out the events of the fourth and last Green Ember book, with the latter chapters occurring a year after the events of the war, the fates of characters resolved.

All in all, I definitely relished in experiencing Smith’s Green Ember series, given its well-development animal characters and plenty of action with battles that often last several chapters. However, it does somewhat have the same issues as Brian Jacques’ Redwall series, where the birds of prey and wolves the author depicts are inherently evil, although there’s plenty of gray area for the rabbits, whose alignment varies. Though children are the target audience for the series, as an adult I found the political and military overtones intriguing, and would easily recommend the books to mainstream audiences.

Saturday, March 20, 2021

Shining Force: The Legacy of Great Intention


Great Intention, Okay Game

Once upon a time, when Sega was in the console business, they developed a rivalry with Nintendo, piously proclaiming that they did “what Nintendon’t.” One thing Sega did better at the time was introduce Western gamers to strategy RPGs (with Nintendo keeping their own Fire Emblem franchise confined to Japan back in the sixteen-bit era), with Shining Force: The Legacy of Great Intention being my first tactics game, though as a rental back in its era, I wouldn’t see the game to completion until a few console generations later. Among the latest versions of the game is a port included with Shining Force Classics for iOS devices, with a few quality-of-life enhancements that make it preferrable especially to the original Genesis version.

Although Shining Force allegedly occurs in the same universe as its narrative precursor Shining in the Darkness, the Shining timeline as a whole is somewhat unclear, although the links among it, the three gaiden games, and the first numbered sequel, are a bit more coherent. The story itself follows a warrior named Max who leads the eponymous Shining Force against the Kingdom of Runefaust, with the villainous Darksol seeking to resurrect the ancient Dark Dragon whilst one of his servants, the warrior Kane, fights on the frontlines. The narrative was good for its time, with some decent twists, although the large playable cast mostly remains underdeveloped.

Unlike Nintendo, Sega didn’t seem to censor the North American version of the first Shining Force, with enemy names such as “hellhound” remaining intact, although there are occasional name inconsistencies such as Kane being Cane when faced in battle, and names such as Lug became Luke, whereas the former name would see use in Shining Force Gaiden, and the latter would apply to a completely-different character. The base and promoted class titles for characters, moreover, have four-letter restrictions and are consequentially incoherent in the English version. The dialogue certainly is legible, and while the localization wasn’t great, it could have definitely been worse.

The Shining franchise’s first tactical offering occurs in eight chapters, each with battles necessary to advance the storyline. Max and eleven other units participate in grid-based, turn-based combat against a number of enemies, with turn order likely dependent upon unit speed. Whenever one of the player’s characters reaches their turn, they can freely move in a flashing range on the map, with such movement mercifully not rachet as in other tactical RPGs such as the almighty Final Fantasy Tactics and its rereleases. Characters can attack with their equipped weapon if close to an enemy (with attack range dependent upon their weapon), use an item, use MP-consuming magic, or simply end their turn.

Should a character execute a command, the game brings the player to a separate screen where they see through their order, with a number of experience points rewarded depending upon the action, with a max of around forty-eight points acquirable, a hundred needed to level up. Leveling naturally increases a character’s stats by a certain amount, and when they reach level ten, the player can “promote” them to a more powerful incarnation of their base class, in which case their level resets to one, and they lose a few stats, although the process of leveling them again will be more fruitful, especially in the case of certain characters that can easily serve as “tanks” against the enemy.

Waiting until a character has reached level twenty before promotion is typically a good idea, especially in the case of characters that fight with no weapons such as the werewolf Zylo and the dragon Bleu, although certain units won’t be able to use better weapons until the player has promoted them. Perhaps the biggest issue with Shining Force’s game mechanics is that one can find difficult the task of leveling weaker characters, with more powerful units often acting as experience hogs, and consequentially, players may wish to stick with the same party until the end of the game, given occasional difficulty spikes.

The player instantly loses a battle if Max dies, although in this case, the game transports him to the last church saved at with half his money lost. As with the iOS port of Shining in the Darkness, however, players can record up to three save states, which I religiously did whenever Max reached his turn in combat, in case he became imperiled, and if the player is finding their party decimated, the hero can cast Egress to return to the last save point with no penalty incurred and experience retained. As in the game’s dungeon-crawler predecessor, moreover, certain items are able to cast useful spells, which at times makes a difference, and aside from the absence of a turn order meter and for foresight, the gameplay gets the job done.

Shining Force contains a linear structure that largely keeps players moving in the right direction, although there are some missables such as a particularly-useful magical party member, and the next person with whom to speak to advance the narrative isn’t always clear. Inventory management can also be a pain, with each character only able to carry four items, including their weapon, and Max has to have an open inventory slot in order to open a chest that appears either on a battlefield or elsewhere during exploration that occurs in between battles. There’s also lots of dialogue and confirmations when shopping, and in the end, the game could have been more user-friendly.

Probably the strongest aspect of Shining Force is its aural presentation, with a number of great tracks such as that which plays during the backstory sequence, not to mention its countless remixes throughout the game. The save menu music is pretty, as well, the town theme is relaxing, the overworld music is adventurous, the battle tracks are dramatic, the castle music is militaristic with its snare-drumming, and so forth. The game also features sound to imitate character voices, with characters sometimes having higher or lower pitches that fit. The sound effects could have been better, and the musical quality wasn’t as good as the Super NES’s in the game’s time, but it’s still easy on the ears.

The visuals were also good for their time, each major character having an anime portrait where lips animate with the “voices” during cutscenes, and the eye-blinking is a nice addition. The character and enemy sprites also have decent proportions, with the former largely resembling their designs except when promoted (with the exception of Max), and the graphics shine most during the battle scenes that accompany commands, with full-blown anime sprites for the attacking or attacked character and the enemy. The sprites don’t always show emotion, but the graphical presentation is all-around solid.

Finally, completing the game can take somewhere from twelve to twenty-four hours, depending upon how good a team the player builds, with little in the way of sidequests or lasting appeal other than perhaps experimenting with different party setups.

In the end, Shining Force, despite being one of the earliest examples of a strategy RPG, does show considerable polish in certain areas such as its aural and visual presentation, not to mention its narrative, and the game mechanics are fair enough that even novice players can easily pick up on it. However, the gameplay does have issues regarding the difficulty of giving every acquirable character a chance in combat without the need to grind a lot, and there is some noticeable user-unfriendliness and a general lack of lacking appeal. Regardless, the change from dungeon crawler to tactical roleplaying game was definite a step in the right direction for the Shining series, and the contemporary features such as save states make it worth a glance, if nothing more.

This review is based on a playthrough of the version included with Shining Force Classics on an iPad Pro, with disabled ads paid for.

The Good:
+Gameplay gets the job done.
+Story good for its time.
+Great soundtrack.
+Nice visuals.

The Bad:
-Too many benchable characters.
-Some user-unfriendliness.
-Average translation.
-Little lasting appeal.

The Bottom Line:
A competent but generic strategy RPG.

Score Breakdown:
Platform: iOS
Game Mechanics: 6.5/10
Controls: 4.0/10
Story: 7.5/10
Localization: 5.0/10
Music/Sound: 8.0/10
Graphics: 7.5/10
Lasting Appeal: 3.5/10
Difficulty: Hard
Playing Time: 12-24 Hours

Overall: 6.0/10

All Dogs Go to Heaven


Watched it on Netflix this morning. Don Bluth's art style is definitely good, but he's not nearly as good a storyteller as Disney's animators, with Charlie coming across as a bit of a douche for most of the film (although he does somewhat get better), and I more believe all *good* dogs go to heaven, since I don't believe in predestination (there are some things that are predestined, but I don't believe salvation is among them), and believe more in justification by works. The target audience also seems vague (and it probably should've been rated PG instead), since there are a lot of adult themes, although a lot of the dialogue and musical numbers come across as saccharine. Generally, it was slightly painful to watch, which I usually don't say about a film other than the political documentary I'll have no intention in my lifetime to see.

Monday, March 15, 2021

Witch Wraith


The third and final entry of the Dark Legacy of Shannara trilogy by Terry Brooks opens with some of the main characters, chiefly Railing Ohmsford, on the airship Quickening, recalling how Grianne Ohmsford, in her time, fought the Straken Lord. They eventually encounter the Troll Challa Nand, with the Shannara series as a whole doing a good, distinctive job of not depicting the various races as inherently good or evil, unlike other fantasy authors such as Tolkien. Meanwhile, the Ellcrys, the tree serving as a lock to the realm known as the Forbidding, is failing, and the quest to find the Bloodfire necessary to cultivate a seed for a replacement for the sacred plant continues.

Demons from the Forbidding wage war on Shannara, led by a resurrected Straken Lord, with the demonic creatures catching the defenders of the city of Arishaig by surprise. Redden Ohmsford wants to venture to the city of Arborlon and enter the Forbidding in hopes of ending the demonic assault, with the Elves of the Four Lands battling the Jarka Ruus as well. It is ultimately discovered that cultivating a replacement Ellcrys would require a sacrifice, with Arlingfant Elessedil a candidate to follow one of her ancestors in growing the new tree, and her sister Aphenglow distraught at her sister’s potential death.

All in all, while the final entry of the Dark Legacy trilogy does a few things to separate itself from other fantasy novels, such as creating gray area in alignment for nonhuman races, and is competent, it comes across as fairly generic, though I can definitely see the influences upon Japanese videogame storylines that the fabled franchise would provide. It decently ties to the previous Shannara subseries, although as with other books in the franchise, one can find difficult keeping track of who belongs to what race, and the remnants of the prior human civilization serving as the chief backstory of the books the author doesn’t much touch upon, and only those who swear by the series will enjoy this entry.

Saturday, March 13, 2021


 Soul Poster.jpeg

Just before his big break, an aspiring jazz musician falls down an open sewer and has his soul separated from his body, needing to reunite the two. He briefly occupies the body of a cat during the process. Fairly enjoyable, and definitely not preachy given its focus.

Sunday, March 7, 2021

Ember Rising


Like its precursors, the third installment of author S.D. Smith’s Green Ember series opens with a prologue involving the history of Whitson Mariner. The first main chapter has an initial twist as to the identity of a singing slave, with several turncoat rabbits given focus. In the meanwhile, Picket and Helmer see through their own objectives, namely seeking the First Warren, with the latter suffering injury that impedes their progress. Several well-described battles against wolves and birds of prey occur throughout the book, and Heather’s younger brother Jacks is gradually fattened up for a feast.

The rabbits continue to fight for their freedom in and around the stronghold of Akolan, with Picket and Helmer ultimately encountering another leader of the resistance, Captain Moonlight. The celebration of Victory Day among the wolves and birds of prey eventually come, with Vitton the Skinner wanting to force Heather into submission, the latter events of the book focusing on the skilled archer rabbit Jo Shanks’ battle against Lord Falcowit. Several prominent lapines die, with loyalties settled, and the story ends with a cliffhanger where Heater finds herself in darkness.

Overall, I found this another good entry of the Green Ember series, and as a furry, I especially liked the focus on animal characters, which are easier to imagine, with no humans at all in the story. The illustrations bring to light the appearances of certain characters and events, although there are no “good” wolves or birds of prey, with the rabbits being grayer in terms of goodness or badness. The villains are also convincing, with decent political themes as well, although the theme of rebellion against an unjust government has been done before. Regardless, I look forward to reading the final entry.

Saturday, March 6, 2021

Bigfoot Family


Watched this on Netflix, about the fabled Bigfoot and his family, with Bigfoot himself becoming the face of an environmental movement against an oil company that allegedly is working on clean drilling. Sort of lays the themes on thick, but I definitely can't say no to any film with talking animals. Also, I had no idea it was a sequel to another film, which I hope is till on Netflix and will watch in the future, if it is.

Monday, March 1, 2021

Bloodfire Quest


The second entry of Terry Brooks’ Dark Legacy of Shannara trilogy opens with Arlingfant Elessedil, or simply Arling, hearing the voice of the dying tree Ellcrys, which says she is the chosen, although Arling doesn’t want to become its successor, and converses with her sister Aphenglow, Aphen for short, about the matter. Aphen researches the history of the Ellcrys, discovering that her ancestor Amberle Elessedil was the last Chosen to become the tree, the history she reads up on having significant gaps. Aphen informs her sister of her discovery, further mentioning the Bloodfire, whose magic can quicken the cultivation of a new Ellcrys.

The human-dominated Federation has since abandoned their occupation of the Druid Keep Paranor, and in the meantime, the Ard Rhys and her party traverse the hostile country of the Forbidding, where they fend off attacks from umbral beasts, also encountering some Jarka Ruus, those imprisoned by the Forbidding. Within the Federation, the assassin Stoon meets the new Prime Minister a woman named Edinja Orle, with plenty politicking occurring, and the new PM allegedly being pro-magic. Aphen and Arling deal with a hostile mother when they visit her, and find clues in a trunk holding old texts.

The second entry ends with Aphen finding her sister missing, naturally serving as a cliffhanger to the trilogy’s concluding entry, and overall being a competent but generic fantasy novel, with a map depicting the Four Lands that had once been the Pacific Northwest of Old Earth. Bloodfire Quest also somewhat distinguishes itself from other fantasy stories by depicting races such as Trolls as being good, although as with other entries of the franchise new and old, there is frequent lack of clarification as to which races the various characters belong to, and occasional long gaps between names and pronouns. Regardless, those who truly enjoyed the first book will get the most out of the second.