Monday, January 31, 2022

Commission by The JenRol


Art I previously commissioned from her:




Sunday, January 30, 2022

The Path of Daggers

The Path of Daggers (The Wheel of Time, #8)The Path of Daggers by Robert Jordan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The eighth main entry of the late Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time saga begins with a prologue following various characters such as Ethenielle, who rides through the Black Hills with a small army, and Rand, who believes he still has supporters in the divided White Tower. Despite the onset of hot weather that causes even plants used to heat to wither, Elayne Trakand is reluctant to use the Bowl of the Winds to counter the changing climate. Furthermore, winged creatures known as the raken regularly attack throughout the novel, with the Seanchan making good use of them.

The conflict among the Aes Sedai also continues, with Egwene and Elaida serving as separate Amyrlins, and the forbidden Black Ajah wreaking havoc. Winter storms gradually accumulate, and Rand occasionally channels the tainted saidin, sometimes using the sword Callandor whilst doing so, and Lews Therin sporadically makes his voice heard in the Dragon Reborn’s mind. Elayne also believes she is ready to take the Lion Throne of Andor, with a battle against Corlan Dashiva ending the book, along with the onset of a severe winter and varying accounts of what is happening in the world.

All in all, this is another enjoyable book in the series, given plenty of well-described action, scenery, and complex characters, although given its occasional convolution, a passage preceding the chapters summarizing the events of prior entries would have certainly been welcome. As with other entries, furthermore, Jordan makes a few nods to the Star Wars series with elements such as the One Power that has light and dark halves. Those who enjoyed the book’s precursors will most likely enjoy this one, although readers without any experience or familiarity with the franchise would be most obliged to start with the first main entry or its prequel novel.

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Art by Le Bunneh


Saturday, January 29, 2022

My Little Pony: A New Generation

 My Little Pony A New Generation film poster.jpg 

Takes place long after Friendship Is Magic in an era where magic has long been forgotten, and the earth ponies are somewhat hostile towards unicorns and pegasi, although they do eventually come to interact again. Was a good movie with decent songs, though the overall themes are somewhat derivative.

Heaven's Door

Heaven's Door (The Messenger, #8)Heaven's Door by J.N. Chaney
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In the eighth installment of J.N. Chaney and Terry Maggert’s The Messenger series, Newton “Dash” Sawyer and the Cygnus Realm that he leads intend to take their war to the enemies of all life, the Golden, with their operating base, the Forge, constantly cranking out new and upgraded weaponry. The book focuses on his attempted alliance with the alien race Rin-ti, who yearn to be free from Golden control. The novel begins proper with Dash exploring a jungle planet and salvaging a probe, after which he seeks help from the Telorum Syndicate, headed by an Overseer who is initially hostile towards the Cygnus Realm’s fleet.

Dash eventually meets with Bercale, leader of the Telorum Syndicate, with their anti-missiles proving useful in whatever battles erupt throughout the book. However, indicators of sabotage within the Forge abound, and Dash discovers a substation within the Forge, with minesweepers suggested to deal with whatever mines the enemy lays. The Cygnus Alliance soon meets a serpentine race known as the Rin-ti, who are at war with the militant Waunsik, with a subgroup of the Rin-ti known as Far-Flung allied with the Golden. Towards the end of the novel, upgrades to Dash’s mech, the Archetype, become possible.

Overall, book eight of the series proves to be just as enjoyable as its precursors, with plentiful science-fiction mythos and actions in the form of well-described battles, references to Old Earth sometimes coming within the text. There are occasional stylistic issues within the story such as a few inconsistent capitalizations of “the” before the location known as Three Fangs, and those who have played various sci-fi-centric videogames will likely note the somewhat-derivative nature of the plotline. Regardless, things such as the book description before the primary text get readers up to speed with the literary franchise, and I definitely wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it.

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Thursday, January 27, 2022

My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic


I hastened my viewership of this series since it's set to leave Netflix in February, and am glad I definitely did, as while the initial target of the show was young girls, it definitely has something for everyone, and I would definitely consider myself a "brony". Definitely teaches better lessons than I've ever learned from my own family in my lifetime.

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

A Crown of Swords

A Crown of Swords (The Wheel of Time, #7)A Crown of Swords by Robert Jordan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The seventh installment of the late Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time franchise opens with a prologue indicating that the White Tower, headquarters of the Aes Sedai ordered in the city of Tar Valon, has been “broken,” with the dark sorcerers of the forbidden Black Ajah ruling in its stead. The main chapters commence with the same wind motif that opens all book in the series except the prequel New Spring, Perrin Aybara having experiences with his wolf brethren and holding Aes Sedai prisoners that he wishes to give to his friend and the Dragon Reborn, Rand al’Thor.

Rand continues his attempts to channel the darkness-tainted saidin, the male half of the One Power, and has the voice of the long-deceased Lews Therin Telamon haunt him occasionally. An artifact serving as something of the book’s main MacGuffin is the Bowl of the Winds, which many characters throughout the story seek. Many characters in the novel have occasional bad dreams, with one of the Forsaken, Moghedien, conversing with the Great Lord of the Dark in one of her reveries. The action concludes with Rand fighting another of the Forsaken, Sammael, with a fictitious prophetic excerpt “inspiring” the title of the novel.

Overall, the seventh main Wheel of Time novel is very much on par with its predecessors, which can be either a good or bad thing depending upon whether or not readers actually enjoy the series, which admittedly can be dense at times. Those who haven’t read any entry in the franchise would best start with the first main book or the aforementioned prequel novel, and since the events of all books contain close links, one would find it preferable to read them all within the same timespan or risk confusion. While a glossary at the end clarifies some of the series-native terminology, furthermore, there are some terms omitted. Even so, this reviewer definitely enjoyed partaking in Jordan’s fantasy series.

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Lord of Chaos

Lord of Chaos (The Wheel of Time, #6)Lord of Chaos by Robert Jordan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

*may contain spoilers for previous books*

The sixth main Wheel of Time novel, much like its predecessors, opens with a poem that “inspired” its title, and a prologue where Demandred holds prisoners from the Borderlands at Shayol Ghul. The preface gives time to other characters such as Nynaeve, who has lost her ability to channel the One Power, and, absent from The Fires of Heaven, the newly-married Perrin and Faile. The main chapters commence with the same wind motif opening the book’s predecessors, with the wind in this case flowing through abandoned settlements in Cairhien, along with mention of the White Tower’s divided Aes Sedai.

Rand al’Thor, the prophesied Dragon Reborn, grants amnesty to a few false Dragons such as Mazarin Taim, in fact training him to be faithful warriors and wishing to intervene in the Aes Sedai civil war, with the voice of the long-deceased Lews Therin continuing to haunt him. Elaida vows to reunite the White Tower under her rule, and Nynaeve attempts to recover her ability to channel magic. Gawyn, in the meantime, blames Rand for the death of his mother Morgase, and Egwene receives a bit of a surprise concerning the leadership of the Aes Sedai.

Several conflicts and a Feast of Lights end the novel, which is very much on par with its predecessors, weaving a complex tale of fantastical war, although the sheer number of identified characters, and abundance of unique terminology, might prove cumbersome for a few readers who prefer simpler fantasy tales. Thus, a list of important dramatic personae prefacing the text would have certainly been welcome, although the glossary at the end of the book is somewhat helpful in this regard. Jordan was also obviously a fan of Star Wars, given elements such as the One Power, but even so, those who enjoyed the book’s precursors will likely enjoy Lord of Chaos.

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Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Rage of Night

Rage of Night (The Messenger #7)Rage of Night by J.N. Chaney
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In the seventh entry of J.N. Chaney and Terry Maggert’s The Messenger series, Dash’s alliance, the Cygnus Realm, is now at home in the Aquarian system, receiving news from a dying ship, their antagonists controlling thirty systems and opposing free life, further seeking to destroy the series’ eponymous Messenger, Newton “Dash” Sawyer, by any necessary means. Skyhooks prove to be part of a plan to hide the precious mineral known as Dark Metal, although Dash, the piratic Gentle Friends, and the rest of his amassing forces try to fight back, Dash discovering an antediluvian plot to use an entity known as the Shroud against the Cygnus Realm.

When the book starts, Dash leaves the Aquarian Ring in his mech, the Archetype, hoping for a break from the war, although a vessel known as the Granite sends a distress call. The Forge, in the meantime, is busy constructing new mechs to assist the fleet, with the concept of the skyhooks playing a significant role in the story’s plotline. Dash discovers an area of the martial space station only the Messenger can visit, with he and his friends seeking a Golden facility in the atmosphere of a gas giant called Gale, which has harsh winds known as the Roaring Forties and a Storm called Big Eddy.

The leader of the Gentle Friends, Benzel, who has a price on his head, introduces Dash to one of his associates, Katerina Vensic, who ultimately agrees to assist the Cygnus Realm. Adversarial mechs known as harbingers attack, with Dash’s team retrieving huge chunks of them after their defeat. Amy and Conover receive their own mechs, with Dash leading them to the star Typhoon and the ravaged planet Typhoon-3, where a battle had occurred. He and the others discover things such as a civil war among the Golden, which gives them the idea to seek the rogue members of the race for possible alliance.

Unlike previous installments of the series, battles don’t occur sporadically throughout the text, although there is one in the penultimate main chapter, and despite this, Rage of Night is overall another enjoyable entry of the literary franchise, given its exploration of new worlds within the fictitious universe. The glossary of key terms at the beginning, as with the book’s precursors, is, as always, a nice addition to refresh readers of the original terminology, along with the synopsis at the beginning that brings any reader up to speed with the plotline. There are some other similarities to other science-fiction media, but otherwise, I definitely wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this novel.

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Sunday, January 23, 2022

Timespinner (PlayStation 4)

Chronovania: The Spinner of Time

The year 2011 saw the founding of the videogame developer and publisher Chucklefish Limited in London, specializing in the production of retro-styled games. Among their publications, developed by Lunar Ray Games, was the Metroidvania Timespinner, taking heavy inspiration from Konami’s Castlevania: Symphony of the Night and financed through the crowdfunding platform Kickstarter in June 2014. It originally was to see release in November 2015, although the project’s scope delayed it a few years to September 2018, initially on computer and PlayStation-based media, but it would expand to the Nintendo Switch and Xbox One.

As the game’s moniker implies, Timespinner’s narrative has a focus on time-travel, with protagonist Lunais, a Time Messenger, needing to traverse the present and the past in order to defeat the evil Lachiem Empire responsible for the death of her parents. The story does have a few derivative elements, although the way in which the game tells it is surprisingly effective, for one never feeling forced down the player’s throat as seems the case with most top-tier titles. There are also many documents that add well to the game’s background, with a slight hint of LGBTQ+ themes, and there are multiple endings that add some lasting appeal.

Akin to the godfather of the Metroidvania genre, Timespinner features 2-D side-scrolling gameplay, Lunais able to equip two offensive orbs between which she alternates when attacking, a passive orb (one that can damage foes with spinning blades when they draw close to her, for example), and an orb that allows her to use powerful charge abilities that consume her magical aura energy. Killing enemies may occasionally drop items, some of which are necessary to complete sidequests, with Lunais occasionally leveling as well, and able to get money both from adversaries and breaking light sources.

Throughout the past and present, Lunais can also find items that permanently increase her health, aura, and sand, the last of which she can use to freeze time temporarily, often necessary to use enemies as platforms to reach higher areas. Lunais can further equip headgear, a piece of armor, and two accessories, also able to purchase various items from shops. She also may find items that she can use to increase the levels of her orbs, repeated use also occasionally empowering them. The game mechanics are virtually flawless, occasional bosses impeding Lunais’ progress, the easiest difficulty allowing her to avoid death and fully heal her when she reaches zero health.

Control also serves the game almost perfectly, with easily-navigable menus, enjoyable exploration, helpful in-game maps, and pleasant platforming. While one could possibly argue that on difficulties above Dream Mode (the easiest), the player can waste progress if killed far from restorative save points, a buyable item allows Lunais to teleport to the last safe zone, helpful for when she’s close to death, and in the end Timespinner interfaces with players like a dream.

Jeff Ball provides a soundtrack stylistically similar to that in the RPG Castlevanias, with good use of instruments such as the piano and harpsichord, and there are some voice clips like Lunais’ grunting when attacking, and occasional laughter. The sound effects are good as well, and while there are some silent portions, namely most cutscenes, Timespinner is very much an aural delight.

The visuals also evoke Timespinner’s Castlevania inspirations, with gorgeous pixel art, character portraits prominent during dialogues, enemy designs, colorful environments, and smooth animation. There are a few reskins in terms of foes, but otherwise, the game graphically excels.

Finally, finishing the core game can take as little as four hours, although there is plentiful lasting appeal in the form of a New Game+, and I only had acquired a tenth of the Trophies with a straightforward playthrough, so absolute completion can naturally take far longer.

All things considered, Timespinner is easily one of the high points of the Metroidvania gaming genre, given its superb gameplay, tight control, engaging narrative, excellent soundtrack, gorgeous graphics, and its abundance of side content, even surpassing Symphony of the Night in terms of quality. What some may argue it lacks in terms of quantity, it very easily makes up for in quality, and the aforementioned supplemental content is certain to pacify those who habitually complain about games being short. I definitely hope it isn’t Lunar Ray Games’ swan song, would happily play anything else they produce, if ever, and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to fans of Metroidvanias in general.

This review is based on a single playthrough on Dream Mode to one of the standard endings, with 10% of Trophies acquired.

The Good:
+Superb side-scrolling gameplay and exploration.
+Controls like a dream.
+Great story.
+Excellent soundtrack.
+Pretty pixel graphics.
+Plentiful lasting appeal.

The Bad:
-Some derivative story elements.
-Most cutscenes silent.
-A few reskinned enemies.

The Bottom Line:
One of the best-ever Metroidvanias.

Score Breakdown:
Platform: PlayStation 4
Game Mechanics: 10/10
Controls: 10/10
Story: 9.5/10
Music/Sound: 9.5/10
Graphics: 9.5/10
Lasting Appeal: 10/10
Difficulty: Adjustable
Playing Time: 4-40+ Hours

Overall: 10/10

Saturday, January 22, 2022

Art of the Week by Me, 1/22/2022


Seal Team


Animated Netflix film about a group of seals fighting back against sharks after getting tired of being their food. Wasn't great, but was worth a few decent laughs.

Friday, January 21, 2022

Worlds Apart

Worlds Apart (The Messenger #6)Worlds Apart by J.N. Chaney
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In the sixth entry of J.N. Chaney and Terry Maggert’s The Messenger series, the key to the critical material known as Dark Metal deep below the seas of a frozen world, along with a new threat that could critically affect the war between Newton “Dash” Sawyer’s Cygnus Realm and the “enemies of life” against humanity. The space station Forge is the center of his alliance, and they continue to seek Dark Metal to increase the station’s weapons output, with an alliance with the alien alliance known as the Aquarian Collective, spearheaded by Al’Bijea, very well augmenting the forces of the Cygnus Realm.

When the sixth story begins, Dash is battling a distortion cannon, visiting the frozen world Burrow with his mech, the Archetype, with his alliance dealing with saboteurs in the meantime. Several battles with the Verity occur throughout the novel, with a mysterious three-ringed construct eventually titled the Greenbelt encountered, and the cultivation of a plant-based Park within the Forge allows the station to sustain greater amounts of life. A secret about the leadership of one of the Cygnus Realms major components, the so-called Gentle Friends, becomes known as well, and more climactic battles end the book, with a few minor events afterward.

Ultimately, I found the sixth entry of The Messenger series to be largely on par with its predecessors, which is definitely a good thing as the various battles throughout the narrative contain excellent description and action, and there are hints at the end of the future possibly depicted in the following stories, to which I am consequentially looking forward. There are some occasional errors within the text, although these luckily don’t detract much from the literary experience. Furthermore, I have a few issues with imagining the appearances of the various luminaries that play part in the plotline, although I definitely wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this story to those who enjoyed its precursors.

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Monday, January 17, 2022

The Fires of Heaven

The Fires of Heaven (The Wheel of Time, #5)The Fires of Heaven by Robert Jordan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The fifth main Wheel of Time novel opens with a fictitious quote “inspiring” its title, followed by a prologue (the book’s immediate precursor lacking one) where the current Amyrlin Seat, Elaida do Aviny a’Roihan hears a report about civil war in Shienar, and how Mazrim Taim is loose, and wants the Aes Sedai to be loyal to the Dragon Reborn Rand al’Thor; meanwhile, the surviving Forsaken conspire against the fated warrior himself. The main chapters open with the same windy motif present in prior entries, the action opening at an inn called Good Queen’s Justice, where news abounds of one of the False Dragons, Logain, being loose.

In the meantime, Rand is in the city of Rhuidean among Aiel, with the Aes Sedai Moiraine showing him one of the seals of the Dark One’s prison. Among the central narrative threads is regular visits by Aes Sedai such as Nynaeve and Egwene to Tel’aran’rhiod, the World of Dreams, with the latter having a long westward journey to Tear throughout the story. Accusations of Black Ajah abound, whilst the banner of Manetheren, the Red Eagle, is raised in Two Rivers. A battle against Sammael and followers known as the Golden Bees occurs in the first half of the novel, with Rand and the Shaido sweeping through the city of Eianrod at one point.

An old acquaintance of Nynaeve visits her in the latter half of the narrative, and a critical battle occurs, Rand regularly channeling the saidin, the tainted half of the One Power. The action ends with a major character’s demise and afterward a key conflict in the World of Dreams, accounting for another satisfying entry of the series that, while clearly inspired by franchises such as Star Wars, is on par with its predecessors, although characters such as Perrin are completely absent, and the book could have done without bouncing between different groups of characters within the same chapters.

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Commission by Meeka






Sunday, January 16, 2022

F.I.S.T.: Forged in Shadow Torch

Rabbitvania: Fist of the Lapine

The Chinese subcontinent has a storied history, spanning from millennia of imperial rule to twentieth century dictatorships rightist and leftist, the latter holding control beginning in the 1940s. While I don’t exactly hold the current dominant power in the Asian nation, the so-called People’s Republic of China, in high regard, given things such as their disregard for reproductive rights, Tiananmen Square, a blatantly-unenforceable “ban” on reincarnation, and the coronavirus pandemic, they inarguably hold significant cultural and economic sway across the world. What capitalist sects the communist government allows to coexist have also delved into videogames, among them being the Metroidvania F.I.S.T.: Forged in Shadow Torch, which would see worldwide release.

The game occurs in a dystopian science-fiction world inhabited by anthropomorphic characters, the protagonist being a rabbit named Rayton, who faces an enemy known as the Iron Dogs. Throughout his journey, he discovers many things about other characters including the fate of an old war companion, with things such as faux news report adding supplementary narrative. F.I.S.T. generally tells its story well, avoiding most standard tropes in Eastern RPGs (then again, it isn’t a Japanese game), with clear direction and the scarce chance that players might get lost throughout the core game. The translation is largely flawless aside from the rare awkward dialogue, with quirks such as the ability to toggle between English and Chinese voicework.

As mentioned, F.I.S.T. is a Metroidvania, largely leaning towards the Metroid side of the videogame subgenre, since there isn’t any experience acquisition from defeating enemies and leveling per se, money and occasional instant recovery items being the chief rewards from combat. The core gameplay is side-scrolling and action-based, and naturally, there’s no lousy camera about which to concern oneself, Rayton eventually able to execute combinations of attacks from three different types of weapons, beginning with a mechanical fist. With money obtained and in many cases data disks sporadically found, he can unlock other, oftentimes more complicated attacks, although luckily, mastering these is scarcely necessary to complete the core game.

F.I.S.T. also bequeaths elements from the Legend of Zelda franchise, Rayton able to obtain “essences” to increase stats such as his maximum health, three necessary to add to his gauges. At the base town, he can further shop for items such as skeleton keys necessary to open locked chests throughout the large interconnected world, return plant seeds that serve the same purpose as tiny medals from the Dragon Quest games and can reward him with more essences and/or money, and eat noodles at a restaurant for an extra bar of health (or up to three in my experience), among other things. Checkpoints are also plentiful throughout the world where most of the time Rayton can unlock more attacks and recover his health and other consumable stat bars.

Combat is generally enjoyable, accommodating to different playstyles, given the three different mechanical weapons Rayton comes to acquire, with a choice of Easy or Hard difficulties when starting a new game sure to pacify players with different skill levels, and even on the former there are occasional tough moments, though mercifully the game is fair in that regard. Healing units are available whenever health restoration is necessary (though this is unavailable underwater and the player needs to get well-enough away from foes to recover out of water, both adding to the battle system’s effectiveness). The Metroidvania elements also work in sync with combat, which is in the end near-note perfect.

As in many entries of the Metroidvania subgenre, there exists one large contiguous area to explore, with abilities gained throughout Rayton’s quest to enhance exploration such as double-jumping, with the rabbit ultimately being able to dash in any direction, and receiving the eventual capability to open sealed doors through one of his three primary mechanical tools of offense. Fast travel luckily becomes available to revisit the various levels to obtain extra goodies, some of which can really come in handy in the final battles. There are a few minor glitches such as a few mechanical doors taking forever to open and the rare crash, though the frequent autosaving luckily minimizes wasted playtime.

F.I.S.T. features music that syncs well with its setting and atmosphere, such as many techno and mechanical-sounding pieces that are never out of place, along with superb instrumentation making use of the saxophone, mixed percussion, and the like. Voice acting also exists, available in both English and Chinese, each very well fitting the various characters, and the sound effects, as in any contemporary videogame, are definitely believable. Some points rely a bit on ambience, but otherwise, the game is a very good aural experience.

Visually, F.I.S.T. also does well, with a realistic style that contains an excellent attention to detail, particularly regarding the fur of the various species, and well-designed environments that do a nice job conveying the dark, dystopian atmosphere of the game. There are occasional visual glitches such as pop-up regarding NPCs and sometimes environments, but they luckily by no means break the game, and the graphics are definitely eye candy, potentially appearing better on a PlayStation 5.

Finally, F.I.S.T. is one of the longer Metroidvanias, taking at least twelve hours to complete, although things such as exploring every corner of the interconnected world and achieving every Trophy can boost playtime well beyond that range, accounting for plentiful lasting appeal.

All things considered, F.I.S.T.: Forged in Shadow Torch is inarguably one of the greatest accomplishments ever to emerge from Red China. It contains excellent Metroidvania gameplay, with the combat and exploration complementing one another very well. The narrative is also superb and well-paced given player potential to breeze through it, with plenty of background, and never feels forced down the player’s throat. The sound and visuals also complement the game’s setting well, almost never feeling out of place. There are some minor technical hiccups, although these scarcely detract from the experience, and not only is the game a great way for China’s youth to spend their government-restricted free time, it also very well scratches those Metroidvania and furry videogame itches comfortably.

This review is based on a playthrough of a digital copy downloaded to the reviewer’s PlayStation 4 to the standard ending, with 45% of Trophies acquired and 90% progress made on Easy mode.

The Good:
+Superb Metroidvania gameplay and exploration.
+Excellent narrative and atmosphere.
+Great soundtrack and voicework.
+Visuals fit the game’s setting well.
+Plentiful lasting appeal.

The Bad:
-Some minor technical issues.

The Bottom Line:
“Required reading” for anyone with a passing interest in Metroidvanias and/or furry videogames.

Score Breakdown:
Platform: PlayStation 4
Game Mechanics: 10/10
Controls: 9.0/10
Story: 10/10
Localization: 9.5/10
Music/Sound: 9.5/10
Graphics: 9.0/10
Lasting Appeal: 10/10
Difficulty: Adjustable
Playing Time: 12-48 Hours

Overall: 10/10

Saturday, January 15, 2022


Another Marvel Cinematic Universe film. I felt it was okay, and largely concur with critics about its positive and negative portions.

Semi-Weekly Art by Me (1/15/2022)


Friday, January 14, 2022

Dawn of Empire

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

The fifth entry of authors J.N. Chaney and Terry Maggert’s The Messenger series, akin to its precursors, opens with a databank on key terms as a reminder to those unfamiliar with the books’ terminology, along with a helpful synopsis for those who choose to break from the series to read other literature. Dash embraces his destiny as the Messenger, the pilot of a mech known as the Archetype, with his and his companions’ crusade against the antagonistic Golden, who despite all life outside their species, metamorphosing well beyond a local conflict. Along the way, he makes allies such as the piratic Gentle Friends, with their base, the Forge, gradually regaining its capability.

Heroes Dash and Leira continue to seek the material known as Dark Metal so that the Forge can continue to enforce the coalition he eventually dubs as the Realm of Cygnus. The flotilla travels, with Dash attempting to secure the alliance of the Aquarian Collective, meeting one of its leaders, Al’Bijea. More information about the Golden comes to light, and Dash encounters the rival mech known as Harbinger. A new enemy known as the Verity also appears, with space battles continuing for several chapters, the leaders of the Cygnus Realm examining whatever spoils of war they obtain, with occasional interrogation of the enemy aliens.

A few twists about in the epilogue, with this particular entry of the science-fiction franchise ultimately being every bit as satisfying as its predecessors, given the presence of many interesting personas and well-described sci-fi action, even if the concept of giant mechs central to battle not exactly being a novel concept, given its use in media largely outside the books. As seems the case with most literature within and without the series, moreover, some reminders as to the appearances of characters would have helped with imagining them better. Regardless, the books still hold my interest, and I will continue reading them to see how their overarching narrative progresses.

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Sunday, January 9, 2022

The Shadow Rising

The Shadow Rising (The Wheel of Time, #4)The Shadow Rising by Robert Jordan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The late Robert Jordan dedicated this fourth main entry of his Wheel of Time saga to Robert Marks, a writer, teacher, scholar, philosopher, friend, and inspiration, following it with the fictitious prophetical writing that “inspired” the book’s title. Unlike its precursors, however, there is no prologue, the first chapter opening with the same windy motif that opened the main chapters of prior books, the action opening at the White Tower in Tar Valon, where Min goes, using her full first name Elmindreda to get the attention necessary to meet the Amyrlin Seat, Siuan Sanche.

Meanwhile, Perrin Aybara is at the Stone in Tear, fearing that his friend Rand al’Thor, the Dragon Reborn, has lost interest in him, with Rand having sporadic episodes whilst channeling the saidin, the tainted half of the One Power, with the aid of the mysterious crystal sword Callandor. Perrin wants to summon the Aes Sedai Moiraine for want of healing Rand from his episodes of rage, with Moiraine Sedai actually encouraging the Dragon to channel the Power.

Thom Merrilin is also at the Stone, writing a message whilst pretending to be High Lord Carleon, with Mat visiting him and telling that he’s considering departing the citadel. In the meantime, Egwene is aboard a vessel awaiting Moiraine’s return, with the Accepted interrogating two rogue Aes Sedai of the Black Ajah, Amico and Joiya, who are being taken to the White Tower. Elayne and Egwene offer to help Rand with channeling, although his temper gets the better of him.

Trollocs ultimately invade the Stone, with the enemy fearing Callandor, the attack quelled. Several times throughout the novel, Egwene and her fellow Accepted Nynaeve visit the Heart of the Stone via the World of Dreams, Tel’aran’rhiod. Perrin, alongside a companion named Gaul and the Ogier Loial, also leave the Stone and travel the lands via Waygates. The Sea Folk play a minor role in the storyline, as well, having their own Jendai Prophecy of Coramoor.

Prophecy also suggests that Illian is fated to fall, with the Dragon himself leading the Aiel, from whom he is descended, through Tear and teleporting with them through a Portal Stone to the Aiel Waste. There, Rand has several visions of Aiel history, with competing factions among them. Another mystery briefly touched upon in the story is that of an individual named Slayer, whose identity is revealed late in the narrative. Dain Bornhald, in the meantime, leads the Whitecloaks, keeping prisoners deemed Darkfriends, while Rand is reluctant to follow prophecy to break the world again as Lews Therin before him had done.

A visit to Tanchico occurs as well, with a brilliant description of the city in the one chapter in which it is most prominent, and Perrin returns home to Emond’s Field, having a wolf-dream about the Whitecloaks and the destruction they leave in their wake. The action culminates in Aes Sedai infighting, Elayne and her friend Egeanin plotting infiltration of the Panarch’s Palace, and a brief conflict with the Forsaken Asmodean, accounting for a satisfying story. As with its predecessors, Jordan does take some inspiration from Star Wars, although those who enjoyed prior books will likely enjoy this one.

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Semi-Weekly Art by Me (1/9/2022)


Saturday, January 8, 2022

Gaming Update, 1/8/2022

Currently Playing

F.I.S.T.: Forged in Shadow Torch (PlayStation 4) - Since Metroidvanias seem to be my favorite gaming subgenre, and it stars anthro characters like Dust (the protagonist being a rabbit), I figured I'd give this a try, and it's been fun, despite some technical hiccups regarding the visuals and no fast travel.

Slime Forest Adventure - Slowly making progress, and I managed to conquer the cave on the first desert island, which required I answer correctly around a hundred readings.

In My Backlog

Baldur's Gate & Baldur's Gate II: Enhanced Editions (Nintendo Switch) - I ordered some padded envelopes from USPS so I could sell this back on eBay, but my order hasn't shipped yet so I don't know when I'll be able to sell this back.

Ultima II: The Revenge of the Enchantress - I'm holding off on playing this until I (one day) beat Slime Forest Adventure since I have a weird rule about not playing multiple games for a single platform at the same time unless I've reached more than three games I'm playing currently (I have my methods), so I'm not sure when I'll get to this, if ever.

Ultima III: Exodus - Likewise.

Hamlet 2


I remember seeing a trailer for this film over a decade ago, and just the title alone made me giggle, so I decided to rent it on Amazon Prime, and while it does start a bit slow, the final half-hour largely made up for it, and one could consider it The Producers of our time, given the similar controversies surrounding the eponymous musical like Springtime for Hitler did in Mel Brooks' original film and its remake.

Wednesday, January 5, 2022

Dust: An Elysian Tail (PlayStation 4)

Dustylvania: Sword of the Amnesiac

Masterpieces tend to come from unexpected places, with many winners of the Academy Awards for Best Picture sometimes being obscure, even low-budget films. One could say the same of videogames, with designer Dean Dodrill not exactly being a household name regarding gaming, to the point where he lacks a Wikipedia article. He was in the process of creating an animated film, Elysian Tail, although a decision ultimately came about to convert it into a videogame, Dust: An Elysian Tail, which took three and a half years to complete, and initially saw release on Microsoft platforms, although it spread to others such as the PlayStation 4. Was the conversion from film to game a wise choice?

The eponymous protagonist, Dust, awakes in a forest meadow, approached by the sentient sword, the Blade of Ahrah, and its respective guardian, a Nimbat (sort of a flying feline species) named Fidget, with no memory of his past, thus embarking on a quest throughout a world populated by anthropomorphs to regain his memories. The storyline does have some derivative elements, although I definitely appreciated the anthropomorphic cast, and there are some quirks such as the fact that all NPCs with whom Dust can interact have names and unique designs, and there are notes he retrieves throughout the game that provide supplemental backstory. Overall, the narrative is a definite draw to the game, and contains clear direction and sound pacing.

Fortunately, solid gameplay backs the narrative experience, with Dust battling the various adversaries whom he encounters in real-time combat, with several different gameplay options such as the ability to hold buttons to make the battle system feel significantly less button-mashy with automatic attacks, with moves such as standard sword slashes and twirling his blade. Fidget can also contribute to combat by expelling balls of light or later on, flames or lightning, with which Dust can combine his blade twirling to execute special combination moves to devastate the enemy. An Elysian Tail further contains numerous nods towards the Metroidvania gaming subgenre such as eventual acquisition of moves such as sliding and double jumps.

Dust obtains experience for sporadic leveling and money to purchase consumables and materials from shops (where he can sell materials to make them available for purchase, regular restocks allowing him frequently afford the components of equipment recipes he may also obtain from foes). Treasure chests Dust can also unlock with consumable treasure keys that early on are slightly rare, although late in the game I had no problem keeping a good supply, and cages requiring numerous keys to unlock can also release entities that grant him permanent health increases. Bosses further impede Dust’s progress at points in the storyline, and with things such as selectable difficulty and a fair endgame, combat in An Elysian Tail is near-note perfect.

The game also interacts well with players, given the aforementioned Metroidvania elements and maps showing the various connected areas of each navigable region, and while some may protest the lack of minimaps within each specific “chamber”, one can argue that such a setup adds to the potential challenge, and one can definitely make it through the standard storyline without referencing the internet, with flags clearly indicating the next plot points. The menus are also easy, and one major quick within the chief interface is that when selecting recipes to formulate new equipment, Dust can instantly purchase materials from the one-stop shop without him needing to visit tents indicating said stores. Aside from the rare crash (although save points are mercifully frequent), interaction excels.

Western RPGs tend not to have very memorable soundtracks, although the positives in An Elysian Tail’s aural aspect very much outweigh the negatives, with plenty of nice music that definitely fits the various areas, is never out of place, and contains great instrumentation. The sound effects are naturally fitting as is expectant of a contemporary videogame, and voice acting is present, Dust and the various voiced luminaries he encounters throughout his quest having appropriate audible speech, with nary a weak performance. There are occasions where the sound largely depends upon ambience, but otherwise, Dust is largely an aural delight.

The game is further a visual delight, as one would expect from a videogame that originated as a fledgling animated film, with superb art direction for Dust and the other named characters, none appearing to be palette swaps of one another. Some, however, might damn the enemy design to consist of reskins, although as enemies of the same base appearance close to one another in each area have the same stats, this actually prevents the adversarial visual direction from becoming excessively repetitive, and they still look amazing. The environments are further bright and colorful, with the effect of the foreground and background shifting at variant speeds adding a semblance of realism, and in the end, An Elysian Tail is visually excellent.

Finally, as is the case with most Metroidvanias, the core game doesn’t last very long, around a minimum of eight hours to get through the main storyline, although things such as acquiring every Trophy and maxing out the map and treasure percentages of each gameplay area can potentially boost playtime to somewhere around thirty-six hours, thus accounting for great lasting appeal.

On the whole, the metamorphosis of Dust: An Elysian Tail from animated film to videogame was indeed a wise decision, as one could consider it a contemporary videogaming masterpiece, given its flawless combat, solid control, well-told narrative, great sound, pretty art direction, and plentiful replayability. Developer Humble Hearts definitely did an excellent job assembling the game, and while the PlayStation 4 version does have some minor technical kinks, it’s very much “required reading” for anyone having a passing interest in the Metroidvania videogame subgenre, and regardless of platform to which players have access, it’s an absolute bucket list title.

This review is based on a playthrough to the end of the main narrative of a copy of the game downloaded to the player’s PlayStation 4, with 30% of Trophies acquired.

The Good:
+Superb combat with different gameplay settings.
+Great control.
+Excellent narrative.
+Solid sound.
+Beautiful visual direction.
+Plenty lasting appeal.

The Bad:
-May crash a time or two.

The Bottom Line:
The change from animated film to videogame was definitely a great decision.

Score Breakdown:
Platform: PlayStation 4
Game Mechanics: 10/10
Controls: 9.0/10
Story: 9.5/10
Music/Sound: 9.5/10
Graphics: 9.5/10
Lasting Appeal: 10/10
Difficulty: Adjustable
Playing Time: 8-36 Hours

Overall: 10/10

Tuesday, January 4, 2022

The Wheel of Time

 The logo shows the words "The Wheel of Time" on top of a coiled silver snake

Mostly covers The Eye of the World. It's definitely a beautiful series, and a better book adaptation than Legend of the Seeker, but there are things that feel mildly "off" about it, such as a few decisions regarding casting. Rand was well-cast, but Loial doesn't really seem any bigger than the human characters, and the episodes don't completely sync with the first main book. Regardless, it's a half-decent alternative to reading the book the season covers, and I'll definitely continue watching it.

Saturday, January 1, 2022

Editorial - Quantity vs. Quality: Striking a Balance with Game Length

Longevity is a habitual issue when it comes to videogames, whether they’re good or bad in terms of quality, and as gaming can be an expensive hobby (though somewhat less so even by inflation), one can find it difficult to decide which titles to invest their videogaming buck into, and the various issues with mainstream and independent game reviews and videogame journalism in general definitely don’t help things. However, I firmly believe in the mantra of “quality over quantity,” and think that length is only a major issue if a game isn’t very good, as I have encountered my fair share of gaming turkeys that have wasted my time, and will in this editorial analyze the topic of game length.

In recent time, I have attempted to adopt the “six-hour rule,” similar to one RPGamer writer’s “five-hour rule” (I prefer six since it’s an exact quarter of a day), where one decides after the aforementioned interval whether to continue slogging through a game. Super Mario Sunshine, as part of Super Mario 3D All-Stars on the Nintendo Switch, was one game to which I had successfully applied the rule, given the game’s difficulty even with the assistance of guides. However, there come times when one needs to play a game for more than five or six hours to gauge its potential quality, as had been the case for me when I decided after twenty-three hours of Bravely Default II, that I had enough, given that I had only come as far as two out of seven chapters.

There are many times where a game’s longevity can feel artificial, especially if they involve plentiful repetition as a result of perpetual death, or in the case of roleplaying games, the need to farm for money and items, and/or grind for various types of levels. Other things that can needlessly prolong a game include sluggish text speed like in Xenogears (inexcusable since many games from prior generations such as the original Dragon Quest allowed for it to be adjustable), not to mention poor direction on how to advance a game’s central storyline or attempt to solve dungeon puzzles without assistance from the internet.

Given that time can be far more valuable a resource than money for players such as I that work full-time, I definitely yearn for games to pack a sizeable gameplay punch without taking forever to finish their central storylines, although I do definitely appreciate long games as long as they’re actually good and don’t feel padded at all. However, since money can still be a consideration for many players, games need to accommodate both those who wish to spend a long time with them, preferably through things that can enhance lasting appeal such as multitudes of sidequests and New Game+ modes, and those who wish to get through them in the quickest time possible.

Price, admittedly, can also be a consideration whenever players are seeking their next title to purchase and play, and when a player with limited funds has completely exhausted what they had been playing, whether through completing all achievements, completing all sidequests, viewing all paths of branching narratives, and so on. Games that are fairly short and generally lack replayability, such as the mentioned first installment of the Dragon Quest series, should naturally not require a great monetary investment, whereas games that are lengthy such as Persona 5 and its enhanced rerelease can have average prices for titles of their respective generations yet still be worthwhile purchases. On the other hand, retro games that haven’t had contemporary rereleases can be expensive and generally not worth it.

Ultimately, when it comes to videogames, quality very easily trumps quantity, and I can safely say that most of my top games, such as Muramasa Rebirth and its respective DLC, not to mention Tails of Iron, which I recently finished, aren’t very lengthy games, yet pack major gameplay punches. As I’ve said before, length is only an issue if a game’s quality isn’t very high and it has the potential to waste one’s time needlessly, also money if a player has invested a sizable portion of their money into the game. When given a choice between a six-hour masterpiece or thirty-hour mediocrity, the former definitely wins hands-down.

First Art of 2022 by Me


Sahara (2017)


No relation to the Dirk Pitt novel and respective film adaptation of the same name, this French-Canadian Netflix film focuses on a cobra named Ajar who goes to lengths to find the love of his life across the Sahara Desert. Was an okay film, though certainly not bucket-list.