Saturday, February 26, 2022

A Memory of Light

A Memory of Light (The Wheel of Time, #14)A Memory of Light by Robert Jordan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The concluding entry to the late Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time saga, completed by Brandon Sanderson, opens with a fictitious excerpt about the Breaking of the World, following which is a prologue spanning the perspectives of multiple character sets. The main chapters open with the same wind motif that commence those of the book’s precursors, with a gathering far north of Caemlyn, and the world in decay. The Last Battle officially begins with Trollocs storming the aforementioned city, with the militaries of the various nations needing to mobilize, and one of the characters, Androl, receiving a demotion to a regular soldier.

King Easar of Sheinar leads the Borderlanders against the Trollocs and their allies, and the Dragon Reborn, Rand al’Thor, vows to kill the Dark One, even if it costs him his life. There is debate about who will lead the forces of good against those evil, with Lan leading the Borderlander Asha’man and having occasional nostalgia as the heir to the deceased Kingdom of Malkier. Matrim Cauthon at one point breaks into the Tarasin Palace of Ebou Dar, with his wife Empress Fortuona of Seanchan yearning for offspring, and his friend Rand training with his adoptive father Tam to ready for the Last Battle.

The Dragon himself parleys with the Seanchan leader, wishing for her to relinquish the captive damane in her country. Gawyn, the Aes Sedai, and Queen Elayne seek to stem the advances of the Trollocs, with contemplation by Rand on when to break the remaining seals on the Dark One’s prison. New enemies from the country of Shara east from the Aiel Waste collaborate with Shai’tan’s forces, with the upper hand in combat sporadically undulating between the opposing factions. Some characters allegedly fighting for good are suspected to be Darkfriends, whilst Perrin battles Slayer within his wolf dreams.

Sanderson dedicates an extremely-lengthy, hundred-plus-page-in-physical-format chapter to the climactic events of the Last Battle, which begins on Polov Heights, and Rand confronts the Dark One himself, who tries to distract him with illusions. Several important characters meet their deaths, with several smaller conflicts between luminaries of good and the remaining Forsaken following the chief action of the Last Battle, the Dragon Reborn continuing his crusade against Shai’tan. The remaining chapters, including the epilogue, settle the fates of the various characters once and for all, with the final entry cleverly concluding with the same windy motif that begins all books but the prequel.

Overall, the conclusive Wheel of Time novel is definitely a satisfactory ending, with plenty of action nonstop at many points, although Sanderson could have definitely broken down the chapter entitled “The Last Battle” into multiple subsections, since most readers will need plenty of spare time to read it through from start to finish. This reviewer also took minor perplexion at the abrupt introduction of the Sharans, driving him to look on the Internet, and the conclusion definitely shows its inspiration by the Star Wars saga, with occasional reference to being “turned to the Shadow.” Regardless, the author definitely did justice to the late Robert Jordan’s work, and this critic definitely doesn’t regret reading the sometimes-verbose epic.

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Art of the Week by Me, 2/26/2022


The Princess and the Frog


Thought this would be a good film to watch on Disney+ on the days until Mardi Gras. Disney's last (so far) 2-D animated film, it takes place in 1920s New Orleans and focuses on Tiana, who kisses a frog claiming to be a prince and turns into a frog herself, with the two struggling to become human again. Sort of sugarcoats the South at the time (though I don't think America's War Between the States really did a whole lot of good when it came to Northern/Southern and white/nonwhite relations, despite the head Lincoln gets from biased historians), but it had some good music and endearing characters like Louis the alligator.

Friday, February 25, 2022

Dark Origins

Dark Origins (The Messenger #14)Dark Origins by J.N. Chaney
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In the penultimate installment of J.N. Chaney and Terry Maggert’s The Messenger series, a vessel appears before the growing space settlement of Kingsport, with its captain informing that Deepers are among humans, with the Deepers themselves continuing to attack the humans and their allies, and the Cygnus Realm leader Newton “Dash” Sawyer continuing his crusade to defend the free peoples of the universe. When the book begins proper following a databank of terms native to the literary franchise, Dash meets an old acquaintance named Spratley, on the run from aliens and admiring the amassed forces of the Realm.

Dash discovers that brown dwarf stars are significant to the Deepers, with the Cygnus Realm’s leader and his mech the Archetype aiding human forces losing to the antagonistic aliens, conflicts continuing throughout the course of the novel. Some of the book devotes backstory to a commander named Sabina Yagrodna Lavarovna, after which comes the discovery that the Deepers have attempted to open a new fast-travel gate. The Realm regularly salvages Deeper vessels known as Arkubators, and uses joint targeting systems, or JETS. One of the latter chapters poses the question of spirituality with a conversation between Dash and his monk ally Kai.

The fourteenth book ends with Dash and his companions admiring adorable alien animals, with this particular entry of the series definitely being just as enjoyable as its precursors, given plentiful well-described science-fiction action and some character development, alongside occasional humor, part of which involves the formulation of a new artificial intelligence system Dash terms Newton, after his legal forename that he somewhat dislikes using. Granted, the penultimate entry of the series does have some of the same issues prevalent in its predecessors such as the lack of reminders as to the appearances of the characters, but otherwise, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it.

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Monday, February 21, 2022

The Towers of Midnight

Towers of Midnight (The Wheel of Time, #13)Towers of Midnight by Robert Jordan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The penultimate Wheel of Time novel opens with a prologue featuring various character perspectives, with Lan meeting an acquaintance named Bulen near the Blight, Perrin forging a screaming figurine, Graendal the Forsaken being on the run from Rand, and a dark storm approaching, symbolizing the Last Battle that is to come soon. The main chapters open with the same windy motif that commence those of prior series installments, with Rand demonstrating his supernatural abilities by making apple trees flourish. Meanwhile, Perrin takes Jehannah Road, anticipating Master Gill to return with supplies, while Galad feels he will ultimately be on the run from the Questioners.

Egwene has a vision of black towers, with Rand visiting her, affirming his commitment to destroying the remaining seals on the Dark One’s prison, the Lord of Shadows’ taint making itself visible outside the Blight, and Perrin consequentially incinerating a Blight-tainted village, afterward pursuing Gill. Murders in the White Tower abound, whilst Mat, along with Thom and Noal, plans to visit one of the eponymous constructions, the Tower of Ghenjei, with the possibility that Moiraine is alive within it. Elayne also wishes to secure the Sun Throne and mulls what to do with the supporters of her rivals for the cathedra, further being pregnant.

The civil war within the White Tower is largely over, while Rand cautions Nynaeve against dealing with the Black Tower. Perrin continues to have wolf dreams, and his wife Faile yearns for a duel with Berelain for allegedly bedding her husband. Mat parleys with Elayne to promote technological weapons known as “dragons” against the enemy, and battles against the Trollocs occasionally abound. Elayne interrogates Chesmal, one of the remnants of the Black Ajah, and pursues other Aes Sedai followers of the Dark One. Perrin also faces a trial for killing Whitecloaks, with Morgase agreed to be his judge.

Aybara quickly senses the absence of his lupine followers, given a magical dome that traps them, which prompts him to seize the spike responsible for the hemisphere. Mat and his companions further deal with gholams, and Siuan educates the Aes Sedai in the ways of the Tel’aran’rhiod. Graendal has a vendetta against Perrin, and Egwene deals with Black Ajah responsible for the deaths of mainstream Aes Sedai. The Asha’man further revel in the now-taintless saidin, and Aviendha perpetually expresses her admiration for the Dragon Reborn. Rand, in the meantime, faces some resistance from his friends for wishing to unseal the Dark One’s prison.

The story ends with Mat, Thom, and Noal’s visit to the Tower of Ghenjei, where they face Aelfinn and Eelfinn, snakelike and foxlike beings that populate the structure, with Moiraine’s fate settled, following which is an epilogue updating the reader on the various character viewpoints. Overall, this was another enjoyable book in the Wheel of Time saga, albeit sometimes verbose and with odd stylistic choices, although it provides an excellent setup for the following final entry of the franchise, and is definitely worth a read from those who enjoyed its precursors.

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Sunday, February 20, 2022

Farthest Shore

Farthest Shore (The Messenger #13)Farthest Shore by J.N. Chaney
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In the thirteenth installment of J.N. Chaney and Terry Maggert’s The Messenger sci-fi series, protagonist Newton “Dash” Sawyer strives for peace in the universe, with the Kingsport becoming real, and the Arkubators, worlds of the Deepers, and other secrets unraveling as the Cygnus Realm fights for several transportation gates. As in previous books, a useful databank of terminology native to the literary franchise precedes the main text, very much helpful for anyone who may have broken from the series for any amount of time. The main chapters open proper with Wei-Ping, one of the Gentle Friends, now commanding her own vessel and chasing a Deeper ship, seeing one of their new deadly weapons.

The Cygnus Realm has help from newcomer aliens known as the N’Teel, led by Cloud Leader Garciss, a General among her people, and turning the tides of whatever conflicts with the Deeper they have after the forging of their alliance. The Realm captures a Deeper Battle Prince and takes it aboard the Forge, although it slowly comes back online and warrants destruction. Dash and Kai visit a seismically-unstable planet with giant insects, where they retrieve a model of Kingsport and aim to make it a reality. Back at the Forge, pushed to its limit given the diversity of the Realm’s armada, Dash experiments with attempts to battle at increased speed.

An entity known as the Radiant Point eventually comes to light, after which Deepers attack the N’Teel homeworld, with their fearsome beam weapon posing a significant threat. The Archetype encounters a Deeper ship of new design with three deadly beam weapons, with the N’Teel themselves suffering the greatest losses in the recent conflicts. Mechs other than the Archetype receive upgrades, and the Deeper soon become silent, with Dash going into cryo-sleep to embark on a seven-week trip on a mission necessary for the good of the Realm, a major conflict ending the book, and the Deepers finding themselves on the run, although this makes them more deadly.

On the whole, the thirteenth Messenger book is very much on par with its predecessors, although this definitely isn’t a bad thing as its positives greatly outweigh the negatives, the former including things such as good character development, with many details surrounding Dash’s early life coming to fruition during his cryo-sleep, along with plentiful sci-fi action with well-described battles, an occasional smidgeon of humor and cursing also present. Granted, it does share its flaws with its precursors such as the diverse extraterrestrial races not given reminders of appearance, although those who enjoyed prior books will enjoy the thirteenth entry, but those new to the series will want to start from the beginning.

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Saturday, February 19, 2022

The Gathering Storm

The Gathering Storm (The Wheel of Time, #12)The Gathering Storm by Robert Jordan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Robert Jordan had partially written the final book in his Wheel of Time saga, A Memory of Light, before he died in 2007, with his editor and wife Harriet McDougal personally choosing fellow fantasy writer Brandon Sanderson to complete the epic series, and Sanderson electing to divide the final entry into three novels, given that the last was too big for a single readable book, which opens with a note from Sanderson about the process leading to his selection to finish the literary series. Sanderson dedicates the twelfth entry to Maria Simons and Alan Romanczuk, who he claims helped make his continuation of the saga possible.

Following the fictitious blurb from an unknown scholar is the prologue opening with a minor character, Renald Fanwar, observing an approaching storm in the Borderlands, with one of his neighbors, Thulin, telling of how he buried his anvil and other tools due to his with to flee the storm with many others. The main chapters open with the same windy motif that opens the main sections of the book’s precursors, the wind in this case blowing around the White Tower in Tar Valon, where an Aes Sedai rebellion is underway, and whose leadership wants the captured Forsaken Semirhage.

Within the Tower itself, Egwene endures torture from the Mistress of Novices, Silviana, and does menial chores such as mopping. Meanwhile, the Wise Ones discuss refugees from recent battles, with Aviendha and Min Farshaw having feelings for the Dragon Reborn, Rand al’Thor. Gawyn prepares to lead an army against the Aes Sedai, whilst Cadsuane wants to “break” the captive Semirhage, although Rand forbids torture of prisoners of war, and wants the Aiel he commands to seize cities ruled by the Council of Merchants, further ordering Rodel Ituralde, stuck between a rock and a hard place, to Saldaea.

Egwene continues to battle Elaida for the Amyrlin Seat, the highest leadership position of the Aes Sedai, and is told renouncing her claim to the post would stabilize the White Tower, Elaida allegedly yearning for reconciliation with the rebels of the magical order. Semirhage receives repeated interrogation to little avail, with Perrin Aybara visiting wolf dreams as he had in prior series installments, as well. Meanwhile, the Seanchan Empire sees civil war due to the demise of its Empress, with Rand wishing to meet Tuon, who yearns for the Empire’s Crystal Throne.

Gawyn ultimately makes it a goal to rescue Egwene from captivity in the White Tower, with his sister Elayne safe on Andor’s Lion Throne. Rumors about that Elaida will receive a trial for breaking the law of the Tower, the Dark One tainting the structure, Egwene further considering giving in to her fellow contender for the Amyrlin Seat. Matrim Cauthon, along with the gleeman Thom, seeks the Tower of Ghenjei, visiting a town where they run into citizens seeking to lynch them after gambling. Cadsuane, in the meantime, fears execution by Rand due to her botched handling on the Dragon Reborn, the Dragon himself still seeking to meet members of the merchant council.

Nynaeve further hears reports of insect infestations, with a few by roaches actually occurring, and she interrogates supposed chandler’s apprentices about hostages, with an apprentice named Kerb inquired as well, and even brought before Rand, who believes his life will be forfeit due to the forthcoming Last Battle. Tuon, meanwhile, readies an attack on Tar Valon and the Dragon Reborn, who fails to find peace with the Seanchan. Within the Tower, Egwene believes her incarceration damages Elaida’s rule, with the pretender Amyrlin giving her rival tea to suppress her channeling ability.

The Seanchan ultimately launch their promises attack on the White Tower thanks to damane and sul’dam riding the backs of to’raken, Egwene teaching her Aes Sedai sisters techniques to fend off the invaders, further gathering angreal to help them channel; Gawyn launches his own attack via waterway. Rand, meanwhile, continues his occasional conversations with the long-deceased Lews Therin, hearing about an abundance of food in Arad Doman drawing refugees to the nation, only for the Dark One’s taint to spoil it, and the Dragon consequentially planning a march to Shayol Ghul.

Egwene continues her plans to reunite the Aes Sedai, with the novel concluding by having Rand sit atop Dragonmount, the alleged highest place in the known world, in contemplation, and an epilogue which furthers the ultimate resolution to the Aes Sedai civil war. Overall, Brandon Sanderson definitely did a superb job replicating the late Robert Jordan’s occasionally-verbose style, although the level of detail definitely paints a pretty picture for readers. Sanderson’s continuation of the series, like its precursors, shows its clear Star Wars influences, although he definitely did justice for Jordan’s fantasy saga.

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Art by Me, 2/19/2022


Hotel Transylvania: Transformania

  Hotel Transylvania Transformania.jpg 

During the 125th anniversary celebration of the eponymous hotel, Dracula plans to bequeath it, although he lies to his son-in-law Johnny about there being a monster-exclusive real estate law, and thus, Johnny seeks help from Van Helsing to be transformed into a monster, although cross-contamination turns many of the monster characters into humans, and a crystal needed to repair the instrument responsible for the transformations is sought in South America. Wasn't bad, but I rarely laughed during it.

Friday, February 18, 2022

Furious Gulf

Furious Gulf (The Messenger, #12)Furious Gulf by J.N. Chaney
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In the twelfth installment of J.N. Chaney and Terry Maggert’s The Messenger science-fiction series continues to follow the conflict deep in the galaxy between Newton “Dash” Sawyer’s Cygnus Realm and their latest enemy, the Deepers, who fight with their latest combat technology, the lethal Battle Princes, with Dash himself seeking to unlock the true secrets of the Dark Metal. As in other entries of the literary pantheon, a dictionary of key terms native to the books precedes the main chapters, definitely helpful for times readers choose to break from them. When the primary events begin, Dash’s Archetype, the mech of the Messenger, continues to receive upgrades and battles Deeper vessels.

After the latest battle against the Deepers, Dash salvages whatever their adversaries’ vessels remain, among them being egglike spheres ultimately termed torps. Dash aims to bring the battle against the Deepers into their “backyard,” and for some time chases an antagonistic spy named Adan Kitzbuell, flying through the Harlequin system. The Rimworld League, allies to the Cygnus Realm, find themselves under attack, with Dash meeting a woman named Bettman and the bio-optical engineer Glis that agree to lend their assistance. Dash further suspects distrust within the ranks of the Cygnus Realm, with the Backwater Gate proving central to the strategy in the final main chapters.

On the whole, the tenth Messenger book is every bit as enjoyable as its predecessors, with plentiful well-described space battles, character development, and occasional new luminaries and alien races presented. Granted, it does sport some of the same issues that exist within its precursors, such as the mention of the speakers of some dialogues several sentences into their speeches, and the general concept of the series echoes a few videogame franchises and Japanimation series. Regardless, those who enjoyed previous entries of the series will definitely enjoy this one, although those new to the books will very much want to start from the beginning.

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Knife of Dreams

Knife of Dreams (The Wheel of Time, #11)Knife of Dreams by Robert Jordan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In the eleventh main Wheel of Time novel, the last written solely by Robert Jordan before his death, the Last Battle draws near, with Rand al’Thor slated to battle the Dark One as the only hope for humanity. In the meantime, Perrin makes a truce with the Seanchan and a deal with the Dark One in want of his kidnapped wife Faile. Moreover, Mat flees through the Seanchan-controlled land of Altara with Tuon, the kidnapped Daughter of the Nine Moons, who leads him on a spirited chase. Furthermore, Elayne fights for her rightful Lion Throne while wishing to avert civil war, and Egwene in the White Tower attempts to undermine those loyal to Elaida.

Unlike prior books, which Jordan mostly dedicated to his wife Harriet, he instead dedicates the eleventh entry to the prematurely-deceased Charles St. George Sinkler Adams, and opens with a fictitious quote that “inspired” the book’s title. The prologue, as has been the case throughout the series, follows multiple perspectives and updates readers on what the various characters are doing at the time the novel opens, with Galad and his companions, for one, riding to the manor house that the Seanchan had given Eamon Valda, Sashalle being healed, Talene receiving an order to appear before the Supreme Council, Alviarin being marked by the Great Lord, and Egwene entering Tel’aran’rhiod, hoping tos peak with Siuan.

The main chapters open with the same windy motif that precedes the primary text of prior series entries, with the Amyrlin Egwene’s life in danger, with fear that her death would result in her replacement by Romanda, whom many Aes Sedai would consider worse than Elaida; Lelaine also yearns for the post of the Amyrlin dies. Mat in the meantime continues to follow Valan Luca’s Grand Traveling Show and Magnificent Display of Marvels and Wonders, and Thom receives a letter from Moiraine claiming that she isn’t dead, after which the minstrel yearns to visit the Tower of Ghenjei.

Elayne, in the meantime, fears for her forthcoming children, receiving security against assassins that would have her brought to the Tower to continue her training as Aes Sedai. Several sorceresses receive accusations of being members of the taboo Black Ajah, and towards the end of the book a series of well-described battles occur, involving both Ogier and humans alike, with Rand’s father Tam leading a few of them. Elayne ultimately finds herself captive of Darkfriends, and the book itself ends with word of Aes Sedai bonding men who can channel, Asha’man, as Warders. Overall, this entry is a good swan song for the author before his death, although the prologue may confuse some given its abrupt switches in perspective.

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Commissioned Artwork (Not My Art)

 By Marina Neira:


By xchiseaxmargaritax:

Sunday, February 13, 2022

The Black Gate

The Black Gate (The Messenger #11)The Black Gate by J.N. Chaney
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In the eleventh entry of J.N. Chaney and Terry Maggert’s The Messenger science-fiction series, the Cygnus Realm, headed by the franchise’s eponymous mech pilot, Newton “Dash” Sawyer, is at peace after its victory over the genocidal Golden. The titular Black Gate appears with a new threat known as the Deepers threatening human civilization again, against whom the Cygnus Realm is initially victorious. Indeed, one of the Deeper ships proves formidable, although some of their remnants they take aboard the Forge, with revelation that their missiles are organic and their vessels capable of self-repair.

Dash and the Realm seek Dark Metal once again, as it somehow proves crucial to the Deepers, although he ponders stepping down as the Messenger and having someone replace him. However, he reconsiders once the Deeper threat makes itself better-known. A taskforce called the Black Watch Dash establishes so that they can keep an eye on the Deepers, who have capabilities such as the ability to stuff themselves into missiles, even well more than one at a time, so that they can infiltrate adversarial vessels that they strike. The book concludes with the formulation of a virus to use against the Deepers, along with the research of a bug-like entity among them.

Generally, book eleven of Chaney and Maggert’s The Messenger series proves enjoyable, with plenty of science-fiction action that includes well-described battles and occasionally, alien races, and a satisfactory continuation of the books after the conclusion of the previous plot arc involving the conflict with the Golden. Granted, it does have a few issues such as the resemblance to other sci-fi works such as many videogame series involving giant martial mechs, and some stylistic issues abound such as the usage of “(character/pronoun) said” several sentences into quoted dialogue, but otherwise, these are negligible matters in an otherwise solid read.

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Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night

Take Heed, Mr. Igarashi

The year 1997 saw the release of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, widely considered the godfather of the Metroidvania gaming genre, given its implementation of elements from both Nintendo’s Metroid series and earlier Castlevania games, chiefly Simon’s Quest, which featured RPG elements. Though overshadowed by the release the same year of Final Fantasy VIISymphony would gather widespread acclaim and spawn more entries in the Castlevania franchise sporting similar mechanics. When series producer Koji Igarashi departed Konami in the previous decade, fans clamored for more titles in the style of Symphony, with a Kickstarter campaign funding the creation of Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night. Is it a worthy successor to the Castlevania games?

When beginning a new game, the player can choose whether to play as Miriam, a “Shardbinder” in eighteenth century England, or Zangetsu, a Japanese demon hunter, both who traverse a large interconnected area chiefly composed of a castle, in style similar to RPG Castlevanias. There’s good backstory and different endings, but the narrative is a bit too similar to the franchise from which Bloodstained derives, and has plenty played elements such as a twist later on during the main storyline of Miriam’s quest. There’s also terrible narrative direction, and Zangetsu has virtually no plot in his journey. The translation is okay, although there are some errors even a grade-schooler could see such as sizeable gaps in dialogue sentences and abbreviated attribute names.

That leaves the gameplay to shoulder the burden, and Bloodstained definitely shows great promise in this regard. Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow seems to be the game’s greatest influence in Miriam’s gameplay, with the defeat of enemies sometimes netting her different kinds of Shards granting her abilities, many of which consume her MP, although a few enhance her Metroidvania-style exploration of the interconnected world, and some allow her to summon familiars that may perform useful functions such as attacking foes or pointing out secret passages. Combat is real-time, and mercifully, navigating the menus pauses the action, and Miriam can use consumable items to recover, players also able to perform a suspend save.

Permanent saves also exist, and while Miriam losing all her health results in a Game Over, there is a safety net in the form of Waystones that instantly teleport her back to the hub town outside the castle, where she can purchase items or use materials to produce things such as consumables or equipment. There’s also a myriad of sidequests such as killing monsters of a certain type to receive rewards, and luckily, an in-game compendium exists tracking exterminated enemies, where to find them, what they drop, and the percentage rate at which they provide Shards and/or items when defeated. As one would expect of a game that worships the Random Number God, however, Bloodstained is somewhat iffy when it comes to these drops, but luckily combat is largely a quick affair.

Miriam or Zangetsu can also acquire money from destroying illumination sources such as candles, helping the former afford shop purchases, and while the latter character can collect funds as well, it seems pretty pointless in his regard since he lacks access to shopping. In both characters’ quests, there are also items they can collect to provide permanent increases to HP or MP, with leveling from experience obtained from exterminating enemies further increasing their stats. One can also obtain further finances from selling excess Shards Miriam acquires, and fortunately, players can obtain duplicates occasionally from killing enemies.

There are also occasional boss battles that will really test the player’s skills (with mastery of the fixed abilities Zangetsu has especially necessary towards victory), and aside from the mentioned reward of a Game Over screen upon demise, lengthy load times also abound, making death more annoying. Some irritating environments also exist, with one Shard allowing Miriam to propel herself through water, which can feel wonky until she gets the ability to sink to the bottom. The player can select difficulty upon starting a game, but Zangetsu’s mode can be hard even on Normal (in addition to his lack of healing outside save points), but Miriam’s quest is more merciful, even if I discovered late the use of food cooked in town to recover health alongside the finite potions she can carry. In the end, the general good and bad portions of the game mechanics largely balance out.

Control, however, fares slightly worse, one of the major issues, as mentioned before, being the terrible direction of the central narrative and the need to reference the internet in order to figure out how to advance, since trying to actually “beat” the game without performing certain tasks beforehand results in a Game Over. There are also the lengthy loading times, and while there is an in-game clock easily viewable, it doesn’t account for time wasted when exploring without frequent saves before or said load intervals. The menus themselves are bearable, however, and there is some semblance of enjoyability with the Metroidvania exploration, but otherwise, interaction could have been far better.

One aspect where Bloodstained fares somewhat better, however, is its aural presentation, with a soundtrack, for one, that very well invokes the feel of its RPG Castlevania predecessors, including plenty solid tracks containing excellent instrumentation. However, the feel is a slight double-edged sword in that their genres are slightly dissonant, and while the music fits the various environs, much of it isn’t very catchy or memorable. There’s voice acting as well, with most characters sounding fine, although there are a few weak performances, and the enemy voices can be somewhat annoying, especially regarding the taunts bosses make when the player dies, making death even more rage-inducing. In the end, the aurals are somewhat tolerable.

The lengthiness of the development cycle by Igarashi and his team for the Castlevania spiritual successor put some pressure on him to improve the overall visual quality, compared with a video of the game’s early build, and for the most part it definitely wasn’t time wasted. The artistic direction is absolutely superb, with excellent character and enemy designs, although there are some occasional reskins in the latter instance. The environments, in spite of some minor recycling, are absolutely gorgeous and realistic, with good effects such as rotation of tower environs, and both the character and enemy models contain a cel-shaded style. There is a minor bit of choppiness and slowdown, but otherwise, the graphics are perhaps the high point of Bloodstained.

Finally, my final playtime for Miriam and Zangetsu’s storylines were respectfully seventeen and seven hours, but given the sluggishness of the in-game clocks, the total was more in the realm of thirty or so. There is hypothetical lasting appeal in the form of sidequests, percentage completions for the compendiums and maps, and the like, but frankly, I’d find additional playtime to be somewhat tortuous.

When all is said and done, Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night is indeed a worthy spiritual successor to the RPG Castlevanias, given its action-based combat mechanics and Metroidvania exploration along with above-average aural and visual presentation. However, it ends up imitating Japanese entries in the genre to the point where it ends up mimicking their flaws, such as the sometimes-punishing gameplay with terrible direction, not to mention the paper-thin plot and difficulty of investing additional playtime into the spiritual successor. Regardless, it’s certainly not a total waste of time (aside from the frequent loading), but it’s very much one of the weaker Metroidvanias released within the past few years, and if you do decide to play it, take my advice and definitely don’t play as Zangetsu; you’ll thank me later.

This review is based on playthroughs of Miriam and Zangetsu’s storylines to their canon endings of a physical copy purchased by the reviewer.

The Good:
+Good RPG Castlevania spiritual successor.
+Decent soundtrack.
+Great graphics.

The Bad:
-Loads of loading.
-Zangetsu’s mode is grindy and has little to no narrative.
-Paper-thin plot for Miriam’s quest as well.

The Bottom Line:
An average Metroidvania.

Score Breakdown:
Platform: PlayStation 4
Game Mechanics: 5.0/10
Controls: 4.5/10
Story: 3.0/10
Localization: 5.0/10
Music/Sound: 7.0/10
Graphics: 7.5/10
Lasting Appeal: 3.0/10
Difficulty: Artificial
Playing Time: 24-48 Hours

Overall: 5.0/10 

Thursday, February 10, 2022

Crossroads of Twilight

Crossroads of Twilight (The Wheel of Time, #10)Crossroads of Twilight by Robert Jordan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In the tenth main installment of the late Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time saga, Mat Cauthon flees Ebou Dar with the captive Daughter of the Nine Moons, a prospective wife, with the Dark One and the Seanchan Empire in search of them. Meanwhile, Perrin Aybara attempts to emancipate his wife Faile from the Shaido, although his loyalty to Rand al’Thor is tested on the way. Furthermore, Egwene al’Vere, serving as Amyrlin for the rebellious Aes Sedai, fights to unify the White Tower, for if not, only the male Asha’man will be left to defend the world against the Dark One. Moreover, Elayne Trakland fights for her rightful Lion Throne, although Darkfriends hinder her crusade. Finally, Rand has removed the Dark One’s corruption of the male half of the True Source, saidin, and must deal with a world where men who can channel are taboo.

As with its predecessors, Jordan dedicates the tenth to his wife Harriet, and opens with an excerpt from the fictitious Prophecies of the Dragon inspiring the book’s title. The prologue transcends viewpoints as in the previous installments, with the main chapters commencing in the Rhannon Hills, where the hand of the ruling Seanchan Empire places itself lightly upon those who don’t contest their rule, among the apathetic being the farmers. The harbor of Ebou Dar, in the meantime, is decimated from a recent attack, but is relatively at peace in the book’s present time. Mat eventually finds himself touring with Valan Luca’s Grand Traveling Show and Magnificent Display of Marvels and Wonders, with its leader, Egeanin having a policy of two captains on his vessel, which he applies to his entertainment group.

The Aes Sedai civil war from prior books continues, with a common sentiment that divisions among the various Ajahs leads to disaster. Rand doesn’t get very many chapters, although the book says that he cannot fight the Shadow and the Seanchan Empire simultaneously. Overall, this entry of the series is fairly enjoyable, if like its precursors convoluted at times, another issue being the confusion within the text at times, for instance, with a lack of clarity about whom the Dark One marks, and several paragraphs passing without mention of the names of characters to whom particular pronouns refer. Even so, those who enjoyed the tenth entry’s prequels will definitely enjoy Crossroads of Twilight, although as is the case with most newcomers to various literary franchises, starting from the beginning is a good idea.

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Tuesday, February 8, 2022

Cosmic Ride

Cosmic Ride (The Messenger #10)Cosmic Ride by J.N. Chaney
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Newton “Dash” Sawyer and his Cygnus Realm’s final battle against the genocidal Golden allegedly draws near, although he still has questions about the enigmatic Unseen. When the tenth installment of J.N. Chaney and Terry Maggert’s The Messenger series begins proper, Dash battles an antagonistic Harbinger, supporting his alien comrade Jexin, the Realm afterward gathering salvage from the battle to see if it can help improve the Forge’s technology. Space traffic is somewhat becoming problematic around the Forge, with the Golden further populating a region of space known as the Pall.

The leader of the piratic Gentle Friends, Benzel, wants to lead a task force to spy on the Golden in hopes of receiving an advantage in the conflict, with a somewhat-xenophobic alien race that had prior appeared, the Waunsik, offering a partial alliance with the Cygnus Realm, albeit not without conditions. Much of the war involves waiting to see what the Golden are up to, and on occasion they do take the Realm by surprise, with plenty losses on both sides of battle. There is a discovery of what constitutes the Golden homeworlds, along with the hostile aliens’ wish to deploy a weapon of mass destruction known as the Lens.

Battles and the impending death of an aged alien, who has a final request of seeing the Forge, conclude the book, which is very much on par with its predecessors, certainly not a bad thing, as there are plenty positive aspects such as its excellent science-fiction action that very much surpasses what human interest portions the novel has on occasion, though rarely so. As with the previous books, however, there is some issue with little description of how many of the humans and aliens appear, although Cosmic Ride is very much more than readable, even with a few derivative elements, and those who enjoyed prior books will likely enjoy this one.

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Saturday, February 5, 2022

Winter's Heart

Winter's Heart (The Wheel of Time, #9)Winter's Heart by Robert Jordan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In the ninth main entry of the late Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time saga, which he like many of its predecessors dedicates to his wife Harriet, Rand and Min are on the run, with Cadsuane in Cairhien attempting to determine his destination. Meanwhile, Mazrim Taim, who leads the Black Tower, might just be a phony, with Faile and company being an inmate of Sevanna’s Sept. A Prophet, Elyas Machera Berelain, and an army of desperate forces accompany Perrin through country life with nomadic Seanchan. Finally, in Ebou Dar, the Daughter of the Nine Moons, a Seanchan princess, comes, while in Tar Valon, Elaida’s White Tower experiences internal strife.

The book itself opens with a fictitious quotation from the Prophecies of the Dragon that “inspires” the tale’s title, with a prologue updating the reviewer on multiple characters. The main chapters open with Tanchico having new masters with peculiar customs, with Perrin struggling to adapt to the winter in the meantime, having dreams of wolves as he had in prior installments. Several chapters follow Elayne as she rides with her entourage through places such as Caemlyn, and Mat struggles with broken bones. Overall, this entry is pretty much on par with its predecessors for better or worse, and, while dense at points, is recommended to those who liked its precursors.

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Commission by Kitsudai


Art Tutorial, 2/5/2022


Did this in lieu of regular art this week.

Latte and the Magic Waterstone


A hedgehog and a squirrel seek the eponymous MacGuffin. Cute but certainly not top-quality.

Thursday, February 3, 2022

Radical Dreamer

Radical Dreamer (The Messenger #9)Radical Dreamer by J.N. Chaney
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The ninth entry of J.N. Chaney and Terry Maggert’s The Messenger series focuses on protagonist Newton “Dash” Sawyer and his Cygnus Realm attempting to take the war to their enemies, the Golden, instead of merely playing defense, with their martial space station, the Forge, continuing to fuel Dash’s efforts against their foes, leaving wreckage in their wake. When they capture an alien ship, they discover an ally who is part of a race called the Rin-ti, ancient adversaries of the Golden, who wants their people freed from Golden control, with Dash needing to use all it takes to claim victory.

The book begins proper with Dash battling a Golden ship in his mech, the Archetype, after which he has a War Room meeting in which he and his allies decide to seize planets controlled by their enemies. A comet provides water for the Forge and its inhabitants, with reconnaissance planned against the Golden and their allies the Far-Flung, among whom they discover a colossal space station. The ninth entry focuses a little more on ground battles, with Dash having before not given a second thought to terrestrial forces, although they initially fare well.

The Cygnus Realm manages to capture a Golden, although the prisoner is hostile, believing Cygnus to be the aggressive party, shortly after which the Forge comes under an electronic attack, with a metallic entity penetrating the space station as well. Afterward comes the rescue of Jexin, a member of an alien race known as the Kosan, who is religious as well. Dash further receives surgery to make him more cybernetic, albeit not with misgivings about losing his humanity. Later on comes the rescue of cryogenically-static humans known as the Displaced, along with critical battles at the end.

Overall, the ninth installment of The Messenger series definitely packs a punch with its excellent science-fiction action accompanied by thrilling descriptions, with some new material that helps it feel fresher than its precursors such as the inclusion of ground battles in addition to the space conflicts present in prior entries. Regardless, aside from the presence of mechs that have in the past played part in other media such as videogames, the literary series doesn’t do much to distinguish itself from other sci-fi franchises, although I would easily recommend this read to those who enjoyed its predecessors.

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