Things are happening

Hello again! It’s taken a lot longer than the expected few days to get the ball rolling, but here things are. I have set the official release date for Trust at July 26th, 2014. When it’s officially available for release, I’ll post again to let my wonderful followers know.

After that, it’s back to the grind with normal stuff. More books to write, you know. More writing will be happening. More reviewing, too! My next review victims shall be:

Minecraft (PS3)

How To Train Your Dragon 2

The Lego Movie

Any others you can recommend!

Seriously, I’m kind of waiting for other stuff to come out. If you want me to watch a particular movie or play a particular game, just let me know in the comments. I’ll be happy to do everything I can. 

Until next time~

Not A Hiatus, Just Busy

Exactly what it says on the title. I’m working on several things outside of WordPress. I’m an aspiring author, or so my blog title says. Give it a few days and I’ll be an honest to goodness published author! My book Trust is being re-published due to things. I’ve done all the technical things and within a few days, Trust should be available for sale. Wish me luck! 

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

I’ve decided to take a break from video game reviews. Let’s do movie reviews, instead! As you may have guessed, this review is devoted to the latest Marvel movie. Without further ado, let’s jump right into the meat of this review.

When this movie opened, I expected something that would blow me away. It started off strong with its opening, but quite early on I could see its flaws. The scenes outside of the new helicarriers screamed, “I’M FORESHADOWING!” and it was really jarring. I didn’t like feeling slapped in the face with something that would be better served as a surprise.

The part of the movie that really turned me off, though, was the overly long car chase starring Nick Fury’s car and a bunch of implausible stunts. It could have been half the length it was and still got the point across. From there, I just hung around to see how the plot points I predicted turned out. I guessed just about all of them. Predictability is not good for a movie whose intent was to invoke suspense.

The only thing I didn’t predict was the Falcon. I fell in love with those wings of his at first sight. It’s true that they aren’t likely scientifically possibly, but neither is Asgard. Disbelief, suspended. Jaw, dropped. Envy, thy name is Thea. His sequences were the best in the movie.

There will be light spoilers ahead, so be warned. I’m going to talk about the Winter Soldier now.

For having the movies subtitled named after him, Bucky seemed more of an afterthought than the main article. His character could have been replaced with any other’s with no effect on the plot. Rather than focus on the hidden Hydra agents in the movie, it should have focused on the dynamic between Bucky and Steve. This is the same studio that handled Thor and Loki, so it could have been done.

Instead, we get bare seconds of Steve and Bucky interaction before they’re ripped apart again. Then, Bucky forgets about it, and they have a battle that anyone can see the resolution to a million miles away. Only of slight surprise was the fact that Bucky survived to another movie. Given the events of the movie, however, I might suggest another subtitle: Hydra Lives. Perhaps Zola Strikes Back. The movie certainly wasn’t about the Winter Soldier.

Overall, I wasn’t impressed with this movie. The acting was superb, and the little bit of Bucky we got was wonderful. However, it’s best viewed when it arrives on Netflix.

Tales of Legendia

I was browsing a group on facebook today when someone posted a pic of a game character I rather like. The character’s name is Senel Coolidge, and he’s from the game named in the title of this post. I like it when Tales games get mentioned, but I have a distinct opinion of this one. My comment sparked a comment war, and so, I figured, it’s game review time!

Tales of Legendia was originally released on February 7, 2006 in the United States. I can’t remember when I originally played it, but it was many years after that release date. As a Tales series game, I was excited to pick it up! I love the Tales series (see my Tales of Xillia review here: http://kurahikari.wordpress.com/2013/08/08/tales-of-xillia/). However, this game was markedly different from the others in many ways.

First, this game had a very peculiar art style. I had become accustomed by this time to games such as Tales of Symphonia (its direct predecessor) and Tales of the Abyss (released a few years later). Its characters exemplified the chibi art style – tiny bodies, oversized heads, and large hands and feet. Its battles were on a 2D plane, as opposed to Symphonia’s 2D on a 3D plane format. There are many more differences, but those are the few that stuck me as odd.

However, this is a game review, so let me address three main points: Story, Gameplay, and Art Design.

As far as stories go, this is a pretty standard game. Brother and sister are on a raft, they get shipwrecked, a future party member finds them. After a while messing around in the hub city of the game, your sister, Shirley, gets kidnapped. Okay, fine, you go rescue her. In true Tales fashion, your journey to save Shirley ends up revealing secrets about your continent and nearly killing everyone. Awesome – that is, if most of the character development wasn’t hidden after the game’s end.

In Symphonia, your characters were not simply present for the events of the game. As you explored the world, you learned that key members of your party weren’t as you seemed. There were betrayals, unexpected saves, and overall you came away learning something about your characters that let them feel real. Legendia has none of that in the main story. The only characters that get development in the main story are Senel, our lead, and Jay, the mysterious and genius knife-knut. Everyone else feels like part of the scenery for all the personality they have. By the end of the game, once I saved our quaint little island, I was quite fed up with this game overall. I didn’t play through the character stories – which, by the way, is the only part of the game that you get Shirley as your party member. This is justified for plot reasons (kidnapped?), but it was still odd. Even Symphonia gave you control of characters that you would eventually lose for plot reasons. Abyss handled this situation (with Ion) by making the eternally-kidnapped character an NPC party member. It worked much better – but, as Legendia came first, it can be forgiven for not having hindsight.

The gameplay in this title felt like a step backwards for the series. Coming after Symphonia, I expected something grand. I know that this series started off with combat on a 2D field, but evolution had already occurred. Rather than falling back on a gameplay style that was already outdated, the game should have pushed boundaries. We shouldn’t have had to wait until Abyss to get a truly 3D tales experience. Even for being a 2D game, Legendia felt stale. The attacks and spells in this game lacked the flash that other games had. Some of the weapons felt distinctly odd, if not inspired. In what other game would you find bubble straws, quills (pen quills, that is), and urns?

Outside of battle was just as stale. Again, Symphonia had come ahead of this title. There is no excuse for random encounters that had no warning. As you walked around the field, the comforting sight of monsters was absent. The empty game world would grab you out of your innocent wanderings and thrust you into combat. Instead of a whole world, you were left with only a continent – and it showed. Everything felt cramped and needlessly complicated. The quick-travel system was non-intuitive, as well, making travel even more of a nightmare.

The art style was as un-Tales-like as chocolate and white chocolate. As mentioned, the character designs were odd. In addition to the chibi-style, the colors were completely different. Tales games normally used a pale, near-pastel pallet. Legendia had colors that were dark, and bold. The lack of texturing on the models made everyone look like plastic dolls wandering about – again, with Symphonia as a predecessor, this was jarring. It looked like a project that someone did for their college course, not a professionally-made game.

Overall, Tales of Legendia is the red-headed stepchild of the Tales series. It lives on alongside Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World in Tales series infamy. It had plenty of potential, but it was squandered. Its few high points are not enough to save it.

Lightning’s Return is grandiose

I’ve finally finished Lightning Returns after 86 hours of playing. My friends on facebook are likely tired of my constant screenshots, so they’ll get a break, at least. Now, it’s time to break it down and do a proper review. I will be discussing the whole game here, ending included, so beware of the spoilers.

Lightning Returns opens with a cutscene battle with an old friend, Snow. After that introductory sequence that also serves as the tutorial, we get our mission. The world of Nova Chrysalia is ending – there’s no way to stop it, and there’s no alternative. This is a fact of the world. Your task, as Lightning, is to buy the world 13 more days. If Lightning can do that, she can save as many souls as possible to reborn into the new world. It’s a simple enough plot.

In order to save these souls, Lightning must go around the four areas of Nova Chrysalia and grant wishes. It’s kind of cheesy, when put like this, but it’s what happens. Lightning takes on quests from denizens of the world and, when she completes these quests, she saves the person’s soul. Doing these quests is also the key to buying the world more time.

There are five “main” quests scattered across the world – one in Luxerion, one in Yusnaan, one in the Dead Dunes, and two in the Wildlands. Four of these quests must be completed to save the world – I have not yet tried to see if the fifth is required as well, but given that its giver is absent in much of the ending, I would assume not. You can get to the thirteenth day of the game by simply doing all five of these quests. It is to your advantage to do the rest of the quests, however, as this is also the only way in which Lightning can gain stats. There is no leveling up for Lightning, not anymore.

Now that I’ve gotten this out of the way, let’s discuss the ending a bit. Through the game, Lightning is told that if she saves enough souls and buys the world its full thirteen days, she’ll get Serah back. Since Serah died at the end of XIII-2, it’s kind of a big deal. The one who supposedly can revive Serah is the god Bhunivelze, and it is he that you work for through most of the game.

On the thirteenth day, though, you learn that much of Bhunivelze’s work is a lie. Hope, who is your Mission Control throughout the game, was controlled by Bhunivelze the whole time. He wants the whole of humanity to be nothing more than a vessel for him to inhabit. This doesn’t make much sense, but eh. We’ll go with that. Lightning defies him and finds a way to save every soul, so everyone will be reborn in the new world.

Still talking through Hope, Bhunivelze rants and rambles about how humanity is imperfect. This is where Hope’s VA shines, as the arrogance and ego he portrays through his words really shine. Then, in a boss battle that I had to restart the game on an easier difficulty to complete, you finally get to beat the idiocy out of this “god.” It was so satisfying to do it after not being able to defeat him before, and the ending blew me away. Lightning grows up and down simultaneously and discovers the true power of the goddess – not power, but friendship.

Hey, Light, I think you should go talk with Sora for a bit.

The world is reborn, and Lightning monologues as the lights of millions of souls meander through a familiar solar system. This light converges on a world where lights twinkle in the darkness, a world that anyone who has studied geography can guess the name of. Yay.

There’s only one plot hole that I don’t understand. I read about it on the Lightning Returns TV Tropes page, but I didn’t find it anywhere in the game – perhaps it was a sidequest that I missed. At the end of XIII-2, Hope has grown up into a very fine young man. Puberty really did him a lot of favors. Yet, in Lightning Returns, he’s returned to his child self from the first XIII game. It’s handwaved that Bhunivelze did this as some incomprehensible part of his plan, but the Trope page gave a very specific reason for this. I’m of the “I don’t count it as canon until it appears in a canon media” tribe, so I was disappointed that the explanation Tropes gave was absent in the ending of this game.

Overall, as far as the story goes, it’s a satisfying ending to every character’s arc – this includes Noel, Yuel, and Caius. A full five minutes of cutscene time (exaggeration, probably) was devoted to tying up this arc. It is a very satisfying end to a very tragic story, and I have no complaints about it. The guy gets the girl, and the girl won’t die again before her time. It’s awesome.

This is the end of the spoilers. The rest is just gameplay talk.

Lightning is capable of running around the open worlds with few restrictions. She can jump, and platforming is a much greater element in this game than in its predecessor. Unlike the platform hell that was Academia 500 AF, the jump mechanic feels more in-place in this game. There is one area where jumping between small platforms is required, and it feels nothing like a chore. It feels like a natural part of gameplay that lets you leap from the tops of stairs to the bottom. There is no fall damage, incidentally. Lightning can leap from the top of the tallest building and roll to her feet without issue.

The fact that the world has 13 days is a major element within the gameplay itself. The game runs on a clock that does not stop except for cutscenes and battle. Things happen on a schedule, and if you miss a trigger for a quest, you have to wait until the next day to do it. Areas of the world close off and open at different times of day. My first time through the game, I accidentally made a boss stronger by taking too long to get to him because I kept missing the timing for the next part of the quest. By the third time, though, the timing of things was second nature and I completed all five main story quests within five days. I literally skipped to the thirteenth day by just sleeping at an inn for the other days.

Now, for battle.

The game touts itself as a real-time combat and a departure from the ATB gauge. This is a half-truth. Actions happen in real-time, yes, but the ATB gauge is still very much present. In theory, Lightning should be free to act at any time. In practice, I found myself switching between schemata often. When the ATB gauge of all three of your schemeta are depleted, there’s nothing for you to do but stand there and get hit.

A schemata is an outfit that Lightning can equip. It is comprised of a garb (the costume), a weapon, any accessories, and the actions you assign to it. Lightning has three available to her at any time in battle, and you can choose which of the three she starts in. This, coincidentally, also determines which outfit she wears in the field. I spent much of the time in this game wearing first Cloud’s outfit, then the Miqo’te dress. There is a wide variety of clothes that Lightning can choose, and they all have different strengths and weaknesses. I preferred the clothes with a balanced mix of strength and defense bonuses, and these outfits ended up being the ones that were most conservative. There are outfits that are blatantly fanservice, but there are also outfits that let her walk around as a reverse trap.

As an overall overall review of this game, I would say that it is worth playing. Even if you don’t understand the story, the gameplay and combat are well worth experiencing. Nova Chrysalia lasted only thirteen days, but it will remain memorable for many years to come. Now go out and enjoy it!

Canon crossovers are go!

I finally finished the Final Fantasy XIV Lightning quests. Risa looks so good in cosplay! It’s a pity that the stats on the gear are kind of meh, but hey, can’t have everything, right? Also, I have a riddle! When is a boomerang also a book?

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See the answer, above. Apparently, the boomerang folds out and then upwards, and the pages are projected. Pretty nifty, huh? And hey, since I can insert pictures now, let’s have a cosplaying picture.

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Or, y’know, two pics. That’s Risa, the main character of Trust, as recreated in Final Fantasy XIV. This is a good look for her :3

Anyway, the title of this post is “canon crossovers”, so let’s talk about why. In Final Fantasy XIV, Risa got this outfit because Lightning (the star of Final Fantasy XIII) wound up in Eorzea. The player was tasked with helping her defeat a ton of different beasts throughout the whole game, getting a piece of her outfit at a time. There’s no explanation really given for why Lightning was in Eorzea. After killing the beasts, Lightning would surmise that it might have been a god that dragged her there.

Now here’s where the “canon” part comes in.

When you receive the final quest to help Lightning and get the last part of the outfit, the NPC will ramble on a little bit about meeting Lightning. She’ll also say that she gave Lightning a Miqo’te outfit, because why not? Maybe there was a legitimate reason for mentioning it, but I don’t really remember it. At the end of the quest, Lightning will comment that she’s not likely to remember her time in Eorzea, before vanishing in a flash of light.

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Even though Lightning is in her outfit from Final Fantasy XIII, her words throughout the game hint that she’s already lived through the plot of that game. There’s a bit of time where she could have been sent to Eorzea by Etro before the start of XIII-2, but it’s doubtful. Lightning, in the first part of the quest line, claims that the last thing she remembered was sleeping. She was sleeping in the end of XIII-2. It’s likely that Bhunivelze woke her at that time. There’s no real way to account for the time that passed between Lightning waking up from her throne and her appearance at the end of XIII-2. Therefore, it’s likely that, if this IS canon, this is the time period in which Bhunivelze sent her to Erozea.

Accounting for the change of clothes, Bhunivelze is a god. It’s likely that he put Lightning back in her old clothes. This also means that he can directly affect items in her possession – including a Miqo’te outfit.

Now, on to Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII. The Miqo’te dress is available in this game by completing a very simple sidequest. After completing this sidequest and getting the outfit, Hope pops on the comm and comments that the Miqo’te are said to inhabit a “mythical land” called Eorzea. However, it’s been said in this game many times that Hope knows things that he shouldn’t know. He says that it might have been Bhunivelze that put this knowledge in his head – but why would Bhunivelze put the knowledge of Eorzea and, specifically, the Miqo’te, in his head?

My guess is that, as far as the timelines are concerned, Lightning’s trip to Eorzea is canon, and Hope knew about it. However, since Lightning doesn’t remember the trip, he has to say that Eorzea is mythical. Bhunivelze took the Miqo’te dress and put it in a place where Lightning could get it, but in a way that was easy to explain away. How confusing would it be to wake up with an outfit you don’t remember, right?

This is just my interpretation of events in both games, mind. Could just be a continuity nod to the crossover event without canonizing it completely. Who knows?

 

Final Fantasy XIV

Final Fantasy XIV is a unique game. It has two sets of servers – one set for its Japanese players, and another set from its English players. Ideally, the players who speak those languages should have congregated on their native server, right? Well, when the game first came out, no one could access the English servers, so many of us English players were forced to play on the Japanese servers. There’s nothing inherently different about each server, mind – the client is still in the user’s chosen language. The only difference that you see is, on occasion, Japanese speakers talking in the chat box. While the game will autotranslate basic and game-relevant phrases, such as “Hi!”, full conversations are, alas, out of reach.

Which brings me to the point of today’s post. While waiting for the Duty Finder to, well, find me something to do, I was wandering about in the area of the game called Coerthas. It was me and a couple of others, and we were wandering between the areas that are called FATEs – basically, a bunch of enemies or a boss will spawn, and if you clear them, you get bonus experience. These couple of others and I would wander between the FATEs and help each other kill whatever it was that needed killing, without any words said. It was only after about an hour of this that they finally said something – in Japanese.

Without realizing it, I had been running around with players that didn’t even speak my language.

However, that’s sort of the beauty of it. We didn’t need to share a common language in order to enjoy this game and assist each other. Their interface was Japanese, true, and mine was English, but our goals were the same. We played the roles our characters were in (I healed them and buffed them, they did damage) without needing to be prodded. When I ended up chased by all the monsters that were angry at my healing, they would draw them off me and let me heal myself.

I’m in awe at this, and at FFXIV as a whole. Yes, I love this game – but now I have a whole new appreciation for it. It brings people from opposite sides of the world together, and you don’t even have to speak a word of Japanese.

The Duty Finder didn’t do its job, though. Maintenance is here and I didn’t get to do my dungeon. Oh well.