The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky Review

Welcome back, minions!  Glad to see you once again.  Tonight I am going to start out with a review of one of the absolute gems of Japanese Role-Playing Games (JRPGs).  Years ago, Falcom released the first in horrifically generically named series The Legend of Heroes.  The early titles in this series were…OK.  I mean, if you are like me and you can forgive A LOT of missteps in the name of getting to play a turn-based, character and story driven game, they scratched the itch between major releases.  But unsurprisingly, the games failed to draw much of an audience in the West, and localisations became few and far between.  Then a surprise came – the PSP entry in the series known as Trails in the Sky would see an English release.  And it is a damn good thing for anyone that loves gaming.

Trails in the Sky, first and foremost, is not really one game.  It is two (kinda three).  The First Chapter and Second Chapter are complete RPGs that tell one continuous story, with First Chapter ending on a cliffhanger that leads directly into Second Chapter.  This review will cover First Chapter only, but it should come as no surprise that if you like FC (and you should, or you’re just wrong) then you will like and should plan to play SC.  This means you have a substantial time investment in front of you, but it is worth it.  Both games are available on PSP/Vita through PSN, or on PC via Steam.  The third game is more of a side-story to the other two, and is currently not released outside of Japan.

Trails in the Sky combines some of the best elements of Eastern and Western RPG design.  At first glance, these images would indicate a fairly standard, sprite-based JRPG from the Playstation era – but it is so much more.  The combat is turn-based, with some light strategy elements in the form of character positioning and attack ranges on a grid-based combat field.  Enemies are pallet-swaps of one another to a degree – while this is somewhat of a shame, the designs are well done and humorously tongue-in-cheek at times – an element that extends through most of the game in its entirety.

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If “shoo” was ever going to work on a horde of monsters, evil bunnies would be the ones.

Once engaged in battle, the depth and breadth of the combat system becomes quickly apparent.  Each party member has certain strengths and weaknesses, but can also be customized to some extent through the Orbment system.  Orbments are similar in nature and function to the then-groundbreaking Materia system found in Final Fantasy VII.  Elemental stones corresponding to a spell, skill, or passive are slotted into each character’s unique layout.  The number and placement of elements can also unlock further spells and tiers of spells when equipped.  While some characters are more proficient with magical or physical attacks, any character utilizing an elemental spell against an enemy weak to that element is going to be extremely effective.  Beyond Orbments, each character also has a selection of character-specific skills and abilities that function off of either the games version of mana or skill points.  What’s more, once skill points have been accrued to a certain threshold, characters can jump the turn order and attack immediately with a powerful skill – at the cost of all accrued skill points.  The more points are accrued before unleashing this attack, the more devastating it is, but the less frequently one may jump the turn order.  All in all, the combat system is nearly-flawless in its execution of classic turn-based mechanics layered with strategy and enough unique elements to make the entire engine feel fresh.

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All RPG combat should be this good.

But believe it or not, there is something greater – something that Trails in the Sky does so well, it may be the epitome of its kind for some time to come.  Trails in the Sky features a narrative built around some of, if not the, best and most fully-realized characters I’ve ever seen in any game, ever.  Period.  The story has its JRPG requirements – there is a wide-spanning threat that results in our protagonists journeying with an every growing and changing cast of companions to investigate and combat it.  But that actually takes a backseat to the moment to moment characterization of the players.  Everyone in this game has a story.  Absolutely everyone.  Standard NPC shopkeepers have small micronarratives that give them flavor and make them a part of the world, not just a vehicle to expand your arsenal.  Temporary party members are real characters, with believable motivations and relationships that connect them to the player.  But the absolute stars are Estelle and Joshua Bright.

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Moments like this are what make this game amazing.

Estelle and Joshua Bright are adoptive siblings and the protagonists of the story.  And the story is their adventures as Junior Bracers (a combination of adventurers’ guild and mercenaries with hearts of gold) as they search for their father Cassius, a famous veteran bracer who has disappeared.  This isn’t just a framework for the world-saving – the bulk of the adventure is Estelle and Joshua going town to town, piecing together information on Cassius’ last known whereabouts, and undertaking duties for the Bracer Guild from the local townsfolk.  And through these small, individual tasks, they build real relationships with the people, and slowly grow in their own relationship between one another.

It cannot be overstated just how phenomenally well-written these characters are.  This game has no voice acting and few cutscenes – nearly all of the characterization is done through the text boxes and dialogue in the game, as well as short in-game books and documents.  Every last bit of it is warm, engaging, and evocative of emotion – just a masterpiece of writing in the form of a game.  Estelle, in particular, is one of the most likable, easy to relate to protagonists that I have ever encountered in any medium.  Her earnestness and kindness to others, her stubbornness and perseverance, and her own inner doubts and self-consciousness about her feelings are expressed in the most genuine manner possible.  If you somehow play this game and don’t feel anything by the cliffhanger ending, then congratulations – you may be the only form of life that is even more bereft of a soul than I am.

If it hasn’t become clear yet, I loved this game.  If you are in any way a fan of JRPGs, you will love this game.  If you love well-written, fully realized characters, you will love this game.  The only caution I can give is that even if you purchase both FC and SC and continue on into SC immediately, at some point, the tale will end, and you will reach the end of the Trails in the Sky.  But what a journey you’ll have had along the way. – EWE

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#FrozenFoodFridays, Garlic Edition!

Greets once again, fragile carbon-based lifeforms!  Once again, I come to you in what could be described for me as a good mood – I don’t even feel like immolating a village at the moment!  You may credit the young lady who has decided that multiple occasions spending time with me is something she actually enjoys!  I don’t quite understand it – there may be some serious sanity questions in play here – but I like it, and I’m not going to argue with it.

Another thing to make me, and c’mon, all of you happy is that it is once again…#FrozenFoodFridays!  This week, we have quite the treat – at least if you, like me, are someone who is more than happy to go into Olive Garden and eat breadsticks until I feel very real concern that I might die.  I mean, warm, doughy, garlicky deliciousness can never be overstated.  And one way to enjoy it at home and away from throngs of mouthbreathing humanoids is with New York Garlic Breadsticks!


I mean, there isn’t much to say about preparing these – heat your oven and bake them.  If you fuck these up, you’ve got much larger issues you need to deal with than frozen foods.  But I can offer some tips – first, never buy just one box.  There are only six in there and that’s just enough for you to finish and think “WHERE THE HELL ARE THE REST?!”  Second, as good as these are on their own, get yourself a small jar of sauce (I’m a fan of Mid’s meat sauce or spicy marinaras, or peppery alfredo) and use these to soak up the sauce.  There may or may not be a heaven, but if there is, that’s what the food there tastes like, people.

Hope you enjoyed your tasty treat tonight, kids – but remember, if you know someone who thinks Donald Trump should be president, a far better use for these frozen breadsticks is to leave them frozen solid and use them to beat the living hell out of that person.  They’ll likely still be a complete moron, but at least now they’ll be unconscious and smell like garlic butter, both of which will be improvements!  Until next time, friends! – EWE

WWE Clash of Champions Live Drunkcast!

UPDATE 9/26/16, 10:00 AM EST

So upon further review this morning, it appears Roman Reigns in fact defeated Rusev to become the new US Champ.  Which, due to the horrendous booking and mismanagement of Reigns’ character, nobody gives a damn about.  It’s actually a real shame because Reigns has the right look and is a great athlete, but he’s going to face an uphill battle getting over with the fans due to the office trying to force him to the top before the fans wanted it.

As for the main event, it was likely the match of the night, but that was to be expected of two workers as talented as Owens and Rollins. They told a good story in the ring, and the finish was conclusive enough to move both guys on to other feuds if desired, or continue this one.

The disappointment of the night for me was the booking of the Zayn vs Jericho match.  The writing team of Raw is seemingly doing everything in their power to destroy the careers of anyone that comes up from NXT with momentum.  There is absolutely no reason to book the 50 year old part time rock star to go over the younger star who is there for the long haul.

Finally, apologies for the less than stellar quality of the live blog – I did truly forget the event was tonight and was more than a little tipsy.  I shall endeavor to not have that happens quite so often.  Also, I may be changing up the format for WWE shows to being more of my general impressions and thoughts rather than a live blog, as with the new schedule of a PPV every couple of weeks, my schedule just may not allow for it.  Also, given the current creative of the product, I’m just not that drawn in to put in the effort to live blog them all.  Honestly, I’m writing better shit on my couch for free than all of them are.

Until next time my friends! – EWE

UPDATE 11:00 PM EST

Next up, we get a video package highlighting Reigns and Rusev for the US Title.  Seriously, this feud is hilariously awful.  Nobody likes or cares about either man, or Lana, or the title, or any of it.  Except Vince and creative.  They obviously care enough to just keep shoving it down everyone’s throat.

Both men are introduced, and as expected, nobody really likes either guy.  The match is a typical slugfest, with the crowd just not caring either way.

Quite frankly, the match is so boring that I fell asleep, and when I woke up, Kevin Owens and Seth Rollins were being introduced.  See-saw match between the two in the main event for the Universal Title, which ends clean with Owens retaining using the pop-up powerbomb following a ref bump.  Show ends with Rollins recovering in the ring.

UPDATE 10:00 PM EST

I’m back from break, as is the show apparently, as I haven’t really missed anything (GODDAMMIT) but on the bright side is literally the bright spot of the show – IT’S BAYLEY!  Honestly, she is just the most charismatic female performer I’ve ever, ever seen in this business.  She just makes people smile.  She is followed out by Sasha Banks, and finally, the Women’s Champ, Charlotte, with Dana Brook.

Some technical issues may result in a lack of images going forward – I sincerely apologize, but it’s just been that kind of night folks.  What can I say?  It’s a triple threat – all three women make a good showing, but it’s a train wreck of moves and spots and interference from Dana, with the highlight coming when Charlotte hits a beautiful teardrop moonsault onto both of her opponents at once.  Sasha hits the Bank Statement on both Charlotte and Bayley but it is broken up.  Bayley is thrown into Sasha and then kicked in the face for the pin and Charlotte retains.  Not bad, but I wish they would stop with these women’s triple threats.

Now we get a recap of the pre-show match from earlier.  Yawn.

UPDATE 9:30 PM EST

We get a promo for No Mercy, then go backstage to set up the Women’s Title triple threat.

Next up is Sami Zayn vs. Chris Jericho.  Folks, I’m not going into detail here, because either Sami should win in a dominating performance, or I don’t want to talk about how horrific the booking is to have Jericho go over on Sami.

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Sami wins or we (should) riot.
Match is as good as you’d expect from the talented Sami and the aging Jericho.  Sami dominates to start, until Jericho takes control, and then both men begin to trade shots back and forth.  Eventually, Jericho hits a Codebreaker and buries yet another young talent.  I fucking hate this show, and I was already in a bad mood, and now I’m taking a break before I get really, really nasty.

UPDATE 9:00 PM EST

Typical cruiserweight, back and forth match.  You know, watching this reminds of of the good old cruiserweight days of WCW, which in turn reminds me that I’ve recently been watching the last couple years of WCW Nitro which is even more godawful than I actually remember from the time.  Anyway, botched neckbreaker spot by Perkins leads to a Sliced Bread attempt which is countered into a wrecking ball dropkick and a missed 450 splash into an attempted Captain’s Hook countered into the Kneebar.  Tap by Kendrick and Perkins retains in a good, solid match.

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STILL your babyface champ!
Not surprisingly, Kendrick sneak attacks Perkins after the match to further the feud.

Now we get a recap of the seemingly endless, and pointless, best of seven series between Sheamus and Cesaro, now tied at 3 all and set to end tonight.  Both men are out, and typical physical, back and forth contest that we’ve seen in six previous matches.  Cesaro with a 619 ala Rey Mysterio, albeit not NEARLY as pretty or fast.  You know, it’s a shame that these two amazing workers are relegated to a meaningless feud that will likely not advance either man’s career.  Fucking useless creative team.

The story here is that Cesaro is not as effective with a lot of his offense due to the shoulder and back injuries he is nursing.  He does a good job of selling it.  Couple of ugly exchanges but then Cesaro executes a tope to the outside and lands full speed right on top of his head.  How he didn’t break his neck I have no fucking clue.

Back in the ring and both men kick out of each other’s finish, because that’s the only goddamn storytelling trick the creative team has for any match anymore.  Both men continue to beat the shit out of each other until the referee calls for a no contest.  Because at the end of a Best of Seven series, what you want is no clear cut winner.  I fucking quit.  A shitfaced chimp could book better than this.  Every single person involved in this train wreck, except for the poor two wrestlers, should be fucking  fired.

UPDATE 8:30 PM EST

Just in case you were unsure, I did in fact finish watching the pre-show, and the most interesting thing I can relate is that I did not fall down my steps while returning from a restroom break.  Seriously, if you watched any Raw in the past month, you know everything they are talking about.

And we are live the Clash of Champions!  And…just in case you missed the entire one-hour fucking pre-show, we begin with a video recap of why we are here tonight.  You know, if they cut down on all this shit, PPVs wouldn’t be four fucking hours long anymore.  But what do I know, right?

We begin with New Day making their entrance, tossing cereal into the crowd and bastardizing the beautiful sound of the trombone to the approval of the crowd.  Goddamn Philistines.  Say what I will though, these guys never fail to cut an entertaining promo, and they do so here.  Next out is Gallows and Anderson the (Don’t Call Them Bullet) Club.  These guys might not be as funny as New Day, but goddamn do they wrestle well as a team.

Back and forth action with the Club dominating most of the match, until Xavier interferes and nails Anderson with Francesca and Kofi and Big E hit the Midnight Hour for the pin to retain the titles.

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This was most of the offense for New Day.
Now we throw it to a commercial for the network that we are already paying to subscribe to because, uh, reasons, I guess.

Next up we have the Cruiserweight title match, preceded by a video package introducing the Cruiserweight division.  Out first is Brian Kendrick, followed by the “inaugural” WWE Cruiserweight Champion, TJ Perkins, who has 8-bit videogame theme music and is thus my favorite in this match for no other reason.

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Yes, TJ Perkins gimmick is that he’s essentially a Street Fighter character.
UPDATE 8:00 PM EST

The preshow match is apparently Nia Jax vs. Alicia Fox, which despite watching Raw each week, I somehow didn’t know.  And even if I had, wouldn’t care.  Look, there is only one possible fucking outcome – they are building Nia Jax to be the next dominant monster in the women’s division.  If Fox gets in more than five offensive moves, whoever booked the match should be fired.

So, shockingly, Jax throws Fox around the ring like a rag doll, while the commentary team manages to make me even more bored than I was during the intros.

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Here is a summation of the entire fucking match.
The total offensive move count for Fox is four, so whoever booked is safe to keep their job another day.  Jax, obviously, goes over in a squash.  Now we cut back to the “all-star” panel, and some more packages highlighting the feuds heading into tonight.  Yawn.

UPDATE 7:40 PM EST

Sami Zayn is in the social media lounge answering screened, scripted questions from fans on Twitter, which is so incredibly stupid and pointless that I almost wish they would just throw it back to the panel.  I mean, “How does it make you feel to hear the fans sing your theme song?”  WHO THE FUCK CARES?  I’m getting another drink

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I literally give zero fucks what these people have to say.
7:25 PM EST

Soooo…here is the deal.  I forgot. I forgot that Clash was even happening tonight, and hadn’t planned on liveblogging it.  Honestly, I had hoped to have better things to do.  But, as luck would have it, I don’t.  However, there is a catch – up until about five minutes ago, I was doing housework and drinking heavily, and the only thing that’s changed is that I’m not doing housework now.  See, once I realized this was happening, I had a choice: either make some coffee and try to sober up quick, or say FUCK IT, and just keep right on drinking and see where things go.  Guess which one won?

We open at 7:15 PM (because I just turned it on) and Renee, Booker, King, and Lita are talking about SHIT NOBODY CARES ABOUT.  Seriously, if you actually haven’t been watching Raw to know why the fuck these matches are happening, what are the odds that you are actually tuned in to the show right now?

#FrozenFoodFridays and More

I made it, little ones!  I actually managed social interaction with a human being in a non-employment-related outing and didn’t make a total and complete clusterfuck of the situation.  Side note: my autocorrect now actually changes clusterfuck to its proper spelling when I make a typo – I’ve turned Siri into a foul-mouthed snarker too.  Anyway, we had a very nice time, and she seems to want to see me again – either because the night went well, or because she is some kind of masochist, to which I suppose the only sane reaction is:


Thanks for the kind words and thoughts – and I shall reward you accordingly!  Yes, it’s time once again for everyone’s (read: my best friend’s) favorite segment – #FrozenFoodFridays!  Editor’s note: I took my Ambien right before remembering I needed to do this before midnight, so if at some point it trails off or becomes even more nonsensical than usual, you know why.

This week, we have a personal favorite – Totino’s Pizza Rolls.  Now, I’m not going to waste anyone’s time trying to explain whether or not these are delicious – either you already know this, or you aren’t old enough to be reading this blog, or you’re probably a Trump voter and your opinions are bad and you should feel bad.

Great snack, or the greatest snack?

What I can tell you is that you can actually survive for far longer than you probably thought or would reasonably want to with these as your primary, even sole, source of nutrients.  I don’t know what delicious voodoo enables this, but I can verify its accuracy, sadly.  Protip: when preparing, cover the baking sheet with aluminum foil.  That way, when they inevitably start oozing the filling everywhere because the cook time chart is a goddamn lying motherfucker, you can just wait for it to cool and then throw out the foil, rather than spend 30 minutes cursing and scraping the tray clean.  Also, you know your pizza rolls are properly cooked when the first 3-5 rolls burn with the intensity of a thousand suns in your mouth.  If they are any cooler, they are undercooked.

That’s all for now, little ones.  See you next time, and remember – many Trump voters say that he’s a good idea because the presidency needs to be run like a business.  Putting aside the fact that this sentiment is completely fucking wrong and idiotic, there is also the small detail that Trump has driven a not-insignificant number of his businesses directly into the ground and bankruptcy.  He once used thousands of dollars from his charitable foundation to commission a ten-foot-tall painting of himself.  If that’s the businessman you think has what it takes to run the country the right way, there’s a reason your living in a tin-foil trailer held together by chicken wire and duct tape, and it’s not because the man is keeping you down.  It’s because you’re a fucking moron. – EWE

Comfort Zone Exceeded – Commence Panic

Confession time, kids – Evil Wizard, Esq. is many things, but supremely confident is NOT one of them.  Basically I am a hermit: dealings with humans have predominantly left me to not so much loathe them all, but to presume I SHALL loathe them and thus avoid interaction.  Quite frankly, my favorite interactions lately have been either here, or on Twitter.  So it comes as something of a shock to me that over the last few days, I have found myself with something planned that could objectively be called a “date.”  I feel I am handling my apprehension quite well…

My approach to apprehension.

This is my first attempt at non-cynical personal interaction since the unholy abomination of Paul Zindle reared its unspeakably horrid head.  Think of me kindly. Well, alright, let’s not pretend I deserve kindness – you’ve all been here long enough to know better.  But at least hope I don’t royally fuck this up beyond all possible repair. I have a bad tendency to do that. – EWE

Must…Keep…Playing…

Good evening, my little devils/angels/non-denominational supernatural beings!  I believe that I have neglected to mention that NIS America has recently announced that Disgaea 2 is coming to PC in January 2017!  The Disgaea series is an anime SRPG dream – tons of different classes, wacky stories full of memorable and insane demons, angels, and humans, a near-bottomless well of skills, items, and equipment, and the ability to level all of those things up to level 9999 (that is not a typo) then reincarnate them with higher stats and do it all over again.  But above all else – murderous, peg-legged, dual-machete toting penguins that end every sentence with “dood” and EXPLODE WHEN YOU THROW THEM.  If you aren’t pre-ordering this now, something is wrong with you.

So, you know that one book, or game, or TV series, or whatever that just grabs ALL of your attention?  Like, you kind of want to do other stuff too, but you must continue partaking of it?  Well, Dragon Quest VII: Fragments of the Forgotten Past for Nintendo 3DS is apparently that game for me.  I want to focus on writing a wonderfully witty, cutting, insightful entry for all of you out there – but I can’t stop.  I have to keep killing slimes.  I.  Have.  To.

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They all have to die.

 

But whilst I continue my slime death march, I can, in fact, bring a recommendation to any seasonal brew aficionados that may be out there.  I was in a local pub and discovered Breckenridge Nitro Pumpkin Spice Latte Stout.  Now, the name may be a mouthful, but the drink itself is absolutely superb – frankly the best seasonal pumpkin-themed beer I’ve had, and I’ve had more than a few.

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Find this, drink this, love this.

Finally, this is last call for any requests or recommendations for the next profile of a member of the gaming community!  Next one should go up soon!

Until next time friends, remember – when the best thing that can be said about you is “well, he hasn’t done anything OVERTLY racist, sexist, xenophobic, or bigoted in the last few days” then there is a better than good chance that you are both a terrible person and also not a good choice to be president.  #SorryNotSorry Trump fans. – EWE

Belated #FrozenFoodFridays

So after a long week at work, I was incredibly excited to pick up Dragon Quest VII on Friday afternoon, as well as have my sons come to visit – but then suddenly, it wasn’t Friday anymore.  I have let you down, my devoted subjects.  But I shall attempt to make it up – here, without further ado, here is another (slightly late) edition of #FrozenFoodFridays!

This week, I bring you the deliciousness of Bertolli Italian Sausage and Rigatoni.  I’m a total sucker for pasta.  The problem is that most frozen pasta is awful.  No seriously, it never cooks right.  But these Bertolli frozen meals are goddamn amazing.  Meat, sauce, noodles, everything is just dumped in the skillet, cooked for about ten minutes, and you have a meal that could fool most people into thinking you had put effort into it.  One thing I love is that the sauce is frozen into little individual blocks, which thaw and spread out evenly as you heat everything.  This is so much better than a giant fucking block of frozen sauce that you have to sit and try to chip away at yourself to keep it evenly distributed.

If I have one complaint, it’s that when they say a non-stick skillet, THEY ARE NOT KIDDING.  If you have a standard skillet without a non-stick surface, even if you butter or oil it first you had better keep stirring it constantly to avoid it becoming permanently glued to the skillet.  I don’t like having to scrape my dinner onto my plate.  But as long as you are paying attention, this shouldn’t happen – and if you can’t pay attention to something for ten fucking minutes, you shouldn’t be allowed to cook for yourself anyway.

Hopefully I have earned your forgiveness for my tardiness!  I hope to be back later tonight with more to share.  – EWE