God Wars: Future Past Review

Greets, humans!  It’s once again been a minute since I was here last – I was under the weather the last few weeks, which after work and spending time with my sons and Malevolent Moogle, I have not had energy to do much more than crawl into bed and play some games or read a book for a bit before falling asleep.  But the GOOD news for all of you is that now I can bring you the good, the bad, and the ugly of what I’ve been playing while laid up.  Aren’t you all just the luckiest things?!

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Is that a grinning samurai bear in the corner?  Fuck yeah it is.

We begin with a title that I’ve been anticipating since I first saw that it was being localized for the Western market.  It’s not secret that I’m a huge fan of SRPGs.  So when NIS America, the purveyors of the amazing Disgaea series, began to show off their newest property, God Wars: Future Past for PS4 and Vita, I was giddy with anticipation.  Well, ok, maybe “giddy” isn’t a word that particularly applies to me…but I was looking forward to it with something approaching positive emotion.  While the title is available on PS4, my purchase and review were done with the Vita version of the game – because I will support the greatest Sony console of all time for as long as it takes until I get a goddamn Vita 2.  Are you listening to me, Shuhei?!

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Mmm…cruncy, munchy stats.

Now, this isn’t going to be a deep dive on what makes up an SRPG.  Suffice to say, the name of the game is tactical positioning and planning, as well as class grinding to mold your individual characters into a well-balanced and complementary fighting force, to be deployed on various isometric, grid-based maps and engage in turn-based movement and combat with enemy forces.  That basic concept underlies the entire genre; but that said, SRPGs through the years have tended to gravitate toward one of two camps.  The first camp is made up of games with tough battles, deep plots full of political scheming and intrigue, and relatively little grinding outside of that needed to unlock new classes or purchase new equipment.  Some excellent entries here include Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions and Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together.  Those of you that have been here since the beginning of my little blog will remember that I reviewed Tactics Ogre once upon a time.  In the other camp, one populated by NIS itself on many occasions, are wacky, anime-inspired SRPGs which are the essence of the term “over-the-top.”  These games eschew dark political plots for comedic, barely necessary stories that are primarily there to get you on the grinding treadmill, which is the true star of the show – getting all of your stats to obscenely high levels in order to challenge god-like uber-bosses after the main scenario has ended.  In games like my recent review of Disgaea 5 Complete on the Nintendo Switch, the vast majority of the game doesn’t start until the “story” is over.

Bridging the gap between these two groups is a PSP original title that I absolutely adored – Jeanne d’Arc.  A fantasy retelling of the story of Joan of Arc, set in an anime-inspired alternate history involving beastmen and magic, it deftly combined the slick anime presentation and somewhat quicker combat of the Disgaea titles with the deeply political and historical plotline that would have been at home in a Final Fantasy Tactics title.  So, where would God Wars land – serious, wacky, or somewhere in the middle?

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It’s Japanese history, if every anime you ever watched were historical fact.

I’m pleased to say that much like Jeanne d’Arc, God Wars occupies a happy middle ground in the SRPG genre.  Imagine a feudal Japan in which every mythological god, goddess, yokai, spirit and the like were all present and accounted for, accepted as part of the fabric of the world.  In this fantastical history, Princess Kaguya is freed from imprisonment and sets out in search of her mother, who disappeared after being forced to sacrifice Kaguya’s sister to appease the angry gods of Mt. Fuji a decade before.  Along the way, she will meet and befriend a host of humans, demons, gods and goddesses, as well as master over twenty different character classes, each with its own skill tree and abilities.  Along the way, she will also help the common villagers she encounters by way of taking up requests from shrines – side missions that are repeatable and function as both sidequests as well as the grinding mechanic to replace random encounters on the world map.  This is a welcome change, as once a request is accepted, the party is transported directly to the battlefield.  Combat is standard, grid-based SRPG fare.

The story manages both lighthearted and serious moments, and treads the line of being serious without ever taking itself TOO seriously.  Likewise, battles are challenging, but never to the point of needing hours of grinding simply to proceed to the next plot point.  Each character may equip a main class, a sub-class, and has an inherent unique class, all of which determine the pool of abilities available to that character in battle.  The system is flexible enough to allow for a wide variety of builds, without suffering from the crippling feeling of having TOO MUCH freedom and being paralyzed by that freedom.

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That is a whole lot of brown…

The artwork in this game is what jumps out immediately and grabs hold of someone, and interestingly this beautiful aesthetic also serves to highlight one of the games biggest weaknesses.  While cutscenes, character models, and portraits are absolutely gorgeous to behold, they stand in stark contrast to the bare minimum effort that seemed to go into designing the levels and maps on which you will spend most of your time in combat.  A dull, brown rock quarry looks like the dull, brown mine, and you’ll quickly stop paying any attention whatsoever to the backdrop for your battles because it’s just so boring to look at.  The other primary flaw in God Wars is not a visual, but technical.  Despite having the entire game downloaded and installed on my Vita’s memory card, I still experienced far too many loading screens that went on for far too long.  Now, I’m no stranger to SRPGs and portable consoles – and had the load times been limited to transitions between the map and combat, I likely would have said nothing.  But a cardinal sin in gaming for me is when I press the menu button and am forced to endure a load screen just to arrive at the main menu.  This is compounded by a fucking load time when going into submenus for inventory or class management.  I understand this is a portable title with a lot of assets but this just seems like it could have been avoided with a little more work on the part of the developer.  Thankfully, the game is good enough that these irritants are minor and don’t detract from wanting to proceed through it.

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When you see ??? instead of numbers for health and magic, shit has just gotten real serious.

All in all, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time with God Wars: Future Past.  It has combined all the things I’ve enjoyed in other SRPGs into one slick, beautifully presented package – and despite a few technical hiccups and some bland backgrounds, is just an absolute blast to play.  It has kept me up more than a few nights saying “just one more battle” – and really, as gamers, isn’t that the ultimate praise we can give something?

EWE SAYS:

EWE Says God Wars

So that’s the verdict on God Wars!  Looking down the road, in addition to bringing you some more reviews as I get time (and more recipes if I ever find the energy to cook again), I’m also toying with the idea of doing a redesign of the look and layout of the entire blog.  As I’ve said before, I never thought anyone would ever find or enjoy my little contribution to the interwebs, but as some folks have and you all seem fucking crazy enough to keep coming back (boy do I wish you’d have a few words with this girl I know…), I want to keep things looking good!  For my fellow bloggers and writers out there, if there are any suggestions or favorite layouts that you would recommend, I’d greatly appreciate if you would leave them in the comments or find me on Facebook or Twitter.  Thanks in advance, and I’ll see you all again soon!  Unless that motherfucking maniacal mental midget masquerading as the US president manages to get us all killed by starting WWIII via Twitter somehow. – EWE

Dungeons & Dragons and MORE Dungeons & Dragons

Salutations, creatures!  I’ve missed you, too – so much so that I’ve found myself slaughtering villages out of irritability rather than solely for funsies, like I normally do.  But now here we are, together again, and just in time to discuss one of my favorite all-time subjects – Dungeons & Dragons.  Now, what brings this on, you may ask?  Well, answering that leads us to the first recommendation I have for you this week!

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A while back, I was in the bookstore and saw this sitting there and realized I had never before explored the Dragonlance campaign setting of D&D.  Also, I have a tendency to read several books at a time, and I wasn’t reading any fantasy novels at that moment.  And since this was the first book in the campaign setting, I couldn’t help but jump headfirst into YET ANOTHER fictional universe that will end up costing me lots of time and money to fully explore.  But…should I even bother?

So, the story behind the Dragonlance setting is that Weis and Hickman decided that classic Dungeons & Dragons was somewhat lacking in the dragon part of the equation, and so they decided to remedy that.  Now, this series was originally published beginning in 1984, and it wasn’t exactly the most original of works.  Tanis Half-Elven, a (gasp!) half-elf jack-of-all-trades, his surly dwarven warrior ally Flint, stoic and honorable knight Sturm, and twin brothers Caramon (a kind, gigantic, and simple-minded warrior) and Raistlin (a laughably evil mage) are a classic adventuring party who find themselves drawn into a quest to protect barbarian princess Goldmoon and her love, Riverwind, after the pair discover a mysterious crystal staff and subsequently rediscover the clerical magic of the lost gods of Krynn.

This is all about managing your expectations.  If you’re looking for the next coming of Tolkien, well, keep looking.  But even though this world and it’s characters feel like they were taken from ye olde grab bagge of fantasy tropes, just because they are tropey doesn’t mean they aren’t well-crafted and developed.  As the first book in a trilogy, Autumn Twilight does a fantastic job of resolving it’s own internal plot while still introducing plenty of elements to set up the larger conflict.  All-in-all, if you’re a fan of classic fantasy settings and stories, Dragons of Autumn Twilight is a fun, breezy read.  Recommended!

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All the reading about D&D had me hankering for some classic D&D video gaming, and it doesn’t get more classic than Baldur’s Gate!  I originally played it way back in the day, but the great folks at Beamdog decided that it was time to update this classic masterpiece for modern gaming systems.  And what a fantastic job they did with that – maintaining the classic elements of the game while retouching the visuals and adding some quality of life improvements that the original release lacked.  Hence we have Baldur’s Gate Enhanced Edition.

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Ah, the sweet Infinity Engine.

Now, for you younger people out there, Baldur’s Gate was designed off of the classic Advanced D&D 2nd Edition rules, which are very different from the modern rules many of you may be used to.  While the mechanics are all handled by the engine behind the scenes, it still results in a much higher early-game difficulty level than any modern equivalent.  Expect to spend lots of time in combat watching everyone swing and miss everyone else.  But that isn’t to say that all of the archaic elements of the game are left untouched – the previous journal in the game was next to useless in keeping track of quests, but the new journal function is much better.  But that isn’t the biggest news – Beamdog, in addition to releasing Enhanced Editions of Baldur’s Gate and it’s sequel, it also developed and released an entirely new expansion – Siege of Dragonspear.  Intended to bridge the gap between Baldur’s Gate and Baldur’s Gate II, I can’t wait to finish running my half-elf cleric/mage through the first game so I can see what this new adventure has to offer.

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These are clearly absolute classics, but that isn’t to say they are perfect.  Inventory management is still pretty awful even with the efforts Beamdog took to improve it.  You will still be loading saved games after your party is decimated by gibberlings.  You’ll still probably swear several times that you’ve rolled a useless character and start over.  But in the end, you’ll love it, because they just don’t make games like this anymore.

Until next time, kiddos, remember – as great as D&D is, sometimes you roll a 1…just like the entire United States did in the last election. – EWE

New Year, New Reviews, Same Old EWE

Hello once again, feeble naked apes.  I hope you all will forgive the absence of a #FrozenFoodFriday this past week.  Despite the short week due to the holidays, my workload was higher than normal and I was far too tired to do much else.  And since I’ve been making efforts not to siphon off the lifeforce of every pitiful human I encounter, I’ve been a little less lively than I normally would be.

I sincerely hope that you all had an enjoyable New Year’s Eve.  Me, you ask?  Oh, I was surrounded by everyone that enjoys me for who I am – in other words, I spent the evening alone watching anime and gaming, and texting back and forth with Malevolent Moogle.  I did attempt to enjoy the evening with another, but was literally told that doing absolutely nothing at all was preferable to doing anything with me.  Which, I suppose, should come as no surprise.  But on the plus side, I can come to you with not just one, but two new reviews for you – both an anime and a classic game.

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MAGI: Labyrinth of Magic

First up, we’ve got the treat I discovered while browsing Netflix in an effort to drown out both my obnoxious neighbors as well as the fact that I was sitting home alone.  Well, in fairness, whisky helped drown out the latter of those as well.  Plenty, plenty of whisky.  But on to the show – in this case, that show being Magi – The Labyrinth of Magic.

Magi follows the adventures of young magical boy Aladdin and his friend Alibaba, along with their ever-growing collection of friends (and enemies, and frienemies, etc).  As a shonen fantasy anime, all the action bases are covered – plenty of action scenes, swords and sorcery, the works.  But what I loved most about this show is that, unlike a lot of shonen anime, there is a decent sense of political intrigue, grey morality, and ambiguous characterization.  Not everyone is a clear-cut hero or villain – although there are clearly some of those as well.

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This is Sinbad – betcha never pictured him with purple hair before, huh?

While this show was a pleasant surprise – I hadn’t experienced any of the original manga prior to stumbling on the anime – I can’t say that everything about it was perfect.  Aladdin, the main character, goes well beyond being “good” and is just a bit too pure and naive for my taste.  That being said, he is the exception to the rule in that regard – most of the characters are well-rounded enough to be interesting, and all undergo character development as the story progresses.  I highly recommend this first season to anyone that is a fan of fantasy anime.  The second season, entitled Magi – Kingdom of Magic, is also available on Netflix, and I will bring you my thoughts on that in the near future.

But wait – there’s more!  You see, while I drowned my misery in whisky and anime, I decided to go for a hat trick and drown it in classic gaming as well.  And if you are a fan of classic JRPG mechanics, high adventure, tongue in cheek humor, and moments that tug at your heartstrings, they don’t come much better than the recently released on Steam Final Fantasy IX.

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Make no mistake – that mage in the corner is FAR kinder than EWE.

Released in 2000 for the original PlayStation, and shortly after the launch of the PS2, FF IX was an intentional departure by Square from the increasingly modern, sci-fi trappings of FF VII and FF VIII.  Knowing it would be one of the last titles released for the PS1 generation, it was essentially developed as a love letter and callback to the high fantasy settings and more classic fundamental mechanics that defined the series’ early entries.

FF IX follows a disparate band of characters, including the innocent, almost child-like Black Mage Vivi, the cocky, confident thief Zidane, the determined, headstrong Princess Garnet, the blustering, single-minded knight Steiner, and several of their friends.  What begins as a simple, innocent kidnapping scheme by Zidane and his band of thieves (yeah, this was from a time when a kidnapping of a young woman was apparently something heroes could do) quickly spirals into a globe-trotting expedition to save the entire world from total annihilation.

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If you could see what he sees under that hood, you’d say the same thing.

The plot setup and characters may seem to be cliche, but this is entirely by design.  See, nothing becomes a cliche unless it is used often, and it is only used often if it at some point is done so well that others seek to emulate it.  With FF IX, Square shows themselves to be masters of the RPG genre, taking a plot, setting, and cast that won’t surprise most anyone who has played a game or read a book, and making them endearing and memorable on the sheer force of their quality.  Although the crew is of course trying to save the world, they each have personal motivations for their journey as well.  Vivi is trying to learn about himself, his origins, and his humanity; Garnet wants to understand why her kingdom has come to threaten the rest of the world; Steiner wants to fulfill his duty to protect his princess; and Zidane…well, mostly just wants to score with Garnet for the majority of the game.  Honestly, Zidane just does right by people because it’s inherent in who he is – he does it because he feels like it.  He isn’t interested in a reward or the like, though he will take it if offered.  It’s only toward the end of the game that Zidane gains a more personal motivation in defeating the villains, but boy, is it one hell of a motivation.

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Oh yeah, my family makes a cameo torching a village or two. Hi guys!

Gameplay wise, this is one of the finest iterations of the classic ATB battle system that Square ever devised.  Combat is turn-based, with each character and enemy having a regenerating action bar that refills at varying rates based on the character’s speed.  Skills and abilities are learned from the various pieces of gear equipped by the characters, and then are set using a limited pool of gems for each character.  As characters level up, they earn more gems, allowing them to equip more skills and abilities.  In addition, each character has a predetermined character class, which imparts its own unique skills and abilities.  For example, Zidane is a thief, and as such has the classic ability to steal items from his enemies in battle.  Finally, the classic FF Limit Break system is back in the form of Trance.  Every time a character takes damage, the trance meter fills a bit, and when full, the character, uh, turns pink.  Not sure the significance of that – but it also gives them access to a new set of character-specific super moves that can cause massive damage and turn the tide of battle.

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White Mage, Summoner, Princess. I wanted to marry her when I was younger.

Being a Final Fantasy game, there are of course also a number of time-consuming minigames.  Chocobo treasure hunting can be an interesting diversion, and lead to some valuable treasure.  The Mognet mail system is a game-spanning sidequest with not much in the way of payoff, but thankfully it’s not that significant to complete.  Finally, the Tetra Master card game is another addition in the more recent tradition of deep card games in FF games, but falls a bit short of the high bar set by Triple Triad in its immediate predecessor.

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Are there airships? Oh yeah…there are airships.

While this game could have just crammed as many airships and Cids and summons as it could into it and still have been fairly well regarded, FF IX is the rare intentional nostalgia trip that actually lives up to, if not exceeds the standard set by the games it is invoking.  The story, graphics, music, characters, battle system – everything has aged tremendously well.  It’s port to the PC has upgraded the visuals slightly and added a few quality of life improvements, such as the ability to max out all abilities and damage, and turn off random encounters, for those that may wish to blow through the game.  But to truly experience this game as it should be, don’t use those.  Play through this game at least once as it was intended to be played.  Grind abilities because you only have one piece of gear with a great ability on it and you want to teach it to several characters.  Hunt down monsters for Quina to eat so it can learn their abilities.  Explore the world map until you accidentally run into a dragon that you have no chance of killing at your current level.  It’s the sense of the unknown, and of adventuring through it, that the most successful stories invoke – and Square well and truly invoked it here.  FF IX is the pure definition of a classic – not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but very, very good, and polished to a warm glow, and immune from the passing of time.  If you are a fan of Final Fantasy, or JRPGs at all, you owe it to yourself to experience this game.

And so the first entry in 2017 draws to a close.  Normally, this is the part where I mock the human race, or observe one of the many reasons why I should destroy it.  But as it is a new year, I suppose I should take a stab at being a new, friendlier EWE…BWAHAHAHAHA!  I’m sorry, I just couldn’t get all the way through it with a straight face.  What did you think I’d do, make some kind of bullshit resolution to dial back on my nihilism?  What the fuck is wrong with you?  Did you miss the part earlier when I said that I offered to share time with a human and was told that LITERALLY SITTING AT HOME DOING NOTHING was preferable?  Yeah, there will definitely be no shortage of village-burning in 2017.  (Editor’s Note: Don’t be disingenuous – you’d have torched those villages either way).  Ok, well…yeah, I probably would have.  But I’m going to enjoy it that much more now! – EWE

Books, Booze, and…huh, I’ll be damned, Bears – Oh My!

Greets and salutes, mortals!  How are we this evening?  Me, you ask?  Oh, I’m experiencing…some rather bothersome discomfort (Editor’s Note: MIND BOGGLING PAIN) brought on primarily by the seasonal weather.  Rather than vent my irritation by converting my lovely apartment complex into a necromancy factory – good idea, that – I have instead settled on catching up with all of you.  Aren’t you lucky?!  The correct answer to that is yes.  Unless you like being set on fire.  Then feel free to answer no.

Now, as the title above would suggest, the first item on the agenda tonight is my latest literary lark.  Actually, lark might not be the best word, considering this is a 1500 page mammoth, but I like my alliteration, so fuck it – lark it is.  Anyway, if you recall WAY back when, I gave my impressions of Brandon Sanderson’s The Way of Kings, the first book in Sanderson’s epic fantasy series, The Stormlight Archives.  I’ll let you read my original impressions on that first book for yourself – but in short, I found it a very promising start to a series, particularly if you are a fan of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time.  After finishing The Way of Kings, I eagerly started the second book of the series, Words of Radiance.

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I am very pleased to say that if you were a fan of the first book, you will definitely find more to love in the second.  My primary complaint about TWoK was that it could be somewhat confusing in the way it blasted the reader with new information, concepts, and terminology – sometimes it required quite a bit of work on the part of the reader to piece these together into a coherent tapestry.  But by the time you’ve begun to read WoR, you have finished TWoK and are familiar with this world and its systems.  Consequently, as a reader you can focus on what Sanderson has shown himself to be a burgeoning master of – world and character building.

All of the major characters left standing at the end of  TWoK return for WoR, and some new ones are introduced as well.  The most developed characters, and likely by intention, are Kaladin and Shallan – but none of the characters lack for significant development here.  One of the elements that I love the most about this series so far is that these men and women are flawed – not in cliche, obvious ways, but in real, believable ways.  As with many epic, sweeping narratives, at this stage it is difficult to identify any card-carrying villains – while some characters actions or plots may seem more sinister, or less honorable, than others, it is made clear that each one is acting for what he or she truly believes is the greater good.  And the world itself is a character – Sanderson’s vivid descriptions and the way in which its harsh and violent nature impacts the characters and action add tremendously to the story.

Speaking of action, I am a big fan of the way Sanderson scripts his action sequences.  In particular, the climactic battle in the closing chapters is an absolute gem – I couldn’t stop reading until I’d finished it.  Quite frankly, that sentiment applies to the entirety of this novel – once I started it, it consumed all of my spare moments until I had finished it.  My biggest gripe is that based upon Sanderson’s website, the rough draft of Book Three is still only 95% complete – meaning it will still be quire some time before we have it in our hands.  Goddammit, Sanderson – how dare your massive creative endeavor take more time than I want to wait!

But what do you need when you are engrossed in a great book?  Why…a great drink, of course!  And nothing says fun like EWE’s Rum Punch!

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This fun concoction that is relatively simple to make.  At it’s base, you’ll need Disaronno, Malibu / Captain Morgan Coconut Rum, cranberry juice, and orange juice.  Take a tall tumbler glass, fill with ice, then combine one part Disaronno, two parts rum, and fill the glass with equal parts cranberry and orange juice.  Garnish with a lime, cherry, or both, and enjoy.

But why let the fun stop there?  There are any number of varieties of flavored rum out there from both Captain Morgan and Malibu – pineapple, mango, passion fruit, etc.  You can also substitute other fruit juices, such as pineapple, cherry, etc.  So long as you base it with Disaronno and finish with orange juice, you’re going to be in good shape.  Well, until you have had four or five because they’re so damn good and you don’t notice the alcohol.  Then you might not be in good shape.  But fuck it – you won’t care!

And that brings us to bears.  Now, I’m sure you’re asking yourself, “how can even EWE possibly shoehorn bears into this in any kind of coherent way?

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Never doubt me again, humans.

I was humbled and honored to be nominated for a PANDA Award by the lovely and talented LightningEllen at Conquering the Gaming Backlog.  Her blog is a true gem – while the title may give away that she is chronicling her epic journey through the ever-expanding backlog that we gamers inevitably accrue (I feel you, kid.  The struggle is real.  The struggle is real real), giving us her thoughts, impressions, reviews and insights along the way, that isn’t the end of the story.  From touching tributes on Remembrance Day, sharing slices of her life (I’m currently scheduling an Amiibo intervention for you), giving glimpses of upcoming games and demos – it is an absolute treat every time I catch up on your posts.  All of you, minions, go forth and follow her, read her words, and be better for it.  Or I will find you.  And then no one will find you.  EVER.  AGAIN.

As LightningEllen said in her post, this award is particularly special because it was founded by Mr. Panda, a mainstay here in the blogging universe who has always been quick with a kind word, comment, or critique in my short time here as a malevolent omnicidal demon blogger.  What makes this award different?  Well, I will quote LightningEllen, quoting The Shameful Narcissist, quoting Mr. Panda, because I can: “This award is much different from the other chain awards floating around out there. PANDA stands for ‘Play A New Day Award’. I’ll quote the Shameful Narcissist’s quote of Mr. Panda’s explanation: ‘I want to encourage others to play for another day. No matter what is going on, whether in the world, your country, your home, or even in your mind, I want you to play for a new day. We’re all in this together, and we can make it together.’

The rules for the PANDA are quite simple.

  1. Thank the person who nominated you.
  2. Nominate any number of people for the award.
  3. Encourage them in any way, whether through thanking or complimenting them.

In considering my nominations, I must first note that LightningEllen managed to nominate a number of the same folks that I would have as well – and her words for them would be echoed by me.  But in addition to those fine folks:

Anna at Anonymously Autistic – Autism is something near and dear to my heart, as my youngest son is autistic.  No matter how much I may try to learn about and understand what that means, all the science in the world is not as insightful as a look through the eyes of someone that sees the world in much the same way that he does.  For that, I can never thank you enough.  What you do is an amazing gift for so many people, autistic or not.

Donna at Dine And Rhyme – While it is no secret to anyone that reads my blog regularly that I LOVE FOOD, far fewer people know that I also have loved and admired poetry for most of my life.  My senior thesis in high school English was an original book of (horrendously awful) poetry.  Not only do I admire the work itself, but I have the utmost respect for people that put their thoughts and feelings into prose and then open themselves by putting those poems for the world to see.  Thank you for your blog.

Toreishi at Toreishi Games – told you before about the fantastic reviews over at Toreishi’s blog, but I think I’ve come to look forward even more so to any post titled “This is not a post and the cake is a lie.”  Because I know hilarity is about to ensue.

Beauty Beyond Bones – I don’t know if I even have sufficient words to express my respect for you.  I know something of dark places, and crawling out of them, and while we may not always agree on ideologies, you chronicle your struggles and triumphs with grace and eloquence, and in doing so, you are a source of inspiration for innumerable people that may be in a similar place.  You should be very proud – not just for your own journey, but for offering your experience to others as well.

And with that, my little ones, we come to the end of tonight’s journey.  As always, I am grateful and humbled that you joined me.  Whatever the cause of my sleepless nights – be it pain, confusion, loneliness, or what have you, I take solace in knowing that you are there.  If you ever need someone who has wronged you punished…or their family…or friends…or neighbors…you get the point – I’m your Evil Wizard. – EWE