Pain Sucks and Other Wisdom

It’s been a while, humans.  While I would actually love to be able to say I’ve just been so busy that I haven’t had time to sit down with you all, unfortunately the reason is MUCH more of a pain in my ass.  Actually, it’s pain literally everywhere.  See, years ago I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia.  Essentially, I hurt, everywhere, to varying degrees, all the time.  There are medications and treatments that they try to help mitigate the condition somewhat, but the bottom line is that fibro itself isn’t that well understood yet, and they can’t cure it or do much more than try to treat the symptoms.  Several months back, I started to experience significantly increased, debilitating levels of pain, along with increased frequency of migraines.  Dealing with that day in and out is, quite simply, exhausting.  So after months of testing to figure out what was wrong – as I have a family history of other issues that they wanted to rule out – it was finally determined that my fibro has advanced in severity and intensity, and in addition, my nervous system is actually more responsive and acute than most – top 4 percent of people, from what they’ve said.  While normally, I’d be thrilled to be in the top percentile of anything, when it means you feel exponentially more pain from your CONSTANT FUCKING PAIN DISORDER, it loses its charm.

All that to say…I have to accept a higher level of pain as my new “normal.”  And that has sapped most of my waking energy lately.  So the updates have been very sparse, and may still be for a while – but I promise they will keep coming when possible!

Image result for Stardew Valley

But while I’ve been laid up I’ve found some ways to spend my time – like, for example, the digital crack that is Stardew Valley on the Nintendo Switch.  Yes, my cat Zero and I have started quite the cozy little farm, creating mayonaise and cheese and trying to win the love of the dark gamer girl Abigail.  Sadly, art imitates life – and she wants nothing to do with me.  Goddammit.

I also decided that, in order to fully immerse myself in the storyline of Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward, the ideal class to play was Ishgard’s own Dragoon.  So after some intense grinding to get my level up to snuff, I can say it was well worth it, as much of the lore and history of Ishgard and the Warrior of Light’s quest there is inextricably woven with the Dragoons themselves.  While by no means do you NEED to play as a Dragoon to appreciate the story, I’ve felt much more of a connection to the characters and their struggles as one of the high-flying dragon-slaying knights than I would have otherwise.  FFXIV remains my favorite MMO of all time – and I’ve played many – as well as one of my favorite FF games ever – and I’ve played them all.

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Getting tired (and pissed off for being tired) but before I go for now, one last tidbit that caught my attention, and that is that sleeper-hit SRPG God Wars: Future Past is getting a full story DLC expansion in Japan.  The main game made its way to the West on PS4 and Vita and was one of the best SRPGs I’ve played in some time, so here is hoping that the DLC makes it here (for Vita especially since that’s what I played it on) as well.

Now, it is time for meds and trying in vain to actually sleep for a while before giving up and playing a game while watching Dragon Ball Super all night and being exhausted tomorrow.  This isn’t a cry for help – it’s just my natural state now.  Actually…that might be a cry for help.  I don’t know anymore. – EWE

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Rabbids & Smartphones & Dragon Balls, Oh My!

Greets, mortals!  I hope the evening finds you well…unless, of course, I hate you, in which case I hope the evening finds you fervently wishing that I DON’T FIND YOU.  Either way, welcome back.  Tonight I’ve got a few thoughts on a lot of different things for you, which is a bit of a change from normal.  I’ve found lately that, especially when I’m alone with my feline overlord, my mood and thoughts and emotions are scattered all over the place (well, aside from the constant overwhelming seething cauldron of hate for humanity…that’s pretty consistent), and consequently, I’ve been consuming media in a similar, scattershot fashion.  The good news for all of you, though, is that now you get to hear a bit about all sorts of good (or bad) stuff!  You may prostrate yourselves now.  I’ll wait.

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It was a cliched and stormy night in Costa del Sol…

First up, we have the continuing adventures of Evil Wizard as he journeys through Eorzea in Final Fantasy XIV.  Although the new expansion, Stormblood, was released this summer, I’ve yet to venture into any of that story content.  In fact, I’ve only recently, finally powered through all of the story missions that served as the bridge between the original Realm Reborn storyline and the first expansion, Heavensward.  After having reached Ishgard, I decided to take a slight break from powering through story content to level and unlock some other jobs.  But that isn’t to say the story isn’t calling to me – truth be told, I honestly feel like Final Fantasy XIV is the best game in the main series since IX, and maybe even since VI, and that is saying an awful lot because I have a lot of love for FF XII.  But XIV has an absolutely massive amount of plot content and characters, and the overwhelming majority of them are stellar.  Honestly, I recommend this game to anyone that loves RPGs.  Not just MMOs, not just Final Fantasy – if RPGs are your thing, and you haven’t tried XIV at all, you’re doing yourself a disservice.

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It’s Mega Mario Metroid Man!

Next up, I’ve got the Switch game that up until E3 a couple months ago literally nobody knew they wanted.  Seriously, the Rabbids are the most goddamned annoying fuckers this side of the It’s A Small World ride at Disney World, and when Nintendo and Ubisoft announced  a crossover between them and the world of Mario you could hear the entire Internet give a collected groan.  Then around came E3, and with it the revelation that this would be a turn-based strategy game with some RPG elements – essentially X-COM lite but with Mario & Co. taking on Ubi’s insane vermin.  After spending several hour with it since launch and getting through the first couple of worlds, I can easily say this game is the biggest surprise of the year for me, and that’s saying something with a Mario game.  The X-COM style cover-based gameplay is fantastic, though in the early stages the difficulty seems significantly less than the sci-fi masterpiece.  This can likely be chalked up to the game being aimed at a much larger target market on the Switch than the decidedly older audience that X-COM attracts.  My understanding from friends that are much further into the game is that there is a definite difficulty spike later on, so I am greatly intrigued and thus far highly recommend Mario x Rabbids: Kingdom Battle to anyone with a Switch and a love of X-COM.

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Hooray Job Systems!

Next up, for when I’m stuck with nothing but my phone or it’d be impolite to just open a book or Vita and blatantly ignore everyone around me, I’ve found myself diving back into Final Fantasy Dimensions.  I found myself drawn back in after talking about it for a bit with intrepid Michael “FinalMacstorm” Cunningham of #TeamHandheld.  I’ve been away from it for a while and am still getting back into the plot, but since it’s heavily patterned on the 16-bit Final Fantasy’s of old, there isn’t too much complexity to worry about.  I do now remember that the slow influx of jobs is made a bit more irritating by the fact that you can’t max them out – at particular beats in the story, you are granted a small pool of points that allow you to increase the max level of whatever jobs you choose for each character.  While I don’t believe this to be a monetization of the system – I don’t think you can purchase more of the points using real money – I haven’t yet reached the point of being able to know if there will be enough of these points to max out all jobs for everyone, or if not, how many each character may be able to fully develop.  It’s tough because it doesn’t let you really know if you should be specializing particular characters or what, and a somewhat incongruent party split can exacerbate matters somewhat.  Still, it isn’t anything that can’t be overcome with a bit of grinding, and I’m a complete whore for grinding in an old-school job system RPG.  Not going to say I’d wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone yet, but if you are older than time as I am, and love Final Fantasy V’s job system, you’ll likely find this worthwhile.

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Ka…Me…Ha…Me…

Last, but assuredly not least, I’ve also been catching up on Dragon Ball Super.  DB is one of those series that I watch in spurts – I’ll binge a couple of dozen episodes and love them, then hit a saturation point and put it away for a while.  I’ve reached the point where Goku & Friends have been confronted by Black’s Super Saiyan Rose, and I must say that one of the features I love about this show is that every once in a while they show a flashback to events that occurred in prior series such as the seminal Dragon Ball Z, and the contrast between the quality of the animation in those and the gorgeous HD animation in Super just can’t be fully described.  Akira Toriyama’s character designs are world-renowned and timeless, and for as much as I love his work in the Dragon Quest series, this is the apex in terms of the quality animation.  As for the series, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how much Dragon Ball has grown up – even in a series where death is often cheapened or worked around, there has been some genuine moments of tension and loss, and I feel like the experience gained by reworking Dragon Ball Z into Dragon Ball Z Kai has helped the studio to get a better grip on balancing fights with character development.  So no more 17-episode buildups to seeing Goku throw one Spirit Bomb…and that’s a very good thing.  If you’ve ever been a fan of Dragon Ball, you should check it out.

And that’s that for tonight, kiddos.  But before I go, just a piece of advice…I guarantee that most, if not all, of you humans have someone close to you that is likely suffering from depression.  You probably don’t know it, because they probably don’t say much if anything about it – ironically enough, because they already feel like a complete burden to those around them and don’t want to make it any worse.  But while they may be able to smile or crack a joke, inside they are very, very alone.  You humans have but a short time on this earth, and in that time, almost everything costs something…but kindness is free.  It can be given away to all that you care about with no real cost to you.  And while it might seem like little or nothing to you at the time, I guarantee you it means the world to someone.  Not that I care about the happiness of you pathetic mortals. – EWE

The Empire Falls, The Phantom Thieves Rise, and What You Should Be Reading

Greets, humans!  Please excuse any typos or less-coherent-than-normal ranting – maybe it’s the combination of inability to sleep and crippling exhaustion, I don’t know.  But if there is one benefit to using almost all of hours in the day to not rest, it’s that there are just SO MANY good games to play and shows to watch and things to read right now!  So, let’s get right to it!

Cape Westwind

My journey through Eorzea in Final Fantasy XIV continued, as I finished eliminating the threat of the Primals by defeating the beautiful and sadistic Garuda…only for the Garlean Empire to finally make it’s move at conquest, unleashing Ultima Weapon, which promptly absorbed the powers of Ifrit, Titan, and Garuda with little effort.  As my Warrior of Light – side note, I find it hilarious when NPC characters greet me with some variation on “ah, most heroic Evil Wizard!” – and his allies regroup, it was determined that the only way to respond was to, you know…kill a bunch of Imperial officers, sack their bases, and destroy their Weapon.  And since wanton death and destruction are kind of, you know, MY THING, I gleefully slew my way through their ranks toward leader, High Grand Poobah Gaius Something-Or-Other.  Basically, my dungeon and raid parties looked something like this:

Ah, Richard…you truly are my spirit animal.  Anywho, after spilling rivers of Imperial blood, I finally found myself face-to face with Gaius and his shiny new toy.  Admittedly, he cuts an impressive figure.

Ultima Weapon

But, as I am wont to do, I melted his face.  And with that, I had completed all of the original Realm Reborn content of FF XIV, and I am now ready to start on the bridge content leading into the Heavensward expansion.  Cheer me on, maaaan!

Now, said progress may be somewhat slowed due to the absolutely phenomenal PS4 release of Persona 5.  Quite simply, this is one of the best, most stylish, and addicting JRPGs that I have played in years, maybe ever.  The combat is the deepest I’ve seen since SMT: Nocturne (yay demon negotiation!), the interface and graphics are incredibly slick, the soundtrack is pure bliss, and the “day in the life” sim elements are amazingly engrossing.

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The writing is absolutely stellar.  From the main plot to the individual stories of all of your various “Confidants” – this games version of “Social Links” from prior entries in the series – every character is well developed, with a perfect balance between lightheartedness and gravitas.  The bottom line is this – Shin Megami Tensei is Atlus’s Final Fantasy, and some gamers may argue that it has equaled or even surpassed Square Enix’s venerable series.  Even more impressively, the Persona series is the rare offshoot series that has developed into something stands equal to, if not even surpasses, the entries in the main series.

EWE Says:

EWE Says P5

So, that’s what you should be playing…but hey, sometimes you just want to kick back and watch some anime, right?  RIGHT?!  (Editor’s Note: Just agree.  He’s not in the mood to argue.  There are only about four people he wouldn’t set on fire right now.)  AND YOU’RE NOT ONE OF THEM, SO SHUT UP!  Ahem…so, if you’ve been an anime and manga fan at all over the past 20 years, you should be familiar with Naruto.  Well, our lovable orange-jumpsuited ninja and all of his friends are all grown up following the end of their series, and conveniently paired up and bred like rabbits off screen in order for the adventures to continue in a new manga and anime series entitled Boruto: Naruto Next Generations.  The titular Boruto is the son of Naruto and Hinata, and is entering the Ninja Academy alongside all of his friends who look suspiciously like mashups of their fan-ship parents.

Boruto

Now, while this could easily be dismissed as simply a retelling of Naruto in an attempt to cash in on the original series popularity with minimal effort, this would be a mistake and a discredit to the new series.  The world has truly evolved and become more modern since the end of the Fourth Great Ninja War, and the dreams, aspirations, and motivations of this new generation of shinobi are definitely not the same as that of their parents.  Speaking of which, all of your favorite characters that survived the war are accounted for in the new series, and watching them mature into leaders and parents is just as compelling as seeing the adventures of their children.  As a new anime series, the animation and production values are top-notch.  While I haven’t yet read the new manga, I intend to do so, as I read the entire original Naruto series and count myself as a fan.  Is it perfect?  Of course not – it’s a shonen manga so you know kind of what you’re getting, but as long as you know that going in, the world of Naruto and Co. is still a fun one to spend time in.  Recommended – find it on Hulu or Crunchyroll!

Now, I am always very pleased that all of you feeble mortals (Editor’s Note: WONDERFUL READERS) whatever, that you all come and partake of my wisdom here.  But, and I know this may come as a shock, there are other blogs that you should be checking out as well.  I know that I normally only want to talk about me – and I mean, I AM a lord of darkness – but I feel like it has been a while since I properly recognized and called attention to some of the other wonderful blogs out there, as well as the amazing people behind them that I have become fortunate enough to consider my friends.

LightningEllen’s Release – Friend, fellow INFJ, and my favorite Amiibo-collecting ninja LightningEllen shares her thoughts on gaming, life, and the ever-shifting, never-ending backlog.

Cheap Boss Attack – Video game writer, reviewer and friend Brad shares his insights on games old and new.

The Shameful Narcissist Speaks – Amazingly talented writer and deliciously evil cohort Ash1Rose puts her talent on display with fanfictions, essays, poetry and more.

The Well-Red Mage – A friend and one of the first people to welcome me into the blogging community, The Well-Red Mage and his majestic menagerie of mages are some of the most informative and entertaining authors of news, interviews, and reviews of video games both classic and contemporary.

Retr0pia – A friend who shares his thoughts on many a classic game, movie, or show, as well as the all-too-common modern reboots of them.

These are just the first group, just a few of the many wonderful writers out there sharing their gifts and talents will all of you humans.  Don’t miss the opportunity to enjoy their blogs!  See you all next time, mortals – but until then, remember: if we DON’T see each other again, it’s because a psychopathic man-child conned enough foolish, simple-minded fleshsacks into voting him president despite having no ability to handle the job and has likely started an apocalyptic war that has left the world in ruin and the human race extinct.  And that pisses me off because that’s MY schtick, and I don’t take kindly to gimmick infringement.  – EWE

Switch Quick Hits, FF XIV Update, and a Sweet Treat

Hello again, kiddos!  It may seem to have been a while since I was last with you, but worry not – I’ve been busy putting together all sorts of fun for you since I spoke with you last.  And a big part of that has been to sample several of the titles on my Nintendo Switch.  So what do I think of the initial batch of take-anywhere titles?

Binding 1

For those unfamiliar with The Binding of Isaac, you control the titular Isaac – a terrified, naked toddler who is trapped in a nightmarish hellscape after his mother tried to murder him, trying to escape and combating the horrors there by weaponizing his tears.  So, yeah…it’s fucked up.  Not bad, mind you – in fact, it’s one of the best twin-stick shoot-em-ups that I’ve played in a long time – but clearly the minds that concocted this scenario are in serious need of some therapy.

Binding 2

There are a couple of things that stand out here.  First of all, this came is brutally difficult.  In true bullet-hell fashion, shit is flying everywhere all the time, and you will die, a lot.  And permadeath is in full effect – you die, and that cool gear you’d been racking up is gone.  But this is somewhat offset by the second thing that stands out – the randomly generated maps and powerups lead to near-endless replayability, and keep you coming back over and over.  For anyone that has played this on PS4 or PC, you already know this – but here is where the Switch gimmick shines through, letting you take poor, abused Isaac with you wherever you go.  So long as high difficulty doesn’t bother you, a definite recommendation.

Shovel 1

Next up, we have a modern-day love letter to classic games.  Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove collects the original Shovel Knight game, and adds the two expansions, Plague of Shadows and Specter of Torment, all in one package.  For fans of classic 8-bit and 16-bit action/adventure games, picking this up should be a no-brainer.  And since I’m incredibly old and a fan of those types of games, there was no question that I would want to be able to take the heroic Shovel Knight and his quest against the Enchantress and the Order of No Quarter on the go with me.

Shovel 2

Fantastic platforming and action are the order of the day, beginning with the original Shovel of Hope base game, and just being further refined and perfected in the two subsequent expansions.  A well written and witty story are the icing on the cake.  In particular, the newest expansion, Specter of Torment, is just a joy to play, incorporating all of the feedback received and improvements that indie developer Yacht Club made since the release of the original game.  If you like pure gaming goodness, get and play this game.

Setsuna 1

Another love letter to the past, I Am Setsuna was developed by Tokyo RPG Factory, a studio set up by Square Enix with a simple mandate – make games in the vein of the beloved 16-bit RPGs of yore.  For their first effort, they chose a very good game to look to – the seminal SNES classic, Chrono Trigger.  I Am Setsuna, from a gameplay perspective, is a RPG that you’ve played before.  Turn-based active-time battles, combination Tech attacks, spells and abilities learned from equipping magici- er, sorry, spritnite…but again, all distilled and refined from years of experience into their purest form.

Setsuna 2

What sets I Am Setsuna apart from the predecessors that it emulates is a heartfelt, emotional story and a beautiful, haunting piano soundtrack, both of which you will remember long after you’ve completed the game.  It isn’t the longest RPG you’ll ever play, but this feels more like a trimming of fat and padding that has become all too common in many modern games, rather than anything missing from Setsuna.  Square Enix has gone on record that it intends to strongly support the Switch, and this is a tremendous first effort toward that goal.  Highly recommended.

Zelda 1

Ah, here it is – the one everyone wants to hear about and talk about.  And for good reason – Breath of the Wild is without doubt a tremendous game.  Beautiful, artistic, breathtaking – all of those adjectives definitely apply.  The visuals and score are absolutely stellar.  Story is a timeless (pun completely intended) Legend of Zelda tale, and at the same time turns that classic formula in some surprising new directions.  It is most definitely the star of the Nintendo Switch launch lineup.  BUT…is it for everyone?

Zelda 2

Here is the thing – Nintendo’s latest magnum opus is a game that requires something that has become a lost art among many modern gamers – PATIENCE.  It is almost intentionally trying to frustrate you.  You can only carry a handful of weapons, and they are going to break after only a few solid hits against your enemies – probably in the middle of a fight.  There is a huge open world to explore – but many times it will feel too big, too empty, as you struggle to determine how to get to your next quest objective.  You can climb any surface – but if you run out of stamina, which seems to disappear as if Hyrule were located in the Bermuda Triangle, you’re going to take a long, fatal fall.  And even if you get to the top of that mountain, I hope you’ve brought some cold weather gear or food, otherwise, you’re going to freeze to death.  These are all elements of many of the survival games that have come into prominence among hardcore gamers in recent times, but those same elements are likely to completely frustrate gamers who just want to play a Zelda game, rescue the princess, destroy Ganon, and all that.  Do I recommend it?  Yes I do.  Do I enjoy it?  Yes, I do…when I am in the right mood.  It isn’t a game you can just pick up and play for a few minutes – you have to have a good chunk of time to devote to it in order to feel like you’ve accomplished anything.  So be warned – while a great game, this isn’t a Zelda game like any Zelda game you’ve ever experienced before.

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So, you may ask, “EWE, that’s all great, but you still seem to be gone a lot lately?  Has your personal life improved?”  Well, there are a few answers to that – the first being WHO THE FUCK DO YOU THINK YO- Ahem, sorry, I mean, I suppose it depends on what you mean by “improve.”  If you mean, have I finally turned the head and won the heart of my maiden fair…no.  No I have not.  So thanks for reminding me of that.  Assholes.  BUT, if you meant spending time with cool people and having fun – well yes, because I’ve fallen headlong back into Eorzea with my beloved summoner, appropriately named Evil Wizard.

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Currently, I’ve been trying to power through story content in an effort to see most, if not all of it before the new expansion, Stormblood, drops this June.  I’ve managed to get to level 47 on my main class (as I said, summoner) while only minimally indulging in my normal penchant for leveling absolutely EVERYTHING there is to level equally (also known as OCD to normal people).  For the first time in a long time in an MMO, I am very pleased with the community and player base.  Long ago, I was a member of an absolutely fantastic World of Warcraft guild and community, with people that I loved playing with and interacting with even outside of the game.  Alas, due to complicated personal circumstances, it became best for them that I step away.  I quickly found that I disliked most of the player base outside of my friends, and left the game.  Since then, I’d never quite been enchanted with a player base in an MMO – but FF XIV just seems to have a predominantly kind and encouraging community.  There will always be exceptions to the rule – but by and large I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time with the game.  More updates to come – I’m currently trying to get to level 49 so I can continue to wage my personal war against the Garlean Empire!

oatmeal raising cookies

Last, but not least – you didn’t think I’d let you leave hungry, did you?  Silly humans.  Have some chewy oatmeal raisin cookies!

Ingredients:

  1. 1 1/2 cups old-fashined rolled oats
  2. 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  3. 1/2 cup raisins (or craisins)
  4. 1/2 tsp baking soda
  5. 1/2 tsp salt
  6. 6 tbsp butter, room temp.
  7. 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  8. 1/4 cup sugar
  9. 1 large egg
  10. 1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium mixing bowl, combine the oats, flour, raisins, baking soda, and salt.  Mix together and set aside.  In a separate bowl, combine butter, sugar, and brown sugar and mix until fluffy.  Add egg and vanilla and mix until thoroughly combined.  Slowly add in the oats mixture, mixing until combined.  Use a tablespoon to drop the dough onto two baking sheets, placing each cookie about 2 inches apart.  Place in oven and bake approximately 12 – 16 minutes, until cookies are golden brown but still soft.  Remove from oven and cool for 5 minutes on the cookie sheets, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.  Pour a glass of milk – and if you’re me, add some Kahlua – then enjoy your dessert!

And with that, you’ve reached the end of this bit of my ramblings, mortals!  Thanks for sticking around, and see you all again soon! – EWE