Persona 5 Father/Son Run – Better Parenting Through Demonology

**WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR PERSONA 5**

Greetings, humans – it’s been far too long, and while life offers no guarantees, I hope it is not so long again after this.  And I will leave that at that.

Now, what does a malicious mage like myself get up to in the many months since we’ve met?  Who is to say for sure (Editor’s Note: well, possibly some of those villagers…but I don’t think you left them in any condition to talk, actually), ahem – Editor’s flattery (Editor’s Note: I wasn’t complimenting you…) FLATTERY aside, I did engage in one particular activity that I can share with you here that quite intrigued me over the last couple of weeks.  You see, several weeks ago my eldest, redheaded clone pointed out that when I had initially completed Persona 5 when it released on the PS4, he had not been able to watch most of it at that time.  He seemed intrigued in the gameplay systems as well as the standard SMT storyline of carving your own path through the world to rage against the gods and your opposed humans to grab your destiny with your own two hands.

But the decisions being made moment to moment are what really brought us closer together.  Because as you may understand, between the holidays and then some early January scheduling strangeness, they were able to more freely pick and choose time to spend with me.  And since my big Beefer has been with often lately, he was able to help establish our personality for our avatar and how he interacts with his social links, er, I meant “Confidants.”  For example, it took no time at all for us to agree strongly that Ryuji is a loud, tasteless, useless piece of garbage and gleefully try to envision scenarios in which we could get him destroyed.  There were the long discussions about who the best female confidant was and why we should have our character date her as opposed to anyone else.

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And then there was watching my young boy, my growing little man, who claims little interest in school topics, show genuine curiousness about the various demons, gods, and mythological figures that filled out the Persona Compendium.  He and I loved checking online for more info on whatever the latest god we had tamed and the abilities now at our command.  From there would be stimulating back-and-forth conversations regarding the occult, Judeo Christian demonology, Japanese youkai and spirits, and others.  It truly is amazing seeing an intellect that reminds me so much of what I once was, but sharper, growing and learning and becoming even greater than I could have dreamed.

We were not, however, able to come to total agreement in choosing between clearly fellow nerd love interest Futaba:

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…and more mature, and darker punk rock back-alley doctor Tae Takemi.

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Honestly, it’s a great problem to have, choosing between those two.  But even better has been the last 130 hours of game time – laughing at the insanity, freaking out at the ever increasing audacity of the villains, and concocting new ways to save our friends.  Until finally, on the day we were faced with having to destroy God himself in order to preserve the freedom of humanity, we sat in awe as the main character we’d created ourselves manifested powerful demon lord and destroyed the divine.  We were still talking about it when I had to take him home to do homework.  About about the bonds the main character forged with his true companions to sustain him.  About how outside of one another, they didn’t care what others had to say about what they felt called to do.

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So for any of you parents that believe videogames are a waste of time, I openly mock you – because while you are busy denigrating something you don’t understand, you are also losing a valuable tool to connecting with your own children!

Until next time (Editor’s Note: unless in his frustration he summons a meteor to annihilate us all), I will take my leave and see you soon! – EWE

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Indie Corner: Last Dream

Welcome to mid-week, mortals!  You’re halfway to…wondering where in the hell your weekend went before doing all of this over again, for the rest of your natural lives.  BWAHAHAHAHA!  Ah, but I don’t bear all bad news – in your spare time, you could stumble upon spectacular little gaming gems like the one I’m about to tell you about!

This is actually a two game series that was funded on Kickstarter and developed by White Giant RPG Studios, and was brought to my attention by my very good friend and fellow streamer, as well as husband to my bestest friend in the world Malevolent Moogle, the one and only Absurdum.  Please, please, pretty please, find and follow him on YouTube and Twitch – he is very funny and talented and knows his games!  Last time we got together, I saw him playing what appeared to be a retro-RPG and asked what it was.  After watching him play it for a while longer and hearing from him about how much content the game and its sequel roughly contained, I pulled them up on Steam and found them to be on sale in a bundle for under $5 total – and you can guess what happened.

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I have not yet progressed far through the main story of the game yet, but that is primarily because I have been reveling in the comfort-food-feeling of the combat and leveling mechanics.  For those with fond memories of being able to lose themselves in an hour or so of fast-paced, turn-based combat with a relatively steady trickle of rewards in the form of skill points and gold for new abilities and equipment, you will be right at home, and the variety of character classes ensures that multiple playthroughs are unique in playstyle.

If these games are still on sale on Steam, and you have any fondness for old school JRPGs at all, this is a no-brainer from my standpoint.  If they are not on sale, this still feels like a pretty solid value, but the developer’s website appears to have a demo version available for download, so try it out for yourself and if you like it as much as I do, by all means, support an indie dev, humans! – EWE

EWE’s Insomnia & Gaming – Part 1

So, humans, it is a fairly poorly kept secret that old EWE has issues with sleeping through the night. For whatever reason, I am typically unable to get a thorough night’s sleep – and thus the search begins to find something to do during those hours when the world is aslumber and I’m left alone and awake.  Of course, this primarily means Switch, Vita, 3DS, my laptop with Steam access, or occasional classics on PSP and GBA.  Doesn’t mean I won’t switch a PS4 or Xbox One game in there, but generally these are last resort options due to having to go downstairs from bed and risking waking the neighbors – so what games make the grade?  Well here is the first in a haphazard and sporadic series on what I play when I sit bolt upright in bed, look at my phone, and utter some type of curse at the time.

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It is no secret that I absolutely loved Trails in the Sky – in my opinion, one of the best classic-style turn-based RPGs to be made in years.  So I naturally picked up its sequel series, Trails of Cold Steel, when it initially released on Vita.  But, as I had something of an extensive (cough massive cough) backlog, I had yet to do more than start the first game once or twice.  That has now changed, as when I woke up at 2 a.m. the other night the first thing I did (Editor’s Note: the second thing, actually, the first being looking at the time and saying, I believe, “god-fucking-dammit) ahem, the SECOND thing I did was fire up a new game on my Vita.  While I have thoroughly enjoyed the game thus far, I will say that all of the comparisons between this game and similar “social life” RPGs in the Persona series are not entirely accurate.  Time often passes in chunks rather than day by day, and as of this writing the social link aspect hasn’t really done much but give me some cute but predictable cutscenes and a slight increase in combat teamwork.  But if this comes across as a criticism, it is not intended as one – if I wanted to play Persona on my Vita, I would, you know…play Persona on my Vita.  I like what Cold Steel has offered so far, and I’m looking forward to seeing the rest of it…though preferably not always in the dead of night.

As an aside, and at the risk of sounding sappy (Editor’s Note: please, before you mock him, remember that he would not hesitate to set the world, quite literally, on fire), I’m well aware that it is some type of corporate emotion holiday today, and while I do not have a “Valentine”…if I were to, I know who it would be, and I got to make that person smile once or twice today, so I will take my small victories where I can get them. – EWE

Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age Review; and Happy Evilversary!

Greets, mortal creatures!  Can you believe it’s been an entire year already?  One year ago, while wandering very lost and alone, I came upon this small little corner of the internet, and honestly my thought process then was something akin to “well, I can kill myself, or I can start imparting my nihilistic rants and ramblings on the web for nobody to give a damn about.”  I decided to go with the latter, and much to my surprise – many of you DID in fact give a damn, and came to enjoy my modest blogging efforts.  Perhaps more importantly to me personally, you gave a damn about me, and I found not just fellow bloggers or followers, but a new circle of friends – which for someone like me, that struggles mightily to find friends at all, has been very special.  To those of you who have chosen to share this journey with me, to help me along in my efforts to find my voice in my blog, and to share in my struggles that have led me to where I am, I thank you.

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And what better way to celebrate than to also celebrate the HD revival of one of the most unsung, amazing Final Fantasy games of all time – Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age.  Originally released in the dying days of the PS2, Final Fantasy XII was the poster child for a late-console-cycle video game – Square Enix squeezed every last little bit of power possible out of the aging PS2 architecture, and it showed in every aspect of that game.  The visuals were absolutely gorgeous, outshining many PS3 games – and depending on your views of art direction, even many modern games.  The gameplay systems were incredibly ahead of their time – a blending of classic single-player Final Fantasy RPGs of days past, and its MMORPG predecessor Final Fantasy XI.  Its plot returned players to the world of Ivalice, previously explored in the seminal Final Fantasy Tactics – another first, as it was the first time a Final Fantasy world – Ivalice – was home to multiple games.  But it wasn’t without its detractors – its massive world consisted of large, sometimes empty feeling zones, which could lead to long stretches of time spent simply traveling from one point to another.  Character progression was conducted via spending AP on a massive License Board, shared by all characters, which unlocked all weapons, armor, skills, and spells.  Because the entire board was open to all characters, it led to most of the party characters eventually feeling relatively indistinguishable from a gameplay perspective, as it was relatively easy to give all of them all of the “best” equipment and abilities.

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As far as the original PS2 release of the game, I come down squarely in the camp of it being one of the greatest Final Fantasy games of all time.  The story of a small band of rebels, each with their own personal motivations and brought together by circumstance, standing against the overwhelming might of an Empire bent on dominating all of Ivalice may bear more than a few similarities to Star Wars, but the plot and characters are masterfully written and developed, showing their own small part in a greater overall struggle.  For me personally, I rank it essentially 2nd/3rd all time, with it and FF IX flipping back and forth depending on my mood (VI is 1st by a mile).  But that said, I recognize the flaws in the game as described above – I remember much of the hours I spent with the game spent running all over creation, and I am guilty of turning every character into an overpowered clone of each other.  But I’m here to say that The Zodiac Age enhances everything I loved about the PS2 version, and improves every weakness.

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As with any HD remaster, SE has brought the already beautiful visuals of Ivalice up to modern PS4 standards.  Previously blurry or softened textures are sharp and crisp, and the game puts many, if not most current generation games to shame with its gorgeous art direction.  There is a fly in the ointment – some textures, in particular Vaan’s face during the in-engine cutscenes, didn’t survive the upgrade so well, and appear a bit…wonky.  But this is just nitpicking – overall, this is a stellar graphical upgrade for an already lovely game.

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SE solved the problem of the License Board some years ago, actually.  Shortly after the original PS2 release, SE release an updated PS2 version of the game entitled Final Fantasy XII: International Zodiac Job Edition.  This version of the game never saw official release in the US; however, SE took the Zodiac Job system, improved it even more, and incorporated it into The Zodiac Age.  In this new system, the License Board has been sundered into 12 separate “jobs” – combinations of equipment, skills, spells, and stat growth that fulfill different roles within an overall RPG party.  For example, White Mage has almost all the healing magic, Black Mage gets the nukes, Archer rains physical damage from afar…you get the idea.  Each character in the party gets to choose a total of two of these Boards, thus locking them into the character roles those Jobs represent.  There is some overlap – Knights can unlock some white magic skills, Red Battlemages unlock the same heavy armors as the tank classes, etc. – so players with some foresight and planning can create complementary Job pairings for their party.  But even then, having the right roles filled at the right times against the right enemies is MUCH more prevalent in this edition of the game than it ever was in the original.  Some creatures are highly resistant to physical damage – so you’ll be swapping out your Knight and Bushi for your Black Mage and Red Battlemage.  Other fights are just wars of attrition – and you’ll be well prepared with a White Mage, and a Time Battlemage to keep the party alive and kicking while you whittle away at the opponent.  This adds an entirely new element of strategy to the game that just wasn’t present by the latter stages of the original, and it is a very welcome improvement.

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But THE improvement, the one that absolutely changes the face of RPGs, and maybe gaming as a whole, is the one that I’m sure SE thought was just a tiny afterthought, thrown in as a bone tossed to people playing through the game again after enjoying it on the PS2.  FAST.  FUCKING.  FORWARD.  With a simple press of a button, you can cause the entire game – everything – suddenly shifted to 2x or 4x speed.  I cannot possibly overstate what an incredibly goddamn fantastic feature this is.  As the combat is a hybrid real-time/turn-based system that mimics MMO combat, and traversal across large, open zones is the basic mode of gameplay, being able to double or quadruple the speed at which everything is happening is an absolute godsend, not just for returning veterans, but for anyone who is crossing the Ozmone Plains for 243rd damn time on the way to track down the next optional Hunt side-quest boss, or exploring the labyrinthine Barheim Passage, or perhaps most crucially, grinding away at trash monsters to level and accrue AP to improve your party.  The amount of time this saves is quantifiable, but the level of frustration it alleviates is not – even if a four-minute trip is only cut to two, it feels so much faster.  After playing the game with this feature, I quite honestly think that any game developer, particularly a RPG developer, that does not shamelessly rip off and incorporate this feature into all their future games is just flat not doing their job right.

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A few last things about The Zodiac Age – if you have a Vita and have ever lamented that the Remote Play feature between it and the PS4 was just kind of left on the vine to die, then first, good job owning a Vita, (#TeamHandheld); and second, this might be the title that renews your faith.  I have Spectrum broadband internet, allegedly at 70 Mbps, but in practice somewhat slower due to living in an apartment building with a LOT of conflicting signals in close proximity.  My PS4 is plugged directly into the modem/router in my living room, and in my second floor bedroom, Remote Play on my Vita is absolutely silky smooth.  The controls map perfectly, there is no discernible input lag – JRPGs and turn-based games will always be the best choices for Remote Play for those very reasons, but even in some of the more fast-paced and hectic boss battles, I experienced no issues that I would chalk up to being due to playing remotely on the Vita.  While an actual Vita release would have been GREATLY preferred, this is absolutely the next best thing!  Finally, this game has firmly convinced me that Ivalice is quite possibly my favorite setting in all of gaming.  Please go back to it, SE.  Preferably in a true Final Fantasy Tactics II.

Before I go, kiddos, I’ve been avoiding commenting on Charlottesville and the response to it by the walking clusterfuck of mental illness currently disgracing the Oval Office.  Not because I don’t have strong thoughts on it.  Not because it isn’t important.  But mostly because of this – I shouldn’t have to.  I shouldn’t fucking have to.  It is 2017 for fuck’s sake.  If I need to tell you that being a white supremacist Nazi is a BAD FUCKING THING, you serve literally no purpose on this planet, and I should save my breath, time, and sanity, and just lob a meteor at you.  – 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!

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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.

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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:

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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.

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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

Tales of Berseria Review, Valentine’s Musings

Greetings, mor-*HACK*-tals.  As you can probably tell, even old EWE is *ACHOO* subject to a sinus infection now and again.  It is decidedly unpleasant.  Perhaps this is why, after I submitted my initial thoughts on this insipid holiday devoted a human emotion that causes nothing but pain and misery, Edi-*COUGH*-tor convinced me to allow him to speak on the subject, and let me focus on the later game review.  (Editor’s Note: Your post was so heartrending and miserable it would have resulted in mass-extinction levels of suicides.)  And what’s your point, exactly?  Whatever…you people all seem to like Editor’s sad-sack, mushy take on life, so fine – enjoy the next bit because when we get to Tales of Berseria, you’re stuck with me again.

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Hello, friends!  Now, despite my chastisement of EWE for his…rather dark thoughts on Valentine’s Day, some of what he had to say has merit, I believe.  (EWE’s Note: SOME?!?!)  So, I don’t really want to talk to the traditional, happily-in-love Valentine’s Day couples out there – because quite frankly, if you need a day or an excuse to celebrate having that kind of love in your life, then you are missing the entire point of it.  Every day, every moment that you get to spend with that person is a reason to celebrate.  Every chance to show them you care, be it with flowers or candy or just a hug or a hand squeeze is something you should take at every opportunity, not just one day out of the year.  So while we wish you the best (EWE’s Note: Uh, who the fuck is “we?”)…while I wish you the best, I think there are some others that are more in need of attention right now.  This is for everyone who’s without a valentine, even if they know who it would be.

This day can feel harder than others, but the reality is that it isn’t – it just brings focus to something you think about in one way or another every day.  But just remember – it isn’t about you or your value.  The problem lies with the other person not recognizing it.  Don’t let that hurt you, today or any other day.  I know that it’s hard, and I know that it is going to hurt no matter what I say – I know because it hurts me too.  But you are stronger, and better, than that.  If the person you love is worth being patient for, then don’t let today be anything other than one more day.  And if they are not, then let today be the first day of moving on.

And if you are someone out there reading this who may be overlooking or dismissing or discarding someone as “not good enough” or “not worth their time” – ask yourself, really ask yourself, if that person you so easily dismiss weren’t a part of your life, would you truly be better off?  Would you be happy?  Or maybe, is it easy to say that because you’ve come to take that person for granted?  That’s a dangerous thing.  Because depending on what you may believe, we all only get one shot at this life.  One.  And we never really know when our story, or their story, could come to an end.  Yes, it’s nice to think about the perfect person just around the corner who is going to be everything we’ve ever dreamed of since we were children – except that we were children, and children have to grow up.  Nobody is perfect.  And while you are so busy looking past someone who loves you for the next best thing, you never know when you might turn around and that person you took for granted, that person who loved you and supported you and cherished you while you ignored them, will be gone.  We only get a finite amount of time with one another.  Spending it with someone that truly loves you, even if they aren’t perfect, or what you always dreamed of, is a worthwhile way to live in that time.

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Ugh…and with that mindless, sappy drivel now over with, it’s time for something that actually matters – my review of Tales of Berseria.  As I stated recently, there had been a horrible audio bug in the Steam version of the game that had made playing it enough to make me want to kill…even more than I normally want to.  Thankfully, that bug appears to have been fixed with the most recent patch, and so I can bring you my full thoughts on this recently released entry in the long-running Tales franchise.

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As I’ve said before, I am a latecomer to the Tales series, with my introduction being Tales of Vesperia on the Xbox 360.  But oh, what an introduction it was!  I’d of course heard of the Tales tried-and-true real-time battle system, and its heavily anime-inspired stories and settings, but what truly, truly hooked me about Vesperia was its CHARACTERS.  And above all the rest stood the main protagonist, Yuri, and his foil, Flynn.

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Yuri is the dark-haired one, believe it or not.

For the first time in what felt like forever, the world had a pure, noble, lawful-good knight as a hero to the people…and THAT WAS NOT YOU.  Nope, that was your old frienemy, Flynn.  Yuri, the main playable character, was everything I wanted out of an avatar in a game – a dark, driven anti-hero vigilante.  And when I say vigilante, I don’t mean in the Batman, I-am-good-just-scary sense.  If you were a bad guy and Yuri found out about it, he was PUTTING YOU IN THE FUCKING GROUND.  Not because he was forced to, or because you’d backed him into a corner and there was no other way.  Just because you fucking deserved it and he could.  Case in point (SPOILERS if you care about them in an Xbox 360 game at this point), at one point Yuri and the crew save a town and it’s people from the machinations of a corrupt government official.  The people laud them as heroes and the official is locked in prison to await trial for his crimes.  In the dead of night, Yuri breaks him out of prison and sneaks him to the edge of town.  The official gleefully believes that Yuri must have been hired as a mercenary by some of his wealthy contacts to help him escape judgment.  NOPE.  See, Yuri had figured all along that if the official were brought to trial, he’d just find a way to bribe or manipulate himself out of the consequences for his crimes.  So Yuri broke him out of jail and got him out of town JUST TO FUCKING MURDER HIM AND TOSS THE BODY OFF A BRIDGE.  That, ladies and gentlemen, is my kind of goddamn hero!  (Editor’s Note: Yuri does go through some character development, folks.)  Shut up – he was fine as he was!

Anyway, this little stroll down memory lane was just to set the stage for this revelation – the cast of Berseria is BETTER than the one I loved in Vesperia, up to and including Velvet Crowe replacing Yuri as my favorite Tales protagonist of all time.

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I would strongly suggest you listen to her.

Velvet started out pretty upbeat for a girl who had lost her parents, and then later her sister, to the recurring waves of demonic activity in her world.  Left with only her younger brother and her brother-in-law as the centers of her universe, Velvet is understandably upset when those last two remaining pillars of her world are ripped away from her right before her eyes – and when she tries to stop it, she has her left arm lopped off and is chucked into a pit with some kind of Eldritch Abomination.  Said horrific monster decides to chuck her back up to the surface with 1. a new, monstrous, demon-devouring arm, and 2. a burning desire for revenge to the exclusion of all other things.  Oh, and an outfit that isn’t too shabby either.

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Gee, which one am I SUPPOSED to be staring at again?

Now, this wouldn’t be an RPG or a Tales game if Velvet and her ever-growing motley crew didn’t wind up facing off against a threat much bigger than they initially realized, but it’s Velvet’s constant desire for vengeance that drives the plot forward.  Guy you want dead is now the head of a massive theocratic world government?  Don’t care.  Upsetting the balance of power could potentially endanger the world?  DON’T CARE.  Usually in this genre, even if a character has some type of ulterior motive or driving goal that they are initially following, it is quickly subsumed by the overriding goal of “saving the world” and largely forgotten.  Velvet doesn’t forget a goddamn thing, and neither does the player.  You will know every fucking second that Velvet wants to kill the man who took everything from her, and nobody had better get in her way.

It helps sell this point that Velvet’s English voice actor does a tremendous job of conveying this dark, driven, single-minded tone through her work.  Overall, the voice acting is above average for a Tales game, and for most JRPGs in general, but it isn’t on the level of a Metal Gear Solid or Last of Us.  Some voices, whether by design or not, are incredibly aggravating, and you will quickly come to dread whenever their character portrait appears on screen.  But by and large, the voice acting overall is acceptable.  The musical score is even better – one of the best I’ve heard in an RPG since Skyrim.  The diversity between exploration themes, battle tracks, and menu background music all play well off of one another and had me nodding my head along with the rhythm more than once.

Speaking of menus, one quick note here – the menu artwork in this game is absolutely breathtaking.  If the anime art style of the Tales series is your thing, then you’ll just stare at the menus in wonder.  I did not include any screens here because quite frankly once the entire party is gathered, to show a menu screen of them would be to spoil a rather important plot point.  But sufficed to say it is phenomenal.

On to the bread and butter of any Tales game – the combat.  Berseria once again utilizes the classic Tales real-time combat, triggered upon coming into contact with an enemy while exploring.  This transports the party to a separate battle arena, in which you can freely roam and move while attacking your enemies.  You only control one character directly, but can switch that character freely.  Once again, the mainstay of combat is Artes – a huge variety of physical and magical attacks that are learned throughout the course of the game and can be set in various combos to the four face buttons on the controller.  Use of Artes are governed by the Soul Gauge – when you run out of Souls, you must defend and wait for them to replenish to continue attacking.  Souls can also be stolen back and forth or spent on special attacks – giving combat a tense tug-of-war feel as you balance Soul spending and replenishment to drive your combos higher and unleash greater sustained damage.

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The interplay between combat and the story is what is going to drive me to replay this game at least once upon completion.  There is so much nuance and depth to the combat that it is possible to get lost in trying to master its intricacies, but at the same time the story is so good that you are driven to continue it.  Thus, the temptation to simply button mash your way through the game on the initial run is very strong, and on the normal difficulty levels this is very achievable.  Once the initial run through the story is complete, the game begs the player to return at a higher difficulty and become a true artists at its delicious combat system, and I for one will be heeding that siren call.

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If anything, some aspects of the game are a bit overly complicated and thrown at the player very quickly in the beginning.  After almost every battle for the first several hours, some new element will be addressed in a tutorial screen.  It happens with such frequency in that time that it quickly can overwhelm the player and you may very well forget about the last thing you were told as you are bombarded with the next and the next.  While it doesn’t necessarily detract from the overall experience, it just feels like they may have tried too hard to cram too many good ideas into one gameplay system.

Visuals are gorgeous, and the art style is the classic Tales anime-inspired fare.  It is not exaggeration at all to say that playing this game is like playing through your favorite anime series or film, except that in many cases the level of animation and detail surpass even that.  Magic and Artes effects in battle are stunning and did not contribute any slowdown whatsoever during my gameplay with them.

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That’s going to sting a little.

All in all, Tales of Berseria is just a fantastic anime-inspired RPG.  If you are a fan of the genre, or of the series, or just of good games in general, you should definitely give it a try on PS4 or PC.  The PC version seems to have addressed the nagging audio issue, and I experienced no other issues with it during my play sessions.  As a newer Tales fan, I can say this is my favorite game in the series, and I’ve heard many veterans of the Tales franchise saying that this was the shot in the arm that the series needed after languishing a bit in the last few entries.  A definite thumbs up here – the developer’s village gets spared for another day.

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That’s all for tonight, kiddos.  Tell someone special that you love them.  If they know what’s good for them, they’ll love you too! – EWE

Quick Game Hits & An Apology

Good evening, mortals.  First things first…sigh…I’ve given my word to Editor that I shall begin tonight with a sincere apology for missing another entry of #FrozenFoodFridays.  I believe that I have informed you of the past couple of weeks being difficult for me – and they have been particularly bad these last couple of days.  But that is no excuse, considering this blog has always been my outlet for when things are difficult for me, and #FrozenFoodFridays has been a mainstay segment of it.  (Editor’s Note: We haven’t been hurt this badly since our fiance walked away.)  Silence, fool!  I will NOT allow this to devolve into some kind of therapy session.  (Editor’s Note: Oh, if anyone needed therapy…)  Ha.  Ha.  Ha.

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Now then…with that out of the way, let’s see what EWE has been up to in his gaming time, shall we?  And with a backlog to rival that of the lovely and talented LightningEllen there is plenty for me to bounce around between.

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Let’s start with one of my most anticipated, and least (currently) played, games, the recently released Tales of Berseria.  Now, I’m going to be honest here – and I feel like I may have said this before, so bear with me if I have – but I am a relative newcomer to the Tales series, with Tales of Vesperia being my first experience with it.  Vesperia went on to become one of my absolute favorite RPGs of the Xbox 360 generation.  Since then I have played Tales of Xillia and Tales of Xillia 2, as well as Tales of Zestiria, and while I thoroughly enjoyed each of those games, Vesperia remained my favorite, primarily due to it’s incredibly well-written and diverse cast of characters.  So how has Berseria stacked up?

Unfortunately, much like the last time that I mentioned this RPG, I am not far enough into the game to be able to really say, due to the ongoing PC audio bug that creates a horrific screeching/droning noise during almost every single battle in the game.  There have been a couple of patches released, and I have not tried the game since the most recent patch dropped, so hopefully this issue has now been resolved.  But until it is, I just cannot bring myself to play much of this game.  Based on my limited experience so far, I can say that Berseria’s protagonist, Velvet, reminds me a bit of Yuri from Vesperia, in all the right ways.  The tone of this game is much darker than the Tales games after Vesperia, which I enjoy thus far – Velvet’s quest for revenge has just begun for me, but holy FUCK does she have a solid motivation for wanting it.  I mean, not that you really NEED a motivation for wanting revenge…(Editor’s Note: Don’t start.  You’re just hurting.)  Oh, shut up and let me be bitter, would you?

As a Tales game, one would expect combat to be the highlight of the experience, and sans the audio bug, one would be correct in that assessment.  The action-packed, combo-driven Tales combat is honestly at it’s peak among the games in the series that I have played, being fluid and forgiving enough to allow button-mashing to be effective, but with nuance and depth that mastering its intricacies is highly addicting.  I don’t want to get into much more detail on the rest of the game due to my limited time with it thus far, but if you are a fan of the combat in the later Tales games listed above, and if Vesperia was a great game to you, then you’ll want to try this out.

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Next up, I decided to spend some time with a game I picked up during a recent Steam sale for almost nothing.  Can’t beat an old Diablo-style lootfest, right?

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So, everyone loves Diablo clones, right?  I mean, sometimes you just want to kill everything in sight and collect oodles of treasure that explode from their corpses.  But most of those games share a similar, fantasy setting – so one of the most refreshing things about Titan Quest, both the original game and the recently updated Anniversary Edition, is it’s setting of Egyptian-dominated myths and legends.  The Anniversary Edition upgrades the graphics of this classic to make the game more palatable to modern gamers.  But even without the graphical upgrade, this game is just fun.

You really don’t need me to analyze much in the way of the gameplay systems in this loot fest – click on shit until it explodes into loot, do this until you level up, assign points to skills, traits, and abilities that help you kill shit more quickly and efficiently.  Rinse and repeat until you are a physical god laying waste to everything in your path.  The audio is well done, but nothing particularly memorable has jumped out at me in my play sessions thus far.  This may be in part because when I’m playing a game like this, I tend to put on other music or something so I don’t really notice the in-game audio.  I haven’t experienced any technical issues during my gameplay thus far, but I will note that the NPC text is somewhat small and difficult to follow in the tiny chat bubbles that appear over their heads.  But this is a small complaint, outweighed by many more fantastic Diablo-esque tones that scratch every itch that a compulsive loot-gathering dungeon crawl should.  Even at full price, it’s a great cost-benefit ratio, and if you find it on sale, snap it up.

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And finally, I’ve been feeling the urge to jump back into an MMO again lately.  Not because I have the time or money or patience to do so, but because I have no life whatsoever and probably stand no chance at love or friendship outside of either the Internet or the MMO gaming community.  So, I dusted off and updated my Elder Scrolls Online account – since there is no monthly fee, I could remind myself of why I don’t play many MMOs without killing my budget deader than it already is.

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Now, in order to make things a bit more interesting (Editor’s Note: or just because he’s not all that bright), I have taken a sleep aid just before I fire up the ESO client each time.  This resulted an an…odd looking Dunmer Nightblade named Evil Wizard Esq (at least I retained consciousness long enough to name him) who has engaged in a few beginner’s adventures that I have little to no memory of at all.  At one point, I woke in the middle of the night to find I had apparently murdered a villager while trying to talk to her and now the guards were…upset.  I frankly didn’t see the problem, but sadly they did not agree with my point of view.  In the days and weeks to come, I will try to keep you updated on Dunmer EWE’s adventures throughout Tamriel.

And that’s that for tonight, kiddos.  Thanks for sticking around, and again, I am sorry for the missing #FrozenFoodFridays entries.  Since I have not contributed to your culinary requests recently, I will instead leave you with some advice from Editor.

Do not take for granted the people in your life that love you.  Maybe you think they aren’t good enough for you, or aren’t what you pictured in your imagination, or that you can “do better.”  But in reality all you’re doing is demonstrating a complete lack of caring for someone that likely cares about you quite a lot.  And while I doubt that you are out there reading this (you know who you are), on the chance that you are, you may tell yourself whatever you like to help you sleep at night for treating someone who loves you like a piece of refuse.  You may say that I am not good enough to be worth keeping around, even when you just recently expressed how glad you were to have me in your life.  But no matter how hard you try, where you look, or what you tell yourself, you will never find anyone who as honestly and truly loves you as I.  For now, you will be glad to be rid of me, to be able to see me around but never have to speak with me outside of the briefest of moments.  But someday, sooner or later, you will miss being able to pick up the phone and know I’ll be there for you; you’ll miss the warmth of being next to me and communicating so many thoughts and feelings without exchanging any more than a glance or two; you’ll miss me doing silly little things for no reason other than to show you that I wake up every day and choose you as the person I want to be with.  I don’t know when that will be – but I’m not going to just let myself be continually hurt until it comes.

Until next time, minions…be kind to one another.  Life is too short to do otherwise. – EWE