Weary, Wicked & Wittier Than The White House

 

So, as you may have noticed, this is the second year in a row that has been marked by an extended absence on my part at around the same time.  This is not a coincidence.  The reasons are something I’ve struggled with, but I feel like sharing them might be both good for me as well as make it somewhat easier for some out there that may be dealing with similar issues to know that they are not alone.

I have for some time been dealing with a particularly vicious two-headed demon; fibromyalgia and depression.  The roots go back a long ways and aren’t particularly the point here and now; but suffice to say, the two have an awful symbiotic relationship with one another.  The fibro causes significant physical pain, which makes the depression worse, which magnifies the pain, and so on and so forth.  This is exacerbated during the changeover of seasons – as weather patters begin to change, pressure systems begin to wildly fluctuate and both conditions are particularly sensitive to that.  If you have ever suffered from seasonal depression, or have had a knee or shoulder ache during a storm, imagine that but cranked up to 11 and then happening almost constantly.  Basically the only way for me to work and take care of my absolutely required social responsibilities was to lock my psyche into something resembling this:

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Believe it or not, I’ve wanted to write.  I’ve spoken with some of you, on Twitter or in person, and I’ve sat here some nights, staring at the blank page and cursor blinking at me, but just unable to sort through everything and assemble it into something resembling coherent thought.  But I’ve missed you (EWE’s Note: Don’t admit that to them, you sniveling fleshsack!) and believe it or not, so has EWE.  I promise.  Speaking of whom…

EWE and Editor Weary

But you know what I haven’t missed?  What I haven’t been ABLE to miss?  What I haven’t even been given a chance to miss?  DONALD MOTHERFUCKING TRUMP.  Specifically, I have not been afforded the opportunity to miss Donald Trump saying or doing something that is a complete and utter embarrassment to the country as a whole, both here in the U.S. and to whatever allies we have remaining in the world at this point.

Now, I don’t have the time or patience (nor likely do you) to expound upon every single horrific statement, quote, tweet, or other action taken by our narcissistic, dementia-addled lunatic-in-chief, but I think we can probably sum up the general vibe relatively quickly.  Let’s see…

“A Pluses,” huh?  Who the fuck was grading your sad-sack efforts on that curve – Betsy Devos?  No wonder your administration doesn’t like public education – they probably all grade too hard for you.  And since when did travel to Puerto Rico suddenly become the equivalent attempting to reach the North Pole?  It’s a fucking U.S. territory, and this is 2018.  We have the most powerful, modern Navy in the history of time, and we aren’t actively involved in any major armed conflicts.  Do not talk to me about the “war on terror” bullshit because that’s like saying we couldn’t send ships because they were busy patrolling the shorelines as part of the “war on drugs.”  The bottom line is that your administration was caught unprepared, responded completely inadequately, and as a result, the death toll was 3000.  Would some people have died anyway?  Yes – that’s the harsh reality of natural disasters.  But would 3000 people have had to die if food, water, electricity and infrastructure had been restored to island as quickly as possible thanks to efficient and effective U.S. response?  No, and Trump’s refusal to be able to admit even the slightest bit of error, and in fact to petulantly whine that HE’S NOT GETTING ENOUGH CREDIT FOR HOW WELL IT WENT in the face of 3000 dead souls is a stunning, mind numbing demonstration of just how self-centered and disconnected from reality he is.

Oh really?  Bob Woodward is a liar?  The Bob Woodward that was instrumental in exposing the Watergate scandal that brought down Nixon and fundamentally changed how the media and the general public viewed the presidency and government in general?  The Bob Woodward who has been one of most well-respected, thorough, and meticulous presidential researchers and analysts of our time?  The Bob Woodward who, despite respecting the time-honored tradition of maintaining his sources’ request for confidentiality with regard to their identity, has hours upon hours of documentation of his interviews with them in order to prepare his book?  That Bob Woodward is a “liar” because his book, rather than portraying you as the greatest president in American history, instead depicts you as being so fundamentally disturbed and mentally unfit to handle the rigors of the presidency that those closest to you have taken to manipulating you around your worst and stupidest impulses in an effort to just keep the country functional and out of any kind of doomsday scenario?

No

You see, Orange Hobgoblin, it really just comes down to a relatively simple calculus.  Bob Woodward, he’s got credibility.  A track record of proven integrity and reliability.  You, however, have…um, Melania?  Baron?  The human caricature drawing that is Rudi Giuliani?  So really, anyone with even a drop of common sense would realize that banking on your word is not a safe bet.  Ever.

These are just a couple of examples of the freakish, insane alternate universe that Donald Trump has chosen to inhabit. Where 3000 people dead goes from being a mistake that could have been avoided to an “unsung success” that just doesn’t get the credit it deserved.  Frankly, I could go on, but I’m beginning to tire for the night, and there will be plenty of nights to come – but for now kids, I have missed you all greatly, and it’s good to be back! – EWE

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Vacation’s Over, Humans!

That’s right, mortals!  Your vacation, my vacation, EVERYONE’S vacation is done!  For the first time in CENTURIES (Editor’s Note: well, years, but still…a long time) yes, A LONG TIME, I decided it was time to give myself a break.  An actual, honest-to-evilness break – from work, from writing, from everything but relaxing.  And you know what?  IT…WAS…GLORIOUS!!!

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I spent an entire week waking up when I wanted, hanging out with my sons, reading, gaming, finally playing laser tag for the first time in my life (it is just as fun as I always figured it was), and oh did I mention, NOT WORKING.  It was, quite frankly, the single best week for my mental health that I’ve had in recent memory.  So yes – I’ve been away.  You’ve all been free to rebuild your little villages and prosper and whatnot.  But guess what, kiddos?  DADDY’S HOME!

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We’ve got lots and lots to talk about and get caught up on!  The Game Night! streams will of course be coming back – Beefer, Dracollia and Special Buddy in particular are itching to grace your eyes and ears again (Monkey is a little more meh on the whole stream thing).  I’ve watched and read and played so, so many things to share with you all.  In particular – if you have Netflix, consider if any of the following apply to you: Did you grow up during the 80s?  Were you a Voltron fan?  An anime fan?  An action cartoon fan in general?  A mecha fan?  Just a fan of well done animated series?  If any of these apply to you, and you have Netflix, stop what you are doing, and binge every minute of Voltron: Legendary Defender.  If you don’t have Netflix…subscribe to Netflix, and then binge every minute of Voltron: Legendary Defender.

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This is a modern reboot/retelling of the Voltron saga, but for those of us that watched the classic show when we were young (Editor’s Note: well…younger, anyway)…ahem, fear not, because the producers at Dreamworks did as well, and while Legendary Defender serves as an homage to that tale, it is not slavishly beholden to it, and the modern characterizations of the familiar characters both ring true and yet are fresh and avoid being dull retreads of a bygone era.  After a couple of full season releases, the show opted for the growing “half-season” method of release, with each season consisting of a single-digit number of episodes that comprise approximately half of an entire season’s story arc.  Season Six just released on Netflix and having watched the entire series twice now, it stands as a fantastic example of a licensed Netflix Original Series done right.  Even the occasional filler episodes include a bit of plot advancement, as well as lighthearted character moments that don’t feel like a chore to slog through just to get to the next “important” episode.  While some of the plot twists may feel like they are telegraphed at first, in reality the writers, animators and voice actors do an absolutely amazing job breathing such life into the different characters that you truly will be second guessing yourself and your predictions over and over again as the series progresses – and that’s a sign of a job well done.  To say much more would risk giving away twists that you deserve to experience for yourself – now go form Voltron!

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There will be more from here, boys and girls – so many games, good (Dragon’s Crown Pro) and…less my cup of tea (Prey).  There will be books – including my finally, inevitably crumbling to the siren song of the audiobook in the car…which has seen me basically consuming a new non-fiction book every few days, not counting what I read with my eyes, and that’s all just my pleasure reading, not my work-related legal research and writing, to say nothing of black magic, blood magic and curses (Editor’s Note: Uh, just ignore those last few…).  There will be wrestling talk – for what it’s worth, currently NJPW is the best wrestling on the planet and the only thing WWE has coming close as a whole is NXT.  On the main roster, they’ve got Styles, Bryan, and Rollins – and you give Vince and his “creative” time and they will goddamn find a way to fuck those guys up too, no matter how much talent they have.  Don’t believe me?  Go talk to Shinsuke Nakamura…or Asuka…or Sami Zayn…or Finn Balor…or literally any tag team.

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And there will be legal and political talk of course!  Like for example, I hear some citrus-fruit-based life form and his helper monkey/former-NYC-mayor have somehow formed the theory that, in a society that is literally founded on, among other things, the concept of nobody, NOBODY being above the law, the living orange can pardon himself.  That he’s incapable of committing a crime, and that even if he did, he can somehow pardon himself from that crime.  Now, I will engage in a more in-depth look at this at a later date, but for brevity and blood-pressure’s sake, let me just sum up briefly this way: no, no he cannot pardon himself, and anyone that tells him that he can, or that goes on television and advocates that he can, should not only be bounced out of the practice of law immediately, but should – and I honest to cats can’t believe I’m saying this – be liable to the poor orange bastard for damages, because he’s not a lawyer, and if he relies on advice so incredibly, recklessly, shit-stormingly stupid as being possibly true, then they should go down for it every bit as hard as he does for not having the goddamn spine to tell him the fucking truth. – EWE

EWE’s Insomnia & Gaming Part 2: Ys Origins – Hugo Playthrough

Ah, some sleepless humans have come to join me!  Welcome, fellow sufferers of eternal exhaustion.  This is the little corner of the blog where your favorite sleepless wizard, old EWE himself, tries to find a way to pass the hours before the sun comes up and he’s forced to go pretend that writing to all of you isn’t his real passion and calling.  So, what should make the cut for our slice of nocturnal gaming nourishment tonight?  I believe we’ve settled on Ys Origins, available on Steam and PS4.

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No girl like that ever says it’s a pleasure to make my acquaintance…

Ys Origins, as the name implies, takes the long running series of adventures by hero Adol and sets them back far before the time of Adol, or any of the other running characters in the main series and instead tells a somewhat more self-contained story that limits the scope of the world to one immense and expansive tower and the power it contains within it.  Two Goddesses have been kidnapped and are on the  run from the evil forces of darkness, and it is the forces of he traditional defensive order that begin to dictate how your character will approach the story unfolding.  You see, you can initially choose between two characters, a fairly happy-go-lucky young girl who is a wonder with her twin axes, or a haughty and arrogant wizard who believes that all lives, even his own, are fuel to be added to the equation  that leads to victory.  Only by mastering both of these paths can you unlock a secret, third playable character,

The gameplay is fantastic Ys action arcade RPG mechanics.  Even lesser enemies need some level of respect  so that they don’t respawn and decimate your party when you least expected it.

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I’m doing my first playthrough as Hugo Fact the Mage, who is…kind of a pompous asshole during the entirety.  That said, unlikability of Hugo aside, I have very much enjoyed sinking my teeth into the meaty combat system in YS.  Hugo definitely controls like a squishy mage in this type of action rpg – keep him away from the action and shoot away, and if the enemies close in, move away!  It is satisfying, in its own way, just as I am confident the playthrough with the melee character will as well.  Then we get to see who the mystery third character is going to be and play as.

Thus far in my insomniac playthrough with Hugo, I have overall been pleased.  As we have discussed, Hugo is not a pleasant character to have as an avatar, but his combat style is diversified, challenging, and rewarding.  My hopes are that playing through with the other characters will prove just as amusing! – EWE

A Fall Caffeine Fix and Some Other Bits

Greets, humans!  It’s been a bit of a whirlwind this past week or so, so let’s get right to it, shall we?

First thing’s first, good ol’ (and by that I mean REALLY FUCKING OLD) EWE had himself a birthday last week.  Yeah, don’t worry – it kinda sucked.  It was a horrifically awful work day, and most of the small group of people I’d have most like to have celebrated with actually DIDN’T REMEMBER IT WAS MY BIRTHDAY.  On the plus side though, it did manage to reaffirm my long held, but sometimes shaken belief in the human species.  Even when I meet folks like Malevolent Moogle or all of you fine blogging folk out there, and begin to think that your species has some potential, water always finds its level, and the balance of humanity always manages to sink well below any bar that might be set for it, no matter how low.  But hey – I’m still alive, so there’s always time!

EWE and Editor Always Time

As a present for not being dead yet, the universe decided to present me with the question “how the hell aren’t you dead yet?”  You see, hypertension runs in my veins (HA! I slay me) having reared it’s ugly head in a number of my ancestors.  Diet, exercise, protection spells, ritual blood sacrifices – nothing seems to help.  So after a year on a blood pressure med, my cardiologist called me in for a checkup.  After first asking me such inane questions as “any stresses in your personal life?” and having me scowl silently at him for several moments before awkwardly moving on, he determined that my blood pressure…was still too high.  So he prescribed a second med to go with the first, and said to call in with my blood pressure numbers after one month.  And so I did – I reported that after one month of taking his second med as directed, my blood pressure had managed to actually go up further.  I’m awaiting word on what the hell I am supposed to do now.  And while I wait, I was sitting at work when I received the following phone call.

“Hello?”

“Hi, it’s Mom!  Are you busy?”

“No, it’s ok – is everything alright?”

“Now, I don’t want you to panic or anything – ” (Editor’s Note: This is never a good lead.) ” – but I was just at my doctor, and they are saying I recently had a heart attack.”

“What?!  When?!”

“They aren’t sure, probably within the last couple of weeks – but don’t worry!  I’m fine, I’m even driving to physical therapy!”

“…YOU HAD A HEART ATTACK, AND NOW YOU’RE DRIVING BY YOURSELF, AND THAT’S SUPPOSED TO MAKE ME FEEL BETTER?!?!”

First off, Evil Mom is fine.  She’s home, and she’s being closely watched.  But everything about that conversation is a sample of why when the cardiologist asks “any personal stress?” I just stare at him in abject fury.

But all is not doom and gloom!  Yes, it is my favorite season of the year – fall!  Autumn!  92 fucking degrees and humid!  Wait, that’s not right…anyway, in celebration of the season, let me share with you my favorite fall morning fix, and save you a trip to Starbucks every day.  Here is EWE’s Fall Coffee!

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So here is what you will need: a standard drip coffeemaker, a coffee bean grinder, your favorite cinnamon coffee beans, nutmeg, pumpkin spice, ginger, ground clove, vanilla extract, and Coffee-Mate Pumpkin Spice Creamer.  Grind the beans based upon how much coffee you want, place in the filter, then add just a dash of each of the spices above.  Be particularly careful with the ginger, clove, and vanilla – just a bit of each is powerful and can quickly overpower the other flavors.  Brew the coffee, pour, and add just a touch of the pumpkin spice creamer.  Voila – with minimal effort, you have the best fall coffee on the face of the earth.

Now go make some and enjoy what are looking like the last days of my body’s functional lifespan! – EWE

What EWE and Editor Have Learned From Blogging

Hello, mortals!  Well, are we in for a treat today.  You see, my fellow spell-slinger, The Well-Red Mage posted a query to our blogging community, wanting to know the answer to the following:

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Me?  You want to ask me, the living embodiment of snark and cynicism what I’ve learned since I started communicating with you feeble humans?  Oh, now you’re…in for…what’s that sound?  Music?

………

Hello, friends – Editor here.  I thought that the Well-Red Mage’s question deserved some thoughtfulness and introspection, and well…I think we all know that those aren’t the first things that EWE goes to when a query is posed to him.  So, I decided that I would be a better fit to respond for the both of us.  Don’t worry – he’ll be ok.  See, he doesn’t know it, but all I have to do is put on something relatively sad and/or sappy (in this case, “After All” by Cher and Peter Cetera) and he goes completely catatonic.  It’s like rolling a shark over onto it’s back – and since I’ve compiled an entire Spotify playlist of them, he’ll be locked up for hours.  Don’t tell him though – typically he has no memory of it once he snaps out of it, and his denial is rather amusing.

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So…what have we learned since our first blog post?  My goodness – it’s been a little less than a year, but it almost seems like forever.  As those of you who have been following this little literary lark for a while know, this blog began as a coping mechanism.  A short time before, our world had come crashing down at the hands of the person we trusted most.  The resulting depression was very, VERY deep – and but for the intervention of our eternal bestie, Malevolent Moogle, as well as some unexpected kindness from some fantastic folks at IGN, it might have been permanent.  But they brought us back from the edge of that abyss, and then the question became what to do in order to begin to heal the wounds and be able to connect with people again.  Having always enjoyed writing, the decision to try blogging seemed somewhat obvious.

As anyone that looks back at those first few entries can attest to, EWE was firmly in control of our little endeavor – I was only able to prevent him from making any truly horrific mistakes.  And that was a direct reflection of the place we were in – hurt, angry, and alone.  But then something completely unexpected happened, and it leads into what I’ve learned.  As trite as it may sound, I learned that I wasn’t alone.  I was welcomed into the blogging community by so many other amazing, talented writers.  I developed friendships with fantastic people from all over the world, whom I’ve never seen, but who have been there to listen to me and share in my journey back from the place I was in.  And slowly, but surely, they helped to draw the scattered pieces of me back together so that EWE and myself could start to reassemble them.

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This is actually an incredibly accurate depiction of EWE and Editor – which can’t possibly be healthy.

Along the way, as I found myself again, this blog found its voice as well.  In the beginning, I honestly didn’t know what this would be – other than a place for EWE to vent and melt down without resorting to screaming at stuffed animals like a COMPLETE lunatic.  But as my friendships with so many talented people in the games and entertainment community grew, I found a niche in offering my thoughts on all sorts of offerings in my hobbies of choice.  As someone who has often sought escape from my world into those of others, I’ve always loved books, movies, comics, manga, anime – anything that I could get lost in, with characters I could grow attached to.  And then there was my day job as an attorney – one of the few things that I can claim without feeling arrogant to be fairly good at.  There are my posts about cooking, which grew from something I only liked doing when I could do it for someone else into something I get to share with all of you.  And so, while it may seem like a fairly eclectic hodgepodge of subject matter, it is me.  In sharing all of these things with others, I found that I was opening up more to all of you than I had to almost anyone else, ever.  And while EWE would likely kill me for telling you all this – I’ve been grateful for the acceptance I’ve found in doing so.

Have there been setbacks?  Of course there have.  I’ve been called pathetic some whom I hold very dear; I’ve been mocked by some that don’t see why I even bother with this blog as an outlet.  But instead of letting those define me, I have instead focused on the support I have continued to have from my friends and loved ones, both in my daily life and in the wider Internet community.  It’s a process, and one that I keep working at each and every day.  So in a way, what I’ve learned since first starting my blog is something that I’m still continuing to learn each day.  As Tolkien put it:

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And so, I’ll keep following the road, wherever it leads.  And I’ll continue to be grateful for each of you that is beside me along the way.

Now, it would appear that EWE appears to coming out of his daze, which is my queue to quietly step aside.  Thanks to you all for indulging in a little introspection with me!  And remember – don’t tell EWE about our little trick.  First, it’s unlikely to keep working if he were to catch on.  And also, there’s a decent chance he’d be so humiliated that he’d burn the entire globe to a cinder. – Editor

EWE and Editor After After All

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

A Moment with Editor

Hello, friends.  You probably only know me from the occasional Editor’s Notes you see here and there when EWE is on a tirade.  (EWE’s Note: How DARE you reverse our roles like this?!  You release me from these parentheses RIGHT NOW!)  Just be patient for a little bit.  I’ve kept us out of jail this long, so don’t you owe me that?  (EWE’s Note:…point taken.  Carry on.)

You see, I thought that the tone of this entry, being rather different from the norm, would perhaps be more impactful coming from a different voice.  While anything that is posted on Evil Wizard, Esq. is always open for you to share with your friends (EWE’s Note: Or enemies!) we rarely request that you spread the word.  But for this, I would ask only that if you feel this message is one that resonates with you, or that would resonate with someone you know, you spread this message.  I truly feel it is something that many people encounter in their lives, from one side or the other, and would benefit from seeing from this perspective, even if only a little.  If you find you agree, I would only humbly ask that you share the following with someone that could use it.

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Now you may wonder where I found such a long-winded meme online.  The answer is…I didn’t.  The picture is just a random photo, true enough – but the words are my own.  They are drawn from my own experiences.  And while sometimes writing acts as a catharsis, a way to take what is trapped inside and remove it and place it elsewhere, when I read over these particular words again, they still resonate with so many feelings.  And so I wonder if perhaps they may help someone else, on either side of such a bond, recognize what it is that they have.

I know this is quite different from the normal…colorful streams of consciousness that you’ve come to expect from EWE here (EWE’s Note: Fuck yeah!) and I can promise that next time we will be returning to your regularly scheduled insanity.  But while it is often very, very hard for me to share a part of me with others without the shield of cynicism that EWE provides, I thought this may be something worthy of exception.

Best Wishes, – Editor