March 2022 Monthly Wrap Up

This month I only read three books but I also binged watched the last season of Doctor Who and finished Kingdom Hearts 2.

Books:

The first book I finished was Fullmetal Alchemist Fullmetal Edition volume Six by Hiromu Arakawa. I’m rereading the series as I buy and collect these editions. This volume starts setting up plot elements that will become majorly important later. I love Ling and how the character is introduced but this is a sad volume overall because of everything with Hughes.

Next I read Queen’s Shadow by E.K. Johnston. This is a young adult Star Wars novel that follows Padme as she first become a Senator. I loved getting to see more of Padme and learning how exactly the decoy system worked. I do wish we had gotten a little bit more of Sabe as I was interested in the work the character was doing. Overall, I glad that through Star Wars novels that some of the women of the series are being more fleshed out and given more attention.

The last book I read this month was Why the Titanic was Doomed by Bryan Jackson which is a nonfiction book about the Titanic. I received an early review copy through Netgalley. This book details all the circumstances that came together and caused the sinking of the Titanic. Most of this information was stuff I already knew as an avid reader of nonfiction Titanic works. However, I was a little surprised that there was no mention of the coal bunker fire that many believe contributed to the sinking. Overall, this is a good book for those interested in the Titanic.

TV:

The only thing I really watched this month beside YouTube videos was the last season of Doctor Who. Doctor Who Flux was the most recent series of Doctor Who. I generally wait to watch Doctor Who when the season has finished airing as I haven’t been a big fan of the stories being told the last several years and if I want to finish it I have to binge watch it. I wanted to like this season and I did like some of the ideas but overall it felt rushed and liked there were too many story lines. I also watched the New Years special which I liked the take on a time loop but one that get shorter each loop.

Video Games:

I also finally finished playing Kingdom Hearts 2 and was able to continue the story of Sora and his friends. I love how the game play took what worked from the first game and add to it. I have a full review that goes more in-depth but know that I love the series and I’m working trough the next entries.

Video Game Review: Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep and Re:coded

Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep is a prequal game set about ten years before the events of Kingdom Hearts. However, to understand the story the game expects you to know and understand the events of Kingdom Hearts, Chain of Memories, and Kingdom Hearts 2. Originally on the PSP I played the Final Mix version of the PlayStation 4.

The story follows three key blade wielders Terra, Ventus aka Ven, and Aqua as they are working to become Key blade masters. After Terra and Aqua’s Mark of Mastery test new enemies called the Unversed are seen throughout the world and Master Xehanort is missing. Terra and Aqua are charged with traveling the different worlds to stop the Unversed and find Xehanort at the same time Ven is told that something horrible is going to happen to Terra and goes after his friends. I don’t want to go into more of the story if you haven’t played but its an emotional journey that has call back to events in the other games.

Instead of playing just once you play though each characters storyline. Technically you can play in any order that you want but the expected order is Terra, Ven, Aqua. The game play is different from the previous games. This time there is no MP just a command deck that charges magic and specific attacks overtime. Each character has a different play style to get used to and different strengths. The only thing I personally didn’t like was command melding as I feel like it is a little complex and confusing.

While I loved the characters and story the game does feel a little bare bones probably because it was originally created for the PSP. Each Disney world is only a couple of rooms and there are very few NPCs to interact with. However, I can’t wait to see these characters and continue their story in the next games.

Kingdom Hearts Re:coded is a Nintendo DS game following Mickey, Donald, Goofy, and Jiminy Cricket after the events of Kingdom Hearts 2. They are trying to figure out the mystery of Jiminy’s journal and why it says to Thank Namine and the message “Their hurting will be mended when you return to end it.” To do this they digitize the journal and awaken a Data version of Sora to go though the journal and figure everything out.

As I’m playing Kingdom Hearts from the 1.5 and 2.5 collection on PlayStation 4 Re:coded is not actually playable. Instead its a movie version of the cut scenes with text to add any needed information. So I can’t say anything about how this would play as a game but I loved where the story is going. I loved the ending as we are finally given information of who are all the characters hurting and connected to Sora’s heart and hint to where the story is going to go next. I also love the fact that we get to know what was in the note to Sora from the end of Kingdom Hearts 2.

With the 20th anniversary and the announcement of Kingdom Hearts 4 I plan of finishing the rest of the games in the series as soon as I can.

Video Game Review: Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days and Kingdom Hearts 2

As I have been playing all of the Kingdom Hearts games on the 1.5 and 2.5 collection on the PS4 not all of the games are playable but are movie versions of the cut scenes and story information. This is how Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days is in the collection. Now, Days originally released after Kingdom Hearts 2 but the collection put Days first as the story timeline has Day occurring before the main events of Kingdom Hearts 2.

KingdomdaysNA

So if you look anywhere on the best order to play Kingdom Hearts in some will say to play Days before 2 or after 2. I feel like most of the time its better to play in the order that the games where released in but Days doesn’t matter as much. The game focuses on Roxas and his relationship to Organization XII which does give clarity on the events of the three hour long prolong to Kingdom Hearts 2 but not much other important story information that is directly needed to play Kingdom Hearts 2. In terms on how your play through will change depending on what order you play in the major is how confusing the opening prolong to Kingdom Hearts 2 is and how much of the mystery of Roxas do you want. Days chronologically is set after the first game but before 2 and is set both during and after the events of Chain of Memories. For me I knew information about the later games anyways so I don’t think it matters much which one I played first but I do feel like the relationship between Alex and Roxas is better understood and you get more out the open of Kingdom Hearts 2 with the information in Days first. However, you do loose some of the mystery element that starts the game and is throughout with the Organization.

Before I get into Kingdom Hearts 2 I will make a note that I generally play on Beginner mode as I don’t feel that I’m all that good at these games but I love the story. Any information I miss playing this way, such as the secret endings I look up after I’ve finished playing the game. Most people will say this is not the best way to play these games but I just want to enjoy the story and get through the games in a timely manner.

MV5BN2Y2NGFjZmEtMzc4Mi00MTJhLTk3NjctZGUyMzhiZmE1ODYzXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNzU3Nzk4MDQ@._V1_

Kingdom Hearts 2 starts off with a prolog that is about three hours long focusing on Roxas who has a connection to Sora but its not explained until much later in the story. When we start playing as Sora he has been a sleep for a year and now must travel the worlds again to find Riku and King Mickey as well as stop the evil plan of Organization XII. I love these games but its in Kingdom Hearts 2 that you can tell the plot does start to get a little confusing if you aren’t paying attention as there are hints of where major plot points and events are headed.

In comparison to Kingdom Hearts, I find Kingdom Hearts 2 a much more enjoyable experience to play. Though you can tell the game was created for the PlayStation 2 the movement of the characters and the gameplay overall is much better. The Drive Forms are a great new way to add to the gameplay even though I don’t like things like double jump being connected to the Drive Forms. Overall, Kingdom Hearts 2 is one of the best games in the series both story and gameplay wise from what I’ve played so far.

I’m currently making my way through the rest of the series and since 2022 is the 20th anniversary I hope to have finished most of what we have currently before the end of the year.

Video Game Review: Persona 5 Dancing in Starlight

Persona 5: Dancing in Starlight is a rhythm game where you control the Persona 5 characters in dancing challenges and includes a very basic plot. The plot essentially is that the twins, Caroline and Justine, learn about the events of Persona 4: Dancing All Night in which Yu Narukami used dance to defeat the villain of that game. The twins are jealous and challenge their sister to dace off to see who has the better guest. The characters are summoned to the Velvet room for the dance off and will not remember the anything after they leave.

While Dancing in Starlight really doesn’t have a plot you do learn insightful things about each character and its a fairly fun game overall if you are already a fan of Persona 5. I have played both the Persona 4 and the Persona 5 dancing games between the two I preferred the Persona 4 game. Persona 4: Dancing All Night is much more of a plot driven game and as that is what I like in video games I enjoyed it more. However, if your a fan of Persona 5 I think you will enjoy Dancing in Starlight.

Video Game Review: Persona 5 Strikers

Persona 5 Strikers is an action RPG that takes the hack and slash style of the Dynasty Warriors franchise and combines it with Persona’s JRPG style. The story once again follows Joker and the rest of the cast four months after the end of Persona 5. They are getting together for a camping trip during summer break and while prepping for the trip use the new app EMMA to find everything they need. During this prep time Joker meets Alice Hiiragri, an up and coming idol, who gives him a code word to use in EMMA for an event she is hosting. However, this code word ends up transporting Joker, Morgan, and Ryuji into a Jail that is in the Metaverse where Alice’s Shadow is stealing peoples desires. The Phantom Thieves are needed once again to stop people’s desires from being stolen and finding out who is creating the Jails. The story also introduces two new characters a sentient AI called Sophia and the police officer Zenkichi who will help in the search to find out why the Metaverse is back.

Persona 5 Strikers is technically a direct sequel to the story of the original Persona 5. However, it can be seen as a sequel to Persona 5 Royal but there is no mention of any of the characters specific to Royal or the event of the third semester but one can understand the story of Strikers regardless if you played the original Persona 5 or Royal. Personally, I love the world of Persona 5 and just like the fact that there is another full game with its own story set in this world.

The game play overall is definitely more of an action hack and slash game with hordes of enemies. They did include some of Persona 5’s game play with some stealth, the switching between personas, and surprise attacks but between the two I prefer Persona 5’s game play. The only criticism I have is that later on in the game you are given challenges in the Jail which some require you to be very stealthy. I feel like its a little too easy to be noticed by enemies which can force you to start some challenges over. However, I feel like if you are a fan of Persona 5, Strikers is a game that you should play.

Video Game Review: Final Fantasy VII

Final Fantasy VII is a 1997 Japanese role playing video game where you play as Cloud Strife, a mercenary who has joined an eco-terrorist group to stop the evil Shinra corporation. As the story progresses Cloud is joined my a group that is on a mission to stop the Solider Sephiroth from destroying the world. There is much more to the story but given this games popularity and the remake I feel like most readers of this review will have some base knowledge of the game.

Before I talk about my experience with the game, I don’t consider myself very good a most video games and I play more for stories and characters than gameplay mechanics. I have played parts of Final Fantasy VII before but I never made it past the half way point before. While I love the story and characters, the game play and graphic have aged to the point that I can see some not enjoying the game.

The version I played was the Playsation 4 version which did have some cheats added in such as speeding up time in the battles, turning off random encounters, and a setting which heals the characters and gives infinite limit breaks. However, I didn’t use the cheats though most of my playthrough but I did play around with them at times and if I got stuck I did use them so I would actually finish the game. Final Fantasy VII has a lot of content and side mission which I didn’t do all of. I mostly skipped the Fort Condor battles as they just annoyed me and the one section I absolutely hated was the mini game with the submarine while trying to obtain the Huge Materia. For me I had know idea what I was doing or the best way to control anything.

Overall, while I enjoyed my playthrough so I could finally see how the story ended I don’t think I will go back to the original now that the remake is coming out. I can’t wait to see what they do with the different characters stories and different game mechanics in the remake. The original Final Fantasy VII will always have a place in my heart since it was one of the first stories that really sucked me into video game even though I didn’t finish the game until years later.

July 2021 Wrap Up

In July I read four books but I also watched a couple movies and finished Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order. So overall, this was a good month for me.

Books:

Fan Fiction: A Mem-Noir: Inspired by True Events by Brent Spiner is a novel that fictionalizes Brent Spiner’s life with an added murder mystery/stalker plot during the time that he played Data on Star Trek: The Next Generation. The plot follows the mystery around someone who is obsessed with Data and is sending Brent threating letters which cause many hijinks to ensue. As someone who has been in different fandoms and has a history of reading fanfiction I thought that I would really like this. However, I didn’t connect to any of the humor as it was fairly crude and I’ve never been a fan of Real Person Fanfiction which this very much reminded me of. You can tell the Brent Spiner does love the Star Trek fandom and I feel like this book in no way makes fun of that but I don’t think he understands completely. For major Star Trek fans some might like this more than I did but I can also see some people hating it.

The Real Valkyrie: The Hidden History of Viking Warrior Women by Nancy Marie Brown is a nonfiction historical book that focuses on the fact that new DNA evidence shows that the high status Viking warrior grave in Birka in fact belonged to a woman and many women during the Viking age where warriors. Brown weaves together archaeology, history, and literature to tell the possible story of this woman’s life and the other women who lived during this time. Viking history has never been a topic that I’ve read much about and most of the knowledge is more from popular culture. However, I loved how Brown wrote about these warrior women and what we can learn from both the archaeological/historical evidence as well as information pass down through literature and oral traditions.

Pomes for the End of the World by Katie Wismer is Wismer’s second poetry collection which has many of the same themes as The Sweetest Kind of Poison but also breaks away from relationships into becoming the person that you want to be. I’m not a huge poetry fan but I follow Katie Wismer on other platforms and want read both of her poetry collections. Overall, I like her approach and the topics that she focuses on.

The Night Country by Melissa Albert is the second book in the Hazel Wood series. This is a direct sequel that starts several months after the end of The Hazel Wood. Alice is back in the normal world and others from the Hinterland are here too. When something or someone starts killing people from the Hinterland, Alice must find a way to stop it and reconnect with Ellery who stayed in the Hinterland. Together they learn that often time worlds don’t end with a whimper. I almost considered not finishing this book for about the first half or so. I found the story very boring and I disliked most of the character this time. I liked the ending but overall did not enjoy reading this book.

Movies/TV Shows:

I’ve started watching more shows and movies lately but haven’t finished much yet. The first movie that I’ve watched in a long time was Deep Blue Sea 3. This is the second direct to video sequel for this series. It’s a shark killing/eating people movie that would fit very well on the SyFy channel. In Deep Blue Sea 2, a pharmaceutical billionaire is genetically enhancing Bull sharks and making them smarter. Bella the main shark is found to be pregnant and has serval babies. At the end of Deep Blue Sea 2, most of them are killed but Bella and a few other escape. In Deep Blue Sea 3, we follow a group of scientist that are studying the effects on climate change on Great White Sharks when another group appears trying to find the remaining sharks that escaped in the last movie. From their is mostly bad guys trying to kill everyone and all the sharks and the sharks eat most of the characters. These are not very good movies however I like to watch these types of movies when I want something mindless where I don’t have to focus on a plot.

Resident Evil: Infinite Darkness is one of the animated Resident Evil movies that are connected to the events of the video game series. Though this was released on Netflix as a four part series it seem to me that it was originally intended as a movie. We follow Leon Kennedy and Claire Redfield after a zombie attack on the White House while the investigate who is behind the attack. I don’t want to go much more into the story as the show is fairly short. While not the best Resident Evil story, if your a fan its something that you should at least check out.

Video Games:

The only game I finished this month was Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order which I also have a full review already posted. Set five years after Revenge of the Sith and the rise of the empire the story follows Cal Kestis a Jedi Padawan who has been hiding from the empire. At the beginning of the game he is found and must travel through the galaxy while being hunted by the Inquisitors while also trying to complete his training and possibly rebuild the Jedi Order. Overall, I had fun playing this game but there are still a lot glitches in the PlayStation 4 version of the game.

Video Game Review: Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order

Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is an action adventure game from Respawn Entertainment and EA. Set five years after Revenge of the Sith and the rise of the empire the story follows Cal Kestis a Jedi Padawan who has been hiding from the empire. At the beginning of the game he is found and must travel through the galaxy while being hunted by the Inquisitors while also trying to complete his training and possibly rebuild the Jedi Order.

As someone who is a fan of Star Wars when I saw the trailer I new that I had to play it at some point. I loved the world and the characters but I did sometimes get frustrated with the game play. The game is very exploration heavy and has no fast travel system. While I liked the initial exploration all the back tracking and multiple visits to the same location did become a little tedious. However, though all the exploration and fighting I felt like I gained a better understanding for combat. The combat style has been compared to Dark Soul, a series that I have no interest in, but with the focus on timing attacks and parrying I can understand the comparison.

I will admit that I played on easy because I could tell early on that I would not be very good at this game and most of my frustration I think came down to taking a while to get used to combat and the timing of the platforming sections.

The one thing that I do feel need major fixing is all of the bugs and glitches that are still in the game. I played on the PlayStation 4 so I don’t know if things are better or worse on other system. The game came out in late 2019 and I played it in June/July 2021 and had far too many issues. Their where a bunch of small things like textures loading in wrong however the worst was the fact that the game crashed twice during my play through. If bug and glitches really bug you, you might want to just watch a play through to get the story.

Overall, I love the characters and story but I feel like the game could have been polished a bit more.

June 2021 Wrap Up

In June I read seven books including two nonfiction and two manga. I also finished Persona 5 The Royal and the video game Journey.

Books:

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo is the first book in duology set in the Grisha world that takes place after the events of the Shadow and Bone Trilogy but focuses on new characters and locations is this world. We follow Kaz Brekker a criminal in the trade hub of Ketterdam and his crew as they attempt a dangerous heist that could make them rich but also they may be the only ones who can stop the destruction of the world as they know it. In general while I love the Grisha world I heated where the Shadow and Bone Trilogy and with this series being so hyped I tried not to have too high of expectations. I loved all the characters but felt at times there was too much information about everyone’s backstories. Not my favorite but I do plan to continue with the series.

The Anthropocene Review by John Green is a nonfiction selection of essays that Green wrote reviewing different things and topics in the world. This includes both personal accounts and background on the history of the topic. I book that I find hard to review but one that I absolutely loved. For me I feel like I read this book at the right time and otherwise I might not have loved it as much.

Maiden Voyages by Sian Evans is a nonfiction book about the women who worked on the Ocean Liners traveling between Europe and North America. While this book is incredibly detailed I was expecting more about the individual women and their personal lives and less about the Ocean Liners and the general history of the time. I’m also surprised that a fellow historian who perpetuate misconceptions of the Titanic Sinking. Specifically, the reported 300 foot gash at caused the ship to sink. Though this was reported in newspaper after the sinking and believed by many, multiple Titanic historians and researchers, including Tim Maltin, have determined that the damage was intermittent. However, even with these criticisms I do see this book as a good starting point for someone who is interested in Ocean Liners and the women who worked on them.

Sailor Moon Eternal volumes 3 and 4 are the continuation of the Sailor Moon manga series. We start where volume 2 leaves off with a mysterious girl threating Uasgi which starts the Black Moon Arc where the Black Moon Clan from the feature is threating the world. Volume 4 finishes off this Arc which is not my favorite because of Chibi-Usa becoming Black Lady as I find this part of the story creepy and off-putting. Also I personal prefer the 90s anime translation where she becomes Wicked Lady as I feel it fits the story better. Overall this is still one of my favorite manga series which I plan to finish collecting in these editions.

The Ivies is a young adult thriller that follows a group of high schoolers at a prestigious boarding school that will do anything to get into the Ivy League Universities. When Olivia and Emma secretly get into Harvard while Aery who expects to but doesn’t is furious. The next day when Emma is found dead Olivia decides to investigate to find out who killed Emma. I love the premise of this book and the attention given to toxic friend groups. However, I didn’t connect with the characters of the story. I feel as a recent college graduate that I’m a little removed from the drama of high school but this would be perfect for students currently in high school or those that love the high school setting.

Skin Deep by Renee Miller is a short horror novella that follows Victoria MacDonald who wants to find a way to die beautifully and ends up becoming a murder. This wasn’t what I was expecting. Since the book starts out with Victoria’s mother selling her daughters soul to say beautiful and the obsession’s with dying beautifully I thought that it would become a story where Victoria has to kill to stay beautiful. The switch from her trying to die to get sexual gratification from murder is very fast and not something that the story gives enough time to the reader to understand. Also there is no reason to have the selling ones soul as an aspect of this story. Given the subject matter the book uses in the plot I’m surprised that there were no trigger warnings listed at the beginning.

Video Games:

This month I finished two video games, Persona 5 The Royal and Journey.

Persona 5 The Royal is a retooled version of the original Persona 5 with new story elements. The main plot is that you are a normal high school student that is now on probation after attempting to stop a sexual assault and the man got injured. You and your group of friend get pulled into the Metaverse where you awaken a Persona and fight against the corrupted cognitions of others. I love this game and also have a full review posted.

Journey on the other hand is a much different game. You play as a robed figure traveling through a desert trying to reach the mountains in the distance. This is a very visual and emotional game that doesn’t use any dialogue. A game to pick up on a lazy afternoon when one wants a game that is very different from others.

Video Game Review: Persona 5 The Royal

Persona 5: The Royal is an enhanced and slightly retooled version of Persona 5. Where you play as the protagonist who has been sent to Tokyo after being put on probation for assault and is attending a new school Shujin Academy. During his time there he gains the powers of Persona and uses them to traverse the Metaverse with other Persona users to destroy and change the distorted desires of different people and society. In the end you fight the main bad guy an evil politician, Masayoshi Shido, and the god of control. You basically defeat the god of control with the power of friendship.

I loved the original Persona 5 and I also love Persona 5 The Royal however one is not better than the other. Its just a different take and characters but ultimately the same basic story. If you liked the original, you will like Person 5 The Royal. However, with the amount of changes, new characters, and the third semester add on it couldn’t just be a DLC as it changes too many things in the base game. I will give a brief rundown of some of the changes but to really talk about Persona 5 The Royal I will have to get into spoilers and must assume that you know the main story of the original game.

So changes that have been made are: two new confidants, a new character in Mementos, and expanding Akechi’s confidant, a third semester with a completely new story, new locations and activities to do with friends, and multiple changes to palaces, battles, and Mementos.

In general, the main story is same as it was in the original with tweaks made to make Mementos and palaces more interesting. Such as new boss battle stages and Jose in Mementos who can change the cognition of Mementos so you can gain money, EXP, and items faster. The main story changes come with the new confidants: Kasumi Yoshizawa, a young gymnast who transfers to Shujin at the same time as the protagonist and Takuto Maruki, a school counselor who comes in after the actions of Kamoshida are brought to light. Also Akechi’s confidant mostly no longer advances as part of the game you must hang out with him to advance his story which gives us more insight into who he really is. To get to the third semester you must max their confidants before fighting Shido otherwise you just get the original ending.

On to the new story, as you befriend Kasumi you find out that she and her now deceased twin sister always planed to become world famous gymnast together and she has some guilt that her sister isn’t with her. She also awakens a Persona but doesn’t become a Phantom Thief and her confidant gives you better ambush abilities in the Metaverse. Maruki as the school counselor listens to all the problems of the main characters and has an interest in cognitive Psience, with his confidant increasing SP and allowing it to recover when low.

After you defeat the god of control, Sae will ask you to turn yourself in to help prosecute Shido however now Akechi shows up will to confess everything as he survived Shido’s palace. On January 1, when you are planning on a shrine visit with Kasumi when things start to change. These changes include Morgana being human, Futaba’s mother, Haru’s father, and Makoto’s father not being dead, and all the horrible things that have happen to the character never happening. Only the protagonist and Akechi know that this is not how the world is suppose to be. You find out that Maruki has a Persona and a palace. He is using his power and the information given to him during counseling sessions to stop all the bad things in the world from happen and make the world a “better” place.

While traversing Maruki’s palace you find out that the Kasumi that you knew is really Sumire Yoshizawa who blamed herself for her sisters death and decided that it would be better if she became Kasumi as Kasumi was better at everything and the one Sumire perceived everyone wanted. She doesn’t want the world to go back to how it was as she doesn’t want to be Sumire anymore. Its hard to say that this world is a bad ending since the events that made life horrible never happen however my issue with Maruki’s concept is why does Sumire’s wish to be Kasumi supersede what is most likely her parents wish to have both of their daughters back. In a world where nothing bad ever happens and no one struggles what is there to strive for.

If you plan to reject Maruki’s world you end up finding out that Akechi really is dead and defeating Maruki will return the world to what was meant to happen. So the protagonist will end up in juvenile dentation and Akechi is gone. However, the changes Maruki made caused our cast of characters to realize that they still can persuse their own dreams and its implied that Akechi didn’t die.

Ultimately, I love both the original Persona 5 and Persona 5 The Royal and I don’t feel like the existence of Royal makes the original a lesser game. The changes to the game added about an additional 30 hours of game play on Easy and I expect a little longer on a harder setting. I only thing I do like a little better with Royal is the determination of all the characters at the end to peruse their own paths and dreams while staying friends.