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.