May 2022 Monthly Wrap Up

So this month I’ve been in a bit of a reading slump and have only read one book. I have instead been playing more video games as I’m currently making my way though the Kingdom Hearts series and hope to play Kingdom Hearts 3 later this year. I also enjoyed the YouTube series In Space with Markiplier Part 2.

Books:

The only book I’ve finished this month was The Galaxy and the Ground Within by Becky Chambers. This is the last book in the Wayfarers series but each book stands alone. This book follows a group of different aliens at a galactic rest stop waiting to get on their way. When an accident delays them they start to learn from each other they realize that though each my have either own problems what they need to come to terms with everything may come from each other. This is my second favorite of the series and I love how hopeful Becky Chambers’ writing is.

Video Games:

This month I was finishing off the games in the Kingdom Hearts series to be ready to play Kingdom Hearts 3. I do have full reviews posted of all of the games so far.

Kingdom Hearts Dream Drop Distance is the last full game in the story before Kingdom Hearts 3. It follows Sora and Riku during their Mark of Mastery exam to find out if they are true Keyblade Masters. They travel to the different sleeping worlds to learn the Power of Waking and set everything back to where it needs to be. This game also finally gives us what Xehanort’s true plan is and what Sora and everyone will deal with in the future.

Kingdom Hearts Back Cover is a movie that supposed to give the viewer all the important plot information from the Kingdom Hearts mobile game Kingdom Hearts Union. While it does provide some important information I feel that to truly understand what is going on you should watch all the cut scenes from Union, play the mobile game, or watch a full play through.

Kingdom Hearts 0.2 Birth by Sleep-A Fragmentary Passage is the last game left before Kingdom Hearts 3 and is essentially a prologue to that game. The story follows Aqua after ending up in the Realm of Darkness and what she has been doing. I love Aqua as a character and I love how it turns out that she helped Riku and Mickey close the Door to Darkness at the end of the first game. At this point I can’t wait to play Kingdom Hearts 3 and see how all the characters stories will end.

Video Game Review: Kingdom Hearts Back Cover and Birth by Sleep-A Fragmentary Passage

These are the last two items in the Kingdom Hearts 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue that I needed to finish to be ready to play Kingdom Hearts 3.

Kingdom Hearts Back Cover is a movie version of the important information that was included in the Kingdom Hearts mobile game which has gone through several name change but I will use Kingdom Hearts Union. The movie focuses on events during the time of fairy tale before the first Keyblade War. The Master of Masters has disappeared but has tasked his five apprentices to create Unions of Keyblade wielders to ready them for the prophesied Keyblade War and to protect the worlds light.

I know the idea behind this movie is to provide those who didn’t play Union with the information from the game that will be important in feature Kingdom Hearts game but honestly only thing I got out of it is that I don’t like or trust the Master of Masters. I personally think he’s playing everyone for a plan he is not explaining yet. After watching this movie I still feel like I need to watch a full cut scene complication or play through of Union and will also need to read the Wikipedia pages to really understand this part of Kingdom Hearts.

Kingdom Hearts 0.2: Birth by Sleep-A Fragmentary Passage is the story of what happened to Aqua after she became stuck in the realm of darkness at the end of Birth by Sleep. Its been about ten years that she as been stuck in the realm of darkness and its starting to get to her. It is also revealed that she helped Mickey and Riku close that door to darkness that they closed at the end of the original Kingdom Hearts game. You only play as Aqua in this game but it does give you a chance to see how Kingdom Hearts 3 will look and feel like. Aqua is one of my favorite characters in the series and I can’t wait to see how her story ends. I just want her to find her friends again and know that they will be okay.

Video Game Review: Kingdom Hearts Dream Drop Distance

Kingdom Hearts Dream Drop Distance was originally a game for the Nintendo 3DS but has since been ported to the PlayStation 4 as part of the 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue collection and that is how I played it. This the last full game before Kingdom Hearts 3 and mainly sets up any last plot points that we need to know to get to the story of Kingdom Hearts 3.

The story follows Sora and Riku during their Mark of Mastery exam to determine if they are true Keyblade Masters. Master Yen Sid tasks them with traveling to the different sleeping world and wake them while learning the Power of Waking that will be needed to save all those connected to Sora in preparation for the final battle against Xehanort. This game also finally explains what Xehanorts ultimate plan is with some explanation as to why but I believe more will be explained in Kingdom Hearts 3.

Gameplay wise its the same action JRPG that we’ve grown to love the series for with added elements of the command deck that was introduced in Birth by Sleep. As the characters travel through the sleeping worlds instead of Donald and Goofy being party members you are joined by Dream Eaters, spirits that will help you through out the game and are kind of like Pokémon as you can new one and increase their levels as you play. I like the concept of the Dream Eaters but was not a fan on how they are implemented as it feels like a gimmick to me.

The other two big changes to the game play is the drop system and flow motion. As you play as both Sora and Riku there is a timer that forces you to switch between the characters most of the time you can avoid dropping when you don’t want to but it does add some pressure to finish each characters story in each world as fast as possible. Flow motion allows a much greater vertically and fluidness to the characters movement. Flow motion pretty much means that you can bounce off walls and spin around objects as well as many other things to attack swarms of enemies and get up on higher ground.

Overall, I had a lot of funning playing this game but this is where the series starts to be more confusing that it needed to be. As time travel is now an element to the series and it is expected by this point that you have played and understood all the games that came before that plot is a lot to deal with. As I’m invested in the characters, world, and story that has been created in this series I feel I like I have a good grasp on everything. However, for those interested in but have never played I can see you hearing about the plot can be very confusing and possibly make you not want to try the series.

April 2022 Monthly Wrap Up

In April I finished three books and two video games. I’m working though the Kingdom Hearts series and I’m making good progress. I also enjoyed watching the Youtube show In Space with Markiplier. The next couple of months post will probably be a little sporadic as I have several major commitments coming up that will take up a lot of time but I will try to post as much as possible.

Books:

The first book I finished this month was Egypt’s Golden Couple: When Akhenaten and Nefertiti Were Gods by Colleen and John Darnell. I received an early review copy through Netgalley. This is a nonfiction book about the reign of Akhenaten and Nefertiti. The authors reconstruct what is know about these two and how they became gods on Earth. Great book for those interested in Ancient Egypt and Akhenaten and the cult of Aten specifically.

Paperbacks from Hell by Grady Hendrix is a nonfiction book about the art of horror paperbacks from the 1970s and 80s. It focuses on the art but also on the how stories and certain novels changed the horror landscape. I don’t have a lot to say about this book but I enjoyed it.

The last book I read in April was Mistborn: The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson. Mistborn is a fantasy novel where a thousand years ago the hero lost and now the evil overlord rules everything. But a rebellion is building. Kelsier who survived the worst punishment is getting a crew together to kill the Lord Ruler. Vin a young street urchin and thief has the power of a Mistborn that allows her to burn different melts to gain powers joins this crew to hopeful change the future. It took me a while to finish Mistborn but I did enjoy the characters and world and I plan to continue with the series.

Video Games:

In April I finished both Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep and Recoded which I do have full reviews posted for. Birth by Sleep is a prequal game to the original Kingdom Hearts game where we follow three keyblade wielders as they try to become keyblade masters and defeat the evil that is threating the worlds.

Recoded was a movie version of the Nintendo DS game. This game focuses on finding out the missing information that was in Jiminy’s journal and who Soar needs to help. I can’t say much about this one as I just watched the movie version but I do like the fact that we get information on what the note form Mickey was about at the end of Kingdom Hearts 2.

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.

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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.

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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.

January 2022 Monthly Wrap Up

In January I read four books and finished two video games. I haven’t been watching that much except for a few documentaries, The Return to Hogwarts Special on HBO was the only one that I loved.

Books:

The first book I finished for this year was Dune by Frank Herbert which I had started in October but it took me a long time to finish. I feel like Dune is one of those stories that you hear a lot about but is still kind of hard to explain. We follow Paul as his family is given control of Arrakis, a desert planet know as Dune. When his family is betrayed Paul and his mother escape into the desert a way from the cities and join the local inhabitants the Fremen. Paul becomes a chosen one/messiah know as the Muad’Dib and plans to take over the galactic empire. Dune is one of those books that can take a while to understand what is happening due to all the information that is parceled out through the story but its also very readable. Personally, I found the ending weird and somewhat confusing though I like the book overall. Dune is the first book in a series but it reads well as a standalone and I don’t plan on continuing. I feel like if you are interested in reading Dune you should give it a shot but its not this amazing must read and it might not be for you.

Next I read Greek Myths: Meet the Heroes, Gods and Monsters of Ancient Greece by Jean Menzies which is an illustrated children’s books about Greek Myths. I bought this primarily for the art and to support the author. Since its a children’s book I knew most if not all the information in this book but this one of those books that I wish I had as a kid.

Siren Queen by Nigh Vo is an adult fantasy novel set in 1930s Hollywood in a world where the worst monsters are not on screen and immortality can be gained by being in the movies. I received an early review copy through Netgalley and I also have a full review posted. Luli Wei is a Chinese-American girl who wants to be in movies but would rather play the monster instead of the maid. When the studios own everything Luli is willing to do what ever it takes to become a star. Siren Queen is an amazing critical and magical take on old Hollywood. Luli is one of those characters that you love but is not the best person. This book made me want to read more of Nigh Vo’s work.

Hide by Kiersten White is a contemporary horror/thriller where fourteen people are in a competition to play hide and seek in an abounded amusement park to win enough money to change their lives. The main character Mack feels like she can beat the others but when people start disappearing two a day it becomes clear something else is going on. I loved this book and it reminded me somewhat of the movie Cabin in the woods. I received an early review copy through Netgalley and I also have a full review posted.

Video Games:

I finished two video games in January Persona 5: Strikers and Persona 5: Dancing in Starlight which I have full reviews posted for both.

Persona 5: Strikers is a hack and slash Dynasty Warriors style fighting game that combines game play elements from Persona 5. The plot is set during the summer break after the events of Persona 5 where Joke and the rest of the Phantom Thieves are planning a camping trip but end up having to go back into the Metaverse to destroy newly created jails where the shadow of the jails ruler is stealing desires. This was a fun game that I loved but I’m not a fan on how the stealth works in the game. If you are a fan of Persona 5 you should give the game a try.

Persona 5: Dancing in Starlight is a rhythm dancing game that is very light on the plot. The twins bring the Phantom Thieves into the Metaverse through their dreams to try to win a dance competition between the siblings that help in the Velvet Room. This is one of those games that you will like only if you are both a Persona 5 fan and don’t mind rhythm games. I liked it but its one of those games that I don’t think I will ever play again.

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.