Iconoclasts Review

Iconoclasts

Hiyo, everyone! Today, I’ll be reviewing a video game – it has been a while! In particular, I’ll be discussing a story-heavy Metroidvania style-game called Iconoclasts that was very kindly gifted to me. As usual, spoilers will remain at a minimum, but I’ll still talk a bit about the premise of the story. But before I do, I gotta say the game looks, sounds, plays, and feels quite good, especially coming from a game with a single developer, Joakim Sandberg. It’s also available on many platforms – Steam, the Nintendo Switch, Playstation 4, and Playstation Vita, so many gamers who are interested will be able to easily check it out!

Iconoclasts takes place in a world ruled by the One Concern, a religious organization that worships an enigmatic being referred to as ‘Him’ and steadfastly follows the orders of a woman called Mother, who is apparently his oracle. The One Concern has outlawed a large number of seemingly random things, one of which is being a mechanic. (Unless you work for them.) Our main character, Robin, is a young girl pursuing exactly that profession, completely unaffiliated with the One Concern. Her father, who was also a mechanic, recently died, leaving her largely on her own despite her older brother Elro living nearby. She is driven by nothing more than the desire to help others, though even the very people she helps seek to keep their distance from her, fearing divine judgment. As these things go, this naturally leads Robin to be swept up on a great adventure. She meets many fascinating characters along the way.

The subset of these characters who come to comprise our main cast are, aside from Robin, deeply flawed individuals whose lives have been spaced by their circumstances and the views borne of them. I found the cast of Iconoclasts to be overall quite compelling, though it should be noted that Robin herself is a silent protagonist and therefore doesn’t get as much explicit development as many of the others. Throughout my journey, I found myself wanting to learn more and more about several of these characters, which I certainly did, and it was quite an enjoyable experience.

The gameplay of Iconoclasts was overall solid in my eyes; some of the mechanics took a little bit of getting used to, but once I was acclimated with them, gameplay came naturally. Like in any Metroidvania game, there’s a lot of cool stuff hidden away, waiting to be unlocked as you attain more and more abilities. The boss fights were generally fun and fast-paced, although a couple of them were, in my opinion, needlessly complicated. Difficulty-wise, the game seemed just right for me on Standard mode, although there are some higher difficulties and a lower one for those whose tastes differ from mine.

Iconoclasts is quite dialogue-heavy, but I found the story to be very much worth all the reading I did. It sucked me in and kept me interested the whole way through! I found myself rooting for several of the characters despite their shortcomings. My only gripe was that the ending felt a bit anticlimactic to me – but, of course, I’m not gonna spoil it.

Overall, playing Iconoclasts was super fun, and I recommend the game to all Metroidvania fans with access to it! I score it 4.8/5. Definitely something I could see myself revisiting in the future!

Have you guys played Iconoclasts? If so, what did you think? If not, which other Metroidvanias (or games in general) are you fond of? Please let me know in the comments below! Thank you for reading this review, and, until next time, I hope your lives have less than one concern!

…Get it?

…Sorry.

 

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald Review

Crimes of Grindelwald

Hiyo, everyone! Today, I’m going to talk about The Crimes of Grindelwald, the latest film in the Harry Potter franchise! Unlike most of my reviews, this one is going to be absolutely full of spoilers. I should also note that I haven’t seen the first Fantastic Beasts movie in quite a while, so I may not have all my facts straight. If I get something wrong, feel free to let me know! This review will mostly focus on things that stood out to me. Hopefully I don’t forget to include something!

I’ll start by saying I enjoyed the film overall. I felt it fleshed out the wizarding world well, and I liked the characters, particularly Leta, Albus Dumbledore, and, well, Grindlewald. Jacob and Queenie’s subplot felt particularly believable. As far as Newt’s tale goes, I felt sort of like I was watching him chase the important people. Some interesting things happened around him, but it didn’t feel like he himself was essential to the plot. As a result, the movie felt more like an expansion of Harry Potter lore with a few really cool scenes at the end than a story that develops its main character. The takeaway for Newt seems to just have been: “Okay, I don’t like Grindelwald.”

I was much more interested in Leta’s backstory than Newt’s. It was interesting to finally meet a Lestrange who, despite having made mistakes, was ultimately a good person. I felt like she could go either way going into the finale, so when she turned on Grindelwald at the last moment, it was really satisfying.

Grindelwald himself was a compelling villain, I found. They did a good job of making him relatively sympathetic despite his obvious role as the antagonist. I found it especially interesting that he predicted World War 2 and its conclusion; it makes you wonder whether there’s more to his side of the story than we were initially made to think. I hope they expand on that in the next film.

I love how Queenie sided with Grindelwald but Jacob refused. It was beautifully ironic to see how he separated them in their journey to be together. I’m super eager to see what happens to these characters next!

Somewhat like Newt and Tina, I felt Credence and Nagini just kind of wandered around, dancing to Grindelwald’s tune without diverging from the path. While I feel sympathy for Nagini knowing what she is destined to become, I just sort of don’t care about Credence. Yes, even after the ‘Aurelius Dumbledore’ twist. (I’m not gonna even try to tackle that other than to say I think Grindelwald is probably lying about it.)

I thoroughly enjoyed Jude Law’s performance as a younger Albus Dumbledore. His influence on the plot of this film was limited because of the blood pact he made with Grindelwald, but, going forward, I would like to see the two of them together. I wonder whether there are even more twists to be revealed about their history with each other!

Nicholas Flamel was amusing to see on screen. His presence at the end did feel a bit too convenient, though.

Overall, my rating for The Crimes of Grindelwald is 4.1/5. It provided a lot for series fans to think about, but I feel like it focused on the wrong characters and, in doing so, detracted from itself as a story. But, like I said, I still really enjoyed it!

Have you guys seen The Crimes of Grindelwald? If so, what did you think? How do you feel about the Harry Potter series in general? Please let me know in the comments! Till next time, I hope your lives are… fantastic!

Yeah, I know, that was kind of predictable…

Venom Review

Venom

Hiyo, everyone! Firstly, I would likely to apologize for my relative inactivity these past few weeks – life has been quite hectic. That said, today I’ll be briefly reviewing a movie that I recently saw – Venom! Since it is another entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I felt compelled to make the time to see this film in theaters despite my schedule. I guess that’s just my fangirl side being obsessive! As usual, I’ll avoid spoilers here, though I will discuss the premise of the film. Anyway, let’s dive right in!

Venom stars a journalist named Eddie Brock who is known for uncovering corruption and who has his own show. As of the beginning of the film, things are looking up for Eddie, who lives with his fiancĂ©e, Annie Weying. Things change when Eddie’s boss demands that he interview Carlton Drake, the CEO of an organization called the Life Foundation that strives to advance humanity’s ability to adapt to the changing world – but that secretly uses unethical methods to achieve that end. Eddie snoops around in Annie’s email, finds some evidence against Drake, and, unable to help himself, confronts the CEO during the interview. That prompts a swift end to the interview, the firing of both Eddie and Annie, and the end of the couple’s relationship.

Some time later, Eddie finds himself listlessly living out his life using his dwindling assets. He becomes apathetic about his previous work and desperate to get back into Annie’s good graces. That’s when he’s tracked down by one of Drake’s employees, a scientist whose scruples no longer allow her to just go along with Drake’s methods. She reveals to Eddie that Drake is performing lethal human experimentation on people – experimentation that involves them making contact with alien specimens Drake obtained called symbiotes. After a little convincing, Eddie agrees to sneak into Drake’s lab to get evidence and report on it. However, to no one’s surprise, one thing leads to another and Eddie ends up as the host to one of the symbiotes – an organism named Venom.

After being on the run from Drake for a little while and conversing with Venom, who can speak inside Eddie’s head, Eddie is forced to make use of the abilities granted to him by the parasite in order to survive – and, perhaps, to do something more.

Though it’s certainly not up to par with the likes of Avengers: Infinity War, I found Venom to be an overall enjoyable movie to watch. The main characters were likeable, aside from Drake, who was fun to hate even while being slightly sympathetic. There were a lot of intense action sequences, so if those are your thing, you’ll find yourself right at home with Venom. I thoroughly enjoyed the banter between Eddie and Venom. The film takes a while to start up, but once it does, it movies quite quickly.

The one character who disappointed me most was the main villain aside from Drake, whose name I will not mention. I found him generic, and he fit a trope I dislike that is common in superhero movies. Still, that didn’t lessen my enjoyment very much. Overall, I found Venom to be fun and engaging, though a little short for a Marvel movie. I rate it 4/5.

Have you guys seen Venom? If so, what did you think? What are your favorite Marvel-related movies? Infinity War is high on my list. I should note that I’m not at all familiar with the comic books, so some references go right past me. The first of Venom‘s post credit scenes had me going straight for Google! Anyhow, thank you for reading my review, and, until next time, I hope your life is intoxicatingly enjoyable!

Review – Eve: The Awakening by Jenna Moreci

Eve the Awakening

Hiyo, hiyo! Today, I’ll be reviewing a novel I recently binged – Eve: The Awakening by Jenna Moreci! I’ll be following my usual M.O. for reviews here, so spoilers will be kept at a minimum, but I will cover the premise of the novel, which means some events from the first couple of chapters will be mentioned. Anyway, let’s jump right in!

Our protagonist here is one Evelyn Kingston, a girl who lost her parents in an accident early in life – an accident that revealed her hidden powers. Eve was shown to be a chimera. To offer an overly simplified explanation of what that entails, she has telekinetic abilities as well as improved strength, speed, and healing abilities. Chimeras look like ordinary people, and their abilities remain latent until something happens to awaken them, whether that be a traumatic event or simply growing old enough. Since the event that unleashed Eve’s abilities was heavily publicized, everyone around her knows she’s a chimera, and she has to deal with the significant stigma attached to being one.

When chimeras began appearing among the human population some time ago, a second phenomenon accompanied them – the arrival of Interlopers, intimidating aliens who landed on earth in search of a certain something. Fortunately, Interlopers are not known to harm either humans or chimeras.

Eve’s story begins in earnest when she is accepted into Billington University, the most prestigious school in the nation. She goes there hoping to escape from her past – to find a place where she isn’t recognized as a chimera and therefore isn’t subject to the harassment they receive. On her first day, she meets a wide array of characters, some of them kind and most of them jerks. She also hears a terrifying rumor – that Interlopers are abducting chimeras from among Billington’s student body and performing savage dissections on them, which leaves them on the brink of death. After one such attack occurs, Eve finds herself in a position where she is forced to take actions that could risk exposing her identity in order to remain at the school. From there, her struggle to maintain anonymity and remain safe from the Interlopers begins in earnest!

I really enjoyed Eve: The Awakening! Eve herself is a refreshingly honest person even as she tries to hide her secret from the world. Her honesty extends to bluntness and sarcasm, but she’s still quite likable. She meets a diverse cast of characters who Moreci does a wonderful job of making the reader either like or love to hate. I wanted to read more about almost all of them, even the bullies. xD The only character who struck me as a tad underwhelming was the main antagonist, who came off as generic.

The novel’s pacing is great; like I mentioned, it kept me wanting to read more and more until I was done. I was rooting for Eve the whole time, and became quite attached to several of the characters she befriends. There were a couple of moments where I had to suspend my disbelief, but, by then, I was invested enough in the story that I was completely willing to do so. And it definitely paid off!

I would absolutely recommend Eve: The Awakening to anyone interested in the premise. It has a really fun sense of humor despite the serious subject matter. The book is definitely worth your time, and you can get the e-book version cheap on Amazon, though I personally opted for a physical copy. Overall, I rate it 4.8/5.

Have any of you read Eve: The Awakening, or any of Moreci’s other work? If so, what did you think? I’m eager to hear from you in the comments below! Until next time, I hope your lives are dynamic!

 

Review: Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell by Brandon Sanderson

Shadows for Silence

Hiyo, everyone! I’m still recovering, but I thought I’d share my thoughts on a novella I read recently: Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell by Brandon Sanderson. That name is a bit of a doozy, so I’ll just be calling it Shadows for Silence for the rest of the review. =p Shadows of Silence was originally written for the anthology Dangerous Women edited by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois. As usual, I plan to avoid spoilers where I can but to cover the premise of the story.

The story takes place on the smaller continent of the world of Threnody, which is dominated by forests haunted by somewhat-sentient ghost-like creatures called Shades that are known to viciously attack people in certain circumstances. It begins at a waystop – in this case, a safe-haven from the shades where all are welcome – with two men discussing the dangerous and notorious bounty hunter named White Fox while one of them weighs his chances with Silence Montane, the woman who runs the waystop. Little do either of them known that Silence is actually responsible for the bulk of White Fox’s work.

But Silence, our protagonist, knows, and she also knows that a dangerous criminal with a huge bounty on his head is present at the waystop, disguised as a merchant. In something of a financial pinch, Silence, with the help of her daughter, William Ann, decides to use a light poison on the merchants to disorient them so they can kill the criminal at night, after he has left, and collect the bounty on his head. This puts them at great risk of drawing the attention of the Shades, whose ire is earned by starting a fire, drawing another’s blood, and running at night. Needless to say, Silence’s plan becomes complicated when unexpected events occur – but that’s all I’m saying for now!

I really liked Shadows for Silence in large part because of its haunting atmosphere and morally gray characters. Even though we didn’t spend much time with her, I felt Silence received strong character development, and I couldn’t help but blaze through the story. I would love to see more of Threnody. The idea of a world dominated by all sorts of latent horrors is super appealing to me. As usual, Sanderson does a good job keeping the story interesting and surprising. While few characters other than Silence herself receive too much development, I felt some were really relatable, especially Sebruki, a young girl whose family was murdered by the criminal Silence was chasing. While Shadows for Silence didn’t have the same striking impact as The Emperor’s Soul did for me, it was a great read, so I rate it 4.8/5.

Have you guys ever read Shadows for Silence? If so, what did you think? Do you know of any other series with eerie atmospheres? (The world of Sabriel fits the bill, and I liked that, too!) Let me know in the comment below! Have a wonderful week!

Recovery of an MMO Junkie Review

Recovery of an MMO Junkie

Hiyo, everyone! I’d like to apologize for not updating in a while; health issues have been getting the better of me, and to be honest, it will still take me quite some time to fully mend. Nonetheless, I’d like to review an anime I managed to watch while healing: Recovery of an MMO Junkie. As usual, I intend to keep spoilers to a minimum, but I’ll discuss the premise of the show. Here goes!

Our protagonist, Moriko Morioka, is a thirty year old woman who quit her job after becoming fed up with ‘real life’ and decided to become a ‘Super NEET’ who lives through MMOs. She plays a game called Fruits de Mer as a character named Hayashi, a male warrior-style character. She’s part of a small guild including a character named Lily, a healer who becomes one of her closest confidants despite neither of them knowing the other in real life.

To no viewer’s great surprise, eventually Moriko coincidentally encounters Lily’s player in real life, a businessman named Yuta Sakurai. Naturally, neither knows who the other is. Eventually, they (literally) bump into each other and Moriko falls over, briefly landing her in the hospital with a contrite Yuta at her bedside. The two exchange numbers, ostensibly so Yuta can check up on Moriko, but the former finds the latter taking up more and more of his thoughts. Eventually, events transpire that hint that the two know each other better than either of them realizes…

And that’s all I’ll say for now! Recovery of an MMO Junkie is a short (10 episode) slice of life anime, so it would be unfair to expect it to provide a profound, iconoclastic worldview, but it does succeed at being what it tries to be – cute, and funny at times. It was a nice, fun little show for me to watch while I myself was recovering. It does have the downsides of being predictable and, in the end, feeling like an incomplete story, and it may be difficult to get into if you aren’t at least a little familiar with MMO culture, but I found it charming enough to make up for those faults, and as an MMO player myself, I enjoyed its nods to the genre. I therefore rate it 3.7/5. It’s a nice little anime to watch if you’re into MMOs and want to enjoy something cute.

Have any of you seen Recovery of an MMO Junkie? If so, what did you think? If not, have you seen other MMO-based anime or played any MMOs yourself? Let me know in the comments section below. I’m not certain if I’ll be able to post next week, but I’ll try my best! Until next time, I hope your lives are epic!

Sword Art Online Alternative Gun Gale Online Review

GGO Alternative

Hiyo, everyone! Today, I’ll be covering a story in a franchise loved by many and bashed by perhaps even more! Sword Art Online Alternative: Gun Gale Online takes place in the world of Gun Gale Online as seen at the beginning of SAO season 2, but the cast of characters is entirely new! No Kirito here! SAO Alt GGO (as I will be calling it for the rest of the review) evades several of the pitfalls of mainstream SAO. Since it will doubtlessly come up, I’ll start by saying I do like the existing SAO anime despite acknowledging that they are rather flawed. Personally, I just try to take as much enjoyment as I can from stories! But I would prefer to focus discussion to just SAO Alt GGO for this review, so for now, let’s just forget about the rest. Even if you hate normal SAO, you may enjoy this!

SAO Alt GGO is focused on Karen Kohiruimaki, a Japnese woman who is quite tall and has a complex about it. At the advice of her friend Miyu Shinohara, she decides to retreat into a virtual world to escape, and converts from game to game until she finds one where her randomly generated avatar happens to be short and cute, as she wishes she could be. Naturally, that VRMMO is Gun Gale Online. At first, she plays just for the escapism, but, as time goes on, she becomes fond of the game, advancing her character and meeting new people.

One of those is a quirky woman whose avatar is named Pitohui, a long-time veteran of GGO. She takes LLENN (Karen’s avatar) under her wing, and the two become friends and teammates. Pitohui, too, plays GGO to avoid real world problems. She says that, some day, she and LLENN will go all out against each other in GGO, and, if LLENN wins, the two will meet in real life – a prospect LLENN finds scarier than appealing, I think!

One day, Pitohui convinces LLENN to sign up for Squad Jam (SJ), a free-for-all tournament between teams of up to six players. Pitohui herself is unavailable that day, so she has LLENN partner with her friend M, an experienced man with a knack for strategy. Since LLENN’s own real life plans fall through on the day of the Squad Jam, she agrees to enter alongside M, as part of a team of a mere two players. Of course, I’m not going to tell you what happens after that! SAO Alt GGO is only twelve episodes long, so if you’re interested, you ought to check it out for yourself!

While I don’t intend to get into spoilers, one of the things I loved about this anime was how it showed how several VRMMO players were driven together in the world of GGO by their real life insecurities and problems. Karen/LLENN and Pitohui were both ultra relatable to me. It felt quite nice to explore virtual reality themes without intrusive fanservice.

It’s hard to go into too much detail without spoiling something, because the meat of SAO Alt GGO’s story occurs after the Squad Jam plays out. So, instead, I’ll just recommend that if you’re interested in virtual reality based anime, this one is worth checking out. If you liked the original SAO, you’ll probably like this too, and if you wanted to like SAO but found some of its flaws difficult to look past, you may find them absent or mitigated here. SAO Alt GGO is provides a lot of good action and an interesting story surrounding characters who feel capable without being too overpowered. As in normal SAO, the music is good, too!

I’d rate SAO Alt GGO 4.4/5. It got me hooked early on, and before I knew it, I had marathoned the series and waiting for a season two. xD

Have any of you watched Sword Art Online Alternative: Gun Gale Online? If so, what did you think? Let’s try to avoid talking too much about normal SAO in the comments; I don’t want a flame war on my hands. That said, I’d love to hear your opinion on the VRMMO-centric genre of anime! Personally, I’d like to see more of it, so I welcome your recommendations! Hope ya have a wonderful week! Ciao!