Why I love Golden Sun and Golden Sun: The Lost Age

Golden Sun 1

Hiyo again, everyone! Today I’ll be talking about two of my favorite video games growing up – games that, sadly, now seem largely forgotten. Golden Sun and its sequel/continuation, Golden Sun: The Lost Age, both for the GBA. These games form two halves of the same story, so I kind of view them more as a single game; playing either alone is much less satisfying than playing them both. Back when they were new to me, I went through them over and over. In fact, they were basically my gateway to fantasy-heavy jRPGs. As a result, the nostalgia factor for me is through the roof, so I’m gonna totally fangirl over them. xD

The series begins when a storm hits the village of Vale, which sits at the base of a mountain. During the storm, our main protagonist, Isaac, and his friends, Garet, Jenna, and Felix get separated, and Isaac encounters two malicious and mysterious strangers who you quickly come to realize were involved in the catastrophe. A giant boulder falls from Mt. Alpeh, killing Isaac’s father, both of Jenna’s parents, and Felix, who is her brother.

Three years pass, and Isaac is training under an old man named Kraden to use Psyenergy, a sort of magic close tied with the four traditional elements: Fire, Earth, Air, and Water. Isaac, Garet, and Jenna seek to test their abilities and ill-advisedly decide to breach the village shrine, Sol Sanctum, where they meet the same two strangers from before and more. The encounter leads them on an incredibly dangerous journey spanning their entire world.

I now know that sort of premise is pretty typical for a jRPG, but, still, Golden Sun stands out from the rest. It features a strong combat system, excellent music, and extremely extensive world-building. Exploration is meaningfully rewarded, which I love to see in an RPG; there are expansive optional areas to be found, adding depth to the world. On top of that, the characters are well developed and the plot is full of twists and turns that will keep you guessing what will happen next. I should acknowledge that Golden Sun is extremely dialogue-heavy; it puts story at the forefront, which works wonderfully if that’s what you’re looking for but may deter those most interested in action.

I won’t spoil more of the story, since I recommend you experience it for yourself if you haven’t already, but to this day, Golden Sun remains one of my favorite jRPGs, up there with Tales of Symphonia. Golden Sun later received a DS sequel, Golden Sun: Dark Dawn. I found that to be a solid game, but it fell short of the first two, and ever since, there has been no word of further sequels. It’s always sad to see something you loved growing up decline!

Since this is a “Why I love” post, it basically goes without saying that I rate Golden Sun 5/5. =p

Have any of you played any of the Golden Sun games? If so, what did you think? I’d love to hear your nostalgic stories! If not, which jRPGs are among your favorites? Please let me know in the comments below! Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful day!

Why I love Gosick


Hiyo, everyone! Sorry my blog post is a bit late; for the past few days, I’ve had no internet access! Anyway, today, I’d like to talk about one of my favorite anime, an obscure one called Gosick. As usual, I plan on discussing the premise of the story without revealing any major spoilers. Without further ado, let’s begin!

Gosick begins by introducing the audience to a boy named Kujo Kazuya, a Japanese transfer student who attends Saint Marguerite Academy in the fictional kingdom of Sauville shortly after the end of World War I. Kujo quickly finds himself burdened with the nickname ‘The Dark Reaper’ on account of his black hair; the people of Sauville are often quite superstitious, and prone to categorize mysterious things according to their fairy tales.

Kujo begins feeling quite isolated, but that changes when he makes his way to the top of the school’s library-tower and encounters an eccentric girl named Victorique de Blois, who is best known as ‘The Golden Fairy’ for her long blond her and who is notorious for almost always skipping class. While he’s there, he’s also joined by an investigator named Grevil who begins a one-sided conversation about his current case, culminating in Victorique explaining exactly what happened. Grevil’s true role is quickly revealed; he’s actually Victorique’s older brother, has no true talent for detective work, and uses Victorique to solve mysteries for him before taking the credit for himself.

When Kujo learns that truth, be becomes furious and presses Grevil to give Victorique recognition for her contribution. Instead, Grevil insists Victorique doesn’t even want to be recognized and instead invites the pair on a trip – a trip which is quickly cancelled. But not all is lost; Kujo and Victorique take an invitation Grevil received as a reward for solving his latest case and find themselves on a cruise ship, where they experience their first life-or-death adventure rife with mystery.

That adventure is the first of many, of course. Throughout the series, the duo get caught up in and solve many more mysteries, all the while growing closer to each other. As you might expect, more and more characters show up, too, but, to be honest, Victorique mostly carries the show in terms of character appeal. I found her quite relatable thanks to my affinity for towers and the like. =p

The series becomes controversial in its second half when the focus moves away from solving mysteries and toward Victorique’s dark past and the drama surrounding it. Some viewers, who had become comfortable with episodic case-solving, disliked the way the Gosick changed. Personally, I liked both halves of the story, and I think I enjoyed the second more than the first. xD I do love a bit of drama in my anime! Anything that makes me cry is a plus!

I enjoyed Gosick’s artistic style, though it doesn’t particularly stand out from many other anime I’ve seen. The music is also good, and the opening and ending songs remain favorites of mine. The endings in particular capture Victorique’s feelings especially well, in my opinion!

Unsurprisingly, I rate Gosick 5/5 despite its flaws; Victorique gets way more character development than anyone else, but I find myself rewatching the series every now and then, and I really don’t wanna deduct points from anything that has me so hooked! Even I’ll admit I’m a bit biased; I’d feel a little guilty taking points away from the stories I love.

Have any of you seen Gosick? If so, what did you think? If not, what’s your favorite anime, and which character to you like best in it? I’m eager to hear from you! Until next time, buh-bye!

Why Code Geass is my Favorite Anime

Code Geass

Hiyo, everyone! Today, I want to talk about my favorite anime I’ve watched to date – Code Geass! This post will double as a review and sheer fawning; if you know me, you’ve probably already guessed what my final score will be. =p

Despite my desire to heap praise on Code Geass, I will make this review as spoiler-free as possible. The reason is simple – I feel you should all go watch it yourselves, and it’s a lot more enjoyable if you don’t know what’s coming! That said, some basic facts about the characters that are revealed in the first few episodes of the anime will be mentioned here.

Our story begins when the Holy Britanian Empire takes Japan as one of its colonies, renaming the fallen nation ‘Area 11’ in the process. Over the course of several years, Area 11 is inhabited by Britannians and Japanese people alike, the latter becoming heavily discriminated against. There we meet our protagonist, Lelouch, a Britannian student who attends Ashford Academy, a Britannian high school in Japan. Lelouch laments the state of the world, but feels there is nothing he can do to change it – until he finds himself accidentally caught up in a Japanese terrorist group’s attempt to steal Knightmare Frames, mechs they seek to use to liberate Japan from Britannia’s oppression. Lelouch, however, comes face to face with something far less mundane than war machines – an immortal girl named C.C. on whom Britannia has been experimenting. C.C. grants Lelouch what she calls “The Power of the King” – a Geass. In Lelouch’s case, this is the power to make anyone with whom he makes eye contact obey a single command.

Lelouch uses his newfound power to defeat the nearby Britannian soldiers, who sought to kill him for his discovery. That done, he pilots a Knightmare – and allies himself with the terrorists. Lelouch, you see, has his own qualms with the nation.

He was born Lelouch vi Britannia, a prince of the empire. Prior to the conflict between Japan and Britannia, Lelouch’s mother, one of the emperor’s consorts, was assassinated in an attack that also left Lelouch’s sister, Nunnally, both blind and crippled. Lelouch confronted his father, the emperor, furious about the latter’s apparent apathy surrounding his mother’s death, and renounced his claim to the throne. Lelouch and Nunnally were then sent to the Kururgi Shrine in Japan, where they befriended Suzaku Kururugi, the prime minster’s son. The war eventually separated Suzaku from Lelouch and Nunnally.

After that, Suzaku became a Britannian soldier and resolved to change Britannia from within to build a better future for his people. He and Lelouch quickly find themselves on opposite sides of the battlefield, though Suzuaku is unaware of Lelouch’s involvement. Lelouch leads the terrorists to what seemed like an impossible victory in their initial skirmish. Shortly thereafter, he takes up the mantle of Zero, a masked man known by none, and manipulates his way into leadership of the terrorists organization, which he builds into a force capable of actually contending with Britannia. He does this to avenge his mother’s death and fulfill Nunnally’s wish to make the world a kinder place, even for the weak.

Then the story basically goes crazy. Lelouch is a strategic genius who delivers one plot twist after another to the viewers; I found that an absolute delight to watch, though others instead dubbed the series a ‘train wreck’ for its unpredictability. =p

Code Geass has a large cast, and its central characters are incredibly well developed. Their goals frequently come into conflict with each other, revealing more and more about them and giving way to deep themes, such as what it means to wear a mask, whether the ends justify the means, and the nature of justice. The characters’ ideals clash, leading to shocking outcomes and bittersweet ironies the likes of which I’ve seen few other anime match.

One thing that may stand out to someone who begins watching is how different Code Geass’ character design is from that of other anime. They are drawn taller and slimmer than in most anime, if that makes any sense. At first, I had some difficulty adjusting, but my awareness of the difference was quickly drowned beneath my immersion in the story. Even if you are a bit put off by the art style, I urge you to give Code Geass a chance.

The music is simply amazing. The opening and ending songs are wonderful, and some of the other songs that play during certain scenes are even better. The background music has a knack for perfectly capturing the mood.

Currently, two seasons of Code Geass are available and, as things stand, it has the best ending of not only any anime I’ve watched, but of any story I’ve ever experienced. There is a third season in the works about which I am excited yet also a bit worried because I fear it would be very difficult for it to live up to its predecessors. But I’m hoping for the best!

I rate Code Geass 5/5. I want to rate it even higher. I simply love it.

Have you ever seen Code Geass? If so, what did you think? Either way, what are your favorite anime? Do you like plot-twist-heavy stories? Please let me know in the comments below! Until next time, I hope your days are filled with joy. And, one last thought…




Hollow Knight review

Hollow Knight

Hiyo, everyone!

Today, I will be reviewing Hollow Knight, a Metroidvania (platformer with emphasis on exploration) style game a friend of mine kindly gifted me. For context, I played the game on PC (Steam) using an XBox 360 controller; if you’re playing on PC, the game itself recommends that kind of controller. I couldn’t beat all of the optional content in this game, so you’ll definitely want every advantage you can get – it’s quite hard!

Hollow Knight takes place in the dark and forlorn kingdom of Hallownest, which is populated by intelligent bugs (Don’t worry; they aren’t the gross types. xD) and has fallen into a state of decay. A labyrinth of tunnels lies beneath the village of Dirtmouth, which serves as a hub for adventurers seeking treasure below; much of the game takes place in those tunnels. Despite being a platformer, Hollow Knight tells the intricate tale of the fallen kingdom; there’s a lot of narrative depth hiding in nooks and crannies throughout the game, and in the backstories of some of the characters. I won’t say too much about the story, but if you’re interested in lore, you’ll find plenty here.

You play the game as a mysterious knight (depicted above) about whom not much is known at the outset. They control perfectly (with the 360 controller), as far as I can tell. The gameplay is quite challenging in places, as I mentioned before, and you may find yourself dying more often than you expected to. When you do die, you leave your Shadow in your wake, and, to regain your money and full abilities, you have to make your way back to where you died and reclaim it. That was probably my least favorite aspect of the game; maybe I’m just a wimp, but it irks me when I feel like the developers are going out of their way to add an extra “punishment” for failure, ’cause I mostly just want to play for fun. But, if you’re into tough games, you may find yourself right at home with Hollow Knight’s mechanics!

Hallownest is an extremely atmospheric kingdom filled with diverse areas to explore; don’t expect the game to be monotone just because you spend most of it underground! I found myself consistently impressed by its beauty, which is wonderfully complimented by its expressive soundtrack. As far as aesthetics go, Hollow Knight is near-perfect.

The game also comes with three free DLC packs, the last of which is slated for release in early 2018. I haven’t played very much of the DLC content, but based on what I have experienced, it provides more boss fights for intrepid adventurers and a bit of extra backstory.

I thoroughly enjoyed Hollow Knight despite it being a bit more challenging than I would usually prefer my games to be; I found myself exploring for hours at a time, hunting down every last treasure, and I had loads of fun doing it. Therefore, I rate Hollow Knight 4.8/5. If you like Metroidvanias and don’t mind a bit of difficulty, I strongly recommend you check this game out!

Have you played Hollow Knight? If so, what did you think? What are your experiences with Metroidvanias in general? I’m eager to hear in the comments below! As always, thank you for reading, and have a lovely day!

RWBY Volume 5 Review

RWBY Volume 5

Hiyo, everyone! Today, I come to you with a review of RWBY Volume 5. For those of you who don’t know, RWBY is a web show run by a company called Rooster Teeth that follows the journey of many young huntsmen and huntresses as they study to become skilled protectors of their world and, eventually, come face to face with evil. I highly recommend this anime (Yes, I consider it anime.) to any fans of the genre, but today’s post is not aimed at selling the show in general, because I will be focusing on Volume 5 and discussing loads of spoilers for all seasons in the process.

So, if you’re interested in an awesome anime with an unusual animation style (which improves as the series progresses), please check out RWBY starting from Volume 1! And, for those of you who are all caught up… let the spoilers begin!

I felt Volume 5 started by slowly reversing the separation process that occurred at the beginning of Volume 4. Early on, we see Weiss and Yang make their ways to Haven, where Team RNJR, Oscar, and Qrow learn the general situation then take on relatively passive roles. There were a few enjoyable fights sprinkled here and there (The one between Weiss and an army of giant bees comes to mind!), but, overall, the story was much more character driven than action driven – a trend that continued, to a lesser extent, throughout the volume.

Blake spent most of her time in Menagerie, not reuniting with the rest of her team until the end of the Volume. Her story focused on uniting the Faunas in the defense of Haven Academy, which was targeted by Adam, who took leadership of the White Fang by force. Volume 5 takes time to show Blake and Sun (and Qrow, on another front) failing to progress their causes long before they succeed, which is typical of structured storytelling, but I felt the inevitability of their failure was so obvious that there was no tension to begin with.

The story becomes more interesting around the halfway mark, when Cinder and co. make their return and confront Raven and her tribe. They forge a forced bargain to bring Raven and Vernal, who they think is the Spring Maiden, to their side so they, too, can infiltrate Haven Academy (whose headmaster is conveniently in their pocket) and retrieve the Relic hidden beneath.

Throughout all of this, I feel many of the heroes did a lot of sitting around and idle planning. Of the main characters, the only ones who felt like they had substantial story arcs surrounding them were Blake, Yang, and Raven – which is a definite problem in a story focusing on character development.

The last few episodes spice things up via the large battle at Haven Academy, in which almost all the characters take part. However, the battle was not the carnage I expected given the large number of participants. Instead, it constantly shifts focus between characters, and many of them end up with no more in-combat screen time than a few exchanges of blows. For example, Ruby and Yang face off against Emerald and Mercury for a while, and while it’s implied that they’re continuously fighting, so little of it is shown that I was left disappointed.

On the plus side, we finally learned what Jaune’s Semblance is – aura amplification. I’m glad it wasn’t just healing.

The highlight of the Volume was episode 13, during which there was a wonderful duel between Raven and Cinder. The clash between two maidens was less over the top than I expected (given Cinder’s ability to create a small sun around her at the end of Volume 3), but the fight was still magnificent to behold. At the end of the encounter, Cinder is left frozen and falling – and that’s the last we see of her. There’s no confirmation of her death and no sign of the Fall Maiden powers being transferred. My guess is that she’ll survive somehow; her character arc still feels very incomplete. I want to know why she’s so desperate to be powerful.

Unfortunately, episode 14, the finale, was utterly underwhelming compared to episode 13. I don’t think it featured a single substantial fight scene. Adam is sent running instead of being properly dealt with, which felt like a cop-out considering how much he was built up as a villain throughout the season. Blake rejoined her team, which was touching to watch. The two best moments of the episode were when Yang verbally thrashed Raven, exposing her for the weak mother she is, and when Salem finally killed off the cowardly Professor Lionheart. (The headmaster of Haven.) Aside from that, pretty much everything is left open. The villains suffered a major setback, but the only meaningful one who might have died is Cinder; the rest all live to plague the heroes again later. Overall, I felt this last episode was too predictable. It didn’t offer the same closure the previous volumes’ finales did.

While I’m being quite vocal about Volume 5’s faults, I still enjoyed watching it, and eagerly awaited the new episode each week. I was happy to see more of the characters I’ve become so attached to, and I can’t wait for Volume 6. I just feel surprisingly little happened for such a long volume.

What I’ve heard of Volume 5’s new soundtrack is, unsurprisingly, stellar. As always, Casey and Jeff Williams did a masterful job with the new music, and I can’t wait for the full versions of some of the new songs, especially “The Path to Isolation” and “All Things Must Die.”

My final score for RWBY Volume 5 is 3.5/5. Despite its flaws, Volume 5 still expanded on the series’ lore and provided some good character development. I hope the writers build on that in Volume 6 – and add a few more action-based scenes. =p

Have you guys seen RWBY Volume 5 yet? If so, what are your thoughts? Do you follow any other web shows? Please let me know in the comments below. Until next time, ciao!

Why I love The Emperor’s Soul by Brandon Sanderson

The Emperors Soul

Hiyo, everyone! Today, I plan on talking about one of my favorite novellas (and one of my favorite pieces of written fiction) to this date, The Emperor’s Soul by Brandon Sanderson. Before I begin, I’ll note that this post isn’t quite like the ones I’ve made reviewing other books. I’ve read The Emperor’s Soul three or four times now, and I freely admit I will be posting about it in fangirl mode. I’ve still listed this post as a review, because I will score the novella at the end, but I’m telling you up front that I really, really like it and will be basically gushing. =p

I will avoid spoilers as best I can, although as always, I’ll share the premise of this work. This time, I’ll also talk a bit about what I perceive one of its themes to be.

The protagonist of The Emperor’s Soul is a woman named Wan ShaiLu, renowned for her skill as a Forger – and a con artist. As a Forger, she is able to change the nature of objects – she can turn a ruined chair into a pristine and decorated version of itself, for example. After a heist gone wrong, she finds herself imprisoned by the Rose Empire, who have sentenced her to death for trying to rob the empire. Fortunately for Shai, the faction currently wielding the most influence in the Rose Empire has found itself in a bit of a predicament – one that they cannot fix, but that Shai may be able to.

Following a failed assassination attempt on Emperor Ashravan, the Heritage Faction’s servants were able to completely repair the emperor’s body. But his mind was damaged beyond repair, leaving Ashravan still alive but completely devoid of personality and unable to think on his own.

That’s where Shai comes in. The empire employs people capable of mimicking priceless works of art, as Shai does, but to them, it is completely taboo to Forge a person’s soul. Shai operates under no such restrictions. Therefore, in exchange for her life and the return of certain possessions of great value to her, Shai is tasked with completely creating Emperor Ashravan’s soul from scratch – and it must be all but indistinguishable from the original. She must replace Ashravan with a fake. Such a task would normally take her years, but she has only ninety-eight days to accomplish it, for once the hundred day mourning for the emperor’s wife (who died in the attack) has ended, Ashravan will be forced to make a public appearance. If he were revealed to be all but dead, the Heritage Faction would then be stripped of much of its power.

After agreeing to take on the job despite not knowing whether she’s capable, Shai is whisked off to a small room in which to work. There, she is closely guarded, and that is where the majority of the novella takes place. In order to have any chance of success, Shai will need all the information about the emperor that she can get, and also the assistance of someone who knew him very well. That’s where Gaotona, an old advisor of Ashravan’s, finds the bulk of his role.

Gaotona is an utterly earnest man on whom Shai will have to test her seals (the magical objects she plans to use to impart Ashravan’s recreated soul) despite the fact that Gaotona views what she does as abominable and thinks her talent is wasted on Forging. Only with his help can she complete her project – or find a way to escape before the other advisors decide she has outlived her usefulness.

Throughout the novella, the two come to better understand each other despite their radically different outlooks, and bit by bit, Gaotona is led to understand how every little action can influence one’s life and personality. He is constantly surprised by what Shai is about to do with her Forging – how she is able to convince objects that their pasts were different and, by doing so, turn them into what she feels they were meant to be.

This leads to one of the story’s central themes – one I find myself totally enamored by. What Shai does challenges reality as others see it. She takes pleasure in replacing original works of art with copies she created herself, and with having everyone admire them as the genuine artifacts. She also believes all things have souls. Her seals are only able to stick for more than a short while if the object she changes itself accepts the changes she would make. If they do, she effectively replaces their pasts with different ones that lead them to become new versions of themselves.

If I may digress a little, what she does is essentially use a story embedded in a stamp to change reality. That brings the nature of reality itself into question. What makes something real? Can a lie become the truth? If so, how does that happen? The Emperor’s Soul offers some insight into those questions, and it does so elegantly, succinctly, and in a way that leaves the reader thinking. I think that is what I love most about this novella. The characters are excellent, the setting engaging, and the plot strong, but that theme is what forever caught my attention.

I don’t wish to ramble on for too long, so without further ado, let’s get to the score. I rate The Emperor’s Soul… 5/5. Surprised? Probably not. =p

Have any of you read this novella, or any of Sanderson’s other work? If so, what did you think? If not, I highly encourage you to check out some of his writing – he’s one of my favorite fantasy authors. Let me know what you think of my review and whether you feel I can do anything better in the comments below. I’m eager to hear from you! Buh-bye!

Review: Abhorsen by Garth Nix


Hiyo, everyone! Today, I will be writing a short review of Abhorsen, which is the sequel to Lirael, which I reviewed here. As before, I will try to avoid including too many spoilers for Abhorsen. That said, there will be plenty of spoilers for Lirael in this review. Without them, it would be difficult to adequately describe the premise of the book.

The story picks up where Lirael left us, at the ancestral home of the Abhorsen, whose role it is to deal with threats posed by the dead. We have just learned that Sam, one of the main characters from the previous book, is not actually the Abhorsen-in-waiting, but that Lirael is, and she is also Sam’s aunt. Across the Old Kingdom, at a place called the Red Lake, a necromancer named Hedge has possessed Sam’s friend, Nick, and is using him as a vessel for Orannis, a deadly, ancient being Hedge seeks to revive. Naturally, it’s up to Lirael and Sam (as well as their companions, the Disreputable Dog and Mogget) to travel to the Red Lake and put a stop to Hedge’s plan.

The group faces all sorts of dead and magical threats along the way, and they suffer through a journey that pulls no punches regarding how tiring and disheartening traveling on foot can be. As they make their journey, we continue to learn about their personalities. Abhorsen largely builds on Lirael in this regard; there are few new characters of much import, but the old ones must adapt to their new places in the world, and therefore, their views about themselves.

As a side note, it was an absolute thrill to read the passages from Nick’s perspective. As a half-possessed skeptic surrounded by the dead who still clings to a scientific worldview, his reasoning is quite amusing to behold.

I believe that Lirael and Abhorsen are better read as a single story than as two separate novels. The point at which the former ends and the latter begins feels somewhat arbitrary, and I don’t think Lirael really closed many of the key story arcs. Much of Abhorsen felt like part of the climax of the story we’d been waiting for in the previous novel. Therefore, I recommend reading these books together.

I would also like to note that I loved the imagery in Abhorsen, especially the in-depth description of Death (the place where the dead go). More of that realm was shown in Abhorsen than in either Lirael or Sabriel, and that world was simultaneously haunting and fascinating to explore.

I won’t be discussing the ending in any detail; all I will say is it felt a bit abrupt and left a few questions unanswered. Overall, I rate Abhorsen 4/5.

Have you read any of Garth Nix’s work? If so, which stories, and what did you think? If not, what have you been reading instead? I’m eager to hear from you. Buh-bye for now; Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!