Dear Esther

I have played many video games and many different genres, but one I had never experienced until just a few days ago was a game type often referred to as minimalist. It’s something I had sort of avoided for the silliest of reasons, it didn’t make sense to me. I had some sort of weird idea that a minimalist game had to be super scary like Silent Hill. After speaking to a friend and talking about their play through of a newer minimalist game, I informed them that I’d never played one and they then were kind enough to gift me a game called Dear Esther.

Dear Esther was developed by a game development studio called The Chinese RoomThough, it was originally developed as a mod for Half-Life 2, it did well enough that it was later released on its own.

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I say this is a minimalist game but it is also known as a first-person exploration game. I would actually even venture to call it sort of a Visual Novel. In Dear Esther you start off as an un-named male character, right out of the ocean, in front of a lighthouse. The point of this game is to venture around toward specific areas which will then trigger dialogue from the main character, unfolding the reasons as to why he is on this island.

It is an extremely short game. It took me only about 90 minutes to complete from start to finish and there are 4 specific chapters, or areas, which will delve deeper into this man’s story.

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You can only walk around and when in certain bodies of water, swim upward to get out of the water. When dark areas are entered, a flash light will automatically turn on, allowing you to further examine and explore these areas. Other than that, there is no other sort of interaction that occurs within the game.

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While it is a short lived game and there is no real interactive gameplay to be had, the graphics, the music and the story itself make it incredible.

The music flows so smoothly with the exploration of the island as well as the heartbreaking story that comes with the character. To me, the music within Dear Esther is sort of…majestic.

Example

As for graphics, I’m not one to throw a fit over whether graphics are great or poor. I like to enjoy games for what they are and for their stories, but for a game such as Dear Esther in which the scenery, the music and the story being told are the only things there, I paid a little more attention to the detail provided in the graphics of this game and felt that they were incredible.
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As for the story, I don’t want to give away too much, but you follow a man on a heartfelt journey of self-realization and acceptance. It’s a very spiritual game in that sense.

Overall, though, I am very glad that I took the time to play through this game and I’m very sorry that this post isn’t longer, but because the game is so short in itself, speaking about the story would give away many potential spoilers, so I hope you enjoy the sample of music as well as the visuals and I hope that you will give this game a chance if you ever want to delve into this sort of genre.

Thanks for reading!

***All pictures were screenshots taken by me, in game***

Chrono Trigger

What do you get when you join together an average boy, a princess who doesn’t want to be a princess, a girl following in her father’s footsteps as an inventor, a frog, a robot, a girl from 65,000,000 BC and time travel?  You get an amazing RPG from the SNES era known as Chrono Trigger.

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Chrono_Trigger_characters

Chrono Trigger characters”. Via Wikipedia – Artwork by: Akira Toriyama Characters from Chrono Trigger published by Square (now Square Enix)

Now before you steer away after seeing that this is a game for an older console, hear me out. The newer versions do have animated cut scenes in some areas and the game is still pixelated and in sprite form but the storyline is brilliant. Okay, I know it may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but if you like JRPGs and time travel, it’s worth a go.

Chrono Trigger was developed by Square (which has since become Square Enix) for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System and released in 1995. It was later ported to the PlayStation in 1999 in Japan and packaged with Final Fantasy IV for the PlayStation in a compilation called, Final Fantasy Chronicles in 2001 in North America. It was again ported to the Nintendo DS in 2008 for North America and Japan and in 2009 for Europe and Australia. It has since been ported again to mobile devices, Sony’s PlayStation and Nintendo’s virtual console as well.

Chrono Trigger starts with our protagonist, Crono, in the year 1000 AD during the millennial festival of his kingdom in Truce. There he goes to see his friend Lucca at the festival where she and her father will be unveiling their latest experiment, a transporter of sorts. He runs into a girl named Marle (Crono at this time doesn’t know she’s really the princess) who asks if he will spend time with her at the festival.

After agreeing to let her join you (no, you don’t have a choice) you can then venture around the fair some more as Crono and Marle. You can check out one of Lucca’s experiments, a battling robot named Gato. He will recite you a cute song about beating him up to earn 15 silver points (which can be redeemed later for the games currency). Other things you can do include, betting on a race of characters that runs in a square when you enter Leene Square, strength test (ring the bell), dancing to prehistoric music, a button mashing soda guzzling contest, and if you have enough silver points you can venture into Norstein Bekkler’s Tent of Horrors, which you will need to visit later anyway.

Eventually, you will hear that Lucca’s experiment is ready to be viewed and you can then head to the top of Leene Square with Marle. Crono is volunteered to try out the new invention and is teleported from the pod on the left side of the screen to the one on the right. Impressed by this, Marle decides she wants to try but something goes awry with the teleportation devices and the pendant she is wearing and a portal is opened sending Marle to another time period.

Crono journeys after Marle while Lucca tries to figure out what went wrong and this is the start of Crono and his friends’ adventures through time.

Throughout the game, your party will change certain parts of the fictional history set in place by venturing all the way back to 65,000,000 BC and all the way up to The End of Time after accidentally traveling to the year 2300 AD and witnessing, on a computer, the destruction of the world by Lavos and realizing that they can then prevent this from ever happening.

Throughout the game you will battle dinosaur like creatures from the prehistoric era, you will battle robot and robot like enemies, and magical beasts.

Each character will have a special type of weapon they will use, as in most RPGs, but most of them will also acquire magical skills later on in the game.

Chrono Trigger uses offers both an active and wait mode to choose from in the beginning of the game. The difference, from what I have seen is that in wait mode, while you are choosing which special skills, or ‘techs’ as they are called in this game, enemies won’t attack you, whereas in active mode, they are capable of attacking you.

As for running into enemies, this game is a little different than a lot of RPGs. You do not run into enemies on the world map while you are traveling. You only run into them within the dungeon, forest, or wherever you have specifically chosen to travel. Also, enemies are almost always completely visible, allowing them to be avoided at times. However, every once in awhile, the monsters will jump out from a bush or fall from a tree.

CronoToriyamadesign“CronoToriyamadesign” by Source (WP:NFCC#4). Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia – designed by Akira Toriyama

Moving on to character weapons and techs. The protagonist, Crono, uses a katana and will later wield the magical power of lightning. Marle battles with a crossbow and learns to use ice as well as healing magic. Lucca uses a gun and hammer and will learn to cast fire magic. Frog will use a broadsword and learns water (perfect for a frog, huh?) and, like Marle, healing magic. Robo, because of his technological composition cannot actually acquire magic but his laser attacks mimic shadow magic and he is able to mimic fire, lightning and healing magic as well. Ayla uses strength alone as she does not wield a weapon of any sort and she cannot use magic either because she was born well before humans were able to use magic. There is one more optional character that you can recruit to your party, but  for the sake of not spoiling anything I will leave that character out.

You might notice that the character styles resemble familiar characters from popular shows such as  Dragon Ball or also that they resemble characters from a game called Dragon Quest and that is because they have a few of the same team members, Yuji Horii and Akira Toriyama. Other familiar aspects from games like Final Fantasy may be noticed as well and this is because of a few different reasons. Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy both were developed and published by Square as well as having some of the same team members including: Hironobu Sakaguchi, the creator of Final Fantasy and Nobou Uematsu‘s (who has composed music for many Final Fantasy games) compositions can be heard in some of the game’s tracks.

Chrono Trigger has a beautiful soundtrack. Each character has their own unique theme. The entire soundtrack is immensely powerful weather you are listening to the main theme, the battle music or the world map’s music. It does an excellent job of getting you pumped up for whatever may be coming your way and making you feel the emotion that is conveyed inside of the game.

Example: Crono’s Theme

 

I have an extremely hard time picking lists for anything, top 5 or 10 anime or books, things like that, but this game is not only nostalgic for me, it never gets old and this game is my #1 game while all of my other favorites are tied. So if you like powerful RPGs that have some feels involved and you want a game where you can feel like you can change the world, I highly recommend this game. You can go original nostalgic and try play it on the SNES (which, by the way, is extremely expensive), you could go for wanting the nice animated cut scenes and a cheaper version by buying it on the PS1, you can go mobile by finding it on the iOS store or GooglePlay (that’s up to you, but I personally do not like playing good RPGs on mobile, or you can check out the DS version which has the animated cut scenes as well as a bit of extra side story line and extra dungeons.

Gamer Girl

2850535Life was going great for Maddy Starr. She had her group of friends to gush to about crushes and other girly things, she went to a nice school, and she had her manga club. That is, until her parents called it quits, resulting in a move from the city to a small town where this manga loving, Gothic styled girl just knew she would not fit in.

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After a torture filled first day of her grandmother forcing her to wear a unicorn sweater to school after not approving of Maddy’s outfit choice, being targeted by the schools clique of bullies, being designated “Freak Girl” of the school and realizing that her friends from Boston Academy had already moved on and left her behind, Maddy just knew that this school was going to be hell on Earth.

However, things started to look up a bit after Maddy’s father decided to buy her the MMORPG game, Fields of Fantasy for her birthday. When she started the game, she created her elven character, Allora. She then ventured with Allora to an area that was a bit past her skill level at the time. Just as she was about to give up hope on the game after being killed several times in a row by wolves, she was saved by a character named SirLeo.

Maddy’s online life as Allora seemed to be going so smoothly, venturing alongside SirLeo and secretly falling for him, but her real life suffered as she was mocked and bullied by Billy Henderson and his clique every single day, all while crushing on Chad Murray, who was part of the clique but Maddy wasn’t convinced that he was like the rest of them.

After chatting with Maddy one day, Chad told her about a manga competition that he thought she should enter. She decided that it would be a good opportunity to win enough money to pay for tuition to her old school, Boston Academy. Maddy had already been working very hard on a manga about a girl who was sucked into a fantasy world and had to venture to make her way home, so it was a perfect opportunity. Maddy also decided to start up a manga club at school with the help of Ms. Reilly, who had previously informed Maddy that she was also interested in manga.

The manga club seemed to be a hit for such a small school. Maddy was able to finally make some friends which was fantastic. Meanwhile, in her online world, she was still falling so hard for SirLeo who was falling for her…Allora, as well. SirLeo one day mentions that he wished that she attended his school in Farmingdale because he would ask her out. Maddy fought hard with herself not to tell him she was from Farmingdale as well, brushing it off as maybe there were many other towns called Farmingdale. However, she did know that they were in the same time zone. Maybe they did go to the same school.

Who exactly was SirLeo? Would the real life SirLeo like Maddy as herself even though she wasn’t her beautiful elven character, Allora?  She was so torn knowing the dangers of revealing her true identity online as well as crushing on a virtual guy and a guy in real life. Would the bullying ever stop? Would anyone stand up to these bullies?

Gamer Girl is a fantastic book for gamers, manga enthusiasts, and anime lovers, especially those who may have dealt with bullying regarding these matters. I know I was bullied for some of the same things, and when I picked up this book for the first time in high school it was an inspiration. I remembered it just recently and decided it was a good book to write about and introduce others to. I can relate to Maddy in so many ways and I know many others can as well.

While I wasn’t any good at anime or manga related art I still enjoyed drawing it very much as an expressive outlet. I was no where near the kind of talent that Maddy in the story is, but I did play video games as well as watching anime and reading manga, and I had a small group of friends that I could enjoy that with as well. I can relate to her hesitance to start a manga club at such a small school, fearing that no one would join. But, this book is a great inspiration. I did start a manga/anime club at my school. It didn’t last terribly long, but we did enjoy ourselves. Maddy Starr is an inspiration to otaku and gamers alike.

Mari Mancusi opened my eyes with this book and gave me so much inspiration in high school to just be who I was and to let the haters hate and not let them get to me. And I want others who have the same interests and have been in the same situations to have the chance to read this book as well.

Alex + Ada

“Alex + Ada issue 1” by Source (WP:NFCC#4). Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Alex_%2B_Ada_issue_1.jpg#/media/File:Alex_%2B_Ada_issue_1.jpg

******This review/summary will contain spoilers!******

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Alex + Ada   
By: Jonathan Luna and Sarah Vaughn

In a world completely dominated by technology, people are looking to customize able androids to fulfill their loneliness and needs. Alex, however, does not feel that he needs an android to fill the void that his fiancee left when she decided to leave him without giving any reason. His grandmother feels differently.

Continue reading “Alex + Ada”

Disclosure Policy

I do use affiliate links within this blog as well as getting free products to review. The Federal Trade Commission requires that I inform my readers here, as well as in each post that contains a link or a free reviewed item.

I affiliate through a few places such as Jlist.com, amazon.com and Play-Asia.com for the time being. This means that any time you click on a link through one of my posts from one of the listed sites, that site monitors the traffic they get from my account and when you buy that product or any product through the store that you accessed via my link, I get a small percentage of the profits. You pay the same price that you would from a non-affiliate link!  I also receive free books from bloggingforbooks.com in return for honest reviews. Companies may contact me to review products for them as well which I will again disclose within the post.

You will be informed in each post it may contain affiliate links with a link to this page as well.

All of the pictures posted here are free stock photos, linked directly back to the artist or have a statement saying that they are a screenshot by me from the game or video source or are stated that they were taken by me.

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In Real Life

In Real Life is a graphic novel by Cory Doctorow and Jen Wang. I decided to pick this book up after seeing it in the local comic shop. This graphic novel takes an interesting spin on MMORPGs, how to be kind to others, and economics.

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In this 616Ubdqmn3L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_graphic novel, Anda, who is a young girl into gaming, is introduced to an MMO called “Coarsegold Online” and recruited into an all female guild whose goal is to attack the gold farmers in the game. When battling, Anda’s character is hit and she chases down the character who hit her, after almost being KO’d but then saved by a gold farmer, Anda befriends the gold farmer, Raymond.

Anda later learns that Raymond’s gold farming is what he does to make a living in the real world. Living in China with no healthcare, gold farming on an MMORPG makes him slightly more money and is safer than working in a dangerous factory and making almost nothing. This causes Anda to become curious as to how she can help her friend who lives so far away and is sick with no health care and has to work so many hours just to help his family survive.

This graphic novel is short but tells a beautiful story of friendships online, bravery, and courage while still teaching and making readers curious about global politics and economics.

The art is simplistic, yet beautiful. Because the art isn’t extremely complex, it allows the reader to still indulge into the story but have visuals for how the artists envisioned their characters.

To be honest, I thought that this graphic novel was going to be about feminism and I almost shied away from reading it due to that, but when I dove in I realized that it isn’t nearly as much about feminism as some of the reviews I read imply, as it is about true friendship and compassion. It is a beautiful story and if you are into politics, economics, MMOs or even just have made friends from other countries online, I would highly recommend In Real Life to you.

You can purchase Here

The Wind Rises

“Kaze Tachinu poster” by http://kazetachinu.jp/ . Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Kaze_Tachinu_poster.jpg#/media/File:Kaze_Tachinu_poster.jpg

****Spoilers Ahead****

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My love of anime started with Sailor Moon, but shortly after that I discovered Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli. My first Ghibli film was Kiki’s Delivery Service but I quickly expanded and watched whatever I could find. I have yet to see all of these works and am slowly enjoying them, I was able to recently sit down and watch The Wind Rises.

As I remember Miyazaki’s works, I always think of something sort of supernatural or magical. For instance, in Kiki’s Delivery Service there are witches, in Howl’s Moving Castle there are wizards, spells, portals and all sorts of magical instances, etc. I also remember that in every Miyazaki film that I had seen prior to The Wind Rises, the main protagonist was always a female. So, when I sat down to watch this movie I was shocked to learn that the main protagonist was instead, a male. It was a nice change for sure.

The Wind Rises really captivated me with its non-magical story about Jiro Horikoshi, a young boy who dreamed of becoming an aeronautical engineer after realizing that his eyesight would prevent him from becoming a pilot and being encouraged by Caproni in a dream. 


This movie is set during the years after World War I and up into World War II. Jiro, on his way to university, is traveling via train when the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 strikes. There he meets a young girl named Naoko and her maid and provides aid when the maid has broken her leg. After providing aid, Jiro quickly leaves without giving the two his name.

Continue reading “The Wind Rises”