Legend of the Five Rings First Impressions

This is a couple months late. It has been sitting on my laptop as I was super busy with school. I will be posting a followup to this soon.

Carry on

-Feldia

Around two weeks ago the first edition of the Legend of the Five Rings 5th edition beta was released. Legend of the Five Rings is a super Asian inspired setting that is basically Japanese and Chinese history and mythology on steroids.
This beta is my first experience with LoTFR and so far as a group we have made our characters and given the pdf a full read. My first impressions have been very positive. The system uses a modified Fantasy Flight Star Wars rpg system with the special dice which I love the idea of but I hate how expensive they are. To explain instead of using a d20 system they use dice with different symbols, you roll based on your stats and each affects the roll in ways that are different from just success or fail. I want to see it in action before making a firmer judgment.

Despite being in beta the system has a lot of options right now. Seven different clans, several families in each, and then within those clans are several schools. Character have a lot of niches that they can fill, you can be a cavalry archer, a spy, a political person of the court, an assassin, a heavy weapons user, an artisan, and this is just the obvious stuff and the first version of the beta. In a discussion with a friend who has played the 4th edition he has told me that more schools and families are coming which will provide even more options. Until I play the system more I cannot comment heavily upon the mechanics of the options or how they actually play but I am optimistic.

What has impressed me most about the system so far is the focus upon roleplay and character crafting. I love D&D 5e but it is a very combat focused system that encourages optimization first and character stories second. That is fine and I love that system a lot but it is nice to read over this system and see something geared far more toward roleplay. The system does this in three ways; the first is the use of twenty questions when building a character. You go through a sheet and answer twenty questions about your character that help to determine stats, motives, and goals. This is very helpful for crafting a character and I found some questions to be hard to craft a good answer for without really thinking about who my character is.

The second thing the system does is that you must take disadvantages. Disadvantages have mechanical downsides but the way they are done in this system makes choosing a disadvantage to actually be really interesting and engaging. There is a wide variety of them with the option of making a custom disadvantage. They help round out a character by forcing a player to choose a flaw and one that has actual consequences. What I like about this is that there are all sorts of cool ways that when making a character you can get interactions between advantages, disadvantages, and passions. As someone who loves making characters the advantages, disadvantages, and passions along with 20 questions got the gears turning and provided so much inspiration.

The third thing the system does well is that the flavor of the world is strong. The focus on a single unifying culture (you will be playing a flavor of Japanese/Chinese culture no matter what) helps to make the game more focused. Rather than a toolbox type game like D&D this one is far more focused on a specific experience within a culture, but that does not mean there is not variety. The seven great clans plus the variety of families within those clans further dividing into schools means there is a lot of possibilities of roleplay as your character grows up a navigates the culture and their situation. What I like is that it does not give just a general rule, but an exact history of each clan, the values that the clan holds true, a variety of behaviors and traditions that each clan holds, how each clan is seen in the empire, and what the political and duty of each clan. Navigating that identity as a player seems like it will be a lot of fun.

Overall my first impression is very positive, I am looking forward to playing, and seeing what new content and tweaks they put in as the beta progresses. When we start playing or when new additions are added I will post more of my thoughts.

-Feldia

Legacy in Review: Resident Evil 4

I recently played through Resident Evil 4 on my pc. It had been a couple years since I had played it last in the Wii and I was really craving the survival action. Here is my opinion on it; Resident Evil 4 is the perfect survival horror action game.

A little bit of context Resident Evil 4 came out in 2005 twelve years ago. It was a radical shift in the Resident Evil series from fixed camera angles to over the shoulder. It allowed the aiming of guns using a laser sight to see where you were shooting. It is also a masterpiece of a game and created a whole new genre that had several series copy it and it continues to influence horror games to this day.

I’m going to get the easy stuff out of the way first. The games story is predictable as hell and neither interesting nor uninteresting. Some old faces make an appearance and it has some great cut scenes. The thing I like about the story is that it does not take itself serious. It is pure camp. Save the president’s daughter from a religious cult in a rural Spanish village that wants to take over the world? The dialogue is… interesting. The story serves it purpose and does not get in the way with excessive cut scenes. What the story does is enable the game play by providing a perfect setting for a resident evil game.

The setting fits with the game play very well. It has the perfect progression for a plot. Start off weak in the early game fighting Spanish villagers in swamps and farms, with the occasional village. Then moving into the second act you go into a complicated castle. Your weapons get stronger and you begin fighting cultists with more complicated weapons in harder scenarios. Finally in act three you go to an industrial island where you fight enemies with stun batons, Gatling guns, and who dress in military fatigues.

Each of the stages present challenges harder than the ones that come before and that fit where they take place perfectly. The village has a chainsaw arena, a canyon with a giant, a lake with a monster, a valley filled with enemies, and a church. Various booby traps in the woods, bear traps, and mines. The castle focuses more on traps like in Resident Evil 1. A ceiling with spikes collapsing on you, living armour, blind monsters in the dungeon, catapults, a garden maze filled with dogs, a sewer filled with invisible bugs, and a giant statue of a Spanish midget that chases you trying to crush you underfoot (yes that is a thing). Then on the island you fight more science based monstrosities, the regenerators and iron maidens. You fight a monster in a playground that section by section collapses and you need to escape, a hallway laser dodging sequence, a fight with two giants in a furnace. The fights and set pieces all ooze with personality where the setting of each act takes full advantage of the possibilities.

Finally the core gameplay is the best of the series. Resident Evil 5 was pretty good with the expanded melee move set but gameplay means nothing without the setting and personality. Resident Evil 4 is just fun to play. Even when you max out your guns, it is just so much fun to shoot, kick, and knife your way through the game again even if it is easier. The guns feel great to shoot with each one being distinct. One of my complaints replaying Resident Evil 5 is that the guns lack personality and fun. In 4 there is a great variety of guns and they are all fun to shoot. You have the TMP which shoots blazing fast mowing down groups of enemies, the sniper rifles that both pack a punch, the magnums that feel great to shoot, and the shotguns where you knock back groups of enemies or pop off heads with a single shot. The guns also have distinct looks to them, the Red 9 being an old style pistol compared to the Blacktail which is more modern. Each gun has an exclusive that furthers the distinction between guns, the Red9 being the most powerful pistol, while the Punisher being able to pierce makes it a great crowd killer. Shooting enemies feels good. You can feel the impact when you hit them, popping heads brings such satisfaction, and kicking a whole group of enemies will bring a simile to anyone’s face. The game does a great job supporting the gameplay as well by presenting all sorts of different scenarios that force you to adapt on the fly and test your skills. A room where you face two blind enemies instead of the normal one you are used to and adding normal enemies to the mix forces you to stay on your toes for example.

I could go into a lot more detail but Resident Evil 4’s reputation hardly needs me to defend it. What I would like to say is that the game holds up. In a genre that has seen quite a bit of expansion with two sequels to 4 having come out, the Evil Within series, and the Dead Space series, the originator not only still holds up but I would say is still king of the genre.

The king still reigns.

-Feldia

 

Nier: Automata Brief Thoughts

About a month and a half ago I bought Nier Automata when it was on sale. I had heard goods, I loved the look of the characters, the visuals, and with Platinum involved I knew the gameplay would be good. It got across the board glowing reviews. So I pulled the trigger and got it. One of the best decisions I have made, as of right now I have put 41 hours into the game and am on track to 100% it.

For a game to stand out to me I have to have an intense desire to finish the game, it must have an emotional impact, and I have to want to replay or 100% the game after beating it. In all my time playing video games there have only been a handful of game that have truly stood out as great rather than good. A few examples include Valdis Story, Bastion, Bioshock Infinite, and Singularity. Nier Automata goes right to the top and is my favorite game of all time right now. I cannot think of a better game I have played. The story, the characters, the environments, the music, the bosses, the gameplay, all of it is so incredibly well done, so polished. The game is one of the best examples of how to meld gameplay and mechanics with story. I really cannot say enough good things about this game.

More than anything what impressed me is how emotionally affected I was by the game. I am not someone who gets easily attached to characters, and it is pretty damn hard to make me cry while playing a game. But this game managed it. It managed to not just get me to cry but left me angry, hurt, and pretty upset. For about two weeks after finishing the game it was all I could think about.

Overall Nier: Automata is an incredible game and I think it puts Yoko Taro on the same level as Kojima as a weird brilliant mastermind.

I am planning on writing a longer form piece about the game but that takes time so I will see.

-Feldia

11 Lesser Known Songs from Video Games

I love listening to video game music and in the interest of sharing some of these lesser known songs I have put together a list of eleven songs in no particular order that I love. All these songs are from games that are not known for their soundtracks, are a different version of the song, were a bonus release, or have been overshadowed by other songs on the soundtrack. I have no musical training so all of this is based off of what sounds pleasing to my ear.

Drakengard 3: This Silence is Mine

Keiichi Okabe is a godlike composer. His work on Nier, Nier Automata, and Drakengard 3 all have a distinct orchestral style to them that while epic feels different and darker, infusing a certain sadness or desperation into them. I love this song. I am a huge fan of the Nier Automata ost and he brings that skill to Drakengard 3. Drakengard 3 is a somewhat unknown release with myself not even realizing it had come out about two years ago. While the reviews for the game are mediocre the musical score is top tier. There were about three other songs off the ost that I considered before going with This Silence is Mine.

The vocals sung by Chihiro Onitsuka are wonderful. Her voice gives a sense of desperation, sadness, a eulogy for a character that has suffered so greatly and seeks to save the world not out of a sense of duty but so she can finally die. The song starts off slow with just a piano backing before adding more instruments and speeding up the vocals. My only complaint with the song is a little bit of broken English. I have listened to this a lot in the past couple weeks.

Final Fantasy 9: A Place to Call Home – Melodies of Life

Originally from the Final Fantasy IX soundtrack, this version comes from Distant Worlds II. I love the vocal tracks from Final Fantasy as they are some of the best pieces of video game music. The vocals are beautiful; Susan Calloway does an excellent job with the vocals, creating a real feeling of a journey coming to an end, and everyone finding their place in the world.

The Distant Worlds versions of Final Fantasy songs are some of the best video game music ever made. It is incredible the beauty and emotions evoked by these songs. There were many to choose from but I went with one I thought was less popular. If you want more like this look up Suteki Da Ne, FF14 Revolutions, or FF14 Dragonsong.

Ace Combat 4: Megalith

The Ace Combat series is one of the last series I would think to have an incredible soundtrack, but they are pretty consistently good. Megalith in particular stands out because it is just so mighty sounding, a perfect song for the final mission of the game as you destroy a superweapon that launches ICBMs at asteroids to shower locations with asteroid fragments. It is a massive facility that threatens the lives of millions. As you fight enemy jets you hear the radio chatter of the special forces team fighting their way through the structure to give you a chance to destroy the facility. This song plays all through the mission. Then at the end you destroy an ICBM that causes a chain reaction destroying the facility. The whole mission was well done and the music was a perfect way to finish the game.

Final Fantasy 13-2 Caius’s Theme

Final Fantasy 13 has a really bad reputation, some of that for good reasons other times it is just the hate bandwagon. One positive thing about all three games is the soundtrack maintains the Final Fantasy quality. Caius’s theme is a great villain theme, menacing, dark, chanting voices, the drumming in the background giving a feel of a march, pausing into violin and strings before launching right back into the march with a greater intensity.

Transistor: She Shines

I can’t gush enough about how good the Transistor soundtrack is. This song was a bonus track not heard in the game. It is one of my favourites so I love to spread it around so more people get to listen to it. Ashley Barrett and Darren Korb show that they are a power duo. Korb brings incredible track arrangement while Ashley brings the voice of an angel. She Shines has everything that is good about the Transistor soundtrack in one song. Just listen to it.

Final Fantasy 6: Draco and Maria

This 12 minute epic opera was originally from Final Fantasy 6 on the SNES. Yes they put a 16 bit opera musical score on the SNES and it is amazing. In Distant Worlds Square out does themselves by turning it into an actual opera and the results are amazing. The voices, the orchestra, the simple story, I love listening to this rendition of the song. 9:10 is my favourite part so if you don’t feel like listening to the whole thing at least check that out.

Final Fantasy 13: Lightning’s Theme

Once again Final Fantasy 13 makes an appearance on this list. I am a sucker for simple but beautiful piano pieces with a few light strings mixed in, and Lighting’s is one of my favourites. Mixing in the main theme it is just a joy to listen to from start to finish. It is shame the game it is attached to isn’t actually good.

Valdis Story: In the Beginning

Valdis Story is my favourite Metroidvania game. The soundtrack is incredible. The boss music is incredible but my favourite is this one, sad, somber, and fitting song for the crumbling city under the sea. As you explore this song plays and it is a joy to listen to as you see more of this forlorn city invaded by demons and angels with dark secrets waiting to be revealed. The strings accentuate the sadness and sense of age while the heavy piano gives a darker more sinister vibe. All in all a great song.

Ori and the Blind Forest: Restoring the Light Facing the Dark

Ori and the Blind Forest has a great ost but this song I feel gets overshadowed by most of the other tracks. I love this track because it feels so adventurous and it is from one of my favourite sequences from the game where you are trying to stay ahead of rushing water. The song adds to the adrenaline as you move up the great tree finally ending with Ori being flung high into the air and the great black bird coming to try to kill him, a confrontation at the edge of the tree before falling into the forest. It is a great song and really makes the sequence so much more powerful.

Nier Automata: Kaine Salvation

Another bonus track, Kaine Salvation was performed at a live concert for the Nier: Automata soundtrack. It is such a beautiful track and if you know Kaine’s story it is really sad. Although I cannot understand the Japanese the lyrics are pleasing to the ear as the piano plays. It has a very thoughtful feel to it. The song gains more energy as it goes on. I maintain that the composer for Nier is genius and deserves so much more recognition.

Bloodborne: Bloodborne Suite

The Swedish Radio Symphony is amazing and I am so sad I did not get the chance to see them when I was in Sweden. The Bloodborne Suite is incredible because it is a perfect compilation of the sounds of Bloodborne. All of the musical motifs are present in this one performance; the sinister horn, the screeching violin, the sad voice, the dark red lights, the feeling of impending death, of approaching doom. All they would need is to all be dressed in white robes and it would be perfection.

Anyway I hope you all enjoy this. Please let me know if you want to see more articles like this.

-Feldia

Fire Emblem Fates Thoughts and Impressions

About three weeks ago I finished my play through of Fire Emblem Birthright on the 3ds. I am going to be writing my thoughts not just about Birthright but about Fates as a whole using what I know about Conquest and Revelations from reading plot synopsis and forums. Going into Fates I had knowledge of the several controversies that hovered around the game at the time of release such as the accusations of gay conversion in regards to one character, the problems with the localization, and the removal of head patting mini game. The overall consensus online being that FE Fates was trash. So with that context out of the way I will continue.

Heavy spoilers ahead

I have not seen a game waste its potential like FE Birthright since Dead Space 3. On paper this game should have been amazing. A followup to the successful Fire Emblem Awakening which gave it a perfect base to build from, Samurai versus European Knights, three games that cover different perspectives, your avatar is the main character, new online capabilities like the castle! This game should have been amazing. Instead they fucked it up, turned the three game model into a cash grab, suffered from terrible characters, awful writing, shoehorned child system, explained important plot details in the DLC, and basically said that if you want the real story buy Revelations.

The game does an okay open with your character sparring with your big brother. This works in Birthright especially as it shows the power level of your character compared to another and if the game was better written could have been used so well. They introduce the Nohrian family which is a decent introduction. It doesn’t take long for it to all start to fall apart. Your character is taken in front of your obviously evil dad, and his obviously evil advisor, given an obviously evil sword, and told to execute some prisoners. Your character being similar to Chrom and other FE lords says no for obvious reasons. A chapter passes and you end up in Hoshido. The contrast between Hoshido and Nohr is the biggest problem in this game. Hoshido is a literal utopia. There are no problems in Hoshido, the nobility is loved by all and they work for the benefit of the people. Corrin’s mother, who was marked for death as soon as you saw her, is basically a goddess who put up a barrier that causes Nohrian troops to lose the will to fight when they cross the border. Nohr for the evils sends mindless flesh golems across the border to terrorize Hosihdo. Listen if you have to send flesh golems across someone’s border you are the bad guy. Nohr is the cause of all the games problems, Hoshido is innocent. This fact makes one of the central pillars of the game, the choice of who to support absolutely stupid. There is no real choice, your dad tries to kill you using you as a suicide bomb with that evil sword he gave you killing your mother revealing that he killed your real dad and sealed your memories. THAT IS A FAMILY SITUATION YOU DO NOT RETURN TO FOR MANY GOOD REASONS. Yet the game tries to paint it as some kind of difficult choice. There is no grey area, you side with evil or you side with good, and if your character was less noble even that could have worked, but instead the game shows that Corrin is incorruptible in her nobility and trust. If they were going to write the game this way they should have scrapped the three game idea and expanded birthright instead.

This is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of how dumb this games story is. There is a random side chapter where you go to meet a sage to get some power. It is so obvious when you meet him but it has this chapter where you climb a tower to find nothing at the top then the sage basically says “the power was within you the whole time” and it is the most bullshit chapter in the game with basically no story impact except for a dumb prophecy, some directions, and a weapon power up, all of which could have been done without this silly chapter.

Constantly Corrin tells her former siblings, “look dad is obviously evil” and basically all your siblings realize that except for Xander (who suffers from having a very different personality in supports compared to the main game in Conquest) who acts like a total fool in the game and acts that way because the writers wanted an epic confrontation between him and Corrin, however because the fight is fought on such a dumb pretext it loses its emotional weight.

Another problem with the story is the undue attention Corrin gets and the unnecessary elements added to the plot. For how bad the story is it has way too many moving parts. Corrin is a prince/princess, a dragon, the wielder of Yato who is fated to bring peace to the land, leader of the army, and loved by basically everyone you meet. It is silly how much of a mary sue they make your character especially considering that your character is very young, caused the death of the Hoshidian Queen, and really shouldn’t be that important considering there are several other princes and princesses wielding legendary weapons who by power level, experience, and position are more important. So many supports revolve around Corrin or mention him/her in some way. This is part of the reason that making your avatar the main character was a terrible idea. Avatars should be side characters in these games like Robin to Chrom, it stops the plot from jerking the player off.

The plot is incapable of eliciting emotional responses from people and has no understanding of how to use the noble sacrifice, or betrayal trope. They use it three times in birthright and all three times it fell so flat and I just shrugged my shoulders. You are never given enough time with any of those characters and none of them have a gameplay impact so it really doesn’t matter. The other problem with two of the sacrifices is that it is caused by your character suddenly becoming really weak in cut scenes. In game my character was a beast who could basically kill anything with her dragon form. In cut scenes she suddenly has trouble dealing with people she would two shot in game. A terrible case of gameplay cut scene dissonance. There are a few betrayals in the game but the problem with them is they have no consequences, nothing changes because of them. You could actually remove every betrayal except for the first one and nothing in the story would change. There is not shock, and the betrayal is usually dealt with in a single cut scene.

The final issue with the story I will be discussing is the awful implementation of the child mechanic in the game. In Awakening the child mechanic was perfect because of time travel. In this game it take a weird turn because they say the child grows up in the deep realm where time moves faster so they grow up faster. Then they usually need to be rescued and ask really nicely to be a child soldier in your army. It is a big case of fine if you don’t think about it, totally fucked up if you do. You deny these kids a childhood with their parents, you deny them a childhood period, and you turn them into child soldiers. This also does not work well with the darker tone of Birthright. In Awakening it worked because of the lighter tone and also the fact that the kids were coming to the past from a future where they didn’t have the choice of if they want to fight or not.

Now the game was not a total disaster. The gameplay is a big step up from Awakening with varied win conditions, the new dragon vein mechanic make the maps more dynamic and interesting to play around, new terrain effects, and the ballistica launchers made for new tactics and ways of playing. The change to the pair up mechanic and how supports help each other made the game less breakable, and made for a thoughtful approach to how to arrange your units, unlike Awakening where if you S rank two powerful units you win the game. Weapons not having durability made inventory management less of an annoyance. Weapons with varied effects made your choice of weapon more interesting and made carrying more weapons viable beyond you don’t want a sword breaking in the middle of combat. Ninjas were a great addition to the game as it made going up against certain enemies less of a stat check because of their ability to debuff.

Beyond gameplay there were a few standout characters in Birthright who were full of personality, and most of the character designs at least were top notch. Silas a type of bland best friend of the character turns out so much better than I thought he would being damn smooth with the ladies and well spoken, he was also an allstar in my run being the only mounted knight you get in Birthright. Takumi the little Hoshidian brother is great being one of the few characters to really not like Corrin and who goes through actual character growth during the game. A lot of the side characters were great like Reina a mounted archer who on the battlefield delights in killing people but outside of battle is a caring mom like figure; Orachi a fortune teller who messes with everyone, and a few others. The problem it seems is that most of Birthrights good writing is in the supports. Most of the supports I have watched on youtube or unlocked in game were good. Which makes it extra shameful how bad the story for Fates was.

A side note the main song of the game Lost in Thoughts All Alone is really good but quickly becomes overused destroying any impact it had.

There were a lot of other problems with this game but if I was to write about every single one this would quickly become way too long and would turn into nitpicking. If you want more just search around for it many people have written about all the problems with Fates.

Overall as a 3ds Fire Emblem fan I enjoyed Fates as in it was playable and I didn’t hate myself while playing it and the gameplay is solid. If you like the Fire Emblem gameplay and don’t care about story Fates is a solid pickup. If you like Fire Emblem it is a mediocre to bad Fire Emblem game you might as well play Awakening DLC, buy Shadows of Valentia, or play an older FE game. If you are a new to Fire Emblem and are looking for a game to start with, play Awakening.

That’s all.

-Feldia

Fire Emblem Awakening Impressions

I recently finished playing Fire Emblem Awakening so now I am going to write about my experience with it. Turn based tactical strategy RPGs are a rare breed. When they are done they tend to be good. Joan of Arc, Final Fantasy Tactics, Fire Emblem series, Tactics Ogre; all of these series that are renowned but in comparison to other genres there are not nearly as many series or games.

I had cut my teeth in the genre in Joan of Arc on the PSP. After playing Fire Emblem Heroes I became interested in playing Awakening because of the good things I had heard about it from my friends. I am glad I made that decision. I forgot how much I love this genre as it had been years since I had played Joan of Arc.

The gameplay of the series is damn good. I was overall unimpressed until the pairing up system was introduced. It is one of my favorite mechanics in a game like this because it both serves to simply how many moves you need to make per turn, and it allows for tactical decisions in terms of what characters to pair up and how you can attack. Pair up a sword user with a magic user and you can switch between them for advantage. Facing an armoured unit use the magic user, facing an axe user swap in the sword user. I love too how it works in conjunction with the support system. It also allows for great teamwork where you have two characters working together with clutch defense for no damage, and great combo attacks that allow for the combat to feel more dynamic where it is multiple characters working together on a battlefield. I derived a lot of joy from watching the characters fight together pulling off clutch kills and saving each other from certain death.

The maps were varied with many different routes, ways of approaching it, and stresses. Some maps after much thought you must rush or be overwhelmed. The final maps I finished in three turns because if I didn’t I would have 20 enemy units swarming me. Others you take methodically so that you can protect or recruit units.

 

My only disappointment in regards to the maps is the lack of variety in terms of win conditions. All the maps required you to either kill the enemy general, or kill all enemies. While some maps had additional objectives such as protecting NPCs. Only one map caused me to change up how I position units. The map had enemies trying to kill a single NPC but unlike other maps this one was a simple defense map, but the twist was the enemies would ignore all my units unless they had no other option but to attack. The first time I did the map I failed miserably. The second time I unpaired my units to form a defensive square around the NPC and simply had to weather tons of attacks. If a unit fell I needed to make hard decisions on how to fill that hole in the line as a single mistake would mean the NPC I needed to protect would die. I would have liked to see more maps that cause that changeup of tactics like that.

Now saying that I played the game on easy-casual so I am sure that if I played on a higher difficulty with permanent unit death my experience with the maps would be quite different as I would be way more careful, and play them in different ways.

The story is good in the same way I find well-executed anime tropes fun. The game is very anime in it’s design, story, and interpersonal character conversations and relationships. The story itself I found starts off strong with act 1 being damn good. Act 2 is good introducing new characters, and a strong new conflict but suffers from only being tangibly related to the main plot.

Act 3 is both better and worse than act two in different ways. There is a bit of a forced I am your father type thing going which after more plot details made more sense but the initial introduction left quite a bit to be desired for me.

The final three to four chapters go back to being some of the best in the game with great story bits, and answers to many of the story questions. The gameplay and maps get intense with even maxed out characters having to play safe.

I liked the pair up system a lot because of how it also served the story. Now this is especially relevant in my play through because I had my Female Avatar marry Chrom. This meant that Lucina was my daughter. Chrom and my avatar worked really well together on the battlefield and then this translated into romance between the two.

Lucina being my daughter made the scene where she wants to kill my character to save the future so much more emotional and heartbreaking. When I chose the option that I would be fine with sacrificing my avatar to save the future the dialogue was on point and did a lot to make the scene one of the highlights of my play through.

The gameplay serving the character which serves the story is one thing the game did well. This was especially true when I faced the final boss. I had paired up my avatar with Chrom and they faced down the boss and with double crits my pairing killed the final boss and then I made the final decision choosing sacrifice. All the decisions regarding Chrom, Lucina, and my avatar were so much better because of my own emotional attachment to all three characters.

I thought it was nice that they offered the player choices at certain points in the story but I was disappointed that other than different dialogue and a different ending there was no other real differences. It would have been nice to have choice be a bigger part of the narrative.

The game has a good bit of replayability due to different difficulty settings that change how you play and the different support conversations, as well as genders of certain characters changing depending on if your avatar is female or male.

The mechanics of the game are pretty deep. I have only scratched the surface in my play through but the child mechanic as much as it can be used as a fun story or for shipping or it can be used on higher difficulties as a eugenics simulator. You have certain parents change into different classes to get skills. If you change your class the character still keeps the skills from that class. This allows you to with enough time create really strong characters. You have the parents gain skills to pass to the children allowing them to become incredibly powerful.

Between the DLC, the characters, the story, the skill system, and the solid gameplay this game is a phenomenal package.

Overall I really enjoyed the game and am looking forward to playing through it again.

-Feldia

A Feeling of Community

I find myself reflecting this evening on a feeling of deep appreciation. I have spend the recent days in communion with a group of people whom I hold dear on a level that I have not always been sure was even possible for me to achieve. Throughout much of my life, I have felt as though I have had difficulty connecting with people, and, if I am being honest, I have not always felt as though it was worth the effort for me to cultivate the skills necessary to form those connections. But friends, I could not have been more errant in those intuitions, for I count myself amongst the blessed because of the people I am able to share my life with. Never could I have dreamed in my younger years that I would be able to form such tight-knit bonds with so many wonderful individuals, nor that I would be able to participate in a community as healthy and rewarding as this. I am left feeling a sense of immense gratitude and humility in the sense of your absence.

Thank you, friends. It is an honour and a privilege to be able to share my life with you.

Spencer

From Mars to Sirius by Gojira (2005)

“Why do they call me there
How can I fly…”

Champions of bone-crushing riffs and powerful growled vocal preformances, Gojira’s unrelenting focus on grooving, heavy guitars and precision drumming will have me tuned in for years to come. From Mars to  Sirius is the result of Gojira’s sound developing into their own unique brand of metal after their first two efforts. Where Terra Incognita (2001) and The Link (2003) borrowed from death and groove metal, Gojira would  establish their own sound on this album, demonstrating their new chops in full form.

As much as From Mars to Sirius was a departure from Gojira’s roots in their previous music, it was  more so a milestone for their particular style of metal. While Gojira is no stranger to songs on the  lengthy side of five minutes, ‘From Mars to Sirius’ is one of their longer-running releases to date, featuring most of the band’s extended pieces of music. Most of the material on the latter half of the album charts  into the seven minute mark, yet the manner that they move through the intricate sections of each song leaves little time for rest. Even the slower pieces here, like the instrumental bridge Unicorn or the intro  to Flying Whales are still given a sense of movement by Mario’s drum technique; often playing more around the beat than to it.

Even though there is not a great degree of diversity to the sounds of the instruments and vocals on this record, I feel that metal is a genre that can often use its limitations in creative ways. Gojira know their strengths – and they play to them. The guitar tones aren’t too rich or laden with effects to muddy the  rest of the mix, often being just crunchy enough to hold up the riffs, while still maintaining clarity.  The drums on a Gojira record are always a highlight, often allowed free reign to accent the guitar and vocal parts, or vice-versa. It never feels like Mario Duplantier is just holding a beat for his band-mates, sometimes it feels like he’s leading the charge and everyone else is playing catch-up. The bass is the  real supporting act in Gojira, occasionally showing through the mix when a rare guitar or vocal melody grabs the spotlight from the guitars, otherwise maintaining the all-important rhythm for a band of  Gojira’s nature. There’s a good mix of screamed and growled vocals here too. Many metal groups seem to  fall completely into one style, however on From Mars to Sirius there are clean vocal sections which  suit their respective songs well; such as the low whisper on From Mars or the melody on World to Come which follow the guitar. All of these elements combine very deliberately to complete Gojira’s  unique sound, and I would expect all of these elements were considered for each song, with the correct approach applied to both the whole and individual pieces.

The album begins with some of the shorter cuts from the record, the chant of whalesong leading into a  monstrously heavy riff that ends with a pinched harmonic and turns on itself to grant a moment of reprieve – before thrusting the listener back into the midst of the humongous guitar part. The drums here compliment the guitars strikingly well, thundering along on the toms during the first part of the riff, then rounding out the segment with crashing cymbals and playing around the beat. Ocean Planet  finishes on a high note (not literally), after chugging forward through the bridge the song quickly drops the listener into one of the heaviest, stomp-iest riffs on the album – complete with a powerful yet still discernible vocal preformance.

Backbone and From the Sky are a bit more standard fare for Gojira, displaying their ability and speed here well, also notably demonstrating Mario’s stop-and-start drumming technique, though not as well as on The Heaviest Matter of the UniverseUnicorn separates these tracks from the rest of the album, granting a (short) breather before launching into another heavy riff-driven track in Where Dragons Dwell. The song has an interesting mix of a driving, slow moving riff that chugs along into tremolo picked  sections that eventually fade out with drum fills and double bass, accented with rhythmic vocals that evoke feelings of personal empowerment.

The next song we come across, The Heaviest Matter of the Universe, divides some listeners concerning  how brazen the title and track are. As an individual piece, I consider this song to be a great introduction to Gojira, incorporating their unmatched use of sporadic guitar and drum patterns, as well as with a  tapping section that adds some melody to the song with an interesting vocal accompaniment. Though I  feel Gojira conveys their individual strengths better on other songs, The Heaviest Matter of the Universe stands on its own as a great sample of their different sounds.

Now the album takes its turn towards the longer cuts, and it’s here where I think Gojira truly shine,  allowing the songs more room to develop and stray from traditional song structure. Some of the intro sections may be protracted here, though I’m of the opinion they do well to build up tension for the  eventual payoff when the song hits its main groove. The way Flying Whales builds from its chord arpeggios and grooving drum and bass into its driving main riff get me pumped for the latter half of this  album every listen. The bridge brings the song back to some simple guitar chords before resolving once more with a sickeningly heavy riff including a pick scrape and growled vocals.

In the Wilderness sustains the the hefty riffing from the previous track, abundant with triplets, tremolo fills and growls before evolving into a grooving riff with screamed vocals. The song changes course midway  through with a heavy one-two guitar, followed by a mirrored drum part, all the while supported by more tremolo picking from the lead guitar. One final, powerful chant is delivered, then repeated as we fade out over guitars that trade the spotlight from a low, palm-muted riff to a melody line that slides over the  neck of the guitar.

While being one of the simpler songs on the album, I appreciate how straightforward World to Come is.  Beginning with a single guitar that predominantly plays a single chord, the song quickly comes to life with layers of guitars and a drum track which once again plays neatly around the beat, instead of  stringently adhering to it. When the song changes riffs we get some degree of closure from whoever’s perspective we were given in the vocals, along with some tasteful drum fills to close out the song. Albeit one of the more plain songs on From Mars to Sirius, I feel the album is much more diverse for including it, being one of the less-heavy songs on the album.

One of the outliers on the album, From Mars combines with To Sirius to form what would be the longest track on the album if they were not separate. A simple guitar and bass pattern is joined by an ominous, low, near-whispered vocal preformance, with drums not present until halfway through the song. The vocals take us on a story of self-discovery, and later on a physical journey through space to discover the truth of  an older and wiser race. Complimented by the diverse riffs in To Sirius, the vocals also shift from clean to growled in the latter song, adding to the weight of the delivery of the guitar and vocals.

The final track, Global Warming has a unique take on its guitar leads, using a harmonized tapping lick throughout the songs verses with clean vocals that are content to ride the wave of the guitars rather than soar over them. It wouldn’t be a Gojira song unless one of the riffs tries to trample you, and they bring out the big guns one last time, accompanied by a scorching message growled through the vocals. One last power chord brings the track back to its tapping lick, and a hopeful message plays until the end of the album.

While Gojira may have trimmed off the excess on their later efforts, From Mars to Sirius will remain a  favourite of mine due to its brilliant blend of heavy, groovy riffs, machine-like drumming, and powerful vocal preformances. Much of the material on this album stands on its own, but together the tracks are enhanced to display Gojira’s full potential. For myself, the album is diverse enough to make repeat listens enjoyable, while remaining familiar to anticipate all of my favourite moments. Where on later albums production  seems to have developed into a more orderly sound, the unadulterated blend of thrash and death metal Gojira offered on From Mars to Sirius will forever be one of my choice metal albums.

9.5 / 10

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PS. -A note on ratings
Since much of the material I review here will be artists or albums I am already familiar with, I am like to examine music I have strong feelings towards. This being my favourite Gojira album, and one that I believe marked a turning point in their career, I chose to start here to give myself and others an idea of what I consider a near-perfect album. I don’t want to dispute what a “perfect” or “flawless” album means to others, however for albums that I do review so highly know that I am often taking circumstances and their other material into consideration.

Intro

Welcome to my music blog! Most of my pieces here will be album reviews, with a focus on Rock and Metal.

Occasionally I will also post reviews outside these styles as well as other features; such as rating a bands discography or an introduction to a genre. These features will likely be structured as lists and will not be as detailed as the album reviews.

Like many other amateur music enthusiasts, I started listening to groups like The Beatles and The Who at a young age, and quickly branched into related genres. I have always enjoyed music that showcases the  artists skill with their instrument, or music with powerful expression of emotions. The genres that best fit these criteria for myself are Progressive music and Heavy Metal, respectively.

I will do my best to objectively review the content I feature here, though the nature of reviewing music is a matter of personal taste. My hope is to create a discussion about albums I have a firm opinion of,  while introducing my friends and readers to new music.

Here’s an idea of what kind of reviews you can expect on this page, a few groups from some of the genres I highlighted earlier:

Rock
-Alice in Chains
-Queens of the Stone Age
-The Who

Progressive
-Dream Theater
-Rush
-Yes

Metal
-Gojira
-High on Fire
-Isis

Other
-Agalloch
-Brand New
-Russian Circles
-Death Grips

A Year of Reminders

The past year including the beginning of this year have been a great reminder to me of why I love the things I do, and why life despite being painful is also fun.

Doom and Overwatch have reminded me that games are supposed to be fun. Doom was amazing with it’s fast paced brutal combat that brought me back to my time playing Duke Nukem 3d when I was young.

Overwatch has reminded me of why online multiplayer shooters are fun. It reminded me of when I played Call of Duty 4 when it came out. The fast paced combat, the quick casual nature of it where you go on shoot some fools, top the leader boards and earn some great unlocks.

Playing Breath of the Wilds has reminded me of the great feeling of wonder in video games. It is Zelda unlike I have ever seen it before. Taming a horse and riding through the wide plains of hyrule is one of my favorite gaming moments of all time.

In media I finished watching the two seasons of The Man in the High Castle which has impressed me greatly and is one of my favorite series of the past three years that I have watched.

In anime Konosuba has made me laugh a lot, and reminds me of the first time I watched the Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. It is the joy of watching a gang of quirky people who would be unable to function apart work so well together. The animation was beautiful, and the jokes are really funny. Watching Aqua freak out, and the animation of her face has been a real highlight of the experience.

In my personal life it has been a year that has reminded me of what this is all about, and what it is all for.

My confidence was waning, I felt alone despite having many friends, I doubted who I was, and felt a terrible case of imposter syndrome. However my trip to Sweden and return has changed everything. I made so many friends in Sweden and it helped boost my confidence and reminded me that I am a good person, a talented person, a person who has friends because I am someone who people want to spend time with.

My return has hammered that home. I returned to cheers and smiles as I found out that everyone had been following my journey in Sweden but just didn’t tell me that they were. Since coming back I have gone to two parties both of which my friends were glad to see me arrive, a knowledge in my mind that they see the party as better simply because I am there. That is a knowledge that is very important to me, to feel wanted is a feeling I crave and that I have not been lacking for the past year.

-Feldia