My Top Five Favorite Games I First Played Over the Past Year

Hiyo, everyone! Today, I’m gonna talk about my favorite games I first experienced over the past year. I should tell you up front that there’s a little caveat there – this list is technically not my top five games of 2018 because it considers games I played starting on December 25th, 2017 – I don’t wanna exclude some awesome games I played mostly in 2018 just because I got them for Christmas! Aside from that, this should be pretty straightforward. Of course, the list reflects only my opinions – yours may vary!

5. Super Mario Odyssey

Mario Odyssey

This list is gonna have a whole lot of Switch games on it, ’cause I got that system for Christmas last year – and we’re starting off with the latest entry in Nintendo’s flagship franchise! Super Mario Odyssey has what you’d expect of a 3D Mario game – excellent platforming, an engaging world full of things to interact with, and top-notch aesthetics. As usual, the story is rather shallow, but Odyssey’s charm makes up for it. I found myself spending hours searching for power moons! The game’s biggest downfalls are a few particularly obnoxious challenges and the fact that you can’t play the game fully with the system in handheld mode. However, the good vastly outweighs the bad here, and based on its placement on my list, it’s clear that I recommend it to any fan of 3D platformers!

4. Iconoclasts

Iconoclasts

Iconoclasts is a Metroidvania-style game featuring a diverse cast of characters, an engaging combat system, and a fascinating story and world. Since this game is the last thing I reviewed, I’m not going to delve too deeply into it again, but what I will add is that I played blindly on stream, which made the experience extra fun! Iconoclasts offers a wide array of challenges, some of which are incredibly amusing. In fact, the game has a really good sense of humor – there were times when I couldn’t help but laugh! Iconoclasts offers many of the things I seek in a game and does so with a lot of polish and personality. I highly recommend checking it out!

3. Pokemon Let’s Go Pikachu/Eevee

Pokemon Lets Go

I was a little bit skeptical about these games going into them, and now I can confidently say my worries were for nothing! I played the Eevee version of the game, and it stole my attention right from the outset – I’m now planning to get the Pikachu version as well! These games revitalized my interest in a series I was slowly growing apart from. Despite playing through Pokemon Red, Blue, Yellow, Fire Red, and Leaf Green many times in the past, this experience felt completely fresh to me. Seeing the Pokemon in a zone as you traverse it rather than as random encounters makes the world feel especially vibrant, and the shift to catching them Pokemon Go style encouraged me to catch as many as I could. Honestly, going forward, I hope the series sticks to this method of wild Pokemon encounters.

There’s so much positive to say about these games that there’s no way I’ll cover it all in this post. I feel they’re almost perfect. If I had to select a fault related to these games, I would say it’s locking Mew (as of the writing of this post) behind an overpriced and underwhelming Pokeball controller, but that’s really more of a business practice issue than an ingame flaw. My second biggest complaint is that the Poke Flute can no longer be used to wake up Pokemon in combat. Seriously. My gripes are that minor.

Instead of spending ages extolling the virtues of Pokemon Let’s Go Pikachu/Eevee, I’ll just say that if you have a Switch and have any kind of nostalgia for this series, give it a try. Oh, and each user account on your Switch has its own save data for these games – meaning that, for the first time, you can have multiple save files on a single cartridge. Enjoy.

2. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Breath of the Wild

Another wonderful Nintendo game! At this point, it’s no secret that Breath of the Wild is breathtaking. The world is massive, immersive, and both familiar and new at the same time. I spent over 120 hours on a single playthrough of this game, and that was with guides to help me figure stuff out. Without that, it would have taken much longer. Hyrule is so vast in its Breath of the Wild iteration. The graphics, music, gameplay, and even the story were all wonderfully compelling. This is a game I couldn’t put down.

It isn’t flawless, of course. At the beginning of the game, I had some difficulty adjusting to having to repeatedly replace my weapon, and I got killed in one hit for wandering off in the wrong direction more times than I care to admit. But all of that was because I played with expectations set by previous games. Breath of the Wild feels distinctly different from other iconic Legend of Zelda titles. That’s not a bad thing – if anything, it feels like a new way to experience an old series. While I would like to see a more traditional Zelda game for the Switch, I’d also love to play more games like this. I feel like there’s now room for another type of Zelda game, and it’s amazing. Again, I don’t wanna spend all day gushing, especially since you’ve probably heard a lot of praise for Breath of the Wild already. So, instead of babbling on, I’ll just say this game is wonderful.

1. Hollow Knight

Hollow Knight

When I first reviewed this game, I gave it a 4.8/5. After playing it again a couple times and experiencing the DLC, I have to say I was too harsh on the game in my initial review, probably due to some frustration regarding difficulty and being unable to beat the true final boss. Now that I’ve delved more deeply into Hollow Knight’s cryptic lore and bested all of the bosses (except a few from the most recent DLC pack, Godmaster) I’ve gotta change my score to a perfect 5/5. Hollow Knight has become my favorite Metroidvania.

There’s so much to do in the world of Hallownest! Fierce enemies to kill, NPCs whose words and thoughts lend insight into this dark world’s past, and vibrant zones, some of which contain frightfully difficulty platforming challenges. Usually, I’m the kind of person who finds too much difficulty in a game to be more trouble than it’s worth, but overcoming Hollow Knight’s challenges feels so rewarding it has me second-guessing my usual way of thinking! Team Cherry, the game’s developer, shows staggering promise with Hollow Knight under their belts as a first published title. They’ve also proven their generosity by offering so much free DLC. There will also be further paid DLC for Hollow Knight, and I can’t wait to throw my credit card at it. I actually ended up having this game on both Steam and the Switch because I enjoy it so much and felt the developers deserved to be paid twice. (Actually, they deserve to be paid a few more times over.) I’ll be keeping my eye on anything Team Cherry develops going forward, because now that I’ve embraced the difficulty and decided to ‘git gud’, I see Hollow Knight for the masterpiece it is.

Aaanyway, that’s all for my list! What did you guys think of my picks? Which games did you most enjoy over the past year? Please let me know in the comments below! I hope you all thoroughly enjoy the coming weeks, however you choose to celebrate them! (Or not to!)

Iconoclasts Review

Iconoclasts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

…Get it?

…Sorry.

 

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald Review

Crimes of Grindelwald

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yeah, I know, that was kind of predictable…

My Most Anticipated Releases of November 2018

Hiyo, everyone! Today, I’ll be covering my most anticipated releases in November 2018, even though we’re already a few days in and my first pick is, in fact, already available. Sorry for being a bit late! Anyway, let’s jump right in!

Skyward by Brandon Sanderson

Skyward

Skyward is about a girl named Spensa coming from a world beleaguered by alien attacks. She desperately wants be a pilot and help defend her people. However, her father died long ago after being accused of desertion, which makes it exceedingly unlikely that she’ll be allowed to into the academy where she would train to fly. I don’t know much more about this book – even though it’s already out, I haven’t started reading it yet – and the story isn’t the sort I would naturally gravitate to, but I’ve enjoyed Sanderson’s work consistently enough in the past that I’m going to put my confidence in his writing and buy it anyway. Once I do read it, you guys are likely to see a review!

More RWBY Volume 6 and Sword Art Online Season 3 Episodes

This entry may be considered a bit of a cheat, since both of these shows premiered last month, but I really am super excited about them, and, based on what I’ve seen so far, they haven’t failed to deliver. I get access to a new episode of each every Saturday, which makes it my most anticipated day of the week! xD I don’t intend to go into any details because those of you who may be interested will have the best possible experience if you go in spoiler-free, but I highly recommend checking out both of these shows!

Sword Art Online Progress Volume 5 (Light Novel)

SAO progressive 5

I’ve been reading the Sword Art Online light novels for a while now, and I’ve mentioned some of them in the past, but I don’t think I’ve touched on the Progressive series here before. I have no intention of spoiling the previous volumes, but what I will say is that Progressive retells the story of SAO’s Aincrad Arc (the first one) on a floor-by-floor basis, without any huge time skips like the one in the original light novel and the anime. This is a great series to get into if you liked how SAO began, but felt the initial arc was way too rushed, ’cause this one follows Kirito and Asuna’s journey very closely! It also introduces a variety of interesting new characters and greatly expands on some who lingered in the background originally. Volume 5 releases on November 13th, and I can’t wait to read it!

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

Crimes of Grindelwald

As a huge fan of the Harry Potter series growing up, I’m incredibly hyped for the release of this movie! The Crimes of Grindelwald serves as a sequel to Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, but the story this time seems to be heavily centered on the notorious and legendary Grindelwald and his assault on the wizarding world. Characters from the previous movie will show up, and there will be fresh takes on ones from the original Harry Potter series. (Like Dumbledore!) From what I hear, early audiences thought quite highly of the film. It officially releases on November 16th. Another likely topic for a future blog post!

Pokemon: Let’s Go Pikachu/Eevee

Pokemon Lets Go

Pokemon is another franchise I grew up with, and as such, I’m eager to try out the latest iteration of the series on the Nintendo Switch! From what I understand, these games retell the story of a trainer journeying through the Kanto region, but feature much better graphics than the originals and a number of other large changes. I’m not quite sure whether I’ll like some of them (For example, the Pokemon Go compatibility… I haven’t even played Pokemon Go!), but there’s only one way to find out! I’ll most likely be getting the Eevee version ’cause I’ve never had an Eevee as a starter before and, well… because I’m Evi! These games also release on November 16th, so I’m gonna have a lot to do next weekend!

What releases are you looking forward to this November? Are you interested in any of the things I covered? Is there something you’re excited for that I didn’t include? Please let me know in the comment below! Thanks for reading, and till next time, may your life be… fantastic!

Venom Review

Venom

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Review – Eve: The Awakening by Jenna Moreci

Eve the Awakening

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

My Most Anticipated Releases of October 2018

Hiyo, everyone! You guys probably don’t know this, but October is my favorite month of the year. I’m a total fan of the cooling not not-yet-too-cold weather, the falling leaves aesthetic and the festivities the month entails. So I figured I’d do something a bit different today and talk about the stuff I’m looking forward to releasing this month. I guess that’s a pretty straightforward topic, so let’s begin!

Mega Man 11

Mega Man 11

It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of the Mega Man franchise, and the classic series is my favorite of all, so I’m ultra hyped to finally get another entry in it, releasing on October 2nd for a bunch of systems! For those of you who are unfamiliar, the Mega Man series is known for being a tough series of platformers where you run around shooting stuff with your Mega Buster and absorbing the abilities of your defeated enemies. I don’t know much about what’s to come in this game since I try to avoid spoilers, but I bet I’ll enjoy it! And let’s hope its soundtrack holds up against some of the older ones!

Sword Art Online Season 3 Premier

SAO3

Okay, I spoke about this one a couple of weeks ago, but I’m gonna briefly talk about it again. =p SAO Season 3, debuting on October 6th, covers this polarizing series’ longest and, in my partially informed opinion, best arc, the Alicization arc. In it, Kirito will be thrown into a virtual world inhabited by AIs so advanced they’re basically human, but in typical anime fare, the fate of this world hangs in the balance! The visuals and music for SAO3 already strike me as wonderful, and I’ve read the first halfish of the story in the light novels, so I know that stuff is good. Apparently, season 3 is gonna start with an hour long episode, and I am ultra hyped!

The World Ends With You: Final Remix

TWEWY

Ages ago, I played The World Ends With You, a lesser known title for the Nintendo DS and a complete masterpiece. On October 12th, the game is getting an enhanced re-release on the Nintendo Switch, and I can’t wait to get my hands on it! The game takes place in Tokyo and features a vibrant cast of characters involved in something called the Reaper’s Game, which offers the dead a chance to return to life. The music is absolutely breathtaking and the combat system is quite unique for an RPG. If you have a Switch and are a fan of the genre, I can’t recommend checking out this game enough!

Luigi’s Mansion

Luigi's mansion

We’ve got a little bit of a pattern here; Luigi’s Mansion is being re-released, this time on the Nintendo 3DS, on October 12th, the same day as The World Ends With You! The game has you follow Luigi around a haunted house and suck a colorful cast of ghosts into your vacuum Ghostbusters-style. I used to own the Gamecube version, but I don’t have it anymore, and I’d like to play again, so I plan to pick this up for the 3DS.

Horror Content

This last entry is kind of cheating, but that’s okay! ^.^; One of the best things about October is Halloween! I don’t actually dress up in costumes or anything, but I love watching and listening to creepy content – anything from Youtube videos to horror movies in the theaters. Since Halloween inspires people to make more of this content, it’s a huge boon for me! I can’t wait to see what pops up this year.

I also like candy.

Aaanyway, what’s your favorite time of the year? Is there anything you’re looking forward to this October? Let me know in the comments below! Until next time, have an enchanting week!

Five Traits I Like in Characters

Hiyo, everyone! I haven’t done a writing related topic in ages, so I figured I’d do one today – and, once again, it’s focused on one of my favorite parts of fiction, the characters! Here, I’ll discuss five traits I really like to see in characters, in no particular order. Some of these are pretty commonly discussed as vital to writing a character people can relate to, and others not so much. Of course, I’m sure there are traits I’ll forget to mention. xD But I can always do another list later! Sooo let’s start!

Flaws

Yup, this one is about as generic as you can get, but still very important. Usually, an author will want to write main characters who are relatable, and since, as humans, we’re all flawed, it’s really hard for us to relate to perfect people. That’s why you gotta give your characters flaws! Flawed characters also make for better storytelling, because they offer an inherent journey – the journey of overcoming the flaws. That gives the reader something to root for throughout your work. If you like diabolical twists like I do, you can also choose to expand on your characters’ flaws and make them become more problematic over time. That just ramps up the conflict!

Passion

Okay, okay, another common one. But it’s still important! Giving your character some sort of passion, no matter how strange (In fact, the stranger the better, in my opinion!) makes them more relatable to the reader, because most of us are at least a little passionate about something, whether we realize it or not. And those who are completely dispassionate probably will just be bored reading a dispassionate main character anyway. Passion also inherently drives conflict by providing your character both with related motives and with something to lose. It also ties your character more strongly to the world around them, which makes for better worldbuilding.

Quirks

You guys probably think I’m just being desperately generic right now. What irony, talking about quirks in a list that, so far, travels along the straight and narrow! But that’s okay. I’m still gonna talk about them. We’ll get more into my own eccentricities later.

Aaanyway, quirks are important because they make your characters seem more real. We all have our quirks – little habits we have that aren’t shared by many of the people around us – even if we don’t always see them. Showing a character’s quirks provides a better insight to their personality. It also offers potential plot points – maybe the unique details about how a character acts will point at them as the culprit in the event that a mystery unfolds or, better yet, be used as a red herring! Manipulating quirks can also make for good plot twists. If a character is too set in their ways, you can use that fact against them to make something really unexpected happen.

Unusual Perspectives

Here’s where the fun begins! One of the most compelling things a character can show me is a wildly different outlook on their world than is the established norm. Two examples you may be familiar with if you follow the fantasy genre are Auri from Patrick Rothfuss’ The Slow Regard of Silent Things and Lift from Brandon Sanderson’s Edgedancer. Both of these characters have such unique ways of viewing their surroundings that they can make what you might consider familiar scenery new again. Things like emphasizing details most others would overlook and prioritizing objectives that others would deem trifling can completely warp a situation. It makes me ultra happy to encounter a well-written character who pulls this off, not to mention a little jealous, because I’d really like to be able to offer such engaging characters in my own writing!

Extreme Contradictions

This is the trait I find makes for the most entertaining characters of all. It’s just the best when someone believably writes a character whose perspective is so warped or single-minded that they’re able to act and think in flagrantly different ways with a single coherent goal in mind. Though not from a conventional novel, the best example I can think of is Nagito Komaeda from the Danganronpa franchise. Minor spoilers: His goal is to create hope by forcing the other characters to overcome extremely despair-inducing situations of his own creation. The inherent conflict yet simultaneous cohesiveness in his way of thinking makes him a supremely interesting character. I find characters with this trait to be quite rare, but when one is presented well, they tend to just steal the show and make me want to read (or watch, play, etc) more and more just to see what happens and whether the contradiction explodes upon itself or somehow wins through.

And that’s it for today’s list! What did you guys think of my picks? Do you agree with them? Think I missed out on anything? Do you have particular characters you’d like to bring to my attention based on these preferences? I welcome your feedback and comments! Until next time, have a wonderful week!

Subseries Highlight: Sword Art Online Alicization Arc (Light Novel)

Sao Volume 9

Absolute Defense Shield, activate!

*ahem*

Hiyo, everyone! Today I’d like to talk about the Alicization Arc in a series I like both watching and reading despite acknowledging its many flaws! I’m aware that Sword Art Online receives a lot of criticism, much of it fair, and a lot of hatred, which feels a bit extreme. Regardless, I’ve been enjoying the latest arc in the light novels, and at least some of the content from that arc is going to be the subject of the anime’s upcoming season 3, so I decided to talk about it anyway! After all, I’m all about enjoying the best parts of a story despite its flaws and, in my opinion, this arc is the best that mainstream SAO has to offer so far. Flame me if you must – or try. This shield will never break!

An overview of the Alicization Arc’s role in the light novels – it encompasses volumes 9 through 18, so, by the end, it claims more than half of SAO up to that point. Until now, only volumes 9 through 14 have been officially translated into English, so even I don’t know how this all ends! However, as I understand it, the Alicization Arc can be split into two subarcs, and I’ve finished the first of those, and I really enjoyed it! I have no idea if season 3 of the anime can adapt 10 volumes of material – previously, the 25 episode seasons have covered 4 volumes each, so if season 3 is to tell us the full story of the Alicization Arc, I imagine it would have to be at least 50 episodes long. Maybe they’ll split it into two seasons.

I don’t want to ruin your enjoyment of the story whether you watch it or read it, so I plan to keep spoilers to a minimum. That said, I will touch on some plot points from volume 9 and hint at some facts from volume 10. Also, anything that happened in seasons 1 and 2 of the anime or volumes 1-8 of the light novels is fair game.

Volume 9 opens up… strangely. Kirito has somehow become younger. He lives in a small town called Rulid with his friends Eugeo and Alice. The setting is that of the start of a typical fantasy game. A simple village. Lush forests. A dark land beyond that none may enter. The people of this world are ruled by the Axiom Church and its Taboo Index, a set of rules that are not only absolute laws, but literally unbreakable. For most people. Heroes called Integrity Knights uphold the laws and protect the people from the denizens of the forbidden land. Rulid is to be a place of order and stability. As you might expect, that doesn’t stop Kirito – who has only ever known this world – from going on an adventure with his friends. An adventure that leads to dire consequences.

Then he wakes up. He was just testing a game for an acquaintance of his in the MMO industry. Whoops! That almost got dramatic! He recalls nothing of the time he spent in that world.

He then hangs out with his real life friends, including his girlfriend Asuna, his AI daughter Yui, and Sinon, a player of a competitive MMO called Gun Gale Online. The latter recounts the tale of her attempt to win a major tournament only to be defeated by an opponent who told her that her soul would be sweet. Creepy! Afterwards, Kirito and Asuna leave together – and are confronted with something truly frightening.

The Death Gun murders, previously stopped by Kirito and Sinon, were carried out by two former members of Laughing Coffin, a murderer’s guild from the original SAO, and one of their brothers. While the two siblings were brought to justice, the third person was never caught. And he – known as Johnny Black – wasn’t particularly happy with Kirito. So, in the middle of the night, Kirito finds himself the victim of a real life attack using the same substance that Death Gun used for his killings.

When Kirito wakes up, he’s back in that fantasy world, now his proper age – and with all his memories, save for the ones of his previous time in that world. Before long, he realizes it’s a virtual world, but that the inhabitants are not mere AI like in previous MMOs, but fully fledged people. With the help of a friend, he embarks on a quest to escape from this world – known as the Underworld – and to better understand the true nature of the people surrounding him. It seems as if his MMO insider acquaintance may have been more than he appeared…

That’s all I’ll say about the story for now! As I mentioned before, I really liked this arc. It touches on themes such as what it truly means to be a human being and delves deep into the characters’ souls. If you like SAO, I recommend reading the light novels and checking out season 3! If you hate SAO, I don’t recommend bothering! If you hate me for liking SAO, please don’t post in the comments below! Otherwise, though, I’d love to see your feedback. Are you excited for the next arc? Interested in watching season 3? Have you already read some of the Alicization Arc, and, if so, what did you think? Feel free to criticize SAO, too – just keep it friendly and civil. I hope you all have a great week!

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

Shadows for Silence

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

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

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

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

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