Space Piranha Drama – The Legend of Lazlo Alcon

Con artist. Interdimensional traveler. Keanu Reeves fanboy. These are the things that describe Lazlo Alcon. But when he finds himself stranded in space and about to be eaten, his whole life is flipped upside down. Follow the story of this unlikely “hero” as he figures out his place in the world, longs for the place he once called home, and wonders why giant space piranhas are such a big deal in the world of politics.

Space Piranha Drama – Chapter One

My bogus story started on some monorail in space. Yeah. You heard me right. And no, I don’t mean I was actually on a train. I was quite literally dangling from a monorail, holding on for dear life. How did I get there? Excellent question. Personally, I don’t know the answer to that. Prior to that moment, I was in Sector 6 of the planet formerly known as Teragross, sipping on gin and juice. I think I blacked out, because I can’t remember anything after that. I just remember grasping the silver-plated monorail, holding on for dear life.

You’d think that because of zero gravity in outer space that there was no need to hold on, right? Well, you’d only be half right about that. The reason I was holding onto the monorail is because all around me were Lazgons, or in layman’s terms, space piranhas. One might imagine the little fish in the seas of Eoineous 69 back on the Hungover Giant Galaxy, but these suckers were the size of dreadnoughts with the appetites of sixty seven megachickens from the planet Poulterscolter. The monorails in space are coated with saran wrap, which are deadly for Lazgons to even touch. Once their prey touches the saran wrap, Lazgons are wholeheartedly convinced that the prey is now poisonous until they are away from the plastic coating. As such, I was safe.

Until I felt the rail begin to vibrate. My eyes darted towards my left, where I saw the blinding lights of a train heading right in my direction on the monorail. Naturally, I panicked. My gaze shifted towards the Lazgons surrounding me on all sides, particularly one that was getting a little too close for comfort despite being so close to saran wrap.

“Up here!”

The sound of a woman’s voice came in through the comm device I was wearing in my helmet. I looked upward to see a beautiful woman with a dark brown complexion, short, curly black hair, rounded spectacles, and an armored blue suit with a jet propulsion pack on her back. She was looking right at me, floating with nothing but a box of saran wrap in her hand as she floated in my direction. Once again, her voice came up in my comm device.

“Give me your hand!” it said, but when I looked at her, her mouth hadn’t moved, nor did she have her hand out.

The train was too close at that point. I let go of the monorail, to which I was immediately greeted by the maw of a Lazgon. I caught one last glimpse of the woman in the blue suit before the maw closed around my entire body.

Surprisingly, death wasn’t as painful as one might expect. I slid down the Lazgon’s throat with ease. At that point, my day was already spoiled, so I didn’t really care what happened after. Though upon realizing that digestion and excretion were both things creatures did, I started getting a little more nervous. I grasped the oddly metallic tongue of the Lazgon before I fell too far and began to pull myself up as quickly as I could. Unfortunately, I was never the athletic type, so that was not exactly a task one may call “easy.” But to my surprise, the woman’s voice came up on my comm device again, sounding a little annoyed.

“Let go of my damn tongue,” the voice said. “Just come down here and we can talk.”

I lifted an eyebrow, frozen for a moment. Finally, I spoke. “Uh… is this the piranha talking?”

“Just let go,” the voice replied. “You’ll see soon enough.”

“Rich, coming from something that just ate me.”

“Relax for once and let go, okay? You’re not gonna die or anything. At least, not here.”

Of course, I was suspicious. I had no idea what was going on nor why I was missing from my home, but—well, I guess I didn’t have much of a hole back on Teragross. I was a drifter and con artist, but don’t tell anyone I said so. The point remains though. The streets of Magis were like a home in some way, and I had no idea where in the universe I’d been thrown into.

“Hey. Space to Dweeb,” the woman’s voice said from my comm device. “You wanna hang up there for the rest of the trip, or do you actually want to let go?”

“I’m very much content with not taking risks,” I replied, knowing full well it was a lie considering my career of choice, but still. At least as a con artist, I usually had the upper hand, so there was littler to no risk. There was plenty of risk here, and I was not about it.

“Then stay up there,” the woman’s voice remarked.

“Maybe I will,” I said.

And I sure did, and regretted it. A few billion years passed before my arms gave way and my eyes gave into the exhaustion that came from dealing with the stress of the day. Finally, I closed my eyes and let go of the metallic tongue, sliding into its throat. But instead of finding myself inside the stomach of a monster, I landed on an old school swivel chair in a large, empty room.

“Looks like someone finally caved,” the woman’s voice said, only this time, it came from loudspeakers I couldn’t actually see anywhere.

“I didn’t cave,” I retorted, thinking that was somehow a comeback.

“Sure. Regardless, roll on over here.”

Freaked out by the fact that there was some sort of office or whatever inside a Lazgon’s body, I wasn’t sure how to react. All I could do was comply, or ignore the orders and continue being condescended by some dismembered voice. Neither option sounded fun, but the former was the lesser of two evils. I kicked the swivel chair across the metallic floor below me, the wheels spinning surprisingly fast. The darkness in front of me was parted by lights that were far too bright for my tired eyes. It took a few moments for my eyes to adjust, and even then, I could only barely make out the dark form of a person standing in front of me. They were holding some sort of clipboard like a jerk who enjoyed making themselves look smarter than they are and writing whatever the hell they felt like writing.

“Let’s see,” the dismembered woman’s voice said once more. The silhouette walked closer to me and examined me for a few moments. With the bright lights behind the figure, I could still barely make out any features, but when the voice started speaking again, I noticed that it was coming from whomever was in front of me. “Average age, less-than-ideal build, overconfidence, and a lack of political intelligence.”

“Whoa.” I felt rather taken aback by her comments. “I can deal with the rest of the remarks, but where did you get that last one? That’s just mean.”

The silhouette lifted an arm to their face, and based on the movement of their arm, I assume they adjusted a pair of glasses or something like that. “Perhaps,” she said, “but I have reasons for saying so. Regardless, despite your attempts at being rebellious, it seems you follow orders well enough. Get up.”

I was frozen for a little bit. I looked at this peculiar woman, whatever she looked like, and tilted my head. “And what if I don’t?”

She simply turned around. “Then stay here, for all I care. I’m not your mother-in-law.”

Whether it was out of spite or reflex, I waited for her to walk away before standing up and following her further into the interior of this… beast, or whatever you may call it.

“Tell me something,” I said, following behind this mystery silhouette. “Why is there some sort of facility in the belly of a freaking Lazgon?”

The silhouette had the nerve to laugh. “And that’s why I said you have a lack of political intelligence.”

“I’m gonna let that slide,” I said, walking faster to catch up with her. “But can you at least tell me that much?” Of course, she gave me nothing. I pursed my lips, but not like I was pouting or anything. I just felt like stretching the skin below my bottom lip over my teeth. “Come on, now. Don’t be like that.”

“You’ll find out soon enough,” she said.

“When is soon?”

She stopped walking, looked up, and let out a long, audible, and potentially quite exasperated sigh. “You wanna know that badly? Fine then.” For the first time since being swallowed, I finally saw her up close. She was just a little taller than I was, a little more muscular, and had black hair down to her shoulders with purple highlights. Her complexion was rather pale, and her brown eyes were brightened by dark eyeliner. She wore a white lab coat and a wristwatch on her left wrist, which also happened to be the hand she used to grab me by the shirt and pull me further along into the Lazgon.

Against my will, I walked at a pace that healthier people are probably more used to than I am. The blinding lights from before were far behind myself and the strange science lady as we made our way to a dark hallway. We climbed a set of stairs, which felt like an eternity, then into a big room full of people. The room itself was cylindrical in structure with multiple circular tables spread out across the monochromatic tiled floor. People in lab coats and vaccuum-proof suits sat at the various tables, eating food that looked far too high-quality to be in a standard space shuttle, and talking about the latest gossip spreading around the galaxies.

“People live in Lazgons?” I asked the science lady as we walked across the cylindrical room.

“Some of them,” science lady said. “Most Lazgons are indeed what you’re told of in the human galaxies, but they don’t tell you about these ones.” She held a hand up towards once of the tables to our left and waved a few of the other lab coats over. Three of them stood up from the table and walked towards us. They all had super condescending looks as they noticed me. One of them, who looked no older than sixteen, nodded towards me and spoke.

“Who’s the space case?” she asked. I opened my mouth to speak and give this kid a piece of my mind, but science lady spoke before I got the chance.

“We’re calling him Lazlo,” she said. I simply scoffed.

“Where did that name come from?” I asked. “My name’s—”

“No one cares,” the kid lab coat said, not even looking me in the eyes. “Lazlo, huh? Did he almost die or something?”

“Yeah.” Science lady smiled and crossed her arms as she looked at me. “It was pretty pathetic, really. I found him holding onto the Interdimensional Monorail surrounded by other Lazgons. He practically begged for help.”

“That’s not how I remember it,” I said with a louder tone, but the lab coats didn’t acknowledge my existence.

“Sounds about right to me,” a tall, broad-shouldered lab coat with a shadow of facial hair across his jawline. “He doesn’t look rather tough. Why’d you save him, though?”

“Yeah,” kid lab coat added. “He doesn’t look worth joining the team.”

“I have my reasons,” science lady said with a grin. “But for now, prepare the room.”

The three lab coats saluted science lady and turned back around, completely ignoring me altogether. Once they were gone, science lady continued walking across the room. At that point, I didn’t even want to bother with her anymore. But simultaneously, the entire room was staring at me. My inner teenage social anxiety started blowing up my brain and I could practically feel the acne forming again, so I followed science lady across the cylindrical room.

“So, Lazlo.” Science lady’s voice broke the silence as we started walking through a long hallway on the other end of the room. The floor went from monochromatic tiles to being fully carpeted despite the fact that the floor below was still hard as rock, so the carpet made no difference. Wooden doors with old school windows lined the walls on both sides.

“Not my name,” I said, catching up to science lady.

“Doesn’t matter,” she said. “Tell me. What brought you to the middle of nowhere on the Interdimensional Monorail?”

“Wish I knew.” I slid my hands into my pockets, quickly realized I didn’t have pockets on my suit, and looked at my feet as I walked, feeling the acne forming on my forehead.

“Amnesia?” Science lady turned a sharp corner to the left.

“Maybe.” I followed her, nearly losing my footing as I took the turn. A door swung open right in between us and nearly hit me right in the face. “It’s more like a lapse in memory. Before hanging out in space, I remember relaxing on a beach in the planet formerly known as Teragross.”

“Teragross? Interesting.” Science lady adjusted her glasses and started scribbling on her clipboard. “Occupation?”

“Conman.” The word came out of my mouth far too easily. Even I froze as soon as I said it, but science lady didn’t seem to be bothered by it.

“Did it pay well?”

“Uh… I guess it did.” I shrugged. “It depended on the job.”

“Fascinating.”

Science lady took another sharp turn. I happened to be distracted by my own words, since the moment I attempted to follow, I bumped into a door frame. My forehead took the brunt of the damage, causing my vision to go blurry for half a second. Science lady sat down at a square desk made of green mahogany from none other than the planet formerly known as Teragross and crossed her legs, turning towards an incredibly old-looking computer with a monitor the size of a small comet.

“Sit down, please,” she said, already typing away at the computer. Her fingers were flying faster than I could follow them. The screen emitted a bright blue glow, but despite seeing science lady typing, I didn’t see anything on screen. I only hesitated for a moment, but I finally sat down. The moment I did, science lady smiled. “You actually listened for once.”

My teeth clenched. I wanted to stand up and walk out of the room simply out of spite, but the angel on my shoulder told me not to. “What are we doing here?” I asked. “Why are there a bunch of people inside a giant Lazgon? And why are you asking so many questions about my life if you don’t seem to care about me?”

“Consider it a background check.” Science lady pounded her middle finger against the Enter key with such intensity I thought she had intent to kill. “What’s your last name?”

“Alcon,” I said. “Don’t you at least care what my—”

“We don’t use first names here,” science lady said. “At least, not real first names. It’s a safety measure. So, from now on…” Science lady turned around and started furiously typing away at the computer. She aggressively smashed the Enter key again, and the unmistakable sound of a laser printer filled the silence of the room. “…your name will be Lazlo Alcon.” She took a small white rectangle out of the printer and handed it towards me. It was an ID with the name she gave me, and a rather unflattering photo of me dangling from the monorail. “Welcome to the crew.”

I grabbed the ID and examined both sides. Aside from my name and the photo, I didn’t see anything else. “Hold on a sec,” I said. “Welcome to the crew? What’s this?”

“We’ve put out postings for a job opening aboard our vessel,” science lady said, crossing her arms. “We were looking for someone like you. From this day forward, you’re our Lazgon Bait.”

The Everlasting Appeal of Persona 4

If there’s one thing that’s been consistent about the RPG genre for the past decade, it’s that Persona 4 has always had a presence. Even before I knew what the series was, I’d heard of Persona 4 from at least some people. Though you might say what you wish about the game, it seems it has always had a place in people’s hearts, both classic fans and new. With the release of Persona 4 Golden on Steam, this point has once again been revived. What was once exclusive to a handheld console has become far more accessible. With this comes the increase in a player base. From what I heard, it sounds like the PC release of Persona 4 Golden was quite successful, even to the point where Atlus and Sega are considering PC releases of their other games.

That’s a point for another day though. The main point is that Persona 4, even nowadays, is still beloved by many. Even a friend of mine who normally does not like turn-based RPGs enjoys the game quite a lot. I’ve been thinking about why it’s still so popular even after all these years, since even I consider it my favorite game in the series. (I have played all six main games in the series, so I have given every game a fair chance as well.) The main reason I consider it my favorite game in the series can be put simply. In terms of the things I look for in a game, it hits all the marks perfectly. The writing is great, the music is incredible, the gameplay is simple but fun, the story is fascinating, and most importantly, the dynamic between the main characters is written wonderfully.

None of these are objective facts, since people’s opinions on writing and music are vastly different, but there’s a certain charm to Persona 4, its characters and setting in particular, that always stood out to me. After talking to my aforementioned friend about the game, I tried figuring out why this game is so beloved. It could be for a number of reasons. The story, the gameplay, the dating sim elements (gotta love the waifus and the husbandos you wish the game would let you date [just let me date Kanji, dammit]), the music, the list goes on.

Thinking about it, I broke it down to a rather simple idea. I think the reason why people love it so much is because the game treats the idea that less is more. The story and the setting are both rather simplistic when you really break it down. As a result, the game is able to focus much more on the actual characters themselves. It has a much heavier focus on hanging out with your friends and getting to know them, and it makes the game feel more personal in that way. You also get to see how the characters interact with each other as friends and it really makes the player feel like they’re part of this entertaining group of close friends living out in the countryside.

Persona 4 is like a comfort game in that way. During a time where we all feel uncertain and tired from the state of everything right now, Atlus re-released this game at the perfect time. If you enjoy RPGs and need a new comfort game, I would definitely recommend this game. It’s not for everyone, which can be said for pretty much every game in existence, but I can personally say that it has served as a perfect comfort game during these times of heavy stress and facing potential unemployment.

Why I Like RPGs

The turn-based RPG genre certainly has dedicated fans, but I know a few people who don’t fully understand the appeal. Honestly, I don’t blame them either. We as human beings have incredibly varying tastes. It’s only natural for one person to absolutely love something and another to completely dislike it. Granted, the people I know don’t completely dislike the genre, but they aren’t big fans of it. I’m sure there are many people who dislike or even completely hate it as well, which I understand. It’s not for everyone. But today, I decided I would like to break down what it is exactly about this genre of game that I really enjoy, and why I love diving deep into these typically long adventures fraught with danger, story, and stats.

When growing up, I didn’t even really know what RPGs were until I was 12 years old. The only games I knew were Mario, Zelda, Mortal Kombat, and Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2, since they were the games my parents played. My dad told me a little bit about the Final Fantasy series as a kid, though all I knew about the series was that it had great music. When I was 12 years old, however, I got my first RPG: Final Fantasy IV on the GBA.

The moment I played it, I fell in love. I’ve never been what one might consider “good” at video games, so the idea of a game where you choose the actions for your character to do rather than having to fight with your own skill was practically a godsend as a kid. Finally, a game I actually had a chance at beating. On top of the combat, I enjoyed the character-driven narrative. Before then, the only story I’d ever known in a video game was that the world was in danger and you had to save it. But with Final Fantasy IV, it dove deeper into the personal affairs and struggles of the game’s cast, showing the more human side of the characters you’re playing as. At that point, the game was more than a game: it became a story.

Nowadays, you can find these deep story-driven games in any genre. The Last of Us games are probably the biggest example of this, given their major cinematic approach to storytelling. However, I think the reason I enjoy them so much more in RPGs is because with the games being simpler mechanically, it allows more room for character growth and actual plot. That’s generally why RPGs are known as long games. They don’t always have to be, of course; you can still have a great story-driven RPG but have it only be a couple hours long. But as a kid with nothing much to do, my childhood self loved long games and knowing that it would take me a while to reach the end of the journey.

This has mostly been a rant on how I feel about the story-driven elements of these games, so I’ll get back on track before I digress more.

Despite my rants, the reason why I love RPGs is rather simple: because I think they’re fun. I understand that not everyone finds them fun because they would rather use their own skill and not depend on luck and numbers in combat, which is completely fine. I agree that things based on RNG can be annoying (like status ailments in Persona 1 ruining everything), but at the same time, there’s more to it in my mind.

When you’re playing an RPG, you become part of the world in the game. You get to see the lives of the characters and you join them on their journey. Much like real life, things happen that you simply can’t avoid. Even so, the game is meant for you to keep pushing forward. It’s especially compelling once you get attached to the characters. That’s why I’m continuing Persona 1 despite my previous protests to doing so. I’ve gotten too attached to the characters to just stop playing after getting one ending.

The other factor here is the mechanics. Most RPGs generally have simple mechanics in terms of combat that are easy to understand, and some have more complex mechanics. However, they generally follow the same formula. You fight enemies, you input commands, you gain experience in some way (either the traditional way or you gain points to allocate to different stats), and you get some form of treasure. Rinse and repeat. For many people, I’m sure this formula is quite boring. It can certainly be repetitive, yes, but there’s something I find comforting about it. Or perhaps cathartic.

I find enjoyment in the process of progressing the strength of the characters via this system. Xenoblade Chronicles is an example of what I personally think is the ideal character-building system. On top of gaining tradition level ups through EXP, you learn Arts and can level them up accordingly, you have skill trees which level up with SP, and you have the Gem system, where you can alter each character’s stats and abilities in combat and on the field. It is an incredible system of customization. It does require plenty of patience to go through so many menu screens to get the character build you want, but for someone like me, I think it’s perfect. It feels productive, and it feels fun.

Again, despite the ramblings of this nerd, the reason I enjoy RPGs is simple. I enjoy their narratives, I love the mechanics, I absolutely adore getting absorbed through the storytelling and the music especially, and I just like seeing the characters get stronger through numbers as well. I totally get why people would dislike it, and I would never dissuade people because of their opinions. This is merely the opinion of a tired nerd, even if it doesn’t fully make sense. Also, RPGs are a big reason why I’m an author now, so I have that bias going for me as well.

The Struggle Begins Anew

Well, as stated in my previous article, I am giving Persona 1 another try! As annoying as the game can be, I am excited to be back at it. Not only so I can experience this game again to its fullest, but because this series is getting me back into the video production process. On top of the skit I posted previously, I get to edit the videos in this series and have fun with it, providing more info than I can in the actual commentary with edits and the like. I think that once I start getting into the combat elements of this playthrough, I will even go so far as to provide the stats for every single demon, their strengths and weaknesses, and perhaps some information on the lore behind them! If it gets to be much, I can even make separate videos talking about them, since I want to go all-out with them.

The first episode of this playthrough is live on YouTube as of today! Feel free to check it below and let me know if you have any feedback!

Why I Can’t Leave Persona 1 Alone

For those who don’t know, I started a YouTube/Twitch playthrough for Shin Megami Tensei: Persona last year, specifically, the PSP version with a patch that includes the original PS1 soundtrack. After over a year of hardship with the game, I finally got to the end and technically beat it, though the recording containing the ending was lost. It didn’t matter anyway, since it was the bad ending of the SEBEC chapter. I didn’t even get to see the full game. Once that was over with, I was also “done” with the game. As much as I enjoyed the characters, the atmosphere, and the story, some of the RNG was just so annoying to deal with that I couldn’t play it any longer.

Or so I thought.

It’s been about a month now since I got the bad ending and attempted to go back for the first time, and I’ve been thinking about the game. I’ve been listening to the music, thinking about the characters, and figuring out why I can’t just leave it be. It got to me bad enough to completely rid me of any motivation I originally had to play it. Why am I still thinking about it?

The answer’s simple: I actually enjoy the game despite what I keep telling myself. The RNG might be brutal, but it is by no means a bad game. It could absolutely benefit from a remaster that, at the very least, elaborates on the characters more and fixes some of the balancing issues in combat, but it’s still amazing as is.

With that being said, I ended up making and releasing an announcement video on my YouTube channel for the playthrough in which I go back to this game and play it all the way through, including both the SEBEC and Ice Queen chapters. I will be playing on the Beginner difficulty for both playthroughs in hopes that the RNG is a little nicer to me, because I’m just in this for the story, really. The game is about 55% combat anyway, so I’d rather get through battles quickly so I can see more of the story and how things develop over time.

If you’d like to see the announcement video I made (people seem to like it), feel free to check it out below! The hope is that I will be releasing Persona 1 videos every Tuesday and Thursday starting tomorrow. I hope to see you there!

A Song That Inspires Courage

I might not have been in this life for particularly long, but I’ve definitely experienced the fear of regular things in life that not only happen all the time, but are things I feel like we shouldn’t even be afraid of. I experienced this same feeling of dread and even despair just this morning, so it’s not exactly the greatest way to start the day. I panicked because after getting paid, I realized I wouldn’t have enough money to pay my phone bill (or anything else) after paying my rent, which was definitely priority number one.

I feel like the reason it hit so hard was because it was the straw that broke the camel’s back. For many of us, 2020 has been a rough year. Things always seem to get worse and worse. It’s been incredibly easy even for me to succumb to the despair of feeling like things can’t get better, and I’ve always been known to be a rather optimistic person. (A little nihilistic as well, but I feel like a small dose of that helps with the optimism.) Just this year alone, I admit that I’ve thought numerous times that it’d be much easier to just die than put up with all of this. The thought of pushing through all the troubles that I just know are ahead almost brings me tears because I know how difficult and painful it will be.

But this morning, after that feeling of panic and dread started, a simple yet beloved song of mine came to mind, and I had to listen to it.

(Here’s to hoping the video isn’t taken down.)

There’s something special about this particular theme, both this version and the original version from the GameBoy. It starts off with the familiar Legend of Zelda main theme, but then breaks off into a new section that I personally feel is even better than the original Zelda theme. Anyone who’s played a Zelda game gets the basic idea of the concept. You play as the young protagonist Link, travel a dangerous world, crawl through dark dungeons, take on huge enemies, solve puzzles, and you save the world. You endure much hardship in these games, but at the end, you never see Link give up. (So long as you play through the whole game, that is.) You see him find a way to keep moving, because he knows as well as you do that it will be worth it in the end to have fought through it all.

Listening to this theme again warmed my heart, reminded me to take a deep breath, and to remember that life is more than the trouble we endure. We have people we care about, we have things we enjoy doing. That’s what life is about, and in the famous words of Talesin Jaffe, life needs things to live. As silly a quote as this was in context, it rings true. We all need each other. And even though we’re in a time of separation right now, we’re still connected even if we don’t know each other.

This theme has reminded me to keep my own courage up. I acknowledge my feelings and concerns, but then I must cast them aside, because if I don’t, how am I supposed to move forward? It’s like my childhood experience with Zelda games. It’d take me years to beat one because I was so afraid of failure that I’d put off taking on the next boss for long amounts of time. I’d still do it, though, because I wanted to see more of the game. I wanted to experience the rest of the game’s world, meet the people who populate it, and see Link come out on top. This same wish applies to my real life. I want to surpass my trials now so I can keep moving forward, to one day see the rest of the incredible world we live in, to meet the wonderful people who live in it, and to eventually see that I might be able to make a career from my writing.

At the end of the day, we are not the same as our problems nor our thoughts. We are ourselves, and we are each strong enough to overcome these struggles. I have faith in myself, and I have faith in you, as you should. Keep going. Fight. Show the same courage our boy in green always has, and I hope you can be proud of yourself for doing so.

(Here’s the GameBoy version if you feel like listening to it.)

Important Changes to Black Crystal

Author’s Notes
Let’s get one thing out of the way: I was in the process of editing and revising the first three books in the series to match the current canon of the Black Crystal series, and I managed to succeed at doing so with The Origin, the first book in the series! But after looking at both The Essence and Elysium, the longest goddamn book I’ve ever written, I determined that I’m too lazy and tired to even try editing those books to match the current canon and revisions to the series’ world, lore, and all that good shit. At the time of writing this little “essay”, so to say, I’ve been putting The Kingdom, the fourth installment in the series, on hold for well over half a year without any progress due to a lack of motivation, and because I’ve been stuck with the past few books. Sure, a good author might stick with the program and do what they can to make sure all the books are as best as they can be, but who said I was a good author? People might like my stories, but my methods are far from effective. The older I get, the more tired I get, so I’d much rather just move forward with the story than feel stagnant and try making everything work with shit I already wrote. Don’t get me wrong. I am beyond passionate about this series. It just feels redundant to republish books that have been out for the past few years just because of a few revisions, so I’m making this recap free to read and open to the public. I hope this helps!

Revisions
Starting off, I would like to provide clarification to all the revisions that have been made to the Black Crystal canon so we’re all on the same page by the time The Kingdom is out. Ever since beginning my D&D campaign Legends of the Black Crystal, a few things have been changed for the sake of continuity, or rather, to make more sense. The most important thing is the relation between Chris and the Royal Family from the 1800s. The Essence originally indicated that 200 years passed between the Royal Family being turned to stone and Chris’s story beginning in the surprisingly modern city of Nakura, but this is officially false as of the new canon. 

I’ll explain it in more detail in the section of this essay detailing the plot of The Essence, but what happened was that Bartholomew’s curse spread around the world of Inclusia, which is where the series takes place, turning everyone to stone. The cities of Alswell and Nakura were constructed by a select group of people who had knowledge on interdimensional travel to house refugees who managed to escape the curse’s grasp. A barrier was placed around the two cities, and that barrier was set to protect everyone living in the two cities. However, since the people contracted to build them were familiar with interdimensional travel, they took inspiration from modern day Earth, which is indeed a part of the Black Crystal multiverse, since the characters Arianna Hernandez and Leon LaHayes both come from our little Blue Planet. As a result, it gives the aura of what 2017 in our world would look like, but it is still the 1800s in the rest of Inclusia. The contractors also had the ability to alter the memories of those who lived in the two cities, convincing many of the younger generations to believe they grew up on Earth and not Inclusia, which is why finding out what the world truly is becomes such a shock to the cast. The true amount of time has only been a few decades. Chris is actually the grandson of Garen and Lenora. Chris’s mother Elena and her sister Misty are Garen and Lenora’s children.

The next big thing is the geographical changes. Originally, the nation the story took place in was called the 48 Provinces, indicative of an alternate version of the United States, and Nakura was originally set to be in that world’s version of Canada. However, after deciding that my D&D campaign would take place in this world, I decided to flesh the world of Inclusia out more and give the world more original names. This is indicated in the rewritten version of The Origin, but the continent is now called Unistylaad, and there are only nine provinces. Orelivia is what used to be Oregon, and Washorick is what used to be Washington. I made sure the names were still close to the original so it wasn’t difficult to get used to them, especially for people who have read the original editions of these books. The city of Portland became the city of Livia, the city of Olympia simply turned into Olympe, the river crossing outpost Hood River became Hooded River, the militarized city of Eugene became Eugelene, and the village of Grants Pass was named Alorae. There are more towns than these, but these are the ones most prominent at the beginning of the series, so I wanted to provide clarification for them. There are six more provinces, which we will touch upon one day, but I’ll name them here: Ishtorai is a desert nation to the east of Washorick and Orelivia. South of Ishtorai is a smaller province named Selmor, where many witches practice arcane arts deemed illegal by the sovereign of Ishtorai. On a southmost peninsula below the entire continent are two isolated provinces named Caligri and Decimbra. To the far east are the three united provinces: Ohren, Flarioc, and the empire of Yorjun, which is where the provincial leaders meet to discuss political matters every few years.

The next thing isn’t a super prominent thing in the books, at least, but I thought it deserved attention: the mystery of the moon in Hooded River. At night, the moon turns green and demons emerge from the darkness. In the original version of The Origin, this was never explained. I meant for it to be more important, but I was writing the original version of the book on a deadline, and I think I just didn’t have the time to explain it. This was finally explained in our D&D campaign. This anomaly is called the Emerald Moon. Hooded River is a weak spot in reality. In other words, it’s a door to a place called the Road Between Realms. The veil that protects the prime material plane from other planes of existence is particularly weak in Hooded River, so at night, creatures from other dimensions, including those of the Infernal type who come from Hell itself, can easily pass through and enter the prime material plane from Hooded River. This was how Bartholomew managed to get such a massive legion of demons on his side in The Origin. But what does this have to do with the Emerald Moon? It’s a bit strange, you see. There are legends in Inclusia of the gods. Inclusia is a world that was not created by gods (we’ll get into that later), so the gods themselves are fascinated by this planet. Many of the gods worshipped by people living in Inclusia grew jealous of the fact that a world could exist without their will sustaining it, and thought the world deserved to be destroyed. Other gods knew this was wrong and tried to prevent them from destroying it, causing a war among the celestials. The gods who decided Inclusia was not worthy of existing were deemed “fallen gods” and were sealed away in the moon as punishment for their attempted crime. Legends say the moon turns green at certain places in the world because those are the only places where the blood of the fallen gods are visible.

Whew; that was a longer explanation than I thought. We’ll get to lore at some point, but I wanted to let you guys know some of the things that changed. Another small detail is that Chris isn’t actually “in love” with Mallory; he’s just infatuated with her, but he doesn’t really know the difference. That’s about it, in terms of revisions. If I come up with more, I’ll probably add them in the plot explanations.

The History of Inclusia
Ah, here’s something I’ve been wanting to explain for a long time—the interesting past of the world of Inclusia. I’ll keep it short though, because you can’t reveal everything; it wouldn’t be fun that way, but here’s some basic history most characters in the series are at least somewhat aware of, so I feel that you as the reader deserve to know as well.

Like I said before, Inclusia was not created by gods. It was created during a time long gone here on Earth. Long ago, we had humans and other non-humans, like monsters and elves, living among one another. Many of these people felt invisible because society shunned them or ignored them, making them feel like the world didn’t even belong to them. Some of these people even took their lives, but those who lived through it wished for a world they could call their own. Their will was so powerful that one day, these people found themselves plucked from their own reality and brought to a new planet specifically for them. This was created by a power named the Will of the Forgotten. The people who felt they didn’t belong anywhere found a home here in Inclusia, and created a society based on never making people feel alone and forgotten like they were on Earth. Hence the name Inclusia: the world was meant to be inclusive.

For many millennia, this form of society worked well. The world was big enough to carry all the people who belonged to it. The planet was quite literally made for them, by them. It fit everyone’s needs as their society developed. But one day, the peace came to an end. No one truly knows when or how it began, but humans began going around killing everything that wasn’t human or elven, believing that they would rise up and overpower humanity as they grew power-hungry. Just like the humans back on Earth. Humans wanted to make sure they stayed on top and weren’t wiped out, and ended up committing genocide in their act of trying to avoid genocide. After a hundred years of slaughter, the monsters evolved to the constant barrage of violence and got strong enough to provide a threat to the humans. The fighting only escalated until the world was literally stained with blood. Tired of the bloodshed, an elven woman named Sylvia Godswood rose to power and traveled the world, using diplomacy and kindness, and occasional head-busting, to quell the violence. It is said that her benevolence was so radiant that those who saw her beauty and heard her voice immediately stopped fighting and wept for the world, their ancestors, and the people they once considered their enemies. Sylvia slapped some sense into the people of Inclusia, reminding them what the whole point of the world was supposed to be, and they began rebuilding.

That was 12,000 years ago now. Save for some skirmishes and outside threats from other dimensions, Inclusia has not seen a battle quite as large as that battle, which was called the War of Cleansing. The only battle in recorded history that comes close is the War of 1806. Bartholomew Cadence, a mysterious man collaborating with the seemingly malevolent deity the Black Crystal, brought a legion of demons in an attempt to overthrow the kingdom of Livia. At the same time, Chancellor Anthony Guinness launched an attack on Livia with his own military force to take advantage of the fact that they were preoccupied with Bartholomew’s forces. Though the losses were heavy, Queen Maevis Morenthia managed to drive their foes away with magic unlike anything people in Orelivia or Washorick had ever seen. Bartholomew disappeared after the defeat of his demons, but came back later, revealing his power to possess the bodies of others.

Conclusion
The story’s weird, basically. Feel free to read the books as they are, and if you need reference for the revisions, they are all here. And if you do have any questions about the series, feel free to ask in the comments section of this website, or the YouTube video if you’re watching that version (which will come out soon if it isn’t already out). Either way, it’s time for me to finally get back to work on The Kingdom, so I hope you all have a great day and look forward to it!

Tales of Vesperia – First Impressions

The Tales series is something I meant to get into way sooner than I actually did. Back when I was a teenager, I guess you can say I started with Tales of Phantasia, only it was before there was an English patch for it. I just remember being astonished at not only the visual style for it being a SNES game, but also surprised that there was voice acting in it. I didn’t play much of it because of the language barrier, but still, this is a series that has always been at the back of my mind. Even when I was a younger teenager, I’d heard some of Motoi Sakuraba’s work from Tales of Symphonia. Since then, I’d been wanting to play this series even more.

Flash forward six or seven years into the future. As an adult, I’ve spent most of my gaming time with Persona, Final Fantasy, Shin Megami Tensei, and Dragon Quest, and I’ve played most, if not all the games in each series so far. (I haven’t beaten them yet because it takes me forever to get through games, but still.) I’m rather burned out on the RPGs I’d been playing, so I ask a good friend of mine what RPGs he’d recommend that aren’t in those series, so later, he sends me this massive list of recommendations. One of the games on there was Tales of Vesperia. I’m pretty sure that game is available on most modern gen consoles now, but I decided to grab the PS4 version. (Though if I knew it was on the Switch, I probably would have gotten it for that instead.)

The moment I booted up the game, I fell in love with the anime-esque art style. Sakuraba’s music hit me with a wave of nostalgia from my years of listening to Tales of Symphonia music. The voice actors all sounded familiar and almost embraced me emotionally with a sense of welcoming, like I was coming home from a long journey, if that cheesy comparison makes any sense. After the prologue, I was raring to go. I loved how the dungeon-crawling worked, though I did admittedly get lost frequently in the first dungeon because I was just not all that observant. It took me a little bit to adapt to the combat style, but eventually, I got the hang of it. It reminded me of what a traditional turn-based RPG would look like if it all played out in real time, and I still love it. It makes grinding not feel as much like a grind.

I don’t really have much to say since I’m only seven hours in and haven’t had much time to play it since booting it up, but I can safely say I am absolutely in love with this game. The characters are all so charming, the world feels amazing, the classic RPG elements make it feel familiar and comfortable to play, and even though I’m currently stuck on a boss right now, I’m still having an amazing time with the game. If you’re looking for a fresh RPG that also shares similarities with what we RPG fanatics have come to know and love, I’d highly recommend picking it up, or at least listening to the music. Motoi Sakuraba is a genius.