LENORA – Chapter One

Art by me.

Since it’s going to be a while before I get my next book published and things are crazy, I thought I’d post it chapter by chapter in this site for everyone to enjoy for free. I hope you like it! Feel free to let me know what you think!

Chapter One

“Why in Satan’s name does winter start in November?” Peter asked, wrapping his hands around his goosebump-covered triceps. “Temperatures don’t drop this far down ‘til, like, mid December or some shit.”

“Maybe you should ask him,” Garen Leonhart, a boy much shorter than Peter, remarked, trudging along behind him.

“Go to hell.”

“Hey, that’s where I’m telling you to go.”

Garen laughed at his own comment, while Peter could only shake his head and sigh.

The two boys walked eastward through the countryside surrounding the provincial village of Alorae. For the most part, it was all grassland and hills, with some daisies scattered about along with dandelions closing up shop for the winter. Evergreens poked out through the hills and grasslands in clusters of two, three, four, increasing in numbers as they extended to the north, east, and south until they formed a thick forest.

“You think hell’s warmer than this place?” Peter asked, rubbing his hands together. “If so, I don’t think I’d mind a field trip there.”

“Why didn’t you just bring a jacket?” Garen asked in response, sliding his hands into the pockets of his own black wool jacket. Peter shrugged and shook the numbness out of his hands.

“I’m protesting early winter.”

Garen stared at his friend with his mouth agape. “Protesting?”

“It’s all about the symbol, man.”

“Sure. That symbol being hypothermia, you mean.”

“Say what you want, but I’ll be the one laughing when my stubbornness one day changes the weather.”

Without further conversing of the matter, they continued making their way across the countryside. Further east, the grass was covered in dew slowly falling to the earth. The clusters of trees grew thicker as they headed deeper into the forested area surrounding the village. It was rare for villagers to establish homes out this far, and yet before the boys resided a modest cabin constructed from hardy wood and iron, surrounded by a wooden fence and stacks of hay bales. That cabin was their destination.

“Do we really have to talk to this guy?” Garen asked. “He creeps me out, man.”

“He already paid the Bishop for this job,” Peter said, sliding his hands into the pockets of his jeans. “There’s no backing out of it. And besides, you’ve gone through worse. What’s so wrong with this guy?”

Garen’s eyes drifted away from the cabin. “Call it a gut feeling.”

They walked around the wooden fence surrounding the cabin and found a gap at the back. Peter led the charge around the cabin, taking a long, silver dagger that had previously been secured in a leather scabbard at his side, and walked towards the front door. Garen shivered as he looked around. The yard surrounding the cabin was mostly empty, save for the hay bales. Around them, the wooden fence had to at least stand at six feet tall, much taller than Garen would be able to jump. There weren’t many reliefs for him to climb on either. The fence surrounded the cabin entirely, giving only a few yards of clearance for walking, and the front door led right towards a solid portion of it. The only exit was around, not straight through. Once again, Garen shivered at the realization.

The two boys approached the front door of the cabin. They exchanged looks with one another. Garen followed Peter’s example and removed his own dagger from the scabbard attached to his belt. Peter knocked on the wooden door with the fist wrapped around his dagger. Not even a few seconds after did the door open. An unidentifiable stench wafted out from the door, causing both Garen and Peter to recoil. Before them was a particularly short middle-aged man, almost a head shorter than Peter. His eyes were yellow and his head was balding, the last few wisps of white hair clinging to the outside of his crown. The man grinned at the boys with crooked yellow teeth and spoke in a raspy voice as though he’d been smoking for quite some time. He looked and sounded far older than he really was.

“Ah, so he did send Garen and Peter!” the man said, laughing joyously. “Welcome, welcome! Come on in, and we’ll—”

“We’re not coming in,” Peter said with a chuckle, shaking his head. “Just tell us the job and we’ll get on with it.”

The man eyed both Peter and Garen for a good amount of time. Too much time, Garen thought, and he almost instinctively stepped behind Peter slightly. Finally, the man shrugged and scoffed. “Alright, fine,” he said. “Knowing you two work for the church is more than enough info for me.”

Peter twirled his dagger in his fingers, avoiding eye contact with the man. “So, this job,” he said.

“Some beast has been scavenging from the farmhouses out here in the countryside,” the man finally said. “Stealing crops, killing and eating animals, leaving behind bloody carcasses and the like, and it’s become quite a nuisance lately.”

“I see.” Peter spun his dagger and held it with the blade poking out from the bottom of his fist, swinging it close at the man with calculated but seemingly reckless intent. “Any ID on this so-called beast?”

“Not much to go off of,” the man sighed, his eyes narrowed down to the ground. “The only sightings have happened in the early morning hours. It seems the beast strikes late at night and retreats into the forest around the time the sun starts rising.” He looked back up at Peter. “From what some of the neighbors say, it’s very wolven in stature and nature, but it seems too big to just be a regular wolf.”

“Does it appear to strike on its own, or in a group?”

“It appears to be a lone wolf, so to say.” The man laughed at his own remark, saw that neither of the boys appeared to be amused, and cleared his throat. “Sometimes, it leaves tracks heading into the forest, but there’s always only one pair of four-legged tracks.”

Peter nodded. “Alright, that’s enough information to go off of. We’ll tell the Bishop when the job’s done so he can let you know himself.” He turned towards Garen and placed a hand on his back, pushing him along as they left. “Have a good day.”

“Wait!” the man exclaimed. “Don’t you want to come in for some water or something beforehand?”

The two boys left the man’s cabin as quickly as possible. Garen broke into a sprint as soon as they reached the back of the cabin, and Peter followed. They didn’t stop until they were well into the forest. Once they covered enough ground and created distance between themselves and the man’s cabin, they slowed to a stop. Garen looked up at Peter with a scoff. “Now you see why he freaks me out?”

“Yeah,” Peter scoffed, turning towards the cabin. “We’re staying the hell away from him from now on. I’ll tell the Bishop about his true nature once the job’s done, but for now, we’ve got a beasty to kill, it seems.”

“A monster hunt,” Garen said with a slow exhale. “Alright. I can handle that.” He looked into the darkness of the forest ahead. It was already cold enough outside the forest with the cloudy skies obscuring the sun, but in the shade of the forest, it was freezing. Both of the boys could see their breath in the cold. Before them sprawled the eastern Alorae forest. A verdant haze covered the darkness in the fresh air. The aroma of sap, fresh trees, and recent rain in the grass filled the forest. Despite the peaceful feeling the forest gave passersby, the boys knew of the hidden dangers within. “The beast goes into the eastern forest, right?” Garen asked.

“That’s what the pedophile told us, at least,” Peter said, his eyes peeled for tracks or signs of beastial life. However, the darkness made it too difficult to see anything. He sighed loudly and stood up straight. “I can’t see shit in the dark. We should’ve brought a torch or something.”

“Those are reserved for subterranean missions though,” Garen said.

“But still.” Peter looked around more, still unable to find any tracks. Finally, he turned towards Garen and shrugged. “I guess we’re gonna search for him. Let’s go. Keep low, keep quiet.”

“Like you have to tell me.” Garen scoffed and bent down low to the ground. He and Peter walked slowly through the forest, looking around into the darkness. Despite their cautiousness, neither of them could truly see much. It was a usual monster hunt. They were used to it by that point, so they figured they could handle themselves if things got bad.

“Hey Garen,” Peter whispered, but immediately, Garen hissed a shush at him.

“After the job,” Garen whispered back, looking up at his friend. Peter nodded in return and continued making his way through the forest.

In the time they spent searching, some of the clouds started to part. The sun shone down onto the provincial village area, though with the trees covering the sky, it hardly made a difference for the temperature. It did, however, make things easier to see. Sunlight shimmered through gaps between the leaves in the trees. Peter and Garen glanced at the ground below, searching for tracks. Something in the ground caught Garen’s eye, however. He tapped Peter’s shoulder, and once Peter turned around, he pointed at the ground. A thin trail of blood ran along imprints left in the grass. Not necessarily footprints, but the imprints were long, as though something had been dragged.

“Think it’s the target?” Garen asked quietly.

“Only one way to find out, isn’t there?” Peter tightened his grip around the hilt of his dagger and walked closer towards the trail of blood. He leaned down to get a closer look at it. A slight sigh escaped his lips and his eyes moved upward along with the trail. “The blood veers off to the right after a little while over there.” He pointed towards a mass thicket of trees ahead of them. The sound of running water came from that direction. “Seems it might have made its home by the river.”

“Then let’s go after it,” Garen said. “I’m ready to get this job over with. We’ve got other crap to deal with back in the village.”

“Yeah.” Peter nodded and led the charge. He walked slowly, quietly, doing his best to keep a low profile. Garen followed suit as they approached the thicket and the sound of the river beyond.

Garen’s pulse quickened. He swallowed and looked at the thicket, attempting to keep his ears peeled for any sort of sounds. Other than the river, the rustling leaves around them, and the occasional cry of birds in the trees, he didn’t hear anything. He was glad Peter led the charge, though he’d never admit it, lest his reputation be forever tarnished, or so his twelve year-old mind thought.

Taking a turn around the thicket, Peter held his left arm out. Garen stopped immediately. Peter looked around the river clearing for a moment, scanning the immediate vicinity, and nodded. “Looks like we were right,” he said quietly, his lips curling into a grin. Garen walked around Peter and turned towards the right, where the trail of blood had gone, and where the blood resided, they saw the target. It was as the middle-aged man described: a wolf-like beast at least twice the size of a full-grown wolf. Its fur was black as night with patches taken out from places where it had presumably been wounded. It lay on all fours, gnawing at the bones of what looked like a former cow. Garen swallowed again at the bloody sight. But as though the creature heard him, its pointed ears perked up. It looked up at the boys with glowing green eyes and jumped to its feet with near impossible speed.

“Shit,” Peter whispered. “Looks like it got the jump on us.”

“Time for a fight, I assume?” Garen asked timidly.

The beast answered Garen’s question with a startlingly guttural roar. It stretched its forelegs and pounced, closing the gap between itself and the boys in just a couple of seconds. Peter aggressively shoved Garen aside, his eyes locked onto the beast, and went to strike at the monster. He thrust his dagger upward as the beast’s head passed by his, and the blade stuck through the bottom of its chin. However, the beast managed to connect a hit on Peter. Its hulking paw scratched down Peter’s bare, cold arm. Peter winced and fell back before the beast could pin him down.

“Peter!” Garen exclaimed, seeing the bloody wound on Peter’s arm, but he saw the beast as well. It still had plenty of energy to spare as it prepared to pounce at Peter again. Garen clenched his teeth, took in a deep breath, and charged at the beast with both hands wrapped around his dagger. He stuck the blade deep into its ribs. Immediately, the beast roared again and spun on its hindlegs in an attempt to swipe at Garen. Garen foresaw the beast’s attack and ducked beneath it. Right on cue, Peter jumped as high as he could and held his dagger downward. Right before the blade could pierce through its skull, the beast bowed its head in retaliation against Peter’s attack and snapped its massive maw at Peter. In return, Peter took the opportunity to stab the beast through the roof of its mouth. It was a success; the dagger pierced right through the roof of the beast’s mouth and out the top of its snout. 

The beast roared out in pain, its black fur beginning to stain and stick together with its own blood. Peter pulled his dagger from the beast’s mouth, but instinctively, the beast’s mouth snapped shut. Peter screamed out in pain as the beast’s teeth dug into his wrist. Garen’s eyes widened, hoping to God that Peter didn’t just lose a hand, and he ran towards the beast while it was preoccupied with his friend. He finally made the attempt to stab the beast through its left temple, and as Peter’s hand held it in place, the blade sunk right through its skull. It let out a short, sharp whine, its grip on Peter’s hand loosening as it tried to shake off the pain of Garen’s blow. Peter recoiled, gripping his bloody wrist.

“Finish it off,” he said in a low tone of voice. Garen nodded in response, his eyes meeting with the green eyes of the beast. For a moment, Garen saw pain in the beast’s eyes. He felt as though he’d seen the beast’s entire life, lived it himself. A surge of pain shot across his body for just an instant, but he shook it off, his mind on the job. He shouted, lifted his dagger high in the air with the blade pointed downward, and while looking the beast in the eyes, brought the blade down with all his strength. Time froze for a moment, though it felt like an eternity to Garen. The beast’s body went limp. It slumped over and fell into the grass, its own blood splattering out from under it. The green in its eyes faded to white. Its body was warm for only a moment, but Garen felt it leave almost immediately, replaced with soulless cold. The beast was dead.

Garen pulled his dagger out of the beast’s head, a trail of blood dripping from the blade as he did so, and he examined the body. For as massive as the beast was, it looked small and helpless at that moment. Peter walked up behind Garen, still clenching his wrist as he examined the corpse.

“It put up a hell of a fight,” he said with a weak chuckle. “At least it didn’t die willingly.”

“I suppose,” Garen said. He looked at the corpse for a little bit. A chill ran down his body from his neck to his lower back and he shivered as they remained with the body. “No matter how many times we do this, I never get used to this part.”

“You always had a soft spot for animals,” Peter sighed. “It’s funny. I’ve never seen you look so mournful when its an assassination mission on a human, but when it’s a monster, you always get like this.”

“Monsters are different from humans.” Garen returned his dagger to the scabbard on his belt and knelt down, placing his hands on the cold body of the former beast. “Humans kill without necessity. They steal, kill, do all these terrible things, and they don’t bat an eye. Many of them enjoy it all, too. But monsters, they don’t have a vendetta against life like many people think they do. This guy was probably stealing from the farmlands for survival. There aren’t many animals in this forest that can be easily hunted, so it’d be easier to steal from the nearby farms.” Garen shrugged. “Sure, I feel bad for murdering humans, but at least I know that when I do, it’s because it’s for the greater good. When I kill a monster, it just doesn’t feel right. It doesn’t feel… it doesn’t feel fair to the monster, you know?”

Peter scoffed and backed up a bit, looking around at their surroundings. “You know,” he began, “I kinda understand what you’re talking about, for sure, but the damn thing nearly took my hand off, so I can’t say I pity it or anything.”

“Oh shit. Your hand!”

Garen shot up to his feet and hurried to Peter’s side to examine his wound. Peter’s entire left hand was drenched in blood from keeping pressure on the wound. He winced again as he opened his hand to reveal numerous punctures in his wrist. Some of his bones were even visible. Garen’s face scrunched up at the sight and he shook his head.

“That thing got you good,” he said. “Let me see it.” Peter nodded and held his bloody arm towards Garen. Garen wrapped both his hands around the wound, holding Peter’s wrist tightly. He closed his eyes, and the world around him fell silent for a moment. It was a peaceful silence. The feeling of his heart pumping blood into his veins amplified itself, and Garen could feel every single beat. He took in a deep breath of the fresh forest air, and as he exhaled, a gentle energy of cold air emerged from his palms and the tips of his fingers, almost like a homemade breeze. The wounds around Peter’s wrist began to close up, the bleeding slowing to a halt. Garen opened his eyes once he finished, and he examined Peter’s wrist. There were still scars around it, but the punctures were gone entirely. Peter clenched his hand into a fist and laughed a little, looking at his wrist.

“No matter how many times I see you do that, it never fails to amaze me,” he said.

“It’s just something I think I was born with,” Garen said with a shrug. “I think that’s why the Bishop always has me go on missions with you and Anne. I might not be able to do it much, but when I do, I make it count. I can’t let you guys die, you know.”

“But still, don’t sell yourself short, man.” Peter smiled and placed his hand on Garen’s shoulder. “You’re a badass kid. You’ve proven this time and time again. You’re excellent in combat, you have cool magic and shit, and you’re a great friend all around.”

Garen found his cheeks flushing slightly at Peter’s words and he laughed nervously. “Don’t go getting all sappy on me now, man. You’re embarrassing me.”

“Good.” Peter laughed and nudged Garen. “You deserve a little reality check every once in a while.”

“Oh, whatever.”

Both of the boys laughed a little. It was something Garen always looked forward to when it came to missions that required them to leave Alorae. Moments where he could spend time with his best friend were far and few in between, but he treasured every moment he had with Peter, even if those moments required murdering people or creatures.

Once the moment passed, they turned towards the corpse of the beast they felled. Garen crossed his arms, wiping some of the blood he got on his hand from healing Peter’s wound off on his shirt. “What should we do?” he asked. “We need to bring some sort of proof that we killed the beast to the Bishop so we get paid for the job, right?”

“Something like that,” Peter said. He knelt down and examined the corpse, looking it over a few times. “We need something sort of small so we don’t freak out any of the villagers when we return. Something like… ah!” He chuckled with a cocky grin as he brandished his knife and began to cut one of the beast’s eyeballs from the socket. Garen squirmed at the sight and turned away as Peter did so.

“Is that really necessary?” he asked. Peter finished the job and held the beast’s massive eyeball in the palm of his hand. It was practically the size of an orange in his hand, both in weight, shape, and size.

“This thing had green eyes,” Peter said. “They may have gone grey upon death, but I think this should be proof enough that we got this thing killed.” He sheathed his dagger and pat Garen on the back. “Come on. Let’s head back to the village.”

“Yeah,” Garen scoffed, avoiding eye contact with the eyeball in Peter’s hand. “Let’s do 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.

Thoughts on Chapter Five in Bravely Default

Warning: there may potentially be spoilers ahead.

I’m a major fan of Bravely Default. I love the characters, I love the story, the art style, the unique take on turn-based combat, and the soundtrack of course. (All hail our lord and savior Revo, who is making a return in Bravely Default II.) I still have year to beat the game, but I am working on it as we speak. I spent 40 grinding, which is why it’s taken me so long to get through the plot, but when you play the game, you understand why. There’s a good incentive for grinding. Anyway, once that was done, I finally got the rest of the job classes I was missing, at least, the ones I could access, and progressed the story.

At that point, I finally made it to Chapter Five. For anyone who doesn’t know, this is a point in the story where the story sort of repeats itself in a way. You have to go around the world again and re-awaken the Four Crystals of Light, and every single boss you’ve fought in the game is back for you to thwart again. Before going into the game, I’d heard complaints about this part of the game. Perhaps it’s because I’m not far enough myself, but I don’t quite understand the complaints. People talk about it being redundant and boring, which I can understand. It is redundant, I will agree with that, but you’re not just playing the same part of the game all over again. It’s much more than that.

That is where my love for this part of the game comes in. The moment I heard the familiar voice greeting Tiz back in Caldisla after entering the Holy Pillar, I got chills. When I saw that it was just Tiz in the inn, I was a little worried. It made me wonder if the entire story as a whole would just reset, like what I’ve heard Bravely Second does if you don’t press the Start button at a certain point in time, but once the rest of the group come back up talking about how weird everything is, my worries disappeared.

Sure, the plot sort of “reset” itself in a way, but not in the way you might think. After the four protagonists discussed the matter and looked around a little, they realized that it wasn’t time travel. They were in another version of the world they knew. The people who entered the Holy Pillar with them aboard Grandship also were aware of these changes, so not everything was the same.

One of my favorite elements of this parallel world deal was how the boss fights were treated. The fights are pretty much the same as they were in the initial world, only they have higher stats, essentially. It wasn’t the fights themselves, however. It was the context behind them. Many of the bosses acted as though they knew the protagonists, some of them seemed confused by their existence. Some of them even had an inkling that they didn’t belong in that world.

The first time you fight all these bosses, they feel like such evil, almost stereotypical villainous archetypes. However, when you fight them the second time, they suddenly feel more human. Even the protagonists suddenly start feeling bad for killing some of them. The best/worst part is that it’s all optional. You could go this entire chapter without killing these bosses, but you do it because you want to see everything the story has to offer. That’s the case for me, at least. I admittedly did feel bad killing some of them. I suppose that’s the genius behind this game.

Regardless, all of this is to say that Chapter Five of Bravely Default is actually really good. Despite its redundancy, the narrative finds a way to make the game feel fresh, and show you that there’s more than one side to everything. Now after writing this, I’m in the mood to play more, so I think I’ll do just that. I hope you all have a wonderful day!

Thoughts on Final Fantasy VII Remake

With all the hype surrounding games coming out soon, Final Fantasy VII Remake has been one of the many incredible games announced to come out soon. The original Final Fantasy VII had such a major impact on the gaming world in 1997 that it seemed near impossible to reach that level with a remake.

Enter Square Enix.

They managed to capture the original essence of the game so well while making it feel like a new game entirely in such a perfect way that it’s unbelievable. The characters feel more alive than they ever have, the world feels fleshed out and refined, and the music is the best we have ever heard it. Bringing back original composer Nobuo Uematsu was an incredible move on the dev team’s part, because the reorchestrated soundtrack does more justice for the original music than expected. If you have a PS4 and you haven’t tried it yet, the demo is available for free on there. Feel free to give it a go if you want to feel how it plays!

My history with Final Fantasy VII is a little strange, I’ll admit. I actually have an old YouTube video from two years ago where I discussed half-assed reasons why I didn’t like the game at the time. Which is ironic when you consider what this blog page is all about. My philosophy on video games has changed so much in recent years. If you’re interested in watching past me try to explain stuff that doesn’t make sense, here is the video for you.

dat thumbnail tho

My history with Final Fantasy VII began when I was about 14 years old. I was just getting into the series at the time. Before I was 12, I didn’t even know what Final Fantasy was. All I knew of it was the name. My love for the series started with a classic DS game called Ring of Fates, which was part of the Crystal Chronicles spinoff series, and the GameBoy Advance port of Final Fantasy IV. Both games inspired my love of the series, and the latter was what sparked my love for combining fantasy with sci-fi.

I had more access to the internet when I was 12 years old, so when I was working on my books at the time, I would listen to music from the Final Fantasy series almost exclusively. I was obsessed with Uematsu’s work, especially with the music from his former band The Black Mages. Combining metal and rock with Final Fantasy music? Count me in.

Once I started high school, many of the people I met there were fans of the series and helped me access it a little more. By that, I mean introducing me to the age-old solution for playing games when you’re part of a middle-lower class family: emulation. Sure, it’s illegal, but my rebel teenage self didn’t give a rip. (Full disclosure: I still use emulators, but only to play games I already own legally on my computer and to play fan translations of Japanese SNES games. Even then, I still buy legal copies of said Japanese games when I can afford them for the sake of legality.)

I finally looked into the rest of the series and played the games my old 1GB Windows XP computer could run, which was pretty much anything for NES, SNES, and GBA. One game I always wanted to play myself was the aforementioned Final Fantasy VII. It was one of the games in the series that always seemed to evade me for the longest time. I knew the gist of the plot, the characters, and I’d heard the incredible soundtrack, but never got to play it. I saw a few episodes from a Let’s Play for it back in the day (by the YouTuber HCBailly, if anyone’s interested; he’s a great RPG YouTuber and I’d recommend checking his stuff out), and I even saw the movie Advent Children multiple times and played Crisis Core, but other than that, I never got to see the game firsthand.

It wasn’t until I was 18 years old and working full time that I got the opportunity to try Final Fantasy VII for the first time. I got the port of it for the PS3, and I did enjoy it, though over time, I began to wonder why it was so beloved. Like I mention in the video I posted, most of the Final Fantasy hoodies I found online were for Final Fantasy VII. Nowadays, I understand why, but back then, not so much, and it annoyed me, which, for some reason, ruined my experience at the time. I have no idea why. I was young and dumb, apparently.

A couple years ago, however, I finally gave the game another shot and pushed past the point in the game I never made it past. I reached the point where you learn the story of Red XIII and Cosmo Canyon, and I cried like a baby. It was that point in the game where I finally understood why this game was so beloved. It wasn’t just an overhyped game. It was a storytelling masterpiece. The cinematic elements, the character stories, the music, everything about it was perfect. Save for a few typos, but almost every game, if not every game, has a typo somewhere.

I still have yet to beat it; I got to the final Sephiroth fight about a month ago, but he just spammed status ailments on my party and I could never beat him for that reason (I can only blame myself for not being as prepared as I expected), but still, I got to experience the rest of the game in my 70-hour playthrough, and it was amazing. There were very few parts of the game I actually disliked, and they were just minigames. I loved everything else about the game.

With the release of the demo, I was immediately on it. I initially had my doubts, like I’m sure many people did. Or perhaps it wasn’t as much “doubt” as it was reluctance. The original Final Fantasy VII tells its story in such an incredible way. It was anyone’s guess as to whether it would feel the same, or even better.

I can confirm that it truly does the original game justice. Of course, that’s just my opinion and you can form any opinion on the game you’d like, but I personally love it. Cloud’s snarky attitude is back, the members of AVALANCHE feel more alive and fleshed out than they ever did, the combat feels fluid and smooth and combines turn-based with real-time combat perfectly, the writing is clever, witty, and somehow different from the original enough to feel fresh, but also similar enough to where you can tell it’s the final draft version of the original script. Not to mention the soundtrack. The reorchestrated music still gives me chills. It has what’s called a “dynamic soundtrack”, where the music fluidly changes depending on the circumstances, like whether or not you’re in battle and such things like that.

All in all, I can safely say that this remake is going to be mind-blowing to those willing to let their minds be blown. When you play it, go into it with an open mindset. Whether or not you enjoy it will be up to your own personal tastes, but if you were a fan of the original and are willing to adapt to the new combat system (which is really easy to get the hang of, especially for someone like me, who sucks at action-based combat), I think you’re really going to enjoy this game. I may even start a playthrough of it on the day of release on my Twitch and YouTube. We’ll have to see.

Thoughts on Final Fantasy XV

Look at these good bois.

This game has been a big discussion point among the RPG community, or pretty much anyone who wanted to give this game a try. As is expected in this day and age of Gamers™ thinking they know better than developers, it’s received its fair share of harsh criticism and unnecessary backlash. Before anyone gets all up in arms, I will say that yes, criticism is fine, but negative attitudes and dragging people down for actually enjoying this game is not. Neither is insulting the developers, especially when they went through hell to get this game made. If you want to be angry at someone, blame the corporate side of Square Enix for putting such strenuous deadlines on the developers when they were already having a tough time. Regardless, this game has been out for almost a few years now and I’ve beaten it a couple times, so I figured I’d share my thoughts on it.

Allow me to apologize for my initial frustration regarding the topic. As a fan of the game myself, I’ve heard my fair share of berating and have grown rather tired of it. Thankfully, I don’t hear it as much these days, but it was particularly bad over the past few years. With the remake of Final Fantasy VII coming out in just barely under a month, everyone’s attention is turned towards that anyway. Mine included, to be perfectly honest, but that’s a conversation for another post at another time. (Right now, I’m just getting through my backlog of drafted posts I never finished. Hashtag procrastination.)

Final Fantasy XV was a magical experience for me. That could be said for every game in the series. Over the years, I had the amazing opportunity to play every game in the series. Unfortunately, not FFXI, but that’s simply due to a lack of access. Regardless, the point remains. Ever since I was a kid, Final Fantasy has always intrigued me, and it inspired my love of combining sci-fi and fantasy into one genre in my own writing. Something about the music, the combat, the setting, the stories, the characters, all of it was majorly influential on my career as an author and even a music composer. FFXV was my first PS4 game. It was the reason I bought a PS4 in the first place, and I was beyond excited about it.

I remember first seeing screenshots of it in an old Game Informer magazine back in 2010 (I think) when it was called Final Fantasy Versus XIII. I remember the old slogan “A fantasy based on reality.” I remember eagerly following every trailer or article on this new game for the duration of the development process and becoming enamored with this mystery game. Then I remember the day they revealed the title change and decided to simply call it Final Fantasy XV. I still have chills remembering the hype surrounding that reveal trailer. It was incredible, and remembering that feeling reminds me of my passion for video games all over again.

The moment Kingsglaive came out, I bought it as quickly as I could. I wanted to get my hands on anything related to Final Fantasy XV, and that was my first stop. While it was downloading, however, I saw that there was a livestream for the Abbey Road Studios performance of select songs from the FFXV soundtrack, a concert where Yoko Shimomura herself, the composer, would be attending, so I had to watch that. That was my first true glimpse into the music. I was already well in love with Shimomura’s work from some of the other games she’s done music for, but this concert put me in a trance. The music was just so beautiful, and getting to hear it performed live, even from a computer, was a worthwhile experience. Afterward, I got to watch Kingsglaive, a film designed to be watched before playing the actual game since it helps fill some of the plot in that you might not understand otherwise. Even the film was amazing as well, and a perfect compliment to the adventure that would soon follow. I won’t spoil any of the plot if you haven’t seen it, but if you like FFXV at all, I would highly recommend it.

Finally, the moment of truth. The game came out in November of 2016, if I recall correctly. It was around the time that I was finally regaining my passion for writing after a year of stagnation. I bought the game a week before I could even afford a PS4. I just wanted to assure that I had a copy before anything else. Then once I got a PS4, I could only think about getting the game booted up and finally giving it a try. I had to work all day that day, so I simply had to wait.

Once I got home and booted the game up, I was immediately in love. The brotherly dynamic between the four protagonists, the compelling story that begins where it ends and then takes you back to where it all started, and the oddly real yet fantastical world you get to spend the game in all drew me into the world of FFXV, and I loved every moment of the game.

I’d spend as much time as I could doing sidequests, exploring dungeons, anything to allow me to stay in this amazing world for as long as I could. I’d look for every radio in the game to listen to the numerous NPCs that spoke on it. I had so much fun with the game, and it was just such a wonderful experience.

The last few chapters hit like a truck, though. I played from chapter 11 to the end of the game in one sitting, and it was emotionally overwhelming, to say the least. By the time I beat the game, I actually had to set it aside for a few months before revisiting it. I did not expect the game to go that hard on the story, nor that it would be that emotional. The first eight chapters set up a false sense of security in a way, only for the last chapters of the story to break your heart.

Even so, my love for the game has not wavered. I still enjoy the game every time I play it. Since more time has passed since its release, they have also added many new features that make the game feel better to play as well, so I’d say now’s as good a time as any to play it. Especially with the release of the Royal Edition. I’m such a fan of the game that I have both the day one release and the Royal Edition, mostly for collector’s sake, but still. This game is an incredible experience, and I would definitely recommend playing it with an open mind. Just don’t play the end of the game as quickly as I did if you get emotionally overwhelmed easily.

Thoughts on Persona 1 (PSP)

This song never gets old, I swear.

I apologize for not exactly uploading these as frequently as I originally intended when creating this website. I’ve just been up to a lot lately. I recently finished writing my latest novel, I’ve been spending more time with my family, and I’m getting into digital art now, so I’m sure I’ll be posting some of that on here eventually. But regardless, we’re not here to talk about all of that. I would like to talk about a very overlooked game: Persona 1. Specifically the PSP version, since I’ve never been able to play the PS1 version.

I don’t have much of a history with this game in particular, so there isn’t a long rant awaiting you this time like there has been in the past. Like many fans of the Persona series, the original trilogy was sort of a mystery to me for a while, given that Persona 3 was my introduction to the series. So when I got Persona 1, I wasn’t sure what to expect.

Funny enough, pretty much the entire first hour I played of the game, it immediately gave me Shin Megami Tensei if vibes. The whole scenario of hopping between one dimension and another reminded me an awful lot of the series’ predecessor, and I was quite pleased with how it handled. The characters had a fun and unique dynamic, the music was fantastic, and I fell in love with the first person dungeon-crawling elements I’d come to know and love playing games like the old school Shin Megami Tensei games or the Etrian Odyssey series.

In terms of the combat, there was a bit I didn’t understand initially. It felt like regular turn-based RPG combat, but its proximity-based system threw me for a loop initially. Depending on characters’ placements on the map, their attacks could only reach a certain distance. Some regular melee attacks could attack just one enemy, some could attack multiple, the list goes on. I got sort of used to it, though my patience wore somewhat thin during my first attempt at playing the game. I got to the warehouse beneath the SEBEC building, and suddenly the game felt much more difficult. I stopped playing for quite some time. It wasn’t that I disliked it at the time. I just knew I wasn’t ready to play it.

I finally picked it up again months after, deciding to start over from the beginning, and I had way more fun with it. I don’t know what was different, necessarily. Maybe I just understood the combat more. I took more advantage of the auto battle feature when level grinding, which is something I never do in RPGs for some reason. As soon as I started doing that, it felt like I was suddenly playing the game the way I was meant to.

There isn’t much I can say about the game without just getting redundant, but it has quickly become one of my favorite games in the series. The music is just so good, the characters are well-written, the combat is fun once you’re used to it, and the story itself is a wild ride. Like I mentioned, I had no idea what I was getting into when I first played, but the game certainly went places I never expected it to. In my personal opinion, I feel like this game is a must-play for any Persona fans. If you’re used to the newer games, the combat can feel a little slow at first, but you quickly become accustomed to it. It is a fantastic game, and I hope that maybe this has shone some light on why I love it so much.

If you’re interested, I’ve been doing a blind playthrough for this game on my Twitch/YouTube! It’s very intermittent in terms of when I play it, so the playthrough is far from over, but I’ll put the playlist here if you’re interested. In any case, I hope you have a wonderful day!

I definitely need to finish this playthrough some time.

The Genesis – Persona 4

Listen to the end. Trust me; you won’t regret it.

This is such a fascinating song that I had to write an entire article about it. Maybe not a long article, but I just wanted to share my thoughts on this song and why it’s personally one of my favorite tracks in the whole Persona 4 soundtrack. People talk about it being boring, and while they’re allowed to have their own opinions, I couldn’t agree less than I already do.

Maybe it’s because of this following fact. I’m not the biggest fan of Persona 4‘s soundtrack in general, at least, in comparison to the other games’ soundtracks. (My personal favorites are the soundtrack of P1, both the PSP and PS1 versions, P2: Eternal Punishment, P3, and P5.) People talk about it being too slow for the “true final battle” theme, and yes, it is a little slow, but it’s incredible. This track just stands out to me more than most songs in the P4 soundtrack do because of its intimidating and ominous nature. The true final boss is most certainly a formidable foe, and this song is probably the most fitting song Shoji Meguro could have composed for it.

In a game with music that gives off a pop/rock vibe, a song like this, with a classical orchestra feeling, really just provides that atmosphere change that really shows you you’re in the endgame now. Even The Mist, another one of my favorite tracks from P4, doesn’t scream “final boss” like this song does. At least to me, anyway. All of this is my own opinion, and I can absolutely see why people would disagree with me. But I’m coming from the perspective of a former choir/music theory major. In the years I performed in choir and have studied music theory, I learned to be able to feel what music was saying through the timbre of the instruments, the way the time signature is utilized, the cadence of the melody as it combines with the background harmonies, the list goes on.

My point is that just about every song out there tells a story, and it doesn’t need lyrics to tell that story. You can understand what it’s saying through close listening and truly immersing yourself in the song. This song gives off the perfect foreboding aura such an intimidating final boss deserves. It sort of reminds me of the song “Transient Butterfly” from the PS1 version of the first Persona game, at least in its structure and what sort of feeling it’s giving off. Except unlike that song, “The Genesis” has that bit of hope at the end of the game where it brings things back full circle with the melody of “Reach Out to the Truth”, another one of my favorite tracks from this game. That ending always gives me chills.

Long rant short, I personally think this song is absolutely incredible, and it’s the perfect track for the true final battle. Also, the instruments give off very heavy Strange Journey vibes. I know that both games’ soundtracks were composed by Shoji Meguro, but still. Strange Journey is one of my favorite games of all time, and I absolutely love that Meguro threw some of that game’s music style into a Persona game. Goes to show it’s true that every Persona game’s final battle theme has some Shin Megami Tensei inspiration.