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Category Archives: Review

A Trip Through the SNES Classic: A Link to the Past

From what I’ve seen in fandom circles, A Link to the Past is one of the most beloved games in the Legend of Zelda series, right up there with the all-time classic, Ocarina of Time.  By weird chance, I actually own three copies of the game: one for the GBA Advance, one for the SNES, and the one that came included with the SNES Classic. Yet I’m only just playing it now.

No, I don’t know why either.

A Link to the Past starts off with a bang, in a way that its fellow Zelda games typically haven’t.  Other entries, like Twilight Princess, Wind Waker, and Skyward Sword, ease you into the adventure, as Link interacts with the people in his home village just before the Inciting Incident happens.  A Link to the Past begins with Link receiving a telepathic message from Princess Zelda, begging for help.  So your first job is to break into Hyrule Castle, just in time for Link to find his dying uncle, who also tried to help the princess.  You get his sword, infiltrate the dungeon, and rescue Zelda before she can be used as a human sacrifice for an evil wizard’s scheme.

Once Zelda is safe, Link receives his next objective: find the three pendants that will allow him to gain access to the hidden Master Sword.  Only then will he be able to defeat the evil wizard Agahnim and restore peace to the kingdom of Hyrule.

But, of course, it isn’t that easy.

A Link to the Past fascinates me as a newer Zelda fan because it’s clear from the get-go how much it influenced the rest of the series, particularly Ocarina of Time. The story beats feel familiar: Inciting Incident, Find the Three Sacred Plot Devices, Big Twist Where the Villain Gains the Upper Hand, and Find More Sacred Plot Devices to Defeat Him for Real This Time.  Other elements that feel familiar include certain locations throughout the kingdom of Hyrule and musical cues.  It felt weird visiting Death Mountain without running into any Gorons, but they didn’t show up until Ocarina.

Link also suffers the death of his uncle early in the game, so he has a more personal reason to be involved in the conflict than before.  (Well, in theory.  His little pixelated self didn’t seem too broken up by it.)  Likewise, future Zelda games gave Link more of a backstory, with family members, friends, and neighbors that care about him.

I started playing A Link to the Past earlier this year, right after Kingdom Hearts III, and I’ve been playing it on and off ever since.  It’s not the first time that I’ve played a Zelda game right after a Kingdom Hearts or Final Fantasy playthrough, and there’s always a learning curve that comes with it.  You can’t really level grind with Zelda the way that you would with a JRPG.  When playing any video game, I have a kneejerk tendency to hunt down every last enemy in a given area so that I can gain more experience points, which translates to better health, stats, etc.  But that doesn’t work with a non-JRPG.

Instead, A Link to the Past forced me to experiment and try new strategies when I died over and over again.  I’d experiment with using different weapons, or figure out ways to avoid enemies altogether.  In a way, I was still “gaining experience,” except that I was the one gaining it, not Link.  That’s not to say that either Zelda or Final Fantasy is superior to the other in terms of gameplay.  They’re just different.

One thing that I do find frustrating- and this is something that applies more to the Zelda series as a whole and not Link to the Past specifically- is saving the game and starting over after dying.  Every time you die during a boss fight, you have to start over at the beginning of the dungeon and navigate through some of the minor enemies just to get back to the fight.  I’d rather just jump right back into the fight and try again.

But, all in all, I’ve found A Link to the Past to be a game that lives up to the hype.  The story is exciting and the world is fun to explore.  And now it’s available on the Switch for Nintendo’s online service subscribers.  So if you haven’t played it yet, now’s your chance!

Review: Little Witch Academia (2017)

little witch

Sometimes you need an anime that is a little bit more innocent. One might even say that it has a more childlike vibe. Where the music, animation and the story is just a little bit lighter. 

Yoh Yoshinari created a manga called Little Witch Academia that became a fan favorite in 2013. This, like with so many other animes, was able to help the story be told through a different medium. Little Witch Academia has been able to evolve into an anime. The show made its debut in January of 2017. Megumi Han and Erica Mendez are the voice actresses that help bring the protagonist to life.  

When she was a little girl, Akko Kagari saw a witch named Shiny Chariot perform at a magical show. Chariot inspired her to become a witch herself so that she could do magic and bring others joy. Akko is accepted into a prestigious girls magic school called Luna Nova Academy. It won’t be easy, though. Akko is the only girl who doesn’t come from a magical family. Also, it turns out that magic is, well, difficult. However, with her new friends, her can do attitude, and inspiration from her role model, Akko is sure she can become a witch. 

The animation is really interesting for Little Witch Academia. It is a mix of a few styles that give the anime its own look. The character designs are well done, particularly how the animators have tweaked the uniforms for each student. The music is fun and helps to set the mood for different scenes. The sets, particularly for the Academy, are really beautifully animated. The overall look of the anime is really well done. It easily gives the viewers a peek into a world where magic lives in the midst of the “real world.”

I enjoyed Little Witch Academia. I think it has a fun and fanciful feel. It also shows the power of sticking to your dreams. This anime also tells a story about how one action inspires one child to become something more, and how it gives them the courage to continue through adversary. I would recommend it to everyone. 

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ALWAYS KEEP SPARKLING!

Review: Moonflight (Tabletop Game)

Developer: Man o’ Kent Games
Kickstarter launch: 9/18/2019

What is it?

Moonflight is a tabletop deck building game with an interesting twist. While you spend a good amount of the game building your deck, the winner comes down to the person who can unbuild their deck as well.

Moonflight takes place in a mythical fay land called Moonflight. Moonflight only exists under the waxing of the Hunter’s Moon. Players take on the role of the leaders of Moonflight, a Jack, and must have the most powerful deck by the end of the night.

What did I think?

Moonflight has all the amazing qualities of a deck building game. You gain resources in order to buy playable cards. You try to build the most powerful deck you possibly can. I also really enjoy the twist of unbuilding your deck, which adds an extra layer to strategizing. Not only do you have to build the most powerful deck, but you have to weed out the cards that aren’t useful to you in order to win.

There’s also the concept of “the Turn,” which helps in unbuilding your deck. Each card has 2 sides, the black side and the white side. You start the game by using the black side. Once your marketplace is dried up, “the Turn” happens, flipping each card to the white side and changing their abilities. While the black side has deck building abilities, the white side has deck unbuilding abilities.

Another aspect of this game that I love is the fact that you can play by yourself. Not everyone has the ability to play with friends all the time, but you can still get that itch to play a tabletop game. There are two options for solo play: Score More or AI Mode.

In Score Mode, you attempt to get the highest score you possibly can, which can hone your deck unbuilding skills. In AI Mode, you can choose AI player cards to play against. You take the turns for these AI players based on what the card tells you to do. This gives you a more competitive feel for the game, while still playing by yourself.

The artwork is absolutely stunning. It really gives you the feeling of being in a fay land. Considering I’m obsessed with faeries, I am obviously in love with this artwork. The prototype cards were sturdy and comfortable to hold. They reminded me of my favorite tarot deck, which was extremely pleasing.

The instructions were easy to understand and broken up into manageable parts. They have a section for the more experienced players, but most of the rule book is for non-experienced players. The terms are clearly defined and the rules are laid out in a way that really helps new players to understand the game.

Do I recommend it?

I do! Moonflight is a fun, fantastic, and fascinating deck building/unbuilding game that will keep you entertained. Consider supporting Man o’ Kent’s Kickstarter for this game, it will be live tomorrow, Wednesday, September 18th, 2019.

You can print and play Moonflight now here. You can also play via Tabletop Simulator here.

Review: The Order (2019)

the order 2Time spent at college is considered to be extremely exciting for so many people. It is a place to experience freedom, to make friends and to discover things about oneself. Some people have these experiences in societies that they pledge for and grow with. What if it was a secret society though? What if that society was a supernatural one?

In Netflix’s new series The Order this is a question that is explored. The Order premiered in March of 2019. The story for the show was created by  Dennis Heaton and Shelley Eriksen. The Order has a great cast, including: Jake Manley, Sarah Grey and Adam DiMarco, who are billed as the show’s stars. It has been cleared for a second season in 2020.

What if your mother had died under mysterious circumstances? How far would you go for answers and, maybe, even to avenge her? Those are some nagging questions that Jack Morton has as he starts his time at a prestigious university. Now Jack is juggling classes, secret societies, a super odd roommate, a bunch of mysterious deaths and things right out of folklore. Can Jack make it out alive while he tries to navigate through this complicated new world? Oh and to get the girl too, of course. 

The dark and humorous world of Belgrave University is accompanied by a well made soundtrack. As the audience and Jack stumble through the mysterious story lines that make up The Order, they are guided by music to set the mood. The sets are amazing. I don’t want to give much away, but the settings have clearly been well thought out. Even the classrooms and hallways make the viewer feel like they are back in school.

The characters themselves are well written. Not only that, but they are also incredibly interesting. I want to know more about almost everyone in this show. Their costumes give the viewer clear clues about the characters while still making you believe that they are also just still in college. The characters go from worrying about essays to the next bit of danger that they are stumbling into. 

I really enjoyed this first season of The Order. There were twists that I didn’t see coming. The ending was great. I am excited for the next season. 

I would highly recommend this show. I think it appeals to a wide range of audiences. It also has interesting takes on the supernatural elements.

the order

ALWAYS KEEP SPARKLING!

Review: Stardew Valley (2016)

Developed by ConcernedApe
Published by Chucklefish
Released: February 26th, 2016
Avabile: Steam, XBox One, PS4, Nintendo Switch, PSVita, IOS & Andriod

Let’s chat about Stardew Valley.

Years ago, I had gotten a GameBoy Advanced and found a game called Harvest Moon. I was obsessed with it. I would sit on the couch and play for hours, ignoring the world around me. I never thought I would find something like that again. I played other Harvest Moon games, but they weren’t the same. In comes Stardew Valley.

I was so excited when I saw it was coming out that I squealed and told everyone. I wanted everyone to hopefully experience the same wonder that I had playing Harvest Moon, I prayed that it would be amazing and was not disappointed. It blew away my expectations. 

Now that you know I love the game, let’s talk about the actual game.

You start off, unfortunately, with the passing of your grandfather, who hands you an envelope and tells you to open it when you are at your lowest. Next, you are seen working in a cubicle at Joja Corporation and obviously hating your job. You remember the note and open it. It’s telling you that you inherited a farm in Stardew Valley. Obviously, you drop everything and bounce. Peace, Joja.

You arrive in town and meet Robin, the carpenter, and Lewis, the mayor. They show you to your farm and tell you a few basics. 

There are 4 seasons and 28 days in each season. Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter. You plant crops according to the season. You go fishing, cook delicious food, upgrade your house, get farm animals, and, obviously, earn money. 

What’s better is that you are surrounded by these amazing NPCs that have their own stories, hardships and personalities. You can date and even marry several of them, regardless of gender. You can make friends with everyone. 

Their stories unfold and you really get pulled in, wanting to help these NPCs in their struggles. It’s really touching and extremely well written.

Not to mention fighting monsters in the mine, the festivals, the secrets and so many achievements. Also, the addition of multiplayer means you can farm with up to 3 friends. 

With several different farm map options, no real ‘end’ to the game, and the ability to decorate and change your farm around as you wish, the fun can be endless. 

I feel like Stardew Valley has something for everyone. It’s only $14.99 and with no paid DLC, the game is a steal. I only have 13 farms and over 300 hours in the game to prove it.

On a more personal note, this game has also gotten me through really tough times, depressive episodes, and moments when I had no strength left. I could turn it on and disappear for a few hours and come out feeling better. It’s always had a calming effect on me. I’m eternally grateful for that.

Oh, and if nothing I said above is impressive, this game was made by 1 person. The entire game, all aspects. 1 person. Let that sink in.

Do you play? What’s your favorite farm type? Who’s the best spouse? Show me screenshots of your farm!

Cardcaptor Sakura: An Anime Review

cardcaptor Some animes are great because they are bright and happy. Even when faced with hard times they have an overall good feeling. They are important because they are able to help viewers remember that beauty and light can be found everywhere. 

Cardcaptor Sakura is an anime that brings joy to so many people. As is the case with most animes it started as a manga. The anime debuted in 1998. It was directed by Morio Asaka. Cardcaptor Sakura ran for three seasons and has seventy episodes. This is an incredibly popular anime that has a reboot that more closely resembles the manga. This reboot is gorgeous to watch!

Sakura is a girl who has a pretty normal life. She has a best friend, an annoying older brother and goes to a regular school. The normalcy of her life changes when she finds a book of cards, called Clow Cards and she accidentally releases them. Sakura must now find the cards, fight the personification of them and win so that she can reclaim them. Her best friend makes her battle costumes and records her fights. Her mentor, and the guardian of the cards, helps her along the way. She even has a secret nemesis who is out to catch all the cards before Sakura can. 

The character design of Cardcaptor Sakura is really just adorable. Because of the youthful nature of the series protagonist the designs for the humans are bright. The cards and the design for the battle versions of the are beautiful and rich. The music fits the overall feel of the series well. The settings are well animated. The entire vibe of the show is lovely and a treat to watch. 

Cardcaptor Sakura is an anime that has encouraged not only the cute style that is used but also for there to be more stories with young girls as the heroes. Sakura is not sexualized but free to go after the cards in cute clothing. That makes Cardcaptor Sakura the kawaii dream. It also encourages girls to support each other with their own strengths. Teamwork and support is how Sakura succeeds. 

Cardcaptor Sakura is just a really great anime. It is interesting. Visually pleasing. It has humor as well. I hope that you will enjoy it.

cardcaptor 2

ALWAYS KEEP SPARKLING!!!

Hellsing: An Anime Review

hellsing Vampires. There is a very real fascination with them. The idea of being immortal, powerful and supernatural is something that can be very appealing to many people. 

Hellsing is an anime that premiered in 2001. Created first by Kohta Hirano as a manga it was then developed as an anime. In Britain there is a special task force with a very interesting mission. Hellsing, the official name for the task force, is led by the descent of famed vampire hunter Van Hellsing.  It’s primary aim is to protect England from vampires, ghouls and over supernatural creatures which are threatening it’s civilians. This is no easy task, even for such elite soldiers. Thankfully Sir Integra has a few tricks, including one very surprising one. 

There is one vampire that England can trust. He has sworn to work with the Hellsing family and therefore to take care of those who it protects. This gives Hellsing one big advantage to go with their guns against the forces of the supernatural. Will it be enough though? Are their enemies too strong? Is one vampire enough to help turn the tide and keep England safe?

hellsing2

The character designs are really what shine in the original anime. The costume designs are very interesting and unique to each character. While some are extremely impractical, if you have seen the show you know EXACTLY which one I am talking about, the overall feel of the show is aided by the costumes. The colors that the animators use are perfect. The settings are so well done in this anime. Between the aster setting of Integra’s office to the dark and gritty settings everywhere else the animation is critical to telling the story. The soundtrack is also well done. 

Hellsing is an interesting anime. The concept is a particularly fun one. I enjoy a lot of the characters. I know there are many who are fans of the manga first who dislike the changes made to the original anime. Because of this there was a remake called Hellsing Ultimate. This follows the plot of the original story more closely. 

So if you like vampires and anime I would suggest giving Hellsing a try. 

ALWAYS KEEP SPARKLING!