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Review: MapleStory 2

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Developer: NSquare
Publisher: Nexon
Platform: PC

What’s it About?
MapleStory 2 is a free to play MMORPG. It was released in 2015 in Korea, but world wide on October 10th of this year. Anime-style characters can quest through and explore a 3D block world filled with monsters and adventure.

What did I think?
This game is adorable and addictive. I never played the original MapleStory, but I’m not sure if I even need to. The exposition is given to you in detail in the beginning. Two sisters – one good and one evil – keep balance in the universe. The Good sister created a world, however, that was filled with nothing but goodness. The Evil sister feared that the universe would become unbalanced, so she fought her sister. Both sisters died and both good and evil now reside in the world.

Everything about this game is adorable. From the chibi anime characters to the cute little monsters and the 3D block-like world. The colors are bright and happy, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make a kick-ass dark assassin.

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The game mechanics are interesting. It has controller support, but you can’t just use a controller. For example, in any menu, you have to use your mouse. You can use your gamepad to move around, fight and talk to people, but the second you open a menu, you have to switch to your mouse. I’m not a fan of this aspect of it. Either have it be controller all the way or no controller at all.

I can’t speak too much about the story, as I’m not too terribly far into it yet. I’m also not sure if the story is slightly different depending on which class you choose. I decided to start with the Runeblade class, which is kind of like magical melee. I rather enjoy the combat in it. It’s fluid and my special attacks are very powerful and easy to use with low cooldown times.

There’s also a skill point and attribute system that a lot of open world RPGs tend to have now-a-days. This allows you to customize your toon to be just how you want them to be. Do you want a high strength melee fighter, you can do that, just focus your attribute points in strength. Nothing is pre-set, which I love.

Finally, there are also super fun mini-games! These I haven’t yet had the chance to play myself, but I’ve seen some gameplay of them. I’m excited to play some and I’ll be sure to update as I do!

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Do I recommend it?
Yes, definitely. It’s a free to play MMORPG with a compelling story and super adorable graphics. What’s not to love? Go download it and let me know what you think in the comments below!

Review: Ring of Elysium

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Developer: Tancent Games
Publisher: Tancent Games
Platform: PC

What’s it about?
Ring of Elysium is a multiplayer battle royale game. With graphics closer to PUBG than Fortnite, this action packed battle royale certainly keeps you on your toes. Sixty people are trapped on a mountain and must avoid the massive snowstorm, Ymir. The objective is to get to the rescue flight, which can save up to 4 people.

What did I think?
The game itself runs very smoothly. There was no lag, no glitches that I came across. I would have liked the chance to learn what my controls were before being thrown into a match. I know that other battle royales do the same thing, but it’s frustrating when you don’t know what you’re doing and are killed within seconds.

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Like PUBG, you can drive a car or a boat to get to your destination faster. These are loud, however, and can be heard from very far away. I did have an opportunity to snipe someone driving in a car, but I didn’t know the controls and they passed by without me so much as firing a shot.

The customization was pretty cool, though extremely limited. You can go in and change your facial features, but mostly everything is preset. My biggest issue was the lack of diversity. You can only be an Asian man or Asian woman. This being an Asian game in early access, I understand why that’s the case, but I hope that they add more to this as they get closer to a full release.

The ambiance is rather jarring to me. The game itself is very quiet. The only sounds around are natural sounds, like wind blowing and leaves rustling. You can hear people walking if you’re in the same building as them, which is pretty cool. I actually got a kill because of this (which is more than I can say for any of the other battle royales I’ve played). The gunshots are loud, though. So loud that they gave me anxiety. I’m sure I can mess with the sound options, but my chest is still a little tight.

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Do I recommend it?
If you’re into battle royales, definitely check this game out. It’s free to play on steam, and it is currently only available in North America and Asia. If your anxiety is triggered by loud noises or gunshots, I highly recommend you let this one pass or tweak the sound settings to make it not so jarring.

Ronin Warriors: An Anime Review

220px-Ronninwarriorsdvd1 Ronin Warriors, known as Yoroiden Samurai Troopers in Japan, is one of those amazing older anime that simply does not get enough love.

In 1988 Japan premiered a new anime. Yoroiden Samurai Troopers would run for thirty-nine episodes. It would premiere in America in 1995 under the name of Ronin Warriors. The show would then continue to run on syndication thanks to networks like Cartoon Network.

The story centers around four armored warriors who each have special weapons in connection to the elements. They are the only thing standing in between a terrifying warlord known as Talpa and his minions. Talpa has set in motion events in modern Japan for himself to rule the mortal world. Each of his minions has power to fight one of the Ronin. Therefore the Ronin must find each other in the chaos and join forces to defeat Talpa. They are also aided by a student named Mia, a young boy named Yuli and a masked man known as “The Ancient.”

Ronin Warriors has a fantastic plot. It blends the history of Japan with the supernatural. It takes an interesting “what if” question and spins a story of friendship and overcoming the odds. One more interesting thing about Ronin Warriors is that it is an anime with a transformation sequence for male characters. Yes that is correct. A “magic boy” sequence where our male heroes are transformed into their armor.

While the animation is dated it does still hold a real beauty. The sequence for the transformations is one of my favorites. It is cleverly done featuring Japanese cherry blossoms with drums. The character designs are actually very minimalist, which serves the story as we are worried about the end of the free world here and not what the boys are wearing. That being said everyone has their own style and color. The hairstyles alone are worth watching for.    

The music is also a little dated but it fits the show. It adds to the fight scenes and the transformation scenes.

Ronin Warriors, thankfully, came back to syndication when I was in High School. My friends and I loved it. We still quote parts of it. Ronin Warriors did seem to be a favorite of a lot of American anime fans at that time. It also spawned some wonderful fanfictions, one of which is very sadly no longer anywhere to be found. In short, it is a fun show which had a great fandom.

Would I recommend Ronin Warriors? Most assuredly. Please give it a shot if you haven’t already.

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Always keep sparkling!

 

Review: Visage

Visage

Developer: SadSquare Studio
Publisher: SadSquare Studio
Platform: PC, Xbox One, PS4
Early Access Release: 10/2/2018
Expected Full Release: 2/2019

What’s it about?
Visage is an indie psychological horror game from SadSquare Studio. Funded by Kickstarter and Steam Greenlight, Visage is one of the many spiritual successors to Silent Hills P.T. 

Visage can be considered a haunted house game. You are exploring a rather old and large house, attempting to uncover the terrible things that have happened there. As the game is in early access, there is only one chapter available thus far.

What did I think?
After playing through the demo, which is currently available on steam, I can tell you that Visage is a phenomenal game so far. You can certainly tell that the developers have put a lot into this game and have used their Kickstarter funds wisely.

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This game gets intense very quickly. The opening scene can be triggering for some, so proceed with caution. After the jarring beginning, you find yourself in a giant house with almost no direction. You’re meant to explore, to find your own way, however there are tutorials on how to use necessary items.

Visage takes an excellent approach on managing your character’s sanity. You can do one of two things to keep yourself from going insane: take pills or stand in well lit places. The pills are easier to find than well lit places. You also have to find lighters, candles and lightbulbs to help manage your sanity levels.

The story of the first “Visage” is compelling, terrifying and sad. You are uncovering the story of the brutal death of a young girl without a jaw. But you need to be quick about it, or else she’ll kill you for snooping. Your only sign that she’s anywhere near you is her labored breathing.

There are some jump scares in the game, but my favorite thing about Visage are the fake outs. You can hear something and be absolutely certain that it’s right there, just inside the next room. You have no choice but to go in there, terrified. And, when you do, the noise stops and you’re alone. I love the build up of suspense, especially when it doesn’t end in a jump scare.

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Do I recommend it?
Oh, yes, I very much do. Visage is the first horror game to actually frighten me in years. It didn’t just make me jump or feel tense, it actually lingered with me long after I finished playing. I can’t wait to see what the final game looks like. For now, though, check it out on Steam and tell me what you think in the comments below!

Review: The Haunting of Hill House (TV Show)

I love horror. Be it movies, books, TV shows.. I want it all. So when I heard that Netflix was going to do a series called The Haunting of Hill House, I could not wait! The day it came to Netflix I started watching it, and I was hooked. None of us are immune to binge watching, but be prepared to not put this one down.

First, let’s do a little history on the show. It is a re-imagining of Shirley Jackson’s 1959 Gothic novel The Haunting of Hill House. This book is one of the best horror stories of the 20th century and isn’t so much about the horror as the terror. To be exact, it wants to make you dread what comes next more than it wants to scare you and gross you out like most in the genre. It was originally adapted into a British movie called The Haunting in 1963 where a group of paranormal investigators investigate Hill House. Most people probably know the 1999 version of The Haunting, starring Liam Neeson, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Owen Wilson, and Lili Taylor. I know that was my first introduction to this story, and I love that one as well.

This latest version of the original story is terrifyingly surprising. Netflix and creator Mike Flanagan did a superb job creating this masterpiece of terror. I do warn you, there might be some spoilers ahead, so read on if you dare!

The Haunting of Hill House is about a family of 7, the Crain’s, that once lived in Hill House. The children are now grown up and each has their own problems in life that all stem from their time spent there. They have all tried very hard to keep the past in the past, but it’s catching up to them and there is nothing they can do about it. I really don’t want to reveal too much, but each of the 5 children is special in their own way and despite their hardships and differences the family sticks together in the end.

The journey the Crain’s take in this 10 episode season is remarkable. There are moments of love, of pain, of sadness and trust me you will feel all the feels right along with them. There are most definitely jump scares, hidden ghosts, and subtle hints as to what’s really going on. Be prepared for many, many flashbacks that eventually make a lot of sense. The red door is a big part of the plot, as is Mrs. Crain, so keep your eyes on them.

The cast does a tremendous job at portraying their characters and telling you the story of the summer that rules their lives. I would absolutely love to see another season of this in the future. I’m not sure if continuing on with the Crain family’s future would be the way to go, but I’d love to see the story behind the original owners of Hill House and how they became what they were. They don’t play a big part in this story, but they are definitely part of the reason the house is what it is.

I didn’t find this series horrifying and I didn’t get any nightmares from it, but it does seem to truly scare some. So beware if you get easily spooked! The story unfolds at a steady pace, so don’t worry about any slow moments making you wish you were watching something else. In fact, it will probably be over before you are expecting and then you’ll miss the Crain family and all the suspense in their lives.

Review: Vampire Knight (Anime)

vamp mangaIf you are looking for an anime about Vampires then Vampire Knight maybe what you are looking for. It was not, however, what I was looking for.

Vampire Knight is an anime that came to America through Shojo Beat Manga in 2006. In 2008 it was adapted into a television show. The anime is centered around a young woman who is living and going to school at Cross Academy. Cross Academy is a school founded with one intention, as a place were higher class vampires can send their children to live with human students in harmony. The students are segregated into the Day Class, for human students, and the Night Class for the vampire students. There are very few times when these students are able to interact with each other, one of which is when the Day Class is finishing their classes and heading to their dormitories as the Night Class leaves for their classrooms. The day class students are very interested in the Night Class students and that is where our heroin comes in.

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Yuki Cross is the guardian of her classmates. When she was a young girl her family was killed by a vampire. Just when she was about to fall victim herself Yuki is saved by a…vampire? She is then adopted by the soon to be Headmaster Cross. Yuki spends her time juggling class, patrolling at night and keeping her Night Class obsessed classmates from the vampires. She also is torn between her affections for two different students.

Vampire Knight is not one of my favorite animes. There is a lot going on in the show and Vampire Knight has some wild plots. I have a difficult time with liking Yuki. I suspect it is because I am looking into her character from my own cultural perspective.

That being said the animation itself is gorgeous. The costumes are also really fun. The music featured is also wonderful. It adds immensely to the show. Vampire Knight takes an interesting perspective on the subject of vampires, particularly of a hierarchy within the community.

Would I recommend it? Eh maybe. It is one of the few animes that I haven’t really enjoyed. However I do know people who would enjoy it.

If you are looking for an anime with a supernatural theme that isn’t very scary then give it a shot.

 

ALWAYS KEEP SPARKLING!  

 

Recap Review: The American Girls Premiere

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One lovely summer day, my parents were summoned to the basement for the world premiere of my very first play created on the computer.

This one-woman show invoked the minimalist style, in the sense that almost nothing actually happened. Its protagonist, Felicity Merriman from the American Girl franchise, crossed the stage and recited a brief soliloquy in robotic monotone: “Hello. My name is Felicity.” Then she curtseyed and walked off the stage.

…well, I thought it was a work of genius at the time. And it was the start of many more bizarre plays starring the American Girl characters.

For those unfamiliar with it, the American Girl franchise started out as a doll collection. Each doll was based on a fictional nine-year-old girl living in a specific period in American history. Around the time that the franchise caught my interest, there were six of them: Felicity, living in Colonial Williamsburg just before the Revolutionary War, Josefina, living in New Mexico before it became a U.S. territory, Kirsten, a Swedish immigrant, Addy, a slave who escapes to Philadelphia with her mother, Samantha, an orphan who lives with her wealthy, old-fashioned grandmother in 1904, and Molly, whose father is a doctor overseas during World War II.

The dolls each had six books that described their misadventures with family and friends and showed how important historical events had an impact on their lives. I loved reading them as a kid. I also loved staring longingly at the many, many accessories and clothing that you could purchase for the dolls in the American Girl Catalog, most of which I couldn’t get because they were just too expensive.

And then came an odd but kinda amazing addition to the franchise: The American Girls Premiere.

The American Girls Premiere was a computer game for Windows and Mac, where you could create your own plays using the characters from the American Girl stories. It gave you numerous tools to work with: characters, setting, props, music, sound effects, lighting, and actions.

Unfortunately, it did have one big limit, story-wise: you couldn’t create an epic crossover starring Felicity from 1774 and Molly from 1944, or Josefina from 1824 going on adventures with Addy from 1864. Once you picked one of the girls, you became confined to her time period, her settings, and her supporting cast.

I’m guessing that the company didn’t want girls coming up with plays that were too wacky, but in hindsight, they might as well have let us go wild.

The most memorable part of the game was the horrific, computerized voices that you got to use to make the “actors” say their dialogue. Technically, the game also provided a voice recording option if you had a microphone with your computer. I didn’t, so I could never get that feature to work and had to rely on the voices given to me.

The results? Well, you can watch this masterpiece of a play to get an idea of what they sounded like:

I couldn’t find many videos of people’s American Girls Premiere plays anymore (and I suspect some of them were removed for copyright infringement), but “Meet Robot Felicity” is a perfect representation of how these productions often looked and sounded, and then some. You could indeed make characters soar through the air or burrow underground.

Although the game came with a basic tutorial, I ended up uncovering most of the ins and outs myself. It offered me an opportunity to mess around and see how far I could go when putting together a play. Though I didn’t realize it at the time, it also offered a learning opportunity in how to create something with limitations. Need to show the character sleeping in a bed instead of lying on the floor? Levitate him or her so that he or she would appear to be lying on top of the bed. The computer can’t pronounce the lines correctly? Well, time to deliberately misspell the words so it would.

The American Girls Premiere wasn’t perfect, but it offered many, many hours of fun.  It served as a nice introduction to the different elements in creating a play: having the right props, the right lighting, etc.  The silly robot voices added some unintentional humor to the whole experience.  I’m glad it existed and I miss playing it.