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Re: The Writer's Circle

Posted: Wed May 10, 2017 9:56 am
by Kriken
Not enough falcon punches.

Re: The Writer's Circle

Posted: Wed May 10, 2017 10:16 am
by SupaWaluigi
Kriken wrote:
Wed May 10, 2017 9:56 am
Not enough falcon punches.
Haha, I was expecting someone to pick up on this!

Re: The Writer's Circle

Posted: Tue May 16, 2017 7:57 pm
by Kriken
Pretty dissatisfied with my writing for the longest time. Can't bring myself to continue SoN.

The next story is going to be the one. Going to start putting a lot of effort in again, and then some. I might even do some planning (finally hitting me on a personal level that it might be important).


Going to try my hand at writing game reviews again in the meantime.

Edit 2: Forget what I said about the next story being the one.

Re: The Writer's Circle

Posted: Tue May 16, 2017 10:55 pm
by DarkRula
Planning in terms of getting a general idea of the whole story before writing or something else?
I used to never have a plan beyond the next part for my stories [well, the fan-created stuff] and aside from the Pokemon one - which I still feel isn't exactly that strong - none of them ever got finished, and the one original story I was writing I got stuck with due to a lack of planning. The two stories in which I started with virtually no planning but then started to really plan ahead later down the line really started to show better writing. One of those is a fan-created crossover [in which I only have two episodes left to finish until complete] and the other was an original creation story I removed from my site so I could rework it with a full plan to make it much better, which is going to be my second self-published book.

Re: The Writer's Circle

Posted: Thu May 18, 2017 1:52 pm
by OrangeRakoon
Kriken wrote:
Tue May 16, 2017 7:57 pm
Going to try my hand at writing game reviews again in the meantime.
Looking forward to this

Re: The Writer's Circle

Posted: Thu May 18, 2017 5:28 pm
by Aren142
I've written plenty without planning and it gives you more freedom to change how events will develop as you write it, but I can't say the stuff I've produced from it has been particularly good. My problem is I don't know how to plan because I can't actually get a plot idea. I can come up with characters, worlds and concepts. I just can't put them together into a series of events.

Re: The Writer's Circle

Posted: Thu May 18, 2017 6:55 pm
by SupaWaluigi
For me planning certainly helps, but at the very least just make a load of notes in a clear way you yourself understand so that you can remember all the ideas you have had. It may work differently for writing short stories and novels, but this is how I plan and make notes for my scripts (again, using F-Zero I'm currently working on as an example):
F-Zero film:
- Captain Falcon (Douglas J Falcon)
- Dr Stewart
- Jody Summer

- Black Shadow (or potentially original new character)
- Samurai Goroh
- Pico
- NEW CHARACTER - Theodore Remington (Head of Formula Zero Racing Organisation)(Character name subject to change)

Story outline:
- opening -
- Hook -
- Complication -
- Crisis -
- Climax -

All characters have their own backgrounds and motives for entering Grand Prix

F-Zero Grand Prix background:
- Enormous cash prize and Championship belt awards for winning
- Encouraged gambling and betting
- Criminal underworld greatly attracted by the cash prize
- F-Max Grand Prix precursor to F Zero- disbanded after horrific crash killed 14 racers, including Sterling LaVaughn

- Big Blue - coastal/ocean track = Monaco
- Mute City -
- Port Town -
- Sand Ocean - desert track with skyscrapers = Dubai
- Lightning City

- opening (finished - return to later)

- Falcon and Summer in bar, Pico tries to assassinate them, Falcon chases him down

- Flashback to when Falcon was in the police force and his partner dies

- Falcon lectures Jody about the dangers of F-Zero racing, by talking about history of F-Max by statue of Sterling LaVaughn

- Falcon is beaten and captured leading him to miss the 3rd race, leading to Goroh winning. Jody and Stewart find him after, they take the Great Falcon to Mute City (final race)

Character goals/backgrounds:

Captain falcon: (Main Protagonist)
- Mysterious past
- bounty hunter and renowned F-Zero racer
- Used to be a part of the Internova Police Force
- Races to forget his past? (New concept + drive for character)
- Tragic event in the police force leads to bounty hunting career?
- Maybe in a flashback, Falcon had a friend killed in the police force - (killed by Zoda or Black Shadow? Now incarcerated?)
- OR what if Falcon's hero and idol in the F-Max Grand Prix died in the accident, Falcon races to avenge/take up the mantle so a similar event doesn't happen again?

Theodore Remington: (Main antagonist)
- revealed by end of film to be antagonist
- Head of Formula Zero Racing Organisation
- Business magnate
- bought and set up organisation after F-Max incident
- seemingly leads and makes changes in the FZRO in the interest of the racers, but is revealed to be corrupt, is interested in keeping and pushing the gambling surrounding the races, and the monetary value of the organisation and how much it generates

Black Shadow: (?)
- also mystery surrounds him
- part of evil organisation
- actually working for someone else (revealed at end of film to be Deathborn?)
- motive - to win F-zero Grand Prix to fund evil scheme (but what would that be?)

Dr Stewart:
- change to motivation - original background - Stewart drives after the death of his father
- New motivation - Stewart drives due to failing to save a patient's life - same patient as Falcon's friend who dies

Jody Summer: (Actively not a love interest)
- motivation - races to continue to push her limits and better herself
- athletic
- pushes her limits - racing in F-Zero provides a continuous push of limits
- ace combat pilot for the Galactic Space Federation

Pico: (Henchman/minion for Theodore)
- Assassin
- Works for Theodore Remington
- Other ties to criminal underworld
- Yet has secret softer side, as he sends whatever money he earns back to his family on his home planet

Samurai Goroh: (comic relief/minion for Theodore)
- leader of a gang
- loose-cannon character
- Theodore's pawn in the whole seedy underbelly of the tournament

- aesthetically like a classic 80s film
- slightly cheesy
- Judge Dredd and Rush influences/combination

Lead up to sequel (pretty early to think about):
- Film finishes slightly ambiguously - Remington has fled into hiding, the future of Formula Zero left uncertain
- Deathborn wants to destroy the Galaxy
- Power to destroy galaxy inside F-Zero championship belt
I would also say the most important part of planning is your Story Outline, as that, of course, outlines how, where and when your narrative elements occur.

I'm sure you all already know this but I thought this may help. (Also don't steal any of my ideas for F-Zero :lol: )

Re: The Writer's Circle

Posted: Thu May 18, 2017 7:23 pm
by Aren142
When I have tried planning in the past, the place I start is usually the "end goal". Which is like the final resolution where the goals of the protagonist ad antagonist clash and the matter is finally settled to some degree of absolution. Then work on everything that builds up to that like requirements. This is where most of my recent ideas have fallen flat, either the protagonist or antagonist doesn't have a goal or don't strictly want something and are more driven in response to the actions of the other which involves them for some reason or another. So I can't build an end goal to work towards. I mention this because looking at the notes for your F-Zero thing, I'm not actually seeing where yours leads up to. I get that you've got a plot of a Grand Prix to build around, but looking at the main protagonist and antagonist and don't see what either want or why. Does Captain Falcon want to win for the prize money, the fame, more personal reasons like making someone proud or doing what someone else can't for them? Does he instead want to bring prestige back to a sport in disrepute or clean up the gambling scene and think these things can be achieved by him winning? Looks like the antagonist's goal is just money which is fair enough, but what for? Extravagant lifestyle, women, charity? And how do his pursuits of corruption contradict Captain Falcon's goals? Does he have secret investment in a specific racer, so wants that one to do well? If there's no direct conflict of interests, doesn't actually make him an antagonist, just a dick. Also personally curious how a specific person winning a race can bring down the leader of an organisation since I assume the final race is the final boss fight. Just things to think about that could help you.

Re: The Writer's Circle

Posted: Thu May 18, 2017 7:49 pm
by SupaWaluigi
Okay, I like the questions you are raising so it may help if I expand further upon some elements:
Dramatic Focus – The races throughout the Grand Prix will act as the main action set pieces, dramatizing them by emphasizing the speed and danger of the sport to an exaggerated level, whilst the dramatic focus will be centred around Captain Falcon uncovering the nefarious underworld behind the Formula Zero Racing Organisation and the main man in charge of it, Theodore Remington. The drama behind the relationships struck up between Captain Falcon and other racers, such as Jody Summer and Doctor Stewart, will also continue throughout the film.

What’s at Stake – In terms of for the key characters, what is at stake is the impact the F-Zero Grand Prix has on drivers and the dangers of extreme high speed racing, raising questions within them about whether what goes on behind the sport as an organisation will affect themselves, the reasons why they race and whether they are put in more danger. In terms of the story, what is at stake is the future of the F-Zero tournaments after Captain Falcon fully uncovers the truth behind it, and whether the connections it has with the criminal underworld will truly be broken.

Story Outline:
Opening: We are immediately put into the action of a race taking place on the final lap of the Big Blue Circuit. We are introduced to the sport of F-Zero, seeing the futuristic vehicles and the extreme high speed nature of the sport. There is some major rivalry between two characters, Samurai Goroh and Captain Falcon, who is fully revealed by the end of the race. Having won the first race in the four-race Grand Prix, Theodore Remington, Head of the Formula Zero Racing Organisation meets with Captain Falcon to congratulate him.

Hook: Whilst working on his own racing vehicle in his pit garage, Captain Falcon hears news that a fellow F-Zero driver has been found dead. Already having suspicions that the Formula Zero Racing Organisation is corrupt in some way, he heads out to where the driver had found dead to find any clues or leads to confirm his suspicion. Whilst there, he encounters renowned Doctor and F-Zero driver, Robert Stewart, who has been asked by the Internova Police Force to try and determine how the victim died. Although Captain Falcon is unwilling to have Doctor Stewart work with him at the site, they both conclude that the driver did not die of natural causes. However, they realise that as F-Zero drivers themselves, they cannot draw attention to the fact that they are investigating this death, so must continue their participation in the Grand Prix.

Complication: Captain Falcon finds himself in a high-rise bar with an attaché case filled with the prize money after winning the second race on the Port Town circuit, whilst Doctor Stewart continues research and analysis of the evidence found at the drivers death elsewhere. Amongst the patrons of the bar, Jody Summer, another F-Zero driver enters and tries to befriend Captain Falcon, discussing the race they just had and the death of the driver heard in the news earlier. Doctor Stewart returns, telling Captain Falcon that the driver did not die of natural causes but was instead murdered, as evidence suggested he had been shot. Suddenly, Pico, an alien F-Zero driver, barrels towards them, tries to kill Captain Falcon, steals the attaché case and smashes out of the window. Captain Falcon and Jody Summer swiftly pursue, whilst Doctor Stewart stays behind to check if any of the customers were hurt. Once Falcon and Jody catch Pico, he does not reveal why he killed the driver earlier, nor who his employer is, leaving Falcon with no solutions or evidence to who truly is behind all of this.

Crisis: Whilst Captain Falcon prepares in his pit garage for the 3rd race on the Sand Ocean circuit, he is met by fellow racer and self-proclaimed rival, Samurai Goroh, and his gang. Samurai Goroh lets slip that Theodore Remington hired Pico, and that he himself is also an accomplice to Remington, and reveals they’re plan for another F-Max-like incident in the final race. He then orders his gang to attack Captain Falcon and leaves to prepare his own vehicle and enter the start of the race. Although putting up a good fight, Captain Falcon is defeated and captured, resulting in him having to miss the race. Samurai Goroh wins the race himself, however during the race, both Jody Summer and Doctor Stewart realise that Captain Falcon is not racing among them, and go to investigate his whereabouts.

Climax: After successfully finding Captain Falcon, the three of them rush to the setting of the final race, the Mute City circuit, however arrive too late as the race has already begun. Using their own vehicles, they all take to track and each must race through to the front of the racing pack so that they can create a rolling road block and gradually bring all the drivers to a complete stop. Once successful, Captain Falcon charges towards where Theodore Remington’s executive audience stand is to confront him. However, when he arrives, Remington is nowhere to be found having gone into hiding. Samurai Goroh is arrested for plotting with Theodore Remington and the violence he has inflicted on fellow racers. Having fully thwarted the plot to create another fatal crash within the race and with the head of the Formula Zero Racing Organisation now gone, Captain Falcon, Jody Summer, and Doctor Stewart wonder about how they have only partially revealed the criminal underworld behind the sport, and what the future now holds for the F-Zero Grand Prix and themselves.
In effect, at it's core, it's kind of a detective story. Our Protagonist, Falcon, slowly uncovers these crimes and plots that lead back to the F-Zero Grand Prix, and as various background details on his character (which as of yet, still need to finalised) all play into his motivation. The antagonist, Theodore Remington (still not fully sold on that name by the way), is like a dictator. He has full control over the sport, and sure his motivations may be the same old cliche of money and power, but it's the duty of the good clean racers who uphold the sport to make sure it is clear of any wrongdoing or evil.

The planning at this stage may not be fully clear at this time (coming from me it usually never is :lol: ), but it definitely helps in layering plots and narratives, so that the core narrative truly has weight to it by the end of the film/book.

Re: The Writer's Circle

Posted: Sat May 20, 2017 11:25 am
by Kriken
Game Review #1

Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow
for the Gameboy Advance
My very first foray into the Castlevania series was as a young teenager, purchasing a grubby second-hand GBA cart with only the series iconic title barely legible on the sticker. A tear obscured several letters, including the subtitle in its entirety. This was during a time when I didn't have ready access to the internet, and so for a long time I had no idea what the game was actually called. For a long time I could only refer to it as 'Castlevania GBA', and had no knowledge of other titles on the platform.

This was not Aria of Sorrow, but the first Castlevania game for the GBA: Circle of the Moon, released in 2001. It must have been 10 or more years since I played it, but even back then it had a dated old-school feel to it. The colouring, while not unpleasant, was somewhat dull. The controls, while fully functional, were not as fluid as Castlevania titles I would play later on. Knowing now that it was released during the console's early days, all this makes sense. It turned out that this title was also not developed by the team that was usually in charge of the more modern Castlevanias (Symphony of the Night onwards). Regardless, the game was a huge success, especially for the series, selling over a million copies. And while I would later place a few Castlevania games over it, I enjoyed it enough to want to play more games in the series.

Along with positive reviews, it led to me getting Dawn of Sorrow on the DS, which I absolutely adored at the time. I would later regard its budget-anime art style as rather inferior compared to that of the rest of the games, but back then I viewed the opening animated cutscene as gorgeous - a wonder on the DS. In every other aspect, I enjoyed it more than Circle of the Moon. The graphics were brighter, more vibrant. It had a booming, catchy soundtrack. And the controls were much crisper. No need to double-tap on the d-pad to start running, you could hit speed as soon as you landed on the ground, and move more freely in the air. It made the combat feel fast-paced and engaging.
And that wasn't all. The game's gimmick, the tactical soul system, was more immediately accessible and appealing than the DSS card system in Circle of the Moon. Monsters you destroy will sometimes leave their soul behind for you to absorb, obtaining their powers. This aspect of the game seemed really cool to me, and it still is. You also had access to different main weapons, not just the whip. The characters were likable and varied in their design, whereas in Circle of the Moon they were barely a focus.

The story had more of a presence. You played as Soma Cruz, the reincarnation of Dracula, who has to stop cult leader Celia Fortner and her lieutenants from killing him and establishing a new dark lord. Meanwhile, Soma has to fight off the pull of the dark power inside him, because while he is technically Dracula he doesn't want to assume the role of the bad guy and give up his humanity. Circle of the Moon is pretty much the find-Dracula-and-then-kill-him affair and not much more than that, although it is interesting that you have a rival that appears randomly throughout the game and makes you wonder about what it's going to lead up to.

You may be wondering what this has to do with Aria of Sorrow, but I felt like I needed this background to the core of the review. I only played Aria after I had played so many other Castlevania games, including a few that have come after it and build on what it did. I now know that Dawn of Sorrow followed the same formula, tactical soul system and all, just with added bells and whistles. Order of Ecclesia, the last DS game in the series, though quite different and more linear than other Castlevanias at the time, features a basically refined version of the tactical soul system, and like Soma Cruz the heroine in this game can equip a wide array of main weapons. And it has the same fluid movement that makes these newer games such a joy to play.

But it's the similarities to these newer games - especially Dawn of Sorrow - that kind of dulled my experience with Aria. Dawn of Sorrow is not only very similar (think Super Mario Galaxy 1 and 2), but to my memory is also a slight improvement. The graphics and sound are superior too, especially the latter. Granted, the GBA is notorious for its relatively poor sound quality unlike comparable systems such as the SNES, but the actual compositions in Aria are somewhat lacklustre compared to those in Dawn. Meanwhile, the Pokemon games show that the GBA is still capable of beautiful and tuneful music despite hardware limitations.

However, I know that if I played Aria of Sorrow back then, right after Circle of the Moon or in its place, I would have adored it as I did Dawn of Sorrow for all the same reasons. For the joy of the movement, the fiendish difficulty and variety thanks to all the weapons and soul powers, the cool characters, story and aesthetic. One thing Aria definitely has over Dawn is the beautiful gothic art style more typical of the series, which lends each character a uniqueness and charm to their design, as opposed to the generic anime art style in Dawn. To be fair I really didn't mind the anime style too much, but I imagine the change came about in an attempt to broaden the series' appeal since it had been flagging for some time. I don't think it worked nearly as well as it did for the 3DS Fire Emblem games, and the series' art would return to its gothic roots in Order of Ecclesia.

Like in Dawn, the story in Aria follows Soma Cruz, who until the true ending of the game is unaware that he is Dracula-reincarnate. This is technically a spoiler, but it is heavily implied throughout the game, even the earlier segments, so it's not much of a surprise. If you've read about the game before or played Dawn of Sorrow, it's likely not going to be a surprise at all. Soma and his friend Mina are transported to Dracula's castle, and are told they have to find a way to escape because it's dangerous to stay there for too long. Along the way he meets a number of mysterious characters - some good, some bad - who have come to the castle because of the prophecy surrounding Dracula's reincarnation.

The exploration in Aria was very satisfying. There is no hand-holding when it comes to finding out where to go next. Abilities that allow you to go to a previously inaccessible area are dotted around the castle and tend to be found after you beat a boss, but you are not given any clues as to where to go next. But unless you are playing the game in very infrequent sittings, you will probably remember parts of the game where a newly acquired ability will help you progress. Sometimes this will just lead to a new item, such as a weapon or piece of armour, which isn't a bad thing. Especially if you're not a Castlevania veteran, because the boost these bits of equipment give can really help out.

This game can be difficult with a heavy focus on combat, and I haven't even tried out the hard mode yet. I tried to play some sections while watching youtube videos but I found I needed to give the game my full attention to stop a ridiculous string of deaths and a frustrating trek back from the last save point. While I enjoy the difficulty - it wouldn't be Castlevania without it - I felt as if there were too few save points. Or at least that finding them in a pinch was annoying. The castle maps you pick up along the way give no indication as to where they are. That might have been a welcome inclusion, because on so many occasions I spent so much time exploring an area (or maybe even two) only to get whittled down by a slew of enemies and desperately needing a save room to heal - and then I die and lose all that progress, despite probably unknowingly passing one. Of course, you may not agree with me if you're a more patient and tactical kind of player or simply just a lot better at the game than I was.

Thankfully, boss rooms are always right next to save points. You'll want to challenge them at full health and with a save to fall back on, because some of them will take one or more deaths until you suss out their attack patterns and learn how to respond adequately. It was during these battles that I experimented with different weapons and soul abilities the most. Sometimes I opted for a weapon with a greater reach over a stronger one for safer attacks, or I swapped out a general-use projectile for more niche weapons such as a mine that deals continuous damage to ensnare grounded and slow-moving bosses. It was fun finding out new strategies and effective weapon/soul combinations.

Overall, Aria of Sorrow is still a decent game, but would I say it's essential to play it? No, not really. Not unless you were a big fan of the series, or if you're craving more similar action after finishing Dawn of Sorrow. While I said Aria should get credit for paving the way for the aforementioned game and then later titles such as Order of Ecclesia, Dawn is similar enough and arguably better. You would not go wrong with playing whichever one you can get more easily get, and why not play the one that generally looks and sounds better? Aria was near enough a classic game in its time and was criminally overshadowed by other 2D sidescrollers such as Metroid Fusion and Zero Mission, but times move on. Still, it's a neat game, and along with Dawn it's a good entry-level title for new players.

Re: The Writer's Circle

Posted: Sun May 21, 2017 4:09 pm
by Kriken
Game Review #2

for the Gamecube
Pikmin was one of the most enjoyable videogame experiences for me, even as I only recently played through it, 16 years after its initial release. Typical of many mainline Nintendo games released on the Gamecube, it has aged remarkably well. This is partly down to its somewhat simple cartoony style, with the creatures known as pikmin almost entirely one colour themselves - apart from their eyes and the flowers on their heads. The enemies in this game are a bit more detailed, but the environments are nothing too fancy.

You play as Captain Olimar who has crash-landed on an uncharted planet filled with deadly predators and a gas that is poisonous to his kind - this gas amusingly being oxygen. The crash scatters parts of his ship to far regions of this world, and so he has to find them in order to take off again. On top of that, he only has 30 days before his life support system fails. Thirty in-game days. If this time passes and you don't have enough parts to fly the ship - that is, the 25 parts that are essential - then it's game over. You have to go back to your last save, and even then you may realise you actually don't have enough time left to get the rest of the parts and thus have to start all over again. It's brutal, and I love it.

On this mission you command the help of pikmin, small bipedal creatures who for some reason view Olimar as a leader. They help the captain carry located ship parts and fight off wild creatures. They can also carry these creatures and flower 'pellets' back to their little ship, known as an onion, to create more of themselves. It's very strange, describing it, but it's also all very adorable. The cutscene that closes off every day, with Olimar marching the pikmin back to their onions with the fanfare playing in the background, warms my heart every time. Even when I'm worried I may be behind schedule on the ship parts.

By default, pikmin follow you around, but you can dismiss them and then summon them to follow you again with a whistle. You can even control the radius of the whistle so that only some of the pikmin follow you. You can throw them to reach higher areas to carry stuff down, or so they land on an enemy's back in order to wear them down and attack them without being eaten. With the c-stick, you have additional control over the horde of pikmin, while moving Olimar with the main analogue stick. They remain following you even as you move them in this way, and they can be directed to avoid obstacles or to surround enemies to fight and objects to carry.

There are three different kinds of pikmin, each with their own attributes. Red pikmin are strong and immune to fire; yellow pikmin are faster, lighter, can be thrown higher and carry bombs; and blue pikmin can move through water without dying. Additionally, there is a more powerful form of pikmin across all types symbolised by the plant on their head - leaf, bud, flower. The later the stage of plant, the faster the pikmin can move and carry out tasks such as breaking down walls. This is achieved in a number of ways: leaving pikmin in the ground to naturally grow flowers before plucking them, finding 'nectar' among grass, or beating it out of certain enemies. Pikmin lose their flowers if they are knocked off enemies. While this game may seem simple at first, there is actually a lot of depth.

I had a lot of fun strategizing for the most efficient play, having different groups of pikmin put to different tasks simultaneously - breaking down walls to make travel easier or possible, carrying creatures back to create more pikmin, and of course killing nearly everything in sight, because they'll interfere with your part retrieval otherwise. Admittedly the strategy for a lot of enemies is just throwing a ton of pikmin onto them, and then recalling them when the enemy is about to shake them off, but for some surrounding them is a better strategy. And then there are the 'boss' creatures that may require an altogether different kind of approach. One had me sacrificing pikmin to clog up their cannon, causing them to overheat and expose their weakpoint.

As each day passes, Olimar puts out a diary log, sometimes giving you some useful tips about the game or going into frustrations about the expedition. I liked how as I struggled in fighting one boss creature and finished the day without beating it, Olimar describes the creature in his log, ruminating on how to perhaps defeat it. Depending on how badly you're doing the entries may start taking a more desperate and even darker tone. A common complaint about Pikmin is the 30-day limit, which was removed entirely from Pikmin 2. I actually felt as if it enhanced the experience, or that at least it made the game feel completely different. It certainly didn't feel like a 'limit' on the experience I had.

This limit forced me to play well, or at least attempt to. It challenged me. The strategizing I talked about earlier was immensely fun, and throughout the game I was thinking of better and faster ways to do things. To balance amassing pikmin, a time-consuming but necessary exercise, with achieving my main goal. Throughout most of my playthrough, I matched day number with parts collected, and only towards the end did I start to pull ahead. But even then, I was on edge because the game was getting more and more challenging and I knew it could spring some especially hard-to-get part on me. It was exciting, and cathartic when I finished the game with a few days to spare.

Failing and having to start the game all over again might be frustrating, but this game was perhaps meant to be played that way. A failed run or two to get to grips with things before finally being successful. The game itself is only a few hours long, so it's not as if it's that much of a setback. There are 3 save files to work with, so if you wanted to you could be cautious and have multiple saves dating back. It's also not as if you're losing much when you have to restart - there's no customisation or personalisation, no side quests or thorough exploration. You're just collecting parts and growing pikmin.

For those who like strategy games, especially ones of the real-time variety, I highly recommend Pikmin. I do still recommend it regardless, because it remains a very charming and unique game. Don't let the 30-day limit put you off. Stick with it and then feel accomplished.

Re: The Writer's Circle

Posted: Sun May 21, 2017 5:07 pm
by DarkRula
That's a lovely review of Pikmin. I love it. It says everything it needs to while also giving clear opinions.


Posted: Sun May 21, 2017 5:18 pm
by Kriken
Thanks =D

Re: The Writer's Circle

Posted: Tue May 30, 2017 9:32 am
by OrangeRakoon
The castlevania review is good too - I thought it was a good way of setting the environment for the review with the talk of your experience with other Castlevania games first (and in fact that was probably the most interesting bit). It was almost like a retrospective.

Re: The Writer's Circle

Posted: Fri Jun 02, 2017 4:53 pm
by kerr9000
Ever thought of making a blog for your reviews Kriken ?

I stick a lot of reviews I do on my own blog, its kind of fun to have one place where they all are and you can point people towards.

Re: The Writer's Circle

Posted: Fri Jun 02, 2017 5:33 pm
by DarkRula
Just out of interest kerr, how many views do you get on your blog in a month?

Re: The Writer's Circle

Posted: Wed Jun 14, 2017 12:25 pm
by Aren142
My brain had a poop last night and words came out. It's not much but haven't written for so long that it's just good to finally get something down. It's not got a defined end point, just sort of stops at where I got to because there's no context for it in my mind, definitely feels like part of something bigger, I just don't know what. Which is kind of why I'm sharing it, see what people think of it.
The tangy taste of blood fills my mouth. I cough and splutter, trying to clear it out. What replaces the blood is no better. The air is thick; warm with a hint of smoke. My left eye flickers open to be greeted by blinding light. My other eye is sealed shut by a crust of what I assume is dried blood and the pain deters me from trying to force it open. I can’t make anything out, it’s just a blur of strange colours. I drag an arm up to reach for my face. I can’t feel my glasses, just blood, dirt and cuts. I put my hand down on the ground beneath me. The stone crumbles slightly from my touch. I try to force myself up, but every inch of my body screams in agony. I manage to get into a sitting position and prop myself up with my hands. It has taken all my strength to get this far. I cough some more and try to take deep breaths. Inhaling this thick air does nothing to help me. It’s only as I desperately gasp for air that I realise I can’t hear anything. My heart pounds against my chest. I cry out, but I don’t hear what I say if it’s anything coherent. The whole experience strains my throat. My entire body is failing me.

What even happened? Everything’s just a dazed mess. I can make a guess, but I don’t understand how I’ve found myself in such a situation. I’m not sure where I am and can’t make out anything well enough to figure it out.

I think I see something moving. I don’t know. It seems like everything’s shaking when I try to focus my sight. I try calling out again. The thing I can see is definitely moving. It’s getting bigger, closer. The blurry shape of a person finally registers in my mind. A hand grips onto my arm, but does little to reassure me. The person is right in front of me, but I feel so distant. I can barely see them and can’t hear them if they are saying anything. The hand nudges me slightly as I stare blankly at the person. I can briefly focus enough to detect movement around the person’s mouth. They’re trying to talk to me and, I think, expect a response. I try to say that I can’t hear anything, but, when I can’t hear my own voice, I have doubts over what noises I’ve managed to muster. I weakly raise a hand to point to my ear and shake my head slowly so not to aggravate the pain.

I see nodding. The message has been understood.

Re: The Writer's Circle

Posted: Wed Jun 14, 2017 12:54 pm
by DarkRula
That's quite a good set-up for a story. I like it. Great description of the senses as well.
As for where it can go, there's the expected and unexpected.

Re: The Writer's Circle

Posted: Tue Jul 04, 2017 10:26 am
by Kriken
Thanks for the comments. I've had review blogs in the past. No current plans to share my reviews outside this forum at the moment though, so I'm not bothered.

Game Review #3

Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia for the Nintendo 3DS

Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia is the third instalment of the series on the 3DS, and the first on the system to be a remake. While I have never played the original, it was certainly an interesting take on the series from what I've read, and it was fairly well received by players. But like with many experimental Nintendo game sequels - think The Adventure of Link, Return of Samus and to a lesser extent 'The Lost Levels' aka the real Super Mario Bros 2 - the series would return to the old formula, one that would last largely untouched for the rest of their duration. This remake shows it was worth revisiting, but it is not without its flaws.

One of the first things you'll notice is that nearly every single line of dialogue is now fully voiced. Even most of the text by unnamed NPCs. It's really quite remarkable, and follows an interesting evolution. The GBA games introduced sprites with moving mouths, but understandably no voices because of hardware limitations. The past 3DS games then introduced anime-esque drawings with changing facial expressions and small voiced expressions preceding each box of text. I had mixed feelings about that, especially since what was spoken did not always necessarily fit with the writing. Shadows of Valentia now has slightly more stylised character-pictures for text segments with an English dub that is largely pleasing to the ear.

Next, being able to explore villages and talk to NPCs and characters in your party, picking up interesting tidbits and partaking in expected RPG interactions: buying and forging weapons in armouries, accepting side quests and getting randomly gifted items. You can examine backdrops much like you would in the Ace Attorney games and often find items lying around. Like oranges. A lot of oranges. And sometimes weapons. It's all a nice change of pace from the battles and really, I think maybe some of the newer games could have used sections like these. They add some character to the world.

The battles themselves seem a lot smaller in general, but you'd be thankful of that fact because there is crap ton more of them. Every time you inch up a space on the map screen, there is probably going to be an encounter with a band of monsters, an enemy militia or bandits, and some of these will continue to spawn more encounters that might even approach you if you don't defeat them. Not to mention the dungeons, which are 3D roaming areas that also produce encounters when you inevitably bump into enemies. These sections are pretty cool, making use of the now polished 3D models of the new games, but they can be a headache later on in the game when they become very long with only a couple of concrete save points.

As I seem to suggest, all the battles can drag a bit, but I highly approve of the mechanical changes they made. Some may in fact just be reversions to mechanics used in the original, Fire Emblem Gaiden, but in that case I say good on them for retaining them. Fans were divided on weapons becoming unbreakable in Fire Emlem Fates, but in my opinion that was a nice streamlining of the gameplay. Shadows of Valentia goes further, doing away with several modern mechanics such as units pairing with others or 'carrying' them, and making each character only able to carry one item - as well as a mandatory held weapon or two. There is also now an ability to 'turn back time' and redo turns, limited to a certain number of times. I like battles not completely going down the pan just because of one tiny mistake, or because of some misinput.

Units have received a much-needed rebalancing. Archers have long been somewhat bad compared to other units in previous games, notably being overshadowed by mages who are not limited to attacking from a distance. Not to say there haven't been good archer or sniper characters in a past, but in this game they can attack enemies directly in front of them as well as having increased range. Knights now don't start at an immediate movement disadvantage. They still don't receive growths in movements with promotions, but at least the former means that they don't necessarily get left behind as easily early on in the game. Fliers like Pegasus Knights are still weak to bows, but this weakness no longer seems crippling. There are also plenty of opportunities in the game to add stat points to characters to help address their weaknesses, in the form of limited-use magic springs that appear throughout the game. Stat growths from level-ups seem sparser in this game, which I can't say for sure is a good design choice but which at least means stats are a little less down to RNG and more down to your choice via the aforementioned springs.

My feelings on the story and writing on this game are, on the whole, positive. Easily better than the other 3DS Fire Emblem titles, which appealed somewhat to the lowest common denominator of RPG fans. Anime tropes and goofery abound. I like the camaraderie shared by the two groups of armies you control - by main characters Alm and Celica - which is helped by the solid voice-acting. Support conversations are now mostly tolerable again, but they have completely done away with the option to pair characters together for marriage/romance. Pairing characters together was a guilty pleasure of mine, but since there is no risk of hammy lovey-dovey dialogue I can't complain too much.

Back to what is a little more important though, the story: I really liked the trajectory it took and regrettably can't talk about it too much in order not to spoil it. One of the bigger 'plot twists' seems obvious very early on, but it is surrounded with little plot twists around it - making me wonder if it was done this way on purpose. The result is a conclusion that is, admittedly, a little contrived, but still nifty, satisfying and somewhat plausible. I was genuinely questioning the path Alm was taking at some points in the game, and was wondering about dark events that could take place. And, well, there are some dark moments.

Shadows of Valentia is a breath of fresh air for players of the modern series of games with its different formula and array of new - and old - mechanics, and has a beautifully artistic style to match. Each character's artwork, which is large and centred on the bottom screen when you select them on the grid, exudes charm and uniqueness, and it has the voicework to match. The lack of random out-of-universe items thrown at you and in-your-face DLC (like in previous 3DS titles) makes for a more immersive experience. But despite all these strong points, dungeons, which are a big part of the game, can really drag. Especially with all the encounters, which can often be the same enemy units in the same formation. My heart is still also set on the classic formula, which Fates Conquest got close to getting right. However, this game was a good distraction on the whole.

Extra Talk

Best girl: For me it's between Celica, Clair or Mae. Sonya gets a special mention - unfortunately because of the way my playthrough panned out, I ended up killing her and recruiting Deen instead. Otherwise she may have grown on me some more. Based on looks alone, I'd give it to Clair, but I have a special soft spot for Mae's voice work - especially her 'Let's go' when you select her during battles.

Are the cutscenes better than those in Awakening and Fates? They have a papery stuttered quality to them. A lowered frame rate to emulate cartoon animation I suppose. They certainly still look good and there are some very good cutscenes, but personally my favourite cutscenes were those in Awakening. That game's opening cinematics blew me away; as did the rest of them for that matter. Fates maintained the same polished quality, but I felt that not being able to include the main character in them - since it was your player-created Avatar - made them less interesting. But I do appreciate that Shadows of Valentia tried something different. I will say that it was a good choice of them to make the in-game character model 'cutscenes' sparse, since in general I found them kind of ugly. They would not have meshed well with the voice acting, I suppose.

Is this the best 3DS Fire Emblem title? As I suggested at the end of the review, I'd give it to Fire Emblem Fates Conquest, but there are definitely aspects of Shadows of Valentia I preferred: the writing, the artwork/aesthetic and the way archers worked; in that order. I also really didn't like the way you could affect battles with the castle stuff - the meals, finding random new items and so on - but maybe I'm just being too conservative. 'My Castle' wasn't all bad a feature.