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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.

Re: The Writer's Circle

Posted: Sun Aug 20, 2017 2:01 pm
by Kriken
Her Mind: Chapter 1

It had become almost enjoyable by this point, pushing this boundary further and further. Tessa quietly crept into the room, hand shyly on a sleeve. The door closed with a sterile click behind her. The same four bland walls meeting her as usual, but one held a hidden one-way screen.

A long cylinder protruded from one end, translucent along its length, revealing a metal bar in the middle wound with a spring. At the front of this bar there was a thick circular disc that capped off the cylinder.

"Alright Tessa, get into place please. We proceed as normal."

She walked up to the designated area, highlighted by the painted circle on the floor. It positioned her several steps behind the cylinder. This distance roughly the length of her body, she had estimated.

"You may now begin when you're ready."

The bored but not unkind voice of Doctor Krane buzzed crisply through the overhead speakers. It was normally he who gave these orders, but at times others would take his place. All the same, they were taking a simple measurement. But there was something about his voice she found quite soothing. An avuncular quality. She was always slightly disappointed when it wasn't him.

Tessa took a deep breath, and several smaller ones. She didn't like to disappoint. This applied to most things in her life. Her eyes snapped to the metal disc, and the metal disc began to move.

It moved backwards, along the cylinder. The springs creaked with the pressure. Her brow furrowed in concentration and the old pain settled in. But she could handle this. When it got almost unbearable, she would say to herself, "But what if I continued?" As if she was slipping into a reality where an impossibility occurred, or where she left one where her previous self was a failure.

It began to get difficult measuring how successful one was as the disc moved on. There was no live visible measurement for the participant, assumedly so they had no distraction, so their mental faculties were focused only on the task at hand. And the depth of the disc became harder to measure as the mind strained only to move and did away with the normalthink.

Were they really turning us into weapons?

That was Tessa's thought as the disc clanged back into place. She no longer flinched at the sound. Her limit had been reached, distracting thought or not.

"Thank you, Tessa," the speaker crackled. "That will be all."

A murmuring escaped through the sound system as well. This did not always occur, and it had confirmed what Tessa had suspected: that she had broken the record again. At least, that is what she assumed. The results would be handed out later. She bowed her head towards the screen, and then took a step to leave.

"Ah, wait..." There was some murmuring. Protest, it sounded like. But a moment later, Krane's voice came again. "Tessa, just this once, open the door. With your mind."

This was very unusual. The practice of telekinesis outside of the exercises was prohibited - if not entirely strictly. Mild fooling around with it in the dorm was undoubtedly detected but not punished. But this command had never been given.

"Okay," Tessa said tentatively. She had not opened a door with her ability before. It was different from the exercise, involving different parts, and she was tired from the earlier exertion.

"Relax," said Krane, as if sensing her disquiet. "This isn't part of the exercise."

Okay, she thought. The knob. For a moment, her mind went dead. Did it go inwards or outwards? She tried both. Steadily, it began to turn inwards. There was some pushback, but certainly not on the scale of the cylinder.

But now she would have to hold that, and also move the whole door inwards. She wondered.

Her mind flashed back to a scene in her old bedroom. Attempting to move two apples at once. It was possible, but shaky. This was a whole slab of metal - though not as heavy as it sounds. It moved quite smoothly on its hinges at a push of her hands, when she first entered the room.

Instead, she decided to rely on her raw strength, bolstered by moving that metal disc back week upon week.

The mental grip on the knob tightened, and with that same grip she pulled the door towards her. It moved, naturally, swinging open. It seemed so simple after the fact, like opening it with a hand, as if she should have done it straight away.

"Thank you, Tessa," Krane intoned. "That really will be all now. Dismissed."

She thought he sounded pleased, but the hint of it in his voice was so subtle she wasn't sure it was imagined.

"Thank you," Tessa muttered, stepping out of the room and shutting the door hands-free. The sound was shy of a slam, and she turned around alarmed. She had not meant to do that, but she wasn't concentrating. It just felt so natural.

If there had been more concerned muttering behind that screen, she was not able to hear it behind the thick metal wall.

The corridor she stood in had the same clinically clean walls of the testing room, and there were several other doors, some of which she had not entered yet. Further down, towards the end, was the room for medical check-ups. Next to it, Doctor Krane's office, the door embossed with a silver panel of his name. They would both be locked, like most of the doors in her current life.

There was only one door open to her here, and that was the one at the other end of the corridor, after taking a right turn. It opened up to the hub area.

A domed communal playground. On the arched walls was painted a frighteningly realistic version of the sky. It seemed to move as you did - the intended illusion, probably, but she did not know how it worked. It definitely was not the actual sky, however. She had not seen that in a while.

There were two benches at either end of the room, wooden and chipped. Weathered. They looked as if they were taken straight from the world above at some point. Next them there was a slightly rusted swing set and see-saw. A climbing frame.

It was strange that they made this place so deliberately juvenile when the others were at the age of sixteen like Tessa, or were getting close to that old. Perhaps they sought to put them in mind of a more innocent time. Before they were snatched away from their homes and tested on, deemed too dangerous for society. A mind game.

As expected, Natasha was here. Sitting on the bench closest to Tessa when she came in. Looking away from her, but clearly mindful of her presence.

"Oh," said Natasha with faux surprise, turning around. "Finished already?"

There was that sardonic smile.

Tessa never knew what to say.

"Yes," she said. "I don't like to hang around long."

Natasha lifted herself off the bench and paced around.

"You're so cool," she said. "Everybody has to put in so much more effort. But with you, it's just..." She clicked her fingers. "Over with like that, isn't it?"

"That's not what I meant."

Natasha smiled again and crept up to her, patting an arm. "I know. I'm just kidding around."

Tessa stood almost a foot over her, but rather than gaining confidence from this, she just seemed awkward and ungainly. This other girl had an aura of leadership, and indeed when Tessa first arrived, it did seem like Natasha was the leader of the rest of the kids. She had the best scores at the time, but it was more than that. And it had never been right between them.

"Well, see you then," she added cheerily, before wandering off.

It sounded like there was genuine warmth in those words, but that only contributed to the distance between them. That she could transition from thinly disguised animosity so smoothly. Tessa wanted to like Natasha. She wanted to get along with everybody. But she was doubtful it would ever happen.

The nearby bench seat offered up a resting place, which she gratefully took. Truly, she was not too tired from the tests. They were taxing at the time, but she recovered quickly. This was just the fatigue she felt in general. A feeling that made her somewhat numb to the world. She often marvelled at the kids around her, both in here and in the world above, as they blazed so brightly with their energy, almost blinding. Aside from the initial trauma of being taken away and imprisoned here, Tessa had found herself oddly at ease. The many choices and freedoms she once had retreating into tiresome memories. It made her wonder, as she often did, about what was wrong with her.

Re: The Writer's Circle

Posted: Thu Aug 24, 2017 12:54 am
by Rik
Meant to spend a lot of this summer writing but between work and other stuff just haven't managed to sit myself down and go for it till now. Been working on my dark fantasy idea from last page and finally worked out generally how I wanted it to start as well as expanding the main cast a bit since some new characters kind of just formed themselves while I've been daydreaming about it. Also changed the first chapter a little and have a tentative(/kind of cliche) title, so:

The Crimson Night - Chapter One
The winter sun shone weakly on the battlefield, coaxing thin tendrils of mist out of the sodden earth. To the north stood the White Citadel, its faded spires reaching to the sky like the fingers of some ancient, skeletal hand. From high up in the Butcher King’s last stronghold the two armies would appear miniscule, insignificant, like ants milling about on their mounds.

Farran was blessed with no such safe and remote perspective. He sat astride his charger, eyes scanning the field before him and the massed ranks of the Butcher’s army beyond. Beside him the queen and her generals held fervent counsel, discussing tactics and formations and all manner of other things. Farran paid them no mind. His job was not to be concerned with such things. His job was only to kill any who would harm his queen or stand in the way of her cause.

Hearing his name, he turned his gaze to the commanders. All eyes were focused on Isana, as ever. The Warrior Queen, last hope of the realm’s deliverance from the Butcher’s tyranny, risen to power not merely as a result of her bloodline but through the respect and loyalty of all those who met her – a true heir to the God-King for whom she had been named. Even now, haggard and dirtied by her long campaign, Isana seemed to emanate strength. Wherever she went Farran saw love in the gazes of the men (and often the women) who beheld her, captivated by her pale, beautiful face and flowing, fiery red hair. He supposed that he, too, felt love for her, but not in the same way. Isana had saved him, dragged him from the depths of despair and thrust him into the light, given him new purpose. A reason to fight. A reason to live.

“Farran stays with me,” she was saying. “He is my personal guard. He’s no use to me trudging through the forest.”

“I understand that, my queen, but we need our strike from the flank to be as hard and fast as possible. The men respect Farran. I have no doubt that with him leading the surprise charge their resolve would be strengthened tenfold and-“

“You heard the queen,” Farran interrupted. “Sir Arren or one of the other knights can lead the flank attack. My place is at her side.”

The general looked as if he were about to object, but Isana cut him off again. “Do you not think the Butcher will be suspicious when his scouts report that my most trusted warrior is nowhere to be seen? If we want this ambush to be a success he has to be caught off guard. Send whoever you think suitable, but Farran stays with me.”
Her tone brooked no argument, and the general bowed apologetically. “As you wish, my queen. I shall send for Sir Arren.”

The commanders resumed their discussion of tactics, and Farran returned his attention to the battlefield. The queen’s army had encamped behind the brow of a small hill on the great plain leading to the Citadel. To the west of the plain lay the woods from which the ambush would emerge, sprawling out into the distance but also looping behind the queen’s encampment. She had been careful to position scouts throughout the forest to warn of any surprise attack the Butcher King might mount, but so far all had been quiet. Too quiet, in Farran’s opinion. The Butcher was known for his guile as well as his brutality. He no doubt had some dirty trick in his arsenal, and the longer he kept it hidden the more disquieted Farran became.

The queen and her generals finished their discussion and rode back down the hill to the main camp, leaving the forward guard to keep watch on the army ahead. Farran followed, guiding his horse clumsily through the bustling camp to the queen’s tent. He had no love for riding; unlike the highborn generals he had never received training as a child. He felt most at home with his feet planted firmly on the ground, axe in one hand and shield in the other.

Farran dismounted and followed Isana into her tent, leaving the generals outside. When Isana had first chosen him to be her guard, this had drawn many an incredulous look; the beautiful queen shadowed even to her private quarters by the scarred, wild-looking warrior with the mane of unkempt, dirty brown hair. But with each thwarted attempt on the queen’s life, his presence had become seen more and more as a necessity rather than an oddity.

“The end is near,” Isana said. “Today we decide the fate of the realm.”

“We’ll win,” Farran replied. “The Butcher has weakened. We outnumber him at least two to one, if the scouts speak true.”

Isana made no reply, but looked perturbed nonetheless. In front of others the queen never expressed doubt, but in private she allowed her true feelings to show.

“Help me with my armour,” she said at last, and Farran obeyed. Before long she was clad in a full suit of steel plate, embellished with the golden sun she had taken as her sigil. The pair left the tent and joined the commanders once again.

“An ill omen, the men are saying,” one of them said with a glance at the sky. “They say the moon turns crimson when the Old Gods are closest and their evil leaks through to our realm once again.” Farran followed his gaze. The Blood Moon hung in the sky like a great red eye, almost level with the sun. It had been getting closer and closer for weeks, and sometime soon would come the eclipse, but Farran was not worried. He had as little love for superstition as he did for riding.

“Old wives’ tales,” he said. “The only evil we need to worry about is the damned Butcher, and after today not even him.”

“Well spoken,” Isana agreed, but Farran spied a brief hint of that perturbed expression again.

Suddenly a horn blew, and one of the lookouts came galloping into the camp. “Your Highness!” he yelled. “The enemy has sent forth a party bearing the Butcher’s standard. They seek parley.”

“Then we shall ride to meet them,” Isana replied. “Farran, Lord Garwin, with me. The rest of you, get the men in formation. The battle is nigh.”

Farran went to mount his horse, but suddenly came the sound of a girl’s voice, muffled and distorted.

“Farran!” cried the voice. “Come quickly! Pa says we need you!” Farran glanced around, searching for the source of the voice, but saw nothing. Again the girl called out, her voice clearer this time.

“Farran! Please wake up!”

Farran gazed around again, but now everything seemed to have changed. The soldiers moved in slow motion, as if walking through water, and everything was slowly becoming covered in a fog so dense that Farran could hardly see. He whirled around, confused, crying out as the world disappeared around him-

He came to with a jolt, sitting bolt upright and gasping for breath. Gone was the battlefield, and in its place a cramped, dingy bedroom, the smell of damp heavy in the air. The girl at his side shrank back as he leered at her with his one good eye.

“Please,” the girl whimpered. “Pa said to get you. Tall Sam is threatening to kill Willas. You’re the only one he’ll listen to.”

Realisation dawned on Farran at last. He had been dreaming again, although the memories he relived in his slumber often felt too real, too vivid, to be called mere dreams. The battle beneath the White Citadel had been long ago, however. It no longer mattered. Nothing much mattered any more, save for the daily struggle to survive.

“Stay here, Alice,” he told the girl as he climbed to his feet, throwing on a woollen jerkin and britches before wrapping a strip of cloth around his head to cover his bad eye. The sight of it tended to unnerve the other villagers. “I’ll send your father to get you.” He didn’t wait for an answer, walking towards the door. There hung his axe and shield, pitted and tarnished from all the blows he had taken and the blood he had spilled over the years. He had no need for them this time, though. He’d handled far worse than angry farmers in his time.

He strode out of his small cabin, stepping over the old dog lying asleep on the porch. The collie was near enough blind and just as deaf, but Farran looked after her as best he could. He felt sympathy for her, aged and scarred just as he was. Besides, she often seemed to smell trouble coming long before the villagers caught wind of it.

It was dark, as always. Farran’s cabin stood atop a small hill which looked out over the forest, giving a clear view of the Blood Moon as it began to rise, a bloodstain leaking steadily over the horizon. It was a sight that had repeated itself for nearly two decades now. Days and nights still came and went, the moon tracing the path once made by the sun, but the feeling of true daylight was but a distant memory. The faint crimson light that bled from the skies now was no substitute.

He trudged towards the main part of the village, separated from his cabin by a stifling ring of tall pines. Here it grew brighter, the torches and lamps of the village spilling light across the muddied earth. Willas’ lights were dotted about too; ethereal orbs hanging silently in the air, bobbing slightly in the breeze. Farran found them unsettling – he’d never trusted magic – but he was thankful for them anyway. Without them the crops would have withered away long ago. All the more reason to stop Tall Sam from killing the old mage.

He soon found the belligerent farmer, shouting as loudly as he was. As his name suggested, Tall Sam was a giant of a man, standing at least a foot over most of the other villagers, Farran excluded. His mop of curly brown hair was dishevelled and greasy, and his face was a livid red.

“Tell him, Farran!” Sam yelled as soon as the old warrior drew into sight. “We ought to stand up to that b.astard! He’s been lording it over us for too long! Who’s he think he is?”

“The man who keeps food on our bloody plates, that’s who,” said the man stood with him. Ren was much shorter than Sam, and much calmer. “If you kill him we’ll all starve, you feckless idiot.”

Sam stepped towards Ren, making to hit him, but shrank back when Farran stepped in. “Ren, go get Alice from my cabin,” he said over his shoulder. “I’ll deal with this fool.”

“Don’t tell me you’re on his side,” Sam said as Ren hurried away. “It’s wrong. Can’t you see it? We all work day in, day out while he sits on his a.rse, then he has the nerve to make all his demands, the toothless old f.ucker. The things he’s said, the things he makes people do - somebody needs to teach him a lesson!”

“And you think you’re the one to do it?” Farran said. “Drunk out of your mind and threatening to kill him? He’s a greedy b.astard, but we need him. Last thing we need is a p.issed halfwit scaring him off.”

“Who are you calling a halfwit?” Sam shouted, stepping forward and glowering angrily down at Farran. Other villagers had come out to watch the argument now, but Farran paid them no mind.

“I’ll tell you this once, Sam,” he said, a dangerous tone entering his voice. “Drop this, go home and sober up. Otherwise it’s going to end badly for you.”

“Don’t threaten me!” Sam replied angrily, shoving Farran backwards. Farran reacted without thinking, lashing out and hitting Sam square in the face. A familiar cold anger washed over the old warrior, and he punched him again, sending Sam stumbling backwards, blood streaming from his nose. Farran didn’t let up, shoving Sam into the wall of the nearest house. Sam groaned and tried to step away, but Farran didn’t let him, grabbing hold of him and pinning him to the wall.

“I warned you,” Farran said through gritted teeth. “Leave Willas be, or I’ll really lose my temper, gods take your soul.” He pushed Sam to the dirt and walked away as a few other men rushed in and pulled Sam to his feet. He was dimly aware of the stares and murmurs of the other villagers. Let them talk, he thought. They need me as much as they do Willas.

Ren was waiting for him back at his cabin, leaning against the wall whilst Alice sat stroking Farran’s dog. “Is everything alright?” he asked.

“It will be,” Farran said. “As long as that simpleton got it through his thick skull to leave Willas alone.”
Ren still looked troubled. “As foolhardy as he is, Sam has a point, you know.”

Farran groaned. “Gods be damned, Ren, I’m not going to have to break your nose too, am I?” Ren laughed. To others that may have been a genuine threat, but he was one of the few people that Farran counted as a friend.

“I’d prefer you didn’t,” Ren answered. “It might not hurt to pose the same question to Willas, though.”

“It would. Soon as he feels threatened he’ll turn tail and run, find some other village who’ll keep him fat and lazy. A few days after that our lights’ll go out and we’ll go hungry again. However much he’s taking in tribute, we’d lose far more without him.”

“It’s not just the tribute, Farran. We give you more too, remember, and nobody has a problem with that.”

“What, then?”

Ren gave a deep sigh. “There’ve been rumours for a while, but I didn’t know for sure till today. He’s been forcing the women-” He paused and glanced at Alice, still stroking the old dog. “I think you know what I’m telling you.”

Farran’s tone hardened again. “How did you find out?”

“Sam’s daughter told me. Willas said to her the other night that if she didn’t do as he asked he’d stop putting his lights up at their fields. That’s why Sam was so angry, Farran, he wasn’t just drunk.”

Farran glanced at Alice again. Sam’s daughter was only a few years older. If Willas was forcing girls her age into his bed, where did he draw the line? Would he wait a few years before harassing Ren’s daughter, or was he already eyeing her up? The thought made him shudder. That cold anger was rising again. This time he embraced it.

“I’ll put an end to it,” he said. “It’s like Sam says, the old bedfordshire clanger needs a lesson.” He stormed past Ren into the cabin, grabbing his axe.

“Steady, Farran,” Ren said, stepping in front of him. “He disgusts me too, but as much as I hate it we still need him. Don’t go doing anything rash.”

“I know,” Farran said, tearing the cloth strip from around his head. His bad eye bulged from its socket, the sightless, milk-white organ awash with flecks of bloody red. “I’m just going to scare him. I won’t hurt him.”
Not much, anyway, he thought as he marched towards the old mage’s hovel.
Chapter 2
Like Farran, Willas lived away from the rest of the village, but while the old warrior chose to live nearer to the forest gate so as to be the first to know of any intruders, Willas had asked for his home to be built near the entrance to the old caves at the village’s rear. The caves had been part of a vast mine in the distant past, but the ore veins had long since run dry. However, they still served the village as a potential bolthole if it was attacked.

Farran strode up to the door and knocked three times with the haft of his axe. A moment later he heard shuffling footsteps from within, and soon after that the door opened slightly. Willas peeked out at Farran, his beady eyes narrow with suspicion.

“What do you want this early in the morning?” he said. “I have spells to prepare, I don’t have time for-“

Farran shoved the door fully open, knocking the old man backwards onto the floor with a startled gasp. For a moment he felt a pang of guilt. Willas’ grey robes hung off his thin body, arms like twigs poking from the sleeves, and in that moment all Farran could see before him was a weak, frail old man. Then he thought of how the frail old man before him had abused his power, and the guilt vanished as quickly as it had come.

He roughly hauled Willas to his feet and pulled him close. The old mage struggled at first but quickly gave up, hanging limp in Farran’s grip.

“W-what is this? Gods take you, are you insane?” he spluttered, trying to meet Farran’s stare but wilting under the gaze of his terrible crimson eye.

“Shut it, lech,” Farran grunted. “I’d cut out your tongue if you didn’t need it to summon your lights. You’re a wretched piece of filth.”

“I don’t know what-“

“You know perfectly well what I mean. Ren told me what you’ve been doing. How many girls have you forced into your bed, Willas? How long have you been threatening them with darkness just to satisfy your sick little fantasies?”

“I- I never! I’ve not forced anyone to do anything!”

Farran shook Willas and pushed his face even closer, the old mage squirming to avoid his stare. “Don’t deny it, b.astard!” he growled. “Answer me!”

“No, I-“ Willas began, then seemed to think better of it. “Fine! Yes, I admit it. But what of it? This village would starve without me! I deserve to get what I want!”

The absurd entitlement in Willas’ words caused Farran’s anger to flare. Without thinking he flung the mage backwards, sending him halfway across the room and tumbling across the large table behind him. Bits of parchment flew into the air and small glass vials shattered onto the floor as the mage scrabbled over the table, falling gracelessly backwards and clambering to his feet.

“This village is meant to be safe, gods take you!” Farran roared. “We built these walls to keep the monsters out, not to let them live in our midst!”

Willas looked shaken, but remained defiant. “This village would be nothing without me! How many other villages have you seen on your travels? How many of them have prospered as ours has? None, and you have my magic to thank for it. And you have the gall to come and threaten me! I’ll have you thrown out, you see if I don’t!”

Farran forced himself to take a deep breath, resisting the urge to dive across the table and beat Willas to a pulp. “It’s not you alone who built this place, Willas. Could you have put up these walls? Could you have sown the fields, harvested the crops, kept the cattle healthy? And when the village came under attack, could you have defended it?” He began to pace around the table towards Willas again, the old man warily backing towards the door to his bedchamber. “We’ve had to fend off raiders, wights, any number of dreadthings that walk the shadows beyond our walls. Every time, you were cowering in the caves with the infants and the mothers and the sick. Do you know where I was?”

Willas said nothing, merely fumbled behind his back for the door handle without much success.

“I was out there killing all those monsters, the ones that had you scared s.hitless,” Farran said, now face to face with Willas again. “And if I can kill them, I’ll have no trouble doing far worse to you. So think very, very carefully before you try and blackmail anyone again. Because I will find out, and I will not be happy.”

With that he turned and left, slamming the door behind him. He stormed back to his own cabin, ignoring Ren as he called out. He’d been forcing his anger down all this time, but at last allowed it to burst out, drawing his axe and burying it into the trunk of the fallen pine at the side of his cabin. He roared and yanked it free before hacking again and again at the trunk. A splinter of wood flew out and grazed his cheek, but he paid no mind to the blood as it ran in warm rivulets down his face. Eventually he began to slow his strikes and then stopped altogether, dropping his axe to the ground.

“Are you finished?” Ren said dryly from behind him.

Farran nodded and slumped to the floor, resting his back against the jagged hollow he’d hacked into the pine. Similar scars lay at uneven intervals along the trunk’s length from previous bouts of fury.

Ren sat down beside him. “I hope you left Willas in better shape than this poor tree.”

Farran gave a humourless bark of laughter. “More’s the pity. Arrogant b.astard doesn’t deserve to keep breathing.”

“What happened?”

Farran relayed his confrontation with the mage to Ren as they sat against the pine. By now the Blood Moon had risen fully, spilling its crude imitation of midmorning light across the land.

“I wanted to kill him so badly,” Farran said when he’d finished. “All the sick things he’s done, first he denied them, then he f.ucking defended them. But it’s like you said, we need him. I’ve seen what it’s like elsewhere. People barely have enough to survive.”

Ren nodded. “Aye, I’d happily be rid of him too. But, as my old pa was fond of saying, better the devil you know than the devil you don’t. Though with any luck you’ll have scared the devilry out of him for a while at least.”

“And what if I haven’t?”

Ren shrugged. “You’ll have to follow through on your threat to him, show him you weren’t bluffing.”

“There’s the problem, though. Willas stays here because he thinks he’s safe. I can’t scare him too much, else he’ll leave.”

“Leave to where? And who’ll take him? He wouldn’t last five minutes out on his own. No, he’ll be taking my pa’s advice too, I’d think. Better for him to stay in here with you than out there with the dreadthings.”

“I hope you’re right,” Farran muttered. For a while the two sat in silence, until eventually Ren left to join the rest of the villagers in the fields. After a while Farran stood too and set out on his daily circuit of the village walls. He’d been here when they were first erected some eight years past, helping to fell the pines in the areas which were to become farmland and drag them to the village’s perimeter. The original wall still stood mostly intact, only a few sections having been replaced due to rot or damage.

Satisfied that the wall hadn’t been breached in the night, Farran left the village by the front gate and spent the rest of the day in the forest, first checking and then re-setting the traps he left out to catch wild game. Today’s catch was fairly meagre, nothing more than a couple of scrawny rabbits caught in his snares, but it would have to do.

The following days and weeks returned to the dull monotony of life in the village. Each day he walked the walls, he hunted, he foraged, and on his appointed nights he stood guard at the watchtower built alongside the village gate. There were no new whisperings of Willas forcing his will on the villagers, and for that Farran was glad. All he wished for was a quiet life, or at least as quiet a life as could be managed these days.

And of course, amid the hunting, foraging and guarding, he dreamed. Old dreams, as usual, of times when the sun still shone and he still fought alongside Isana, and sometimes even older dreams where his face still bore the smiles of youth and ignorance, and the shades of loved ones long lost were found once again. From these Farran would often wake with tears slowly burning their way unbidden down his cheeks. But then one night, for the first time in years, came a new dream.

He was looking down on the forest from high up in the treetops. Below was a small camp, several oilskin tents arranged in a circle around the embers of a campfire, still smoking and spitting thanks to the light drizzle falling through the trees. At either end of the camp a man stood watch. Aside from them the only others visible were three hooded figures sat around the last remnants of the fire. They were talking in hushed tones, the words indistinct from Farran’s vantage point.
I wonder what they’re talking about, Farran thought, and suddenly he was there alongside them.

“-trail’s getting warmer”, the one opposite was saying. It was a woman, Farran could now see. Her fair hair was tied back in a messy knot that caused the hood to bulge backwards slightly. She would have been fairly comely were it not for the hardened air about her; her thin lips were pulled back in a near grimace, and there were dark shadows under her steely grey eyes which stared unblinking into the fire.

“We’ll be upon it soon enough,” she continued. “Maybe once we’ve killed it we can convince some of the others to come with us.”

“You’d sooner persuade a fish to crawl up on land and join you for a stroll,” the one on Farran’s left said in a playful, lilting tone. This one was a man, his accent that of the desert lands of Aranaya beyond the Midland Sea. “These men are fanatics to the hunt, not to the cause. This is sport to them. A noble one, true, but it is for the thrill that they ride, not the virtue.”

“These are brave, honourable men,” the woman shot back. “You do them a disservice.”

“Oh, I do not deny their bravery. Their intelligence perhaps, but their bravery, never.”

The woman scoffed. “What would you know of bravery, anyway? I’ve scarce seen you lift a sword, let alone swing one.”

The man shifted and Farran caught a glimpse under his hood. He had the golden-brown skin of an Aranayan to match his accent. He had short, tousled black hair and a light, well-groomed beard. His dark eyes twinkled mischievously in the half-light.

“I would sooner be a live coward than a dead gallant, my dear Lina,” he said, smirking.

The woman’s grimace deepened to a scowl. “Don’t call me that,” she said frostily.

“But it is such a beautiful name, for a beautiful woman,” the man replied, his grin widening. “Just to let it play along my lips is a blessing almost as wonderful as beholding you.”

“You’ll have the blessing of my fist in a minute, gods take you.”

The third figure spoke up at last, another woman’s voice emerging quietly but forcefully from beneath the hood. “Quiet, the pair of you,” she said. “You’re acting like children.” Until now she had had her head bowed, but now she lifted her gaze to the other two in turn. She was scarce more than a child herself, perhaps seventeen at the oldest. Long, ink-black hair flowed past her shoulders, framing her pale, delicate face in the darkness. But she too had an air of toughness about her, the steel in her tone and the determined look in her jade-green eyes hinting at experience beyond her years.

The other woman looked down in embarrassment, but the man merely tilted his head in a short nod, and smiled his playful smile again. “As you wish, valiant leader,” he said.

The younger woman sighed. “We’re getting nowhere with this. Let’s leave it for the night. We’ll just have to see how things go tomo-“

Suddenly Farran was wrenched out of the dream and back into his own room, wide-eyed and alert. Something had woken him, a sound in the night-

There, again. The short, sharp bark of the collie outside.

He stumbled out of bed and towards the door, still only half-clothed, but barely made it two steps before it flew open and two men rushed through. They barged into him, catching him off-balance in his surprise and knocking him onto the ground. With a great roar he tried to heave them off as they grabbed his arms and pinned him down. He succeeded in shoving one of them away, but then the other grabbed something from the back of his belt, a rag dripping with some pungent fluid, and pushed it into Farran’s face. One breath of the horrible, cloying fumes it gave off and suddenly his strength began to fail him. His limbs went limp, his head lolling against the floor, and all he heard before the darkness crept into his vision was the man murmuring again and again that he was sorry, so sorry, and then the darkness covered him, dragging him silently into a black and dreamless sleep.

Chapter 2

Posted: Sat Aug 26, 2017 9:49 pm
by Kriken
Her Mind: Chapter 2

Tessa spent a great deal of time alone in her room. It was nicely furnished. Like the rest of the facility, it seemed designed to put them all at ease. To counterbalance the crabbiness of the adults overseeing them.

There was a small pine wood desk with a pad of papers on top. They provided more if you asked. Next to the desk, the bed, which she lay sprawled in, her long brown-blonde hair sprawled with her. It had blue sheets and a duvet with a checkered black and white covering.

A wide five-drawer bureau in wizened dark wood. A tall wardrobe in a slightly lighter shade. The walls were white, with patches of uneven plaster. There was a tattered poster of the ocean and - to her amusement - one of a well-endowed woman on a beach wearing an ill-fitting bikini. She took them both down, folded them and stored them in the bottom drawer. Tessa supposed they belonged to the previous occupants.

What happened to them? Did they move to another facility? Graduate in some form? Or perhaps they were disposed of for disobedience. They did take her away from home to imprison her here. She didn't put something like that past them.

None of the other Movers here - that's one of the terms the adults used; the one she preferred the most - had any idea. This room had been locked and, as far as they were aware, empty when Tessa arrived here. The person staying here had predated them all - but who's to say it was a Mover?

On the desk there was also a lamp. The only electrical thing she was allowed. And the only other noticeable feature was the plain white radiator at the end. That was her room, and what will be her room for the foreseeable future. It would never hold anything special, apart from her many thoughts.

Tessa thought about the boy who used to live in this room. She thought about the world above and the state it might be in now - probably still fine, the threat of Movers probably exaggerated. Or was it? School, and her friends and classmates. What a totally different world it seemed like now. The neat and stylish blazer she used to wear as her uniform, the black skirt and kneesocks. What she was so used to wearing, and what provided a different identity of sorts. The Student, and all the friends and teachers she only saw at school with it.

Now she only had one world: the facility.

Tessa thought about her family, which was largely the world outside of school, because out of school she did not really have any friends. Too quiet, too sheltered. There was her foggy-minded and strange but mostly well-meaning mother, and her siblings, most of which had moved away from home. But there was her younger sister who she did live with until a few months ago, when she had reported Tessa to the authorities.

She thought about revenge too.

There was a knock at her door. It was slow and muted. Not many people knocked on her door so she could tell who it was straight away. Tessa sat up and put on her hair band.

"Come in," she said.

Rita crept in, quietly but quickly, like a mouse. Appropriate, given she was something on the short side - especially compared to Tessa. She had sleek black hair and pale white features too. And dark eyes. They reminded her of her younger sister's eyes, but Tessa was much fonder of Rita, so she could forgive her for that.

"Are you alright Tessa? You've been in your room all day." Rita had a mature voice, like a 30-year-old world-weary woman.

Tessa's smile was somewhat on the wry side. "I'm always in my room. Every day."

But maybe she had been more reclusive than usual. And Rita, of course, knew this.

"You got your score then," she said.


Rita laughed. "Well? Are you gonna tell me what it is or what?"

"It was a 6.5."

Rita's jaw dropped and her eyes widened.

"Tessa! That's amazing! How did you- That's a point 5 growth. Just when it seemed like Natasha was starting to catch up."

"Shh!" Tessa said. "Not so loud."

"Speak for yourself. You need to chill out. Who cares if anyone hears? They're going to find out eventually. You need to start embracing success, Tessa. And to stop being so intimidated by Natasha."

"I'm not intimidated by her," Tessa said, a tad too defensively she realised. And then in a quieter voice: "She just annoys the hell out of me."

"She'll be pis.sed off alright." Rita nodded, sage-like. "At least you admit that she annoys you now."

"Why does that matter?"

"Because you shouldn't pretend that everything's just okay."

Tessa didn't think that was a sufficient answer, but she was content with pretending that it was and just letting the subject drop. She shifted her feet off the bed and stood up. Rita's presence had energised her, actually. She supposed she felt glad. After all, Rita was her best friend.

That was one thing she had gained in this facility. While she had a decent number of friends in her previous life, she was not really as close to any of them as she was with Rita - but then again, these close confines did facilitate that.

"How has she been, then?" Tessa asked.

"'Tasha? Okay, I guess. She's on 5.7 now. So she knows you'd be ahead regardless. It's not like you'd regress. But, you've thought of trying that, right?"

Tessa started to think of the room's previous occupant again. The boy who might have been disposed.

"They push us to get high scores. I don't think- They wouldn't like it if we didn't try."

"Nick gets away with it."

"But for how long?"

"Tessa! You can get so bleak sometimes. It's not like they're going to kill him for not trying."

"Your words, not mine."

They smiled at each other.

Even though Rita's scores were nowhere near as good as her own, she was smart. Tessa felt that she was, anyway. What governed how good one was at telekinesis anyway? Was it really a direct link to intellect? Or was it a certain talent. You could have the talent for sports or games and seem as dumb as a brick in normal areas of life. Maybe it was the same for Tessa and her special ability.

Re: The Writer's Circle

Posted: Tue Sep 05, 2017 6:46 pm
by Kriken
Lucky Zerucky in 2017: Chapter 1 (The Day his Heart Stopped)

He fell dramatically to the table, scattering cards and poker chips around him. Some of the coloured discs rolled off the table and clacked onto the floor, the sound echoing in the darkness of the deceptively large room. The light above highlighted only a fraction of a the centre, black-suited men standing watch just outside the fringes of this glow.

Just a moment before, the woman opposite him had jumped up in a victory cry, yanking off her bubble-gum pink headphones. Her tongue filled out her lower mouth in mocking, but her expression quickly changed to one of curiosity, a brow raised.

"Hey, is he... Oh shi.t."

Apparently one of the men on watch had sensed something was wrong as well, because they stepped over into the light. Buzz cut, muscular. He applied two fingers to the fallen man's neck and then looked at the woman.

"He's a goner, Ms Chip," the man said in a gravelly voice.

Ms Chip wasn't her real name. Platinum Chip. She just chose it because she thought it sounded cute. It just so happened to suit some of her hobbies too, as well as her platinum blonde hair.

Tinkling cheesy jazz played on for a few moments before Platinum Chip slumped down back to her cushioned chair. She picked up a card, one she knew to be Queen, and pressed it up to her eye.

"Not so lucky today, Lucky Zerucky."

The man next to Lucky chuckled.

Another man peeled away from the circle, closer to Ms Chip. This one was leaner, the cut of his hair less severe. A newer recruit.

"Sorry but I don't get what's so funny. A man has just died!"

"Oh, he'll be fine," Chip said. "Actually no. Sorry, that was on reflex. We won't get into trouble for this though, don't worry. No-one will lose their job. We didn't kill him." She was nodding reassuringly at the young man.

"Well... isn't... Are we not going to call an ambulance?"

"He's already dead," the other guard said. "There's no rush."

"Fine, I'll do it."

He was met with a shrug, and with that the men all departed. Ms Chip sat up with them and circled the table, finger tracing the edges.

"You know, I really can't believe it." She knocked the wood, as if to test the world's reality. "That you, gosh-darn Lucky Zerucky, have died. And that I beat you too. 2017. What a year, what a year. I'd kiss you, you know. If you weren't dead. Farewell, Mr Zerucky."

She stuffed a handful of chips into the pocket of his blue blazer.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

He gulped down the large coke greedily, slamming it down the wall next to himself, before picking up the big mac for another round. Appreciate sounds. Really quite disgusting ones. Celeste West flinched away, looking at him askance, still baffled.

Lucky had ripped his tie away, his shirt several buttons down. Pale but his paleness vanishing quickly.

"They call you the wizard. They say you can do anything. And then you go and die and come back. You know, you're not the first to do that, but somehow you'll use this as an ego boost. You'll make sure everyone hears all about it."

"I don't have too," he said muffled through his eating. "Word gets around anyway. Can't have a moment of peace these days."

He thrust his hand into the chips. Large chips, of course. And then paused. Memory rocked him. With his other hand he thrust a hand into his pocket and pulled out the casino chips from the game. Lucky threw them angrily away.

"I hate casino chips," he says. "Just give me the damn money to play with off the bat."

But those chips had given him the idea to go to McDonalds in the first place, and he was grateful for that. There was nothing quite like McDonalds after being reborn.

"Yes, keep eating that shi.t," Celeste said. "I'm sure it'll help make your next life long and fruitful." She shook her head. "You're a mess."

"I disagree."

"You just lost everything over a game. Your life included, albeit briefly."

Lucky grumbled, humbled. "Yeah okay. I do have nothing now. But I'm Lucky. Lucky Zerucky. I have my wits, my talent and my luck. And you. And my other friends. I'll bounce back, just watch me."

"I'm not sure if I want to. You always do this. One of these days, you'll die - and then stay dead. Or not bounce back. Or get beaten up. It's a wonder that hasn't happened yet. It will and it will hurt a lot and then you will feel damn sorry for yourself."

"I already feel sorry for myself, don't worry." Lucky sighed. "She was a vixen, though. That Platinum Chip. I definitely would. Even if she is a bit young for me."


"But you're still great, Celeste."

"I really want to hit you right now. If I wasn't worried about your state right now, I would."

"She cheated," Lucky said philosophically, ignoring Celeste. There was one chip left in his hand which he spun around, and a consumable chip in his other which he promptly ate. "We played her game, Platinum Chips."

"Really?" Celeste said wide-eyed. "You think she cheated? At a game she made herself? The not-at-all suspicious magnate Platinum Chip?"

"Shut up. I just wanted to talk about it."

"Maybe another time, Lucky. Maybe another time." Celeste's jaw was tight. "I'm going. Enjoy the McDonalds. You're welcome."

"Wait! Celeste, I need somewhere to stay. I thought I might-"

"Ask me if you can stay at my place? Go ahead. Ask me."

"Can I-"

"No. Go bother another friend of yours. They're the only 'things' you have left now. Yes, that's how you think of them, isn't it? Goodbye for real, Lucky."

She turned and got into her car, with not one glance back as she started the engine and drove off. A blue streak in the night as it sleekly deflected the bright lights of traffic and the restaurant in front of them.

"Not all of them, Celeste," Lucky said, sadly eating into a chip. "Not all of them..."

He dusted himself off and neatly threw away what was left into the trash. Trash, he thought with a sigh. That's me right now.

But it'll change, starting today. I'm a new Lucky Zerucky. While I'm still in it for myself, I am going to put a bit more effort into changing Nimbus City for the better.

Game Review #4

Posted: Mon Sep 11, 2017 9:09 pm
by Kriken
Game Review #4: Majora's Mask 3D
I got to tell you, my hopes were not overly high for this game. Ocarina of Time 3D for me was a lazy and uninspired remake that was basically an enhanced port the original game. Granted, they made the Water Temple way more tolerable, but I don't really feel other big bones were thrown our way. They don't even make cutscenes skippable. I think it's crazy that in this day and age there are still games with unskippable cutscenes. Just make it a multi-button combination if you're afraid of people accidentally skipping them.

As it happens, Majora's Mask 3D also doesn't allow cutscene-skipping (by conventional non-speedrunner methods at least), but that's okay. I don't care that much about it anyway. They made fundamental changes to the game instead. Ones that almost change the very nature of this game. Changes that are even arguably bad... But this is an improvement over Ocarina of Time 3D, because at least this time they had the balls to do something different.

From the start you can feel that the game is different. It had been some time since I played the original, but some parts of the environment seemed drastically different in aesthetic - and then when I came to the first significant trial of the game (catching the members of the Bomber gang) I couldn't help but notice that they had changed the location of some of them. I found this intriguing, given my experience of Ocarina of Time 3D. It doesn't seem that big of a deal in the scope of videogame remakes, but it told me early on in the game that the developers no longer saw the classics as sacrosanct. Stuff could be done better. Stuff can just be done differently, for the sake of a fresh experience.

Super Mario 64 DS is a good example of a remake that shook up the formula well. The original is still arguably better for its control and technical aspect, but the DS version is still worth playing for the new look, characters and THIRTY new stars with several new bosses. Aside from the base game it also had minigames and multiplayer modes. Yet it is still unmistakably a remake, just like Majora's Mask 3D.

Probably the most contentious change to Majora's Mask on the 3DS - and I'm pretty sure it is the most contentious unless I'm missing something - is the ability to create permanent saves without going back in time (which resets progress). On the N64 and subsequent ports, the 'quick saves' worked like they do in many traditional games - once you used it, it was gone, and you had to save again before quitting the game for a new save. Basically, you couldn't just reset the game if you made a mistake or too many mistakes and go back to a specific save point.

In casual, early or first playthroughs, it can be difficult to complete main quest segments such as dungeons in one three-day cycle (which is what you're limited to before being forced to go back in time). This can apply even to segments preceding the dungeon, with some cryptic progression points. It can be even more obnoxious if it's your first Zelda game, or if you didn't find out you can halve the speed of time - doubling your time limit. Now, this might have been an intentional design choice: to make it so you would have to carry out repeated playthroughs of some segments of the game, until you can do them fast enough or have all the pieces of the puzzle (figuratively speaking). It also adds tension to the game - when you're running out of time and you don't know if you're going to beat the boss in time. If it looks like it's going to go down to the wire. But it could also be interpreted as a lazy way to lengthen playtime. It's not necessarily fun having to retrace your steps.

Another way it could be looked at is that these two versions - original and 3DS - are simply products of their time. In fact they literally are, of course, but what I mean is perhaps the old way the game was played, with the greater time penalty, was more suitable for that era. It doesn't seem like a drastically different time, the late 90s, but there were much fewer forms of easily accessible entertainment, especially digital and media. Since then the floodgates really opened and piracy is rife. Nearly everyone has decent internet access. Life is generally a lot busier too. There was more time to dick around and look thoroughly for solutions in games, and more of a reason to since there were fewer great and easily accessible games. The 3DS version not only lets you keep permanent saves throughout the three-day cycle, but it also lets you move time forward by the hour by playing the ocarina. No more waiting around a long time for specific time events to occur.

Both playstyles have their merits, but in terms of playing the game for fun I'd have to go with Majora's Mask 3D from now on. It's interesting comparing this take to my thoughts on Pikmin 1 and 2, where I prefer the original as it has the strict time limit and penalty for messing up. But that is because, outside of the quirky log entries at the end of each day, Pikmin is not a hugely personal game. There are no major narrative elements you would have to sit through time and time again. It has an oldschool feel where when some big enemy appears to crush you, it is just viewed as a matter of course. Not like in 3D Zelda where the creature would flop about dramatically with big text to announce its name. The pikmin creatures have no names or personalities. Cold as it sounds, they are just tools, so losing them all doesn't make my heart bleed.

But funnily enough, though that is probably the most controversial change, it's one of the least surprising. Of course they were probably always going to introduce permanent mid-cycle saves. Modern gaming demands it. A TON of little changes are made to the game, everywhere. I don't even understand the decision-making behind a lot of them. Just to make the experience fresher? I kind of like that, though. It feels like it's in the spirit of the game, which remains to be one of the most distinct of the series. It was strange and mysterious in many ways. It was so different to Ocarina of Time despite borrowing so much, and that was the intention.

Then there are big changes. Every temple boss battle has been changed. Notably the second phases of two of them - maybe more, I can't remember - are completely reworked. I won't say how for spoilers, but that in one of these cases (the water temple's) it was done very well and in another case (stone temple), I still don't know what to think about it. That one frustrated me, but I don't know how much of it was bad game design and how much of it was just me being bad. But it was pretty clear, despite my somewhat foggy memory of the original, that it was an idea of Grezzo (the co-developer and driving force of these 3DS Zelda remakes) and not Nintendo. It was bizarre and struck me as a cool idea, if not entirely well-executed. Interestingly I feel like Grezzo's effort has brought the bosses in MM closer to those of the rest of the series, with a specific weak point you have to hone in on. In the original game, they were more like standard action game bosses with the sole weak point being their whole body.

To clarify my opinion on Ocarina of Time 3D, I still think it was a worthy instalment for introducing a new generation to the game, and in a well-preserved form too. Its merit is that it's exactly the same game, faults and all, but with better graphics and a smoother frame rate (especially compared to the European release), and it's still a great game. I was just disappointed that, for me, a fan of the game, the biggest selling point was a fresh coat of paint and the '3D' feature which I did not care for at all. It offered nothing truly new as like great remakes Zero Mission and SM64DS. It was just a pretty nostalgia trip with the distracting thought of: 'when is there going to be something new?' all the way through.

Meanwhile, Majora's Mask 3D transforms the games in ways that I find largely agreeable or understandable. It has everything Majora's Mask the original had, and then some new content. They still didn't dare to add a completely new dungeon, but at least they added a sidequest and made big changes elsewhere. And, while this isn't exactly to the merit of the recreators Grezzo, I feel like Majora's Mask has aged better as a game. Ocarina of Time is an epic but it's also a model of the standard Zelda formula. MM has way more personality and charm, with a darker tone and interesting time mechanic that they made more manageable. It's the cooler of the two games, and perhaps the one that had the most to benefit from a revamp.

HM Chapter 3

Posted: Wed Sep 13, 2017 5:57 pm
by Kriken
Her Mind: Chapter 3
"We need to talk, Krane."

Serena's look was severe, which was not unusual. She was a striking woman. Not just in her good looks, but in the tightness of her features and those piercing green eyes. They were probably softer a long time ago, Krane thought sadly, taking a drag of his cigarette. Or perhaps they never were. He only got to know her at this unit, where she started a couple of years before.

He was not really allowed to smoke here, not even in his office, but he was in a position where such petty rules didn't matter to him. And everyone just had to get used to it.

"Then," he said. "Let's talk."

"The hub area has a dome painted like the sky. There are swings and roundabouts." Her voice dripped with contempt.


"The other units I worked at did not have such fantastical ideas. We're here to do science. To study a group of a potentially dangerous subjects. We have let them get too comfortable."

"Good heavens," Krane said, swivelling around his chair. Bushy eyebrows raised. "They're kids. Little humans. Of course they're potentially dangerous. And you know what? You and me more so, as adult humans."

"A bit more than kids now. Too old for the attractions you put up."

"Ah, for once you don't condescend." Krane allowed himself a smile, fixing the cuffs of his shirt. He looked up at Serena. Doctor Sampson, her official title. But he called everybody here by their first names.

Serena's mouth twitched. Almost into a smile it seemed. But it wouldn't have been a happy smile.

"This job has been a bit too much fun for you. Perhaps you neglect to notice your laxness might have some consequences. I am not being overly strict here. You must have noticed it yourself - that we have a problem child. Natasha."

For a moment it seemed Krane was still. That sunk in, she thought. Good.

"It's obvious she resents being overtaken by Tessa. She cannot accept it. She will not be acceptable for later stages of the project if can't learn to co-operate or be led by others."

Krane laughed.

"What's funny?" Serena said coolly, prepared for his nonchalant response. She had gotten used to him by now. She was ready to maybe make some change around here. Make a dent in the cloud of reverence for Doctor Krane that had fogged up this facility.

"You remind me of her," Krane said, taking another drag, swivelling to the side. His look was distant.

This took her back somewhat. "Who exactly?"

"Tessa. She also doesn't understand Natasha. Why she is that way. A part of her feels as if they can never co-exist. A potentially dangerous part. You see, I don't disagree with you, Serena. But I don't think Natasha is the only problem child."

Serena coughed. "An interesting observation. I don't quite understand your comparison of her with myself, or why it's relevant, but I believe that even within the flawed model of this unit, Tessa has been close to a model subject as we could hope to expect. I thought you were rather fond of her yourself."

Krane nodded. "Broken things are the most interesting things."

Ignoring this comment, she moved on. "I recommend suspending public scores, and limiting contact between the subjects. Letting them be a little less free to roam around. In other units they split them into-"

"I am well aware of what they do in other units," Krane said with infinite patience. "I'm not interested in a false sense of peace. While not all things are well among the children, we should have faith in them to mend each other's ways, no? Make them more ready for the real world."

They were silent for a few moments. Serena nodded.

"I hope you know what you're doing," she said. "I hope I'll still have time to say I told you so, before one of them dashes our heads against the wall and starts a rebellion."

Krane nodded. "Perhaps a better position for you elsewhere will become vacant before then."

She allowed herself a smirk, and folded her arms. "Indeed."

"Well, is that all then? I do enjoy our chats, Serena, despite our disagreements. Do remember that."