Segue

Lust is inescapable, but it does not define us. There are those who make themselves slaves of their heat. Their brains appear connected to their genitals which may be the true leader of that person’s motives. Nevertheless, it is inescapable. Is it strength to affirm and live your lustfulness in the most decadent way, weakness to fight against it and thus seem to fight against your own nature? Or is it strength to remain steadfast, to believe enough in your convictions, to walk the martyr’s path?

This week I have often wondered what it meant to be a true martyr. Contemporarily, a martyr requires an audience. Self-serving, virtuous groups such as chastity groups are an example of such. They sport “paraphernalia” identifying them as chaste or whatnot. Under the cover of being able to promote the virtue, I argue that it serves mainly to promote their “own” virtue. Many true historical Martyrs, had no idea they would become such. For whatever selfish or selfless reasons, they fought (metaphorically and/or truly) for their causes and ideals….to death. The assumption that a martyr had no fear of death is false. Truer it is to posit that they simply had principles or beliefs aligned with the concept of good that they will die for to uphold.  In a multilateral war, each side has their martyrs, their beliefs. Was there ever a side that felt that theirs was the truly evil one? It’s all a matter of perspective. But “goodness”, in utmost, unapologetic, purest form, is absolute. Far beyond the discussion of what a relative martyr is, the true martyr defends universal principles, as the good Doctor’s wife says: “…without hope, without witness, without reward.

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"Virtue is only virtue in extremis"

River Song
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Eternal Stranger

pexels-photo-209037To some extent, many people have never lived out of the particular aspect of teenage angst whereby one feels foreign to everything and everyone.

Bodies changing, hormonal awakenings and all that…we’ve been through it, but have we come out of it?

When your mind thinks in a language and your peers’ in another, when your tongue craves tastes that others may shy away from and your ears ring with the echo of songs of the world that are unaccepted in your world…what does that make you?

In your being, foreign; by birth, foreign; who are you really?

Teens grow out of it.

Most learn to live with it

But too many die as it…

Foreign

Invisible

Invisible

Freedom of being…

Invisible is not lonesome, nor depressive.

Not unwanted, simply Invisible

Verily to not be there. Or rather, there but unperceived.

Isn’t Perception what defines personal Reality?

Some forget presence does not imply visible: the wind, love, hate, power

It is the worst thing to be so ignored that we are inexistent.

But it is the best thing.

Life is duality, a dilemma.

Echoing the complex nature of existence: invisible and there; hated and love but ultimately…..Free.

Freedom of being

Boss Fight Books: Kingdom Hearts II

Alexa Ray Corriea, the author of the 16th Boss Fight Books entry, has long worked in this industry, most notably as an editor at Gamespot, and currently at FANDOM. This entry in the series is focused on Kingdom Hearts II, part of one of the most unlikely and confusing crossover story in gaming. As the author so points out, it’s rather hard to have imagined that a fusion of Disney and Square-Enix could actually result in anything good. And yet, they pulled it off expertly, both in terms of gameplay and narrative.

As a reminder of how many of the books work: they are almost always a mix of the author’s experience of the game, input from the creators or members of the developing team and often a slow recap of the narrative or game progression. Some readers have complained about this last element, mostly because they went in without knowledge of it being part of how Boss Fight Books are structured.

I never actually got to play Kingdom Hearts, the first, simply due to the fact that I did not have a PlayStation 2 console. I eventually did get one extremely late in its life cycle, secondhand. What spurred me to jump again on the console-owning bandwagon was another RPG: Persona 4 was announced and I wanted to be ready!

This is a little story for another time…..

Kingdom Hearts II wasn’t my first game in the series though. I played a lot on handhelds, and one of my favorite GBA entries was Chain of Memories. It did well to recap things for me, as well as give some preparation for the second opus. A friend of mine purchased KH2 as soon as it came out, didn’t like it as much as I hyped for it and let me play it first!!

Frankly, I did not care about the beginning being slow at all. All I could think of: this is freaking Kingdom Hearts II!!!!!!! A lot of people could have written this book and probably give off a similar feel to how the author experienced the journey. Personally, I could not have gone as in-depth as she did in her analysis of how gender is characterized. I won’t spoil by saying much, but Alexa Ray Corriea does a great job of noticing such things. I do not remember seeing it that way, maybe because I’m a guy?

Going through the sections of the book retracing Sora and Roxas’ journey, I noticed just how much I forgot. There are some worlds that I remember vividly, and the first few hours with Roxas are clear in my mind. But when she notices some parts, I was floored to find a huge abyss in my mind!

KH2, the book, goes through the motions of a good Boss Fight Book. Nevertheless, having some direct input from members of the development team or even the publisher helps us readers delve with more accuracy into their motivations and goals during the genesis of the game. PAst books have analyzed existing interviews and facts to speculate on such points. It was quite like interpreting the words of long-dead poets, how sure can one truly be that we think they meant is what they truly mean? I believe creator access sufficiently reduces doubt in this case.

Overall, this was an awesome book by a good author who reminded just how much I truly enjoyed this unlikely mashup of universes and genres. I highly recommend it and the game too! Any JRPG fan who hasn’t played it yet, if they exist, should definitely correct this grave misstep. You guys are missing out…

Boss Fight Books: Final Fantasy V

Final Fantasy V is the first book of the latest season of Boss Fight Books, written by Kotaku editor Chris Kohler. His Wikipedia page reads as: “Chris Kohler is a video game journalist and editor who has written for several publications in the past decade, including Wired, Animerica magazine, and Nintendo Official Magazine UK. After graduating from Tufts University with a degree in Japanese, Chris attended Kyoto Seika University on a Fulbright Fellowship, and completed major research for a book tentatively titled Super Mario Nation: The Cinematic Japanese Video Game. At Tufts, he taught a for-credit undergraduate course titled “A History of Video Games” and continues to study Japanese at an advanced level.”


In many ways, the author’s experience with FFV and Japanese only titles in general mirrors my own. Personally, the first time I went through it was in Japanese. I learned about the different colors (ao-mahou was my favorite, Blue Magic), I found that it was actually still possible to finish a game without understanding the plot in its entirety. I say “still because the first game that I played and beat in Japanese was a Dragon Ball game. Knowing the anime and manga, as well as most gameplay systems of the era, my friends and I deduced many of the words we saw, especially hiragana and katakana. Kanji had us beat and we could only memorize so much. The game was a lot of fun nonetheless, it followed rather faithfully the show’s narrative, so we got the gist of it and filled in the rest with our imagination or simply creating the related dialog with funny anime voices of our own. It was only after finding the fan translation that I could truly experience the narrative of FFV on my PC using emulators. The story was crazy as always and very interesting. Nevertheless, it could not beat the greatest feature of this game no matter the language you play it in the JOB SYSTEM!


The book does very well in explaining the system, it even goes as far as unveiling just how one can go about and create the ultimate team, able to mow down anything and anyone in-game in as little rounds as possible. Those strategies require some time and dedication nonetheless and should be expected to be quick cheats such as the famous Konami Code. Knowing the job system intimately is the first aspect of building the uber-party, the second: patience…

 
Overall, Chris Kohler did a good job not only retracing the history of Final Fantasy V but mostly getting first-hand information and comments from members of the team working on it. Simultaneously, much insight is given about all other titles of the series up to Final Fantasy XIII. Many of my, and his, generation, will find that reliving those moments, their recollections of the general emotions and dreams of the time echo his own. It is a very nice read for a great game, written in a passionate voice that lends well to the structure and pacing of both the game and the well researched recounting of both the real life stories of Chris and Square (now Square-Enix) over the years, centered around the point in time when Final Fantasy truly became the Hail Mary the company needed to succeed.


I received an early copy of this in e-book format as a backer of the season 4 of Boss Fight Books Kickstarter. Click on the book cover at the beginning if any wish to get it in paperback or e-book format from Amazon. Another option, of course, is to get it directly from the official Boss Fight website. Stay tuned for other reviews, the next one will probably be either the book Mega Man 3 or Bible Adventures (yes, there ARE Catholic NES games out there!!).


Cheers!

Ever Forward

Life’s all about new journeys and trying out different experiences. Sometimes the goal is to find “something” that we click with and other times, we just want to get a full breadth of what our existence as it is has to offer. No one really wants to miss out on anything they may like, and we cower in fear of experiencing what we really don’t (death, for example). So once again, after the 1up.com, after Blogger, here I am on a new platform, new journey. I will still continue with Blogger for the Boss Fight Books reviews. In the meantime, maybe I’ll think up something new for this site.

We’ll see……

A word on Boss Fight Books

In preparation for my upcoming reviews on the books from the past 3 seasons of Boss Fight Books (BFB henceforth) and also of the 4th season as they become available to me, let’s have a brief overview of what BFB is and how it came to be. Most of this information can be found online on Kickstarter, the official Boss Fight website or even Wikipedia. Consequently, I will skim over certain easily gathered details and give a general idea about who they are and what they do, accompanied of course by some opinion of this initiative.

The heart and soul of BFB is Gabe Durham, who also happens to be one of the authors, and who made a very strange choice to cover in his book. More on that in another post. He founded BFB in 2013, presented his idea to the Kickstarter community and to people he knew, and the reception was positive. The Kickstarter having succeeded, the first book released early 2014. The idea behind the concept is simple: many books about video games and computing talk about a range of titles and technologies, analyzing their influences on the market and the populations affected as a whole. But sometimes, maybe all we could want to hear about is that ONE game: a story of its making, of the author’s relationship to it, of its narrative, distilled to the max in a way fitting a paperback with hours of gameplay. And that is the main premise of Boss Fight Books titles. Understandably, many of the games covered so far are rather old-school. These are games from the NES era or before, the same can be said for the PC games in the list. This is due to the fact that age-wise, the authors fall within a certain range and have been most impacted on by video games from a specific era or generation.

The general structure followed by the books is thus: historical fact, author’s personal experiences associated with the game, depiction of narrative and or gameplay from start to finish with inclusion of some juicy tidbits and secrets, and, most prominently in the latest season, direct or indirect comments/stories from the game creators themselves. It’s very nice knowing what to expect from these books and the structure makes sense to me, even if you could wonder how in the world that fits a narrative less arcade game like Galaga? It’s a particular case and still, the author did a great job with that one.

The first book I am going to review is the first one of the season 4: Final Fantasy V by Chris Kohler. It’s due out soon, but backers got the copy early. Here is a list of all BFB titles by season in case anyone needs to check them out. I highly recommend Chrono Trigger and Shadow of the Colossus books.

Stay tuned for reviews to come. It’s easy to figure out how I feel about 2 of the books from above, details can help you see whether or not it may be a good read for you. Until then….

Cheers!

The passing of years: some updates

         3 years can be a very long time. It can also be the shortest intermede in a very eventful period of one’s life. Things have been rather crazy and hectic. Both work and life have been about constant changes, new situations, challenge after challenge and every new paradigm shift required so much adaptation…
            Since last I actually wrote anything here: 2 kids and marriage, not necessarily in that order or even in the reverse. At one point, gaming and all other nerdiness, as some would put it, kept me going and became a lifeline, a tether to hold on while crossing the torrents of the fast-paced events of the past years. But now, it all seems to be settling somewhat. The strange effect is that with more time on my hands to actually BE doing such activities as gaming, reading and the such, I am doing them far less.
         Two of the most notable mentions for that period: Dragon Age Inquisition and The Witcher 3 (including all DLC). Dragon Age came first, as soon as it was released it was in my hands (Thank you Amazon Release Date Delivery!). It solidified for me what I rather expected from this third installment. The first Dragon Age was amazing, novel and especially difficult for it required some concrete tactical thinking. The sequel was all flash, flair, and aesthetics, appealed to a greater number of non-hardcore PC owner and to console gamers. For me, though it was far too “lite” and lacked the grit and intelligence I felt in Origins. Dragon Age Inquisition did very well to merge many of its predecessors’ strengths to appeal to…everyone? In-depth looks and reviews about the game can be found elsewhere. Suffice to say that it was a welcome pit to sink into in the afternoons and evenings after work where all my problems remained at the door and I stepped into the shoes (or boots) of my characters.
         The Witcher 3 came quite a while after. I actually only started it around the time that Hearts of Stone Story DLC came out. Many loved the Blood and Wine DLC the most. It’s easy to understand: it was beautiful, colorful, different, fresh. but HoS, in my opinion, had the better story. I enjoyed the dark humor of that story, and I certainly rooted for the flawed immortal man that Geralt could either save or doom. I, of course, chose to save the bloke. Fantasy stories with a deep heart set in a form of reality are very appealing. The dragons, the wraith, griffins, and others serve as an anchor to the suspension of disbelief. The true core of the narrative remains very human and relatable. It reminds us of our own fragility, our own humanity, and actually gives hope for a moment that no matter how bad things may be, they could be worse. And no matter how much worse it keeps getting, somehow we must never back down and despair. As a friend of mine liked to repeat: “If you get to it you can get through it”.
         More recently, I have started playing Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice. It has been a very divisive game apparently, some people with negative opinions about it do seem right though. When it is not in combat, Hellbalde does feel like a walking simulator where you can die, and the permadeath system sounds really annoying. BUT, as an artistic whole, I think it’s a great achievement by an independent studio. It has gorgeous graphics, it figures a smart and different take on the subject at hand and horrendous hidden object type puzzles. This to say that, despite all the highs in anything, nothing is without some kind of imperfection. Flaws can actually be what defines some forms of art and it is what defines Senua’s Sacrifice. it is a game about psychosis!! Though it may never truly convey what it feels like or how it is REALLY to have such a condition, it gives an idea. And that cringing when looking for that latest blasted pattern? That boredom with the simplistic combat? That headache after inadvertently plunging into that first pit? Well, I guess they DID succeed in their objective…is this a glimpse of what a descent into insanity feels like?
         Much like the Cherek ships in the Belgariad, sometimes you must go through, plunge in, nearer to the abyss, into the mouth of the maelstrom and use its own force to slingshot yourself out of it all, not run away from the darkness but cross the depths to reach the light once again…
Cheers!