Operation Backlog Completion 2017
Jun 232017
 

When we last left the characters of the Witcher saga, Ciri was running wild as a bandit and Geralt embarked on an urgent mission to find her with an unlikely band of heroes.

The Tower of Swallows handles its storytelling a bit differently, with interesting results.

The book begins with a hermit finding a girl with grievous injuries–Ciri. From there, it’s a frame story, partly told by Ciri as she explains what happened to her, and partly through a court investigation.

Other sections follow characters outside of the frame story, although everything ties together into the overall plot. The Tower of Swallows has some of the best pacing in the series, as well as moments of humor to break the grim tone. Even though its structure means you know how things will end up, it’s still an intense journey to reach that point.

Among other things, it introduces one of the scariest guys in the series, Leo Bonhart, a nearly unstoppable bounty hunter. An unarmed Bonhart is deadlier than a group of armed men.

(The end of the book also includes one of my favorite scenes in the series, when Ciri confronts her pursuers on the ice.)

It still is only part of a larger story, and the Wild Hunt continues to pop up with vague hints about their goal, but it’s a strong story in its own right, with many interesting moments. And, since I know how the saga concludes, I also noticed some nice pieces of foreshadowing that I missed when I read the fan translation.

Click for Lady of the Lake spoilers

In short, if you’re interested in the Witcher series, The Tower of Swallows is a must-read. That only leaves us with one book to go, the saga’s conclusion The Lady of the Lake.

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Jun 212017
 

After my excitement for Tales of Zestiria changed to utter disappointment, I was a bit wary of the next Tales game.

However, Tales of Berseria is not only leagues better than Zestiria, it’s an excellent game that even tries to patch up Zestiria’s worldbuilding, since they’re set in the same universe.

In fact, Berseria often feels like it was written as an answer to Zestiria’s criticism.

All those loose ends in the lore? Several find a home in Berseria. The ever-changing explanations of malevolence? Berseria picks a simpler one and sticks with it. Zestiria’s “angel of death” seraphim? Berseria uses the concept for more than a throwaway scene. The gun? It gets a better explanation here than Zestiria’s non-answer.

And if Zestiria’s bizarre, inconsistent morality bothered you, you should be pleased with Berseria. It might seem ironic, since Velvet is motivated by revenge and selfishness, but her morality is handled much better than Sorey and Rose’s.

Overall, even though Tales of Berseria is the “darker” game, it ends up feeling more positive and optimistic than Zestiria.

Click for Zestiria and Berseria spoilers

But enough comparing it to Zestiria, let’s look at it on its own.

Berseria’s cast is entertaining and enjoyable, and its villains also take an excellent role. I generally liked the characters and wanted to see how everything would work out. Skits have a new style this time, with fuller sprites instead of just portraits, which gives them more life and lets them work for more important conversations. There are plenty of humorous moments alongside its darker themes, and the plot was entertaining with a few twists I didn’t see coming.

It also has several different types of mini-games, as well as some excellent side quests.

Click for Zestiria spoilers, yes, Zestiria

That’s not to say Berseria is perfect. It has a few annoyances, such as a few set phrases and ideas the characters like to bring up over and over and over. One would have been fine, but with so many, it starts to feel silly.

I wasn’t a huge fan of the combat system, either, where the number of attacks you can perform depends on your “souls,” which you can gain or lose based on what you do in battle. It was fine, but I’d like to see the next Tales game return to a simpler system.

Tales of Berseria is a strong answer to Zestiria’s problems, as well as a great JRPG in its own right. Zestiria left me unhappy with the series, but Berseria has redeemed it.

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Jun 192017
 

When Level-5 first revealed that the new Layton game would star Professor Layton’s daughter Katrielle, I was among many fans who wondered what this meant for Flora.

After the events of the first game, Professor Layton presumably adopted Flora Reinhold. If they wanted the new game to star his daughter, why invent a new character instead of using his adopted daughter?

Katrielle Layton also bears a resemblance to Flora, most noticeable in the newly-revealed bonus costume. Players who download the digital 3DS version of Layton’s Mystery Journey when it comes out in Japan will receive a costume for Katrielle that puts her in Flora’s outfit.

If you showed me Katrielle in her costume without context, I’d easily believe she was an older Flora.

But they have different eye colors, so it’s pretty clear Katrielle is not Flora. She also would have no reason to hide her identity, especially if she was still going to call herself Professor Layton’s daughter.

(Unless, of course, someone was after her because she was a Reinhold, but it’s still a stretch.)

So then, is there a connection between Katrielle and Flora?

Theories

Some fans think Katrielle is actually Layton and Flora’s daughter. This is highly unlikely. Yes, Layton and Flora aren’t blood relatives, but I just can’t see Level-5 putting Layton in a relationship with his adopted daughter.

Other people have suggested she might be Flora’s daughter with someone else, maybe even Luke. (Being a blood relative of Luke would explain the talking dog.) Why Katrielle uses the name Layton and considers Professor Layton her father would require an explanation, but it’s a definite possibility.

Finally, the similar appearances might just be a coincidence, and Katrielle’s only connection to Flora is that they’re both Professor Layton’s daughters.

What do you think? Is there a connection between Katrielle Layton and Flora? If so, what do you think it is?

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