Operation Backlog Completion 2017

Jul 312017
 

Last week, I read Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo, which took over my thoughts so completely I realized the next book I read would suffer in comparison. So, I decided to read something where I already knew the story: the novelization of Chain of Memories.

Like the first Kingdom Hearts novelization, Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories is largely just a retelling of the game’s events.

(I believe it follows the original, not Re: Chain of Memories, because of certain scenes that are different between the two.)

It’s a nice way to re-live the story, and without the frustrating card battles, I was able to focus on the story itself. Chain of Memories doesn’t get enough credit for its story. It introduces Organization XIII, sets into motion important events for later games, and puts Sora in a pretty dire situation.

Click for Chain of Memories and Dream Drop Distance spoilers

The novelization also includes Reverse/Rebirth, Riku’s story. I was curious about how it would work as a novel, since the game lacks content for Riku’s story. There are new Organization XIII scenes, but the worlds are largely empty.

Well, the novelization handles it by showing events not only from Riku’s point of view, but also from the Replica’s point of view! That’s the most interesting part of the novel, with its only flaw being that it reuses some of the scenes from Sora’s story, which is repetitive even though it’s coming from a new viewpoint.

Yes, Repliku fans, this one’s for you.

In short, the Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories novel is a light, enjoyable retelling of the game’s events, perfect if you want to experience it without the battle system or want new insight into the Riku Replica.

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Jul 052017
 

While I never became interested enough in Episode Gladiolus to buy it, Episode Prompto caught my attention.

Prompto isn’t my favorite of the party members (that would be Ignis), but he has one of the more interesting stories. Final Fantasy XV also left him with gaping plot holes thanks to its bizarre handling of a certain revelation.

His DLC episode fills in those holes, while also letting the Empire’s mad scientist take a stronger role in the story. One of the things that disappointed me the most in Final Fantasy XV was that Verstael only had a single scene. Why give a villain one scene and never show him again?

I still think Verstael’s role and the explanations surrounding Prompto should have been in the game to start with, but at least Episode Prompto finally brings them into the light.

Since Prompto fights with guns, Episode Prompto feels somewhat like a third-person shooter rather than an RPG… which is interesting, if a little odd. You also get a snowmobile to zoom around in during certain sections. It’s largely linear, but still allows for a little exploration.

I’m in it for the story, though, and that aspect satisfied me. In addition to cutscenes, the story is also told through optional documents and logs you find in the facility. I love that kind of storytelling, and I wish Final Fantasy XV used that more to flesh out its world.

Plus, Verstael. Mad science. Good stuff.

Prompto’s internal conflict and development are also handled well. If you’ve played Final Fantasy XV, you probably can guess when this DLC takes place, because it’s when Prompto gets separated from the group. And if you’ve watched the anime episode about Prompto, you might remember that he had some self-esteem issues (and still does).

These elements come together in a satisfactory way that resonated with me, and I was invested in Prompto’s journey–always a good sign for storytelling.

Episode Prompto only lasts a couple hours, but it adds welcome information to Final Fantasy XV’s scattered storytelling. Here’s hoping Episode Ignis does the same… and I’m patiently waiting for Ardyn DLC to be announced.

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Jun 262017
 

The original Steins;Gate is one of the best visual novels I’ve played so far, and overall an amazing story to experience.

Steins;Gate 0, available for the PlayStation 4 and Vita, fills in an important gap in the original’s story. Because of this, it’s nearly impossible to discuss even its premise without Steins;Gate spoilers.

In other words, if you haven’t gone through the original Steins;Gate yet, do that before you even read about Steins;Gate 0. Steins;Gate 0 is a sequel/midquel set partway through the original game’s true ending.

If you recall, during the true ending of Steins;Gate, Suzuha tells Okabe that he had to fail once in order to set the events into motion that would allow him to reach Steins;Gate. He then gets a message from his future self, who tells him what to do.

This follows that first Okabe in the beta worldline, from the point of Kurisu’s death up through him creating that message.

As you might guess, this means Steins;Gate 0 has a dramatically different tone. While the original started out light and funny, with elements of mystery, until it reached the key point in the story where everything changed, Steins;Gate 0 starts out dark and bleak.

The events of Steins;Gate left Okabe with PTSD. The mere mention of Kurisu is enough to trigger flashbacks. Seeing Moeka causes panic attacks. He carries anxiety medication in his pocket, visits a therapist with mixed results, and doesn’t even want to think about his old “Hououin Kyouma” personality.

It does have lighter moments, and Okabe gradually gets better, but there’s no denying that the events of the first game had a serious impact.

Another notable change is that he isn’t the sole viewpoint character here. Other characters, especially Suzuha and the newly-introduced Maho, tell parts of the story from a third-person perspective. At first, I had trouble adjusting to this, but it actually works quite well. It’s especially important to show us additional perspectives because Steins;Gate 0’s story is complex.

Despite dealing with time travel, the original Steins;Gate generally kept things clear and easy to understand. When the worldline changed, you knew why.

In Steins;Gate 0, however, you don’t have the power to change time. Different countries fighting over time travel is what eventually leads to World War III in the beta worldline, so the worldline (and the route you’re on) change based on who gets that technology first.

Most of the changes depend on how much you interact with Amadeus Kurisu, an AI at the center of the struggle.

On one hand, this makes the story much more unpredictable, because you never know what might happen. On the other hand, I ended the game still not knowing why some of my decisions led to different endings. It’s much more difficult to untangle the cause and effect in Steins;Gate 0.

Steins;Gate felt like one linear story that branched into what-if scenarios, but Steins;Gate 0 feels more like many different possibilities that show you disjointed pieces of the whole.

This complexity makes the true ending feel a bit confusing, and the true ending also suffers because it’s only a step toward the original game’s ending. Steins;Gate 0 is meant to fill in a gap, and that means the conclusion feels a bit lackluster on its own.

Now, all of this might make you think I disliked Steins;Gate 0. Nothing could be further from the truth. Steins;Gate 0 is fantastic and definitely worth reading. Maho is a great addition to the cast, the story delves into interesting questions about AI research and how much an AI can be like a person, and there are many wonderful scenes in every route.

Click for Steins;Gate 0 spoilers

While Steins;Gate is an amazing story, Steins;Gate 0 is merely a great story. It’s a little hard to follow and it might raise more questions than it answers… but it’s still definitely worth a read for fans of the original.

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