Alphen and Shionne standing side by side

Tales of Arise Review: A Pretty Mediocre Game

I was watching Bambi, the Disney cartoon, and I am reminded, “If you don’t have anything nice to say then don’t say at all.” But I sort of disagree with that statement. Agreeing for the sake of keeping good company is a bad thing for mental health even if your opinion goes against the consensus. After all, the game did preach to the audience that we shouldn’t be slave to someone’s ideas (critics). I wouldn’t be creating this blog if I didn’t somehow feel like it’s the only safe place where I can voice my opinions. I do this out of my own terms as a gaming enthusiast. All of my posts, I have been very civil about my dislikes and likes. And sometimes, I do feel bad for not liking a certain aspect of a game, film or book because I know that it’s easier to critique than to create. However, I still stand by what I believe: Tales Arise is just a pretty mediocre game.

First off, I won’t into go into lengthy details and point out all the things I didn’t like about the game because anything that is considered unpleasant means work to me, and I don’t want to do that unless I get paid to critique. Instead, I will talk about the positives. Where Tales of Arise shines is its powerful political statement: It stands for friendship, warmth, love, freedom and all the good things people seek in life. On top of that, it has an epically beautiful open world. What more can you ask for in a JRPG? Well, this is where it becomes a matter of taste and preference: If video game is art then I didn’t feel a connection with this artwork. I prefer the works done by the folks on Tales of Xillia and Vesperia more.

While playing the game, I had to remind myself that it was the franchise’s 25th anniversary and there is something to celebrate. The entire game is just epically flashy from the dialogues, cutscenes, battles, music to the overall atmosphere. It’s undeniably a well-polished game that went as far as giving out an epic speech about liberty and freedom and challenging the very existence of one’s being in the universe. And yet underneath it all, Tale Arise is really nothing new in the JRPG department. It’s just a really pretty game to look at with a polished gameplay (if button mashing is your thing, that is). But it made me wonder, if it was directed by a different game director, would I have enjoyed this game more?

Would I recommend this game to those who have not played Tales games? Yes and no. No, if I were a 14 year old girl and this was my first JRPG, I probably would not have liked it. It feels as if I was sitting in Sunday’s School class being lectured on morality, but yes, if you want to play a high quality JRPG. It’s really a pretty game and I can see the huge effort put into it. However, it’s definitely not the game for those who want to escape into solitary away from society; or who is looking for some good humor to laugh at life itself; or who want superb storytelling; and/or most importantly to a gaming enthusiast like myself, a fun innovative gameplay.

Since I like to leave on a positive note, one thing I like about this game is the message that you don’t have to walk alone all the time. Needing one another is not a form of weakness, it’s a form of strength. Life is so much better when we are in pairs. Don’t be the lonely villain who is full of hatred.

Atelier Series Review: It’s More than about Underwear

My mother once said, you can tell a lot about a person’s personality based on the shoes he or she wears.  That’s not far from the truth. I am a sneakers type of gal (I like oxford shoes as well but only when I am in door). Rain or shine, I love to walk. I walked everywhere, including getting grocery. It’s a great form of exercise and obtaining mental clarity. Unfortunately, as much as I like my beaten up sneakers, not everyone finds my shoes adorable, especially my mother who often scolded me for my unkempt appearance because we all know that beauty is a woman’s pride! Mine speaks lack of self-respect (ouch!). You only get one chance to make impression, apparently. People might even associate me with a lack of funds in the bank account after seeing me wear the same shoes every day, but why should that matter? We all know who are real friends are in time of need.

Screenshot from Shenmue

After watching a chic Netflix show called Atelier, the concept can’t be more true. Women often choose clothes to express their inner beauty.   In this case, the show uses lingerie and not shoes to illustrate this point.  Lingerie is a metaphor for beauty.  After all, lingerie is not meant to be displayed out in the open because real beauty, according to the show, is hidden and each woman defines it differently.

You are probably thinking it’s just a show about women and their obsession with inner beauty. Not entirely true.  It’s about creators who wish to express themselves a bit more freely apart from doing business.  Making money and creating art are two different things.  The show clearly points that out.  If you are an artist, or a creative person, I think you can empathize with the characters very well. We often struggle with creating things we don’t always want to make, but we do it anyway because there is a market for it. For instance, there is a scene which shows the protagonist doing heavy research to find inspiration for her lingerie collection but later is reminded that her approach to finding inspiration is incorrect: Creativity comes within the creator and not the other way around.

Another thing I liked about the show was watching the main character (Mayuko Tokita) and the side character (Mayumi Nanjo) interacting like mother and daughter. They don’t always agree with each other. The mother-like character was always scolding the unruly daughter.  It was nice to see characters’ development in the show. They all grew and as a result, I learned something very valuable along with them.  It’s time to upgrade my sneakers to high heels because I’m done running away like a little girl. It’s time I stood my ground like a real woman.

I am surprised how much I enjoyed the show. I didn’t expect much from it.  I recommend this show, especially to female audience or if you are one of those people who are in tuned with your creative side.

Note: Originally posted on Mar. 29, 2019, revised May. 12, 2022

Avatar from Code Vein sitting and thinking

Hmm… What Are My Top 3 JRPG Games?

I am a bit late with scheduling posts. Just feeling a bit under the weather. Haven’t had much energy to write. I have been playing Tales of Arise off and on though, and I know that I am coming to an end. I have already spent 40 hours plus to know whether I like it or not and I am just unimpressed with the execution so far. I won’t deny though it has a good political statement. Unfortunately, it falls under my Pretty Face but No Character list of games. In other words, it just means that it’s all for show and not much substance. It’s kind of epically disappointing. Let the audience decide if it is an epic tale rather force feed it to us. I don’t feel immersed in it and I am just waiting until the credits start rolling to give it a fair review. Not sure whether I will take the time to write a review for this game though. I did feel a little deceived by gaming critics for calling it a good game. The hypes always lead to disappointment. Perhaps, I am just not in the right mental state.

So to vent my disappointment with Tales of Arise, I am replacing my negative emotion with the more positive emotion I had with JRPG. So, I present you my list of my 3 top favorite JRPG games. I really had to think about this one since I enjoyed a lot of JRPGs. Unfortunately Code Vein didn’t make it to my top 3, so if you clicked on this post because of my featured image, I apologize. In no particular order, I make my list:

  1. Suikoden III (PS2)

2 Trinity: Souls of Zill O’LL (PS3)

3) Baten Kaitos: Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean ( Gamecube)

Honorable mention: Xenoblade Chronicles (Wii)

The trailers can’t capture the scope of these epic games. It was hard trying to find a high quality trailer because I know some people out there care so much about graphics. Graphics are great but it doesn’t make a game. That’s how I feel about Tales of Arise. If you haven’t played any of these JRPGs, I do recommend them. These are the games that made me fall in love with the genre. Hope you enjoy the list and the game trailers. In the future, I may elaborate on the games above, but for now, making a list will suffice. Until next time, see you!

Blog post cover

Reflecting on Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

One thing I admire about J.K Rowling’s writing style is that it’s clear and concise. I had no problem remembering the plot from the previous books because she did a good job at refreshing reader’s memories by taking the time to explain important events. But the greatest magic she did to me was opened my eyes to a new way of seeing the world. As I mentioned before in one of previous posts, I was never really a fan of sports, but I could appreciate it now when the author used Quidditch to illustrate teamwork and good sportsmanship to support and fight for a right cause. Also, I learned what bravery looks like and why it’s the greatest trait above all else. It takes a lot of courage to conquer death. In fact, the entire story of Harry Potter is a like the Christian Gospel for the Wizarding World. It’s meant to soothe and cradle the anxious soul who are fearful of death or have lost a loved one.

Since the beginning of the first book, particularly Book 6, I have always seen Dumbledore as the embodiment of good and wisdom (p.360). To me he is like God, all-knowing and omniscience and Harry Potter had to have faith in Dumbledore’s instruction even though like Christ he was on a mission to be slaughtered like a pig (p.687). How is this not a parable of the Christian faith? The entire series is bombarded with Christian tropes such as the trinity (Hermione, Harry Potter and Ron are metaphors for mind, body, and soul); the serpent as being the lesser being; the number 7 as a holy number; finally love, love conquers all. If you are familiar with the Christian faith then you know what I am talking about.

The scale of the story followed the same structure. God sent his beloved son to die for our sins. In other words, a hero sacrifices his life for the greater good. Harry Potter was born to destroy evil and that’s why he is the Chosen One who comes from the House of Gryffindor, which is the greatest House out of all the Four Houses. Why is that? Wit, ambition, and hard work are all great traits but bravery tops it all because they don’t fear death. The Four Houses are just metaphors for the virtuous traits that benefit and develop a stable society. I agree with the author. Great leaders don’t just lead by examples but are selfless. Harry Potter puts himself in danger many times for others even for Draco, his enemy! That’s why the author made her point about bravery as the biggest virtue on several occasions by using Ron, the insecure character to show readers that anyone can be great and that there’s bravery in everyone. An example is the part where Ron saved Harry from drowning in the Forest’s frozen pool in Chapter 19:

‘You’ve sort of made up for tonight,’ said Harry. ‘Getting the sword. Finishing off the Horcrux. Saving my life.’

That makes me sound cooler than I was,’ Ron mumbled.

‘Stuff like that always sound cooler than it really was,’ said Harry. ‘I’ve been trying to tell you for years.’

Book 7, p. 379

As I was reading, I kept wondering what’s the significance of the Chosen One in relation to the story other than fighting evil? That plot in itself is too generic. Then I realized Harry Potter is the symbol of youth and bravery on the verge of corruption in a society. When I saw it in that light, I became more appreciative of the story as something more than just a children’s book. You see, if Dumbledore is the embodiment of goodness and wisdom, then Harry Potter is the embodiment of hope and change. Wouldn’t all parents want to see their children become better than them in some form? Parents would only hurt their children’s future if they make their children serve them by abiding old outdated traditions. The western concept of rearing children is far different from Asian cultures (particularly Eastern and Southeastern Asians) and that came to a shocking to me. We are taught to respect and serve our elders–not challenge them as we see in the Order of the Phoenix. Harry Potter’s behavior was appalling to me in Book 5 when he was upset that Dumbledore left him in the dark, but sometimes it’s necessary to continuously challenge an established society for the sake of the “greater good” which will benefit all. After all, it takes a brave person to stand up and make changes to a decaying society even at the expense of one’s own life.

So, has my opinion of Dumbledore changed after learning that he’s not a family man, and that it was out of selfish ambition that he wished to make peace with the Muggles so that both worlds can live in harmony? Not quite. Like Harry Potter, I felt a little betrayed, but the author did a great job at explaining his actions and redeeming him. Like Voldemort, Dumbledore operated in secrecy, pulling strings to see his plans come through. He wasn’t all that different from Voldemort who was lusting after power and domination. But there is a huge difference between the two. If you can recall the statement in the Sorcerer’s Stone: “To the well-organized mind, death is but the next great adventure (p. 297), Dumbledore accepted his immortality whereas Voldemort didn’t. That’s why Voldemort will always fall short. It’s kind of like how Satan will always be less than God or why the number 6 is less than 7. So yes, I still like Dumbledore for many reasons and believe that his traits reflect Christian’s virtues. One of them is the fact he is modestly humble. He is talented and gifted but chose to be a headmaster of a school rather than be the head of the Wizarding ministry. The logic is that if you want to make a huge impact in the world, you start off in the classrooms. Training and disciplining young wizards and witches have a huge impact on the future of society. That’s where changes really happen. It always starts small, especially if you want to make the world a better place, but of course, great ideas don’t always follow through as we see with Tom Riddle, who turned out to be the evilest wizard. But it’s better to try than not try at all.

Another interesting point made by the author was the concept of respect for all life. Dobby, a slave elf who falls at the bottom of the wizarding community food chain is as grand as Dumbledore. However, when he died, all he got was a small burial and not an elaborated ceremony. It made me think how society tends to place importance on social structure. Someone from the bottom of the food chain is just as impactful as someone on top. It was a nice touch to say that no matter how small someone place is in the society, they can make a huge impact!

I could go on and dive deeper into the world of Harry Potter because I enjoyed every single moment of it and learned how to see new perspective such as the concept of gold and treasure from the point of the view of the goblins, but I decided to conclude my thoughts for now. Everything in this book makes sense. There’s the notion of empathy, forgiveness, and acceptance just like Christian faith. Perhaps, it’s the statement that Harry Potter and Voldemort are one of the same kinds but at the same time different is what confused religious people. Still when it comes to great literacy work, nothing should be taken literally. It’s the lessons that are important.

Now I just need to watch the first two Fantastic Beast films before I can see the third one in theater to get caught up with Harry Potter. While I was reading Harry Potter, each time I finished a book, I watched the film, comparing and contrasting them. Of course, the books are way better, but the films are cool too. This whole experience took me about 4 months but I am glad to say I have now graduated from Hogwarts and know what bravery looks like. Snape is the bravest and is my favorite character. Maybe if I feel like it, I might write an essay why I think so, but I will just leave it for now. That was a lot to take in, I am sure.

A picture of a doll

Spirit Hunter: Death Mark Review (PS4)

I finished playing Death Mark (PS4 version), a visual novel game. I was pleasantly surprised by the game because I didn’t expect what I was expecting. No, this game did not give me the chills, did not mess with my mind, or give me a cheap haunted house thrill. Instead, the game left me pondering about Japan’s society as a whole. There were many mature themes posed in the game. It’s not a bad thing because it made me think.

There are 6 chapters total in the PS4 version (I don’t know about the vita version). The content of the game is decently proportioned (not a fan of playing long games due to having adult life’s responsibilities). Story flows well into each chapter. One thing I really enjoyed about the game is the characters illustration. All of them are interesting, including the monster designs. And of course, the sound production which most often go unnoticed but it matters a lot in horror games. In the game, people just keep popping up in the mansion at night. The mansion resembled the mansion in Resident Evil. Unexpected visitors arrived at the mansion after obtaining a mysterious mark. To get rid of the mark they must defeat the spirit that gave it to them in the first place. Time is ticking. So there is some urgency in the game; your life and those around you are on the line.

Oddly, the gameplay reminded me of a guessing game. You have to read between the lines to answer the questions correctly. You can see honne tataemae taking effect in the game. If you don’t know what honne tataemae is, it means knowing how to read air. For instance, in Chapter 2, we find a suicidal man in the woods, on the verge of killing himself. Player is given a selection of choices to answer his questions. Given the situation, you don’t necessarily speak what you really think, which is very Japanese, although I heard that the idea of honne tataemae originated from China, but don’t quote me on that. Basically, you don’t speak your true thoughts around strangers. In this section of the game, I suppose lying to him is the better route–just so we can keep that harmony because the average American person would have responded in this way: “Yeah you got it rough. Your life sucks, man. You should chase after your dreams and not live for someone else, especially for a h0e.” And the suicidal man would replied: “Thanks man, for making me feel better. Now I want to go kill myself even more.” You get my point, I hope.

Due to the cultural context, I have found some of the choices sort of irrelevant from time to time and wouldn’t say the gameplay is its biggest strength. After all, this is a visual novel (don’t worry visual novel fans, I am not discrediting it as a game). The game, however, is engaging enough to keep me “flipping the pages”. It’s the player duty to read the text in each chapter carefully. Reading the text in each chapters closely provides clues on how to defeat the boss. The gameplay style is definitely not for the adrenaline junkies who are used to relying on their reflexes to push buttons to get by. Instead, the game leans toward using detective skills, which oddly makes it a relaxing horror game to play. This is the type of game would be fun to play with a group of female friends or with your significant other, or alone in the dark is okay too.

Overall, I enjoyed the game. My only gripe about this game is the portrayal of women. Then I can’t complain too much because the story is told from a male perspective and is intended for the male demographic. Patriarchal society likes to think frail women are not just physically weak, but also in mind and soul. So there’s a little bit of a sexism undertone–a mistrust toward women in the game. But that’s okay. I’ll just sit still like the evil doll I am and watch Satoru Mashita go through all the trouble for laughs and giggles. After all, this is Japan we are talking about. Nonetheless, it’s a good horror game.

 Note: Originally posted in 2019. Revised 4/11/2022.

Japanese horror tales

Kwaidan: A Different Type of Horror (Part III)

Please refer to my other posts for complete film analysis : Part I and Part II.

The last story in this film is In a Cup of Tea. This is the shortest story and my least favorite. I wonder why they put this story at the last section of the film. The ending of this story is as unfinished as the actual ending of the film. Did I confuse you yet? Keep reading.

The year 1900 Meji era, a writer mysteriously left his book unfinished. The narrator in the film attempted to explain what happened. Around New Year, Lord Sado Nakagawa visited the area and stopped at the temple with his entourage at a temple in Hongo. Kannai one of the travelling men, became thirsty and went to get a cup of water, but soon an apparition appeared in the water, smiling at him. He tossed the water out, but the reflection of a strange man kept appearing when he scooped a new cup of water. Irritated, he drank the water.

Later that evening, the strange man in the cup of water appeared in the manor in human form. He called himself, Heinai Shikibu. Frightened by the appearance, Kannai claimed to never have seen him, when asked if he recognized the mysterious man. Heinai Shikibu got upset when Kannai threw the water on the ground earlier that morning at the temple. Kannai reached his sword and attacked Heinai Shikibu. And then, the “wounded mysterious man” disappeared behind the wall. No one believed him when he said there was an intruder entering the manor.

The next following night, three visitors came to visit Kannai. They claimed to be Heinai Shikibu’s retainer. The visitors said Heinai Shikibu will come back on the 16th of the month to get his revenge. Kannai became angry and started to swing his sword at the visitors. Those ghostly visitors could not be killed because they were not real. Kannai turned into a mad man, laughing hysterically because he could not defeat them.

Then the scene went back to the writer, who left his book unfinished. The publisher came to check on the writer as the deadline was approaching. It appeared that the writer’s suffered from writer’s block and could not come up with a satisfying ending “to a story about a man who swallowed another’s soul.” So he left it for the publisher to come up with an ending. The ending of the film showed the writer inside a big water vase.

I personally think this story is confusing no matter how many times I watched it. Perhaps, there’s cultural references and lore that I’m not well aware of. However, if the author intended to make his audiences confused, he succeeded because I wouldn’t know how to finish the story if it were given to me. But it’s sure a haunting tale even though it’s not scary. I still enjoyed the camera shots and the overall production.

In summary, I enjoyed watching Kwaidan. It’s relaxing and beautiful to watch. I have always liked older films and a good horror story. It does something to my soul. It heals it just like having a cup of tea.

Note Originally posted:
November 10, 2019 3:23 am

Criterion Collection Kwaidan Cover

Kwaidan: A Different Type of Horror (Part II)

Hoichi the Earless is the third story in the film. The longest story out of all the four stories and the most complex to dive in, but artistically on point. I watched the segment repeatedly, analyzing every scene from the painted red/orange sky to the watermelon.

It started off with a gloomy song about the last battle fought between the Genji and Heike clan. Three thousand people total fought along the shore of Dan-no-ura.  In the song, it mentioned how the Heike clan got defeated.  And thereafter, the sea became haunted for 700 years. To console the dead samurais, a temple was built.  And thus, the strange haunted tale between Hoichi, the blind musician and the supernatural began.

Hoichi played the musical instrument called biwa and became a master at reciting the battle’s story. He even surpassed his teacher. One day, he was called by a spirit to perform at Akamagahara, which was actually a cemetery for the Heike spirits, located near the temple. Hoichi agreed to visit Akamagahara thinking it was an honor to play in front of a high rank.

The next day, a dead body appeared on the shore—the villagers blamed the sea ghosts for the cause of death. Then we later find out another ship had sunk on that very same night Hoichi recited the battle story. Apparently when the story had been recited, someone will die.

Hoichi’s encounter with the dead caused him to become pale. He would sleep during the day and visited Akamagahara at night. The master of the temple and everyone began to take notice of his disappearance at night and his odd behavior and wonder if they could trust him.

One pouring night, Hoichi left again to Akamagahara. They found Hoichi reciting the last “Battle at Dan-no-ura.” This section was beautifully well pieced in the story. Throughout each disappearance at night, we don’t see Hoichi reciting the battle. It was until the last portion of the battle song when he was finally discovered that we see him reciting to the dead. Little small choices like this from the director made all the difference to imply the scope of this horror tale. It’s haunting.

It was then, the master of the temple confronted Hoichi that he had been lured by a menacing spirit. Soon, it will possess and kill him. In order to save Hoichi from the spirit, scriptures were written all over his body except for his ears. He was told not to respond to the spirit when it called for him.  And so, during the evening, just when the spirit was about to call for Hoichi to attend the cemetery, the spirit got angry because he could not find Hoichi but only his ears (the scriptures made his body invisible). The spirits then tore Hoichi’s ears apart out of menace. As a result of the supernatural’s vicious attack on Hoichi, the incident led him rise to fame to the point that even the living lord requested to hear him perform the Heike Tale. Hoichi did not declined. As long as he’s alive, he will play his biwa with all his soul to mourn those thousands of spirits.

How is this a haunting tale, you might wonder? It’s haunting in the sense that the spirits could never be put to rest without replaying the whole battle at Dan-no-ura over and over and over. For 700 years, the shore where the battle took place between the Genji and Heike clan had been haunted. Hoichi’s willingness to mourn for the dead also made it haunting. It’s bittersweet, but also frightening of Hoichi to play for the dead, but the dead should be left in the past.

By far, this is my favorite horror tale from the film. It’s eerie and was well done cinematically. Stay tuned for my final analysis of this film.

Note: Originally posted on Nov. 9, 2019; Revised April 5, 2022

Criterion Collection Kwaidan Cover

Kwaidan: A Different Type of Horror (Part I)

What does it mean to be haunted? Does haunting consists of ghosts and terror? Is haunting like a whiff of cigarette smoke lingering in the air which won’t subside, or it is like an ancient ruin that once stood proudly in splendor only to be left abandoned and rotten in time? This is the feeling I get from watching this film. It’s a film comprised of four haunting stories.

The first story is called Black Hair. It’s a tale about a man who abandoned poverty to gain higher social status at the expense of leaving his soft spoken, docile wife. Like most ambitious men, the husband desired status and wealth. Unfortunately, when he did achieve his ambition by marrying a woman belonging to a higher social status than his former wife, he realized that the grass was not always greener on the other side. His new wife was cold and selfish. As time progressed, he started to yearn for his former wife and remembered innocently how she spoke to him. When he decided to return to her. She was no longer there but a past memory. In the end, his unwise decision to abandon his former wife indirectly killed her by leaving her to die in poverty alone. What’s the irony in that? We seek fortune only to fall out of fortune. All of these points mentioned were done with few words. There was not a lot of talking. Each frame illustrated these points so hauntingly beautiful that I just had to summarize the story myself in words to captivate its essence.

In contrast to Black Hair, The Woman of the Snow is a tale about a woman’s temperament. One moment she can be so warm and the next, cold. In this tale, a young woodcutter and his father went out into the forest to cut wood, but found themselves stranded in the snowstorm. The father died from the snowstorm but he survived because the Snow Woman found him attractive. She let him live but under one condition: never tell anyone about their encounter. If he break the promise, she will kill him. Long story short, a year later, when he recovered, he met a beautiful fair skin woman (Snow Woman) just passing along mysteriously. The woodcutter fell in love with her and they both had three children together. One evening, while he was making sandals for the children and for his wife, the woodcutter innocently smiled at his wife and told her how he met Snow woman in the shelter on a snowy day. Like a light switch, the wife turned from warm to cold because the wood cutter had broke a promise. The wife revealed she was the Snow Woman and so he must die. But out sympathy, she decided to let him live instead for the sake of their children. It’s an unfortunate tale that demonstrated how women can be unforgiving. Sadly, he spoke wrongly unintentionally, as he meant to compliment her on her beauty. How is this tale haunting? Well, beautiful women can be quite scary, but we fall for them anyway.

Note: For this film analysis, I will break it into three posts. It’s a long film which runs about 3 hours. My final thoughts will be at the end of the analysis. Originally posted on Nov. 11, 2019. Revised April 2, 2022.

Reading Harry Potter, the 6th book

Reflecting on Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

The saying never judge a book by its cover should only be applied to everything except for inanimate objects because no one wants to be deceived when buying a product, they expected to receive. Harry Potter and the Half-blood Prince is exactly what you get. Based on the mass-produced book cover version, readers get to spend more time with Dumbledore! This made me a happy reader, but this book sure broke my heart (I know human emotions are just so hard to understand even I sometimes don’t understand myself). Happy to be sad. It’s a paradox. If you have been following this blog and my previous Harry’s Potter posts, you’d know that I like Dumbledore very much. I sort of suspect that Dumbledore was going to die when the author kept describing him as old and not as agile. I was still in shock when he did die. What a dramatic turn. The series is coming to a close. The symbol of wisdom and an all-knowing, benevolent wizard is no more.

The structure of the book is pretty straight forward. You got to know your enemy in order to defeat it. It talks about Voldemort’s childhood and his ancestry. It also revealed who the Half-Blood Prince is, which I was in fact surprised. Just as I expected of the author who likes to build tension and suspense to her story. The only character that I thought seemed out of place was Horace Slughorn, the new potion professor who replaced Snape. A part of me thinks the author chose this type of character to emphasize the classism issue as I previously mentioned in Book 5. He is not necessarily a bad person, but just a little bit wicked. Not wicked enough to be a part of the Death Eaters that’s for sure. Have you met people like that? Someone who only associate with those who can provide them the finer things in life? They collect people like they collect treasures. In other words, they create a circle of people and only “special people” are invited. I know I have met someone like that. It’s hard to call it a vice but it’s definitely not the type of friend who will have your back in time of needs. Their interest foremost lies in living a comfortable life, and are only persuaded to act when it threatens their lives. People like Slughorn can make anyone like Ron feels inadequate in society because ordinary is just not good enough. You have to be exceptionally extraordinary to be in Slughorn’s club, and oddly, I agree with Harry on Slughorn. He is like a “rich fussy old lady” (p. 67). No wonder the Death Eaters tried so hard to recruit him. He’s very worldly.

Speaking of Ron, I thought it was interesting how the character is used to demonstrate that one’s self worth is all in the head. You know the saying it’s all mental? There’s some truth to that statement. Harry tricked Ron into believing he poured a lucky potion called Felix Felicis into Ron’s cup right before the Quidditch match. And guess what? Surprisingly Ron performed well as a Keeper. Sometimes, it really is all in the head. How many of us have closed the door on ourselves simply because we think we are just born unlucky, or talentless? It’s a nice little message from the author to the readers. Take notes, we should have some faith in ourselves.

Overall, this book is relatively short. I don’t have much to say about the romance part on Harry and Ginny; Ron and Hermione; and Tonks and Lupin. I don’t care much about the romance drama and I was never intrigued with any of the characters beside Dumbledore and Snape. Now, I am just looking forward to finish the final book which will be some time next month. Just in time for Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore, which looks great!

Stay tuned for my final thoughts on the Harry Potter series. Hope to see you next time!

Lorelai Review

It’s good karma to give back to the universe by writing reviews and why not write one for Lorelai, a game released back in 2019, developed by Harvester Games, published by Screen 7. So let me spread the news about this game!

Great indie horror games that deserve more attention

This game may not be flashy and sophisticated like those Triple AAA titles, but it sure has a lot of soul and depth than a lot of these pretty-face remake games (I am referring to Final Fantasy VII. Better not throw eggs at me now). I suppose saving time and energy by making remasters and remakes than coming up with something original is the wiser route to avoid commercial failure. Well, I am not entirely against the business practice. Look at the Shenmue series for instance. It’s one of my favorite games and in terms of grandness this game blew my mind away. However, sadly, it was a commercial failure. Creating new things is quite risky even if it sound like a good idea. But let’s get this straight, I am not comparing Lorelai to Shenmue. No way! My point is that I am quite sad that passionate video game creators often don’t get enough recognition even if they put all their heart and soul into making a video game. Clearly, the creator of Lorelai has that ability to make things interesting, but without advertisement–sometimes good things will never be known because if there is one thing this game has that other popular gaming titles don’t have is taking risk. Aren’t gamers a bit of a gambler themselves? It’s no fun to play it safe all the time (wow, I sound so dangerous).

Minor spoilers alert!

So, I will tell you why I like Lorelai and why you should play it too! One, Lorelai, the protagonist, is not a princess because we all know that princesses rarely do the saving in video games. She’s a fighter, which makes perfect sense since she is “a powerful unstoppable being”. Hey! Anything that endorses female empowerment is cool in my book because I like feeling strong.

Playing Horror Indie Game

Secondly, this game is funny! It tackles real life, mundane situations without sugarcoating the brutal truth about how “life is so fu*king hard” without being overly dark even though it’s a horror story. I must admit that the gore is it bit too much for my liking. I rather stare at pretty flowers, but I kept playing this game anyway because of the metaphors and the symbolism. Some of the scenes in this game kept me intrigued and curious because we all know that we don’t always need words to tell a story. For instance, I like how Lorelai’s father is referred to a scummy pig. At one part, Lorelai has to put a pig’s head on her on her stepfather’s headless body and then electrocute him with a blow-dryer in the bathroom. I found that scene quite satisfying and a bit disturbing. I can only imagine how often her perverted stepfather walked in on her multiple times while she was taking a bath for Lorelai to wish him a painful death. It’s this type of visual ques that keeps the game interesting. I wanted to see her get away from that pig as far she can with her baby sister even if it’s in a dream. The entire game felt like I was going through a surrealist painting.

Strong female protagonist in video game

In the game, Lorelai dies but comes back alive to kill the Queen of Maggots. Along the way she meets interesting people. My favorite chapter has to be Chapter 2 where Lorelai goes to work as a caregiver at a nursing home. It’s a sad but funny scene. Least favorite chapter is when Lorelai tries to break the chef’s spirit at the request of the Queen of Maggots. But there’s an option to save the character as well. I only did it to get the trophy. Why not? It’s achievable and plus I like to extract everything I can from a game.

Strong female lead in video game

Overall, I enjoyed this game. It’s like diving into a friend’s mind and having a personal conversation with someone who knows what it is like to struggle in life. Someone who is honest and not overly optimistic living in the clouds (I have nothing against girls in mech suits like in Sakura Wars, it’s just a matter of taste). Someone who can pick herself up and laugh at reality and all of its ugliness because the world is filled with routines and uncertainties. Lorelai is that game. It’s horrifically funny while at the same time adventurous, uncomfortably depressing, but nonetheless charming. There’s plenty of humor mixed with horror and a bit of romance in this game. Just my cup of tea, and hope it would be yours as well.