I guess Steam is trying to make the Steam Awards an annual thing. Which is good! Because it gives me something to look forward to annually. I actually enjoy the Steam Awards. It’s honest with how pointless it is to categorize games when people’s experience with them varies, like they’re actual individuals and not a collective.

Wait, what?

Anyways, if you’ve seen my video about the Steam Awards from 2016, you know how this goes. But if not, let me give you the rundown anyways: I look at every category in the Steam Award, judge the victor, and provide my completely pointless opinion.

OKAY LET’S PUT AS MUCH EFFORT INTO THIS AS STEAM DOES INTO ITS UI YENNOWHATIMSAYIN

Category #1: Choices Matter.

Winner: The Witcher 3

I have a serious confession. I am one of those people. I am one of those people, who are going to talk about Witcher 3, without actually having beaten the game. I put 50 hours into it, but I’m unsure if I even made a dent in this game.

But I will say, out of all of these games, there was actually a really profound moment where I felt the choices mattered. I have had a decision made in a sidequest, come back to bite me in a random encounter later on. And, honestly, I did not expect it to happen for such a minute thing. I’m sure this game is full of more moments like these, but like most game reviewers, I will not list them. Because none of us have actually finished this game. And I’m fairly sure nobody else did. Anybody who did is a liar.

Life is Strange Before the Storm should not be on there though.

Category #2: Mom’s Spaghetti

Winner: PLAYERUNKNOWN’S BATTLEGROUNDS

I’ve never had that existential feeling of age creeping up on me. I’m still fairly young. I’m in University, I have hope in my life, goals I wish to attain.

But, I don’t get PUBG. And that scares me. It freaks me out that it has sold millions on Steam, because I don’t get it. I am not with the majority anymore. I’m not a tween or teen. I can’t spend 5 hours a day playing a single video game anymore. This reminds me that I have lost my childhood somewhat, and it’s cause for reflection.

So, yes. This is fitting for the mom’s spaghetti reward.

Category #3: Labor of Love

Winner: Warframe

My personal pick for this category didn’t even get a nomination. Hearing the story of Cuphead’s creation, the passion, and the love that went into it, surprises me that it didn’t even get a mention.

But I get Warframe winning this. I don’t understand this game or what it’s even about, but I get all of the effort going into the game to improve it.

Jungle Inferno wasn’t a labour of love though. Team Fortress gets one massive update after nearly a year, and everybody is calling me out on it. Well, I have something to say to that.

If Valve makes a massive update to Team Fortress 2 in six months, I will delete my YouTube channel. Boom. Your move Valve, and your weird, mobile Portal game.

Category #4: Suspension of Disbelief

Winner: Rocket League

This category is essentially a more professional way of allowing the lol XD games to get nominated. Thankfully, this ruse succeeded, and only one meme game got nominated. It didn’t even win!

The idea of Rocket-powered cars playing soccer is far-fetched now, but, honestly, out of all of the nominees, it seems the most plausible. I don’t know why, but I see self-driving cars inventing their own sport as more likely than, I don’t know, a Nazi regime returning at any point. Right?

Category #5: The World is Grim Enough Let’s Just All Get Along

Winner; Stardew Valley

The world needs more wholesome games in it. The world needs more Stardew Valley’s. I still can’t get enough of this game. I’ve bought it for 3 different consoles, and have sunk at least 40 hours into each version. It’s so addictive, but it’s very calming as well. This game is best experienced at your own pace. Don’t look at massive, immaculate farms and get discouraged. Those people are either on Year 5, or have 100+ hours of experience and are just starting a new game. Nobody begins with the perfect farm. Mine still sucks, and I have that 100+ hours of experience too.

Category #6: No Apologies

Winner: The Witcher

This game is awful. That’s why it’s the perfect winner.

Character’s eyes are soulless potatoes, and I feel that everybody talks like they’re about to give me the lecture of the century on the degrading industrial economy of Poland. But, hell if it doesn’t have heart and passion behind it. The Witcher 1 is so archaeic, but it tried so hard to be innovated. It is so hard not to love.

Rust is just bad though.

Category #7: Defies Description

Winner: Garry’s Mod

“Hello, I am Valve. I hath memed upon myself with this reward, for if you go to the Steam Store page, WHAT DO WE FIND?”

Begone, Valve.

Category #8: Cry Havoc and Let Slip The Dogs of War

Winner: Just Cause 3

Hey, this is a game that came out, remember? In the best year of gaming ever 2015? (this is a meme. Please don’t judge, I honestly don’t know why that year got praised so much for being one of the best ever.)

Does Just Cause 3 have explosions? Yes.

Does Just Cause 3 let you control these explosions? Yes.

Does Just Cause 3’s physics enable it? Yes.

There ya go. Big boom game.

Category #9: Haunts My Dreams

Winner; Counter-Strike

Okay, so. I’ve been fairly lenient and accepting of the winners so far. This one I just do not get. How in the world did this beat Dota 2? And why is Dark Souls 3 on there? It’s a single-player game, and regardless of its PVP, people will get sick of it.

And if Counter-Strike had to win, why original, and not Global Offensive? I have friends who have 1000+ hours in that game. I’ve seen the proof. I’ve stalked their profile.

But the most mind-boggling thing, is how is PUBG not on this list? Or Fortnite? I feel those battle royale games lend people to sink 100s of hours into them.

BAD PICK STEAM COMMUNITY. FEEL BAD FOR NOT POINTLESSLY VOTING FOR THE POINTLESS AWARDS.

Category #10: Soul of Vitruvius

Winner: Tomb Raider

More people thought Lara Croft is prettier than 2B. A robot designed to be as attractive as possible. An android created to represent peak humanity.

Okay guys.

Whatever.

I don’t care.

Category #11: “Whoooaaaaaaa, Dude! 2.0”

Winner; The Evil Within 2

I believe this category is for the most psychedelic game. Which, if that’s the case, this is a terrible choice.

The Evil Within 2 was just one of those whatever blips on the radar this year. I mean, i’m all for horror games, but I don’t feel this deserves the award. Hotline Miami 2 would be the clear winner for me.

Category #12: Best Soundtrack

Winner: Cuphead

I DON’T AGREE WITH THE WINNER, BUT I UNDERSTAND. I would put NieR: Automata above Undertale, then Undertale above Cuphead. BUT I UNDERSTAND WHY IT WON. THESE GAMES ALL HAVE 10/10 SOUNDTRACKS. IT IS REALLY HARD TO COMPETE WITH PERFECTION.

NieR is better thou-BUT I GET IT, OKAY. THIS IS A FINE CHOICE.

Category #13: Even Better Than I Expected

Winner: Cuphead

None of these games I had positive expectations for. Hollow Knight I didn’t know about. Sonic Mania is a sonic game, so of course, I expected it to be terrible, but it was one of the best games of the year.

And I was so worried about Cuphead. I was worried it would suck. I was worried it was going to be popcorn filler, but it’s not. It’s amazing. All of it is fantastic. I love Cuphead. Just, not as much as some crazed fans.

YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC4ghIcNQQGFD2523eD1DYgA

Twitter: twitter.com/Hoiyamiya

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/noleeen/

So, like uh… I had a thing I was writing. Persona 5 Diaries for September 20XX. It’s about 1500 words, if you’re curious.

But, this show is something that needs to be seen. Because this Netflix J-Drama doesn’t have a massive following. Although you can’t gauge ratings on Netflix properly, If you look at the IMDB page, the show only has 137 ratings. This signifies, to me at least, that this show either doesn’t have a very passionate audience, or it hasn’t made a major splash yet.

But, what the hell is Dad of Light? Why am I talking about it when I don’t really discuss TV shows often?

Well, this J-Drama is special, because it’s about video games! Specifically, a father and son using Final Fantasy 14 to reconnect after 25 years of distance and tension in their family.

No, I’m not making this up.

Look, I’m not even going to assume that anybody has seen this show, so i’m just going to go through every episode, detailing the plot and weird oddities about it.

And trust me, there are A LOT of odd things about this show. Some are funny, some are cringe, and some are repugnant. We’ll revel in all of the embarrassment together.

What is Final Fantasy 14?

Before we begin the series, I suppose it’s best that I give some context on what Final Fantasy 14: A Realm Reborn is all about. I will abbreviate it to FF14 to make it easier to type. FF14 is a Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game (MMORPG for short. MMO for even shorter.) This means that it’s a game where millions of players interact in the same world. They level, they communicate, they develop an economy, and they become friends or rivals. The most I have played of FF14 is the free trial, which allowed me to only scratch about 15% of the game’s content, so my understanding of the content is superficial. That isn’t too important, because a lot of this show doesn’t revolve around FF14’s intricacies. Dad of Light uses the game as a way to bond the father and son, and even people with minimal knowledge of gaming can comprehend the jargon.

But, long story short, FF14 is an MMO where people from all over the planet can play together anonymously.

With this knowledge, let us delve into confusion and insanity together. Don’t expect this article to be articulate or anything. There will be yelling.

Episode #1: A Relationship Reborn

The show begins by having the main character, Akio Inaba, tell the history of his relationship with his father, named Hirotaro Inaba. When he was a child, they bonded over the original Final Fantasy on the NES, and they got along well. At first, Hakutaro bought the game for Akio, but he ended up loving it equally. But then, Hakutaro gets a promotion at work, and he becomes distant with Akio. He is no longer focused on his family or enjoyment, just forwarding his career. The Inaba family becomes distant.

I actually enjoy this beginning. It’s really heartwarming to see a father and son bond over gaming, and tragic to know that it was just a fad to the father, but something legitimate to the son.

But then, we cut to 20 or so years in the future, when Akio is now a 20-something adult working an office job selling photocopiers. I think. It’s really vague. It’s also really boring. Like, photocopiers aren’t interesting. Who would ever be fascinated by this?

Akio as an adult also looks like a 12-year-old boy compared to every other adult present. He’s also wearing super unfitting, loose suits that make him look like a boy trying to be a man. You aren’t Mulan, Akio. (I recognize that Mulan is Chinese, not Japanese. Plz no sue.)

Adult Akio

I’ve also tried to do research on this show, and I could not find anything. No interviews with any of the actors, no history on it, nothing. I will have to go to the deep web to get my answers. They will be next to the Minecraft Mods.

However, suddenly, shock, gasp, Hirotaro retires. He quits work altogether, and nobody knows why. Everybody acts like it’s odd that he’s retiring at 60, and I’m sitting here in my firm Canadian seat, asking why he didn’t retire earlier. Like, 60? How much of your life do you spend working? Japan is a crushing machine with the one of the highest suicide rates in the world.

So then we cut to Akio, and, oh boy. Here’s where the cringe starts.

So roughly one third of this show is shot using the in-game models for FF14. And it looks terrible. It looks, so SOOOOOO terrible.

Animations are incredibly janky, faces are inhuman, and they teeter into the uncanny valley. The Lalafell characters (the midget race) have these weird, soulless potato eye faces that haunt my nightmares.

The Lalafell faces

But the worst aspect of these scenes is the frame rate. See, cinematic shows are usually shot at 24 frames per second. However, the gameplay for FF14 can go to 60 frames per second if you have the correct display monitor. So, the footage in-game looks like it was recorded in 60 frames-per-second, but the editing software reduces it to 24 frames per second. Because of this, there’s this constant tearing and stuttering that happens, and it genuinely makes it painful on the eyes.

BUT IT GETS CREEPIER. Akio made a female cat-lady named Maidy, and he role-plays this character in-game to his friends. Like, all of the people he met online role-play as their character, instead of giving their real name. This leads to incredibly uncomfortable shots of Maidy having one of the Lalafell sit on her lap. Like, they’re pretending to be a family, when we know that Akio is a 20-something Japanese man, and not a sexy blonde cat lady. And, if Akio is lying, we can assume that the female Lalafell can be a 45-year-old Japanese man too! If one person is lying about their identity, then how genuine and real are their connections? How can they even trust Akio’s story? WHY IS AKIO EVEN TELLING RANDOM PEOPLE ONLINE THAT HIS DAD RETIRED? THIS ONLY LEADS TO POTENTIAL STALKING AND UNCOMFORTABLE SITUATIONS.

But the show paints them as genuine comrades and friends. Like, instead of meeting in real life at a coffee shop, they meet at a fictional one in-game, and role-play their problems.

I have no problem with role-playing. I love Dungeons and Dragons, but you need to learn to dissociate frames of reality properly. Don’t simultaneously lie about your name and identity, but relay your genuine, real life problems to strangers on the internet Akio. YOU GUYS DON’T EVEN KNOW EACH OTHER’S NAMES.

*ahem* Anyways, Akio, apparently noticing how open he is being online gets an epiphany. What if he gets FF14 for his retired dad? Since he has all this time now, why don’t they try to unite in the video game? I’d like to make fun of this, but I see it as Akio doing something nice for his dad. Like, he knows what made their relationship strong in the past, and he sees this as an opportunity to rekindle that flame. I’m cool with it.

This also leads to some really funny jokes. The dad is obviously clueless about FF14, so his character is just the default human character with black hair and a tattoo. He has hundreds of customization options, but he makes as little effort as possible. This reflects his no-nonsense personality well. This leads to an even funnier joke where his son suggests that he names his in-game character after a movie star, since they will be saving the world of FF14. So Hirotaro actually names his character “Indy Jones.” It’s probably the highlight of the entire series.

Once Hirotaro makes Indy Jones, Akio sprints upstairs to his character, Maidy, and follows him around, talking to him. However, Akio pretends he doesn’t know Hirotaro is Indy. I’m sure you can see where this is going.

Indy doesn’t talk in-game, because he doesn’t know how. So he’s mindlessly walking around. Maidy loses track of him, and just ends up talking to her friends. However, one of them tracked Indy, and found out that he, a level 1 character, is fighting a level 12 monster. Drama.

Maidy then comes to Indy’s rescue, which isn’t exactly heroic since Maidy is like, level 50, so it just dies in a few hits. Indy then turns, and looks Maidy directly in the eyes…

…and walks around Maidy 3 times then runs off. Okay.

The first episode ends with Akio saying he’ll keep his identity in-game secret, and not approach his dad at all about their common interest. He will continue to role-play as Maidy to Indy, and not genuinely connect as Akio to Hakutaro. This won’t backfire at all.

Maidy

Episode #2:

Episode 2 begins showing Akio in his workplace.

He’s a loser.

He’s socially awkward, he gets yelled at his boss for being submissive, and he lacks personal ambition and drive. He’s basically an employed version of Jerry from Rick and Morty.

This also leads to a new female character getting introduced. We will call her Girl. Why not her real name? Because I’m pretty sure they only say it once, and her entire role in the story is to be a girl. She is also the only one with any sanity. She’s the only person in this office who is a regular human being.

Trying to solve their HR issues

There’s also this really bizarre subplot about how female workers are quitting, and the office higher-ups want to find out why. They suspect Girl of wanting to quit, despite having no evidence whatsoever. Akio is then forced to work his non-existent charms on her, and get her to open up. But, as expected, he completely fails, and everybody reprimands him for it. Oh Akio. At least you’re a pretty good Monk in FF14.

We then cut to Maidy and Indy trying to talk. Maidy is trying to teach Indy how to use the in-game chat, but he fails at it. So Akio, thirsty for his FF14 connection, sprints out of his home and buys Hirotaro a USB keyboard to plug into his PS4 so he can talk to his dad. Hirotaro also doesn’t know how to use a keyboard, which, makes absolutely zero sense. I know he’s old, but he also worked in an office and must have typed up documents and e-mails.

Deep down, it feels like there is a nice narrative hiding in this show. It feels like something heartwarming is there, but it’s layered in awkward dialogue, and a strange, MMO connection between father and son. Like, rather than Akio learning to be brave, he’s finding ways to avoid his connectivity problems with his father. Akio’s inventiveness enhances unhealthy habits. But they must uphold the ALMIGHTY FINAL FANTASY 14 DESU-KA.

Then there’s just, this, bizarre scene, where Indy runs for HOURS, REAL LIFE HOURS across the entire in-game world, not dying once. He goes from the starting forest city of Gridania, to the high-level Snow City.

But that’s not the worst part. The worst part, is he GETS EMBARRASSED THAT ALL CHARACTERS IN-GAME ARE WEARING LONG SLEEVES, AND HIS CHARACTER HAS A T-SHIRT ON. THIS IS REAL. THIS IS A REAL THING THAT SOMEBODY ON PLANET EARTH CARES ABOUT.

I REPEAT: HIROTARO ALMOST GIVES UP PLAYING THE GAME FOREVER, BECAUSE HE FEELS EMBARRASSED THAT HE DOESN’T HAVE A COAT YET. TEMPERATURE IS NOT A FACTOR IN THE GAME. IT IS PURELY COSMETIC. I WISH I WAS MAKING THIS UP.

Ready for more potentially sexist overtones? So, Girl finally opens up to Akio about the issue and why she was contemplating quitting. She says it was because she didn’t like the colour of the uniforms. This would be silly, but she even admits that her reason is petty, so I don’t mind it.

BUT AKIO HEARS THIS, AND THE BOSS GOES “OKAY. ONE PERSON DOESN’T LIKE THE UNIFORMS. THEREFORE, ALL GIRLS WANT THE UNIFORMS TO BE PINK! ALL WOMEN ARE THE SAME, RIGHT?”

And then he does it. And girls are much happier in the workplace. Because they wear pink, instead of blue uniforms.

I can’t even deal and it’s only episode 2.

Episode #3:

Episode 3, like the previous episode, shows Akio being terrible at his job. He’s working as a sales associate for Photocopiers. Around clients, he is very awkward, uncharismatic, and embarrasses his boss who is trying to help him.

Akio and his boss are at a restaurant, getting their client drunk. Their client loves baseball, so Akio’s boss just gets up, and starts doing these exaggerated hitting and pitching motions, and the client keeps naming the player he’s mimicking. Much like Akio, I am very uncomfortable that this is happening in a public place.

His boss then reveals that every company’s photocopier is the same, and does a dramatic walk-off. How does Akio deal with this criticism? Does he better himself? Does he reflect on his abilities and learn to take his job seriously? Does he learn to play into his clients interests more?

NOPE. BACK TO FF14 TO COMPLAIN ABOUT HIS LIFE.

Akio then goes to fight a boss with the group, including Indy, and he keeps losing focus and dying. Indy then tells him in the chat to never give up. This gives Akio so much inspiration, that he beats the boss, and regains his confidence in real-life.

Using this newfound lesson of “never give up,” Akio betters himself at his job, but it doesn’t even make sense. So, literally one day prior, Akio’s boss gave him the advice to give gifts to clients to suck up to them. Girl comes to Akio’s help, and gives him a list of presents every employee at their company likes because I GUESS SHE HAS THIS? WHERE? HOW? I don’t know.

Akio and Hirotaro

SO AKIO, A DAY LATER, GOES TO HIS BOSS WITH A GIFT HE LOVES. HE USES THE EXACT MANIPULATION TACTIC THAT HE LEARNT ON THE GUY WHO TAUGHT IT TO HIM. AND IT WORKS.

Then Akio runs up the their client (who works in their office apparently????) and he relays random baseball facts. Akio says he watched the baseball game last night (even though he was playing final fantasy 14), and provides a recap. This impresses the client so much for some reason. Like he’s a dog who hears BASEBALL and immediately freaks out. Akio then SOMEHOW, SOMEHOW HAS TICKETS TO THE GIANTS GAME FOR THE NIPPON BASEBALL LEAGUE, AND OFFERS TO INVITE CLIENT-SENPAI TO A GAME.

THEN IT GETS WEIRDER. AKIO’S BOSS GETS UP, OUT OF HIS CUBICAL. LOOKS AKIO DEAD IN THE EYE, AND STARTS DOING A PROVOCATIVE PITCHING STANCE. AKIO SOMEHOW, OVERNIGHT, BECOMES THE MASTER OF BASEBALL TRIVIA, AND RECOGNIZES THIS PLAYER OUT OF THOUSANDS OF POSSIBLE PLAYERS IMMEDIATELY.

The best part of this scene, is in the background, all of the other employees at the company look incredibly awkward. Like a bunch of actors realized they made a terrible decision to be in this show, while these three clowns get excited over nothing.

It’s here that I think the creators of the show are doing something very manipulative and intentional with the tone. They make reality incredibly mundane and crushing. They then offer Final Fantasy 14 as a respite, and a solution to all problems. How did Akio get over his personal hurdle? Indy gave him advice in the game. Not in real life. In the game. And that distinction is important.

So, thanks Square Enix, for trying to subtly manipulate the Japanese audience into playing Final Fantasy 14 even more! It is the drug that will solve all of your life problems. Just never face them and become a NEET!

Ready for odd, sexist overtones number 2? So Hirotaro and his wife, who we also never get a name for (WOMEN DON’T DESERVE NAMES IN THIS UNIVERSE), are sitting at a table at the end of the episode. Let’s call Hirotaro’s wife, Wife, since she doesn’t have a name, and that’s how Dad of Light rolls.

So Wife suggests that her and Hirotaro can go on a world cruise like they always wanted to when they were younger. Now that he is retired, they can finally spend more time together as husband and wife.

He refuses.

He says no.

He says no because he wants to play more Final Fantasy 14.

Hirotaro, says no to this world cruise, and, keep in mind, Wife says “like WE always wanted,” implying that this is a dream that the two of them had. And when he says no, she just smiles and laughs. LIKE IT’S ALL OKAY.

SHE’S LIKE I UNDERSTAND HONEY. YOU CAN SAY NO TO THIS CRUISE BECAUSE YOU WANT TO PLAY VIDEO GAMES.

Episode #4:

ALRIGHT THIS IS WHERE IT GETS REALLY DUMB. AND IT WAS ALREADY DUMB, BUT LIKE, INFURIATINGLY DUMB.

The episode begins with Hirotaro and Wife having a fight over him playing FF14 too much. Hirotaro gets scolded, and his playtime becomes limited to one hour a day. Although Hirotaro is having fun, I understand Wife’s position. Too much gaming is unhealthy for anybody, regardless of how much enjoyment they are getting. Hirotaro can be doing better things with his time.

But in comes Akio. Akio hears of this news of Wife trying to better her husband’s life, and Akio goes NO. THIS IS A CRISIS. I MUST GET HIM TO PLAY FF14 ALL DAY AGAIN. I MUST ENABLE AND FEED HIS BAD HABITS.

SO THE THING THAT GETS AKIO TO TAKE ACTION WITHIN HIS RELATIONSHIP ISN’T FAMILIAL LOVE. IT’S THE OBSESSION TO GET HIROTARO PLAYING FF14 AGAIN. Akio invites Hirotaro out to the bar to drink, trying to egg him on to apologize to Wife. But Akio doesn’t care about helping his family or his mother. He doesn’t care about the neglectful position she is in. He just wants his video game partner back. It’s so incredibly selfish, that it makes Akio incredibly detestable.

It’s also here, that we learn Hirotaro is a goddamn addict to FF14. He’s sitting in the bar, face staring forward, with empty hands held out. He is mimicking the controller movements, and envisioning fighting a boss with his in-game friends. He is having an actual hallucination.

Hirotaro is having fun, yes, but he is developing horrible habits. He is neglecting his wife and son’s wishes, and Akio is okay with it. In fact, Akio actively enables it. By being present in-game as Maidy, giving him help and encouragement, forcing his friends to help Indy integrate into their party, Akio is working to make sure Hirotaro never leaves. Keep in mind, Indy never played a game since the NES era, so unless his son was there to constantly prevent him from quitting, this addiction wouldn’t have formed.

Oh, but it’s okay! Look at how quirky it is! He neglects his family for people he doesn’t even know!

Okay, quick breather. We need to discuss Akio’s actor. Every character’s acting in Dad of Light is serviceable. They aren’t anything amazing, but they do a convincing job of becoming their characters.

But Akio does these weird gesticulations with his face that do not fit him whatsoever. He thinks he’s either Jim Carrey or an anime character. He bobs his head around unnaturally, and constantly makes these exaggerated, over-the-top reactions to everything. I wanted to look up the actor’s IMDB history, and his other most popular role is Gosei Red in the Japanese equivalent of Power Rangers. Maybe he’s the Red Ranger to hide his face (that was mean, sorry.)

Akio’s eyes

Akio has no charisma whatsoever. His character and actor are both pretty bad, so these quirks just come across as bizarre and uncomfortable. But not as uncomfortable as the in-game cut scenes.

We then cut back to Akio’s workplace, and we find out that two female employees who usually talk constantly are silent. All of the male higher ups are scared of women, and send Akio in to try and diffuse the situation. Of course, he makes it worse, and escalates their fighting. Ha ha. Women are so silly.

Thankfully, Girl approaches them and goes “guys just chill this will sort itself out” and she just walks away. Like I said, she’s kind of the only sane person in this show.

BUT THEN, ONCE SHE SAYS THIS, IT CUTS TO THE NEXT DAY, AND AKIO IS GOING DOWNSTAIRS FOR WORK. HE LOOKS OVER, AND HE SEES HIS PARENTS, MAKING UP, AND KISSING EACH OTHER ON THE CHEEK.

So the actual solution to this problem, was just to wait and avoid it. Let’s not take the healthy option and discuss the relationship issues like adults. Let’s avoid it like cowards too hung up on pride. Pardon me, but that’s a terrible lesson! For any relationship, if you’re scared to talk about anything serious, then it won’t blossom into happiness. Conflict will mount up between the two of you, until it explodes in a tension-filled bomb.

But, oh, it gets worse. I know I sound like a broken record, but I mean it. Wife ends up caving, and takes away the gaming restrictions she previously imposed. This essentially makes the conflict of the episode entirely pointless. It was all going to sort itself out in the end, no matter what. Akio didn’t learn anything. He didn’t get closer to his dad. Hirotaro’s FF14 addiction was just satisfied, because, to quote Wife: “I haven’t seen him have that much fun in years.”

And it’s just, so infuriating. It sends such a terrible message about family relationships. Rather than learn to be open, they reinforce their ideas about being reserved. They regress as characters! And this show is only 8 episodes long! This is halfway through! HOW.

Episode #5:

So at this point, the show realizes it hasn’t accomplished anything, so Akio fiends harder to complete his mission and find out why his dad suddenly quit work.

Hirotaro also suddenly takes a break from playing. Their entire goal in FF14 was to get to a high enough level and take down the super boss, Twintania. But all of a sudden, Indy isn’t playing nearly as much.

Twintania

We then cut to Hirotaro talking to an old business friend about potentially coming back to work for a better company. Hirotaro refuses, much to his friend’s disappointment.

The show at this point grinds to a halt. Not much happens. Besides all of the cringe and funny moments, there is a lot of boring, bland office talk.

One genuinely funny quirk is that Hirotaro uses every possible in-game emote when he talks. It adds a lot of personality to his character, and shows an interesting side of him.

Hirotaro 24/7

The episode concludes with Hirotaro revealing to Maidy, who is Akio, but he doesn’t know that, that he quit work because of an illness. This causes Akio to freak out, and pressure him to find out more. Indy also calls Maidy “Mayday” which is also humourous.

The final shot of the episode is Hirotaro’s friend narrating a Human Resources document that Hirotaro made for his company. He details that the company needs more unity and they must encourage their employees to be strong through the correct work.

It’s a strong message, but the awkward part, is there’s this epic FF14 boss music playing, and it is interspersed with footage of the group fighting a big boss. They learn teamwork through learning to party properly in FF14. No, I’m not making that up.

Hirotaro reforms an entire company’s employee standards and structure because of lessons he learnt playing a video game for a few months. It just feels so cheesy and awkward.

Episode #6:

So Akio knows his dad has an illness, but he wants to find out what that illness is. Akio’s coworkers begin to tell him it could be cancer given the described symptoms, but Akio wants to get down to the case himself. So, to “inspire” Akio, one of his coworkers tells him that he found porn in his father’s room. Instead of being grossed out by this, Akio infers that his dad must keep his deepest secrets in his room, and therefore, what his illness is!

Kill me.

Later on, Hirotaro says he’s going to go for a jog, and then Akio decides its time to stealth with his teenage body into his father’s room…and he finds the dumbest thing ever.

Akio finds a goddamn Final Fantasy 14 Strategy Guide in his dad’s room. But it gets worse. This strategy guide is littered with NOTES. IT IS FULL OF STICKY NOTES, THESE HAVE CLASS ROLES AS NOTES, IT HAS INFORMATION, IT IS FULL OF SMALL MACROS. HE HAS GOTTEN TO THE POINT OF HARDCORE ADDICTION. I DON’T EVEN GET THIS ENTHUSIASTIC WHEN I AM INTO A GAME.

WHY DOES THIS GAME CAPTIVATE HIM SO MUCH.

Then, just, absolutely out of nowhere, Girl magically falls in love with Akio, despite him having the appeal of a wet blanket. They’re one-on-one at a nice restaurant, when it was never established that they met there before. But Girl tries to lay the moves on Akio to invite him to a movie on Sunday.

AND AKIO GETS FLASHES OF FIGHTING TWINTANIA WITH HIS DAD, AND TURNS DOWN WHAT’S LIKELY HIS FIRST DATE EVER TO PLAY VIDEO GAMES WITH HIS FATHER. EVEN I’M NOT THIS CLUELESS. THIS SHOW NEEDS TO STOP PRETENDING THE LOVE FOR THE GAME IS QUIRKY. AKIO HAS SOMEBODY WHO CAN IMPROVE HIS LIFE RIGHT THERE, BUT HE’S LIKE NO. LET ME REINFORCE MY TERRIBLE ADDICTION AND HABITS.

The episode ends with, arguably, one of the most cringe-worthy scenes in this show, and that’s saying something. Akio has to work late, so he pulls up this paper thin laptop that can somehow run FF14 perfectly (Japanese technology or plothole? I don’t know.) Then it goes to a heartfelt reveal from Hirotaro that he has gained the courage to open up to people because of the wonderful friends within FF14. It’s a cute message, right?

Well…this is Dad of Light. And this reveal is done through melodramatic music, and the stilted, uncomfortable in-game models. And it’s just a weird thought, that a 60-year-old man would divulge this information to a stranger online. The in-game models are so inhuman that it takes away from a lot of the drama.

It also doesn’t help that the discussion in the game is interspersed with shots of Akio and Hirotaro crying in front of their Monitors. Like the show is trying to imply that this is a major tear-jerking moment. But…we know nothing about these characters. They connect through FF14, but we never ACTUALLY see any connection. We never see any chemistry between the two. Up until this point, there isn’t really any character development for anybody in this show.

Take the main character, Akio, for example. He should be the most interesting character, as this story revolves around him and his relationship with his father. But, all we know about him, is that he is socially awkward. Even when he gets inspiration to improve, he still remains socially clueless around others. From episode 1 to the final episode, he never changes at all. Any potential character development is brushed aside for “comedic scenes.”

Basically Trying to Be Dramatic Like This

Tonal dissonance is also a major problem for this show. I think the show’s creators realize how strange of a premise this is for a J-Drama, so they interspersed all of the serious conflict with a comedic tinge. That is fine and all, but once the show tries to be genuinely sad and fatalistic, the viewer gets whiplash from it all. I wasn’t ready to take any of this seriously, because the show’s premise and tone implied to never truly take it seriously. It comes across as light fluff that’s meant to distract you at one point, but then a serious piece of art the next. None of it works.

What makes it even more corny, his Hirotaro says that he now has the courage to open up because of his in-game friends. This is a super cheesy trope found in children’s media, and it makes this whole crying scene much less legitimate.

But anyways, Akio returns home, and it is clear that Hirotaro has stomach cancer. The episode then ends with the sad music.

Episode #7:

So, Akio’s dad has cancer. What does he do? Spend more time with him before his operation that may fail? Talk to him more in real life?

NOPE. IT IS TIME TO BEAT TWINTANIA IN-GAME. THEY HAVE A 4-DAY DEADLINE TO FINISH TWINTANIA, SO AKIO SPENDS ALL OF HIS FREE TIME PRETENDING IN THE VIDEO GAME INSTEAD OF ACTUALLY, GENUINELY SUPPORTING HIS FATHER IN REAL LIFE.

This then cuts to a completely pointless training montage with real life clips interspersed with the characters in-game doing training poses. It even shows Akio turn down Girl again in the middle of their office space, and when she asks why, Akio yells out “TWINTANIA!”

To which everybody in the office looks at him like a freak, and he runs out of work early.

Then…it cuts to another training montage of all of the characters doing emotes, when, they provide no actual in-game benefit. In fact, they even state that this is the final day to defeat Twintania, so they are effectively wasting time.

AND THEN IT SHOWS THIS “EPIC” MARCH WITH ALL OF THE CHARACTERS WALKING ACROSS A DESERT, IMPLYING THAT THEY ARE TRAVELLING TO TWINTANIA. WHEN, IN REALITY, THEY CAN JUST TELEPORT TO WHERE THEY NEED TO GO. AGAIN, KIND OF JUST WASTING SOME TIME HERE.

Of course, they end up prevailing and defeating Twintania through the power of love and friendship. Maidy decides to forget the facade, and calls Indy “Dad” in-game. Every person they are with does the “surprised” emote, and I got scared.

See, this entire series, I was waiting for when they would try to have the father develop romantic love for Akio’s character. I always figured that Indy would profess love towards Maidy. It didn’t happen, but I thought this was the moment where it might. I thought this was going to turn into some Lana Del Rey “There goes my daddy” garbage. I thought that Indy hearing Daddy would be some creepy romantic role-play.

BUT THANKFULLY THE DAD IS EVEN STUPIDER THAN THAT. HIROTARO GOES: “Dad? Is he somewhere in the game? Hahaha!” When Akio tries to actually reveal it is him, he doesn’t type in the chat “no dumbass, it’s me, Akio.” He just lets it be and laughs it off. Like, what? You finally confessed to your dad, it failed, and you’re fine with letting your identity be ambiguous?

But we then cut to the father in the hospital, walking triumphantly away from his family into the surgery room. He is literally walking into the light. He is now the Dad of Light. DO YOU GET IT?!?!?!?

But then it cuts to one year later. The atmosphere is silent and somber. Akio is still playing Maidy, and then his mom walks in. She is silent and stoic, until she eventually breaks into tears. And you think “Oh my gosh, did it fail? Is the dad dead?”

AND THEN 3 SECONDS LATER, HIROTARO WALKS INTO THE ROOM. HE ASKS WHY WIFE IS CRYING. AND AKIO SAYS IT IS BECAUSE A J-DRAMA START SHE LIKES GOT ENGAGED. THEY PULLED THE LAZIEST, POSSIBLE FAKE-OUT IMAGINABLE.

The show ends with the father and son reunited play final fantasy together again, and Wife looks at them smiling, when she should realistically be pissed at them.

Episode #8:

So you’re probably asking, how can there be an episode #8? That sounded like a definitive conclusion. And, I was asking the same question, until Netflix autoplayed the final episode for me. This episode was titled the “Special Episode,” and I was curious…

and it turned into an ad for FF14. I mean, the whole show was, but now it isn’t even hiding it. The final episode is a series of in-game cutscenes detailing the lore and history of the world. It’s acting like “OH, NOW YOU LOVE FF14 RIGHT? IT’S GREAT ESCAPISM. HERE, LEARN MORE ABOUT THE WORLD SO YOU HAVE SOME BASELINE UNDERSTANDING BEFORE YOU BEGIN PLAYING. BECAUSE YOU’RE DEFINITELY GOING TO PLAY, RIGHT?”

This show preys on human empathy by relating positive emotions to FF14. It’s a deceptive marketing tactic. It isn’t about what the game does for you. but about how it makes you feel. Dad of Light associates a heartwarming community and healthy relationships with a video game. And now it informs the viewer, who they hope is sucked into the narrative, to buy their monthly service. Buy our monthly addiction.

I made it 5 minutes into this episode before just shutting it off. Any pretense of wholesomeness was shattered. It was just another soulless product to please the advertisers. It was just another TV show.

And look, FF14 is a good game. Dad of Light does shw a lot of cool things in the game…but it is just propaganda. This is a product placement show. It’s a soap opera designed to sell a product.

The show displays highlights of FF14, and only that. They are at least being unapologetic with the graphics of the game, but they present it as a place for only epic team moments and unity. FF14 is shown as a paradise abstained from negative human emotion and desire. It’s like heaven in digital form, and that isn’t true. Every MMO community has horrible people, regardless of how it is painted. This show makes FF14 look TOO good.

Furthermore, the concept of bonding through play is endearing and it is very true. A lot of friendships can be formed via video games. But, the father and son are addicts, and their addiction is painted as humourous. The show treats their obsession with this video game as normal. Rather than being punished, they are rewarded with a healthy relationship. It sends a backwards message that isn’t good for anybody. It tells people to play video games to escape their problems, because you might have the off chance that the person you have tension with is also playing the same video game as you. It makes zero sense.

ANYWAYS FINAL VERDICT: 4/10. TAKE ALL LESSONS OF APATHY AND ADDICTION AND FORGET ABOUT THEM. FF14 IS KING. ALL HAIL TWINTANIA.

 

 

WARNING: THERE WILL BE IMAGES OF GORE AND NUDITY. THAT IS THE NATURE OF THIS MANGA. THERE WILL ALSO BE FULL SPOILERS FOR A LOT OF MAJOR STORY EVENTS. THESE DO NOT RUIN THE READING EXPERIENCE, BUT IF YOU ARE BOTHERED BY THIS, THEN PLEASE READ THIS ARTICLE ANOTHER TIME.

I have recently completed every available chapter in the gargantuan manga series: Berserk. As evidenced by my unhealthy bingeing, I loved the series. But, of course, it has its faults. People have gushed about how much they love the series, but I want to talk about the aspects of it that bothered me. I want to talk about what I cannot justify or defend.

So sit back, ready your pitchforks, and be ready to debate against everything I say, because these are the things I did NOT like about Berserk.

1.) Edgelord Shock Value

Gore and Nudity are abound in Berserk, but these superficial aspects are not what engage people in a story. These factors act as a quick, easily explainable reason to call the manga “dark” and “adult”, while missing the heart and soul of the series. I doubt people have spent hours reading a story because of gore, and if they wanted that, they could find that in the SAW movies, or any other red-coloured fluff.

The heart of Berserk is its characters, themes, and conflicts. The conflict and duality between Guts and Griffith is the driving force for the story. The public’s perception of Griffith as an angelic hero who erected the holiest city known to man via magic, and opened his doors to anybody is seen as a god-like figure to the world, whereas Guts, who is constantly hounded by demons and other monsters, often receives little recognition or credit for his actions. You can write a whole essay just on the masses of people in Berserk, and the consequences of the two main characters’ actions.

People don’t enjoy the visuals of Berserk because of be-headings or intestines, they enjoy the minutia of character expressions from the wonderfully talented artist, Kentaro Miura. Miura can illustrate lush forests and desolate ruins. He can create hellish landscapes full of dead bodies, blood, and demons, but also the purity of a child’s smile. Berserk’s world is not one that is hopeless. There are strong individuals who live peaceful lives within the world of Berserk (I could not find an official name for it.)

But, the temptation to tell people that a series is coated in blood and gore is tempting. It’s like a prideful ritual, in which you proclaim your badassery for having read something so hardcore. There is the presumption that gratuitous imagery is “adult”, and it transforms people as wiser individuals for experiencing it.

However, in my opinion, gore, nudity, and shock value for the sake of being edgy, is the laziest, most childish way to garner attention. Sansa’s rape scene in season 5 of Game of Thrones is an egregious example of what I mean. It did not fit thematically with the story or her character progression. It simply existed for BuzzFeed headlines.

Berserk is, unfortunately, guilty of this edgelord shock value. It often plays into that identity of being known for being dark and blood-soaked. Because of this, there are unfortunately many story events that feel like over-the-top, gory, filler.

The biggest offender of this is the Trolls that appeared for, almost an entire volume. Long story short, Trolls kidnap women of the local village, Enoch, and murder anybody who gets in their way. In their hunt for trolls, two main characters, Casca and Farnese, get lost in the forest, and witness a few trolls raping the female inhabitants of the village. The female inhabitants then have their stomachs explode, giving birth to baby trolls.

I won’t post a picture of that scene for your stomach’s sake

This section is completely unnecessary, and I would honestly classify it as filler. The only thing that comes out of this mini-arc, is the reader becomes slightly more educated on how magic works in the world of Berserk, but, nothing else.

Another pointless example of shock value is when the group goes to a small village of faeries, and they begin engaging in “human activities.” To them, this means killing, burning, murdering each other and doing generally horrible things. This is completely unnecessary as well, as the activity they were doing previously was already unnerving. The concept of mimicking human activity already fell into the uncanny valley, and it didn’t need elaboration. This was here to mortify the reader, and nothing else.

Berserk as a whole uses its violence as a way to characterize its world. Keep in mind, these examples I’ve listed are outliers to the manga’s use of blood and gore, but they are important to bring up. As a story goes on, these stories usually try to one-up with something more obnoxiously edgy for the sake of meeting some imaginary quota. If the tone of the story changes to being more fantastical like Berserk has become, then focusing on slaying creatures and protecting people is what is important now. I’m fine with nudity and rape in a narrative if it feels appropriate and impacts the story and setting meaningfully.

I believe the Conviction Arc uses religious violence incredibly well, and works as a great reflection on religiously motivated terrorism. The gore and horrific imagery in torture chambers, and the mass plague ritual still resonate in my mind and leave me rattled. But, that was the intention. It was to make you feel uncomfortable for a story’s sake. It was to make you despise the new villain of that arc, Father Mozgus, and feel conflicted when that same murderous monster is shown engaging in acts of kindness. It makes you feel ambivalent. It is morality that is found in some of the greatest stories penned in the history of fiction.

My gripes with Berserk’s violence only apply when the story utilizes it for needless “stake raising,” or to appeal to the younger audience who believes more blood = more maturity. I just wanted to highlight that this fantastic series is guilty of this as well.

2.) Meandering Pace

So as a typical fanboy, I believe the Golden Age Arc to be the superior story arc when compared to the rest in Berserk. It has the most deliberate and intricate storytelling, and it ends on a phenomenal note that sets up the central conflict for the rest of the series. Griffith betrays Guts and his friends, rapes Casca, a woman who once loved him, and destroys her mind for good measure.

I’m going to need to censor a lot of this before I create the YouTube video

Then the story goes to random places. Guts, after surviving the mass slaughter of his comrades, swears to get revenge on Griffith and restore Casca’s sanity. But, Guts then abandons Casca to kill Apostles, which are demons who were once human. He goes and kills a bunch, but returns to the house Casca was staying at, to find out she has gone somewhere else. this is the beginning of the Conviction Arc. Guts is (rightfully) berated for this decision by the blacksmith who’s house he was staying at, and now he searches for Casca again.

As much as I love The Conviction Arc, and as much as it builds the world of Berserk by showing different factions and the religious politics of it all, it does feel somewhat unnecessary. All it forwards is the resurrection of Griffith into the Physical World after he become a member of the God Hand, but even that did not have sufficient build-up.

This is probably one of my favourite panels from the manga.

There is also the next arc after this one, which is called the:

F A L C O N O F T H E M I L L E N N I U M E M P I R E A R C

This arc is all about Guts wanting revenge on Griffith, but realizes that the dude is literally an assistant of God, and cannot be harmed by physical means. He then forgets about that goal, and focuses on restoring Casca’s mind. It is only then, that Puck, an elf that accompanies Guts, tells him that his queen can restore Casca’s mind…even though Puck had been with Guts ever since he went on that emo-loner journey and never thought to bring it up.

How long does it take them to find a boat to go to this island? About, 10 volumes or so until they ride a boat to Elfhelm.

But that’s not all! Once they boarded the boat, that is when the series decided to have major hiatus’. Now, I personally was not there to experience the pain of the “boat arc,” but according to the Berserk Hiatus chart, the main crew were on this boat for roughly 5 real-life years before readers saw them reach their destination. The fight with the sea god was very entertaining and intense, but it lasts almost an entire volume, and if it were cut from the story, not much would change.

I felt like more time could be spent during the F A L C O N O F T H E M I L L E N N I U M E M P I R E A R C developing Griffith’s conquest of Midland. His dynamic of being an incredibly overpowered monster who gracefully defeats all opponents in his path is pretty interesting, because not every character in his band are terrible people. The apostles he employs aren’t just demonic creatures bent on feasting on humans, but they have emotional needs and compassion.

One of humanity’s saviours?

Nosferatu Zodd is a horrible person, but he is also an interesting character with a strong internal conflict and suspenseful motivation. There are lots of little touches that work to build the world and make the experience more engaging and immersive, but there is, at least to me, a bit too much edgy black swordsman-dude swinging a big sword at everything.

3.) Mistreatment of Farnese and Isidro

Farnese De Vandimion (Yes, I had to look this up) is introduced in the third major arc of Berserk, The Conviction Arc. She is the most interesting character to come out of this story. She is a noblewoman who was forced to lead a prestigious group of religious knights, called the Holy Iron Chain Knights, or HICK’s, if you want an abbreviation. She was called to this because tradition dictates that a woman must lead, regardless of past expertise. Farnese was selected against her will by her father, as her noble family were major financial supporters of the Holy See, and thus, wanted more prestige within their family.

Farnese was a victim of emotional and mental abuse. Everytime she would show emotions such as lust, desire, greed, or anything seen as “sinful” in the eyes of the Holy See, her father would force her to repress those emotions. This led Farnese to have an obsession with fire, as she believed it was the only way to purify and cleanse anything. She burnt her house down, burnt property, and even engaged in burning heretics alive. Like I said, this arc has a lot of gruesome imagery. Religious killings make me queasy and enraged, what can I say.

A potent example of her repressed sexual urges come when she is possessed by demonic spirits around Guts. This puts her into a delirious trance, and she begins to engage in intercourse with Guts’ massive sword, Dragonslayer. I’m not making this up.

It’s a disturbing image, but a powerful scene. It isn’t just W0AH DIZ MANGA IS EFFED UP!!!!! It hyperbolizes her inner feelings by bringing forth her repressed emotions via physical violence. She takes her complex emotions and translates them into physical pain. She explains complicated mental thoughts into a sensation, regardless of how unpleasant it is.

She was never enamored with the Holy See, and she even realizes the horrid acts she has committed as a child, and as a representative of the Holy See. She understands her privilege compared to the impoverished peasants of Berserk, and wants to do better for the world. By meeting Guts, she realizes how minuscule and selfish her world view is, and she desires to broaden her perspective on life, its beauty, its depravity, and its horror.

But, after she cuts her hair in an act of symbolic defiance and renewed identity, her complexity disappears, and you realize, as a character, she does not have much personality. My favourite part about her are her complex emotions and history, but when I consider who she is as a person, and how her mannerisms are compared to the rest of Guts’ group, she is easily the most bland character.

In the F A L C O N O F T H E M I L L E N N I U M E M P I R E A R C, she goes through another minor character arc of inadequacy when compared to Guts’ companions, and that is about all the development she receives. She visits her family again and there is an interesting dynamic there, but we as readers do not see her grow or develop into her own person. I can describe Casca as fierce, determined, but also socially awkward and loving of those close to her. I can describe Schiercke as somewhat prideful, but also innocent and wise. Farnese is bland.

In the second half of the manga series, Farnese’s most notable feat is being able to keep Casca calm and contained. She is a sidekick to a much more interesting character.

One may ask why I do not complain about how Casca’s character was viciously changed. There is a fundamental reason why Casca going from a strong woman to a braindead plot device does not bother me: Casca went through the most traumatic experience imaginable, and she had her mind broken because of it. Would you be fine if you saw everyone you ever loved eaten by demons in front of you, stripped by said demons, and then raped TWICE by them? She isn’t herself anymore because of a major story event, and her broken mentality is a major driving force for the narrative.

Rather than blossom into a fascinating character, she is mistreated, and turned into a bland girl who fantasizes about how Guts is such a cool dude.

Another character I didn’t care much for, and one I feel that has wasted potential is Isidro. In terms of backstory, Isidro is about as generic as you can get: he is a child who felt out of place at home, and left his parents in search of adventure. I actually don’t mind this backstory, as not every character has to be incredibly complex. He’s a nice relief to the other characters of Berserk.

His problem is similar to Farnese’s, in that he rarely grows or matures. Rather than blossoming into a responsible man, he stays as a short-tempered, comic relief character. His combat ability grows, but that doesn’t really matter to a story. In his defense though, he starts from nothing, and does become a reliable, competent member of Guts’ companions. But there is almost nothing to him, other than being a frequent punchline for jokes.

I feel that Isidro could have been an interesting insight into the common folk in Berserk. You don’t see much of the peasants, so having Isidro there could be a chance for stories of regular life, its mundanities, and its pleasures. But, Isidro never reveals anything personal, and he is always present, but you rarely notice him. He’s often in the back joking or being antagonized by Puck, and I feel he could be so much more.

My section on Isidro is much shorter than Farnese’s because, despite being in 200+ chapters of the story, there really isn’t much to this character, which, is a shame.

4.) Weak World

When I think of the best fantasy worlds, I think of worlds like The Continent from The Witcher, Forgotten Realms, New Vegas in Fallout New Vegas, Auldrant in Tales of the Abyss, and Arcadia in Skies of Arcadia. These places are all unique, have believable people and systems in place, and they all include memorable set pieces and locations. They have great lore and history as well, and laws of nature that govern its politics, magic, and conflicts. In short, great worlds feel lived-in.

Berserk, while excelling in some of these factors, is definitely lacking in others. Let’s run down the factors I just listed, and see how Berserk holds itself up. Yes, this will be a sub-list in an article which is a list. This is 2017, people.

Uniqueness

Some concepts endemic to Berserk are fantastic, while others are fairly generic. The Behelit, to me, is the most interesting artifact in the world of Berserk. When a person has desires strong enough, or they are brought to their absolute breaking point, they can activate the Behelit.

Doing so will give you the option to sacrifice the people in your life closest to you and become an apostle: half-demon, half-human. This is a symbolic gesture of ridding yourself of human love and happiness, and embracing your inner depravity. It is one of the most terrifying and fascinating artifacts in fiction.

But, other than the Behelit, there aren’t many aspects of Berserk’s world that differentiate it from any other fantasy setting. Which, admittedly, is absurdly difficult to do, given the glut of fantasy settings in the written sphere. A lot of Berserk’s creatures are taken from religions, folklore, or other settings and given a unique twist, but not unique enough to outdo the competition.

Although, the design for a lot of the apostles and horrific creatures in Berserk are very detailed. No two creatures look the same, and that takes an incredible level of talent, regardless of the production.

People

I love the commoner’s and peasants in Berserk. They are realistic and believable for a setting full of pillaging, murder, and rape. They search for any quick solution to their problem. In an impoverished setting, it makes sense why a villager would become enamored with faith. It makes sense that the starving parent sells their child into slavery, regardless of how horrendous that act is. It makes sense that the plague infested citizens view Mozgus as a god, when they see him sprout wings and fly, telling them to burn Casca.

Unfortunately, civilians in Berserk very rarely offer any world-building information. They are there to further the plot, and that’s a bit of a shame. Insight into the world of the everyman is, at least I believe, integral to building a powerful world. I love Fallout New Vegas, because it feels like everybody has a place there, regardless of how mundane it is. You meet hunters, farmers, and people trying to attain power.

Don’t get me wrong though, the named characters in Berserk are always interesting. They have motivations, personality, and goals to uphold. Overall though, the individuals in Berserk’s world are great.

Locations

This is where the world of Berserk begins to fall flat. None of the locations or warring nations in Berserk are very interesting. Other than the first arc, the Golden Age Arc, there is little exploration of the politics of kingdoms. Berserk is more so about adventures and conquering. It is more akin to Dungeons and Dragons, than it is Game of Thrones, despite its superficial similarities to Thrones.

But, aside from the gorgeous imagery, the world of Berserk doesn’t feel genuine. It just feels like a series of generic fantasy locations. Travel and conquest doesn’t matter if you don’t care for any place, or really know anything about it. I don’t know where a place like Midland is in relation to the Kushan Empire. I don’t know where Doldrey Castle is. I don’t know where Elfhelm is. There is no map, and you very rarely get any directions anywhere. It just feels like a lot of loose locations hardly strewn together with any cohesion, and it takes you out of the story. By having the locations of Berserk feel disconnected, the world feels fake and fabricated.

Again, all of the locations are illustrated beautifully, but few of them are memorable or striking. None of them have unique quirks or spectacular designs. I can’t tell you the difference between any country or castle.

It’s also damning that it feels like the world just has countries appear out of nowhere. The Holy See, for example, was never mentioned once before the conviction arc, and many years of story took place during that time. It especially seems off, since characters from Midland reference The Holy See in the Conviction Arc, which is strange, because it appears that the religious authority holds massive power over nobles. There is no concrete system, and the political climate seems to change rapidly off-screen. The politics of Berserk adapt conveniently to fit the narrative, and it just feels sloppy.

Lore and History

About the only history in this manga

There is almost no lore or history in Berserk. Other than a few text boxes describing the past of certain items or events, there is hardly anything. This is tragically a problem with the manga medium, as almost all of its story is conveyed through dialogue, and not walls of text, but a lack of history does not give Berserk’s world an identity. Berserk focuses more on the present, and history is made through characters’ actions. This unfortunately does not lend Berserk’s superficial medieval fantasy setting any advantage other than hellish monsters.

Laws of Nature

This category is kind of vague, but it is the physics, chemistry, and natural qualities of a world that help give it an identity. I genuinely enjoy the concept of magic in Berserk. Having a magic system that neccessitates preparation and extensive knowledge makes it seem so important, and allows spells to feel important.

Berserk has some fairly strong supernatural elements, but doesn’t do anything more complicated with them other than present them as fodder for Guts to swing his big sword at. Characters with magical abilities are also present, and the anime aesthetic lends itself to being more fantastical. But, like the world of Berserk, magic abilities seem to come to random characters completely unexplained.

The separation of planes of reality is slightly interesting, but it has been done in many fantasy settings before. Berserk does not try to expand on these concepts or innovate them, but rather, constrains its narrative by following them.

5.) Yugioh Battle Discussions

This one personally bothers me, but I feel there are too many Guts vs. any opponent scenes. My favourite battles are those where there are multiple participants, or those which have a lot of strategy behind them. Guts fight scenes are always over with him crushing his opponents with a few swings. There aren’t any memorable fights, but that’s okay, because Berserk isn’t about the individual battles. Combat is a means to an end to progress the story. Combat itself, does a wonderful job, in telling stories.

What bothers me, is when Guts has his fight scenes with any opponent, his motley crew are always on the side, gawking and providing commentary. It seems a little out-of-place for Berserk, and takes away a lot of tension from battle scenes. Having Guts swing a sword, and then a cutting to a character commenting on how well he swung that sword, doesn’t really feel necessary to me.

To clarify, I am not condoning reaction shots from characters. A lot of powerful moments are amplified when it cuts to characters being shocked about the strength of an attack. It lets the reader know that what they are seeing is not normal, and it keeps fights intense and exciting.

It feels odd that this happens a lot, because it invalidates a lot of Berserk’s side characters by forcing them to remain on the sidelines. Rather than participate and gain their own moments of glory, they are relegated to cheering on the main character man do his thing. It feels like wish-fulfillment for the reader. It’s a cheap and lazy tactic for the reader to cheer on Guts and feel like they too, are the super badass man XD.

6.) Harembae

Harem anime is the most basic, fanservice thing you can do. Make a male main character, and every girl loves him and wants to be with him for some reason. I’d be guilty in saying I don’t indulge in it. Persona 5’s confidant system enables you to develop a harem, there is no way around it.

But when a harem forms in a story that takes itself really seriously, it becomes extra noticable. Berserk has a lot of anime elements, but it doesn’t contain many cliches. The aforementioned YuGiOh battle cries in the background are one of them, and the harem is another.

Having Farnese and Shiercke develop crushes on Guts seems weird and out of place. I can understand Shiercke liking Guts because he shows her kindness when others barely did, but Farnese’s affection seems to appear out of nowhere.

Guts pretty much dismantles Farnese’s entire worldview, kidnaps her and uses her as ransom to escape the Holy See, and shows pretty much no care for her. He isn’t mean or dismissive of her, but he just does not seem to love her at all.

Shiercke’s affection could add a lot to her charcter if she was balancing her innocent kindness, adolescent crush, and respect for Guts. It would be a fascinating look into complex emotions of adoration and love that human beings, especially tumultuous teenagers, experience. But, it gets relegated to “she wants his big muscles.”

What makes it even more frustrating, is Guts clearly loves Casca. So much of the manga is spent developing their relationship, so the harem is ultimately pointless. Shiercke and Farnese won’t win Guts’ affection, and if they did, it would undermine the entire purpose of Guts’ journey. It would hurt the story if Guts stopped loving Casca and loved the others.

The harem also plays into the pointless and childish wish fulfillment method of making Guts seem like a better character. It allows the reader to think “Ooh! Since i impose myself onto big sword man, all ladies love me too!” It’s a superficial manipulation tactic, and it cheapens the story.

It ESPECIALLY hurts Farnese, because it takes away the strong character she was, and just becomes a token of affection for Guts. She becomes a friendzoned trophy wife, and it’s just childish.

BIG OL’ WRAP UP

I know it sounds like I hate Berserk, but that’s the opposite of the truth. I adore this series, and I would give it an 9/10. The issues I listed above don’t ruin the series, but prevent it from becoming that perfect 10 that it could be. But, the series isn’t over yet so maybe these issues can be rectified. Maybe there can be a bonus edition of the series that details the world, its lore, and its natural systems. Maybe now that Farnese and Shiercke know that Casca and Guts were intimate in the past, they will ditch their unrequited love and become stronger individual characters.

I wanted to highlight what I viewed as worthy criticism for this manga, as people continuously call it a perfect 10/10. It’s easy to get complacent and ignore issues as the story goes on. There are so many other factors that make me love this series, and I will continue to folow it until the day I die. Because it will probably take 50 years to actually end.

“Tom Nook is SOOOOOOO nasty and a crook! He’s a money grubbing Tanooki! He rips you off! He’s got a monopoly!”

I’ve had enough. Tom Nook has been given a bad rep by the gaming community, and it isn’t deserved. I will list key arguments and refute them to the best of my ability. My big balled boy needs some love.

Argument #1: He forces property on you against your will

THIS IS FINE.

When you first move into town in Animal Crossing, you are given a choice of where you wish to place your house. Tom Nook walks with you around town as you inspect which place would be best for you. You then erect a house, and Tom Nook charges you a mortgage for it.

The big complaint, is that you have no say in buying this house, and that you are signed off into debt against your will. Now, let me ask you a very scientific question that many people are unable to answer:

Where would you live?

In the very first Animal Crossing, Tom Nook even questions why you brought no money moving into a town that you knew prior you were going to. Your character had to have known that he needed money to live there, so why didn’t you bring any? You bring like, what, 1000 bells into this town? That’s less than what most bugs sell for in this game. It’s questionable at best.

Well, in your time of welfare, Tom Nook OFFERS you a place immediately, as long as you do some mundane chores for him. He gives you a home, and a place to sleep in when none of the other villagers would likely be willing to help you. They would see this unemployed bum move in, notice he’s a different species than him, and probably ostracize him for the rest of his stay in town.

Tom Nook does his best to accommodate you and make you feel like you belong in this tiny village full of weeds and people who think Sharks for Shirts is a fair trade.

#2 I’m Always in Debt!

This cannot be argued. This is the truth. Tom Nook, puts you into debt, and in every other game than New Leaf, he forces you to upgrade your house, putting you further and further into debt. However, this stems from the claim in my previous point: You moved into a town with NO MONEY, NO RELATIVES, absolutely nothing, and expected things to be perfect? Why didn’t you read the fine print or prepare for a massive decision like a move into a new town? Why did you even need to move? To avoid your debt collectors from your previous town, too?

But, yes, Tom Nook does put you in debt. However, can I ask you when you need to pay this debt off? What’s that? You have infinite time to pay your debt that you got yourself into off? This debt that Tom Nook NEVER pressures you to pay? This debt that can be ignored for days, months, and years at a time? The debt that I honestly forgot about when I realized that I could accumulate all of it, then pay it off?

The threat of his debt is never present, because there is never a deadline. There is no interest on it. Unlike student loans or a mortgage, you aren’t forced to make small payments towards your house cost. This means you can put your funds towards furniture, clothes, and gifts for your friends. You can focus on bettering your life before you are ready to make that commitment.

#3 He Makes You Live in a Tent In New Leaf!

Living Like Larry

Tom Nook puts you in a tent, because you weren’t expected to come. You’re lucky you were able to get any housing at all in your situation. While you selected a place to build your house, of course they need time to build it. These things don’t happen immediately, they happen overnight!

The tent is temporary, and honestly, you can pay it off in a day. And guess what? In New Leaf, you aren’t even forced to pay a house upgrade unless you really want it!

#4: His prices are extortion!

It’s called an economy. Supply and Demand. Tom Nook meets the villagers supply for silly shirts and tools. If Tom Nook was never present, you would not have been able to acquire the tools necessary to grow your town or your home. Without Tom Nook and his catalogue, how could anyboy alter their house how they desire? The player, and the animal villagers that inhabit need Tom Nook as a location to sell their materials.

If you think Tom Nook charges you too much for furniture and other necessities, go to Gracie’s store. 100000+ bells for a shirt? Do something smarter and use it to put a down payment on a house. Tom Nook provides affordable prices for all, and does not discriminate on species.

 

(Now that my ad for Tom Nook’s sign is done, maybe he’ll reduce my loan…)

Animal Crossing New Leaf is one of the best video games ever made. Notice how I didn’t say “one of my favourites.” No, this game is, in my opinion, one of the greatest video games ever created. I say this with no hyperbole.

Animal Crossing doesn’t have the best gameplay ever. Animal Crossing doesn’t have the best story ever, hell, it doesn’t really have one at all. Animal Crossing isn’t even the most innovative game series ever. But Animal Crossing evokes something. Animal Crossing makes you feel something that other games can’t do.

Comfort.

Everything about the game is designed around the one goal: The evoke comfort and safety in the player. All the gameplay mechanics and systems aren’t made to test the player’s abilities, but rather, to invoke relaxation. This may sound fairly silly, as many other alternatives can provide comfort and relaxation. Family, good times with friends, calm music, all of this can do the job. Well, not quite. Animal Crossing evokes a particularly special kind of comfort and escapism. There are tons of subtle factors that make Animal Crossing different from these specific types of escapism.

SO LET’S OUTLINE THEM, SHALL WE?

The Soundtrack

Animal Crossing OST’s are as simple as they get. They are peaceful, 1-2 minute loops with very few instruments. Each in-game hour has a different track to evoke a mood you’re meant to feel. 4PM will have an upbeat tempo to keep you motivated throughout the day, while 1AM will have a very slow, mellow tune to evoke relaxation and stillness. On their own, many of these songs aren’t exactly what you’d listen to on transit or in your car, but as atmospheric, supplemental music to another task, it works phenomenally.

But other game’s have relaxing soundtracks, what makes these so special? Well, their simplicity lends to the theme of innocence permeating throughout Animal Crossing. None of the songs are bombastic or take you by surprise. All of the songs suggest positive, wholesome themes like happiness, openness, and humility. I know it sounds weird to read this, but Animal Crossing’s soundtrack is focused towards specific goals and evoking specific emotions.

 

In high school, for example, if I had a really stressful day and needed to unwind when I got home, Animal Crossing was the perfect coping mechanism. I would always usually open it up around 4PM, hear the upbeat, simple jingle, and begin my daily routine. I would organize my home, talk to my villagers, see the daily catalogues, and my mind would clear. See, I also had a pretty nasty medical condition where I would get headaches frequently. High School would amplify these headaches greatly, and they would often be debilitating. But, popping in headphones, hearing the calming tracks at any time of the day, and just, relaxing always cleared my head. It was more potent than Advil or any drug.

Parents, if you want your children to stay away from alcohol or drugs, just give them Animal Crossing. It works wonders.

Each track also evokes a feeling you generally feel during the time of day. Regardless of whether or not you’re a night owl or not, at 4AM, anybody can relate to the feeling of horror or chills. Like, in the still night, that there can be somebody watching you, ready to kill.

This song exemplifies that feeling. It’s 4AM, none of your villagers are awake, all stores are closed, nothing is running. So, why are you awake? The game is reflecting your isolation, your paranoia, your fear.

I’ve even had friends come up to me and say Animal Crossing’s music reflects their emotions incredibly well. It helped them with their depression and loneliness by showing those complicated topics in an easily digestible form. Loneliness manifested within a video game, and I think that, for a soundtrack to have that power, is incredible.

No Story

How does no story make Animal Crossing a great game? What’s the point to keep you going? Goals. Small goals, big goals, inconceivable goals, or nothing at all. Animal Crossing drops you into a town, it gives you a small house and some tasks, and you’re expected to pay it off. Only, you don’t have a time limit to pay this off. You can go say hello to your fellow villagers, visit Tom Nook’s store or the Mabel Sisters to design a new shirt or hat. It’s all very cute and wholesome. There are no pressures or deadlines, but rather, goals that the player sets at their own pace. You could develop a daily routine and schedule, you could meet with friends locally and online, you could do whatever you wanted, whenever.

That type of freedom allows for player-driven stories, and a variety of motivations to be acknowledged. Some people may wish to become the best mayor, designing projects and funding their creation for the most beautiful, luxurious town there is. Some people become designers, and post their designs on Pinterest and Tumblr. Due to the immense customization for designs, some of these are fantastic.

Dapper outfit!

My personal story when I used to play Animal Crossing was to make as much money as possible. I still remember getting excited catching sharks and barred knifejaws, and getting depressed at the bombardment of Sea Bass. I wasn’t into catching bugs because it never made me much money. I was really uncreative, so I never bothered to theme or customize my house. I just got varieties of furniture that “looked cool” to a 10-year-old. I concerned myself with a specific goal, and I had fun doing it. Animal Crossing has the systems in place to facilitate desires. There are no consequences for not pursing a different goal. If you want to live in the smallest house and resist the capitalist regime, then go for it. Go catch butterflies, you don’t need to eat food in this world.

Even as a child, I abused my Nintendo DS’ internal clock to form my own time travel stories. Like, I would set it 3 years in the future and give myself a new outfit, seeing which villagers are still there and how much they remember me. I would draw constellations in the sky at the Museum Observatory and pretend they were prophecies of an apocalypse. I’d set the timer to be 7PM so it would be sunset, or, as I called it, “The Apocalypse.”

The world is uh, ending.

But these are just silly stories I made when I was a kid. When I got older and picked up New Leaf, I ditched away those old habits and made it essential to experience the game with friends. We would visit each others towns, give gifts, and try to improve everything. It was like we were a team making our town’s the best they could be!

Anybody’s journey in Animal Crossing is their own, since it is so peaceful and open. Let me know if you have any of your own personal stories as well.

Characters and Villagers

Animal Crossing would be an incredibly lonely experience if it weren’t for the characters residing in it. I can only handle fishing and bug catching on my own for so long before I need some social interaction. Thankfully, the plethora of villagers who move into your town add a lot of necessary breaks and tasks to a day.

I’m a big fan of villagers providing you daily tasks, as it keeps incentivizing the player to return for more Animal Crossing. Although I am not a fan of these villagers trying to swindle me into stupid deals. Believe it or not, a shark for a pear is not a fair deal. Please stop trying to convince me otherwise.

Each villager has their own personality and unique appearance too, so you can get a multitude of responses that personalize your town. The best part, is that none of the villagers pressure you into anything. They just mind their own business, and if you feel like talking to them, they’re open to conversation. Sure, they don’t work or contribute to the town’s economy, but, they don’t talk to me when I don’t want them to, so it balances out.

Unless they give you…this look:

Then just get out of there.

But the villagers’ lack of initiative plays into the theme of comfort and relaxation. Nothing comes at you in the game like it’s an absolute necessity. When I play Stardew Valley, there are a lot of timed systems that require stressful planning and time management. Animal Crossing’s town members don’t follow a strict schedule, and they can often be found relaxing in their homes.

And when villagers are set on a specific schedule, it never changes depending on the day. They go to bed at realistic times and they are available at any other time. It isn’t different if it’s raining or a different day of the week, and you don’t need to religiously follow a guide to find villagers. They are there when you need support, not a burden on you.

So who’s my favourite villager?

My boy Brewster.

Pace

Animal Crossing’s time follows the real-life time. This means that, if it is 5:09PM in the real world, then it is 5:09PM in Animal Crossing. This is the most divisive aspect of Animal Crossing, and it turns people away from the game. I believe this purpose adds quite a lot of hidden charm. Let me explain:

Animal Crossing very rarely utilizes deadlines for tasks. This is because deadlines naturally create stress, and Animal Crossing does not want you to feel like you’re doing a job. If a deadline is given, it’s usually a fairly simple task with a generous amount of time. You have 10, real life hours to talk to an NPC and deliver them a shirt. Fail to do this, and you get slightly reprimanded. There is no consequence, but there is a benefit if you seek it. There’s no morally ambiguous “IF YOU DON’T DO THIS, THIS CHARACTER WILL DIE” bullcrap.

Some people dislike the lack of conseuqences, but remember, everything in this game is here to be peaceful and wholesome. This is a deliberate decision to ensure that players are always welcome at any time of the day.

My personal favourite aspect of the real-life clock system is how well it mirrors real life surroundings. When I’m huddled under my blanket at 1 in the morning on a freezing winter day, and I see that experience translated into video game form, I create a connection with it. I feel comforted and nostalgic by what I see. When it’s 8PM on a summer day, and I see the sun setting slightly, it warms my heart. It’s a nostalgic sight, because the fantasy of a video game lets me fantasize about great memories in the past. If I can’t go outside and experience these memories at the moment, Animal Crossing provides that alternative. It’s a comforting world that reflects reality, but with talking bears and hedgehogs.

Always Waiting For You

Going off of the theme of universal time progression, Animal Crossing doesn’t really change much on a day-to-day basis. Other than holidays and small little fun events, you don’t really miss much if you put the game down for months at a time. All that really changes, is plants die, some villagers may move, and your town looks like this:

But, really, these changes are minimal. Animal Crossing lets you pick up right where you left off with minimal effort. It doesn’t really discourage you going away from the game. It’s just a light slap on the wrist. It lets you know that a lot of time has passed. Even the villagers remark on how long you have been gone for, and they say that they missed you. It’s nice, knowing that there are people there to return to.

As obnoxious as the villagers can be sometimes, they’re always supportive and friendly. They aren’t doing anything terrible.

Animal Crossing is always waiting for you, but not in a creepy way. Animal Crossing welcomes anybody with open arms, and the glut of positive fanart and happy community it has formed in the gaming world is testament to that. Seriously, you won’t find people more wholesome than the Animal Crossing community. It’s a game that breeds cooperations and family, and that is reflected in the positivity it exudes.

That’s why Animal Crossing New Leaf is one of the best video games ever.

So I maxed out all Persona 5 confidants (with a little help from a guide), and they were my favourite part of the game. So much so, that they have compelled me to create my very first Top 10 list.

Two criteria need to be met for every confidant: How much I enjoyed the overall story, and how useful the ability was. I also didn’t want to rank every confidant, because that would allow you to find out number 1 through elimination. Furthermore, stat barriers won’t be a determining factor in my rankings.

Or, you could just, scroll to the bottom of the page and spoil the number 1.

ANYWAYS, ONTO THE LIST!

10.) Makoto Nijima

B-BUT SHE’S THE BEST CHARACTER IN THE GAME!

This statement is somewhat true. But let me ask you this: who is her confidant about? This personal relationship that you are meant to form with a character isn’t really between the player and Makoto. You spend almost the entire confidant assisting Makoto with her student council duties. It isn’t really the two of you getting closer, but more so the player tagging along as third wheel. It is pretend dating, that ends up becoming real dating. Other than one rank in which Makoto realizes her future goals through her sense of justice, not much of the focus is on her. The player doesn’t assist Makoto with these realizations, but rather, she finds them herself.

And an argument can be made that Makoto is independent and it makes sense that your presence would help her realize who she truly is. But that’s the problem: you’re just present with her while she does all the cool stuff. Sometimes you defend her and provide assistance, but most of the time, the moral support you give is just being there with her. It doesn’t feel like I have an active role in this confidant.

Makoto’s confidant ability is okay, but it isn’t very spectacular. Enhanced analysis of enemy weaknesses and their moves is nice on harder difficulties, but on normal, I didn’t really need it very much. I can definitely see how some people can use it to strategize which persona and characters to use.

So, through all that negativity, why is she on the list at number 10? Because her character IS still great, and the moments you share with her are fantastic. Conformity and societal pressures on a really smart, pretty girl in Japan is rough. Makoto doesn’t really know how to socialize properly because of her previous haughty attitude, so helping her break out of that shell and connect with more people is fascinating. I just wish the journey to accomplish this goal was a bit more polished. Just a teensy bit.

9.) Haru Okumura

Why does Haru get so much hate? Seriously, I see a bunch of vitriol going around that she is a throwaway character, she isn’t interesting, she comes late in the game and she isn’t very useful. To that I say: Have you even talked to her? The vegetables she grows are some of the most valuable items in the late game. Her gun skills in battle are incredibly useful, and combine that with skills like Cripple that increase the gat potential? Triple Down is one of the best damage dealing moves in the game, and her ability to heal party members’ status effects is fantastic. It beats Ann and Morgana’s ability to do so, that’s for sure.

And what’s wrong with her character? I hear people say she’s completely bland, but when you compare her to the other characters, she’s clearly distinct. Haru is good-hearted, she cares about others, she always shows compassion for others. Even when her father dies, she never complains about anything, and she is resilient to it all. How she hasn’t had a psychotic breakdown over the pressures from others to run a company as a 17-year-old girl is mind-boggling.

“oh, b-but her confidant becomes available so l-late! Think of my perfect run!”

Dude, every time you talk to the girl, she is available to rank up right after. The complete opposite can be said for every other party member in the game. I ranked Haru up fully before Futaba, and she was available 2 months earlier.

And Haru’s struggle is brutal! Who wants to be forced into a marriage and inherit a company they don’t want? She was originally meant to be married off for political reasons, and was given no business training. If you were handed majority shares of a massive fast food company, how well do you think you would do? Would you be able to handle the pressures of people constantly trying to manipulate you for their own gain? I wouldn’t.

So leave Haru alone. Her ability is one of the best in the game, she’s a great party member, and her confidant has actual struggle.

8.) Hifumi Togo

SHE IS HERE MOSTLY BECAUSE OF THE ABILITIES SHE PROVIDES.

I personally found the story for Hifumi’s confidant to be…odd. She is built up as some legendary Shogi player who doesn’t want the immense fame she is attracting, and, the confidant kind of just repeats that for ranks 4-7. Nothing really develops until you get the bombshell that Hifumi’s mom has been rigging all of the matches she’s been doing to boost their family fame and fortune. Eventually, you as a Phantom Thief, change her mom’s heart to reveal that all of the matches are fixed, and Hifumi realizes she isn’t talented.

But what I like about her is she takes all of the criticism and backlash, and uses it to strengthen her. She doesn’t whittle away and let herself be destroyed. She betters herself at Shogi, and she betters herself as a person. This is a clean start for her, and genuine losses provide more knowledge than constant wins. It’s a fairly simple, but enjoyable story.

But her confidant ability is by far, one of the most useful in the game. The ability to switch out party members adds a much needed layer of strategy to battles. Not starting out with this ability also makes it feel like it’s a reward, and later abilities she provides, like always guaranteeing escape, is legendary.

7.) Shinya Oda

Shinya is a kid who makes total sense within a 2017 context. It makes sense why he likes the Phantom Thieves, because they are a cool rebel group that fights against clearly awful adults. He buys Phantom Thieves merchandise and gatchapon. He IS a Japanese 13-year-old boy.

Yet, what’s most compelling to me about Shinya is the overwhelming pressure he faces from an overachieving mom. I used to work a lot with children, and I know the negative effects a lack of compassion can have on a child. Shinya also has no father figure, so his entire lifestyle has been him and a stressed mother. To their livelihood, losing is not an option and they need to take every step they can to ensure survival in a costly Shibuya.

Therefore, acting like an older brother to Shinya and providing him positive support in his life is so endearing to me. I have worked with younger children myself who have damaged households, and knowing that you can make a positive contribution in a youth’s life means so much.

His ability is great too, allowing you to gat people late game effectively. Guns don’t become godlike until the last few months of the game, where you discover all their abilities and get Shinya’s power to down opponents with the gat.

Yes, this confidant is this high for a personal reason, but, it is my list. So, please understand.

6.) Morgana

I’ll be honest, I wasn’t a major fan of Morgana’s character from the start. I thought Morgana was arrogant and cocky. I thought Morgana was cruel to Ryuji and inconsiderate of others.

But I was a Fool, because all of this was intentional. Because Morgana changes. Morgana goes through a real character arc. Morgana goes from the assumption that he is using all of the Phantom Thieves for his own gain, to the realization that he is nothing without them. The Phantom Thieves are Morgana’s only friends in the world, and they are the only people who have ever cared for him.

So when Morgana throws them away, thinking he can fight every battle on his own, and he finds out his own limitations, it is an endearing moment. Morgana went from this annoying cat who follows you everywhere that dictates your sleep schedule to a true friend. I never thought once about Morgana’s constant presence, but once I grew to like him more, and he grew to be more kind and accepting of those who matter to him, I realized how precious the time spent with Morgana is. All of the subtle touches he adds in cutscenes matter a lot. And yes, his crush on Ann does still get on my nerves, but it thankfully diminishes over time.

Gameplay wise, you essentially get Morgana from the beginning of the game, but I began to weed him out completely for Makoto. Morgana’s healing is great if you want to play conservatively and need a healing net to ensure victory, but there are other characters who eventually match his healing abilities while being able to dish out more damage. So, Morgana got the shaft in the late game.

Cat buses are lit though.

5.) Toranosuke Yoshida

Yes, this character is not a young, beautiful anime boy/girl, but his confidant is one of my favourites. Being an assistant to an unpopular politician with a strong message is fascinating. The first time you meet Yoshida really says all about his character. You meet him working part-time at the beef bowl store. This is a politician, who eats at the same common restaurants as every other regular citizen. He doesn’t have any embezzled funds or high-end connections. He just notices your skill in memorizing orders and sympathizes with your struggle. He’s a politician that genuinely tries to connect with the people.

He’s not cruel either, but he’s a genuinely nice person who feels remorse for his past. Yoshida, 20 years prior to 20XX, engaged in shady political acts. He slandered opponents, embezzled funds, typical politician stuff. That should have marked the end of his career…

…until you find out that he didn’t actually do that. He was framed, and Yoshida believed he engaged in those practices on accident. He gained the nickname “No-Good-Tora”, which still triggers him over his past mistakes. But once the information is revealed that he did not do anything illegal, rather than tell this to the general public, he embraces the previous label of No-Good-Tora. Rather than show that he was an elitist member of society, he owns up to his mistakes, pretending they are still true. This works massively in his favour, as it shows him willing to atone and improve as a person. It is a level of honesty and transparency not seen in many politicians, and the bravery that takes is commendable.

Yoshida was also swayed to give up his campaign, as prospects of becoming Japan’s Prime Minister is nigh impossible. But rather than accept a cushy job as a political assistant, he sticks to his guns, and promptly gets destroyed in the election. But he’s happy, because his victory does not come in his political position, but that he was genuinely able to connect with people. He does care about Japan, and wants to make it better place for the everybody.

I also got his ability early on, and the power to persuade shadows more effectively supplemented the majority of my income. Forcing opponents to give into your demands through passionate communication is a lifesaver.

4.) Yusuke Kitagawa

Yusuke is one of my favourite Phantom Thieves. I have a soft spot for weird, eccentric characters who seek true artistic passion. Yusuke is an oddball who eats way too much and spends money on stupid, superfluous things. He’s basically all of my College friends.

But Yusuke is an incredbily talented artist, and without him the Phantom Thieves wouldn’t have a brand or a logo. He takes inspiration from everything and finds beauty all over the world. His confidant is you attempting to help him find his own artistic talents, and not mooch off of the skill of his previous, abusive mentor.

I feel that I have been in similar situations to Yusuke. I consider my writing to be my artform, and I notice when it is lacking. I can tell when it is soulless. I never want to sell myself out for fame and stay true to myself. If this blog or any of my YouTube channel stuff takes off, I do not want to become the corporate monster who focuses solely on profits.

Yusuke’s confidant also has the most memorable moments to me. A lot of confidants have ranks that kind of meld together. They tell an overarching story with few memorable moments and locations. Yusuke’s has you going on a canoe date with him in an attempt to capture romance, you go to a church with him and try to imitate crucifixion (yes, this is real), and you go on a sushi date with him. You work through his mental blocks and help him become better as a person.

Personally, I rarely used Yusuke in battle, as I favoured Ryuji for physical damage, but I was a card copying fiend. I took my persona creation very seriously, so being able to provide the best skills for my persona was essential. So Yusuke is a cool dude who’s relatable.

3.) Sojiro Sakura

God, this one was a pain to rank up, but it was so worth it. Sojiro’s confidant took a long time, but it was worth it. His feels like a narrative that would have taken 8 months to unfold. to have Sojiro open up to the main character gradually as he helps him with his life problems is touching.

Seeing Sojiro’s kindness towards Futaba was adorable as well. He’s a guardian who genuinely cares about her, and he grows to really care about the protagonist as well. His relationship with Futaba also shines light on the reason he takes the main character into his care. Maybe he always desired that close relationship with a child. Futaba was a reclusive shut-in, and likely didn’t talk much with Sojiro. Perhaps Sojiro saw the opportunity to help you reform into a proper member of society.

But Sojiro never knew how to be a proper parent. He is very laissez-faire when it comes to guiding his kids, and he realizes that method never worked. He was obessed with his work and livelihood that he never truly cared for the one’s who matter the most to him. This confidant helps him realize how he was mismanaging his time, and allows him to deepen his relationship with Futaba.

As described in my Persona 5 diaries, I am a coffee monster. And Sojiro’s ability to let you make coffee and curry were essential SP boosts for majority of the game. It was what let me max all confidants in my first playthrough, by limiting the amount of days needed to infiltrate a Palace. So, thank you Sojiro, for acting like an in-game curry dad.

2.) Futaba Sakura

This character could have been so easy to ruin. Futaba could have been a meme machine who is there to make people go “DID SHE JUST?!?!??” This character could have been a condescending asshole to everyone she encounters. But she isn’t. Futaba is nerdy, but she is really nice. She cares a lot for the people who matter to her.

Her nerdiness isn’t used to get weird thirsty internet dudes to like her, but to add to her personal charm. The writing in this game is so strong, that even anime and internet references that would make me roll my eyes feel natural in this game. Futaba is a person who very rarely socializes in real life, so she lacks that proper communication. There is reason for terrible memes, and even after changing her heart, Futaba still slips up and says oddities. Instead of, “Can I get closer?” She says “Me near, OK?” She’s just really cute.

Helping her get over her social anxiety and depression is also incredibly relatable to me. Having others be there for you is the best remedy for these mental blocks. She reminds me of myself when I was thirteen. I was struggling to understand the world and find my place in it. Her quest to become affluent within a mall with friends reminds me of nostalgic times when I was a teenager.

But it’s her abilities that are amazing. Being able to save time in Mementos, knowing which enemies have treasure, the random buffs in battle, the SP and HP recovery, It’s all amazing.

And she’s uber cute. Lowkey I regret dating Makoto over Futaba.

1.) Sadayo Kawakami

Thicc Sensei is my favourite confidant in the game. It’s the most unique, her struggle is the most brutal, and her kindness is insurmountable. For those who don’t know Kawakami’s story: She used to tutor a young boy in the after hours at high school. This boy’s grades were slipping heavily, and she wanted to provide aid. However, the boy has terrible grades because he had to work part-time jobs to supplement his parents horrible gambling addiction. This boy got no sleep because of his stressful situation, and in a fatigued stupor, walked into the road without looking both ways and got hit by a car. The boy died on impact.

Because of this, the boy’s parents blamed Kawakami for overworking him, and demanded reparations. They threatened Kawakami by taking her to court, which, in Japan, basically means the end of her teaching career. She would likely get her license revoked and live with a criminal record, even though the situation wasn’t her fault. The boy’s parents are completely ignorant to their gambling issues, and don’t even work for their own income. They rely solely on monthly payments from Kawakami.

Because of this, Kawakami needs to get a part-time job as a maid/escort. She isn’t hired just for cleaning and cooking, but she is hired to serve a person’s every needs. It’s incredibly creeping and degrading, but it is the only place that pays her considerably well.

Kawakami isn’t a mean person by any means. He is incredibly stressed and tired, which affects her mood. When I need a nap, I get snappy with everybody about everything, but Kawakami can show some kindness through her horrible situation. She was a confidant I genuinely really wanted to help. Her situation is dehumanizing and brutal. She is a helpless victim. If you didn’t step in and provide aid, she would maybe be miserable for the rest of her life.

I never enjoyed the romancing option for Kawakami. I felt it was disingenuous thing to romance somebody so much older than you. I feel like remaining as her most trustworthy student is the best scenario, however I understand if people need to quench their thirst.

So her confidant is one of my favourites, but her abilities are easily the best in the game. Being able to provide you precious free time is amazing. Making coffee and curry for free saved my life so many times for the later Palaces. Having time to slack off and make lockpicks in class is amazing.

Kawakami’s confidant is, to me at least, the best in Persona 5.

 

Netflix is currently continuing its conquest of all televised media and has gotten the rights to create a TV series based off of The Witcher novels.

My natural disposition towards video games being adapted into any other form of media ranges from skepticism to horror. However, The Witcher games were based off of a series of great fantasy novels, and it appears that the Netflix series is wisely choosing to adapt the novels as well. Because of this, I believe that this adaption can actually be strong, if it is handled correctly.

Speaking as a moderate fan of the series (played all 3 games and read the first 4 novels), I think I have a fairly strong understanding of what storytelling The Witcher franchise excels in.

SO ONTO THIS LOSER’S POINTLESS SUGGESTIONS THAT WILL GET IGNORED AND ULTIMATELY DON’T MATTER!

Method #1: Rely On Short Stories

The first two novels in The Witcher Franchise, The Last Wish, and The Sword of Destiny, were a series of short stories that were loosely chronological. They took place all over the world of The Witcher, called: The Continent. However, they all had a common procedure: they all followed the main character Geralt on a journey, and he had to solve an issue for somebody. The problem could be solved through swordplay and assassination, but it could also be done through negotiation and detective work. They were fairly simple, entertaining, pulp stories.

This format is perfect for a TV series. The stories never go more than 40 pages, which is perfect for a 1-hour timeslot on Netflix. If there isn’t enough material to cover in an episode, include some extended lore or characterization. Since the stories usually go at such a fast pace in the novels, and they often include a multitude of characters, give some of them distinct looks and personalities. It will help visualize and flesh out the world of The Witcher even more.

These question marks can be episodes

Beginning with an overarching story limits possibilities. Much like the progression of the novels, I believe it is a good idea to begin with the short stories to establish the world and the main characters who reside in it. Short stories have enough content contained in them individually to allow for strong episodes. By beginning with a long form narrative, the creators are trusting their audience to be committed to the narrative they weave, and it does not provide ample introduction into The Witcher’s thematic storytelling. The main drive for books 3-6’s overarching narrative takes time to develop, and the first season of this show can easily captivate its audience with unique and creative tales.

Method #2: Rely On Character Drama

There’s plenty of monster and human bloodshed to go around in The Witcher novels, but action was never the focal point of The Witcher. The Witcher focuses on the “why” instead of the “what.” What is the purpose for the scuffle between these individuals? What is the morality behind the decision to fight this group of bandits? Is it even worth the time, or will it only create more conflict?

The questions are more important in The Witcher than the answer. But don’t misconstrue my words – the action moments in The Witcher are great, as they are complimented well by the acrobatics and preparedness of the main character, Geralt.

This is also an opportunity to show Geralt’s multi-faceted qualities. I think it was a shame that the trailers for The Witcher 3 made the game look like thoughtless, edgy, grimdark garbage. It made Geralt into a super badass with no flaws and who slices up everything. This couldn’t be farther from his character in the novels, and the video games.

More often than not, Geralt’s meddling either solves nothing within a grand scheme, or it makes things worse for everybody involved. Geralt follows an archaic Witcher code of morality that does not mesh well with the contemporary standards. This causes his actions to clash with a lot of the public’s, and it paints him as a weird outsider. Geralt’s remorse for ever becoming a Witcher and the thought of others having to endure the process terrifies him. He’s unable to connect with many people, and regardless of his actions, his image within the public light is that of a monster.

Geralt and Yennefer

This is questionable morality that makes for fantastic television and discussion. Geralt, Yennefer, Dandelion, and Triss are characters who cannot be characterized by cliches, I cannot call Geralt a “misunderstood loner,” because that is dishonest to his character. I cannot call Triss the “loving best friend” because that fails to include her motives and other facets of her personality. It is easy to classify Yennefer as a cold, unforgiving raven, but that misunderstands her whole story.

These characters and their conflicts write themselves, and all it takes is a thoughtful adaptation.

Method #3: War and Politics Should Stay At Bay

I have a confession. I eventually gave up on The Witcher novels after I finished the fourth book. I did not do this because the books were bad, rather, because I didn’t enjoy the direction that the series took after the end of the 2nd book.

As discussed earlier, the first two novels consisted of short stories that were either loosely tied together, or not at all. The third novel began a continuous, epic narrative that followed political turmoil in the land, while many factions attempted to take control of Ciri for their own personal gain.

The personal drama the characters underwent was very interesting, and Ciri herself is a great character, but the board room meetings and the war talk bored me to tears. It also didn’t help that these factors weren’t a major part of the introductory novels, so I was not prepared to comprehend the regions, alliances, kingdoms, kings, rulers, and all of the other encyclopedic knowledge required of me. I wasn’t able to understand the land in relation to other lands, so I embarrassingly had to consult the official map of The Continent.

It’s sad how much I needed this

This isn’t a fault of the author Andrej Sapkowski (proud of myself that I didn’t need to Google the correct spelling.) This is just my own personal interpretation of what makes The Witcher special. I believe war and political drama are not The Witcher’s greatest boons. When the series focuses too much on jargon and kingdom names, it feels like a lite version of Game of Thrones. There is already a politically focused fantasy drama that is one of the biggest shows of this generation. When The Witcher focuses too heavily on its weakness, it loses its charm. Superficially, comparisons of “dark fantasy” are always made to Game of Thrones, and in trying to emphasize the political aspect of The Witcher, it hampers its own identity.

Method #4: Play Up The Mystery

So, what is The Witcher’s identity? What makes this fantasy story different from the hundreds of others? Well, a fascinating bit in the short stories is the detective work that Geralt needs to do to resolve conflict. This aspect of the novels is seen heavily in The Witcher 3 with the Witcher senses. This can be a fascinating storytelling method, where Geralt deduces his surroundings and comes to a conclusion. The audience will be following Geralt as he does this, so they can have their own shot at attempting to piece the mystery together themselves.

The Witcher Senses are a good way for us to get into Geralt’s way of thinking. It provides more insight into his character, and allows for more development of his abilities. His knowledge of creatures, and his deductions also provide great world building, and emphasizes the mystical creatures that are present in The Witcher.

Witcher senses lead to endless monologues of insults

The monsters Geralt encounters also provides him with his identity a monster slayer, and it shows that the process isn’t all just killing. It requires strategy, and it requires time to find a solution. Stories won’t be “go kill big bad.” Maybe Geralt will discover that the monster is intelligent and that it attacked local farm animals because it was desperate for food, and maybe this food shortage was caused by the local villagers. This could lead to a conclusion that isn’t Geralt swinging his swords but negotiating a peace treaty between the monster and the villagers. Perhaps it can lead to a mutual trade deal.

There are many possibilities that come from this form of storytelling. Don’t make the answers clear, keep the audience guessing, and it will keep them more engaged with the material.

Method #5: Smile a Little!

The Witcher can crack jokes! Geralt himself has a sarcastic sort of humour, and the villagers around him can say funny things. I never perceived The Witcher franchise as grimdark fantasy. The environments are too lush for that, and the tone of the stories are too whimsical. There are a lot of serious moments, as The Witcher is a fantasy and not a comedy tale, but there are a lot of humourous situations.

One of the best self-referential jokes in the game

People don’t care about Geralt’s relationships with Yennefer and Triss because they’re super stoic and talk about the plot. People care about them because they have chemistry, they smile and crack jokes together, and they deeply care for one another. These are positive emotions that resonate with people, and It’s important to show these as well. It’s best for the series to not take itself too seriously, and allow Geralt to have his signature sardonic wit, alongside other funny characters like Dandelion.

Method #6: European Roots Are Strong Roots

The final piece of The Witcher’s identity is its Pagan roots and mystical environments. It’s not often that you see raw, pure fantasy anymore. It’s rare to see fairies, goblins, orcs, and other tokens of the genre. But, regardless of their modern rarity, these are still cliches that have been over-utilized.

This is where The Witcher’s uniqueness comes in: it takes creatures that are very rarely used in the fantasy genre, and if it uses generic creatures, it tries to give them a new twist. For example, a troll under a bridge is a classic myth. But The Witcher’s version is an alcoholic troll who’s been ostracized by the local village and has had his wife murdered in front of him. He hides under that bridge because there is no place in the world for him, so he cannot explore. It takes the original fairy tale, but expands on it, and gives it a unique flavour.

This is a troll. Yup.

Personally, I think it’s fascinating to see folklore from cultures I have never seen before given life. But, I can easily see this becoming a problem if the budget isn’t high enough for this series. If cheap CG has to be done because Netflix skimped on The Witcher (which I fear may happen), then these creatures will lose their life and identity. The show will look cheap and lose its edge over other fantasy products.

It also helps that The Witcher franchise has a large established audience, and they would likely be more receptive to unique oddities within the universe. This is an ample opportunity to be creative and let artists flourish their talents. There isn’t really a modern fantasy series that focuses on monster hunting and tendencies, so this is a serious advantage.

Conclusion

So Netflix, let this series be humourous, keep war and politics out of the main story, focus on the characters and creatures’ narratives, and save an ongoing narrative for once you have established this universe.

PLEASE DON’T MESS IT UP.

This hurts to say, but Adventure Time is almost over. It has entered its final season and the ongoing narrative the show has weaved for 8 years is ending. It’s been one hell of a ride. Adventure Time is, well, timeless. It can be watched, re-watched, and it will likely be enjoyed by children and adults for generations to come. The show exhibited and innovated the cartoon medium in so many ways, and paved the way for a flood of fantastic cartoons in the 2010’s.

When the initial announcement hit that cancellation was imminent, I was actually happy. I thought, “Adventure Time would not become Spongebob, as it chose to actually wrap up its storyline.” Cartoon Network let the show that revived their popularity and positive image within the cartoon community finish. This was one of the many great things Adventure Time exhibited that was so different from other cartoons. Adventure Time’s life-spanning narrative was finally finishing.

But rather than be gloomy, I want to reflect on why this stupid show about a boy and his dog voiced by Wakka from Final Fantasy means so much to me. I want to think on the relatable characters and messages that were so important in helping me through my formative years.

The Personal Sob Story

If you want me to get into the aspects that made Adventure Time so unique and what led to its popularity, I recommend you skip this section. I will just be discussing my personal experience with Adventure Time and the positivity it has brought into my life.

Adventure Time released while I was still in my formative years. I was in this odd, bridging age where I was stopping watching cartoons and moving onto anime and other shows. Little did I know, 2006-2009 was going to be arguably the worst time for cartoons, so me finishing up Elementary was plagued with really lackluster entertainment. This time had shows that were littered with scat jokes, immature humour, obnoxiously loud laughter, and many repellents for anybody over the age of five. Filling my dumb child mind with entertainment was rough.

So I fell out of cartoons for a while and occupied myself with other forms of media. Anime, video games, novels, but, never cartoons. I grew into adolescence never feeling the urge to watch anything from YTV or Cartoon Network. I just kind of stopped watching TV as a whole.

I watched this. Weird times.

Now let’s flash forward to 2012. I’m trudging through high school, not really caring or contemplating anything. I was just doing what I needed to get by. Sporadically, I discovered My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, and that there is apparently a massive following for it that consists of mostly grown men. Perplexed, I did a little more research into the show and why people care about it so much. This “research” (watching the first season) made me reflect on what was actually a fairly solid TV show. A few days later, the Big Brother of Google caught wind of this 15-year-old boy watching a little girl’s cartoon and thought two things:

1.) This guy is weird.

2.) He would love Adventure Time.

So this video appeared in my recommendations. And many thoughts began to rush through my head. I thought “what is this show?” “Is that a dog?” “Why does it sound like Bender?” Naturally, I had to find out, so I went to the first episode of Adventure Time Season 1, entitled “Slumber Party Panic” and was…interested. It was confusing and non-sensical…but it was enrapturing. A Princess who’s hair is made of Bubblegum inventS a serum that turns dead candy into undead candy, and the only way to beat them is to cover the non-zombie candies’ eyes with blindfolds as they beat the undead candy like pinatas? I was confused, but I was totally into it at the same time! It was so unapologetic with its oddness, that it became charming. Nothing made sense, but it somehow felt like the insanity was understandable in an established world. It was controlled chaos, if that makes any sense.

If you want a fun activity, describe the plot of any Season 1 and 2 Adventure Time episodes literally. Just try to include as many details as you can. The absolute absurdities that will come out of your mouth will astound you.

So naturally I watch the second episode to try to find some answers to what happened in the first episode, and I find nothing. The kingdom altering events were completely forgotten. The zombie invasion was never brought up, and the two titular main characters, Finn and Jake, just went on another adventure. But I wanted to follow these two characters on their adventures. I kept watching more and more, until I realized, I finished the whole first season in a single day. I couldn’t even begin to process everything that I witnessed, nor could I even really rationalize it to myself. I kept telling myself “It’s a fantasy world, it is all fictional.”

I eventually learned to stop giving into rationality and let myself be carried by these two likeable characters and the creative and beautiful environments they visit. Every episode was different, and more importantly, every episode made me smile. Every episode entertained me genuinely. It had incredible passion, and it didn’t seem vapid whatsoever.

The show put my troubled adolescent mind at ease, and let me know there was a large community who enjoyed exactly the same content that I did! I eventually became enraptured in the fandom, and I grew to partake in a lot of community activities. It seemed that everybody was friendly about Adventure Time. This was likely due to its lack of polarizing topics, instead opting to focus on humour and relatable drama.

Adventure Time also got me back into cartoons. I had no idea there was a boom occurring in terms of great animated entertainment. Adventure Time initiated the storm of fantastic shows like Regular Show, Gravity Falls, Steven Universe, We Bear Bears and so much more. Heck, pretty much any new show that comes out seems to have the tagline of “made by this ex-Adventure Time employee”.

This greatness was made by an ex-Adventure Time employee

So Adventure Time got me back into cartoons and fandom, and it helped me to become more engaged with the media I consume. It was already off to a great start.

Actually Rated E for Everyone

The tagline, “E for Everyone”, doesn’t really mean that. It means the entertainment is kid friendly and kid oriented. Well, Adventure Time is one of those oddities that appeals to every possible demographic. It doesn’t matter the religion, culture, age, race, or whatever. The show is so creative it establishes its own fantasy world with its own drama, meaning polarizing topics are rarely the focus. Adventure Time’s conflicts are often Person vs. Person, or Person vs. Self. If it has drama, it is relatable drama about identity, feeling ostracized, or feeling inadequate. These are all emotions that everybody feels, and they are hidden under a superficial layer of a children’s cartoon.

I’ve often heard people say Adventure Time is very nostalgic and has many throwbacks to the 90s style of animation. I personally do not see it, and I feel that Adventure Time is 100% original. Adventure Time does not pander to specific audiences, it doesn’t (and thank God for this) use terrible internet memes to mask the lack of humour. It has actual timeless jokes that stem from character interactions. It doesn’t rely on references to make people go “XD”.

what is this emotion called remorse?

Adventure Time is also a surprisingly subtle show. For such a ridiculous premiere episode, there are actually a lot of quiet moments of reflection and contemplation later on. Characters wonder if they did the right thing, and decisions have actual ramifications later on in the series. Actions that begin as loud and non-sensical actually matter in the overall timeline.

Relatable Homies

The main character, Finn, actually ages and grows as a person. The people around him become smarter and there is actual character development! The characters don’t remain stock characters with a single trait.

An obvious example of the show’s great characterization, and the moment where the show stopped being mostly a comedy, is the episode I Remember You.

Judging by this image you know something is about to go down

Everybody who has seen this show knows about this episode and what it is about, but I won’t spoil it for you. Let’s just say it takes one of the comic relief characters and turns them into the most intriguing individual in the show. It’s only 11 minutes, but it says so much.

Adventure Time is also a show that ages with its audience. As Finn gets older, the issues he deals with compliment his age. Finn’s struggles in the first two seasons are with his sense of morality and always trying to help and be altruistic. It is a child’s version of heroism and fits a character who is 12-13 years old.

However, once season 3 rolls around, the external conflicts escalate, while the internal one’s mature. Finn searches for identity, dabbles in romance, and struggles to find his place in the world of Ooo. Finn’s title is “Finn the Human” for a reason: he’s the only human in Ooo. He cannot find anybody to romantically relate to, and when he does, it is a girl made of fire that ultimately fails because…well…she’s made of fire and will kill him if they get close.

Easily the Best Pairing, no questions.

But it isn’t just Finn who is a great character. The minor characters also get a lot of love and attention. Marceline, Princess Bubblegum, Jake, Ice King, Peppermint Butler, and so much more are either really well-developed, or endearing. I appreciate that Adventure Time doesn’t waste your time when it deals with its character progression. There are no repeats of conflict, and it feels that the people within the show are actual people, despite almost none of them being human.

Oh, Ooo!

Adventure Time takes place in the world of Ooo, and it is one of the most creative and vast settings I have seen. Pendleton Ward, the creator of Adventure Time, cites Dungeons and Dragons as a great inspiration for a lot of Finn and Jake’s journies, and it shows. D&D is a game that encourages creative and reactive storytelling, which are the exact words I would use to describe Adventure Time’s ongoing narrative.

Just a snapshot of Ooo

Ooo is a world with no limitations. It has kingdoms made of candy, different dimensions full of spectres, caverns full of deadly traps, forests full of wooden witches, and so much more. Adventure Time is not constrained by setting itself in the real-world, or by containing its characters to specific locations. Finn and Jake are constantly discovering new places and new characters. The land of Ooo is not bound by any limitations, and it lets ideas and creativity flourish.

The creativity and vivid colours likely contributed to Adventure Time’s success. Kids were treated to an onslaught of pretty colours, while an older audience was presented with well-thought out environments that were wildly unpredictable.

What were they on when they made this show?

Both a negative and a positive to Adventure Time is its complete unpredictability. This is negative because sometimes it takes too long for plotlines to continue, or an entire story can be retconned. However, I lean more towards a positive interpretation, as it makes every episode unique and memorable. Any episode can be seen at any time, and people will be taken on a unique and entertaining journey.

Each episode is only 11 minutes, and that forces the creators to cram as much as they can. Because of this, there is no time wasted progressing the narrative. Every episode is paced well, and the viewer is never given a moment of boredom.

Wrap Up

So, Adventure Time is going away. It’s sad, but it’s necessary. Seeing it go on its own terms is better than seeing it whittle away. I’m sad to see these fantastic characters go, but I am content in knowing that their storylines will conclude. I know Adventure Time will always be there, and it was there to comfort me when I was younger.

Goodbye Adventure Time, we will all miss you.

 

 

E3 2017 has come and gone if you don’t watch mountains of pre-release coverage, and it has revealed to me some hard truths about the video game industry. In the midst of all the elusive content, exciting reveals, and misleading trailers, one company was so horribly smug and blatant about its anti-consumer practices. It was Bethesda.

It’s really shocking because just two years ago, Bethesda was lauded as a pro-consumer company. They created vast single player games with boatloads of content, they generally had high-quality releases. They were honest about their game’s content. Bethesda trailers show genuine gameplay that strongly resembles the final product, and in an industry that spends millions on CG trailers. Yet, it only takes a few, really repulsive decisions for your fanbase to do a complete 180.

When Bethesda announced the Creation Club, a system that allows people to pay for tinkering for video games, they essentially confirmed that they are charging people for modifications to their games. As much as Bethesda attempts to paint this as “necessary” and as a “gift” for the fans, its transparency is obscenely blatant. May I remind you that mods for any PC game have been free and community made since the dawn of PC gaming. And this is also a reminder that mods are essential for a game’s longevity and end up doing a great job of selling a product. I personally never would have bought Fallout: New Vegas if there wasn’t a mod that fixes a majority of its bugs and crashes on my computer. Even though I bought it 75% off on a Steam sale, some money is better than no money for a company. New Vegas was also a 5-year-old game at the time of my purchase, and many developers wish their games endured such longevity of sales. Skyrim would not be the 10th highest selling video game ever, and 3rd highest selling standalone game if it were not for mods.

Gross. Abhorrent. Repugnant. Other pretentious words.

The fact that Bethesda believes it can fool any of its hardcore audience with this is downright insulting. The core of their fanbase are dedicated, often PC focused gamers who are savvy when it comes to purchases regarding software. They know superfluous details and can see through this scam. In fact, most people can, as evidenced by the astounding amount of dislikes on Bethesda`s Creation Club YouTube trailer.

The gall of Bethesda to charge its passionate fanbase even after previous transgressions shows a company that is shockingly out-of-touch with its audience. It feels like grandpa took the wheel on the company and the capitalist zeal overtook Bethesda. Bethesda used to be a company that prided itself on selling games that guaranteed players got plenty of quality content for full-price. They took their time releasing their games, but people appreciated the effort and honesty.

But things have taken a really bad turn. Bethesda`s downward fall from fantastic Public Reception to the vitriol they currently face is nobody`s fault but their own. Other than a few outliers who were dissatisfied with the buggy experience of Bethesda games, the overall perception of the company was positive since the release of Morrowind in 2002.

Morrowind: The internet’s baby

SO WITH THAT KNOWLEDGE, LET US CUE THE SERIES OF EVENTS THAT TRANSFORMED BETHESDA FROM THE THE INTERNET’S BABY TO THE INTERNET’S DRUNK UNCLE.

2015 saw the release of Fallout 4 late in the year, which was one of the multitudes of open world games released that year. Because of this, Fallout 4 became the subject of comparisons to other open-world games. Fallout 4 suffered great scrutiny when compared to Witcher 3, Mad Max, Just Cause 3, and many other games released that year. The antiquated qualities of an outdated game engine and their refusal to improve themselves on the technical end became apparent. People were willing to forgive Skyrim when it first released in 2011 because, for a few years, all anybody would make were online multiplayer first person shooters. It is what the “FOCUS GROUP OVERLORDS” deemed most profitable. Skyrim came at a time to disprove and shake the gaming industry with new trends. Skyrim likely started this glut of open-world games, as “endless amounts of content” is appealing to a consumer. However, for Fallout 4, many of Bethesda’s “quirks”, became real issues for many people. As the amount of open-world games gradually increases, the quality of them increases as well. Fallout 4 felt like it was still stuck in 2011 – four years behind its competition. Its fetch quests were boring, its graphics were underwhelming, and the “RPG” aspect was gutted in favour of making the player feel like “le the super badass ecks dee XD.” Is my bias showing?

Yet, in 2016, Bethesda decided to re-release Skyrim with updated graphics for the PS4 and Xbox One. This is an understandable business move, as there may be some people who may want to play Skyrim on a console, but never had the chance beforehand. However, this release was botched with three major problems. Firstly, the game was full-price for a remaster of a five-year-old game. The second issue was that the remaster, despite being released on significantly more powerful hardware, continues to run at 30 frames per second. And the last issue, and what I personally find most egregious, is that the game shipped with even MORE bugs than the original. They simply updated the graphics and didn’t bother to playtest or make any alterations. The PR, business-like response to this is “we desire to emulate the experience that everybody first had”, which is complete garbage. If people wanted the original experience, they can buy Skyrim on Steam for $7.50 on sale. And if Bethesda truly means this, then they would never have bothered to create the remaster. It was an outright cash grab to suck in new customers who may have been uneducated and clouded by the positive bias towards Skyrim.

Skyrim is perfect. No problems at all.

To this, you may say, “well, isn’t it the people’s fault for not doing their research or watching any reviews?” Why thank you for asking that question, nobody, as Bethesda themselves implemented a Review Embargo system. This prevents reviewers from getting review copies from Bethesda and notifying people before the game releases of its quality. Do you believe this is a scummy act to prevent the average consumer from hearing negative feedback like they did for Skyrim Remastered? Well, Bethesda sure doesn’t! The excuse that Bethesda provided was that they want gamers and reviewers to experience it all at the same time and that everybody should have the same start!

This is dumb. On many, many levels. First of all, they are attempting to silence criticism. What does that say about the company? If you cut off a man’s tongue, it doesn’t show you have power, it shows you are scared of them. Bethesda attempting to silence their audience breeds animosity and a lack of communication. It shows that they do not care about the individual, and only seem to care about profits. This is obvious for a business, but to create more profits, a company wants to establish a positive connection with their audience. This act just ostracizes them and potentially repels prospective sales.

Another reason this review policy is idiotic is that it negates PRAISE for their games, not just criticism. Bethesda is so scared of people saying hurtful things, that they are willing to shirk off compliments to their products. And as I have said earlier, Bethesda used to have a glowing image in the gaming community. There are still some apologists out there trying to justify their anti-consumer actions. What is even more terrible, is Bethesda prevents review copies to legitimate reviewing industries like IGN, Gamespot, and Giant Bomb. But…the freelance YouTubers who are willing to say any positive words for review copies and Bethesda fun bucks get an early copy! This isn’t flagrantly scummy whatsoever! Random people on YouTube with microphones can say as many positive things as we want because we pay them! Yay!

And furthermore, this has caused nothing but backlash towards Bethesda. If you deny the largest corporations and critical YouTubers copies of your game, that doesn’t bode well for your company. You may forget that you can halt their copies of the game, but you cannot halt their words. Bethesda is foolish for thinking their actions would not have repercussions within the gaming community, and that this news wouldn’t spread like wildfire. They are foolish for thinking their core audience of savvy gamers would somehow remain ignorant. Those same companies you denied a review copy? They made articles saying that you denied them copies and what your reasoning is. Bethesda honestly couldn’t have expected to get away with this business practice unscathed.

IGN, Gamespot, Kotaku, all giving negative opinions of this policy.

The newest game to come out after this review policy, Prey, has taken a hit in its initial sales, because people are tentative about it, or they do not have any knowledge of it. Prey eventually sold a lot more once reviews came and YouTubers began to cover it and give it free advertisement, but the initial slump does show that gamers aren’t completely suckered into money grubbing tactics. Not completely.

All I can say Bethesda, is that my ancestors will be smiling on me. Can you say the same?

 

 

ARMS lets me fill out this childhood fantasy I’ve engrained in my subconscious since I was a baby. I can become the real-life equivalent of Lanky Kong, the greatest video game character ever.

ARMS is the newest IP from Nintendo since Splatoon, and it seems they have also taken a lot of the art style from Splatoon as well. ARMS continues the sleek, cartoon aesthetic that Nintendo has been using to ensure their graphics never look date/mask their inferior technology. However, I do think it works well for the setting of ARMS because it doesn’t have any deep lore or mature content. ARMS feels like a stupid Saturday morning cartoon that I would tell everybody is stupid, but shamefully find enjoyment out of. The game just looks, so silly, and I had no intention of ever picking it up. It looked like the combat’s depth was skin deep, and that its motion controls would swiftly get old and tiring.

But after three hours of the Global Testpunch, I have found a weird love for ARMS. I found that playing with friends, and taking turns in its fantastic lobby system and quick matches, led to some genuinely great fun and intense fights. But, I don’t think I would enjoy playing it alone. I really enjoyed playing with the motion controls, but being cognizant of how stupid I look flailing my arms around, in a room by myself, with nobody around me fills me with great shame.

Luckily, the full game allows you to play without the motion controls, which, to some, may give these people an advantage, but Nintendo has done something clever with the combat in ARMS. When you throw a punch in ARMS, it doesn’t immediately reach your opponent. The punch slowly floats in the air to your opponent. It takes nearly a second for a punch to reach them if you are across the screen. When you input a command, you are committed to it. This isn’t a fighting game where you can mash buttons and expect a multitude of punches to come out. Once you input a button or punch in real life, you are committed to that punch, and the only input you have is the direction it travels in.

Deliberation is built into ARMS’ design, and, as somebody who’s favourite part of fighting games are the mental battle between you and your opponent, I absolutely love. ARMS takes away execution and focuses solely on the one-on-one battle between you and your opponent. If an opponent in ARMS is predictable, countering them is incredibly easy by noticing their tendencies, and adapting to it.

I’m not that great at fighting games, aside from Nintendo’s other premiere fighting game, Smash Bros., so the simpler movements and emphasis on mental battles are a perfect fit for me. Being able to read your opponent, clutch out certain situations, and expose their weaknesses is what is so thrilling to me about this genre.

But…I am scared of ARMS’ future. I am skeptical of how deep the combat actually is. Will there be advanced techniques and legitimate playstyles that can form? Or is there too much emphasis on 50/50 situations and guesses? Is dodging too powerful? Or can dodges be read and responded to accordingly? All of these hypotheticals will be answered in the future, but I am curious about how the metagame for ARMS will develop.

In fighting games, there is something called “The Triangle”. It is like a game of rock-paper-scissors and is fundamental in any fighting game. It goes as such:

Attacking Beats Grabbing

Grabbing Beats Blocking

Blocking Beats Attacking

It’s a fairly simple system and acts as the base for fighting games. ARMS, arguably, puts too much emphasis on this triangle and doesn’t give many options to escape its rigidity. There is a dodge mechanic to spice up combat, but can that option become too predictable? Are there enough advanced movement techniques to add more depth to combat? Or will it turn ARMS into a guessing game, almost entirely of luck?

Of course, all of my fears are speculation of a prospective future. I’m sure ARMS will cause enough attention for the Nintendo Switch until Splatoon 2 releases in July, and I’m likely going to pick ARMS up. I want it because I won’t play it competitively, nor will I go to the inevitable tournament scene that will form (and Nintendo won’t pursue.)

The main reason is just how accessible it is to anybody. During the beta, only hour long sessions were offered, but it felt like we got a bountiful amount of content in that short amount of time. The lobby system in ARMS guarantees that you are almost always in a match, and there is minimal wait time until you play. The waiting for online matches cripples a lot of my enjoyment with the online feature. ARMS makes it feel like it isn’t wasting your time, and you can immediately get to what you want.

And the most uplifting aspect of ARMS’ online was how seamless it was. I have PTSD from the atrocious net code of Smash Wii U, and I was skeptical how Nintendo would handle it for a fighter like ARMS. And, I can confidently say this, I experienced zero latency issues with an average internet connection. That is phenomenal, and pretty much cemented my purchase for me.

So is ARMS deep? Maybe, but I know that it is a ton of fun.

And Min Min is the best, no contest.

Edit: MR. YABUKI SAVED ARMS COMPETITIVE ALL OF MY CONCERNS WERE WRONG