Tag Archive: blood


Notch Main

She runs through the darkened forest with wild abandon. Tree branches slash her face as twigs snap savagely against her ankles, fleeing with hardly a glance towards the ground. Her lungs burn. Her eyes piercingly sting with each tear ripped out by the wind. As she falls to the ground, she wishes with all her might that things would end differently…

In its own corner of the world, a small island village quietly waits for the world to remember – or perhaps, forget – that it exists. A once bustling tourist location, it is all but deserted of visitors from far off lands; only leaving its dwindling number of citizens to carry on its legacy. This is a town that lives forever by its olden ways: there is no true government, simply two rich and powerful families that rule over the town from their far off estates in the forest; there is also no hospital, simply family doctors who tend the ill and injured. The town is peaceful; it’s residents content with life…

Notch Girls

However, when young girls begin showing up mutilated and murdered, the townsfolk hardly know how to handle the situation. With peace shattered and an unknown killer residing in the area, it can be hard to know who to even turn to. But when those we love are brutally taken from us, it tends to strike vengeance and determination into our very core.

…Nanami didn’t deserve to die…

Notch – The Innocent LunA: Eclipsed SinnerS is a supernatural murder mystery Visual Novel developed by Angels Blue Digital Entertaiment and DEZ Studio. The player takes on the roll of the main protagonist: a young man seeking to save the girl he loves after she is slain in cold blood. He sets out to speak with the two ruling families about the murders but uncovers a much deeper rooted cause than anyone could have ever anticipated – mass killings, abusive relationships, families ripped apart, torture, lies, forbidden resurrection, alternate dimensions, pacts with devils and the enslavement of gods.

Notch Sister

To begin with, the story is beautiful, sad and captivating from the basic premise surrounding the main character and Nanami to all of the additional characters met that weave such integral pieces to the tale. The masters of each ruling family try to recover from the murder of their households all the while grasping tightly to dark secrets from nearly twenty years past. Meanwhile, the protagonist comes across numerous intriguing personalities on his journey to save Nanami: the caring and mysterious maid, Hitomi, who works for one of the ruling families; Rika, a dainty mute girl in a tragically abusive relationship; Saki, another almost-victim of the brutal killer; and Misa, a mysterious lolita-esque girl with abilities to traverse dimensions. Throughout the title, in learning their stories they both add greatly to the overall atmosphere as well as create a unique diversity whilst moving the main story along. It draws the player in quickly and does a fairly good job of holding their attention despite one of the game’s main flaws.

Aesthetically, the game provides a beautiful mixture of art and music styles. From anime/manga style drawings of the female characters to almost pastel sketches and water colors; the drastic contrast presents a beautiful landscape in which the story is portrayed. Oftentimes a picture can be worth so much more than words and it certainly rings true in this case. Additionally adding to the landscape would be the soundtrack. Made up of serenading piano arrangements, soft melancholic vocal tracks and even epic rock anthems (a la boss music) provide a near perfect backdrop for a majority of the scenes throughout the game.

Notch Misa

Unfortunately, there is one jarringly disruptive feature that nearly destroys all other beacons of recommendation: the writing. It is understood that translation can sometimes be attributed to sentences being a little off or seemingly simple, but this goes beyond that. Simple wording and sentences can be easily excused; however, it is the unnecessary repetition that is truly insanity inducing. After a few hours of playing the game, the writing became so frustrating that I found myself simply tapping the Enter key non-stop and skimming the lines as they quickly went by. The story is phenomenal, but I understood what was meant the first time it was said…the additional 15 statements trying to explain and send the sentiment home were just overkill. It demonstrates that its fast forward feature simply could never be fast enough. Take for example the following excerpt (keep in mind, this is but a mild example):

“I tried to stay alive…I didn’t surrender in the face of brutal tortures…But you didn’t come to see me…I was waiting for an impossible dream…”

“Don’t cry…I live to atone for my sin…Now I have redeemed my sin…I don’t expect you to forgive me…I am unworthy of being forgiven…I hope you can have a happy life from now on…I am going to die…but you can still enjoy your life in this world…I don’t expect your forgiveness. I just want my inner world to regain peace…I am going to say goodbye to you…I don’t regret trading my life for yours. I can have a chance to say sorry to you..I finally did this…Promise me you’ll have a good life…”

…and this goes on, even still.

Aside from that glaringly (oftentimes obnoxious) detail, Notch – The Innocent LunA: Eclipsed SinnerS is a game that will entrance and mystify. You will truly be drawn in by the art, music and story and yearn to find out more – if you can slog through the endless streams of unnecessary text. Should you decide to give this one a try, the 14 endings that, despite their differences, remain curiously connected will offer plenty of replay value. It is a story that will stay with you – at least in part – long after it is through.

Will the killer be brought to justice or remain free?

Will you be able to save anyone?

Will you be able to save yourself?

Notch Bloody

I hope someday you will forgive me.

7 deadly sins

“Your eyes can see through evil, your mouth utters the truth, your heart is filled with justice and your sword shall crush evil. To stand by what you believe is right till the end…isn’t that the most important thing for a knight?”

Wrath. Greed. Sloth. Lust. Gluttony. Envy. Pride. The Seven Deadly Sins in which so many people either fight against with all their might or simply accept freely with open arms. Whether it is seen as weakness or strength, the true intent often becomes the greatest demon of all.

When stars streak across the darkened sky forming a cross, it is said that a great calamity will soon fall upon Brittania – but to what end? Are the country’s exalted Holy Knights truly as honored and noble in their positions as people seem to believe? What of the legendary group of criminals, The Seven Deadly Sins, who once attempted to overthrow the kingdom ten years ago? When surrounded by enemies and deceit on all fronts, how does one choose the lesser evil?7 deadly posters

The anime Seven Deadly Sins or Nanatsu no Taizai follows the third princess, Elizabeth, as she flees her home in search of the great warriors once called the Seven Deadly Sins. The only problem being that no one has seen or heard of any of them in ten years – ever since they were accused of attempting to overthrow the kingdom and killing a Grand Master.

As luck would have it, Elizabeth ends up running into the former captain of the sins, Meliodas (the dragon sin of wrath) and after some untimely trouble and explaining that the Holy Knights have been corrupted and her plan in having the sins help, they end up traveling together in search of the others.7 deadly e and hawk

So begins the quest that takes Elizabeth, Meliodas and Hawk (the adorably heroic talking pig and scraps manager of the Boar Hat – Meliodas’ moving tavern) all over the land from the “haunted” white forest to a heavily fortified prison to a necropolis of the dead in search of the others. Of course, as if locating the other members and convincing them to come along wasn’t hard enough, numerous powerful Holy Knights show up to try and thwart their plans – their goals being to kill the sins, particularly Meliodas, and forcibly returning Elizabeth back to the castle. 7 deadly ban king

Seven Deadly Sins is an anime topped full of action, comedy and fantasy. It has an almost Full Metal Alchemist feel to it and keeps that spirit alive throughout its 24 episodes (and even has the sin name thing going). There’s also a fairly sizable nod to the original Dragon Age (whether intentional or not) that those who have experienced being a Grey Warden will almost instantly recognize once that point is reached. With  lovable and amusing characters, a fitting score, a story with far more depth, twists and turns and plenty of action – the episodes go by far too quick!

All of the main characters are so vibrant that there is never a dull moment to be had. They are so much more than just weapon wielders and pretty faces. They each have their own in depth stories, reasoning, races, abilities and personalities. From the happy go lucky kid who is captain of the sins for a reason to the most bubbly and adorable giant girl that ever existed – the cast simply never fails to impress.7deadly diane

It is a story of simple premise at start that gains momentum in leaps and bounds keeping shock and surprise around every corner. Characters that were hated will become loved while others backstab when least expected – it will play on emotions with the best of them! With no shortage of humor – and even tears on occasion – it is an anime that should not be missed.

Who would have thought teaming up with a bunch of criminals could bring on such an amazing adventure!?

“Even if you were to die, I would still fulfill the promise made with you.”

7 deadly group

The Devil’s Own ~ Blue Exorcist

blue exorcist

The forest looked down on her with gentle smiling leaves as her feet sank into the freshly fallen snow at each step. This place was only to be a temporary assignment but it somehow became the only place she cared to be. It was all a misunderstanding anyways. Humans and demons could learn to coexist and understand each other, she was sure of it. Perhaps one day that world without separation and hate would become reality…

It had been 15 years since Father Shiro Fujimoto had taken in twin boys to raise as his own. The monastery they grew up in was the only home they ever knew, but the boys could not have possibly been any different from each other. Yukio Okumura was always smart, calculated and studious; even though he was the younger sibling he always sought to be able to protect his older brother and those that he cared for. The elder brother, Rin, on the other hand was always a wild card; somewhat of a rebel and slacker yet always attempting to do things with the best of intentions – even if putting his own life at risk. The brothers always seemed to be a little bit different in some aspects, but it remained a deeply hidden secret until one fatal night when their lives would change forever.

blue exorcist groupWhen demons begin to overtake Assiah, the human world, Father Fujimoto has no choice but to finally reveal to Rin that he is the true Son of Satan and give him Kurikara, the demon sword that had sealed away his powers up until this point. When the gate to the demon realm Gehenna opens and Fujimoto is possessed by none other than Satan himself, he sacrifices himself in front of Rin’s eyes in order to save him. From that point on Rin vows to destroy Satan and eventually ends up enrolling in the elite True Cross Academy high school.

Admitted by the preceptor himself, True Cross Academy has a hidden curriculum that only certain dedicated students even have knowledge of called the Cram School: a school for exorcists. It is there that exorcists in training learn not only to combat demons and protect the world from a danger most people do not even see, but they also hone the exact methods in which they will repel the evil and learn to work as a team. Some exorcists become Tamers with summoned pets to do their will while other may choose to become an Aria and defeat demons through reading scripture. There are other categories as well that aspiring exorcists may enlist themselves as, but none so highly ranked as the Paladin. Rin soon finds himself among a small yet colorful cast of students and faculty that will take them up the ranks of becoming exorcists and closer to their goal of abolishing Satan. Of course, nothing ever goes quite so smoothly planned and as Rin attempts to keep his demonic looks and powers concealed, plenty of trials and trouble test the students up until their final showdown with the demon king himself.

Blue Exorcist is an action/supernatural manga and anime following the story of the brothers – in particular, Rin. Throughout the 26 blue exorcist rin and shiemiepisodes of the first season, the main story remains ever in tact while still including many side stories and character backgrounds that truly draw the audience in. From the goal oriented justice seeking Suguro, to the abandoned demon familiar Kuro who is quickly won over by Rin, to the gentle and quiet Shiemi who ends up becoming one of the strongest characters overall – the cast truly transforms into a solid unit of friends and allies by going through so many difficult trials together. With humor, emotion, and plenty of action throughout each episode it is one that will easily keep attention throughout the series.

Humans and demons have been at war for as long as texts have been written and stories have been told. Perhaps it only takes one person to change that fate for the future.

There are always dreams to be realized.

Lives to be lived.

 

queen

The day has finally come. The halls are bustling with anticipation as last minute preparations for the ceremony are underway. A few short months ago she was almost a normal school girl worrying about grades and friends and social gatherings; but now everything has changed. For better or worse she has finally arrived at this momentous day – the day she would become queen. So many people dream of being a princess and living a prosperous royal life decorated to the nines and waited on hand and foot. If only they knew what it took to get to that point; the time, the knowledge and the sacrifice. Adorning her last decoration and examining her attire one last time, she takes her final steps as princess…

queen testLong Live the Queen is a life simulation visual novel created by Hanako Games. Stepping into the life of Princess Elodie, players are given the task of preparing Elodie to take the throne and will quickly discover that every decision made has the utmost importance and consequence. Surprisingly enough, while every issue encountered has a distinct cause and effect, surviving long enough to see her coronation is no easy feat.

The game opens with Elodie talking to her Father on their return trip from her boarding school to the castle. Her mother’s untimely death has forced her to leave behind her school life and begin preparations to become queen. Although a simple premise at first glance, it does not take long to discover just how in depth and difficult accomplishing that task will be.

The game itself is broken up into two sections for each week that passes. Elodie has 40 weeks of preparation before the coronation andqueen classes each week can be considered a player’s turn. At the start of each week Elodie must choose two courses of study (one for the morning and one for the afternoon) which will boost her skills in that particular field. Easy enough, right? Not so much. There are 14 class categories which range from royal demeanor/conversation/expression to agility/weapons/athletics/animal handling and history/intrigue/medicine/economics/military/faith/lumen. Within each of these categories lie 3 particular areas of study and one is then chosen for morning and afternoon for that week. Elodie’s skills will go up in that category at a rate of 10 per week – though that also depends on her mood. Yes, a plot twist! Elodie is affected by the events that occur to her. Whether she is happy, sad, determined or worried it will affect how she learns certain skills. When determined she may learn military strategy at a much higher rate but if she were sad there would be a penalty. Of course, Elodie could just learn certain areas randomly and gradually increase them all but in all actuality that does not get her very far.

queen skill levelThe second section of each week places Elodie in the role of regent. These meetings and events all force decisions that will ultimately aim Elodie towards a certain fate and it is also where the skills that are selected to be learned become of great value. For example, criminals may be put on trial and the decision must be made on whether they are to be set free, put to work, locked up or executed; but decisions may backfire or they may anger or bring alliance with other nobles involved. Additionally investors may come looking for approval but if Elodie does not have enough economic knowledge she may simply dismiss them rather than bring good fortune to her land via great innovations or aid.

That is the basic setup of the game but the options and outcomes are enormous. One tiny decision made different or the lack of a skill at the right time can send Elodie to her death or can unlock even more elements and parts of the story that might have easily been missed. The dilemmas range from the simple trials and investment offers as given above to more serious political strategy, commoner rebellion, nobility backstabbing, magic, invasion and war. Every decision counts and preparation for the actions and consequences that follow is everything.

Long Live the Queen is a game that seemed intriguing enough to pick up during a sale and give a try. Unbeknownst to me, I wouldqueen death soon be spending hours upon hours retrying my decisions and attempting to open up other avenues within the expansive story line. It was a delightful surprise to find how in depth and challenging the game became and even now after the hours I have put into it I still have things left undiscovered. Available on PC, it is well worth the price for the amount of content. Although it may get somewhat repetitive recounting the same trials over and over to gain new results, the reward is often worth the trouble and many of the scenes can be skipped through and sped up to get to the decision once you have seen them so many times they are devoted to memory. It may seem a bit girly at first but it is a game that anyone can and probably will enjoy. When a break is needed from guns and action or leveling, delving into the strategic gameplay and enjoying the anime style art of Long Live the Queen may be just the right decision.

Long live the queen! Long live the queen! Long live the queen!

queen coronation

wolf-among-us-cry-wolf-art

…Bloody Mary. Bloody Mary. Bloody Mary…

Every story has a purpose.

Think of those classic tales most everyone has heard and loved since childhood: Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, Snow White, Hansel and Gretel or the Princess and the Frog (to name only a few). Each story not only held entertainment value but also had lessons and warnings hidden deep within their pages. Many of these stories were actually written much crueler in their original form and some may be surprised to learn that the princess did not kiss the frog but rather threw it against the wall and that the wicked queen in Snow White was forced to dance in red hot iron shoes at their wedding until she fell dead. Not every fable and fairy tale gets that Happily Ever After, oftentimes all that the audience is left with is surprise.

As the previous four chapters of Telltale Games’ The Wolf Among Us have played out: Fabletown is ripping apart at its seams as a dark mastermind and those working under his watchful gaze begin murdering their own and capitalizing on other fables misfortunes. The fifth and final chapter of the series based on Bill Willingham’s comic book series Fables brings players to the pinnacle of the action as Sheriff Bigby Wolf (The Big Bad Wolf) finally meets with those of the inner crime circle and discovers the truth a midst a complicated tangle of lies.

Some might say that the previous episodes of the title did not incorporate enough actual action sequences – well, the final episode makes up for that in leaps and bounds. From hand to hand combat to street chase scenes to taking on more enemies than can be counted in one room, the action is at nearly a constant making use of quick reflexes, aiming and controls. Don’t worry though, when the pace slows down the player isn’t simply left with idle chit chat; what they are left with is making critical and weighted timed decisions and ensuring that justice is given its due. Needless to say, it is two hours of gameplay that seem to take only minutes whilst careening towards the games grand finale.

Telltale Games certainly has had it high and low points throughout the series, but they did not hold back when it came to bringing this story to conclusion. Even after the height of the action and story has ebbed, they leave the player with one final scene which gives some measure of explanation and fills in the gaps while, in turn, also making the player question every decision they ever made. There are many theories on what the true ending to The Wolf Among Us means, but sometimes, figuring them out firsthand is the greatest reward.

So now that the story has met its end (for now), the time to play this title couldn’t be more perfect; or for those who have been keeping up as the episodes are released, perhaps another play through to truly piece the puzzle together may be in order. So discover the darker side of Fabletown and those that dwell within, glimpse the violent crime mystery from a different perspective…see how big and bad the wolf truly is.

You’re not as bad as everyone says you are.

I hope you find what you’re looking for.

I’ll see you around…wolf.

 

year-walk1

Since time began there has been an undying curiosity found deep within every human being. A curiosity towards self; a curiosity towards the world; a curiosity towards time and space; a curiosity towards the future.

Although unknown in origin, in ancient Scandinavian folklore there existed a way to seek out visions, to see the future, called year walking. This practice, while varying on details depending on location, had very strict rules which if not followed directly could prove to not only lead to disastrous results, but to be fatal. Upon deciding to undertake a year walk certain obligations must be met:

First, a year walk could not take place on just any day; but on certain festival days such as May Day, Midsummer’s Eve, Christmas Eve or most commonly New Years Eve.

Second, the individual must abstain from any and all food served on these holidays. A sacrifice of sorts as most of these days were usually accompanied by plentiful feasts.

Lastly, the individual must seclude themselves from all others and remain without fire for the entirety of the day. Locking themselves in dark rooms, away from light and warmth, until the hour reached Midnight – then would be their last opportunity to forgo the year walk. Once outside, there was no turning back…

A year walker’s destination would always be the church, though the journey would be anything but a pleasant stroll through the woods. Numerous supernatural entities were said to be encountered along the way such as The Huldra (a female guardian of the forest said to bring both good fortune and untimely ends), The Brook Horse (most often associated with death and drowning), The Myling (children killed very young, wandering and wailing seeking help or leaving death in their wake), The Night Raven (often associated with disease, the manifestation of an evil greedy man not properly buried) and finally The Church Grim (a sacrifice, guardian and parasite of the church) all of which would potentially cause physical, mental and spiritual strife to the year walker.

Upon arriving at the church and circling the grounds in a specific pattern the year walker would be given visions of the future as well as lure out The Church Grim. These visions could present themselves in a variety of ways such as a procession of people leaving the church, all of which would end up dying the following year or a view of various wedding ceremonies. Life, love and death would all play a part but each journey would leave the walker a changed person forever.

yearwalk

Indie developer Simogo has recreated this haunting experience in their simple yet artistic puzzle/horror game Year Walk. Starting out just before the night begins, the player discerns through a brief encounter that their journey not only lies in seeking the future but ultimately to find if they are truly loved in return.

year walkThe game itself follows much of the history that is given above, and it can all be found within the opening moments of the game if chosen via an encyclopedia. While it is not necessary to read each of the pages before beginning the journey, it adds a certain level of comprehension and depth which may not be taken from the gameplay itself. There is very little dialogue or explanation within the actual game, actually, there is not much direction given at all; but knowing the destination does not always mean knowing which path to travel.

The actual gameplay relies on simple left/right/forward/back movements in addition to clicking the mouse to interact and carry objects (yes, carry objects – there is no such thing as an inventory. Additionally, it is recommended to not solely rely on the map to get around as carrying certain objects will not allow it to be viewed). Aside from that it is basic exploration and getting to the right place at the correct point in the storyline as subsequent supernatural beings are revealed. Many puzzles and clues can be found scattered about the map as well, but not all of them will be solved, nor even make sense, until after the first playthrough. The puzzles themselves vary greatly from simple button presses and sequences to open doors and pathways to listening to distinct sound pitches to find the correct path out of a darkened maze. Oftentimes, many of these puzzles will have no immediate clues on how to solve them while others require some backtracking to discover exactly what must be done. There is a hint option that can aid the player if they simply have no idea where to start but otherwise a little bit of note taking may be all that is necessary.yearwalk6_2490317b

While the gameplay is not very intense nor intricate, the artistic flourish resonating throughout the title is what truly makes it
stand out. The dark, almost cut from a story book, visuals are like walking through a painting but it is far from the beauty one might find gazing at a quiet cabin in the woods brimming with life and quiet. It is a changing scenery emanating with an eerie stillness as nightmarish creatures take to their true forms and pristine snow becomes tainted with blood. The music that accompanies these images and puzzles is often mysterious but calm – serenading piano melodies and haunting vocal tracks blend into the background almost entirely unnoticed until realization hits that something has changed.

All in all, Year Walk is not a long game nor is it terribly involved; yet it holds within it an intriguing story rich in nearly forgotten folklore. While it is not without a few small jump scares it mostly relies on its haunting and isolated atmosphere to give its horror-esque touch. It has been recently remastered for PC (which is this version played) but originally debuted on IOS, both versions staying fairly similar but with a few additions and adaptions for PC implemented. It is a small and mostly unheard of title, but anyone with an interest in olden folklore or dark legends will surely find this one worth its price.

“To see if they would be wealthy”

“To see if they would be happy”

“To see if they would live”

“To see if they would be loved”

 

“A person who cannot give up anything, can change nothing.”

Attack on titan wall

One hundred years ago humanity was thrust into a one-sided conflict against incredible giant humanoid Titans; a devastation that would result in a majority of the population being wiped out – without remorse, without reason. Since then, peace has been found within the safe and well defensive confines of three ginormous walls: Wall Maria, Wall Rose, and the center-most Wall Sina. During this time, many people have lived their lives happily without ever laying eyes on a Titan; but peace can only last for so long uninterrupted…

In the year 845, the outermost wall containing the Shiganshina district would experience this terror once again and numerous citizens and military personnel would invariably lose their lives and lay witness to a massacre and evacuation that would not soon be forgotten.

Within this area called home to so many, three youth connected by difficult experiences and dreams of the outside world go about attack on titan legionstheir day as if it is any other. Eren Jaeger and Mikasa Ackerman make their way home while completing chores and stop to see the return of the brave but war-torn Survey Corps; one of three branches of the military that go beyond the walls in hopes of quelling the Titan onslaught and gathering intel – though usually at the cost of many lives. As people insult and disgrace the men and women as they return home, Eren is enraged, hoping to one day join their ranks and help gain humanities freedom. Along the way they also run into a close friend named Armin Arlert, a sweet and intelligent young man who would do anything for his friends.

It is after a brief visit home that all hell breaks lose upon Shiganshina as a giant Colossus Titan appears as well as another variant known as an Armored Titan break through Wall Maria and let lose an onslaught of Titans onto humanities doorstep. Peace has ended and blood swiftly begins to flow down the streets of destruction and terror. As military personnel try their best to defeat the 3 to 15 meter tall titans overtaking the city and evacuate as many citizens as possible via boat to the inner walls; the three youth make their way to safety but it is not without tragedy or heartbreak. As refugees to the inner Wall Rose, Eren vows to join the cadet ranks and enter the fight personally to kill any and all Titans that have torn his life asunder. At this proclamation, Mikasa and Armin also agree to enlist in order to help protect Eren as well as accomplish their own motives.

attack-on-titan titanThe next 5 years follows the three through harsh military training: vigorous regiments, classes, hand to hand combat and mastering the core weapon used to down their most formidable foe – 3D Vertical Maneuvering Equipment. This equipment sits at the belt and is comprised of a storage vessel for blades on each side connected with a trigger hilt which not only houses the sharp swords for use but also triggers the maneuver part of the gear. The maneuvering allows the user to be versatile in air combat via gas supply by extending two separate hookshot-esque lines into walls, building, trees and Titans – and is invariably the only method that allows reach to the Titans true weak point: a death stroke to the back of the neck. Most other attacks will simply allow the Titan to regenerate injuries and lost limbs within a short amount of time.

Attack on Titan, or Shingeki no Kyojin, is a 25 episode anime that follows humanities fight for survival against the fearsome Titans. Staying close to Eren, Mikasa and Armin, as well as the other cadets in their graduating class, they are thrust headfirst into battle and bloodshed, unknown circumstances and enemies and even distrust within their own ranks. As they watch elite members of the guard fall time and again, they must somehow find the strength to carry on with their mission…no matter what the cost.

attack on titanIt is an action intense, dramatic anime that will keep attention throughout. With a decent amount of character growth within the first season, it brings forth many different elements and truly accentuates the fact that there is rarely an easy or correct decision. A good leader must be willing to risk everything to gain results, and this is truly the mindset that becomes impossible to ignore. Although many of the ‘shocking’ moments and realizations can be estimated beforehand, it does not take away the intensity and want to keep watching. There should be some warning though as it does contain a large amount of graphic content from horrific and bloody deaths to the harsh language one would expect to accompany such atmosphere. The anime ends with just as many questions as it begins with, if not more; but that leaves plenty of room for the oncoming second season to pick up with.

At one point in the series a character states that, “It takes great courage to go against the tide. I respect that.” In difficult times it can be easy to simply cower in fear and run with the crowd, but it is those who stand up to fear that show their true strengths when it really counts – and it is those that make all the difference.

“They are the prey and we are the hunters!”

 

wolf ep 3

Many people dream of living a fairy tale; whimsically dreaming of a fantastical place, magical powers and an idealistic love story. What if those fairy tales already exist around us, without anyone even knowing or suspecting? In Telltale Games’ The Wolf Among Us, the characters from many beloved fairy tales and stories are living in a 1980s set of New York City – or at least trying their best to. However, it is an entirely new story for these fabled characters this time around; it is a story of social class struggle, corruption, crime, and much like everyone else in the world, a will to survive.

In the newly released episode 3 of the 5 chapter series, Telltale brings back the urgency and story progression that captivated players throughout its first installment. While the previous episode still provided difficult decision making and character development, many were left disappointed at its short length and lack of truly moving the story forward as much as desired. Well, episode 3 fixes that bringing forth an array of even more difficult decisions, a host of new characters joining the cast, and a strong sense of having too much to do and not enough time to do it in. They will remember that.

wolf choicesAs players remain in the shoes of Sheriff Bigby Wolf, they deal with the repercussions the previous episode left off with. With one of their old world relics still broken and un-repairable, it leaves Bigby and Snow White with no choice but to investigate what leads they have the old fashioned way: on foot. With naught but a time and a description, they narrow the leads down to three separate locations; however, the player will only have enough time for one,  maybe two, as the clock continues to tick surreptitiously down to the hour at hand.

The decisions the player faces this round have leveled up in their own regard and the consequences weigh even heavier beyond simply seeing that “X will remember you said that.” People will be hurt and evidence destroyed while you stay true to your choices, yet the reward is well worth the struggle. By the end of the episode the player will not only experience one of the most action intense and formidable encounters, but will also see the curtain drawn back slightly on who is truly behind everything; all the while creating yet more confusing questions and leaving even more anticipation for the upcoming episode 4.

What Telltale seemed to have shined with in episode 1 and lost luster with during episode 2, seems to be back in full force and episodewolf snow shocked 3 is truly both a painful and enjoyable experience filled with intrigue, urgency and even surprise. The developers excel in their story telling devices and prowess and not only live up to their high expectations but even find time to include some minor, yet outstanding fun to their own method that players will notably remember and smile at.

In the end, A Crooked Mile brings out that illustrious shine that makes this series so enthralling. Sparking a desire for multiple playthroughs whether to unlock additional fables missed or to simply see the other side of your not-so-timely made decisions gives even additional length to the 90 minute episode. So, will you delve back into the grisly backdrop of Fabletown and step closer to everything that is tearing the world apart by its seams?

The decision is yours.

“Booker, are you afraid of God?”

“No, but I’m afraid of you.”

Bioshock-infinite-wallpaper-hd-2

There is always a lighthouse.  A man. A city.

From the depths of Rapture, Bioshock brought players into a world unlike any other; where choices and decisions not only affected the player but also the ultimate consequences to come. Now the tables have turned to a new time and a new city; to a place so Utopian yet so corrupt: the sky-high dwelling of Columbia.

The year is 1912 and American exceptionalism has reached its pinnacle. The city floats high above “the sodom below” basking in the picturesque glow and ideals of its founder and prophet, Zachary Comstock. Kept afloat by a mix of quantum levitation and blimps, Columbia not only rises above the rest of America physically, but sees itself in a higher spectrum all around.

Despite its isolation and independence, the steampunk paradise amidst the clouds has more dark secrets and atrocity than one might bioshock_infinite_46initially suspect. It is something of a floating battle ship armed with heavy artillary, zeppelins, airships, machine gun turrets and various other weaponry. It is a hostility that has seen the face of and impacted The Boxer Rebellion and even houses a fierce civil conflict within its own boundaries. Within this internal struggle lies two main forces: the city’s ruling class which prioritizes a specific religion and strict signs of racial purification and the Vox Populi (translating to ‘voice of the people’ in Latin), a revolutionary group intending to overthrow the powers in charge and gain equal rights for all citizens of Columbia.

It is here that the player controlled protagonist, Booker DeWitt, is sent to retrieve the girl, fulfill his mission and finally erase his debt.

On a turbulent and rainy night, a small boat carrying three passengers rows towards a solitary lighthouse. Allowing DeWitt to exit upon the dock, the two confounding rowers turn away with hardly an explanation between them. Entering the lighthouse, DeWitt finds its sole occupant brutally murdered with but a small note left for him and him alone: “Don’t disappoint us.” Climbing to the top of the lighthouse, DeWitt discovers a contraption that will take him on the final leg of his journey: to Columbia.

Arriving at a half submerged candlelit church and forcibly receiving a hasty baptism drowning, DeWitt is finally set loose upon the sights and sounds of Columbia. He then sets his aim on getting to Monument Island, a huge angelic statue rising through the middle of the city, where Elizabeth is being held captive.

Bioshock-Infinite-tin-man-600x337Once Elizabeth joins in on the escape, you will probably wonder where she has been all of your life. She becomes the best of npc allies almost instantly: telling you not to worry about her in battle, as she can fend for herself (which means ducking out of the line of fire, which also alerts you to when enemies are close at hand); additionally, Elizabeth will also pick up spare money, ammo, weapons, health kits and salts that she will toss to you mid-battle should the need arise as well as pick any locks along the way. One other unique ability that Elizabeth harnesses is the skill to open tears throughout the world. These tears can show a window to another time and place and can also bring useful objects to and from their current space time continuum.

Bioshock Infinite is a game where it is apparent to see the time and detail that went into its creation. From graphics to story to soundtrack, everything flows together in perfect harmony throughout so much of the game that it is no wonder it has received such high scores and reviews from numerous sources.

The graphics and visuals of Columbia make up for nearly the entire backdrop of the game and it is plain to see every beautiful painstaking detail that went into its mastery. Artistic flourishes and paintings line the streets, shops and buildings of Columbia in a mix of bright, steampunk design. From the initial setting of a happy, festival atmosphere to the defiled and burning streets of the lower commons, there is not a corner or crevice of the game left ignored. The skylines that run throughout the cloud city provide an even more unique element to the floating vessel, and not only bear a fast and necessary way of transportation but also add another versatile element to combat situations. Even though most of the time the action will be so great you only have time to look for the next cover or barrier between you and the onslaught of bullets, when you do have a moment to breathe, the setting is breathtaking and is worth taking in as often as possible.

Gameplay wise, Bioshock gives you an arsenal you should feel fairly accustomed with if you have played the previous installments. Abioshock-infinite-pc-ps3-xbox-360-screenshots-33 main gun (of which you can hold and switch between two at a time), a melee weapon in the form of the skyhook and a power called vigors, which vary and are discovered throughout the game. A sleek mastery of using all three elements will grant the player the best outcome through any gunfight be it from regular infantry opposition, motorized patriots with the likeness of America’s founding fathers, or handymen, the giant mechanized “Big Daddys” of Columbia. Vigors range from possessing machines and enemies to fight for you to calling a murder of crows to swarm, damage and distract your target; they can also be set to fire directly upon an enemy or set as a trap to be walked over. The skyhook and skylines running throughout Columbia do add a fun alternative at times as well as providing a quick and often necessary means of travel. Smooth controls throughout aid in quick reaction times and uninterrupted action even taking Elizabeth’s aid into account. The endless fights can becomes repetitive at times as you find a setup that works for you, but the introduction of new enemies will often prove different weapons or vigors more useful and various upgrades to them will change their outcomes as well. However, for the length of the game the battles almost always had some measure of challenge to them – the final fight in particular.

The soundtrack that accompanies the game is the perfect accompaniment to the often astounding visuals. From serene choral pieces to adrenaline inducing battle tones, the background sounds move you just as much as the action and story itself. The various reintroduced hits of the 1900s also come as a pleasant surprise whether they consist of a barbershop quarter rendition of “God Only Knows” by the Beach Boys or “Girls just Want to Have Fun” by Cyndi Lauper heard briefly through a tear in a famous musicians house. They easily add an element of surprise and surrealness amidst the idealistic retro-future American background. It is a soundtrack that can find success of its own accord and adds to, and never takes away from, the entirety of the game from start to finish.

bioshock boys of silenceDespite some of the controversy about the extreme violence in Bioshock Infinite, it is a necessary evil. Even the characters remark at one point, “what did you think would happen?” after a particularly brutal scene. The game is not about skirting around issues, but rather envelopes a plethora of extremes. Criticism exists in mass on the amount and level of violence used; but it is through that violence that not only pushes the story forward but also forces players to go through with it despite an innate feeling of how very wrong it is. It makes the players confront the violence head-on not only through general survival, but also in the decisions they make (to spare or kill a person) and through Elizabeth’s reactions to those decisions. There truly can be no morality in extremes.

Although Bioshock Infinite may not hold up to every expectation set by the original, it is a game that is thoroughly enjoyable and stays with you long after the final credits have finished. It will, without a doubt, make you think and question everything that you have seen and done; and it is no wonder it is one of the most talked about games in the industry at this time. Various difficulties, to include the extra challenging 1999 mode unlocked after first completion, as well as numerous achievements gives this title plenty of replay value; and that doesn’t even include the fact that once you have seen the story to its end, playing through again will show you the game in an almost entirely new light. It may still be early in the year, but it is easy to see this as a GOTY contestant. Whether you have been with the series since the original or are looking to see what all the excitement is about, playing through this title is a decision you will not likely regret.

A debt. A girl. A cage. A songbird.

Columbia awaits.

“The mind of the subject will desperately struggle to create memories where none exist…”

The Will of the Abyss ~ Pandora Hearts

“We’re connected not by light, but by shadow”

Pandora_Hearts_Seal___Vector_by_tseon

Listen closely. Whispering ever so softly, can you hear it?

From a small golden pocket watch comes the most beautiful, most sorrowful melody to grace human ears. In its notes it sings of a happiness once found and a tragedy soon befallen.  Just as time continuously moves forward with each note of the song, so too does its story. To piece together its fragments is but one option…and an option that will not be easily carried out at that.

This small watch is but the first key moment of many that soon encompass a young boy’s life and that of those around him.

On the day of his coming of age ceremony, young master Oz Bezarius, his friend and servant Gilbert and his little sister Ada stumble into aPandoraHeartsAnimeWallpapers_377015 hole with but one lone unmarked gravestone and a small watch wound around a side of it.  Picking it up, Oz hears the beautiful notes resound and carries it with him as they depart.

Little did he know that his life was about to change forever. After all, no one ever anticipates the moment that they will lose everything they know and love in one swift, fatalistic blow.

That evening as Oz walks into the old cathedral and towards clock frozen in time, he recites the verses he dutifully memorized and receives honor from his uncle. Ascending the stairs he kneels in front of the stopped clock. As the first word leaves his mouth, the grand clock bellows to life in twelve massive rings. The destined one has awakened and at that very moment all hell breaks loose.

pandora-hearts-screenshot-02Out of nowhere, a large black-scythe-and-chain wielding rabbit emerges and begins to fight the cloaked intruders threatening Oz’s life. Lightning flashes and in a moment of haste, Oz picks up the holy sword at his feet and swings towards one of the lead intruders…only to find himself slashing down his closest and best friend, Gil. Torn by sorrow and grief he is captured and given judgement for his sins. His punishment: to be cast into the abyss for all eternity; and then everything goes black.

The abyss, however, is not simply an endless black hole; but rather a culmination of deadly madness that few ever truly escape from. It is there that Oz first encounters beings of the abyss called “chains” and one chain in particular, named Alice, whom he forms a contract with in order to escape.

Upon their escape, they run into a group of individuals from an organization called Pandora: a group that seeks something called TheChesire9 Will of the Abyss. With the aid of both new and old friends, Alice and Oz seek numerous answers for which they know nothing of. Recovering Alice’s fragmented memories is only the beginning as warring households and dukes as well as opposing organizations all fight towards the same objective. The Will of the Abyss, the century old tragedy of Sabrie, illegal contractors and their chains and even mysteries within their own trusted group allow danger and mistrust to blossom along every step of their journey. Towards what goal, even they remain unsure, but they will move forward no matter what the cost.

Pandora Hearts is a series that has long caught my attention due to its dark, twisted nature and tendrils of magic drawn from Alice in Wonderland. The story, music, visuals and characters all immerse you into its depths with little effort and hold you there throughout its entirety.

The main cast and the larger chains all hold such unique qualities and quirks it is hard to not adore them. An aspect that I found clever was how they directly linked characters from Alice in Wonderland to those within this series – as chains. The most powerful and influential chains encompass not only names of similar nature but also some unique traits as to their overall significance (to include: B-Rabbit (attributed as the March Hare as well as Alice’s embodiment), the Mad Hatter and the Cheshire Cat).

pandora_hearts-1The story, as mentioned previously, is gripping and remarkable of its own accord. Searching for lost fragments of Alice’s memories, defeating rampant chains strewn throughout the city, discovering the secrets each character is carefully trying to mask, finding inner relationships and ties between the cast, a hint of time being tampered with and a link to a tragedy that dragged everyone into their current position. The only complaint I truly had with this anime was the quick tie-up it pulled together to find closing at 25 episodes. The story progressed fine, but ended up leaving more questions unanswered as it diverted up a quick trail to write “the end”. Luckily, as I had heard previously and will now be finding out for myself, the manga is (as often the case) much more in depth and is still ongoing.

I had heard for quite some time that the written version was much better, but even still, I am glad to have watched the anime. Seeing characters come to life through voice and action is always surreal and the music, much of it written by Yuki Kajiura, is simply stunning and would be left incomplete without. Overall, it is an anime that I would easily recommend but with warning that it will leave you returning to its manga roots by its finish.

As time unravels to one of heroes and bloodshed, the softly spoken melody carries on through years to come…through unanswered questions, tears and smiles.

“Every time you kissed me
My heart was in such pain
Gathering the roses
We sang of the grief
Your very voice is in my heart beat
Sweeter than despair
We were there, in everlasting bloom”