(Book) “Animal Farm” Review

“This work was strictly voluntary, but any animal who absented himself from it would have his rations reduced by half.” 
― George Orwell, Animal Farm

farm1When I told my friend that I would like to read a satirical, entertaining novel, he recommended Orwell’s Animal Farm. After seeing what it’s about, I believed that I could find something deep in a seeming light read, and what I found was something more than that; aside from from finding immense depth in a story about talking pigs, I discovered something so disturbing that I felt chills.

Okay, so in Animal Farm, a group of animals have been living under the dictatorship of Mr. Jones, the barn owner. One day, however, a senior pig named Major gave a speech that animals should rebel against humans. Soon after Major’s death, the rebellion happened, and the animals ruled over the farm.

No, that’s not the end of the story, it’s just the beginning. Here’s when the animals create order and a system to run the farm; from ration management to labor distribution, the book tells the story about how these animals achieve independence.

Or do they?

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Looks unsettling? It does for me! Source: https://animalfarmjeets.weebly.com

I won’t spoil things for you if you haven’t read it, but here’s what I can tell you: despite the talking animals, it’s not a happy tale. Things are entertaining at first, but soon, it becomes a story about the problems found in a totalitarian system or bad leaderships in general. And no, it doesn’t get too heavy or boring to read, instead, it becomes more and more interesting by the pages; you will stay curious on how those pigs manage the other animals, how those animals react to their leadership, and other peculiar interactions. Just don’t expect overly comedic moments and tales about bright friendships found in most fables.

The language is perfectly understandable that I don’t feel the need to stop because I don’t understand that last paragraph, and I believe that Animal Farm is a wonderful example on how you can actually utilize simple narratives to deliver complex messages in an engaging manner. The story gets more and more disturbing as it goes on, and I loved it! No, I’m not liking it because it gets disturbingly dark, but because it tells the problem with our society, or even our little group of friends! Things are often political in our lives, and where there is politics, there are greed and self-justification.

When the pigs say that all animals are equal, yet they reserve the milks exclusively for them, saying that they need that nourishment due to all the brainstorming they do, you know that things will only get worse from there.

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“All Animals Are Equal” Source: https://www.deviantart.com/art/Animal-Farm-84122252

Animal Farm  depicts instances of manipulation, deceit, submissive natures, and oppression. It tells about the problems in the promise of equality and other ideals. It tells the story of the society’s progress at the wrong hands, all while including the pieces that play into that demise: from the cunning dictator, the clever spokesman, the hard-working ‘yes man’, the ones who care but don’t have enough power to do a thing, to the pure dumb ones following whatever that is told.

I do recommend reading this to those looking for a unique take on fables or satirical novels; read this, feel disturbed, and then you might realize that you are disturbed at our own selves, at humanity.

And no, you don’t have to know about Joseph Stalin, the Soviet Union, or any of those historical matters to enjoy the work, because I know nothing about those, either! 😀

Rating from me: 4.5/5

Have you read George Orwell’s Animal Farm? Do you plan to? Please share your thoughts about it, I’d love to know! 🙂

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(Book) “Charlotte’s Web” Review

“After all, what’s a life, anyway? We’re born, we live a little while, we die.” 
― E.B. White, Charlotte’s Web

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With so many praises for E. B. White’s Charlotte’s Web, I couldn’t help but give it a try! I’ve always been a fan of lighter stories with deep messages, so my expectation of the book was exactly that, and boy, did it deliver.

Charlotte’s Web is about a pig named Wilbur and his pleasant life in a barn, as well as his attempts to avoid being turned into a tasty serving of pork. Yes, the animals here are actually aware that they might be killed to satisfy the needs of humans, and I think that point alone deserves a plus!

So anyway, the story is actually quite simple, but the delivery is so entertaining and unique that it feels fresh, and I believe an out-of-the-pattern read is what most readers seek after. In propelling the plot forward, the story introduces a number of unique characters, such as the cunning mouse named Templeton and the resourceful spider Charlotte, whom possesses a surprisingly satisfying character depth for a children’s story.

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No, this isn’t a story about how Fern raises Wilbur up

The great thing is, the way these characters interact are consistent and hilarious, as shown in one of Charlotte’s lines: “Trust me, Wilbur. People are very gullible. They’ll believe anything they see in print.” Don’t you think there’s some truth to that sentence spoken by a spider? These interactions are sometimes plain funny, while at other times, they contain little messages that we can all think about for a while, making it an enjoyable read even for adults! I think the problem with most children novels is that there are lots of times where the story just doesn’t progress forward, making several chapters feel like ‘fillers’ that lacks purpose. In Charlotte’s Web, though, I think the story is told neatly; it sticks to one main plot without having those pointless chapters disrupting the reading flow.

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In what story can you see this kind of interaction?

Another great point for me is that even though we are first introduced to Fern (the little girl that apparently saves Wilbur from being killed off) and Wilbur, they aren’t exactly the stars of the story. Instead, I believe that Charlotte is the one doing most of the work, and Wilbur is merely a plot device to let Charlotte shine. Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean the other characters lack purpose; most of them have quite significant roles to play in the story, each can even teach us different messages! It’s just that it’s nice to have a character progression that is different with most stories.

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After reading, you’ll start to empathize with spiders! Well, just a bit…

Oops, I can’t talk too much here without spoiling the story 😀 . In conclusion, the clever interactions, unique plot development, and great messages really make Charlotte’s Web a book that everyone will cherish! Trust me, you should definitely give this a try.

Did I mention it also tells about a theme that is quite sensitive to children in a splendid manner? It’s brilliant! In the delivery of that theme, this is one children’s book that can make tears roll down your cheeks in a way that perhaps even YA books couldn’t!

Rating from me: 5/5

Have you read Charlotte’s Web? Do you plan to? Please share your thoughts in the comments and let’s discuss about it! 😀

(Book) “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” Review

“She had an evil face, smoothed by hypocrisy; but her manners were excellent.” 
― Robert Louis Stevenson, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

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Hello, everyone! I finished reading Robert Louis Stevenson’s “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” a few days ago, and I do believe that this is one strange but alluring book (or novella)!

So this is about a lawyer named Mr. Utterson and a weird case that he finds himself in. One of his friends, Dr. Jekyll, is your ideal nice guy; rich and welcoming to everyone. However, even in the seemingly peaceful neighborhood, there is a mysterious man named Mr. Hyde who loves to commit evil deeds (okay, he doesn’t commit that many evil, but still does it nonetheless!). Strangely, the kind Jekyll states that if he were to die or disappear, his wealth were to be handed over to the menacing Hyde.

We know that there’s more than meets the eye here; Hyde is not just Jekyll’s anybody. There is something lurking behind that man’s kind smile, something that can’t help but make you curious and wanting to know more. The thing is, for those of you who’ve never read the story before, I think you’ll be compelled to keep turning the pages, because more and more questions are revealed in each chapter!

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“Perhaps we are all hideous deep down inside.” Source: https://abigaillarson.deviantart.com

If you’re like me, who have known the general premise of the story before reading it, you will still want to keep on reading to find out more since the writing is easy to follow, and the way they reveal more and more mysteries without being overwhelming makes the reading a comfortable one; you know what’s going on, you don’t really need to stop and think before moving on.

In terms of its characters, they are mostly generic, and there aren’t much character development here. Our main character, Mr. Utterson, is your inquisitive nice lawyer who retains his persona until the end of the story. The other characters are also seemingly generic, although the way they show their emotions are depicted really well. This is the thing, they are not complex characters, but Stevenson expressed their feelings well enough so that you wouldn’t mind them being generic. The only character displaying depth in my opinion is Dr. Jekyll, but that only applies at the very last chapter. Before that, he’s your average nice guy whom you know have a serious secret, that’s it.

As far as I can remember, the characters here don’t really talk that much, but the things they talk about (through direct dialogues, I mean) are all relevant to the story. There are very little pointless chit-chats, so the story doesn’t feel unnecessarily dragged on. That’s a good thing, because there are often works with pointless dialogues for the sake of ‘realism’, and that makes reading through those things a chore and unrewarding.

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“Drink down the evil.” Source: https://animeveteran.deviantart.com

Even though the way the story ends is not as exciting as one might expect out of a mystery novel, it does end quite nicely. The answer only becomes clear in the very last chapter, and the revelation is quite astonishing, yet it makes you think. Yes, I only ponder about the book when I reached the last chapter (is it just me? 😛 ), because the reason of Dr. Jekyll’s actions, his longings, everything can be empathized with.

Simply put, this is not your average detective story, where the murderer or culprit unravels his reasoning and you think: “oh, that’s understandable. Oh, they are madmen. Oh, that’s nonsense”, and many others. Although there is one certain part that’s a bit absurd for me (involving the reason behind the death of a certain somebody). Here, the reveal makes you (or me, at the very least), go “Wait, I think I’m kind of like him”.

This book is like no other, and with its short length, I’m sure it’ll be worth your time. I really want to say more about the nature of good and evil here, but I’m afraid it will spoil the story for some 😦  .

Though I think I’ve spoiled it already through some unwritten means…

RATING FROM ME: 4/5

Have you read “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” before? What do you think about it? I really want to know! 😀

(Book) “To Kill a Mockingbird” Review

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”
-Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

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Hello, everyone! After MONTHS and MONTHS of hiatus (which felt like years to me), I’m finally back! I had to deal with thesis, jobs, and all that stuff, so sorry if I wasn’t active for such a long time…

But I finally had the time to finish Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird! So without further ado, let’s dive into it!

To Kill a Mockingbird is about a little southern girl named Jeanne Louise Finch, commonly referred to as Scout, and her seeing the world. The premise is simple enough, but since we know that reality is not pretty, especially during the 1960s, the way Scout reacts to the dirty world is quite fascinating. I can’t really say a lot here, since it might spoil the whole thing (yes, the story is that simple).

We see Scout interacts with her brother Jem, her father Atticus, and a number of other delightful characters. Then, this problem happens, and Scout presents her innocent view of the world that makes sense, but for some reason, the society doesn’t hold the same opinion. Okay, I think that’s where I draw the line.

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Source: Malay Mail Online

The interactions are portrayed realistically enough. Scout questions a lot of things, Jem seems annoyed at his little sister (which often happens in reality, I think), and Atticus is the wise father who makes the right decisions for them. Despite having great interactions, I do think that Scout is a tad bit too smart for a child her age. Still, I’ve heard of children who are way more mature than expected, so I can make an exception for Scout.

The book tells stories in two primary sections. The first section is less serious, and I believe it focuses more in building up the characters, familiarizing the readers with them. The second section is where the more exciting stuff happens. I have to say, even though I agree that character building is important, I do think that the first section is too long. There are several chapters that wouldn’t even matter even if I didn’t read them, and I think that means those chapters are unimportant. Sure, they make you see Scout and Jem more often, but that’s it.

Interesting enough, although the story revolves one theme, there are other themes that you can find in the story. These smaller themes are all related with that one theme, but they can teach the readers different lessons. This is a nice touch in my opinion, because it makes the book not too linear, so people can’t just say ‘oh, this book is about this’. It makes the narrative deeper without straying from its primary theme, although you might not realize that until the middle of the second section.

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Source: SchoolWorkHelper

I don’t think there’s anything else I can say about this work by Harper Lee. People say that this is a masterpiece, and I agree that for some, it certainly is. For me, however, it’s not. Sure, this is one great book and I had a good time reading it. Nevertheless, I don’t think I can call it a ‘masterpiece’. Maybe it’s because I’ve seen a few books dealing with similar issues already.

Should everyone read this? absolutely. This book presents a crucial issue that is still relevant today in an entertaining, accessible manner. I think we can all learn something from it, something really important. Still, I think everyone already learned about that thing, but they simply refuse to implement it.

Because in this day and age, we still kill the mockingbirds.

Rating from me: 3.5/5

Have you read To Kill a Mockingbird? Please tell me what you think about it! 😀

The Blogger Recognition Award!

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HUGE thanks to The Power of the Printed Word for nominating me! A regularly-updated and active literature blog is kind of rare (I know I’m not one of them 😦 ), so give the blog a look!

The rules:

– Thank the blogger who nominated you and provide a link to their blog.
– Write a post to show your award.
– Give a brief story of how your blog started.
– Give two pieces of advice for new bloggers.
– Select other bloggers you want to give this award to.
– Comment on each blog and let them know you have nominated them & provide the link to the post you created.

How I started my blog:
I started my blog during the holidays, where I have plenty of time to read! Back then, I thought: it would be nice if I can share my view of a book to everyone. The thought emerged since very little of my peers actually enjoy reading novels, and I don’t want my memory of the books I have read to fade off (I am kind of forgetful). Besides, I want to let the good books known by more people! 😀

Eventually, that view got to other entertainment that I also enjoy, movies and games. Sharing my thoughts on the practice of reading itself is also fun for me (and it makes the blog less monotonous), so I decided to include those too!

Advice to new bloggers:

  • Write when you want to – Don’t force yourself to write a blog post when you are not in the mood to write. I know the pressure of wanting to keep the blog updated, but when you write without being in the mind for it, the writing might lack emotion or, say, your usual passion. Of course, there are some people who can craft a compelling, enjoyable piece of writing without being in the mood for it, too! XD
  • Don’t forget yourself while writing – Sometimes, you might want to share something that people like your followers will enjoy. That’s a good thing, but don’t let this kindhearted thought deviate you from doing what you enjoy, the reason you started the blog in the first place. Make sure you are also writing about what you like! Don’t solely write things that your audience enjoys, but you are not interested in. Unless you started the blog for the sole purpose of generating followers or to promote your product, of course.

That’s it coming from me! I hope all of you enjoyed reading and I really wish that my points of advice can be helpful 🙂 . I know it’s been a while since I posted literary content, but I promise I’ll get back to it! I’m currently doing my internship and dealing with my thesis at the same time, so I have a hard getting in the mood to settle down, relax, and read a good book (I plan to finish To Kill a Mockingbird soon).

Thank you for being here with me! I’ll update the blog more often soon 😀

 

My Nominations:

Susan Loves Books

Book Princess Reviews

Not So Modern Girl

Dusk Angel Reads

 

Again, thanks for nominating me for this award!

(Movie) “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” Review

“I’m Mary Poppins, y’all!”
-Yondu Udonta, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

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The second installment to the Guardians of the Galaxy series and the MCU is perhaps one of the most engaging movies I have ever watched.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 takes place some time after the first movie, where Groot is now a baby capable of moving around and shouting. Starlord, Gamora, Rocket Raccoon, Baby Groot, and Drax are on a mission to slay a giant space monster as requested by a race called the Sovereign, in exchange for Nebula, who was captured beforehand by the Sovereign. Afterwards, Rocket Raccoon steals a battery from the Sovereign, and the race decides to capture our defenders of the galaxy through Yondu’s assistance. In the meantime, Starlord / Peter Quill meets his father, Ego, and the team splits up temporarily, with Starlord, Drax, and Gamora visiting Starlord’s father’s planet of his own creation, unbeknownst of the predicaments in the near future.

At first, the plot might seem a bit disjointed with things happening here and there as well as the alternating point of views, but soon, they all come together to create a colorful spectacle of explosions and relationship developments. I believe that having two major events happening at the same time which enables further character development of most characters and then have them meet one another for further development is a great idea 😀 .

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Subjectively, I am not a fan of Baby Groot, but I don’t hate him! I like him, but not that much, for some reason…please don’t bash me!

Speaking of character development, I have to admit that the progression of the characters is way better here than the first Guardians of the Galaxy; things are taken more seriously, and the sudden shift of attitudes (which can be found in a few occasions during the first movie, although it’s nothing too bothersome) is less here, even though Nebula’s change of character is still too quick in my opinion, especially after all the buildup she has in this second entry. As for the other characters, I really get to see they bloom in personality and develop, making them less of an archetypal inclusion, and more of a complex, unique individual. Still, a number of background information is still missing, but I assume it will be addressed in future titles.

 

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An unlikely development? Trust me, great humors aside, these two’s interaction plays a huge role in supporting the acclaimed character development (I have been saying a lot of that, haven’t I?)

 

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 has two things that the first movie lacks, and those are character attachment as well as twists. With interactions that encourage the bonds among the characters, even though a few of them lack background information, they can really grow on you as the movie progresses. If that was the aim of the first movie from the start, then I believe the issue faced by the first movie is not really a problem! XD . As for the twists, it can be somewhat predictable if you observe close enough, but it still provides enough shock-value while answering a lot of questions introduced in the first movie. After having the questions answered, just like most MCU titles, we are given a wonderful action-oriented showdown between the forces of good and evil with a few comedic showcases (you have to see the Pac-Man!), but this time, the sad moments actually felt sad for me. The buildup to the characters are resolved with an effective, lasting impact in the end, which I will not say too much since this review is intended to be largely spoiler-free.

All in all, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 addresses the issues faced by the first movie splendidly, and it avoids the category of being ‘another generic superhero movie’ in a satisfying fashion.

Rating from me: 4.5/5

(Movie) “Guardians of the Galaxy” Review

“I am Groot.”
-Groot, Guardians of the Galaxy

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I know it’s really late, but I really need to do this since the MCU review section is a mess at the moment 😛

I watched this before watching The Avengers, so I know the timeline was a bit messy, but hey, at least I can understand this just fine! Personally, I believe that Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy gives an entirely different vibe compared to the other movies, probably because of its outer-space setting, and that is a good thing! Why is that? Let’s get to the thoughts!

But before that, a brief synopsis. Guardians of the Galaxy is about Starlord, or Peter Quill (that’s a badass nickname he has),  and his attempt to survive outside of Earth by earning money through a number of tasks, including stealing an all-powerful orb which can destroy the universe. When he plans to sell the orb, the step-daughter of an allegedly supreme villain, Thanos, named Gamora, attempts to steal the orb, and then Rocket Raccoon, an outlaw in the form of a talking raccoon appears alongside his ally, the giant tree-like creature named Groot, appears and get caught in the mess. The four eventually get arrested by the Nova Corps, a kind of space-police force, and the imprisonment of these four will lead to an unlikely alliance involving the fate of the entire galaxy.

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Meet the not-so-heroic heroes!

The plot centered around unlikely friendship is often seen, but the unique casts of the characters in Guardians of the Galaxy make it more memorable; we have Starlord, the seemingly normal human being; Gamora, the powerful, quick combatant; Rocket Raccoon, the tinkerer and havoc-enthusiast; Groot, the command-abiding strong creature, as well as Drax (whom the team meets during the imprisonment), the strong dude with little brains. They are incompatible with one another, yet that constant bickering and conflict develop a certain chemistry that makes watching them entertaining. Additionally, the fact that they all have some criminal background instead of being a straight up hero makes their interactions all the more engaging and fresh.

The old-school musics and the tendency to ridicule seemingly serious moments (you’ll understand after watching the first few minutes of the movie) are great, since they provide a unique identity to the galaxy franchise, avoiding the case of it being ‘another Avengers movie’; it is a movie capable of standing on its own without ceaselessly being compared with a movie that is perhaps more renowned.

 

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I won’t rant about Thanos here since he is simply introduced in this movie! XD

 

The plot’s nice, since it is woven neatly, resulting in there being very little disorientation or a sense of it being a jumbled mess. Despite the positives, however, I personally find that the villain is kind of bland and shallow. Ronan is but a villain with an evil intent and a thirst for power. I realize that a number of villains possess those traits, but at least they have something ‘more’, something that motivates them to commence their evil master-plan. Maybe I simply have forgotten it, but if I actually have forgotten it, I think it was not that memorable for me in the first place. A similar case can be said for the background of our main heroes; we know a bit about Starlord’s background, but his is about the only information provided somewhat sufficiently. The remaining background information of Gamora, Rocket Raccoon, Groot, and Drax is provided from time to time, but they are simply in the form of occasional utterances. Sure, Gamora’s sister, Nova, explains a few things, but that’s more on her motivation to do things rather than Gamora’s. As for the others, they have it worse.

To conclude, Guardians of the Galaxy explores the relationship among the protagonists really well, but in the end, due to the lack of attachment to a number of the characters, it results in most of them being an archetypal cast, even with the bittersweet climax.

Rating from me: 3.5/5

(Videogame) “Summon Night: Swordcraft Story 2” Review

“The promise of a Craftknight is stronger than the toughest steel.”
-Edgar/Aera Colthearts

Hey, everyone! Since I enjoyed the previous entry of this title, I decided to give the second one a go! To be honest, I’ve played it years ago, but I had forgotten so much about it that replaying it was like playing it for the first time! 😀 . This was one of the earliest GBA games for me after Pokémon, so perhaps it is because of that, the series holds a special place in my gaming mind 🙂 . Now then, for the thoughts!

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The main characters have a fairly distinctive appearance now! Source: HERE

Similar with the first game, Summon Night: Swordcraft Story 2 utilizes the classic “no more dad for you” formula. In the game, the protagonist lost his or her dad due to a beast named Goura rampaging in Cliff Village. Being raised by Blaire, a craftknight, our protagonist grows to be his apprentice, living alongside his children, Orin and Tatiana. The protagonist, however, is an Edge Fencer, a bloodline that enables the person within the ancestry to wield the power of Goura, and the only person capable of sealing it off. After a shocking event, Goura’s seal is removed, and our protagonist needs to gather the sword called Daemon Edge, all in order to seal Goura once again.

The premise is pretty basic, but trust me, it develops! Moreover, there are various side stories along the way that are also interesting, albeit a little bit too short. Still, before talking about the story further, let’s talk a bit about the gameplay. At the start of the game, you would have to choose your guardian beast, and the variety is really great! Choose from a hot-blooded oni, a cool mechanoid, a wind spirit, and a devil with an alternate angel imprisoned inside her. The good thing is, you can now determine which one you want instead of having them assigned to you by answering questions 😀 .

It still retains the real time action-based combat, but more challenging, since if your weapon’s durability gets too low, it will break, so you would have to craft a new one; in the first game, your weapon’s durability automatically gets refilled after a battle, but in this one, you’ll have to either go back to the workshop to repair them manually (free of charge, yay!), or use items to restore its durability. This encourages a better weapon management, and you would have to decide whether to engage in a battle or not since you could lose your weapon because of that extra EXP. Also, in crafting, you have to use ‘shapestones’ unique to each type of the weapon you are going to make, so unless you have two sword shapestones, you cannot carry two swords with you.

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That transformation is neat! Source: HERE

Also, the protagonist can actually transform into a more powerful form! I won’t spoil anything more than that here, but the point is, it makes us feel more ‘special’, and it can act as a last resort when your health is low, because transforming not only grants you a higher offensive power, but it also refills your health to the max! Some might say this might make the battle less challenging, but believe me, the battles are harder here. Enemies guard more often and more accurately, and there are times where you battle two bosses at once, and the annoying thing is, most of them strike lightning fast! So don’t worry about the challenge, because you will get plenty of them. Well, either that or I am just not that good in the game…

Nevertheless, useful items such as the repellent amulet to decrease the random encounter rate need to be crafted manually at the shop, and the materials are not found until much latter in the game. This makes it really difficult to avoid monsters, and you might have to escape constantly because it was like your ninetieth encounter in the same map. Moreover, that scenario is bound to happen since for some reason, the game often requires you to travel back and forth. You almost achieved your destination in the map? Well then, how about putting a small event at that point where you have to travel halfway back, and then have a battle before requiring you to walk all the way to the end of the map again? I understand that this can heighten the realism and development, but when it occurs really often, with the random encounters, it can get a bit annoying, especially when the monsters in the area are unable to provide you with much EXP anymore. The ‘escape’ magic helps a bit, but you can only use it twice, and then you would need to sleep to refill it again.

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Funny moments? You still get it! Source: HERE

Story-wise, however, it’s better than the first one in my opinion. Aside from the similar, yet more complex main story, the side stories, involving a mermaid’s love, a sibling’s struggle, a ghost trying to get her body back, and many more add quite a bit of variety, making you engaged more often rather than focusing on one specific goal; after a while, trying to save the village can be quite boring, you know? Also, the twists are still there as the endgame approaches, but this time, they come in layers! So it will be a twist after a twist, and the unexpectedness is just superb compared to the previous game.

As for the cast of characters, each has his or her own personality; we have the weird but powerful Toumei, the sweet yet often hot-headed Tatiana, the caring brotherly figure Orin, the tsundere devil-angel (if you choose her as your guardian beast), a childhood friend with a personality way deeper than you would have thought, and many more. The weird thing is, I care more for the characters in the first game rather than the ones here, although objectively speaking, they have way more variety here. I wonder why….

In conclusion, Summon Night: Swordcraft Story 2 takes the already great formula of the first game, and enhance it nearly in every aspect, resulting in a deeper game with a better storytelling. There are annoyances here and there, but they are nowhere near game-breaking. RPG lovers, give this a try, and there is a 70% chance that you will love it!

Rating from me: 4/5

(Book) “Catch-22” Review

“Anything worth dying for…is certainly worth living for.”
-Joseph Heller, Catch-22

I am not a fan of war novels or those involving the armies since I am not a fan of explosive scenes in books, and the numerous military jargons make me unable to appreciate the story involved (if there are any stories at all). I suppose you can say that I am afraid that military strategies and serious political affairs might permeate the plot in war novels. Basically, a war novel is not my thing, but Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 is not it.

Catch-22 tells about Yossarian, a 28-year-old captain of the 256th squadron of the twenty-seventh United States Army Air Force stationed in the small island of Pianosa. Yossarian, despite being part of the ongoing World War II, despises the war since he believes that strangers from everywhere are trying to kill him. Not only are the people from outside of his nation’s army are trying to kill him, but he believes that everyone attempts to take his life, even those from his own squadron, namely Colonel Cathcart, a a superior constantly increasing the number of missions required for the men to be discharged from combat. As a result, Yossarian flies his bomber plane in fear, and wishes to avoid going into war missions altogether. With a number of his friends, a story about one’s fear, absurdity, and sanity will be told.

That might not provide you with anything in regards to how the plot progresses, but that’s fine, since Catch-22 is basically about numerous things. The main story is still Yossarian’s fear and his attempt to avoid flying, but there are a number of stories told, too, such as Major Major Major Major’s (yes, that’s a legitimate name) reasons in avoiding everyone wishing to meet up, saying that they can only see him when he is not in his office. There is also Nately, one of Yossarian’s friends, and his attempt to obtain the love of a prostitute working in Rome; the Chaplain’s struggle against the absurd military force and his own faith; Milo Minderbinder’s quest for corporate wealth, as well as numerous others. There is a primary plot, which is Yossarian’s attempt to free himself from life-threatening conditions, but that main plot is supported by a number of side-stories, and some of those side-stories are not even related to the main plot at all; a number of the chapters are there to provide further background information on the characters, and some of them contain a few paragraphs of crucial events, but digress into nonsensical interactions for comedic or satirical purposes.

Yossarian has decided to live forever or die in the attempt. Source: HERE

Speaking of satires, the novel is considered as one of the greatest satirical works in the twentieth century, ridiculing military bureaucracy or even the situation of the society as a whole. Satirical works are often told in an absurdist kind of perspective, and Catch-22 is filled with absurdity to the brim. Those absurdities make sense from time to time, but sometimes, the characters are so dumb that it doesn’t make sense at all in real-life, but since this is a satire, such absurdities are delightful to see. Often, the book utilizes plays of logic to emphasize the conflict or for the sake of humor. Perhaps the most well-known instance of this is Doc Daneeka’s introducing the term Catch-22 to Yossarian. Catch-22 is one of the unwritten rules stating that those with mental problems can be grounded and sent home, avoiding combat. However, the soldiers have to ask themselves to be grounded, acknowledging that they are insane in the process. Still, if they ask themselves to be grounded, that means they want to avoid putting their life at risk, which means it is a rational thought, and thus, they are not crazy. If they decide to fly the missions, putting their life on the line, they have to be crazy, so they can be grounded, but they are unable to ask for such thing since asking it would mean they are rational. Such contradictory rules are stated as Catch-22, a term from the book which has even been included in the dictionary!

The novel might seem to be a nonsensical, jumbled mess for those reading it (from the first page until its very end), especially when the some of the characters are so dumb that the story is unrealistic, and the story is told with constant flashbacks and a disorganized time frame. The first chapter is when most of the major missions have been flown, but the next chapter takes you back to before the first chapter. Then, the story takes place after the first chapter, then back to before the second chapter’s flashbacks, and so on. Things are messy, making the temporal setting of the chapters exhausting to be understood.  A feeling of dread and frustration might arise within the readers during the first few chapters, a feeling probably felt by Yossarian being situated inside the perilous, chaotic setting of war. After a few chapters, however, I begin not to puzzle things too much, and indeed, that decision to ignore the confusions paid off in the end, since as I read, things gradually made sense, at least in terms of the time; the events without any context are eventually explained, although readers would have to bear with the confusion for a while and piece together the puzzle on their own later on if they wish to.

Despite being largely casual in the beginning, relying on absurd interactions for comedic purposes, as well as unraveling background information of the characters irregularly, as the novel progresses, the story becomes darker. Catch-22 is a war novel, but it only emanates the sense hopelessness and the graveness of wartime in the concluding chapters of the novel, which increases the effectiveness of the sudden, cruel portrayal of war; you can be all happy, oblivious to dangers, or even lie to yourself all you want, but death is looming very closely.

Although the overt presentation of the story is about war, the book does not feel like a war novel to me; the element of war, although relevant, is only the blanket disguising the satirical messages towards various societal values. To me, it is a pessimistic perception towards the society, and the scary thing is, such extreme viewpoint might contain more than a few realistic, relatable aspects. It is a story of war, political games, entrepreneurial wickedness, friendship, mourning, romance, and the fragility of one’s life. The admirable thing is, all the serious stuff is portrayed through humorous, unique interactions that make it not boring at all for those not minding absurdities here and there. Moreover, the fact that most of the characters are generic (some do not even talk until a few hundred pages) makes the book’s accomplishment in making the book memorable all the more commendable.

Milo Minderbinder, a good friend that brings more harm than good. Source:HERE

There might be a huge number of difficult adjectives scattered throughout the book (at least they are difficult for me), but I believe the primary reason behind readers’ avoiding the book is due to the messy narrative mostly devoid of any sense of time, although there are indications such as the number of missions Colonel Cathcart has raised to assist in keeping track of it. Also, the sense that nothing big or exciting is happening until the first few hundred pages might discourage readers from continuing it. I happen to be a fan of absurd narratives and satires, so I find Catch-22 one of the more engaging reads I have read so far, to the extent that I finished the large book in two weeks! I can’t even finish the 200-page Heidi in two months.

I understand that this book might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but there is a reason behind its popularity. For those loving black humor and absurd reads, as well as not minding the messy storytelling, you’ll love Catch-22. For those wanting to read it because of the fame it has generated, please do give it a chance. The society that we are living in is by no means blissful, and Joseph Heller has portrayed that situation perfectly with lots of laughs.

It is messy, yet neat at the same time. It is unrealistic, yet realistic. It is nonsensical, yet it makes sense. It is strange, but not strange at all. You’ll understand if you pick it up 😀 .

Rating from me: 4.5/5

Have you read Catch-22? If yes,  what are your thoughts about it? If no, do you plan to?

(Videogame) “Summon Night: Swordcraft Story” Review

“A female Craftknight is greater than a male one. True of False?”
Sanary

 

 

I picked up some Game Boy Advance games recently out of nostalgia, and I plan to play a couple of them! “Summon Night: Swordcraft Story” was one of my earliest GBA games over a decade ago, and I still remember a number of elements of the story and the overall mechanic of the game; they are just sooo memorable! XD

The story is about Cleru or Pratty (though you can name him/her whatever you wish), an apprentice working for Bron, a blacksmith. Cleru/Pratty is the child of Shintetsu, one of the seven Craftlords in the city of Wystern. Shintetsu sacrificed himself in order to seal a certain powerful monster, and a tournament is held in Wystern in order to determine his successor. As his child, Cleru/Pratty aims to achieve his dream of becoming a Craftknight, and following the path of his/her father as a Craftlord.

That is basically the general storyline, but as the game progresses, a more complicated plot is introduced, turning it from a tournament-based story to one involving drama and the fate of the world. Aside from the main story, at the end of each ‘chapter’, players can decide to talk with a list of available characters which expands as the game goes on; this is similar to a ‘relationship-enhancement’ system where you get closer to the character(s) you choose, and this affects the ending that you will get, adding further depth to the story.

Summon1

The story is not exactly ‘amazing’ in my opinion. Although the initial premise is somehow unique, after a while, it gets quite predictable and if observed closely, it can even be considered as a generic fantasy plotline which has been applied in a wide variety of media. Nevertheless, the character design (as in the art and the archetypes used) is superb for me, and that makes the generic plot less of a negative point. In fact, I don’t think that is not a problem at all, since there are plenty of movies, books, and games that utilize similar formula with one another.

When such ‘coincidence’ occurs, it really depends on the characters to add the essential spice that makes the storytelling engaging, and I believe “Summon Night: Swordcraft Story” manages to deliver that point somewhat satisfyingly; everything is fine except for the sudden switch of personality. Personality switches are common in storytelling, but when it happens too easily or suddenly, it lacks the fundamental impact. It’s not a long game and it is meant to be played on the go without any overly complicated narrative, but I do believe that a more explored character-depth should have been possible.

summon2

As for the gameplay, it is not a traditional RPG, but rather, the game utilizes real-time action system where the players would have to maneuver the character across the screen in a two-dimensional fashion within a side-scrolling map. During battle, players are able to cast various spells through their guardian beast, switch weapons, and perform attacks unique to each type of the weapons.

There are five kinds of weapons available: sword, spear, axe, knuckle, and drill. Players can craft them after obtaining the technique and the required materials, and they offer different playstyle. Moreover, players can switch from a sword to a drill mid-battle, enabling deeper strategic decisions while battling. Additionally, each monsters have their own elemental types, and different elemental spells might have different damage calculations on them.  Outside of battle, it plays just like any 2D RPGs; players walk around, talk to people, explore collecting loots, grind for levels, and finish sidequests for extra rewards.

“Summon Night: Swordcraft Story” is a great game despite its generic story; the beautiful character design and engaging gameplay makes up for that, and a game that puts the relationship between its characters as the primary drive for the plot is always a nice thing to have 🙂 .

Rating from me: 3.5/5