Thursday, September 22, 2016

[ANIMANIUS] Final Fantasy XV-Brotherhood

Final Fantasy XV-Brotherhood

Now, I'm going to say this first: I am a massive fan of the Final Fantasy series, and followed this game in particular from the time that it was in its Versus XIII stage. When Final Fantasy XV was first given a release date back on March 30th (even if it did delay. Fricking Square Enix), this anime adaption was announced as well, and I knew that I had to watch it. 

I may be a Final Fantasy fan, but that doesn't mean I'm gonna go easy on this anime.

~~~~~~

PLOT


Feel free to blast "Stand By Me" by Florence + The Machine as you read this one. Because that's what I'm doing, and it pleases me.


There really is no plot-heavy emphasis for the anime--it is the story of four young men traveling to the realm of Altissia in order to meet with Princess Lunafreya in order for Prince Noctis Lucis Caelum to marry her and bind their kingdoms together.


Brotherhood is a prequel to the game and can be watched as a standalone since the game hasn't been released yet, and it does not have to tie in to the Kingsglaive movie either. Its purpose is to serve as a defining statement on how these four characters met and how they came on this journey together. In other words, character development is the strong point of this mini-series. Each episode is only about 10-20 minutes long, so it can be finished relatively fast, but I watched as the episodes premiered until I finished up.

CHARACTERS

(For the characters, I will not be focusing on anything relating to the main plot of XV nor anything that could be drawn too far towards it.)

Noctis: I'll start with our princely lead, Noctis Lucis Caelum. Sole heir to the kingdom of Lucis and weaponsmith of the conjuring breed, he is on a journey with his three friends Prompto, Gladiolus and Ignis to venture to the realm of Altissia, seeking union with his childhood friend and betrothed, Lunafreya Nox Fleuret. After war plagues his life, he is sent away by his father Regis for safekeeping, a fact unknown to Noctis himself until long into his travels.

Noctis himself is actually a character that was unexpected to me. I normally take princes in stride when I watch anime or play video games, or hell, even in books, because they feel cut from similar cloths: happy, cheerful, gentle, mellow and naive... that kind of thing. Or they're the complete opposite of rebellious, angry, snappy.

But then there's Noctis, who feels like a combination of both traits. He's calm and naive, but at the same time, he loves to have fun playing at the arcade with his friends, taking photos, generally being silly. He's not above having fun, and when you put him next to brooding Final Fantasy main characters like Cloud, Lightning or Squall, he seems like a breath of fresh air as a main character. I feel like there's more to his personality that has yet to be uncovered.

As far as his story episode(s) go in Brotherhood, we get insight into the past that he had. But as it's a spoiler to the main story of Final Fantasy XV, I'm going to keep it concealed! ...Unless he decides to sleep through his own past. As much as he loves to sleep, it wouldn't surprise me if he did.


Prompto: Right hand man and best friend to our prince steps in Prompto Argentum, gunner and general kickstarter of all things fun! 

When I first heard of XV, Prompto's demeanor was the one that held the most interest for me. He seemed to be silly in the trailers, pretty crazy at times, and a brilliant contrast to Noctis in terms of his playful banter. I still feel as though he is one of the best characters of the group because of how positive he tends to be. He's the one that you see having the most fun of the four. While people are working on getting camping materials together, he's taking pictures. Whenever Ignis allows him, he's driving the Regalia (yep, that's the name of the Batmobile-like car) down the sunny roads or is right in the passenger's seat complimenting all of the sights along the way. 
Jumping right into Prompto's story of how he met Noctis... they actually attended school together. Yep, you heard it here first: a prince that actually attends a public school. But that's not the twist here. You see that lanky guy up there in the photo, right? Well, try to picture him a little more... plumpy. And let's call him Plumpto. Because it's cute.

Quite a contrast, right? But there's some serious admiration behind this story. 

(SPOILERS AHOY!) Prompto is actually an orphan living alone in his home that uses whatever money he earns to order out because, well, he can't cook. He's only about twelve here, and is pretty much alone at the start of his saga. Then he befriends a dog, and when he returns it, he is asked to become friends with Noctis through Princess Lunafreya due to his lingering solitude. It was her dog he kept safe!

This spark between them ignites the flame in Prompto to push himself to want to talk to Noctis, but after attempting once, he finds that his weight kills his confidence. So he works hard every day, cuts down his diet, runs outside even through the rain, all to work and befriend the prince. On their first day of high school, Prompto succeeds and introduces him, and Noctis quickly accepts him not because of his amazing weight change, but because of his character. He had been the only person to see Noctis as something more than the prince that he is. (END SPOILERS!)

I see Prompto to be the most inspirational one of the group based on his episode alone. And I truly look forward to seeing his development in the game!

Gladiolus: Next up our list, we have the bulky and ~occasionally~ brash Gladiolus Amicitia, the man with the greatsword!

If Prompto is to be Noctis's right-hand man, I would have to place Gladiolus as his shield. Gladiolus is actually the man that trained Noctis in his fighting skills, even when he was still in a prime of his own training, sworn through family birthright to protect the Caelum family. He is a free-talker and is often the one that keeps the group on track during their mission, but his direct nature tends to cause spats with Noctis due to their conflicting personalities.

Personally, I think that Gladiolus is probably the one that interested me the least of the four on the team initially, but I still adore his attitude nonetheless. His appearance gives me some reminiscence of Angeal Hewley from Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII (my FAVORITE Final Fantasy game, by the way, but that's a review for another day!), but far more rugged. And as much as I love Angeal, I feel that Gladiolus is almost his perfect contrast despite holding high positions in both of their fields.

(SPOILERS AHOY!) In his episode, it is shown that Gladiolus not only has a younger sister that he protects, Iris, but that he actually seeks as a main goal to be the shield of King Regis rather than the young and sometimes gutless Noctis.

Iris longs to meet Noctis since they aren't far off in age, and when she finally does have the chance, her childish nature kicks in and she chases a cat. Noctis ends up pursuing her when he sees her in time, and the two end up going on a mini-adventure of their own together. It's a rather sweet event. But after the fact, the kingdom is going nuts looking for them, and Iris ends up crying when Gladiolus gets angry at her. But after seeing the noble and honorable nature that Noctis shows by putting the blame on himself for them both getting lost (and Noct getting grounded, whoo, go Regis, you are a good parent!) and coming back so late, Gladiolus decides to be more open-minded about shaping a relationship with him. (SPOILERS END!)

I think what I anticipate most about Gladiolus would have to be the way that he carries himself among the group, given that he's probably (next to Ignis) the most serious without being too out of control. It'd be an interesting balance.

Ignis: Finally of the characters, we have Ignis Scientia, loyal servant of the Caelum family, dagger-wielder dynamo, world-class cook, and the only one with an incredibly hot accent. *Wink-wink-nudge-nudge*

Ignis is my favorite character released so far as a main character due to his mixture of a serious nature due to being one of the oldest of the group in tandem with his dark banter of joking. The fact that he can bind himself so closely with younger, more fun characters such as Prompto and Noctis and find common ground with someone as mixed up as Gladiolus, is almost admirable. But that's not what strikes a chord in me about Ignis. Oh no. It has to definitely be the dialogue that he's given, and how he is portrayed. It's such a playful banter behind a serious tone. Which means that he's unpredictable and cuts through the grain of his character archetype. He's the stalwart soldier with glasses and cool demeanor, but he's also fun, silly, likes to mess around with his friends, probably has a beer or two on the weekends with Gladio and shoots pong. I just... I love him so much.

On to his episode. It just shows his guidance towards our prince, acting as the right dagger to Noctis's sword-hand strikes; swift, unexpected, clean-cut. In the times of crisis, Ignis is the one caring for Noctis during his high school days when he's living away from the castle in an apartment. Noctis has no restraints on caring about his health, and in particular during this episode, asks Ignis to recreate a certain pastry that he had tried. All the while, chaos is unfolding from the shadows of the Lucis kingdom, and there is little that either of them are able to do to assist.

Ignis is the one that often acts as the voice of reason of the four, partially due to his age and experiences within the Caelum family. He is also the primary strategist, which holds heavy support over the group. And he is by far the one that I am the most curious about in the story. There has to be more to him than just that stalwart behavior.


ANIMATION

I personally thought that the animation quality of the characters was decent, suited the style of the show. 

Obviously when placed next to the game, the graphics of XV are superior to Brotherhood by far.

I think that most of the animation budget may have gone towards the scenery and action scenes rather than the character designs. Though, I don't feel that it takes away from the story in general. I still overall enjoyed watching everything.

Oh, and at one point, it gets all Kingdom Hearts-y. As in, Nomura and Tabata both have their fixations with characters falling through the water, through the air, etc. 

OVERALL

I think that this is a good standalone anime in order to prep up the hype for Final Fantasy XV coming out on November 29th! Now it makes me feel prepared to jump into Kingsglaive!

I found that the pacing of the episodes was a bit... mundane for me after Prompto's episode, but I still loved getting in-depth with the characters and learning more about how they came to grow alongside Noctis, how they met, and seeing them interact together in those short episodes. 

I'd give the anime as a standalone a 6.8 out of 10, and round it up to 7! 

Here's to more reviews!


Wednesday, September 14, 2016

[GAME GRINDING] Tales of Graces F

TALES OF GRACES F (PS3)


Behold, my review on the Graces saga as a whole now that I've completed the main arc. This will NOT be including the extra arc Lineage and Legacies accessed after completing the game through once due to me never completing it.
~~~~~

PLOT

Tales of Graces F centers around Asbel Lhant, an heir to the country of Lhant, in the fictional world of Ephinea. During his childhood, Asbel befriends an amnesiac girl, whom he has affectionately begun to call Sophie, and witnesses her death. Seven years later, he is reunited with the girl who retains her amnesia.

Seems like a simplistic plot, right?

Well... I think that the plot is decent as a whole. The story in itself expands so much further than that as you get through the game. While playing through, I found that some of the plot is unorganized, and some things just seemed to not add up as a whole. Like... for instance, why Hubert was sent away from Lhant. Just a small example. You'll often find yourself jumping back to a lot of different places streaming all throughout Ephinea in order to further advance the story. "What? But I was just AT Lhant... now you want me to go BACK to Lhant? ....Now you want me to go to the Seaside Cavern? Oh great, now we have to go to Velanik? OH GOD."

I won't go to in detail on the plot aside from the obvious adventures that follow from a Tales game.


CHARACTERS

Now, I'll focus on the main characters of our little Tales of Squadron: Asbel Lhant, Sophie, Cheria Barnes, Hubert Oswell, Malik Ceaser, Pascal, and Richard.

Asbel: My first impressions of Asbel came with him being a child. I personally thought that as a child, Asbel was... plain to say, your typical rebellious kid. He always acted out, tried to keep away from his position as the heir to the Lhant name, wanted to become a knight. I also was somewhat against the way he treated his father, but I was even more against how his father treated him, because it was borderline abusive. Sure, when Asbel gets older, it was seen as a misunderstanding, but their relationship was just turbulent to begin with. As for Asbel after the seven-year time skip... he has moments where he can be completely moronic in his actions, and he'll leave you wanting to hit him upside the head. He's dense to anything that doesn't flare his temper or make him happy, and that includes Cheria's feelings for him. But I think that the more that you see through his eyes... the more likable he can be. Granted, he isn't one of my top Tales protagonists, but I think that after he grows up, he's better as a character. I’ll put him in the middle road in terms of where I think he stands as a character.

Sophie: My initial thoughts on Sophie were that she was, well, amnesiac. And based on my past experiences dealing with amnesiac characters, they are boring, bland, and generally have no character to call their own. I am looking at you, Heroine from "Amnesia." But the more that you see Sophie, even in the childhood arc, you see that she is meant to serve a purpose, unlike some other amnesiacs I have seen in other media. Then after seven years go by, and she has returned, you see that not much has changed about her initial personality and she has to shape it again. It might sound like a bad thing… but it really isn’t. She grows, and she grows better than most characters in the game if not the best. She has her likes, for example, Crablettes. She has her dislikes, like seeing people fight. She values friendship thanks to Asbel. She learns to laugh, to smile, to be genuinely happy and grateful towards her friends. And later, when you do learn her purpose, you sympathize with her. Sophie was probably one of my top favorites amongst the group because of her development as a character, how she reacts around other characters, and she’s just so damn adorable that it’s hard not to find at least a little fun in liking her.

Cheria: My initial thoughts on Cheria… “Another Laura Bailey character, yay!” Yep. My first thoughts went towards her voice actress, one of my all-time favorites. Moving on. Cheria is first introduced in Lhant as a child like Asbel and Hubert, and her first gestures revolve around Asbel and Hubert leaving her behind in the town and going up to Lhant Hill, where they initially found Sophie. Asbel makes comments on Cheria being sickly (which, I’m still trying to figure out why all that she had was a nearly-incurable-cough-of-death syndrome), and Cheria gets upset with him. After which, Sophie gives her a flower, and she calms down. Wow. She’s easy to please, eh? This is pretty much a running thing in my eyes with Cheria as a child. She talks to Asbel, Asbel does something to piss her off, she gets angry, someone else does something to calm her down, and then the whole thing repeats itself later. Don’t get me wrong, Cheria’s cute… but I don’t think I could’ve ever dealt with that long, because it’s obvious that she loves him, and he’s too dense to see it, but at the same time, maybe he just didn’t care growing up because girls weren’t his thing. Later, after what happens with Sophie and Hubert gets sent to Strahta to live with the Oswell family (JERK move, Aston, by the way), she tries to cheer up Asbel. So, yeah, as a child, Cheria was my least favorite. Let’s get to adult Cheria. She shows up again at the Knight Academy to tell Asbel that his father had recently died fighting in a war to protect Lhant. And she also becomes your ace healer (…she’s actually one of the best healers towards the end, I found, because she kept throwing out Resurrection after Resurrection during that final fight), and she doesn’t change much spare that she’s more motherly towards Sophie and acts as the group’s mother as a whole. Overall… I love her voice, love her healing skills, and having her as a healer in tandem with Sophie, well, dying isn’t easy. Don’t care much for Cheria’s character, and she’s probably still my least favorite main team member overall.

Hubert: My initial thoughts on Hubert were relating to how much of a scaredy-cat he was as a little kid. But I thought that it was charming. He’s the younger brother to the overly confident and somewhat assholish Asbel, so it’s only natural that he’d be both more intelligent and more prone to awareness of fear. He’s a sweet kid, and that act stays throughout the entire childhood arc—he acts as the balance between Asbel and Cheria, having grown up with the two of them. However, he’s also seen the least of the group of main fighters in the childhood arc because he ends up lugging around with his father. It’s later revealed why—he is going to be sent away to Strahta to be raised in the Oswell family, likely for political reasoning more than money, because it’s not like the Lhant family is struggling much. Seven years later, we see Hubert make a return not as a scared little kid, but as a powerful young lieutenant working under the Strahta military. His determination is strong, and his passion burns stronger, his attitude is much more mature than it had been originally. And personally, I love the way that Hubert has changed. Some people say that he is arrogant, whiny, even insufferable himself, but I love it, and Hubert is one of my favorites among the group for it. The more time that goes on, you learn that he doesn’t feel accepted in the Oswell family either, and you sympathize with him on it. It’s just… Hubert is one of those characters that really got the short end of the stick, so I can understand his attitude towards it all, and his reasoning.

Malik: Malik is one of two characters that first makes an appearance during the time skip. He is introduced as Asbel’s “Captain” as he learns to become a Knight. In other words, his superior. My initial reaction to Malik when he first appears... “He. Looks. SO manly and cool.” See, I have experience with manlier characters, because in "Tales of Xillia," I love Alvin the most by far of the guys, and I also love Gaius, the manly man of the series. In "Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII," I’m in an obsessive love with Zack Fair, but I also really love Angeal Hewley, who is the manlier of the characters in terms of appearance. Just to name a few. So, seeing Malik Caesar-Salad, I thought that I was in for something special. And he didn’t fail me. He has a cool personality, he can be serious, but he also can be very laid back, and it only gets more fun in the Lineage and Legacies playthrough. He’s just really fun to get to know, and he even has a sad past behind him when you play with the star missions and see more about him. Malik bumped himself up near Hubert’s level pretty easily, so he is tied for my second favorite character in Graces. 

Pascal: Let me tell you the truth here. Pascal is the reason I wanted to play Graces. Because by coincidence, I stumbled upon the Graces victory quotes on YouTube, and I thought the Pascal was the most energetic and lively character I’d seen in a while. I mean, she pulled CONFETTI FROM THE AIR during some of her quotes, and she’s just a walking emoticon! How cool is THAT?! Like Malik, she is introduced during the time-skip, and what is the first thing she does when we meet her? Try to grope Sophie, only to get blasted away. That’s one of the most memorable introductions I can think of in a Tales game, next to Leia’s introduction as a character in "Tales of Xillia." But anyways, after that, Pascal takes the group of Asbel, Sophie and Richard down into an Amarcian portal around Wallbridge in order for them to infiltrate. And you see immediately… that Pascal is the epitome of the smartest idiot in the world. “Lemme just give it the ka-chunk ka-chunk there, and hat-tooey here… Bingo!” And you can’t help but love her still, even if she’s the craziest plot-twister ever. If she spouted fourth-wall, I would probably compare her to Pinkie Pie from "My Little Pony." And yes, I did go there. Pascal is an overall fun character, very positive, even when she’s being insulted by characters like Hubert, who find her to be a disgraceful, insufferable woman. Oh, Hubert, stop, I knew that you loved her the moment that you met. And even when she is sad, she still retains the group’s positoovity (name that reference) and keeps them all together. Pascal is my favorite overall character in Graces because of how she handles each situation with a positive aspect, and she is not only a team player that I use, but she is the reason I kept going nonstop with the game.

Richard: Richard is the character we have on our party the least often. He is introduced during the childhood arc, when Asbel, Cheria, Sophie and Hubert BREAK INTO HIS ROOM while he’s staying at Lhant Manor, and find out that he’s a prince. It is only after Asbel defends Richard and ends up fighting against his sword teacher (only to lose, of course), that Richard gains a respect for him. My thoughts: “Um… you got buddy-buddy a little fast there, even if you were initially saying that you didn’t want to be friends with him.” But, as a child, I thought that Richard was pretty sweet. He is a prince, but at the same time, he’s not spoiled. He has noble thoughts in wanting to become a leader. And he is aware of danger as it is presented in front of him. When Richard gets older, Asbel meets up with him in the Barona Catacombs, just like he wanted him to do when they were children. And it doesn’t take long for the gamers to realize that something’s off about him. And it takes even shorter time for us to realize a key thing: Richard lived long enough to become the Graces villain. And Richard’s attitude changes, while understandable… made me angry about his character. And it made him drop down to one of my least favorites solely because of how deceptive he is. (Key: This is still before Lineage and Legacies, my perspective did change on Richard a little by this point.)

GAMEPLAY

While a little broken at times, it’s definitely one of the more fun Tales games I’ve gotten my hands on. 

I usually ended up playing with Asbel because I had the easiest time controlling him overall, but I also found that I liked playing with Hubert a lot too, because his attacks are so fast and somewhat easy to maneuver with. My team usually consisted of Asbel, Cheria for healing, Pascal for summoning and elemental work, and I would alternate between Sophie, Malik and Hubert for leveling purposes. I usually had Sophie as a backup healer as well since she’s such a balanced fighter. I used Hubert because his first Mystic Arte is INCREDIBLE to have handy and are the most powerful I believe overall, in addition to his fast attacks… Malik is a great ranged fighter with his Bladerang, and he was among the most agile. Richard… I think he’s good for strength if you don’t want to have Asbel on the team, and he has a lot of ranged arte attacks that get the job done.

I LOVE the Eleth Mixer, it’s probably the easiest leveling system for items and cooking, etc. that I’ve had to use. I think it’s even better than just leveling up shops like in Xillia. Dualizing is fun as well!

OVERALL

Overall, I give this game a 7.5/10 for enjoyment factor as well as the characters and plot basis.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

[BOOK REVIEW] Tales of a Redheaded Sea Witch

“TALES OF A REDHEADED SEA WITCH”
J.E Hunter

I received a copy of this book via YA Bound Book Tour, and was allowed the opportunity to review it!
For my review, I broke this story down into three separate categories: the good, the bad, and the ‘meh’ as a whole. This does not pertain to any sequels, prequels or midquels (if applicable).
Let the games begin!