H’aanit x Primrose: A Hunting Trip

2019 is the year I write more overly-indulgent fanfiction of my favorite ships, baby.


“We have to wait for how long?”

Primrose clung tightly to the red furs she found herself layered in, attempting to trap every bit of heat she could in S’warkii’s frigid forest temperatures. The sun was shining through the forest trees, but it wasn’t enough to completely empty the place of snow, with melted water and slicked ice surrounding her. Primrose was more used to Sunshade’s deserts, and wasn’t happy with how different she looked in the change of clothes – like a lightly toasted marshmallow.

“As I said already, it will not reveal itself for a few more hours. We will have to wait.” H’aanit was too busy taking care of her bow on a nearby log to take notice of Primrose’s discomfort. She adjusted the strength of the bow’s string, carefully pulling it to check its weight against her hands without damaging the weapon. Primrose watched her, leaning against their tent. She loved seeing the woman work, fully absorbed in her task. It seemed like this was when H’aanit was most at peace, and it pleased Primrose to see her so.

“When I said ‘take me on a date,’ I didn’t exactly mean a hunting trip,” Primrose teased. H’aanit looked up, shaking her blonde braid out of the way.

“I have been to your home, but you have never been to mine. This is what we do. What I was raised to do.” It was true, of course — Primrose was the last to join the merry band of eight. She had warmed up to each of them individually — even Olberic, with all his stoicism. But Primrose was immediately smitten with H’aanit the minute she saw her, quietly sipping at her ale in the Sunshade tavern while the rest of the party…well, partied, her beautiful snow leopard curled up at her feet. Primrose always had trouble opening up to others, considering her past. Despite that, people were always so nosy.

But H’aanit…here was a woman who knew not to pry. She never pressed Primrose on anything, preferring to let her speak when she was ready. Her silence wasn’t that of contempt or disinterest, but a companionable warmth. It made Primrose feel safe to share her heart.

Prim lightly shook herself out of her reminiscing. “You’re right. And even if S’warkii is freezing, it’s still beautiful. How often did you come to these woods?”

“Nearly every morning, with my master.” H’aanit placed her bow in the snow next to her. With a deft hand she unsheathed a pocket knife, sharpening her arrows one after the other. “This place is beautiful in the spring. I didn’t take much notice of it at first, but Z’aanta encouraged me to find the beauty in it all: the dew on the grass, the way the sunlight comes in softer than it does in the summer. How pools of water disturb the forest’s silence just so…” H’aanit laughed.

“What?”

“That old man is a fool, but I’ve come to realize that he is the only reason I am with you now.”

Primrose’s eyes widened. “Really?”

“Really. I always felt that I needed to be…serious. Responsible. Perhaps it was due to never knowing my mother and father. Regardless, I always chose to ignore anything that wasn’t important to my role as village guardian. But I’ve come to realize that I don’t need to be like that all the time — that it was fine for me to enjoy myself, to open myself up to what I want, instead of what I needed to do. And if I hadn’t, I would not have been able to meet a girl as lovely as you.”

If Prim wasn’t wasn’t red from the cold, she was certainly scarlet now. The girl coughed into her mitted hands.

“That’s quite enough of that,” she muttered, her eyes shifting nervously. H’aanit tilted her head, a small smile on her lips.

“Are you embarrassed, perhaps?”

“I will walk all the way back to Sunshade by myself if you do not stop!”

“Were it not to disturb our prey, my laugh would be heard from here all the way to town,” H’aanit said. Her fist was clenched, as if she had captured the laughter like one of her many beast. Primrose stomped a foot.

“It’s so frustrating! I’m so used to being in control, but around you…well I am a mess, to put it simply.”

“Good.”

“It is very well not good!”

“It is.” H’aanit rose from the log and walked past Primrose to pull out her traps from her bag, making sure they were maintained as well. The scent of pine-needle and sandalwood   floated past Prim, causing her pulse to quicken.

“I am glad that you loosen your walls around me, Primrose. To keep them up at all times must be exhausting.”

The dancer shrugged her shoulders. “You get used to it, to be honest. I learned when to put on the mask of a smile when I was on stage, and after a while, I carried it wherever I went. I had to.”

H’aanit placed the traps back in the bag, turning to face Primrose, her jaw taunt.

“When the time comes that you must finish your journey, Linde and I will be by your side, ready to face what comes. I trust you know this?” Now it was Primrose’s turn to smile.

“Of course I do, H’aanit. Oh, that reminds me!” Prim snapped her fingers, before rummaging through her bag.

“What is it?”

“One second…” Eventually, the woman pulled two emerald green ribbons.

“A match! For you and Linde. I wasn’t sure what your favorite color was, so I just used my own judgment. If you don’t like them, the shopkeep promised that we could swap them out, but I wanted it to be a surprise.”

“They’re perfect,” H’aanit said. She took one of the ribbons from Primrose’s hands, lifting it up to the sun so the light could bounce off of it. Without warning, she leaned down, pressing her lips against Prim’s. The girl was startled for a moment, before she closed her eyes, kissing H’aanit back. The forest, if not the world, was silent, but for the two of them.

Finally Primrose drew back, taking a few sharp breathes.

“Okay, we must stop there, or I will melt through these furs. Now turn around for me.”

Primrose sat on the log, while H’aanit leaned up against the girl’s knees in the snow, letting the dancer do her hair for her and tying the ribbon along with it.

“Prim?”

“Hm?” Primrose hummed as she worked.

“After this, I would show you how to use a bow.”

Prim looked up into the trees. The sun would be setting soon, and after that, the hunt would begin in earnest. There was still so much to do. A promise that Primrose had yet to fulfill. But for now, she was content.

“Of course,” Primrose replied, stroking H’aanit’s hair.

A JRPG Primer

I’ve been meaning to put this guide together for a while because I have a bunch of friends that don’t know where to start when it comes to JRPGs. Which is fair — there are a million of the things, and a lot of them are pretty bad. That said, what’s nice about the JRPG is that despite what sounds like a niche genre, there are tons of options for all kinds of people to get into them based on their own preferences, from action games to the more traditional turn-based affairs.

Disclaimer: Blah blah blah opinions, this isn’t a book of gospel, blah blah, tell me what you’d suggest as a start, yadda yadda.

The format of this guide is as follows: I’ll name a game, and then I’ll name who it’s for. The only exception to this is what game you should play first, which, if you’re a beginner in the genre, should always be…

Chrono Trigger

Chrono Trigger, for all intents and purposes, is pretty much the perfect game in its genre. It’s JRPG nirvana. It never slogs, never forces you to grind, and has a combat system that’s easily approachable while still being cool to experiment in. It’s an expertly paced game that teaches you all the standard JRPG systems. The only thing that might cause me to hesitate when it comes to recommending Chrono Trigger as your first JRPG is that everything after it might feel weak by comparison. And that’s the best praise I can give it!

Child of Light

Child of Light is a great intro into JRPGs, and a good indicator that just because something is made by a Western developer, doesn’t mean it isn’t a JRPG – I promise you, that sort of conversation isn’t worth arguing about. It’s relatively short, grabs the amazing combat system from Grandia 2, and is family-friendly as well. The art and music are also phenomenal. Plus, you can play it on literally every modern system out at the moment.

Persona 4

If you’re a fan of anime, or miss high school (which, honestly, why?) but haven’t played a JRPG, Persona 4 is right up your alley. A satisfying blend of high school sim and traditional JRPG gameplay, with a dash of pokemon-esque strategy, Persona 4 is an addictive trip. Pick this if you miss summer trips with your friends. I went with this one over Persona 3 and Persona 5 because the former takes forever to get going and the latter is so mechanically perfect as a turn-based game that it’d be hard to go back to earlier games in the series. Persona 4 is available on the PS2, PS3, and in enhanced form on the PSVita.

Shin Megami Tensei IV

Maybe you read all that and your nose wrinkled in disgust. “This is why I never got into JRPGs,” you’re thinking. “I don’t want dating mechanics or slice of life skits!” You’re probably looking for Shin Megami Tensei IV, then. If you ever thought “I want Pokemon but instead of being my friend they want to kill me” then this is actually the perfect game for you! What you get in exchange for a brutal game is an interesting storyline about the nature of humanity and what words like law, chaos and neutrality really mean.

Seriously though…be careful making this your first choice if you’re not ready for it. And IV is on the friendlier end of the spectrum!

Nier / Nier Automata

Are you looking for more interesting and weird storytelling as present in SMTIV, but without the brutal difficulty? Do you like good music? Are you a dad? If you answer “yes” to any of those questions, you’ll love Nier and/or Nier Automata! Though the latter is a sequel to the former, you can jump into them in whichever direction you like, in my opinion. The original game in the series is a bit less polished than the first, so if that sort of thing is important to you, start there before moving to the silky-smooth gameplay of Automata. Either way, you won’t be disappointed!

Paper Mario / Mario Bros. RPGs

The Paper Mario and Mario Bros. RPGs have the benefit of being attached to the most iconic videogame character in gaming history. Both series have simple but interesting and active combat systems that are easy to grasp as a JRPG beginner, and include all the characters you love — including some wacky new ones. Any of the games are a great place to start, but I recommend Paper Mario and the Thousand Year Door and Mario and Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story from each series, respectively.

Tales of Berseria

Maybe you’re the type that finds the turn-based nature of JRPGs to be a snoozefest. If you’re willing to not to shy away from some Big Anime Archetypes, The Tales series is right up your alley! These are fast-paced action games that make combat fun even 30 hours into a story. Before last year, I would have recommend Tales of Symphonia or Tales of the Abyss as good places to start. And they still are! But Tales of Berseria gets bonus points for being on the current generation of consoles, as well as including an interesting group of characters and some quality of life choices that help set it apart from other games in the series.

Final Fantasy X

Of course there was going to be a Final Fantasy game on this list. It’s hard to avoid the JRPG Juggernaut. Out of fifteen games, I went with FFX. It has a simple but effective battle system, isn’t incredibly long like some other Final Fantasy games, and is straightforward — sometimes literally, depending on the area you’re in. Plus, if you find yourself wanting to dig deeper, there’s a metric ton of post-game content you can dive into that will test your JRPG skills to the limit. It’s also available on pretty much every platform in existence, so it’s easy to find a copy.

Blitzball still sucks, though.

Fire Emblem Awakening

Are your turn-based JRPGs not turn-based enough? Let Fire Emblem give you the strategic rush you need. Fire Emblem games can be extremely difficult, but Awakening gives you enough options to ease your way into the game’s addictive RPS strategy systems without having to worry about getting your entire team killed. Couple that with a fantastic localization and tons of customization options, and you’ll be knowledgeable enough to be one step closer to playing Final Fantasy Tactics, the graduate-level equivalent of the strategy-jrpg.


And I’d say that’s that! You’ve got your retro games, your anime games, your action games, and so on. I’m pretty confident that if you jump into one of these games, you’ll get a handle on the fun stuff JRPGs have to offer. And if you have your own suggestions, let me know!

Some Stuff I listened to in 2018

I’m two days late and I don’t give a fuck!!

Thanks again to Spacegarbage on Twitter for indulging me with cute as hecc banners for these posts, go look at her stuff it’s very very good!

Anyways this is the stuff I liked this year. Usually this is restricted to game soundtracks, but I didn’t like much game music this year so I’m throwing non-music albums into the mix. It’ll be fun. I don’t think it’ll be very descriptive, but I’ll make up for it by posting my favorite song from each album.

Let’s go!


Persona 3: Dancing Moon Night

I’m not including P5’s remix album here because imo it wasn’t very good. Persona 3 lends itself better to remixes, and it’s the one that got the Naganuma track, so it wins out. I never bought the game but I still listen to this pretty regularly.

Nier Automata: Piano Collections

An excuse to listen to more Nier Automata music is always good. I listened to this one while I was working a lot…I remember when I used to listen to piano albums to study. I don’t study anymore! Oh god I’m an adult now oh shit oh no

Octotunes

Not gonna lie, it was a close race between this and the Splattack remix for best track on this one, but Into the Light is original so that’s what I went with. It doesn’t really matter though, every single track on this album slaps. I can’t die until I see an Off the Hook concert.

Octopath Traveler

The Octopath Traveler OST is like 40% of that game’s appeal, to be honest. It really sets the mood from the very beginning, and every track is catchy as hell. I still whistle the main theme from time to time.

Xenoblade Chronicles 2: Torna ~ the Golden Country

You ever hear a song and just have it tingle all the way up and down your spine? Like, it checks off every single note. You get completely enthralled in the track, stop what you’re doing and just listen? That’s me with Torna’s battle track. This is probably my favorite song of the year. I honestly find it hard to describe in words. This youtube comment does a good job of explaining how ridiculous the XC2 OST creators are:

Deltarune

Gonna commit a blaspheme here I’m sure but…I actually wasn’t THAT fond of the entirety of Deltarune’s OST? But it makes up for that with 5 or 6 songs that really tie in all the musical motifs together, and what’s good in there is really really good, so it still gets a spot on the list.

Celeste

Celeste’s soundtrack accentuates the parts of it that are amazing. Like the game itself, it’s gentle and encouraging, and I still listen to it regularly when I need a bit of a push.


Promise World – 3D Blast

I don’t even remember how I found this album, but it slaps. It’s a wild blend of Dreamcast/PS2 era vibes mixed with future funk leanings.

Moe Shop

Oh look, more Future Funk. I’m an MYLK fan which is how I found this album, and the cover was so aesthetically pleasing I had to give it a listen. It was worth it!

彼女は魔法少女 – Moe Shop

This album was the inspiration for Mint! So that’s fun. Def had to get a spot on the list. Even more future funk.

DROGAS WAVE – Lupe Fiasco

Probably the most important album of the year, and what made me remember that hip-hop can still be pretty good (I’m sorry, this statement makes me sound old). A fascinating concept album depicting a group of slaves that sink on their ship but end up being granted the ability to breath underwater by Poseidon, and it only gets more interesting from there. This album is cathartic, especially for a person of color (that’s me!).

事実上 – Reol

I want Reol to kill me

Hatsukoi – Utada Hikaru

Even outside of it showcasing the next Kingdom Hearts theme, Hatsukoi is fantastic from beginning to end. It’s a testament to Utada’s lasting power, even after more than a decade of performing, she’s still got it.

私的旅行 – DAOKO

I don’t usually like DAOKO’s stuff, actually. But my extensive amount of time playing Dragalia Lost has warmed me up to her. It’s good! I like it.

RWBY: Vol. 5 – Jeff Williams, Casey Williams

The RWBY albums always appeal to the Hot Topic, buttrock, Sonic Adventure 2 part of me that I’ve never truly shaken off, and Volume 5 is no exception, heh.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse – Various Artists

👀

Pretty sure that’s everything. What did you listen to in 2018? Tell me!!

A Ridiculous Internship

I haven’t posted in a while so I figured I’d talk about this. I always like telling this story but it’s way too long for microblogging so I’m glad I have a place I can finally post it in its entirety.

So in 2017 I graduated from university. I took three months off where I didn’t do anything and just vegged out and played videogames. Eventually I needed to find work. I started by applying for stuff way out of my experience levels because I figured carrying myself with the confidence of a mediocre white dude would get me somewhere. Turns out it didn’t, and I had to start lowering my expectations.

After over 200 applications, I found an internship for a software company in Denver. It looked like what I was hoping to do as a job and had a little bit of money, and I had to start somewhere, so I applied. Less than twenty minutes later I got a LinkedIn Message (ugh, I know) asking me to come to the office to see them tomorrow.

The next day I went to see them. It turned out they didn’t actually have an “office.” They worked in one of those open-plan, shared spaces, where annoying startups pay for overpriced small rooms in a gentrification-in-progress neighborhood so they can go to work with their dogs and drink shitty coffee. I had come in a suit, which they made fun of me for. This was pretty annoying because I’m black, and I knew if I dressed in sweatpants as they had I would be criticized for being too casual.

They asked me a few questions, and how “committed” I was to the job. There was a lot of business philosophy talk, and how revolutionary the app they were making was going to be. I felt like I was being talked down to the whole time. In retrospect, those should have been warning signs, but I was desperate and couldn’t afford self-respect, so I let them prattle on and, suitably impressed by my ability to nod and smile, they welcomed me aboard.

This was the beginning of the end.


God…there are so many stories I could tell. I don’t even know where to begin.

I guess first would be my dress. I was constantly ridiculed for wearing dress shirts and pants and looking relatively presentable. Besides the race aspect I mentioned above, it’s also worth noting that I like dressing well, regardless of what’s going on that day, so that always bothered me. They’d also make fun of me for bringing my own lunch, which was a level of weirdly elitist that I wasn’t expecting.

My work was boring as well. I was basically turned into a corporate PR machine, forced to plug 3 articles into a twitter account that bought bot followers and was followed by bots. Nothing I did was worthwhile or interesting, and my boss was looking over my shoulder 24/7.

I was constantly told I’d get more work to do and become a more integral part of the product we were creating, but that never actually happened. Not to say that I wanted those things, I could not have cared less about the product, but I needed experience so I could feed myself and pay rent. Instead, I was given more and more menial tasks that had zero impact, or planned projects that went nowhere.

Speaking of. My boss. He was 19. I came to learn he was the head boss’ son in law. His daughter-in-law “worked” there as well – I used quotes because she was just there to puff her resume while she was in school. She was paid more than me, because of course she was.

There was also a cool designer that I hung out with most often. He had worked at ESPN before and wanted to try something smaller. It wasn’t worth it, as he’d soon find out.

The head boss was literally a lecherous old man. He was a constant stream of sexist remarks about people around the open office, and once used the n-word to describe a group of black people who were standing outside the window. He drank during the day and was extremely unfocused. I’d get work from him, do it, be told it was wrong, and then give it back to him unchanged and have it accepted.

My son-in-law boss was the biggest piece of work. He had extremely bad anger problems and they manifested themselves at work. What got me close to quitting at first was one of his bigger outbursts. He constantly clashed with the head boss – who, admittedly, egged him on with his attitude – and during a meeting on the product’s direction, he really snapped. Literal screaming, throwing markers and whiteboards, the works. What was most worrying is how…normalized it was, I guess you could say? When this first freak out happened, the designer just walked out of the office for a smoke. I followed him out and he told me that this was the fourth outburst he had in the time that he had started working there. Apparently, they had gotten complaints from the building.

But it gets better. After this outburst, he met with each of us one by one to apologize. I sort of glazed through his apology, but one part stuck out to me.

“You know if you anything you need to talk about, I’m HR, and [Wife’s Name] is HR, so you can come to us.

E…excuse me? My Boss is also my HR? My Boss’ wife is HR? To be fair, at least they were honest about HR as a concept being a bunch of bullshit, but still! The designer was the only person I could talk to with any sense of confidentiality! It was something I noticed often with engineers as a whole: they felt like they could do everything. Who needs copywriters? Who needs an HR department? We can do math, of course we can do that!

Eventually, that designer left. He wanted to use the product for more altruistic things, which didn’t align with our investor’s goals (those goals being: money). After pitching the idea and getting a no, he quit. I got his email address before he left – which is great, because he got to be my reference for the internship, haha.


I wasn’t far behind. The second outburst my boss had was even worse than the first. He broke another whiteboard, screamed even louder, mentioned that “every new employee leaves because of you!” to the head boss, and had his wife running out of the office in sobbing tears. I had enough. It was too similar to the abusive living situation that I had been in before, and I wasn’t going to take it at work too. I walked out of the building, got in my car, drove away, and never went back.

You’d think that’d be where it ended. You’re wrong! They didn’t even think I had quit! I got a few emails asking how my work was going from home. I had queued up everything I needed to do for two or three weeks, so it looked like I was still working when in reality I was knee-deep in Xenoblade Chronicles 2. After a few days they finally got the hint and left me alone.

It turns out that even I have limits. Honestly even though it was a ridiculous situation, I don’t entirely regret it. It’s a great story for parties.

Some things aren’t worth it, even for money!!!


A Fashion Critique of Dresspheres in Final Fantasy X-2

Final Fantasy X-2 is a weird, pop-infused sequel to Final Fantasy X, where Yuna and her gal-pals (read: poly-lesbian super squad) travel around Spira and have weird adventures that would be side-quests in any other Final Fantasy game.

But none of that really matters! No, what matters most in X-2 are the Dresspheres, the Jobs of other Final Fantasy titles. They’re the most exciting part of X-2, where Yuna, Rikku and Paine change between different outfits in fun Magical Girl-esque transformations in the middle of battle to use different abilities.

But the question that’s never been asked (or maybe it has, I don’t know): how good do these Dresspheres look? Today we’re going to get an answer.

The Rules:

Yuna, Rikku and Paine each get a rating on a 10 point scale. We’re ignoring the special dresspheres, sorry.

Let’s get started!


Gunner

Yuna: This is her “default” outfit in game, and it does general justice? I normally wouldn’t be into the tattered chest, but it forms into her symbol so she gets bonus points instead. Functional, but fashionable. Not sure about that half-skirt, though.

Score: 8

Rikku: Those boots really don’t work with the pants, I’m sorry. Same half-skirt but in yellow? Nope. It’s not as bad as some of her other outfits though, so she gets some pity points.

Score: 6

Paine: She has a pirate-vibe going on, which I dig. She was also smart enough to not make her half-skirt so long, which gives her bonus points. Colors are good. Only thing keeping this from a perfect score is the completely unnecessary exposed midriff that looks like it was cut out of a cheese grater.

Score: 9


Thief

Yuna: I’m not fond of this dressphere in general, and think it looks bad on everyone. Of the three, though, Yuna pulls it off best. Strong colors and a cool skirt.

Score: 7

Rikku: It’s her default, so a bit of thought was put into it. The yellow actually works in her favor for once! But the dreads get a hard, hard pass.

Score: 6

Paine: Girl what is you doing. The heels. The weird thong-thing…just, no.

Score: 4


Warrior

Yuna: What is it with this game and cheese-grate midriffs? If this shirt was fully formed the whole outfit would be a 10. As it stands, I must take points off, but then add points back on because posing like Tidus and using Brotherhood is a nice touch. Though I wonder how Wakka feels about that, to be honest.

Score: 7

Rikku: She actually does alright here! The colors are nice, and using Auron’s sword is cool. Not sure about the boots, but we’re going to give Rikku the wins when she can get them.

Score: 9

Paine: If this were anyone else it’d be a hard pass. But Paine is just emo enough to pull this look off. None of it makes any sense and I love every bit of it.

Score: 10


Songstress

Yuna: This is actually one of my favorite outfits of hers. It feels the most like something a human might wear in real life or during a performance, which is more than I can say for most of these outfits. That shade of blue is perfect!

Score: 10

Rikku: She looks like a teen idol that immediately lost popularity halfway through her career.

Score: 7

Paine: What? What is this? Did she dig up Elvis’ corpse, take his outfit, and then somehow manage to make it worse? I’m literally losing oxygen right now.

Score: 3


Black Mage

Yuna: Killed it.

Score: 10

Rikku: Killed it.

Score: 10

Paine: Killed it.

Score: 10


White Mage

Yuna: It’s so…safe. I feel nothing looking at this.

Score: 5

Rikku: Why did she make her cuffs look like the flaming dragon shirts I wore in middle school.

Score: 4

Paine: Now this is what I’m talking about! Paine took the White Mage and made it punk. I am in awe. It’s crazy how much of a difference taking your hood off makes.

Score: 9


Gun Mage

Yuna: I dig the purple, and the necklace is great. Still very much unsure about these half-skirts, however. And I’m worried about those little…screws? Is your dress nailed in, Yuna? How do you get out? Are you okay??

Score: 7

Rikku: Gonna need you think twice about those stockings, sorry.

Score: 6

Paine: This was SO CLOSE to being perfect. But the checkered pants just throw the entire thing off. I can’t stop staring at them. They’re bad.

Score: 8


Lady Luck

Yuna: I’m feeling everything in this outfit except for the gloves. The crown is a nice touch.

Score: 8

Rikku: Remember when I said most of Rikku’s outfits were bad? Yeah. I’m sorry they made yellow your primary color, Rikku. You got done dirty.

Score: 4

Paine: Paine walked into a crowded casino with a cigarette and is going to take all your money. And you’re going to love every second of it.

Score: 9


Alchemist

Yuna: Finally, Yuna’s half-skirt shortens (even though it’s still half a skirt, which still makes it weird). Normally I wouldn’t be into big shoulder pads, but the look actually works here.

Score: 7

Rikku: Holy crap, another good Rikku outfit! I’m getting strong Samus vibes, here, and that’s a good thing.

Score: 8

Paine: The weird vertical straps throw everything off. Also, purple and orange are not a winning combination.

Score: 5


Berserker

Yuna: She looks like she’d get on your MySpace page and give you the ole’ “rawr XD” combo. But I guess it works? Maybe on a system with more polygons it could do more. The fur is good though.

Score: 7

Rikku: Just…why…

Score: 2

Paine: She looks like she came out of the CGI Beastwars TV show from ’96. I mean this mostly in a good way. The colors clash but those horns are just chef’s kiss.

Score: 7


Samurai

Yuna: Yuna goes the 100% traditional route here. Not too flashy, but it gets the job done.

Score: 7

Rikku: I actually really dig this outfit! The skirt is bomb, it’s practical while still having that Rikku flair, and the helmet is great.

Score: 9

Paine: Not gonna lie…don’t really know what’s going on here. The pants look like 80s dancer rejects, and the giant buttons on the sleeves make her look like an old-fashioned toy from the 60s. That’s gonna be a no from me, dawg.

Score: 5


Dark Knight

Yuna: This is almost a ten, I’m just not sure about that clown/pirate hat hybrid. Everything else comes together well, though.

Score: 9

Rikku: I love my spiky unicorn girl. This is also one of those instances where the yellow is turned down a bit, which gives it bonus points as well.

Score: 9

Paine: This isn’t just emo…this is…advanced emo…

Score: 10


Mascot

No.

Score: 0


And that’s all of them! I hope you enjoyed this fashion walkthrough. Just for fun, let’s see how the points total up:

Yuna: 92

Rikku: 82

Paine: 89

Thanks for reading. No, seriously, thank you, I can’t believe you got this far.

Embracing Failure: An Ode to Celeste

This piece contains spoilers for Celeste’s ending!

I am a quitter.

If you’ve known me for more than five minutes, this probably doesn’t come as a surprise. I’ve quit personal projects because I didn’t feel they were good enough. I’ve quit jobs because I thought I wasn’t good enough for them. I’ve quit classes I’ve found too difficult. I quit working at RPGFan, a place I’m fond of, because I was worried the people there didn’t like me. I just dropped them all.

It feels good to quit things. To know that I was right, that something wasn’t worth doing, or confirming that I wasn’t good enough to do it. Quitting comes naturally to me. It soothes the part of me that wants me to be safe. The part that stops me from getting hurt, to stay cozy in a bubble of comfort and familiarity.

The characters in Celeste know how I feel. Madeline, the game’s protagonist, wants to climb the titular Celeste Mountain to prove something to herself, in spite of herself. It is revealed early on in the game that Madeline has depression, anxiety, and experiences panic attacks. She wants to accomplish something, anything, and so heads to the mountain to reach its summit.

It isn’t easy. Celeste is a game that demands pixel-perfect platforming precision. You will die. A lot. You’ll die on nearly every single screen at least once, in some spots 30 or 40 or 50 times, depending on your skill level. Every death will be your fault. Celeste controls perfectly. Your jump and air dash are the only tools at your disposal, and you will be tested and pushed to the limit to use both on every screen.

The way I describe Celeste’s mechanics make them sound antagonistic, a Super Meat Boy-esque escapade where every death causes you to inch one step closer to throwing your controller across the room. But that’s not the case. Celeste challenges you, but the way it does so is encouraging as opposed to aggressive. Loading screens send you post cards with uplifting messages: “Every loss means you’re learning!” There’s a forgiving Assist Mode that allows you to progress through the game even if you’re not fast or technical or have a strong grasp on the controller. And the music is soothing, energetic without being overbearing.

Celeste is a warm cup of hot chocolate on a winter day. It is a game that allows you to take each screen one step at a time, and encourages you to keep trying. And because of that, I didn’t want to quit, even at the game’s most difficult.

The way Celeste blends the message of its narrative with the mechanics at play is wonderful. Madeline’s anxiety and depression are made manifest in her “Other Half,” a dark-palleted version of the girl that serves as her antagonist for the majority of the game. Madeline’s Other Half taunts her, goads her into focusing on her failures, and — most importantly — tries to convince her to quit climbing Celeste Mountain.

As the story progresses, Madeline starts by wishing that Other Half would go away. But she eventually attempts to understand the motives and reasoning of her Other Half. She realizes that this voice in her head is one that’s trying to protect her from the sting of failure. Why hurt yourself when you can just…quit? The Other Half is trying to help in the only way it knows how, and this clash of feelings nearly throws Madeline off the mountain.

Near the game’s end, Madeline reconciles with her Other Half, and a heartwarming conversation ensues about the fear of failure, and allowing yourself to work past that risk to achieve something great. And it is here where Celeste allows its mechanics to weave itself into its narrative in an uplifting way — literally. Madeline’s acceptance of her Other Half allows her to air dash twice, and partner with the dark part of herself to launch into the air. The challenges ramp up even more as you make a final dash towards the summit, but at this point, you feel as if nothing can stop you. You’re going to get to the top of that mountain.

I didn’t want to quit Celeste. And because of Celeste, I don’t want to quit, period. It is a beautiful game that plays to its strengths in order to remind you that you are better than you think you are, and that you can accomplish more than you think you can. That anxious, scared voice inside of your head should be listened to, yes — but it shouldn’t stop you either. I can put Celeste in a small pantheon of games that didn’t just entertain me, but also gave me the encouragement to improve myself and become a more confident person. It is powerful, and you should play it.

Just don’t quit!

Smash Bros. Ultimate Character Thoughts

I wasn’t that excited for the new Smash Bros but ended up getting a copy. I don’t actually care that much about most of the game, but I’ve always liked comparing characters between each new release and seeing who’s good, who I used to like that sucks now, and so on. After two and a half soul-crushing hours spent unlocking all the characters, here’s how I feel about the roster members I spent the most time with.

Please keep in mind that I don’t know that much about in-depth Smash. You won’t see me talking about frame data or whatever. If you wanted to rank me, I’d the person everyone hates in casual match-ups, but would easily get stomped out of the pools of a legit tournament. So High-Tier casual.

Whatever! Let’s go.

Zelda

It’s 2018 and I’m maining Zelda. What a time to be alive. 

Is it true that I picked Zelda because now she’s super fucking cute? Yes! Look at those shoes, holy shit! And she’s so expressive now, it’s great. Plus I love her new color schemes (I pick the Skyward Sword one myself). That’s fine though because Zelda’s actually super fun to play now. Din’s Fire doesn’t put you into free-fall in the air anymore, Farore’s Wind is easier to keep track of and has huge kill potential, and Nayru’s Love is fantastic for anyone trying to approach you as a “get the hecc off of me” button. Her new forward and back airs have sweet spots as satisfying as Captain Falcon’s glorious knee of justice. But all that said, it’s her Phantom buff that really puts her at the next level. The edge-guarding options are legit whack, and it can even kill at higher percents. If a good Zelda gets you knocked off the stage, good luck trying to get back on! Plus it lets you set up some absolutely dirty enders.

I had to take a shower after this

Roy

MY BOY! I’ve been playing Roy since the Melee days, and he’s never gotten his proper dues. “He’s just Marth but worse.” “His sweet spots are terrible.”

But a new game means a new engine, and it feels like this engine was built around Roy. In retrospect, honestly, it feels like Roy was an Ultimate character stuck in Smash 4. They finally fixed all his weird frame data and it shows. There’s no wonder they call Roy a lion because Ultimate Roy is a beast. His pressure is unreal, his damage is next level, and he has options for pretty much everything. This man is doing kill damage at 60% for some characters! I feel like a God! Literally the only thing holding him back is his mediocre recovery, but doing that will require you to get Roy off the platform first. And if he’s running towards you, that probably isn’t happening. It’s the Roy Boys’ time to shine!


Pichu

Don’t let her cuteness fool you – Pichu is a nightmare to deal with. I would never call myself skilled at Smash Bros, but when I pick up Pichu, I certainly feel like it. She has combos for days, and they’re all so easy to pull off. Her thunder being able to spike is so strong for the edge game, and she can use it to kill at higher %s. PLUS she can combo into that! The Ultimate engine benefits faster characters, and with Pichu as one of the fastest in the game, I’d be scared of her if I saw her online. 


Young Link

There are a lot of Links in Smash Bros, but Young Link is the one to pick. While I mained Toon Link in Brawl, and Just Link in 64, neither can match Y!Link. That’s because he does what the other Links do, but like…50x faster. This little kid scurries around the stage like someone dumped a bunch of sugar in his Lon Lon Milk. He can combo his arrows into each other! His mix-ups are strong because of all of his projectile options, and he can throw out some ridiculous kills. Plus his down-air spike…so satisfying when you manage to land it. 


I had a feeling I was going to like Inkling the minute I used her, and I was right. I tend to lean towards the speedier characters, and Inkling definitely fits that bill. She’s kind of like Y!Link in that she’s speedy and has a ton of options for different scenarios. Her ink takes a bit to get used to, and it can spell trouble for her if she’s run out, but she makes up for it in the damage that she can build up. Her roller is super fun to use, and canceling out of it for a smash attack after trapping somebody is truly revenge for all those who doubted the weapon in Splatoon. 

If you don’t shout woomy after you take a stock you’re a cop though.


That’s everyone I’ve played the most so far, and who I’d put into my “team” if we were doing a 5v5 Squad Strike, I guess. There are a few others I put a bit of time into, but not enough to make any definitive judgments (Isabelle looks like she’ll be horrifying to fight against, however). Obviously, things could change, both in terms of characters I play and ones that seem good but end up being bad, or vice versa. Assuming I keep playing Ultimate, I’ll update you on anything new I find interesting!

Character Intro: Kat Rush

I figured I should talk about The Freelancers now and then, especially now that I’m getting into this new draft properly and have finally escaped the exposition desert. Really though I just wanna talk about Kat!

I love Kat Rush. She’s not my main character – rather, she’s Coretta’s childhood friend – but she’s definitely my favorite (don’t tell the others). She’s a beam of sunshine that’s always looking at the bright side of things. She’s fashionable and also extremely gay, with supportive parents, both software developers. I actually based her dad on a friend of mine, who read the book’s first draft. I don’t think he’s noticed yet. :3

I try not to have Kat only defined by her positivity, though – she won’t take shit from anyone, and calls out other members of the party when they need to get their act together. She’s really an anchor for these kids. 

Kat Rush, Mint? Isn’t that a little on the nose? Yes, but I’m not ashamed of it. Gravity Rush is one of my favorite games, and Kat is one of my favorite characters, so I had to rep the series in some way. This shows itself in Kat’s personality but was also reflected in her particular psychic power, which was flight. However, I couldn’t figure out a good way to incorporate flight into the story in any meaningful way. It never really came up, and I couldn’t use it effectively, so I scrapped it. In its place, the things that Kat draws take physical form. This makes more sense because she’s an artist with a bit of an online following, so it ties into her character more. 

My favorite part of The Freelancers is writing out Coretta and Kat’s interactions. They play off each other really well, with Coretta’s stoic attitude never enough of a match for Kat’s easy sociability. Their moments are where my dialogue really shines. Writing Kat is always a joy, so I hope people like her when they finally get to meet her! 

Kat’s first design, by @astronauts321!

Some Games I Liked, 2018

What’s up losers, it’s time to talk about the games I liked this year. Shoutout to @spacegarbage on twitter for making the lit Mint banner, especially because I gave such useless groundwork like “uh she’d hold a Switch, I guess.” Artists are magic.

Anyways, games. We like those, sometimes, right? To be honest this year sucked in comparison to 2017, but it’s hard to top the year that Nier: Automata came out, so I’m not exactly surprised. It was a mediocre year that really trampled on any of the goodwill I had towards this garbage industry. I was more focused on finishing the creative projects that have been haunting me all these years. I caught up on my backlog and played a lot of FFXIV more than anything else, and barely finished any of the games I got. 

“Alright you negative piece of shit, what games did you like this year?” I was getting to that! Here’s the stuff I liked, and a little bit on why. Please don’t expect much in terms of nuance – games criticism is worthless and I’m cripplingly depressed, so I’m just here to tell you where I had at least a bit of a good time.

Iconoclasts

There was a period from 2004 to 2008 where I was abroad from the states and also a child, meaning even if I had access to console releases, I didn’t have the money to play them. In that time I delved into indie games – Derek Yu’s games, Lugaru, and Noitu Love. Noitu Love’s sequel was hype as hell, and I was excited to see what would come from Konjak next. I didn’t realize I’d have to wait that long, but it was worth it. Iconoclasts is an incredible work from one (!!!) person, and I highly recommend it. 

Monster Hunter World

I’ve always known how Monster Hunter works, but I’ve never played more than 40 hours of one. Monster Hunter World pushed me to over 100. It’s a Monster Hunter game I can recommend without a bunch of caveats, because its QoL changes made it worth it for casual players to give it a shot. Plus the Pukei Pukei is adorable and I love them.

Celeste

Celeste is more than the sum of its parts and made me a better person. Very rarely do games have anything to say, and rarer still do they have something to say that’s so personal and important. The game is difficult but not condescending, a rare instance where gameplay and story work in tandem to provide an engaging experience.

Shadow of the Colossus

It’s Shadow of the Colossus, but prettier. The game is already perfect, of course I’m gonna love it again.

Under Night In-Birth Exe:Late[st]

Art also by @spacegarbage…I commission her a lot, she’s so good :’)

Alright, laugh it up, laugh it up. The title is stupid. I won’t argue that. It’s a shame it’s so underrated, because UNIST has the most thorough, engaging fighting game tutorials ever created. I’ve tried to get into the genre for years now, but it wasn’t until I played this game that I finally understood how the genre works. It plays like a dream, a mix of Street Fighter’s grounded fundementals with the movement options of an anime game. Plus it gave us Wagner, the greatest girl in gaming history.

Octopath Traveler

I know people weren’t fond of this game, but I loved it the whole way through. Figuring out broken job combinations and exploiting the numbers to my heart’s content never got old, and it was aesthetically pleasing on every front. Also it gave us H’annit. At this point you’ll probably recognize that my favorite games have good female characters in them.

Dragon Quest XI

It’s the third Dragon Quest I’ve ever finished. That’s the highest praise I can give it. 

Spider-Man

Spider-Man is a good indicator that if your movement is good enough, then I’ll do all your boring side-missions. Everything Spidey does outside of the main plot has no point, and the game feels like one giant prologue for a better game to come, but it felt so good to play that it didn’t really matter. 

Let me play as Miles, cowards.

Xenoblade Chronicles 2: Torna the Golden Country

Telling that one of the best games of 2018 is DLC of a game from 2017. Not only did XC2 add a ton of QoL changes, new blades, and a crossover with XC1, it also gave us Torna the Golden Country, an expansion with new plot, a better combat system, and most importantly: NEW MUSIC!

Assassin’s Creed Odyssey

You get to be a lesbian butch on a boat that murders people and literally steals girlfriends. Kass is the character of the year. Oh and the game’s fun too I guess.

Soul Caliber VI

It has 2B in it.


That’s it! Like I said this year sucked! I’m not as into games as I used to be, and am going to be very picky with what I play next year. If I wrote a “bad games I played this year” article, it’d be twice as long as this one. Next up is Music of the Year, which will be a much more pleasant and less sarcastic article, heh.

Cold Steel 2 is a Travesty

Image result for cold steel 2

It’s wild, I used to delay on blog posts because I tried to make them gleam with the shine of professionalism. I had to give a primer on the pop culture I was talking about, establish some sort of thesis, pretend like I’m going to do this for anyone but myself and the six people that read this thing. Turns out when you forget about all that shit and realize this is a space for you and no one else, you end up writing more often, whoms’t’v’e thought! Who even cares, if Ben Shapiro gets to crap out “””content“”” then so do I.

So anyways today I wanna talk about how Trails of Cold Steel 2 is a flaming pile of shit.

“Mint,” you say. “That’s a little harsh. It has some redeeming qualities.” And that’s true, Laura is in the game, but this is a fleck of gold on a steaming pile.

So Trails in the Sky isn’t even a cult classic anymore. The cult is gone. Everyone harps about that series. That dumbass on Kotaku won’t shut up about it almost as much as Suikoden II. When I tried it I thought my mind was going to be blown. “This is a real story,” JRPG nerds told me. “This is what JRPGs are all about.”

What I got was a moderately better story than other games, with a lot of boring padding and a really good protagonist, and pretty much nothing else. I hated most of it and quit 50 hours in. Most Trails fans would argue that I was five hours away from getting to the good stuff, but I could get more (and did get more) entertainment out of the bare-knuckled storytelling of an episode of Hell’s Kitchen.

But why do I even bring up Trails in the Sky? Because I didn’t think it was going to be possible to make its sequel series worse. Kudos to Falcom for that, I guess.

The first Cold Steel gets a bit of a pass from me. It didn’t try to be anything more than the high school harem bullshit it aspired to be, complete with annoying loli party members and half-sister — or cousin, or step-sister, whatever I don’t remember — that really wants to bang your bland, potato-headed protagonist. The blonde girl accidently shows you her panties or something 5 hours into the game and there’s a big hubbub about the whole thing. You’re playing an anime, fine. The QoL stuff was actually an improvement over Trails in the Sky, with fast travel and quest indicators.

Cold Steel 2 is worse. And it’s worse because it tries to be better. Far be it for me to tell others not to improve, but when your loli ninja is dealing with the political ramifications of the mercenary group she was part of, I have to start asking questions. Questions like: “How did we get here?”

There are three answers to that.

1. It doubled down.

Cold Steel 2 saw how popular the first game was and really went ham on the bullshit anime aspects. You got more loli antics. More harem shit. Potato-Head is an infallible do-gooder. His only crimes are being bland, and not understanding that every girl in his class has a crush on him. It turns out another 75-100 hours of that sort of thing, on top of the 100 hours in the first game, can be a little grating.

2. It tried to be political.

In theory I’d be interested in the politics of Cold Steel 2. There’s a whole web of intrigue just waiting to be unraveled, for us to find out who betrayed who and how. But in practice by the end of the game, none of these political reveals go anywhere, and no questions are answered. I understand that sequels in a game happen — this one has four (IV) — but if you can’t resolve questions without leading into another cliffhanger at the end of your game, you’ve wasted your story. You’ve shown that you can’t pace things properly, that you’re making us wait for some grand unveiling that will never come. There are a myriad of videogames that have told an amazing and satisfying story in under 30 hours. We’ve already doubled the audiobook length of the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy after two Cold Steel games, with nothing to show for it.

Which leads me to my third and most egregious point:

3. THERE ARE NO CONSEQUENCES!!!

Cold Steel 2 is probably the most anticlimactic game I’ve ever played. I guess this ties into the first point, but why does no one in this series stay dead? Characters are resurrected unceremoniously all the time, leading to the emotional impact of their sacrifices being completely nullified. After the third reveal, I was mashing through the boring dialogue where everyone agrees with Potato-Head. Why should I give a shit? About any of this? None of it matters, no one has done anything that actually matters, and it’s clear everything is going to turn out fine because nobody dies.

Your actions don’t matter either. You’re a class of high-school students wanting to intervene in a war. You’re meant to be the best of the best, but you spend 90% of the time fighting robots before getting saved by the older generation that is much cooler and stronger than you, and whom I’d rather play as. About 700 times did I fight a boss, only for the boss to go full Dragonball Z and go “this isn’t the full extent of my power!” and defeating me immediately. I was yawning at the complete lack of conflict.

Image result for millium cold steel
it’s just like my japanese animes, and i hate it

This extends into the political aspects I mentioned. The game wants you to care about all the military maneuvering going on in its civil war, but there’s never any impact to it. This really reveals itself when there’s an attack on an entire civilian town, which ends in exactly one death and a couple of destroyed buildings. Cold Steel 2 is too cowardly to delve very deeply into the horrors of war, but postures as if it does. It can’t, because it would clash even more with the mechanics of dating your high-school classmates.


And that’s pretty much the long and short of it. It baffles me that Cold Steel gets any of the praise that it does. It’s a bloated, poorly paced mess, much like Trails in the Sky, but with the added anime tropes that Falcom had distinguished itself from in the first place. I literally can’t comprehend how you move from a character like Estelle to making a character like Millium “let-me-sit-on-your-chest-onee-chan” Orion, but I guess the weebs and squeebs loved it and we’ll be seeing more in the Trails series that comes after this one.