Well it’s a slow day at work and I’ve had this idea in my head for a while now, so I’m going to tell you about what Mint’s moveset would be if she were miraculously added to the Smash Bros Roster. There is no point to this post other than that it was fun to think about. Without further ado:
My idea for Mint’s moveset is based around two things she likes to do: skateboarding and music. She also streams, but I had no idea how to incorporate that into a set of abilities – maybe she’d shoot her harassment comments from Twitch at enemies, I dunno. The general gist is that Mint has two modes: Music Mode and Board Mode, that she switches between with her Down-Special.
Mint’s Music Mode is more long-ranged and slower than Board Mode. In this mode, Mint carries a microphone on a stand and uses it in her attacks like a bat or staff. Her smash attacks have long range because they shoot out musical staffs, but they don’t have as much launching power. Good for controlling the stage on the ground and hitting enemies from afar.
Special: Mint blasts a soundwave from her mic. The longer the button is held, the more damage and range the attack gives off.
Up-Special: Mint transforms into a set of musical notes that fly about. It’d have the same sort of control and speed as the bolt from Ness/Lucas’ PK Thunder, and would be invulnerable until the last few frames where she de-transforms. It doesn’t do damage.
Side-Special: Mint’s mic turns into a guitar, and she slides forward while strumming it, doing damage to anyone she passes. If the button is held, Mint stays in place while shredding the guitar, causing musical notes to shoot out in front of her.
Down-Special: Transformation. Takes about 55 frames to switch to Board Mode.
In Board Mode, Mint swaps out a mic for a skateboard. This mode is much more physical, and has great aerial movement, with Mint performing tricks in the air to do damage. Very good for racking up damage, before switching to Music Mode and finishing people off.
Special: Mint does donuts on her skateboard in one spot. The faster you tap the Special button, the faster she goes, before ending with a finisher that does extra damage. Has slow start-up.
Up-Special: Mint shoots upward on her skateboard. She can’t use the attack button, but if you rotate the movement stick, she’ll change the angle on her skateboard, doing damage to anyone that gets close.
Side-Special: A grind rail appears in front of Mint, which she hops onto with her skateboard. If you tap the attack button while grinding, she’ll spin, doing extra damage to anyone trying to approach her.
Down-Special: Transformation. Takes about 55 frames to switch to Music Mode.
Mint’s Final Smash changes depending on what mode she’s in. In Board Mode, she’ll smack you around with her skateboard at high-speed, Great Aether style. In Music Mode, she hops onto a stage and starts an impromptu concert, with the crowd that swarms in to watch damaging the enemies on screen.
Each palette would be based on other Vocaloids:
Hatsune Miku, Light Blue
Megurine Luka, Pink
Kaito, Dark Blue
Meiko Sakine, Red
And just speculating, she’d probably be Mid-Low Tier based on the movelist I’ve given her. One person would take her to Top 10 at EVO causing a surge in popularity before everyone drops her again. Board Mode would be used 80% of the time unless the Smash Ball is included, especially because Board Mode would have a very fast Down-Tilt spike with the board.
This will never happen obviously, but we should still get Miku in Smash Bros…preferably with the leek.
Oh Alliance Alive. I’m very sad that nobody played this game because Legend of Legacy was a doozy that probably warded people away. This is because it was bad, I mean that it was bad. It was hampered by obfuscated systems and the complete lack of a plot, and was a huge grind to get through. Did you know that some characters had secret affinities with certain weapons? Now you do!
Alliance Alive arrived to fix Legend of Legacy’s, well, Legacy. And wow does it do a fantastic job with that! There are so many aspects that got fixed that it’s less of a spiritual sequel and more of a spiritual redo.
So why do I love Alliance Alive so much? Let me count the ways:
A combat system that finally makes sense. Where Legend of Legacy had too many systems that didn’t make sense, Alliance Alive has a bunch of systems that are all laid bare in their entirety, while also easing up on the complexity. Everything is defined by formations and roles, no more secret systems to speak of. It harkens back to a nice little blend of Romance Saga and Final Fantasy II, speaking to the pedigree of the game considering its developers. It’s extremely addictive to set up a bunch of different formations to change your strategy up on the fly. Also the bump to five active party members instead of 3 is a huge improvement. Speaking of Party Members…
An Alliance with Soul. Your 9 party members, like, talk to each other! It’s wild! They have lines and a personality and everything! And they’re all really charming! I can’t remember their original names because you can name them whatever you want from the Status menu, but I’m particularly fond of the Daemon Fox lady and the young scientist girl. Their interactions are a lot of fun. There’s also a plot to speak of (written by the same person that wrote Suikoden II) and it’s actually pretty engaging, concerning a human uprising against the daemons that have them under their thumb. It’s not mind-blowing by any means, but there are enough mysteries to keep you enthralled.
The Alliance System. People have been saying that Ni No Kuni II is like Suikoden II, but when it comes to closeness, I’d say Alliance Alive hits that mark a lot closer. About 9 hours into the game you unlock the Alliance System, wherein you set up 5 Guilds on your giant Ark ship. You then recruit members for your Alliance in different areas and assign them to the different guilds, which increase their power and help you out. The way you recruit these people is part of the fun — one human with an obsession with wanting to become a daemon joined when I switched my active character exploring the map to one of my daemon characters and talked to him. Another joined after we kicked their butt in a fight. There’s an addictive “collect ’em all” quality to grabbing all these characters, and I’ve essentially put the main quest on hold to find them at the moment.
A World Map. For real! And rather than just running around, you get a cool little glider that you can use to strategically fly from place to place to access secret out of the way areas, like new spots to build Guild Towers and guild members to recruit. It’s very cool (although the game can lag a bit if you’re moving too fast).
QOL Stuff. You can save anywhere! If you need to backtrack, 9 times out of 10 the game will fast-travel you there if you want! All the stats are explained this time (I’m serious, Legend of Legacy was bad)! You can change character’s names! The enemies are all visible on the map! You can chain battles to expedite grinding, if you want to grind at all!
JRPG Nostalgia. I guess this all culminates to one single feeling I have about Alliance Alive: it actually pulls off that nostalgia for the SNES/PS1 era of JRPGs. Something about raiding a hot spring to save a bunch of talking frogs felt like peak Final Fantasy IX to me, and that’s very much a good thing. It even has secret party members! There’s no obnoxious fanservice, no tedious sidequests that feel like padding, and every system in the game makes sense to include, letting you put as much or as little time into it that you want (seriously, you can completely ignore that Alliance system if you want to). And it does all that without hewing so closely to those SNES/PS1 JRPGs that it doesn’t actually do anything interesting or new. It’s just a really good game that feels like it was made with love, in my humble opinion.
Now that Alliance Alive is getting ported to the Switch, give it a shot! It’s definitely the most slept on game of 2018, and I highly recommend it!
I wanna preface the below with the understanding that I don’t think Hyper Light Drifter is a bad game. It is demonstrably not. Honestly, my standards are so low at this point that as long it’s not filled with gross loli shit or racist under/overtones, then your game is probably fine in my book. BUT HLD (or Hyper Lightmension Driftunia if ya nasty) has a lot of design decisions that I think are very interesting but that I found myself not agreeing with, enough that I’m making a whole blog-post about it.
For the unitiated HLD is a succesfully kickstarted top-down action-exploration game that is pretty hard to define in terms of its inspirations. It feels like it takes bits of everything from traditonal SNES JRPGs to Zelda to — and I’m sorry to say it — Dark Souls. It has no plot to speak of, really. Sure, you can speculate, but unlike Dark Souls, which has a plot you can piece together with some digging and a Vaati video or two, that’s pretty much impossible with HLD, because there’s not a single line of dialogue in the game outside of tutorials. We’re going to get back to this.
Hyper Light Drifter is beautiful. It’s one of the best looking 2D games I’ve ever played. Every pixel is lovingly crafted and purposeful. The fluidity of the animation as the Drifter cuts through enemies never stopped being engaging as I played through the game. Every setting is distinct in its aesthetic and carried a different variation of the overall melancholic tone that the game provides. The music is also fantastic, with brooding synths that sound like they came straight out of a Blade Runner film but without all the Asian fetishization.
Those are my highlights. But that said, moment-to-moment I found myself frustrated with Hyper Light Drifter.
What’s the Point?
Let’s get back to that part about HLD having next to zero plot. This can be fine as a design decision. Shadow of the Colossus has so little dialogue, it probably all fits on a double-sided 8.5 by 11 sheet. The problem is that even SotC has an easy to understand goal. Obfuscation doesn’t equal a compelling world to explore in. Dark Souls’ environmental design and even its inventory descriptions give you some idea of what’s going on and your place in its world.
HLD doesn’t have this in any way. Why are you going around killing these enemies? What is the village hub you go back to for upgrades? What are these skeletal titanic remains doing in the world? A little bit of mystique is great in getting the imagination going, but you can’t just stop there. There has to be some thread that players can go down to answer at least some of these questions, even if they’ll never be solved fully. It hearkens back to the unforgiving, hostile environments of a game like the NES Legend of Zelda, where everything is out to kill and you don’t really know why, but doggone you spent money on this cartridge and you’re going to finish it. It’s just not something I’m into personally. By the time I fought the last boss, I assumed I was supposed to feel something about the events that followed. But with no understanding of the stakes towards the conflict I had just been through, I just sort of…blanked out.
You Zig, I Zag
“But Mint,” you say with an exasperated sigh. “The plot is just window-dressing for the main focus, which is clearly the combat, you cheeky tart!”
Alright, fair, fair. And I will say that when all the pieces come together, HLD flows in a way that feels great.
Dancing through bullets, dodging past enemies before cutting them down with your sword can be exhilarating…in the right circumstances. But it takes a long time to get there. Combat is stilted and slow unless you upgrade yourself with a particular set of skills from the main hub of the game. It’s totally possible to miss these upgrades. The only reason I knew of them was that I spent a bit of time researching where best to put the upgrade points I had collected after finishing the first dungeon of the game.
The Chain Dash is a move so fundamental to the core of Driftunia’s design that I was baffled that it wasn’t immediately available in the Drifter’s tool-set — it was like having to level up for the block and dodge roll in the original Kingdom Hearts. The same can be said of the Dash Shield, which lets you move through energy shots with the right timing, and the Sword Deflection, which does exactly what it sounds like against enemy projectiles. The game became infinitely more fun after I built this toolkit, but I don’t feel it should have been “built” in the first place. Getting upgrade parts to improve your character is a staple of the action-exploration genre, I won’t argue that. But as I mentioned, with a myriad of upgrade choices to choose from, you might completely miss these skills. Couple this with a lack of i-frames, busy screen-effects, and some bosses that were more a chore than a challenge to fight through, and you have a game that is definitely mechanically sound, but not built with the sort of tempo I’m interested in when it comes to action games.
Nooks and Crannies (and more Nooks)
And so we find ourselves in the third pillar of Hyper Light Drifter’s design: exploration. Again, I want to make it clear that I don’t think that any of what I’ve talked about up to this point is particularly bad. It’s just not for me. And this applies with HLD’s exploration as well. A lot of the game’s hidden areas are based on the old-school design philosophy of “bumping into all of the walls until you find a wall that’s not actually a wall.” As you get into the game proper, you’ll find yourself wondering if the forest of trees to your left is actually a game border or a spot that takes you to a new screen just out of reach, with goodies to peruse. I’ll admit that I sometimes felt pretty good about finding these spots, especially as they led to new beautiful areas and bits of currency that brought me one step closer to a new item. But by the end of the game, I was getting a bit tired of it all, bumping into one object after another and destroying every item in every room to make sure I wasn’t missing anything. Some of the secrets are pretty obvious. Others are so obtuse to reach that you’ll find them either out of sheer luck, or by checking a guide.
This isn’t as big a cardinal design sin as the inability to keep track of everything. You’ll find lots of areas that you’ll need to backtrack to after gaining a certain number of keys, and you have no real way of remembering them unless you make a note outside the game, or, again, keep a guide handy. I unlocked two monoliths. How many are there in total? No idea. I didn’t feel any incentive to explore much outside of the critical path because I knew I’d forget where everything was and had no idea how much progress I was making for the extra stuff.
I guess the general thesis I’m making after writing all this is that HLD really wants you to care — about its characters, its world, and its mechanical systems — but doesn’t do enough for it to earn that care. It’s simultaneously aloof and open, wanting you to dive into everything it has to offer but not really giving you a reason — or even, depending on your prior preparation or luck, the tools to do so. I didn’t hate my time with Hyper Light Drifter. But I didn’t love it either. I didn’t feel much of anything, and I think that’s a shame, because it’s a game that, with a bit more time, is definitely something I could see myself loving.
Let’s see if we can do this without my trade-mark rambling, hmm?? (we won’t)
Welcome! To the informal guide to Mastodon. Informal how? Well for one, it’s not going to be too technical. A lot of it will be assorted tips and tricks that you might pick up after some time on Mastodon — things that are considered norms, things that should have been explained when you signed on, etc. You’ll get it when you start reading. Oh God, oh no, I’m so bad at intros.
Why should I read YOUR Mastodon Guide?
Well I’ve been on Mastodon for a few months now. I am not the Old Guard by any means. But! I make up for that with heaps of enthusiasm. In the short time I’ve been on Mastodon, I’ve had a big attitude shift, turned into a mint, and made some good friends. I’ve a vested interest in the network, so…hopefully that counts!
Also unlike literally every other Masto guide, I didn’t write this on Medium. Fuck Medium.
What the heck is a Mastodon anyways?
Oh good, the guide’s starting! In the simplest terms possible, Mastodon is what you’d consider a Twitter alternative. It’s a micro-blogging site that exists on a timeline, where everyone tweets — or in this case, toots…yes, I know, and I’m sorry — to whoever is following them. You can reply to each other’s @s, post vids and gifs, and so on. There are some differences from Twitter which you’ll soon see.
Why should I join?
I mean, other than the fact that yours truly made their online home there? You really need more? Oh hecc, fine.
I personally think you should join Mastodon because it’s Federated. What this means is that Mastodon exists as a series of servers. Each server is its own “Instance.” All of these servers than interact with each other. The nice thing about this is that you can choose where you want to hang out. For instance (HAH), I’m on elekk.xyz, whereas I may have a mutual follower on Mastodon.art. This is understandably confusing, so I’ll have you look at it another way. Think of Mastodon Instances as a bunch of guilds, and the Federation as the MMO you’re hanging out on. Elekk is my guild, and is generally videogame oriented. Mastodon.Art is another guild, that is all about posting art. That said, even if we’re in separate guilds, users from both can still follow each other, or “play together,” if you want to stretch this already strained metaphor any further. Users can also block instances, which is another Mastodon benefit: you aren’t forced to hang out around nazis like you would on Twitter.
Mastodon is also ad-less. Instances are run by different Admins, who pay to keep the servers running, and may solicit help via donations to keep the server running.
Why else? Well, unlike Twitter, you won’t see likes and whatnot on your timeline. There aren’t any algorithms trying to drive your engagement to brands that Mastodon thinks you’ll like. It’s just you and the posts. I’d also consider the Local Timeline one of the best reasons to join Mastodon, but we’ll get to that!
How do I join?
Well ya gotta pick an instance! You can find a list of some (not all) instances on https://joinmastodon.org/. The nice thing is that if you don’t like whatever server you start on, you can always pack up and move to a new one, keeping all of the people you’re following — though this does not include people following you, or the posts you’ve already made, so it’s best to move early, lest you get attached to your account. Or don’t! Move around whenever or however you want. What the fuck do I know? I’m not your mom.
I’m on. Now what?
This is a close approximation of what you’ll see when you first join Mastodon:
It can be a lot, especially if you’re not used to multi-column views. Have no fear! I too was thrown off at first, but it’s not as scary as it looks. There are four columns here:
The Compose Column. This is where you make posts.
The Home Column. This is where the posts of people you are following will show up.
Local Timeline. Ooh, something new! The Local Timeline is where the posts of everyone on your instance shows up. Think of it as the tavern that your guild hangs out on.
Federated Timeline. Another new thing! The Federated Timeline is where every post from every person on every Instance that your Instance has federated with shows up. It is fast. It is scary. I don’t go in here often.
Let’s look at each column one at a time.
Doot the Toot
The first column is where the magic happens. You type, you toot. It’s simple on the surface, but what’s cool about Mastodon is that you can do a whole bunch of fancy things with a post! See those three buttons on the bottom? The first is for pics, vids, and gifs. The second, however, is your privacy options.
When you make a post on Mastodon, you can choose how far it reaches out into the Fediverse!
Public: This post will show up on the the Home Timeline, the Local Timeline, and the Federated Timeline. Shout your love for Initial-D into the world.
Unlisted: This shows up on the Home Timeline, but not the Local Timeline or Federated Timeline. It’s like a soft shout. I use this a lot for threaded posts. The first one is public, with everything after being Unlisted, which helps keep the Local Timeline clean.
Followers Only: My favorite. These posts only show up on the Home Timeline of people that follow you. This also means that if someone looks at your profile without a Mastodon account, they won’t be able to see these posts either. It’s very useful.
Direct: Mastodon’s DM feature. Anyone you @ in this post will be part of a private message. Yes, everyone you @. Even the person you wanted to talk shit about in said DM. Be…be careful in that regard.
The CW is another cool Mastodon feature! When you click it, you’re able to type in a warning for your post. The final product will look like this:
When you click the “Show More” button, your post will appear below it. Any image you attached to a CW post will be marked sensitive. This means that a user will have to click the image to reveal it.
So what are CWs good for? Here’s a list of things that are commonly thrown under a CW:
Spoilers for Media
Extra Long posts
There is no hard and fast rule to CWs, but the above are generally accepted as things that should be CWed for one reason or another. There may be posts that are required to be CWed on your Instance too — check with your admins or your instance’s code of conduct to be sure. In general though, it’s better to be safe than sorry. If you’re not sure, just CW it! (A little secret: people are going to click it anyways. Don’t tell anybody.)
Another cool feature when it comes to Mastodon is the ability to add visual descriptors to images, but it can be easy to miss if you’re not paying attention. When you upload an image or video to Mastodon, hover over it and you’ll see this:
Click the text that says “describe for the visually impaired,” and you’ll be able to add a descriptor to the image that screen-readers are able to read! It doesn’t have to be too detailed or anything, but try and add enough that someone would be able to get a good idea of what the image is without looking at it. For instance (HAH AGAIN) with the image above, I’d probably write something like “a girl with long green hair in a light-green armored outfit from monster hunter looks at the camera with a serious expression.”
Please alt-text your posts! It’s extremely useful for people who are visually impaired, and is just a good practice to follow. I highly highly highly recommend it!
I don’t know where else to put this, so I’m putting it here. Hashtags work like they do on Twitter, but they’re a bit easier to check out, so they’re worth using! Any unlisted or follower-only toots with hashtags won’t show up in the index list, though.
Click the Smiley Face and you’ll find custom Emojis! These are added by your instance admins. If you ask nicely, they might even add ones for you (but like don’t be a pest about it lol).
You can also quick select emojis on posts by typing them in between colons. Like this: :akkoshrug:
It’ll auto-complete for you! Cool beans! Alright we have well and truly spent enough time here, so on to the next column!
Home is where the Toot is
The Home timeline is pretty easy to follow, so I won’t delve into it for too long. I will say that if you click the top-right options thing-y, you can see that you can hide boosts (retweets if you Twitter) and replies. Uh, other than that…
Oh! This is as good a time to mention pinning and unpinning columns. See that little “unpin” button? If you click it, you can remove the Home column, or any other columns you might not need (like, say, the Federated Timeline). You can bring them back by clicking the appropriate button above the search-bar here:
And then repinning it in the same place you can unpin it. You can also move columns around by clicking the left and right arrows. Cool. Moving on.
“What’s the news, cronchy? I haven’t left my house in 3 days.” Or in other words: Notifications
Notifications might be pretty simple, but their customization options are extensive as hecco. You can choose to get desktop and sound notifications for new followers, likes, mentions, and boosts. You can even choose to not have them show up in the column at all! As you can see above, I choose to have desktop notifications for mentions, and hide pretty much everything else. You can have it set up however you like! Pick whatever makes you feel most comfortable.
The Local Timeline!! I don’t have a funny header name.
The Local timeline is legit. It is my favorite part of Mastodon. As I mentioned before, it’s where all the posts from people on your instance show up. Why do I love the Local timeline so much? Because it’s the most social part of this social network. On Twitter, when you’re new, it can feel like screaming into a void. There’s no sense of community until you carve it out brick by brick, and even then, your posts can be lost in a stream of hot takes and nice art. But with a local timeline, your rapport is built in. You are among people who have at least one thing in common with you, which is joining the same instance you did. Someone will see you when you make your first post on Mastodon, and I think that’s great! Most of the friends I’ve made on the Fediverse were through the Local Timeline. Don’t neglect it!
The Federated Timeline
What the hell are you doing here? Oh. Do I still have to explain it? Alright, fine, fine. The federated timeline is the Mastodon badlands. Uh. That’s it, really. Look I can’t say much about this thing because I’m never here. If you like 300 posts a second then dive in I suppose. The only people I judge are SoKai shippers.
Legend has it there’s a secret fifth column on Mastodon. It’s called “The List,” and today I reveal its secrets unto you. Lists are essentially private columns that let you see toots of specific people you follow. I don’t use the feature often, but it’s probably useful if you follow lots and lots of accounts. To make a list, open the hamburger menu on the top left of the page and click lists. From there, enter the new title of your list, and add people to it. Done!
Profile Settings and Preferences
There’s a lot of fun stuff you can tweak in your profile. Click the three dots next to your account to access them.
Here’s where you get to make yourself cute. It’s all pretty self-explanatory, but there’s one section that might be confusing, and that’s profile meta-data.
Profile Meta-Data lets you make a table like the above that shows up on your Profile. Here’s what the above looks like on my own!
You can put anything you want in the tables. People commonly put in their preferred pronouns, other places they can be reached, location, and their own websites. In regards to that last point, make sure to put the full address when you’re putting a website in — if you don’t include it, it won’t be clickable!
You can pin toots to the top of your account! Click the 3 dots of any of your toots and click pin to profile to do so.
The final result will look like this!
Pinned toots are good for intros that might be longer than your bio, links to your creative endeavors, or anything else that remains constantly pertinent to you!
If you’re moving instances, scroll all the way down and click “Move to a different account.” You can put in the account you’ve moved to!
Once you do that and click save, your old account will look like this:
…Look. There’s a lot you can do in settings besides edit your profile, and I’ve decided they’re beyond the scope of this guide. This is because I’m tired, and most of it is pretty easy to follow anyways. Just click around! Clicking around never hurt anyone.
One thing I will point out out is Import and Data Export, though. Data Export lets you import your follow list, as well as accounts you’ve muted and blocked, so you can take them with you if you ever decide to switch instances. Import is where you plug in the lists you exported.
Who uses their computer to do things? Not me! I wrote all 2356 words of this guide (so far) on my phone. And that’s probably where you’re gonna spend a lot of time on Mastodon. You can run Mastodon on any phone browser, but it’s pretty finicky…so let’s find some apps, like god intended!
I do not have a Steve Machine so this section is gonna be a little sparse, sorry! The iPhone apps l’ve found all look pretty cute and good, though. I’m pretty jealous (as you’ll see in the following section…)
Here’s my domain! I’ve tried every Mastodon App under the sun. Most of them aren’t great, sorry. A lot of them are missing key features, like adding text descriptors to images, and others either have notifications that don’t work very well or at all, or end up being not very pretty. Nonetheless, I’ve compiled the list of the stuff that’ll do you right the most.
It’s not exactly easy on the eyes, but Fedilab makes up for that with an extensive feature list and super fast updates. Seriously I don’t know if the dev gets any sleep. Fedilab is always being worked on, and I could see it being the premier Android Mastodon app — ah, if it gets a redesign, that is. Find it here.
Tusky is the best looking Mastodon app on Android, I’d say. I’d recommend it 100% for those looking for a very smooth experience. That said, I’ve had issues getting notifications to work on it, so your mileage may vary. Doesn’t update as often as Fedilab, but there’s a nightly version you can check out if you’re adventurous. Find it here.
Would you believe me if I told you that the best Android mobile app is a web-wrapper for Mastodon? It’s true!!! Pinafore is my preferred app of choice. To get it to work as an Android app, add it to your home screen from the web browser on your phone. Don’t forget to enable notifications! It’s a bit more of a hassle to get set-up, but Pinafore works perfectly for me. If you don’t want to wrestle with it though, the two choices above should be fine. http://pinafore.social/
I think…are we done? Holy shit I think we’re done! Thank you for reading this informal guide to Mastodon. I hope it was help. Please tell me if it was helpful, this was a lot of work, lmao. If you have any suggestions or additions you’d like to be added to this guide, or just to say hi because you think I’m cute or something I dunno, hit me up @eightbitsamurai!
Velvet shot up, slamming her head against the bunk-bed above
her. She dived out of covers, drawing her sword and aiming it out of the Van Eltia’s cabin door.
“What is it? Are we under attack?” she shouted.
Magilou stood behind her, arms behind her back.
“Nooooo,” she replied.
“Then what’s wrong!?”
“Oh, I just wanted to see if you were asleep.”
In one swift motion, Velvet went from aiming her sword towards
the door to jamming her forearm against Magilou, her sword running its length
across her throat. The witch raised her hands, flapping them back and forth.
“Take it easy, I’m just joking. I needed to ask you
“Couldn’t it have waited until morning?” Velvet
growled, teeth bared.
“I mean, probably, but where’s the fun in that? Come on,
the night’s young! Let’s go to the Crow’s Nest. You like the Crow’s Nest,
right? Cause it’s like, your…forget it, it’s no fun if you explain the
Velvet sighed, sheathing her sword and letting Magilou off from
Velvet was already making her way out onto the deck. She didn’t
look at the witch as she spoke.
“Yes. I am already awake, and I could use the air. Maybe
it’ll prevent me from killing you.”
Magilou shrugged, skipping along to make her way behind Velvet.
The Van Eltia was quiet, the only sounds coming from the
creaking within the ship’s wood, and the waves crashing against it. A few lamps
were lit throughout the deck, most likely the crew’s sentries posting watch.
Velvet pulled herself along the ladder that led to the Crow’s Nest, Magilou
following close behind. As they climbed, she could hear a faint sigh below her.
Velvet stopped to look at the girl.
“Are you alright?”
Magilou was staring back up at her, a hand on her chin as she
rested her elbow against one of the ladder’s rungs.
“Better than you know,” she said, winking. Velvet
rolled her eyes, focusing back onto the climb. “I’m just saying, the view
is great up here!” Magilou continued.
“We’ll take this shift,” Velvet told the sailor on
duty once the two girls made their way to the top of the nest. He saluted,
happy to be relieved of the work so he could get some sleep, and made his way
down to the deck. Magilou flopped out on the floor, looking up at the stars.
“If you close your eyes, it feels like you’re going to fall
off the boat!” she said with strange amount of glee. Velvet eyed from the
other side of the nest.
“If you’d like, I can push you off.”
“I feel like we never go more than three sentences without
you mentioning the way you want to kill me. Or how much you want to kill me. Or
“It’s because I want to kill you. Was this a mystery
Magilou rolled onto her side, holding her head up with her hand.
“Well, why haven’t you then?”
Velvet flinched, turning away. The witch grinned.
“Well you seem to be stumped by what I feel is a pretty
easy question, so I’ll try another one — the one that I wanted to ask you in
the first place.”
“What do you think of the moon?”
Velvet closed her eyes. She stayed like that for a few moments.
“You fall back asleep?” Magilou asked, scratching her
back.Velvet exchanged a question for a question.
“This is what you woke me up for?”
“Yes! It’s very important! The moon says a lot about
people. I’m a witch, don’t you remember? I commune with it all the time.”
Magilou wiggled her arm and spoke the last sentence as if she were telling a
spooky campfire tale. Velvet snorted.
“Really? What does the moon say about me?”
Magilou sat up, putting a finger on her chin as she thought.
“Well, for one, that you’re a Taurus. You sleep with one leg out of the
blanket…hmm, what else…” A smirk crossed Magilou’s face.
“Maybe…that you’re not a fan of red?”
Memories of Aball flashed through Velvet’s mind. She gripped the
wooden guardrail that she leaned against so tightly it began to splinter.
Magilou snapped her fingers.
“Yep, I thought so.”
Velvet took a calming breath. “You’ve said nothing of note,
witch. No one is fond of the Scarlet Night.” Magilou leaned her head on
the palms of her hands, looking too relaxed for the conversation that was
currently taking place.
“I’d argue you might be less fond of them then most,”
she said, her smirk never disappearing. Velvet took a step forward.
“Is there a point to all this?”
“Yes, actually! The point is that you need to be a little
more open and trusting.”
Velvet laughed, despite herself. “That’s…quite ironic,
coming from you,” she said. Magilou pouted.
“I’m being serious! Everyone needs someone to rely on. Even
I have Bienfu, even if the most I rely on him for is as my punching bag.”
Velvet sat on the floor of then nest, meeting Magilou at
“I don’t need to rely on anyone. I just need to get my
revenge. I don’t really care what happens after that.”
“I see! Well then why are you on this ship then? Why do you
take our help? Or are we being used? I mean, I don’t mind being used now and
again, but I’m really more of a to–“
“Stop,” Velvet said, holding her hand out before
Magilou could continue her verbal tirade. “Our goals aligned. That’s it.
Your powers are worth keeping around.”
Magilou was suddenly sitting right next to Velvet. She hadn’t
even seen the girl move. She leaned up against Velvet’s shoulder.
“Right. Well, let’s go back to our previous question then:
why haven’t you gotten rid of me yet?”
Velvet grimaced, turning her head away. “I think you said
it yourself. You’re being used.”
Magilou ran a finger up Velvet’s thigh. A cold sweat ran down
her back. A breathy whisper made its way to her ear.
“Do you want to use me right now?” it asked.
Velvet was…conflicted, to put it mildly. All this time she had
refused to let herself feel anything, worried that she would be distracted from
her goal. But as much as she damned herself for it, she was smitten with this
absolute, literal jester of a human being, whose words and actions constantly
kept her guessing. Why should she deny it?
“Yes,” Velvet finally said.
Magilou swung a leg over, straddling Velvet as she kissed her
with an intensity that caught Velvet off-guard. She accepted it, wrapping her
arms around the witch’s waist.
The first crack of the dawn’s rays shown on Magilou and Velvet
when they finally woke up. The latter was blushing from head to toe. Magilou
yawned, stretching out until she noticed Velvet next to her. A lazy smile
lingered on her face.
“Were you that red last night?” she asked, attempting
to conceal a snicker. Velvet threw the girl’s clothes directly at her face.
“Dress yourself! And stop stretching out like a deer in
morning light, someone down below will see you!”
“Relax you big baby, it’s still dark and the shift doesn’t
change for a while.”
“Alright, alright, I’m going…you know you’re surprisingly
pushy for someone who collapses at a literal finger touch.”
Velvet wanted to throw Magilou over the guardrail — for real
this time. But someone would see the body. She focused instead on dressing in a
When the pair made their way down from the Crow’s Nest, Velvet
took a few breathes, trying to act as calmly as possible, even if she was
anything but. She turned to Magilou.
“You will speak of this to no one. No one.”
“Sure sure, we’ll keep it on the down-low. I can keep a
Magilou began to walk away, before Velvet grabbed her by the
wrist. She was staring directly at the floor.
“…Thank you,” she finally managed to get out.
Magilou was, for once, taken off guard.
“Yeah. No problem.”
She made her way below-deck.
“Remember: no one!” Velvet shouted behind her.
“We totally smashed,” Magilou told Eizen and Rokurou a few minutes later.
Another flash fic request! It was hard to find a reason for these two to meet up and smooch at first, but it came together in the end. This isn’t 100% canon-compliant, but that’s okay.
Also I love 6O. She’s so cute!! This was a good request to get. 🙂
The clack of 2B’s heels echoed through the halls of the Bunker. It was relatively empty — most of the other androids were likely at Command, or on a mission on the surface. She couldn’t feel the cold that crept through each section of the base as she passed through, matched with the dark expanse of space that sat outside. 2B didn’t know why the Bunker had windows. Anything that needed to be seen could be through the numerous high-tech sensors that adorned the Bunker’s exterior. But she didn’t see the need in asking why, either. It seemed to have always been this way. And sometimes 2B would look out at the stars glittering out in front of her when she looked out the window. She would never admit it to anyone if they asked, but she enjoyed the view.
2B had a day off. It was a rarity in her line of work, but even androids needed to rest. As her Pod would constantly point out, work with no sign of stopping was detrimental to her performance, which in turn was detrimental to the mission as a whole. She would rather have been back out on the field, but the last thing 2B needed was a reprimand from the Commander. Plus, she had already been tied up with plans at this point.
2B made some cross between a grimace and a smirk when she remembered it. She and 9S were in the City Ruins on reconnaissance when 2B received a call.
“Operator 6O to Combat Unit 2B!” came the sing-song voice on the other end of the line. 2B accepted the communication.
“2B here. What do you need, 6O?”
“Command wanted to notify you that you have a mandatory day off tomorrow!”
2B flinched. “Is it…really mandatory?”
“Yes, 2B! Gosh, a bit of rest wouldn’t kill you you know!”
2B sighed at her operator’s admonishment. “I suppose so. Fine. I’ll report in for my rest day tomorrow.”
There was silence on the other end of the line. 2B frowned.
“You should still be on the line. Signal’s clear,” 9S said, checking his systems.
“6O? Can you hear me?” 2B asked.
“So then 2B…that means you don’t have any plans tomorrow, do you?” 6O said in whisper of a voice.
“What? Of course not. You just told me I have time off.”
“Great! So that means we can go on a date tomorrow, right?”
If 2B were human, she would have broken out into a cold sweat. It wasn’t that she wasn’t interested in 6O — she actually was, though she’d die before admitting it to anyone that asked. She just wasn’t prepared to go on a date so soon. And yet, she had no excuse to dodge the meeting. 2B was caught in 6O’s trap.
“I suppose…I don’t have a choice do —”
Before 2B could finish her sentence, 6O’s high-pitched squeal shot through on the other end of the line, nearly causing 2B to short-circuit. It was more powerful than some of the EMP blasts she had been subjected to in battle.
“Yes! Okay, I’ll give you the details later, but we’ll meet tomorrow at 1600 hours! Don’t be late! Operator 6O out!”
The connection closed. 2B was left to look out at the horizon as a breeze ruffled her skirt, too shocked to move or speak.
Thusly did 2B make her way to 6O’s appointed coordinates. She was in a part of the Bunker she never found herself visiting. A pleasant smell was wafting through the door in front of her. This was probably the place.
2B opened the door to let herself in, and found herself face-to-face with…
“What is this?” 2B asked aloud.
It was unlike anything she had ever seen before. Rather than the usual silver and black walls, 2B had found herself in a small room with wooden panels on all sides. Pictures adorned the walls, and light blue and green streamers hung in the rafters above her. A handful of other androids were sitting at different tables, and they had drinks in their hands. This was some sort of…coffee shop?
Before 2B could ruminate further, she saw an overly energetic hand waving towards her from the corner of the room.
“Over here!” 6O called out. She had replaced her usual uniform with an elegant black and yellow dress. She looked more adorable than ever.
Subsequently, 2B felt very under-dressed.
The android cleared her throat, before making her way to 6O’s table.
“6O,” she said, giving a bow. Was it too polite? Oh damn, she was already messing up. 2B tried to bulldoze her way past her paralyzation and sat down.
“Has this place always been here?” she asked. 6O chuckled.
“Yes, silly! The Bunker Cafe has been here forever. It’s a spot where androids can relax when they’re not on the job. You’ve just never seen it because you never take a day off, and when you do you spend all your time sleeping in your room!”
“It seemed like the most optimal use of my time in regards to the mission…” 2B replied. 6O passed the woman a menu that she began to peruse.
“It’s built to mimic the same structures that humans would spend their time relaxing in,” 6O said as 2B examined the menu.
“They sure were strange creatures.” Still, she was intrigued by the whole concept. It seemed that Nines’ curious nature was beginning to rub off on her.
“What are you ordering?” 2B asked. She almost never ate human food, even though she had the capability, because it was unecessary. She figured it best to defer to 6O, who was fascinated by human meals.
“Lunar tea!” the girl replied, grinning. “It’s the best thing you can drink here!”
“I’ll get the same then,” 2B replied. “And a plate of biscuits as well.” She wasn’t interested in them, but she noticed 6O eyeing the ones on a table next to them a few times. 2B could tell she made the right decision when 6O’s eyes lit up.
“Make sure to share!” she said. 2B smiled.
The Cafe wasn’t exactly busy, so the pair’s tea and snacks came to them quickly. 2B picked up one of the biscuits. It was circular, and had a face baked into it with two large round eyes and a wide grin spread across it.
“Creepy,” 2B said, before taking a bite.
“How’s field work going?” 6O asked. 2B crossed one leg over the other and took a sip from her drink, which was surprisingly tasty.
“Fine,” she replied. “There hasn’t been much in the way of unusual activity. We just perform our usual recon missions before returning to base.”
6O sighed. “I would kill to go to the surface,” she said, pouting. “It looks so beautiful. I wanna see it all in person!”
“Operators have no reason to go to the surface,” 2B said matter-of-factly. 6O stuck her tongue out at the woman, causing her to blink in surprise.
“Haven’t you ever wanted to do something just because you wanted to, 2B? Like yeah, missions are important, but isn’t there anything you want yourself?”
This was the part of 6O that 2B was always thrown off by. She seemed to not have a filter on anything she said, even for an Operator unit. 2B put her hand under her chin in thought.
“I suppose…I haven’t,” she said. “Oh!”
6O leaned forward. “Oh?”
“I did want to see you today. That was for myself.” 2B nodded, content with her answer. She noticed that 6O had covered her face with her hands.
“6O?” she asked, puzzled. “Are you alright?”
“Blghhhaa, 2B!” she said, her voice muffled by her hands. “You can’t just say stuff like that out of nowhere!”
“I was answering your question,” 2B said. 6O waved her hands in front of her.
“Just forget about it!”
The two women went on with their cafe meals, chatting about missions they had worked on and Bunker gossip that 6O had heard while on the job. She idly spinned the straw in her tea, staring into its depths when she next spoke.
“I’m glad you said yes to this,” she said, quieter than she usually was. “I was afraid you wouldn’t.”
2B’s eyes widened. “Why wouldn’t I?”
“Well…the last girl I asked out turned me down…”
This was something 2B hadn’t heard about.
6O blushed. “Yeah…I kinda liked her, but…I don’t know, I guess I wasn’t good enough. Sorry, this isn’t exactly a date topic, is it?”
2B shook her head. “I’m glad she said no.”
“If she had said yes, I wouldn’t have been able to be here with you.”
6O was near to tears. Her cheeks were flushed red.
“Two-beeeee,” she said, finally letting out a sob. 2B pat the girl’s hand, flustered herself.
“Get a hold of yourself, 6O,” she said as gently as she could muster.
The girls left the cafe twenty minutes later. 2B stretched, letting out a cat-like yawn.
“I have to admit. That was nice.”
“Wasn’t it?” 6O replied, bouncing on her toes. 2B nodded
“I’ll walk you back to Command,” she said.
The pair made their way through the Bunker’s hall. 2B had passed through them numerous times with collegues, but walking with 6O, she couldn’t help but perceive a sort of warmth in them, even if she knew it wasn’t there. She stopped herself from smiling before 6O could notice.
They arrived at the front entrance of Command a short while later. 6O turned to 2B, hands clasped together as she looked more at 2B’s feet than at 2B herself.
“Well, this is my stop,” she said, giving a nervous chuckle.
“It is,” 2B replied. “Oh yes, one last thing.”
2B popped open the containment slot built into her thigh, and pulled out a bright white flower. She offered it to 6O, who gasped.
“A Lunar Tear, yes. You mentioned wanting to see one before, so I got one on the way back to Base yesterday. It’s yours.”
2B placed the Lunar Tear in 6O’s hair. It blended brillianty with the girl’s blond locks. 2B took a step back, admiring her placement.
“I think it looks good. What about you, 6O?”
In answer, 6O rushed forward, pulling 2B into a hug before looking up to kiss her. 2B was shocked for half a second, before she wrapped her arms around the girl, kissing her in turn. They stayed like that for a while, held in each others arms, before finally letting each other go.
“I hope you get another day off soon, 2B,” 6O said. She turned on her heel and rushed into Command. 2B watched her leave.
The Saga of Mint™ has steadily ballooned over the past couple of months. This mostly occurs via random Mastodon posts and LINE conversations with my friend, described as “Lore,” much the same way one would place fake dinosaur bones around the house to later discover for themselves.
Since Mint’s creation a stream of cast-members have entered the scene. First, there was Queen, Mint’s girlfriend. I want to do a post about her at some point, but she’s my friend’s OC so I’d like to collaborate with her in writing it, or have her make a post on this blog herself (if she gets off her lazy ass to do it. Doubtful!!!).
So instead today I wanna talk about Mint and Queen’s roommates: Bubblegum and Aprajita.
Bubblegum is somewhat of a mystery to everyone that knows her. It is rumored that she ran an illegal software ring at some point in her past. Some have said that she was CEO of a massive plushie-making corporation. Still others believe that she was Hatsune Miku’s previous vocal trainer. No one knows for sure because Bubblegum is a rather private person, but it doesn’t particularly matter, especially to Aprajita. Much like her roommates, Bubblegum is a staunch anti-capitalist, regardless of what her former inclinations might have been. She runs an Etsy shop out of the group’s house, filled with all kinds of accessories and custom-made sweaters. Bubblegum is exceedingly cheerful, and she uses the depths of her knowledge on all matter of subjects – wherever it may have come from – to provide advice to everyone in the house.
In case you couldn’t tell, she loves pink. She plays the drums, and has a pet bird named Floof, also pink. And as another fun fact, she played a part in how Mint and Queen first met. But that’s a story for another day.
Aprajita is Bubblegum’s girlfriend. She’s from Malaysia, and helps her friend Sunny run a coffee shop around the corner from the group’s house. She’s also an Artist, Graphic Designer, and designated cook for the household. That last point stems from the fact that she’s an amazing chef, and finds the work relaxing.
Aprajita is as quiet as she looks, but that’s often misconstrued as docileness. Anyone who attempts to take her to task with that line of thought will find themselves rudely awakened via acute verbal decimation. She is trust-worthy and strong-willed, nor is she one to ask many questions. Aprajita is as much an emotional rock to the household as Bubblegum is – this is probably why they’re dating. However, there will be days where she’d like to be left alone, which her roommates respect. On days like this, Aprajita gets even quieter than usual, spending time in her room working on some project or another. It never lasts for very long, though, and she’ll be back with her friends soon afterwards.
She met Mint while working as a designer for one of her tours, and two quickly became friends. She also plays the Bass guitar, and has a pet fish named Toothy that she would literally die for. Aprajita is Ace, and her name, color, and design are based on the Blue Pea flower. There is a reason for this.
That’s all for now. There’s more I want to do with Mint and Co. but I don’t know if I’ll implement my ideas anytime soon. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, I’m content in imagining these characters and the world they’re in and having it just exist, without plans for a novel or a visual novel or a graphic novel or any other kinds of novels. They let me feel imaginatively fulfilled when I’m feeling down on other projects, or too beaten up by my day job and physical ailments to do much creatively.
All that said. If you want to make a character in Mint’s little world and connect it to mine, please feel free to do so. It’d probably be fun. Or maybe not. I dunno, I’m not your mom. The app I used for Mint, Bubblegum and Aprajita ishere, and actually got updated with a bunch of new stuff today, surprise. If you make one, show me where I usually hang out: @eightbitsamurai
And if you want to see something I’m working on that actually has a plotline and is progressing pretty steadily, check out the Post-KH3 Fanfic I’m writing here: The Foretellers Saga.
“That’s the stream everyone! Gotta cut it early, Queen and I have somewhere to be!”
Mint took her headset off and placed it on the table, running her hands through her hair. It always got messy when she was wearing it. The stream was good — it was a Tuesday, meaning it was quiet enough that Aprajita and Bubblegum didn’t have to stick around and moderate. And the game she was playing was pretty fun too. But, real life called, and she had to answer.
Mint leapt from her gaming chair, grabbed a nearby brush, and bounced lightly out of her room and across her house’s wooden panels. Her socks masked her sound. Good — she wanted to initiate a surprise attack.
The girl turned left at the end of the hallway and stopped outside the door. Queen, Mint’s girlfriend, could be heard inside, lightly strumming her guitar. Though she wasn’t inside, Mint could picture her face: pink hair masking her eyes, which were probably furrowed in concentration as she moved from one chord to another.
Sun filtered past the awning and through the window, warming Mint’s face. She smiled, turning to open the door to the studio slowly so as to not let it creak. Queen’s back was turned. She crept up on the girl, before letting out a bellow.
The taller girl leapt off of the stool she was playing on, nearly dropping her guitar. She whirled at Mint.
“What?” she asked, concern written on her face. Mint almost felt bad for teasing her girlfriend, but it was too easy not to. She turned away from Queen, running her fingers through her green locks in a dramatic flourish.
“Brush my hair!” she commanded.
Queen sighed, letting her shoulders relax.
“Hell Mint, I thought someone broke into the place! You almost gave me a heart-attack. What if I dropped my guitar?”
“I wooooould buy you another one?” Mint asked. Queen sighed yet again. She sighed pretty often around Mint.
“Right. Can’t argue with that I guess.” She threw a hand out, gesturing at Mint’s brush in defeat.
“Get over here,” Queen said. Mint hopped over to the girl and sat on the floor, crossing her legs while Queen got back on her stool and began to brush. The girls sat in silence for a moment as Queen settled into a rhythm going through Mint’s sea of hair with the brush.
Mint’s eyes were shut in relaxation when she heard Queen begin to hum. It was the same few chords from before. She opened her eyes to look up at Queen, lost in thought. Mint smiled. Queen eventually noticed, blushing a deep crimson.
“What?” she asked.
“You’re cute when you get so into your work.”
“Is this for the next album?”
“Maybe. I’m trying to figure out the mid-section but I can’t seem to get it down.”
Mint stuck a hand out towards nothing in particular.
“Let me hear it tomorrow. Maybe I can help.”
The pair sat in silence for a moment longer. Mint tapped on Queen’s knee.
“Have you thought about what you’re wearing tonight?” she asked. Queen looked away.
“I kinda thought…I wouldn’t have to go.”
Mint leapt to the air, nearly knocking Queen on the chin as she did so. She flipped around to look at her girlfriend, hands planted firmly on her hips.
“You have to go! I’m presenting an award! And it might be to Miku!”
Queen’s exasperation was palpable. “I know, I know, I just…”
Mint’s expression softened. She lightly lifted Queen’s chin up with a finger, who had resorted to staring at the floor.
“Just what?” she asked.
“I wanted…to wear…a suit.” Queen could barely get the words out. Mint tilted her head.
“That’s it?” she asked, puzzled. Queen ran a hand through the shaved half of her hair.
“Agh, see, I knew you wouldn’t get it!”
“Get what? You gotta tell me Queen!”
“I just…I feel like it’d be embarrassing, you know? But I don’t wanna wear a dress. I want to wear a suit. But no one’s ever seen me in formal clothes before. Just my usual punk stuff. What do they think I’m gonna wear? What do they think I should wear? What if people think I’m weird?”
Mint interrupted Queen’s rambling. She grabbed the girl’s hand and yanked her to her feet.
“Come with me.”
Mint sped out of the room, nearly yanking Queen’s arm off as they half-walked, half ran to their shared room. She directed Queen to the dresser on the far wall and yanked it open. It was mostly filled with Queen’s things — Mint still grabbed most of her clothes out of her suitcase, since she was too lazy to hang them up after the girls had moved in together.
Mint pointed at the dresser.
“Where is it?”
Queen stared at the dresser, mouth open as if she were about to say something. She looked at Mint, then back at the dresser again. Mint crossed her arms.
“You must have it, if you wanted to wear it, right?”
Queen nodded. She pulled out a black bag that was hanging in the middle of the dresser.
“Put it on,” Mint said.
Mint tapped at her ear. “Huh. I didn’t think I was wearing my headset,” the girl said. “So there’s no audio feedback. Which means I definitely was clear in what I said. Put it on!”
Queen went to the bathroom to change. Mint rolled her eyes.
“She knows I’ve seen her undress, and that I’ve undressed her myself, right?” she asked the room’s dead air. It didn’t respond, leaving Mint to huff alone.
Finally, before she thought to go and find the girl herself, Queen came back into the bedroom, dressed in a sharp white tuxedo.
“Sorry,” she said, giving a sheepish grin. “I had to talk myself out of the bathroom. Uh…Mint?”
Mint seemed to have short-circuited. She was, at the very least, speechless. She took a few steps forward, until she was face-to-face with Queen, and reached out to touch one of the suit’s buttons.
“It’s too much, isn’t it?” Queen said, her worst fears realized. “It’s –“
“It’s what?” Queen sputtered.
“It’s. Hot.” Mint looked up to lock eyes with the girl, before getting on her tip-toes to kiss Queen. When Mint backed away, Queen was just as speechless as Mint was moments before.
“Uh, that was nice,” she finally managed to say. “You really like it?”
“Queenie,” Mint said, using the girl’s pet name. “The only thing stopping me tearing that thing off of you is the fact that it’d be a pain to get ready for the Award Show a second time.”
“Wow. You really like it.”
Mint smoothed her skirt down, seemingly more composed. “Sure I do Queen, but do you? It’s your opinion that matters. I don’t want to pull you one way or the other, I just want you to be comfortable. And happy.”
Queen examined the suit on her body again. “I feel…good,” she said. “But I’m still really nervous. I mean, you know me Minty. Big changes, big anxiety.” The girl let out a short laugh.
Mint had a hand under her chin. She wasn’t looking at Queen at all anymore, but rather the wall behind her — or, perhaps even further. Queen knew that when this was happening, it meant the girl was going into overdrive. Finally, her eyes lit up.
“Don’t go anywhere,” she said, before running out of the bedroom. She turned to poke her head back in.
“I mean, get ready to go, but don’t go anywhere!” she said. “And keep the suit on!” she added as she ran out of the house.
It was two hours until Mint returned, and when she did, she shooed Queen away from her. “Don’t look at me!” she shouted as she ran down the opposite end of the hallway and into the bathroom. Queen watched her zoom past.
“Are we…are we still going to the show?” she asked, confused. Mint didn’t answer.
More time passed. Queen looked at her watch. She knocked on the bathroom door.
“Hey, it’s almost time to go, but, I don’t think I’ll–“
The girl was interrupted by the bathroom door swinging open. Mint stood in front of her girlfriend wearing her own suit, cut slightly differently at the cuffs. She twirled for Queen, before ending with a pose.
“Well? How do I look?” she asked her girlfriend, winking.
It was Queen’s turn to short-circuit. She was beet-red this time around.
Mint continued, seeing as her girlfriend was verbally out of commission. “I didn’t want you to be nervous, so I figured, why don’t we match? I wasn’t sure at first, but I think I cut a pretty good figure in a suit, don’t you?”
Queen steadied herself on the bathroom door.
“Yes,” she said simply.
“So, you’ll go?”
“In the suit?”
Mint clapped her hands together.
“Great!” she said. And she meant it.
They were finally ready to go. The two girls stood at the front door, putting their dress shoes on. Queen mumbled something, but Mint couldn’t quite hear it.
“Huh? What?” she asked, leaning forward to hear her. Queen looked away before repeating herself.
“I said, ‘what did I do to deserve such a good girlfriend.'”
Mint’s eyes widened. She stared at Queen for a second, before finally speaking.
“I mean, if you got a girl like me, you’re probably not too shabby yourself, right?”
Mint reached up to kiss the girl again, before the two went on their way.
You’re 3.99 years old. The wedding you’re at is boring as hell, so your cousin hands you a GameBoy Color with Link’s Awakening inside. The only videogame you’ve played before this is Pac-Man, at an arcade in Egypt. You are in awe. You cannot believe videogames can be like this – they can tell a story, just like the Redwall books that are enamoring you at the same time. You want an N64 on your birthday, and instead of getting Star Wars Rogue Squadron like you planned, you get Ocarina of Time.
You’re 5 years old. You still haven’t beaten Ocarina of Time. You’re only allowed 2 games a year, so you’re trying to savor the experience. Plus, you’re terrified of the Shadow Temple. You are enthralled by this game. It is the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen. You explore every nook and cranny. You finally understand what the phrase “explore every nook and cranny” even means, because you’ve done virtually everything there is to do in the game. You finally beat it. You cry. A lot.
You’re 8 years old. You have a few games under your belt at this point. Besides reading, they’re your favorite pastime. Your mom acquiesces to your passion for the hobby, as long as you’re reading, getting A’s in class, and only playing on weekends. You’re finally getting a PlayStation 2 for Eid-al-Fitr. It’s the first time you’ve ever fasted for real. You’re allowed one game along with it. You pick Spyro: Enter the Dragonfly, having enjoyed the previous games in the series. It’s the first game that’s ever betrayed you. You are crushed. You return a game, for the first time in your life. With your second chance, you choose carefully. You see a game called Kingdom Hearts on the GameStop shelf, and recognize Cloud from Final Fantasy 7 on the back of the box. He didn’t let you down before. You buy it. It is incredible. You love it so much you break your mom’s rules, playing it on weekdays for a brief 20 minutes while she’s away to pick up your little sister. You beat it. You cry. A lot.
You’re 11 years old. You’re getting a game for your birthday. You’re keeping up with the industry now. You know what IGN is, and you like to do the polls on GameFAQs, and print out the walkthroughs. You really want Shadow of the Colossus. Your mom asks the GameStop clerk if the game is violent. Your heart freezes. Is this the end? The clerk looks her dead in the eye, and says “no.” Thank you Jeff from the Aurora Mall GameStop. I hope you’re living your best life. Shadow of the Colossus changes your life. You’ve cried from games before, but not like this. You question things you were certain of before the credits rolled. You realize that games can be more than just entertainment, or even more than just a story. They can change who you are, fundamentally.
You’re 12 years old. You hate middle school. It is the worst thing you’ve ever experienced, and you’ve had an infected lung tissue removed from your body. That’s how bad middle school is. But it’s okay, because Kingdom Hearts II has released. You have grown up, and the game has grown up alongside you. Sora has grown up alongside you. You play it in a rush during your Spring Break. The ending is so cool that you show it to your friends. They don’t care and have never been interested in Kingdom Hearts in their life, but you can’t help it.
You’re 16 years old. High School isn’t as bad. You skip prom to play Portal 2. You don’t like Skyward Sword, and it causes you to question everything you’ve ever known. You aren’t sure if you’re changing, or if the games you’re playing are. Sometimes you’d rather write than play. You have ideas for novels, but you know you aren’t good enough to make them. Not yet. Everyone is talking about Skyrim. Your friends are talking about Skyrim. Your teachers are talking about Skyrim. Your crush knows what Skyrim is. You want to talk to her about it. You don’t. You don’t talk to her at all, actually.
You’re 19 years old. College is…okay? You have money to buy your own videogames now, from your job at the Registrar. Despite that, you find yourself spending less money on them. You don’t find yourself enjoying them much anymore. You replay all of the Kingdom Hearts games in the HD collection. They’re still good. You recognize that they’re silly, but they’ve been with you all this time, and they mean something to you. You think next year might be better.
You’re 20. You hate everything. You hate college. You hate your major. You hate your roommate. You don’t want to do anything. You spend hours lying on your bed. You go to class, sometimes. You stare at the menu screen of Xenoblade Chronicles X, but you never press start. You don’t even know what the point of getting it was. What a waste of money.
You’re 21. You switched majors. You feel weird about it, but you realize it’s for the best, and that you have to make choices for yourself sometimes. You pick up Persona 4: Golden. It’s soothing. A reminder that you can do better, and be better. You move in with your friend from middle school. You have plans to stream together. You never do, but you like living with him, and don’t dread going home.
You’re 22 years old. You think you like videogames again. Final Fantasy XV, Gravity Rush 2, Nier Automata, Tales of Berseria, Yakuza 0: you’re spoiled for choice, and reminded of the quality they can carry. You wonder again if games changed when you weren’t looking, or if you changed when games weren’t looking. You think it might be both. You play every Kingdom Hearts game in order, from Kingdom Hearts to Dream Drop Distance. You hear that Kingdom Hearts III is releasing fairly soon. You doubt it.
You’re 24 years old. Kingdom Hearts III is releasing tomorrow. You wrote that novel, and you’re about to write it again. You don’t live with your friend from middle school anymore, but you stream with him (almost) every Saturday. You’ve reestablished your whole online persona, and feel more comfortable with yourself than you ever have been. Kingdom Hearts III has blot out the sun as it looms over you. You wonder what will come after it’s finished. You feel like a chapter of your life is closing, and it makes you very uncomfortable. You are embarrassed that a videogame about Mickey Mouse is causing you to have a life crisis, but you figure that writing about it might help.
I’ll be assuming you have a general knowledge of Kingdom Hearts in this piece. I…I have to. It’s the only way to write this in under 10,000 words.
Kingdom Hearts is a series filled with clones, clones of clones, time travel, nonsense dialogue, and a bewildering plot that is debated on GameFAQs forums and Reddit threads to this day. It’s confusing. It’s a mess. I love it.
But underneath the cacophony of discussion about hearts and weird anime-haired lions is Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep. A game that’s so subdued and uncomplicated in its focus, it almost feels like it’s from an entirely different series.
It’d be unsurprising if you haven’t played Birth by Sleep. Released on the PSP in 2010, only the most rabid of fans would be willing to buy the game on such an unsuccessful console. It wouldn’t be until Kingdom Hearts HD 2.5 Remix (yes, I know, and I’m sorry) released in 2014 on the PS3 that a larger audience would gain access to the game. Which is great! I consider BBS to be the best of the series, and a large part of that has to do with Aqua, one of the game’s three playable characters.
Birth by Sleep is a prequel to the Kingdom Hearts series, taking place ten years before the first game — in essence, before things got wild. It tells the story of Terra, Aqua, and Ventus, three keyblade wielders that want to become Keyblade Masters alongside their current teacher, Master Eraquis. Their exam to become masters occurs at the beginning of the game, where Aqua succeeds, and Terra does not. This division between the friends sets off a chain of events that basically screws everything up for the whole universe and will lead you to ask questions like, “what’s the difference between a Heartless and a Nobody? and, “wait, so Heartless carry hearts in them, effectively not making them heartless?”
Aqua is a blessing to the Kingdom Hearts franchise. She feels too good for it, if we’re being completely honest. She displays a level of competency that’s pretty much unmatched by any other character in the game, including characters like Yen Sid, who are supposed to me mentors to the series’ plucky gang of Final Fantasy rejects.
It’s refreshing to play a female protagonist that isn’t helpless or weak, and especially important, isn’t undermined by the rest of the cast. On the contrary, Aqua is without a doubt one of — if not the — strongest character in the series, if you take into account what she accomplishes by the end of Birth by Sleep.
By the time credits roll, Aqua pretty much single-handedly prevents the Worlds from being completely swallowed up by darkness. She saves Ventus and defeats Terra-Xehanort, the hardest boss in the game, before letting herself get swallowed up by the Realm of Darkness to save Terra, too. Then she travels and survives through the Realm of Darkness for ten years to find a way out, before helping save the Worlds again by closing the door to Kingdom Hearts with Mickey. In short, Aqua gets things done, and it’s that agency that makes her so engaging and impressive to me.
On top of that, she’s just fun to play. She has access to the most powerful spells in the game and feels more competent than Terra and Ventus. I spent hours grinding for levels to make her deck of commands a force to be reckoned with. Her barrier is the best at defending against attacks from all directions, too. By the time I was ready to face the final boss, I had moves that would essentially clear a room of Heartless in less time than it’d take you to say “Sora, Donald, Goofy!”
In essence, Aqua is the best. She almost (almost) makes up for Xion, Namine, and Kairi’s general lack of agency in the other Kingdom Hearts games – the first is unplayable, the second has been a damsel forever now, and Kairi has barely had a chance to show off her keyblade skills. But there’s one major problem I have with how Aqua’s character is developed.
She’s the Team Mom. Aqua ends up being a baby-sitter for Terra and Ventus. She’s constantly having to help them fix their problems, and provide support for them. She’s pigeonholed into being a maternal figure a lot of the time, especially when you consider her overall lack of impact on the plot up until the end of the game. Sure, you could argue that this is due to Xehanort not wanting her to interfere in his plans for the two boys, but that feels like a weak explanation.
It pains me to say it, but Aqua’s character development feels like an afterthought at times. A Fragmentary Passage, a recent addition to the series that has you play as Aqua during her time in the Realm of Darkness, thankfully alleviates some of those issues for me, as Aqua confronts some of her fears and character flaws in an interesting way. But Birth by Sleep was her debut game. It would have been nice for her to get that sort of depth there. A lot of my love for Aqua stems from the characterization that we the fanbase have given her, in spiteof Nomura’s storytelling decisions, not because of them.
All that said I feel that Aqua shines through these flaws. She’s the heart of Birth By Sleep. Its her sense of justice and loyalty and her ability to kick ass that carry her through to the game’s final moments, cementing her as the true protagonist of Birth by Sleep, a key player in the Kingdom Hearts franchise, and one of its best characters. Without her, I don’t think Kingdom Hearts would be nearly as interesting.
Which leads me to ask Square Enix: please let Aqua, Kairi, Namine, and Xion finish strong in Kingdom Hearts III. With so few female characters to begin with, it’d be a shame for you to fail them so close to the finish line. You’ve had fourteen years to make sure you get it right. Don’t mess it up.