Mini-Review – Illusion of Gaia

For me, there are a number of video games that I often find myself reminiscing about because something has triggered a pleasant memory that is attached to them. Most of these games are old, played in my youth, that I have never gone back to replay. One of the most prominent in my memory is Illusion of Gaia, the middle child of an SNES trilogy by Quintet. Though it’s not your typical middle child. Gaia was far better known than its older brother, Soul Blazer. And its younger sibling, Terranigma, was never formally released in North America.

Gaia’s notability is mostly in the fact that it was published by Nintendo, and as such was pushed rather heavily in Nintendo Power. Yet despite this, its siblings seem to be talked about much more often by retro game enthusiasts. Soul Blazer has been christened a hidden gem, and Terranigma’s cachet is being one of those SNES RPGs we never got, which automatically makes it more sought after in the age of the internet. And so, good ol’ Illusion of Gaia often gets forgotten these days, because it was the one of the three that wasn’t forgotten in its own time.

But I haven’t forgotten it. I mean, obviously. In fact, it’s spent a lot of time in my active thoughts in the 20+ years since I first played it. A game that left a lasting impression on my impressionable young mind. Most of this, I attribute to the fact that it was a fantasy RPG that used famous locations from the real world, and had a rather mind-blowing plot twist at the very ending. And so, since these elements were burned into Li’l Ryan’s brain, any time they come up in real life, they trigger memories of Illusion of Gaia.

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Birthday Cake Froot Loops!!

Back in June/July, Kellogg’s made the minimum required effort to celebrate Canada Day by introducing a new limited-time-only flavour or Froot Loops:

Behold, the fairly-appropriate Birthday Cake Froot Loops! I mean, I guess they’re alright. It’s a safe bet. Not something I’d sell my first-born child for, but surely a better way to go than making something more specifically Canada-themed. Maple Froot Loops would be bad. Poutine Froot Loops would be even worse.

Froot Loops do not support the same range of gimmick flavours as chips, is what I’m saying.

Flavours aside, I do like the simplistic box design. It’s fairly close to the standard F’Loops (Has anyone ever called them F’Loops before? I want credit if it catches on.) box, only with a Canada-inspired white stripe down the middle and a tasteful smattering of festive flair. Very classy, as far as sugary cereal boxes go.

The Loops themselves did not quite fare so well. When I puled open the plastic bag in which they resided, my olfactory sense was greeted by a whiff of something mildly unpleasant. I can’t say it was outright offensive, but it did not bode well for a product that expected me to put it in my mouth. There’s a reason why I never eat fish.

Upon further reflection, I was able to identify the odor as the typical synthetic birthday cake flavour that is used in other junk foods. Peeps, for example. But it wasn’t quite right here. Party Cake Peeps smell delectable. Birthday Cake Froot Loops, not so much. I can’t put my finger on exactly what about it was off, which I’m sure is not a great help to you, the reader. But I’m also publishing this post a month and a half after the product in question has been pulled from store shelves for the rest of eternity. Clearly, being helpful and timely are not part of my mission statement.

The taste of these Froot Loops also left something to be desired. If I continue comparing them to Party Cake Peeps, the Loops tasted like very lightly flavoured cardboard. I guess that Froot Loops have just been that way for some time in general, as I can’t recall the last time I actually enjoyed a bowl, but I was still hoping for more from these. It was a long shot, but dreamers gotta dream, you know? They weren’t as bad as, oh, let’s say a certain Cap’n Crunch offshoot, but you can bet your bottom dollar that I never went back for a second box.

And so that’s the end of that story. If you found this post underwhelming, don’t worry! I have another cereal-related post in the hopper. Though to be fair, it’s probably not going to be any more exciting. At the very least, it will be more genuine because I won’t be trying to recall the smell and taste of a product that has been out of my mind for weeks upon weeks.

Here’s… a thing

I don’t really post enough random, rad stuff that I find all that often any more. Too many long rants about games or movies or whatever. I can’t help it. I feel so empty and incomplete when words aren’t spilling out of me and onto a webpage.

So here’s a classic: RichaadEB’s cover of “Megalovania” from Undertale. It’s one of my favourite video game tunes of all time, and I didn’t think that a cover could ever do it justice. Alas!

Happy Bornt Day to me!

I’m gonna get drunk as f**k and eat chicken fingers!

But that’s for much later this evening. The big event for my birthday this year is… football? My dad procured a couple of tickets to this year’s “Banjo Bowl,” which I gather from stray bits of conversation in past years, is some sort of big deal. I don’t really know why, but I’m excited!

Full disclosure: I was interested enough after that paragraph to actually do the research. What I’ve learned is that there’s a rivalry between the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Saskatchewan Roughriders, and they have apparently created a tradition of two back-to-back “event” games. The first being the Labour Day Classic, always played in Regina, followed the next weekend by the Banjo Bowl, which is always played in Winnipeg.

I still don’t really understand why these two games mean anything more than any other football game. The closest I’ve come to an answer is simply, Sports: Who F**king Knows?

With a steady pace

Alright, so maybe last weekend I got a little carried away with video games and YouTube and just generally doing things that weren’t reading. Though I am “behind schedule,” I have completed the second book in the Southern Reach Trilogy, Authority.

Authority takes place a certain amount of time after Annihilation, how long exactly I can’t remember, but it’s a direct sequel that follows up the evens of the first book from a vastly different perspective. There are many parallels between the two main characters, despite the fact that they have such different personalities. Authority, as you might expect, gives you answers to some of the mysteries in Annihilation, while leaving other things unclear, and posing many new questions of its own. I’m thinking that the final book, Acceptance, is probably going to do the same thing.

Again, I don’t want to tell much of the plot because it’s absolutely best to go in completely blind. But whereas the first book was about exploring a pristine wilderness, Authority is more of an office drama/mystery. It’s a huge jump in setting, tone, and overall readability. Authority is much less abstract, easier to digest. It’s also a fair shake longer, which is one reason why I took forever to read it despite having “powered through” it, at least from my perspective. The other reason is that it starts of real slow. Like, real slow. But maybe that’s just how novels work? Or at least most of the novels I read. Anyhow, it picked up before long, and I became completely absorbed and found myself doing the good ol’ “just one more chapter” thing.

It’s a good thing that I don’t have a habit of reading before bed.

All in all, I’d say that Authority is worthy follow-up, even though it’s a very different experience than Annihilation. And the ending, man. The ending was just something else entirely. It seems like a popular opinion that it’s the weakest of the trilogy, but I don’t really want to assign placement before I’ve finished them all (also, HOW?). With that said, onto Acceptance!

And that’s a very literal “onto Acceptance!” By the time this post goes live, I’ll probably be halfway through it.

Last Month in Movies – August 2017

I have so many movies sitting on my “want to watch” list that I will likely never make the time for. Because when I watch a movie, it’s usually some terrible horror film that pops up randomly on Netflix. And that’s your explanation of what happened below.

Insidious: Chapter 3 – I really loved the first Insidious movie for totally playing with my expectations of what a “possession” movie could be. Plus, it had a certain video-gameyness to it that really spoke to me. Insidious 2 was almost more of a whodunit mystery than anything else, and while it didn’t hit the same sweet spots, I liked it well enough to shout at the folks who were chatting in the theatre while the movie was playing.

The third film in the trilogy is…. ehhhhh. It goes back in time to a previous case of the medium from the first two chapters. This one is about how a young girl accidentally calls forth an evil spirit when trying to communicate with her deceased mom. After our heroine gets hit by a car and briefly dies on the operating table, said spirit begins to appear to her in the real world, and all the usual wacky ghost stuff stars happening. There is a neat little twist to how it goes down, but it’s nothing especially exciting.

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Monthend Video Game Wrap-Up – August 2017

You might think that I would have played fewer video games in August, what with all the hustle and bustle of moving last month. However, life video games finds a way.

~ Game Over ~

Super Mario World (3DS) – I’ve bought a handful of SNES virtual console games on my 3DS, but had only played Mega Man X up until now. Weird, that.

VOI (PC) – A very fun minimalist puzzle game. In a world where you can’t throw a stone without hitting a boring minimalist puzzle game, I think that’s worth celebrating.

Ever Oasis (3DS) – I’ve been letting this one simmer for a while, but it was time to finally hack my way to the finish line. It’s too bad the post-game is so grindy and not all that fun.

Team Kirby Clash Deluxe (3DS) – Done enough. Anything left to do is gated behind the paywall/waiting for daily gem apple harvests. And that’s a load of crap.

Candy Thieves: Tale of Gnomes (PC) – Lame tower defence game that parents might put on their iPads to shut up their four-year-olds. Uninstalled after ten minutes.

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Book-reading

I read another novel last weekend. That makes two weekends in a row in which I have read an entire novel. What is happening to me?

The most recent was Jeff VanderMeer’s Annihilation, which is the first book in the Southern Reach Trilogy. I fully intend to read the next two over the next two weekends. I don’t remember the context, exactly, but I purchased the trilogy because Matt Peckham said something about it on the now-defunct GameLife podcast that clearly affected me on some level.

As a strange twist, I have previously read another book by VanderMeer: Monstrous Creatures: Explorations of Fantasy through Essays. Which is not a novel, but rather a collection of essays about cryptids and other fantastical animals. This is a twist because my choices of literature are so impulsive that I haven’t ever felt the need to explore a particular writer’s greater oeuvre.

Although, to be fair, a significant portion of the books I’ve read in the past decade have come in trilogies. So there’s that.

Back to Annihilation! It was just excellent. I don’t want to say too much about it because the mystery and suspense are key tenets of the novel, but it was wholly unlike anything I’ve read before. I highly recommend checking it out, and I feel certain that the next two Southern Reach books will be equally, if not more, enjoyable.

I think that the only thing that I had a problem with is that I had a very hard time picturing the events in my head. This issue lies not with the writing, which is perfectly good at building a scene and describing events, but rather with my brain, which has a certain lack of focus. It makes reading a bit of a chore, as my mind will often drift off and I’ll find myself having to re-read up to an entire page. But as far as visualization goes, I often found myself wishing for a film adaptation, simply because I would love to actually see this world (although parts of it will be literally impossible to recreate on film). I can’t help it, I’m very much a visual kind of guy. Ask anyone who has ever tried to teach me anything without flashcards.

Oh, guess what, there’s a film adaptation coming out next February. Hooray! I’ve missed out on a lot of movies that I’ve wanted to see over the last couple years, but this will definitely be one that I see on opening night.

As an aside, the fact that this is all lining up so nicely makes me a bit salty, because the Five Nights at Freddy’s movie has apparently gone through the film version of development hell and has got me wondering if it’ll ever be real. Oh well. Win some, lose some.

The FanFic’d Ones

Very randomly, I received a promotional email from Amazon about an upcoming book: The Freddy Files, which seems to essentially be the Five Nights at Freddy’s bible. I clicked on the link, because I’m interested in all things FNAF, and it was there that I found the biggest surprise…

There is a second FNAF novel.

I had no idea at all! I’ve been so out of every loop since I stopped frequenting Talking Time. But that’s besides the point. I read and enjoyed the first FNAF novel, The Silver Eyes, on the very day that it became available. The sequel, The Twisted Ones, has been out for a couple months now and nobody told me about it. How rude!

So long story short, I bought it and read the whole thing last weekend. It’s not a long book by any metric, and the target audience is tweens, but I think it’s still pretty impressive that I polished off a whole novel in a single weekend. I’m a terribly slow reader, and even though I do love to read, it always gets lowest priority of all my hobbies. It’s a little sad that FNAF is one of the few things that really, truly excites me any more.

If you aren’t at all familiar with the Five Nights at Freddy’s lore, the games are about bipedal, animatronic animals that come to life at night and kill any unfortunate security guards that they might come across. There’s also something about how said animatronics are possessed by the vengeful spirits of murdered children, looking for the pink/purple/phone guy(s) who may or may not have murdered them. The lore goes deep, is what I’m getting at, but that doesn’t really matter because the novels take place in an alternate continuity.

While I did like the original book, and the second is by no means bad, The Twisted Ones almost comes off seeming like FNAF fan fiction. It was written by Scott Cawthon, creator of the games, so it can’t be fan fiction. But it feels like it. There are a lot of really weird story conceits and maybe pushes certain ideas a little too far. This is not unusual for the franchise; it’s built on weirdness and FNAF4 absolutely tried too hard in some of the same ways. But it’s easier to ignore that kind of stuff in a video game. I expect better from books, I guess.

Anyway, if you’re a big ol’ FNAF fanboy like me, you can’t go wrong with The Twisted Ones. It’s got its share of issues, but it’s definitely a step above The Silver Eyes in writing quality and it is significantly more focused from a storytelling perspective. Just don’t expect it to knock your socks off. This is Young Adult literature, after all. Still more interesting than Harry Potter, IMO.

At least I’m consistent

I booted up Wii Fit U for the first time in nearly a year, now that I’m relatively settled in my condo.

As it turns out, despite trying to eat better and getting significantly more exercise than usual over the last year, I’m nearly exactly the same weight as I was a year ago. Maybe a kilogram less.

*sigh*