You might remember I leaped upon the PS3 version of Ni No Kuni when it came out, so it’s no surprise the same is true for the new one on the PS4.
I’m breaking this up into sections and keeping it brief but here are some main points of how I feel about the game thus far.
You start out in Ding Dong Dell, so straight into the nostalgia, but you don’t get much time to enjoy it because there’s a coup and you have to get out of there fast. The graphics are wonderfully reminscent of the first and still beautifully Studio Ghibli.
Icing on the cake: the fanfare theme plays plenty in this game too 😀 I walk around the house cleaning things humming or ‘do-do-doo-ing’ it.
I’ve noticed more and more games these last few years are putting multiple combat systems and gameplay methods into the one game. Used to be some of these gameplay styles were a whole game in and of themselves. It’s fun to have the extras, but sometimes they feel really tacked on – mostly that’s not true with Ni No Kuni 2.
The combat system is similar in that there are three people on your team and you face a group of monsters. What changed is the familiars are gone, replaced with spells and swappable weapons. I’m not anti-swapping weapons, but I am saddened by the loss of the familiars, they were one of my favourite things in the earlier game.
The skirmish battles that occasionally pop up as side quests (and once or twice right at the start as story requirements) are interesting, but they aren’t high strategy at the point I’m at in the game. At first glance I thought it was going to be full RTS style, but the units just stick by Evan’s side following him where ever he goes on the field. If a unit stands too close to a barricade they’ll attack that, not the enemy unit you’re aiming for. Also, it’s really hard to find ways to level at the start. I have to fight the two low-level whamster battles(lvl 3 and lvl4) like eight times to get my team strong enough to take on the next skirmish(lvl 10) and again before the next (lvl 17).
Running the kingdom is so much fun for me. I love that sort of stuff, particularly when there are in game boosts from all the work you do. I’m not sure if I hate the fact the kingdom upgrades run on their own currency not the standard in-game currency, or I love it. Sometimes I leave the game running while I clean or something else to earn more Kingsguilders ;p
I’m not finished yet, but the storyline thus far is much less strongly about how ‘our’ world connects to the fantasy world, and so far Roland(the person from ‘our’ world) has a lot less effect on the story compared to Oliver from the original (though he’s cool and he reminds me a bit of Col. Roy Mustang, so it’s largely forgiven ;p ).
The story revolves more around Evan, the child-king, and the new kingdom he wants to make. It’s fun so far, but apart from the highly exciting chapter one (with Aranella) it hasn’t been gripping – perhaps because those life and death stakes, the desire to revive a dead mother, aren’t in this one. I’m hoping that since I’m probably not even half way done that there’s going to be some great twists coming, since the first game had some rippers. Verdict on the plot thus far: good, fun, but not gripping (yet, still early).
Overall, I’m having a lot of fun and as I often do getting distracted with side quests (which get you more citizens and build our kingdom ;p ). It’s not as good as the first one, but it is probably suffering a bit from comparisonitis, and since I’m still enjoying it (and nowhere near finished like I was when I wrote the review for the first one) I won’t hold that against it.
I’ve put up another writing prompt over on the Visions Writers website, this time celebrating my love for chimeras. I have chimeras on the brain right now as I prepare to finish off the first draft of ‘Keys, Clocks, Quests’ – in which nearly all the animals are chimeric versions of creatures of our world.
Full Metal Alchemist fans may want to prepare themselves for the picture I used to accompany the post. I am evil.
February was going so well, I had one massive week where I wrote 16,300 words one week, then the following week wrote four complete short stories (cumulative total 6,600 words), but then a gastro bug came along and decimated a bit over a week while I took care of sick family members, it even took me specifically out for five days.
This month was still quite productive though. I wrote a total of 25,700 new words and edited roughly 115 pages. I did a fair amount of work for my writers group too since we’re being forced to move online platforms due to the current one being too old and the files section regularly dropping out for the last couple of months.
Regarding mypre-set goals for February this is how I went:
Write for pieces of flash fiction – I wrote two actual flash length pieces(The Last Breath Before Foam and Delivery Man Wanted, both around 900 words), one still-fairly-short piece(Money for Meat at 1,800 words), and one not really short, but kinda short for me piece (The Taste Of Blood, 3,000 words). Thus I consider this goal successfully completed – if a little over length ;p
Revise and continue getting feedback for ‘Light In The Deep’ – revised the whole thing based on my writer’s group feedback on the first 5,000 words and have submitted the next 5,000. There are 2,500 words left for the next month unless further revisions blow it out or shrink it
Complete first draft of Nothing Charming, revise, and send to betas if time – I completed the first draft at 38,000 words, 18k of which I wrote in February. I started revision, but only a couple of pages, it’s still far from beta ready
Check places that pay for reprints re: my older sold short stories – I did not ;p oops
After doing a final pass (after my multiple passes last month) I’ve resubmitted Foxworth with the rewrite request, now to play the waiting game.
I gouged my foot open in the middle of the month too (running to get the recycling bin out on time ;p ) and couldn’t walk for several days. T-J put a TV in the bedroom so I wouldn’t be bored while I sat with my foot up, but it meant I played a lot of games (because pain put a buzz in my head that made anything but early morning words too horrendous to live). I replayed some of Atelier Rorona, it’s still one of my all-time favourites of the Atelier series. How can anyone decide between Sterk and Iksel? ;p I also have done a couple more dungeons in Persona 5. I was very naughty game-wise this month.
Quite an eventful month, hey? How was yours?
And now, without further ado, my goals for March:
Revise and find betas for Nothing Charming
Continue editing ‘Light In The Deep’ with group feedback and submit final portion for critique
Choose between ‘Keys, Clocks, Quests’ and Tucca of The Tides (both half completed NaNo novels) and prep outline so ready to go for finishing in April (Camp NaNo)
Revise ‘Look Skyward’
A lot of revision, I know, but April will be almost pure writing, so fair’s fair.
I’ve posted another writing prompt over on the Vision Writers website. If you’re a writer go check it out.
I was very late with it this month because a gastro bug his my family like a tonne of bricks and took us all out for well over a week.
Also, the little graphic I make with every prompt post, this month is actually a photo taken by one of our regular meeting-attending members, Dave Brine, who is an avid bird watcher. You can stalk him, or watch him stalking birds (and occasionally other Aussie fauna on instagram @birdsofbogan
At my writers group meeting on Sunday I outed myself as a bit of a formatting nerd. This had long been known to verterans of the group. I will reformat stories if I can’t read them and in my feedback link the submitter to Shunn’s manuscript formatting guide. I will lop heads off for the sin of not putting page numbers in headers or footers. But this weekend just passed I showed I even get obsessive about the nitty gritty stuff, like paragraphs.
Two people got feedback from me regarding paragraphs, one on how paragraphs can affect pacing and the other on stylistic use of paragraphs. So I made that the meeting takeaway. If you’re curious you can head over to the Vision Writers website where I made the post.
Oops, forgot to actually tell you what my month specific goals were ;p Oh well, here they are and how I fared with them:
Finish ‘Alone Time’ first draft: completed at 5,700 words, but its going to need a bunch of trimming
Send Lovely/Lonely to beta readers: successfully sent out
Start submitting Mermaid In A Jar: it’s out there ;p
Start submitting Not Human, Not Alien: also out there
Finalise the print copy of Darkest Depths anthology for Vision Writers: done and proof copy is on the way
Complete first draft of Nothing Charming: I’ve written 8,600 new words, but I’m sill around 10-15k from the end. I got stuck in a frustrating scene that bogged me down but once I escaped it I set a cracking pace
Complete rewrites on Foxworth per the rewrite request: I’ve done four passes so far focussing on deepening pov and inserting bad moods/days. the publisher reopens for submissions in February so I hope to do one final pass and fingers crossed they like the rewrite and ask to buy it.
I also started some revision on ‘Light In The Deep’ (my sequel to Hans Christian Andersons’ The Little Mermaid, following the story of one of her sisters in her greif over the little mermaid’s death) and submitted the first 5,000 words to my critique group for feedback.
January was a tumtltuous start to the year: a wedding, a funeral, school holidays, the Yahoo group boards collapsing on my writers group(and my trying to create work-arounds when the ‘help’ department turned out to be forums) – I’m surprised I got anything done ;p
Here on the website I put a few new things on the books pages, like badges for awards/ honourable mentions, shortlists ect. and plan to add some testimonials/review snippets next month. I also added three of the four missing anthologies to my sidebar(which involves making those 3d images myself, hence the delay ;p ). I also finally became an Amazon affiliate, so if you’d like to support me click this link and buy a million things on Amazon an I’ll get a little bump from them but your purchases don’t cost you anything extra(you don’t have to buy my book either, just don’t exit Amazon completely, simply jump into your wishlist or the search bar from the link).
Books I read in January:
The Devil’s Only Friend: the 4th John Cleaver book and one of the best examples of putting in enough info to cover the previous books but not so much as to bore or spoiler your reader I’ve seen.
Unmagical Girl: (manga) I couldn’t resist, but the story I imagined was more interesting to me than what I actually got (not that it was bad, just I got soooo excited about the other concept, I’ll probably write it myself ;p )
The Barefoot Investor: this was given to me by a friend for Christmas. It might sound like a weird Christmas gift but when you know he used this book to buy a house on a disability pension it’s far less so.
The Fifth Season: a quite stunning fantasy I’m eager to read the rest of the series
The Reason I Jump: a book by a 13yo autistic boy in Japan. A very quick read, but insightful and inspiring
Turtles All The Way Down: a cool YA book about mental illness, the lines between rich and poor, and friendship and romance.
I am already well adapted to listening to my non-fiction podcasts in 1.5x speed and have listened to most of my fiction podcasts in the last three weeks at 1.5 speed. I even listened to several books at 1.5x. I think this was a lot easier to adjust to than I feared. Some narrators and hosts can’t be listened to at 1.5 though, they already speak fast enough ;p Also if I am using my bluetooth speaker and my husband comes in the room he always mocks the sound of it and me for wanting to pack more into my day. I recentl posted on this matter, you can check that post out here.
My goals for February are:
Write flash fiction – I’m going to call it flash fiction February ;p I’m pushing myself to write at least four new flash pieces, one each week
Revise and continue getting feedback for ‘Light In The Deep’
Complete first draft of Nothing Charming, revise, and send to betas if time
Check places that pay for reprints re:my older sold short stories
My first 5 star book of the year, and I read it at 1.5x speed
One of my more casual goals for this year was to increase my audiobook and podcast listening speeds. Audiobooks already save me time by allowing me to read while walking, exercising, cleaning, and doing housework, but I also listen to 9 podcasts about writing craft/book marketing and 8 fiction podcasts (I also want to grow that fiction set). I want to keep reading 50+ books a year as well as consuming these (mostly) weekly podcasts, but I also want more time to write and sure as heck aren’t cutting into my time with my family. Increasing reading speed gives me the opportunity to try and have it all.
I’d set the goal aiming that in around 6 months I’d be listening to all my non-fiction podcasts at 1.5x speed and I’d *maybe* try audiobooks around that speed too by the end of the year.
I’m already listening to all my podcasts at either 1.5x or 2x, and have listened to most of the audiobooks I’ve read in the later half of this month at either 1.5x or 2x. I’ve already adapted. Only every now and again do I come across a narrator (or host) who speaks a little too fast to handle at the higher speeds.
T-J laughs at me. He teases me all the time about the not-quite-chipmunk sound of the voices. But while listeneing to the audiobook of Barefoot Investor and reading along with the print version my fab friend Jake bought me, I discovered listening at 1.75x speed is very close to my normal reading speed when reading a paperback or ebook (my reading is a tiny bit faster). This is probably why I’ve adapted so easily to the faster listening speed because my brain is already capable of absorbing this sort of information at this speed already, only my mode of consumption has changed.
If you’re in any doubt as to the improvement of my reading speed, I have kept up-to-date will all my podcasts and read 8 books this month. Also note this is during summer school holidays too! And my enjoyment of books hasn’t lessened; I read my first two 5 star books of the year already, Holly Balck’s ‘The Cruel Prince‘ and Naoki Higashida’s ‘The Reason I Jump’.
Do you love audio for reading or listening to podcasts, or are you hesitant to try it?
I’ve never been one to cry at weddings before. I understand the emotion that leads people to cry at them and I have felt that culminating swell and flutter often, but never actually had the tears until today. I doubt there was a dry eye in the place.
Today our Aunt Trish and her partner Cath were married. It was a beautiful and touching ceremony and I’ve been told that it was the first same-sex marriage to take place in Queensland. The law passed allowing same-sex couples to marry in Australia on December 9th, 2017, but you must give your celebrant 30 days prior notice before the ceremony can legally take place – however, there are exemptions for every rule and Cath and Trish qualified for one(though a part of me wishes it wasn’t so considering their specific exemption).
The magnificent staff at John Flynn Private Hospital (where Cath worked for some 25+ years) went all out setting up and decorating marquees, putting on a delicious spread and making a wedding cake that will be the envy of many couples I’ve no doubt.
All our love to you both Trish and Cath and may you be together and happy far beyond this simple moment in time <3
If you’d like to see more photos than what I can fit in this tiny post those of us attending the ceremony today are using the hashtag #CathandTrish2018 on your poison, oops sorry, social media of choice.
The Heartstrikers series. It was sneakily addictive. They seem slow at first, but by the end of the first book, I thought I’d enjoyed it but wasn’t amazed and yet I went straight to Audible, bought the next one, downloaded it and started listening within ten minutes. I was like an addict who thinks they weren’t obsessed with crack and then finds themselves taking the next dose automatically ;p
Carry On by Rainbow Rowell, once you get over the HP fanfic feel (which makes sense after having read Fangirl by the same author) it is frigging awesome and just so deeply satisfying. I will definitely reread this at some point
Ghost Talkers by Mary Robinette Kowal was a delight. A WWI setting but with a supernatural twist, countless strong female characters, and that plot, those feels – I highly recommend it.
Strange The Dreamerwas so unusual I couldn’t help but love it. It has a great mish-mash of myth and fairy tale feeling but all in its own world. My only complaint was the in the same scene head-hopping that was used a fair bit in the later third.
I read a lot of books on the craft of writing also. My favourite craft books for 2017 were: Half A Million Words In Nine Months by Talitha Kalago for productivity can’t be beat (and I read a few productivity books this year, not just writing productivity but general productivity)
Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell is probably my craft content winner for this year, though Save The Cat Goes To The Movies had some very cool ideas/concepts in it which means the original Save The Cat is near the top of my to-read pile for craft books in 2018.
Final Fantasy XV. Yes, I know, it came out in 2016, but I played most of my first playthrough in ’17, and all of my second playthrough, and let’s not forget the DLCs, Episodes Gladio, Prompto, and Ignis (<3), so IMO this is perfectly valid to be one of my favourite games in 2017.
OMG the chocobros! You could see the all male cast as being sexist, but I saw it as being fanservice ;p I mean, there was the tsundere(Noct), the beefcake(Gladio), the megane(my Ignis) and the shota(Prompto). I told one of my gamer friends this and he says he can’t unsee what I showed him, so he’s always thinking of them that way now ;p Also, that new game+, so generous. You keep EVERYTHING, level, EXP, AP, gear, items. I don’t think you lost *anything* except story progress. It took me months (in my fragments of time, late at night) to finish my first playthrough(admittedly because I love side quests), then I did new game+ and, with my level 80 characters, I just whisked through the story, crying just as much as the credits rolled (and that post-credits campfire scene!)
Also, the episodes! Gladio was just a bit of fun, Prompto was good fun and nice to live out his tragic past, but Episode Ignis! OMG. I mean, Iggy was already my fave (seriously, glasses, puns, the ‘mum’ of the group, and his scathing moments of sarcasm – how could he not be my fave?) but that episode! Not only was the combat style the easiest to adapt to for me (A results all the way through 😀 ), but the story was so good. And then, cherry on top, being able to go back and make a different decision which essentially creates a new ending for the entire game not just the episode. I was so happy. There may have been tears again. Anything that elicits this much excitement and tears deserves my #1 billing.
Atelier Firis: If you know anything about my gaming side, you know I’m a huge fan of the Atelier series. I even have the actual artbooks (not just those crappy free ‘art books’ you get in collectors editions(though I do have plenty of those too ;p )). For this one, I loved the focus on exploring. The portable atelier was soooo handy as well, (remember Totori where you had to return to base if you needed to craft anything?) but I hated the nebulous time frame. I didn’t know how long I had to complete my tasks and it stressed me because in older games you sometimes had to complete one task within a year to unlock the ability to stretch the game’s timeframe out to the more typical three years.
Then after all that panic, it turned out I could complete the storyline and *then* finish all my character events. In fact, several character events couldn’t take place until post game. It made things too easy. I like the ‘three years’ time limits the earlier ps3 games gave me, enough time to take things seriously, but enough time to explore. I still have some character endings to unlock, but the excess of freedom takes the ‘urgency’ out of the game, so I keep feeling like I ‘need’ to play other things instead.
Also, when I saw Monika in Atelier Sophie and she looked sooooo much like Linca I was expecting for there to be a tie-in where she’s the genetic donor to the Linca clones or something, but she wasn’t even referenced in this game :'( I also kinda wish they’d left Oskar large. There are very few positive portrayals of larger characters in games, and while he wasn’t 100% well treated it’s better than him magically losing weight ‘off screen’ and appearing in this game as a skinny character…
I did dig how different outfits affected things like alechmy, travel speed, drops, ect. But I often just wore whatever I found cutest ;p
Persona 5 Can you believe I didn’t find the time to play it sooner? I’m barely halfway through the second dungeon, I only just started it before Christmas. It came out within a week of Atelier Firis and close to when Zelda: Breath of the Wild did, so it got back-burnered. Then there was a month or two were health and work conspired to reduce my gaming time to zero. When I came out of that funk I forgot about P5 and started playing the FFXII Remastered for PS4 (because I never beat the final boss originally, I went off to grind with sidequests and then got distracted by other games and time got away from me to the point where I wasn’t sure I’d enjoy the ending because I’d forgotten so much of the story). I got halfway into FFXII and realised I hadn’t played P5, but I knew if I stopped FFXII I’d never finish it either, again – so now Persona 5 became my candy for completing FFXII.
Thus far (as established I’m only halfway through the second dungeon, so I’m still getting tutorials every now and again ;p ) it’s got everything I love about the Persona series: crazy anime characters with big nutty personalities, familiar monsters (who you can capture and use to fight for you), hilarious plot (often wth very serious and dark undertones(not always undertones…)), the character interactions which increase friendship levels and power up their respective personas in your arsenal, and unique dungeons and an unusual way to access them.
It’s also got some new twists, like the way you enter dungeons, the way you capture your personas, and can essentially mug the monsters for money. I really love the post-battle roundup of what exp/money/items you got from the battle, it’s long, but hasn’t yet worn me out. I’m having fun thus far and looking forward to getting clear of this dungeon when time should free up a little more (in game ;p ) and I can start taking charge of my in game time better (one of the game mechanics the Persona series has is it gives you ‘free time’ to spend either upping stats by doing cool things like participating in eating challenges, going to movies, or making coffee/lockpicks; or deepening friendships to power your personas up; or go into the dungeons, and it’s always tough to try and get everything done in a single play through)
Other games I played:
I just started I Am Setsuna on the Switch. I was attracted by the dark love story plot, but I’m not far enough in yet to write a quality review.
Zelda: Breath of the Wild, while awesome reminds me I don’t really like open world stuff(as you might have guessed a bit in my comments about Atelier Firis). I far prefer a linear path that I have to follow. I don’t know if that’s me being old-fashioned, or because I have such a small amount of gaming time I don’t like to waste time making choices as to where to go, I want to be told instead.
I had a blast playing Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp on my phone. I always love an Animal Crossing game, but the problem with phone games is to play them cheaply you have to play a lot, and … well… time – never enough of it.
And countless otome games ;p
LOOKING FORWARD TO IN 2018: Octopath Travellers, I played the demo on Switch. Lately I’m starting to play less of the 2d look games – only so many games I have time for and I want them to be pretty – but this one has surprisingly dark themes and plot lines and I’m liking the tweaks on ye old standard turn-based combat, so depending on price I’ll probably give it a go.
Kirstie Olley is an award-winning speculative fiction author and the full-time wrangler of her children Xander and Harlequin.
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