Nothing to see here, just a beaver doing its beaver things in the middle of the city =) And then it nonchalantly swam away distressing a horde of geese that, as usual, was hanging out in the river. During our 4 years in London we’ve met groundhogs, skunks, racoons, rabbits, deer but it was the first time we got to see a beaver, kind of cool =)

Trails in the Sky SC

First of all, I want to mention that all images I’m going to post are from the last chapter. We had to reinstall OS on the PC and I naively assumed that Steam stores screenshots in a directory that’s not considered as “system”. Turned out that I was wrong =( Oh well.

Trails in the Sky SC is a weird beast. I read lots of positive things about it, and many people claimed that it’s their favorite game in the entire series. What can I say — it’s a Trails game, so it’s definitely better than most JRPGs around. Is it the best one though? I wouldn’t say so. There are quite a few issues with SC that everyone is bound to notice, which sometimes can make the experience frustrating. It’s still an awesome game but I’m not even sure if I liked the second game better than the first one =) Maybe it’s a fate of all second games in every trails arc, who knows.

It’s easy and fun to write negative stuff, so I’m certainly going to start with annoying and questionable things the game has to offer, starting off with its biggest issue — the pacing. All Trails games are slow and I don’t have any problems with that — usually it just means that the time is dedicated to make you dive deeper into the world, get to know the characters better, etc. But when a slow game is also repetitive… The first 5 chapters are built using the same, not very tricky, formula — you go to a region that’s dealing with something mysterious, whether it’s a ghost or suspicious earthquakes. You find out that an Enforcer is to blame and beat the shit out of minions he or she sends your way. Should I also mention that regions you’re visiting are the same you’ve already been to in the first game? The same people, the same locations, the same monsters dropping the same ingredients. Renne and Bleublanc’s introductory chapters are at least interesting. Loewe, Luciola and Walter the Direwolf (hehe, it’s still funny that in CS IV the authors themselves were joking about these pompous names: “I don’t want to remember that I used to call myself The Angel of Slaughter with a straight face!”) and their “experiments” are kind of meh, although I’m willing to admit that Tita protecting Agate from Loewe and looking after him when the fight was over was a touching moment.

The stakes become higher in the next chapter and the game picks up the pace. Estelle is kidnapped and has to escape from the Glorious (“Trails in the Sky SC in a Nutshell” got it totally right: “- You’re not a poor archeologist, are you? – Of course not! I’m a rich archeologist! How else could I afford this big-ass ship?”) and then comes that famous scene of her reunion with Joshua. Which is sweet and moving, honestly!

Chapter 8 though is where shit gets wild. You have to visit every region again, on foot, and only several party members can use arts. And that damn side-quest you get at hot spring! That forces you to run back and forth between regions, including marathons through the tunnels where you have to wear night goggles — I was about to go berserk. However, the final chapter deserves only praise. It’s intense enough, it’s set in a new location and I didn’t even mind the last tower where you’re facing all the Enforcers one more time. The fights against them and yeah, against Weismann, are creative and tough, at the same time you never feel that they are unfair. Your reward for defeating all the bad guys and, obviously, saving the world is a couple of really nice scenes with Estelle and Joshua and an episode, maybe my personal favorite, when Kevin, who’s been joking around and looked like a funny and laidback dude throughout the game, mercilessly kills Weismann, explaining that he, “heretical piece of filth”, had it coming. Quite a protagonist he’s going to be!

I already mentioned that boss fights were pretty interesting in SC but this actually can be said about all encounters. The combat feels like an improvement over what we had in the first game. Not that it’s radically different but the variety of arts and crafts is much bigger, so it’s possible to get creative =) I wouldn’t say that the game became harder but there are definitely some difficulty spikes — the first Renne fight, for example, is fairly brutal. She has a bunch of archaisms with her and their turns come first. To add up, Renne kicks off the fight with her S-Craft, so if you’re unlucky they can wipe your entire party before you have a chance to do anything. There’s a couple more fights like that.

I mention this every time but I enjoyed the writing in the game a lot =) So it kind of sucks that all my screenshots got deleted, because Estelle with her remarks like “”Do I have to remind you that I have a very big stick? or “I guess I’m being praised but somehow it doesn’t feel all warm and cozy” is priceless =) The plot overall is okay, but as it usually happens the climax of the story doesn’t live up to the preparations the game laid out. After everything Weismann did, his ultimate goal to obtain the Aureole looked kind of, I don’t know, boring? I do understand that we’re talking about one of Aidios’ Treasures, that it’s a Big Deal but, overall, it ends up as one of the typical “a villain wants to lay his dirty hands on a very important artifact” stories.

Just some arbitrary bits and pieces. SC allows some freedom in forming you party but it’s a double-edged sword. Because I’m a lazy bastard, I was using the same guys during approximately 80% of the game (Estelle, Schera, Agate and Olivier, who was later replaced by Joshua) but sometimes it forces you to use a specific character, and in my case that character was significantly underleveled. It’s not too big of a problem but still an inconvenience. There are several guest characters and it’s kind of cool that you’ll get to control Mueller, Julia and Josette (well, okay, the usefulness of the last one is questionable). Kevin is the only one “new” main character and I liked him a lot! If Trails in the Sky the 3rd wasn’t a dungeon crawler I’d move on to it, simply to learn more about this hmm priest. Also is it okay to think that Estelle and Kevin would make an interesting couple? =) Ah, and we learned the Scary Truth About Hamel! Maybe when you hear it for the first time it might have an impact, but after so many games this topic has become a bit overused in my opinion.

To sum up, Trails in the Sky SC turned out to be a bit underwhelming in terms of its pace, plot and, maybe, scale. Yeah, despite having to handle dragons and strolling across cities in the sky. I like the idea of a military coup in the first game. I like that sense of Erebonian threat in the second. I like that all this is connected. I’m not a fan of the Aureole being the target. I understand the intention, just not a fan. Anyway, now — to Cold Steel 1! Yep, I’m skipping the third TitS and moving directly to Erebonian arc, because it’s great to play games out of order =) Back to Rean, Alisa and their problems. I will return to Liberl games for sure though — as I said, I’m super curious to see Kevin as a protagonist.

Fruits Basket: The Final

I can’t believe that this time we got to witness the entire story of the Somas! And I can’t believe that this time I genuinely enjoyed it. I still can complain a lot about the main heroine and how uninspiring she is, but overall it was a very good anime.

To be fair, the final season was not all roses and unicorns. The first half was pretty intense and dramatic, thanks to Akito. She is the central figure of the Zodiac and it’s only logical that by the end of the second season she started to show up in the spotlight more and more often. Plus she, with her chaotic, borderline insane behavior, is simply an interesting character. Her actions towards Isuzu, Kureno and yeah, Tohru — is the pinnacle of the entire story; something that everyone (I bet) was secretly hoping to see.

What I didn’t want to see is how from a knife-swinging maniac Akito transformed into a blushing maiden and everyone just forgave her. Oh man! That was bad. Actually, the last several episodes were kind of questionable. I understand that the story had to be wrapped up somehow, but was it really necessary to go with all that “it was just because she was lonely, let’s hold each other’s hands and forget everything” stuff? What about the brilliant idea of finding a love interest for every damn character? During the final episode I felt like I was watching, I don’t know, “Hanamaru Kindergarten” — “Okay kids, let’s split into pairs and go to the playground!”

The fact that I wasn’t especially thrilled by the finale (although, not gonna lie — the final minute when we saw Tohru and Kyo’s grandchildren was kind of cute) doesn’t change the overall impression — Fruits Basket got a solid adaptation and, whereas it’s not going to become my favorite anime, I don’t regret that we watched all 3 seasons.