Trails of Cold Steel I

I hardly believe it myself but I finished my fifth Trails game! One would think that I should’ve gotten tired of this universe, but for me it turned out to be the opposite — Trails of Cold Steel 1 may be the most compelling 軌跡 game I’ve finished so far.

It’s very, very similar to Cold Steel III, which I still consider to be the best in the series. Both games have a similar rigid structure, when you spend half of the time in the academy and half on field studies, while discovering what’s going on in Erebonia. In both games you’re going to visit the home towns of members of Class VII. Both games end up with a cliffhanger. The pacing in both games is nearly perfect, with the events slowly unfolding up to the point when you realize that you’re knee-deep in some major shit. Moreover, I dare say that I like the idea of ILF as main antagonists much better than facing Ouroboros and stopping their experiments. Whereas individual members of the society are certainly more interesting than Comrades G, V or S — Ouroboros’ goals are so vague that it’s kind of hard to understand why we should even stop them. Not to mention that the Enforcers and even the Anguis switch sides so quickly that my head starts to spin. On the other hand, the terrorists in CS 1 have a very simple but clear goal — they want to get rid of Osborne no matter what. That also explains why they happen to cooperate with the Noble Alliance. For me it’s very important to understand why things happen the way they do to like a game, and the opening of the Erebonian arc is almost flawless in that aspect.

To answer the implied question “if both games are so close pacing-wise and you enjoyed ruining the plans of those ILF bastards — why are you saying that CS III is better?” — the new Class VII is great. Yeah, Kurt is kind of average but Altina, Juna and, goddamn, even Musse are amazing characters. The original Class VII is too big and, frankly, boring. Whereas I absolutely love Alisa and, to some extent, Laura — it’s hard to find reasons to care about pretty much anyone else. Jusis and Fie are okay I guess, but for the love of Aidios I can’t get why anyone would want to spend time with Machias, Gaius, Elliot, Crow or Millium. All these characters are so flat and uninteresting that I’d prefer to have a class of Kurts (again, who was the blandest character in new Class VII!). The best thing about Elliot, for example, is his dad. Gaius, with his constant “I’m a foreigner, I didn’t know that you, Erebonians, do that, we in Nord don’t do that” is annoying as fuck. Machias drinks coffee and hates nobles, what an amazing character eh? I had some hopes regarding Fie, who was supposed to be that slightly distant sarcastic girl, but somewhere in the middle of the game her development simply stopped — she became friends with Laura and… that’s it? On top of everything else Rean has to be the class’ leader just because. Yah, there’s a lame explanation that he’s kind of a noble but not really, a situation that makes him unique, heh, but mostly we should just embrace it and move on. The only character that I looked at from a slightly different perspective was Towa. I like her much more now and finally can see why so many people think they’d make a good couple with Rean.

As I already said — the game is moving really smoothly story-wise and I never had a feeling that it’s dragging and I just want to skip to the next chapter. And as usual — there are so many amazing moments! Rean and Alisa making up. The school festival and the concert. The defenders of Laura’s chastity in her hometown. Alisa and her apricot jam ^_^ Even the most boring part, Nord Highlands, rewards the player with the absolutely fantastic scene of Rean and Alisa looking at the starry sky. Damn, feels like the name Alisa is mentioned way too often =) Oh, and of course the first in the series “Heed my call, Valimar, the Ashen Knight!” I almost teared up having heard that. After all Valimar was a huge part of those 300 hours I spent on CS 3&4.

Hmm, what else. Cities. They are okay I guess, the only small complaint I have is that a couple of them feel to be made after Trails in the Sky: Celdic and Roer. Trista turned out to be a very nice “base” city and I genuinely enjoyed talking to people there and following their small “storylines”. Still couldn’t get all books or recipes but oh well, it was fun nonetheless. If CSII is somewhat similar to CSIV (I assume it is) it will be amazing to return to this small town and meet all these people again.

I decided that this time I was experienced enough to play on hard difficulty and I think it was a right choice. Somewhere in the middle the game became relatively easy anyway (oh boy, Laura and her Radiant Waltz) but the first half kept me on my toes even while fighting regular monsters. Interestingly, the battle against the Azure Knight, which takes place after the “final boss”, was probably the hardest one in the game — simply because you have to pray to RNG to show some mercy and give you a counter with a critical status. I spent probably an hour on this encounter that normally should take 5 minutes or so =) I’d like to say something about the party I was using, but this time around the roster was very heavy influenced by the plot and I didn’t especially have a choice. When I did I tried to pick Rean, Laura, Alisa, Elliot/Emma and maybe Fie — I could come up with good roles for all of them (Rean can deal decent damage, impede and delay the enemies; Laura is… Laura; Alisa is the best girl in the game and very good at support; Elliott/Emma both are the best art users in the game and have very good supporting crafts; Fie is simply begging you to make her an evasion tank and her craft with 30% KO chance helps a lot with random encounters). I was trying to find a role for the rest of class VII to make the game more interesting, I swear, but couldn’t, so I preferred to bench them whenever I had such an option.

Summing up — a great JRPG, an amazing experience and I can’t wait to start playing already started playing the next one =)

Every time I think that it’s impossible for movie adaptations to become even worse and yet every time I’m proven wrong. Last year or maybe two years ago I’d read that we’re going to get a TV show The Watch based on Pratchett’s series of books about, well, the city watch. It’s my personal favorite Discworld cycle and I was even a bit optimistic, because the Discworld movies I watched before were surprisingly fine. Then I saw the cast… and ugh, it became quite obvious that we’re about to witness something that’s very far from being a Pratchett’s work and something very close to being utter trash. No one will be able to convince me that it might be a good idea to change what characters look like or who they are. It never works. And still, the movie makers feel some kind of moral obligation to slaughter people (or dwarves! or werewolves!) we know and care about and turn them into something resembling the original only in name.

Anyway, after that cast announcement I hadn’t heard about this project for a while and kind of assumed that it’d been cancelled. God’s in his heaven, all’s right with the world. I wish. Turned out that BBC put that abomination out after all. The trailer looks atrocious and I feel terrible for anyone who’s willing to spend his or her time on this garbage. How?! How do they manage to ruin everything every time?!

If someone told me back then that the kitten I had just adopted not only would survive the first several rough months in my care (I was a student and lived in the dorms, an environment less than ideal for a pet), but would be with me for 15 years — I wouldn’t have believed that. Yet, here we are =) I’m still not sure if I got the date right but anyway, we decided that October 12th is the day! So yeah, our cat is already 15. And doing surprisingly well, considering everything he’s been through: that year in a room regularly filled with drunk students, moving between apartments and, the last but not least, a flight across the Atlantic. He’s had an eventful life so far eh? =)

Uramichi Onii-san

“Life Lessons with Uramichi Onii-san” is a piece of art. It’s an amazing anime, simultaneously funny and depressing, that stresses out in every single episode that yeah, it’s difficult to be an adult =) Aggretsuko (the original web anime) became so popular because it depicted the ugly realities of office life fairly accurately. Uramichi continues on with this trend and demonstrates that even such a glamorous job as a host of a TV show for kids actually is tough and unrewarding. He has to deal with dumb co-workers, absolutely moronic directors and writers, keep up with with kids parents’ demands — you name it. “What do you, kids, have that us, adults, don’t? Freedom. Heart. Hope.” There’s no hope for Uramichi-san, Utano-san or Iketeru-san but they’re going to do their best nonetheless, because that’s what adults do.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m describing this anime as if it’s all doom and gloom, but actually it’s not. It’s actually hilarious =) Yes, you can say that the punchline every time is pretty much the same — either something something painful happens to Uramichi or he has to patiently explain to the kids why life sucks. And yes, it’s funny. It’s an anime to remember and re-watch, it’s perfect for screenshots, gifs and quotations. Little birdy that shows up in Uramichi-san’s dreams every night. Wonderful inu. Bonjour-man. A summer music video filmed in the middle of winter. A winter music video that’s being shot… right, in summer, when even decorations are melting. The main hero’s attempts at drawing, whether it’s about his parents or magical girls. Utano-san’s enka singing. Iketeru-san absent-mindedness in form of an onigiri. And these are just memes! There are also awkward dialogues and yeah, a lot of pain. Everything as I like =)

This TV show, ironically aired on Mondays, became the highlight of the summer season for me and, oh boy, I do hope we’ll get another season, it totally deserves it. “Uramichi Onii-san” might remind of “Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei”, Aggretsuko or WataMote (oh, that was a depressing one!) a little, yet it’s something fresh and absolutely worth checking out.