Hijinks in Virtual Reality || Warcross Review

Initial Thoughts:

*SOBBING UNCONTROLLABLY* I FEEL SO BETRAYED AND YET AND YET. Ugh, this is the Darkling all over again except with video games and virtual reality!

I’m gonna need a moment to gather my thoughts.


WARCROSS

by Marie Lu
GP Putnam’s Sons, September 2017
YA science fiction, cyberpunk
Rated: 4 / 5 cookies

The obsession started ten years ago and its fan base now spans the globe, some eager to escape from reality and others hoping to make a profit. Struggling to make ends meet, teenage hacker Emika Chen works as a bounty hunter, tracking down Warcross players who bet on the game illegally. But the bounty hunting world is a competitive one, and survival has not been easy. To make some quick cash, Emika takes a risk and hacks into the opening game of the international Warcross Championships—only to accidentally glitch herself into the action and become an overnight sensation.

Convinced she’s going to be arrested, Emika is shocked when instead she gets a call from the game’s creator, the elusive young billionaire Hideo Tanaka, with an irresistible offer. He needs a spy on the inside of this year’s tournament in order to uncover a security problem . . . and he wants Emika for the job. With no time to lose, Emika’s whisked off to Tokyo and thrust into a world of fame and fortune that she’s only dreamed of. But soon her investigation uncovers a sinister plot, with major consequences for the entire Warcross empire.

Forgive this digression

Before I get into the review, let me tell you about this video game series called Dragon Age. I promise you I’m going somewhere with this, so bear with me.

The Dragon Age franchise is near and dear to my heart solely because of how fantastic the character stories and overall plot have been revealed through gameplay. Roleplaying games tend to do this, and at a certain point, DA got me invested enough to actually care about the characters.

Even when they rip your heart out into pieces. Like Anders did in Dragon Age 2. Like Fen’Fucking’Harel did in Dragon Age: Inquisition. And I sit there watching cutscenes with the realization that as much as I detested the actions these characters were programmed to do, I still thought to myself: “Dammit, these characters are not EVIL. They’re not entirely wrong. They’re ANTI-HEROES LIKE BATMAN AND I WANT THEM SLAPPED INTO SEEING SENSE. I WANT THEM REDEEMED IN THE SEQUELS.”

Hawke, sometimes even you’re a better character than I am.

So that’s where I stand with characters who seek to change the world and make it worse instead. That’s chaotic good at its finest. Damn the rules when you’re the best to judge, right?

Dread Wolf take you, Solas. AR LATH MA, VHENAN.

WTF does any of this have to do with WARCROSS, you say?

Everything.

It has everything to do with Warcross, because this is exactly the same feeling I went through as I read the book; from squealing at virtual reality immersion to swooning over billionaire Japanese boys to crying from the betrayal of everything–of which I actually SAW coming but the results still hurt all the same.

This book was a gamer geek girl’s playground. I cannot stress that anymore than it already has been. It’s as if Marie Lu read Ready Player One and thought: “Huh, not enough girls partaking in their geekdom. Let’s throw these badasses in and see what happens when we have this many nerds together in the world!” And then she immediately moved the setting to hyper-futuristic Tokyo. And then she threw diverse characters into the mix, including a Chinese-American main character, a formidable boy in a wheelchair, two gay characters, and a Japanese love interest. (Boy, that Hideo Tanaka though. Yowza.) Oh, and she doesn’t just stop there. She pretty much threw us into a world that any Fortnite or Sword Art Online fan would appreciate if not love.

Speaking of…I really should actually watch Sword Art Online at some point.

The world is pretty much Lu’s sandbox, and she made it that way by writing a book with so much hanging on virtual reality. One of the major attributes of Warcross is the game Warcross. People play Warcross internationally, and its popularity is so high that becoming an overnight sensation is a big. effing. deal.

This is where Emika Chen comes in. Down on her luck and about to be evicted from the only life she knows, she pulls a stunt that gets her noticed by millions of people, including the inventor of the virtual NeuroLink and the Warcross game, Hideo Tanaka. Instead of getting arrested, Hideo offers her a job that puts her undercover as a Wild Card–a player drafted into the Warcross tournament–in order to hunt down Zero, an expert hacker of the Dark World. Of course, hijinks happen and Emika goes in way over her head, but what kind of heroine would she be if she just backed down from anything dangerous, amiright?

Also, this is seriously my mental image of Hideo Tanaka. And if you’ve heard Shota Matsuda speak a bit of English, you’ll hear a slight accent there. I just… *turns into a puddle*

Hem. So where was I? Oh, yes, this book. You can definitely tell it’s everything Marie Lu loved thrown in along with the kitchen sink. The book is action-filled, from the beginning to the end, though I will say there was a lull to plot somewhere between Emika’s sojourn in the Dark World and finally meeting Zero. While I did adore the romantic interludes, I was kind of bummed at the lack of character development or growth in anyone. As much as I loved having the insight into Emika and Hideo’s characters, this still didn’t really help my understanding in character motives.

**SPOILER ALERT** Honestly, the whole effing villain arc could have been solved if Zero had revealed himself a long, LONG time ago instead of letting all this shit play out. **END SPOILER**

Also, that cliffhanger ending is going to kill me. Particularly because Marie Lu actually used CLIFFS in one scene and I just. Absolutely. DIED.

Other than that, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. This is the first Marie Lu book I’ve read, believe it or not, so I’m going to have to add everything else she’s written into my TBR to peruse later.

4 out of 5 cookies! Damn those cliffhanger endings and chaotic good characters!

This book counts as part of my Beat the Backlist challenge.


Have you read this book? What did you think?

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TTT: Fandoms

Hah. Fandoms. I don’t even know how many fandoms I’m in, because I love practically many things. A lot. I suppose I could list a bunch down off the top of my head, and for the most part, they are video-game related. Some book and anime stuff, too!

Top Ten Fandoms I Constantly Squee Over

One Piece – Honestly, it’s still one of my favorite animes to date. I don’t know why that is, because so far there’s been a standstill in really good episodes, but I just can’t stop loving this anime. Also, the Pirate Warriors video games are pretty fun. Repetitive, but fun.

Ouran High School Host Club – BEST SHOUJO EVER. Honestly, it was hard limiting the amount of anime I fangirl over, there’s definitely a lot more out there that I love, but Ouran is the sole representative for shojo type anime.

Fullmetal Alchemist – YAAAAS. Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood has got to be one of the best things that came out a couple years back. I mean, I did love the original anime as well, but Brotherhood kind of knocked the series out of the ballpark.

Bioware – Yeah, I started this list with just adding a series, then realized I’ve loved every single Bioware game I’ve played so far. So, um, yeah, Bioware just gets a lot of love for its Dragon Age and Mass Effect series. And honestly, the fandom for DA and ME is ridiculously talented. I get jealous from all the artistic work.

Bethesda – Also similar to Bioware in the fact that I loved all of the games I’ve played of theirs. So this includes OblivionSkyrimFallout 3, Fallout 4Dishonored, and Dishonored 2. Yeah. I totally play a ton of video games…

BioShock – This was probably my first entry into the modern Western-created game. Prior to this, I was often an Eastern gamer, and often I gravitated toward Japanese RPGs. When my sister recommended BioShock, I was skeptical, considering I was not very keen on first-person shooters. Hell, once I played it, though, I was absolutely hooked, and I’ve loved all three games in the franchise. Yes, even BioShock 2.

Final Fantasy – I am picky about which FF games I’ve played over and over, but old-school has always been the best. I must have played from Final Fantasy VI to Final Fantasy X with great enjoyment. I did play FFXII and enjoy that, too, though I suppose the appeal kind of stopped from there, up until FFXV came along.

Tortall series – No words can describe how much I love the world Tamora Pierce has created in her Tortallan series. It’s hands down one of my favorite fantasies.

Shades of Magic trilogy – Schwab has an awesome fandom, but there’s still not enough fanfiction dammit! This needs to be remedied.

Avatar: The Last Airbender – One of my favorite TV fandoms ever. EVER. I should have put this up near anime, but it’s a whole cartoon series that deserves to be set apart. I could say I don’t know why I love this series so much, but let’s all face it. I love it because elemental magic, Asian-inspired culture, a cast of fabulous characters, and martial arts bending all around.

Of Coffee Gaming Tags

Alright, so I did a similar post for books a while back, but I saw this repurposed in Athena’s AmbiGaming blog and I could not resist doing her altered tag as well! Also, this is good excuse to step out of my book-mode craze, because other than writing and reading, I have been playing a good deal of video games.

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Black Coffee (a game that’s hard to get into but has a strong fanbase)

Bioware’s Knights of the Old Republic, or what most fans know as KOTOR. My sister’s been trying to get me to finish this game, and honestly, I don’t see why it’s taking me such a long time to get through this game, considering it is a Star Wars-based game, and it spanned one of my favorite Bioware games of all time (Mass Effect). But alas, those first few hours are a pain in the ass to get through, and I’ve had to start over three times now due to memory problems on my Kindle and then my computer. Maybe the next time I start it, I’ll see to it through the end.

Peppermint Mocha (a game that becomes more popular during the holidays or other festive time of year)

There will always be the family and friend tradition of playing Mario Kart and Mario Party. So whenever the holidays come along, these are definitely the two games that bring my family together. Um. When the games aren’t testing loyalties and systematically break them apart after getting hit by way too many of those FRELLING blue shells, lol!

Hot chocolate (a favorite childhood game)

I was always an RPG fan from the beginning. So when Super Mario RPG and the Seven Stars came out, it was love at first sight. Geno!!! Oh, and, of course, the classic loveliness of many a Final Fantasy game will always bring me back a ways.

Double Shot Espresso (a game that kept you on the edge of your seat from start to finish)

Until Dawn. Because, Jesus almighty, those damn “DON’T MOVE” action prompts do not help my nerves. At all.

Starbucks (a game you see everywhere)

As far as marketing has gone lately, I have been seeing a lot of Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Not that I mind. I am SO STOKED for the upcoming game. Even though I probably won’t be getting the Nintendo Switch anytime soon, considering I did blow my console budget on a PS4 and a 2TB hard drive to add into my PS4. I am SO ready for Mass Effect Andromeda, too, and I’m seeing that around as well.

That Hipster Coffee Shop (give a game by an indie developer a shout-out)

Uh, I think TellTale Games is still an indie developer, right? Even though they’ve gotten pretty popular as far as choice-based adventure games go. If so, a shoutout to their The Walking Dead franchise. That said, my favorite of their games is still The Wolf Among Us, but for biased, fairy-tale, Fables-based reasons.

Oops! I Accidentally Got Decaf (a game you were expecting more from)

Dragon Age II. Um. Yeah. I was honestly expecting to be taken to the Tevinter Imperium, or even Orlais in the second game, what with all the lore happening in the two places. But nope. No. My character gets stuck in Kirkwall for almost a damn decade. Don’t get me wrong, I still liked the game. I was just not blown away as I had been with its predecessor (Dragon Age: Origins) and then its successor (Dragon Age Inquisition).

A Fabletown Mystery || The Wolf Among Us Review

wolfamongus-review

Initial Thoughts:

Reading this volume really made me want to play the game again, if only to redo some of my crazy decisions (like trying NOT to get certain people killed, hem hem). That said, this was highly entertaining to read, and I adored the addition of random fairy tale summaries as told by various Fables characters (honestly. Gren’s retelling of Little Red Riding Hood was THE best.)


FABLES: THE WOLF AMONG US, VOL. 1

by Matthew Sturges, Dave Justus (writers)
Vertigo, November 2015
Graphic novel, fairy tale fantasy
Rated: 4 / 5 cookies

wolfamongusEven before the first issue of Fables , there were stories to be told, shadowy avenues to explore, and lives hanging in the balance! Bigby Wolf has seen plenty in his time as Sheriff of Fabletown…but nothing can prepare him for this…

It all starts with a simple domestic disturbance. But when Bigby learns that his old nemesis, the Woodsman who has an axe to grind, is part of the scene, things go downhill fast. And how will Bigby and Snow White keep their heads long enough to crack the case when they get caught up in a grisly murder mystery?

So there’s this series I’ve enjoyed the past couple of years called Fables. I had heard of it a while back because of course I had, being a fairy tale enthusiast and an admirer of comic books. I mean, come on. Fairy tale characters living in secret in the Bronx because some crazy Adversary took over each of their worlds. That’s the kind of shit I’d read in a heartbeat. Admittedly, the Fables series didn’t really pick up for me until I’d read the text story of how Bigby met Snow White in Volume 2, and from there, I was hooked.

When I’d first heard that Telltale was actually doing a game based off of it, I was pretty damn excited. Heck, it was one of my first posts on this blog.

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Needless to say I have since played The Wolf Among Us game and loved it. And then I realized that they made a graphic novel of TWAU, which was based on the works of Bill Willingham. Funny how that happens, but I went ahead and decided to read it just to see which route the writers went and decided was “canon.”

That can sometimes go either way, to be honest. Either you’re the type of person who likes having a canon story to fall upon, or you like paving the path of your character with your decision. In any case, it’s not really feasible, making the graphic novel a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure kind of thing, and in this case, I’m not the type of person who minded so much that it didn’t. So generally, I enjoyed it.

What I Loved

First off, the illustrations. The artwork in TWAU is stellar, and I absolutely loved the issue covers as well. I’ve always adored Bigby, but his rendering in the TWAU graphic novel is definitely my favorite of the lot (that said, Bigby in the actual Fables comic will always win out for me).

Character retellings of fairy tales. The major difference in the game and the graphic novel is definitely the addition of visual retelling in the novel. Where the game focused on a showing-not-telling format and an action-packed pacing, the graphic novel took a few breaths in the pages by getting characters to color the retelling of a story in their own words. Gren’s retelling of Little Red Riding Hood and Bigby Wolf’s past has got to be my favorite. Bigby’s own retelling of Gren’s past was just as good.

Bigby’s sardonic humor is still there. Honestly, I always play scumbag!Bigby, but his sarcasm in the graphic novel is even better. Especially where Colin is concerned. Colin’s a lovely pig.

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The tie-in with Ichabod Crane and Bigby, as well as some interesting backstory. I really loved that Bigby’s backstory is a bit fleshed out here. We don’t really see much of what has happened prior to present-day Fabletown, so seeing a glimpse of how Bigby and a few other of his fellow Fables dealt with living in New York throughout the centuries is an eye-opener. I liked that they put Bigby in Salem during the witch trials. Gives you an idea of how the whole thing might have gotten instigated by Fables living among the mundies, haha.

My ONLY caveat of having a graphic novel (and a story) take place way before Fables: Legends in Exile, is that Snow and Bigby are going to be dealing with so much sexual tension and absolutely NOTHING WILL HAPPEN. I can tell you that much. Unless they completely change the canon. I’m hoping to see more Snow/Bigby moments anyway, even if Bigby doesn’t get the girl until Volume 5 of the actual series. And OH. No Cinderella. Bummer. She was definitely my favorite of the Fable women, hands down.

4 out of 5 cookies! I’ll have to hunt down a copy of the second volume, just to see how Bigby canonically deals with a few baddies that have yet to show up in Volume 1.

This counts as #1 of the Graphic Novel Challenge Reading Challenge and #2 of the Flights of Fantasy Reading Challenge.


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Have you read this book? What did you think?

TTT: Character Names

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For more information on Top Ten Tuesday, click here.

This week’s TTT kind of coincided with a previous TTT, only this time, I’m not talking about video game dogs and villains. Now we’re getting to the heart of my characters. And yes, I often do name characters I create after fictional characters. When I’m not naming them after characters I’ve made up, that is.

Yes, a majority of my characters are female. Chances were if I could play female, I most definitely played female.

Top Ten Fictional Character Names I Use for Video Game Heroines/Heroes

Galadriel (The Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien) – Because what else would I name my badass elf queen character? I will admit that it’s been a while that I’ve read any Tolkien (like, maybe over a decade, actually), but some characters do stick with you. Galadriel plays a very small role in the trilogy itself, and it’s probably in The Silmarillion (which I’ve read only half of) where we see Galadriel’s shining moment of having fought a Balrog–and won. So yeah, she’s totally my favorite Tolkien elf, hands down.

Zuzana (Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor) – It’s just such an awesome name! And the character in DoSaB is definitely my favorite human ever. EVER. Well, I suppose that doesn’t say much, considering most of the characters aren’t exactly human, but sigh. Zuzana is just the bees’ knees. My video game Zuzana is a diminutive elf archer, though deep down I’m sure she has every desire to make marionettes for a living. She already has the strings for it!

Sa’Kage (The Way of Shadows by Brent Weeks) – This isn’t necessarily a person’s name in Weeks’ Night Angel trilogy. In fact, it was a term used to describe an underground organization, but I liked the sound of it enough to name a female character after it (also, note, the Japanese kage translates to the English shadow, so it’s such a handy name to use!). Can’t remember if my character was a rogue or assassin. That said, rogues and assassins tend to have similar character skills in games anyway, so I couldn’t say.

Kheldar and Javelin (The Belgariad by David Eddings) – Kheldar is the name of my favorite prince in The Belgariad, while Javelin’s the code name for his boss. While I christened one of my male space commanders with the latter name, I totally used the former to name one of my first female elven rogues in Dragon Age: Origins. No regrets. And yes, if you noticed by now, I play elves a lot.

Alanna (The Song of the Lioness quartet by Tamora Pierce) – There was always, ALWAYS going to be an Alanna video game character. And she will always, ALWAYS be a redhead. Dragon Age Inquisition made this even more possible, because I managed to make Inquisitor Alanna Trevelyan look like the Alanna I’ve always conjured up in my head. That said, since I couldn’t exactly choose both warrior AND mage, video game Alanna was a human mage. So mote it be.

Azula (Avatar: The Last Airbender series by Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko) – I know she’s psychotic and for the most part not entirely redeemable in the TV series, but I have to admit that I loved Azula in AtLA. She’s just my kind of chaotic evil crazy, and there’s no denying her badassery in all things firebending. So the minute I realized I could make a qunari female character in Dragon Age: Inquisition, I made Azula. She wasn’t a mage, though, but she definitely knew how to wield a few knives as a rogue.

Cybele (Cybele’s Secret by Juliet Marillier) – The book doesn’t really have a character named Cybele. Well, unless you count the goddess in question that seems to have gathered a cult of crazed worshipers. I just like the name Cybele. I mean…provided I pronounce it “Sih-Bill-Ee” and not “Sigh-Beel”. This particular name went to my rather cantankerous female space commander.

Kelsier (Mistborn: The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson) – Why wouldn’t I name someone Kelsier? It’s a badass name. And it has a nice ring to it! I couldn’t tell you who I named this, though, as it was an older video game character. Probably one of my characters in a Bethesda game (either OblivionSkyrimFallout 3, or Fallout 4). I forget.

Morgiana (One Thousand and One Nights/The Arabian Nights) – This one’s a bit of a cheat, because I have written a character named Morgiana (Gia for short) in one of my short stories. That said, because my story is based on the stories from The Arabian Nights, it would be no surprise that I’d use Morgiana. My video game Morgiana is a mage in her own right and can probably fry the forty thieves with one quick flick of fireball from her wrist, but I rather liked Ali Baba’s Morgiana. She was sassy and smart and sexy to boot.

Do you name video game people after other fictional characters? Who’s on YOUR list?