DOGECOIN ($DOGE) SOARING – CRYPTO HOLDERS SHAKING

Sourced from BINANCE

(APRIL 16 2021) Dogecoin is rising at break neck pace. In a day, it’s growth has reached 400%. And it’s not stopping anytime soon.

Who would’ve known that a meme coin by the world’s largest billionaire would cause such a ruckus?

Apparently, none of us. Not until today.

Elon Musk has done it. The DOGE coin is running to the moon.

TL;DR AND HOT TAKE AT BOTTOM

CTTO

As of 10:14 PM GMT+8, April 16th in the great year of 2021, DOGECOIN is valuated at $0.38 USD.

Just an hour ago, it was valuated at $0.30. Yesterday, it was valuated at a meager $0.06.

Who the heck can stop this cryptocurrency from reaching soaring new heights? Someone, hold my Binance wallet.

CTTO

DOGE (and #doge) is trending on Twitter too, at over 500,000 tweets and counting. Many have no idea of why it’s happening – but a whole lot of crypto maniacs are in it for the ride.

Bitcoin, Ethereum, and other forms of cryptocurrency have steadily risen in the last few months. Dogecoin doesn’t have inherent value or power like Ethereum (and Smart Contracts) or a household name like Bitcoin. But we all know the story of $GME, yes?

Meme stocks have value. And we know full well that memers can be choosers.

Should I Buy Doge Coin Right Now?

Leave your FOMO at the curbside. Your pupper is waiting for you. And a lot of them go for just under a dollar. Don’t wait any second longer.

Get in the #DOGE hole and HODL HODL HODL.

How Much Should I Spend on The Doge?

Oh dear, oh gorgeous. You’re lack of faith is precious.

I wholeheartedly recommend you invest as much as you’d invest for $GME. But this time, quadruple it to make space for your own dog’s funds as well. The ride is only just beginning. The DOGE cryptocurrency isn’t a one-off event that’ll fall again. Not unless the rest of cryptocurrency will fall under as well (cue laugh track). It’s growing. And you’re seeing another historical moment that’ll make headlines for days to come.

TL;DR: It’s not a meme, mom.

‘Mr. Perfectly Fine’ – Taylor Swift Launches New ‘Fearless’ Vault Song

Taylor Swift’s Latest Fearless Song – Mr. Perfectly Fine

Taylor Swift surprisingly releases another song from the to-be-launched “Fearless” album (Taylor’s Version) this April 7th, 2021.

For any Swiftie out there, you must be well aware of the unpredictability over Taylor’s releases. Mr. Perfectly Fine is another one in the list. And we must say, this one is quite the banger!

The latest Taylor Swift song from the Fearless album has a rock and pop edge that’s reminiscent of the old Taylor era. She breathes life to it with a modern twist – utilizing clever wordplay with lyrics that connotes a breakup scene. But unlike the melancholic theme, Mr Perfectly Fine has an upbeat rhythm with a drum and strings background, as well as synths building up in the stanzas.

Good ‘old Classic Taylor!

“Hello, Mr. Perfectly fine,” she sings on the chorus and hook, “How’s your heart after breaking mine?/Mr. always at the right place at the right time, baby/Hello, Mr. casually cruel/Mr. everything revolves around you/I’ve been Miss misery since your goodbye/And you’re Mr. perfectly fine.”

One of the songs she’s written in the Fearless era when she was between 13 to 16 years old, this song brings a lot of meaning to Taylor’s songwriting.  Back in March, Swift released another vault song, “You All Over Me,” featuring backing vocals from Maren Morris.

The soon-to-release album is a reaction to the time when Scooter Braun withheld rights to Taylor’s old songs, including all of the previous Taylor’s Fearless songs.

Taylor’s tweet alongside the release brings another dash of humor that mirrors the mood of the song.

Taylor Swift’s Tweet sums Mr. Perfectly Fine up.

@TaylorSwift “Me in 2020: life is chill, writing songs based in fiction to avoid drama, feeling pretty grown up My 2008 music from the vault, in a goblin voice: “REELEEEEEEASE MR PERFECTLY FIIIIIIINE”

Taylor Swift will release Fearless (Taylor’s Version) this April 9th, 2021st, on Friday.

Gnosia Review: Nintendo Switch Gnosia Game First Impression

What do you get when you crossover Among Us with a visual novel?

Gnosia is an impostor sniffing game. Know any other games that follow that path?

Danganronpa is one of them. Virtue’s Last Reward series is another. Frankly, great games in their own rights.

But there comes the latest entry to the list for 2021: a Nintendo Switch game called Gnosia.

Gnosia is a single-player whodunnit game set on space. Among a group of people, you are categorized as either part of the uninformed majority, the humans and the informed minority, the Gnosia.

The Gnosia game starts off with you as part of the human faction. You have to pick and weed out the Gnosia – who are admittedly trying very hard to camouflage themselves as human – before they fulfill their win condition.

The Gnosia wins if they equal or outnumber the humans. The humans win once they put all Gnosia into cold sleep.

The Game Isn’t Just About Enemy Hunting

The unique part about the game is after each game or round is completed, you re-enter this loop of sorts that does a whole list of things.

By undergoing a loop, you are guaranteed these experiences:

  • Introduce new characters (and number of characters per round)
  • Randomize roles (or pick and customize to your liking)
  • Introduce new human sided roles – like the doctor, engineer, guardian angel, and guard duty
  • Level Up bonuses and new skills you can use during discussion time
  • Build up on character development
  • Add interesting plot points independent of Gnosia hunting
  • Flesh out the plot after each loop

That’s essentially it. The characters themselves are unique and interesting.

But I guess my main gripe of the story is it’s repetitiveness in dialogue. It lacks any flavor aside from the usual hashes of “I doubt this person.” or “Nah, they’re good.”

Although that’s the main appeal of games like this in the first place, I can’t help but feel that Gnosia missed on the chance to improve character dialogue.

I mean, c’mon, if Danganronpa goes for the same price and build upon characters and VAs and a compelling narrative, why couldn’t Gnosia?

Is Gnosia A Good Game?

It’s enjoyable. The randomness faculty makes it interesting – and the fact that I could choose which faction I get to play in the later loops does make for a good curated experience.

But as a thrifty gamer, I feel a little cut short with this game. The repetitive dialogue is just too much of a flaw for me to consider it a masterpiece. But the characters themselves were interesting, and the music did add to the mood.

Would I recommend Gnosia?

Among Us is free on the App Store and Google Play. Just kidding.

Gnosia is fun but I wouldn’t call it the best game on the Nintendo Switch. I wouldn’t rave over it unlike Danganronpa or Among Us, but the mystery visual novel formula does have a soft spot in my heart.

6.5/10 – Good

Check out Gnosia Review on Polygon and Nintendo Life too.

Short Story: The Bewitched Tribe (2,000 words)

The moon emitted a pale blue glow and a mild scent of sulfur wafted in the air. The villagers of Alden, all 50 of them, exited their wood-furnished huts like clockwork and gathered around the central bonfire. Not one person dared to speak or cozy themselves in the ground, at least, not until a well-statured man adorned with tattoos all over him arrived at the center of the raised plank platform, a few feet away from the bonfire.

“Sit.”, his voice resounded, deep and mature.

The townsfolk obeyed. The men and women were dressed in woven material foraged and sewn from the materials and plants of the earth. A few were decorated with tattoos, others were not. The scent of sulfur started to become more pungent, so much so that a light mist started to emerge around the bonfire. It was coming out of a black cauldron on top of the fire supported by a circular metal beam. The people hushed and murmured among each other, a look of worry visible in their faces.

“Everyone.”, he continued, raising his forefinger and middle finger, “The time has come. And…we have failed. I have talked with the Witcher of East End, and despite my best efforts, they were much too displeased with our failure to reach the quota for harvest.”

Silence befell the people, the only sound was the slow crackling of the fire and the constant murmur of cicadas.

“What do witchers do, mum?”, a little boy whispered.

Seeing how no one glanced in her direction, she whispered. “They’re mindbenders, the lot of ’em! They slither their dirty magic inside our minds and distort all we see. They already got the village down under, so best we–” The woman glanced at the village leader on the platform, who was gazing back at her silently. She quieted herself, not out of fear but reverence.

The man cleared his throat and bowed deeply, his gray hair falling over as well. “I, Ballavka, am sincerely sorry for the actions following after. But this ritual is the only way to save our village, our ancestors have approved it so.”

Behind him was a soup cauldron, boiled and filled to the brim with a mysterious liquid. Removing the lid, the sulfuric smell became unbearably intense and the gray fumes fanned out like clouds from a chimney.

“Our time is limited, so-”, Ballavka reached into a small pocket in his attire, bringing out a small box that glittered with shiny minerals. The box radiated with the light from the moonlight and the bonfire, conducting the people to stop and stare intently. Ballavka felt the weight and surface of the box in the palm of his hands for one last time.

“Inside this box is our ancestors’ brooch – The Shining Crescent – a mineral sealed for centuries past.” He paused a bit, “and in it, the essence to ward away the curse that will befall our village from the witcher’s curse.”

“What’s the curse?”, the boy blurted out, his innocent question causing many of the adults to clench awaiting the answer to follow. The mother looked up from her downcast glance, hushing him tenderly.

Ballavka minced no words. “Raja, my nephew, the witchers are a kind that will cause terrible forms of mental discomfort. They get inside your brain and leave you with hallucinations and visions of nightmares. They find joy in others suffering.”

The man looked at the half-empty offering pile that was meant for the witchers. “But the brooch is said to ward off a great evil. It can release a mist of protection, thanks to our ancestors.”

The boy fell silent. He twiddled his thumbs and slowly averted the gaze away from the man and everyone else. His sight planted firmly on the dark patch of soil in front of him.

The chieftain opened the box. “It’s gone, the mineral – it’s missing!”

Everyone gasped, tension rose in the air.

“Who would have taken the Crescent?” the man cried out, walking side to side from his platform while at the same time observing everyone else.

Several men and women rose from their place. The world that these people knew was on a timer. They scrambled frantically around the bonfire and some towards their huts, their faces filled with panic.

“Look inside your houses. No stone, absolutely nothing, left unturned. The mineral essence is our only shot of keeping ourselves safe from the witchers.” He gritted his teeth, knowing his actions and words will determine fate.

The village was not big, the only lodging around were seven main huts spaced apart in a semicircle. Everyone returned to their quarters and searched everywhere. From the mats to the bowls and pans to the makeshift tools. All were frantically searching except for the boy Raja, who was still sitting in place. His mother had left him there.

The chieftain was an observant one, walked off the platform, and approached him.

“Raja, how are you holding up?”

Silence followed. Not even a peek, Raja remained curled up sitting on the ground.

“You’re hiding something, aren’t you?”

Raja looked up at the village chief, his face worried with regret.

“…I took it, chief. I just wanted to look at the shiny thing… and now I lost it.”

The chieftain did not falter in tone. He had a million questions but he settled for the calmest one.

“Do you recall where you placed it?”

Raja shakes his head. “It should be around my quarters, that’s where I have last seen it.”

After a moment, Ballkava sighed. “Let’s move.” He made his way to their house, with Raja following close behind.

The inside of the hut was damp and dark, lit up by the faintest orange glow of lamplight.

“It’s shiny, like a diamond, right?” Raja recalled, flipping over his bedstraw covers.

Ballkava nodded and skimmed around the enclosed area. It didn’t seem like this place would hide much of anything, considering the lack of things there are to begin with aside from the essentials.

“Wait, I found it. Here!”, Raja said, holding out a shiny mineral from underneath some pan. Upon inspection, it was it. The shiny, familiar jeweled brooch of Alden ancestors.

“Thank goodness, Raja. The village will be saved after all.” His face was stoic and hard to read, but he smiled when his eyes met the boy’s.

The chieftain made his way back to the platform with the news. Everyone quickly returned to their places, a look of relief and exhaustion painted on their faces. All including Raja, and for a moment all that persisted was silence and the constant scent of sulfur.

The moon had almost crossed the midway point. Everyone’s eyes were fixed on the chieftain standing still on the platform. Words would waste precious time, so he began working the ritual.

Ballkava dropped the mineral into the boiling sulfuric liquid, and the gray smoke began to transform into a deep shade of violet. He began chanting a strange, guttural spell from the voice of ancients. The scent of sulfur diluted and taking its place was a more pleasant smell, like dewdrops or mossy rocks. All the townsfolk of Alden were subject to this new scent – and the ritual began to work its magic. The purplish smoke was slowly starting to engulf the entirety of the village. In smoke, many coughed and closed their eyes. It stung. Despite the outpouring of smoke, the chanting by Ballkava persisted, louder than ever. It was unclear whether the words were coming from the chieftain or the ancestors controlling him, but he kept at it. He went on until the entire town abruptly fell silent. The moon hung straight in the center of the sky; it was now midnight.


The early morning, jovial chatter of townsfolk outside woke Ballkava up from the slumber at his hut. He stepped out and took a good look at the village: the semi-circle formation of the huts and the pile of ashes where the bonfire used to be.

“Hey, you’re up now!” Raja ran up to him, grinning.

“Morning – I’m glad the people are safe.”

Then Ballkava saw it.

Raja’s eyes glowed purple. Looking around was the same, everyone’s eyes was the same bright purple of the smoke from the night before. Suddenly, it dawned on him.

“What’s wrong?” Raja asked worried.

Ballkava’s vision started to blur, and the sounds of horrible laughter filled the air. “The curse can’t be removed, only transferred.” a deep voice inside his head said. “We have said this when we last talked. Did we not? You’ve spared your people, Ballkava, but at what cost?”

His vision began to spin and Ballkava couldn’t help but fall to the ground.

“Wait, chief?” Raja said turning around, realizing the paralyzed state of Ballkava and leaning towards him. Ballkava wanted to say anything but he couldn’t utter a sound.

“Someone! Help!”, Raja ran to the others.

But it was too late. The boy Raja found what everyone was looking for. What Ballkava, unknown to others, tried desperately to hide. And that sealed his fate for the rest of his life; a mind now under the wicked grasp of the Witcher of East End.

Image credit: Nele-Diel on Devianart

How Minecraft’s Soundtrack Improved My Mental Health

How Minecraft’s Soundtrack Improved My Mental Health

(TW: grief)

If you’ve ever played Minecraft, chances are you’ve had your fair share of listens to the occasional piano-synth soundtrack as you explore the vast, infinite world. Usually, you can hear these ambient sounds surround you as you explore through blocky caves and forests. Despite the music popping up randomly and infrequently, why does it feel that the music plays at just the right moment?

In this post, I’ll share with you why this happens as a very personal story that ties it all together.

I would be lying if I didn’t say I felt pretty damn emotional while writing this.

Listen to Minecraft Music while reading?

Why is Minecraft Music so good? 

The key lies in the intention of the sound design. Daniel “C418” Rosenfield wanted to apply randomness to the OST as the game is exactly that, procedurally generated and never the same stack of blocks. Minecraft, unlike other popular titles of 2009, had no linearity to motivate the players to do certain things. It’s a creative sandbox with unlimited potential: just you, the unique world, and the biomes. As this is the case, C418 didn’t wish to introduce rigidness or structure in a game that does so well without it, so he directed and designed what the OST is today. 

What makes the Minecraft OST so good? 

The tracks immerse  you and breaks away the feeling of monotony of digging through tunnels, chopping trees, or creating beautiful structures. The music also feels incredibly poignant and melancholic, immersing you fully to the world that is within your hands. But if I were to pick just one thing, the reason why it works so well lies in its unpredictability – it dips in and out, rewarding you through an infrequent audible treat right when you’re about to mentally tune out as things get repetitive. 

Minecraft OST and Mental Health: My Escapism Story on Grief

Last November, I experienced a tremendous wave of grief as I watched my cat lose his battle of life. It wasn’t a pretty sight; he was visibly losing strength and vitality as time passed. I didn’t know what to do. I was in complete panic, cursing the fact that we couldn’t go to the vet at night. Up until the very moment he passed away, my mind was in complete disarray and I was in a constant flux of panic.

When I got the news of his passing, it’s as if a surge of calm engulfed me. It’s as if the soul of my cat molded within mine and brought out a feeling of comfort and compassion throughout this ordeal, telling me that it’s ok, he’s in a better place now. Instead of a sudden burst in tears, I felt tranquil and at peace. He didn’t have to suffer in pain anymore – and I didn’t have to suffer alongside his suffering at that very moment.

Grief is handled differently by everyone, so I snuck in some time to self-reflect and understand why I didn’t suddenly feel a surge of emotions when I was so obviously losing it before his passing. But the next day, it hit me.

Grief did eventually happen

The following morning I was crashed by a wave of sadness. I’m not going to beat around it – I cried profusely at random times of that day, knowing he’s gone for good. It continued for a few days, only managing to get over it after two weeks or so. It’s not perfectly tucked at the back of head – but I’m doing much better now.

During my most painful times of grief however, I’ve embraced a strange and oddly specific longing.

I wanted to play Minecraft

What I wanted most in the world at that time was to be inside a 4×4 dirt hut in Minecraft, under the pitter patter of constant and ambient rainfall, alone, and immersed in the beautiful soundtrack and block world. Although it wasn’t yet clear to me what made me want to play Minecraft after years of not doing it, it started to click as I did some digging (in-game and out) and reflecting.

Grief and Minecraft – How It Helped Me

To tell you the truth, I’m really just a total casual in Minecraft and haven’t played it in over 8 years. I never played multiplayer as well, nor did I have ambitious goals of making full-blown castles or soaring buildings. So I wondered to myself, why did I want to play Minecraft at this exact moment that I did?

The reason why I sought out Minecraft was because the music reflected my mind state

My grief felt unique and deeply personal. I was the only one who completely loved my cat, and anyone who knows what it feels to lose a pet knows how much it blows. Imagine if everyone else in your family didn’t particularly share that grief though and moved on really fast. It felt lonely. I learned to live with that fact and found ways to circumvent it and meet my needs elsewhere. One of the main ones is none other than Minecraft.

My own world in Minecraft – personal and intimate

During my grieving moments, I had very specific needs.

I wanted to be alone. Minecraft provided me comfort of being alone. 

I wanted to escape out of this world. Minecraft gave me a unique world, just for me and with no pressure from reality. 

I wanted to feel in control. Minecraft gave me the tools and means to do so; the whole world within the game is interactable and craftable under my hands. 

Most importantly, I wanted to temper my grief

This one’s a bit of a unique one. Unlike some people who get hit by it hard at the onslaught, my grief came in like a tidal wave, surging up and down in random times of the day. I attune my feelings validated through my own mental state best, preferring to feeling the brunt of the emotion when it happens and catering it the best way I thought I could.

What compelled me to play Minecraft was really the accompaniment of the wave of unpredictable yet moody ambiance that the game brought out. The constant negative droning I experienced from my grief was felt incrementally, like a constantly refilling bucket of water. And once filled to the brim, it comes crashing back down at full force.

These moment were largely unpredictable

The bucket filled up sporadically. I found comfort in the Minecraft OST as an outlet during the moments that I needed my bucket to be poured out again, synching my mental turmoil with the music. The infrequency of the music, coupled with the nostalgic quality that it already brings about, was the sort of melancholic melody that met my specific needs to release emotions. It felt incredibly meditative through its ability to provide clarity and distraction from a re-emerging pain.

The Minecraft OST allowed me to grieve a little bit better.

Thank you, C418

I needed something to resolve or align my own turbulent feelings with, and the Minecraft OST was the tool I didn’t know I needed. With that, I salute C418 deeply for designing tracks that can evoke these feelings and capture such great moods so damn well. Thank you.

 Goodbye again, friend.

MICE ON VENUS – Minecraft Volume Alpha 11 was the song that inspired me to write this bit, and was also the song that I longed to hear during my worst grieving moments.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) Review

This will be a two-part series showcasing my two absolutely favorite films. Fun fact, I coincidentally watched both on the same day and was emotional both times. Yes, I’m a sucker for films with feels. The second movie is linked here once I have it up. 

My favorite film of all time, everybody

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is a 2004 American drama film written by Charlie Kaufman and directed by Michel Gondry. It is a beautiful and intimate science fiction and romance film that posits the question: Given the chance, would you erase the memories of someone that you had once loved?

The film unveils itself first as a meet-cute of two people with completely different personalities. Joel an introverted man meets with Clementine, a free-spirited girl with hair as vibrant as her personality. They meet at a bus on the way to Montauk; a quiet beach spot with not a whole lot going for it. They manage to complement each other at first, and as the show goes on, they form a relationship. Yay!

Unlike most conventional and formulaic romance movies, however, the forming of their relationship does not happen at the end. Oh, no. We’re just getting started.

The stark contrast between their personalities worn both sides out, leading to a sad breakup. And after parting ways, the movie kicks it up a notch and tests their hypothesis into overdrive. Joel stumbled upon Clementine working in a movie store – and instead of an awkward conversation, it spiraled into a matter of bizarre confusion. Clementine does not remember Joel at all.

Joel eventually found out about Lacuna. He visited the clinic to avail of the same service Clementine did. Joel wanted to forget not just the pain of the breakup, but the compounding effect of knowing Clementine used that service as well cause of her own trauma. Uber frightening stuff.

Lacuna services

On the night of his scheduled memory erasure, Joel slept for the procedure to begin. His dream-state self had no awareness of what was happening. During this time, we get a good glimpse of the sequence of romantic jubilations between Joel and Clem. The romantic moments and the honeymoon feelings of love and passion were all relived fondly. Until they weren’t.

Like a killing vacuum machine, a metallic machine removed parts of Joel’s memories, one at a time. Lacuna forcibly separated the two still-lovers, and with it, another wave of pain and “what the heck is going on-ery”. All of it was happening at a backward pace, and the procedure ran smoothly with no hitches.

Circling back to Montauk

Until, Joel remembered. “Meet me at Montauk.” The first place where Clem met Joel in real life – and the same place that they should meet in dream-space (cause Joel can teleport at will – his brain, not mine). This was the key to leaving the faintest hint of the existence of Clementine, because dream-Joel desperately did not want to forget about this woman.

After the test, their dream selves have succeeded in leaving a trace of the other’s existence. Joel and Clementine rediscovered their past selves’ failed relationship. Along with this, they did not forget the decisions made by their previous selves. But even with their trials and tribulations, their love, fresh as ever before, triumphed over the guarantee of hurt. To the face of the betrayal that they had both desperately wanted to forget, they shout a resounding  “Ok.” to its face, unconcerned and instead motivated to love anew.

Eternal Sunshine’s theme is one that can leave many pondering. Attempting to forget the source of the hurt instead of boldly tackling it head-on is a devastatingly unhealthy coping mechanism. Not only that, but the movie also amplifies that even in the face of uncertainty (or even certainty in the movie’s case, as both Joel and Clem knew why the other is not a perfect person), we should take the plunge anyway to experience growth, maybe even happiness. 

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is a mature film that makes use of a clever premise to portray the flaws of a human desire that may on surface level seem incredibly obvious, but is really not. I wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone looking for a film that is insightful, engaging, evocative, and meaningful.

10/10 Masterpiece

Favorite quote from the film:

“How happy is the blameless vestal’s lot! 

The world forgetting, by the world forgot. 

Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind!”

PIXAR’s Soul: Movie Review (spoilers)

With their repertoire of acclaimed animations like Inside Out and Up, you can always count on Pixar to fuse profound and cerebral concepts into an all-ages kid’s show. And with Soul (2020), Pixar once more returns with masterful grace to deliver its moving message with poignancy and philosophical depth.

The 90-minute film starts with Joe, a mild-mannered, lanky man sporting circle-rimmed frames and a jazz fedora, gaining a permanent position as a middle school teacher. Instead of feeling a wave of relief that comes with his newfound job security, Joe was unhappy and felt restricted; he had more ambitious goals that kept him dreaming. Then on the same day, a breakthrough opportunity called for Joe as he was positioned to have a gig with Dorothea Williams, a notable jazz musician. It all worked out; his life was about to start and he was brimming with enthusiasm, strolling aimlessly at the dynamic streets of New York. Until…

Joe fell in an open manhole and the next scene we see is him in pastel, blue blob form. He was on the fast track to the “Great After”, the place where souls go after death. Reasonably, Joe rejected this and ran the opposite direction. He tore through semi-permeable invisible space and found himself in a place called the “Great Before”, a whimsical setting with rolling hills and tiny blue soul-blobs that are manifestations of people to-be. After an unexpected turn of events, he becomes tasked to mentor a blob named “22” to become ready to be set free to earth.

22 worked with multiple mentors beforehand like Mother Teresa, Abraham Lincoln, and the like – all leading to nothing but persistent shame and reinforcement of her made-up delusions. Her mind was fixed on the feeling that there’s no purpose in living on earth, which made her understandably bitter and non-compliant towards anyone who wished to to give her a fighting chance.

Before I ramble on further about the story, which has thoroughly moved me throughout, I think this is the perfect time to cut and instead talk about what the story insinuates and my own impressions rather than a full-blown synopsis.

Soul is an inventive and complex spectacle that balances what is real and what is intangible. It is heartfully intimate and charming in its portrayal, powerful enough to leave a lasting impression on people that didn’t even know they needed.

Joe, fixated on reaching an ultimate goal, believed wholeheartedly that he was destined to live a life that sparked something in him. He wanted that external motivating force to penetrate the trenches of his soul and in turn bring him where he is “supposed” to be, which for him is to become a star piano musician.

On the other hand, 22 is a blob-figure soul that adamantly denies change, and that was clear from the start. She is a soul that stayed longer than she should in the familiarity of the “Great Before” because she lacked the ability to harness her own reason for moving to earth. It is clear that she had cycled through multiple lifetimes without much change, which in itself is a reinforcing factor for her to stay put and never leave her comfort zone.

I can’t help but give praise to the use of jazz in this film. Whether it’s the brass instruments or the piano maintaining the beat, there’s always that one instrument that pops and dances to its own tune, playing an original, asynchronous, upbeat melody that takes up the spotlight unapologetically. Jazz largely had a historic past of being improvisational, which is exactly how 22 navigated the world in Joe’s shoes when she was forced to fall down to earth. She took on the role of the jazz beat – mostly off-beat yet absolutely authentic and imposing.

Joe was a man who was blinded by success as the ultimate goal. He wanted to live because he wanted to play the piano with Dorothea. But once he achieved the taste of “success”, he realized that he didn’t feel much different. As Dorothea would put it, he was a fish looking for the ocean while he was already swimming in the water. Without a matter of reframing, he would end up feeling unfulfilled as usual and chasing what’s ultimately a distraction from actual fulfillment.

But it was through the lens of 22 in his body when a light ignited in his own soul. She was scared and ambivalent at the thought of trying out something new but did so anyway. This was a display of bravery and a tell-tale sign saying “Hey, this isn’t so bad.” Finding the most seemingly insignificant items of the real world, holding onto them like precious artifacts, and finding meaning in them is also a thought-provoking sequence, allowing the audience ample time to reflect on their own observations. The message of the story was clear; that a life purpose is not reaching a certain goal, but being happy at where you are at at the present moment.

At the end however, Joe returned to life and for a while left 22 back at the Great Before. She becomes exponentially tormented and a husk of her former self, and having been alive for a short period, she manifested that by turning into a hulking, big shadow. It was when Joe in soul form handed over a butterfly wing, which was something that he would’ve normally branded as plain and unimportant, when 22 finally regains a sense of agency once more and goes to earth in grace. Joe gets to go too, which made the ending all the while more sweet and thematically consistent.

The sheer number of nuances and nudges on mental health and life purpose that Soul fits in this film is astounding. Meditation, self-discovery, hope, and even the sadder aspects of things like loss and depression are heavy topics that must be handled like a box with fragile markings taped in it. But with its intricacy and difficulty, the fruits of a successful implementation are remarkably sweet and a joy to be a part of. Soul captured the essence of something so intimate and yet so well-rounded for just about everyone.

Soul is a movie that will fit snugly at the same tier as many of Pixar’s predecessors. It’s a powerhouse film with a moving message that may be abstract, but extremely graspable. If you want a film that’s emotionally poignant and full of heart, give this movie a watch.

10/10 – Masterpiece

Persona 4 Golden: Review

Unlike most JRPGs, Persona 4 Golden doesn’t push you to go on a town-hopping adventure with magic and monsters waiting for you around every corner. Everything about the setting is, dare I say, quite unremarkable and ordinary in the far-reaches of countryside Inaba. And yet, I would regard this game as Game of The Year for a good number of reasons.

If you finish this game this scene will live rent-free in your head FOR LIFE.

There lies a mystery lurking beneath the surface of Inaba: a resident’s wife had been murdered and a team of investigators, supervised by Yu’s homestay father Dojima, managed to uncover clues which put the small town of Inaba at the center of this webbed mystery. Strange patterns emerged throughout the course of the year – the most significant of which is a fog that foreshadows death appearing during midnight – and it’s up to Yu and his band of buddies to stop such an event from taking place. How do they do this, you may ask? By hopping inside a store TV and beating the source of this recurring evil with their newly acquired monster allies and magical powers, of course.

Stop talking about Kanji like that, Yosuke!

Aside from beating the source of evil and saving people, you will frequently engage in typical fashioned day-to-day activities. You will find yourself acing exams (or failing it, like in real life), hanging out with friends and family and increasing their Social Links thereby expanding dialogue options and combat fervor, working multiple part-time jobs with eccentric side characters, attending eventful school trips and festivals, and strolling around the small-town stores and establishments scattered around Inaba. Heck, you can even use a day to train in the TV world during your downtime if you wish.

Cozy Ol’ Inaba

The music is top-notch. It’s the same dozen or so tracks on rotation for 60 hours (sans certain dungeon-exclusive music) yet it’s all so catchy and mood-indicative while never getting old. The soundtracks have songs that are upbeat and jazzy with a barrage of brass horns, while the more sad scenes play slow and melancholic piano melodies. Some soundtracks are amplified by J-pop singers, which deserve their own seal of approval. Whatever the scene is, your ears will be the first ones to know what you are in for.

Images you can hear ;_;

The dungeon crawling elements left a lot to be desired. The floors are procedurally generated, but once you get a hang of it there really isn’t anything remarkable about the floors as they are essentially rehashed patterns of the same theme.

Ooh yeah!

The Shadows provided a challenge that became progressively harder as you pressed on. Each Shadow has their own respective types, strengths, and weaknesses associated with it. You can control up to four characters you bring along in order to beat the monsters. Upon the enemy’s defeat, there’s a chance for random loot to drop which yields you better tools to more easily slay monsters, alter floor difficulty, or even craft better allies, fittingly called Personas, to aid you in battle.

How loot looks like

The addition of combining Shadows to create even stronger Personas offered an alternate mode of progress that detoured from the usual old JRPG approach of downright grind fests. This added feature is a keystone of Persona games, and aptly put, a nice way for a casual like me to essentially make use of the dropped loot from my dungeon-crawling journey while also creating and discovering stronger partners in the process. Another thing I did to curate a more enjoyable time was I enabled an Experience accelerator a couple of arcs in so that I can focus more on the story because beating shadows do tend to get repetitive, and honestly, no regrets there.

Typical fight scene

The world beyond the TV is charming and intimate. The candid interactions with your friends, the precious family time with Nanako and Dojima, and the quaint countryside all created a harmonious Mega Beef Bowl full of absolute goodness. These moments all played out like one continuous high school memory with moments of carefree laughter, intense vulnerability, and finally, acceptance, generously sprinkled with loads of character.

The Quadruple OG

Real is perhaps the biggest understatement of the century to how I would describe my connection with Inaba. The characters had entangled me to their world and would not let go. For reference, I completed the game six full months ago and yet the emotional connectedness of the daily, slice-of-life elements still living in my head (rent-free!) goes to show how emotionally impactful the game is. It drawn me in with its simplicity, its seemingly nostalgic character interactions, and its well-executed, overarching theme of self-acceptance.

I would die for Nanako.

The main cast has their moments as flawed characters, each with their respective dungeons and shadow personas that loudly put to life the character’s inhibited thoughts. The battles against these shadows are usually reserved towards the final league of the dungeon, portraying that the strongest and most difficult battles are the ones of an extremely intimate nature. The crossover between the inner psyche and the dungeon boss carries such a spectacular connotation with its core message, and I think if a game is capable of leaving that strong of an impression on a player, then the game has absolutely served its purpose as a work of art.

No matter how much you force yourself to fit inside a box, or how much you submerge genuine thoughts and feelings within your subconscious in hopes of regaining a better sense of control and bliss, there will always be some negative energy welling up inside that will manifest in stronger, more maleficent ways. It is up to you to recognize that, accept that, and work in tandem with it to eventually subdue it – with the help of your friends along the way. That is the core of Persona 4 Golden’s message and Atlus executed it phenomenally. The game does not need updated graphics or free DLCs to force you to take the plunge. If you want an evocative experience with an unforgettable cast of characters, Persona 4 Golden is the JRPG that will exceed all expectations.

9.5/10 – Incredible

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild Review

I’ll preface this review by saying that this is my first Zelda game. Nothing drew me into the game more than the constant lauding by its fans since its release – and after completing all 120 shrines, 77 side quests, and defeating the end boss, the cult-like acclaim over this game may have compelled me to join their side.

The story begins as Link awakens in the Shrine of Resurrection after a 100-year slumber. The game unveils the bulk of its core mechanics and plot hooks during this phase. Even when I was stuck in this small corner of the map due to the temporary lack of a Paraglider, the shifting landscapes from snow-capped mountains to mossy ruins that I constantly found myself in already drove home the expectation of a greater world just waiting to be submerged in. And the best part is, this game absolutely delivered. The world that awaited was immensely vast and fresh in its constantly changing landscapes and creatures. I firmly believe the map designers exhausted all the possibilities there are for each biome. Because when I say every climate imaginable is in the game, I absolutely mean it.

This is absolutely vanilla compared to many other places you can visit in the game.

Needless to say, exploring the world is not the only fun activity to do in Hyrule. Finishing shrine puzzles are important as they can help increase Link’s heart and stamina containers, making him much more formidable against stronger foes. The first set of shrines provided an avenue for toying around with the runes such as the bombs, Magnesis, and Stasis. And the puzzle-solving elements demanded a creative and critical approach that further increases in complexity the farther you are from the Central Tower. Each shrine presented new challenges and loads of goodies to unlock inside. There are also some stunning features that blow my mind in terms of the player’s freedom to act. When certain elements are present in the shrine that acted as the conventional key to beat the puzzle, you are free to use alternative game mechanics or even items that you carried along with you such as Octorok Balloons or Fire Arrows to solve it instead. The feeling of solving a puzzle in that fashion may appear cheap for some, but it just goes to show the breadth of freedom that the developers intended for their players and it sure is gratifying.

Casual players are more likely going to find around fifty to seventy shrines before facing the end boss. The search for the hidden shrines disrupt the idea of simply stumbling across one around the corner or seeing an orange glow from a higher distance. Instead, there are tablets with mysterious puzzles, generational myths, and specific rituals that needs to be solved in order for their respective shrine to appear in the overworld. The amount of thought put into not just the shrines – but Koroks, creatures, and items too – is astounding. The fact that the average player may not even unlock everything in their first run shows an admirable attention to detail and a dedication to craft an experience that covers just about everything.

Hestu in his true form: a street musician

There are a handful of monsters and creatures that you will often come across in your journey across Hyrule as well. They start off easy enough, but as you grow stronger and gain more proficient weapon and armor, reskinned versions of the same creature will start to emerge that are considerably more difficult to take down. Difficulty scales parallel to the player’s own growth, so dueling a hardened Silver Moblin provided a challenge that felt well-adjusted at the late game. Powerful boss-like monsters such as Lynels also make for a grueling fight if a player wishes to spice things up.

Picture from Pinterest

The button mapping felt fluid and precise on the Switch. Playing on both handheld and television mode posed zero issues and once you get a grip of the core button mechanics, the game will slowly introduce to you more advanced techniques such as parrying and flurry rush which makes for a satisfying damage dispenser against bulky enemies.

Seconds before disaster

At some point, however, I found myself avoiding skirmishes altogether because the gratification of defeating a monster and gaining inferior loot did not warrant my rare, valuable weapon from breaking for good. The number of weapon slots are limited and can only be increased by collecting Korok Seeds scattered across the map. While they are abundant, trying to find more and more Koroks per upgrade will more often than not lead you to stumble in mob camps and needing to fight and expend these resources. This makes it feel that the number of weapon slots you can switch around with seem smaller than it actually is.

Aside from facing monsters, scaling mountain faces and trekking grassy fields without having a concrete goal in mind will be where most of your time will come from – and I think the beauty of the game shines during these moments. The vastness of the world enraptured my desire for exploration, and just about every point on the map can be reached – every summit and every recognizable water body. This is a masterstroke of technical and conceptual prowess, not only for the game but the precedent it sets for the open-world genre altogether.

Chilling by the lava, wbu?

Each discovery in the map, like finding a stable or new town, is supplemented by a beautiful composition of wind instruments and a soothing soundtrack that gives the player a well-deserved breather from all the exploration. The entirety of the sound direction is relaxing and mindful, leaving an impression of peace in solitude, which I believe is characteristic with the game’s intention.

The towns had vastly different atmospheres that made me tingle in excitement as I step foot in each one for the first time. I spent countless hours checking every nook and cranny within the premises, helping out the different townspeople, and admiring the impressive architecture in these towns.

Look at that gorgeous architecture

Ten paragraphs to discuss the actual plot of the game should speak volumes of how every other aspect of the game blew my expectations out of the water. Unlike the world design, the lore building and story-driven aspects did not present anything truly groundbreaking, but it was still a good force for exploration should a player prefer a solid push towards a certain direction. Defeating a Divine Beast also comes with its own perks by granting the player a divine power that strengthens them through favorable combat mechanics or better world interaction tools.

#ISideWithMipha

Even the minor details and sequences had a considerable degree of charm and substance. Side quests acted as cute little distractions one could do if they wish, and more important than that, it also provided players another avenue for exploration in places that the player may not have considered otherwise. The characters composing the populace across towns, stables, and villages fleshed out the world and made it feel much less desolated, adding vibrancy and color to the towns and villages scattered across Hyrule.

Owning casuals in Hide n Seek

Breath of the Wild is brilliant in the worldbuilding front and is an overall amazing experience. It trusts its players to know what they want and grants them absolute freedom and the tools to make it all happen. Whether you are going a completionist route, a quick trip to the boss, or a stroll across the riverbank – the world is brimming with a near-endless amount of content that can easily rack up hours of enjoyment.

9.5/10 – Incredible