Category: Video Games

Book III opens, death comes out

Book III opens, death comes out

It figures that a week before finals we get not only the release of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, but also a huge update to Fire Emblem Heroes.

All of this excitement definitely is not helping me stay ready for exams.

But we’re not here for school-related stuff today. No, this is a two-part blog post about the big introduction to Book III! Yesterday I talked about the Feh Channel that Nintendo put out, that way today I could devote all of my time to the beginning of the story.

So knowing this is going to be long enough as is, let’s get into it shall we?

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Chapter 1

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Chapter 1 begins in an… Unexpected place.

Some time has passed since the end of Book II, though the actual period isn’t specified. Our first scene has the Queen of Askr, Alfonse and Sharena’s mother, arriving at the Order of Heroes’ castle with a mission at hand:

After Henriette becomes acquainted with you, the team heads back to Askr proper.

On the way there are aggressive soldiers from the rival nation of Embla — not seen since Book I. The siblings find this strange given how far they are from the nation’s border, but their mother explains what is happening.

Interestingly enough, despite the fact that these enemy units are supposed to be Emblian units previously encountered, there are a whole host of new unit types on the enemy side. Colored bow users, colored dagger users and flying manaketes among them.

Soon enough the Order starts to come across the two generals of Hel’s army:

Upon seeing the two figures on the battlefield, Alfonse and Sharena immediately recognize them. It turns out both figures are intrinsically linked to the characters in an interesting way.

They are the ancestors of the royal siblings and Princess Veronica respectively.

How the characters will deal with their ancestors should be an interesting development throughout the story.

When the Order finally approaches Askr castle they’re intercepted at the gate by Eir, princess of the dead. Once she’s defeated she submits to death by the hand of Alfonse (because I guess the princess of the dead wasn’t dead? Go figure that one out), but he spares her. Instead they take the girl as a prisoner and eventually a wary ally because she supposedly ran away from home and would not be allowed to return.

I say supposedly because… Well… Intelligent Systems blew their load on the surprise before Eir even arrived.

You couldn’t have kept this as a reveal for the future instead of telling us right off the bat?

Ah well. Her character description says she doesn’t quite enjoy her mother’s assault on the living, so at least the character transitioning into a true ally is still available.

But until then we have her as a “tentative” ally.

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I get the feeling most people are going to latch onto the princess fast. Because boy is she packing heat with that base kit of hers.


EirMerciful Death

Skill Set:

  • Lyfjaberg (Might = 14, Range = 2)
    • Grants Resistance +3. At the start of combat, if unit’s Health ≥ 50 percent, grants Attack and Speed +4 during combat, and if unit initiates combat, foe cannot make a follow-up attack. After combat, if unit attacked, inflicts Defense and Resistance -7 on target and foes within two spaces of target through their next actions. If bonus was granted to unit, deals 4 damage to unit.
  • Iceberg (Cooldown = 3)
    • Boosts damage by 50 percent of unit’s Resistance.
  • Swift Sparrow (A Skill)
    • If unit initiates combat, grants Attack and Speed +4 during combat.
  • Mystic Boost (B Skill)
    • Disables foe’s skills that “calculate damage using the lower of foe’s Defense or Resistance” and “calculate damage from staff like other weapons.” Restores 6 Health after combat.
  • Sparkling Boost (C Skill)
    • At start of turn, restores 10 Health to ally that has been dealt the most damage (excluding this unit).

Analysis:

Eir is just good. Her weapon and A Skill give her a ton of Attack and Speed at the cost of a little health each turn, but her B Skill just restores that health while nullifying a ton of different abilities that might give her enemies an edge.

Add onto that the high resistance attack buff of Iceberg and general ally healing and… Yeah, she’s solid.

A hell of a unit to have given us for free.


Chapter 2

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Chapter 2 begins in the grand halls of Askr castle… Of which we see one background panel.

Alfonse and his father, Gustav, vaguely dance around the reason why Alfonse had said he wasn’t allowed back home before just jumping into the meat of story-relevant exposition.

Apparently there’s a single entrance to Hel that had been sealed for over 20 years by the king’s best defenses. However something happened to the gateway that allowed denizens of the dead to emerge once more.

Right away there’s some weird business going on with Gustav being very harsh toward Alfonse while subsequently ignoring Sharena… But later we also get some dialogue with the queen that suggests he’s that archetype of a grizzled old father who wants his son to avoid the same mistakes he made.

But I’ll get to that.

First we have to discuss the shoehorned in appearance of Veronica after battle two.

There’s more vague alluding to the time skip at this point when Loki shows up out of nowhere to ask Veronica for some kind of cooperation in fighting the soldiers of Hel. They also reference Veronica’s brother Bruno, who had deus ex machina’d his way into the end of Book II but is now off on some secret mission again.

Despite Veronica’s hesitation, Loki suggests a partnership between the two nations because dead people just want to kill all living people.

We don’t have a solid idea of Hel’s motivation yet so let’s go with that for now.

My only wish is that we also get a connection to the Nifl/Múspell conflict here instead of just sticking with the Askr/Embla stuff. At the end of Book II Fjorm did join the Order permanently knowing she was dying from the after effects of the Rite of Frost.

Did she die? Or will she and Hríd and everyone be able to help fight the dead?

So far the only reference we’ve gotten to Book II comes at the end of the fifth battle. It centers around the Order of Heroes arriving at the gateway to Hel and seeing thousands of soldiers pouring out to attack a nearby village. They distract the forces long enough for Askr’s full army to arrive and rout the enemy, at which point Gustav scolds his son.

They do bring the moment around into a pretty nice message about what it means to be a king, showing that the harshness is less about being a calloused father and more about trying to groom a proper heir:

But it still seems like a stretch to toss out the entirety of Book II’s scope and consequences by saying it didn’t make everyone in the Order a hero.

You could show some more affection toward your son you know Mr. Grizzled Old Man Archetype. I’m sure that would make things better come the inevitable existential crisis of fighting death and literally seeing his sister get taken into her army.

Since you know, we’ve seen that it’s coming in the opening cutscene.

Just saying.


For now that’s all we’ve got in the Book III story. Everything is obviously a bit rough around the edges as we only have the earliest exposition set out before us.

However, not counting ridiculous things like the developers spoiling Eir’s possible double-cross later, there were a few good surprises just in the first two chapters. Connecting Hel’s generals to the history of the game’s two main nations in particular makes me interested to see more.

But with all that said, this post is extra long considering I had to sum up two chapter’s worth of story. So I’m going to leave everything to all of you here:

What do you think of the Book III story thus far? Where do you think it’s going to go? Where do you want it to go? How should we boycott the game if the Book II characters never show up again?

Let me know your thoughts in the comments down below! I, for one, am looking forward to getting some of that Fire Emblem Heroes fix in again.

A Feh Channel to die for

A Feh Channel to die for

When the Fire and Ice banner was released in Fire Emblem Heroes, we got our first good look at the story being established for Book III through its Xenologue, in which a figure called Hel — ruler of the underworld — stole the immense power of the recently deceased Múspell tyrant Surtr.

Today’s Feh Channel finally gave us the skinny on everything we can expect to see coming out of Heroes in the near future.

Just when I thought I was out… They pull me back in.

The video began with an introductory cinematic for the next chapter in this ever-evolving story.

Overall, I would argue I actually liked the Book II cinematic better. The instant I saw Laevateinn, Loki and Surtr for the first time I was hooked. I needed to know more about who they were, especially as the Order of Heroes paired off to fight them.

With the Book III characters, I’m honestly more intrigued in them from an aesthetic perspective than a personality perspective.

Hel, as well as the two generals she has working under her, all have a macabre Victorian-era look that’s pretty great. Everything about the land of the dead shown off here gives more of an old English look than the Norse-inspired fantasy worlds of Book II.

In spite of the fact that Hel is the goddess of death in Norse mythology as well.

The sudden shift into an 1800s look, combined with the gothic, ethereal living dead designs is pretty sweet.

Once the video ends, we cut back to the Order’s castle where Feh jumps into expository mode that clashes wildly against the darker tone Intelligent Systems tried to convey with heavy metal and Sharena’s apparent death.

Feh introduces us to the four new characters that we saw in the video:


Hel

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Death Sovereign

Pretty much just a sexy skeleton lady. Someone certainly made a design choice here.

Don’t get me wrong she’s cool, and the general skeletal look + scythe combo definitely screams death. It’s just kind of silly to me that we’ve transitioned from big, imposing fire tyrant to sexy bone lady.


Eir

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Merciful Death

The princess of the realm of the dead, daughter of Hel. Seems to not enjoy her royal status considering she is confirmed to be the free five-star hero we’ll get upon completing Book III, Chapter 1. Rides a dope ass death Pegasus into battle and I’m INTO it.


Thrasir

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Omnicidal Witch

Now Thrasir I like. Invoking omnicide in her epithet, as in all-encompassing genocide, is pretty metal. She looks cool, powerful and deadly.

Out of all the new characters, I think I’ll enjoy seeing where her story goes the most.


Líf

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Lethal Swordsman

I’m somewhat bothered by the fact that we’re introducing a new character whose name can be easily confused with the already existing Prince Leif, but hey. Spooky mask skeleton knight.

It’s hard not to appreciate that, even if it is the most cliché “cool” villain archetype I can possibly imagine.


As we hear from Feh in the video: “The Askran Kingdom was just getting used to peace, but now it’s being invaded by forces from Hel.”

Beyond the fact that the quote sounds hilarious in Feh’s voice, an allusion to a time skip is the only thing I’m hesitant about regarding Book III.

If we really do skip ahead some time, it might feel disjointed. How long did Hel wait to use Surtr’s powers? Will the Nifl and Múspell characters play any kind of role or just get tossed aside? How will Loki fit in after going around Nohr and Hoshido messing with Azura and Anankos?

Yeah I paid attention Intelligent Systems. These plot points better fit together.

After touching on the generalities of the story, Feh briefly discuss some new things we’re going to get in the 3.0.0 update. Included are:

  • Four new blessings: Light, Dark, Astra and Anima. Obviously based on the Trinity of Magic from games like Sacred Stones, so I’m immediately attached.
  • A “new” kind of unit called a Mythic Hero. Essentially just Legendary Heroes for the Trinity blessings.
    • Eir will be the first light Mythic Hero, similar to how Fjorm was the first Legendary Hero who joined the Order for story reasons.
  • A Hero Fest that features Owain, Ophelia, Lewyn and Eir. A strange collection… Probably not one I’ll spend too many orbs on.
  • A new item called “First Summon Tickets,” essentially allowing us to replicate the effects of the new banner free first summon whenever we want. I appreciate that this is supplemental and not replacing the usual free summon. Though the fact that they last for one banner only kind of sucks.
  • Beast units are coming! The first will be Tibarn, a hawk guy from Radiant Dawn (who I have no connection to), but hopefully that means we’ll get characters like Kaden and Yarne soon enough.


With that, the party’s over for now. This is all the information Feh was willing to give us for the time being.

Luckily we’ll only have to wait until tonight to find out more!

So until I write all about the first two story chapters tomorrow, let me know what you think about this spookier, serious direction Fire Emblem Heroes seems to be going in.

Or, more importantly, let me know what you think about beast units finally coming. Boy that’s something we’ve been waiting on for years now.


If you want to see part 2 on the story of Book III chapters 1 and 2, take a look here!

A smashing blast to the past

A smashing blast to the past

Gotta love tentpole programming.

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is officially out today! Even though I haven’t personally gotten my hands on it just yet, by all accounts it promises to be a fantastic collection of all the greatest parts of the series’ 19-year history.

I’m excited to get my hands on this sucker, because I’ve been a pretty hardcore fan of Masahiro Sakurai’s wonderful party fighter games since Melee on the GameCube.

Melee was quite literally a game that defined my young childhood, with many birthday parties spent playing as Young Link on the “Great Bay” stage from Majora’s Mask (many years before I actually played its game of origin).

Brawl was the game that offered my core friend group, from middle school on, to duke it out, find our main characters and test our creativity building our own fields of combat.

Smash 4 brings with it memories of being so excited that I played the demo endlessly during art class in senior year, time that left me proficient in newcomer Mega Man as much as I would be proficient in Lucina — my current main character, passed along from Marth before her.

Yet the fourth entry in the series became so much more. Long nights in the Daily Titan newsroom were more manageable after my boi Aaron Valdez brought his Wii U and we held DT tournaments.

Hell I even have some fond memories of the original Smash Bros., despite the fact that I never owned a Nintendo 64. I distinctly remember going to an animation camp while visiting my grandparents in Florida one summer, and a major highlight of the camp was getting there early to play on some of the consoles available in their waiting room.

My attachment to the series went far deeper than just playing the games with my friends, however.

When Stephen Hillenberg died a few weeks ago, writing my blog obituary for him brought back a lot of memories. One of the most potent memories was attending a sprite animation camp (here in California) over a summer with my friend Mitchell Winn from all the way back in elementary school.

Thanks to that camp, I learned a good many things about grabbing sprites from my favorite games off of The Spriters Resource and using them in different projects.

I took on ambitious sprite projects in the months and years to follow. Including recreating that famous Band Geeks halftime scene from Spongebob with video game characters.

One other project that felt pertinent to today required going back into my old desktop Mac.

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This dinosaur literally hasn’t been touched since 2012 based on the security update. Thus it has become a crystalized time capsule for 15-year-old Jason.

I had so much fun going through this thing that I’m going to talk more about my discoveries later this weekend.

But for now, the important connection back to Smash Bros. were these desktop wallpapers I made using character sprites from various games and other fan projects:

SSBB Battle Subcon Stage2
The Featured Image, a classic fight between Link, Charizard (sans Pokémon trainer as this was the Brawl era), Kirby and Marth on “Mushroom Kingdom II.”
SSBB Battle Battlefield Stage
Four hatted-Kirby duke it out on Melee’s “Battlefield.”
SSBB Battle Yoshi Stage
Pikachu, Yoshi, Marth and Falco fight on “Yoshi’s Island,” where Marth shows off his Dolphin Slash. A favorite move of mine, clearly.
SSBB Battle Mario Stage
The Mario Bros. take on Link and Sonic on the aptly named “Mario Bros.” stage.
SSBB Battle Final Stage
A slightly askew duel between Samus, Fox, Zelda and a very tiny Captain Falcon on Brawl’s version of “Final Destination.”
SSBB Battle Onett Stage
One of my prouder pieces from what I remember, in which Ness knocks Kirby out of the park in his home turf of “Onett.”
SSBB Battle Mario Stage2
We return to “Mario Bros.” so the Bros. can confront a series of variant Sonics each colored after Chaos Emeralds. Not sure if these are the classic Chaos Emerald colors, but the different poses are sweet if you ask me.
SSBB Battle Temple Scene
It’s a race for the Master Sword between Link and Young Link (clearly set during the Melee era) on the leftmost side of the “Temple” battleground.
SSBB Battle Subcon Stage
Apparently I predicted Smash Ultimate being a thing years ago by pitting the (at the time) Melee-exclusive Mewtwo and Brawl-exclusive Snake on “Mushroom Kingdom II.”

Would have helped if I made them all the same size so they didn’t get stretched out when I rotated them as wallpapers. But hey, eight years ago.

All of these babies were created between May and June of 2010 using Graphic Converter, as I never learned Photoshop or anything.

2010! I know I spent all this time building up 15-year-old Jason, but these specifically are all a product of 13-year-old Jason’s ingenuity.

Now that Smash Ultimate is out, I’m hoping to get my hands on it soon so I can start to make some new memories with that game. Perhaps a few of them will come somewhere remotely close to leaving an impression as strong as the older titles.

Here’s to everyone having a happy Smash Ultimate day!

On the first night…

On the first night…

It has been brought to my attention that I was lied to by my mom and last night was not, in fact, the first night of Hanukkah. Tonight is.

I know I’m at least partially at fault for not fact checking myself… But I’ve gotten permission to blame her for it.

So if you’re in the future reading this, confused as to why I didn’t know when the actual date of Hanukkah was in 2018.

That’s why.


Happy Hanukkah everybody!

That’s right, as of sunset today, the Jewish festival of lights began. Because we’re on a lunar calendar in the calculation of hebrew holiday placement, the big events tend to fall out at different times every year.

This year it just so happened that our closest equivalent to Christmas fell out about a month before Christmas. Or as we in the Rochlin house like to call it: Two days before Alyson’s birthday.

Yeah… She got a bit shafted in that department as far as the availability of her non-Jewish friends goes for parties every year. But hey, at least we don’t have to worry about buying her presents twice-over in the same time period.

At least some years we don’t. Like this year, for instance.

Now I’m a bit tired and sore after helping a friend move some boxes today, so I don’t think I’m going to write anything too prolific. It’ll give me some more time to work on this essay — which, by the way, is the same one I talked about doing my FDA research on the other day and am continuing to have a blast with. I’ll definitely have to do another post on it sometime soon.

But for now, if you want some more Hanukkah-based content, you can take a look at this post I wrote about getting a chunk of presents early this year.

Tonight I got the rest of everything, since we gave up on the eight nights of presents thing a long time ago. The haul expanded to include a new set of Cards Against Humanity cards, a lovely check from my grandparents in Florida (who I’ll thank here as well as over-the-phone soon!) and..

Wait. What’s this?

It can’t be.

It’s…

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We’ve got new Pokémon! This is not a drill.

And I definitely did not know about it ahead of time from being in the store when we purchased the game.

Totally.

If you see a lot of posts coming out of my Twitter account in particular talking about all of my new Pokémon adventures in the near future, now you know why.

I’m thinking I’ll treat this installment specially. It has the capacity for two-player games, so I’ve considered trying to only play the game with my sister so we can have the experience together.

Whether or not I break that rule as I get too excited to play the game is a bridge I’ll have to cross when I get to it.

But that being said, hopefully you all have a great Hanukkah — even if you don’t celebrate!

I’m going to go off and spend some time with my family for the holiday.

And rest my back a bit.


Featured Image courtesy of Adiel lo via Wikimedia Commons

Cool runnings in Nifl’s past

Cool runnings in Nifl’s past

With the addition of our newest Legendary Hero Hríd, the sole Prince of Nifl, we finally have every Book II character released as a playable unit in Fire Emblem Heroes.

Just in time for Book III to start in December. It’s almost like Intelligent Systems planned this stuff out!

But did they plan out Hríd well?


HrídIcy Blade

  • Gjöll (Might = 16, Range = 1)
    • Grants Attack +3. If a penalty inflicted by a skill like Panic or Threaten, and/or a negative status effect (preventing counterattacks or restricting movement) is active on foe, unit makes a guaranteed follow-up attack and foe cannot.
  • Moonbow (Cooldown = 2)
    • Treats foe’s Defense or Resistance as if reduced by 30 percent during combat.
  • Distant Counter (A Skill)
    • Unit can counterattack regardless of foe’s range.
  • Freezing Seal (B Skill)
    • At the start of a turn, if unit’s Health ≥ 50 percent, inflicts Attack/Speed -6 on foe with the lowest Resistance through its next action.
  • Attack Smoke (C Skill)
    • Inflicts Attack -7 on foes within two spaces of target through their next actions after combat.

From a purely conceptual standpoint, I actually really like the idea behind Hríd’s base skill kit. His B skill weakens the strongest enemy on the opposing team so that he can race in on his horse and slay them with the guaranteed follow-up of his sword.

On top of that he has defensive capabilities thanks to Distant Counter, which balances things out.

Overall it’s a really solid set of capabilities, and if nothing else it’s great to have a new unit with Distant Counter given how rare the ability is.

To be completely honest my only real problem with Hríd is the fact that… Well…

We literally just had a sword cavalier as a Legendary Hero with Eirika.

Come on Intelligent Systems, at least separate out the weapon/move type combinations a little better. Maybe make Hríd a sword armor unit or something, that way we can have a power crept Black Knight as a Legendary Hero.

I don’t know , the quick repetition bugs me. But even so I don’t mind the character himself.

On top of that, his entourage in the special Legendary Hero banner isn’t so bad:

Red and green hold the most interest for me this time around. Hríd, Legendary Ryoma, Summer Innes and Kana are all not in my current arsenal, and thus all worth summoning.

In the other two colors the only character I’m missing is Brave Hector.

I do want Brave Hector, but I’m not sure he’s worth potentially getting another Legendary Lucina or Summer Cordelia.

Also can we hold an intervention for Intelligent Systems to not include female Grima in any more of these banners? I’m pretty sure she’s been in every single one.

There better be some cool story thing that comes out of that eventually.

While I started with about 200 orbs once again, it took me 50 or so to get something of particular interest to me:

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All the animosity I stored toward the Legendary Lobster since his first appearance when he took all my orbs and never showed up has finally been relieved.

I don’t know that I’ll ever be the same still… But he’s +Attack, -Resistance. Which I think is his best build.

So hey I guess I can’t really complain.

I’ve also gotten a second Laevatein at this point, but she’s not very good compared to the one I had already.

I don’t know whether I’ll spend a lot more orbs on this banner unless I get a bunch in the near future. At this point there aren’t enough units left to justify it.

But at least there are Legendary Battle Maps to score some extra orbs, right?

Nailed the transition.


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While most of the Legendary Battle Maps have been cool examples of a stage from the character’s original game, I particularly appreciate what they did for Hríd.

His map appears to be the Rite of Frost chamber from Heroes’ main story, seen back when Kinshi Hinoka first came out, but frozen over more than ever. It’s a nice touch for people who have been sticking with this game for a long time.

As far as the difficulty goes? I mean it’s the same old reinforcement map bs as always. Not very fun in my opinion.

What is more fun to discuss is the Forging Bonds that coincides with Hríd’s addition featuring the four Nifl siblings:

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I haven’t gotten very far into any of the support conversation threads, but what I have seen has been so different than usual that it’s pretty engaging.

The overall theme of the event is a prequel of sorts. The story starts off prior to Surtr’s invasion right around the time when Gunnthrá apparently has a premonition that he will be coming soon.

Group sections seem to focus on the siblings preparing together (a somber twist considering how the story goes) while the individual conversations each have the siblings meeting you in their dreams.

Again I don’t know where they wind up going just yet, but I’m very excited to see!


I’m going to level with you guys, I thought I was going to end this off early tonight and go to bed.

Then I got distracted with some videos online and somehow it turned into 2:00 a.m.

So I’m not going to put a lot of fanfare into this conclusion. Just let me know what you think of Hríd, what you want to see in the future, all that fun stuff.

That said, I’ll see you in the next FEH post where I’ll hopefully be more awake.

Deltarune is delightful

Deltarune is delightful

I’m a few weeks late to this particular craze, but after staying up until 2:00 a.m. finally finishing the first chapter of Deltarune I have an unbridled desire to gush about everything.

That’s probably going to involve a number of spoilers for an experience that I truly believe everyone should have for themselves. Because of that I’ll aim to be as vague as possible, but even so you might not want to read this quite yet if you haven’t played the game yourself.

Here’s what I can offer as a general teaser introduction.

Deltarune is the follow-up to indie game developer and chip tune musical genius Tobyfox‘s now-famed 2015 RPG Undertale — That one where nobody has to die. It’s available on just about every gaming platform imaginable, so if you haven’t dived into this universe at all you should.

The newest game, released just a few weeks ago, takes a somewhat different spin on the kill-or-spare game mecahnic from Undertale. It allows you to follow Kris, a human living in a world of monsters, as he deals with the day-to-day trials and tribulations of school.

Until certain events leave him and the local bully, Susie, taking on an adventure to save the world.

I know that’s pretty vague and somewhat derivative, but it’s nowhere near as dull as I made it sound.

Please just play the game if you haven’t.

Trust me when I say it’s all worth experiencing as blindly as possible. As a result, the rest of my discussion is going to go on under the spoiler-laden read more line here.

Hope you’ve enjoyed me rambling in vague generalities if this is as far as you’ll go. Just come back and  let me know when you’ve gone through the experience for yourself!

Continue reading “Deltarune is delightful”

Fire and Ice and Everything Nice

Fire and Ice and Everything Nice

After the last Heroes summoning banner left me feeling so burned, I’m glad we finally have a new one that’s pretty cool to make me throw my orbs against the wall again.

Get it? Burned? Cool?

Because it’s the Fire and Ice banner?

Here let me explain the joke, then it’ll definitely be funnier that way.


YlgrFresh Snowfall

  • Sylgr (Might = 14, Range = 2)
    • Grants Speed +3. At start of combat, if unit’s Speed > foe’s Speed, grants Attack and Speed +4 during combat. After combat, if unit attacked, inflicts Defense and Resistance -7 on target and foes within two spaces of target through their next actions.
  • Glimmer (Cooldown = 2)
    • Boosts damage dealt by 50 percent.
  • Sorcery Blade (A Skill)
    • At start of combat, if unit is adjacent to a magic ally, calculates damage using the lower of foe’s Defense or Resistance.
  • Chill Speed (B Skill)
    • At start of turn, inflicts Speed -7 on foe on the enemy team with the highest Speed through its next action.
  • Speed Tactic (C Skill)
    • At start of turn, grants Speed +6 to allies within two spaces for one turn. Granted only if number of ally’s movement type on current team ≤ 2.

SurtrRuler of Flame

  • Sinmara (Might = 16, Range = 1)
    • Grants Defense +3. At start of turn, deals 20 damage to foes within two spaces.
  • Bonfire (Cooldown = 3)
    • Boosts damage by 50 percent of unit’s Defense.
  • Steady Stance (A Skill)
    • If foe initiates combat, grants Defense +8 during combat and inflicts Special Attack cooldown charge -1 on foe per attack (only highest value applied, does not stack).
  • Wary Fighter (B Skill)
    • If unit’s Health ≥ 50 percent, unit and foe cannot make a follow-up attack.
  • Surtr’s Menace (C Skill)
    • At start of turn, if unit is within two spaces of a foe, grants Attack, Speed, Defense and Resistance +4 for one turn and inflicts Attack, Speed, Defense and Resistance -4 on foes within two spaces through their next actions.

I think this is the first time in the history of Fire Emblem Heroes that we’ve had only two new characters on a banner. The acuteness is intriguing from a historic perspective, but also because it’s that much easier for me to talk about them both together!

First we have Nilf’s youngest royal sibling, Ylgr. Her natural skill set seems to fit well with her character.

Given the girl’s small stature, this makes sense that she’s focused primarily on speed.

Her unique colored dagger, Chill Speed and Speed Tactic all focus on debuffing an opponent’s speed and incurring buffs when she’s faster. She’ll be a perfect candidate for the Flashing Blade Sacred Seal, that way she’ll gain stat buffs and a Special Cooldown charge.

The only strange thing about Ylgr is her unique A Skill, which lets her hit the opponent’s weaker defense stat if she’s with a mage. Seems somewhat impractical?

Perhaps they want us to run her alongside her sister Gunnthrá, who also works on lowering Speed.

King Surtr has skills equally fitting his stature in that he’s large, imposing and overwhelms his enemies. Everyone within two spaces of the guy takes 20 damage and loses 4 points in each stat EVERY turn. It’s kind of nuts, especially considering he gains +4 to each stat at the same time.

That’s like a natural +8. To Attack, Speed, Defense and Resistance.

Arguably Surtr’s only problem is that he would be far better with Distant Counter so he could hit everyone within two spaces that are debuffed. Plus… There are a ton of Distant Counter green armored units that fill his niche.

However, both units are pretty cool. Worth summoning I’d say!

Though, even if I’ve accumulated a small fortune of ~240 orbs in my silent protest against the Adrift banner, I don’t want to spend them all on these two. I’ll keep everything above 200 at least, just in case something better comes around soon.

I really haven’t pulled anything of note just yet. Mainly some fodder for skills to inherit later.

Thus I keep working on orb accumulation. Luckily there’s a whole bunch of extra orbs in story and special maps this time around!


For the first time in a long time, we have a Xenologue. Essentially a continuation of the main story, but framed as a short bridge between the end of Book II and Book III.

Oh, and by short I mean just one map with a bit of dialogue.

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The scene opens with Surtr waking up following his death by the hands of the Order of Heroes. He receives word from a mysterious new figure that his powers will posthumously taken on by them. Only for him to be told that they are:

Apparently, Hel assumes that one such group unworthy of a greater reward is… Well…

Yeah. Us.

Soon after the reveal of the next Book’s villain, the Order encounters Loki who talks about how she’s after Hel in some capacity. She wants the power on her side, or some such deal.

Plus she allude to Sharena being important in the next Book’s story, which is nice considering Alfonse wound up having the spotlight in Book II.

That’s essentially that, however. I consider this Xenologue a simple ‘come back in December for more’ tidbit that gave us nine extra orbs.

But wait, there’s more!

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Yes we’ve got three separate special maps based on the Book II characters. They don’t have any extra dialogue or anything, just an additional four orbs each.

If I were a suspicious man, I would think Intelligent Systems is fattening us up so we’ll be ready for some big banners coming soon.

But when have I ever ben a suspicious man? Haha.

Ha.


Anyway, that’s all we’ve got for the day! A quick two units, a quick Xenologue.

Simple and clean.

I think I’m going to take the cue and leave things with a sparse conclusion. Let me know what you think of these new units, and what you’re expecting out of the upcoming Book III!

It’s certainly going to be exciting to cover, if you ask me.

Preparing for the Big Hunt

Preparing for the Big Hunt

Yesterday I slept for about 17 hours. Was real sick when I woke up, enough so that I wasn’t able to make it out to the SPJ Long Beach Post tour. Or write a blog post at all.

Frankly the only thing I’d say I accomplished yesterday was sending a few emails and binging the Emma Stone and Jonah Hill show Maniac on Netflix.

Which was worth watching, but probably a subject for another day.

While I’m feeling better today, I’m still not feeling better enough to go spend a whole bunch of hours at the Finals competition for the RUHS band. So I’m going to have to neg on that promise I made last week. Sorry Aly.

Thus, between bouts of sleeping and tending to a nosebleed, I figured I would finally do something fun and show you all what an obsessive freak I’ve become about Monster Hunter armor planning.

Armor planning in Generations Ultimate fills a very similar niche to Pokémon team creation for me in that it extends a game’s lifespan through a strategic planning task.

There are dozens of skills a hunter can utilize in battle against titanic beasties, each applied by a combination of a base armor piece’s skills, a talisman that can be equipped and all of a set’s supplemental skill decorations.

Building the full armor set for a specific monster yields skills matching their play style. For instance, the ephemeral electric unicorn Kirin’s armor applies Divine Blessing (to occasionally reduce damage) and Elemental attack damage buffs.

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So if a monster matches the play style you like, or works well with one of the game’s 14 weapon types (like the hammer-tailed Duramboros armor works with a hammer weapon), it’s an easy build.

However, if you’re someone like me that enjoys a challenge and wants to build armor with varied skills for a specific task, mixed sets are the way to go.

As a Hunting Horn main, I made it my goal to create a separate set of armor for every element and status type. The actual in-game armor forge isn’t very conducive for planning, so I turned to armor listings on Kiranico and my phone to generate ideas before wasting the materials.

Here’s my written plan for the horn that would apply a sleep element:

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Some key details to note. There are five armor pieces, one weapon and one talisman for each set. The armor pieces have pre-determined skills:

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As seen in the ‘Skill Tree’ box above.

Talismans have random skills when you find them, so planning out an armor set is partially about luck.

Also, note the asterisks near each piece’s skill listing. Those indicate the number of available decoration slots. Each piece can have up to three slots, and I’ve indicated what decor I’m putting in the slots though the subsection.

Most skills are applied when they reach 10 points on your overall armor, with a stronger version at 15 or 20.

Here’s how the fruits of that planning labor translated in-game:

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Sleeping and bombing at a quick pace!

In Generations Ultimate, a feature called armor transmog was added that allows hunters to put a decorative armor on top of the armor they’re wearing.

That way you can have your cake and eat it too: Make an armor with fantastic skills that also doesn’t look super ugly.

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Yikes.

Sometimes the armor planning process isn’t so simple. Multiple different monsters can give the same skills, and it’s important to balance that with the defense statistic, elemental resistances and the slot count.

For instance, when I recently pivoted to try out the Lance, I tried to build up an armor set that had the Guard and Guard Up skills applied. Thanks to having a few useful talismans, I wound up comparing three potential armors:

 

Obviously the one I wound up with had the most work put into it, as everything just fell into place.

Between those guard skills and Divine Blessing, I aimed to be more defensive for the Lance play style. Plus a status attack buff, considering all of the lances I wanted utilized those statuses: Sleep, Poison, Paralysis and Blast.

Even if Blast does not technically count as a status attack anymore and is only buffed by Bomb Boost. But I still put them together.

Here’s how the final armor came out:

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This one I transmogrified using G-Rank Basarios armor. Its bulky-looking stone armor appeared aesthetically perfect for a defensive set.

Because in Monster Hunter, aesthetics are just as important as powerful skill sets.

Out of all the builds I’ve planned so far, this Status Lance set is probably one of my most immediately gratifying and successful. Having never used the weapon before, coming in with a well-designed set made the learning process pretty painless.

Especially when it allowed me to discover the best killing blow in the game:

That’s a satisfying hunt right there. Even if my MicroSD card wasn’t pulling the video off properly.

I’ll figure that out eventually.

While I’ve built plenty of armor sets going from Low-to-G-Rank status, I still have plenty more planned out that I’m continuing to work on.

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Especially with friends around to help, I should be able to keep the train going for a long time. Unless a game like Pokémon Let’s Go or Smash Ultimate kills my current Monster Hunter addiction.

But I don’t have either yet, so no worries!

Hopefully this pseudo-instructional post on armor pre-planning has been helpful — or at least interesting.

If you did think this was cool, let me know. I’m thinking about also doing a post showing off a bunch of cool armor sets I’ve created that might make an excellent companion piece.

Just not right now. Because I think it’s about time I go back to bed and nurse this cold some more.

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Adrift in the Rage

Adrift in the Rage

What better way is there to celebrate Veteran’s Day than to talk about a game in which fantasy characters have taken part in dozens of wars over a number of titles?

Okay no, I’m just kidding. It’s probably really weird and insensitive to joke about Veteran’s Day like that. I have nothing but respect.

I just needed some kind of segue into this Fire Emblem Heroes post that I’ve been putting off because… Boy am I not excited for it.

I know that’s a weird sentiment to walk into one of these with, because in that case why talk about it at all?

Well dear viewer.

The reason I hate this banner is because it is the next evolution in what has been a slow-growing problem.

Hope you’re ready for more of that than actually discussing the banner.


CamillaFlower of Fantasy

  • Book of Dreams (Might = 14, Range = 2)
    • Grants Attack +3. If unit is adjacent to an ally, inflicts Attack, Speed, Defense and Resistance -4 on foe during combat.
  • Draw Back (Range = 1)
    • Unit moves one space away from target ally. Ally moves to unit’s previous space.
  • Attack/Resistance Bond (A Skill)
    • If unit is adjacent to an ally, grants Attack and Resistance +5 during combat.
  • Attack/Resistance Link (B Skill)
    • If a Movement Assist skill is used by unit or targets unit, grants Attack and Resistance +6 to unit and target ally or vice versa for one turn.
  • Goad Fliers (C Skill)
    • Grants Attack and Speed +4 to flying allies within two spaces during combat.

CorrinDream Prince

  • Draconic Rage (Might = 16, Range = 1)
    • Accelerates Special Attack trigger. If the number of allies within two spaces (excluding unit) > the number of foes within two spaces (excluding target), grants Attack and Speed +5 during combat. If foe’s Range = 2, calculates damage using the foe’s lower defensive stat.
  • Dragon Fang (Cooldown = 4)
    • Boosts damage by 50 percent of unit’s Attack.
  • Attack/Defense Bond (A Skill)
    • If unit is adjacent to an ally, grants Attack and Defense +5 during combat.
  • Null Follow-Up (B Skill)
    • Disables foe’s skills that guarantee foe’s follow-up attack and foe’s skills that prevent unit’s follow-up attack.
  • Hone Dragons (C Skills)
    • At start of turn, grants Attack and Speed +6 to adjacent dragon allies for one turn.

CorrinDream Princess

  • Draconic Rage (Might = 16, Range = 1)
    • Accelerates Special Attack trigger. If the number of allies within two spaces (excluding unit) > the number of foes within two spaces (excluding target), grants Attack and Speed +5 during combat. If foe’s Range = 2, calculates damage using the foe’s lower defensive stat.
  • Rally Attack/Speed (Range = 1)
    • Grants Attack and Speed +6 to target ally for one turn.
  • Draconic Aura (Cooldown = 3)
    • Boosts damage by 30 percent of unit’s Attack.
  • Attack/Speed Bond (A Skill)
    • If unit is adjacent to an ally, grants Attack and Speed +5 during combat.
  • Fortify Dragons (C Skill)
    • At start of turn, grants Defense and Resistance +6 to adjacent dragon allies for one turn.

MikotoCaring Mother

  • Flash (Might = 11, Range = 2)
    • After combat, if unit attacked, inflicts status on target and foes within two spaces of target preventing counterattacks through their next actions.
  • Martyr (Range = 1)
    • Restores Health = damage dealt to unit +50 percent of Attack (minimum 7). Restores Health to unit = half of damage dealt to unit.
  • Miracle (Cooldown = 5)
    • If unit’s Health > 1 and foe would reduce unit’s Health to 0, unit survives with 1 Health.
  • Brazen Attack/Resistance (A Skill)
    • At start of combat, if unit’s Health ≤ 80 percent, grants Attack and Resistance +7 during combat.
  • Infantry Rush (C Skill)
    • Infantry allies within two spaces gain: “If unit’s Attack > foe’s Attack, grants Special Attack cooldown charge +1 per unit’s attack (only highest value applied, does not stack).”

Normally I would give my thoughts on each of these units individually. But frankly I think in this case it would be more constructive for me to go through these units in the way I naturally reacted a few days ago.

Starting with the first, most immediately striking question:

“WHY WOULD YOU MAKE A MAIN GAME BANNER WITH THREE DUPLICATE UNITS?!”

Words cannot express how baffling this is to me.

Duplicate units are fine in seasonal banners where they’re one-offs with unique qualities in some way. Something you can hold over people’s heads as a status symbol should you have played the game far longer than them and they missed the giveaway.

But if you’re going to add the units into the regular summoning pool, why not just add new units from the game you’re using? There are dozens of characters in Fates to pull from!

Like my waifu Scarlet. Just add her in. Please.

Instead we get our 17th version of Camilla and two new Corrin alts for basically no reason. Or lore reasons I suppose.

Once I got over that annoyance, I actually looked through the things these units bring to the table. Like sure, it bugged me when Eirika and Hinoka got alternate versions of themselves in the regular summoning pool, but at least they were neat.

These Adrift units don’t have that luxury. They’re so… Boring.

The Corrins didn’t really stand out to me at all outside of that new Null Follow-Up skill that the male one has. Mikoto is the only “new” unit here, but she’s just kind of average in a colorless healing pool that has blossomed recently with Veronica and Halloween Mia.

Camilla is honestly the only one of the four that seems particularly good thanks to the combination of her Attack/Resistance skills making her a decent mage counter as well as a flying support unit.

But she also comes into a summoning pool that has flourished lately. In just the last couple weeks we’ve all received a free flying red mage in Aversa, Summer Tana appeared again on the Legendary Eirika banner and Halloween Nowi came back in a banner retread.

I don’t know, guys. I was able to let this slide when it was just one duplicate unit on occasion despite my desire to see something totally new instead. But three on one banner?

It’s too much. If this is a trend that keeps up, I’ll have some far more choice words for Intelligent Systems. But for now, that’s mostly going to boil down to me boycotting this banner and saving my orbs for something down the line.

That said, was there anything good that came out of this banner?


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Other than the non-banner related stuff, this Paralogue is probably one the most interesting bits of story in this game in a while. Mostly because it’s a substantial interstitial explaining events between Books II and III (coming in December).

In it, we follow Loki talking to young girl Azura — the upcoming Tempest Trial reward unit who’s actually more relevant to everything than the main units here.

As we find out, the Adrift Paralogue is happening in Azura’s dream? I think? They don’t explain that part well. But the four main units in this banner are manifestations of Azura’s family and friends that helped her out of the dark past that was the driving plot of Revelations.

Except we only know that because while this strange philosophical discussion is happening between Loki and young Azura:

The Order of Heroes wakes up confused and is led on by adult Azura to find them. It’s a very short and succinct ‘find out what happened and stop the bad guy’ plot over three battles.

But what makes them so compelling is the extended look at the conversations between Loki and Azura, as they reveal more about what Loki is planning now that Muspell’s king has fallen.

If you map this onto the plot development from the Hoshidan festival banner a few months back, it becomes obvious that Loki is looking to use the power of Anankos for… Something nondescript. She’ll get to that power however she can — Even if it means abusing a tormented young child.

By the end of the Paralogue, she talks to Prince Alfonse and tells him that the Askrans clearly don’t know what potential their family’s ability to close gateways into other worlds has.

Which is a pretty good little cliffhanger considering the brief glance at Book III we’ve gotten so far is just Sharena covered in blood or dirt, reaching toward the camera and crying out.

Obviously some stuff is going to go down soon and this Paralogue is a neat little bridge to get there.

Now if only it didn’t make itself that by using a bunch of throw-away, underwhelming “dream” characters that we’re now stuck with.


I know extended rants probably aren’t the most enticing thing to read, so if you’ve gotten this far I appreciate it. I really just needed a space to complain and vent about this stupid thing in a game I love.

Let’s be honest, I’ve been putting this off for so long that framing it around complaints was the only way I was going to talk about the banner.

Originally I was also going to discuss the new Aether battles feature, because that’s actually something in this update that I like a lot… But I’m already getting pretty wordy here. So if I get around to doing it in the near future, I’ll include a link to my discussion on that at the bottom of this piece.

As usual, let me know how you feel about this new banner. Or let me know if you think I’m just crazy and stupid and wrong.

I’d also gladly accept that kind of criticism.

My Thoughts on the 11/1/18 Smash Ultimate Direct

My Thoughts on the 11/1/18 Smash Ultimate Direct

Been a little while since I jumped into one of these ‘my thoughts’ posts, but I got pretty into the Twitter hype after the Smash Ultimate Direct this morning and it felt like a good topic to kill some time talking about!

Certainly a better topic than school stuff right now.

BUT that’s why we have distractions like video games to keep us sane as we stare into the void. Between this and that little Delta Rune thing Toby Fox put out yesterday I’ll likely have a couple video game-related posts this weekend just to keep my stress levels down.

So let’s jump into Smash Bros., shall we?

The Direct this morning (which you can watch here if you haven’t yet) was about 40 minutes long.

In the interest of time I don’t think I’m going to go into each and every detail of every minute part-by-part like I would if this was a general Nintendo Direct. I’m going to pick out the most interesting/relevant bits and have a basic discussion on each of them.

Let’s a go.


New Fighters

As our boy Masahiro Sakurai said, all 74 characters in the game have now been confirmed. Up until now we only had 72, with this Direct revealing the final few:

Ken (Street Fighter): I didn’t play a whole lot of Ryu in Smash 4. He was a DLC character and I never went through with buying any of that game’s DLC. So having an echo fighter of Ryu in his eternal rival Ken, while pretty sweet from a content/lore standpoint, doesn’t necessarily mean a whole lot to me.

It’ll be cool to watch people have Street Fighter fights in the middle of a Smash Bros. game, though.

Incineroar: Now, personal bias coming into play, I would have preferred to see Decidueye get into Smash over Incineroar. Because Rowlet is mah BOI.

But I can’t deny that Incineroar looks pretty incredible and makes a lot of sense from a fighting-game perspective. He’s all about grapples and throws as a professional wrestler in Pokémon, so why wouldn’t he fit into a fighting game like this?

I also love how hard this guy goes. I tweeted this morning in the midst of my hype after seeing a picture on Serebii because, well…

Just. So hardcore.

Plus his signature Z-Move, Malicious Moonsault, is also his final smash. Such attention to detail brings a tear to my little nerdy eye.

While those two are the last fighters being implemented into the official game, there are also DLC characters coming some time in the near future. The first one announced as a bonus for pre-ordering the game is…

Piranha Plant.

It’s about as weird a choice as it sounds. Especially since it’s still planted in a pipe and just… Has feet underneath that pipe?

I might have preferred if they went down the Petey Piranha route, but Petey is his final smash so I guess I can’t complain.

I’ll probably be more willing to buy the DLC on this ultimate version for the Switch anyway.

Gotta love how Nintendo does season pass content, but unlike every other company on the planet does so in a way we know we can trust it because this is Sakurai’s baby.

Oh, also I would be remiss not to mention that there’s assist trophies coming in from Fire Emblem, Golden Sun, ARMS, Mega Man, Fatal Frame, the Art Academy series and more. A whole bunch of good additions in my opinion!


Spirits

Now here’s an interesting idea. Instead of having collectible trophies like in most other Smash games, this time around we have subsidiary characters available as Spirits.

The lore behind them seems like over-complicated junk — and part of the next thing I’ll discuss.

So the important thing is that in certain modes, you can choose Spirits to give your fighter power-ups. They’re like the collectible trophies from before, but actually provide a useful service in-game.

That’s super neat!

The Spirits come in four levels that offer differing levels of support:

  • Novice (lowest)
  • Advanced
  • Ace
  • Legend (highest)

And can only be assigned one at a time. There’s a weapon triangle system to the abilities of each Spirit, similar to Fire Emblem. However, much like gear in Monster Hunter, you can also attach other Spirits onto your primary one to provide additional skills.

To unlock the Spirits you have to go through challenge battles against a fighter themed after the character, which is another really cool way to incorporate things from earlier Smash games.

Also, there’s this individual training system and trade-in mechanic that’s similar to Fire Emblem Heroes where you can get Spirits, send them away to get cores that can be exchanged for new Spirits.

Plus there’s a casual time-based system where they can go out and find items like it’s a mobile game.

And Doc Louis from Punch-Out runs the training gym.

I swear, these guys put so much effort into optimizing, polishing and streamlining that we should give them all of the awards right now.

Long story short, I’m very ready to get lost in Spirits.


World of Light

After years of asking, it seems like Smash Ultimate is going to have a story mode! Though it’s a little different than Brawl’s Subspace Emissary.

Instead of going through character-driven missions across full-fledged platforming worlds, it seems like World of Light is more akin to a Kirby Star Allies-esque overworld that has challenge battles at each stop.

There is an overarching story of sorts where Kirby is the sole survivor of an apocalyptic flash of light and has to save each of the other fighters from having copies that are taken over by Spirits.

Which sounds way weirder than it is considering that was essentially the threat in Subspace Emissary as well — just with Spirits, clearly a tie-in to the new mechanic in Smash Ultimate.

Looks like it’s going to be fun, and I’m glad to get a story mode again. I just don’t have very much to say about it right now.

My only semi-serious complaint is that I prefer the orchestral version of the Smash Ultimate theme to the Square Enix style anime vocal version of it used in the trailer for the story mode.

But that’s probably just me.


Now I didn’t talk about everything here today. Plenty of the Direct was spent talking about things like online mode changes and optimization.

Or the 11 languages supported in-game.

Or the fact that you can make and post videos off of saved battle Replays.

But like I said, I just wanted to discuss the things that stood out to me right now.

So, that said, tell me what you thought about the Smash Direct! Are you even more excited about the game now? Because I know I am.

This truly is the ultimate version of Sakurai’s baby, and I’m more than willing to go on the journey that he and his team have created.

Luckily the holidays are coming up, so I have something to ask for this year!