Going Back On Hiatus

Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans, as they say. We are having to reevaluate how to move forward with The Rec Room, and until we do we will be taking another hiatus. We do apologize, and hope to return soon.

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Persona 4

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Villains make stories. A bad villain can really bring down a story, while a good one can raise it up to the next level. Now not all criminals in media are villains, but most villains are criminals. And smooth criminals can make for some really fun villains. For a villain to be good though they don’t have make a constant appearance, really as long as their presence is felt through the story having the criminal mastermind show up in the last 20 minutes can still be very rewarding. Persona 4, by virtue of being a murder mystery, keeps it’s villain out of lime light for much of the game. Well it does if you follow the right clues.

Persona 4 is Japanese RPG and Social Simulator. You play a blank slate mostly silent protagonist as he adjusts to life in the quaint rural town of Inaba. Inaba just happens to be going through a small serial murder problem starting the day after you arrive. Because this is a Japanese RPG it’s up to you and your high school pals to solve the case and save the world before you go back home next spring. All while working out your friends, and a load of other characters, inner demons along the way. Shouldn’t be too hard right?

His cannon name is Yu. Real subtle.

His cannon name is Yu. Real subtle.

Persona 4 is, surprisingly, the 5th game in the persona series. Persona 2 is actually two games with one connected story. Each game changes a little, but 3 and 4 are fairly similar as are 1 and 2. The main thing they all have in common is the summoning of beings known as personas. In the games a persona is a facet of your psyche given mystical form, most often in the form of a god or demon from various mythologies around the globe. In Persona 4 specifically, they are only gained after a character faces and accepts their shadow self, the dark parts of the characters that they suppress or hide from society at large. If these terms, persona and shadow self, sound familiar that’s because they are both derived from Jungian Psychology. Combined with the mythological beings and adding in the use of the major arcana of a tarot deck as psychological archetypes you have a thematic hat-trick.

Why your other self needs a cod piece is a personal matter I'm sure.

Why your other self needs a cod piece is a personal matter I’m sure.

So what about the criminal that this week is about? Well how smooth the criminal is depends entirely on your ability to figure out the case. You see there are several endings depending on how well you figure out the case, from bad to true. The expanded form of the game, Persona 4 Golden, even adds a couple more, including one known as the accomplice ending. That’s right the criminal can be so smooth they get you to help them get away with multiple murders. Also the player character spends over half the game under suspicion from his uncle who he is staying with, and of course happens to be the head detective on the case. So depending on how you get around that you can be a bit of a smooth criminal yourself.

I mentioned earlier that the game is also a bit of a social simulator. One of the main mechanics of the game is known as Social Links. During the game you are given blocks of time to do what you want with, mostly dungeon delving to develop the plot and social links for various benefits. Social Links are basically little vignettes with main or side characters where you are given choices to help the characters deal with their problems, and if done right or often enough you can rank up and get certain small benefits. It’s a fun way to kill time and get some help for the dungeon crawls, and some of them can be really endearing.

8-bit video game dungeon is the best dungeon.

8-bit video game dungeon is the best dungeon.

I could go forever about the game. Its combat system is fairly simple, but complex enough to be fun. There are plenty of challenges in the various bosses. The characters are mostly amazing, but I’ll let you discover them for yourself. The music is some of the best around, assuming you like J-Pop. The upbeat pop music, yellow color theme, and comedic bits can create some beautiful theme dissonance with what is really a murder mystery story; but it gives the game a very unique style. Persona 4 is probably my favorite game, at least until Persona 5 comes out later this year. Then you can play as the smooth criminals.

The smoothest criminal.

The smoothest criminal.

Seconds

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              I’m not starting our own second chance by braving uncharted territory. I haven’t really given things a second chance recently. At least not things I would want to recommend on my first time out in over a month. So instead I’ll focus on something that is all about second chances. From its plot, to the fact that it’s Bryan Lee O’Malley’s first work since the Scott Pilgrim series. Seconds, it even as an appropriate name for this week’s theme, is a graphic novel I fully intend to go back and read again.

Just because this is by the same person who made Scott Pilgrim, don’t expect it to be too similar. There are certainly small similarities, but it’s a very different story. It tells the story of Katie, a restaurant owner who gains the ability to rewrite her past. Hijinks ensue, because of course it’s never that easy. I’m very glad that O’Malley chose to diverge from Scott Pilgrim, it shows how talented he really is as a writer and creator. He’s created two wonderful stories, with different tones and themes.

This is Katie. She obviously has her life together.

This is Katie. She obviously has her life together.

The book has a lot of various themes. It deals with the idea that a perfect life isn’t necessarily what you think it is, that what you want and what is best for you aren’t always the same thing. Moreover it deals with the idea of what you have to give up to get that “perfect” life. Probably the most important part of all of it is, that there really is no perfect life. There’s always something that could be better, and trying to fix it could mean losing some of the good things you already have.

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The art style, unsurprisingly, is the same as Scott Pilgrim. It’ fun and energetic, and surprisingly detailed. Backgrounds of a full restaurant are packed with people, of various appearances. Little details in panels foreshadow events to come. The colors add a nice homey feeling to Seconds, the restaurant and the book named after it. The colors are magnificently subtle in how they make you feel about places, you don’t even realize it until the end of the story when the point is laid bare.

It’s hard to talk about how great this story is without spoiling a lot about the story. Seconds is worth a check out if you’re looking for a fun supernatural thriller story. If you like strong female characters it’s also a good read. Whether or not you check it out, I’ll soon be going back for Seconds. Sorry, I couldn’t resist that pun.

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Guess who’s back

Back again. The Rec Room’s back. Tell a friend.

That’s right, after a long unannounced absence we’re coming back. Well most of us. Brandon unfortunately has a ton of cool projects he’s working on and had to step away. As for me and Kate, well life got complicated in different ways.

With just the two of us, for now, we’ll be continuing on. We are both broadening our scope, covering whatever media we want for a given week.

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In honor of our glorious return we’ll be taking a look at media about, or worth, a second chance.

I don’t understand Twitter

I don’t tweet. I’ve never had a Twitter, never wanted one, and never plan to get one. So this should be an interesting thing.

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Mortal Kombat X, the prequel to the upcoming game. Probably for fans only, but great for them. You know what you’re getting. Pretty kool.

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                Powers is a look at the world of supers from the police that have to deal with their world. Strong women, noir vibe, fun new angle.

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                Spider-Man and the X-Men, has the stupidest premise ever, but fun once you get past that. Also dinosaur team up, what more could you want?

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Catwoman as the head of a major crime family. Trying to clean up the underworld from the inside. Threats all around. What can go wrong?

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                Mega Man is the retelling of the classic side scrolling adventure game that consumed your childhood. Go, go Blue Bomber!

 

So there it is, my horrible attempt to understand twitter. It’s hard share how awesome these books are in so few characters.

Legends of Baldur’s Gate

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Every now and then I really wish I’d held out and not talked about certain titles when I did, because I’ve already talked about a lot of the books I go to when I need a pick me up. This week is also topical, because well I needed a pick me up. It made it easy to pick which title to talk about, the first one that made me smile. Dungeons and Dragons: Legends of Baldur’s Gate is a fun romp, and very familiar to anyone who’s played DnD.

The great and mighty Boo

The great and mighty Boo

Part of what makes it so fun is the balance of a dramatic story, with some good elements of comedy. Most of the comedy comes from a single character, Minsc and his miniature giant space hamster. That last bit doesn’t make sense even in context. Minsc actually hails from video games based in the same world. I swear he has to be representation of a very specific type of player, one who often goes for laughs over substance. It’s a player type I’m familiar with from when I used to run games. He’s actually use well here, he’s certainly silly, but he doesn’t detract from the more serious story being presented. Writer, Jim Zub, does a really good job of not over using this fan favorite character.

The gang's all here

The gang’s all here

The story itself focuses mostly on Delina, an elf sorceress, and her search for her twin brother. Along the way she manages to bring back Minsc from 100 years in the past, and teams up with a theif duo of Krydle and Shandie while running from the city guard. The four set out to find Delina’s brother, and the source of a group of cultists out to capture the sorceress. All and all it’s the makings of a fun fantasy romp. Reading it makes me miss my old play groups, because making stories like this with friends was always a lot of fun.

The art, by Max Dunbar, is appropriately fantastical. The character designs capture personality and flair fitting of the setting. Dunbar’s use of body language is absolutely amazing, distinguishing two fraternal young twins while drawing them almost identically. His expressions also capture the feelings of the subjects, a quivering chin accompanying a single tear of frustration. He also manages to capture the change from youthful jealousy to the face of a broken man. John-Paul Bove’s colors feel like a mix of classic fantsy art with an infusion of the bold color styles often associated with comics. It makes for a surprisingly unique art set that is classic fantasy and modern comic.

Just some pretty lights.

Just some pretty lights.

Now if you’re not familiar with DnD, or the old Baldur’s Gate video games, this series might not appeal to you as much as it does me. You don’t need to know much about either to enjoy this though, and if you like fantasy adventure stories you may just find this book as fun a time as I do. It’s only four issues in, so not hard to catch up. It’ll run you about 10 bucks total on Comicxology. Go forth, and happy adventuring.