Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Nayu's Gaming Time #13 First Impressions of Shining Resonance Refrain (8/10E, JRPG)

Got this version...which took several minutes to wrestle from the tin as told over in my Twitter feed with photos.
10th July 2018, PS4 & Nintendo Switch, Rated 12 years + (UK) Teen (US)

I've been busy mostly resting as I had a family event on Sunday, but I have been enjoying a lot of gaming. I thought I'd share my first impressions of the JRPG Shining Resonance Refrain, which I actually pre-ordered because it looked amazing. It's not quite as great as I'd expected, but it is still a good game, hence the 8/10E rating. Here's the description from Amazon. 

Liberate the soul of the dragon that resides in you this Summer in Shining Resonance Refrain! Coming to PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch and Xbox One, Shining Resonance Refrain will tell the tale of sword wielding Yuma and his friends as they fight the Empire. Shining Resonance Refrain remasters the original Shining Resonance, previously released on PlayStation 3 only in Japan, and features dual audio with English and Japanese voices. In addition to all of the original's DLC, now included as part of the base "Original Mode," Shining Resonance Refrain packs a new "Refrain Mode," unlocking the Imperial Princess Excelled and Dragon slayer Jinas as party members for a new experience - just be sure to save this for your second play through to avoid any spoilers!" 

I didn't full play the demo, or look up much online about the game before it was released because I wanted to have an unbiased view when I played it. I'm playing the non-refrain mode despite whating the Imperial Princess as my main character really really badly. I've seen on Youtube why it is mostly important not to play refrain first, but you can if you really don't mind that the extra characters won't get explained by the story why they are fighting with you. 

Kilika is highly skilled...but has pointy ears. Sigh.
The little I played had me loving the characters (apart from Yuma who really annoys me with his indecision and how much he hates his power), with Kilika and Sonia (names may be spelled wrong as I think of Japanese rs as ls because that's what they often sound like) as my top favourites so far, along with the spunky Primula who is for now too little to join my party (such a shame as she has guts and an incredible work ethic for one so young)

The parts I don't like are kind of a big issue, because they are the aspects I like the most about JRPGS. I learnt online there is only ONE town in the entire game. One. I'm used to many towns to explore, with different architecture and a huge variety of costumes. Cue my first grumble. 

The next is about the town itself - apart from cut scenes (along the lines of a visual novel) I can't enter any of the buildings to explore the rooms and shops for myself. Everything is done via a character on the outside and a menu opening up when I speak with them. Not a happy gamer! I like my shops having actual rooms to explore!!! 
Here's Sonia's armour costume, which does a grand job of making her look like a warrior princess...apart from the chest area whih I'm not fond of but that's what you get in games.

The 3rd grumble is still about the town - so many of the NPCs don't say a word! it's extremely handy that they get a speech bubble when they have a quest (which are so far mostly easy to accomplish), but when I can't even get a hello/good day from a silent NPC it's a bit odd considering how so many JRPGS do have unimportant NPCs talk. Oh and I can walk through chickens/cats as if they weren't there. The animals are realistic and cute, but I want them to make a noise, or at least not be living ghosts. 

That's pretty much the end of my grumbles. While not as awesome as I'd expected (which was why I pre-ordered it in the first place) it is a fun game. I chose the casual setting, which I don't know if it had an impact on the way I play battles: you can change which character to play with in a battle at any time you like, as well as on the field! This gives you more control over which skills get used - while you can instruct how you want the party to fight (with a neat little music based action) and instruct the characters you aren't in control of individually (whether they fight/heal/don't fight), I'm not yet that good at it. I simply switch between the two girls depending who has used their skill power up the most, since when I play I can avoid using the skills that deplete the skill power. While it is immensely cool that Yuma turns into a dragon I'm not fond of him at all. 

I'm hoping this is an outfit I can eventually unlock because it is so pretty (although I'd have preferred sleeves on the dress rather than sleeveless with gloves)
Ah, just remembered my final grumble. It's fun how the characters can change outfits, but I'd have liked some more variety, especially when Sonia has over 6 swimming costumes (which is a laugh because they are bikinis rather than an actually all in one costume. It's bad enough I have to put up with pointy ears (I'm weird and don't like this feature on elves) and the groany Yuma, I would have liked some more variety! I mostly keep Sonia in her armour (picture above) or school outfit (not pictured), and Kilika in her Magic Diva outfit (pictured above) or Idol outfit (not pictured). I want to like Sonia's idol outfit, but the hat makes her look ridiculous. I'm in a vague hurry to finish this post so I'm not posting images for all outfits, that will happen in future posts about the game (I've got many screenshots from the game itself!)

I've only managed to get the girls to use the Armonics (their instruments which act as weapons) a few times by accident (this activates a music themed action which is really cool), but I love them both. It's fun raining arrows on enemies using Kilika, who is the main healer (oh so vital in tough fights. One fight I'm not yet able to win as the boss is so tough, but I hope to annihilate them later), or go stab stabity stab with a sword thanks to Sonia. There are special skills that can be allotted to weapons (think Final Fantasy 7 weapon slots), skills that the instruments can learn through being tuned - several systems to level up your characters. I don't know if what clothes they wear affects them during battle, but the sheer fun of the battles heavily counters the grumbles I have with the game. 
A battle pic from Google (not got those characters yet)

It hasn't been the incredible game which I'd hoped it to be, but Shining Resonance Refrain is fun and I'm eager to progress with the story - the problem is I have the tendency to want to kill all monsters in the area my characters find themselves before moving on. This is good for getting quest materials, though not so great for advancing the story and getting new characters (one has been mentioned and I'm waiting for her to join my party). Only Yuma turns into a dragon (not all of them as I'd mistakenly thought), there's the pointy ears and all my grumbles mostly about the sole town, but overall I do recommend this as an addition to your JRPG collection (which is different to RPG (role playing games (J = Japanese RPG)) on either the PS4 or the Switch. 

The next gaming post should be about the game that has blown me away, Xenoblade Chronicles 2, being everything I ever wanted in a game and then some. Clue: it's a bit like the anime Elemental Gelade.
I love Pyra so much!!!!

Thursday, 12 July 2018

Access All Awkward by Beth Garrod (Young Adult, 10/10E)

5th July 2018, Scholastic, 400 pages, Paperback, Review copy 

Summary from Scholastic
 Bella Fisher is stuck in EXAM HELL – with only the promise of a weekend at the RebelRocks festival with her mates as a reward afterwards. OK, so she can’t actually afford a ticket and will have to work as a litter picker and toilet scrubber, but it’s still going to be epic: the best bands, her best friends and best-boy-in-the-world Adam, with not a parent or teacher in sight.

But when she arrives to find annoying older sister Jo has been sent by Mum to keep an eye on her, things go from bad to worse. BFF Rachel is hanging out with some mean girls, awful ex-boyfriend Luke pitches up with his model girlfriend and her pristine Hunter wellies, and the drummer in her favourite band is exposed as a sexist pig. All the face glitter and flower crowns in the world can’t save the day… can they?

Nayu's thoughts 
I'm always in the mood for light hearted reads, and while AAA deals with some important topics there were lots of laughs on almost every page. I don't think I've read any other books in this series, but that didn't deter me, or stop me from enjoying Bella's immensely crazy life. I think I blushed and cringed way more than she did when her mother does very inappropriate things for any child to bear, but loved her mother for that trait. Bella mostly has her sister Jo for back up - although Jo and her mother sometimes gang up on Bella which makes life even more interesting. Some of that ganging up is for a good reason which made me a bit teary eyed at one point. 

I loved how strongly Bella felt against The Session's ridiculous merchandise - it's an issue I agree with, and sadly still see in the shops (mostly online) not exclusively for a music band, but I am fairly conservative (& proud of it!) and hate when inappropriate clothes are used especially for younger children. Bella had to put up with a lot of what I think is bullying throughout her protest, but she doesn't give up which is an admirable trait. I liked how realistic one dilemma she has to face involving both her friends and her boyfriend - sometimes in life we get put between a rock and a hard place, forced to make choices that will upset someone no matter which you pick, and Bella's emotions came out very clearly in that tricky plot part. 

I felt sorry for but did enjoy how clumsy Bella is, how things simply happen to her no matter her good intentions: I can have days like that which are dispiriting, but she has awesome friends who usually rally round and help cheer her up when everything is going wrong - which is quite a bit during the festival itself. I've never been to a festival, don't ever intend to go, but I did like finding out what happens in one and how some people can get tickets through being the clean-up crew - I'm guessing this may be similar to real life events. I think my favourite character (apart from a certain period of time when she wasn't the nicest to Bella) was Rachel,  whose spirit shone through in the way she found a way to be close to Bella and her other friend's tent despite not being allowed in the staff camping area. 

Poor Bella has many embarrassing moments that had me glad my mishaps weren't as epic as hers. They are very memorable and have me smiling long after I finished the story. I sincerely hope there are more books in the series because overall it's a feel good read, and has many life lessons (including what to do in a portaloo). 

Find out more on Beth's website

Suggested read 
If you like friendship and laughs alongside serious issues then do read Piglettes by Clementine Beauvais (Young Adult, 10/10E) 

Wednesday, 11 July 2018

Over on Nayu's Crochet Dreams #48 Oreo Hot Chocolate!


If you love hot chocolate and also adore oreos head on over to Nayu's Crochet Dreams find out what I think of a new hot chocolate by Cadbury's! (Non-sponsored post)
Strangely the only image I found in a hurry was of 3 jars - I only have one!

Monday, 9 July 2018

Blog Tour: Taking Care of Business by J D De Roeck (Thriller, 10/10E)

(added a bit later than original post)

3rd July 2018, Clink Street Publishing, 458 pages, Ebook, Review copy 

Content: adult situations, some violence and gore, 

Book summary

When Paul Smith travels to the south of France for a sales conference, events conspire to drag him into a world of kidnappings, blackmail and murder. Following a violent incident, Paul instinctively offers refuge to a girl he believes to be a vulnerable lost soul in a desperate situation, only to find that all is not as it appears. Unwittingly, he finds himself caught between competing international crime syndicates as they go to war, and two powerful Russian families as they fight for control of a vast Russian conglomerate. What begins as a routine business trip to Nice, turns into a journey of self-discovery that takes him to some of the most glamorous locations on the Cote d’Azur. Paul is compelled to confront each new escalating threat in turn, while his neatly ordered world spirals relentlessly out of control. As events unfold, he is forced to challenge everything he thought he knew about himself, before finally embracing the danger and brutal violence he encounters along the way. Can Paul get to the truth, and does he have what it takes to keep those he cares about safe, and himself alive?

Nayu's thoughts
Be warned - this ends on a sort of cliffhanger which made both very mad and very happy in equal measure. It means there could well be a sequel! Initially I was a bit amused by how Paul spent so long in one location, from all other thrillers I've read what happened to him doesn't usually happen (not that there's ever anything normal about a thriller). Admittedly I started to grow tired of the action remaining in that location, but then the plot pace picked up and all was forgiven because what happens next is gripping, still not entirely what I expect from a thriller but I say that in a good way. 

It wasn't a thriller where I'm constantly on edge - there is dark and dangerous goings on, with a smidge of humour thrown in to counteract that (there's one moment where a character Paul meets figures out what is happening and his panicked reaction made me smile). I liked how a lot of the danger came from not knowing what the bad guys were doing, rather than being unable to speak a word of Russian (which didn't help matters).  Paul's companions have his back in that department, and while I may not approve of all of them, they all have an inner strength that is inspiring. For all they endure, by choice and otherwise, they keep going. They falter, but between themselves and Paul they find a way to deal with the emotional side of their ordeal and keep going for the greater good. 

I do wish that there had been a bit more focus on Katia, who was at the start of the novel and then didn't reappear until much later. I understand the focus was on Paul and the role he played, but I'd really hoped/wanted to learn more about her, to get more of a sense of dread than is portrayed by watching her from the sidelines. I love my female characters!! To be fair there's a lot of attention paid to Alisa and Kira (who I kept mentally calling Kiria for some unknown reason), who are two girls a bit broken with so much backbone I think they put the security trained individuals during the last few chapters to shame. They manage to be upbeat despite their circumstances, the inevitable wobbles they have involves some touching scenes of comfort.

I particularly liked how Paul seemed to fall into the situation - he has no secrets that relate him to anyone involved, as is the case in some stories, he simply was in the right place at the right time. I say that because he does make a difference in the end, although his lack of reaction to the results at the very end could be his mind blocking out the horrors he witnessed. Yes, there are some tragic scenes which aren't pleasant to read, especially since it involves the sicker end of humanity. I'm thankful that I already know such things happen, otherwise I'd have been more upset by it all. 

Aside from a bit of frustration by the locations at the start, I truly enjoyed the various locations that Paul and his friends end up in. They added to the delight of the story, making life that bit harder for Paul, as well as also a bit easier at times. I like to think that J D did get to visit some of them! 

While not perfect, this book is excellent, and yes it is already on my reread shelf (figuratively since ebooks stay on my ebook reader until I'm ready to reread them) which says you must read it too! I'm waiting for book 2. No idea if I'll be waiting forever, but wait I will because Paul's tale can't end like that! 

Suggested read
If you enjoy travelling in your books then check out this story which is the last in a brilliant series: Amelia Moore #7 The Lighthouse Secret by Linda Weaver Clarke (Audiobook, Cozy Mystery, 9/10E) 

Sunday, 8 July 2018

Blog tour: I'm a Dragon, You see by David Kirkman (Children's, Picturebook, 10E/10E)

June 2018, Clink Street Publishing, 32 pages, Paperback, Review copy

Book Summary
Have you ever wondered what a Dragon likes to do for fun? Or what he might look like? Even what he likes to eat. Is it ice cream or pasta? Then ‘I am a Dragon you see’ will reveal all these mysteries and more. Go on an adventure with a fun repeating rhyme and colourful illustrations. A fun way of learning about the importance of friendship and kindness.
Nayu's thoughts
I'm rather partial to cute dragons, stemming from one of my favourite childhood reads (which has now got it's own TV show) which you can see in the suggested read part of this review, so saying yes was the only answer I had when asked if I wanted to review this book. I love how the dragon reveals what she likes and activities she enjoys through what is a monologue, with a different background and simple images on one page which gorgeously coloured dragon filled pages on the next. This helped give an idea of the dragon's size, because it compares objects to itself, which I think helps the reader understand it better. 

I like how different fonts are used for the page, as well as various colours so every page is new and unexpected. The main illustration style is brightly coloured, making the dragon's life seem rich and exciting. This is certainly a new favourite among my dragon books-go make it one of yours too! I'm interested in seeing what David works on next! I would like at least one more book about this dragon, because I'm sure it has many adventures waiting to be discovered. 

Find out more in the following links: 
Be sure to check out the rest of the tour-I'm the last stop!

Monday 2nd July

Tuesday 3rd July

Wednesday 4th July

Thursday 5th July

Friday 6th July

Saturday 7th July

Suggested read
For other great dragon books check out my childhood favourite Jane and the Dragon by Martin Baynton (note yet reviewed by me)
excuse the yellow-yness, this is the cover I have and the only one I found online that wasn't super tiny)