Hey there. What’s up? How are you? Practicing some social distancing I hope. We at The Story Arc are. (We would be even if the world wasn’t being besieged by a plague from the underworld, but y’know, we still are.) It’s been a third of a year since this blog has started and in that time each of our seven current writers: DK, Jre, Naa, Skeith, Shredder, Vic, and Yours Truly (Sailor), have written a variety of articles. And in honor of going a whole 4 months without fucking exploding or something, we’ve decided to have a little celebration in the form of a site wide collaborative article! And what better topic than the aforementioned underworld plague.
Everything in the entirety of existence is being canceled due to the Coronavirus, and large scale quarantining. But the annual problem with our generation is finding a good way to spend it…
LIKE MAYBE: (building a rocket or fighting a mummy or climbing up the eiffel tower)
Katawa Shoujo: Read It, or I’ll Cry
Katawa Shoujo is a romance VN developed by a group people, many of them from 4Chan-HOLD ON, DON’T LEAVE, IT’S FREE!
I find it difficult to talk about KS for a few reasons. I’m not a super huge VN guy, I don’t watch a lot of rom coms, etcetera, etcetera. Yet despite those facts, I, Sailor, big strong manly man, was brought close to tears several times by Katawa Shoujo. It is, by far, one of my Favorite Things, and I’m probably a better person for having read it. One day, I will write a full series of articles about it, I’m sure. For now though, I’ll just take this opportunity to recommend it to our meager following.
Katawa Shoujo follows a teenage boy named Hisao Nakai, who one day discovers that he has a heart condition – arrhythmia – after suffering a serious heart attack. Hospitalized for over four months, Hisao grows somewhat bitter and cynical, something which is not helped by the fact that he now has to leave his old school and attend a new one called Yamaku Academy, which specializes in attending to disabled students. However, despite his reluctance, he forges friendships with many of its students and staff, and, provided you don’t screw up horribly, can even form a relationship with one of the girls who attends.
You have a few options.
KS is split into four acts. Act One serves as an introduction, getting you acquainted with the characters and setting. The choices you make within this act will determine which route you go down in the rest of the game. There are five routes, corresponding with the five different main female characters, and each of these routes is split into three acts of their own. While the length of these routes do vary, each is at least several hours, and altogether it adds up to an experience which is sure to take a few days even if you’re binging it.
Quite a bit of content (For free. The game’s free. Have I mentioned it’s free?), and luckily the game has quality in addition to quantity. While I have my own preferences, and would certainly say not every route is created equal, I firmly believe that each of the game’s five female leads and corresponding paths are solidly written and engaging. The writing is good. The art is good. It’s very rare I’ll go a day without listening to a song from the soundtrack or at least have one playing in my head. Moreover, despite what you may think considering it’s origins, the game handles its subject matter with the utmost respect. There is no fetishization of disabilities, nor condescension, nor callousness toward the topic.
Everyone is treated as a person, with all that entails. Everyone has admirable qualities and flaws, advantages and disadvantages, and everyone is dealing with their own shit. Including the protagonist, so don’t get any ideas that you’re gonna be the one to “fix” these people either. Alas, to go into any more detail would require time I don’t have. But please, check out Katawa Shoujo. The game has had a profound effect on me and uh…It’s free. Have I mentioned it’s free? It’s very very free, and there’s no reason not to at least try it, because you’re all stuck inside anyway. And it’s free: Katawa Shoujo
An Advocate for S&M
Now, if you are a regular reader of The Story Arc, you may ask yourself, who the hell is this Coaster guy? And you’d be right to say that, as I’ve contributed next to nil to this blog so far besides some graphic designs. But, with the prospect of potentially contributing more in the future, and the prime opportunity to shill one of my favorite pastimes, S&M, I just could not pass up the opportunity.
A noire inspired Dog and a mentally unstable Lagomorph
When I say I recommend S&M, I am of course referring to the Telltale game series Sam & Max. All 3 seasons of S&M are comedy filled point and click adventures following two extremely active members of the The Bronx Freelance Police. One is a level minded dog named Sam, and the other is a bit off kilter rabbit named Max. Each episode focuses on taking down a villain of some sort, usually involving very morally questionable methods to do so. It’s an incredibly entertaining set of easily accessible games that pokes fun at anything and everything. I often find media that incorporate self-referencing and fourth wall breaks to wall flat, but S&M seems to have the secret formula to it for me. It is incredibly unique in its approach to humor, and I think it succeeds greatly, (especially in seasons 2 and 3).
So if you are interested in something that will take your mind far far away from the bleak reality we currently live in, S&M is a pretty great coping mechanism. It’s absurdity combined with it’s warm heart make it something I come to time and time again to get a good laugh, and I imagine that many others will have that same experience.
The Perfect Time to Read Girls’ Last Tour
Naa “Luna” “Clover” Lune
I don’t talk about Girls’ Last Tour much, but it’s easily my favorite manga. The aesthetic and message are very much my thing. This is also a perfect opportunity for me to shill it, because it’s currently pretty relevant.
Let’s face it – everything kinda sucks right now. It might be hard to keep up hope, to remember that things will be okay. Girls’ Last Tour is about being hopeful in a bad situation, even in the post-apocalyptic hellscape that the manga takes place in, the characters manage to find things to be hopeful and happy about.
Granted, it’s not all happy, the ending can be interpreted as sad, but I don’t really see it like that. It’s a very bittersweet read, but one that can fill people with much needed hope in these times that need it.
(Also read Shimeji Simulation too, its less relevant but by the same mangaka and shows that Girls’ Last Tour is happier than it originally seemed and its also really good so uh yeah.)
The Beauty in Ripping and Tearing
2016’s hellish shooter Doom is a game that knows what it is: a ludicrous, blood-pumping ride that puts the player in control of a demon-slaying/crushing/tearing/ripping/pounding juggernaut. I can say with sheer certainty that Doom is one of the very rare games that left my heart pounding minutes after each demon swarm. After a nightmarish 9-year production, I can safely say it was worth all the time and effort. This is truly a game that values gameplay over story.
That’s not to say the story is undercooked. Far from it; the story is very well-established with likable characters, an intriguing backstory, and a beautiful Mars landscape. Rather, it’s the player-character named Doomslayer that doesn’t care about the story. After being explained the circumstances that brought the planet to ruin, rather than agreeing to the other person’s terms and choosing to help them, Doomslayer’s only response is smashing their communications, pumping his shotgun, and entering the doomed world. All you need to know is that hordes of demons are taking over, you have guns, and… well, you can probably imagine the rest. Again, it values raw gameplay and replayability over story. And it just works. No health regeneration, just health pick-ups. Low on ammo? Just chainsaw an enemy. Why do enemies drop ammo when chainsawed? Because it works in a video game.
2020’s Doom: Eternal is an improvement in nearly every way. It creates more emphasis on the story than its predecessor, but the core gameplay is still there and polished more than ever. To avoid any specifics about the story, I will instead focus on the gameplay, which I’m sure most people are more interested in. It’s roughly the same, minus the abundance of ammunition and more focus on platforming. But do not fear the scarcity of ammo this time, as the game still grants you more and more methods of taking down hordes of demons. Light demons on fire and you’ll gain Armor. Shoot grenades into a Cacodemon’s mouth and it’ll be stunned and left open for a kill. Shoot off the rocket launchers from a Revenant and it’ll be left nearly defenseless. There’s so much enemy variety and ways to take them down, to the point where about every enemy is like a puzzle, allowing the player to decide on how to take them down. It’s pure adrenaline like no other while still adding complexity to ensure it’s not just mindless fun.
Let’s bring it all back to the crown jewel of these games. The element that gives this era of Doom it’s edgy and macabre personality: the music score. Composer Mick Gordon’s blend of death metal and synth adds a whole new dimension of chaos and terror. The production is astounding, showing the importance of a solid production. The score contains fairly simplistic guitar riffs, but are done so heavily that it adds so much fuel to the game. I cannot imagine both Dooms without Gordon’s involvement. Hell, any composer who goes out of their way to include pentagrams and 666 into one of his track’s waveforms is a king who is clearly passionate about their work.
Image source: /u/othra
Now speaking of Mick Gordon, there’s a lot going on regarding him and his relationship with Bethesda and id. Despite what may be going on between all of them and the logistics and legalities of the situation, all we can do now is support Mick and his craft. We don’t know the whole situation. This isn’t the first time an artist has had his work impacted by a corporation, so what we can do is support those artists in need. Don’t point fingers or hurt anyone, just help each other out in these times of need.
Anyway, I probably rambled on for a while now. Look, what I’m saying is: Play. These. Games. We’re living in a weird time right now and Doom is a perfect way to distract yourself from the world outside. With endless replayability, exploration, and escalating gameplay difficulties, it’s a perfect way to spend your day inside. Oh, and there’s online multiplayer too. But even if the world is decimated in Doom, that doesn’t mean the real world is. Somewhere, there’s hope and humanity coming together. It may not seem that way, but there’s more good than evil. And if you find yourself frustrated with the state of the world, you can always take that out on Barons of Hell and Marauders.
hashire kousoku no….
Skeith here, I don’t have anything super special to talk about with the quarantine so I’m just going to shill you an anime to watch and a game to play.
In only 5 days, just one work week, the Sakura Wars franchise will finally get its second chance to come over to the west. I just have one thing to say to you readers, for the love of god buy the new game. Sega hasn’t exactly been marketing it heavily, hell there are many fans of Sakura Wars who only heard of the localization very recently, the game will likely fail in the west if not for a great push from non-fans. So please be that push. The franchise has been dear to the hearts of many fans over the years, to share that joy with more of the western world in any Sakura Wars fans’ wish.
The franchise started as a visual novel series with occasional SRPG segments. The newest game isn’t a visual novel, but you will still spend around 80% of the game time just hanging around the theater and interacting with the amazing cast of the game. I actually did a full review of the game when it came out which you can check out here https://story-arc-blog.com/2020/02/05/a-new-legend-blooms-sakura-wars-2019-review/
If you want a good introduction into the world of Sakura Wars but don’t want to jump into the new game, well then you’re in luck. For there is a very good OVA prequel to the original Sakura Wars called “Sakura Wars Ouka Kenran”. This OVA is fantastic, I say from a fan’s perspective. It does a great job at introducing a new viewer to the cast of the original Sakura Wars and gets you a good feel for each character’s personality. If you get a chance, check it out, it’s only 4 episodes long so it won’t take up much of your time.
Read Mitsuru Adachi Manga or Watch The Safdie Brothers Film Good Time
So if you follow my twitter at all, you’d know that despite most of my story arc posts being about video games, I actually mostly read a ton of manga. One of the latest titles I completed is Touch, a sports / romance / comedy manga from back in 1981 authored by Mitsuru Adachi. I’ve only recently started reading Adachi manga but I’m quickly becoming a big fan. He has this specific style that’s a mix of really human, natural feeling dialogue, with entire segments that make use of minimal words, commanding his art to convey feeling through expressions, framing, and page layout only. He’s a master at the medium of comics.
My personal recs? The first of his works that I read was Touch, pictured above. He also has an excellent short story collection, Adventure Boys, and I’ve just started one of his more recent works, Cross Game, which has an amazing first volume – it’s also one of the few works of his that’s in English. You can’t really go wrong with picking up any of his manga. Just be sure to not look up any of the characters before you’re finished, or you’ll end up spoiling yourself.
Other than that, while waiting on Netflix to put Uncut Gems on, I watched the previous film from the Safdie Brothers, Good Time, starring Robert Pattinson and Benny Safdie as a pair of brothers who rob a bank. It’s a unique, seedy feeling film that voyages across New York over a single night as Pattinson’s character, Connie Nikas, hustles every moment. It’s a crime film where there aren’t any guns even shown, along with an electronic soundtrack that would feel more at home in a horror movie. It’s great.
That Animal Game
“My worlds on fire, how ‘bout yours?” were words uttered in the holy eulogy of Steve Harwell of Smashmouth fame, and couldn’t be more apt to today circumstances. The outdoors is a daunting excursion, and for all we know it may have gone full Thunderdome out there (I for one haven’t gone out since before this began so it’s a complete unknown). Within the last few weeks, a game was released. One crawling with adorable creatures, a completionist attitude, and had a lootbox mobile release in the last few years. No, not Pokemon or Fire Emblem, this is Animal Crossing. The name of the game is simple. You know the Sims? Well, imagine if the sims were merchandisable animal friends and had an autonomy of their own, where I swear they smack-talk you behind the players backs. Animal Crossing has had four iterations thus far on Gamecube, Wii, DS, and 3DS, and has cemented itself as a company staple with it’s gameplay removed from the typical Nintendo action titles (Mario couldn’t just tend to 1-Ups all day, could he?).
In Animal Crossing: New Horizons, rather than just be an inhabitant, you can become a terraforming deity while these animals cower to your biblical might. That feature comes later (at the cost of bells, the ingame currency. Might be saying something about the nature of capitalism in general, but I digress). To begin, you have a humble tent on a deserted isle with two mammalian strangers in a twisted Hunger Games-like scenario. Tom Nook, the resident middleman and local racoon, helps you slowly gain your footing as you clean up your little slice of heaven, building infrastructure at the cost of bells to really make this game your island escape from the real world. All you really need to do for him is farm selling bugs and fish in order to turn a bug riddled profit, while also keeping up on daily activities like weeding or watering flowers. If this is a chore simulator, it’s the most satisfying menial tasks this writer has done ever.
And what a time it could have come at. The game released just days before many states issued a homebound quarantine. Personally, the hours just melt away as I perfect my little kafka-esque community. It’s something to look forward to on a daily basis, and that sunshine could not entice me anymore to continue on with the games endeavours.
I already spend all my time giving you people recommendations do you really want another one? Yeah? All right, well it damn sure isn’t going to be a video game. Instead I’m going to take some time to do something I surprisingly haven’t done before, talk about comics. It may shock you to know that my true passion lies within the panels. I haven’t had the chance to properly talk about the medium on this website but it’s true. So I might as well start doing it with my favorite comic of all time, God Country.
Written by young superstar writer Donny Cates, God Country is an action-packed but melancholy tale about regret, family legacy, and hitting things with giant talking swords. The story revolves around Emmett Quinlan, a dementia suffering angry old man who has completely lost the ability to take care of himself. Not that he’s the only one, Emmett’s son Roy, his wife Janey, and their young daughter Deena are increasingly incapable of taking care of the old man. And as Emmett’s dementia worsens the more dangerous he becomes, not only to himself but Roy’s family. Things are getting so bad that it starts to drive a wedge between Roy and Janey. This is all before a tornado rages and destroys Emmett’s house with him in it and a demon starts attacking Roy and his family. And just when it looks like things are over for our small dysfunctional family Emmett springs to action holding an almighty sword and slays the beast. Giving Emmett godlike abilities but most importantly curing his dementia and giving him his memories back. It’s with the discovery of Valofax the God of Swords that God Country begins. What follows is an adventure that spans from Hell through the farthest reaches of the universe, as Emmett does everything he can to keep Valofax and subsequently his memories from the swords creators, a family of spiteful gods.
God Country is simply perfect sequential storytelling. Being able to tell a story that feels intimate yet grand over the course of a spectacularly paced six issues. The artwork oftentimes feels like it’s simultaneously homaging the works of early Vertigo and Jack Kirby while still feeling not just unique but contemporary. Donny Cates is a master of characterization, able to give all his main characters just enough detail to feel human without bogging down the pace of any scenes.
God Country is a book that I come back to every time I need to be reminded of why I love comic books. An original story brilliantly told that can balance tragedy and levity like the most graceful of tightrope walkers. Hard-hitting, but not overbearing, themes expertly conveyed through the tantalizing tandem of text and art. With the final few pages still giving me chills every time I think about it, nearly two years after I initially read it. If you read one comic while you’re stuck in quarantine make it this one.
And that, my friends, is that.
Thank you for reading, and, if you’ve been here for any length of time, thank you for sticking with us. Be sure to follow us on Twitter (and follow us here on WordPress. It boosts our egos). This is Sailor, singing off. And telling you to read Katawa Shoujo. It’s free.