“Small Favor” Review

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Well, after a nice little break, we’re back to another Dresden review! As it has become a standard, this book has a lot going on in terms of plot and especially foreshadowing for future books. The other five books as well as “Side Jobs” will get their due time, but for now, let’s take a look at “Small Favor.”

Harry gets reluctantly commissioned by the Winter Court to act as an Emissary in the wake of the disappearance of Marcone. With the help of his friends, he soon discovers an old threat has returned and taken Marcone as part of an elaborate scheme. And once Ivy aka the Archive gets involved as a mediator, Harry soon realizes just how elaborate that scheme is. It’s up to Harry with the help of the Knights of the Cross to stop it before the whole world suffers.

I’ll start this review off by saying that I really liked this book. While the beginning was kind of a slow start, the plot had me hooked by the time Harry gets entangled with the Winter Court. There’s an interesting use of fairy tale-like creatures involved on behalf of the Summer Court (still quarreling with Winter in a way) that I liked and, of course, I was happy to see Michael back kicking butt. The reveal of Marcone’s kidnappers just made the plot all the more interesting for me, and how they tied into the Winter Court didn’t feel forced to me. While not perfect (the fairy tale thing is resolved very neatly), I was thoroughly invested in the plot and character interactions

Many of my favorite characters were present in this one. Aside from Marcone having a brief presence and Michael getting a big part to play, Murphy, Ivy, Captain Luccio and Thomas also return to help out. The book expands more on Ivy as a character and as the Archive, and I’m curious to see if the events of this book will impact her character in future ones. Thomas and Murphy get some great interactions with Harry, of course, and Murphy also gets some quality time with Kincaid (not THAT kind of quality time). While I still like the idea of her getting with Harry eventually, it was nice to see her “relationship” with Kincaid for once. Luccio also gets an expanded role both in character development and giving Harry a possible new relationship to explore. I both like and dislike this for reasons that are pointed out even in the book itself, but we’ll see how it plays out.

One thing I was happy about was the progression with Molly’s character. In this book, it’s made clear that she’s not a battle-ready wizard like Harry and ends up using her skills for useful things like healing and creating veils. It sends her into the background most of the time, but I found her character easier to start liking as a result. And thank GOD my complaints from previous books were addressed, because there are no blatant references to Molly’s sex appeal.

Like I said, there’s also a lot of foreshadowing in the book, most notably in the ending. Several things get brought up that could easily be made into a plotline for a future story. Interestingly enough, I wanted to know more about each and every thing they brought up, and I hope they all get focused on.

It’s hard for me to talk about this book without spoiling some major things, but one thing does happen that is sure to have major repercussions on one character’s role in the future. It sucks, but at the same time I’m interested in how Butcher will handle it. I was also worried about the final fight in the book as another character seemed to be taken down like a chump, but considering this character’s nature and abilities, I won’t be the least surprised to see him pop back up in good form another time. Honestly, other than the fairy tale thing being resolved a little too cleanly, I don’t really have complaints about this one. I just enjoyed it that much.

Overall, “Small Favor” is a great addition to the series and, as the 10th title, it sets up a lot of stuff for the remaining five books and beyond. I’m liking where the series is going and the characters just get more and more interesting to follow. If you haven’t been reading the series in order by this point, this is definitely NOT a book you can come into without some prior knowledge. But, if you’re like me and you have, this is very much worth the read. It’s easily one of my favorites of the series now.

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My Two Cents on Nintendo @ E3

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E3 (aka the Electronic Entertainment Expo) is far from over yet, but I’d like to share my thoughts in light of the company conferences wrapping up yesterday. More specifically, my thoughts on Nintendo. Now, that’s not to say that Microsoft, Sony or the others had showings not worth mentioning, but in my personal case, I only currently own Nintendo products (with my fiance picking up my slack by having Microsoft and Sony). Even worse, I STILL don’t own a Wii U, so my attention was mainly focused on what 3DS offerings were available. But despite all of this, I’d like to go over my personal pros and cons of their conference and overall presentation thus far.

PROS:

  • Nintendo’s Direct started off strongly with the long-awaited Star Fox game for Wii U, “Star Fox Zero.” I’m not into it myself, but it looked pretty good and it’s always nice to hear Miyamoto explain his creative process. That man is a treasure and I’d still love to meet him one day.
  • While most of the games weren’t surprises, there was one that caught me off-guard and made me instantly want it: “Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam.” Not only is it a new entry in the Mario & Luigi series, but it crosses over with my personal favorite Mario spin-off series, “Paper Mario.” I’m super excited for both it as well as the full roster that will be incorporated in the 3DS version of “Hyrule Warriors”, dubbed “Hyrule Warriors Legends.”
  • The livestream of the Treehouse is easily the best part of Nintendo’s E3 stuff, barring actually being there to try the games for yourself (I wish!). Not only do the hosts speak with the developers while playing through live demos of each game, but this also allows more gameplay and information to be revealed than what is shown in the Direct. While E3 is over after tomorrow, I still find myself tuning into the Treehouse to get the most out of the games I’m interested in, and even hear cool behind-the-scenes info about the making of them.
  • Nintendo’s Directs have gotten more goofy over the last couple or so years, and this year was no exception. Instead of “Robot Chicken” antics, however, this year utilized Muppet versions of Reggie, Miyamoto, and Iwata before launching into “Star Fox Zero”. It was silly but awesome, and I really hope Nintendo continues having these fun interludes next year.

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CONS:

  • This one is my main complaint of Nintendo’s E3 showing: the Direct itself was a bit disappointing. Granted, I knew a lot of the games would get focused on through the Treehouse, so that helped alleviate things. But given the lack of games people didn’t already know about or games people wanted to know about (looking at you, Zelda Wii U), it was a let down. And I hate to say it, but even initially seeing the Samus-less “Metroid Prime: Federation Force” and the utter tease that was “Animal Crossing Amiibo Festival” (a party game rather than an actual sequel) caused me to cringe just knowing the amount of backlash both would receive. This E3 Direct just felt extremely meh compared to what it could have been and overall didn’t have much wow factor.
  • Since I only started catching E3 livestreams within the past 2-3 years, I only knew secondhand that Nintendo used to do conferences at E3 like the other companies still do. I really wish they would go back to that even for one year, if only because I know they have what it takes to make it engaging and bombastic. Nintendo’s always been about games first and I’d love to see the likes of Reggie, Iwata and Miyamoto live on stage presenting upcoming Nintendo games. Don’t get me wrong, I still love the Treehouse in-depth livestreams, but Nintendo really could use a big push to sell their titles beyond a standard Direct. We see those throughout the year, so something on a grander scale would grab people’s attention immediately.
  • Finally, it may be minor, but as interested as I am in “Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer,” I’m becoming convinced that it’s going to cost more money than it’s worth for me. I’m not the type of fan who bought every version of AC, barring the Gamecube and 3DS ones, but I always liked the decorating aspect. And even though it looks cute and has intriguing elements (getting to build/design buildings for the town as well as homes), I can’t help but worry that it’ll get…boring after a while. One thing AC does best is give you a decent variety of things to do daily/yearly as well as allow you to set goals for yourself. With “Happy Home Designer” focusing on ONE aspect of that, I’m not sure it’ll have much longevity. But my biggest concern is with the amiibo cards part. I still wanna know if that’s a necessary component to get the most from the game, because if it in fact IS, I just know it’ll cost a ton of money for the game, cards and card reader. Like I said, I’m just not sure yet if I’ll personally want to invest in it.

So, these are my personal pros/cons of Nintendo’s E3 presentation. Feel free to agree or disagree with me. Despite my gripes, I really am excited to play some of the upcoming Nintendo games (although I REALLY need a Wii U, because “Yoshi’s Woolly World” looks adorable) and can’t wait for what they offer throughout 2016.

My Little Pony: FiM’s 100th Episode Rant

1280x720-XnMOkay, first off, I don’t consider myself an avid MLP fan. I got into the show back when the first season was out because of general curiosity. I liked the show’s first 3 seasons for its great animation, fun characters, sometimes zany humor and genuinely cool mythology (mainly the monsters and such). I own only ONE piece of MLP merchandise: a fan-made button of Fluttershy I got at Megacon 2011. But after season 3, I found the show shifted. Some episodes became hit-or-miss to me, I was annoyed that Discord went from villain to good-ish guy, and even though I’ve gotten used to it, I initially didn’t like Twilight’s transformation into an alicorn/princess. Even now, in season 5, I’ve still found the show uneven and I can’t stand the current use of “friendship morals via a magic map” storyline. The show has always had moments where it pandered to the fans after the rise of bronies/pegasisters, adult men and women who watch and enjoy the show. I still consider the main audience to be young girls and boys, but there’s no denying the impact the brony community has made on it, for better or worse. But that brings us to the 100th and most recent episode, “Slice of Life.”

This centers around Cranky and Matilda, two literal donkeys from previous episodes who are about to get married. The whole plot here revolves around a mishap involving Ponyville to assume the wedding is that day instead of the next, and the two are forced to throw one together with Ponyville’s eccentric citizens in tow. While it’s not a bad idea, and it’s generally sweet to see them together in the end, I was really expecting something more bombastic for the 100th ep. I did like them focusing on background characters and even giving some of them a voice (I had no issues with this, even with Derpy’s new one). But my issue and the reason for this rant is what they used this episode for: fan pandering.

The idea is that the writers wanted to give back to the fandom (the key word here) by showcasing fan-favorite characters like Doctor Whooves, Derpy, Octavia, Bon Bon and Lyra doing things in preparation for this wedding. But this episode shoves so many references in your face in the process that I still don’t feel I know any of them that well. Octavia, for example, gets a main scene where she and DJ Pon-3 create this orchestral dubstep song before and as they fervently try to get to the wedding. Doctor Whooves is the Doctor inside and out, which I thought I’d appreciate more, but they make it so blatant rather than creating their own unique spin that it took me out of his character. Even Bon Bon gets this weird subplot where she reveals she’s a secret agent, and it’s just… *sigh* Even the moral at the end is a little heavy-handed, serving to highlight the need for supporting characters as well as the fandom itself.

Look, I know I’m not in deep with the fandom like many others are, and I respect the writers for wanting to give back to the fandom for their support. But as a 100th episode, it just didn’t work for me. I kept thinking of that initial fanbase, the kids, and wondered if they understood half the stuff being referenced or just plain going on. For God’s sake, they even throw in a blatant Big Lebowski reference! And from a character standpoint, as I said, I didn’t feel I got to know any of them that well. When they weren’t clearly references to other works, they were still doing something pop culture related that made them feel wholly unoriginal and lackluster to me.

I don’t know, maybe I’ve started to cool on MLP as a whole, but I do wanna stick with this season till the end. Beyond that, I don’t know if I’ll keep going. I don’t even have kids, and yet I feel like the show is slowly leaving them behind with episodes like this. Again, I understand that the writers wanted to give a shout-out to the fandom, but this 100th episode could have been so, so, SO much more than that.

Oh, and that image I used for this rant? That’s what the main 6 are up to all episode: fighting a “bugbear.” I would have rather followed that, honestly, if only because I love its design.

No More “Adventure Time” For Me

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It’s strange how our opinion of things can change over time. For some, this can be from rewatching a show or movie they loved as a kid, only to find that it doesn’t quite hold up. For others, it can be starting a new show or movie and being into it, only to find it doesn’t entertain them anymore by the end. For me, the latter has happened with “Adventure Time.”

It’s hard to pinpoint when I started falling out of love with the show, as there were times in Season 5 that I felt it had plenty of misses. I’d have to say, though, that Season 6 has cemented it for me. While I enjoyed the Fiona/Cake episode “The Prince Who Wanted Everything,” the surprisingly engaging “Little Brother” episode that focused on Shelly the worm, “Evergreen” for giving more backstory on Ice King’s crown, and several other standout episodes besides these, I’ve just found it’s been a chore to actually sit and watch the new episodes as they’ve come out. Granted, I’ve had other shows come up to the plate and steal my attention, like “Gravity Falls” and “Daredevil” (which I’ve finished and can’t wait for the second season). But I think another part of it is that I no longer am interested in the random humor and following Finn and Jake.

As this show went on, you could probably tell in my seasonal top episodes lists that I preferred many that involved Ice King, Marceline, or both. That remains true even now, mainly because I love those characters and the depth the show’s shown with them. Now, maybe the voice actors have had more on their plate to cause them not to show up much this season, but I feel the show was missing a spark without them. I never cared for the plot involving Finn’s dad from the start, and the recent comet plot has had me wishing they’d pursued it earlier, maybe even in the previous season. I guess after witnessing a show like “Gravity Falls”, I feel it’s just overall better than what “Adventure Time” has offered me lately.

That’s not to say I think it’s a bad show – far from it. It still has its moments of brilliance and I still like many of the characters, but I’m ending off with Season 6. I won’t be making a top episodes list for it either. I may still check out “Steven Universe” at some point, but until then, my days of “Adventure Time” are over.