A to Z Challenge Theme Reveal – Azure Spark

A to Z Challenge Theme Reveal – #AtoZChallenge #ThemeReveal

This year, I am better prepared for today’s A to Z Challenge Theme Reveal day than I have been in recent years.

Initially, my thoughts had been drifting around the thoughts I scribbled down after 2017’s Challenge and kept adding to after last year’s Challenge. One ongoing possibility was to work with the list of places in North Wales that were linked to my Welsh detective series.

As many of you must know, I’ve been working on various aspects of Sparkle Anwyl’s career from the revision of her case, Fates Maelstrom, to short flash posts for WEP/IWSG. I have also been deliberating over what to do with my writing. Do I just blog more Sparkle posts? Do I focus on my Sparkle novel, Fevered Few?

Well, for the 2019 Blogging from A to Z April Challenge, I will be releasing a new Sparkle Anwyl short story, called Azure Spark.


Aberdaron Beach, Gwynedd, looking towards Porth Meudwy – author: Skinsmoke https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Skinsmoke

Each day’s post will move the story forwards with the appropriate letter playing a prominent role. For instance, the letter A is for Assault as in the incident that triggers the story. This plays well with Sparkle’s idiosyncrasy of using mnemonics to help her tackle crime. You’ll have to wait to see how that ‘spells’ out.

I may add a little extra with a daily musical offering. After last year’s A to Z challenge, I began collating a musical list for this year, so at least it might survive in some form. For a taster, here – if this works – is the soundtrack for one of the games that I play. Also, an echo of my 2018 gaming theme. This is one of the pieces of music playing as I work.

That’s all for this reveal. I’m off to work on Sparkle’s current case. There are quite a few alphabetical threads left – blame it on my health not my devious mind.

#AtoZChallenge #roadtrip 2018

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This year, #AtoZChallenge Bloggers are being asked to pick ONE post from our #AtoZChallenge 2018 offerings and link it up to share.

The Road Trip – #roadtrip – is where bloggers continue to visit each other from May thru March. So, for me, that will be a chance to visit more of the #AtoZChallenge posts that I missed, especially of those visitors who managed the full A-to-Z. I even found some amazing new sites to follow, notably: Song A Day, a great music blog that is expanding my musical tastes (and inspired my 2019 #AtoZChallenge theme).

Plus, this informative folklore website, The Multicolored Diary, by Hungarian storyteller Zalka Csenge Virág, which delves into areas that fascinate me.

Folklore and mythology, as well as storytelling, are tied to many of my #AtoZChallenge posts, even if video games were the starting point.

When I was looking ahead to this road trip, in my #AtoZChallenge: Reflection, I hinted at what might be my favourite post and why, asking, “Will the writing-related research or the gaming-experience lift the award? H is for Hellblade or L is for Lord of the Rings? Or maybe something unexpected.”

Were you taken in by that red-herring?

Did you guess that my favourite post was W is for Witcher?

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Or why? Well, that had less to do with the average number of comments, and more to do with ongoing research into the world that has emerged from The Witcher series of fantasy novels by distinguished Polish fantasy author Andrzej Sapkowski.

There proved to be so much to explore, from a Slavic mythology and folklore tradition that I barely knew to a game that I had only just started – The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt. That game is my current escape, not least for the Gwent card-game within that fantasy world, but also for its excellent storytelling. As my Thursday Creation Review tomorrow will show, Sapkowski’s first collection of short stories, The Last Wish pulled me into the world of Geralt of Rivia and laid the world-building foundations, sowing seeds that resonate within the games.

Did you rate any of my posts as a favourite?

Are you sharing a favourite of your own on this #AtoZChallenge Road Trip?

Have you found any stand-out posts that we need to read?

If you are on the Road Trip then please be sure to include this phrase in your comments:
“Stopping by from the #AtoZChallenge Road Trip!”

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#AtoZChallenge: Reflection

A-to-Z Reflection [2018]

2018 was my fifth Blogging From A to Z Challenge and the aim of my theme was “to find the origins of online games, some relatively modern and some with ancient roots. Gaming might well be a modern take on an art that is almost timeless – storytelling” …

This was a perfect excuse for a writer to delve a little deeper, in some cases finding the myths and legends that had inspired a new generation of storytellers. I wasn’t surprised at how many had ‘ancient roots’, nor was I surprised that there were universal themes arising.

However, I was intrigued how many cultures were represented as I expected most games had Celtic, Norse, Japanese or Chinese roots. Okay, I half-expected Korean mythology to work in somewhere as South Korea has a large games industry. The surprise was (a) the cross-fertilization between cultures – see Z is for Zelda; (b) the use of less prominent mythologies – see W is for Witcher.

I was pleased that most of the posts inspired comments, even a little debate. However, I was amazed that J is for Jumanji,  K is for King Arthur and T is for Tomb Raider received none – especially when R is for Resident Evil received six comments, excluding my replies. (I replied to every comment.) Was that because Resident Evil is the most successful game-to-movie adaptation? Or was it because King Arthur has been overdone in everything from legend to Hollywood blockbuster?

Maybe I spent too much time trying to get the posts out. I admit that I didn’t visit many A-to-Z bloggers beyond the ones that I follow regularly – I have a lot of catching-up to – in the Road Trip. (The Road Trip is where bloggers continue to visit each other from May thru March.)

However, as well as my posts linking with my Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin accounts, I did manage to add my post-address to the Daily Lists as well to my comments on other sites. Towards the end of the Challenge, I was writing the following day’s post with a few hours to spare – and I consistently forgot the #AtoZchallenge hashtag, except on my Theme post.

My frantic approach was partly because I hadn’t even remembered to sign-up until mid-March. That began some in-depth research which included some ‘product testing’. I need to give myself time in future if I am going to reduce the pressure and visit more sites.

Looking ahead to the Road Trip is coming on May 23, I’m trying to decide which was my favourite post and why. Will the writing-related research or the gaming-experience lift the award?

H is for Hellblade or L is for Lord of the Rings? Or maybe something unexpected.

What would you choose?

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Z is for Zelda

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The aim of my Blogging From A to Z Challenge is to find the origins of online games, some relatively modern and some with ancient roots. Gaming might well be a modern take on an art that is almost timeless – storytelling. A perfect excuse for a writer to delve a little deeper.

[Visit here for links to other A to Z participants.]

 

What other game character can end this challenge than the Princess of gaming herself?

 

Game: The Legend of Zelda is a high-fantasy action-adventure video game series created by Japanese game designers Shigeru Miyamoto and Takashi Tezuka. Each game in The Legend of Zelda series tells an important part of the history of Hyrule. The Japanese version of the game on the Famicom is known as The Hyrule Fantasy: The Legend of Zelda.

Release Date:

  1. First release – The Legend of Zelda – February 21, 1986
  2. Latest release – The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild – March 3, 2017

Developer/Developer: Nintendo

Genre/gameplay mechanics: The series’ gameplay incorporates elements of actionadventure, battle-gameplay, exploration and puzzle-solving games. These elements have remained constant throughout the series, but with refinements and additions in each new game. Later games include stealth gameplay. The role-playing elements, however, have led to much debate over whether the Zelda games should be classified as action role-playing games, a genre on which the series has had a strong influence. The games pioneered several features that were to become industry standards. The original Legend of Zelda was the first console game with a save function that enabled players to stop playing and then resume later. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time introduced a targeting system that simplified 3D combat.

Setting: The Legend of Zelda takes place predominantly in a medieval Western Europe inspired fantasy land called Hyrule which has developed a deep history and wide geography over the series’ many releases. Hyrule’s principal inhabitants are pointy-eared humanoids called Hylians, which include the player character, Link, and the eponymous princess, Zelda.  Some games take place in different lands with their own back-stories. Termina and Lorule serve as parallel worlds to Hyrule, Hytopia is a connected kingdom, and Koholint is an island far away from Hyrule that appears to be part of a dream.

Storytelling: The series centres on Link, the chief protagonist, and the timeless battles between good and evil. Link is often given the task of rescuing Princess Zelda and the kingdom of Hyrule from Ganon, who is the principal antagonist of the series; however, other settings and antagonists have appeared in several games. The plots commonly involve a relic known as the Triforce, a set of three omnipotent golden triangles. The protagonist in each game is usually not the same incarnation of Link, but a few exceptions exist.

Releases + Expansions: Since the original The Legend of Zelda was released in 1986, the series has expanded to include 19 entries on all of Nintendo’s major game consoles, as well as a number of spin-offs.

IGN and GamesRadar selected their Top Ten Zelda games in 2016 and 2017 respectively,  while the top three from aggregated scores for all the games on Metacritic in 2017 were:

  1. 99The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time – (November 21, 1998) – Metacritic’s highest-rated Zelda game, ever. “It’s no surprise why: Not only was the game the first in the series with 3D graphics and time travel, the 256-megabit Ocarina of Time was the largest game ever produced by Nintendo at the time. Over 7.6 million copies have been sold worldwide.” As GamesRadar said, “It popularized so many techniques that are ingrained in 3D gameplay – Z-targeting, camera control, world layout – that it’s easy to take for granted, particularly when later Zelda titles improved on them so well.”
  2. 97The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild – (March 3, 2017) – The newest entry in the Zelda franchise, IGN’s Jose Otero said, “is a masterclass in open-world design and a watershed game that reinvents a 30-year-old franchise.” According to GameSpot’s Peter Brown, “there’s so much to see, to accomplish and to learn that you never feel like you have control over the world. This is a great thing.” GamesRadar said, “It’s, in a word, breath-taking, and it marks a rebirth for The Legend of Zelda that sent shockwaves through the entire industry.”
  3. 96The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker – (December 13, 2002) – “Set in a vast sea dotted with small islands long after the events of Ocarina of Time, The Wind Waker charges a cel-shaded Link with rescuing his sister, solving the mystery of the flooded world and again defeating the menacing Ganon.” Zach Ryan of IGN said, “This version of Link is so expressive and charming that it’s hard not to love him right from the outset. It refined everything that made Ocarina an instant classic to near perfection.”

Platform of origin: Family Computer Disk System

Origins (Chronological) include:

  1. The 1980s – Hearing of American novelist  Scott Fitzgerald‘s wife Zelda, co-designer Shigeru Miyamoto thought the name sounded “pleasant and significant”. Paying tribute, he chose to name the princess after her, and titled it The Legend of Zelda.
  2. The 1950s – principally inspired by Miyamoto’s “explorations” as a young boy in the hillsides, forests, and caves surrounding his childhood home in Sonobe, Japan where he ventured into forests with secluded lakes, caves, and rural villages. According to Miyamoto, one of his most memorable experiences was the discovery of a cave entrance in the middle of the woods. After some hesitation, he apprehensively entered the cave, and explored its depths with the aid of a lantern. Miyamoto has referred to the creation of the Zelda games as an attempt to bring to life a “miniature garden” for players to play with in each game of the series.
  3. The 1900s – Link and the fairy were inspired by Peter Pan and Tinker Bell.
  4. 12th–13th centuries – The Master Sword was inspired by Excalibur in the Arthurian legend, first mentioned in Welsh mythology, as in the Mabinogion as; ‘Caledfwlch’ . The similarities lay with the swords being kept in stone until the chosen one, the ‘hero’ takes it out to save the land. It’s fascinating when a Japanese cultural icon like The Legend of Zelda has a root in one of the British Isle’s oldest legends – one that creeps into works like The Lord of the Rings, as well as King Arthur. Myths and legends echo each other and the human condition, so why not in video games.

 

 

Adaptations set in the ‘Zelda’ universe – as well as the 27 video games, the franchise also includes a cartoon adaptation, multiple comic book adaptations, and soundtracks.

  1. TV – An American animated TV series based on the gamesaired in 1989. It is heavily based on the first game of the Zelda series, The Legend of Zelda, but includes some references to the second, Zelda II: The Adventure of Link.
  2. COMICS –  individual manga adaptationscommissioned by Nintendo have been produced in Japan since 1997, and are now being released in English.

Recommendation: The Legend of Zelda is one of Nintendo’s most prominent and successful franchises, selling over 80 million copies as of 2017. Many of its titles are considered by critics and fans alike to be among the greatest video games of all time. The Legend of Zelda series has received outstanding levels of acclaim from critics and the public. Ocarina of TimeThe Wind WakerSkyward Sword, and Breath of the Wild have each received a perfect 40/40 score (10/10 by four reviewers) by Japanese Famitsu magazine, making Zelda one of the few series with multiple perfect scores. Ocarina of Time was even listed by Guinness World Records as the highest-rated video game in history, citing its Metacritic score of 99 out of 100. In Nintendo Power‘s Top 200 countdown in 2004, Ocarina of Time took first place, and seven other Zelda games placed in the top 40. There is a devoted and extensive community behind the games.

Alternative ‘Z’ thoughts:

Z is also for the weirdly watchable 1974 Boorman movie Zardoz with Sean Connery, almost mentioned in my O post, where I said, “O is also for Oz, as in the L Frank Baum’s wonderful book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz …There were numerous adaptations, including games, but none that sparked my research brain – despite Baum’s origins.”

For those that don’t make the connection, the Baum book is the source of the name ‘-zard [of] oz’.

 

Enter this portal to reach other Worlds in my A2ZMMORPG

Hela da

 

Y is for Ys

Y

 

The aim of my Blogging From A to Z Challenge is to find the origins of online games, some relatively modern and some with ancient roots. Gaming might well be a modern take on an art that is almost timeless – storytelling. A perfect excuse for a writer to delve a little deeper.

[Visit here for links to other A to Z participants.]

 

Game: Ys (pronounced like “ease”) is a series of constantly evolving Japanese role-playing video games  The first game in the series, Ys I: Ancient Ys Vanished, was released in 1987. Ys is considered to be the company’s flagship franchise.

In terms of the number of game releases, the Ys series is second only to Final Fantasy as the largest Eastern role-playing game franchise, as of 2011.

Release Date:

  1. First release – Ys I: Ancient Ys Vanished – June 21, 1987
  2. Latest release – Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana – July 21, 2016

Developer/Producer: Nihon Falcom.

Genre/gameplay mechanics: In early games, the player used only the directional pad to fight using bump attacks. A feature used in nearly every Ys title is the recharging health mechanism, which had previously only been used in the Hydlide series. Recharging health has since become a common mechanism in many video games. Over the series, Ys has progressed, gradually introducing: magic spells, the ability to actively block, learn skills, stun meters for enemies, weapon types, super combos, the ability to parry hits with a flash guard system, and a flash dodge.

As JoyfulSanity says, “Although there can be drastic differences between titles, common elements of each game in the series includes the following:

  1. Lightning fast combat
  2. Awesome hair metal music with ORCHESTRATION
  3. Grandiose boss battles
  4. Simple, episodic plots with reoccurring characters
  5. Music music music music
  6. Old-school challenge that can be brutal but not usually Nintendo Hard (Dark Souls fans should be pleased)
  7. Many difficulty levels that can either subdue that old-school challenge or crank the insanity to 11

And did I mention the music? Seriously, a lot of people legitimately get into Ys because of the music. It’s a huge part of Ys’ appeal.

Setting: Fantasy worlds. Thus far, Adol has visited the regions of Esteria, Ys, Celceta, Felghana, Xandria, the Canaan Islands, and Altago.

Storytelling: Ys stars a red-haired warrior named Adol Christin (this only varies in Origin), a young man with a zest for adventure and an uncanny knack for being in the right place at the right time. Gameplay usually revolves around Adol, though his comrade, Dogi, is a frequent companion in his travels – playable in some later games.

According to in-game lore, the normally immortal ancient Ys aged because humans overused the magic power of an ancient artefact, known as the Black Pearl. The result of this misuse was evil magical energy bringing forth millions of cruel demons. The people of Ys fled to the Palace of Solomon and used the Black Pearl to lift the palace into the sky, creating a safe haven. The demons, focused on controlling the Black Pearl for their own intentions, began building the Darm Tower, day and night, attempting to connect to the Palace of Solomon with their construction. As in-game-events transpired, however, the demons’ efforts were thwarted.

Later games feature a variety of plots but frequently begin with a shipwreck. A stranded Adol then gets involved in the new area’s events and adventure ensues.

Releases + Expansions –eight main releases with multiple re-releases.

Highest rated games are.:

  1. January 27, 2011 – Ys: Oath In Felghana – Platforms: PSP and PC. Metacritic: 80. JoyfulSanity says, “With a playtime that clocks under 10 hours for a first playthrough, you get a thoroughly polished adventure that’s extremely light on filler. Oath’s brevity and polish are why I believe it to be the best starting point for the series.”
  2. August 17, 2010 – Ys Seven – Platform: PSP and PC. Metacritic: 79. JoyfulSanity says, “This game modernized the Ys formula, so fans of other contemporary hack-and-slash style RPGs should be pleased with this ~30-hour long quest. If you’re determined to only get one Ys game and never try the other ones, I’d recommend this one.”

Platform of origin: NEC PC-8801

Origins (Chronological):

  1. June 21, 1987 – Ys I: Ancient Ys Vanished (also Ys: The Vanished Omens or The Ancient Land of Ys) was released by Nihon Falcom. Developed for the PC-8801 by Masaya Hashimoto (director, programmer, designer) and Tomoyoshi Miyazaki (scenario writer), Ys was a precursor to RPGs that emphasize storytelling. The hero of Ys is an adventurous young swordsman named Adol Christin. As the story begins, he has just arrived at the Town of Minea, in the land of Esteria. He is called upon by Sara, a fortune teller, who tells him of a great evil that is sweeping the land.

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Adaptations set in the ‘Ys’ universe:

  1. ANIME – there are two separate series of Ys, with the first spanning seven episodes and covering the events of the first game, and the second running for four episodes and loosely covering the events of the second game. The first anime expands on the storyline of Ys I, including a retelling and expansion of the prologue found in the game’s original Japanese manual.
  2. MUSIC – The first two games were composed by Yuzo Koshiro, Mieko Ishikawa, and Hideya Nagata, whereas Mieko Ishikawa handled the soundtrack for Ys III. The composers’ works have been remixed for each subsequent release. Consequently, the Ys series is seen in the video game music industry as some of the finest and most influential role-playing video game scores of all time, demonstrated by an extensive 39 series of CD releases based on the series’ music, with numerous variations on its themes. It has also inspired video game composers outside Japan.

Recommendation: Since Ys is among the oldest RPG franchises, there have been many reviews for each game, ranging from mixed to very positive. Other than Metacritic, there are overviews from JoyfulSanity,  Shaun Mudd, and comparing platforms and games by Game Sack on YouTube.

Alternative ‘Y’ thoughts:

Y is also for Yakuza, a series of video games that I thought of researching as there had been live-action adaptations and the origins go back to the mid-Edo period (1603–1868). Also, I enjoyed the unrelated Robert Mitchum movie The Yakuza (1974).

Enter this portal to reach other Worlds in my A2ZMMORPG

Hela da

X is for X-Men

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The aim of my Blogging From A to Z Challenge is to find the origins of online games, some relatively modern and some with ancient roots. Gaming might well be a modern take on an art that is almost timeless – storytelling. A perfect excuse for a writer to delve a little deeper.

[Visit here for links to other A to Z participants.]

Game: X-Men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse is an action RPG that has topped almost all lists of X-Men video games, including player-voted Ranker Games, and also screenrant.com who said the game,” improved on practically every aspect of the first game and delivered a highly satisfying sequel.” It is the follow up to 2004’s X-Men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse

Release Date: 2005

Developer: primarily by Raven Software

Publisher: Activision

Genre/gameplay mechanics: Players can choose up to four characters to use at once from a larger roster of fifteen+. Players unlock additional characters as they proceed through the game. Four players can play on one machine cooperatively, and players can join or leave at any time. Online play for up to four players, a first for the series.  As characters gain experience points their mutant superpowers and unique abilities can be upgraded. Items found during gameplay can also be equipped to further enhance a character’s abilities.

Setting: X-Men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse is not set in any particular Marvel Comics universe. The game takes place sometime after the events of X-Men Legends. Locations include a military prison in Greenland, the fictional mutant sanctuary of Genosha, the Savage Land and Egypt.

Storytelling:  It unites two Marvel Comics superhero teams, the heroic X-Men and the villainous Brotherhood of Mutants as they together face the mutant supervillain Apocalypse and his minions. Apocalypse, having witnessed the X-Men’s defeat of Magneto remotely, declares that the Age of Apocalypse is nigh. Prior to the game’s campaign, he kidnaps Professor X and Polaris for unknown purposes. The game begins with the X-Men and Brotherhood of Mutants uniting forces to save Professor X and Polaris.

Formats: Microsoft Windows, Nintendo GameCube, PlayStation 2, Xbox, PlayStation Portable, N-Gage, mobile phone

Origins (Chronological):

  1. 2004 – X-Men Legends follows Alison Crestmere, a young mutant who has the ability to summon and control volcanic activity. As Alison is taught to control her powers at the X-Mansion, the X-Men are sent on several missions. Eventually, the X-Men learn of Magneto‘s plan to cover the Earth in darkness from his base on Asteroid M.
  2. September 10, 1963 – Writer Stan Lee and artist/co-writer Jack Kirby create The X-Men, a fictional team of superheroes appearing in The X-Men #1 published by Marvel Comics. They are among the most recognizable and successful intellectual properties of Marvel Comics, appearing in numerous comics, books, television showsfilms, and video games.
  3. The 1930s (& earlier)-present – Explicitly referenced in recent decades is the comparison between anti-mutant sentiment and various discriminations, including anti-Semitism. Magneto, a Holocaust survivor, sees the situation of mutants as similar to those of Jews in Nazi Germany. Some regular characters are from other discriminated groups.

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Adaptations set in the ‘X-Men’ universe include:

  1. Comics – most recently Astonishing X-Men Vol 4, and notably, Logan’s reappearance as Wolverine, popping his claws for the first time in fifty years in Wolverine Vol 3 72.
  2. Films – Rotten Tomatoes gave 93% to Logan (2017) saying, “Third time’s the charm. After whiffing on their first opportunity to give Wolverine a compelling solo outing with the calamitous Origins, then inching a little closer to snikt-worthy cinema with The Wolverine, Fox finally gave fans a properly grim and gritty third instalment.” In his top ten, TheWrap’s film critic Alonso Duralde ranked X2: X-Men United (2003) top [85% Rotten Tomatoes], saying, “Still arguably one of the best superhero films ever made, this entry enjoys all the second-time-around benefits of any franchise where the first movie had to lay all the groundwork and tell all the origin stories.” Nine of Slashfilm’s crew matched these ratings, putting Logan just ahead of X2.
  3. TV Shows – after thirteen animated series, the expanding X-Men universe has added the two current live-action TV series, FX’s The Legion (2017-) and Fox’s The Gifted (2017-) directed by Bryan Singer. Which is better depends, as does whether they exist in the same universe as the movies.

Recommendation: The game was well received by gaming critics on all platforms. All platforms hold aggregate scores in the 80–85% range at aggregate review websites GameRankings and Metacritic. Critics felt that the inclusion of online play, additional mutant powers, and a larger cast made the game an improvement over its predecessor. Some reviewers were critical of the game’s voice acting and felt that the gameplay was repetitive. It sold enough copies to be added to the budget line known as PlayStation 2’s Greatest Hits.

As Hardcore Gamer said in its review of the top-five X-Men games, “Possibly the precursor to the Ultimate Alliance game, X-Men: Legends and X-Men: Legends II were two of the greatest superhero games to come out on the PS2….  The best was levelling up your powers as you went along, allowing your mutant powers to get even more powerful during the course of the games.”

Alternative ‘X’ thoughts:

X is also for Xena as in  Robert Tapert‘s quirky and fun Xena: Warrior Princess franchise, which has become a cultural phenomenon and feminist and lesbian icon. With seven video games, this would have been a missed chance to revive my passion for Greek mythology, despite the weird co-habitation of myths and legends.

Enter this portal to reach other Worlds in my A2ZMMORPG

Hela da