Tons of new characters leaked for Super Smash Bros

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A series of leaked screens have been revealed for the 3DS version of Super Smash Bros, the most notable picture being, what could be, the entire roster of the highly anticipated fighting game.

Included in the leaked pictures are a collection of returning characters: Wario, Mr Game and Watch, Ganondorf, Falco, Jigglypuff, R.O.B, Ness and Dr Mario. Excitingly, the list also includes a whole host of new characters to the series such as Bowser Jr, a rival of Mario; the dog from NES classic, Duck Hunt; Dark Pit, who was teased in an earlier trailer alongside Pit and Palutena; and finally Shulk who rose to fame in Xenoblade Chronicles, the recent critically acclaimed RPG game for the Wii. A series of videos depicting Shulk, Bowser Jr and Ganondorf in combat have been released alongside the images, giving a heavy amount of credence to the overwhelming set of leaks.

If this is the entire roster of the game, it’s an incredibly satisfying and varied set of characters that manages to respect the history of Nintendo’s past and Present. There are some sad omissions such as Bayonetta, who’s second game will be released exclusively for the Wii U, as well as Isaac from the Classic Gameboy Advance series, Golden Sun. Who knows though, there could still be some more surprises in store for the popular party fighting game, so there’s still some hope for more characters to be revealed.

So are you happy with the leaked list of characters or are some of your favourite Nintendo icons missing from the lineup?

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News Roundup: A quiet week after Gamescom

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Nintendo caused a mild storm this week after a new costume for Zero Suit Samus was unveiled for Super Smash Bros. The revealing costumes, based on appearances from Metroid Fusion and Metroid Zero Mission, have caused a divisive reaction with some people complaining about the increasing sexualization of Samus Aran. Masahiro Sakurai was quick to note that the maker of the costume was a female designer but some fans have taken badly to the design of the badass bounty hunter.

Another piece of news comes from Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain which has finally unveiled it’s multiplayer offering. The multiplayer allows you to invade other peoples bases, and vice versa, in an effort to take the supplies that other players have amassed. This sounds like a very interesting addition to the main campaign, and one that makes the Mother Base even more relevant and critical to success in The Phantom Pain.

Telltale also released a brand new trailer for the final episode of The Walking Dead: Season 2 which chronicles the events leading up to the Clementine that gamers have come to know now. The trailer highlights just how much the character has changed over the two seasons, changing from a sweet innocent girl to a hardened decision maker, who has learnt what it takes to adapt in the post apocalyptic world.

In other news, this week saw the release of Diablo 3: Ultimate Evil Edition, Tales of Xillia 2 and a Playstation network title called Counterspy. Activision also revealed that Call of Duty Advanced Warfare will not be coming to Wii U, an unfortunate trend in 3rd party games that are neglecting the struggling console.

It’s been a generally quiet week for gaming news after the bombshells that came from Gamescom. Hopefully some more news starts to surface during the lead up to the Tokyo Game Show in September.

Dissecting Horror: The Difficult Position of Horror Games

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The horror genre was once thought dead if the last generation of consoles is anything to go by. Resident Evil had abandoned it’s macabre atmosphere for a more multiplayer focused blockbuster image, Silent Hill had seen a string of mediocre releases that had lost the surreal charm of the original trilogy, and Dead Space managed to deliver brilliant body horror before quickly twisting it into yet another action packed co-operative experience. So it was left to the indie scene to make the intimate horror games that big studios were quickly becoming too scared to make. If the past year has proved anything though, it’s that horror is most definitely scaring it’s way back into the mainstream, but is history doomed to repeat itself for this precariously placed genre?

The first glimpse of horror’s downfall was instanced in Resident Evil 4, which many people, ironically enough, consider the pinnacle of horror. It was a game that showed how fear could be achieved in broad daylight, evidenced by the stunning first segment which pits Leon against an entire village. It crafted a horror icon through the chainsaw wielding maniac that caused many a heart attack as soon as you first heard that chainsaw being revved up. This was also a game that revolutionized shooting mechanics, something that would change gaming as a whole forever.

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The REmake is one of the last truly great horror games

This is unfortunately what Capcom decided was the only thing to expand upon in further Resident Evil installments. Resident Evil 5 ditched any kind of attempt to frighten it’s fans and instead added a partner character to dispatch any kind of tense situations. In Resident Evil 6, the horror element was all but annihilated in a hail of bullets and superhuman acrobatics; a decision that represented Capcom’s unwillingness to invest in pure horror again. Although it should be noted that Resident Evil Revelations was a genuine attempt to bring this horror element back, even if the 3DS architecture stopped it from wholly succeeding in terms of sound and design. Capcom have also recently revealed that an HD remaster of the critically acclaimed Resident Evil “REmake”, originally released for the Gamecube, will be released sometime next year. If you’re after an example of horror perfection then definitely consider looking up the REmake; considered the perfect amalgamation of brooding visuals, stellar sound design, gruesome enemies, limited exploration and a genuine dread inducing atmosphere.

The other big franchise in horror, Silent Hill, also saw a sharp decline in quality after the fourth game, which is also when the original Japanese team terminated their involvement with the series. Silent Hill was once a journey into each character’s own personal hell, but this vision was later distorted, with enemies such as Pyramid Head turning up in any installment, purely because of the fact he was an iconic figure from Silent Hill 2. Silent Hill, much like the rest of the horror genre, was in a difficult position because of the nature of it’s gameplay. Being puzzle heavy and slow paced was starting to lose Konami the sales it craved for the series, which caused it to experiment with more action based gameplay and even going down a psychological route. None of these were working out though and Silent Hill was becoming increasingly irrelevant to gaming; it had no way to change with the times like Resident Evil and was eventually left in limbo (until recently).

This signaled the downfall of many horror franchises that were not doing enough satisfactory sales numbers. Horror slowly became less of a genre and more of an element being used in a variety of different games. Bioshock, much like System Shock before it, used sound and imagery to build an unbearable sense of dread at certain moments; Dead Space, whilst gradually turning more action based, had a truly gruesome creature design in the Necromorphs; and The Last of Us built up a strikingly bleak world and imaginative threat in it’s enemy, the “Clickers”. Horror could no longer achieve the sales numbers of blockbuster games, and so the genre was left to rot whilst action packed games ruled the roost.

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Slenderman was a triumph of visuals and sound design

The indie scene and PC market then took control of horror, forging effective experiences that ranged from short but brilliantly conceived free ideas to fully effective expansive games. Amnesia: The Dark Descent replaced the sight of a gun in hand with a simple lantern, the only tool you have to survive the events of the game. It tasked you with hiding from it’s frightening foes instead of killing them which in turn made them vastly more intimidating. This was something to be continued by the internet meme turned gaming phenomenon, Slenderman. The villainous entity received his own free to play game, Slender, in which players are tasked with navigating around a particular area in order to find 8 pages. Along the way, Slenderman will stalk the player and must be avoided at all costs or else the game will end abruptly. This led to many games exploiting the same mechanic, including two notable games, Outlast and Daylight, both of which revolved around very much the same mechanic, whilst including their own unique twists.

Horror was now gaining traction once again and the bigger studios were well aware of this. Capcom, after stating they wanted the Call of Duty audience with Resident Evil 6, were slowly backtracking on their comments and stated they were re-examining what Resident Evil meant to it’s fans. Bethesda then announced a new game by Shinji Mikami, the original Resident Evil creator entitled, The Evil Within. This was taking the gameplay of Resident Evil and placing it in a more twisted and dark universe with some truly evocative imagery. Sony then released The Last of Us, which sold in the millions, proving that gaming could tell bleak stories whilst still holding interest in the audience. It wasn’t until Gamescom this year that horror really showed that it was back with a vengeance.

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P.T has become the talk of Gamescom

Sony showed off a brand new trailer for it’s slasher inspired horror, Until Dawn, which takes the conventions of the genre allowing you to craft your own experience, with what is said to have hundreds of different outcomes. Then there was P.T, a brief mention in Sony’s conference that garnered a few scoffs when we saw the theatrical reactions of people screaming in the dark. Yet people logged and tried the free interactive teaser, only to be taken aback by the barrage of horrors and surprises that were in store for them; the biggest surprise being that it was actually a teaser for a new Silent Hill. Finally, Capcom may have also accidentally leaked information about a possible sequel to Resident Evil Revelations, which could be an excellent decision considering Revelations was a step in the right direction for the series.

All of this doesn’t change that horror is still the same genre, and the majority of gaming audiences are still the gun toting multiplayer obsessed players they always were. If P.T is anything to go by, horror is still a decisive genre as ever, with many people claiming that P.T starts off brilliantly but becomes increasingly more tedious by the end. It would appear that game players today are used to destinations that are sign posted and puzzles that can solved with a few simple taps of a button. P.T harkens back to the days of atmosphere and enclosed exploration, but it still remains to be seen whether audiences today will take to this more methodical approach in the final game.

The pieces are all in place and all of the big names are in play for the horror genre to become mainstream again. All we can really do is wait and see how it all unfolds but one thing is for sure, horror is definitely in the best position it has ever been. Do you think horror will make it big again, or do you think it’s better off in the hands of indie developers?

Can Videogame based movies ever crack Hollywood?

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With the news that The Last of Us is getting the Hollywood treatment, it once again teases the idea of videogame adaptations making a big impact in the movie world.  The big screen is no stranger to game adaptations but the result is often…shall we say, abominable. There isn’t a single movie of this type that has made a good case for the game to film transition. Some films have flirted with greatness but always seem to fall short of a cohesive high quality production.

All of this started in 1993 with the release of a live action version of Super Mario Bros starring the late Bob Hoskins and John Leguizamo as the legendary brothers, as well as Dennis Hopper as Bowser. The film was critically slaughtered and performed poorly at the box office, now relegated to a running joke within the gaming community. The crucial question is why did this film fail though? Mario is one of, if not the biggest, icons in gaming, surely the name alone would secure at least a financial victory, if not a critical one. The problem with this film, as well as every other game adaptation that has followed it, is that it fails to understand what makes the source material special during the transition to film.

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Looks just like Bowser…

Mario is all about a bright and colourful kingdom filled with cute and wonderful creatures. The film takes place in drab looking cities and deserts and features an entirely human cast, although one unintended disturbing looking creature makes an appearance. The Street Fighter movie, starring Kyle Minogue and Jean-Claude Van Damme, became a laughing stock for it’s terrible dialogue and cheesy fight scenes; a far cry from the brutal satisfying combat of the popular game series. Finally, who can forget Alone in the Dark, a Uwe Boll adaptation of the first survival horror game ever, which he skilfully managed to craft into a film that is considered one of the worst movies ever made.

The Resident Evil film series, although just as critically abhorred, has managed to become the most successful film series to be based on a game ever, but the problem still remains that it does not take the source material seriously apart from the odd name drop here and famous monster there. It’s carved out it’s own universe and tells a completely different story, but the overwhelming consensus seems to be that this is a world far inferior to the Videogame series that managed to redefine survival horror forever. The film franchise has long since buried the horror aspects and chosen to focus on action based set pieces instead.

Silent Hill is one of the most successful examples of staying true to the source material, but it still failed to understand the relevance of what the game series represented. The film understands the importance of cinematography, with skewed and disorienting camera angles that recapture the claustrophobic fixed camera of the game series. The mood is darkly surreal and the characters are a little more fleshed out than the usual kind of emotionless husks in game to film adaptations. The most notable characters being Rose Da Silva (Radha Mitchell) and Cybill Bennett (Laurie Holden) who are both portrayed surprisingly well with a good amount of likability. Where Silent Hill fails as a film is in how it fails to understand what the very essence of Silent Hill represents.

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The Silent Hill movie manages to capture some of overbearing surrealism of the game

Each individual monster from every game serve a metaphorical purpose that actually helps us to understand the characters and situations more. The convulsing fiends that hunt down James Sunderland in the second Silent Hill game are disturbing enough just through their physical appearance, but it is the sexual undertones that offer up a real gut punch once you discover the deeper secrets of the game. The film does not offer up this same kind of depth, essentially placing grotesque looking monsters in certain scenes just to please fans of the series. Pyramid Head, the large blade wielding monstrosity from Silent Hill 2, makes a notable appearance in the film, but it’s a meaningless role that makes no sense in the wider context of the Silent Hill mythology. Pyramid Head is a figure of judgement for James Sunderland that is employed in order to constantly remind him of the atrocities he has committed. The monster’s purpose in the film is merely to be present, almost like a frightening attraction at a theme park; he takes our attention for a brief second but does not offer up any real great significance.

The Last of Us definitely has a lot of hurdles to jump over in order to convince videogame fans that the movie is worth watching, but it is in a substantially more effective position given that Neil Druckman, the original writer for The Last of Us, will be penning the script for the movie. The history of the medium is going against it, but if the production team understand what makes The Last of Us special, this could be the perfect chance to prove that some games do have the potential to be culturally valuable movies.

 

Nintendo fans petition for Robin Williams tribute in next Zelda game

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A petition for the late Robin Williams to be given his own NPC in the next Legend of Zelda title has reached over 100,000 signatures. An extract from the petition reads: “Robin was an avid player of video games, with a love for all things Nintendo, and a particular love of all things Legend of Zelda”. It’s very well documented that Williams was a long time fan of The Legend of Zelda series, even naming his daughter, Zelda Williams, after the eponymous princess. He and his daughter later appeared in Nintendo advertisements in order to promote the 3DS release of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.

After seeing the incredible support for the petition, Nintendo has since responded with the statement: “We appreciate the outpouring of support from the gaming community, and hear the request of fans to honour him in a future game. We will not be discussing what might be possible for future game during this difficult time, but we will hold our memories of Robin close”.

Although it’s not an official confirmation, it’s at least good to know that Nintendo have acknowledged the campaign; hopefully they continue to consider this touching tribute for the beloved actor.

 

Bravely Default Review

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Final Fantasy has fallen on hard times recently; the Final Fantasy XIII trilogy has proved to be controversial in both story and gameplay; Final Fantasy XIV originally launched to abysmal reviews; and Final Fantasy XV, announced over 8 years ago under a completely different title, is still missing in action. Although under a completely different moniker, Bravely Default shares a startling amount of tropes with the Final Fantasy series. White and black mages don their mysical garbs, players dash around the world map in a high powered airship, and four warriors find themselves tasked with restoring power to a set of magical crystals. What makes Bravely default so special though is that it clearly shows Square Enix has the ability to make great Final Fantasy games again.

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The hand drawn backgrounds are rich and enticing

Bravely Default depicts a world governed by four crystals that keep the elements in check. Something is amiss with the crystals though which is causing the world to slowly spiral out of control. Agnes Oblige, a young wind vestal who is responsible for looking after one of these crystals, takes it upon herself to reawaken these crystals in order to restore balance to the world. Along the way she encounters three individuals who’s fates will become closely connected to her own. This includes Tiz Arrior; a young man who’s life is turned upside down when his hometown is destroyed; Edea Lee, a knight who turns her back on her own country in order to help Agnes with her cause; and finally Ringabell, a flirtatious amnesiac who possesses a mysterious book containing details of the party’s future exploits. All of the characters are extremely likeable and fleshed out, bringing a layer of personality and dynamism to the game that is usually missing from the usual job based Final Fantasy titles. The same can’t be said for the voice acting which is pretty mediocre all round apart from a few notable exceptions. Edea and Ringabell are given some of the best lines of the game which are delivered very well, but unfortunately Agnes’ voice acting is woefully painful to listen to, which is a real shame given that most of the important events are based around her.

The story of Bravely Default is surprisingly dark, containing a great deal of twists and turns; some that will intrigue the player and some that will leave you scratching your head in disbelief. Regardless, many of the scenes are powerful and the overall scale of the game is incredibly grand. It also has a few lighthearted moments spread throughout that give the characters a great deal more likability, especially in the case of Edea and Ringabell who’s relationship is used to an often humorous effect. It’s this shifting tone that gives Bravely Default the much needed personality that has been lacking from recent Final Fantasy titles. This isn’t to say that the story is wholly successful, as the second half of the game takes a turn for the tedious that is obvious an effort to lengthen the story. It’s a poor decision on behalf of the designers, especially because most of the later content is recycled from the first half of the game.

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Spells and summons are a spectacle to watch

The graphics in Bravely Default are highly impressive, especially considering the fact that it’s limited to the weak architecture of the 3DS. The character artwork is striking but sometimes a little odd looking, due to the fact it blends chibi characteristics with realistic proportions. The creature design’s in battle are highly expressive and extremely varied with loads of different types for the player to marvel at. The world design is just as beautiful, with hand drawn backdrops (continue later)

The soundtrack is a strange mixture of celtic and rock which works surprisingly well given the world the game is taking place in. The battle theme is, as per usual, addictively catchy and the boss themes get the blood pumping for the long arduous battles. As said before, the only drawback from the sound design is the mixed voice acting that can sometimes detract from the quality of the character exposition.

The battle system is where this game shines though, taking the turn based battle system of Final Fantasy but adding it’s own titular actions to add a strong sense of dynamism to the proceedings. Battles are determined by BP which determined how many attacks you can deal per turn. By clicking the brave icon, you can use up to four attacks in a single turn but at the expense of going into negative BP territory which means the character must wait the allotted number of turns to attack again. The way to counterbalance this comes through the default command which causes the character to wait a turn and defend, thus giving them an extra turn for the next phase of battle. Regular battles can be breezed through quickly by using the brave commands, but it’s the boss battles where the battle system soars. You’ll find that discovering the right balance of attack and defense creates is key to winning against the difficult bosses in Bravely Default.

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There are a vast amount of jobs to find and use

The game also brings back the legendary job system of Final Fantasy, which includes the usual knight and mage jobs from Final Fantasy, as well as some new additions exclusive to Bravely Default. Much like Final Fantasy V, characters can dip and out of each job borrowing techniques and abilities from each one to use with their existing job. The costumes for each job are striking and typically grandiose, but with unique features for each character that help define their personality.

Bravely Default also has a few online touches courtesy of Nintendo Streetpass which can be used to rebuild Tiz’ hometown of Norende. This isn’t a purely superficial venture though, as taking the time to rebuild Norende can reward you with some very helpful items and attacks. There is also the option to buy some special potions that stop the flow of time mid battle, but these come at the cost of actual real world money instead of an in-game currency.

Bravely Default is a top notch RPG that manages to merge genre traditions with modern sensibilities. It takes the time to appease old school enthusiasts with a strategic battle system, whilst offering a fast paced and stylish presentation that will please modern gamers. It suffers a few unfortunate pitfalls along the way, but this is a journey of epic proportions that is definitely worth taking.

Score: 8/10

The one where I emotionally rip myself apart, oh and my favourite character ever!

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For my first proper personal post, I wanted to talk about a videogame character who has had such an impact on my life, as well as how she has changed my way of thinking over the past few years. Final Fantasy VII is a game full of famous characters that have become icons in the medium; Cloud Strife, practically the poster child of the Final Fantasy series, is an incredibly beloved character; Sephiroth, who had a tough act to follow after Kefka from Final Fantasy VI, is considered one of the most famous villains ever; and then there’s Aerith Gainsborough, the tragically innocent flowergirl who has gone down in history for her shocking death scene. All of these characters are great for their own reasons but there’s one particular girl that took my attention about midway through the game. Tifa Lockhart, the tough yet kind heroine of Final Fantasy VII, has always held a very special place in my heart that not very many characters, from any kind of art form, have come close to achieving.

Tifa’s just as famous as all of the others mentioned before, but her notoriety stems from the character’s more superficial attributes. Most Final Fantasy women are known for their sex appeal but Tifa is in a league of her own when it comes to popularity in this field. Her clothing is incredibly revealing whilst her physical features are heavily exaggerated, in what seemed to be a conscious effort to cash in on the popularity of Lara Croft and her own brand of girl power. This would explain why Tifa has become so loved in regards to her physical strength which comes from her proficiency in hand to hand combat, a striking contrast to the magic wielding fragile love interests that came before her. These are all really important elements of the character, but I grew to admire Tifa for a very different reason; one that is often overlooked.

If you pay attention to Tifa throughout the game, you’ll notice that although she’s very strong physically, she is just as weak mentally. She latches onto a promise of protection that Cloud made to her as a child and stays true to that in the future, actually needing to be rescued numerous times during the course of the story. What’s also interesting about Tifa is that for the first half of the game she doesn’t actually have much relevance to the storyline, other than a childhood connection to Cloud and a love triangle that quickly emerges between herself, Cloud and Aerith. Tifa always seems as if she’s got more to say on certain matters but once the bigger and bolder characters join the mix, she begins to blend into the background with only the odd line of dialogue.

This is where I resonate with Tifa so much, because I too have the bad habit of blending  into the background in pretty much every facet of my life. In my group of friends I’ve never been entirely sure what I bring to the conversation. I’m not a leader, I’m not a joker, I’m not a party animal, and I’m certainly not the eye candy… in a sense I’ve always just kinda been there, as if making up the numbers. Whenever I’m with them, there’s always so much more that I want to say or contribute, but I can never bring myself to raise my voice above the bigger personalities. Inevitably it always ends with me sitting and listening, perhaps I’ll throw the odd line here and there, but eventually I’ll just leave much like I arrived; without much fuss.

At my family’s parties, I’m even worse at trying to speak; I always find a small group I feel comfortable with and keep myself to myself for as long as I can. I’ve always been worried that I look ignorant to my family; when I don’t go up and dance or strike up a conversation I get scared that they think  I’m boring and dismissive. At one point I did think I was just plain ignorant, then I began to resign myself to the fact I was just helplessly shy, but as time has passed I’ve discovered that it’s neither of those things. The problem’s pretty simple, and it’s one that fades away very quickly if a person should talk to me one on one. My problem is that my voice simply isn’t as big as other people’s; a difficulty I’m sure quite a few people can relate to. I genuinely did feel like I was starting to make a serious break through after I met Glenn, who represented the yin to my yang, but ever since he passed away I’ve started to regress back to my previously hushed tone and reserved body language.

When I saw Tifa in my teens, I felt a strong emotional resonance with her; I felt her plight and wanted to see her shining moment of narrative glory. She’s not as mystic or important a heroine as Aerith, she doesn’t have the extravagant hair or impossible weapons of Cloud and Sephiroth, she isn’t smart or witty, she isn’t unique and colourful, and there’s definitely a stigma attached to her that doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface her character. This is where Tifa gives me hope for the future though, because if you take her out of the game, you lose one of the most rich characters the story has to offer.

Tifa is easily the most human character in the game; her fears regarding love, death, failure and friendship are things that any normal person would feel; her desire for Cloud is all consuming, often fogging her judgement at pivotal moments; and her friendship with Aerith has an obvious layer of both jealousy and admiration, mostly because of Aerith’s more outgoing nature. All of these qualities are special in fictional people, especially videogame characters who represent a larger than life representation of ourselves.

None of this means to say that Tifa never earns her moment of glory, as she actually begins to emerge from her temperate cocoon with some truly spectacular characterization. Tifa eventually finds her place in the world of Final Fantasy and it’s not as defined a role as you might think, mostly because she isn’t just one thing; she isn’t simply a one dimensional character. Tifa’s a motherly figure to the children she adopts, she’s the girl next door to her many male admirers, a love interest and emotional crutch for Cloud, an equal in combat, and a warm presence that the bleak world of Final Fantasy VII needs.

I empathize with Tifa so much because I too can’t describe myself in a simple couple of words, I’m still growing as a person every day. I don’t have the biggest voice or the best stories to tell; I’m not outgoing, I’m not insanely attractive, or even overly smart; I’m a terrible singer, and an awkward dancer; I’m tall and extremely skinny; my drawing quality is quite good and my writing skill is coming along pretty nicely. I still have a lot of life lessons to learn and a great deal of confidence to gain…and yet despite all this, for the first time in my life, I’m actually okay with that. Tifa showed me that even though I don’t have the biggest voice, that’s actually okay, it can still be heard in a variety of different ways. I hope that this blog can be one of those ways.

Oh and did I mention Tifa can piledrive the final boss of the game…just saying.

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