Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Early Impressions: How CassaFire Seems to Improve from Last Book

Author Alex J. Cavanaugh's book CassaFire has a new trailer, which piqued my curiosity as to what I should expect from the book.
For those who don't know, CassaFire is the sequel to CassaStar, which was published by Dancing Lemur Press, LLC, in 2010. The sequel is set to be released Feb. 28, 2012, by the same publisher. Visit Cavanaugh's blog at alexjcavanaugh.blogspot.com for more information.

I reviewed CassaStar on March 19, which can be viewed here. I enjoyed reading the book and pointed out areas I thought needed improvement if he wrote a sequel (which I'm glad he did). Now that there is a book blurb and trailer for the sequel, I already can tell some of those issues have been addressed. Below are some of my concerns from the first book followed by how I think the sequel seems to remedy those problems.

1. One of my concerns for the first book was the lack of a strong female presence, and I hoped that a female plays a lead role in a possible sequel. I'm elated to read that there is a lead female character named Athee in CassaFire. According to the book's blurb, Athee is a pilot "whose skills rival Byron’s unique abilities." I also like how Byron no longer has the best mental abilities. Not every hero has to be the best at everything, so hopefully, Byron's personality will shine more.

2. I also didn't think the universe in CassaStar was fleshed out as much as I hoped. I wrote, "You only get the closed-in view of the military, which may have been done so the reader feels isolated like Byron." In the sequel, Byron is an explorer, like he said he was going to be at the end of CassaStar. I'm glad Byron kept his promise to his mentor. Having Byron leave piloting to explore the universe does two things, in my opinion:

a. It keeps the sequel fresh without sounding like just-the-same-story-with-a-new-enemy plot.

b. It gives Cavanaugh a chance to do some world-building and give the reader insight into the universe.

As for the trailer for CassaFire, although some people may say the graphics are 15 years old (I, myself, am reminded of the intro to Tekken 2 for the PlayStation in 1996), please be aware that Dancing Lemur Press, LLC, is a small book publisher, so they probably had only one person working on the trailer. It's also hard to do facial expressions in CGI (computer-generated imagery). Overall, I loved the voice of Byron, the music that comes in at the right time and the pacing of the trailer. Well, here's the trailer for CassaFire:

I look forward to reading the sequel and congratulate Cavanaugh for having his second book set for print.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Xenoblade Chronicles Should Be Released in U.S.

(Dec. 10, 2011, update: I'm glad to report that Xenoblade Chronicles will be released in North America on April 2, 2012, exclusively in store at GameStop. Visit oprainfall.blogspot.com for further details.)

Xenoblade Chronicles (called Xenoblade in Japan and originally titled Monado: Beginning of the World) is a Japanese role-playing video game (JRPG) for the Nintendo Wii video game system that deserves to be released in the United States. According to reports I've read, there are currently no plans to release the game in North America. Hopefully, that is just a ploy to gain interest in the game here so it can maximize its game sells when it does release in North America (fingers crossed). However, Monolith Soft's game Soma Bringer that was released in Japan in 2008 for the Nintendo DS never came to America.

Although I hardly have time to play video games nowadays, I still try to keep up with new titles and buy them (yes, I even have some unopened games I bought last year and haven't played yet but will eventually get to). I only focus on few games when I do have time, and from what I've seen of Xenoblade, it will be on the top of my list if it comes to the U.S. The game is both beautiful and exciting (with top ratings to boot) and looks like a mixture of fantasy and science fiction. It was created by Monolith Soft, known for creating the science fiction Xenosaga trilogy, which is spiritual prequel to Xenogears created by Squaresoft (now Square Enix). There are rumors that Xenoblade is somehow connected to Xenogears and Xenosaga, but I have yet to see any concrete evidence.

If you think Xenoblade deserves to be released in North America, visit Operation Rainfall's blog at oprainfall.blogspot.com. For an IGN article on Operation Rainfall's effort (which, in addition to Xenoblade, wants The Last Story and Pandora's Tower released in North America, click here.

Anyway, below are some videos of Xenoblade. The first one is the introduction footage to the game in English (United Kingdom version), the second one is a UK-version trailer, and the last one shows the breath-taking scenery in the game (it has some Japanese words but there is no speech in the video).

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