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I'm reading every Hugo, Nebula, Locus, and World Fantasy Award winner. Here's my reviews of the up to 1980 (Vol 4)
It is that time once more, folks. Links to previous posts at the end, links to full length blog reviews are all in one comment. Man Plus by Frederik Pohl
Plot: A normal human could not survive on Mars... our only option? Cyborgs!
Page Count: 183
Award: 1976 Nebula
Worth a read: No... but consider it for a laugh.
Primary Driver: (?????????)
Bechdel Test: Pass... but a real weak pass.
Review: Imagine if you took subplots from a trashy romance, a political thriller, a horror flick, and a space travel story... and forgot to put in the main plot. Starts decently, spirals wildly out of control with astounding speed. Almost worth reading to experience the hilarious concluding deus ex machina. This one is probably in the "so bad it's good category" - but sweet skittles is it bad. Also, turn on safe search if you look this book up.
Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang by Kate Wilhelm
Plot: After a pandemic causes infertility (and every other apocalypse hits), the only way for humans to survive is through cloning. But are they really human?
Page Count: 251
Award: 1977 Hugo and 1977 Locus
Worth a read: No
Primary Driver: (Plot, World, or Character)
Bechdel Test: Pass
Review: Disappointing and disjointed. There are a lot of messages here that just get blended together to nothingness. Cumbersome writing, uncompelling characters, bland dystopia, and just a dull story. Odd choices on where to discuss science at length and where to just skip over it. First third was its own story originally, and is the best part.
Doctor Rat by William Kotzwinkle
Plot: There is no joy like dying to advance science, at least according to Doctor Rat.
Page Count: 243
Award: 1977 World Fantasy Award
Worth a read: No... but worth a glance at a chapter or two.
Primary Driver: (Plot, World, or Character)
Bechdel Test: N/A
Technobabble: Frequent descriptions of animal experiments.
Review: This book is truly horrifying to read. It's about the gruesome nature of animal testing - and cruelty to animals in general - and is chock full of graphic animal gore. It's the child of The Jungle and Animal Farm but without subtext. Consider checking it out to read a couple of chapters - the grotesque fascination wears thin. Some might consider the unambiguous use of Nazi imagery for animal testing to be a step or three too far.
Gateway by Frederik Pohl
Plot: The Heechee left behind technology so advanced that we cannot understand it; that doesn't stop us from using it to get rich or die trying.
Page Count: 313
Award: 1977 Nebula, 1978 Hugo, and 1978 Locus SF
Worth a read: Yes. Very yes.
Primary Driver: (Plot, World, or Character)
Bechdel Test: Pass
Review: Really good. Cleverly bounces between the story as it unfolds and therapy sessions afterwards - we know that our hero survives, but something terrible has happened. A bit too Freudian. Still, excellent job of making a complex protagonist, interesting world, compelling story. Wanting to know what went wrong kept me reading - and it pays off.
The Silmarillion by J. R. R. Tolkien
Plot: Turns out Middle Earth had other jewelry too.
Page Count: 386
Award: 1978 Locus Fantasy Award
Worth a read: Yes.
Primary Driver: (Plot, World, or Character)
Bechdel Test: Pass
Review: This is epic fantasy in its purest form; it is myth and legend, at times obtuse, but absolutely riveting. Tolkien's world is fully immersive. Had the physical book to follow the story, the audiobook for pronunciation, and laptop for family trees. Absolutely worth it - even as a casual LoTR fan.
Our Lady of Darkness by Fritz Leiber
Plot: Something sinister is haunting Franz Westen, and dealing with it involves unearthing answers that might be best left buried.
Page Count: 183
Award: World Fantasy Award 1978
Worth a read: Yes
Primary Driver: (Plot, World, or Character)
Bechdel Test: Pass
Review: This is a horror story. Atmosphere is excellent. Book begins with some truly unsettling images and world building. The narrative itself is slow and frequently self-indulgent, but atmosphere stays on point. A qualified recommendation; but some scenes from this will stick with me for quite a while.
Dreamsnake by Vonda N. McIntyre
Plot: Long after the end of the world as we know it, Snake wanders the world, healing those she meets to the best of her abilities.
Page Count: 288
Award: 1978 Nebula, 1979 Hugo, and 1979 Locus
Worth a read: Yes
Primary Driver: (Plot, World, or Character)
Bechdel Test: Pass
Technobabble: Minimal to moderate.
Review: Less-is-more world building with good execution. A lot of interesting tidbits to keep you wondering what the rules are, who the people are, and so on. Story itself can be slow and stakes are consistently low. "I'm going to a place, surprise! something comes up, I will go to another place along the way." Characters are well written though not particularly complex.
Gloriana, or The Unfulfill'd Queen by Michael Moorcock
Plot: In an alternate timeline, Queen Elizabeth I rules over the vast empire of Albion and must do her best to manage a corrupt and twisted court.
Page Count: 368
Award: 1979 World Fantasy Award
Worth a read: Absolutely No.
Primary Driver: (Plot, World, or Character)
Bechdel Test: Pass
Review: This book is remarkable in that it combines shockingly dull and lengthy exposition with some truly awful and problematic ideas about sex. A whole lot of parallel world court intrigue that just does not matter at all. The actual plot starts developing halfway or later into the book - and is not interesting. The title addressing Gloriana's inability to orgasm is a big ol' red flag. A deeply unpleasant read. Really awful.
The Fountains of Paradise by Arthur C. Clarke
Plot: Humans have built many marvels, but nothing can compete with a space elevator.
Page Count: 317
Award: 1980 Hugo and 1979 Nebula
Worth a read: Yes
Primary Driver: (Plot, World, or Character)
Bechdel Test: Fail
Review: Overall enjoyable. Main narrative is about the space elevator, secondary is about an equally ambitious ancient building project - woven together in interesting ways. The science and vision offered are interesting, though characters are not and tension is infrequent. Marred somewhat by some truly bizarre (and underdeveloped) side plots and unnecessary epilogue.
The Riddle-Master Trilogy by Patricia A. McKillip
Plot: All the wizards left behind were riddles, and the only one who might be able to solve them is the biggest riddle of all.
Page Count: 578 (Full Trilogy)
Award:Harpist in the Wind (Book 3): 1980 Locus Fantasy
Worth a read: Yes
Primary Driver: (Plot, World, or Character)
Bechdel Test: Pass
Technobabble: Fantasy Babble: Minimal.
Review: It's an epic fantasy trilogy. It's a good one. Kinda loved it. Heroes and villains are complex, magic is interesting and coherent. Excellent characters. Cool development of powers, though it is far more power sprint than power crawl. Pacing can be odd; a few long pauses followed by frenetic scenes. Very well written. A satisfying read.
Watchtower by Elizabeth A. Lynn
Plot: The Southerners picked the wrong keep to invade; Ryke will do everything he can to get it back.
Page Count: 240
Award: World Fantasy Award 1980
Worth a read: No
Primary Driver: (Plot, World, or Character)
Bechdel Test: Pass
Technobabble: Fantasy Babble: Minimal.
Review: The sweet, sweet taste of subpar writing. World building: "You people from the hot South are not used to how cold it is here up North!" Character Development: "You mean... I don't just need to indiscriminately murder people?!" and "You mean... women can fight too?!" Writing Quality (Verbatim): "He thought it might have ben a room in Tornor. The room was hot. He went to the window to open the shutters. They stuck. He had to force the latch. At last one opened."
Titan by John Varley
Plot: The intrepid crew of the Ringmaster crash in alien territory and must figure out how to survive.
Page Count: 309
Award: 1980 Locus SF
Worth a read: No
Primary Driver: (Plot, World, or Character)
Bechdel Test: Pass
Technobabble: Minimal to moderate.
Review: It is hard to find such a dumb book that takes itself so seriously. Some legitimately interesting exploration bits not enough to redeem this one. Extremely juvenile. Raises interesting questions and offers insultingly insipid answers. There are elements that are quite good - particularly some crisp dialogue - but it's just not worth it.
Any questions or comments? Fire away! A truly massive thank you to u/gremdelfor mailing me a bunch of books! People like you are what make this endeavor worth the effort. I’ve been using this spreadsheet, as well as a couple others that kind Redditors have sent. So a huge thanks to u/velzerat and u/BaltSHOWPLACE At the request of a number of you, I’ve written up extended reviews of everything and made a blog for them. I’ve included the links with the posts for individual books. I try to put up new reviews as fast as I read them. Take a look in the comments for that link! The Bechdel Test is a simple question: do two named female characters converse about something other than a man. Whether or not a book passes is not a condemnation so much as an observation; it provides an easy binary marker. Seems like a good way to see how writing has evolved over the years. At the suggestion of some folks, I’m loosening it to non-male identified characters to better capture some of the ways that science fiction tackles sex and gender. For a better explanation of why it’s useful, check out this comment from u/Gemmabeta
Hi everyone, my last post about wanting to see more star trek games got a lot of comments (if not a lot of Karma) and so I thought you might be interested in what Star Trek games are around right now. Edit: Please feel free to add your own, or add links to games with mods (though please include the link to the mod as well if you can) that convert them into Star Trek games! I only limited this to official star trek games in the hopes that maybe people might buy them, and thus produce sales data that might make CBS see that there's a good monetary incentive to make more games available. First off, the original Starfleet Command is a great game that still holds up, even if it's graphics look like they're rendered in cardboard. You can install it, go to skirmish, and make yourself a 9 on 9 fleet battle between any of the TOS factions they included. I just went three rounds in a half hour and it's honestly probably, pound for pound, the best currently downloadable Star Trek game available. Go watch the Battle of the Binary Stars and set yourself up a round, it's real fun I promise! https://www.gog.com/game/star_trek_starfleet_command_gold_edition Next up, Star Trek Bridge Crew. Looks really cool and fun, but I lack a VR headset and playing without one was, for me at least, basically impossible. I imagine it's better with friends and with the appropriate equipment, but unless you've already got those it's kind of hard to justify buying it. https://store.steampowered.com/bundle/7939/Star_Trek_Bridge_Crew__Bundle_Game_and_The_Next_Generation/ Star Trek Online has been around for a while, and you likely already know it. It's an MMO on the decline and I haven't personally played the expansions, but there is plenty of trek themed content around a serviceable MMO that once upon a time admirably carried the burden of being our only way to play past the end of Voyager in the prime timeline. And hey, some of the stories are cool! (It's great for people who love buying lootboxes!) https://store.steampowered.com/app/9900/Star_Trek_Online/ Star Trek Starfleet Academy is a flight sim that has footage of the original trek actors, and is well reviewed, though I couldn't tell you how it is personally. Might pick it up on sale, but if I'm being honest, probably not. https://store.steampowered.com/app/364810/Star_Trek_Starfleet_Academy/ I don't really count Star Trek Timelines, because it's basically a fancy UI over a random number generator phone game, but it exists, technically, so here.https://store.steampowered.com/app/600750/Star_Trek_Timelines/ Also, for the sake of completeness, there are some adventure games (that seem neat but I'm not buying for $10 a pop) https://store.steampowered.com/app/364800/Star_Trek_Judgment_Rites/ https://store.steampowered.com/app/359650/Star_Trek__25th_Anniversary/ And, unless you wanna go trolling around for an old physical copy of Elite Force or The Fallen somewhere, that's it! ... ... Unless of course you consider piracy as an option to get games no longer being sold, in which ca-*transmission lost*
This is my first time posting on this sub, but I have been a fan of Life Is Strange since nearly the beginning. I purchased the first season after coming across it on Steam not long after the first episode’s release. The price seemed reasonable, the reviews positive, and the premise intriguing; little did I know how much my life would change. I have since played the first season multiple times (and yes, I ship Pricefield each and every time) and just finished my third full playthrough of Before the Storm; this post will be focusing on the latter. I haven't spent as much time on this subreddit as many of you probably have, so apologies if none of my thoughts are particularly original or if this post is rambly. What I didn't like
Canon inconsistencies – Especially regarding the timeline. It was established in S1 that Chloe and Rachel were both well over a year older than Max, and a report card in Chloe's room indicates that she was a junior in the 2010-2011 school year, which is in line with her March 1994 birthday and with BtS having her as a sophomore in May 2010. This would put her two grades above Max, who is a senior during 2013-2014; yet in BtS, all of Max's future classmates are somehow now in the same class as Chloe and Rachel. Considering how much the writers clearly respect the source material, you'd think they would have at least done the math here. There are other inconsistencies as well—for example, Chloe knowing Pompidou's name, getting the blue streak in her hair after her sixteenth birthday, and being expelled from Blackwell at least one year earlier than S1 would indicate, but these are relatively minor and don’t really bother me.
The voice acting from several of the supporting characters – Especially Wells, Samuel, and James. I realize that the devs' options were limited due to the voice actors' strike going on at the time of development, though.
No real reason to use the “one day per episode” time frame – It made sense in S1, as the two main characters already knew each other and there was a sense of urgency when it was revealed that a storm was coming in just a few days. For BtS, not only is this time frame not necessary, but it results in Rachel and Chloe's relationship development—going from meeting at the Firewalk concert to being best friends and possibly more in less than 48 hours—feeling rushed and unrealistic.
Eliot – Seriously, what the fuck was the point of this character? He was bland, and his turning out to be a creep was the least surprising twist in the game. There was nothing about him that made me ever buy the idea that he and Chloe had been friends; otherwise, the reveal of his true nature in E3 might would have been a good twist. Alternatively, they could have instead showed that he was a genuinely good person who was trying—and failing—to keep Chloe from going down a dark path with Rachel—as opposed to just trying to get into Chloe's pants. As it is, I found him to be very unlikeable, his friendship with Chloe to be very unbelievable, and his ultimate purpose in the story being nothing more than to serve as yet another minor and annoying obstacle. He does point out how terrible Rachel is for Chloe (addressed further down), but it’s hard to take this seriously when it’s coming from him.
Backtalk ability – A decent game mechanic, but way underutilized, especially for something that was clearly intended to be a replacement for Max’s time rewind ability.
Scenes deliberately designed to stretch out the game’s length – Having to get the quarter out of the viewfinder, figuring out how to to sneak into the Blackwell dorm, etc. Scenes like this aren’t necessarily all bad—I kinda enjoyed fixing up Chloe’s truck—but others just bring the game to a screeching halt. The part where I have to help Rose set the table made me want to bang my head against my keyboard. At least I didn’t have to search for bottles this time, I guess.
Lack of story branching—Admittedly a major issue S1 had as well. For example, Chloe being expelled from Blackwell vs. being suspended seems to have absolutely no affect on how the story plays out other than dialogue and the manner in which Victoria is prevented from being in The Tempest. Even if the outcome of the game was ultimately the same, there still could have been more variations as to how to get there—e.g., scenes that happen in some playthroughs but not in others, or having to choose between helping two characters and determining which one helps you out later on. As criticized as they were for the lack of story branching in their games, Telltale at least offered options like these. This actually would have been a great way for the backtalk mechanic to play a bigger role—have difficult conversations that would have unlocked entirely new scenes and/or alternate story routes if you won, etc.
The ending – As with the story branching, it suffers from similar problems as S1—it mostly comes down to a binary choice, and in this case, it's one that doesn't even affect the overall outcome much other than Rachel's relationship with her parents (though it could perhaps play a bigger role in a BtS sequel). At least this time around they tried to throw a little variety into the ending montage based on previous choices and character interactions.
Rachel being toxic and manipulative – This is hinted throughout the game, most notably by William and Eliot. I don't have a problem per se with this choice for how her character is written, but I do have a problem with the fact that some of her more blatantly sociopathic actions are casually brushed aside. For example, she never shows the slightest remorse for causing a forest fire which caused God only knows how much loss to the local wildlife, people's property, and possibly human life as well, nor does anyone ever really call her out on it. Also, if she's kicked out of The Tempest play and you don’t have Chloe talk Victoria out of it, Rachel will drug Victoria's tea for no reason other than to get her role back, and for some reason, Chloe seems perfectly fine with this.
Third episode—I could write an entire post on this episode alone, but I will try to summarize as best as I can. It's very rushed overall. The story suddenly becomes centered around two minor characters who barely appeared in the first two episodes. Other characters either disappear from the game entirely or are given a hasty conclusion (e.g., Nathan and Samantha being relegated to an overheard conversation and an ending cutscene). Even the scene with Steph, Mikey, and Drew disappointed me a little, as I had hoped they would play a larger part in the story. To make matters worse, Rachel is taken out of the story for much of the episode. They either should have either given the game four (or even five) episodes instead of three, or cut the Damon and Sera plot altogether and instead leave the focus on Chloe and Rachel’s relationship. I was also a little annoyed that (please correct me if I’m mistaken) the player’s choice as to whether Chloe and Rachel were best friends or more seems to be left behind in the previous episode and not addressed at all in this one.
The final post-credits scene – Yes, that one. I wasn’t sure what to think the first time I played the game, but the more I’ve thought about, the more obtuse I think it was for it to have been included. I get what the writers were going for, but it doesn’t tell the people who played S1 anything they don’t already know, and it’s confusing (not to mention a potential major spoiler) to those who have only played BtS. It just felt both unnecessary and cruel.
What I loved
Chloe and Rachel – The best scenes in the game are arguably all the ones where the two of them are interacting with one another – great chemistry thanks in no small part to the great voice performances. When I first heard this game was coming out, I was looking forward to meeting Rachel Amber, and I have to say, I was not disappointed; you can see why Chloe fell for Rachel despite the latter’s glaring flaws, and I find myself shamelessly rooting for them every time I play.
The Tempest performance – This sort of fits in with the last point I mentioned, but I felt it deserved its own entry. In addition to having some funny moments (it’s fun to do replays of it and purposely flub your lines and cues), it’s also the scene where Rachel and Chloe fully commit themselves to one another in a really powerful moment. I rank this scene up there alongside the pool scene from S1 as one of my favorites of the entire franchise.
The tabletop role-playing game – Not much explanation required here. It was a really fun scene and a great way to introduce the characters of Steph and Mikey.
The music – Oh god, the music. As with S1, there was a great selection of licensed songs, but hiring Daughter to do the original soundtrack took it to a whole new level.
The clothing choices – I know it was a very minor part of the gameplay, but I really liked this more than I thought I would and wouldn’t have minded more customization options. Certain characters responding to certain outfits was a nice touch.
Farewell – While the bonus episode is not my favorite in the Life is Strange series (that honor still goes to “Chaos Theory”), I honestly have nothing bad to say about it. I would even consider it to be arguably the most well-executed for what it is—a mostly standalone, slice-of-life story of two best friends spending their final day together before one of them moves away (and tragically, in the Sacrifice Chloe timeline, the last time they ever spend together period). The reveal that it’s the same day that William died was clever and heartbreaking. Hannah Telle and Ashly Burch returning to their respective roles after the end of the video game voice actor strike was the icing on the cake. If Max and Chloe never appear in another game, this certainly was not the worst way to say goodbye to the characters.
Conclusion Despite my long-winded criticisms, I actually do love Before the Storm and would happily recommend it to anyone who enjoyed the first season. I don't think anything will ever recreate the feeling I had when I first saw the announcement trailer for Before the Storm and found out that not only would I get to return to the world of Life Is Strange, but that I would be playing my favorite character and finally getting to meet another who had often been mentioned but never seen. Having finished the last season nearly two years before, it seemed like a dream too good to be true. I am eternally grateful to Deck Nine for delivering this experience. Apologies for the length; I just wanted to get all my thoughts out, as I have no friends who have played BtS. Thanks for taking the time to read, and I would enjoy hearing your thoughts.
Raven Reviews: IxSHE Tell Part 1, The Mechanics of a Book.
TL;DR I review the novel without talking about the plot. A FRIENDLY DISAGREEMENT Recently I had a discussion with a stranger on a forum who was adamantly apposed to what he called "Harem Games" and novels that featured harem elements. To recount the whole conversation would take pages and wouldn't be entirely relevant to this review but i'd like to summarize two key points he expressed to me that informed his opinion. The first is that Japanese society, and even American society, is not supportive of a man having multiple partners. While I was able to get him to admit that recent years have seen a rise in polyamory in the United States he remained adamant that any form of harem was unrealistic for the culture. Secondly, he expressed an opinion that mechanically and from a game design perspective harem routs were a "copout" because they are very rarely the true route or most naturally feeling resolution to a story and only exist for people who quote "Feel bad for the girls they rejected even though most of the time that would be better for them and they're okay with it!" He would go on to say that Japanese views on romance are incompatible with harems because of their focus on "firsts" and "being someones only" but being someone who is not native Japanese myself and has only experienced their culture through works like the subject of this review I can't say I'm able to talk about that point much. I feel like VNs portray an idealized version of Japanese culture just like American media does and just like I wouldn't say someone who was seen every episode of any three american sitcoms knows American culture I would not say I know Japanese culture from reading VNs. Out of respect for his privacy I'm not going to name him here but if by some chance you're reading this stranger I spoke to this review will serve as my response to the summery of your points. While I know you're aware I disagree with you, I want to provide a better example then simply listing novels I though were good as I did in our original discussion. As I am well aware however that providing my response like this, if it were to miraculously reach you, is somewhat unfair since you have no good platform to respond with outside of a comment below please feel free to DM me and I will gladly respond. This review will be addressed to a wider audience obviously but I think it will be easy to tell what parts I have drawn from the information you gave me. "BEST HAIR" CHOICE STRUCTURE IxSHE Tell is a recently translated romantic comedy about P-kun (Ninomiya Hajime) and his difficult choice between five girls who confess to him one after the other. That plot synopsis may have drawn up some negative connotations for you but I encourage you to judge this story on its own merits because I was also skeptical but pleasantly surprised with the quality of the work presented. The novel is split in three parts. A lengthy prologue that takes somewhere between an hour and two hours to read. A common route of about fifteen hours, and then individual romance paths for each heroine that are about three hours long apiece. This clocks the total novel read time at about thirty hours but I would imagine a fast reader could finish it in twenty if they choose to. My personal time to completion is skewed slightly longer as I'm a masochist who wouldn't feel satisfied without being certain I've seen every possible line of dialog but I can't imagine this novel taking more the forty or forty five hours for the slowest reader. While their are a number of gimmicks in this novel I will discuss below without the H-patch the game makes the bold choice to provide the player with only a single meaningful choice and thereby creates a unique atmosphere I can't say I've ever experienced before. Anyone who has read more then one or two visual novels will know that commonly the narrative choices are less then open to a reader pursuing more then one heroine. I hesitate to say common structure punishes readers for choosing options favorable to more then one romance route but it certainly discourages it. To explain what I mean lets take a look at a few examples. Muv-Luv, specifically Muv-Luv Extra, has a difficult to unlock "Bad" ending where if the reader favors a specific heroine but fails to choose her options in one of a few specific scenes the game ends abruptly without satisfyingly concluding. Their is also a second "Bad" end which occurs only if the player makes two specific choices, both of which are little more then rejections of the branch path to romance routes. Effectively, failure to fully pursue one of the game's heroines results in the game ending in its second act, but paradoxically while the game has two dozen or so choices any combination of those options will result in a romance route and "good" end so long as the reader chooses the appropriate option at one of the deciding points. IMHHW by contrast has a failure route you can only trigger by selecting one specific option in one specific scene that is obviously the wrong choice and then locks you into a route shortly after. I actually think one of the most enjoyable jokes I can find in a VN is finding the path that lets you spend the least amount of time with a heroine but still puts you on her romance path, then watching as P-kun trips over himself to explain how he fell in love with her instead of the girl he spent most of the last week with. Unfortunately though I can rarely do this without failing out before the final act because of this exact type of choice structure. Some novels are more subtle about this lack of choice. Katawa Shoujo comes to mind as even at its worse you do have SOME free will to jump ship to a different heroine mid act but the binary choice between Lilly and Shizune never sat well with me and Emi being a one choice lock is just disappointing. While not every novel is blatant enough to go the Muv-Luv route and literally name the heroines in the choices so its impossible to miss who you're siding with its a rare treat to find a novel that doesn't spell out which options are the "right" ones to some degree. This brings me back to IxST because the design choice to make only one choice truly relevant, which I would call a weakness in any other novel, but replacing "Best Hair" choices with a gold star reward system opens the narrative and allows for a more natural and less pressured experience. REAL CHOICE This section might not be entirely 100% necessary but I wanted to break down exactly why I think the mechanics of this VN are so revolutionary and vastly superior to the rest of the genre. Honestly, while I know it wouldn't fit every novel I think future VNs would benefit greatly from this example. So the common route in IxST is divided into 5 subsections the novel labels as "days" but are probably better thought of as plot beats. Each subsection allows the reader to assign up to ten "hearts" in any combination to the five girls pursuing P-kun and with one major exception allows this to happen at any time. In the words of the games tutorial paraphrased, if a girl does something you like you can reward her with a heart. You're under no obligation to hand out hearts and can ignore the system all together if you choose but regardless at the end of each plot event you are prompted to select a girl for an extra scene and are then moved to the next plot beat with a new allotment of hearts. At the end of the last subsection if you overwhelmingly favored one girl with hearts over the others P-kun falls for that girl and you have the option to accept her confession. But even at this point you have the option to change your mind and pick another girl who will give you one final pitch about why you should choose them before giving you yet ANOTHER chance to back out and commit to the girl you favored. Maybe the weight of how much this changes the feel of reading a VN isn't clear so lets do a comparison. Muv-Luv Extra isn't a great novel, certainly not terrible but it's about as average as I could hope to find. Their is no other single VN to me that is as aggressively 5/10 as Muv-Luv Extra. Placing it beside IxST both games have a prologue introducing their respective flavors of P-kun and follow it with an intro movie. I know i'm vastly oversimplifying things as the prologues to these two stories are nothing alike but mechanically they have no difference so the important part is that when the common route starts the reader is mentally in the same place. In IxST the player is almost immediately presented with all the choice mechanic they will be interacting with for the next three or so hours of the novel in the form of the heart system. Muv-Luv by contrast spends its opening to the common route with one of the five heroins and less then half an hour into the experience presents the first choice which is a binary question of if you enjoyed yourself with her. Unless you are brand new to visual novels you will know immediately that Muv-Luv's choice should give you pause because without even letting you meet four of the five romance options you are already having to make a choice that you have no way of knowing the significance of. While not all novels do this it's not uncommon for a visual novel to soft lock out of a route when you don't get every choice for a heroine correct and so this small moment to a first time reader can feel needlessly stressful because choosing one option may lock you on one path for the narrative and the other may permanently lock you out of it without telling you either result for HOURS. In roughly the same time a reader will make their way through IxST's first section of common route to the extra scene choice that same reader in Muv-Luv will likely have to make two additional choices if not more all of which are binary "Best Hair" choices encouraging the reader to pursue one of the five heroines hours before the common route ends. This almost makes the choices irrelevant as the reader is primed to select whichever option continues the path their on and discourages them from picking the option they would prefer over the option that is more likely to result in a "good" end. Now to be fair IxST does not communicate to the reader that who they pick for the extra scene is not a soft lock but even if we assume the reader is ignoring the hearts and has already selected which romance route they want to shoot for the hearts system tutorial screen and the extra scene tutorial are definitely geared toward the opposite priming. Every girl is available to be chosen no mater how few hearts you gave her and this ties neatly into the games presentation. The cross view system that temporarily takes away the hearts counters and allows the reader to experience short scenes with each girl further primes the reader to the idea that no matter their choice at this stage the narrative will continue without soft locking. To summarize Muv-Luv and its traditional use of choices makes its narrative feel like the choices exist as a quiz of "what would this girl like me to do?" IxST and its heart system feel like you are organically favoring the girl or girls you enjoy and presents everyone with an equal chance for you to grow attached to them. THE PROBLEM WITH COMMON ROUTES I have another review in the works explaining why I dislike the presentation of most common routes using IMHHW as an example but I'll summarize my points here so I can explain how much better IxST is at getting a reader to seriously consider all the heroines as potential options then a traditional visual novel. Everyone knows their are certain types of characters that feature heavily in visual novels and to an extent has their preferences. Class Representatives, lolis, little sisters etc are all common starting points for heroines. I personally tend to dislike Tsunderes and have a preference for childhood friends but that's just me. Common routes ideally should follow four basic rules but often fail to uphold them. 1.) The common route should introduce but NOT develop characters only important in one or two romance routes and should involve background characters as much as possible while developing the heroines. 2.) The common route should develop each heroine equally and if possible should provide them with as close to equal screen time as feasible. 3.) The common route should have a reason for existing outside of developing characters and this reason should not be resolved before the romance routes begin unless those routes have their own conflict. 4.) The common route should have just as many CGs as the individual romance routes if not more and showcase each heroine evenly in them. I came up with these rules because the entire reason a common route exists is to allow the reader to familiarize themselves with the world and characters and specifically the heroines. If it fails to accomplish that then what was the point of having it? IMHHW happens to fail at ALL of these rules but that's a topic for another day. Let me know in the comments if you're interested in that review and I'll push it up the list. However before I explain why IxST does so well by following these guidelines let me explain my reasoning for each. Rule one recognizes that visual novels need characters other then the protagonist and heroines to feel believable, otherwise the world feels empty and flat. These characters come in three flavors. Background, Side, and Spriteless. Background characters are things like the protagonists best friend or their teacher, definitely important people with a role in the narrative but not romance options. Ideally background characters should be introduced in the prologue to establish their personality and due to their development typically remaining static involved as much as possible with the character in the common route so that by the time the romance routes are reached they can serve their narrative purpose without taking away from the heroine. We should know everything important about them before the half way mark so they can be used and referenced easily as needed. A perfect example is Mikoto in Muv-Luv Extra, who is introduced about a quarter of the way through the game and has basically finished his development by the half way point. Side characters are the opposite, and should be developed in romance routes after being introduced in the common route. A good example here is if a heroine has a little sister, although not every little sister character is like this in general this example works. Ideally, the reader should know the heroine has a little sister and be introduced to her sprite but this is only to allow her to be expanded on in the romance route later so that each run of the game feels unique. Just like in real life growing closer to people means your circle of friends shifts and its more interesting to a reader to have to work to know every character in the game then to always have that information from the beginning. The last category of Spriteless are small time or single use characters that well, don't have a sprite. I might come back in a future review and talk about this group but they don't bear much relevance to the current topic so I'm going to move on. The second rule is pretty self explanatory but to be thorough one of the greatest sins a common route can commit is focusing on one character over the others. Yes, I am aware that some novels have "true" ends that are meant to advance a larger story. Yes, I am also aware that in real life it is very unlikely people you only see at school or work or whatever will have an equal amount of exposure to you as people you've been friends with for years or who you have class with. None of those things matter in a novel. The author has the ability to portray each character evenly even if the protagonist does not have an even amount of interaction with each character. The thing about real life and realism is that life is often incredibly boring. I have yet to see a novel that forced me to sit through every class period the protagonist experienced, because that would be excruciating. I also don't have to wait six hours for the protagonist to wake up after going to sleep nor witness every bite of breakfast every day. This isn't a question of what is realistic this is a question of allowing the reader to get a decent understanding of the characters. This doesn't always mean they are given literally to the second the same amount of dialogue and screen time, but a good common route will let each heroine have an equal time to shine without favoring any of them. The third rule is the one I most often see broken and as such has become my personal most important of the four. I am far more willing to forgive a novel that can follow this rule, even if it isn't for every run, then i am a novel that can not. I have no problems with slice of life narratives. It can sometimes be incredibly cathartic to just drop into the shoes of someone else and pretend to be them for a day. But stories do not exist without conflict and no, choosing which girl you like is not sufficient conflict for the story unless the protagonist is just as concerned about it as you are. Ideally, a novel's conflict should involve all the characters though that's rather difficult so settling for just the protagonist and heroins is fine. The conflict should also have enough leeway to be solved in multiple ways so that each heroines route can provide their own solution. How a heroine uniquely resolves conflict or avoids it is a huge opportunity to squander by ignoring the inclusion of a story. The fourth rule is most concerned with creating a balanced feeling to the novel and has less to do with the common route specifically then it does with the novel as a whole but I tend to include it here because well, it just makes since. Obviously the romance routes are going to have a higher density of CGs then the common route. If you include extra scenes and optional scenes as part of a heroine's run rather then common route content that rule is doubly true. However this doesn't mean that the common route is totally devoid of CGs because that is obviously not the case. Most VNs use the prologue as an excuse to give each heroine an opening CG but the common route is where the majority of group shots and for lack of a better term "casual" scenes allow the artists to showcase each heroine outside of their static sprites. If you've read the other rules explanations you may have noticed that I haven't elaborated on the notion that the common route's main goal is to make the heroine's interesting to the reader and I've saved that point for this moment because outside of their sprites, which are a vital part of a heroine's ability to express themselves, CGs are the most important facet to letting these characters "breath." If you've ever listened to the dialogue in a visual novel without looking at the screen (Admittedly you'd have to know at least a bit of Japanese to do this but lets just assume you have the bare minimum understanding of what the characters are saying.) its actually really hard to distinguish each heroine's personality purely off the words they say. Maybe we don't often think about it but this genre is not just tied to its visual element it is at this point utterly undivorcable from it because it has come to rely on tropes and ideas that repeat themselves so often they tend to blur. How many visual novels have heroines that are constantly getting "shy" or "flustered?" How many use the same literal words like Segoi, Baka, Hentii, to describe things? Language is both endlessly expressive and limiting and even the best VNs, perhaps ESPECIALLY the best, would make TERRIBLE novels if they were printed as is in the form of a paperback. The entire reason for CGs even existing is to play off established tropes and the story to give the reader a snapshot of why the moment they are currently reading is significant and unique, and in a romance novel that more often then not translates to why the heroine is significant and unique. Neglecting this visual element therefore is a huge disservice to the the reader. MERGING THE IDEAS Having said all that IxST uses its unique choice system to facilitate a change in the reader's approach to reading and thus makes itself vastly more enjoyable. This novel could have so easily been nothing more then a self insert fantasy about being pursued by multiple women but because it encourages you to engage with every line of dialogue and spread your focus between all of the characters the story feels fresh and different. The last major choice mechanic I have to mention in IxST, the cross view system, is the epitome of this because while I do have problems with some of the scenes I'll talk about in part 2 of this review the fact it's the only time you can't access the hearts menu was a stroke of genius. Cross view occurrences are once per subsection of the common route and present you with six to nine short scenes involving characters not in P-kun's immediate vicinity talking about or thinking about him. Their is always one scene for each of the heroines but most of the background characters get one each go around as well as usually a scene from the perspective of a random nameless classmate. These scenes are 100% optional but choosing not to read them is a real disservice because letting yourself get into the mindset of the heroins and characters really fleshes out their actions and puts context to the events that happen toward the end of each subsection. I think you'd really miss out if you skipped them. What elevates them for me though is the fact that since you can't access the hearts menu you're forced to think about the scenes for a longer period of time before immediately rewarding the heroines with a heart. By the time you get the menu back you may feel compelled to hand out two or three of your ten points and that choice is a really good moment to sit and consider how you actually feel about each of the characters. If you haven't been interested in one of the girls but their inner thoughts persuaded you they mean well or vise versa then these moments of returned choice can really shake up who you favor for the eventual act three. It feels like i'm praising this game for taking away my options during these sections, because I am, but that's only because you have such freedom everywhere else you become hyper aware and observant when it's scaled back. Going back to the common route rules above this altered mindset falls perfectly in line with fulfilling those goals. Because the reader also cross views background characters to get their perspective they get to relegate development in the main story away from interactions with the protagonist and still fulfill the requirement they be showcased. Because each heroine always has a cross fade section each of them gets a roughly equal amount of time to win over a reader and because they have this extra time they can have more interesting personal conflicts that carry over to their romance routes while the main plot focuses on P-kun's struggles. A RESPONSE TO A DIFFERENT POINT I want to wrap up this first part of my review by addressing why I think "harem" games are uniquely suited to have better, more developed experiences then equal surface quality novels. IxST would not have worked as a story if the protagonist had been the one to confess to the heroines. I don't mean it would have just been different I mean the structure of this game and what made it so interesting and special would have been worthless if that one detail were changed. The choice system of IxST only works because all options are treated equally and never pull the reader too far in one direction. The mindset of someone who is balancing a relationship with five people is fundamentally different from pursuing one out of five. I can't make it any clearer then that, reading this VN is just fundamentally different because the atmosphere is different. Am I saying ALL harem games are like this? Absolutely not. Especially those that have the harem route as an option but clearly do not focus on it or worse work like Harem Party where harem means nothing more then the Echii scenes keep changing girls. But I am saying its easier to break out of the mindset visual novels often fall into where you can only pursue one girl at a time and regardless of what the context of the situation is you should always pick the option that girl will like or be punished for it. The quote that really stuck with me from my conversation referenced in the intro above was "I can never get invested in the characters because they treat everyone the same." I didn't say it at the time but isn't that a good thing? Do you WANT the characters to be inherently unequal? Everyone has their kinks and this is a kinky kinky genre you're allowed to pick favorites based upon what you like but doesn't it stand to reason that if you're reading a novel and one character is favored over another that the person who likes that unfavored character is going to wish they had been treated more equally? That's to say nothing about the fact that every novel is someones first and if a brand new VN reader gets hold of this story don't you want them to have a fair representation of the different character types? Isn't the entire point of having options to be able to explore them unbiased? If you really wanted to pursue just one type of character then their are dozens of novels with only one heroine, admittedly far less then their are with several choices but it's not like they don't exist! Now if the novel is poorly written and the characters have to all share two or three personality traits then yeah fine you have a point there but that's not the harems fault that's just a bad novel in general. I can't say I'm a "fan" of harem VNs, I think I own maybe five total that could even plausibly count out of a sizable collection but I can't deny that problems I constantly complain about in other VNs are at worse absent in the sub-genre and at worst have active solutions like in IxST that I feel NEED to be praised. I don't feel comfortable writing off these stories because "One man can't possibly satisfy five girls." His words not mine. WHY I CHOOSE TO SPLIT THIS REVIEW Well for starters i'm already going far over what I think is reasonable for a single post and haven't even TOUCHED on the actual game's story but more importantly I think my opinion on the VN itself and the mechanics of the game are two separate things. I'll be clear and say I do like IxST, in fact it might crack my top 15, but I have a lot more to say about its narrative then I do about this topic so I decided it would be best to segregate the two ideas. Next week I'll be posting my views on the story, characters, music, art, and my overall opinion with a few extras thrown in. I expect it will end up being even longer then part 1 so be prepared for that I guess. I'm interested to see which of these two parts do better overall so if you liked what you read consider showing some support. I'll consider your updoot to be a substitute for a heart. This is my fourth review in this series so I'm still full of ideas but if these longer reviews do well I might consider moving to a slower release schedule to be sure I can be more detailed. Let me know what you think and if you agree with my points or the stranger I argued against. Stay well everyone!
Hi r/shmups! I'm currently on a project where I try to review every shmup on the Switch, so I thought I'd share my reviews here! Here's the 26th entry: Darius Cozmic Collection Arcade
We’ve all had a game that is a gateway to a specific genre. That one game which made us pay attention to a style of games and allowed us to fully experience the genre. It might not have been the first one we play, but it is definitely one that stays closer to our hearts. For me, this game was Darius. I’ve mentioned this in the past, but I will say it again: Darius is the shmup that is closest to my heart. I loved the horizontal gameplay, I loved the Silver Hawk, I loved all the huge bosses that looked like fishes. The gameplay also hit bunch of chords that resonate with what I love about shmups. I’ve been waiting so long for this, so alas, I present to you: Darius Cozmic Collection Arcade! Publisher: ININ Games Platform: Nintendo Switch Release date: Jun 16, 2020 Price: $44.99 Tate: Built-in Darius Cozmic Collection Arcade is a collection of the Darius games released on the arcades. This wasn’t your typical cabinet, as one of its main features was the usage of multiple screens. Darius used 3 screens, while Darius II/SAGAIA used 2 screens. M2 really went out of their way to bring the most authentic arcade experience! The result is impressive to say the least! This collections includes 4 games:
Darius and SAGAIA include 3 and 2 different versions respectively, bringing it to a total of 7 playable games. ARCADE GLORY As hard as this might be to believe, I have never played an arcade Darius game before. I always mentioned Darius as my favorite shmup, but the truth is that I began with the SNES games. I had heard on the street that the arcade versions were superior so I was very excited. When I booted the original version, I couldn’t help but feel like I was standing next to an actual arcade cabinet. The game greeted me with 3 screens places next to each other on the center of the screen. I was excited to play, so I pressed the coin button. I was not prepared for what I was about to experience… As soon as I inserted the coin, a typical fanfare played along as my credit counter increased by one. But there was something else. The controller started vibrating to the tune of the music. I just can’t make justice to this effect with words. It felt like being inside an actual arcade cabinet. Vibrations and sound made the experience feel authentic. It made me think about the arcade days where you would hear cabinets everywhere and just feel the energy of the place. As soon as I started to play, the screen changed and the empty spaces were replaced by arcade artwork. This artwork was exactly the kind you would see pasted near the controllers to show you how to play and other general information. Everything about the game was designed to make you feel like on the arcade. This is the kind of presentation that every other arcade port should try to achieve. FISH GRAVY What truly sets apart the Darius Cozmic Collection from any other collection is the amount of features and arcade fidelity that M2 added to the game. Every single aspect, every single menu and every single feature was lovingly added to create a masterpiece. From the get go, you will be presented with the very familiar “A boss is approaching” message featuring King Fossil. The message just says that your game data is approaching fast. It really is only a fancy way of saying the game is loading, but it sets the tone to the orgasmic experience that you are about to have with the game. After going through the intro scene, you will be greeted with the main menu which contains all 7 playable titles in this collection. You also have a replay, manual and staff options. If you are wondering where the options are, they are specific for each game, so they must be adjusted from within each game. My only complaint here is that the manual is in japanese. There isn’t much to learn from a manual though. The only thing was the Darius Gaiden capture mechanic, so I picked that one up from the internet. AN ENTIRE LEGACY Speaking of the games, 7 different titles can be quite intimidating. If you are anything like me, then chances are you don’t know what’s “new ver” or “extra ver”. Thankfully, each game features a sort of museum display that features a screenshot of the menu, the title, the launch date and a very thorough description of the game. The text will navigate you through each version of the games and specifically highlight why it is different from its predecessor or what was changed when going to western markets. Each game includes a training mode for those who wish to challenge specific parts of the game. Training mode will let you choose to play any stage and customize a variety of settings such as the strength of your Silver Hawk and the game rank, which is the in-game difficulty. The obvious use for this mode is to practice your piloting skills and go for the 1CC. Even casual players can view this as a pseudo level select cheat code for maximum enjoyment! Perhaps one of the most amazing inclusions of the collection is the replay mode. For every one of your play throughs, there is an option to save a replay of your play session. What differs from regular replays, is that they pack an incredibly robust set of features. Other than being able to watch a recording of yourself, you can see your inputs and control the playback of the replay. You can rewind, fast forward, go back, increase the speed or even go full slow-mo to analyze your gameplay. KING OF THE ARCADE Challenging oneself is one thing, but going after the world is the true spirit or arcade shmups. Darius Cozmic Collection Arcade features online rankings which are separated into 2 categories: “Arcade” and “All-mix”. Arcade is played with every setting on default and using only one credit. If you are playing and choose to spend an additional credit to continue, then your scoring is changed to “All-mix”. All-mix is a catch-all for every other style, from easy difficulty to hard or even static rank modes. If you ever wondered what’s it like to play like the king of the leaderboards, then you’ll be glad to know you can download leaderboard replays! This allows you to watch the entire play throughs of top players, along with their inputs and the previously mentioned playback features of a replay. A must have for those willing to go for the record or even those curious about what it means to be a champion. YOUR PERFECT CABINET The in-game menu for each game will further let you customize your gameplay experience. The amount of options is truly staggering, so suffice to know that you can change in-game setting as difficulty and score for an extend, screen quality adjustments like scan lines and gadgets, and the controllers. One menu I really want to highlight is the gadgets menu. Gadgets are responsible for making the gameplay experience truly stand out. They track all sorts of data from yourself and the enemies. From a friendly side, you can see your current level of power, the number of hits your arm can take and the information related to the current zone. From a less friendly side, you have all sorts of analyzers that display the current boss, their weakness and detailed HP for each of their parts. There’s even a life gauge that appears at the bottom of the screen for easy viewing when fighting bosses! Although I could see an argument against being way too much information, I’m personally thankful because I’m a data nerd and I love knowing all this information. If it is too much for you, then you can always turn off the gadgets and customize the screen to your liking. The real beauty comes from creating your perfect cabinet. THE EMULATOR ADVANTAGE One of the main selling points of emulators has been the ability to use save states. Darius Cozmic Collection is no slouch and features save states of its own! These save states will let you cheese the game as much as you want, but they also let you replay specific sections and master them for your future arcade runs. I won’t judge you, so have fun with save states! The only caveat is that using save states will not record your score. Unfortunately, replays will only record from the last time you loaded the save state onwards. So there’s no chance of creating tool-assisted runs. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that bringing up the in-game menu will completely pause the game and show you a fully-fledged map of the game, complete with boss encounters for each zone and the amount of power-ups featured in said zone. It really is great for strategy purposes to know which stage will allow you to upgrade your Silver Hawk! Resuming a game will also give you a 3 second count down with a jumping robot animation to ensure you are ready for action. This detail wasn’t really needed, but it is one of the many ways in which M2 shows appreciation for Darius and the player. Out of all this nitty gritty details, I have to say the song name is one of my favorites. In the bottom right corner of the screen there is a pop-up that appears when the song changes and displays the song name. I just think it looks really cool. By the way, don’t forget to check “Olga Breeze”, my favorite song! DARIUS, THE OG Darius, the game that started it all. Featuring 3 screens, this is the biggest Darius game featured in this collection (ha!). If I may add, I also think this is the game that highlights all the love M2 poured into bringing arcade experiences to your living room. With features such as the cabinet art and the body sonic vibration, it really brings home the arcade feeling. As you can expect, playing the first game on the series is both, a nostalgic and a painful experience. Playing on 3 screens is truly magical, but at the same time, it is a victim to the older design choices. Not much that can be done here, after all, it is a decades old game. Just a small detail to keep in mind. Darius helps establish the foundations of the franchise from the very first game. One of the Darius staples is the upgrade system for the Silver Hawk. Throughout the game, you can encounter 3 different orbs which are dropped by different colored enemies. The orbs can be red, green or blue. SILVER HAWK Red orbs will upgrade your primary fire. Each orb increases your power, but collecting 7 will upgrade your shot to the laser, and then the wave. Green orbs will upgrade your bomb, which is your secondary fire. Bombs also get stronger with more orbs and also upgrade when you reach 7. Blue orbs will give you a shield called arm. The initial shield blocks 3 hits and any additional orb will add 1 more hit. Just like red and green, you can upgrade after 7 orbs which will make it so that additional orbs give you 2 hits and then 3. The downside to the upgrade system is that, upon death, you will lose every orb you collected in your current tier. The good news is that if you, for instance, managed to upgrade to the laser, then your shot can never fall below that. The bad news is that the number of orbs is limited per stage, which means it is almost impossible to upgrade within a stage the same stage where you died. The exception is a single stage that has 7 blue orbs in the old version and one with 7 green in the extra version. THE FISH The most distinguishable characteristic of the franchise is definitely the marine bosses. The stages are all over the place with a very diverse space settings, but the bosses are always one thing: fish. Actually, I’d say it is marine biology, but fish is an overly simplistic way to describe it. Darius also has one peculiarity which is that every set of stages has the same boss. For example, the 4th stage boss will always be Fatty Glutton in a different version depending on which zone you chose. The other defining feature of Darius is being able to choose your adventure. After each boss, you can choose to go to one of 2 different zones. This choice is made by either being on the top or bottom half of the screen, as the stage actually splits after beating the boss. It certainly took me off guard the first time as I crashed into the divider. Despite having the same boss, the zones are drastically different and carry the strategic choice of having a different number of orbs. Your path will be determined by which aspect of your Silver Hawk you want to improve. THE COINS What struck me the most about Darius is how unforgiving it is. This is expressed in the descriptions of the newer versions. The thing about Darius, is that the game is next to impossible to beat if you didn’t fully upgrade. Later enemies are merciless and if you don’t have sufficient firepower, then you probably won’t stand a chance. This ruthlessness is exacerbated by the death system, as death will set you considerably behind. Because upgrades are usually a 2-stage effort, getting shot will set you back 2 levels worth of progress. A fun aspect I found on Darius is the dynamic created by having 3 screens. This is probably the widest game I have played, and it brings new challenges to the table. The first one is that you need to gain screen position to succeed. Being at the front is usually better, with moving back feeling like losing real estate. The reason behind this is that you are able to shoot down enemies before they become a threat with their numbers. The other less obvious reason is the number of bullets allowed on screen. That number is limited, so it is in your best interest that those bullets expire fast so you can fire new ones. Being back equals more time before they reach the end of the screen, which is undesirable. Overall, the game poses a unique challenge, but I’m not going to lie, it is actually really fun to play. Achieving an upgraded Silver Hawk is a hard endeavor, but that makes it even more rewarding when you pull it off! DARIUS II/SAGAIA, THE PROOF US WESTERNERS HAVE SHORT ATTENTION SPANS Darius II came in and simplified the game in some interesting ways. First of all it reduced the upgrade system so that it is now only a single stage that can be maxed out. The number of orbs was reduced to compensate. Another simplification comes courtesy of the screens themselves. The number of screens was reduced from 3 to 2 in order to be installed in other dual screen cabinets such as The Ninja Warriors. Unfortunately, the single stage of upgrades means that the game is even more savage when you die. This time around, you actually lose all of your progress in terms of firepower. There will be special rainbow orbs which help you catch up a little, but even then they might be a little too late. As a result, my 1CC had to be done by never dying. I ALWAYS WANTED A THING CALLED A TUNA SASHIMI One thing I want to mention, is that Darius II has my absolute favorite intro sequence of any Darius game in this collection. From the music that goes ramping up to the main theme, to the voice lines calling out the launching sequence: “Main engine energy level, 20% increase !” “I always wanted a thing called tuna sashimi” “3…2…1…” It all creates an unbelievable sense of excitement! A very fun piece of trivia is the existence of SAGAIA. It exists to be a compact version of Darius II to be sold on western markets. Then there’s actually 2 versions of it which feel like 2 pieces of the same game. If SAGAIA trimmed certain pieces of the game, then version 2 came to use those trimmed pieces and created another entry. It’s actually quite funny. DARIUS GAIDEN, THE KING Darius Gaiden is definitely the reason you will keep playing the arcade collection. Quality in older games under a modern eye is usually a product of nostalgia and design elements that still hold on in today’s gaming landscape. Contrasting with that, Darius Gaiden IS a fantastic game that I wouldn’t hesitate to purchase if it was released today. For Darius Gaiden, less is more, as this time around the game was played on a single screen arcade cabinet. The game does seem to lack some of the ambient goodies such as the rumble effects, but it makes up for it in gameplay experiences. TRUE POWER One aspect that is radically different from its predecessor is the upgrade system. Whereas Darius II simplified the Silver Hawk upgrade system, Darius Gaiden took it back to its original Darius roots. This means that, once again, we have multiple upgrade points. Upgrades take considerably less red power-ups to achieve, which actually makes it possible to upgrade multiple times during the same stage. Death penalties are lower as well with death only losing you a level of power. Because there are more power levels, it is more forgiving and doesn’t set you completely behind like the previous entries. Perhaps the best of all is that neither arm nor bombs have any penalty whatsoever. What’s more, you don’t even lose your arm or bomb level when losing a credit. I can say with 100% certainty that this game is actually possible to complete within a reasonable number of credits if you die on the later zones. I would take it one step ahead and say this game has a little of the Contra syndrome. The original Contra is a game that was considered hard, but was significantly easier if you could maintain the spread shot. In the same vein, getting the earliest upgrades makes Darius Gaiden a breeze. A well deserved victory, if you ask me. YOU’RE MINE NOW! New to Darius Gaiden is the ability to capture mid bosses. Half-way through a stage, you will encounter a medium sized boss with a purple orb somewhere in its back. If you manage to take down the orb without killing the enemy, it will detach and slowly drift away. If you capture this orb, then the mid boss will fight alongside you until its timer expires. I gotta say that having a huge fish on your side is surprisingly satisfying! Having a single screen makes the experience much more familiar for shmup enthusiasts. While it does lose some of the charm of the ultra wide field of view, it also rids itself of nuances such as your horizontal movement being low in terms of total horizontal space or the limit on on-screen bullets. A combination of those factors I mentioned contribute to making Darius Gaiden a much better experience. It’s simple to play and forgiving when you lose. Every stage is unique and makes every new play through a completely different experience, not just in a different-ish way, but rather full blown new content! A LEGENDARY PACKAGE OF NOSTALGIA There’s one thing that you might be thinking, and that’s that I might be biased because it is Darius. It is true that I openly admit everywhere that Darius is my favorite. However, in this particular case my work was cut out for me, I don’t need to be biased because this is truly a wonderfully crafted collection that deserves to be on everyone’s Switch. It contains every possible version of Darius you might have encountered on the arcades and then sprinkled some top notch features that make it stand on a class of its own when it comes to ports. It also helps that the Darius games remain to be as fun as they always have been, even with their caveats. I took 3-4 times more time to play this collection, not because it had a lot of content, but because I loved playing every second of it and wanted to try it all. Wanted to 1CC every version, wanted to traverse every possible stage, wanted to created masterful replays. The only possible downside I can see to this collection is the price. $44.99 is a very high price compared to other shmups on the market. In terms of features and overall content (because remember, every game has more than an alphabets worth of different zones) it does warrant its price. Although I can see people double guess their decision, with this game being close to the cost of a first party title and significantly higher than other shmups. TOP 3 My tentative placement for Darius Cozmic Collection Arcade was on the top 3 spots. I really had a hard time deciding where to put it, so I went back and revisited both Ikaruga and Psyvariar Delta. After finishing my Ikaruga play through, I was reminded of the magic that is Ikaruga and how special it is. Psyvariar Delta also reminded me of the buzz system and how the refined gameplay and level ups work towards creating an experience that I can’t quite put into words. The main defining factor, however, was that I don’t think any of the Darius games in the collection beats the top 2 contenders. The 7 games as an aggregate, are certainly a force to be reckoned with thanks to the superb M2 porting labour. With that being said, I will award it a 3rd spot because the gameplay experience is incredible, but a little held back by the age of the games and the hefty price tag. Still, Darius will always be #1 in my heart. THE RANKING SO FAR:
Practicing SR since July 2017; currently have a 3+ month streak
2 accounts got shadowbanned for uploading this post. Spam filter kept on removing it this post. Messaged the moderators, but received no answer. Removed many links, so check post history for full version. First time making a Reddit post. Estimated Reading Time: 15 minutes Brief summary of post:
History of Journey
Using Subliminals (affirmations converted into audio) to reprogram the subconscious, overcome nocturnal emissions, and turbo-charge the Law of Attraction
Experience from meditation retreats
Massive booklist covering psychotherapy, spirituality, and general books such as negotiating and advanced social skills
Fundamental shifts that occurred
Experiences with semen-retention benefits
How I overcame and conquered negative entities
Tantric meditation method that actually works with zero side effects
Experience on speaking Japanese for 1 full hour with native speakers without notes after 3 months of learning
Terminology: Wet dream/WD – sexual dream causing semen emission while sleeping Nocturnal Emission/NE – semen emission occurring while sleeping even without dreaming Semen-retention/SR streak – avoiding porn, masturbation, and ejaculation whether conscious or unconscious Nofap Hardmode – avoiding porn, masturbation, and conscious ejaculation. Unconscious ejaculation/WD is considered fine. As the title suggests, my current streak started in the middle of June 2017. Haven’t watched any porn or masturbated in 3 years. Experienced almost all the benefits such as massive attraction (men, women, children), an aura/energy surrounding me, enhanced charisma, less need for sleep, insane levels of energy, drive, and motivation, zero anxiety or fear, massive confidence occasionally bordering on arrogance, increased manifestation/LOA, people admiring/respecting me for no reason, online attraction, less procrastination, better athletic performance, greater creativity/intelligence, the desire to live a purposeful life, greater emphasis on spirituality, and much much more. Could probably write several posts just on the benefits themselves. Only thing that didn’t improve was my skin, which was later fixed using subliminals. It’s been a long journey, so I’ll start with background information, and later elaborate on how I managed to go from nocturnal emissions every 5 days (avg) to having a perfect SR streak for 3 months. Used to watch anime which led to hentai (2013), and eventually western/japanese porn. Don’t even bother to search these terms on Google. It’s not worth it. Thankfully, those days are long behind me. As a side-note, I discovered the nofap/semen-retention subreddit in November 2017. Didn’t even know about SR before that. I was raised a Catholic in a fairly religious family. Always started various streaks, and eventually broke them due to boredom/emotional coping/curiosity about new videos. Thankfully, I got good grades, read books, and was interested in self-development, but all that time spent on porn was a complete waste. Assuming I spent at least 2 hours everyday for 4 years (1460 days), it amounts to 122 complete days or around 4 months in total. It’s pretty sad on reflection, but at least the experience is now absorbed, and I can write this post. On June 2017, after summer break started and final exams were over, I decided to permanently quit this habit. Downloaded an application called Cold Turkey and completely blocked all websites I used to visit. Now use Leechblock, which is available on most browsers (also use it to block/restrict access to non-NSFW websites which impair productivity like ESPN). Started 30 minutes of daily meditation (mindfulness + metta). Still continue the habits to this day, although the length is increased to 1 hour. Read Mindfulness in Plain English by Bhante Gunaratana and Lovingkindness by Sharon Salzberg for instructions. Have re-read these books multiple times. Mindfulness will allow you to be self-aware of your mental conditioning, while metta (feeling compassion for yourself, a friend, neutral person, and enemy) can remove thoughts of lust and fundamentally alter your mental programming. Compassion is a very powerful exercise. Read “The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion by Christopher Germer” while you’re at it and learn tonglen. All of these books contain zero fluff, and are invaluable reads. Started drinking 16 glasses of water (thought it would help skin, but helped in other ways), and doing 100 pushups + 100 sit-ups everyday. Increased it to 200 pushups + 200 sit-ups after 1 month. After 2 months, I made a decent amount of gains (SR helps), and people started asking me workout tips and what gym I go to. Had a Kindle Paperwhite, which is frankly one of my most valued possessions. Still works perfectly fine after 5 years, and costs only $130. Buy one now. Read a lot of books mostly consisting of biographies/spirituality/practical social skills/800+ page novels for around 6 hours per day. Still try to read for at least 15 minutes/1 chapter even when extremely busy. Will post a small booklist at the end of this post. You can upload books to it for free if you lack money. Visit (gen.lib.rus.ec), download the ebook in epub/mobi format, open it with Calibre (https://calibre-ebook.com/), and send it to Kindle using USB. Knowledge is an investment that produces continuous returns. Warren Buffett spends 80% of his time just reading! and takes action based on that knowledge. Even managed to have the motivation to learn Japanese by joining a foreign language exchange website. People, especially women, accepted and sent a lot of invitations to have a conversation; didn’t realize online attraction was due to SR back then. None of us showed our faces, so my physical appearance had nothing to do with it. From experience, the best way to learn a language was to make a phrase sheet with the most common phrases/questions, such as “okay”, “that’s awesome”, “what is that word in English/Japanese?” Basically a human AI bot. Don’t waste time trying to learn how to write the alphabet, although my primary purpose was to learn how to speak. Google Translate is good enough to understand the pronunciation. I learned Japanese primarily by watching Terrace House. First watched the episode with subtitles, then re-watched it without, while simultaneously writing all the connectives/conversational phrases. You can try unique methods to remember, but brute-force memorization/review worked the best. Never tried Anki since it was cumbersome to use. For the accent, the best way is to watch Japanese people trying to speak English, and try to mirror their accent as much as possible. It honestly helps. After 3 months, I could have a full 1 hour conversation in Japanese with a native speaker without looking at any notes. I wasn’t “fluent” (still stuttered and made mistakes), but it was a huge amount of progress for starting from scratch. Eventually after 6 months, I gave up practicing/speaking the language. I was mainly trying to fulfill a childhood fantasy, and I’m glad I tried since I learned a lot from it and got to talk with interesting people. But in reality, I stopped watching anime, and honestly never needed to speak Japanese in real-life. Now I barely remember any of the words, except a few basic phrases. Could probably last 30 seconds of full conversation at best. So, everything was going great until December 2017. During this time period, I probably had wet dreams/nocturnal emissions every 1 – 2 months. Barely felt much difference since there was a decent time interval between emissions. Drank 2 glasses of water everyday before bed, slept on my stomach, and ate spicy food (practices that cause nocturnal emissions), but was perfectly fine. However in December I started having emissions every 2 weeks. Initially didn’t care about it. In January it started happening every 1 week. Nothing really changed in my life during this time to cause emissions to increase. Then it started happening every 5 days, every 3 days, sometimes even 2 days in a row! Most of you will have no idea how terrible it feels to be on top of the world, and then suddenly crash down. The difference between living life with/without SR benefits is night and day. Even after sleeping 10 hours, I used to feel completely exhausted. People ignored me, or worse started “joking” around me. Complete disrespect by friends, family, and acquaintances. No energy/motivation to do anything. Constant brain fog, could barely concentrate. Felt even worse than my porn days when I ejaculated everyday. Voice completely shot, started feeling anxious about oral presentations for no reason, when I always excelled. Felt like my soul was dying. Those were really dark times. People started saying I “changed”, and started pointing out and constantly magnifying my flaws. It’s strange how people exaggerate our skills/talents on SR, while they completely ignore them post WD/ejaculation, and focus only on your flaws/mistakes. It makes you lose trust in everyone around you, as if all of them are energy vampires who only like you due to SR. I grew desperate. During this whole time I meditated, practiced no lust/no arousal as best as possible since July 2017, yet emissions increased massively in frequency. Some occurred due to sexual dreams, but most were nocturnal emissions. Thought I had a UTI at first, and went to a general practitioner. He didn’t seem very reliable, so I went to a prominent urologist. Did all sorts of tests, paid a good amount of money, and the doctor said everything was fine. Having nocturnal emissions every 5 days was perfectly normal at my age. Encouraged me to masturbate regularly if it became an inconvenience :) So medical science obviously failed. Started following all the tips/methods in this subreddit, and believe me I tried almost everything no matter how uncomfortable or time-consuming. Omad, avoid food/water before bed, vegetarianism, tantric meditation, different diets, various sleeping positions, no/increased meditation before bed, no/more exercise, yogic exercises, qigong, some tips mentioned by Soaring Eagle, prayed to God. None of them worked. The only method I didn’t try extensively were kegels. Initially tried a normal + reverse kegel routine, then found an article by coincidence on this subreddit about someone who permanently damaged their penis from doing kegels. Immediately stopped, thank you to that person for sharing your experience. It’s as if the universe was looking out for me. Best to avoid such risky methods even if you’re desperate. Currently sleep on my back since it avoids any "accidental physical stimulation" from occurring. So this nocturnal emission phenomena continued for over a year. Some methods worked better than others, while for some, I wasn’t sure if it was merely the placebo effect. In mid-2019 I came across subliminal videos (finally the good part!) on YouTube. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P0W5AB1sGr0) This video explains it more thoroughly, but basically you convert affirmations (sentences like “I am happy/smart/handsome”) into audio using text-to-speech software and reprogram your subconscious mind. Tried a beauty subliminal (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xEXaAsm-Iys) as a joke, but the next day I noticed changes in my facial structure. Listened for an hour the first day, which was easy given the music. You have no idea how amazing it feels to know that you can control your reality just by using your mind. Completely magical. Supposedly it works due to the Law of Attraction; you can find out more by reading/watching “The Secret” by Rhonda Byrne, and later reading all the books by Neville Goddard. Started using a skin subliminal as well (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iqi8Q80pspk and later moved onto https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=COxz8hvl14Y ), and now my skin is completely normal. Visited prominent US dermatologists, tried all sorts of acne medicine including Accutane, and even did SR, yet none of them worked. Skin was pretty terrible, and I was glad it got fixed. Took around 4 months of daily listening although it can be shortelonger depending on your belief, blockages, and levels of positivity. There’s a CIA document on holographic universes, astral projection, time travel, and psychic powers if you need scientific validation: https://www.cia.gov/library/readingroom/docs/CIA-RDP96-00788R001700210016-5.pdf Disclaimer: Although there can be bad subliminal makers, they are very rare, and there has been only 2 of them in the history of the community. Someone named MindPower and Rose subliminals. The vast majority (99%) put positive affirmations. It’s best that you verify by checking all the comments, seeing their subscriber count, general personality, etc, but ultimately there’s no guarantee. The only way to make sure the affirmations are 100% positive and safe are to make them yourself or use a subliminal that blocks negative affirmations. One thing to note is that physical change (biokinesis; search that term)/spiritual subliminals utilize the prana in your body to a certain extent to make changes. It makes sense since physical change is essentially a psychic poweenergy work. So your SR benefits/aura might temporarily decrease. Hydration is also recommended, and you will notice feeling thirsty. Personally drink 20 glasses of water everyday. Obviously, my interest now turned towards using subliminals to cure nocturnal emissions. Unfortunately there’s a huge lack of subliminals regarding semen-retention or those targeted towards nocturnal emissions. Initially bought a subliminal using a paid request (you pay a subliminal maker for a specialized subliminal), but it didn’t work that well. Desired to be permanently free of nocturnal emissions, or at least reduce the frequency to once a month. So I decided to make my own subliminal. The affirmations will be posted below, and this is how I eventually cured my nocturnal emissions. Steps on how to make your own subliminal:
Write all the affirmations in a word document and save it.
Download text-to-speech software like Balabolka and output the audio file in wav format (you want both uncompressed + lossless)
Optional but recommended; download an audio editor like Audacity, and fast-forward the audio as much as possible using the “Change Tempo” effect. Personally I speed the audio to one second and then loop it 1000x. Continue the process as much as possible, but never make the audio length less than 1 second. Some subliminal makers make their subliminals even more powerful by creating multiple audio streams of their affirmations using different voices, merging all the voices together, and speeding them up. It’s called layering. Why super-sped affirmations work better can be somewhat explained by this article (https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/sensorium/201812/experiments-suggest-humans-can-directly-observe-the-quantum), but science still doesn’t have all the answers. Will take time.
Affirmations Link:https://www.reddit.com/pureretention/comments/hg0tjb/practicing_sr_since_july_2017_finally_conquered/ (same content; scroll down to the subliminal section and download the affirmations file from the mega link) Listened to this personal subliminal for 1 hour everyday for an entire month. Still listen just to be safe. Took months of testing and editing affirmations to make it perfect. Experienced massive sexual dreams on certain days, more than normal, and found out that entities could be responsible. Try to avoid this subreddit as well, since reading the posts can trigger memories. More energetically sensitive now, and sometimes there’s a lot of low-vibrational energy. On a side-note, porn cripples your aura and invites negative entities (https://www.awakeningstaryoga.com/blog/expanding-away-from-porn-aura). Non-subliminal solutions:
The entire channel is a gem; these were some of the best. Have used them for a few months and feel much lighter and peaceful; experienced only headaches due to subconscious absorbing the affirmations, but zero negative effects. Advice: Remember to immediately download any subliminal video you find that is useful in wav format (https://www.savethevideo.com/download). Subliminal channels are sometimes deleted by YouTube (spam filter) or the creators themselves. Waited 3 whole months before deciding to make a Reddit post to make sure the method was 100% foolproof. Remember many people offering solutions in the past, yet 1 month later they would have another wd/nocturnal emission. The first month there was a lot of fear. Will I have a wet dream/nocturnal emission tonight? Was so traumatized it was difficult getting to sleep every night. After the 2nd month, I experimented with sleeping on my stomach and eating/drinking before bed. Nothing happened. Stopped recently to stay careful. After 2 years of suffering, this is a method that has worked. Try and see for yourself. Present day: How do you feel now? Some days it’s meh (due to flatline) like today; on other days I feel divine. No idea why flatline still occurs. Have regained all the benefits, feel love and happiness all the time. Experience intense states of bliss in meditation more frequently, although it’s just a distraction. Religiously/Spiritually I’ve moved from Christianity to Buddhism/Advaita Vedanta/parts of New Age. Found them more practical and useful in life. Was inspired to aim for spiritual enlightenment after reading “The 3 pillars of Zen” by Philip Kapleau. Read it, it might change your life. Have attended a number of meditation retreats now, along with 10-day ones. Everyone reading this post should try it. Understood how much our mental programming defined us, and that we aren’t are thoughts. Our childhood traumas define so much of our habitual reactions. Realized its okay to feel bored rather than chasing after constant stimulation. Even attended a Jhana retreat, which is exclusive for people who have attended prior retreats. Entered intense states of meditative absorption, understood the permeability/impermanence of reality, and had all sorts of mystical experiences. Experienced past lives; can confirm my mind did not make it up, since it’s an experience you can constantly replicate using the same methods. Before attempting such methods, you need to have the ability to sit down and meditate continuously for at least 3 hours. If you live in the US, attend IMS (Insight Meditation Society) or any prominent Vipassana/Theravada related retreat. Zen is a valid form of enlightenment, but it personally felt unstructured. Gave up music, took time since I was convinced it was needed for creativity. Instead, it was just a substitute source of dopamine and a way to avoid my emotions. Have much less brain fog after quitting. Only communicate using regular phone calls these days, which no one uses, and Snapchat/WhatsApp for texting. Avoid stories, waste of time. Instagram/TwitteFacebook are a waste of time unless you are using it for business purposes. The only social media you really need is LinkedIn. Women: You’ll learn more about them by reading romantic novels, Korean mangas, and watching Kdramas then reading all that seduction/red pill stuff. Focus on general charisma (men and women) instead of a specific gender. Read “The Charisma Myth” by Olivia Fox Cabane; it’s the most practical book on social skills I have ever read, and possibly the most life-changing as well. Teaches you self-awareness, applies Buddhist psychology to social interaction. Used to train executives in Google, read it now (and do all the exercises). The bibliography sent me on a rabbit hole that made me read ton of books on psychotherapy, meditation, mindfulness, and Buddhism; this was before SR. Inspired me to practice meditation, although the habit only became regular after SR. Read books such as Crucial Conversations by Al Switzer, Difficult Conversations by Douglas Stone, How to Talk so Kids will Listen by Adele Faber (works very well in general since even adults have childhood programming, and can act like children), Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss (FBI's chief international hostage and kidnapping negotiator from 2003 to 2007), Getting More by Stuart Diamond (trains negotiators at Google), and Pitch Anything by Oren Klaff (more theoretical but useful). Also read The Definitive Book of Body Language by Allan Pease and What Every Body is Saying by Joe Navarro. These are all books that will greatly improve your human interactions and contain limited fluff. Have re-read all of these books in difficult times, and they have never let me down. You should read it as well. Even if you become a monk, there’s lots of social infighting even in monasteries. Highly-developed social skills are invaluable whenever you are dealing with individuals. Read “How to make friends and influence people” by Dale Carnegie once in a while, since most forget to apply his “basic” advice. Learned a lot about oral presentations by watching Alan Shore on Boston Legal (TV show). Current position in life? Studying for a bachelor’s degree. My family is financially well-off, and my father is paying for my college tuition and dorm. Scholarships aren’t available for all income levels. Although I come from “privilege”, the above information can help anyone regardless of their financial position. We live in an era where information is accessible to all social classes, so excuses aren’t that relevant. If you’re practicing SR, you are already 20 steps closer to success. The tips above can be applied for free as long as you have a computesmartphone. Read books starting from today, knowledge is a source of power. People spend so much time reading the news, scrolling social media feeds, reacting to comments, chatting about useless things with friends, binging shows on Netflix, browsing YouTube/Reddit, that time quietly passes by. Time is the most valuable commodity you have; don’t waste such a limited resource on things that will contribute nothing towards your purpose in life. Once it’s spent, you can never get it back. Personally, I schedule the next day before going to bed. Leisure, Reading, Schoolwork, Meditation, everything is mapped out perfectly. Try to eliminate habits that just waste time and stick to your schedule perfectly (working on it myself). If you feel tired after work/studying, take a nap or meditate instead of receiving even more stimulation from videogames, YouTube, or other artificial dopamine sources. Try NoSurf.
The End of Your World by Adyashanti (fantastic writer; must-read if you have had an awakening experience or believe you are "enlightened")
How to Attain Enlightenment -> The Essence of Enlightenment by James Swartz (best introduction to Advaita Vedanta I have read so far)
I am That by Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj
In the Buddha's Words by Bhikkhu Bodhi (best introduction to Buddhist scripture)
Why Buddhism is True by Robert Wright (secular perspective but informative; his previous book The Moral Animal is a good introduction to evolutionary psychology. Read this first if you are non-spiritual)
Wisdom Wise and Deep by Shaila Catherine (comprehensive introduction by one of the best Jhana teachers in the US)
Manual of Insight by Mahasi Sayadaw
Emptiness: A Practical Guide by Guy Armstrong (good introduction to the Buddhist version of reality)
Books by Loch Kelly (practical guide to non-dual meditation practices within Buddhism; The Little Book of Being by Diana Winston may be a better introduction)
Seeing that Frees by Rob Burbea (really advanced but profound)
Musashi by Eiji Yoshikawa (Taiko is decent as well, but this one was a masterpiece)
Romance of the Three Kingdoms trans. Moss Roberts
The Dream of the Red Chamber trans. David Hawkes (read it in the summer of 2017, profound but not all may see the deeper meaning)
The Nine Cloud Dream trans. Heinz Insu Fenkl
Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand (Inspirational for Entrepreneurs, however don’t start adopting this book as economic philosophy. It’s just a novel!)
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho (read now if you are experiencing an existential crisis)
Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment + The Brothers Karamazov (optional reading; prefer Pevear translation)
Perry Mason and Sherlock Holmes Series (pleasure reading but not useless)
Psychotherapy (never visited a therapist, but found these useful):
Getting Past Your Past by Francine Shapiro (by the founder of EMDR, best practical book on trauma and exercises to resolve it)
Complex PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving (another immensely practical book on recovering from trauma)
Breaking the Cycle by George Collins (best practical workbook on sexual addiction I have read; all should read)
Get out of your mind and into your life by Steven Hayes (Was mentioned in the charisma myth booklist; take control of your thoughts and mind by the founder of ACT)
Mindful Compassion by Paul Gilbert and Choden (prominent researcher on compassion applied to therapy; part one can be boring, but part two on practical exercises is invaluable)
Feeling Book by David Burns (rightfully a classic book on therapy and CBT; read if you are suffering from depression)
Healing Development Trauma by Laurence Heller (best book on the impact of childhood/development trauma but meant for therapists, might explain why we use addiction to cope from childhood memories; google ACE study as well)
The Boy who was raised as a Dog by Bruce Perry (stories about children experiencing trauma. Increases empathy for yourself and others; you realize how childhood trauma affects how a lot of people think and behave)
Whole Again: Healing Your Heart and Rediscovering Your True Self After Toxic Relationships and Emotional Abuse by Jackson MacKenzie (fantastic book on recovering from relationship abuse. Many of us have emotional baggage that fuels coping and addiction loops. Read Healing from Hidden Abuse by Shannon Thomas as well.)
Self-Compassion by Kristen Neff (optional reading, but complimentary)
For biographies, read those of presidents and important leaders. Also about famous/successful individuals. Read all of Ron Chernow’s books. Abuse the Amazon Search Engine and look through their categories. Reading biographies can fundamentally enhance your worldview so you realize that real-life issues are much more nuanced and gray rather than black and white. Also shows how successful people deal with difficult crises and their perspective on life. Especially for public policy. If a President implements an economic policy that has short-term gains, but long-term loss, he has a greater chance of being re-elected. However, short-term loss in favor of long-term gain is the correct policy. Employ critical-thinking! Avoid cable news even if you need to stay informed. Don’t even have a television in my house. Unnecessary. Just read 2 – 3 reputable news sources for 20 minutes max. Sometimes I even avoid the news since there’s too much negativity. https://www.reddit.com/kundalini/comments/1unyph/a_tantric_perspective_on_the_use_of_sexual_energy/ (tantric meditation technique that actually works; you are supposed to do it for 1 hour. Optional.) https://www.reddit.com/kundalini/comments/2zn8ev/grounding_201_two_effective_quick_methods/ (energetic protection + grounding method after doing the tantric meditation) Avoid learning Mantak Chia’s techniques from a book, since some have suffered side-effects to their energetic/biological body. For NEO, Tibetan buddhists practice meditation for 13 years before attempting it (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karmamudr%C4%81). Not easy. Not sure about women, since SR streak is more important. Don’t pick a partner to fulfill some kind of emotional void, or due to societal programming where women are held to be the ultimate goal. Spiritual Enlightenment is the ultimate goal now, but even enlightened people need money for food and shelter. Youtubers I follow are Graham Stephan, Ryan Serhant, Rupert Spira, and https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCUX1V5UNWP1RUkhLewe77ZQ (cured women objectification for me; wholesome content) although mostly I avoid the website. Easy to loose track of time. Avoid smoking, alcohol, recreational drug use (https://www.elitedaily.com/wellness/drugs-alcohol-aura-damage/1743959), casual sex (https://mywakingpath.wordpress.com/tag/aura/; sensitive images but useful), and fast food. Budget your money, and learn how to save as much as possible. Hope everyone reading this post experiences their definition of success and leads a purposeful life. Will end it by stating two quotes that have inspired and guided me: “You yourself have to change first, or nothing will change for you!” ― Hideaki Sorachi “It is not important to be better than someone else, but to be better than you were yesterday.” ― Jigoro Kano (Founder of Judo) Update 1, 2, 3: Added a post summary and the audio as well in the affirmations link Update 4: https://starseedsunited.com/negative-entities-and-psychic-attacks (basic article on entities) Some solutions are posted above. Updated* daily routine:
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