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Game Review: Suikoden 2 (PS Vita)

Welcome to another edition of Throwback Thursday! Today, I review Suikoden II, a 1998 PS One game about friendship, destiny, and power.

The second entry in the series is an improvement from its predecessor, although once again it’s unclear why a taciturn teenager ascends to military leadership and is repeatedly framed as a nation’s only hope (apart from the obvious appeal to target gamers). As an RPG, it’s certainly certifiable as a classic, with great music, lots of sidequests, customizable parties, and multiple endings.

Combat/Gameplay: 8/10
The combat system is unchanged from the original: players can choose a party of up to six members, dividing them between the front row and the back row. Characters have short-, medium-, or long-range weapons, so players must choose a mix (i.e. no swords-only party!). Certain combinations of characters can perform Unite attacks, which deal variable damage depending on the attack (e.g. 1.5x damage against all enemies or 3x damage against one oppon…

Book Review: I Am Malala: the Girl Who Stood Up for Education and was Shot by the Talban (2013)

I Am Malala, by Malala Yousafzai, is a hero's autobiography. Malala is a longtime Pakistani advocate for education, especially girls’ education. Fearful of her efforts and her growing influence worldwide, the Taliban shot her in the head when she was on her way to school. She was 15.

Now 19, Malala continues to work for her heart’s desire: education for every child. In her book, which is mostly chronological, she touches on many broad themes, including:

Home and Identity 

Named after Malalai, “the Joan of Arc” of Pakistan, Malala is put on the path to awesomehood by her father, a determined educator who built schools and was very active in local peace organizations. At every point in his daughter’s life, Ziauddin encouraged her to succeed in her studies, and to take real action to effect change to be of service to the less fortunate. He led her by his example, with every expectation that she would live up to her name. He was so known as a champion for education and progressive valu…

Summer Reading List

I squeezed in some non-Discworld books this summer, too! Twitter-length reviews below:


Why We Lost: A General’s Inside Account of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars (2014)
Daniel P. Bolger
Great details on combat missions; some analysis on personality, politics, & strategy issues. Author says US lost because forces didn’t stay.

Game Change: Obama and Clinton, McCain and Palin, and the Race of a Lifetime (2010)
John Heilemann, Mark Halperin
Juicy behind-the-scenes look at the contenders in the 2008 election. Summary: Obama led while Clinton managed, McCain screwed up.

Between the World and Me (2015)
Ta-Nehisi Coates
A heartfelt, often heartbreaking letter from father to son, about his experience being black and recognizing the blinding power of fear.

Science…For Her! (2014)
Megan Amram
Skewers sexism, racism, and other social ills via satirical prose and “fun, flirty” quizzes a la Cosmo. Has whole chapter dedicated to kale.

TL;DR: I recommend all four books pictured above.

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This post broug…

I Have Now Read Every Discworld Novel (Well, Almost)

This summer, my goal was to read all the Discworld novels that I skipped over. The main series has 42 books; I had read 23 so far. My first Discworld book was Witches Abroad (1991), and after that I got my paws on every single story featuring Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg, and the other witches up in the mountains. I was also a huge fan of Sam Vimes and the Ankh-Morpork City Watch, so I was fully informed of their fictional exploits up to Sir Terry Pratchett’s death.
So I hadn’t read the one-offs, the Rincewind the wizard stories, and the Death/Susan books. This meant I had to go all the way back to the eighties:

The Colour of Magic (1983)
The Light Fantastic (1986)
Mort (1987)
Sourcery (1988)
Pyramids (1989)

Hot take: All interesting reads, but nowhere near the quality of Pratchett’s later works, where he baked searing social commentary right into the absurd hilarity of the narrative flow. These earliest works certainly explore social themes (e.g. tourism vs. urbanism equality and power, …

Game Review: Suikoden (PS Vita)

Welcome to THROWBACK THURSDAY! Today’s topic is Suikoden, an RPG classic originally released for the PlayStation One in 1995. It’s now available for download on the PlayStation Store. Thanks to the success of the first title, there are now five games in the Suikoden main series, plus offshoots for portable consoles.

Suikoden follows Tir McDohl, a general’s son who becomes leader of the anti-emperor Liberation Army despite being, like, twelve.

My review below:

Combat/Gameplay: 9/10
Suikoden 1 has all the features of a classic RPG: an in-town map, dozens of NPCs, treasure chests in highly unlikely locations, a large overworld, and a traditional turn-based battle system. The game can be divided into three sections: 1) Tir becomes leader of the Liberation Army, 2) the Liberation Army growths in strength and influence, and 3) the Liberation Army marches against the final bastions of the empire’s power. The game encourages a linear progression through the storyline, with space for recruitme…