Konosuba and No Game No Life Double Overview

Covers of each series' first volume

Konosuba

Isekai is an iffy genre. The bad ones are littered with overpowered protagonists, inconsistent world logic, and all-around insufferably boring casts of characters. But they don’t HAVE to be this way. One light novel, Konosuba: God’s Blessing on this Wonderful World!, is one of those really, really good isekai light novels. This is a review of volumes 1-9 of the series, published in English by Yen Press.

Konosuba has so many ridiculous ideas that it’s a miracle they all somehow work. The story starts when the main character, Kazuma, is killed in the real world (like ya do) and is given a chance to live a fantasy life in another world. He jumps at the chance, but immediately regrets it when he forms the most incompetent harem ever.

This light novel revolves primarily around character interactions, to the point where it’s almost a slice-of-life. So if you want an epic adventure, you won’t get that here. The world is also not the most well-built. The areas that are visited are memorable by themselves, but there isn’t any fascinating lore as opposed to something like DanMachi (which will be covered soon enough on this blog). Fortunately, the characters themselves are phenomenal.

Kazuma, our boy, is not an ideal, righteous, yet socially awkward and wholly unremarkable turd. He is an ACTUAL turd; a selfish thief who has sub-par stats with the exception of his high Luck. He prefers leisure over labor, but thanks to his allies, that won’t quite happen.

Aqua, the goddess who accompanies Kazuma, is an egotistical and whiny brat, and I love her. For some reason, the author’s writing is so good at making these annoying-ass characters so lovable. But she’s only the tip of the iceberg.

My favorite girl, Megumin, has grown pretty notorious due to her meme-ability. Since you’ve probably already been spoiled of it, I’ll tell you that she has insane magic power. However, she only knows the spell Explosion, and although powerful, sucks her dry, forcing her to rest for 24 hours. The real problem is that she is obsessed with using it in the worst situations possible!

Darkness is the tank of the group. The catch is that she’s a hardcore masochist, and as such chooses to go out and not wear armor because she wants to get hit by enemies over and over again. There is also another side to her, but that’s spoilers…

In fact, there are still a lot more lovable characters, such as Chris, Eris, Vanir, and Wiz, but they’re more minor characters that I’ll let you react to for yourself. In any case, the four main characters form one of the best groups in light novels by far, and this is a case where nothing can happen and yet feel like more is happening than most plot-focused narratives.

The art has a charming look to it. The characters are very appealing and expressive and that’s enough to get customers to see what the books are about.

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Verdict: 10/10

Konosuba is a brilliant light novel that I would recommend to anyone, even one who hates isekai. The funny characters and their interactions make it an amazing pick-me-up if you’re ever feeling gloomy.


No Game No Life

Overpowered protagonists, check. Fanservice, check. Blatant pandering, check. Incest?! Lannister-shaped check! That basically sums up everything wrong with modern isekai. YET WHY IS NO GAME NO LIFE SO GOOOOOOOOOD?! This is perhaps my favorite light novel of all time, and yet it’s so… wrong! I’ve read all eight English volumes published by Yen Press at the time of this review.

No Game No Life stars two sibling protagonists, Sora and Shiro. These two have given up on the world and only play online games. Together, they are unstoppable, to the point where a GOD invites them into his world of games.

The thing that immediately sets this series apart from its contemporaries is the world it’s set in. It is a world where the aforementioned god, Tet, created laws to where everything is governed by games. This goes right down to the laws of physics and people’s willpower. If you want a girlfriend, beat her at chess, and she will be FORCED to fall in love with you if you win, as long as she agrees to the terms of the game.

Sora and Shiro’s goal is to use games to start at the bottom and conquer all of the races in the world, a lot of which are mind-bogglingly powerful, in order to win the right to challenge Tet on his own home turf. Since this is an isekai, Sora and Shiro are insanely brilliant and smart. Almost stupidly so.

Nah, impossibly so. The first, simple matches that they have are pretty tame. But as the games get more and more cinematic and literally reality-bending, your disbelief is suspended from the school flagpole like that poor kid who got wedgied. No matter what circumstances they’re in, Sora’s got a plan. In fact, everything that happens in a given match- EVERYTHING- is all according to keikaku for Sora, no matter what. This is something that isn’t a problem for me, as I love over-the-top theatrics if done right, but it might be a turn-off for some people.

Speaking of turn-offs, how about that sexualization of an eleven-year-old girl?! No Game No Life could be called No Shame No Life. And Shiro’s the tip of the iceberg. Every volume contains tons of bathing, bras, and panties. Thankfully, this being a book enables you to censor a lot of this content in your imagination if need be. But what CANNOT be censored is Shiro’s incestuous love for her brother Sora. It’s just something you’ll have to put up with. It’s not integral to the plot, and it more so comes off as a young sibling not understanding her own feelings toward her loving brother than anything else.

The characters are one of the best parts of No Game No Life. We discussed the cruel and calculating Sora and Shiro before, but there are so many other great people. Best Punching Bag Steph is normally a really strong character, but reduced to a lowly servant at the hands of the siblings. She tends to be the “straight man” who flamboyantly reacts to all the stupid things they do. Jibril is a gorgeously lewd guardian angel who always puts a smile on my face whenever she’s on scene. Actual Best Girl Izuna is awesome. She’s, like, eight years old, but hilariously speaks using a lot of curse words while also ending sentences with the word “please” at the same time. I love her! Mentioning anyone else leads straight into light-novel-only spoilers, so I’ll stop here.

The art of No Game No Life is surreal and eye-catching, and it’s drawn by the author himself! It’s very colorful (well, at least the ones that actually ARE colored), to the point where it could give you a migraine. And of course, a lot the illustrations are very lewd. You have been warned.

When it comes to flaws, No Game No Life‘s theatrical prose almost shoots itself in the foot. As previously mentioned, the games that these kids play get INSANE. Almost too insane. And I’m not saying that as far as suspension of disbelief, but as far as actual visual comprehension goes. From volume 6 and onward, there is so much grandiose space-time rending and multi-dimension-ing stuff occurring that it can’t be described well in human language. You will really have to pull through with your imagination to be able to paint a clear picture of stuff, or just not paint the picture at all.

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Verdict: 10/10

If you can get past its lewdness, No Game No Life is easily one of the best light novels, if not THE best. Since the anime so notoriously lacks a second season, there really is no better version to experience than the original light novel!

Octopath Traveler Full Review

Box art of the game

Welcome to my first gaming review on this blog! Since my preferred genre is JRPG, most reviews are going to be split into First Impressions, which cover the first ten or so hours of a game, then a full review for after I beat it. But in the case of Octopath Traveler for Nintendo Switch, I’ve actually been whittling it down since I started playing it last year, and while I haven’t beaten the postgame content, I at least beat all eight campaigns. I doubt that the postgame will make me change my thoughts on the entire game as a whole, so I think I can review it now.

I’ll start with the thing that probably compelled you to think of buying the game: the BEEEEEEEYOOOOOTEEEEEEFUUUUUUL graphics. I’m not someone who plays games for graphics, but I cannot deny how visually appealing this game is. Octopath Traveler combines pixel art straight out of an indie game with the production value of a triple A game to make for a unique artstyle. It is a very melancholy and atmospheric game, filled with quaint areas that you’d need all one thousand of Kannon’s hands just to count the amount of places to sleep in.

Next, let’s discuss the premise of Octopath, which is sadly my least favorite aspect of the game. As alluded to in the title of the game, the story consists of eight, four-chapter-long campaigns, each starring one of the eight party members. Unlike a lot of JRPGs that are more grandiose and escalate to insane levels, Octopath is sort of a slice-of-life JRPG for its eight campaigns. Instead of saving the world from A GOD, the characters all go on their own journeys of self-discovery. I can at least respect Octopath from a thematic standpoint for this. However, the game itself shoots its own narrative in the foot.

The problem is the progression style of the game. Starting out, you select your first character and beat their first chapter, then go out to other towns in any order you want to start the first chapter of the other seven characters. The world is structured so that the further out from the center you go, the harder it gets. As a result, you will be woefully underleveled for every characters’ second chapter until you beat all of their first chapters, and so on up to their final chapters. Instead of choosing whom you find to be most interesting, you must experience each characters’ arc in very isolated incidents. Sidequests don’t help either. This results in an extremely disconnected experience. By the time I got to the later chapters of these people, there’d sometimes be huge developments involving an earlier character in their story, but I wouldn’t feel the emotions because I completely forgot who they were. I don’t blame you if the same thing happens. It also doesn’t help that all eight stories are really boring. The writing is very bland and heavy-handed, plus the inexpressive character sprites rob it even further of life. I am aware of voice acting in the game, but since it’s supposed to feel like a retro RPG, I muted it for the entire game. How is the voice acting in Octopath Traveler? Feel free to comment on that!

Fortunately, I don’t care about story AT ALL in videogames. Ironic how I’m saying that since JRPG is my favorite genre. I factor gameplay above all else, and Octopath Traveler delivers with its gameplay!

Octopath has mechanics that are simple but complex at the same time. On the field, each character has a field skill, from gaining information, to stealing, to even recruiting NPCs to assist you in battle. There is a reputation mechanic that screws you if you fail these interactions too many times. However, losing reputation is pretty inconsequential. There are only four actual field skills, each with a type that is guaranteed to work but gets locked behind level up walls, and ones that could lower reputation if you fail but can be attempted at any time. The odds of the latter types succeeding go up with level anyway. It’s only something you do if you want to get lategame equipment and NPCs early.

As is with all great JRPGS, the REAL fun comes, naturally, from the combat. As usual, you have physical attacks and magic attacks, regular attacks that are free, and special moves that cost SP (which is just MP). Also, each and every attack is categorized under a type of weapon, or an element. Each enemy has several weaknesses, be it magic or a weapon. Combat basically involves guessing what their weaknesses are, then going ham. Once you discover a weakness, it displays under them for good. Enemies have shield points, which get reduced when you hit a weakness. Shield points take damage based on number of hits, which is important to note, since there are some weaker attacks that hit multiple times at once, which make those weaker attacks lifesavers at times. When shield points are reduced to zero, the enemy breaks. This causes them to lose a turn and makes all attacks on them crit for that turn. Keep in mind that enemies get attack priority when they recover from break. The turn order displays up on the top, so use that to strategize. If you can break an enemy at the proper time, they can lose TWO of their turns at once.

The real bread n’ butter of Octopath is boost points. All characters gain one boost points per turn, and can store up to five. All attacks can be boosted up by a max of three levels to make your moves much stronger. This system really forces you to make tough decisions for your strategies in battle. Good thing it’s turn-based!

The power progression in Octopath is one of the most satisfying that I’ve seen. Each of the eight characters has a Primary Job, from Warrior to Cleric. They all gain Job Points in addition to XP. Job Points can be spent to learn techniques in ANY ORDER you want (be warned that the cost increases each time). Learning these also unlocks passive skills that each can be equipped. They range from a lower encounter rate, to stat buffs, to the ever broken Saving Grace (my favorite skill, which allows you to heal above Max HP). When you learn all moves in a job, you unlock the Divine Skill of that job. When learned, they prove to be insanely helpful, but can only be used with a maximum boost.

If that didn’t sound fun enough, just wait until you embark toward the second chapters. On the way, you can visit shrines which unlock each Job to be equipped as a Secondary Job by all characters. The amount of combinations are insane, and its fun to experiment to see what works. It gets even MORE ridiculous if you can unlock optional Super Jobs that REALLY step things up!

But Octopath is not without its flaws. Other than the story being bad, the side quests also get incredibly difficult if you don’t go into them with the right mindset. Most side quests are solved by talking to the person, doing one field action, then talking to them again. They’re simple, but very obtuse at times. You WILL need to talk to every NPC and really read their dialogue, because any of them can have the solution. Some of the late game ones at least get easier because the NPCs for them don’t show up until after you start finishing campaigns. However, you might want to consider taking notes, just in case. I didn’t, and as a result some side quests that I could’ve beaten early on took me over eighty hours to finish. But all that aside, when you finally find what you had to do to solve a side quest, it feels genuinely cathartic, even if you berate yourself over it.

Other than that, I do have a number of nitpicks, which are moreso a consequence of how irregularly I played Octopath over time. I really found it annoying that dungeons on the map don’t show if you completed it or not. There were times where I felt like I forgot a treasure, but I wouldn’t be sure until I combed the entire thing all over again. This is especially annoying because of my other nitpick- that there is no way to have no random encounters. You can get pretty close with the skill Evasive Maneuvers, but it’s still annoying. One last thing is that things can be really convenient or inconvenient depending on your first character. The gameplay doesn’t get easier or harder, but certain little things change. For example, if you start with Cyrus the Scholar, he has a free skill that reveals one enemy weakness at the start of a battle, which is REALLY HELPFUL if it’s your first time playing. However, a lot of dungeons have a Thief-only chest, and it’s really annoying if you don’t have Therion the Thief in your party as you play through the game in general. Also, bosses can take a really long time to defeat, and often end up being battles of endurance, even if you’re within the recommended level for them. The final chapters end up being among the easiest because the level requirements don’t escalate. You might even be able to fight them with the Super Jobs, thus making them take less than ten minutes to beat.

Lastly, I will note the soundtrack. It doesn’t really have an identity; just generic orchestra stuff. But, it’s still really good. There are several ROCKIN’ battle themes as well as atmospheric and soothing themes. My favorite theme is whatever the chapter 4 boss theme is called.

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Final Verdict: 8.75/10

Octopath Traveler is a really good game. It’s a fun homage to retro RPGs with a modern twist. It can get repetitive and tedious at times, and if you care about a good story that doesn’t waste your time, then it might also be a turn off for you. But if you care about great combat, great power progression, and great music, Octopath Traveler is a more than viable option. Just be forewarned that trying to tackle everything will easily take over 100 hours total.