Bundori by Laura Joh Rowland

Bundori:: A Novel of JapanBundori: A Novel of Japan by Laura Joh Rowland
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Oh man, this book was so hard to get through. Mostly because of its length and the way it was written, than out of dislike for the story.

I admit I have a love/hate situation going on with this series. On the one hand, I love all the historical details and how they’re woven into the story, the settings are realistic, Sano is (albeit slightly annoying to me in his personality) portrayed in a way believable to what and who he is supposed to be, and the crime/mystery aspect of the series is very well played and more or less interesting.

On the other hand, I (as I already stated) dislike Sano’s personality, don’t really care what becomes of the characters, find the repetitive descriptions dragging, and the sprinkled Japanese words reek of fanfic (and I’m not even talking about the titles of their jobs, which require a one paragraph explanation on what position it exactly is else no one [except those who know Japanese and their history] would know, because using the actual words in English like “retainer” and “captain” or whatever apparently takes it too far out of ‘the setting’).

I don’t think I’ll be continuing the series unless I’m very bored or very in need for a kick for some Feudal Japan. I know they’re not the longest books ever, but something about the writing style just makes them drag on forever. If the books were about half the length they are, I might have read on, but as they are… nope.

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Welcome to PS2 Review Week! Each day of this week I’ll be reviewing an old PS2 game I love and still play, focusing on the slightly lesser known or lesser played games and franchises (so no, even though I loved Final Fantasy, you won’t find reviews of it here).

For day 3 we have Shinobido!

“Shinobido: Way of the Ninja, throws you into the world of feudal Japan by putting you in the role of a ninja now suffering from amnesia. Everything from his name, where he is from, to his reason to being where he is or what he’s meant to do – all of it, he’s forgotten after an accident”

There is a mysterious person who begins to communicate with him by way of letter – a letter that’s attached to arrows shot to his little hideout shack. He is the one to say the memories and soul of the ninja have been stolen and somehow inserted into in eight mythical stones, which are now, of course, scattered.

This gives you the goal of the game. The way in which you accomplish it is, as advised by the mystery writer, to gain the support of one of three warlords from the area in order to make things easier for yourself.

“As you progress through the game, the various warlords offer you different missions and payments, sometimes with extra rewards (for instance, one of the eight stones), and you’re free to accept or deny any one of them”

Of course, accepting one will put you at odds with the other two – particularly if the chosen mission plots against one of them.

Shinobido has very high replayability because of this: You can play to get the favor of each lord or of none, or try to pit one against the other… In between missions, you’ll have to fend off the occasional attack to your shack by savages, which makes for good practice of your skills and of trap-setting.

“As a ninja you will be able to buy and make use of several skills, upgrades, and extra items, not only to set up as traps, but also for active use (such as various type of bombs)”

Each mission happens in a different map, sometimes you might revisit the map in another mission, sometimes you’ll get a different one. The lords’ castles are the most fun to explore. Like any ninja, you’re supposed to avoid detection, the game leaving it up to you if you want to skulk around unnoticed or sneakily kill people, but usually it’s a lost case to go in guns blazing… and in some particular missions, will take you straight to a game over. While the game isn’t exactly open world, within each mission you will be able to choose which path to take to your goal, some being easier and others harder.

“There are also various types of missions you can choose from: retrieving items, killing everyone, find and steal from a convoy, or guard the convoy, assassinate a single person, etc; giving you plenty of choice to avoid things you don’t like doing”

The controls are surprisingly intuitive, and you have so many things you can do as a ninja that you actually make use of each and every button in your controller. The characters move smoothly, the AI is fairly good, noises might attract people, you can use distraction techniques, and much more.

The graphics are really good for a PS2 game, the story is compelling and interesting, and the sounds and looks fit perfectly. Then again, I have a thing for old Japanese sites, in case you couldn’t tell.

Shinobido is a game I often find myself going back to play over and over, and if you’re into stealth, you will too.

Brilliance of the Moon by Lian Hearn

Brilliance of the Moon (Kisah Klan Otori, #3)Brilliance of the Moon by Lian Hearn
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I don’t think there’s a whole lot I can say about this book. I really liked the first one, the second one was nice, just a bit on the boring side, but this one…

I don’t quite know what happened, I just couldn’t get past the first 100 pages. I tried. I honestly tried, but the characters were being terribly stupid and the pacing terribly slow, and every time I picked it up, I didn’t find the heart to read more than one or two paragraphs before being bored to death and thinking I shouldn’t bother, they were going to do something stupid for sure and ruin it further.

No motivation whatsoever to finish it, sorry! I gave up even trying. The first couple of books were OK, though.

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