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Arts & Entertainment

Xenoblade Chronicles 2 delivers with a massive world and intricate combat

By: Benjamin Sheh

 


The world of Alrest offers beautiful vistas and sights to see, as Rex and his allies venture forth to find the paradise of Elysium.

 

“Xenoblade Chronicles 2” is a sequel to the popular Japanese role-playing game “Xenoblade Chronicles,” released in December 2017 at a selling point of $60 on the Nintendo Switch. It tells the story of a young boy named Rex and his adventure through the land of Alrest, aiming to find the mythical paradise of Elysium. This sequel is one that starts off slow, then subtly draws the player in with ever-increasing challenges regarding real-time combat as well as a story that slowly becomes more interesting the more hours are put in. Put frankly, it’s a slog at the beginning. The player is swamped with endless tutorials, nothing in the story makes sense, and character personalities seem disappointingly simple. But, making it past the opening chapters of the game, there’s a sudden click when everything seems to start flowing more smoothly while somehow becoming more complicated—a good feature, for those who enjoy long and complex games.

    So how does “Xenoblade Chronicles 2” manage to accomplish such a feat? For one, the setting: the world of Alrest is lush, expansive and beautiful. Alrest consists of a sea of clouds, with massive Titans—living creatures—acting as islands for humankind to develop on. These Titan have varied environments, from colorful flora and fauna growing on one Titan while another produces the climate of a barren, frigid snowscape. Rex and and his group are able to traverse these lands on the Titans freely, exploring as little or as much as the player desires.

    Rex himself starts out living on a particularly small Titan whom he affectionately refers to as “Gramps.” He works as a salvager who dives into the Cloud Sea to search for precious materials left behind by the ruins of an age-old civilization. It’s after one particular commission that he finds himself entangled with the Aegis—a sword that carries the spirit of a woman named Pyra. According to legends in Alrest, the Aegis was the savior of the world when a terrible war threatened to leave the Titans in ashes centuries ago. From that point on, Rex makes it his mission to journey with the Aegis to the land of Elysium. It’s a place prophesied to be a paradise on top of a massive tree, with endless space for all. This is especially relevant as the Titans are beginning to die out, leaving humans and other species with less living space as they sink into the Cloud Sea.

The plot is fairly standard for a fantasy game, but still manages to entertain because of varied and colorful character personalities. Rex meets many allies and enemies along his journey, each with their unique nature and disposition—made clear through plentiful voice acting. Interestingly, each character has a unique accent from a wide range of voices: there are Scottish accents, Welsh accents, British accents, Australian accents, and more. The player will be hearing their voices often, especially since the game can last as long as 80-120 hours depending on how many quests on decides to take on. Thankfully, “Xenoblade Chronicles 2” has excellent sound design to accompany the journey. The music, in particular, is stunningly impressive, with grandiose orchestral tracks accompanying Titans by day, followed by flowing strings plaing by night. Combat themes add in metal guitars and bombastic percussion, making each fight a joy to struggle through.

    As Rex journeys throughout Alrest, he and his group of allies encounter dangerous situations that devolve into fights. The characters in this world fight by way of a Driver-Blade system where the Driver, a human or other creature, has the divine potential to bond with a Blade, a sentient weapon. As mentioned earlier, Rex wields the legendary Aegis, but he can meet other Blades along the way in his adventure. The player’s role in combat is to place Rex next to an enemy and wait for him to start auto-attacking the foe. Auto-attacks fill up the gauges of special abilities named Arts: each Blade has 4 of these Arts. When Arts are used, they fill up a special gauge that allows a Blade to use their Special. This attack system relies heavily on the player’s ability to time the Arts and Specials correctly. As the player accrues more Blades over time, multiple blades can be assigned to each Driver and switched to at will during combat. This is just the start of a complex system that makes “Xenoblade Chronicles 2’s” gameplay deeply satisfying to understand and master after hours of experimentation and practice.

    “Xenoblade Chronicles 2” is a tough game to recommend—it does so much in regards to creating complex gameplay and telling a interesting story, but suffers from accessibility. Not all players want or can put in the time to understand and properly plan for Driver-Blade style combat. Similarly, the tale starts off slow but begins to pick up the pace only after a few hours into the game. But if one can get past these hurdles, “Xenoblade Chronicles 2” provides an intensely satisfying experience with many quests and places to take on and discover in the wondrous world of Alrest.

 

“The Greatest Showman” teaches others to embrace their differences.

By: Savinie Lin

 

 

“The Greatest Showman” is the story of how the Barnum and Bailey Circus first started.

 

Musicals are a way to tell stories through their music, to excite the audience about the storyline with their songs and singing. “The Greatest Showman” teaches the message of embracing those who are different through their music.
What made this movie enticing is the unique and exciting music, the different characters who are introduced, and the powerful acting by Hugh Jackman with his attempt to bring out P.T. Barnum and his theatrical ideas.
The movie is a combination of romance, drama, a biographical film, musical, and first announced in 2009 with Jackman as the lead. However, the movie took seven years to develop because studios weren’t willing to risk making an original musical. “The Greatest Showman” was released in the United States by December 20, 2017 and grossed $231 million worldwide as of now. 
“The Greatest Showman” is an American historical musical film based off the story of P.T. Barnum’s establishment, Barnum and Bailey Circus. The plot begins with P.T. Barnum’s early life and the story of how the circus first came to be. In the film we see Barnum’s early life before the circus business and his first business failure.
It starts with a catchy song that is exciting and led me to believe that the songs are all going to be the same in the sense that they’re there to tell the story. With my experiences of musicals I thought that I’d listen to the songs and forget about them, or that they are just songs that are there to tell stories, not give underlying messages such as challenging fate or embracing who you are.
All the acts in the circus are introduced as people who aren’t “normal” in society. After the acts are recruited for the circus, they’re all skittish to perform knowing that people will laugh at them. However, Barnum says that although people won’t understand their differences, they will one day, if they’re willing to, stop hiding their true selves.
Another example of when the movie stood for embracing differences is when Barnum stopped socializing with the acts as he’s being acknowledged by the upper class, seemingly blinded by the attention he is receiving from those who once looked down on him. During the scene where the acts are being shunned, they sang “This Is Me.” The song won a Golden Globe for Best Original Song, and I can see why. Out of all the songs in the musical, “This Is Me” has to be my favorite with the lyrics talking about how the characters are no longer afraid of their differences and that they’ll get back up no matter how many times they’re knocked down.
The cast of the film include Jackman, Zac Efron, Zendaya Coleman, Michelle Williams, and more. I was hesitant about the film mainly because I grew up watching Efron and Coleman on TV and I know what their acting is like, so I came into the theaters thinking of their squeaky clean image and the characters they played on Disney Channel. But watching them act you can tell that the cast tried to relate to the characters of that historical time such as trying to be in an interracial relationship knowing that it was considered taboo.
 However, the movie is not accurate to the actual story of the P.T. Barnum who didn’t get into the circus business until the age of 61. Another inaccurate detail is that Zac Efron’s character is based on James Anthony Bailey whilst Coleman’s character was made for the movie. Despite the facts not being completely accurate, many of these details may not matter for those who don’t know. The movie seemed to have taken a lot of details out of Barnun’s life and gave the watered down version, they cut right to the chase making it seem as though Barnum reached success instantly.
“The Greatest Showman” is a must-see movie for everyone. To me, the movie has a message that can be conveyed to all ages and teaches people to embrace their differences, not hide them. It’s a message that is shown through the story and music.

 

Troye Sivan returns with two spectacular singles

By: Gordon Liang

 


Troye Sivan hasn’t released his own song since 2015 when he released “Blue Neighbourhood.”

 

Troye Sivan hasn’t received much recognition ever since releasing “Blue Neighbourhood.” But now, two years after the release of the album that skyrocketed the young pop artist, Sivan has released two new songs.

 

“My My My” was highly anticipated by his fans as an ad was shown in Times Square with Troye Sivan’s face and the words, “6 DAYS.” His other song, “The Good Side” was more of a surprise to his fans as he announced in an interview the day before.

 

“Blue Neighbourhood,” a 16 song album included: “Wild,” “Fools,” and “Talk Me Down.” Those three combined, tell the story of a relationship between him and his childhood friend. “Wild” talks about leaving his childhood home and becoming something more.  Then “Fools” tells about how they are different and probably not meant for each other but how he still loves him, knowing that it they may not be meant to be. “Fools” also shows how the man that Sivan is in love with, has been abused by his father. In “Talk Me Down,” Sivan’s lover’s father has died and stops talking to Sivan. Sivan sings about wanting to comfort him and wanting to be with him. The story ends after the song, “Talk Me Down”

 

“My My My” talks about freedom and his relationship with his boyfriend. A few days after releasing “My My My”, he releases “The Good Side” which is an apology to his ex. He says that after breaking up, he continued to thrive while his ex didn’t. The song talks about how he sympathizes with him. He recognizes that he was on the better side of the breakup. And to top it off, he apologizes that he got the good side.

 

“My My My” and “The Good Side” are both very different songs yet both of them are equally catchy. “My My My” is very electric and fast paced. The objective of the song is to get the listeners to be excited during and after the song. In the beginning of the music video, a five second epilepsy warning is shown due to the flashing throughout the video. There has yet to be a music video for “The Good Side” but Troye Sivan released an audio version on January 18th. The song is very slow and relaxing.

 

Unlike “Blue Neighbourhood,” these songs don’t combine to tell one big story but the message of his songs are just as meaningful. “Blue Neighbourhood” introduced most of Sivan’s fans to him. “My My My” may not have brought many new fans but it was rather a treat for his fans because of his inactivity in songwriting.

 

Sivan started on YouTube before becoming a songwriter. As of now, he has 4.4 million subscribers on YouTube. He’s been very personal on YouTube. He came out, answered questions that people had about being gay and made many announcements about his career on YouTube. In fact, his new song “My My My” was #1 on the Trending list for a while before a video from Nintendo beat it out. A few hours later, it came back on the top of the Trending list.

 

Most of Sivan’s songs are extremely catchy. I highly doubt that any of his future songs will beat out the top songs of “Blue Neighbourhood,” but his songs are catchy nonetheless. It’s great to see Sivan back because he is a very talented songwriter. I hope that he keeps releasing music and if I’m lucky, goes on tour one day.

 

“Three Billboards” is delightfully dark

By: Dimitri Zlatev

 


“Three Billboards” includes a star-studded cast and has Frances McDormand in her best role since Fargo.

 

“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” has, without a doubt, the most bland and uninspired title out of all films currently in theaters. Yet despite the otherwise dull moniker, “Three Billboards” proved that initial appearances aren't always everything after winning four Golden Globes (including best drama and best screenplay) as well as over a dozen independent films awards. The movie was able to make up for its cumbersome mouthful of a name with its unique, albeit exceedingly dark, sense of humor as well as its original and compelling plotline.

    The story is not one for the faint of heart. Mildred Hayes (played by Frances McDormand) is the mother of a high school aged girl who seven months prior was brutally raped and murdered before being set on fire. In the time that has since passed the local police, headed by Chief Bill Willoughby (played by Woody Harrelson), have found no tangible evidence and identified no possible suspects.

    Frustrated by the failures of the Ebbing police department, Mildred scrounges together all the money she can to rent out three abandoned billboards on the outside of town to voice her anger. The billboards read “RAPED WHILE DYING”, “STILL NO ARRESTS”, and “HOW COME, CHIEF WILLOUGHBY?” in that order.

This crusade of her’s lands Mildred in hot water, as her accusations towards Willoughby coincide with his rapidly deteriorating health due to pancreatic cancer, a fact that she is well aware of. Mildred’s campaign against the dying Chief draws fire from most everyone in town. People begin to lose sympathy for her, and her remaining son Robbie begins getting bullied at school. Most outspoken of her critics is Officer Jason Dixon (played by Sam Rockwell), a half wit racist cop who seeks to stop Mildred by physically threatening the owner of the billboards and arresting her best friend on petty charges. What follows is a long series of tit-for-tat attacks, primarily by the the police, against the opposing party, most of which involving direct physical intimidation or in some cases, arson.

What I love most about “Three Billboards” is the behaviors and dialogue that seems to go completely against traditional ideas surrounding what makes a character ‘good’. Not one of those main characters can be considered totally ‘clean’ and they all exist in shades of gray. Each of them has their own assortment of imperfections, albeit to varying degrees. Dixon is a doltish momma’s boy infamous in Ebbing’s black community, Willoughby is a caring father yet he destroys his own family, Mildred is even shown to have explicitly told her daughter “I hope you do get raped” the day before she disappeared. Mildred and Dixon in particular are both completely polar to how “The Bible Belt” is normally portrayed. The two swear like sailors and show no hesitation toward direct confrontation.

I strongly believe “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” has been placed into the wrong genre. I don’t see it as a black drama with the occasional joke, I see it as a comedy with very dark themes. In few other movies is the audience subject to scenes of heartfelt sorrow followed by scenes of intense belly laughter before immediately switching to back to sorrow in such a short period of time. Depending on how macbre your sense of humor, you may be too busy giggling to realize what’s going on, as the number of jokes-per-minute is immensely high. The movie is fun to watch for all the same reasons playing Cards Against Humanity is fun: it’s offbeat, often times black as a coal miner’s lung, and makes you question your own morality mid-laugh.