BGG talks to: The Samurider, a real-life Bad Ass!

BGG talks to: The Samurider, a real-life Bad Ass!

Being a real life superhero is something so many of us dream about but rarely push to achieve it.  Shaina West, also known as The Samurider, was inspired by Anime after a motorcycle accident to become a real life bad ass. 

A martial art stunt artist and personal trainer, Shaina has accrued a huge and diverse following on her Instagram where she shows her journey of being a “hero for hire”.  Jay recently caught up with Shaina in after MCM Comic Con (London) to learn more this bad-ass Brit born beauty.


J: So tell me how you got into being a Stunt Artist/ Self taught martial artist?

S: I’ve always been a huge fan of anime, comic books, games, action movies, that kind of stuff. Four years ago after I had a motorbike accident, I spent a lot of time in my room binge-watching anime and I had a lot of time on my hands because I had been let go from work because I couldn’t fulfil the contract because I was injured.  So I became inspired [by the anime] to start doing Martial Arts training and almost become like an anime character.  It just a hobby that made me feel more empowered through what I was going through at the time.

I just started teaching myself from YouTube tutorials.

J: Oh wow!

S: Yea, in my house and at the gym.  So yea that’s how I started and then from there I’ve just been practicing what I see.

J: What was the anime series that inspired you?

S: Naruto. I’ve been watching Naruto since I was like 12.  I was watching that back to back and it’s super inspiring; the characters, the morals, the symbolism.  It’s made in a such a way that every viewer can relate to what’s happening to a character, a situation or a symbol that comes up in the anime. My tattoo, for example, is a symbol that keeps coming up in the anime.  It’s called “The Will of Fire” and it special in a way that the meaning is unique to character but it pretty much stands for the same thing, to me anyway, which is to be strong, to fight for what I believe in and to do what I love. There’s a lot I took from that anime and that’s why I decided to just go for it.

J: What style of  Martial Arts were you studying when you were teaching yourself?

S: The first one is a sports martial art called Extreme Martial Arts, it’s really big in the States.  It borrows elements from Aikido, Wushu and tricking as well.  So it’s a very modern style. I guess the simplest way to say it is Freestyle martial arts.

J: When did you start?

S: I started training myself Martial Arts in Autumn 2015.

J: …Three years?! Wait what, for real?  I thought you had been training since you were 12 years old or something!

S: Hahah aww thank you! No only three years.

J: So from your perspective as a Black Women, what’s it like to be a Stunt Artist? Is it very diverse?

S: Umm ooh! Not from where I stand at the moment, it probably is in other parts of the world but from where I am at the moment and from what I see it’s very much White male dominated.  For someone like myself, it puts me in a position where I’d like to say I’m at an advantage because there are not many people like me that do what I do.

J: Therefore you stand out.

S: Exactly, also a slight disadvantage because the general consensus when someone is looking for a stunt person is “Oh yea, we’ll get a stunt man” they’ll get the established white man.  It’s a little bit of a controversial thing to say but that usually is the case.

J: Don’t worry, our platform is the best place to say it!

S: Hahaha! So yea there are pros and cons I imagine but I’m seeing more of the pros.

I’m bringing something new, not only to the industry but I’m bringing something new to Black Women by going for something like this.

J: Exactly! Do you get messages of support or ones saying that you’ve been an inspiration to many Black Women who want are interested in Martial Arts/Stunt Work?

S: Yea actually, I do get a lot of messages like that.  I don’t know it’s weird for me, for example at MCM Comicon I would have people coming up to me saying “Oh my God, it’s you! Can I get a picture?” and stuff. It’s weird because people think that when you have a certain level of recognition or become a local celebrity (celebrity in any sense of the word), [it means that] your lifestyle changes.   I still have the same lifestyle, I still get on the bus.

J: With the way you’re going that will change!

S: Haha I hope so! The support is my biggest motivation now, whereas before my biggest inspiration was anime and my biggest motivation was to become stronger.  Now it’s to keep reaching people that send me these kind of messages, because of that I’m driven to keep going.

J: I feel it’s also just your presence that is important.  I follow a lot of Black Art pages on Instagram and I swear, I see you inspiring someone’s art all the time and I know it’s you.  I look at the tag and see @thesamurider and I’m like YES!  So your presence inspires art which then inspires stories which then inspires movies and comics and things like that.  It’s really good that you’re out there because if not we [Black Women] wouldn’t have anyone to think about in terms of representation.

S: Thank you!

Art by Cameron Knitght. Twitter: @cknightart

J: Now that you’re out here doing your stunt work and martial arts, are there are specific goals that you want to achieve?

S: Yea actually my biggest is to be in the next Black Panther film.

J: Oh my God, yes you should be! If you were going to be Dora Milaje, you’d have to shave off your hair!

S: I’d do it! It would hurt me but of course I’d do it! I did apply for the first one several months ago, I didn’t hear anything back but that may have been for many reasons, I’m not based in the States etc.  At first I was a little bit disheartened by it but I’m a lot better now than I was then and I know more now than I did then.  I believe in timing, timing is everything so that is what I’m working towards.

Other personal goals that I want to be able to achieve is being able to learn more skills, weapons, learn how to trick so that when I am hired for big jobs I can deliver.  I want to get faster and stronger.

J: Do you have mentors/teachers now or are you still self taught?

S: I’m still self taught when it comes to my weapons and martial arts. I have recently started a partnership with a movement company that is going to help me improve my flexibility which will help me with my Martial Arts.  I’ve also started a partnership with a Hot Yoga company, Fierce Grace Yoga.  I’ve recently picked up a Tricking Coach to learn how to do parkour.

J: So I know you like anime, I know you like gaming.  Tell me about your gaming hobbies.

S: I don’t get to game as much as I used to because of training.  I work as a personal trainer and do freelance stunt work but when I do get a chance to play games, my favourites to play are platform games, you know like open map Tomb Raider style, Metal Gear Solid games. In my childhood I would play at lot of Spyro the Dragon, which was the first game I proper fell in love with.  I’m so excited for the re-master, I’m definitely getting it.   FPSs as well, I like COD campaigns and the Zombie modes.  My favourite kind of games have an interesting campaign, my favourites are Beyond Two Souls, Heavy Rain as well from the same creator.

J: Are you going to be playing Detroit: Becoming Human?

S: I haven’t heard of that you know.

J: It’s by the same people that made Heavy Rain and it’s got Jesse Williams in it.

S: Yea I’ll check it out, thank you for telling me that!

J: What would be your ideal anime, game or film if you could make it from scratch?

S: I’m going to start with the game because that’s something I haven’t thought about too much.  An ideal game? Hmm… I really like fighting games and I really like adventure so something like God of War has a bit of both.  So many something like that but with a selection of characters to play the campaign with.  I want diversity to be a big thing in games because games like Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat, Tekken tend to only have one or two token Black characters.   It would be good if we had an equal amount of ethnicities in the game in general because representation is such a big thing and growing up I never really had that.  Tomb Raider, someone I idolised, was a White Woman.  Chun Li, who I loved, was supposed to be Asian but she still looks like a White Woman.  I’d even put a little bit of Hip Hop in the soundtrack for people like myself to really get into it.

I’ve got ideas for film; I’m looking to write a TV series based in London.  It’ll be something that’s never been seen before, it’ll have action and drama. That’s going be coming soon.

J: Oh, you’re already working on it?! YESS!!

S: Yea! I’ve already spoken with a producer and they’re happy to work with me on this.  It won’t just include Black people but Black people doing fantasy which is something we just don’t see on TV especially in London.

J: That is flipping amazing!! I can’t wait to see that! So to conclude, is there any advice you’d like to pass on to women that would like to get into Martial Arts/Stunt Work?

S: I get a lot of people asking how did I start and the thing that I try to advocate the most is that the internet is at your disposal. I learnt everything I know from the internet.  In this day and age, there isn’t anything that you can’t learn from the internet in one way or another.

Also, what I would recommend first is to strengthen yourself – mind, body and soul.  Start being more active, prepare your body for what you’re about to put yourself through.  Then from there, if you want to do the self taught route like I did, search tutorials for your martial art of choice.  Use the internet, just do it.

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Super Smash Brothers Ultimate Announced at Nintendo Direct

Super Smash Brothers Ultimate Announced at Nintendo Direct

With a weekend full of incredible announcements, stunning trailers, massive live presentations, and questionable music performances, Nintendo presented their upcoming titles in their Tuesday morning Direct conference that has become their annual tradition in lieu to a massive stage conference. It is a quick, simple way to feed everyone the information they need and is very beneficial to those at home that are unable to attend the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) trade show that we all wait for each year.

Despite a multitude of performances, Nintendo decided to drop the mic and blow our minds by finally announcing the newest addition to their Smash Brothers franchise…and boy is it ginormous.

Super Smash Brothers Ultimate will feature every single character that has ever been in a Super Smash Brothers game, alternative costumes for those characters, new characters, side characters as assist trophies, new Final Smash attacks, new stages, and then some. Veteran characters have has face lifts to their attacks. New characters bring new variety. It is just a crazy huge game.

The roster currently announced is as follows:

\Mario, Samus, Kirby, Bowser, Link, Donkey Kong, Fox, Falco, Marth, Zelda, Shiek, Villager, Mewtwo, Meta Knight, Sonic, Ryu, Cloud, Bayonetta, Solid Snake, Peach, Pikachu, Ice Climbers, Inkling, Captain Falcon, Zero Suit Samus, Wii Fit Trainer, Charizard, Ivysaur and Squirrel, Ness, Lucas, Ganondorf, Ike, Pichu, Jigglypuff, Roy, Olimar, Diddy Kong, Lucario, Lucina, Robin, Mr Game and Watch, Greninja, R.O.B, Dr. Mario, Duck Hunt, Pit, Dark Pit, Palutena, Corrin, Bowser Jr, Toon Link, Young Link, King Dedede, Rosalina and Luma, Mii Gunner, Mii Swordfighter, Mii Brawler, Wario, Little Mac, Pac-Man, Shulk, Wolf, Mega Man, Yoshi and Luigi.

There is also the addition of Inkling from Splatoon and Ridley from Metroid. All characters will need to be unlocked in true fighting game form so the initial roster will only include key characters from Nintendo properties.

Other announcements geared towards Smash Brothers is that the Holy grail of game controllers will be able to be used – the Gamecube controller. So, no worries about having to learn how to play Smash Brothers with the Joy cons.

In a final mic drop, Nintendo gave us the release date: December 7, 2018. Hold on to your Switch consoles, gamers. This is going to be wild.

 

A Way Out….of your friendship?

A Way Out….of your friendship?

When’s the last time you tested the foundation of your friendship with a friend? If it’s been a while and someone’s looking a little shifty, you might want to play A Way Out with them.

As someone who loved co-op games growing up, A Way Out was a welcome modern touch on a nostalgic feature.  There is no single player mode to this game, you and your partner in crime are Vincent Moretti and Leo Coruso; American prisoners convicted in the 1970s that have to work together to escape from prison and stay on the run from authorities whilst simultaneously attempting revenge on a mutual enemy.

The game is directed by film maker Josef Fares, who has turned his hand to game design, his first title being Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons which received critical acclaim.  Knowing this, it’s no wonder the story is so well crafted. I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say the prison break happens fairly quickly, which was great because the story continues and we were seriously worried we would end up in another The Order: 1886 situation, feeling unfulfilled by the game.  The story and characters unfold throughout the duration of the game, via cut scenes and gameplay, keeping us heavily engaged and turning what could have been a very gimmicky experience into well made movie that you can play.

Image source: https://bit.ly/2I213OH

Playing as Leo and Vincent means that you and your “friend” will approach situations differently.  Leo is a hot head, punch-first-ask-questions-later kind of guy; whilst Vincent is more calculated but less intuitive. We immediately adopted their characters, talking about:

“That’s why you got mollywhopped by the guard last time ’cause you too damn violent!”

and

“I said drive slow! DRIVE SLOW! I thought you were the discrete one?!”

The gameplay is definitely entertaining, the developers (Hazelight Studios) set out to create a co-op game that is “unique and different” and it’s safe to say they surpassed that goal.  The cooperative element is a well placed thread throughout the game; when moving heavy objects, distracting guards, infiltrating villas in Central America, car chases and when making major decisions that impact the story. Hazelight Studios achieved a good balance to ensure co-op was established as the nature of the game and not just a novelty to make the game “different”.

Image source: https://bit.ly/2ruH9BI

The game manages to stay true to its style, with exciting interweaving chase scenes in various locations as well as incorporating a few unexpected changes such as a 2D platformer fight scene just to mix it up a little bit.  In addition to that, there are mini games and activities throughout the game to offer a change of pace and tone, you know, to add some levity to the fact that your friendship is being tested.

Taking some time out from being an escaped convict. Image source: https://bit.ly/2wwuC5Y

The representation of Black people/POC in the game? I mean, it’s okay…the first POC in game are two non-white Middle Eastern and/or Arab men who get shot. There’s Black man with a speaking role who is a 2nd-in-command lackey that either disappears or dies; I can’t remember.  You do have a Black Woman (YAY!), the sassy (…damn) cautious arms dealer; a friend of Leo Coruso.   Then when you travel to Mexico, again the Mexican mobs pose as disposable lackies.  So it’s not devoid of representation but in my opinion, the POC are essentially extras in the movie.

See? Sassy. I told you. Image source: https://bit.ly/2FXQwhN

*cue W’Kabi voice* “It’s just more of the same”

However if I’m honest, it doesn’t bother me or take away from the game too much in this instance. It’s just another game to add to the everlasting list of games with middle aged White men as the protagonists; another day in the gaming world. There is also a line from Leo about Africa being undesirable to travel to and that it has “lions and sh*t”, which I side-eyed but really it reflects Leo’s character and how much of a non-entity would be to me in real life.

I will say the game is not very challenging; you get involved in more high-octane action towards the end of the game but even then it’s not very complex.  I do think a little more challenging content would have kicked the game up a notch, however the story, the interweaving and entertaining gameplay, and easter eggs had us engaged, bickering and cooperating at the edge of our seats more than once.

Image source: https://bit.ly/2ruH9BI

Hazelight has reminded me to not sleep on co-op games, and I look forward to seeing more games from the studio. All in all I would definitely recommend you to grab your PC/Xbox/PS4 and a friend to play A Way Out.  Another great thing is you only require one copy of the game; another thing to fight with your friend over… Good luck!

Books made by Black Girl Magic

Books made by Black Girl Magic

Can we just talk about the Black Girl Magic that is thriving in our literature culture right now? Maybe we can hit the video game industry next.

Though we have a long way to go, the industry is slowly changing. Just this year why have a beautiful bundle of books with not only amazing character representation but author representation as well. I’m talking about the beautiful brown authors of 2018.

I first want to talk about Debut authors Dana L Davis and Tomi Adeyemi.

Dana L. Davis, which you may recognize the name, is an actress and voice actress. She’s stared in 10 Things I Hate About You as Chasity Church and Heroes as Monica Dawson. She voices Kelly in Star Vs. the Forces of Evil which plays on Disney XD. I’ve seen a lot of Ms. Davis’ work, but I was reintroduced to her as an author through Youtube, her book is contemporary and though it’s not my first genre of choice, I felt similar to her in feelings of growing up black and after hearing her read a passage from her story, I was intrigued to find out more.  The summary of her debut novel is as such.

Dana Davis. Image source: https://goo.gl/knyHW8

“I’ve got seven days to come clean to my new dad. Seven days to tell the truth…

For sixteen-year-old Tiffany Sly, life hasn’t been safe or normal for a while. Losing her mom to cancer has her a little bit traumatized and now she has to leave her hometown of Chicago to live with the biological dad she’s never known.

Anthony Stone is a rich man with four other daughters—and rules for every second of the day. Tiffany tries to make the best of things, but she doesn’t fit into her new luxurious, but super-strict, home—or get along with her standoffish sister London. The only thing that makes her new life even remotely bearable is the strange boy across the street. Marcus McKinney has had his own experiences with death, and the unexpected friendship that blossoms between them is the only thing that makes her feel grounded.

But Tiffany has a secret. Another man claims he’s Tiffany’s real dad—and she only has seven days before he shows up to demand a paternity test and the truth comes out. With her life about to fall apart all over again, Tiffany finds herself discovering unexpected truths about her father, her mother and herself, and realizing that maybe family is in the bonds you make—and that life means sometimes taking risks”

Tiffany Sly Lives Here Now is available now.

Image source: https://goo.gl/KdvQrr

Then there’s Tomi Adeyemi, and her debut novel Children of Blood and Bone which is not only an NY Times bestseller, but it’s becoming a movie as well. Ms. Adeyemi is a Nigerian American woman and her book is a West African fantasy YA. Fantasy is my number one genre and I’m looking forward to reading her book.

Tomi Adeyemi.
Image source: https://twitter.com/tomi_adeyemi

“Zélie Adebola remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. Burners ignited flames, Tiders beckoned waves, and Zelie’s Reaper mother summoned forth souls.

But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, maji were targeted and killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope.

Now, Zélie has one chance to bring back magic and strike against the monarchy. With the help of a rogue princess, Zélie must outwit and outrun the crown prince, who is hell-bent on eradicating magic for good.

Danger lurks in Orïsha, where snow leoponaires prowl and vengeful spirits wait in the waters. Yet the greatest danger may be Zélie herself as she struggles to control her powers—and her growing feelings for the enemy”

Children of Blood and Bone is available now.

Image source:
https://goo.gl/1VNWKQ

The next two authors aren’t necessarily debuting authors, but the books they released this year are making a big splash and they are Dhonielle Clayton and Justina Ireland.

Dhonielle Clayton had published other books “Meet Cute, The Radical Element, Tiny Pretty Things, and Shiny Broken Pieces” all with other authors. She is the COO of the non-profit “We Need Diverse Book” I don’t need to explain what that is, but I’m so here for it. The book she released this year is called The Belles it is a Dark Fantasy YA that explores what it means to be the belle of the ball…sorry, bad pun.

Dhonielle Clayton.
Image source: https://twitter.com/brownbookworm

“Camellia Beauregard is a Belle. In the opulent world of Orléans, Belles are revered, for they control Beauty, and Beauty is a commodity coveted above all else. In Orléans, the people are born gray, they are born damned, and only with the help of a Belle and her talents can they transform and be made beautiful.

But it’s not enough for Camellia to be just a Belle. She wants to be the Favorite—the Belle chosen by the Queen of Orléans to live in the royal palace, to tend to the royal family and their court, to be recognized as the most talented Belle in the land. But once Camellia and her Belle sisters arrive at court, it becomes clear that being the Favorite is not everything she always dreamed it would be. Behind the gilded palace walls live dark secrets, and Camellia soon learns that the very essence of her existence is a lie—that her powers are far greater, and could be more dangerous, than she ever imagined. And when the Queen asks Camellia to risk her own life and help the ailing princess by using Belle powers in unintended ways, Camellia now faces an impossible decision.

With the future of Orléans and its people at stake, Camellia must decide—save herself and her sisters and the way of the Belles—or resuscitate the princess, risk her own life, and change the ways of her world forever.”

The Belles is available for purchase now.

Image source: https://goo.gl/DA9DKi

And lastly and most certainly not the least, Justina Ireland, who is just my favorite person twitter right now. She’s released several books, before the one I just picked up, “Vengeance Bound, Feral Youth, Promise of Shadows, and Three Sides of a Heart” And now this year we have a Historical Zombie YA. Two things that I don’t really care for, but Ms. Ireland sucked me in anyway.

Justina Ireland.
Image source: https://goo.gl/Qt6eCV

“Jane McKeene was born two days before the dead began to walk the battlefields of Gettysburg and Chancellorsville—derailing the War Between the States and changing America forever. In this new nation, safety for all depends on the work of a few, and laws like the Native and Negro Reeducation Act require certain children attend combat schools to learn to put down the dead. But there are also opportunities—and Jane is studying to become an Attendant, trained in both weaponry and etiquette to protect the well-to-do. It’s a chance for a better life for Negro girls like Jane. After all, not even being the daughter of a wealthy white Southern woman could save her from society’s expectations.

But that’s not a life Jane wants. Almost finished with her education at Miss Preston’s School of Combat in Baltimore, Jane is set on returning to her Kentucky home and doesn’t pay much mind to the politics of the eastern cities, with their talk of returning America to the glory of its days before the dead rose. But when families around Baltimore County begin to go missing, Jane is caught in the middle of a conspiracy, one that finds her in a desperate fight for her life against some powerful enemies. And the restless dead, it would seem, are the least of her problems.

At once provocative, terrifying, and darkly subversive, Dread Nation is Justina Ireland’s stunning vision of an America both foreign and familiar—a country on the brink, at the explosive crossroads where race, humanity, and survival meet.”

Dread Nation is available now.

Image source:
https://goo.gl/SoqdqW

So many great books, so little time, but I know I’m excited about each and every one of them. Here are the links to all those wonderful ladies below, I hope you go and check them out.

Dana L Davis: http://www.danaldavis.com/

Tomi Adeyemi: http://www.tomiadeyemi.com/

Dhonielle Clayton: https://www.dhonielleclayton.com/

Justina Ireland: http://justinaireland.com/home/

E3 2018 Hype

E3 2018 Hype

The Electronic Entertainment Expo, commonly referred to as E3, is one of the most exciting times of the year for me as a gamer. Organized by the Entertainment Software Association, the expo is a huge event for computer and video game related products. Not only do we as gamers get a ton of trailers to rejoice about, we also usually receive concrete announcements and dates for anticipated games. This year is no different, as there are a large number of confirmed and rumored games we’ll learn more about.

The following list is compiled of a few games I hope to see news about at E3 2018. Let’s get to it!

Kingdom Hearts 3

Image source: https://goo.gl/8UbQcL

Kingdom Hearts first dropped in 2002, and Kingdom Hearts II released in 2005. Needless to say, my hype for the third installation has been going on for over a decade now. Created as a collaboration between Disney Entertainment and Square Enix, the series is an action role playing adventure that allows the player to visit Disney Worlds via the protagonist Sora and his friends. There are many different games in the series, but the third one has been highly anticipated for quite some time for fans. Here’s to hoping we’ll receive more news at E3 2018!

The Last of Us Part II

Image source: https://goo.gl/uUo98L

The Last of Us is an action adventure survival horror game set in a post-apocalyptic future. The plot revolves around the relationship of Joel and Ellie, and their struggle to survive. It’s release in 2013 was met with universal acclaim, and it pretty much won all of the awards that a video game can win. After the release of a trailer for its sequel, The Last of Us Part II, fans are eagerly awaiting more news. E3 would be the perfect place for Naughty Dog to make another big announcement.

Borderlands 3

Image source: https://goo.gl/GRnwyL

The Borderlands series is an action role playing first person shooter in a space western setting. The games follow a group of fortune seekers the player can choose from in search of the fabled “vault”, which is basically the mother-load of all loot. To put it simply, it’s amazing, and the characters are all so over the top you can’t help but to love them. As a huge fan of role playing games, this series gave me the “leveling up” experience I was used to, while also helping to get me into first person shooters. Any news about Borderlands 3 will be a welcomed addition to E3.

Final Fantasy VII Remake

Image source: https://goo.gl/1rTKzT

Initially released in 1997, Final Fantasy VII is the most iconic game in the history of the Final Fantasy series. The game is acknowledged as being critical to boosting the sales of the PlayStation and solidifying the popularity of Japanese RPG’s across the world. I’m a huge lover of the Final Fantasy series, so I’m looking forward to this modern remake. We first received a trailer for FFVII Remake at E3 2015, so it’s not a stretch to assume that if we hear more news about this title, it’ll probably be in June at E3 2018. Give us something, Square Enix, anything!

Honorable Mentions

I’m a huge nerd, so there’s plenty more I’m hyped to see at E3. Here are some honorable mentions:

Cyberpunk 2077 – I love the aesthetic of this title. It looks amazing.

Kirby – The first game I owned was Kirby for the Nintendo 64. The hype is real for this title.

Days Gone – Another game that received a reveal trailer at a previous E3. This looks like a post-apocalyptic zombie game ala The Last of Us.

Anthem – After what EA did to the Mass Effect series, I remain highly skeptical. I am, however, open to learning more about this new title.

Tomb Raider (Shadow of the Tomb Raider) – Looks amazing. Lara has been on a roll as of late. This game will probably be another hit.

Yoshi – Who doesn’t love Yoshi?

This years E3 will take place from June 12th to June 14th at the Los Angeles Convention Center. Tickets are still on sale. You can learn more about E3 2018 by visiting the official website – www.e3expo.com.

Are there any games you’re looking forward to learning more about? Let me know in the comments section.

Home Sweet Home – Stardew Valley Review – PS4

Home Sweet Home – Stardew Valley Review – PS4

Home Sweet Home

The sun rises over the valley; birds chirp, your cat gently paws at your face, and you slowly open your eyes. You left behind your soul-crushing desk job in the hopes of finding something more meaningful in farming, but your back hates you right now. Your farm is a mess, you’re dead broke, and all you have is a few basic tools and some cheap seeds. There are some very busy days ahead of you, but at least you can do things at your own pace. Thus begins the adventure of the indie farming simulation and role-playing game Stardew Valley.

Primarily inspired by the Harvest Moon series, Stardew Valley allows you to create your own character and vicariously live through them as a farmer in Pelican Town. You can choose from 24 different skin tones, 32 hair styles, 112 shirts, 20 accessories, and 2 pets. So the choices regarding how your character looks are fantastic. Then comes the fun part. Your first task is simple; you have to clean up the farm you inherited from your grandfather and make it your own. Starting your farm takes some time and attention to detail. Where do you want to start? How many seeds do you want to plant? Where to place them? How long do they take to grow? Can you grow them faster? Why am I finding Joja Cola’s in the bottom of my lake? All of these questions are answered as you progress and begin to see what your work yields.

Your farm is a mess, you’re dead broke, and all you have is a few basic tools and some cheap seeds.

As you improve your farm, you’ll be able to grow better crops that will fetch better prices. More money means you can decorate your sweet little home to your hearts desire. Your local store will sell you new items and allow you to change the floor or wall patterns. Or you can visit the evil, corporate Joja Mart and get what you need there. Eventually you’ll be able to expand your tiny farmhouse into a sprawling estate. If you get big enough, you’ll be able to care for animals, grow crops all year long, and create artisinal goods such as jam, honey, beer and wine.

It won’t take you long to realize things move faster when you invest in better tools, but you’ll have to do more than farm to get what you need. Mining, fishing, foraging, cooking, and crafting are also important elements in the game that can help your farm flourish. There are quests designed to help you along each path, but in true role playing form, you pick the path and how you’d like to explore. Either way, time management will become your friend, as you only have a limited amount of time and energy to get things done each day. After all, you’re just one farmer.

Don’t worry, you won’t have to do it all alone.

Speaking of time, there are four seasons in Stardew Valley: Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter. Each season lasts up to 28 days and brings with it a wealth of new seeds, trees, fish, foraging items and so forth. You’ll watch your farm go from a lush, full field to a barren winter wasteland as time moves forward. Then you’ll start a new year with a bigger house, upgraded tools, and a better understanding of what you need to accomplish before the end of the season. Don’t worry, you won’t have to do it all alone.

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If you feel lonely, the good people of Pelican Town are more than happy to keep you company. Some more so than others. You can interact with and befriend npc’s by completing quests. There are town events each month to help create a sense of fellowship with your neighbors. Everyone has a birthday and there’s usually a place in town that they frequent. So you’ll have plenty of opportunities to win the heart of your beloved at the Dance of the Moonlight Jellies or the Flower Dance. If you so wish, you can even romance and marry a single character. Having children is an option as well. Or if you want, you can live life as a hermit who barely speaks to anyone other than grunting to make a few purchases at Pierre’s.

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Pretty soon, you’ll be able to play the game online with your friends. That’s right, there will be a multiplayer expansion. According to a blog post on stardewvalley.net, Stardew Valley’s developer, Chucklefish, expected that the expansion will be rolled out by the end of 2017. We’re still waiting for that as of April 2018, but I have hope. As for a multiplayer experience for the PS4, we don’t have a date, but the update will be headed our way eventually. As if you needed another reason to pick up this game.

At its core, Stardew Valley is a happy, comforting game that will help you unwind. The music is fantastic, there’s barely any pressure, and you’ll find a lot of humor in places you least expect it. If you’re the type of player that needs objectives and quests to accomplish, there is plenty of those to keep you entertained. However, there is no need to complete most things. In fact, I would even say that there is no right or wrong way to play, unless you’re not playing at all. Then you’re totally missing out!

So why not take a trip to Pelican Town? Your new life is waiting for you there.