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Everyday Drabbles #499: Time Traveler

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If there was one thing he hated, it was the fake psychics that wrote supposed ‘books of prophecy,’ creating entire generations of mystic scammers in their wake.
He built a time machine to go back and confront these charlatans before they could spread their poison. But when he got to the past, he found the supposed prophetess waiting for him with tea and biscuits.
She showed him a book, detailing their whole encounter, written a century earlier. He fled back to the future, terrified.
She sipped her tea, satisfied that he hadn’t discovered the time machine hidden in her barn.

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Everyday Drabbles #498: The Archivist

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“You ever hear the one about finding a tortoise in the desert?” I asked. My companion slowly lifted her head to regard me but made no reply.
I sighed, sounding like a broken pipe organ in a windstorm, and sat down heavily on a piece of broken rebar. My posterior heat sensor complained about the sun-baked metal. I ignored it.
The tortoise went back to her slow process, and I watched her navigate the ruins for an hour.
I was tasked with remembering Humanity, built in the last moments of civilization. I just wished I had someone to talk to.

Everyday Drabbles #497: The Sphinx’s Daughter

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The Sphinx found the baby abandoned on the shore of her island, left in a boat by a warrior who had failed to answer her riddle. She was fascinated by the tiny, wailing creature.
Changeless and immortal, the Sphinx was ageless. She decided to adopt the baby, to better understand mortals and their habits. She didn’t come to love her until later.
Over the years, the baby grew into a child, who became a woman. The Sphinx taught her everything she could. One day her daughter left to join the human world, and the Sphinx waited for her to return.

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Hugh Likes Video Games: Dragon Quest II

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Dragon Quest II: Luminaries of the Legendary Line
Published by Square Enix
Played on Nintendo Switch

The Skinny – A flawed but still-fun classic

Last week, Dragon Quest celebrated its 35th-anniversary last week, and I have been playing through the second entry in the venerable series to celebrate. While the game has a lot of rough edges, the Switch port still largely holds up.
Originally released in 1987 in Japan and 1990 in North America, Dragon Quest II is a continuation and expansion of the original Japanese role-playing game. In the first adventure, a lone knight, who is the descendant of a great hero, saves a kingdom from an evil wizard, who is also a dragon. The sequel picks up the story a century later, with three of that hero’s descendants picking up the family trade and taking out Hargon, a malevolent priest bringing about the end of the world. While this is still a primitive example of a console RPG, it does mark some notable firsts for the genre. The player starts out controlling a single hero, but picks up two companions along the way, making it the first JRPG with a party. Your party doesn’t quite have defined classes per sei, but each character plays a little different, with the Prince of Midenhall playing the role of a warrior with high attack and defense, but no access to magic, while the Princess of Moonbrook can cast powerful spells but can’t wield swords or wear heavy armor. The Prince of Cannock is a bit in the middle, with some access to both.
You also get a boat to explore a wider world, which includes a simplified and smaller version of the world map from Dragon Quest! While there is a pretty big (for the time) world to explore full of towns to visit and dungeons to delve into, the story isn’t very complex by today’s standards. There are plenty of clever secrets and things to uncover, such as a hidden slot machine minigame, but the plot is your basic quest to go find the big bad and put your sword through him.
The Switch port carries on from a long line of ports and remakes that have incrementally improved the game over the years, from the Super Famicom to Game Boy to Wii and up through mobile phones. This is definitely a game that is in no danger of ever going ‘out of print.’ Naturally, the graphics and sound have been upgraded, and the game looks fabulous, with highly detailed and colorful sprites, although there isn’t much animation in the game, with battle scenes still being fought against still images. But even if they don’t animate, Akira Toriyama’s designs really pop in HD. And Koichi Sugiyama’s orchestral score sounds great.
The gameplay is pretty relaxing, with turn-based combat and simple puzzles that are usually resolved by finding the right NPC or using the correct item based on their clues. You don’t always have full control over actions in battle, as enemies appear in groups and you can’t select individual monsters if they’re in a crowd. But the AI has been improved over the years, and the game tends to deal out damage in an optimal way for the player. While the monsters are fun to look at, combat can get pretty repetitive, though. Developers hadn’t quite worked out the curve for adding bosses, and you won’t see very many until the last castle.
The only thing that hasn’t been improved from the original, and is still the biggest drawback, are the dungeons. The towers and caves in the game are long and very maze-like, with lots of frustrating traps that just serve to prolong the game without being much fun. The cave that leads to the final dungeon, in particular, has a set of very nasty trap floors that force you to begin again from the entrance, with random encounters hitting you every few steps. It’s not the most engaging design, and I had to put the game down a couple of times and play something else.
With those drawbacks aside, Dragon Quest II: Luminaries of the Legendary Line is a classic that further defined an emerging genre. Plus, it is on sale right now as a part of Dragon Quest’s anniversary, so curious gamers can experience this historic gem for cheap on the Nintendo Switch eshop or IOS and Android app stores.

Everyday Drabbles #496: The Count Steps Out

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The Count straightened his tie in the mirror. The aluminum backing was far more forgiving about showing reflections than silver.
He smiled at himself and switched off the bathroom light. His phone buzzed from the pocket of his tuxedo jacket. His rideshare was downstairs waiting for him. While he had his phone out, the vampire pulled up his social media to confirm the address on the invite.
He checked his blackout curtains and reset his security alarm before locking up the apartment.
Perhaps it was no longer an age of shadows and blood. But modern times certainly were more convenient.

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Everyday Drabbles #495: Symbiosis

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“They’re doing it again,” the naturalist called to his partner. The rare albino alligator species they’d come to study had the weirdest symbiotic relationship with a species of local freshwater crabs. As they watched, the gators lined up on the shoreline, allowing the crabs to scuttle onto their heads. They proceeded to march up and down the muddy beach, the crustaceans waving their claws in the air.
The scientists were baffled. They couldn’t discern any advantage in the behavior. They were just… walking around.
If the alligators could talk, they would have scoffed that the scientists just didn’t understand fashion.

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Everyday Drabbles #494: The Supervillain’s Wife

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She stood by his side for decades. She supported him through the death rays and doomsday devices. When spies and superheroes infiltrated his lair, they would offer her an escape. She always declined.
Was it so difficult to imagine that a man like her husband could feel love? Or that he could be loved in turn? She didn’t expect them to understand. They would leave her, only to be captured by her husband themselves.
Finally, on the eve of his greatest triumph, they toasted with champagne. He took a sip, and she watched, waiting for the poison to start working.

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Hugh Likes Video Games: The Legend of Zelda – Link’s Awakening

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The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening
Published by Nintendo
Developed by GREZZO
Played on Nintendo Switch

The Skinny – This reoccurring Zelda classic still plays like a dream.

Originally released for the Game Boy in 1993, The Legend of Zelda, Link’s Awakening may be the most revisited game in Nintendo’s catalog. But that isn’t without good reason. in 1998 it received an upgrade for the Game Boy Color, with a bonus dungeon and new functionality for the Game Boy Printer peripheral. A little over twenty years later, a new version for the Nintendo Switch has brought it back again with bright and colorful HD graphics. But how does a Game Boy game hold up over twenty-five years later?
 Pretty well, as it turns out. The story and gameplay are nearly untouched, with the only tweak being the inclusion of dedicated buttons for Link’s sword and shield, with two buttons for selectable tools, which makes better use of the Switch’s controls. The combat is familiar and satisfying. This game plays just as well as it did in the original.
A few new items were added to the game, including a set of Amiibo-like collectibles and bottles, which allow the player to recover inside dungeons. There is also an expert difficulty added for returning players which bulks up enemies and removes heart drops from the game. This more than balances out the difficulty, and made the game a nice challenge.
The added GB Printer sections have been removed, which is disappointing because even if the printer wasn’t available, the cutscenes for obtaining them were still fun to discover in the GB Color version. In its place is a new minigame that allows players to make and complete their own dungeons based on chambers in the game. This is a fun little diversion, but without the ability to design chambers yourself, it feels a little insubstantial. The minigames from the original GB release, a fishing minigame, a raft obstacle course, and a UFO catcher, have been expanded and improved. I usually skip the fishing in Zelda games, but this one was a lot of fun.
Link’s Awakening has always been one of the stranger games in the series, with the titular hero washing up on a mysterious island and being thrust into its mysteries. The remake keeps the story intact, while also give a shiny toy-like aesthetic to the graphics. The game preserves the aspect of the original game with the update, which means that the action is a bit more zoomed out, giving a preview of what would be on the next ‘screen’ in the original version. Overall, I feel this is a good choice, and it helps reinforce the new diorama-like feel of the world.
The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening is a definitive edition of a stone-cold classic. Switch owners shouldn’t sleep on this bite-sized adventure.

Everyday Drabbles #493: Mountain Spirit

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The spirit looked upon its mountain and was pleased.
Snow-covered the peak in a thick glacier, which melted in sparkling rivulets where the sun hit it. The pure water would trickle down the slope, feeding rivers that carried water and streams that fed the forests below.
As the seasons turned, the leaves would change, the rivers would freeze, and the glacier would advance. The cycle felt like breathing to the mountain’s spirit.
But something was off. The spirit looked down and saw its rivers dammed and forests cleared for luxury cabins. It had picked up a bad case of humans.

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Everyday Drabbles #492: Update Notification

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When I woke up this morning I found that the world had changed. The Sun was a little brighter. My coffee tasted a little stronger. My husband’s hair was a slightly lighter shade of brown.
I thought I was losing my mind until I checked my email.
Dear Customer, you may have noticed a new update for Life™! We implemented a few bug fixes and improvements. Version 1.349 changes are listed below.
I read the list and they matched the differences that I had seen. There, at the bottom, was a little red ‘Unsubscribe’ button. I wondered what would happen.

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