The Infinite Zenith

Where insights on anime, games, academia and life dare to converge

Revisiting Kotonoha no Niwa (The Garden of Words): Another Review and Reflection

“We’re heading into tough times. As people get into their homes and their home is in trouble, people will feel despair…we have to lift them up with our love and support.” –Mayor Naheed Nenshi, The City of Calgary

The home release to Makoto Shinkai’s The Garden of Words came out four years ago today, right amidst the Great Flood of 2013: I was watching the film even as a heavy rainstorm swept through the region, dropping upwards of 200mm of precipitation in the Rocky Mountains that, in conjunction with saturated lands and snow on the surface, overwhelmed the waterways that flowed through my city: by the morning of June 21, the university had emailed its staff, saying that campus would be closed. Throughout the day, the media showed the whole of the city center covered with waist-high water, and having left my laptop on campus, I was unable to work on my simulations. The only other pursuit was to watch The Garden of Words, which a colleague had informed me of while we were out for lunch at an Indian restaurant. Sure enough, The Garden of Words turned out to be a highly enjoyable film: fifteen-year-old Takao Akizuki is a high school student and aspiring shoe-maker. Fond of skipping his morning classes whenever it rains, he frequents Shinjuku Gyoen and one morning, encounters the enigmatic Yukari Yukino, who happens to be skipping work. Amidst the problems that both face in their respective lives, the two strike up a friendship. When the summer break draws to a close, Takao learns that Yukari is a literature instructor at his high school who had been subject to harassment from students. The attendent anxiety led her to skip work, and Yukari began losing her way until she’d met Takao. She subsequently resigns, and later runs into Takao at Shinjuku Gyoen. After a storm hits, they return to Yukari’s apartment, where Takao confesses his love to Yukari. Taken aback, she notes that she’s moving back to Shikoku, leaving Takao heartbroken. He makes to leave, but Yukari catches up with him and tearfully admits that it was through his kindness that she’s managed to find her way again. In the epilogue, Takao continues with his dreams of becoming a shoemaker, while Yukari has resumed teaching.

Despite its short runtime, The Garden of Words manages to condense into its narrative an exceptional degree of symbolism, evident in the tanka that Yukari recites and shoes as a metaphor for life experiences. Shinkai himself makes it clear that the central theme of The Garden of Words is loneliness, captured in Yukari and Takao’s interactions with the individuals around them. Both characters share the commonality of being isolated: Yukari is withdrawn from her colleagues and family, being limited to dealing with her troubles on her own, while Takao receives little support from his family while he pursues his career. While this overarching theme applies to The Garden of Words, Shinkai also manages to bring about another, emergent theme through the decision to feature a noticeable age gap between Yukari and Takao. The companionship and understanding that the two find in one another, amidst a garden of both greenery and the literal garden of words they craft together, form very naturally. In a place where age, background and station are hidden away, Shinjuku Gyoen acts as the perfect sanctuary for two individuals brought together by the seemingly-mundane occurrence of rain, to begin opening up with one another and drive forwards the events in The Garden of Words. Shinkai intended for The Garden of Words to capture love in a traditional sense: Yukari and Takao’s time together, caring about and helping one another out, is a form of love that can be experienced independently of age and station. It is the deliberate choosing of a high school student and an instructor in a setting crafted of rain and greenery, that expresses the idea that this particular tenderness is a form of love that is as genuine and authentic as any romantic love.

The presentation of rain as being a multi-faceted force in The Garden of Words is central to the movie’s magic: at times, it is a gentle, natural force that allow Yukari and Takao to interact together in slow, tender steps, but by the film’s conclusion, it is a tempest that crescendos into Takao’s confession and Yukari finally opening up to him. Occupying both ends of the spectrum, Shinkai’s masterful use of rain allows The Garden of Words to express emotions and thoughts that even colours and scenery together cannot. Weather has been utilised to great effect in fiction to further develop a narrative, and The Garden of Words is no different: in this film, Shinkai demonstrates that he is able to further his artwork’s ability to convey an idea in ways that his previous films did not explore too rigourously. A powerful force in The Garden of Words in bringing Yukari and Takao together, the power of rain was shortly demonstrated in reality: the Great Flood of 2013 I’ve alluded to in several of my earlier discussions is an interesting example of rain being able to cause both separation and togetherness. In its excess, the rainfall responsible for causing flooding throughout southern Alberta physically separated people, but it was in these difficult times that communities were unified by the flood, demonstrating exemplary citizenship to help one another out in the ways they could, whether it be something as simple as making a generous donation to the Red Cross and flood recovery efforts, or else selflessly stepping out into the field and helping flood victims clean up. Regardless of the scale of their actions, each individual who reached out in their own way to help was a part of that community, and while the Great Flood of 2013’s effects are still felt four years later, it is only because of the community’s actions that recovery has made substantial strides.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Almost all of my posts this month have been gaming-related so far, and I have an inkling that readers grow weary of this trend. One might even say it’s getting dank. To rectify this, I will be posting about anime for the remainder of the month (unless I find time to write about Battlefield 1‘s “Nivelle Nights” update). When I last wrote about The Garden of Words, it was 2013. Battlefield 4 had been announced for three months, I had graduated with an Honours degree in Health Sciences, and a flood had hit my area, causing my research to grind to a halt as I did not have a Mac to work on at the time. I noted that by The Garden of Words, Shinkai and his team had so finely honed their craft that his visuals became comparable to photographs in terms of detail and colouration. This image of the Tokyo streets is one such example, and at a glance, it really does look like a photograph.

  • The original The Garden of Words post I wrote featured thirty screenshots, but looking back, the post is quite devoid of content besides a basic “their loneliness brings them together”, praised the film for giving the male characters a more driven personality (as opposed to the passiveness that defines Takaki) and remarked that the movie’s strongest point is how focused and concise it is. Rather than diverting time towards symbolism, The Garden of Words weaves symbolism directly into the narrative. In doing so, the character’s eventual fates are clearly presented, leaving no loose ends that became somewhat of a challenge in Five Centimeters per Second.

  • When Takao first meets Yukari, there’s little indicator of what she does or how old she is. She leaves Takao with a tanka from the manyōshū‘s eleventh volume: besides suggesting that the rain brought them together, it’s something that only literature instructors or enthusiasts would be able to recite. Takao is wrapped up in the moment and does not realise this, taking an interest in the fact that Yukari has an enigmatic air to her that seems quite enchanting. This chance meeting, seemingly willed by the rain itself, sets in motion the film’s events.

  • To emphasise the theme of isolation in The Garden of Words, Shinkai presents his supporting characters as being distant, engrossed in their own worlds to be of much help to either Yukari or Takao. For Takao, his mother is more interested in chasing men than caring for her family, while his older brother is moving out with his girlfriend and cannot otherwise spare much time to listen to Takao’s concerns. Similarly, Yukari’s colleagues and coworkers are only able to do so much for her. Thus, with limited support from the most obvious sources, Yukari and Takao’s fateful meeting drive them to turn towards one another.

  • As they spend more time together, bits and pieces of each individual comes out into play. Yukari reveals that her reason for drinking beer and eating chocolate near-exclusively is that she has hypogeusia, a diminished sense of taste (some articles label it as dysgeusia, a superset of taste disorders that describes both partial and total loss of taste). Shinkai himself describes Yukari’s taste disorder as a metaphor for her mental health, and while it is seemingly a fanciful condition tailored to drive The Garden of Words‘ narrative, the working through things suggests that Yukari’s stress causes the quality of her diet to decrease, in turn resulting in a lessened zinc consumption. Zinc is a cofactor in enzymes and is involved in taste-related pathways, so a zinc deficiency sufficient to cause Yukari to lose much of her sense of taste would be indicative of her situation.

  • The events of The Garden of Words also deal greatly with mental health; while Shinkai may have intended for his works to convey a certain theme, and the more prominent anime writers out there have largely focused on the movie as a love story of sorts, the focus of The Garden of Words on everyday events means that some ideas can be derived from the film’s events even if they are not immediately apparent. This is the advantage about being multi-disciplinary – one is afforded different perspectives on things that would be missed in the absence of familiarity with a particular discipline.

  • In this case, Yukari’s mental health is the crux of her problems within the movie. Previous events have given her anxiety and depression, leading her to skip work and suffer from a decreased quality of life. Alone and without much in the way of assistance, it takes intervention taking the form of the determined Takao, to help her get back on track. In dealing with mental health, I’ve seen that a good support system is perhaps the single most aspect of intervention and recovery. These topics are always a challenge to deal with, especially since reporting is tricky and the lack of good data makes it difficult to learn the cause and potential solutions. However, awareness for mental health is much greater now than it was earlier, thanks to growing understanding of the importance of emotional well-being.

  • After the flood waters receded, the weather in Southern Alberta became remarkably nice: Canada Day that year saw some of the most spectacular weather I’d known, but I still vividly recall feeling quite down in the aftermath of the flood. Under a blazing hot sun, I enjoyed a Flamethrower Grill burger from the DQ nearby and spent the afternoon playing Vindictus, but I had been filled with a sense of longing and for the longest time, did not really understand what was the reason behind this feeling of melancholy. Four years later, I think I can answer that question – matters of the heart were troubling me, and the flood’s disruption precluded opportunities to assuage the sense of emptiness that was welling as my friends began going their separate ways following convocation.

  • Unlike myself, Takao has a very clear vision of where his dreams lie, and what it takes to reach his chosen career of being a shoemaker even while in high school. At the age of fifteen, I was vaguely aware that my future lay in the sciences, likely biology, but otherwise did not make a concrete decision until I was in my final year of high school. In my university’s bioinformatics programme, I saw a path that would leave options open: I would gain background in both health and computer science. Indecision has been one of my old weaknesses, and it was only during the final year of my graduate studies programme that I decided that iOS development was a career I really desired.

  • In order to raise funds for his aspirations, Takao works at a variety of part-time positions, including that of a dishwasher. Although he is not particularly skillful at shoemaking, his innate passion for the career provides him with his drive to practise his craft. At his age, this is viewed as an expensive hobby rather than a viable career path, but his persistence is most admirable: while his friends are out enjoying the summer, he pushes towards his objectives.

  • A closeup of Takao and Yukari’s shoes find that Takao has crafted his own shoes. With a reasonably-priced pair of shoes going around 80-110 CAD while on sale, I’ve found that good shoes should be able to last about two years under normal wear-and-tear conditions, but gone are the days when I have a single pair of general-purpose shoes for the more pleasant times of year and second pair of shoes for the winter.  In this image, minor details in the environment, such as the ripples of raindrops hitting water on the ground, are also visible.

  • During my trip to Japan last month, I did not have the opportunity to visit Shinjuku Gyoen, but we did pass by on the way to the Meiji Jinju, which was an oasis in the middle of Tokyo. The joys of large parks such as these give the sense of a sanctuary amidst a world that is constantly moving: at the heart of the park, it was calm and quiet. Here, I saw a sight that until then, I’d only seen in anime: groups of students praying for success in their exams. We later visited the Imperial Palace in Chiyoda and found groups of students eating lunch there.

  • One of the things on my mind is how the weather for the upcoming summer will be. Spring this year’s been quite nice even if it has been a bit rainy, and moving into the summer, meteorologists are forecasting that the prairies will have a summer with near-normal precipitation and temperatures. These are my most favourite times of year, when the days are long and the skies fair: I am hoping to spend a few weekends doing day trips in the nearby mountains should the weather be favourable.

  • When Takao begins cooking for Yukari and inspires her to begin cooking again, Yukari’s sense of taste is gradually restored. An improving diet is the biochemical reason why this occurs, but this is worked cleverly into the narrative to suggest that it is the act of being together with someone, to share one’s burdens, that prompts this change. It typifies Makoto Shinkai’s ability to craft powerful metaphors and symbols into his stories without sacrificing scientifically plausibility: while his stories cannot always be said to confirm fully with reality, a sufficient number of elements are accurate so that his stories’ more fanciful elements are not too detracting.

  • Images of Takao and Yukari sharing time together in Shinjuku Gyoen remain the single most enduring imagery pertaining to The Garden of Words, similar to the spectacle that Comet Tiamat yielded in Your Name. Being able to create immediately recognisable scenery has driven up Shinkai’s stock amongst fans: while Shinkai is modest and cautions audiences against comparing him to Hayao Miyazaki, I find that Shinkai’s single greatest contribution is his unique talent for making use of colour and light in highly detailed environments to assist in his narratives. Compared to Miyazaki, Shinkai’s characters tend to be stylised to a lesser extent and so, are not always as expressive as those of Miyazaki’s. Instead, Shinkai takes a different approach: expressiveness in his films is achieved through the use of the environments in conjunction with the characters’ facial expressions and tones.

  •  The expression “no man is an island” is applicable to the events of The Garden of Words, being sourced from John Donne’s “Devotions upon Emergent Occasions”, and looking back four years, the notion that we need human contact in order to maintain our mental well-being is reinforced. In Yukari’s position, it can seem a Herculean task to break out of her melancholy, and Makoto Shinkai captures this reality in a very fluid, believable manner: it is her happenstance meeting with Takao that sets in motion change.

  • Yukari is voiced by Kana Hanazawa, who has played notable roles in many of the anime I’ve seen, including but not limited to Nagi-Asu: A Lull in the Sea‘s Manaka Mukaido, Cleo Saburafu of Broken Blade, Sonoko Nogi of Yūki Yūna is a Hero, Gabriel Dropout‘s Raphiel Shiraha and Infinite Stratos‘ Charlotte Dunois. By comparison, Miyu Irino, who provides Takao’s voice, I’m only familiar with for his role as Mobile Suit Gundam 00‘s Saji Crossroad.

  • Takao measuring Yukari’s feet in the beginnings of his plan to craft a pair of shoes for her is the one of the most tender moments in The Garden of Words, attesting to how far the two have come to trust one another since their first meeting. Shinkai meticulously details the process that Takao takes in capturing the dimensions of Yukari’s foot, conveying intimacy as deeply as when Akari and Takaki shared their first kiss during the events of Five Centimeters per Second.

  • Takao’s older brother resembles Children Who Chase Lost Voices From Deep Below‘s Ryūji Morisak, Asuna’s substitute instructor whose knowledge of the mythical Agartha is extensive. Takao’s brother’s girlfriend bears some resemblance to Akari Shinohara. Of his older films, Akari and Sayuri of The Place Promised in Our Early Days look quite similar, as well. Shinkai’s exceptional prowess as an artist nowithstanding, one of the few limitations about his art style are how his characters can look quite similar to one another. By Your Name, however, his team’s craft has definitely improved: Mitsuha and Taki look unique, unlike any of his previous characters.

  • Takao explicitly notes that he’s attracted to the air of mystery surrounding Yukari, but when he returns to school, it turns out that Yukari is actually one of the instructors here. The truth is soon shown to him: she’s a classical Japanese instructor who got into a spot of trouble when a younger male student developed a crush on her, and said student’s girlfriend retaliated with a series of rumours. I cannot speak to how things would be handled in Canada if such an occurrence were to be real, but it would likely be a major news story that would certainly force the school board to launch an inquiry.

  • While seemingly far-fetched for students to go to such lengths to discredit their instructors, high school drama is quite real. I recount a story where a fellow classmate, salty about the fact that I was kicking ass in introductory science course seemingly without any effort in our first year, accused me of harassment. The individual’s parents got the administration involved and I was warned that a suspension could follow, even though I had not acted against this individual directly. I argued that without any hard evidence beyond said individual’s word, their very efforts to get me suspended was in and of itself harassment. The administration realised they’d been pranked and promptly dismissed things, leaving me with a hilarious story about how I out-played this individual, although that is only in retrospect: there was nothing remotely funny about things at the time.

  • School rooftops have featured in anime with a similar frequency as the coveted spot in the back corner of the classroom beside the window. Questions have been posed concerning this, and the answer is a very mundane, unordinary one: it is much easier to animate these locations owing to the ability to illustrate a smaller number of people, reducing the costs associated with animating busy scenes. Having said that, Makoto Shinkai is not one to shy away from incredible levels of detail in his films, so his inclusion of a school rooftop and its quiet environs is intended for another purpose: to visually convey the sort of loneliness that surrounds Yukari’s story.

  • The fellow in the red T-shirt is a big guy…for Takao. After Takao slaps Aizawa, the senior student for having caused Yukari this much grief, the big guy steps in and displays a lot of loyalty for a mere friend of Aizawa’s: he decks Takao, sending him into the floor. A fight ensues, leaving a few scratches on Takao’s face. The fight’s outcome is not shown because Shinkai feels it to be not relevant: what matters is the fact that Takao’s feelings have precipitated this moment. In the manga, the big guy continues beating on Takao, but like the film, Takao rushes him. Because his injuries are light, it stands to reason that he manages to win this fight, or at least, surprises the big guy long enough to escape. Aizawa is voiced by Mikako Komatsu, whom I know best as Nagi no Asukara‘s Miuna Shiodome and Sakura Quest‘s Sanae Kouzuki.

  • Some of my insights on The Garden of Words come from the manga, which I bought last Thanksgiving: the weather that day had not been conducive for a drive out to the mountains, but was just fine for visiting a local bookstore. The remainder of this revisitation, containing just a ways under half of the screenshots in the post, deals with the film’s final act. This is not an accident: the final act is an emotional journey that sees Shinkai’s writing at its finest. His stories are at their strongest when his characters are honest and open with their feelings.

  • When Yukari and Takao meet again under the gazebo of Shinjuku Gyoen, they are caught in a torrential downpour. I vividly remember the June 21st of four years ago as though it were yesterday. After receiving an email from the university that campus was closed on account of the flood, and having left my laptop on campus, I was unable to get any work done that day. It was an unexpected day off, and I spent it reviewing The Garden of Words, as well as playing through Metro: Last Light, which I got complementary with my GTX 660. I’d only just watched the movie the night before, and with rain dousing the Southern Alberta region, the irony of watching a movie about rain when rain waters were causing flooding was not lost on me.

  • The rains began in earnest on June 20 after the skies filled with rain clouds, and some areas of the city begun evacuations as water levels surged in the Bow and Elbow rivers. The whole of the city centre was covered in water on June 21, and the Stampede Grounds were flooded, as well. By June 22, the rains had lessened, and the flood waters began receding. Tales of courage and sacrifice to save people emerged, along with the comprehension of just how much damage the flood had caused. When the weekend ended, and the extent of the flood’s became known, I made a substantial donation to the Red Cross for Flood relief. Meanwhile, some of my friends working with companies over the summer began helping out with the cleanup effort.

  • The waters had fully retreated come late June, and the weather became the characteristic of an early July in Calgary: hot and sunny. However, even as I returned to my routine in writing simulations for my research lab, a melancholy had gripped me. The cause was unknown at the time, but the sum of extraordinarily good weather, the inability to make the most of my summer days, some love-sickness and the fact that most of my friends were going their separate ways following convocation would have likely been the reason for this melancholy. A summer later, I would go on to buy the book “The Flood of 2013: A Summer of Angry Rivers”, whose proceeds would go towards flood recovery. 

  • Slender and beautiful, Yukari is quite unlike any of Shinkai’s previous female leads. Freed from their role as teacher and student, the two enjoy their rainy afternoon together, with Takao cooking for Yukari. Their conversation is not heard, with a wistful track overlaid as background music, affording the two characters a modicum of privacy in a similar manner that Daniel Handler used in A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Slippery Slope, when Violet and Quigley are given some time alone halfway up the frozen waterfall. It’s a literary device that is intended to show characters in more personal, intimate moments, and while the bond that Yukari and Takao share cannot be said to be romantic love, it does count as love in a sense.

  • In my original The Garden of Words post, I had a close-up of the omurice that Takao’s cooked. I’ve made an effort to ensure that no image was duplicated from the original post, but unlike previous years, where it became difficult to do consecutive posts on the K-On! Movie because of overlap, the artwork in any given Makoto Shinkai film is so diverse that picking unique screenshots were not a challenge. Over the span of the four years that have passed since I first watched this, much has happened, and one of those things includes my having omurice dispenses with the ketchup on top in favour of a curry-in Osaka. It’s a simple but filling dish – the incarnation I had katsu, so I could say I had the equivalent of omurice and curry rice all in one go.

  • During an awkward point in their conversation, Takao declares that he loves Yukari, but when Yukari seemingly rejects him, he takes off. Not quite understanding what’s happened, Yukari runs after him. As I have experienced, Takao is confusing his appreciation of Yukari’s company, and his desire to help her, for romantic love. It’s perhaps more of a bond of friendship, or even parental love, that has come out of this relationship: Takao is charmed by Yukari’s mystery and the positive feelings he gains by helping her. This compassion and empathy for someone else is a compelling force that one can indeed fall in love with, although people can sometimes mistake this as falling in love with a person.

  • This is not to say that falling in love with helping people, and romantic love with a person, are mutually exclusive. Takao probably harbours feelings for Yukari to some extent, and she, for him, although these are overshadowed by the positive feelings they’ve developed as friends. Challenges in differentiating from between the two can cause younger people, like myself, to pursue relationships they sense to be sustainable. Sometimes, things work out for the better, strengthening the couple and allowing them to find happiness, while other times, things don’t work out so well.

  • At the film’s climax, Takao finally expresses his own resentment at Yukari’s air of mystery – the very thing he was attracted to about her becomes a source of pain when he learns that she’s a teacher, and stung by her rejection, he demands her to be truthful, voicing that his dreams are unrealistic and unattainable, that her refusal in opening up to him and being truthful led him on in a manner of speaking. The sum of their emotions build, and breaks over right as the sun comes out, washing the land in a golden light.

  • Yukari’s refusal to mirror Takao’s accusations shows that, rather than acting out of malice or spite, her unwillingness to open up to him is mainly because of her own experiences. When the sun appears, it represents the reappearance of truth. Both Takao and Yukari are honest with their feelings, as well as how they feel about one another. In this moment, Shinkai again demonstrates his masterful use of the weather to advance the story – including Your Name, no other Shinkai film ever draws so heavily on the weather in its narrative.

  • Following the events of the flood, I invited a friend out to the Calgary Stampede as a date of sorts to express thanks for having attended my convocation and helping me take photographs, as well as for having listened to my numerous grievances about the summer and unwaveringly providing support by ways of listening to me. The Stampede grounds were cleared out, and attendees wore “Through Hell or High Water” t-shirts. It was a herculean effort to clean up the grounds and prepare for that year’s Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth, but the event was a success, attesting to the community’s resilience in face of adversity.

  • By July, the weather had become extremely pleasant, but I had fallen into a summer melancholy, longing for the company of friends. The resentment that I was stuck is mirrored in my blog posts from the time; a hint of bitterness can be found in the writing. I concentrated as best as I could on my research project and managed to build a distributed simulation system, where multiple computers could each run individual modules representing one body system, and passed messages to one another to give the sense that the entire simulation was on one system. I also went on two road trips into open country near the end of summer (one to Canmore, and one to Jasper), lifting my spirits.

  • However, it would not be until the spring a year later, when I was asked to help with the Giant Walkthrough Brain project, that I truly began feeling myself again. Having come fresh from heartbreak during April, I entered the summer with a newfound determination to immerse myself in a new project to dilute the pain of loss. The outcome of this was that I left the summer far happier than I had been for the past year. Here, Takao places the completed pair of shoes for Yukari. After the film’s climax, Yukari heads home and accepts a new teaching position, while Takao continues studying to be a shoemaker. His promise of having Yukari walk again in the shoes he’s crafted her is seemingly unfulfilled in the film, but in spite of this, he maintains a resolute belief in finding her again once he’s made some steps in his own career.

  • Shinkai uses walking as an analogy for facing life’s challenges, and shoes become a symbol for a tool in aiding walking. Takao’s finished product represents his commitment to her well-being – the shoes are beautiful and capture the beauty that is Yukari. Here, I note that the earliest shoes date back a few thousand years. However, it is hypothesised that humans began wearing shoes around 40000 years ago, corresponding with changes to our skeletal features in the foot. This likely coincides with our migration away from warmer climates, where footwear would along us to walk greater distances without being affected by temperature extremities.

  • Thus, Yukari is back to doing what she does best, teaching Japanese literature in Shikoku. Although separated, both Yukari and Takao often think of one another. While I’ve been punching out a record number of posts today, this evening, I spent an evening with some classmates from my BHSc graduating year, and over a poutine with grilled chicken, we spent the evening catching up. It has been four years since our graduation, and it’s great to know that everyone is doing alright: some folks are becoming medical residents, while others are working. It attests to how much time has passed; conversations about buying houses and work stories have displaced talks of the conflicting definitions of health and other coursework.

  • In the manga, Takao mentions that time without Yukari has flown by, also showing that Yukari has received Takao’s shoes and is now wearing them. The movie is careful with its framing to not show this explicitly and leave open for viewers what the outcome was, while the manga implies that Yukari and Takao do end up meeting again. Yukari’s appearance in Your Name is an interesting one, conflicting with her presence in The Garden of Words, so it’s best to suppose that, à la Rick and Morty, Your Name and The Garden of Words are set in alternate dimensions in the multiverse. I’ve seen failed efforts to work this out; attempts are inconclusive owing to flawed reasoning. Ergo, my explanation is the only one that is viable.

  • I feel that, compared to my original review four years ago, this The Garden of Words review is the true review that the film and readers deserve. Themes are better explored, and even though I am reminiscing for a greater half of the post, I am using this retrospective to better frame the themes. I think I’ve succeeded with this post. In addition to being an exercise to illustrate how much has changed in the past few years, this post also serves as a warm-up of sorts for the upcoming Your Name discussion. With the concrete date of July 26 out in the open, I am very excited to try my hand at looking at one of the biggest anime films around in a unique and insightful manner.

The Garden of Words is one of Makoto Shinkai’s strongest works, matching Five Centimeters per Second in emotional impact despite its shorter length. An exquisite amalgamation of sight, sound and narrative that is neatly packaged into a concise, focused story that is very clear about its goals, my own enjoyment of the film is further augmented by the imagery of rain depicted throughout The Garden of Words. Although I did not realise it at the time, my own experiences with relationships (or at least, efforts to) stem from my falling in love with the idea of helping people, rather than being related to falling in love with a person per se. Similar to Takao, I feel drawn to being able to have someone lean on me, and at the time, it definitely did feel like falling in love; in retrospect, it is love in this form that likely manifested, and a part of the melancholy I found during the summer of 2013 was feeling so disconnected from an individual in the flood’s aftermath. However, having re-watched The Garden of Words with a new mindset, looking back, it is not such a terrible thing to be in love with helping others, and like Five Centimeters per Second before it, The Garden of Words is indeed a film that can withstand the test of time, being as enjoyable to watch today as it was when it came out four years ago. There is one important distinction: this time around, precipitation during this month has been normal, and the weather is fine, so the chances of seeing another flood like The Great Flood of 2013 are thankfully slim.

Thoughts of Metro: Exodus while crossing the Flood-Stricken Bridge in Metro: Last Light

“If you’re on the fence about buying this game, I was reading that the PC version uses a lot of power…I know that some people have the most monster computer, and I can’t even run this at a hundred percent.” —TheRadBrad on Metro: Last Light

Motivated by the recent E3 announcement of Metro: Exodus, I returned to the mission that I played through the day that campus had been closed owing to the Great Flood of 2013, and as the rain continued to fall outside, I reached this point in the campaign, following the young Dark One as he guides Artyom to his destination. Artyom’s pursuit of the young Dark One takes him back to the surface, where he intends to travel to Polis and make known the truth at a peace conference. As Artyom begins making his way across the bridge, a ferocious rain storm picks up, obfuscating the large number of enemies. In my original playthrough and a second one during the following summer, I went loud in this mission and immediately found myself against hordes of mutant animals. Fun it may have been to shoot my way through things, to acquire the screenshots for this short talk, I decided to go with a different, quieter approach: I made use of the throwing knives and carefully moved across the bridge. Firing exactly zero shots right up until the zip-line, it proved much more effective to be sneaky. Some of Metro: Last Light‘s best moments are set in the ruins of Moscow above the metro tunnels, and after starting out in yet another tunnel, the E3 demo brought viewers to a beautifully-rendered village above-ground. Artyom removes his mask, suggesting the air is clean, and equips a crossbow before preparing to board a train in the Ural Mountains. The sequel to Metro: Last Light, Metro: Exodus follows Artyom and Anna as they move with other Rangers to the Far East. Exodus will feature a new crafting system and dynamic weather, as well as a greater degree of open-world elements compared to its predecessors, and is set for release in February 2018.

  • One of my favourite aspects about Metro: Last Light after all this time is that droplets of water and mud that can accumulate on Artyom’s gas mask, requiring that players wipe it off with a stroke of the “G” key. There’s a Valve bolt-action rifle with a holographic RDS for close quarters engagements, but my old save files had me start out with a customised Valve equipped with a longer range scope, so I did not switch out my weapons here. After climbing out of a stairwell, players will find themselves on the lower deck of a bridge.

  • It would appear that during my last playthrough of Metro: Last Light three years ago, I had access to the Kalash 2012 and the Saiga-12 in addition to a Valve outfitted for long range engagements. In short, I was well-equipped to continue on with the game at this point, having weapons that draw from a different ammunition pool to ensure that I would never be without some options even if one of my three weapons were depleted. During the course of my playthroughs of Metro: Last Light and Metro 2033: Redux, I never used my military grade rounds in combat. Made with pre-war technology, these rounds hit incredibly hard and will emit a brighter muzzle flash as a result of their increased power.

  • To walk across the bridge again evokes many old memories: prior to my undergraduate convocation in June four years ago, the weather had been quite unassuming. It was not until the day of my graduation banquet with the Faculty of Health Sciences that rainfall had intensified: a light rain had been falling in the morning, and as I sat down to play through Highway 17 and Sandtraps in Half-Life 2, rainfall had intensified, continuing well into the evening. I still vividly recall shooting my way through the Overwatch Nexus the Monday after the flood waters receded, making a substantial donation to the flood relief efforts before pushing through with the mission.

  • I finished Half-Life 2 and Metro: Last Light closer to the end of June. By this point, I had completed Crysis and Battlefield: Bad Company 2, as well. Owing to the disruption to transportation services resulting from the Great Flood of 2013, I was not able to go out to the mountains or even downtown, and so, spent a fair portion of early July wondering which titles could occupy my interest. I decided to give Vindictus a shot, and while it was fun to play through the first few missions, it became clear that this game was meant to be played with friends. After reaching level nine on a quiet, hot Canada Day, I felt that the game had lost most of its appeal.

  • Because the Steam 2013 sale had not commenced yet that year, I dropped Vindictus and began exploring Tribes: Ascend at a friend’s recommendation. While a fun experience, the learning curve and community made it difficult for me to really get into Tribes: Ascend. I had many great matches on beautifully-made maps (Crossfire and Dry Dock were my favourites): though nowhere near as detailed as something like Battlefield 1 or Crysis 3, there was definitely a charm to the visuals in Tribes: Ascend, continuing to play even after the 2013 Summer Sale occurred.

  • While remarkably entertaining and quite able to fulfil my original expectation of being a space shooter for replacing Halo 2, offering diversity in gameplay between Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and Alan Wake, the prospect of a long progression ahead, coupled with the fact that I purchased Battlefield 3 later meant that my time spent in Tribes: Ascend dwindled. Even today, I’ve not found an equivalent for Halo 2 for PC as a space shooter, but Battlefield 4 and Battlefield 1 have proven to be exceptional multiplayer shooters that have since fulfilled the role of my online experience.

  • On my original playthrough, I opened fire and drew the ire of every living thing here; I’ve become a bit more cautious in the four years since then. Using just the throwing knives and the cover the storm provides, I managed to clear the entire bridge without altering the mutants to my position. It’s a little extreme as to how much of a difference being stealthy can be – even in other games, like Deus Ex and Crysis, a little stealth can turn the highest difficulty setting into a walk in the park.

  • While my filters are slowly being depleted, I looked around at the scenery in of the bridge. Armed with the GTX 1060, I am playing the game at full settings without any difficulty – previously, I played at “merely” high settings. With the slew of new titles announced at E3 (Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown, Wolfenstein IIMetro: Exodus and Far Cry 5), I’m actually quite curious to know if the 1060 will be able to run these games on recommended settings: it’s done remarkably well for Battlefield 1, and DOOM, so it’ll be insightful to learn where the card’s limits lie.

  • I imagine that the GTX 1060 will be able to perform admirably for most games released in 2018: even if I cannot get 60 FPS at ultra settings for 1080p, I’m generally okay with running on very high or high, since the differences usually require careful inspection to discern. This screenshot here of me with the Valve is an example of why I am so fond of the above-ground sections of Metro: Last Light, and I’ve heard that Metro: Exodus will be a cross-Russia journey, beginning in Moscow and concluding in the easternmost reaches of Russia.

  • My reminiscences about the games of summer 2013 draw to an end here, and for the remainder of the post, I consider some of my expectations for Metro: Exodus. Having played through this mission for the first time four years ago, and having made mention of the Great Flood of 2013 here, I will be returning very shortly to discuss the flood in a bit more detail, in conjunction with a revisitation of Makoto Shinkai’s The Garden of Words – I feel the time has become appropriate to look at the movie again with a different perspective.

When I first played through Metro: Last Light during 2013, I was impressed with the narrative and visuals of the game. Delving into things, I became more familiar with the Metro franchise as a whole, and it was therefore a pleasant surprise to learn that a continuation was being made. From the E3 footage and new information, the game is becoming closer to the title I was anticipating after watching “Ten minutes in the swamp” to learn more about the game I received with my old GPU. With its greater emphasis on crafting, and open exploration in conjunction with superb visuals, I am excited to see what directions Metro: Exodus will take. Further to this, the fact that Metro: Exodus is set in the Eastern reaches of Russia, with the eventual goal of reaching Siberia, Kolyma or even the Kamchatka peninsula, has greatly elevated my interest in the game. I’ve long been drawn to the mysterious nature of Russia’s far east beyond the Ural mountains, and a game set here provides a fantastic opportunity to explore a virtual interpretation of this side of the world. Cold, vast and desolate, it is here that some of Stalin’s most infamous Gulags were situated, and even today, the remoteness of the area means that populations remain very low. The area’s history means that, even though the terrain and biome is quite similar to the forests and tundra of Canada, there’s a sense of history in Russia’s far east that is simply absent in Canada. As such, I look forwards to learning more about Metro: Exodus, although it is most likely that I will, as I have for numerous games previously, pick it up once I learn more about the system requirements and game length, before making a definitive decision to buy the game shortly after launch or otherwise wait for a sale.

Reflections on the 2017 Summer Solstice

“I am a summer person.” —Elin Hilderbrand

The longest day of the year visits the world today: it’s the first day of summer, and while the light is welcomed, today is forecast to be a little cooler, with a projected high of 18°C. We thus enter the most favourable time of year, when the skies are pleasant and the air comfortable, conducive for hiking along the river in the mountains or unwinding with a novel and cold beverage in hand. A year ago today, I was gearing up for my graduate thesis defense, and while I was feeling quite confident that things would go well, there was also a healthy bit of nervousness. When the defense ended, I was most relieved, having passed, and with that, a new chapter on life began for me. I was set to begin work, but before that, I attended the ALIFE XV Conference in Cancún. Since then, I’ve been working: time has passed in the blink of an eye, and we’re stepping into another summer. While the days of summer research have long passed, and I’m busy all weekdays, this has done little to diminish my plans for the summer. I’ve yet to capitalise on the complementary parks pass that I received as a part of the celebrations for Canada’s 150th Anniversary; on my list of places in the nearby National Parks to explore include Takakkaw Falls and Peyto Lake of the Canadian Rockies. Closer to home, walking around parks in the neighbourhood and ending with shaved ice is also a simple but pleasant way to enjoy the summer. Finally, the long days of summer also afford me time to return to my old hobbies of sketching and reading. It’s a far cry from last year, when I spent all of my walking moments preparing for the thesis: without this occupying my every thought, free time is finally, for the lack of a better word, free. Of course, today is a Wednesday, so I will be heading off for work once this post is done: the weather may be warm, but iOS apps won’t implement or test themselves.

  • The vast blue skies and long, warm days of summer are a blessing, a far fry from winter days where it is forty below. It is a time of adventure, both large and small, and for appreciating the small things. While it’s my favourite time of year, summer melancholy is very much a real thing — it is caused by a longing for something (or someone) and a regret that opportunity gives way to routine. It’s an unpleasant experience, but one that can be surmounted by a willingness to appreciate the small things, whether it be a particularly beautiful sunset or a chance to enjoy a cold drink under sunny skies following a walk. Of course, there’s also the Steam Summer Sale to look forwards to: I’m eyeing Ori and the Blind Forest, Poker Night at the Inventory 2 and the legendary Stay! Stay! Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

  • Because I travelled in May, a time where temperatures remain comfortable in both Japan and Hong Kong, I have the whole summer free to enjoy the pleasant air in and around my city, as opposed to burning alive in the heat of a Tokyo or Hong Kong summer. I used to wonder what it would be like to live in the inaka, but ever since my travels, I’ve realised that the quiet suburban parks of Canada are about as peaceful as the rural parts of Japan. A day well spent is one that need not necessarily involve my overly-large Steam library — one spent out in the sunshine of a nearby park is surprisingly similar to walking in the inaka and is remarkably cathartic.

In my summer solstice post for last year, I mentioned that Your Name was something on my radar. Originally, I had been anticipating a release pattern similar to that of The Garden of Words, but this was plainly not the case. As such, my review and discussion for it will come out in late July. With Your Name in mind, the future of this blog finally enters the discussion: because this blog has proved surprisingly resilient against matters of scheduling, the only thing I can say with any confidence is that blog posts will be written as I find the time to do so. Sometimes, there will be more time, and other times, there will not be any time. However, I am not packing it in any time soon: besides Your Name, Koe no Katachi, Kono Sekai no Ktasumi ni, Kantai Collection: The Movie, Gundam Origin and Girls und Panzer: Final Chapter remain on my stack of anime to write about. In addition, Battlefield 1 has proven to be one incredible adventure, and I will be looking to continue telling my stories as walk the path to rank 110 (hitting the level cap has been something I’d never done before), and finally, with several new games on the horizon, there will be material to write about, as well. This blog’s continued existence is also largely thanks to you, the readers: knowing that folks are enjoying the discussion and content here is more than sufficient a motivation to write. Having said this, two more posts will be coming out later today: I will be looking at Metro: Exodus and revisit The Garden of Words with a renewed perspective.

Looking ahead to Star Wars Battlefront II and thoughts after the E3

Do it.” —Sheev Palpatine

Following the reveal of Star Wars Battlefront II footage last week, general excitement surrounding DICE’s latest Battlefront title has increased substantially. In its first trailer, Battlefront II showcased a promising new single-player campaign. From the perspective of an Imperial special forces soldier in the aftermath of the Empire’s defeat over Endor as they strive to continue serving Emperor Palpatine and execute his will against the triumphant Rebel Alliance. It’s an uncommon storyline, as most Star Wars games take place from the Rebellion’s perspective – akin to playing as the Third Reich’s Wehrmacht or Imperial Japanse Army in a World War Two shooter, Battlefront II is taking a bold new direction with its campaign, which was noticeably absent from its predecessor. Accompanying the announcement of a single player mode in Battlefront II was the fact that the game’s DLC will follow the Titanfall model: new content will be released free of charge to all players (I imagine that micro-transactions will take the forms of cosmetic items and weapon/equipment unlocks) to avoid dividing the player base (a prevalent problem in Battlefield 1, where They Shall Not Pass servers are often empty). With such a strong start, the EA Play event showcased some multiplayer footage of how the game will look and feel: the match is set in Theed of Naboo.

From the gameplay footage, Battlefront II is certain to deliver a visual and audio treat from a cinematic perspective: like its predecessor, Battlefront II has reproduced the sights and sounds expected of a Star Wars game. Whether it be the distinct report of a Clone Trooper’s blaster or the gait of a Trade Federation B1 Battle Droid, elements from the movie are faithfully portrayed in Battlefront II, along with the environments. Theed is intricate, and designs from the royal palace are incredibly detailed, from the patterns of the floor to the play of light through the building windows. The game mechanics appear to have been given an overhaul: while the UI and handling appear quite similar to those of its predecessor (weapons still overheat, while action cards determine what additional loadouts player have), the game has been modified so players gain more accuracy while firing from first person. Access to vehicles, power-ups and hero classes are now based on performance: players earn points for playing objectives and contributing to their team’s efforts, and points can be used bolster one’s class, spawn into a vehicle and, for the patient player, spawn into battle as a hero. Gone are the days of awarding players randomly the hero class: this is something that is earned, which means there will be no more need to aimlessly wander the map for the hero pickup in place of helping one’s team out. All in all, I look forwards to seeing more of the game: similar to Titanfall 2, it appears that Battlefront II has taken on a formula its predecessor implemented and improved upon it in every way.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • The screenshots in this post were sourced from my time in the Battlefront trial that EA offers: a year ago, on the Friday entering the Victoria Day long weekend, I spent much of the day playing the trial to obtain a better idea of whether or not the game would be worth my while. There’s around ten seconds left in my trial, and after concluding, I switched over to writing about Gundam: The Origin‘s third episode, which had just released. While perhaps not as exciting as the years where I attended Otafest, it is nonetheless nice to have a quieter long weekend, and last year, I was gearing up for the thesis defense.

  • The screenshots I have here are of me playing through the Heroes and Villians mode against bots: my lack of time spent in the game meant that playing against human players would certainly make it difficult to obtain good screenshots, and even on higher difficulties, the heroes can cause destruction against the AI opponents without much difficulty. These screenshots have been sitting on my hard drive for the past thirteen months, but with the recent Battlefront II announcement, the time has come to put these images to good use.

  • The presence of a single player campaign in Battlefront II immediately caught my attention: I purchased Titanfall 2 for the campaign alone (albeit during a sale) and will give the multiplayer a whirl, if only to try and unlock the Tone Titan. I heard there’s a multiplayer mode against just AI opponents, so that could prove to be a nice way of becoming more familiar with the mechanics. If Battlefront II similarly features more AI multiplayer modes on top of the campaign, I could see myself getting more excited about the game.

  • The gameplay footage shown last weekend confirms that Darth Maul, Yoda and Rey will be included as heroes in Battlefront II: the heroes work similarly to how they had previously in Battlefront, able to utilise three powerful abilitie in addition to having increased damage output and resistance. One thing that could be quite nice is the ability to switch up one’s preferred hero abilities, allowing them to customise the hero to their preferences.

  • Another aspect that was not shown but would be a further incentive to buy and play Battlefront II is customisation to almost the same level as seen in Battlefield 3 or Bad Company 2 – being able to modify weapons to fit one play style would both be a powerful incentive for players to explore their options, as well as provide weapon accessories and attachments that one could work towards unlocking. Being able to really fine-tune weapons is what made Battlefield 3 and 4 such a blast: this is noticeably absent in Battlefield 1, and it is the combination of superbly-designed maps with exceptionally fun sniping that keeps me in the game.

  • Whereas my Battlefront beta discussion features posts of me operating exclusively in first person, I’ve heard that players have a much larger advantage if they play in third person owing to improved spatial awareness. In Battlefront, there was no difference in performance in first-person; players merely have a more immersive experience. In Battlefront II, playing in first person will confer superior accuracy: weapon spread will decrease. I imagine that players will remain in first person when shooting at longer ranges and switch out to third person for closer engagements as required.

  • DICE is advertising Battlefront II as a battle across different eras, and while footage of only Theed were shown, I’m hoping that classic maps (Endor, Hoth, Cloud City and Tatooine) are included along with Couruscant, Geonosis, Kamino and Mustafar. Battlefront II‘s 2005 incarnation is long held as the best Star Wars game around: its plot followed a Clone soldier in the elite 501st, and multiplayer featured full-on space combat, split into the Clone Wars and Galactic Civil War periods. If Battlefront II can include these features in conjunction with the events of The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi, it will be one of the biggest Star Wars games since Battlefront II (2005).

  • I am certain that the initial release of Battlefront II will not feature the same amount of content as 2005’s Battlefront II, but as DICE has promised that DLC will be free, it is very likely that the sum of DLC in conjunction with the base game will offer as much, if not more, content than Battlefront II‘s 2005 version. This is quite exciting, although there is one caveat: I imagine that the full game could very well require upwards of 100 GB of storage space.

  • One aspect that was not shown and remains unknown is the presence of full-scale space battles in Battlefront II: besides the Rogue Squadron series, Battlefront II has some of the most extensive space battles of any Star Wars game. To bring that kind of scale into the modern era with present-generation visuals would be a dream come true for many, offering immersion into the Star Wars universe hitherto unparalleled.

  • Looking back at some of the features and gameplay of Battlefront II in 2005, the game was incredibly ambitious and executed its functions quite well, being a marked improvement over its predecessor. Games during this age are characterised by exceptional sophistication far beyond what is par the course for most modern games. Deus Ex (2000) comes to mind: with a detailed combat and stealth system, as well as for placing a large emphasis on player choice, the game runs rings around modern titles despite its age. One of my friends has expressed a wish to see the game remade with modern visuals.

  • Battlefront II will retail for 80 CAD at launch, a non-trivial amount of money. Launching within a month of Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus, my decision to buy Battlefront II will largely be influenced by my experiences in the beta (which also allows me to know if my hardware can run it reasonably smoothly), as well as videos from my favourite YouTubers (TheRadBrad for the campaign, while LevelCap and JackFrags will guide the multiplayer). What I am looking for in the campaign is a story of reasonable length (ten to twelve hours of gameplay on standard difficulty, with eight hours being the absolute minimum) with diverse level settings and display of features in the game, including flight and space battles.

  • In the multiplayer, I will be looking for a compelling progression system so that levelling up is a journey rather than a chore, that there’s plenty to do while pursuing this journey, and that the time taken to level up is reasonably determined. Battlefield 1 is an example of reasonable levelling times: players who PTFO and contribute to their teams will earn experience reasonably quickly (even without experience boosts). Playing lots of conquest has certainly been why I’ve surpassed my Battlefield 4 level in Battlefield 1, and hopefully, levelling up in Battlefront II will both be of a reasonable rate, while at once offering players with milestones to look forwards to.

  • Assuming Battlefront II satisfies most of my personal requirements, I will be inclined to buy the game. I’m generally quite busy (as evidenced by my extreme tendency to procrastinate whenever entertainment is concerned), so scheduling is another thing on my mind: Battlefield 1 will likely still be going strong for me well into next year.

  • Depending on how things turn out, I may end up waiting for a sale to happen before buying Battlefront II: if the player base has declined too substantially, the game’s core value will lie with its single-player aspects, and a sale will probably net a better value for the game’s single-player. On a somewhat related note, I have a confession to make here: I play Call of Duty games for their campaigns alone and have not touched their multiplayer components at all.

  • This may be a Star Wars post, but I will use the remainder of the screenshots to consider Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus (from here on out, Wolfenstein II for brevity), which was showcased at E3 and set to release this year, as well. Because it releases around a month before Battlefront II, and because I’ve seen games published by Bethesda Softworks go on sale as early as the first Steam sale after launch, it is possible that I could get Wolfenstein II before the year is over at a reduced price. This is how I got DOOM: it was forty percent off during the Steam 2016 Summer Sale despite having launched only a month earlier.

  • The trailer for Wolfenstein II is done in the typical Wolfenstein style, being quite entertaining to watch. Near the end, it showcases Blazkowitz dealing with American resistance members skeptical of his affiliation, and some gameplay that suggests Wolfenstein II could have a new dual-wielding system similar to that of Halo 2‘s, allowing players to pair different combinations of weapons together to wreck havoc on Nazi soldiers. Some folks have taken it upon themselves to express outrage that we’re killing Nazis in this game, but tough beans for them: this is merely a game depicting players challenging a Third Reich in power, and the option to not play the game is always on the table.

  • Chances are that I will buy Wolfenstein II during the Steam Winter 2017 sale if it is indeed discounted. Looking towards other games that caught my eye during the E3 event, Far Cry 5 is definitely on my radar for its Montana setting, and Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown looks amazing. In the latter, I cannot wait to fly the skies of Strangereal on PC for the first time. Both these games are coming out in 2018, and only time will tell as to whether or not I buy them at launch, or else wait for better prices.

  • The release of Battlefront II is set right before The Last Jedi premieres in theatres come December. Having seen the cast list and hearing news that some filming could take place in the Calgary area, in conjunction with trailers, I’m quite excited to see where the latest trilogy will go with its plot. I found The Force Awakens to really be a modernised version of A New Hope, even though the film was overall quite fun to watch.

  • In a way, I enjoyed Rogue One a bit more because it showed the story behind how the Rebels acquired the first Death Star’s plans and the origins of the thermal exhaust port weakness. Having said that, it’ll be interesting to see if the new trilogy will take things in a new direction. For now, December is still a ways off, and aside from Star Wars, there’s also Girls und Panzer: Final Chapter on the horizon. Because it is releasing in six movies, I am hoping that it will follow the Washio Sumi Chapter path and sell Blu-Rays at the theatres, otherwise, the wait to actually watch Final Chapter would be quite considerable.

  • A glance at the calendar shows that it’s been six years since I’ve qualified for my operator’s license, and five years ago, it would have been a month to the release of the K-On! Movie. Time flies, and it never fails to amaze me just how quickly a year’s passed by. With this post, I’ve finally found a use for those Battlefront trial screenshots I’ve taken last May, as well, and I will be returning to scheduled programming in the upcoming week: my plans to revisit The Garden of Words has not changed.

It has been mentioned that Battlefront II could very well suffer as Titanfall 2 did: Titanfall was an excellent game in terms of mechanics, but lacked content, leading player counts to dwindle as there was little incentive to continue playing. While Titanfall 2 surpassed Titanfall in every way, adding a campaign on top of additional content and providing free DLC, player counts remain relatively low because there is an uncertainty amongst consumers as to whether or not the game is worth it. Battlefront II might suffer a similar eventuality, but with a bold new approach to its campaign and a promise to ensure new content is available for all players, in conjunction with the Star Wars brand, it is also likely that Battlefront II will be much longer lived than the 2015 incarnation of Battlefront. My ultimate decision as to whether or not Battlefront II will be worth a purchase will be made once the game’s come out – once I’ve seen some gameplay of the campaign and learn more about the progression system and game balance, it will be easier to make a decision. An open beta could also help provide more information to determine if the game is one that will join my library. With a release date set for November 17, 2017, I look forwards to seeing more about Battlefront II, and in the meantime, it’s also time to get excited about Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus. Set to release on October 27, I am almost certain I will buy the game. The only question remaining for Wolfenstein II is whether or not it will be a game worth getting at launch price (guided by the story, gameplay and replay value), or if buying the game during a sale would be a superior choice.