Tea Review: Empire of Tea Organic Jasmine Tea

Details: Official site is https://www.empireofteaco.com/

Score: 6.5/10

This tea is fine. It’s fragrant and not bitter.

Soft Drink Review: Aquarius

Details: More information can be found at https://www.coca-cola.com.sg/brands/aquarius/aquarius

Score: 6.5/10

Aquarius is basically Japanese Gatorade. That means it’s meant as a something you drink after exercising or playing sports. It’s made by the Coco-Cola corporation and while most popular in Japan, it’s spreading in popularity to places like Singapore and other east and southeast Asian countries. It basically tastes like Gatorade, too. The version I had was the original, plain variety and it tasted like lemon Gatorade. Nothing terrible and nothing amazing about this.

Frozen Food Review: Healthy Choice Power Bowls Adobo Chicken

Details: More information can be found at https://www.healthychoice.com/power-bowls-classic/adobo-chicken

Score: 6.5/10

This was just okay. If you take a look at the ingredients, you can tell that this thing tries to market it self as healthy. And it tastes healthy… if healthy were a taste. It’s a combination of the quinoa, dry white chicken meat and scattered vegetables. The sauce they use is basically a salsa, or at least it tastes like salsa.

The portion size is pretty good. It’s not huge, but it is satisfactory for a meal.

In terms of price, I bought a three pack for a little under ten dollars. That means that each bowl costs a little more than three dollars. I think that’s mostly worth it given the portion size and the taste.

Overall, not great, but not bad. I’d buy it again if I was desperate for a convenient, fast meal.

Manga Review: Goblin Slayer Side Story: Year One

Details: More information can be found at https://yenpress.com/9781975302849/goblin-slayer-side-story-year-one-vol-1-light-novel/

Score: 6.8/10

After the success of the Goblin Slayer anime, a slew of spin off manga were published. Almost all of them achieved little success with the exception being this book. Unlike those other books that focused on new characters, this story focuses on the same protagonist and is mostly the same type of story as the anime.

Year One again focuses on a young boy whose village is destroyed by goblins. Traumatized by the experience, he spends the rest of his life hunting goblins. Year takes place about five years before the events of the main series. This is an origin story and focuses on the early experience that shaped the protagonist into who he was in the main series.

With that said, it’s really not all that different from the main series. Our protagonist goes to the local adventurers guild hall, picks up a quest to hunt goblins, hunts goblins, and learn some lessons along the way. That was the basic structure of the main series and that’s the structure of this one.

The interesting bits of both series are the details in the story. The protagonist is simply a windows through which we can view the stories of the supporting characters as well as many guest characters. We also get to learn more about this fantasy world the story takes place in through the protagonist’s eyes. The world building in this story is pretty good in that it doesn’t just dump exposition onto readers. We learn a little bit more of the world with each story arc, not a whole bunch at once. It does a good job of keeping the world somewhat mysterious while revealing just enough to keep you interested.

Overall, this was about as good as the main Goblin Slayer series because it’s mostly the same. Both are enjoyable for exactly the same reasons, so if you enjoyed Goblin Slayer, you’ll enjoy Year One.

Video Game Review: Princess Connect! Re:Dive

Details: Been playing the last few months. Official site is https://www.crunchyroll.com/games/princessconnectredive/index.html

Score: 7.1/10

On the surface, Princess Connect! Re:Dive is yet another degenerate, waifu collector. However, Princess Connect is in actuality the most streamlined auto-battling gacha game I’ve ever played. With this game, they took your average, generic gacha game and polished and refined it into a fine diamond. It takes every gameplay element from the genre and makes it better. From the user interface to the gacha system, everything is at least a little better than the majority of competing games in the genre. The end result is an extremely polished game that does an amazing job of not wasting players’ time. This is something in direct contradiction of most gacha games who instead deliberately seek to annoy players and waste their time with the goal of pushing players to spend money.

One of the most impressive things about Princess Connect is that it shamelessly knows what it is and seeks to be the best version of that that it can be. This is a waifu collector. The first goal of the game is to collect as many female characters as a player may want while providing players with a wide selection of cute, anime girls to choose from. Is this degeneracy? Why, yes. Does Princess Connect do a great job of this? Why yes.

They excel at this by providing voice acting to the vast majority of dialogue within the game. This is a huge feat because most games simply don’t want to go through the hassle of hiring and organizing recording sessions with voice actors. It’s expensive and time consuming. Princess Connect bucks that trend and voices almost everything. This is something I greatly appreciate as dialogue without voice acting just makes me care less about the story of your game.

The other nice thing they did is that they provide a great deal of animated scenes along with the voice acted scenes, which help add to the overall feel of the game. This game really leans into the idea of playing through an anime. The game pretty much works the same way as most JRPG’s. You play through a few levels, you unlock an animated cut scene. Rinse and repeat. This traditional video game structure basically just incentivizes players to keep playing the game in order to see more cut scenes. It’s worked in the past and it works here.

I also like how Princess Connect drops the pretense of how generic, painful and boring the gameplay in most auto-battling gacha games is and instead of trying to change that gameplay formula, does its best to limit the annoying parts of it. For instance, Princess Connect offers a sweep system. That means that if you’ve beaten a level already, you can just instantly beat it again and obtain the rewards without playing it again. This is important because in this game and many games in this genre, you have to replay levels in order to obtain materials necessary to progress. Many gacha games don’t have sweep systems and are pain to play. Princess Connect does not have that problem, though I will say that sweeping a stage does cost tickets, which are a finite resource. Even still, you get plenty of sweep tickets so it’s mostly a non-issue.

As said above, the greatest thing about this game is how they’ve streamlined it into a comfortable experience that is easy to play. The user interface is intuitive and convenient. A good user interface is something I feel most gacha games fail at implementing well. They really should work on it as a good interface improves the overall experience of a game.

The game also runs really well, which is another issue that most mobile games fail at addressing. Most mobile games I’ve played are poorly optimized, lag, crash or raise the temperature of my phone to molten lava. Princess Connect seems to be very well optimized. It runs well and doesn’t burn up my phone. It seems like this is a minor thing, but again it impacts the overall experience and determines which games I will or will not play on my phone. For instance, I will never play Genshin Impact on my phone because it just turn my phone temperature nuclear. Because I can’t play it on my phone, I often times just avoid playing it at all. Technical optimization matters.

Overall, Princess Connect is a generic, but extremely polished gacha game. Compared to most games, it is almost fully voiced, has plenty of animated cut scenes, optimizes gameplay by removing traditional annoyances so as to not waste players’ time, and, on a technical level, runs better than most mobile games I’ve played. It doesn’t reinvent the genre, but it excels at being part of that genre and ends up being one of the best, if not the best game in this genre.