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This science fiction novel is the first in a trilogy consisting of three parts of the longer story Guy Erma and the Son of Empire, akin to what author Brent LeVasseur did with his five-part Aoléon the Martian Girl series of five entries. In the first part, teenagers Teodor, a prince, and Guy Erma, and orphan, come from different walks of life, although their paths ultimately cross. The prologue introduces Captain Karl Valvanchi, a thirty-one-year-old warrior tasked with defense above Sas Darona, lying on a disputed border between the Zaracan Democratic Union and the expanding Freyne Empire, with the latter finding a rare metal, although cybernetic insects, or cy-sects, prove lethal to their attempted excavation of the mineral.

New to this first part of the trilogy are various illustrations that depict various characters and beings, the first showing Teodor riding a feline creature known as a goran, the second showing him saluting, the third showing the green-hair-striped but mostly white-haired Nell Valvanchi, the next depicting the dark-haired Guy Erma, the following one depicting the white-haired  Karl Valvanchi, the one afterward showing a Battle Borg, and the last showing a map of the Dome that plays part in most of the book. These images are a welcome addition to the latest iteration of the first part of the divided series and help readers get a clear view of what a few of the characters and beings look like.

The main story itself opens with Prince Teodor having a nightmare of his father’s murder, with his granduncle Frederon being Emperor, and a goran race being imminent as part of the Magnolia Weekend in the Dome, which will hold an election called the Dome Debate to decide whether Chart Segat will remain the dome’s administrator. Teodor ultimately finds himself a captive, with his mother, Regent Sayginn, vowing to rescue him. Although this author has read the full three-part Guy Erma and the Son of Empire, he found this first part with the illustrations to be a welcome version, and would very much recommend it.
INTRODUCTION

In the fourth entry of Brent LeVasseur's science fiction saga, Aoléon, Gilbert, and their companions flee the Martian Megalopolis, with the Luminon and Royal Paladin Guard in pursuit as they hope to stop the Martian resistance movement. The cover art features many cows on the ground and in the air, the latter in a flying saucer's trajectory, with the foremost bovine having its mouth open in shock, though it's lower jaw looks somewhat skeletal, loose, and misrepresentative of anima interiors, typically red.

HELIOS

Akin to the Lord of the Rings trilogy, the saga's fourth entry continues section numbering from its predecessors, with this being the thirteenth chapter of the series, beginning at a secret Martian base, where Phobos is in captivity and interacts with another inmate. The action moves to the Martian Space Academy, where Aoléon and Gilbert rendezvous with Bizwat, and the Luminon speaks about the potential threat posed by Earth's inhabitants. The scene changes to the Lower Feeb District, where Bizwat visits a scrap yard, where he offers a fellow Martian his velocipod in exchange for a soldierbot victorious in a competition.

CERBERUS

The following chapter opens with an illustration depicting the Luminon interacting with a Martian in a four-legged robot, others in the background with forcefields, another entity that appears skeletal hovering above. The action returns to the secret Martian base, where obese scientist Cerberus assembles a Martian invasion fleet consistent of soldierbots. The chapter's second illustration depicts another view of the first artwork, with the Luminon among the shielded robots. The art immediately appearing afterward shoes a close-up of the scene, albeit with a Martian youngling instead. The Luminon arrives to inspect the forces, with Cerberus promising that they will be read in time for the forthcoming invasion. The next image shows the Luminon close-up with a menacing expression, the forces behind him, and Cerberus proceeds to test the drones, the subsequent art showing the diminutive workers caught among the chaos.

ILLEGAL ALIENS

This chapter takes the story back to Nebraska on Earth, which Luminon's spies are inspecting as a potential focal point for their forthcoming assault. Meanwhile, a pair of alien spies masquerading as Quakers hitchhike to New York City and attempt to steal milk from a convenience store. The illustration indicating the transition of scenery to the White House depicts many top officials in the situation room, one looking like a bald Richard Nixon having a newspaper in hand. Backstory on alien research follows, with some humorous banter among the officials.

WATCHERS

The following chapter takes readers back to Mars at the Luminon's palace, where he receives news of a character thought deceased being alive. The action moves to the Lower Feeb District, where Bizwat receives summons to a debriefing involving missing characters. The section ultimately returns to Earth at the Capitol building, where Congress debates a bill to deal with illegal extraterrestrials, the lisping Speaker of the House heading the discussion.

INVASION EARTH

Chapter Seventeen opens with the very artwork that graces the book's cover, the action beginning in an alien mothership above Earth, their invasion ready to commence. The section moves to Gilbert's family's farmhouse, as they become among the first witnesses to the assault. The. The action shifts to the Johnson clan's home, an illustration depicting Farmer Johnson, clad in snorkeling gear, attempting to deal with a groundhog with an alien robot behind. The following art depicts him captured by the robot as he unintentionally sprays a farmfield with fire from his flamethrower.

DESERT KÝRIOS

This chapter opens at an intergalactic spaceport in the Martian Megalopolis, where the protagonists encounter resistance, and they flee the city, the section's first art showing Aoléon and Gilbert in space suits floating above the Martian landscape. The next piece shoes the two in a Martian desert, where they domesticate Martian dinosaurs, one of which Aoléon rides in the next art, the piece afterward showing Gilbert alongside her riding his own. The following illustration shows another view of them riding, night eventually coming. The action then takes readers to the Simud Vallis on Mars, through which the heroes continue and ultimately make their way to the Ares Vallis, the subsection's initial illustration showing them wandering.

The next art depicts the chief characters encountering a probe sent from Earth, which Gilbert uses to communicate a message referencing the classic video game Zero Wing. Towards the section's end is a smaller piece depicting the purple stalk-eyed Zoot. The events shift to the ancient Lyraen city ruins, the opening illustration showing a Martian chasm, the next depicting the heroes at its bottom, where they seek Kýrios. After a long dialogue comes a subsequent piece showing a spherical map indicating the path the main characters took until that point in the story. The action ultimately moves to Kýrios' home, where the characters discuss where to find the secret based referenced earlier, and where they home their psionic abilities, the chapter finally ending.

PHOBOS INTERROGATED

The nineteenth chapter opens at the secret Martian base, with a bit of expository backstory concerning the rituals of the Draconian warrior clans, following which is the titular interrogation of Aoléon's father as to his daughter and Gilbert's whereabouts. The action then returns to Aoléon and her companions, who experience a Martian sandstorm, the chapter's first illustration showing their attempts to outrun it. Following this is interesting backstory on how the Martian oceans disappeared, and an encounter with the Luminon's forces, two illustrations close together depicting how the heroes deal with the skirmish, concluding with a third piece showing a dusty mushroom cloud, the story ultimately ending.

CONCLUSION

A glossary after the main text makes sense of the book's diverse terminology that may be lost to younger readers, who wouldn't find it to be easy to jump back and fourth between the dictionary and the main text, although the fourth novella in Aoléon's saga is very enjoyable, with the illustrations adding well to the story in their depiction of its various events. The rare if mildly obscure popular culture reference is also sure to appeal to older readers, who will find just as much to celebrate in this entry as the younger audiences for whom the author intended the story.
On Amazon: www.amazon.com/gp/aag/main/ref…
-Ortz PlayStation 4 Controller Cable
-Cootree Earphones
-Time of the Transference by Alan Dean Foster

On eBay: www.ebay.com/usr/jeremiasvk
-Purple 3DS + 20-in-1 Essentials Kit
-Donald Duck Army Paint Book
-Disney Dons Dogtags by Walton Rawls
  • Reading: Skeleton Crew by Gre7g Luterman
  • Watching: Grimm
Once upon a time, Nintendo of America localized the very first installment of Enix’s Dragon Quest series for the Nintendo Entertainment System, retitling it Dragon Warrior due to copyright conflicts at the time. The game would do well enough to warrant the release of its three successors for the NES thanks to Enix’s American branch having opened since the release of the franchise’s initial title, although in 1995, the branch closed, sending North America into a dark age in terms of the Dragon Quest franchise and other titles such as the tri-Ace developed Star Ocean for the Super Famicom. Over a decade later, when Sony’s PlayStation Portable saw release, Square-Enix released an enhanced remake of Star Ocean entitled Star Ocean: First Departure, providing a solid experience American gamers initially missed out on.

First Departure features randomly-encountered real-time battles with up to four characters participating, one of which the player controls while the A.I. controls the other, with a variety of starting formations and A.I. settings available in the menus. Fighters such as protagonist Roddick can string up to three regular attacks together when assaulting the enemy, and can equip two MP-consuming abilities. Victory yields experience and money for all characters, with level-ups occurring sporadically, in which case leveling characters receive Skill Points the player can invest into various innate skills bought from special shops that dictate things such as stat gains and randomly-increased damage.

When characters level certain skills enough, they become able to create items using raw materials, although waiting until the party acquires the Orchestra Super Specialty skill is highly recommended, as item creation tends to have a high failure rate without performing the orchestral music, which can grant greater success to creating items even if the player hasn’t completely maxed necessary skills. Ultimately, the battle system works wonderfully for the most part, with a fast pace to battles, although one thing that can slow things down is the unskippable spell animations that accompany magical attacks, but otherwise, combat definitely helps the remake more than hurts.

Control is perhaps the weakest part of the remake, given the lack of conveyance initially other than feet and ships between port towns for most of the game, which can be a burden if the player wishes to revisit earlier towns to engage in Private Actions, although it is possible with the acquisition of one character to obtain faster land transportation. The menus themselves and shopping, among other things, are easy to get a handle of, and a nifty Equipment Wizard automatically equips the best equipment on all characters when the player acquires new gear. Dungeon maps, though, would have been nice, but mercifully, dungeons aren’t terribly labyrinthine, and ultimately, interaction serves the game well in spite of some flaws.

The science-fiction storyline focused on alien protagonists is a nice break from those centered on humans and Earth, with a likeable cast of characters that receive more development if the player engages in Private Actions in each town, which can affect what endings the player receives upon completing the game. There is some derivation from the Star Trek franchise, but otherwise, the narrative is definitely a draw to the game.

Motoi Sakuraba’s soundtrack and the voice acting are superb for the most part, aside from characters lamely shouting the names of their attacks in battle.

The graphics are nice as well, largely derived from the original game’s sequel on the Sony PlayStation, with nice character sprites and prerendered environments, the low point of the visuals being the overworld map. Even so, the remake looks superb.

Finally, the remake can be long or short depending upon how much time the player devotes to grinding and sidequests, with excellent replay value in the multiple endings and more playable characters than the player can have at once (eight). Ultimately, Star Ocean: First Departure is for the most part a superb remake that hits most of the right notes with regards to things such as its battle system, control, narrative, graphics, music, voicework, and replayability. There are some minor flaws such as slow going between visited towns, but those that can look past things such as that will most likely have a great time.

The Good:
+Solid action-based battle system.
+Great control.
+Nice narrative.
+Superb graphics, music, and voicework.
+Excellent replay value.

The Bad:
-Revisiting old towns can be taxing.

The Bottom Line:
A wonderful remake.

Score Breakdown:
Platform: PlayStation Portable
Game Mechanics: 9/10
Controls: 8/10
Story: 9/10
Localization: 9/10
Music/Sound: 9/10
Graphics: 9/10
Lasting Appeal: 10/10
Difficulty: Easy
Playing Time: 20-40 Hours

Overall: 9/10
In this science fiction novel, Guy Erma yearns to join the planetary protection force known as the Dome Elite, while the Prince of  Freyne, Teodor, finds himself the hostage of militant borgs, needing to plead his case to a politician if he wants to survive, the two protagonists’ paths ultimately crossing. The prologue introduces the thirty-one-year-old albino shapeshifting Zaracan warrior, Captain Karl Valvanchi, whose vessel, the Mezzatorra, protected by a literal firewall, faces an attack by the Sas Darona Liberation Army (SDLA), the planet of Sas Darona being a disputed planet by two entities, the Zaracan Democratic Union and the Freyne Empire, and which yields a resource known as monazite, critical in the creation of space magnets. Cyberkinetic insects, or cy-sects, threaten the native tribes of the planet with a plague that is said to keep them primitive.

The main story begins with Prince Teodor “Teo” of Freyne feeling threatened, with is father the King recently deceased.  Teo meets with one of Captain Valvanchi’s relatives, Princess Simonelle Valvanchi, the great-granddaughter of a famous intergalactic explorer, proving to be a prospective mate to the Prince, who is the last living heir to the throne of the planet Freyne 2 and the Empire of Freyne as a whole, with his uncle being the current Emperor. An event known as the Magnolia Weekend is forthcoming, with one of its features being the Magnolia Stakes, a race among the feline creatures known as gorans, with Teo and his uncle having their own separate members of the species competing in the race.

Guy Erma receives his introduction next, seeing good luck in a special medallion, and participates in a sport known as blades under the tutelage of senior blades instructor and Commander of the Dome Elite Tilson. Guy has recently applied to become a member of the Dome Elite, and doesn’t know what became of his parents. Guy is scheduled to fight Prince Teo, although Teo has an injury supposedly preventing him from participating. Guy lives on Old Mill Lane in the House Jewel townhouse among forty-three others he considers siblings, even if they aren’t blood relations, with these folk primarily participating in the trade of tailoring clothes. Guy is ultimately offered to a fast track towards in the Dome Elite by a politician, Chart Segat.

Evidently Teo’s living mother, the Regent Sayginn cancelled his scheduled blades fight with Guy so that the Prince could participate in singing in a cathedral choir, with an attack on the church kidnapping him. The novel has two interludes, one occurring early and the other occurring towards the book’s end, known as diplomatic exchanges among, members of the Valvanchi family relating to the plague on Sas Darona. A Dome Debate, basically an election, is forthcoming, with the Emperor mulling marriage to Sayginn in hopes of having a son so that his nephew Teodor doesn’t inherit the throne, the Prince hoping he can escape his captivity.

The events of the novel take place over the course of three days, with the author doing for the most part a masterful job with the parallel plots of Guy Erma and Prince Teodor, the writer further doing an excellent job of world-building, given the many terms native to the book, which a glossary after the main text clarifies, with this reader only needing to see a definition of the acronym SDLA, not defined in the main text. There are some minor areas where the story could have been better, for instance the title of a royal heir “Son of Empire” would have sounded better as “Son of the Empire,” but otherwise, this science fiction novel is highly recommended, with this reader consequentially interested in the author’s other works and possible sequels.

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On Amazon: www.amazon.com/gp/aag/main/ref…
-Ortz PlayStation 4 Controller Cable
-Cootree Earphones
-Time of the Transference by Alan Dean Foster

On eBay: www.ebay.com/usr/jeremiasvk
-Purple 3DS + 20-in-1 Essentials Kit
-Donald Duck Army Paint Book
-Disney Dons Dogtags by Walton Rawls
  • Reading: Skeleton Crew by Gre7g Luterman
  • Watching: Grimm

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jmg124
J. Michael Gallen
Artist | Hobbyist | Traditional Art
United States
I'm mostly a writer and RPG critic, but occasionally an artist.
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:iconacenbeaky:
ACEnBEAKY Featured By Owner Edited Apr 17, 2015
Thanks for the watch, and may Brian Jacques RIP. He died when I was deployed to Afghanistan.
Sad, I read a lot of his works in middle school, then he died while I was in the army like 7 years later. Let's see, what got me through Middle School? Animorphs, Redwall, Outernet, Farside, Calvin and Hobbes. 
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:iconsetius:
setius Featured By Owner Apr 14, 2015
thanks for watching :iconlazeplz:
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:iconjmg124:
jmg124 Featured By Owner Apr 14, 2015  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
No problem.
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:icondanilo7:
DANILO7 Featured By Owner Mar 31, 2015  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
thanks for the watch! Sophisticated LA 
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:iconjmg124:
jmg124 Featured By Owner Apr 1, 2015  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
You're welcome.
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:iconmiridith:
Miridith Featured By Owner Mar 31, 2015  Hobbyist
Thanks for the WATCH! I really appreciate it! :squee::heart:
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:iconjmg124:
jmg124 Featured By Owner Mar 31, 2015  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
No problem.
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:iconsuperkiel:
superkiel Featured By Owner Mar 28, 2015  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
thanks..
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:iconjmg124:
jmg124 Featured By Owner Mar 28, 2015  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
You're welcome.
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:icon88angryoctopus88:
88angryoctopus88 Featured By Owner Mar 27, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I am grateful to be followed by you <3
 
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