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“You can’t do that!”

I scowled. Another Lolita–I never bothered to learn her name–had joined me in the engine room. Turns out I wasn’t the only one who wanted to be the ship’s mechanic.

“I’ve done it before. If you mix the components…”

“You can’t do that!”

God, this girl would drive me to something rash, and I valued my position on the ship far too much to let that happen. No. I needed plausible deniability if anything happened to her. For now though, I needed to do my job–which meant getting rid of her, at least temporarily. I gritted my teeth into what probably didn’t look anything like  a smile, but it was the best I could do. She’d been down here with me for five hours–it was about six too many.

“You know, the captain was talking about getting some new tools at our next stop. Why don’t you go make sure she knows what we need. Seems kind of pointless to spend the coin on the wrong stuff.”

She narrowed her eyes at me and pointed to the boiler. “You won’t mix the fuel while I’m gone?”

“If you’re back soon enough, I won’t need to feed the engines at all.”

Huffing a sigh, she flounced out of the engine room, taking her attitude with her. Her boots tapped an annoying rhythm on the wooden planks of the corridor as she moved toward the bridge.

I made a less-than-polite gesture toward the engine room door then picked up a piece of coal and a hunk of wood and chucked them both into the boiler.

~~*~~

I’ve read some reviews lately that complain about genre mash-ups that include steampunk. This one is too much romance, not enough steampunk (or the reverse). That one is too much paranormal, not enough steampunk (or vice versa). The list goes on and on.

Here’s the thing… I don’t understand the mentality that all forms of steampunk must be pure. It smacks a little too much of the pure-bloods only thing in Harry Potter. Maybe I’m too big a fan of genre mash-ups, but I am not a fan of only eating one thing at a meal too. I want to taste all kinds of flavors, and I want to see what happens if I mix them together. Sometimes they taste like crap, but sometimes… oh my goodness but they are yummy.

This isn’t to say that steampunk aficionados can’t dislike a given book for whatever reason their little clockwork hearts desire, but I’d really like people to stop saying something isn’t steampunk because it isn’t steampunk enough to fit their definition. Say it has steampunk elements if you prefer–I don’t think most authors would have an issue with that–and you can even say the steampunk elements fit or didn’t or… whatever.

But I’ve met a fair number of steampunks now. As a group, the people behind the genre are very friendly and welcoming. It’d be nice to see that attitude extend to how steampunks as a group react to books/movies/music/etc within the genre as well.

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HAPPY HANUKKAH FROM EVERYONE AT STEAMED!

Menorah courtesy of Clockwerks

 

I apologize for posting Thursday’s guest post late.  There were some, um, snags.  But fortunately one of my Steampunk writing students was able to fill in.  Please welcome Trey Delvon Mack, who will be reviewing the Steampunk video game Skies of Arcadia.

Stumbling into anime and manga at a young age, Trey Delvon Mack, identified only by his alias “Saitou Takagi” became captivated by the unique world originating from Japan. He always have had a knack for writing stories while secretly harboring a desire to professionally write manga. Meet Saitou Takagi, whose motto is: “Live in your world, die in mine!”

Skies of Arcadia: Steampunk Video Game
by Trey Delvon Mack/Saitou Takagi

Since enrolling in Suzanne Lazear’s Steampunk writing class, I was completely enthralled with the concepts, ideas, and theoretical worlds of Steampunk. Almost immediately I began noticing elements of Steampunk in several forms of media as well as literature. I compiled a detailed list for Suzanne that reveals the elements of Steampunk in media.

Towards the end of the class I was told about a video game for the Sega Dreamcast gaming system (one of the best systems I’ve ever come across) called Skies of Arcadia. The game’s story focuses around Vyse, a young pirate in a Jules Verne, and his friends as they attempt to stop the Valuan Empire from reviving ancient weapons with the potential to destroy the world.

The story opens with a young Silvite woman named Fina sailing through the night skies in her tiny Silver airship. Not far behind her, Valuan Admiral Alfonso is in hot pursuit under orders from Lord Galcian to capture her. Alfonso opens fire on and disables Fina’s ship long enough to capture her before it plummets into Deep Sky, but just as she is being brought onboard his warship, a Blue Rogue vessel arrives with the intent of robbing the Valuan vessel. Vyse and Aika of the Blue Rogues jump from the Albatross onto Alfonso’s flagship and fight their way to the rear cargo hold, prompting Alfonso to flee on a lifeboat while leaving Fina behind along with the war beast Antonio, who is quickly defeated by the Rogues. Vyse and Aika bring Fina back to their clan’s ship, which Vyse pilots back to their secret hideout, Pirate Island (disguised as a small village).

While watching the sunset, Vyse and Aika see a Moonstone fall from the skies onto nearby Shrine Island. The next day they travel to Shrine Island to retrieve the Moonstone, a concentrated form of airship fuel, leaving Fina behind in the care of their clan. After recovering the moonstone, Vyse and Aika return to Pirate Island to find it obliterated by the Valuan Armada. Fina, Dyne, and his crew have been captured by the Armada and taken to the capital city, with the Albatross destroyed. What starts as a simple rescue mission becomes a struggle for survival amid a looming world war.

Shortly after leaving Pirate Island, Vyse and Aika are shipwrecked by the legendary arcwhale Rhaknam. They are rescued by a callous but good-hearted fisherman named Drachma, who is hunting Rhaknam. They manage to convince Drachma to take them to Valua City and rescue their friends from death row, luring him with the prospect of a powerful “Harpoon Cannon” that is to be found in Valua. Upon going through the catacombs of lower city, saving the Blue Rogues, rescuing Fina from a rail car, and making a miraculous escape from the Grand Fortress (a history-making feat), the Blue Rogues return to Pirate Island, where Fina admits the real reason that the Empire would go to such trouble to capture her.

Fina’s mission is to travel Arcadia in search of the Six Moon Crystals, the purest form of moonstones, which can be used to summon living weapons called the Gigas. Created by the Old World, these weapons are very powerful and, with all 6, Valua could control the world, with the threat of unleashing the Gigas to help them. Because of this, Fina is to recover all 6 moon crystals before Valua gains control of them. Fina recruits Vyse and Aika to her cause and together they set off to find the Red moon crystal.

After traveling to the port city of Maramba, Drachma leaves them there to acquire the Crystal while Drachma, again, leaves to find Rhaknam. There the party meets a young dancer named Belleza, who loans them a ship to get to the Temple of Prynn. After recovering the Red Crystal, Belleza reveals that she is actually the commander of the 4th fleet of the Valuan armada, steals the Red Crystal, and awakens the Red Gigas, Recumen. Luckily, the Little Jack arrives just in time to rescue Vyse, Aika and Fina. The party then tries to fight the Gigas, but their attacks are to no avail. Instead, they attack Belleza’s ship and convince her to call off the Gigas.

After the fight, the Little Jack acquires the Magic Cannon (allows the ship to shoot spells such as Pyri, Crystales, etc.) and a new engine that allows the Little Jack to cross the South Ocean into the land of the Green Moon, I’xa Taka. The crew then learns that the Green Crystal lies within the Lost City of Rixis. They then head to the Hortekan King’s Hideout to find more about the city, but is interrupted by Admiral De Loco, who is burning the forest to look for the Lost City. After defeating him, the crew heads to Moonstone Mountain to rescue one of the High Priests. After escaping Alfonzo and Antonio II, they eventually find Rixis, but the crystal had been stolen by the king and used to awaken the Green Gigas, Grendal, to drive the Valuans away from I’xa Taka. Finally, they manage to lure Grendal into a chasm and recover the Green Crystal.

Next, Vyse heads to Valua to recover the Yellow Crystal. Unfortunately, the gate is sealed and Ramirez, the 6th Admiral of the Armada and somehow close to Fina because of her knowledge about him, ambushes the Little Jack. They manage to escape, but Rhaknam is found and Drachma is bound to catch him. Then, Ramirez’s flagship attacks the Little Jack, and sets it on fire. Vyse, Aika, and Fina manage to escape on lifeboats, but are blasted off course. Drachma, however, remained on the ship, now attached to Rhaknam via the Harpoon Cannon. Vyse lands on a deserted isle, while Aika and Fina are rescued by an Air Pirate named Clara and dropped off in Nasrad, the capital of Nasr. Both parties find halves of a map leading to Daccat’s Isle, where it is rumored that all treasures of the legendary Air Pirate, Daccat, lie. Vyse, now accompanied by another rogue named Gilder, head to Daccat’s Isle, while Aika and Fina go there also, but they land on different sides of it. After the two groups find each other and escape the island, they head back to Nasrad to find it destroyed by the Armada. Then, they are captured yet again by Ramirez into the Grand Fortress.

The party then defeats Admiral Vigoro and escapes to the harbor, but luckily Prince Enrique, troubled by his mother’s corruption, hands over his flagship, the Delphinus, to the party. Then they blast a hole in the Grand Fortress itself with the all-powerful Moon Stone Cannon. They then head back to the deserted isle, which is actually named Crescent Isle. They then meet a few men who promise to both construct a base there and create improvements to the Delphinus, which allow it to pass through stone reefs and sky rifts. They then set out to the lands of the Blue Moon, but is impassable because of a large sky rift called the Dark Rift. After battling with the 2nd admiral, Gregorio, they find a hole in it and pass through it into Yafutoma, which is much like Japan/Chinese. The party then ventures into the great mountain and recover the Blue Crystal, but are betrayed by the king’s brother. They then escape to Tenkou Island and recover both the Delphinus and the Blue Crystal, and also defeat the Blue Gigas. They also get a scroll, which when built by Braham, will allow the Delphinus to fly much higher and lower. Also, they discover that the world is round by flying east of Yafutoma and ending up into I’xa Taka.

They then take a tour of their newly constructed base and then go to the Lands of Ice, in the far south. They then, after navigating the lost city of Glacia, they discover that Rhaknam is the Purple Gigas, and find Drachma and the Little Jack there too. Rhaknam then dies, but gives off the Purple Crystal too.

With their new upgraded engine in place, Vyse and his crew rush off to retrieve the last remaining crystal from within the Maw of Tartas. Submerging below the clouds and carefully sailing through a maze-like tunnel, they find themselves deep in the underbelly of Yeligar the Yellow Gigas. After waking the Gigas, the Delphinus does battle with the enraged monster and defeats it. With the five Crystals in hand, the party’s long crystal hunt is finally over. However the group discover that the only way Fina can return to her home is to retrieve her Silvite pod ship that fell into Deep Sky after Alfonso attacked her. Vyse and co. travel to Dangral Island (Valua’s secret base in Deep Sky)after getting a tip from Gilder that they have developed a new type of engine and reinforced layers capable of safely descending into the darkness below the clouds. Successfully stealing the schematics from De Loco, the crew make their escape only to be stopped by Lord Galcian and Gregorio. Prince Enrique prepares to battle with his uncle once more, but Gregorio reveals that he is not here to fight him. Challenging Galcian on his own, he allows the pirates the time needed to escape with the Prince safely off Dangral Island. With a heavy heart, Enrique leaves Gregorio to his fate and flees.

Days later, Vyse’s crew finishes the upgrades and the Delphinus is finally able to submerge into Deep Sky. As they prepare to leave, Enrique announces that this will be his last voyage with Vyse as he must return to Valua to tell his mother of Galcian’s treachory as well as try to convince her once again to abandon her campaign for world conquest. With that, they travel below the clouds and recover Fina’s ship, but is ambushed by Admiral De Loco and his newly upgraded ship. After a heated battle, the Delphinus destroys the Chameleon and put an end to De Loco’s insanity. Returning to the surface, Vyse and the others drop Enrique off at Sailor’s Island and bid him farewell and a safe journey home. The entire crew decide to throw Fina a going away party and celebrate into the night. Out of nowhere, Crescent Isle is bombarded by canon fire forcing the group to run for shelter. Vyse, Aika and Fina rush out to investigate and are confronted by Ramirez, whom demands they surrender and relinquish the 5 crystals in the pirate’s possession. The group do battle with Ramirez and are unable to touch the immensely skilled Admiral. The group suffers their first major defeat and lose the crystals to the Silvite warrior. Aika points out though that they haven’t won until he has all 6 but Ramirez scoffs at her remark and reveals the secret to the life force of all Silvites; the silver crystal. All Silvites have a silver crystal embedded in their bodies, only through death can it be removed and utilized. With this said, he attempts to force the silver crystal within Fina out but is stopped when Captain Clara’s ship canons distract him long enough for Vyse and Aika to come to Fina’s defense. Ramirez is forced to retreat and leaves the crew to burn in the fire’s of what was once their new home.

Even while left with almost nothing, the crew doesn’t lose heart and spend the entire day salvaging whats left of their island and begin to rebuild. After taking some time to rest and think, Fina comes to a decision and asks Vyse and Aika to accompany her to the Great Silver Shrine to meet with the Elders and ask for their guidance. Gilder, overhears and decides to tag along as well as he believes things are about to get interesting. Using Fina’s small ship, the four travel beyond the sky towards Fina’s home hovering over the world of Arcadia. Traversing through the odd shrine, the group meet the Elders and their leader Elder Prime; Fina’s father figure. Vyse, Aika, Fina and Gilder then learn the truth about Arcadia from Elder Prime. Long ago, the Silvites used their Gigas (Zelos) to call down the Rains of Destruction to essentially “reset” the world. After the Rains, they created a magical seal around Zelos and sent Soltis (the Silvite’s lost continent) into Deep Sky. The 6 crystals combined could break the seal containing Zelos and allow the owner of the Crystals to call down the Rains at will. Vyse and the others are appalled by this horrible truth but before the Elder’s could defend their decision, Ramirez and Galcian arrive and murder Elder Prime to gain the much needed Silver Crystal to complete their plans. Vyse and co. give chase and follow the evil men to Dangral Island.

Meanwhile, Enrique confronts his mother on Galcian’s traitorous actions but finds that Alfonso has already beat him to the punch. However, she doesn’t realize that Galcian is much more crafty than she believes and refuses to give up on the path to domination. Enrique resolves to strike Queen Teodora and Alfonso down but is knocked out by Belleza and taken away. Back on Dangral, the group descends to deep sky on the platform elevator, but Vigoro catches up and challenges them to a battle but falls to the party’s teamwork. The giant Admiral tells them where to find Galcian and decides to give up the military life for a life of pirating. Vyse and the others finally catch up to the Admirals but are attacked by a sentinel. The crew defeat the sentinel but it does its job in stalling them long enough for Galcian and Ramirez to awaken Zelos and raise the lost continent of Soltis. Vyse and co. are forced to retreat and are just barely able to reach the surface. The whole world can feel the winds change as Soltis raises from the depths of darkness with an impenetrable shield surrounding it. Lord Galcian decides to give Valua “a little rain” and unleashes the Rains of Destruction from the Yellow Moon. Belleza safely guides Enrique to safety, but Admiral Alonso and Queen Teodora are killed by falling debris inside the castle. When the Prince is awoken by his savior, he is heartbroken to see that Valua has been wiped completely off the map.

Upon returning to Crescent Isle, the crew try to come up with a plan to stop Galcian and Ramirez but with the death toll of Valua and their failure to stop the return of Soltis weighing heavily upon them, the stress is finally getting to Vyse. Before Vyse is ready to throw in the towel, Drachma returns to remind him of his pledge never to give up. One by one, Vyse’s friends and even some foes turn up to offer their support. Baltor, Gordo, the Yafutoman Navy, Dyne, Clara, even Belleza shows up with the Prince of Valua alive and well. Before he knows it, Vyse has assembled a fleet of pirates under his command to combat Galcian’s forces. Belleza visits a restless Vyse in the middle of the night to tell him that she will not be participating in the battle against her own men and says she has something important to take care of. Leaving him with a kiss, the busty Admiral wishes him luck. Vyse notices that both Aika and Fina are still up and talks with the both of them to put them at ease. After sharing a touching moment with both of them and easing their anxiety they all go to sleep and rest up for the destined battle.

The next day, the Delphinus leads the charge against Galcian’s massive armada and flying airbase, the Hydra. Galcian instructs Ramirez to retreat back to Soltis in case he needs to use the Rains again. Although worried, Ramirez does as his respected superior commands and awaits further orders inside the shielded continent. After taking care of waves of warships, a standoff between Vyse’s ship and Galcian’s airbase ensues. After enough damage is done to the base, Vyse and his friends board the ship to fight the Lord of the Armada face to face. After navigating through the massive airbase, the group finally arrives at the bridge and take on the battle hardened Lord Galcian. After they defeat the evil Lord, he escapes into the Bridge and declares that they’ll all perish in the Rains he’ll soon call upon. All hope of victory is seemed lost until Belleza arrives in her ship and approaches Galcian’s bridge in ramming speed. To stop the man she admired and loved, she rams her ship into the surprised villian’s Bridge and dies with him in the ensuing explosion. Vyse and friends are saddened by her sacrifice and retreat back to the Delphinus. Meanwhile Ramirez, distraught after witnessing the man he most admired and respected die, holds Vyse and the world responsible and summons the Rains to destroy them all. Unable to retaliate, all the young captain and his crew can do is watch as Zelos sends a ray to the Silver Moon to ensure their demise. To Fina’s and everyone’s surprise, the Elders of the Great Silver Shrine send their home plummeting to Arcadia and blocks the ray from reaching the moon. Saying goodbye to their beloved child Fina, the Elders resolve to repent for their sin of calling the Rains long ago and allow the new world to decide its own fate. The Silver Shrine rams into the tip of Soltis Tower and vanish in an explosion of light, successfully breaking the impenetrable shield and allowing Vyse to take the fight to Ramirez himself.

The party wastes no time in entering Soltis through Shrine Island, now revealed to once be a remaining piece of Soltis. Vyse and friends traverse the inside of the massive continent and reach a saddened and enraged Ramirez. The Admiral promises to kill Vyse, Fina and everyone else for Galcian’s sake and engages them in battle. Ramirez isn’t as focused as before, therefore making him more vulnerable and more of a match for the party to handle this time around. After being defeated the crazed Silvite sacrifices his life to Zelos to give it the power needed to destroy his enemies. Fina pleads with him to stop, but Ramirez declares that the man she knew is long dead and disappears into the shapeless monster. The crew retreats as the silver Gigas grows to enormous size and destroys Soltis tower when it reveals its monstrous new spherical form. Fina points out that it is not finished transforming and they must attack it now while its still vulnerable. If they let it reach its final form, Zelos will become invincible and no one will be able to stop it. The Delphinus then engages the Gigas in battle for the fate of the world and just before it reaches its final form, the Delphinus delivers the killing shot and the pirates succeed in defeating the final, strongest Gigas.

Their victory is short-lived however as a piece of Zelos lands on the deck of their ship and reveals itself to be Ramirez, now horrifically merged with the Gigas. Driven to madness, Ramirez attacks the crew in his last attempt for revenge, but is eventually defeated by the combined efforts of Vyse, Aika and Fina. The Ramirez-Zelos hybrid disappears in a blinding light and leaves behind the silver crystal once embedded in the Silvite’s hand. Vyse honors Ramirez with Fina’s permission by giving the fallen sailor a pirates funeral by returning his crystal to the skies. Soltis sinks back into Deep Sky never to be disturbed again and the victorious army of Air Pirates sail back to Cresent Isle for the feast of a lifetime. After some time, Enrique marries Moegi and the two gather up the survivors of the Rains and oversee the reconstruction of Valua under their peaceful rule. Vyse, Aika and even Fina become full fledged Air Pirates with decorated Captain Vyse commanding a new ship as they sail off into the sky.

After playing this game, I was amazed. I never knew that someone could write a story so intense and transpose it into video game form. I am thankful that I had the privilege of meeting Suzanne and attending her class.

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