Greetings

Welcome to the website of writer David Bishop, also known as L.P.Mergle. Here you’ll find collections of my short stories and other pieces of fiction and non-fiction all handily organised into the menu to be read at your leisure. The latest short story can be found by scrolling down. You can also use the ‘tag cloud’ to browse the posts by genre.

Feedback and discussion on anything are thoroughly encouraged. You can do so either in the comments section on each post or page, or by using the ‘Ask the Author’ page located in the menu.

Prospective employers are invited to look at my Portfolio.

Game Guide: Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World

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I’ve written a guide for a video game! My Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World walkthrough can be found hosted on GameFAQs.com and I can tick one thing off my list of things I’ve always wanted to do. The guide is designed to help you get the most out of the game, finding all the goodies and hidden items as well as meeting all the requirements for unlocking trophies and accessing optional dungeons. It is hopefully written in a clear and easy to follow manner, there’s no fluff or fanciful writing just plain, straight forward instructions. If you have any comments on it feel free to contact me. The guide itself can be found here: http://www.gamefaqs.com/ps3/765389-tales-of-symphonia-dawn-of-the-new-world/faqs/71534. Catch it while it’s still got that spangly *new* symbol next to it.

Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World (such an unnecessarily long title!) is the sequel to one of Namco Bandai’s most popular and successful releases, you guessed it, Tales of Symphonia. The sequel was most recently released as a bundle on PS3, with the original, titled Tales of Symphonia Chronicles. Originally it was released on the Wii though this is very definitely just a port of the game and not a remake.

Tales of Symphonia Chronicles Boxart

Graphically it stands up well but there are no outstanding visuals involved. As a sequel game there are a lot of cut corners. The game takes place in most of the same areas as the original Tales of Symphonia and feature the same layout and design, though some look a bit different due to the strange weather effects currently affecting the land and have a few extra rooms added. The enemies in the dungeons whilst different to the original game, are mostly the same as those featured in Tales of the Abyss. The story suffers from a major case of ‘How come we never heard about this in the first game?’ with a whole new mythos surrounding a being called Ratatosk being brought up. The actual antagonist of the game is somewhat more well rounded and has a much more interesting motivation. Throughout the game you will be seeing the entirety of the original main cast, to the point that you may begin to wonder why this game bothered to introduce newbie’s Emil and Marta. Especially since in the first half of the game the pair will do their best to be as annoying as possible.

Seeing the old characters again is a double edged sword, if you enjoyed them the first time around then the sequel gives you more of their personalities and querks to enjoy, particularly in skits, but at the same time you might not appreciate their lack of development between titles, the occasional changed voiced actor or Lloyd’s involvement in the plot, the reason of which is doubtless worked out by the player within the first few minutes of the game but thought of by any of the cast. The other significant point of Dawn of the New World is the decision to include monster capturing and the ability to use monsters in your battle party. The system is sound, if simple, though there is very little encouragement to really utilise it. The game’s difficulty doesn’t tend to force much skill or tactical thinking out of the player and since you have two main characters, one of which must be used at all times, and usually a choice of two out of nine guest characters you may well find yourself rarely using monsters except for a few brief moments when no one else is available.

Tales of Symphonia Dawn of the New World

All in all Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World is an acceptable game. It’s nowhere near outstanding, but there is also nothing that can be described as truly terrible in it either. Fans of the original game should give it a go, but remember to take it with a pinch of salt. If you’ve never played the original, or you’re looking for your first Tales game, then this one isn’t for you.

The Growth of a Game: Shadow Hearts

For many video games series the challenge is for the developers to create something new and innovative whilst retaining the core gameplay that the series fans have been longing for since the last instalment. Often this means an entirely new plot is developed with similar but tweaked gameplay. Long running series like Final Fantasy and Call of Duty drift along with varying levels of difference but following the baseline rules of their core gameplay. Over time these little tweaks and additions, and sometimes a complete genre shift, evolve a series into something quite a bit different from its predecessors.

 

Shadow Hearts is a trilogy of games that has become something of a cult classic taking more than a little inspiration from Lovecraftian literature. Unlike the above examples Shadow Hearts takes pride in its direct sequel nature using cameos, references and reappearing characters to firmly link each title together. Its origins, however, begins with a very different game: Koudelka. Released on the original Playstation in 2000, the game is a blend of a traditional RPG with survival Horror elements.

 

KoudelkaThe game follows Koudelka Iasant, the game’s namesake, as she arrives at Nemeton Monastery in Wales to discover the place crawling with occult creatures and evil spirits. Unlike most RPGs the game has a very dark tone including vengeful ghosts, walking patchwork corpses, murderous caretakers and a ritual fuelled by hundreds of dismembered sacrifices (All, of course, built upon an old prison that brutally tortured its inmates.). On the RPG side of things Koudelka features a standard level up system, with the player making stat distribution choices, basic puzzle solving utilising a variety of inexplicably collected key items and those infamous random encounters. The survival horror element is not completely forgotten though as the entire game takes place within the haunted grounds of the empty monastery and NPCs, which are few and far between are confined to cutscenes creating a lonely atmosphere. With no shops to be seen, weapon breakages, limited ammunition and infrequent healing spaces the survival aspect of the game is clear. A downside to the game is the slow pace of its battles. Grid-based combat makes positioning an additional tactical consideration but at a high cost to speed of gameplay.

 

So there we have our original title, a twisted and dark RPG with strong character development across a small, misfit cast; namely a gypsy, a poet and a bishop.

 

Shadow HeartsIn 2001, and on the Playstation 2, came the first of the official trilogy to be released: Shadow Hearts. In this game Yuri Hyuga is sent on a quest by the mysterious voice in his head to protect the heroine Alice and ultimately protect the world from destruction by the villain. Discarding almost completely any notion of survival horror the game does retain the occult themes and dark fantasy genre of its predecessor. Somewhat unique among RPGs the game is set in the real world, albeit a real world in which every creepy and evil mythological creature is out to get you. As an RPG the game takes up the mantle of its genre defining ancestors with turn-based combat (no grid), NPCs and shops, sidequests galore and level-ups. The roaming around of a creepy monastery is traded out in favour of the more traditional RPG journey across multiple locales and for this game the group of misfits becomes larger and more diverse, a ‘It’s a Small World’ cultural collection. Both Koudelka and Roger Bacon return for this instalment in significant roles while the influence of and references to the previous game are strong and frequent including a return trip to the now collapsed ruins of Nemeton Monastery. The game includes some unique elements all of its own such as the judgement ring, a kind of quick time style task that dictates the success of every action in battle and quite a few out of battle, as well as the probably H.P. Lovecraft inspired sanity points system in which characters are driven insane, and berserk, during protracted fights against the many abyssal horrors they face.

 

Shadow Hearts Covenant2004 saw the release of the sequel, Shadow Hearts Covenant. Several characters make cameo appearances and fill more significant returning roles. Being a direct sequel the game features Yuri Hyuga as the returning main character, once again on a quest to stop the world from destruction via various occult dangers. Most elements of gameplay remain the same for this instalment retaining its dark and serious plotline though the locations themselves are generally less dark and grim in appearance and conception. The characters are once again a diverse group though this time the term misfit has a more literal meaning, the group includes the lost princess Anastasia and a superhero, wrestler, vampire. Whilst the previous game was far from devoid of comedy, often dipping into slapstick and perverted old man territory, the sequel plays the comedy angle up more including a curry themed wrestling club and colourful, almost supervillain-esque designs. Gameplay wise little has changed apart from refinements to the returning judgement ring and sanity point systems. Battles feature open roaming, though positioning is out of the player’s direct control, and a series of hit area specifics that allow for combos and combo magic. The playable characters once again have their own unique skills and abilities whilst spells, via crests, are much more customizable and usable by, almost, everyone.

 

Shadow Hearts From The New WorldShadow Hearts: From The New World was the last of the series to be produced and took a departure from the story of the first two games of the trilogy leaving Yuri behind and focusing on new characters Johnny and Shania, though it remains connected through various little links and cameos. Building upon the trend in Covenant, From The New World delves even further into slapstick and downright silly comedy creating a much more light hearted, and often literally brighter, game world. The adventuring gang of misfits is now wholly weird and wonderful, featuring a Brazilian ninja and his master a giant talking cat and master of drunk fu. The plot is still technically dark but lacks the occult grimness of its predecessors and the battle system remains largely the same with some tweaks in the combo system and new reasoning behind the use and distribution of magical powers, now in the form of stellar charts.

 

The series as a whole has done well to remain connected and does a fascinating job of creating a fantastical history in which real-life characters like Roger Bacon are revealed to have been involved in mysterious and magical occurrences. The dark quality of the games’ stories remains throughout but is diluted and traded with comedy as the series progresses and the horror aspect is almost completely gone by the final edition. Meanwhile the core gameplay is left largely alone (ignoring the complete change from Koudelka to Shadow Hearts) only to be improved upon with each instalment.

Short Story: The Exile of Amphitryon

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This newest short story I’ve written, The Exile of Amphitryon, is taken from my interest and exploration of Greek myth and the first in a series I intend to do detailing the life and exploits of Heracles and trying to, where possible, to stick to the original stories (which in themselves are second-hand knowledge and folklore making this technically impossible). I won’t be running off on my own interpretation and will be trying to keep the stories educational, in mythological terms at least.

Of course I did a lot of researching to build up the finer details of the subject building on the knowledge I already have and consequently this first piece about Heracles doesn’t feature him at all, but is in fact about Amphitryon, Heracles’s father who surprisingly has some exploits of his own to share in the lead up to Heracles’s birth (Though he’s not the father shhhh… don’t tell anyone).

You can find the story in the menu left of here or simply click this link.

As I’ve already mentioned the myths are all folklore, passed on by oral tradition and scrabbled and scrapped together by historians and archaeologists from various different sources. Which means every story has different interpretations despite ultimately having the same results. As the writer of this story I’ve decided which versions to go with, usually based on what I consider the most interesting but for fun I’ve included below the other interpretations I haven’t included.

  • Instead of Anaxo, Electryon is also stated as being married to Lysidice or Eurydice, both daughters of Pelops. Regardless of who the wife is she gives birth to Alcmene and has little  more role in the myth, consequently this only affects whether Amphitryon eventually marries his niece or his cousin.

Red Hot Chilli Peppers

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Here we are at last. Not only are my serrano chilli plants happy, healthy and producing ripened red chillis, they’ve been producing an absolute abundance of the things over the last month. I captured the first lot of little red monsters as they turned:

First Red Chillis

The first bunch of these little guys were a bit on the stubby side but as you can see in the picture they were soon followed by some much larger chillis. Very excited as I was I immediately plucked all of the dwarven red ones and had my first meal using homegrown chillis. As it happens I made some quick and impromptu spicy scrambled egg quesadillas.

Little Red Chillis Spicy Scrambled Egg Quesadillas

But that is by far the least of my chilli adventures since I began harvesting them. As I mentioned I have a veritable cornucopia of red and green chillis and have been trying my hand at all kinds of recipes from those made up on the spot, as I’m wont to do, to good old favourites and trying out exciting treats from cookery books. Including some recipes by Thomasina Miers, who’s restaurant the chillis originally came from.

Lots of Red Chillis

Since that first spicy scrambled egg I’ve made fajitas, enchiladas, an incredibly fiery salsa, guacamole, pumpkin ravioli, stir-fried chilli minced beef, radicchio risotto, chilli jam and the incredibly strange tasting tequila and white chocolate chillis (Which I had seen on BBC’s Sweets Made Simple.). I haven’t stopped there though and I still have no shortage of chillis. In the meantime I’ve strung up a few of the peppers to ripen up and dry out for later usage. I’ll be honest, they are almost guaranteed to end up in some chilli chocolate truffles!

Strung Up Chillis Later

Green Chilli Fingers

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Having grown slowly and steadily over several months my chilli plants have undergone a large growth spurt. The tallest of the plants, Geoffrey, is now as tall as me, having spent the longest time trying to reach even just a metre in height. Most pleasingly, all six plants flowered, sprouting little, delicate white flowers and not long after began to grow chilli peppers. It is quite fascinating to see the peppers growing from within the flowers, eventually knocking off the petals as they grow and sometimes being left with a ‘crown’ created by the decaying remains of the flower on the chilli. The first flower and chilli of my plants I mentioned before. Now that solitary chilli child has dozens of siblings to join it, see below:

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In the process of uprighting the chilli plants, they had begun leaning to the side with the weight of the serrano peppers, two peppers had fallen off and I took the opportunity to nibble on the end of one. I was surprised to find it not at all spicy and attributed it to the pepper still being young, and to only nibbling on the fleshy tip of the pepper and not the spicy source of the seeds and other inner workings. According to the great knowledge of the internet the peppers should turn red as they ripen, though it is perfectly acceptable to use them whilst they are green.

The Makings of a Chilli

I was undergoing my daily chilli plant check, and paying particular attention to the sole flower in bloom on Cellia, when I noticed she’d clearly been visited by a bee and pollinated. Here’s a picture, look closely at the center of the flower:

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That right there is the very early beginnings of a chilli pepper. I believe as it grows the flower, having completed its purpose, will die back to reveal the growing chilli. It’s a very exciting moment and I’m looking forward to having this first chilli when it is fully grown.

 

Short Story: The Trojan Legacy

This latest short story, on this page, is an amalgamation of three different mythological stories that also have historical elements to them. The end result is a bit of a mash up but I enjoyed the writing of it as it helped me to draw parallels between them.

The main inspirational draw comes from the Romance of the Three Kingdoms novel, a romantised version of the Three Kingdoms Period in Chinese history. This should come as no surprise to anyone who read my earlier post. Strong elements of the Battle of Chi Bi, a significant fight where two forces allied against a third, are included to create a battle that parallels it heavily. I chose to do this for a reason I will explain in a moment. First though, one of the more fascinating elements of the military history, or storytelling method of the book, is the way in which commanders and emperors had advisors for domestic issues and advisors for military issues. There were those who are taken to war and who must come up with advice for tactics and diplomacy, supporting their higher ups rather concocting an implementing schemes on their own. I wanted to take this element for a war council, and the concept of an emperor and transplant it into a far more European culture.

Which brings me to the second myth, King Arthur. This element is small in the story and that is because I have designs on writing a much more extended piece to accommodate my ideas. In the mean time however Arthurian legend has similar elements of strong heroes combating enemies in war like scenarios, and there are always suggestions of historical elements with this fictional King of Camelot. I here merged the two characters of Zhuge Liang, a famous tactician, and Merlin, the wizard, who both set about assisting their Lords in ruling a kingdom.

The third element is The Fall of Troy from Greek myth, the existence of Troy itself being a question unravelled by archaeologists. The chief parallel here is between the Trojan horse ploy, in which the Greeks fooled the Trojans in accepting a wooden horse into their city that was in fact filled with Greek soldiers. And a defection told in The Romance of the Three Kingdoms, in which Huang Gai falsely defects to Cao Cao in order to light his ships on fire. In both cases the the army is fooled by what appears to be a gift and ultimately becomes their downfall.

Enjoy the story, and share your opinions. Read it here: The Trojan Legacy