Re-viewing Box Art, A Closer Look: How I overcame my Fixation

I'm easily amused distracted.

While staring at box art looking for "Game of the Year" Edition and 'Box in Box Art' box art a few weeks ago, I came across what looked like an intersection of both concepts and started collecting samples. Box art in this subset would at first glance appear to meet the requirements for either or both concepts, but upon further inspection would fail at least one category. An example:

A candidate for both 'Box in Box Art' and 'Game of the Year'? I rejected this sample for either, because it's obviously not a Game of the Year Edition and the 'box' in the box art wasn't boxy enough for me. Pretty arbitrary, but I wanted to draw the line somewhere. I'm also aware of the alias 'Boxart in Boxart'. Anyway, what was more interesting to me was the prominent display of review scores and quote, something that I thought was a more recent thing directly related to the trend of (re-)releasing Game of the Year editions. Through further collection I learned that it is and wasn't all that uncommon and featured awards or accolades aren't limited to "Game of the Year".

This category illustrates (steps in) the evolution from "Gold/Complete Edition" to today's "Game of the Year Edition".

Proof-of-Concept? Case Dismissed

My initial idea was to suggest the introduction of a wiki-concept, something like "Endorsement in Box Art", but I have since abandoned it.

Considering:

  • Similar to the Box in Box Art concept, regional differences are a factor. Publishers for the the various territories handle collections and bundled (re-)releases differently.
  • In conjunction with the above, because it's mostly about collections, bundles and re-releases keeping track of 'what games do this' is probably far less meaningful.
  • In addition, 'box' art for digital distribution or even variation in 'boxes' between downloads from different digital vendors further dilute the concept.

Therefore, I have come to the conclusion that pursuing this idea is not worth wasting spending any more time than I already have, and this summary serves as a personal reminder of that. Perhaps it will make more sense in a future version of the wiki, or I might revisit this if/when images or galleries can serve as the subject/object for list making.

Reconstruction: Circumstantial Evidence

Nevertheless, here are few brief 'case studies' illustrating the idea/concept. And by 'case studies' I mean a bunch of pictures to look at.

Criteria:

Box (front) art for this concept would have to feature at least one instance of:

  • Review Score (from a gaming related magazine, website or other publication)
  • Review Quote (from a review or article)
  • Award decoration, symbol or icon (from individual gaming related publications, or 'industry collectives' that give these awards)

Examples:

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The Dream Machine: The Story So Far, Chapters 1-3. [SPOILERS]

A game by two Swedish guys made with cardboard, clay and other stuff, released in 2010 and this/last week suddenly on Steam.

I don't expect this game or this blog to gather much attention, but just in case you are actually reading this, be warned of: SPOILERS.

The Spoilers will be in the Pictures, but also in the Words. So don't look at the Pictures and don't read the Words if you don't want the Spoilers. Also, Lots of Pictures.

The Dream Machine is an episodic point and click adventure game with a handcrafted look and 'feel'. That's because it is mostly handcrafted. Read more about who made it and how here. Btw, the first chapter is playable for free. Alternatively there is a demo on Steam.

So far 3 of 5 chapters have been released, the remaining two remain in the works. The following is a visual summary of these 3 episodes, mostly to help me remember what happened previously when the next chapters show up. (Chapter 3 took almost a year).

When talking about an indie game that is perhaps best or only known for its distinct art/visual style, it's easy to end up in 'discussions' about video games and art and how or if something can be both at the same time, probably using the word "pretentious" at least once. This is not the place for any of that, just for SPOILERS

Chapter 1: While You Were Sleeping - I had a pretty Weird Dream Myself

Meet Victor Neff and his pregnant wife Alicia on the first morning in their new apartment.

During their first night Victor has a strange dream where he finds himself alone on a tropical typical island, similar to the one in the painting above their bed.

It turns out that Victor wasn't the only one having weird dreams. After breakfast Alicia reluctantly shares the details of her dream.

The strangest part - perhaps - is that the caretaker of their apartment building Mr. Morton plays a prominent role in her dream.

Exploring the apartment and the building reveals that Victor may have a mild fascination with baby oil. That turns out to be useful too, actually.

After finding and piecing together a partially burnt note from the previous owner Travis, Victor finds a strange device under the floorboards in the bedroom.

Overloading the device reveals a surveillance camera hidden behind the painting above the bed.

Chapter 2: Enter the Dreamscape - Meet the Mortons

Victor decides to confront Mr. Morton and heads down to his office while Alicia calls the police. In Morton's living quarters Victor finds plenty of books on a variety of subjects: "The Dictionary of Imaginary Places", "The Interpretation of Dreams", and books about dream and sleep studies and dream symbolism.

The Dream Machine: Dream Journal 1973 Star [5/8]

Apart from the books about dreams several dream journals can be found, filled with records of strange dreams featuring recurring themes.

[A full overview of all 5 dream journals, start here. Continue to the left. NB: Entries may vary between games, since they could be are randomly generated]

Placing the dream journals in the correct order reveals a hidden passage behind another bookcase, leading further into the basement.

Behind the bookcase Victor finds Mr. Morton being attacked by some kind of machine.

Victor uses the synaptic transfer unit device helmets to enter Mr. Morton's dream.

Through several portals Victor encounters large stone statue heads, who after some pointing and clicking 'explain' that they are Felix' ,Mr. Morton's predecessors. Although they are dead, or not alive, they continue to exist in his memories as symbols.

Moving on, Victor finds Mr. Morton being attacked again. While dying Felix tells Victor more about his family's research on dreams and the "Dreamscape". The machine in the basement exists in both the real world and the dream world.

As his dying request, Mr. Morton asks Victor to destroy the dream machine, for that he has to enter the dreams of his neighbors and cut the roots of the machine.

Back in the basement Victor sees Alicia collapsing on the surveillance monitors. After some quick puzzle solving he rushes to her aid.

Alicia has fallen into a dream state, without much hesitation Victor enters Alicia's dream.

Chapter 3: Ship of Fools - Where Everybody Knows Your Name

Welcome aboard cruise ship "HMS Albatross", where Victor tries to find Alicia and shut down the evil machine.

It's not long until Victor notices something odd is going on with the ship and its crew. Every crew member he meets is called "Victor" and looks just like him.

In an effort to secure an audience with Captain Alicia, Victor learns to make cocktails, including a 'human' bloody mary, sabotages the kitchen and tries to discover the truth behind the disappearance of one of the crew members, Victor 11.

Victor uncovers a sinister conspiracy behind the disappearance of not only Victor 11, but many more crew members over the years. All traces lead to..

Alicia is being controlled by the machine and Victor is sent below via a clever trapdoor.

Victor finds the machine's tentacle feeding on piles of missing Victors, among them "Victor 11" and the Bartender, "Victor Five".

Using his knowledge of cocktail mixing and rat poisoning Victor neutralizes the tentacle and breaks the machine's hold on Alicia.

Unfortunately the reunion is only a brief one, in order to release Alicia from her dream Victor needs to shut down the machine completely by severing its hold on the other inhabitants' dreams.

Some Observations and References, still with Spoilers.

Not surprisingly Dreams, Symbolism and The Unconsciousness are among the games' main themes. Some references to things that may or may not be interesting or references to anything at all:

  • While investigating the caretaker's backroom, Victor notices that "Mr Morton seems to be a consummate 'Gauloises Brunes' smoker" when examining an ashtray. Besides being a reference to a real world brand and type of cigarette, 'Gauloises Brunes' have been associated with 'the arts' and are viewed by some/many as symbol of French philosopher and writer Jean-Paul Sartre.
  • The name of the Cruise ship in Chapter 3: "HMS Albatross" may refer to the a number of ships by that same name, in particular 6 in service of the (UK) Royal Navy. This is fits theme of 'multiplicity', since all crew members on the ship are all named "Victor".
  • "The Dictionary of Imaginary Places" found in Mr. Morton's room may be a reference an actual book titled "The Dictionary of Imaginary Places".
  • Likewise, "The Interpretation of Dreams" may be a reference to Freud's book on dream analysis.
  • Figurines of Ilo and Milo from "ilomilo" can be found inside a box in Victor's apartment.
The Dream Machine - Ilo & Milo in a box

See no Evil, Hear no Evil

In Chapter 2 the statues are initially found in a 'broken' state. "Frank" has trouble hearing due to rocks blocking his ear canal. "Ainsley" can't speak properly because his 'voice box' is busted. "Eldon" doesn't see well. It's up to the player to 'repair' the statues in order to communicate with them. The puzzling involved is relative simple, although some knowledge of inner middle ear anatomy and/or Latin is useful here.

It's not a stretch to consider the three statues substitutes for the Three Wise Monkeys , representing the principle "See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil".

In addition, and perhaps not entirely unrelated, in the game options 3 'accessibility' settings can be found, each related to hearing, seeing, or speaking.

The Dream Machine Menu Options: Hearing, Reading and Color Aid available

Note on Reading Aid: Uses the built-in Text-to-Speech function of the OS.

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Staring at Box Art, What I've Learned: GOTY, Gold Edition Redux

Recently I spent some time looking at video game box art. This happened shortly after I became fascinated by the Box In Box Art concept.

Here are some observations and things I've to come to realize, appreciate or accept about (Box in) Box Art, Game of the Year Editions and Giant Bomb.

Box Art: It's a Regional Thing

The first thing I noticed, video game box art can be wildly significantly different depending on which side of the Atlantic (or Pacific) Ocean the boxes are sold.

This becomes particularly apparent when looking at 'double packs' or '2-in-1 bundles', I found a wild wide variety in box art between platforms and regions. Some bundled editions seem to only exist in Europe, for example the Assassin's Creed Double Pack. I haven't been able to find proof of any US version, the closest things I came across were an Assassin's Creed I&II Ultimate Collection for PC or the Assassin's Creed Trilogy.

Neither of these would qualify for a spot in the Box In Box Art gallery, unlike the European Assassin's Creed Double Pack, but only the Xbox 360 version.

Then there is also a difference in box art for bundles of the same games for the same consoles in the same region, for example the Halo 3 & Fable 2 Bundle. There is a version that (also) came bundled with hardware - Xbox 360 Console or Controller - and an actual 'Double Pack'.

I do realize Giant Bomb is very US-centric and that's fine with me. I did make an effort to hunt down US versions of box art, but in some cases there didn't seem to be any as mentioned above, or they were unsuitable due to size, quality or (Mobygames') watermarks. It's also for this reason I'm reluctant to add 'Games that do this' to the Wiki. For the Box In Box Art category in particular I think the actual box art is more interesting than 'what games do this' anyway.

Play! The Ultimate Casual Game Collection (PC)

Finally, there are plenty of pictures of boxes that didn't make it, but probably could have, but didn't. A great example is this:

I mean, those are probably boxes, right? During this exercise the cut-off point for me became if the box art contained elements that were recognizable as a box. For me this meant, and I'm talking about 'the box' in the box art here, not the box itself:

  • Some effort or attempt was made to give 'the box' 3-dimensional properties, to make it look like a box.
  • In addition to the box art, 'the box' has visual properties similar and typical to the physical box it represents, mainly ratings logos or labels like 'PC DVD' or 'PC CDrom'.

Flat images of just the box art just couldn't satisfy me anymore, although I'm aware that they could easily fit the description or criteria for the Box In Box Art concept.

Publisher who also love this concept: UbiSoft, Kalypso Media, Viva Media, Electronic Arts, THQ

Gold Edition: Game of the Year Avant la Lettre

Similarly, with regards to 'Game of the Year' editions, publishers just seem to do whatever they want, including releasing 'Game of the Year' Editions. Possibly the next future example for this rather arbitrary and arrogant form of marketing is a potential, yet unannounced Dead Island 'Game of the Year' Edition.

Apart from the name, 'Game of the Year' editions aren't new. That is the idea of bundling the original game with additional content or later versions and re-releasing it as 'Complete Collection', 'Anthology' or 'Gold Edition'.

After looking at plenty of boxes and box art, it seems to me that 'Game of the Year Edition' is more or less exactly what 'Gold Edition' was for (PC) games years ago. Of course the terminology is different, nowadays it's 'DLC' versus 'Expansion' in that bygone era. With the advent of digital distribution and downloading of games, the physical 'Gold Edition' too has become more and more a thing of the past. Probably some of the last cases of DLC released on discs - not talking about that game Capcom sold you - were probably the Borderlands and Fallout 3 DLC packs and Dragon Age Awakening.

Although there will be an 'Ultimate Edition' for Fallout: New Vegas, it's a sign of the times that Bethesda chose to skip the physical release of DLC and went straight for what is de-facto a 'Game of the Year' bundle.

What's Next: Some things to think about

During my search for appropriate box art, I stumbled upon various boxes or covers featuring a review score, a quote from a review or both, but not limited to "Game of the Year" or 'Game of the Year' editions. I only started noticing those more consciously after a while, and therefore I don't have a strong case for a concept like "Endorsement or Review Score in Box Art", yet.

One recurring complicating factor here is the regional differences in box art. Good examples are El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron and Deadly Premonition. The UK/EU versions of these games come in boxes with review scores and quotes on them from Eurogamer and Destructoid respectively.

Deadly Premonition PAL

How long until we can buy a Giant Bomb endorsed game?

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Legendary Gardening: The Quest for the Lunar Tear

Speaking of Gardening, today should see the release of Botanicula, but is also the day I have decided to once again become the Legendary Gardener.

The Quest for the Lunar Tear

Legendary Gardener is an achievement or trophy in the game NieR, rewarded awarded for cultivating the legendary flower Lunar Tear, or White Moonflower. There is no quest directly related to it and as such there is no in-game motivation to obtain; it doesn't offer any exceptional benefits either, apart from its value in gold and restorative properties. Due to the mechanics involved in cultivating, the rewards seem disproportional at best considering the time spent obtaining the flower. Likewise, the trophy/achievement awards - bronze and 10G respectively - aren't reflective of the massive horticultural undertaking required.

In the world of NieR things grow in real-time, not fake video game time, governed by your (console's) actual clock. Although growing a White Moonflower could be as simple as planting a White Moonflower Seed, watering it and waiting, it more frustrating involved than that.

Firstly, White Moonflower Seeds aren't as straightforwardly found or dug up like Berries, shops don't sell them either. White Moonflower seeds are the result of successfully cross breeding two different types (colour) of Moonflower seeds, Pink and Peach which first need to be bred using combinations of Indigo, Gold, Blue and Red seeds. Indigo isn't initially available either. Obtaining a new colour isn't guaranteed and for the rarer colours the odds are lower.

Typical cultivation process and growth/life cycle for Moonflowers is: Fertilize, Plant, Water, (Water,) Blossom, Wither. Fertilizing and Watering are optional but potentially beneficial, while the Withering phase is the one during which seeds can be harvested. Moonflowers, regardless of colour, will only wither after about 30-40 real hours have passed, depending on type of fertilizer(s) used. In the most ideal scenario, getting a White Moonflower (seed) will take about 6 days (4*36H), that is if you can be available to tend to your virtual garden at the required times and beat the odds to end up with sufficient yields of the seeds you need. Luckily the withering phase is rather extensive (50 hours) so the risk of losing seeds is minimal, but so are the odds of getting what you want.

The 'easy' way around the time part of the mechanic is to manipulate the console's system clock, bypassing the real-time element. However, statistics can still cause plenty of frustration and time spent.

In the past I may have walked the cowardly ways of fake-time gardening, but from today I strongly intent to seek redemption and become a true Legendary Gardener. I therefore hereby pledge not to manipulate time while on my Quest for the Lunar Tear!

Process and Progress:

Recently finished a first playthrough, resulting in Ending A, haven't resumed playing after that yet. The garden is fully expanded (3x5) and has only been used to grow Wheat and Watermelons.

Dates and times reported or mentioned are CEST (GMT+2), assuming my quest ends before Daylight Savings (or "Summertime") does. I'm currently playing on the Xbox 360.

[For the record: Successfully grown and harvested a White Moonflower on day 24, May12th 2012]

Day Zero; Ab Initio

Emil freed Kainé from her petrification and Weiss and I drove back that damn shade, hopefully for good this time. Apparently the villagers aren't comfortable having Emil and Kainé around, so they have to sleep outside. I don't understand how Devola and Popola can agree with this, I'll be thinking twice when those villagers ask me to help them with stupid tasks like fixing their creaking waterwheel. I do need the money though.

Day One; April 19th

2:45pm: Visited Seafront to be away from the Village for a while, there were lots of shades roaming the Southern Plains. They were heavily armoured too. Although Emil and Kainé say they are okay with not being welcome in the Village, it seemed they used this opportunity to let off some steam. Bought various seeds and fertilizer, went back to the Village by boat. Convenient.

Fertilized and planted Blue and Gold Moonflower seeds, spent 4,620 Gold. Maybe I'll do some fishing or chores next.

Day Two; April 20th

2:49 pm: Popola suggested visiting the Lost Shrine again, so we thoroughly cleared out the shades. In the room where we found Yonah the other time, one of those statues was back, protecting hordes of smaller shades. It claimed they were his friends. Friends or not, I will kill them all if it helps me finding Yonah.

After getting wounded, Kainé lost control over her Inner Shade and went beserk, Weiss and I had to beat some sense back into her, I think Weiss did enjoy that a litte. It's remarkable how much Emil seems to appreciate Kainé's company, she's not exactly the most friendly person in the world. We also found a piece of some kind of key, Popola says it can unlock the Shadowlord's Castle, but we need to find the other pieces first.

The flowers have grown nicely, although one looks different than I expected. I'm pretty sure I put a Golden seed in that spot.. I think I'll do some more fishing today. the Old Man told me about fishing in a sand lake, this I got to see!

Day Three; April 21st

11:05 am: Sand fishing was great! Fishing is just one of those things that make you feel alive. I have started to record my catchings, maybe just to spite Weiss because he seems to despise fishing. He seems to despise lots of things, I think he just doesn't understand them though. All his knowledge and book smarts, but simple things like the joy of fishing are completely incomprehensible to him, go figure. Anyway, my biggest catch is a 115.35 inch Royal Fish weighing 1077 pounds!

That one flower turned out to be Indigo, but because I got caught up in all that fishing all flowers had withered. I managed to harvest the seeds though, so I can just start over. It seems that planting different colours close together can create new colours. I'll try Red and Gold this time, as well some of these Indigo seeds, since I only got five of those.

Fertilized and planted Red (9), Gold (2) and Indigo (4) seeds, netted 4,140 after selling surplus Blue and Gold seeds. Curious to see what comes up this time.

A large Shade has been sighted in the Southern Plains, the Seafront postman says it eats POSTMEN. I'm not sure if shades even eat anything, but I'll check it out. Maybe it has another piece of the key.

Day Five; April 23rd

10:07 am: Spent all day yesterday hunting that Shade, turned out it wasn't that big after all. It didn't have a key either, but at least those silly postmen can feel safer again.

Sand fishing is such a wonderful way to start the day, even Weiss admitted it at least certainly looks like fun, can't tell if he was just being sarcastic. Kainé doesn't appear to be much of a morning person though, she's even more cranky than usual. I didn't think that was possible! I caught all kinds of fish, but I wonder how all those buckets and empty cans ended up in the desert though, or what was in them..

The biggest fish I've ever caught, or even seen: a 347.63 inch, 15,597.92 pound Dunkleosteus, I didn't even know that existed! Too bad the Old Fisherman passed away, I wonder if he would have been proud.

About the garden, I've now grown Peach Moonflowers. I'm replanting some of them along with Red and Indigo seeds I harvested the other day. This gardening is interesting, almost like science. Too bad it's pretty boring otherwise, but I should continue looking for the key and Yonah anyway.

Popola thinks "The Law of Robotics" has something to do with the Junk Heap, time to visit those brothers. If anything I can get my weapons upgraded.

Day Seven; April 25th

0:48 am: We visited the Forest of Myth again, what a strange place that is! I think Weiss is reluctant to go there, because the people there tell the weirdest stories and he is afraid they might somehow end up affecting his pages. We did find another Key fragment though, so it was worth it.

I also learned that Kainé can eat poisonous berries like candy.

Apparently the younger brother died during one of their salvage trips deep inside the Junk Heap. The older brother believes the machines are to blame and told us a Shade was controlling them. I couldn't remember encountering any shades there, so I suspected it could be a ruse to get us to exact revenge on the machines and robots he holds responsible for his brother's death. If it were true and it would be a good opportunity to stock up on upgrading materials and junk to sell nonetheless.

As it turned out, there was really a Shade living with a Giant Robot. I'm not convinced the Shade was actually controlling the robot, but there was definitely a strong - maybe even symbiotic - bond between the two. Killing the robot and the Shade doesn't seem to have satisfied the remaining brother's lust for revenge or to have given him any kind of closure. Instead, he has committed himself to bitter retaliation.

It was sad to see him like that, but it made me think about my own situation. Do I need any justification to kill everything and everyone standing in my way of finding Yonah? I want to find Yonah. I have to find Yonah. But at all costs?

The garden is producing new colours every time now, Pink this time. I hope I'm getting close to growing a White Moonflower, I really want to give one to Yonah once I find her. I'm planting Pink and Peach seeds this time, at least that's what I'm trying, but it's kind of hard to see in this darkness. Maybe I should have waited until morning, but I want to go to sleep it's been a busy day.

Two pieces of the Key are still missing, "Loyal Cerberus" and "Sacrifice". Popola didn't have an idea what they could mean earlier, hopefully we can find some clues soon.

Day Eight; April 26th

3:51 pm: Word came from the mayor of The Aerie about the "Sacrifice" keyword. I think none of us had fond memories of that place, but we decided to check it out. It was a trap, Shades had infiltrated the village and possessed many villagers. It was almost impossible to distinguish between Shades and humans anymore. One monstrous Shade started to absorb everything, growing more and more powerful. We had to stop it. In the end Emil lost it and unleashed his tremendous power to kill the Shade and everyone inside it, obliterating the entire village in the process.

Such power! Afterwards Emil was very emotional and remorseful about the destructive power inside him, but I'm thankful he used it to save us. We didn't talk much on our way home. "Sacrifice", this Key fragment somehow weighs heavily.

It's clear that the Shades are advancing rapidly, their incursions become more frequent, more coordinated and closer to our homes. There was one hidden inside the Village and we even found one lurking around in the study of Emil's manor!

Sebastian, Emil's butler, has been trying to find a method to restore Emil's body and suggested we explore the Underground facility for look for relevant research data. After today's events, I was worried it would strain him too much emotionally, but Emil seemed to be okay with it and said he wanted to find out more about his past. We found documents, letters to Emil from the researcher who took care of him and his sister during their time in the facility. Although he realized this person was responsible for what happened to him and his sister, he also has fond memories of her. He seems content to have found his mother, I hope this helps him to come to terms with his past, his body and his powers.

Not much luck with gardening today, but that seems rather trivial. I'll just keep trying until it works.

Day Nine; April 27th

8:45 pm: Good news and bad news.

The bad news is, we haven't gotten any closer to finding what could be the last piece of the Shadowlord's Key. Popola has exhausted all her resources and contacts, but to no avail.

The good news though is that the King of Facade is getting married! This is a welcome distraction after yesterday's events. Everybody seems excited about this, especially Emil. Also, the bride to be is Fyra, they make a sweet couple.

The wedding is tomorrow. I decided to harvest all the flowers to bring them as a gift, I couldn't think of anything better in such a short time. Flowers aren't exactly easy to come by in the desert, I just hope it's not against some rule. Perhaps a new mask would have been more appropriate though.

Before we left for the deserted I re-planted the garden, I'll see what has come up when we come back from the wedding. I'd better get some sleep, not sure how festive these royal desert weddings usually are.

Day Eleven; April 29th

3:15 pm: The wedding turned into a disaster. At the height of the festivities a pack of wolves, led by a Shade entered the city walls and killed Fyra. We managed to drive them off, but it was too late to save her. It was heartbreaking to watch a young life come to an end like that.

The King made a strong resolve to avenge her and protect his people from the wolves. There was no way I could let him go alone. Besides, if there's a Shade involved I have to go. We wiped out the wolves in their den, except for the leader there weren't any Shades. I can't help but stop thinking: "What are they fighting for?"

We have all the pieces of the Shadowlord's Key now, but it feels each step that takes me closer to Yonah comes at a heavier price. With each victory, more seems to be lost. Everywhere I go looking for Yonah, other people suffer. But it's too late to turn back now, this conflict between humans and Shades has escalated beyond the point of no return.

I should make sure I'm well prepared. Unfortunately no White Moonflower yet.

Day Fourteen; May 2nd

Early morning: The last few days I've found myself lost in unsettling daydreams. I don't know if I'm experiencing past events, future premonitions or if I'm seeing into a parallel dimension. Everything looks so real and feels so familiar, but when I wake up nothing has changed. Yonah is still gone.

The dreams started after I found my wife's diary the other day. I don't understand most of the words, but I feel compelled to read them over and over again and experience the feelings and impressions they invoke.

Are these memories of our life together I have forgotten about?

"This is the world of the recycled vessel, created to avoid the destruction of all.
The Black Scrawl. A lost destiny. A White Book. A false truth.
A soldier of salt calling forth white death. He is Legion, the man who plunged the world into darkness.
The black sickness stains the future. They journey to return to soulless vessels.
The apocalypse divided the world in two; one that knows not day, and one which has never seen the night."

A warning?

"As long as this memory exists, as long as mankind still has hope, a bloody battle will be waged over the holy domain of the body.
Foolish human. Foolish human. Foolish human. Foolish vessel.
All is paid. All is sacrifice.
Do not bring back the light. Do not bring back the vessel. Do not bring back the future. Do not bring it back.
Every beam of light is an invitation to death."

...

Day Fifteen; May 3rd

1:30 pm: I'm worried about my sanity. The visions are becoming more frequent and more vivid, it's hard to distinguish between reality and dream anymore.

We visited a fortune-teller this morning, although I'm not sure why. What she showed us was remarkably familiar to something I'm sure I have seen before or somewhere I've been before. It's this false sense of déjà vu that is starting to make me doubt all the events I'm 'experiencing', it doesn't help that everybody seems to be a part of them either. Weiss, Emil, Kainé, Popola and Devola they are all there, it's so confusing.

Strangely enough, gardening seems to be the only constant factor telling me I'm here and now.

In a way, I envy the flowers I grow. They don't have to concern themselves with defending against Shades or defeating the Shadowlord, they seem content just fulfilling their purpose. For now, I'll rely on their stoic cycle of life and death to keep in touch with reality and hopefully, my sanity. Maybe it's silly, but I feel bad when I'm harvesting flowers and selling them because they are not the right colour, and keeping them from reaching their destiny, death. Am I saving them?

On the other hand, this flower business is pretty lucrative, soon I'll have more gold than I know what to do with.

Day Twenty Three; May 11th

7:30pm: The last week must have been the most confusing and scariest of my life. I'm afraid I have lost grasp of time and space, lost myself, lost everything.

I seem to be trapped inside a vicious cycle of reliving memories of future events, over and over. Everyone I care about - love - dies, Devola, Popola, The King of Facade, Emil, Kainé, every-one. In these dreams I find Yonah, rescue her. Only to be thrown back to square one, with nothing but an illusion of a memory of a time I fear will never be.

Analyzing these memories, these dreams only leads to doubt. If these are indeed foreshadowing of things to come, why do I have to fight Devola and Popola? How can I ask Kainé and Emil to accompany me to the Shadowlord's Castle, is it fair to ask them to fight with me and sacrifice themselves, over and over again? I need to find a way to break this cycle!

I'm convinced the key to this whole mess is this "Project Gestalt", it has become a recurring theme in my visions. Who is behind this? Devola and Popola, the Shadowlord? What is Weiss' role in all this? Who can I trust?

In the mean time I have been selling dozens of flowers and I have upgraded all my weapons with the profits.

Day Twenty Four; May 12th

Finally! A single White Moonflower stands in the sunlight. I feel this could be sign I've been waiting for, telling me I can defeat the Shadowlord this time.

I'm ready.

Journey's End

This may be my last chance to write, I feel my journey has come its end here.

My dreams, my fears were real. Devola and Popola have been working with the Shadowlord all along, I had no choice but to fight them.

Emil made the ultimate sacrifice so we could go on to confront the Shadowlord and save Yonah.

After defeating the Shadowlord the Black Scrawl overtook Kainé's body. Without Emil it seems there is no chance of bringing her back.

Tyrann, the Shade inside Kainé is trying to convince me there are two ways to save Kainé. I'd either have to kill her or trade my life for hers. I don't know if I can trust him, after all he is a Shade, but it seems these are my only options.

I am done killing. If ending my existence means both Yonah and Kainé can live, then that is my choice. Now it's my turn to make a sacrifice.

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