Portal: First Christmas Review

Title:  Portal: First Christmas                                                 Author: Indiana

Source: Portal & Portal 2                                                        Character(s): GLaDOS & Chell

Rating:  K                                                                             Genre(s):  Parody / Humor

Chapter(s):  4                                                                       Status:  Complete

Author’s Synopsis: Christmas is coming! Oh noes!

https://www.fanfiction.net/s/10858466/1/Portal-First-Christmas

 

Ladies and Gentleman – or in this case, test subjects – I am your reviewing host, the Fan Fic Reviewer; here to review the good, the bad, and those that should never exist in fan fiction.  It’s December!  That means there’s a lot of holiday (mostly Christmas) fan fiction out there for me to feast upon.  Not all of them will be good; some will be rotten but I’m sure to find a couple of delicacies this year.  I have several holiday fan fics lined up to review.  We’re starting with a bit of dark humor with a Portal fan fic.

The author’s synopsis does nothing to describe the story, so I’ll provide my own summary.  Christmas is approaching and Chell is having difficulties finding the perfect gift for GLaDOS.  What do you get a supercomputer?

Now that we’re all the same page, the story builds after the events of Portal 2 but instead of Chell leaving the lab for the great unknown, she camps outside the lab until GLaDOS offers her shelter.  GLaDOS becomes Chell’s companion, janitor, chef, and sex slave now that she has – I’m quoting the story here – “super realer-than-realistic hyper hyper realistic android” body.  Some of the elements of this post-Portal 2 world make sense – why wouldn’t GLaDOS have an android body that she could move herself into? – but there are other elements that make absolutely no sense.  For instance, why does GLaDOS know how to cook?  Where does that food come from?  Why is Chell okay with all of this?

The story brushes a lot of explanation aside with things of “plot convenience,” “science,” and how Chell has forgiven GLaDOS’ homicidal tendencies because GLaDOS saved her life and thus couldn’t be “bad.” On the one hand, those explanations are within the Portal humor but on the other hand it feels so out of place.  It’s been a while since I last played Portal but I remember GLaDOS rubbing things into Chell’s face and tossing insults – non-affectionate ones – at the test subject.  These “explanations” just feel a bit out of place and not nearly as funny as the game’s content.

The biggest grievance I have with the story is Chell’s characterization.  I have zero qualms about how much sex Chell and GLaDOS are implied to have, but I take issue with how dependent Chell is on GLaDOS.  GLaDOS does all the cleaning, cooking, and general providing while Chell gets to act like a petulant child.  There are instances in the story where Chell purposely throws a fit so that GLaDOS will comfort her.  Then there are the times where Chell purposely cries and withholds information – like her frustration in being unable to find a present for GLaDOS – just so GLaDOS will spend time with her and assure her that Chell is perfect as she and GLaDOS will always love her.  This clingy, overly dependent version of Chell is so unlike the character from the games and comics that it’s hard to reconcile the two.

Personally, I think the story could’ve still had Chell be dependent on GLaDOS for everything but instead of it being because Chell doesn’t want to be independent have it be that GLaDOS (subtly) refuses to let Chell become independent.  Having this forced dependency would make this already abusive relationship darker without totally demolishing Chell’s character.

Alright, so the shining light of this story is the end.  Thank God, the story played out as I hoped because if that twist never happened then I would write this story off as a complete waste of digital space.  However, the twist at the end kind of makes the crappy lead up worth it.  I won’t say what happens, but it is by far the most Portal-like thing to occur.

In the end, would I recommend the story?  Not really.  Not as a Portal fan fic or a Christmas story.  It doesn’t truly provide much story, depth, or new insight to the Portal world.  It is just an excuse to give GLaDOS a humanoid form and for Chell and GLaDOS to have sex.  *Shrug* Nothing much.  I’m sure there is a niche for this story but I’m definitely not in that group.

 

Stars: 3/10

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Battlements Interlude Review

Title: Battlements Interlude                                      Author:  Ellana-san

Source: Dragon Age: Inquisition                                Character(s): Varric T. & Cassandra P.

Genre: Friendship / Romance                                    Rating: K

Chapter(s): 1                                                            Status: Complete

Author’s Synopsis: Talk to Cassandra. Easier said than done, really. Varric grumbled under his breath all the way up the stairs that led to the battlements, reviewing every insult he wanted to hurl at the Seeker’s head. He doubted that was what Lavellan had in mind when he had told him – ordered him – to have a proper conversation with the Seeker now that she had calmed down. He also doubted she had.

https://www.fanfiction.net/s/12710989/1/Battlements-Interlude
I can already hear the groans; “Another Dragon Age story?  Don’t you read anything else?”  Which, yes, I do read other fandoms.  I just happen to bounce frequently back to fandoms that are tried and true for me – not necessarily that they give me good stories to read, just that they pique my interest enough to get me to click on the story.  I only go outside my comfort zone on rare occasions and at people’s requests.  Seeing as there are no requests, I’m returning to Dragon Age: Inquisition.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I am your reviewing host, the Fan Fic Reviewer; here to review the good, the bad, and those that should never exist in fan fiction.  Today I bring you my first Varric x Cassandra romance(ish) story.  The story is about Varric and Cassandra making up after the fight when Cassandra found out that Varric had known all along where to find Hawke.  It is a bit awkward, sweet, and to the point; much like the interactions between the two characters.

The awkwardness of the story is not in how it’s written but in the characters’ interactions.  Varric and Cassandra share the same space for a good portion of the story yet remain silent.  They’re not silently enjoying each other’s company but rather waiting for someone to make the first move when neither knows how to approach the conversation.  How the story writes the scene conveys the awkwardness both characters must feel during the scene; Varric because he doesn’t know if he should even be talking to Cassandra and his own undefined feelings for her.  Cassandra…is never explored but that’s to be expected because the story doesn’t follow her, it follows Varric; so Readers are only privileged to Varric’s feelings and intentions.

The relationship between Varric and Cassandra is sweet.  It’s not toothache inducing sweet or out of character.  The relationship is in line with the game, they argue / tease but now there is this moment of tenderness where Cassandra acknowledges Varric to be right and Varric opens up that he has her back.  Combined with the hints that Varric might hold romantic feelings for Cassandra makes the exchange sweet and Varric’s personal struggles endearing.

Finally, the story is brief.  This is a short one-shot but it is loaded with potential.  Not potential in that it should continue to be a longer story but rather potential in how to interpret the characters’ interactions in the game.  Were Varric and Cassandra’s exchanges truly filled with bite or did it become more teasing?  Is Varric’s past with Bianca truly as strong to keep him from falling for someone else?  Is Cassandra as hard as she comes off?  Well, as someone who romanced Cassandra, I know the answer is no, but this story shows the possibility of others (Varric) getting to see her walls come down.  There is so much potential presented in such a short amount of time.  Then the actual exchange of words between Varric and Cassandra is short too.  It’s brief and to the point.  There is no struggles for a confession or declaration of love, it’s just too characters apologizing in their own ways, explaining why they reacted the way they did, and assuring each other that they’re in this together.  No finery; no unnecessary analysis.

There isn’t much to analyze for this story and while I can’t say that it would hold a candle to any lengthy epic stories or a full romance, it certainly holds a certain charm for showcasing this off-screen scene and coming at it from the angle of a Varric that is starting to fall for Cassandra.  The possibilities and it’s unusual pairing make the story stand out.

I will say that a small part of me is disappointed that there is not a solid romantic interaction between the two characters, overall, I enjoyed the story.  I enjoyed having Varric begin to acknowledge that maybe he no longer dislikes the Seeker and maybe he’s emotionally cheating on Bianca, and I’m not sorry that those things are not resolved by the end.  Instead, they remain open for a future date and what is resolved is Varric and Cassandra putting to bed their argument and Varric’s loyalties.

Would I recommend this one-shot?  Yes.  If for no other reason than that it is the closest I’ve seen to a Varric x Cassandra romance.  The writing is solid and the story did not need to make either character OOC (out of character) in order to make the budding romance believable.

I am hoping to find more fan fiction featuring these two characters as a potential couple in the future.  They would quickly become one of my favorite pairings to read.

 

Stars: 8.5/10

Intricate Relations Review

Title: Intricate Relations                                   Author: Teagarden

Source: Brothers x Conflict                               Characters: Ema H. & All Asahina Brothers

Genre(s): Drama / Romance                              Rating: T

Chapter(s): 36                                                  Status: Complete

Author’s Synopsis: Ema Hinata joins the Asahina family at age eleven. As Ema grows she offers the brothers support in their dreams, care when they’re down, and cheering when they succeed. The brothers all come to adore Ema, but as time goes on they have to ask themselves: do they love her as their stepsister, or as a woman?

https://www.fanfiction.net/s/11933610/1/Intricate-Relations

 

Welcome Readers, I felt like I was on a movie kick with my reviews lately and I needed to change things up.  So, I returned to a story a found a couple of months ago when I was on a Brothers x Conflict binge.  It was one of the few stories I found that featured the series’ focal character, Ema, and the multitudes of stepbrothers rather than on just one or two brothers; so, it caught my attention.  Now, after reading this story twice I can properly give it a review that it deserves.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I am your reviewing host, the Fan Fic Reviewer; here to review the good, the bad, and those that should never exist in fan fiction.  Today we are entering the world of harem fan fiction – well, reverse harem fan fiction – with “Intricate Relations.”

For those who may have never heard of Brothers x Conflict it is an Otome game, there are manga and light novels available, and an anime.  The premise is that Ema Hinata an only child of a world renowned adventurer, she gains 13 stepbrothers when her father remarries.  Ema begins living with her stepbrothers and over the course of the game, novel, manga, and anime several (all 13) of the brothers come to feel romantic feelings for Emi and vie for her heart.

That is not a typo, there are 13 potential guys for this girl.  Well, 12 in this story because the story didn’t bother with the youngest (thankfully) who is 10 in the anime (13 in Season 2 of the novels).  Still, that is 12 guys to juggle and build potential relationships with in the story.  It’s hard work and the story puts in an admirable effort, however it still has its flaws.  Let’s start there, with the balance of these 12 suitors and their quest for Ema’s affections.

This story was not a slouch in how it handled the brothers.  The brothers each made a different impact on Ema and had their moments with her, and while the balance was pretty well maintained there were still some characters who ended up falling to the way side during the course of the story.  Hikaru didn’t get much of an opportunity to try his luck at Ema’s heart due to the fact that the character moved out of the country and was mostly kept out of the picture; in the end, he became the voice of wisdom to Ema.  Not a bad change.  Iori suffered though.  His potential romance was built as strictly one-sided and his sudden departure then return left no room for anything to potentially take root between him and Ema.  Louis was another one that got regulated to “friend” despite having a decent beginning and would have made a strong contender had his character and attentions been maintained.

Otherwise, the other 9 siblings had pretty solid romance opportunities with Ema.  Each one being cultivated over time from Ema at age 9 to Ema at 18.  The story maintained several of the rivalries from the game / novels / anime and used those to help generate tension between the brothers.  Unfortunately, this made these characters seem narrow sighted for not seeing all their brothers as rivals.  The few brothers who did not have rival to be pitted against normally had to compete with their jobs and the age difference.  Those were probably the most interesting characters as they often acted not out of jealousy (except for 2 instances) but out of the desire to make the most of their time with Ema.

It’s a difference in terms of how the characters approach their feelings for Ema but still the 9 brothers build up strong potential romances with Ema.  Strong enough that it’s hard to know who she will eventually choose.  I will touch on the ending later, for now I want to dive into Ema’s side of this romantic harem.

Ema Hinata is one of those characters who is meant to be the “every girl,” very few defining personality traits and quirks in the game and while she has a bit more in the anime, she lacks a bit of depth.  This story gives her that depth and actually tries to shape her away from the “every girl.”  She doesn’t have a strong personality but she does have one, enough of one that when as her brothers start confessing their feelings to her and (some) becoming aggressive with their affections she reacts.  She doesn’t just take their actions or words; she reacts to them.

Everything that happens as the brothers make moves on her causes Ema stress and the pushier they become, the more she retreats from them.  In the anime, Ema kept pointing out that “they’re family” and in this story she clings to the idea of “Family” even more firmly because she grew up side by side with the brothers then suddenly – it would feel sudden to her – how her brothers feel for her has turned from familial to romantic; it causes her to eventually lash out and say how she sees them as family.  In the anime, it feels like the “family” reason is more of an excuse for her to not analyze her feelings but in this story it makes sense given the history it builds between her and the brothers.

Actually, because of how Ema reacts to the brothers’ aggressive behavior leads to my favorite moment in the story; the part where she leaves Japan with Louis (the brother regulated to friend/family zone) to spend the summer in France.  It’s my favorite part of the story because unlike the anime where Ema tries to family-zone the brothers and they all decide to still pursue her; this story shows that there are consequences to the brothers pushing so hard for her to return their affections.  Ema leaving is also the best point because it allows the character to analyze her feelings and what she wants for her future – a subplot in the story.  It’s the only time where Ema is able to focus on herself instead of the Asahina brothers.

Now, as for the end; much like the game, there are multiple different endings.  There is an ending for Tsubaki, Azusa, Natsuem, Yusuke, Fuuto, Kaname, and Masomi.  While I think this is genius because it allows just about any Reader to be happy with the various endings, it also pisses me off.  Note the number of different endings – 7 – note how many brothers I said had strong romance potential with Ema – 9.  Yeah, two of those brothers did not get an ending, Ukyo and Subaru.  Why I’m mad about this is because the Ukyo had a strong build and was on the same level as Masomi yet for whatever reason he was never given an ending.  Just nothing.  Apparently the story didn’t bother with giving Ukyo a happy ending beyond him just being happy that Ema’s happy.

Truthfully, I’m more upset about Subaru not getting an ending because out of the 9 potential romances his got dropped a bit earlier than the others.  Not completely dropped but enough to signal that the story was done trying to wiggle the basketball star back in.  He had a strong beginning, a weak middle, and then he disappears near the end to pursue his career only to return when Ema returns.  There’s concessions made for the other brothers to try and tie up loose unrequited ends but Subaru gets nothing.  I understand that he’s hard to write – whoever created Subaru’s character did not bother trying to go past “he’s a basketball star who’s awkward with girls” – but this story could’ve given him a bit more potential.  It certainly could’ve – at the very least – given him an end where Ema goes to watch one of his first games in the pro and…well, time makes the heart grow fonder.  This story could’ve gone corny and made it work.  Instead, it ignored the potential.

Overall, the story is very good.  Despite my grievances about certain characters not receiving an ending or a chance at romance, I still enjoy it a lot.  I appreciate how the brothers’ feelings slow eat away at Ema until she breaks down and must literally leave to find herself.  I also enjoy the amount of time devoted to each brother’s feelings and their interactions with Ema.  Personally, my pick would be for Kaname or Yusuke but I’m biased.

I do highly recommend the story, it’s a good one to read and it does a great job of maintaining the harem aspect of the story.  I seriously could see each one of those endings happening and when Ema returned from Japan it was wide open as to who she would end up with.  It was a great story to read and I hope other Readers take the time to check it out.

 

Stars: 8.5 / 10

Love Found in Radio Review

Title:  Love Found in Radio                               Author: BrokenBlackCat

Source: Clover/Heart no Kuni no Alice                 Character(s): Alice L., Elliot M., Ace

Rating:  T                                                  Genre(s): Humor / Romance

Chapter(s): 1                                                Status: Complete

Author’s Synopsis: Alice works in a radio station and there, she comes across a male asking for help in love. She tries to help him but somehow, along the way, she feels like she knows the guy. What’s she going to do now?

https://www.fanfiction.net/s/10553686/1/Love-Found-in-Radio

 

Welcome Readers, it’s Friday so it’s time for another fan fic review.  I kind of feel bad for reviewing this story because the author is obviously writing in their second (or third or fourth) language, and a native speaker never reviewed the story before it was posted.  Still, as I’ve said before, nothing is off limits for me to read and review, so I will review the story as it is regardless if the author is writing in his/hers second language.  I’m done postponing, let’s get this show on the road.  I am the Fan Fic Reviewer; here to review the good, the bad, and those that should never exist in fan fiction.  Let’s dive in!

The synopsis is accurate.  College student Alice works part time at a radio station and she gets a caller named “Elli” who is looking for advice on how to take his relationship with a girl friend to the next level.  The advice Alice gives backfires on “Elli” so he keeps calling in for more advice until one day she realizes that “Elli” has been her friend Elliot March the entire time.

See, when I first read the synopsis I was thinking something along the lines of the movie “Cats & Dogs;” I figured Alice was going to give this caller advice, he’d seek her out to thank her and they would start to fall in love.  That’s not this story.  This story is…it’s bare bones.  I’ll address the different weaknesses that make this story paper thin.

First off, the characters.  I know that in the video games and mangas Alice tends to be a bland character because she’s meant to represent the every girl; girls who play the games are meant to imagine that they are Alice and get to project their personalities and fantasies onto her.  However, when it comes to fan fiction, Alice should have some sort of characterization, some personality.  The only thing Alice had going for her in this story is that she’s oblivious.

Elliot and Ace have zero personality too.  The only things known about Elliot and Ace are that they are both Alice’s friends and they are in love (?) with her.  I put in the question mark because while the dialogue between Elliot and Ace suggest that both men have romantic interests in Alice, the only one putting any effort to woo her is Elliot.  I’m trying to find more things to help build my case, but the story doesn’t offer much.  There is minimal interaction between Alice and the boys.  At one point they meet up before class and exchange pleasantries, but that’s about it.  They don’t seem to hang out together and neither Elliot nor Ace really try to make a move on Alice when they are together.  It’s all feels superficial.

Next up, the storytelling is a skeleton.  The story knows how it wants to end and that it wants the interaction between Elliot and Alice to be through radio, but beyond that the story seems lost.  Everything comes back around to the radio show and Alice giving romance advice to Elliot, but when anything happens outside the radio then the story flounders.  It’s a fine start but it really should have been fleshed out; include interactions between Elliot and Alice, have Elliot mention that he heard Alice on the radio, have Ace make some moves on Alice to urge Elliot on, and have these characters be college students.

Remember, these characters are meant to be college students in this story but they don’t seem to act like students.  The college aspect of these characters feels like a coop-out, like the story just felt like it had to make these characters some sort of students without making them live out the student life.  If the story had used that college status to make the characters interact and act out the romantic advice that Alice provides, then it would have helped to create the romance and give the characters some depth.

Finally, the grammar is horrible.  I know that this story is not written in the author’s native language but poor grammar and sentence structure is horribly distracting.  This story should have been reviewed by a native English speaker before being posted to help clean up the grammar.  Having someone vet the grammar wouldn’t have made the story better per say, but it would have made it easier to read.  I almost gave up on the story because I couldn’t stand the horrible grammar.

I can say that I do not recommend this story to anyone.  No matter how much of an Alice in the Country of – fan a Reader is, this story is not worth the time.  There are better stories out there to read.  I will, however, encourage if anyone is a writer to write a better version of this story.  Beyond that, don’t bother with this story.

 

Stars: 1/10

Field Training Review

Title: Field Training                              Author: Mordinette

Source: Mass Effect                              Character(s): Shepard (F), Garrus V., Jondum Bau

Rating:  M                                            Genre(s): Romance / Humor / Adventure

Chapter(s): 33                                       Status: Complete

Author’s Synopsis: Spectre training was easy. Putting up with her turian teammate during their group lessons was less so. AU story with Shepard, Garrus, Jondum Bau, and as many characters from the Mass Effect universe as I can fit in.

https://www.fanfiction.net/s/10167828/1/Field-Training

 

Welcome Readers, it’s that time of the week again and I have a story that I am very excited to review.  I figured that I’ve been reviewing a lot of one-shots lately and I would like to change things up by reviewing a lengthy story.  So I went digging around and I found this amazing alternate universe (AU) Mass Effect fic.  Let’s get this review going!  I am your reviewing host, the Fan Fic Reviewer; here to review the good, the bad, and those that should never exist in fan fiction.

My synopsis of the story goes like this: Spectre Jondum Bau decides to take two candidates under his wing: Shepard and Garrus.  The two candidates do not hit it off at first but through a series of missions they begin to develop a bond of comradery and maybe romance.

Despite the author’s synopsis of the story centering on Shepard, I would argue that it focuses on Jondum and the group’s missions just as much as Shepard.  Bau directs the story, what missions occur and the political sphere; however, Garrus and Shepard add in their own spices to the missions through the plans, temporary companions (Rex, Tali, etc.), and their interactions.  The story is very much about the journey, not the destination.

I have a lot to praise about this story; it’s storytelling, the use of characters, and the romance.  It all works very well in this story.  While, I do have a lot to praise, I do have one complaint and that’s the characterization of Shepard.  I’ll address this in more detail near the end but the characterization of Shepard is the weakest aspect of the whole story.

First things first, this story does a great job of remembering that it does not need to adhere to the ME storyline, it just needs to use it as inspiration.  There are many stories I see labeled “AU” but instead of crafting a unique story using the original source as a springboard they only change one aspect of the original story.  This takes the missions and characters from Mass Effect and ME2 (mostly ME2) and decides to use them as inspiration.  For example, Zaeed’s personal mission on Zorya against the Blue Suns is used as an early mission for Spectre training.  While sneaking towards the base, the Spectre team encounters Zaeed and Jack in their pursuit of Santiago.  The two groups do not cooperate but instead split as Zaeed and Jack go after Santiago and Jondum, Shepard, and Garrus save the civilians.  The mission does not play out exactly like in the game but definitely takes its inspiration from it.

Next up, how the characters are used in this story is done really well.  Shepard and Garrus may carry the romance of the story, Bau moves the story.  The many cameo appearances help to support and build out the missions.  Wrex and Mordin join the team for several chapters and a couple of missions, Kasumi and Thane make a reluctant alliance with the team, and Liara makes an appearance pre-Shadow Broker.  The cameos do not drag or stop the story, instead they help move the missions forward either in preparations or in actually carrying out the missions.  Plus, some of these cameos help to introduce the next mission.

There is not a character wasted or an introduction that over stays its welcome.  Enough background and information is given on each supporting character to give the Reader an idea of how the character fits into the story without being overwhelming.

Finally, the romance has a strong build and is sustained.  Normally romances are about getting to that relationship starting point or to the next phase of a relationship (dating to engagement).  This story though has Shepard and Garrus get together and sustain their relationship.  It doesn’t have them blow up into a fight or misunderstanding just to get back together, but it has them work together to achieve success.

Shepard and Garrus start off as almost teenagers trying to one-man up each other but then they begin to develop a mutual respect for each other.  Eventually, they do become attracted to each other and the story makes it clear that Garrus is not attracted to humans (vice versa for Shepard) but he’s attracted to Shepard.  Important distinction.  The hints of attraction begin with basic banter then it becomes inquiries about each other’s abilities (Shepard’s flexibility, Shepard’s curiosity about Garrus’ body); basic things that eventually two individuals of different species would probably wonder.  Then it continues to grow as they start admiring each other’s bodies and start having physical contact (not intentionally sexual).  Eventually it culminates during a mission when they need to share heat and Garrus’ curiosity leads to an exploration of Shepard’s body.

Eventually this all leads to sex scenes.  So, I know from the lore and games about some of basic Turian body functions but this is probably the first story I’ve read that actually addressed a lot of the body differences for sex.  It is fascinating!  I know it sounds like it would be a massive turn off for the sex scenes but they’re hot even with some of these added details.  Seriously, they are “take a cold shower after reading” type of hot.

Alright, now that I’m done praising the story I do need to address the characterization of Shepard.  Shepard is a hot head biotic who like to charge in first, think later and eat a lot of food.  My impression of Shepard while reading the story is that she’d make a good soldier but not a good leader.  Spectres are meant to operate (mostly alone) and be able to lead when working with others, but Shepard seemed more eager to tell others to go fuck themselves and alienate potential allies; especially during a scene with Liara.  It just felt like this Shepard should not be a Spectre; she definitely was not made out to be the badass leader from the games.  If anything, Garrus and Bau are more badass and competent than Shepard.

This is just my opinion though; other Readers may enjoy this characterization of Shepard, but I felt like she didn’t live up to the nomination of Spectre.  She felt like the odd one of the group.

My recommendation is for Readers interested in Mass Effect and looking for a great Garrus x Shepard romance, check out the story.  It’s a solid story and it was a great journey.  I highly recommend it for fans despite any flaws.

 

Stars: 9/10