rynling: (Mog Toast)
As I play Final Fantasy XII, the outfits of the female characters have been driving me a bit crazy. What I was able to accept in 2007 isn't really flying with me anymore, and I feel a burning desire to fix the stupid designs, or at least try to imagine alternatives.

The worst offender is Fran, who is from a tribe called the Viera. The Viera are basically forest bunny versions of the Gerudo from the Zelda series (link) in that they're an isolated society of warrior women whose "otherness" is marked by brown skin, while they are made less threatening to the ostensibly straight male player through their sexualized clothing. As is the case with the Gerudo, the elements of "male-oriented exoticism" are unfortunate, because the Viera have an interesting culture. Likewise, Fran is a fascinating character, but... I don't really need to watch the black leather of her thong disappear into her bare butt as she runs through the desert, you know?

This is Fran's official design (link), and here is some concept art (link). I would be interested in keeping the character's features the same while designing a battlemage adventure outfit that's a bit more practical. I was thinking about actually commissioning someone in the Final Fantasy fandom, but no one jumps to mind. I'd love to see Kashuan do something like this, but...

A lot of Final Fantasy artists have moved on (typically to the Dragon Age fandom), and the ones that are still around really intimidate me. They didn't talk to me when I was a baby fan on DeviantArt, and they sure as hell aren't going to talk to me now that I'm a slightly less baby fan on Tumblr. So maybe this is something that I should try to do myself?
rynling: (Ganondorf)
Me: What do we want??


Me: WHEN DO WE WANT IT?!?!?1??

Square Enix: ffxii_fran_hd_closeup.png

Also Me: MAYBe we can wait until,, the gaming culture matures,,,, I am not sure this is what
rynling: (Mog Toast)
It's been a busy week, but I've been trying to make time for Final Fantasy XII. Last night I got as far as watching Vayne's speech in Rabanastre, and I was impressed. This is partially because the voice audio has been beautifully remastered, and partially because the voice actor (someone named Elijah Alexander?) does a wonderful job, but mainly because it's a good piece of writing.

I don't remember ever having strong feelings about Vayne, mainly because I've never been 100% clear on what his story arc is supposed to be. From what I understand, he firmly believes that there should be peace in Arcadia, and he wants his little brother Larsa to preside over that peace. Vayne fears that the continued existence of Rabanastre as an independent state will only result in escalating tensions between Arcadia and Rozarria; and so, to shield his brother from becoming enmeshed in a prolonged conflict, he has the king of Rabanastre murdered by someone imitating one of the kingdom's war heroes in order to force a quick resolution. Vayne knows full well that what he's doing is evil, but he takes one for Team Larsa.

And then at some point he goes crazy and becomes the final boss monster, which has something to do with Balthier's Hot Dad. To me, a more reasonable narrative progression would result in a final boss battle against Hot Dad and Venat, but... Maybe I should talk about this later. In any case, Vayne deserved better.

Speaking of hot dads, Vaan is such a dick to Migelo. I know Vaan is only seventeen, but come on. Migelo deserves all the love. His voice actor (John DiMaggio, who is apparently also Wakka's voice actor??) does this weird cottonball mouth sort of thing, but I would not be surprised if Migelo was a total badass when he was younger. He is a master of social interaction, and the way he bows his head to Vayne after their conversation, like, hurt me.

As an aside, I would recommend that no one go looking for fan art of Migelo, just take my word on this.
rynling: (Celes Chere)
The God of Pre-Orders was kind to me, and I got my copy of the PS4 release of Final Fantasy XII a day early. It's been five years since I last played the game, but I still remembered exactly how long the prologue is, so I made myself sit down and suffer through it last night.

At the beginning of the game, there is an extended exposition dump about military action and political betrayal that then makes an abrupt transition to the perspective of an orphaned teenager killing rats in the sewer. I understand why it's effective that the story be told primarily from the perspective of a representative of "the common people," but I do think the prologue could have been handled more skillfully. Specifically, I wish the narrative had begun with Vaan's personal concerns and only gradually revealed the larger conflict, including Ashe and Basch's backstories. For the first few hours of the game, it's really enough to say that a small city-state was conquered by the powerful empire to the north, and foreign troops now occupy the city in preparation for the arrival of an imperial governor. Although it makes for a dramatic opening cinematic sequence, Ashe's marriage is largely immaterial to Vaan's story, as is Marquis Ondore's lengthy history lesson.

I don't dislike Vaan with the intense burning hatred I feel toward Tidus, but I'm planning on rushing through the game until the point where its real heroes, Ashe and Basch, join the party.

ALSO, NEVER FORGET: http://xii.venusgospel.net/ff12_basch.html
rynling: (Terra Branford)
For my class on Final Fantasy X this semester I've been using screencaps from my current Steam playthrough for my PowerPoint slideshows, but as I've been putting together my last (thank god) presentation I realized that I'm missing a crucial shot. I had a vague memory of saving someone's screengrab from Tumblr a few years ago, so I went into my old "Final Fantasy" image folder to see if it was there. In fact it was, along with dozens of screencaps of Barret being his beautiful self.

I never really thought of Barret as being one of my favorite Final Fantasy characters, but the results of my pre-2014 internet magpie tendencies prove otherwise. I have like one picture of Sephiroth, maybe three or four of Cloud, and a good half dozen of Tifa, but most of the FFVII images in that folder have something to do with Barret. Honestly I still love him, and I regret nothing.
rynling: (Cecil Harvey)
I played my sixth 30-minute session of Final Fantasy XV last night, and it did not go well. I'm having a lot of trouble with this game, which I'm afraid is indicative of my failure to adapt to modern gaming. The biggest problem I'm having is that the map works in a way that is not intuitive for me, and the text and maps in the official strategy guide are not in the least bit useful in helping me navigate. I'm getting lost a lot, especially when the game decides it's going to be night and I can't see anything.

FFXV is an action RPG, and combat moves extremely quickly. With four people and swarms of enemies, even the first several battles are chaotic, and the fact that the player needs to control the camera as well as Noct does not help. The entire screen is filled with rapidly shifting information, none of which I know how to process. Although you can pause the game, there's no way to slow down the battles, and they are brutal. In other words, the player is expected to start the game at a fairly high point on the learning curve.

(By the way, if your response to my admission of difficulty is "I'm not having trouble" or "my friends aren't having trouble" or "the Let's Play Youtuber I watch isn't having trouble," check yourself.)

After every battle, the game grades you on your performance. I wish you could turn this feature off, because it makes me feel awful about myself. Even worse, every time you rest for the night (which you need to do in order to tally your experience points and gain levels), the game grades you on how well your exploration went that day. Because I want to explore the map and am constantly getting lost, this makes me feel awful as well.

You suck, FFXV keeps telling me. You're barely passing. You're bad at playing this game. You're bad at games. What are you even doing.

A lot of the work I do in real life is invisible, and I don't typically get a lot of feedback, positive or otherwise. I also don't get much feedback from my creative work in fandom, which (as much as I would love to say that "I create for myself!") is also tough to handle. One of the reasons I play games is because I need to feel like I'm capable of accomplishing something. Even if it's just gaining a level or being told that I found 100% of a dungeon's treasure, I like to feel that I'm making progress.

The constant stream of negative feedback in FFXV is so hurtful and alienating, and I don't know why it has to be this way. I play Final Fantasy games to experience interesting stories and explore beautiful worlds while falling in love with quirky characters as I gradually customize their growth. If I wanted to play a hyperdrive murder simulator, I would choose another game. There are a lot of them out there!

Because FFXV is so stressful, I wind down from play sessions by playing other games, mainly Pokémon Sun and Link's Awakening. Go at your own pace. Take your time, both games say to me. You're doing great! It's not that the games aren't challenging, but rather that they're broad enough to accommodate diverse playstyles.

I'd like to advocate for "slow gaming," which I see as a more individualized and sustainable type of gaming. I'm going to need to think about what this means before I write more about it, but basically, I want to say that the style of gaming represented by FFXV should not be understood as normal or standard or something that anyone can enjoy.
rynling: (Cecil Harvey)
I've been enjoying myself with Pokémon Sun, which has reminded me of how much I love old school JRPG gameplay.

My little brother gave me some amphetamine salt tablets for Christmas, so I think I'm going to pop half a pill and sit down and really focus on I Am Setsuna, which I had abandoned last fall because there are no save points in the middle of its endgame dungeons. This nonsense annoyed me when I was a tiny child playing a video rental store copy of Final Fantasy IV, and it annoys me now that I am a grown-ass adult. If I have played an hour of a damn game, I would like to have an option to save it, please and thank you.

One of the things I appreciate about handheld gaming is the ability to save your game whenever you want to. Your train reaches your stop? Save the game and quit. You get a text from one of your interns that requires immediate attention? Save the game and quit. You've been playing for an hour and want to do something else now? Save the game and quit.

There's a dungeon toward the end of I Am Setsuna called "the Ithees Ruins" that is super long, and to get to that dungeon you have to go through another dungeon, and just because you can see the monsters on the map doesn't mean that you can avoid fights with them. Each fight takes about two minutes, which doesn't seem like that big of a deal but becomes very obnoxious very quickly, especially since the enemies use cheap tricks (like exploding and causing damage when you kill them) that draw out the process even longer. The last time I played I Am Setsuna, I got about an hour and half into the Ithees Ruins before being like fuck it and turning off the PS4.

I don't think it's particularly a glowing endorsement of I Am Setsuna to say that you may need Aderal to make it through the endgame dungeons, but I've gotten this far already, and I'd like the see how the story turns out before I get serious about replaying Final Fantasy X.
rynling: (Needs More Zelda)
I downloaded A Link to the Past on my New Nintendo 3DS, and I've been playing one dungeon every night. I've gotten all the way to the end, but I don't feel particularly compelled to fight Ganon. I'm just going to let him be; he's not hurting anyone. It's surprisingly difficult to play A Link to the Past on such a small screen. It's always been my experience that gameplay is much easier on larger screens. I wonder why that is?

Speaking of large screens, I downloaded Super Metroid onto my Wii U. The game isn't as difficult as I remember it being, but I also haven't gotten very far. The Wii U allows the player to create save states on Virtual Console titles, so hopefully I'll be able to cheat in order to compensate for the difficulty level if it ever becomes a problem.

What I really wanted from my extended SNES nostalgia trip was to play is Secret of Mana, so I pirated a ROM. I've been playing the game about fifteen minutes every morning, and it is still a beautiful shining treasure.

I still haven't beaten Mario & Luigi Paper Jam. I feel like I should grind to raise my levels before I face off against the Bowsers, but every battle that gives decent experience takes five minutes to work through, so I haven't been making much progress. I should probably just challenge the Bowsers, enjoy their ridiculous dialog, and move on.

According to my PS4 trophy achievements, I think I'm probably halfway through I Am Setsuna, and not much has changed. It's still all snow all the time. Sometimes there is ice.

Meanwhile, I don't know why I'm still playing Pokémon Go, but I'm currently at Level 24. There have been a lot of public demonstrations in my neighborhood this weekend, and two separate reporters have stuck cameras in my face and asked to talk to me. Because I was standing alongside the sidewalk and futzing with my phone, they apparently thought I was blogging, and I had to tell them that no, I was just playing Pokémon Go. They were not impressed. I keep telling myself that I'll quit the game after I get to the next level, but that hasn't really worked out.

It seems as though I've been playing a lot of games recently, but what can I say? Sometimes I go through periods when I'm absolutely not interested in engaging with the real world.
rynling: (Terra Branford)
I Am Setsuna is growing on me.

I'm still having trouble dealing with the soundtrack. There's a discordance between the pieces that seem to be performed by an amateur musician and the pieces that sound more like a traditional MIDI file played by the computer. There are a lot of variations on the same theme, which is strikingly close to "Epona's Song" from Ocarina of Time. The overworld music is kind of catchy, I suppose.

In addition, I'm still annoyed by the monotony of the landscape. The graphics are very pretty, but every time I enter a new area I'm like I bet it's going to be another snowy forest, and lo and behold it is. Almost all of the enemies have the same color palette of white and gray, with occasional touches of brown or blue. This makes them less lovable than they should be, because their designs are interestingly stylized and remarkably cute.

Despite the awkwardness of the music and the tedium of the graphics, the story is pulling me in. What I'm picking up on is that the events of the game were proceeded by one or more failed pilgrimages, and that multiple people have been at pains to cover this up. What's going on with these pilgrimages, and why is there a conspiracy surrounding this? There are small touches of darkness scattered throughout the game, especially in the dialog of the older named characters and NPCs. For example, some rando old dude at a way station says something completely out of nowhere about how "spatial distortions" have been getting worse over the past ten years. Spatial distortions? I'm intrigued.

Although I'm tempted to spend time grinding, I Am Setsuna employs the Earthbound style of power creep management that limits the characters' levels by means of raising the experience point threshold way above what enemies in a completed area can accommodate, thus forcing the player to move forward. I guess I'll just keep going, then.
rynling: (Cecil Harvey)
It took 85 hours, but I completed Bravely Second. I made it through the postgame content, and I saw the face of the Adventurer (the woman who saves your game). It was so worth it.

In the closing scenes, four love stories are resolved, but I didn't feel satisfied with any of them. There was no tension, no slow burn, no dramatic revelation, and no physical chemistry. When multiple characters suddenly got up and said "Let's get married," I was like, "...okay?"

I think Bravely Second really missed a chance with Denys (the villain for most of the game) and Agnès (the vestal virgin he kidnaps). The revelation that Denys is Not Actually Evil - and this is not a spoiler; he's too much of a bishōnen to be evil - makes sense as far as anime tropes are concerned, but it also comes out of nowhere. In my mind, Denys clearly crossed over the Moral Event Horizon in several major ways, so Agnès asking everyone to forgive him when the Bigger Bad appears is bizarre. If Denys and Agnès had talked to each other (even once!) it would have added richness and complexity to the story, not only fleshing out both of their characters but also endowing the romance between Agnès and Tiz (one of the floopy-haired moppets in your party) with a much-needed element of conflict.

The true star of Bravely Second is Edea, the bratty princess from Bravely Default who goes from being a general at the beginning of the game to becoming an empress by its end. Edea makes all of the branching-path decisions (such as they are), which are slowly set up as a way to train her to think about moral conflicts. Although she initially approaches these decisions with a nonchalant attitude, she gradually manages to achieve a video-game version of wisdom and maturity. Because of this, tacking a random eleventh-hour love story onto her growth as a character felt especially insulting.

In the end, I guess, the point of this game isn't the story, it's figuring out how to exploit the battle system for fun and profit. Although it was possible to set up your party in Bravely Default so that they could infinitely spam powerful attacks while taking no damage, it's much easier to do this in Bravely Second. The game has a strong focus on grinding, and I suppose I could have gotten every character to the maximum level of every job class if I put in another two or three hours, but I already finished all the tv shows I watched while the autobattle was doing its thing, so I think I'm done.
rynling: (Terra Branford)
I'm about two hours (10%) into I Am Setsuna, which was purposefully designed to feel very much like Chrono Trigger. The battle system is snappy, and the writing is competent.

The scenery is all snow all the time, which has been dampening my enjoyment (so to speak). The snow is pretty but unrelenting, and there are no lighting or physics effects of the sort that made the sand in Journey so interesting and dynamic. The piano music that serves as the score is also pretty but unrelenting, and I ended up turning the in-game slider for the BGM almost all the way down. The voice acting is embarrassing, so I turned it off.

Setsuna is basically Yuna, a "sacrifice" who has been sent out from her village to appease "the monsters." She will give her life in "the Lost Lands," and that will for some reason keep everyone else in the world safe. Setsuna is accompanied by a Rikku character and an Auron character (the references are obvious), and the player-protagonist is not so much Crono as he is Squall. So mercenary, much angst.

It's fun to play the game while I'm playing it, but I never really feel compelled to pick it up. To be honest, the strongest feeling I've had toward I Am Setsuna is nostalgia for Final Fantasy X. I never thought I'd prefer Tidus to... anyone, really... but so far I Am Setsuna feels merely derivative and doesn't add anything new or interesting to the genre.
rynling: (Terra Branford)
It's taken me about fifty hours to get to Chapter Five, which marks the major plot twist of the game.


I was shocked, which is something that almost never happens to me during a video game. Anyone who's played Bravely Default can probably guess what the plot twist entails, but the form it takes is brilliant. Also, there's no story or dialog repetition after the plot twist, which boy howdy do I ever appreciate.

As much as I eventually ended up loving Bravely Default, Bravely Second is so much more fun to play. Grinding is significantly easier, for one, and it's nice to be able to fast-forward though battles. The in-game bestiary works like the bestiary in Final Fantasy XII, meaning that more information is added as more creatures are defeated. I recently wrote somewhere (on the Zelda meme, probably) that I prefer grinding for story to grinding for stat increases, and this is exactly the sort of thing I was referring to. Grinding in this game is so satisfying and rewarding!

What I especially love about Bravely Second is that the characters are obsessed with food and talk about it all the time. They cook for themselves, they share meals with NPCs, and at least a quarter of the monster notes in the bestiary concern cooking, eating, and regional food cultures. It's cool to see the characters interacting with each other on a friendlier and more intimate basis than "oh no there is a crisis we must do something," which is something I'd really like to see more of in RPGs.

Back in 2010 I had an idea for a FFVI fic involving someone in the party (probably Sabin) keeping a food diary while traveling. When I told a friend about my idea, she shot me down. I don't blame her, because the concept is ridiculous. Who would even read something like that? The answer is that I would read something like that – I would absolutely love to read a fantasy food travelogue! I think that, as with Peach/Bowser, if I want to read this then I'm going to have to write it myself.
rynling: (Celes Chere)
A friend of mine just started playing FFX, and he wrote to me to say that, after watching the opening sequence, he doesn't understand all the Tidus hate he's encountered. These are his exact words:

The reason Tidus acts the weird, silly, monkey-like happy-go-lucky way he does is because the alternative - the realistic option - is someone curled into a fetal position and staying that way for the whole game.
Here's the thing about Tidus at the beginning of the game, though. People get annoyed with him mainly because he's childish and passive; instead of taking control of his situation, he waits for someone else to save him. Aside from being a doofus and completely shutting down, he's actually got a third realistic option, which would be for him to wo/man up. Sure, he's seventeen, but so was Ashe when she had to pretend to commit suicide in order to become the head of an underground political resistance movement. Garnet was sixteen when she orchestrated her own kidnapping in order to find a means of overthrowing her corrupt mother. Celes was eighteen when she betrayed the Empire. And Yuna? She's seventeen, and she's already made the decision to sacrifice her life for the possibility of a peace that she knows won't last.  

On a more personal level, I was seventeen in the winter when FFX was released in the US, and I was going through an extremely tough period. Sure, there wasn't a giant magic whale destroying my city and sending me a thousand years into the future, but my world had been painfully shattered, and I was more or less on my own. Instead of waiting for someone to come in and fix my life, I got my shit together and did what needed to be done.

The point is not that I'm a special snowflake (although I am a very special snowflake), but rather that I know from personal experience that it's entirely possible for teenagers to deal with all sorts of terrible circumstances with dignity. Anger and poor decisions are to be expected, but the level of petulance that Tidus demonstrates is unnecessary.

Also, as I wrote in response to auronlu's recent post on Spiran politics, I think it hurts the game for the point-of-view character to be so self-centered. There's a lot of interesting geopolitical stuff going on in the background that eventually gets shifted into the immediate foreground, and the suspense and buildup would be much more effective if Tidus weren't so focused on himself. I also think a more comprehensive perspective on the broader picture wouldn't have detracted from the teenage love story but rather would have served to make it more poignant, as it would have encouraged the player to be much more aware of just how brightly the bond between Yuna and Tidus shines against a backdrop of chaotic darkness. Sin is scary, but other human beings are much, much scarier, which is one of the major themes of this game and its sequel. The best moments in the game are when Tidus removes his head from his ass and pays attention to what's going on around him, and I wish there had been more of those moments, preferably in the interest of developing the game's amazing cast of supporting characters.
rynling: (Cecil Harvey)
Last night I re-watched the opening scene of Inglourious Basterds. This scene makes it clear that Christoph Waltz's character, a Nazi colonel known as "the Jew Hunter," is brilliant and charming but very obviously evil. He's not even ambiguously evil; you just want him to die. I find the movie difficult to watch for various reasons, but a large part of its appeal lies in how Tarantino alternates between setting up Waltz as a major antagonist and showing the audience that Brad Pitt's crack team of Nazi killers is absolutely worthy of taking him on.

This past weekend I posted an entry stanning Golbez, and I've also been stanning the shit out of Ganondorf recently. I think the reason I'm able to do this is because neither of them is actually shown hurting anyone; and, more importantly, neither of them has actually hurt me, the player.

For example, in Ocarina of Time, the most emotionally destructive thing Ganondorf does is to give Talon's ranch to Ingo, who probably should have been running it anyway. He also occupies Castle Town, but all of the NPCs relocate to Kakariko, where they seem to live comfortable lives. The only characters subtracted from the game by Ganondorf takes are the castle soldiers, who primarily served as faceless and annoying obstacles to Link, and the Great Deku Tree, who was older than dirt anyway and is immediately replaced by his adorable successor. It's also worth noting that Ganondorf never tries to harm Link or Zelda physically until after they both start attacking him at the end of the game.

Golbez is a bit more complicated in that he is indirectly responsible for the death of Anna, the King of Baron, Edge's parents, and Tellah, although these deaths are brought about by the hands of other characters (and, in the last case, by Tellah himself). Golbez is also responsible for the destruction of Damcyan and Eblan and the military assaults on Fabul and the Dwarven Castle. In addition, he raises (or transports from the moon??) the Giant of Babil, a Lunarian war machine whose ostensible purpose is to kill all of the humans living on Earth, although the game is unclear on why this makes sense or how it would even work. Finally, Golbez mind-rapes Kain and treats Rosa like an object, and that's not cool, but neither of these actions presents the player with any long-term consequences or setbacks. There's therefore a bit of narroludological dissonance between how Golbez impacts the player and how the player is supposed to perceive him as the ultimate bad guy of the story. To give a comparison, none of Golbez's appearances in the game inspires the same sort of strong player reaction as Kefka putting the slave crown on Terra or poisoning Doma or kicking Ifrit and Shiva into a trash pit at the Magitek Research Facility.

What I'm trying to say is that, if evil has no emotional resonance and is simply used as a plot device to launch the heroes into a series of fun adventures, then it's difficult to understand this evil as truly "evil." Instead, what you see are your player-characters blithely stealing everything that isn't nailed down while killing every creature that crosses their path with very little justification.

I think the problem here is that it's tricky to show the player the sort of genuinely harrowing evil on display in the opening scene of Inglourious Basterds while still aiming to create a game for teenagers or for a general audience.

Maybe I'm just too old for these games; but, then again, so are most gamers, at least statistically speaking. If the current alternative to Final Fantasy is Kojima Hideo's ridiculous nonsensical bullshit, then maybe it's time for me to take a break from Japanese games for a while.
rynling: (Cecil Harvey)
I finally sat down and beat the game. No major accomplishments to report, just victory.

So I have some thoughts about Golbez. )

What I'm therefore interested in is a re-telling of what happens before and during FFIV from the perspective of Golbez, who obviously wouldn't assume that everything he does over the course of twenty years is evil. I'm also intrigued by the idea that Kain might even be on board with Golbez's ideology but only returns to fight with Cecil because of an overdeveloped sense of chivalric loyalty, which causes him to experience guilt over his obvious attachment to Golbez.

It's going to be a long night on AO3.
rynling: (Cecil Harvey)
Final boss beaten.
All jobs mastered.
Character levels maxed out.
Encyclopedia completed.

I didn't challenge all of the optional bosses in Chapter 8, because who cares.

Steven Poole, writing about Shadow of the Colossus in Edge Issue 193, said the following:

The aesthetic pleasures weren't enough, for me, to outweigh the powerful regret the game so astonishingly succeeded in engineering. If a game of violence is so effective in its message of anti-violence that you actually stop playing, does that mean it was a success or a failure?

Replace "violence" with "grinding" and you more or less have my feelings about Bravely Default.
rynling: (Cecil Harvey)
I'm still playing this game and still enjoying myself immensely.

I appreciate that the game is okay with being less than forty hours long. I hate it when games (LIKE FFXIII OMFG) have extraneous endgame content that amounts to nothing more than dozens of hours of grinding. Grinding can be fun in limited quantities, and FFIV DS certainly requires grinding (especially before the two tower dungeons), but more than an hour or two of grinding that doesn't directly lead to exploration or story development isn't good game design. Online games are an exception, but you (presumably) play them with friends and thus receive stimulation other than base repetition.

I also appreciate it that many of the more annoying aspects of gameplay in the original were updated in the remake. For example, it's nice that Rosa can now be equipped with a type of arrow instead of with a specific number of arrows. I know it seems more realistic to expend one arrow every time she attacks, but honestly, who in real life going to walk around with 99 arrows, I mean seriously.

Anyway, I'm really enjoying the boss fights as well. They're in the Chrono Trigger vein of boss battles, which are generally short but include interesting tricks and traps that need to be learned through experimentation. The bosses are dangerous even if you know how they're programmed, but no boss fight is going to last more than ten minutes. What I hate about post-FFXI Square Enix boss battles is that they last forever, not because your characters aren't prepared but rather because the boss has a gazillion hit points. Again, this sort of gameplay makes sense in online cooperative games but not in single-player console games. FFXII generally did okay with long battles in that the boss would change its pattern of attack or switch out with other boss enemies within a single battle, but FFXIII was ridiculous (especially towards the end, when even battles against regular enemies could take upwards of ten minutes).

Basically, FFIV DS is a perfect game...


...the rainbow pudding. The miserable, god-forsaken rainbow pudding. I was lucky enough to have it drop during my first battle against a group of slime enemies in the Antlion's Den in my current playthrough, but I remember logging almost seven hours trying to get it in my first playthrough back in the day. Shit like that drives me crazy.
rynling: (Cecil Harvey)
So, four things:

First, I'm big fan of ambient background music in video games, but I love the music in this game. The Dwarven Castle! The boss battle song! Cid's theme!

Second, I appreciate Rydia's character arc. She's not only a badass but also the most emotionally mature character in the game. It pleases me immensely that almost all of the side quests involve making her more powerful. It also makes me happy that these sidequests are about exploring interesting areas and seeking out new experiences instead of backtracking and grinding.

Third, it always used to bother me how vanilla Cecil is, since it's never in question that he is a good person or that Rosa will always love him. The older I get, though, the more I admire him for being able to maintain a pure heart despite all the shit he has to deal with.

Fourth, Golbez/Kain forever.

I still love this game. It's without a doubt the best remake I've ever played.
rynling: (Cecil Harvey)

I love it. Love it!

I was living in Japan when it was released in December 2007 (on my birthday!), and you better believe I was waiting in line at my local game store to buy a copy. I played the shit out of the game and then played the shit out of a new game plus in order to beat the two extra bosses. I think I must have read every single page of the strategy guide at least twice.

I never bothered with the English-language release for various reasons, but playing Bravely Default has made me nostalgic for this type of game, so I got a cheap copy on Amazon. I'm about ten hours in – I just started the Tower of Zot – and I'm having so much fun!

Unfortunately, I forgot about the augment system, so I failed to pick up the Item Lore augment after Edward's cut scene in Kaipo, which prevented me from giving three augments to Palom and Porom, which in turn prevents me from getting the Dualcast augment on my first playthrough. Unless Rosa and Rydia both have Dualcast (in other words, if you don't get the augment on both the first and the second playthrough), it's impossible to beat the extra bosses... So what I'm trying to say is that I probably won't do a new game plus playthrough this time, since I'm not interested in deleting everything and playing the past ten hours over again.

But, you know, it's okay. The older I get, the more I realize that 100% completion in any given JRPG is only feasible for middle school kids on summer vacation (or adult kids on permanent vacation).
rynling: (Cecil Harvey)
I rage quit this game last night.

I was about halfway through Chapter 8 (the last segment of the story). After fighting the Fire Temple boss for the fifth time and reviving the Fire Crystal for the fifth time, I noticed that the playtime clock had hit 90 hours. I know I'm close to the end, but this amount of backtracking and repetitiveness is uncalled for.

I spent the past three days playing through all of the parallel worlds while watching Hannibal and Louie, and my frustration with the game made me hate both shows. It made me hate the books I was reading, the people I was emailing, the fic drabble I was writing, and even my dog, who is six pounds of adorable fluff and should not be hated by anyone.

In other words, my frustration with the game seeped over into the rest of my life. In the game, you do the same shit over and over and never get anywhere. This sort of fruitless repetition is accompanied by a nagging sense of waste, like, why am I still devoting my valuable time to this nonsense. The feeling was so intense that it made me seriously doubt the validity of anything I do in my life.

I understand what's going on from a narrative perspective. I also understand what's going on from the perspective of gameplay-as-narrative: the frustration the player feels is deliberate on the part of the game designers. That doesn't make it any more pleasant.

If the game is a critique of gaming - the player is a mindless puppet manipulated into wasting time and effort to save a world that doesn't need saving - then you know what, I get it. I get it, I got it, and I put the fucking game cartridge back in its box.

I'll probably go back and finish Bravely Default during a long plane ride I have to take towards the end of next month. Or not. Either way.

Next up is Skyward Sword!


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Rynling R&D

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