Xenosaga Episode III Special 4: Beyond Xenosaga

Previously on Xenosaga: Xenosaga is over, folks! There are no more games left, I’ve said everything about the franchise I want to say, and I don’t think we’re going to be seeing Xenosaga HD in time for the Christmas season. It’s done, folks!

But just because a franchise ends, doesn’t mean it’s completely forgotten. Xenosaga has sent its tendrils far past its own release, so we’ll be spending this, the final update for this LP, looking at the games that Xenosaga, in some way, touched.

If you see a game’s title in bold text, fair warning, there are likely to be spoilers.

Now let’s start with the most obvious entry, the immediate sequel to Xenosaga…

Final Fantasy 13 (12/17/09 Japan, 03/09/10 USA) Playstation 3/Xbox 360

Wait… no. That’s… that’s not right…

FGC #243 Dragon’s Lair (NES)

Kind of a tubby dragonThis game is pure, focused malice.

I want to be clear about something here: I am not merely using hyperbole to refer to a “difficult” or “poorly constructed” game. No, what we have here is a NES game that, for reasons that shall shortly become clear, was designed by people that vehemently loathe anyone that happened to support the Nintendo Entertainment System. This game was designed exclusively to make the world a worse place, and it was released solely for the purpose of spite. Dragon’s Lair for the NES is hate.

You probably already know about Dragon’s Lair. DL was an arcade game by animation legend Don Bluth, and was, effectively, a playable cartoon. Considering it was released in 1983, a year when most videogames looked like Bobby Is Going Home, Dragon’s Lair was something of a phenomenon. Yes, it was a “controlled” type game, wherein the goal is basically to play Simon Says effectively enough to keep the game “playing itself”, but it was still fun to watch. And, again, this was the age of the Atari, a time when “videogame” could mean anything from Pong to controlling tanks to a game that tests your ability to press up every thirty seconds. Dragon’s Lair was an early example of graphics trumping gameplay, but it was at a time when “gameplay” could be severely lacking and have horrible graphics, so it gets a pass.

THE REAL MCCOYUnfortunately, Dragon’s Lair didn’t get a pass from technology. Dragon’s Lair ran on laserdisc tech, and, suffice it to say, it would be a long time before anything disc-based infiltrated the home videogame market. So Dragon’s Lair (arcade) begat Space Ace (arcade) the following the year, and then… nothing. Dragon’s Lair didn’t see a sequel until 1991. Just a reminder: Dragon’s Lair (1) was a contemporary of the Atari, and Dragon’s Lair 2 was released a year after Super Mario World. That’s practically an eternity in videogame time, and it was during that eternity that Nintendo conquered the gaming market. When Dragon’s Lair launched, it was the most amazing thing many people had ever seen. Dragon’s Lair 2 was practically a footnote compared to “when’s the next Zelda coming out”.

And before Dragon’s Lair 2, there was Dragon’s Lair for the NES.

Dragon’s Lair NES was released in 1990. Just so we’re all on the same page, the NES was good and established by 1990, and other games released that year include Mega Man 3, Adventures of Lolo 2, Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers, and Solar Jetman. While there are a few oddballs even in that list, they’re all unmistakably NES games, whether they star waddling blue balls or not. By 1990, the NES kids were all well past trying to figure out this whole crosspad thing, and onto jumping and shooting and maybe pushing blocks like a champ. This was not the Wild West of the Atari age, this was a time of the Nintendo Seal of Quality and only being moderately confused when Little Nemo started wearing a live bee like a suit. It was an age of wonders, but it was also an age where we all knew A meant jump.

In Dragon’s Lair NES, B is the jump button. A attacks. Select is pause, and Start triggers a torch “item”. This is an ominous control scheme.

Also ominous? You’re unlikely to make it past the first screen of Dragon’s Lair NES.

ARGH!To say something nice, Dirk the Daring, the star of Dragon’s Lair, has excellent animation. He probably has one of the most complicated walking animations on the NES, and he really does move like a “real” person. He even turns around! This was a time when some sprites weren’t even expected to look in a different direction (hi, Gradius!), and we’ve got a Dirk walking along in a perfectly smooth bit of animation. Good job, Dragon’s Lair!

Unfortunately, this animation doesn’t come cheap, and that price is Dirk moves about as quickly as dried tar. And, fun fact, that problem doesn’t impact any other creature. Or piece of masonry. Or, Bluth-forbid, sea dragon.

Let’s revisit that first screen. There’s a bat swooping forward, and, like the good bats of Castlevania, he will infinitely respawn. Luckily, he only takes off a bit of your energy. Unfortunately, you’re not so lucky with the crumbling bridge, which inevitably leads to a moat of sudden death. If you attempt to jump the crumbling blocks, good luck, because starting Dirk’s ultra-slow jump means he’ll be in the drink before his crouching animation is complete. And turning around is right out, as he’ll slide off the bridge that way, too. However, if you manage to make it past the crumbly bits, you’ll encounter a sea dragon. Touch the dragon, and you’re dead. Touch the fireballs the dragon spews, and you’re dead. Attempt to hurl a dagger (press A) at the dragon, and you’ll lose that fire fight, and be dead. Hop over the dragon, and you’ll find the front gate of the castle has closed, and touching it means instant death. So, what you must do is walk aaaall the way back across the decaying bridge, hide in the corner, and hurl an ungainly number of daggers at the dragon until it finally dies. Also, just for funsies, if you duck to avoid fireballs, the dragon will duck too, and he’s completely out of range during that time. Assuming you survive this gauntlet until the dragon is defeated, you can then attempt to pass the bridge and the bat again, and, finally, make it to the next screen.

DammitOh, and side note? There are no continues in this game, so every time you lose your daily allotment of five lives, you have to do that entire sequence all over again.

And you will lose those lives quickly once you’re in the castle. That bat (which, don’t worry, will appear again and again) is apparently one of the few threats in the castle that will only take off a chunk of life as opposed to, ya know, instant death. Pits? Instant death. Snakes? Instant death. Moving walls? Instant death. Floating skulls? Sometimes lost health, sometimes instant death, with no overt distinction on why. Bosses? You better believe those lead to instant death. And even beyond that, you’ve got Dirk’s anemic jump, and moving platforms that aren’t consistent at all. Some platforms have their own “gravity”, and will ferry Dirk over pits. Other moving platforms move on their own terms, and Dirk has to walk across them to avoid pits below. And you won’t know which platform is which until you’re inevitably a pile of bones at the bottom of the nearest chasm. Oh, I’m sorry, was that your last life? Back to the moat, loser!

And that’s not all, folks! There are a number of subtle bits of malice in this adventure. The main “hub” of the game is an elevator (that will likely get you killed), and if you accidently enter an area you already completed (which, incidentally, aren’t marked at all), you have to repeat the level all over again. You may collect gold to increase your (useless) score, but if you stay still for longer than about a second (which is kind of inevitable with all these instant death traps whirling around), the Lizard King will appear and steal your gold and some health, just for funsies. And, at the (inevitable) end of your game, there’s a high score table that I swear is completely impossible to top. Seriously, you’d have to replay all the levels in this game about ten times to clear the highest score.

DAMMIT!Put all of this together, and it seems pretty clear that the game is actively taunting the player. You will never beat the first screen. You will never see the ending. You will never get the high score. Why are you even playing this game, you foolish Nintendo kid?

And I can’t help but imagine that that is deliberate.

The Nintendo Entertainment System, with its cutesy 8-bit graphics and simple play styles, conquered the home console market for what seemed like forever. There was no place for the big budget, fully animated likes of Dragon’s Lair on the NES, and, honestly, nobody really cared. Contra was fun. Castlevania was fun. Mega Man was fun. Dirk the Daring was a legend in his time, but he was a flash in the pan compared to the turtle-stomper in overalls. The laserdisc fell by the wayside, and the cartridge conquered the land. It must have been… discouraging to be the curator of yesterday’s news, and then be expected to port that masterpiece to the system that vanquished your hero. What was left to do but punish the children that dug Dirk’s grave?

Dragon’s Lair NES is malevolence in cartridge form. It is revenge given plastic. And it’s also kind of a crappy game, so, ya know, try to avoid it.

FGC #243 Dragon’s Lair (NES)

  • System: NES. It doesn’t even have the excuse of being on other systems to explain the wonky controls.
  • Number of players: Technically, it is two player alternating. But, like a two man con, if two people play this game, the odds of someone realizing “hey, this is terrible” immediately shoots up to nearly 100%.
  • Port-o-Call: Turns out the Japanese/European version of the game increased Dirk’s movement speeds to much more survivable levels. Unfortunately, they also added falling boulders to the elevator area, so I’m sticking to my “this game is hate” assessment.
  • So, did you beat it: Yes, with a healthy amount of modern cheating. For the record, your only “reward” is a single “congratulations” screen.

    WINNER!

    Daphne barely appears. Boo.

  • Favorite boss: Death, aka the Grim Reaper, is straight up the boss of a stage. I’m wondering if he just likes hanging around spooky castles. Not like he has anything better to do.
  • Did you know? You can actually reclaim your treasures from the Lizard King in a secret area at the bottom of the elevator. Considering the treasure does nothing but boost your score, and the odds of dying in practically any level in this game are infinitely high, I’m going to go ahead and say it’s not worth it.
  • Would I play again: Absolutely not. Even with save states, this game is nearly impossible, and I only completed it to see if there was any level of satisfaction in doing so. Spoilers: nope.

What’s next? Random ROB… isn’t being so random next week. In honor of the release of the Switch, I’ll be covering three games that are at least tangentially related to the launch of Nintendo’s latest system. So first up is The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. Zelda time is here again! Please look forward to it!

Grandpa, that's just Maggie

FGC #242 DJ Hero

Rock out!I’m racist against DJs.

Like most racists, I don’t mean every DJ out there, or even a number of people that could be called DJs. Some of my best friends are DJs! The first “adult” that I thought was a cool person (and not just another authority figure) was a DJ (he had a jukebox in his house!), but he was a radio DJ, a very distinct subset of DJ. And, of course, I bear no ill-will toward people that merely “DJ” their own “playlists”, as that is an action as natural as meticulously alphabetizing all of your videogames. Most people are DJs, and that’s okay. And, heck, back in my high school/college days, even I, Goggle Bob, was a DJ, albeit, again, a “radio DJ” and not some other malevolent type. I could spin all the hits with the best of ‘em, and I knew I was doing something right, because every popular kid in the school thought I was playing the worst music available. You’ll listen to this entire Ben Folds Five album and you’ll like it, you damn audience!

No, what I’m talking about is a very specific form of DJ. I’m talking about the performing DJ.

Again, like many racists, I claim I have a reason for this unbridled loathing. See, I have been a musical performer since… yeesh… does kid’s choir count? I’m not really “in the scene” now, but I am kind of an attention hog, so I’ve always found the stage to be inviting. So whether it be singing, trumpeting, or tickling the ivories, I’m big into performing in a musical way. I’m sure we have a picture of me being hardcore somewhere around here… Ah, here we go…

ROCK OUT

See! Totally rocking! Or… something! Look, I might not be that great at not stoppin’ the rockin’, but I’m pretty sure I was involved in a band that may have won an award from MTV2 at some point, so let’s claim that actually means something. But it’s not about the trophies, money, or the fans; it’s about the music, man. That’s what’s really important! Going out there with your original music that you’ve practiced long and hard, and seeing the smiles on the faces of the twelve people that happened to show up at this podunk bar on a Friday night instead of having a real life with friends and people that actually care about them. Wait, may have gotten a little sidetracked there. Again, to be clear, it’s about the music.

DJs? Modern, performing DJs? They just hit the F key and call it a day.

How I despise them.

I’m racist, so I’m going to draw the stereotype. First of all, it’s always a dude. I’m sure there are women DJs out there, but, like dwarves and drummers, I’ve never seen one. Second, they have a tendency toward trench coats and unkempt, dark hair. That’s my style! I saw it first! Goggles? Goggles!?! Mine, loser! But once you get past their disheveled appearance, then you get into the real reason I abhor them so, so much. The DJ’s instrument is a laptop. His music is other people’s music. His “skill” is measured by how effectively he can smack that F key to set off an air horn to the beat. Cross fade is considered more valuable than breathing. The beat is all. The beat is one. And if those Guitar Center speakers aren’t pumping out the bass, then get off the stage.

And audiences love it. Stupid, tasteless people love a good DJ. And I disdain them all the more. Wake up, sheeple!

DJ Hero at least makes being a DJ appear to be hard. Right off the bat, we’ve got this monstrosity:

ROB is not a DJ

The appeal of the Guitar Hero controller was that, hollow piece of plastic or not, it looked like a damn musical instrument (specifically, a guitar or something). Rock Band Drums didn’t exactly bring the bass, but they still appeared to be the typical “drum set of the future” that Casio has been peddling since the 80’s. And the Rock Band Keyboard is pretty much just a truncated keyboard, and any pianist would tell you mo’ keys equal mo’ problems, so hooray for lil’ keyboards.

The DJ Hero Turntable, meanwhile, is obviously a turntable, but… what else is going on here? Let’s check the manual…

What am I even looking at?

Crossfade slider? Blanking plate? Euphoria button!? What the hell is even happening?

Okay, okay, let’s not get crazy. I’m sure even the Wiimote looks scary and button-heavy to a time-displaced Neanderthal. The DJ Hero Turntable might not be as inviting as the Guitar Hero Guitar, but how does the game actually play? Is it just more clicky, plastic buttons, or is it actually a fun and innovative experience?

And the answer is, surprisingly, DJ Hero makes being a DJ appear to be actually… natural.

Rock out!DJ Hero is very much a descendant of Guitar Hero, so, yes, it is a bit heavy on the “just press the red button to the beat”. As someone who plays guitar (just not very well), I’ve always seen Guitar Hero as a really weird approximation of actual guitar playing, and I’m guessing DJ Hero is much the same way for record scratching. But the whole experience is much more… active than I ever expected. There is some actual skill involved in crossfading, and tapping along to the beat feels… right when orchestrating these dope mash-ups.

Yes, I suppose that’s the other thing that surprised me: there is some actual craft in the medleys available to play in DJ Hero. Granted, anytime someone invokes Queen, they’ve automatically got my attention, but I was downright surprised how many excellent tunes from yesterday and today (today being ten years ago) blend together perfectly. I was expecting a dubstep, glow stick rave of nonsense, but this… I could actually listen to the DJ Hero soundtrack, and that only enhances my desire to play more. Come to think of it, yes, wow, I could actually play DJ Hero quite a bit and enjoy being a DJ on my couch. By Grandmaster Flash, the disease is inside me!

So it might be responsible for one of the weirder peripherals I own, and it might be another “silly” Guitar Hero-style game, but DJ Hero is actually a worthwhile experience. It’s fun to play, has a lot of good music, and actually makes performance DJing appear viable. It’s a rarity that I find a videogame that turns around my perspective on an entire vocation, so good job, DJ Hero, you’re the hero this racist-against-DJs Goggle Bob needs.

Though I still want my trench coat back.

FGC #242 DJ Hero

  • System: I got mine for the Wii, but Xbox 360, Playstation 3, and Playstation 2 versions are available.
  • Es Bueno!Number of players: If you can get two DJ Hero turntables, you can get two DJ Heroes a-scratchin’. Everybody wants to be a DJ Hero!
  • Favorite Track: I can’t explain why I like the Poison/Word Up combo, but I do, and I will broker no debate on it being the best track available.
  • Sinister: The natural “left handed” configuration for this device… doesn’t work out so hot. I am once again being discriminated against.
  • Unlockable: Apparently there are about twelve billion unlockable DJs, outfits, turntables, samples, and skins available. Ah, the heady days before DLC became the norm for every stupid thing that popped into a developer’s head.
  • Did you know? There was apparently some legal trouble with this game, as the publishers of Scratch: The Ultimate DJ claimed Activision stole their bit (and code). The case seems to have tumbled around between “dismissed” and “overturned” a couple of times, and my new DJ skills have severely hampered my already meager attention span, so let’s go ahead and claim that this was the reason we never saw a DJ Hero 2. Either that or the fact that I bought my copy of DJ Hero for five bucks at Big Lots was a factor.
  • Rock out!Would I play again: I’m surprised to be saying this, but, yes, probably. It’ll take a little effort for me to whip out that turntable again, but I did enjoy the experience, and might return to it in the near future. I… would be okay with being a DJ Hero.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Dragon’s Lair for the NES! Ah, yes, the famous animated game that… wait… for the NES? There was an 8-bit version of Dragon’s Lair? That… can’t be good. Please… look forward to it?

FGC #241 Shadow Dancer: The Secret of Shinobi

Here comes a ninja!Shadow Dancer: The Secret of Shinobi is a 1990 Sega Genesis game primarily based on Shadow Dancer, a 1989 arcade game. Given the era, SD:TSoS is very light on dialogue and text, and the most info we get on the plot is during the opening crawl: in the far-flung future of 1997, Union Lizard has conquered New York City, and only one ninja is capable of saving the, like, twenty survivors and vanquishing this apparently reptilian menace. Spoilers, eventually Shinobi wins, and it turns out Union Lizard was a giant robot shogun or something. That’s not what’s important here, though. What’s important is one simple question…

What the hell was “The Secret of Shinobi”?!

It’s not the dog

Shinobi’s dog contains secrets. This fluffy, white monster animal is capable of subduing fully grown men and ninja alike (ninja are their own genus), and follows Shinobi through everything. This is relevant, as the first area is literally on fire, and dogs generally aren’t into that. And the third level includes an open-air elevator. Have you ever accompanied a dog on an open-air elevator? If you haven’t, I just want to state that there’s submissively urinating, and then there’s submissively urinating. It is not a pleasant situation for anyone, but Shinobi Dog (real name: Joe Jr.) eats terrifying situations for kibble. Good dog.

WoofHowever, the most fascinating thing about Shinobi Dog is that, if he accidently attacks a guarding enemy, he will shrink down to puppy size. This is simultaneously frightening (Does this dog contain the secret to eternal youth?) and adorable (Aw! Puppy!), but Shinobi Dog takes it in stride. He just sticks closely to his master, and, about ten seconds later, he’s fully grown and ready to maul once again. Look, I realize this is a medium where plumbers routinely change size thanks to brick-based mushrooms, but the threat of Union Lizard is very real, so why is Shinobi Dog randomly bopping around different ages? And why doesn’t Shinobi himself shrink down to child-size when hit? Because a kid ninja and his delightful puppy dog fighting lizards? I’d be all about that.

However, despite all of these mysteries, I’m forced to conclude that Shinobi Dog is not The Secret of Shinobi. Dogs do not contain secrets, only belly rubs. They are simple creatures.

It’s not the magic

Shinobi has very few offensive options. He’s got a sword, shurikens, the previously mentioned dog, and… that’s about it. Ninja stars may be some of the most potent weapons of the 8/16-bit era, but when you’re going up against an entire maybe-lizard army, it’s a good idea to pack at least a few blue lasers. I mean, the first enemy in this game has a gun. Do ninja have issues with firearms? Because, if not, head’s up, Shinobi, you are severely underequipped for taking down a crime syndicate that already conquered a population that subsists on street (hot) dogs.

HAWTBut Shinobi does have one extra weapon: ninja magic. Once per stage (or life, if you’re into credits/reincarnation), Shinobi can use ninja magic to wreck up the place. Too many ninja got you down? Summon a big, honkin’ tornado to clear the area. Sentient wall attempting to crush your life force? Rain meteors down upon your hapless foes! And if you’re fighting through the crumbling, flaming ruins of New York anyway, why not summon your own firestorm to suppress the malcontents. It’s not like you’re doing any more damage to the place.

So is The Mystery of Shinobi why the hell didn’t Shinobi stop these lizards before they even got out of their hideout?! Dude can summon meteors! Conquering New York is tough, but dodging a tornado is harder. Does ninja magic have a limited pixel radius? Because if it doesn’t, Shinobi, man, how did you let things get this out of hand?

Unless Shinobi is the reason NYC is ablaze in the first place. Hm. Maybe we’re not supposed to ask this question.

It’s not the bosses

Aside from some sickly green morlocks, it seems that the general Union Lizard army is staffed with your typical mercenaries. You’ve got “random guys with guns”, some sort of boomerang blade man, and, of course, ninja. No obvious lizard men, which, considering the name, is a little weird, but, hey, not like Hydra is stocked exclusively with octopus people. They appear to at least be a union, so that should count for something.

Brings a tear to my eyeBut the “bosses” of this organization… are a little special. There’s one warrior woman that hangs out on top of the Statue of Liberty, and she’s about the only remotely human one in the lot. The first boss is a demon samurai-beetle monster, and he is not voiced by George Clooney, so he’s probably not going to turn out to be anyone’s kindly relative. Next up is a golem that appears to have control over an entire side of a New York building, which could mean an awful lot of bricks to the face. And there’s a demon wheel of fire headlining the cave stage. Who hires a wheel of fire as a boss? How did he even roll through the door?! Though this… character does seem to be the definitive answer to that “why is New York on fire” question…

And the head honcho of the whole organization, Union Lizard…. Never gets out of his chair. He rains fire on his opponents (sensing a theme here), and he transforms two ninja statues into many ninja minions, but he never, ya know, stands up. That’s… a choice. I realize that he’s practically invincible, and his only vulnerable point is hidden by his helmet, but why so lazy? Did you conquer New York because you were really offended by the myriad of walking tours? Is your armor too heavy? Aw, that’s it, isn’t it? You got super invincible armor, and it turns you into a colossal, vaguely-imposing paper weight. Well no wonder your plans failed, you can’t rely on minions for everything. That’s one mystery solved.

But The Secret of Shinobi appears to be one secret we’ll never solve. Shinobi is taking that secret to his grave. You’re welcome to ask him, but I’ll remind you he possess a shape-shifting dog and weaponized tornadoes… so approach at your own risk.

FGC #241 Shadow Dancer: The Secret of Shinobi

  • System: Sega Genesis. Also available on practically every modern system through Virtual Consoles or Sega Genesis Collections. It’s pretty much a port of the arcade game, so you could almost count the arcade version as well. This ninja has pretty far reach.
  • Get 'emNumber of players: Wouldn’t it be cool if a second player could control Joe Jr. ala Tails from Sonic 2? Maybe next time. One player.
  • Further mysteries: Apparently the American version of this game identifies “Shinobi” as Joe Higashi, while the Japanese version claims he is Joe’s son (Also Joe). For anyone concerned about the rich mythology of the Shinobi franchise, there’s something to argue about.
  • Redundant: The bonus stage opens with the phrase “Kill All Ninjas”. I was already doing that!
  • Favorite Ninja Power: I’m kind of disappointed that there seems to be a different ninja power every stage (or at least a rotation of three), but they all do the exact same thing (clear the screen of all enemies). You’d think a tornado would do a different kind of damage than a firestorm. That said, for killing dinosaurs or ninja, you can’t beat meteors.
  • Did you know? There’s a “hard mode” that limits Shinobi to only his sword, and no shurikens. However, the game isn’t balanced for that at all, so ninja stars are returned to Shinobi for all boss battles. Thus, I want to say it’s impossible to do a “real” only-sword run, but I’m sure some random Youtuber has pulled it off…
  • Would I play again: I’ve never been a big fan of the Shinobi series, mainly because I like to die in two, maybe three hits. Not one. As such, it’s unlikely I’ll join this ninja on his surprisingly fiery quest again anytime soon.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… DJ Hero! Wanna be a DJ Hero? If so, please look forward to it.

Because of the fire

WW #7 Akiba’s Trip: Undead and Undressed

Here comes funI fear for the children.

So here was my plan: get some friends together, get a live stream of Akiba’s Trip: Undead and Undressed going, and close out the week publicly mocking another lame example of “anime tiddy games”. It was supposed to be a thing of beauty… But it was not to be.

Akiba’s Trip is powerfully boring. Despite teasing animated titillation in all promotional materials, Akiba’s Trip… goes nowhere. I played this nonsense for an hour and a half, and was thwarted by an attempt to buy a book for a random NPC. I think Digital Goggle Bob stripped like six people. For reference, an hour and a half into Senran Kagura, I’m pretty sure I had seen the entire cast naked. In Custer’s Revenge, everybody starts naked. If Akiba’s Trip is the future of “thirsty” anime games, there is no future in the genre at all.

But, then again, maybe that’s not a bad thing.

If you’d like to judge for yourself, feel free to watch a recording of the stream below. Please enjoy the commentary of BEAT, FanboyMaster, Morningstar, Kaptain Kibosh, Wicket, and myself. And, as always, I want to excessively thank everyone that participated, commentators and viewers.

Time Annotated Notes!

WW #6 Record of Agarest War(‘s box)

I’ve mentioned before that I will buy pretty much anything if it’s marked down to ten bucks. I’ve privately referred to it as the “quarter compulsion”, as, when I was child and had a quarter, I would immediately spend that quarter on whatever useless crap the supermarket foyer area was selling. And I’ve got a collection of bouncy balls to prove it! As a responsible adult (lie), I treat a Hamilton roughly in the same manner, and that couples poorly with my tendency to hang out in videogame stores. This is just a longwinded way of excusing myself for owning this…

It's a box!

That’s Record of Agarest War. It’s a TRPG that I played for maybe ten minutes before outright quitting forever. I’d love to write a full review or something, but… nah. TRPGs take way too long to do anything, and there doesn’t seem to be anything compelling about dialogue box after dialogue box relaying the War of the Who Cares.

However, despite purchasing this videogame ostensibly to not play it, I do not regret the ten bucks I blew on this purchase. Why? Because this is the box that caught my eye…

WW #5 Ladies’ Night

This is Wankery Week, and, while masturbation in general has something of a male-connotation, let’s not forget that women have needs, too. Sexy needs. I want to be clear that I’m not talking about shoes or showers or other things that the fairer sex seems to believe are essential. Ladies, I’ve got a good musk going here, I don’t need some random water shooter to relieve me of this funk.

Errr, anyway, in the interest of fair and balanced wankery reporting, I decided to speak to a few real life, no-exploding-clothes women. In particular, I decided to speak to a handful of people that had been playing videogames since childhood, and, of course, puberty. It’s one thing to talk to someone that has gotten into gaming as an adult, but it’s quite another to dig someone out that may have been attracted to 8-bit graphics when they were contemporary. And besides, it’s only fair as, as previously mentioned, I may have had a crush or two on Playstation heroines.

So, while I’m not going to get into names and specific fetishes (ATTENTION PEOPLE THAT ACTUALLY KNOW ME: Ruth has a thing for centaurs. Thank you), a number of women responded with fairly expected answers. Nobody seemed to go for the obviously half naked men (sorry, Mayor Haggar), and, sorry, albino Grecian war gods don’t do anything for the local ladies. What seemed to stick to the memories of these women was predominantly a number of JRPG heroes. King Edgar Figaro might not be the ladies’ man he claims, as Final Fantasy contemporary fugging Squall was named as a crush. Similarly, I’m fascinated that someone named a character from Final Fantasy Tactics (she actually asked me to not even name the character, even if she is anonymous in the article, because, thinking about it as an adult, she was that embarrassed by it), because those guys are barely more than poorly translated chess pieces. And Wild Arms’ Rudy was named, which actually reminded me of my own crush, and I can basically see where this is all coming from.

GET IT!?I mentioned at the start of the week that I had a crush on Princess Cecilia of Wild Arms. See, I was fourteen, and I want to say that I didn’t acknowledge that women were actual people until around when I was sixteen. Before I had my first “real” girlfriend, I pretty much interpreted women as unknowable, ascended creatures that had this whole sex thing figured out and were the eternal gatekeepers of me ever getting to see real, live nudity. In short, I hadn’t yet discovered that everybody poops. And, really, video games didn’t do much to divorce me of this notion, as “developed” video game women were magic warriors (Terra/Celes, FF6), manic pixie dream girls (Marle, Chrono Trigger), or cats (Kat, Breath of Fire 2). Cecilia, literally from her introduction, is a magical princess, yes, but she also falls asleep in class and is known as the gluttonous “burger queen” by her classmates. In other words, in a weird way, she’s “one of the guys”, and… well, I’m just saying if we ever hung out, I’m pretty sure she’d be in to me.

And it’s fascinating to think about that line of thinking from the other side of the sexual seesaw. Videogame women were generally warrior queens or male accessories, but the men in these stories were supposed to be player-inserts. Revisiting Rudy Roughknight of Wild Arms, we’re talking about a guy that literally has maybe three lines of dialogue. He’s almost an entirely mute protagonist in his starring adventure, and, spoilers, he’s not even a damn human. But that doesn’t matter. What matters is that he’s well developed enough to have a general personality and life, but you’re allowed to fill in the blanks on the finer points. For boys, this means that you too can imagine yourself as a heroic adventurer, and for girls, you too can imagine Rudy as your ideal boyfriend. What? You want to be an adventurer, too, girl? No, we already have a woman filling that blank. Please move along.

SexyI’m going to give the designers of any number of JRPGs the benefit of the doubt on this one, because it (theoretically) wasn’t misogyny that made Rudy the ideal boy, it was simply a need to appeal to a boy-based market. JRPGs often follow the same tropes as shonen manga because they’re both trying to garner that same audience, and half the tropes there go back thousands of years as “boy stories”. In modern times, we may have gotten past “Princess Peach needs rescuing” but it’s still hard to ignore the glut of fictional women that appear to exist exclusively to entertain the male protagonist. But since those male protagonists are supposed to be audience inserts, it’s easy for the audience to ascribe any traits they’d like to Male Hero #3,214. Rudy would totally hang out with you and talk about One Direction all night long. He’s a huge fan!

That is something I, a heterosexual male, understand. What I don’t understand is how this kid popped up in a number of responses…