Tag Archives: final fantasy

FGC #322 Final Fantasy

Rank up?I sometimes wonder if my neighbors think I’m a wizard.

As with all wizardry, it’s the little things that will give you away. I live in a happy little town, and, like many communities, we have a consistent garbage pickup day. Every Wednesday morning, some men that must have to buy new clothes weekly show up on the back of a large truck, and take all my trash away to parts unknown (I used to know the location of our local dump, but it was converted into an expensive golf course a couple years back…. Seriously). These pickups occur like clockwork, except when there’s a holiday. And it doesn’t even have to be a real holiday! Whether it’s Christmas or National Pug Day, if there’s a holiday at the start of the week, trash pickup is delayed a day. Trash then leaves on Thursday morning, not Wednesday. But what do my neighbors do? They put out their trash for Wednesday, same as ever, and I presume they are confused the entire day by that unusual reeking smell on their sidewalk. Why hast thou trash guy forsaken me!?

But I don’t do that. I never do that. I always know when to put out my trash, absurd holidays or no. I know the secrets of this schedule, even if my neighbors have no idea how what magics I employ to properly track the pickups. But, I am no sorcerer, dear neighbor, I am a mere mortal. How do I always know what to do? Simple, I have a written schedule, printed from the internet, and thus I know, with 100% accuracy, when my trash will be removed. It’s that simple, neighborhood!

But still, it feels good to get the day right. It feels right to gaze upon my downtrodden neighbors, hold my head high, and say, “No, foolish citizen, today is not the day your trash leaves. It is tomorrow, and I know this, for I am one who knows.” It’s a stupid, misplaced kind of pride, WINNER!because I know that I only “know” because of some random slip of paper I printed out around the new year, but… it still feels good. It feels good to look at this random world, and feel like you know.

And that’s how I play Final Fantasy games. That’s how I’ve always played Final Fantasy games.

I was an easily bored child. I suppose that is to say, I was a child. This Child Goggle Bob had to be entertained at all times, and my parents were fans of edumacasion, so, before I even realized what was happening, I had become a voracious reader. My parents were perfectly willing to purchase reading material or swing by the library often, so I read a lot of children’s fiction, a few graphic novels, Dave Barry, and, of course, any speck of the written word regarding my favorite medium, videogames. By third grade, I had a Nintendo Power subscription that would be renewed through high school, but even before that, I wound up with a number of “random” issues from convenience stores here and there. And one of those random issues happened to be this…

Straight from the Pros!

I have no idea where this (and, yes, “this” is this case is that exact Final Fantasy guide you see pictured there) came from. It was before I had a Nintendo Power subscription (let’s see here… the internet tells me this was Volume 17 in 1990, and I didn’t have a subscription until about Volume 24, 1991), and I had no particular love for Final Fantasy before reading the guide… Come to think of it, it’s entirely possible that issue was simply left at my grandparent’s guest house by a careless tourist. But whatever the source, I loved that lil’ strategy guide. I read it, cover to cover, roughly twelve billion times. It was my security blanket. I could immediately recount to any interested adult (none) how Kraken is weak to lightning, Black Belt becomes Master, and Astos is the secret Dark Elf that knows RUB. I knew that the most powerful magic spells were hidden off to the side of the final town, and I cowered in fear at the fact that revisited Lich knew one of those ultra-powerful spells. How could anyone ever defeat such a force?

Oh, which I suppose brings me to the other point of mentioning that beloved strategy guide: I had never played Final Fantasy. I did not own Final Fantasy when I first started reading that vaunted magazine, and, by some cosmic accident, none of the local video rental dens had a copy for renting. With the exception of a few whited-out rooms in the Temple of Fiends, I had memorized the entirety of the game before ever playing it. In fact, without a rental, I’m not certain I had ever even seen the game in motion. Most of my friends were playing Chip ‘n Dale at the time, obviously an “RPG” was off the table. So while I had to sit around and wait for the nearest Christmas, I planned my path of attack, all the while knowing that, when it was time to face Chaos, I would know what to do.

And the joke of it? I didn’t.

Lousy witchI don’t think I really understood Final Fantasy games (and JRPGS in general) until Final Fantasy Mystic Quest. I was apparently a natural speed runner, and anything that made me finish the game faster meant I was playing the game “right”. I ran from a number of monsters. I’m pretty sure I only actually fought two battles in the Marsh Cave. I grinded the (mythical) Hall of Giants when I absolutely needed money for that exit spell. I didn’t notice I was severely underleveled. I didn’t notice that my party was… less than optimized. I just knew that I was getting to that rad airship faster, and then it was off to a class change with Bahamut. I was playing the game completely wrong, but I felt good, I felt right entirely because I read up on exactly what to do in Final Fantasy, and no multi-armed snake lady was gonna scare me!

And… that’s how I like to play Final Fantasy games. Heck, that’s how I like to live my life.

Presumably thanks to our crippling national addiction to social media (what’s next, electing a president based on twitter followers?) we currently live in an environment where spoilers are treated with the same severity as biological weapons. Everyone wants to point to Game of Thrones for making this some kind of national crisis, but going back a scant few years, you can trace that insanity back to Harry Potter, The Sixth Sense, or even any given Hitchcock film. Spoilers are something most people care about to an absurd degree, and being “spoiled” is something some people avoid through seemingly extravagant means. Don’t talk to me right now, I’m on a plane over the alps with my phone off because I don’t want to know what happened with that one zombie dragon.

That is about the opposite of how I feel. Personally? I like learning things on my own time. I understand the appeal of being surprised by the latest zig or zag, but, more often than not, I like to learn new things and digest when I choose. A shared cultural event is nice and all, but I’d much rather learn how Special Hero dies and inevitably returns when I’m reading a wiki at 3 AM and more in the mood for learning about that particular universe. Don’t get me wrong, I want to see the show or read the book or whatever, too, DIE!but I’ve read far too many episode guides beforehand to really claim that the only way to enjoy a piece of media is through being immune to spoilers. Sure, I might know that Anti-Hero Protagonist dies ahead of time, but that can impact the viewing in its own way. I know how World War 2 ends, too, doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy a decent war movie.

And this is how I play Final Fantasy games. I understand that half the appeal of any given Final Fantasy release is “discovering” how the latest leveling system works, but… who has the time? Heck, who can play a Final Fantasy game, some of which involve literally 100 hours of commitment, and be okay with “maybe I’m missing something”? Not this neurotic nerd, I’ll tell you what. I had Nintendo Power for Final Fantasy “2” and “3”, purchased a strategy guide with all of the Playstation Final Fantasy games, and I kept it all going with Gamefaqs during the more lean financial years. Heck, I’d have probably bought a strategy guide for every Final Fantasy at release if it wasn’t for the Final Fantasy 9 guide being so abhorrently terrible. And I’ve never regretted it. Did I find out about Aeris’s death while reading through a strategy guide in a random restaurant? Yes. Did I discover the final boss of Final Fantasy 10 thanks to a FAQ? Of course. And did I know Kefka’s every move before I even booted up that precious little SNES cartridge? Certainly. But did it ever impact my love of these games? Did it make it so I can no longer stomach the mere thought of knowing Lightning’s final fate? Of course not. Chrono Trigger (a Final Fantasy in spirit) is one of my favorite games of all time, and I always knew how that one would end.

ToastyAnd I feel like I got more enjoyment out of the mere act of knowing than could ever be counterbalanced by a spoiler or two. I played Final Fantasy 5 with full knowledge of which jobs I wanted, and, rather than bumbling around as if trying to compose a meal while at the supermarket, I had a list, and I knew where I was going to get X-Fight. I never missed a summon materia in Final Fantasy 7, and I never missed a guardian force in Final Fantasy 8. I look back on my playthrough of Lightning Returns, and I’m content, because I know I unlocked every sidequest and accumulated every outfit. I know these things, and that makes me happy. I am happier knowing.

And it all started with the first Final Fantasy. I might not have been playing the game correctly, but it felt like I was doing something right, and that’s what’s important. I had 99 problems, but Lich ain’t one. I absorbed that Final Fantasy guide from cover to cover (complete with the random fanfic chapter introductions!), and it made the game better. I spoiled myself, and I’d do it again, because I’ve been doing it for years.

You might not have to be a wizard to hold arcane knowledge, but it sure does feel good.

FGC #322 Final Fantasy

  • System: Nintendo Entertainment System. I reserve the right to “review” any other releases, such as the Playstation Origins, the GBA Advanced, or the PSP whatever the hell was happening there. That was the worst “bonus” dungeon I have ever seen.
  • Number of players: One. Oh, which reminds me…
  • ELVES!What’s in a name: Since I knew all the stats and whatnot going in, I was careful to name my Final Fantasy characters according to their specialties. Fighter was Bob, because I’m the leader, duh. Black Belt was Jon, for one of my friends that was a fan of karate, and White Mage was Mike, one of my more helpful friends. My best friend, Jim, was granted Black Mage, because I knew he would learn the most powerful offensive spell in the game. However, the real life Jimmy was upset, because he wanted to be the “cool” Black Belt. I… I didn’t have the heart to tell him that a ninja was available. Anyway, I did correct those problems for this playthrough.
  • Favorite Party: Oh, and I’m also incapable of choosing any party other than Fighter/Black Belt/White Mage/Black Mage. I mean, I know there are other options available, but that would be like forsaking a family member.
  • Favorite Monster: The Minotaur Zombie aka ZOMBULL aka Necrotaur is my favorite creature, because it scares the hell out of me. Imagine slaying a minotaur, and then, what, it just gets up again? It’s an undead minotaur? What do you do then? You run, dammit. You fun fast.
  • Credit where credit is due: Nasir Gebelli programmed the original Final Fantasy. Yes, the game barely works, but no one noticed that thirty years ago, and this is a shining example of how code doesn’t have to be elegant, it just has to (mostly) work. Nasir is my hero. He also programmed Secret of Mana, so, ya know, double hero.
  • Did you know? NES Final Fantasy doesn’t have a proper title screen. On boot, you’ve got the legend of the crystals, and then a load/new game screen that doesn’t even mention any “Final Fantasy”. Gotta wait ‘till the bridge to see that.
  • Would I play again: This is one of the most important games in my existence, and has defined how I approach not only videogames, but also life itself. And I’m not playing it ever again. Do you know how long it takes to make it through the Marsh Cave? Those stun locking packs of ghosts? Jesus.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Sneak King for the Xbox 360. Our next post is (not) sponsored by Burger King! Please look forward to it!

SPOILERS!

FGC #298 Rumble Roses

Due to the subject matter of today’s entry, images may not be completely safe for work. Please be aware.

Here we goAnd now for a collection of reasons Rumble Roses may or may not be a straight up porn game.

David Lee Roth kicks off the festivities!

The first thing you’ll notice when Rumble Roses starts up is that there is an animated “attract” cinema. This is pretty normal, but less normal is the fact that this intro is accompanied by Yankee Rose, a song by David Lee Roth. DLR isn’t terrible, but many of his songs do seem to have a… focus on the female anatomy, and the various things that Davey would like to do to that anatomy. Yankee Rose isn’t much different, as it’s a song elucidating the virtues of “the original good time girl”. Also, the song is somehow about The Statue of Liberty, so that puts David Lee Roth in the same company as Peter Venkman, Spacehog, and other men who clearly want to boink Lady Liberty. It is… a weird way to start a videogame.

But then again…

Rumble Roses is a Konami videogame from the Playstation 2 era. After the ludicrous failure of I am the Wind back in the Playstation 1 epoch, it would make sense for Konami to try to procure some “real” songs. And this is a Japanese company, it’s not like they understand the cultural clout of the once and future singer of Van Halen. Rumble Roses features a pretty clear American “cowgirl” archetype, so this Yankee Rose song really could apply. She is beautiful all right, nothing like her in the whole world.

The protagonist is dressed like a hooker…

FGC #291 Final Fantasy Theatrhythm Curtain Call

Sing itI guess this has to happen once every hundred articles or so…

Let’s talk about Final Fantasy music!

I’m a child of Napster, or, more appropriately, I was a teenager of Napster (figure out my age from context clues!). This was pretty awesome, as, when I finally hit the age where I had my own musical preferences, there was suddenly every song ever recorded available, for free, and all a half hour download away. And this was the glory days of music piracy! You couldn’t just download an entire discography in seven seconds; no, you had to carefully pick and choose which songs you wanted, as, if you tried to download a complete new CD, it would hog all your bandwidth for the next year. I can still distinctly recall my first “mix CDs”… let’s see here, there was Butthole Surfers, a healthy amount of Blues Traveler, and a surprising excess of Chicago. Dire Straits snuck in there for some reason, Foo Fighters joined ‘em, and I think I was into some noticeable Garbage to boot. Cranberries, too? Of course. And, look, I’ll level with you, readers, I was really into ska. I eagerly await the day when all hope seems lost, and the Squirrel Nut Zippers return to us, refreshed and rejuvenated, with the Mighty Mighty Bosstones in tow, and then The Second Great Age of Ska may begin. Oh, and there were three Final Fantasy songs in there: Final Fantasy 6’s Mog (Moogle Waltz), Final Fantasy 8’s Laguna (The Man with the Machine Gun), and Eyes on Me.

I cannot describe the significance of the presence of those songs. … Even if one is silly J-Pop.

The Final Fantasy franchise has always had good music. While Prelude and the main theme of Final Fantasy are obvious choices from the first adventure, I still remember every time I hit a location in FF1 that played Matoya’s Cave. It plays in other caves! It is a very poorly named song! And, while it doesn’t get nearly enough praise, the Final Fantasy airship theme is still one of the most triumphant ditties I’ve ever heard. It might just be because that new craft opens up a world of unlimited possibilities without random encounters and it means you never have to go into that stupid Ice Cave ever again, but I could listen to that silly airship loop forever and still be excited.

Let's go!And, in a weird way, I feel like something ineffably “clicked” with me, even in those early Final Fantasy days. There was “Mario music”, and there was “Mega Man music” (or pretty much anything from the Capcom oeuvre that sounded like it came from Mega Man), and there was certainly “Castlevania music” (which, side note, totally rocked), but, somehow, “Final Fantasy music” not only was clearly its own animal, but it also contained what I would really call songs. This wasn’t just something you listened to while Mario was running around (“Oh, that song is called Running? Neat.”), these were actual songs you would listen to on a radio, or your super hi-tech Walkman. … And I’m not just saying that because I once used a cassette recorder to create an entire mix tape of Final Fantasy 3 (6) music in preparation for a week long camping trip that would, for some reason, be sans Super Nintendo. And you didn’t see me preserving Contra tunes for bouts of videogame withdrawal.

But to move past sixth grade and up to those halcyon teen years, precious Napster, giver of Final Fantasy music, was a gigantic unknown. Literally nothing before in human history had ever been like this “file sharing platform”. There was no standard for what was, essentially, the newest, greatest thievery network in human history. I mean, let’s not mince words here: with a good enough internet connection, you could effectively steal every song that had ever been recorded. It was all out there and available, from Abba to Zero 7, and, more importantly, no one knew how long it would be before this tower of sin inevitably toppled. There was this simultaneous feeling of “this will be awesome forever” and “oh my God this is a crime, get what you can while you can.” Hell, the entire idea of “a MP3” was basically synonymous with depravity, and we could nary imagine that, in a few short years, Apple of all companies would be peddling them like candy. In the meanwhile, it wasn’t just about free music, it was about the music being available at all. Want to know how many Final Fantasy songs I would have purchased before 1998 if I could have even done such a thing? The answer is “all of them, all of them forever”. Do you think I really wanted to buy that Jethro Tull album? Well, yes, I did, but if I could have purchased a Final Fantasy 6 album in its place, I absolutely would have. Aqualung is nothing compared to Strago’s Aqua Rake. But Napster and its “criminal web” was the only available avenue.

And, God help me, I feel like nearly twenty years later, nothing has changed. I’m still about ten minutes away from holding a tape recorder to the TV.

The Baha MenYes, you can purchase the entire Final Fantasy library on iTunes, and, yes, we now live in a glorious future where every third JRPG you buy comes with a partial soundtrack (this is why I have so many Atlus sponsored coasters). But, well, I feel like there’s a reason I’m increasingly separated from the “real” radio. As a child of Napster, I am an MP3 hog. I have gone all in on CD-ripping and MP3 purchasing over the years, and I have… let’s see here… 6,518 MP3s on my playlist. And, to be perfectly clear, this is a carefully manicured list that has been accumulated over approximately twenty years, and is not simply, “Here’s a new CD, let’s rip every song and call it a day,” as if I were some kind of barbarian. No, there are only songs I want to listen to on this playlist, and all 300 or so hours of it is good stuff. And I know, that, of those 6,500 songs, if I choose to go back to listening to the “real” radio, I will probably hear… about twenty of those songs.

I have eclectic tastes.

It may not have been true back on the NES, but by the time we hit Dancing Madly, Final Fantasy was pumping out what was obviously “real music”. But will any of that music -literally thirty years’ worth of tunes performed by real, live orchestras- ever hit the FM stations? Of course not. And, mind you, I’m not claiming there needs to be Aloha De Chocobo on heavy rotation with the greatest hits of yesterday and today, but it would be kind of nice if, out of the hundreds of songs composed for the Final Fantasy franchise over the years, maybe we could get one that plays more often than an Avril Lavigne song from fifteen years ago. Come to think of it, The Red Hot Chili Peppers have been releasing the same song for the last three decades, maybe there’s room for Etro’s Champion somewhere in there.

GrrrrrI’m not naïve, I know Pitbull has more popularity and advertising clout than Lightning ever will, but when I sit down to play Final Fantasy Theatrhythm Curtain Call with its 321 songs (admittedly, some are DLC), I realize that literally hundreds of brilliant, memorable songs have been ghettoized to the slums of “it’s just videogame music”. And FFTCC is amazing, because it allows you to participate in these songs (Okay, you technically always could participate, but it turns out that hitting the Fight command to the beat doesn’t actually make Cloud do extra damage), and truly realize that some of these songs have become part of your DNA. Or maybe it’s just me. Maybe I’m the crazy one that can more easily recall the melody from Melodies of Life than anything by The Who, or maybe I’m the new normal. Despite the fact that a healthy portion of the population has never known a world without videogames, somehow One-Winged Angel still isn’t real music.

And it’s doubly strange, because, FFTCC, released three years ago, has no imitators. There was a Dragon Quest-based sequel that never saw our shores, and… that’s it. There are no Mega Man, Castlevania, or even Nintendo music library based rhythm games out there. And that means something. Final Fantasy is, whether through skill or marketing or some combination of both, the king of videogame music, and its own industry (and its fans) recognize that.

But, while Final Fantasy may be king, it’s king of the smallest, smelliest kingdom. It will never be invited to the big kids’ table, and will always be relegated to 3DS games or file sharing sites. Final Fantasy music may have come a long way in the last two decades, but it will still never reach the echelon of popularity dominated by Natalie Imbruglia.

SqwackIf there’s one thing that my ancient mix CDs and Final Fantasy Theatrhythm Curtain Call can agree on, it’s that Final Fantasy deserves better.

Though, if you’ve read this far, I’m obviously preaching to the choir. Sorry. Okay, choir, let’s get another round of Liberi Fatali going. From the top!

FGC #291 Final Fantasy Theatrhythm Curtain Call

  • System: Nintendo 3DS. Screen be damned, I would be happy to see a “complete” version pop up on the Switch.
  • Number of players: Two! I actually played head-to-head FFTCC once… and lost. Never tried again. I am a prideful man.
  • Favorite Song: And after an entire article extolling the joys of Final Fantasy music, I’m going to go ahead and name Chrono Trigger (The Theme from Chrono Trigger) as my favorite tune. What? Be glad I didn’t choose something from Nier!
  • Favorite Character: Lil’ Chaos is so adorable. That said, as much as I love this game, I kind of hate the… whatever this art style is called for the characters. Then again, I might just be biased because I had a bad experience with Flash figures back in the day.
  • Dance!Stylus or Buttons: While I understand you get more precision with the buttons, I’m a stylus guy. It just feels so much more… tactile to swipe along to the beat.
  • Did you know: Buying “additional characters” as DLC in a game where characters barely matter is robbery, and you know it, SE.
  • Would I play again: This is one game I really regret owning in cart, and not downloaded-forever form. That said, I do pop it back in the 3DS on occasion, and I always replay the game “for one more song” over and over again. So that’s a definite yes.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Brutal Paws of Fury for the Super Nintendo. That isn’t a Bubsy game is it? No? Okay, so please look forward to it.

FGC #284 Drakengard 3

Today’s article contains game-long spoilers for Drakengard 3. Nothing too specific, but it does kind of spoil the ultimate finale of the game, so, ya know, you’ve been warned.

Here comes a special boyA long time ago in a Snick long forgotten, my mother watched an episode of Ren & Stimpy with a wee Goggle Bob. This was unusual, as, while my mother usually did her best to watch what I was watching (we both enjoyed Clarissa Explains it All quite a bit), she didn’t (and still doesn’t) really like “cartoons” at all. So, one way or another, this was likely the first my mother sat and down and actually watched a complete Ren & Stimpy episode. The episode (The Big Baby Scam… I can remember almost all early Nicktoon episodes because they were rerun constantly) was a typical Ren & Stimpy jaunt, and ended with a pair of menacing babies punching the daylights out of Ren Höek. I was laughing uproariously, and my mother… was not impressed. I asked her why, and her response still sticks in my mind.

“I just don’t think violence is funny.”

This rocked my young mind. I am not, nor was I, a psychopath, so, of course, I shared the same belief. Violence is violence, it is bad. But, as far as I reasoned, this was not “violence”, it was Ren & Stimpy. It was a silly cartoon about a dog and a cat and their harebrained schemes to, what was it again? Oh yes, to live. Okay, yeah, if you think about Ren & Stimpy for a moment, it is kind of horrifying, because many episodes are just about two stray animals desperately trying to find a place to live and belong. But then, the next episode, they’re space cadets out in the universe, and isn’t Stimpy a silly kitty? Never mind that practically every episode ends with either Ren slapping Stimpy or Ren being punished by the universe for being Ren, they’re just a couple of inane cartoon animals, no “violence” here.

And, obviously, that’s bullshit.

This has long been the rallying cry of pearl-clutchers everywhere, but cartoons do normalize violence. There’s hitting, there’s falling down, and there are any number of “whacky” firearms being blasted all over the place. I’m pretty sure the average American can simply close their eyes and relive the “Daffy has his beak blown around” image from Looney Tunes. And, on one hand, who cares, it’s funny. On the other hand, it’s a sentient creature being shot in the face. That is not normal. That is upsetting. But it’s a cartoon, so it practically becomes a part of our cultural identity. And, as someone who watches a lot of cartoons, I want to say there’s nothing wrong with that. Kids are smarter than they’re often given credit for, and it’s not hard to discern the difference between Elmer Fudd and an actual threat with a gun. I haven’t ever seen a real life anvil dropped on a random person, so I’m pretty sure our society has survived the last few decades of “animated violence”. The kids are alright.

And then we get into videogames.

And gore!I don’t need to rehash the whole “violent videogames” angle, do I? We’ve all heard the debates, and we’ve all dealt with at least one family member or friend that thinks you’re going to “go Columbine” because you play murder simulators. It’s crazy, right? We all agree there? We don’t play violent videogames because they’re violent, or to learn violence; we play violent videogames because that’s how videogames interpret the world. Call of Duty or Splatoon, who cares? What’s the difference between a virtual gun and a virtual water gun? They’re both just as ineffective on that damn cat with the flags, so let’s get over this whole “videogame violence” thing. Videogames are good for you! Now sit down and finish your Mary-Kate and Ashley: Magical Mystery Mall!

But do you ever really sit down and think about what you’re doing in a videogame? Let’s look at Final Fantasy 1, a game I want to say no parents’ organization has ever challenged (though I’d be amused to hear otherwise). On the surface you’ve got four kinda goofy looking dudes with swords and nunchucks traipsing across a medieval countryside occasionally making imps fall down. No big deal there. But then consider what actually happens in that game. The Light Warriors venture from Corneria to the next town over… an event that involves random encounters every seven steps, and each battle including one to nine different beasts. Our protagonists kill these creatures as easily as breathing, and chug magic drugs whenever they need to feel a little better. Along the way, they meet a blind old woman that lives alone in a cave… and then the heroes keep walking. Shortly thereafter, the gang arrives in Pravoka, determines they need a boat, and kill nine guys until the survivors give them a boat. Then they set sail for another land, and, aside from maybe returning to loot the place, the good people of Pravoka never see the Light Warriors ever again. They don’t even come back to patronize what I’m sure is a fine inn and ocean-side tourist stops.

Slay 'emWhat I’m saying is that the Light Warriors are the real monsters.

But this kind of inhumanity is the standard for most videogames. Children are suffering? Well, I’ll help them if they offer me a cool reward for their stupid little quest. Local economies live or die according to my weapon purchases? Well, I bought everything in this stupid little town, there’s no reason to come here ever again. And the monster thing? Have you ever considered how many species have been driven to extinction thanks to well-meaning heroes? Even a “kiddy” game like Pokémon involves walking through any given forest and knocking every last critter in your path into unconsciousness. That is not the sign of a well mind; that is an early warning sign for a serial killer.

Yoko Taro, a videogame director and writer, seemed to notice this. This thesis permeated his first big game, Drakengard. Unfortunately, Drakengard had a few problems, chief among them that it is about as fun to play as boiling your own eyelids. But then we got Taro’s Nier, a game that is totally bonkers, but actually fun to play. Unfortunately, the moral of Nier ultimately boiled down to “even the most virtuous hero is someone else’s villain”, which is an excellent lesson, but one that requires an actually chivalrous protagonist. The titular Nier is a dedicated father (or brother) who is unerringly kind to the various freaks that seem to populate his world. Assuming you’re not a damnable shadow creature, Nier is good to you, and, while this makes much of his life that much more of a tragedy, it also makes him (possibly over) sympathetic. Nier does what may be judged as bad things, but he does them for reasons that make sense to the player.

This cannot stand.

Zero is the heroine of Drakengard 3. Zero is also an asshole.

flitter flitterDrakengard 3 is the story of six sisters. All six sisters have overwhelming magical powers, and five of them decided to share these powers with everyone and rule justly and fairly in an effort to promote the betterment of mankind. And the sixth sister? Well, that’s Zero, and she decided to use her powers to kill her five sisters and every single man, woman, and centaur in between. She technically has a good reason for doing this, but she’s not big into sharing, so there isn’t much hope for a peaceful resolution. And, spoilers, like most videogame protagonists, she has little trouble achieving her goals. Basically, the simple act of popping the Drakengard 3 disc into your PS3 sets off a chain reaction that leads to the death of thousands across multiple universes. Though I guess Zero does manage to accomplish her murderous goals, so, uh, thanks for playing?

Taken on its own, Zero is not doing anything different from any other videogame, particularly those in the Dynasty Warriors vein. Zero enters the battlefield, cuts down a number of anonymous soldiers, maybe beats a mythological creature or two (minotaur, cerberus, whatever), and moves on to a boss that likely has a “human form” and then a colossal “monster form”, though feel free to reverse that order here and there. When it’s all over and everybody (and I mean everybody) is dead, then we discover that this whole “evil Zero” thing was some kind of smear campaign gone wrong, and Zero actually saved the world. Hooray for our side, trophies for everybody!

ClassyBut the devil is in the details here, and Zero is not afraid to reinforce her own negative self-image. Hell, there’s a reason she named herself “nothing”. This is a woman that kills, enjoys it, and then kills some more. At one point, she relays her whole sad backstory, but her narration is over a flashback of her slaughtering a small town’s worth of soldiers. The massacre has nothing to do with her tale, it’s just, ya know, how that woman thinks. She’s got a mind for murder, and murder on her mind.

And then there are her companions. Not unlike a JRPG, Zero has a party of acolytes that join her quest as the game progresses. Team Zero thus ultimately consists of:

  • A sadist that believes all ugly things must be killed. Side note: he believes everything is ugly.
  • A masochist that derives sexual pleasure from the tiniest implications of abuse. He was previously in a relationship with a very vocal virgin, so, to say the least, he’s a little repressed.
  • A perverted old man that, should he think and talk about sex any more than he already does, will accidentally invent Star Trek.
  • A pretty boy that is all beauty and no brains. Presumably because people have a tendency to always listen to the most attractive person in the room, he is constantly inventing “fun facts” that are, in fact, not all that factual.

Do any of these fellows sound like role models? Hell, do any of these guys sound like someone you’d like to share a continent with? I’ve got nothing against sadists, masochists, satyriasists, and dumbasses, but there’s a difference between extracting pleasure from pain and that being your only personality trait. But, here we are, four dudes that are almost entirely defined by their base desires, and they’re “your” party. Choose your favorite two for the battlefield. You’ll be relying on them for your life!

Directed by Yoko TaroAnd it’s in this manner that Taro accomplishes his goal. Zero and her amazing friends are all joined by one basic, mutual hypothesis: they all like killing. They all like it a lot. And you like it, too, don’t you? What’s that, you don’t like violence? No, that can’t be right, you just murdered about three hundred people in ten minutes, and this is the eighth time you’ve done it. You claim you won’t kill again? Bullshit, you’ll start the next mission and kill the next boatload of people, because you want to see how the story ends, don’t you? You want the achievements? You want the upgraded weapons? Ha, you’re just like this dork over here that’s masturbating over a corpse. Who cares if you’re doing it for EXP or to ride the baloney pony, you’re still killing like a psychopath, and you’re going to keep doing it because you enjoy it. You enjoy violence.

And maybe that’s not a good thing.

Of course, I’ve neglected to mention the first and youngest member of Zero’s posse. Mikhail is a dragon, and, because his previous form, Michael, was recently killed, he’s technically little more than an infant. As a wee (giant) dragon baby, Mikhail has the mind of a child, and a… less than complete understanding of his mistress. Mikhail believes that Zero should try to solve this problem by peacefully reconciling with her sisters, and she absolutely should not kill every person she encounters. Zero doesn’t listen, but, even though he aids Zero time and time again, Mikhail persists with his cries for pacifism. Yes, he does fight, but it’s defensively, and he actively notes that he’s not enjoying it, and he would rather not be doing this if there were any other way.

And he’s the only character that survives Drakengard 3. He’s the only character that survives after participating in the biggest, most annoying challenge on the PS3 that is, incidentally, entirely based on being defensive. All the violence up to this point has been easy, not solving your problems with swords and fire breath is hard.

That makes a bit of an impact.

UGHSo maybe Mom and Yoko Taro are right. Maybe there is something to this whole violence in media thing. Maybe it doesn’t make an impact on our minds, maybe it does. Who knows? All I do know is that most media is content to be “don’t worry about it, it’s just a fantasy”, while Drakengard 3 proudly states, “you like violence? Then there might be something wrong with you.” It’s not the worst judgment, after all, this band of freaks did save their world (after a fashion), but it is something to consider.

Anyway, next week is going to be… Mortal Kombat (9ish) for the PS3? Seriously, ROB? Okay, now you’re just screwing with me.

FGC #284 Drakengard 3

  • System: Playstation 3. Exclusive? Yeah, that’s gonna move a lot of systems.
  • Number of players: It might be neat to get some two player disciple action, but, nope, Zero one player.
  • What’s in a name: The Drakengard franchise is known as “Drag-on Dragoon” in Japan. I cannot tell you how much I prefer that title (it’s a lot).
  • Favorite Disciple: This isn’t usually my preference, but I’m going to go with pretty boy Cent as my favorite. He seems to be the most active of the disciples before his official turn to Zero’s side, and he might be the… least crazy member of the party. Then again, he also summons a magical spider creature almost by accident, and that can’t be completely sane.
  • Backstory: Oh yeah, never read the backstory for Zero. I cannot stress this enough. It’s basically written by Frank Miller. Modern Frank Miller. Avoid at all costs.
  • So much loveLadies’ Night: I could probably write an entire other article on the sexual politics of this game… but I’m not sure if I’d ever reach a conclusion. On one hand, the women rule this world, and there is not a single male that isn’t, in some way, a servant to a woman. That’s cool and oddly feminist for a Japanese game. On the other hand, those powerful women seem to be designed exclusively to check off boxes for various fetishes (like a certain other franchise), so only Zero and One (binary!) come off as “real” characters. Otherwise, you’ve just got nymphy, virgin, lolita, and crazy. Mind you, I haven’t played the DLC, so I don’t know if there is more “shading” there, but, as is, it’s a disappointing turn.
  • Did you know? Oh, and speaking of which, Taro apparently told the character designers to look to Puella Magi Madoka Magica for tips on character design. Now I can’t unsee half the sisters being obvious MM “homages”. Though I suppose a MM/D3 crossover is more likely now…
  • Would I play again? Maybe… I guess. This is a lot more fun than Drakengard 1, but, on the other hand, it’s not as fun as Nier, so….

What’s next? Random ROB already chose Mortal Kombat for some reason, presumably because he’s an evil robot and is not to be trusted. So, anyway, violence for violence’s sake. Please look forward to it!

THE END