Tag Archives: jrpg

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 #308 Etrian Mystery Dungeon

LETS EXPLORE SOME DUNGEONS!I hate Etrian Mystery Dungeon.

Wait, no, that sounds bad. Let me try that again.

I hate everything about Etrian Mystery Dungon.

Let’s break that one down.

I Hate Rogue-Likes

This one is a biggie, and I realize I might be in the minority here. Actually, scratch that, considering the rogue-like genre languished for a solid twenty years of gaming history, I might actually be in the majority in not liking “rogue-like features”. Granted, rogues seem to have made a comeback in recent years (as rogues are wont to do), or maybe that’s just the latest trend in bullet points, like “over 80 hours of gameplay”, “contains RPG features”, or “a giant, open world”.

If you’re unfamiliar with the rogue-like genre, it goes something like this: you are an adventurer, and you’re going to explore some dungeons. The dungeons are usually randomly generated, and, rather than reconnoitering a carefully planned dungeon like one might find in a Zelda or Final Fantasy, you’re stuck with a completely different, completely random experience every time. This haphazardness pairs poorly with the other big draw of the rogue-like: death matters. While death is generally only an inconvenience in practically every videogame available, death in a rogue-like can often be devastating. For today’s game, death in a dungeon means losing all of your items (discovered treasures and purchased items) and cash. And, while hobos might seem like the ideal dungeon explorers, it turns out that money even makes spelunking go ‘round. In short, death has a greater sting in a rouge-like, and a randomly generated dungeon with a randomly generated super rock monster is going to lead to a lot of headaches.

Away we goAnd I loathe this kind of punishment. I’ve mentioned this before, but I play videogames to escape from real life. No, I suppose that terminology is a little off. It’s not so much that I want to flee from reality, I just want a reality with a few more… amenities. I’m a hoarder. I’m a hoarder by nature, and I despise how every facet of biology does not deal well with this desire. I would like nothing more than to visit an Golden Corral, devour seventeen pounds of hush puppies, and then not have to worry about eating for the rest of the month. But noooooo, the human body can’t deal with that for some stupid reason, and I have to eat every five hours like a caveman. Back in the day, we didn’t even have refrigerators, and we had to eat food when it was immediately available, or starve to death. Who has time for that? Not me. All of human history has been about making life more convenient, and preventing time lost. Rogue-likes… not so much.

I play videogames to experience magical fantasy worlds where I can keep a megalixer in my inventory until ten years after I’m dead, and my descendants finally decide to use it on that one super boss (lousy ungrateful children). I don’t play videogames to lose all my precious possessions to some stupid ape dork that managed to keep scoring criticals while I missed thirty times in a row.

Though while I’m on the topic of pathological hording…

I Hate Inventory Management

MOLE!I want everything at all times. I currently live in a world where, at the press of a button, I can have a delicious bread bowl filled with alfredo sauce and pineapple delivered to my door slightly ahead of my seventeen Amazon orders for books that were first published two hundred years ago. And while I’m doing that, I can download every Mega Man game ever made, assuming I haven’t already downloaded every Mega Man game ever made. The only thing that might wind up being an issue is that I may have already downloaded a hundred games I’m never going to play, so I filled up my hard drive. But no big! I can just buy a bigger hard drive, and we’re back in business! No need to clean out the fridge when you’ve got a bigger one on layaway. All the everything! All for me! MINE!

Etrian Mystery Dungeon has a limited inventory. You can initially stow only thirty items, but that number can be increased by a paltry ten or so at a time. How is that helpful at all? Have you ever explored a dungeon before? Been down to the Marsh Cave? I usually carry 99 antidotes, and only two monsters actually use poison attacks! But ooooh no, that’s not allowed in EMD. Despite the fact that you could encounter anything down there, you’re stuck with your meager inventory bag, and if you decided to go for a revive-on-the-last-floor item (in anticipation of a deadly boss) instead of a simple potion (to recover from a surprisingly difficult creature on a higher floor), you may be screwed before you even breach the dungeon’s maw.

I realize that some people enjoy inventory management, but those people are the same kind of twisted freaks that are capable of packing a suitcase while avoiding what is best described as a “clothesplosion”. I was a Boy Scout, I like to be prepared for everything, and when I have to choose between holding on to a delicious box lunch or grabbing some fresh treasure, my mind completely shuts down. I wake up a day later, my 3DS’s battery has been drained, and I’m not wearing pants anymore for some reason. Don’t put me in that situation, EMD! I’m running low on pants!

I Hate Grids

Videogames are a lie. I know that. Mario can’t really fly, he’s always going to hit the top of the scroll, and that’s as high as that raccoon-man goes. Link doesn’t really have the ability to explore an entire world, there’s always going to be an edge he can’t surpass. UghAnd even in JRPGs where you obtain an airship or flying dragon or magical balloon or whatever, the looping world is a complete hoax, and you’re actually traversing a planet that, were it actually scale, would be no larger than a watermelon. But the good games, the Marios, Zeldas, and Final Fantasies, trick the player’s stupid ape brain into thinking there is a vast, magical world out there. The first time you hit the world map in Final Fantasy 7, everything feels so massive! … It’s a complete lie, but that feeling of exploring an entire world is there.

Grids are the opposite of that. EMD divides every dungeon into a chessboard, and the seams of the universe show immediately. What could be vast, unexplored labyrinths quickly become “levels”, and… that’s it. You’re playing a videogame with little videogame people. You’re killing time. You’re not exploring, you’re moving pieces on a game board. May as well be playing Chutes and Ladders, you time wasting child.

Yes, the grid system does make exploration more straightforward, but I hate it all the same.

I Hate Anime

Okay, that’s a lie. The record will show that I have a very high tolerance for anime bullshit. But that’s probably because I like anime when I know I’m getting anime. If I cue up Attack on Titan or K-ON, I pretty much know what kind of experience I’m going to get (though I admit, I would watch the mash-up Attack on K-ON). It’s kind of like… Hm… I don’t eat doughnuts every day, and doughnuts are delicious, but if I were eating doughnuts, I wouldn’t want a big piece of steak sticking out of my bear claw. These are not two tastes that go great together.

And you know what else doesn’t go great together? Sexual dimorphism.

MEDIC!

I am perfectly okay with a game where you play as 12 year old girls. I am also okay with a game where you play as dungeon dudes. However, I am not okay with Etrian Mystery Dungeon, wherein all the boys are ready and willing dungeon dudes, and all the girls are underdressed, prepubescent gigantic eyeball delivery homunculi. It is… off-putting. And yes, I can see those giant eyeballs on the cover, I knew what I was in for, but seeing a male medic that is all cool and ready for healing times next to a female medic that decided a dungeon would be an appropriate place for adorable striped socks… it’s… not good. I hate it.

I hate Etrian Mystery Dungeon. It’s entirely possible the game gets more fun, interesting, and playable as time goes on, but after playing for a few hours, I dropped the wretched thing. I don’t like EMD’s core components. This game simply isn’t for me. It looks like there’s more than meets the eye to this adventure… but I’ll never see it.

And I hate that.

FGC #308 Etrian Mystery Dungeon

  • System: Nintendo 3DS. I have to say that the dual screen map thing will be missed whenever the 3DS finally retires.
  • Number of players: One person controls a four-people party. No, you can’t make them all fight each other for your amusement. I hate
    that.
  • This guySay something nice: The localization is pretty choice. This could easily be another “straight outta Japan” release that offers the most cursory of translations, but the people in the EMD world seem welcoming (and human) enough.
  • Goggle Bob’s proposed franchise mash-up alternative: Etrian Mystery Science Theatre 3000.
  • Favorite Class: Sovereign is just weird enough to be my favorite. Why would you take your royalty into a dungeon? To bark orders and keep morale up, obviously. Usually I prefer something with a little more battling oomph, but I have a hard time taking any of the physical classes seriously in a game with these ridiculous anime faces.
  • Did you know? The Wanderer class is based on the hero of the rogue-like genre, Shiren the Wanderer. This is also the only class in the game where the female version doesn’t set off alarm bells. Okay, maybe the Protector sneaks in there, too.
  • Would I play again: This isn’t a bad game, it’s just a bad game for Goggle Bob. I can’t stand so much of this game, but that doesn’t mean you won’t enjoy it. I simply won’t enjoy it. Ever.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Excitebike for the NES! Vrooooooooooooooom! Please look forward to it!

Cool cool

FGC #288 Persona 5

Today’s article contains game-long spoilers for Persona 5. It’s pretty much just focused on the villains, but, ya know, you’ve been warned.

So stylishPersona 5 has inadvertently caused me to ask a superficially simple question: What is the threshold for villainy?

Persona 5 is the story of the Phantom Thieves, a group of swanky teenagers that stylishly steal “hearts” from people with wicked desires. They start pretty small with a local gym teacher, but, by the end of the story, they’re using their powers to literally shift the balance of political power in their country. One way or another, despite a capricious general public, the Phantom Thieves and their leader, Stylin’ McSavvipants (aka Joker), are always on the side of good, and never use this power to, I don’t know, screw with some random shop keep’s inventory so they can actually afford new shirts every month. In short, while the SMT/Persona series generally enjoys a bit of moral ambiguity, there is never any question that the good guys are the good guys, even if they seem to doubt themselves in a few too many overly long dialogue scenes (and I guess this just reinforces that they’re good, right?). The Phantom Thieves are thieves, but you’re constantly reminded that they’re less protagonist criminals like Walter White, and much more like Robin Hood (who, incidentally, also makes an appearance).

So, naturally, this means the antagonists for our heroes are bad guys. The Phantom Thieves only steal the hearts of the corrupt, and, lucky for those of us that want an 80 hour game, here’s a whole host of justified targets. Let’s see here, aside from the previously mentioned gym teacher and politician, we’ve also got a plagiarist, a con artist, a corrupt businessman, and a (kinda sorta) crooked cop. She’s… uh… on the edge of both definitions there. Look, “single minded prosecutor” just doesn’t have the right ring to it. Regardless, the point here is that, even though a couple of these targets could conceivably be seen as sympathetic at various points, they’re indisputably villains for the purpose of their vignettes. Sae might come around eventually, but she’s undeniably as much of a threat to the Phantom Thieves as Piggy Kaneshiro when you’re exploring her cognitive palace.

Except… this is kind of where we run into problems.

MeowAll of the bosses come with a very prominent time limit and consequences for missing that all-important deadline. Kamoshida is going to have Joker and Ryuji (and, ugh, Mishima) expelled. Madarame and Sae are going to have the gang arrested. Kaneshiro is blackmailing everyone, and Shido and his hacktivist cronies are going to screw with Japan on a national level. In other words, if Joker decides to just blow all his time at the diner drinking fruity tea, he’s going to wind up in some kind of waking hell, one way or another. Even if you want to claim the Phantom Thieves are somehow morally gray (which, again, absolutely not the case), they always have a relentless reason to do the right thing. Cover thine butt, and save the world while you’re at it. To be absolutely clear, those limits are on the table, and reinforced by a big honking sign that is constantly on the screen (“9 days left until you make Mishima really sad”).

But, deadline aside, it seems like the characters genuinely want to help things. Ryuji and Joker agree before the expulsion is on the table that Kamoshida has to be stopped. Madarame is first named for abusing his pupils, and the Phantom Thieves immediately stick him on the burn board. Kaneshiro is a known criminal (even before everyone knows his name), and Shido is clearly a dishonest politician that would be bad for Japan. These are all real personality types of real people that can all be easily identified in reality. The Phantom Thieves want to stop criminals? Awesome! I want to stop criminals, too! We’re all on the same page.

But… Persona 5 can’t just leave well enough alone.

Hail to this guyLet’s take Kamoshida, the first “target”, as an easy example. Kamoshida is introduced as a teacher that doesn’t seem to have Joker’s best interest at heart, and then his second appearance alludes to probable lewd times with teenage student (and party member) Ann. Shortly thereafter, it is confirmed by Ann that adult teacher Kamoshida is creeping on the teenage girl, and then he winds up sleeping with Ann’s friend, Shiho, in what he (or his shadow) seems to note as a “consolation prize”. So, if you didn’t feel like reading the rest of this paragraph, Kamoshida is established as committing statutory rape in the opening hours of Persona 5. Once more for the oldies in the back of the audience: Kamoshida is a teacher that is a rapist. That… should be enough.

But Persona 5 can’t leave well enough alone. Kamoshida is a rapist, and his victim attempts suicide in response to the shame of the situation. Kamoshida is a rapist, and he also conspicuously physically abuses the male students on his volleyball team. Kamoshida is a rapist, and his “other self” literally tries to murder and imprison the main characters, including some kind of rape-ish altar thing with Ann (again). And, yes, Kamoshida is a rapist, and he introduces the active threat of “you’re going to be expelled”. Kamoshida is a rapist, but look at all these other reasons he’s a bad guy.

And that’s kind of a problem. What’s more, it’s a very contemporary problem.

Not a crookI finished Persona 5 shortly after the culmination of the first 100 days of President Trump. There have been many hot takes on this presidency in progress, but the most egregious comment seems to have come from Donald Trump himself, who commented that, “I do miss my old life. This — I like to work, but this is actually more work.” And of course Donald Trump enjoyed his “old” life! He said it himself, he was rich and famous enough to just grab any pussy he could find! Or he could insult the handicapped in front of hundreds of people, and they’d cheer for him! And let’s not forget that time he yelled at a baby. Or claimed, in front of millions of television viewers, that not paying your taxes “makes you smart”. Or… oh God, I have to stop now. It’s… it’s too much for my gentle heart to remember everything that happened back in 20XX. Where was I? Oh yes, Donald Trump is somehow the president of the United States of America, and, while he didn’t get the popular vote, there are enough people in the US that are perfectly okay with Donny that he is our one and only president. No matter what happens in the rest of human history, Donald Trump became President of the United States.

And I feel like maybe that wouldn’t have happened if we, as a people, could recognize a bad guy.

Donald Trump is not a crook. I want to believe that he has ties to Russia, but, until we get some cold, hard, usable evidence of that, I silently sit and acknowledge that we’re likely stuck with this orange mess for a full four years. Similarly, the obvious profiting from the presidency that the Trump business is enjoying is flagrant and awful, but not technically against any laws (or at least any laws that wouldn’t also oust the majority of our government). In short, in an “innocent until proven guilty” society, Donald Trump is a perfectly upstanding business person turned politician. He may have had a few legal dust ups over the years, but they’re all behind NDAs and gag orders, so, basically, Donald Trump is a good person. He has done nothing wrong.

I'm playing a gameExcept, morally, by any standard, Donald Trump has done many terrible things. To once again revisit the “grab ‘em by the pussy” comment, that’s rape. That’s a grown man who has enjoyed every advantage possible in his life advocating that if a woman isn’t giving you what you want, you go ahead and take it. That is, in short, plainly stating that 50% of the population owes you what you want for no reason other than you want it. That’s abhorrent. That is not “locker room talk”, that is plainly a bad thing. A person said a bad thing, and, given evidence of saying similar things for thirty years, one can be pretty confident in saying that person is a bad person. Or, at the very least, he says and thinks a thing that absolutely should not be encouraged by him or anyone else. We can all agree that women have a right to have sex with whom they want, and not just who nebulously wealthy people say they should have sex with, right? Female autonomy good, rape bad. We can all agree on this, right? So why the hell is Trump president?

And, ultimately, I feel it keeps coming back to a fear of labeling a spade a spade. While it’s generally the prerogative of jackasses to declare “safe spaces” and “tolerance” as nothing more than political tools for liberals trying to “score points”, you’ll hear nothing but “innocent until proven guilty” when your average republican says something outlandish like “women can biologically control contraception” or “I have no idea how insurance works” (paraphrasing). I’m sorry, do you need a safe space to say your completely wrong and hurtful statements? And, with the current shape of the government, it seems like we’re in for at least another two years of cranky old white men claiming they know everything, and, when they say something completely wrong, just laughing it off as a “gaffe” or “maybe you’re actually the one that’s wrong”. And not enough people see something wrong with that! Evidently a healthy portion of the population believes that you have to be a cackling super villain to be a truly bad person, as opposed to, ya know, just a senator that literally wants to steal healthcare from babies.

FISTS!And, yeah, if I’m being honest, if you’re still reading this article, I’m preaching to the choir. But that’s the important thing here, you might be on the side of the good guys, you might be a benevolent Phantom Thief, but not enough people are standing up and saying, “no, that’s bad and needs to stop”. And how many people is enough? Well, I’m going to call it a win when this thing actually stops. I’m not naïve enough to believe we’re headed for some marvelous utopia where all are equal and a single mother doesn’t have to work three jobs to support her “all my children should be alive” habit; no, I’m just asking for a world where maybe we don’t have a damn game show host representing our country. I’d be happy with a zero tolerance policy for presidential cabinet members with KKK affiliations. Hell, show me one damn senator that would be happy to have the healthcare coverage of the average citizen (which is, by the by, approximately zero healthcare coverage). We are living under the yolk of “bad guys” every day, and they might not be driving anyone to suicide or actually physically abusing teenagers, but they are doing repugnant things with absolutely no oversight, and I don’t see a Phantom Thief making any changes to their hearts.

Readers, I implore you: be better. Stand up to bad guys, even if their sins seem small, because, give them enough latitude, and we’ll all be doomed. And no magical persona is going to save this world.

FGC #288 Persona 5

  • System: Playstation 3 and Playstation 4. Glad to see someone decided that humoring the ol’ PS3 crowd was a worthwhile endeavor.
  • Number of players: There’s only one Joker in this deck.
  • I just like crabOther bad moves: Madarame isn’t just a plagiarist, he killed a dude’s mother. Okumura isn’t just a slave driver, he’s killing people and prostituting his daughter for political gain. Shido isn’t just a conniving politician, he’s also responsible for every bad thing that has ever happened to the main character. By comparison, the final boss’s usual plan of conquering the world seems practically tame.
  • Odd one out: The only (main) boss in P5 that doesn’t fit the “bad guy” pattern is Futaba’s deceased mother, or, to be more accurate, Futaba’s perception of her deceased mother. I would love to see more of this in the Persona series, as the bosses of P4 were far too exaggerated for my taste, and the bosses of P3… didn’t have anything to do with anything. It seems like conquering past traumas through JRPG battles would be enough to fill a boss roster… but maybe while avoiding stuff like Kanji’s panic at the gay disco.
  • Maybe actually talk about the game for a second: I really liked the change to gameplay that wasn’t really a change. Wait, let me try that again. Basically, the whole “ambush, hit weakness” thing has always been a Persona trait, but it’s turned up to eleven for P5, so your sneaking and enemy knowledge is basically make or break now. This is great, because it keeps the same style you (I) loved from previous Persona games, but makes it feel more like “thievery” and disabling oblivious guards rather than the old style of conquering a dungeon. Other than that, it’s a Persona game, so you already know whether you’re going to like it if you’ve played P3/P4.
  • Crimes against Goggles: What is happening here?
    WHAT!?!

    This will not be forgiven!
  • Just play the gig man: It’s worth noting that I could have also written a much less political article extolling the virtues of this soundtrack. I could listen to this thing all day, though The Whims of Fate aka The Casino Theme is somehow my favorite track. I really have no idea how the vocals on that never get old despite playing for a healthy portion of a very long dungeon.
  • Favorite Persona: Mona’s Zorro is the kind of ridiculousness I’d like to see more of with the “mascot” characters. Zorro is imposing and goofy in all the right ways.
  • Favorite S-Link: I always fall for women on the student council. Always. I don’t know what this says about me.
  • Did you know? Hifumi Togo the shogi player was originally designed as a playable character, but got demoted to S-Link somewhere along the way. Maybe that’s why she seems so totally disconnected from everything…
  • Would I play again: It’s golden.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Altered Beast for the Sega Genesis! Wise from your Gwave! Please look forward to it!

My eyes hurt

FGC #282 Breath of Fire 3

Pictured: WinnersThe first thing you see when you boot up Breath of Fire 3 is a mural of the heroes of Breath of Fire 1. This mural depicts everyone in the original BoF party fighting Myria, a nefarious goddess that threatened to destroy the world through war and destruction. This opening seems to say, “Here, player, here are the heroes you remember, who triumphed over impossible odds and won the day with guts and swords.” Breath of Fire 3 starts by showcasing the gallant and daring heroes of a previous BoF adventure, a group that literally saved the world and everyone in it.

So it’s kind of a shame that the heroes of Breath of Fire 3 are such failures.

Breath of Fire 3 is the story of a world in decline. Deserts are overtaking forests, wild animals are becoming scarce, and nobody vacations on that island with the flute girls anymore. This seems to be epitomized with Nina’s people. The Wing Clan is a race that, during the time of BoF1, could transform into gigantic birds. By BoF2, the Wyndians had lost this ability, but could still flutter about with their large wings. Now, in Breath of Fire 3, the “Wing Clan” possesses wings that are merely decorative, and are about as useful for flight as flapping your arms. This degradation seems to have spread to other clans as well, with many of the old “standby” kingdoms and people of previous Breath of Fire adventures completely missing, and the last remains falling into unrecognizable states. Rei the kitty cat man is in danger of outright devolving into a beast, and your resident plant-dude is practically a Pokémon. And the Dragon Clan? Well that’s where things get really sad.

In Breath of Fire 1, the Dragon Clan threatened to destroy the world. And they weren’t even trying! The Light and Dark Dragons Tribes were just fighting over some magic keys, and the rest of the world had the pleasure of hosting the battleground for people that can transform into mammoth, fire-breathing monsters. It… didn’t end well. Then, during Breath of Fire 2, while the Dragon Clan had mostly retreated underground, remaining dragon people still had enough strength to seal away Anime Death Jesus (it was a weird game), while the rest of the races of the world couldn’t even plink that dude’s front door. And the dragons, “the Brood” are still powerful in Breath of Fire 3! They’re just powerful as… fossils. Basically, all of the dragons are dead by the time of Breath of Fire 3, and their remains are being used as an energy source that only creates horrible mutants about a third of the time. And, side note, dragons aren’t dead by accident; that nefarious Goddess Myria ordered their complete extermination a couple years back. But there are a handful of dragons remaining, and Ryu, the undisputed protagonist of BoF3, is one of ‘em. Go, Ryu, save the world in the name of your departed brethren!

Or fail at absolutely everything you do. That’s good, too.

Damn you guysFailure is an integral part of most videogames. Even before Dark Souls and alike made “death” a fundamental mechanic, there was always a learning curve. Everybody died to those opening goombas at least once, and everyone learns from that experience and changes Mario trajectory accordingly. You fail, death happens, you get back up on that Yoshi and try again. Meanwhile, JRPGs often make failure an essential and inevitable part of the narrative. You need to collect the six mipmaps or the nefarious ULTRA EVIL DEMON will awaken and destroy the world? Well, I’ve got some bad news: you’re probably going to collect those six mcguffins, but they’ll be stolen by the bad guys at the last minute, and you’re going to have to fight ULTRA EVIL DEMON anyway, because, come on, we didn’t design that three-screen high sprite for it not to get used. Besides, failure is basically a requirement for any game with a modicum of story. 90% of these tales are based on the basic “hero’s journey” plot outline, and what’s the point in winning if it’s not a comeback from some insurmountable defeat. You have to lose to rally and win, win, win!

Nobody wins in Breath of Fire 3.

Here’s a brief plot summary of Breath of Fire 3: Ryu is an orphan who teams up with two other orphans, Rei and Teepo. The trio decides to help out the local town through a Robin Hood-esque caper involving stealing from an evil Scrooge McDuck and distributing that wealth to all the downtrodden peasants. This plan technically works, but it turns out the richest man in town can hire some damn good security, so a couple of reverse-centaurs show up and tear Ryu’s life and “family” to shreds. Ryu survives, but Rei and Teepo are missing, so he sets off on a quest to find his missing friends. Ryu makes new friends along the way, including a failed princess, a failed scientist, a failed science experiment, and, most importantly, a man who has lived for centuries and is a literal dragon slayer. Their “friendship” goes about as well as you’d expect, and Ryu is knocked out for a solid decade. Ryu eventually wakes up again, decides he’s going to look into this whole “the world is dying” thing, finds his way halfway across the world (literally), and eventually traces it all back to the goddess that screwed with his ancestors. In the end, Ryu defeats Evil Goddess, and is rewarded with the knowledge that, as sucky as the world is, “Evil” Goddess was the only thing keeping it just that sucky, so good luck living in an endless desert, stupid!

Dammit!Oh, and somewhere in there, Ryu had to kill Teepo, because of course he did.

But don’t worry, Ryu isn’t the only ultimate failure in this party! Nina is the princess of Wyndia, and she has no idea how to be a person and a royal sovereign… Actually, that’s probably a pretty typical failing of royalty in JRPGs. What else we got? Well, there’s Rei, who apparently spent most of his teenage/adult life trying to avenge a pair of kids that were actually alive… oh, and then he fell over dead at the finish line. Doesn’t that just beat all? We’ve got Momo, who has spent her life following her father’s research, and she winds up exploited for her knowledge (and eventually finds out the answers to life’s mysteries are “a wizard did it” anyway). And Garr… good ol’ Garr the Guardian… was born and bred to kill dragons, and decided to ask “what if… not kill dragons?” of the goddess that created him. That… did not end well for him. Basically, every “hero” in Breath of Fire 3 is stuck in an unwinnable situation practically from the get-go. Nina wants to be a better person? Bad news, lady, you’re not going to get there by pounding slimes with your magic wand.

But, maybe, sometimes being a failure is okay.

For being a JRPG, Breath of Fire 3 does a pretty good job of presenting that “gray area” of morality. In BoF1, Goddess Myria might put on a nice face, but she is unequivocally the Goddess of Destruction. In BoF2, Anime Death Jesus, Goddess Myria’s only begotten son, has started a religion that has a tendency to kill you and your loved ones over and over again. That’s bad. But BoF3 Goddess Myria really is a benevolent goddess. She’s done bad things, but she’s done them in the name of protecting the people of the world. The Dragon Clan were alright blokes, but they could also kill everybody with a misplaced sneeze, so they had to go. Yggdrasil was a wise ol’ spirit of the forest, but its anti-Myria sentiment could lead to wars, and that’s not so great, so time to stop feeding the tree. And modern technology just means modern bombs and bioweapons, so maybe we could tape that back down to something more medieval. Myria committed a few sins, but that’s the price of being a leader. Myria sees herself as the mother of all humanity, and sometimes being a mother means exterminating all ice cream from the universe. It’s for your teeth. You’ll thank me later.

This is cuteBut Myria is the antagonist of Breath of Fire 3. This is a JRPG, and, in the end, you need a final boss you can hit with a sword. There isn’t going to be a solution where you talk this one out, and Myria has got to go out in a way that makes the player justified in overleveling and collecting all the best equipment on the planet. These are the rules. But thou must.

And, in most games, that complete lack of choice is often contrary to the premise of the adventure. Aside from narratives where you are a puppet is the moral, most modern games (and “modern” in this case meaning “any game made after 1992”) seem to revel in the choices available to the player. It’s a different experience every time! You never know how the story is going to go! You are playing a game wherein you play a role! You are the hero! … Except, it’s bullshit, because, whether you make important choices or not, one way or another, it all ends in the same place. You always fight the final boss. You always make it to that finish line. Even if it’s not in the way you may have expected, you always succeed, one way or another, in accomplishing something.

In Breath of Fire 3, Ryu and his gang do defeat the goddess. … But… Do they win? And, more importantly, would you expect this gang of failures to win? The ending of Breath of Fire 3 was an anomaly in an age of JRPGs that traditionally featured twenty minute FMV finales. All we have at the end of BoF3 is the surviving party members walking through the desert, and Peco the Plantémon sprouts a leaf. The end. Thanks for playing. This is clearly intended as a statement of hope for a world now without a goddess, and, coupled with the party’s earlier “we’re like little kids” speech, is supposed to indicate that humanity (or whatever passes for that in a world with kitty cat people) has now entered its own adulthood, free from the shackles of an overbearing mother-goddess. The kids are going to be all right!

Move along… Except, this entire tale was one of unintended consequences and… failing. Had Ryu and his band of thieves succeeded in their first task, they’d be legendary, and happy, local heroes. Had Ryu found his friends in a timely, less fatal manner, they would have returned home and lived happily. If Nina was a worthwhile princess, she could have been, ya know, a princess, and lived happily. If Garr could be content with the function he was literally made for, he could have retired happily centuries ago. Ultimately, if the heroes of Breath of Fire 3 could just stop failing for ten seconds at any point in their lives, they could have had a happy ending that didn’t involve deicide at pretty much any time. But, no, they’re failures, so they collectively wound up on a path that would change the world.

Every inevitable failure in their lives contributed to a final, humongous task that may have itself, been a failure.

But it did change their world forever.

Mural or not, I guess maybe failures can be heroes, too.

FGC #282 Breath of Fire 3

  • System: Playstation 1 here in The States, but you could also play it on PSP in every other region on Earth. … You can probably still import the PSX version to Vita, though.
  • Number of players: JRPGs are solitary affairs.
  • Favorite Dragon Gene: Every time Ryu gets transformed into a Pygmy Dragon, I have to laugh. He’s just so rolly-polly!
  • Regarding the Wings: This might be my favorite Nina in the series. “Rambunctious Princess” is basically the collective Nina archetype, one way or another, but here it really feels like she’s a spoiled brat playing at being a hero for her childhood, and then a slightly more mature version of that for her adult form. Slightly. All the same, Young Nina comes off like a magical girl, and that’s a lot more amusing than the more dour Ninas elsewhere in the series.
  • Slum it with us!Feeling Bleu: Deis, the snake-tailed goddess, doesn’t join the party for the first time in the franchise, and gets stuck in a room by her lonesome for most of the adventure. She deserves better! And, no, getting stuck in a sentient suit of armor is not an upgrade.
  • Did you know? There’s a dummied out item called THE MOCHI that cures petrification. The reason it was dummied out is because “stoned” has never been a status effect in the Breath of Fire series. Oops?
  • Would I play again: Probably not! I didn’t get around to mentioning it, but I have an extreme fondness for this doofy game (and the entire series). Something about the Breath of Fire franchise has always clicked with me, and I’d love to see a modern revival, whether it be more “old school” or “Dragon Quarter”-y. … Just not a cell phone game. That said, replaying BoF3 is sobering and exhausting. There are random encounters every seven feet. It’s… tiresome. And I’d rather play Breath of Fire 4, anyway. You don’t have to train some bloke to beat Bluto in that one. So, sorry, BoF3, it ain’t happening.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Paperboy for the N64. Let’s deliver some papers! I guess! Please look forward to it!

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