Tag Archives: star wars

FGC #384 Sega 3D Classics Collection

SEGA!Home videogame consoles have been around since 1972. That means we have had nearly fifty years of videogames being sold to consumers. And in those decades, we somehow still have not figured out what people want from videogames.

Almost by accident, we pretty much had it right for a console generation or two. Back when all we had to work with were limited cartridges, you had a videogame, and it was simply that videogame. Super Mario Bros. was Super Mario Bros., and The Legend of Zelda was The Legend of Zelda. There was not some random point in Mega Man when the whole thing turned into Gradius, nor did Final Fantasy ever dip into suddenly becoming Contra for a dungeon or two. Men were men, women were women, and the good old days were always good for a round of Ice Climbers. You picked up a chunk of plastic, you played a game, and that was that.

And today’s Sega 3D Classics Collection harkens back to those halcyon days. It’s got the original Sonic the Hedgehog! There’s Altered Beast! Puyo Pop 2 for those of you that enjoy mean beans! Some Fantasy Zones! I’m sure somebody, somewhere appreciates Thunder Blade! And Power Drift is at least pretty! This collection represents what is unmistakably the good old days of Sega arcade/Master System/Genesis games, and, by and large, you really can’t lose with any title in this group. Heck, I could play Sonic the Hedgehog alone for hours on end.

And that’s the problem. I have.

VroomLet’s take a step back to talk about music. The concept of the album has lost some luster in the recent age of MP3s, but, prior to about the last decade or so, musicians were expected to support their number one hits with an entire disc’s worth of alternate songs. You might have been all about Will Smith gettin’ jiggy with it, but in order to properly jiggify yourself, you had to buy a CD that contained a few other tracks, like that one about Miami, or that other one about the lil’ dude from Austin Powers. Sometimes this was a good thing, like when you discovered an artist with a style wholly different from the hit single, and became a Ben Folds Five fan for life. Other times… well, they say that if you are quiet, and listen very closely late at night, you might still hear my father complaining about purchasing “that one Smash Mouth album” where “all they do is suck”. But that’s true of any music fan (older than about 20), you buy enough records, tapes, or CDs, and, eventually, you’ve got a list floating around your head until the end of time regarding whether or not you should have blown fifteen bucks on that one Jethro Tull album. And, yes, you should have waited for the greatest hits release.

But that’s the thing about almost all albums: they’re specifically by one artist. Love or hate Meghan Trainor’s unethical praising of the booty, you pretty much know what you’re going to get if you sign up for a solid twelve Trainor tracks. And, while we may have no idea what Chumbawamba was up to during the final days of the twentieth century, you could go ahead and pick up Tubthumper and find out. There are certainly Now That’s What I Call Some Arbitrary Ditties albums out there, but, by and large, you can count on an album to have a general flow from start to finish that is… familiar. Blink 182 isn’t going to suddenly dip into European Death Metal on its third track, and P. Diddy Kong is never going to take a quick break from his phat rhymes to introduce his barbershop quartet. In other words, when you listen to a musical album, you can count on about forty minutes of a familiar experience. It might be a new familiar experience, but you’ll find that it’s generally consistent within the confines of its own disc. And a five disc “best of” special compilation? That’s going to keep you in a familiar holding position all afternoon.

STAR WARS!Now back to videogames: despite being on the same system and being from the same general era, would you consider Sonic the Hedgehog and Altered Beast to be similar experiences? Okay, similar might work, as they are both 2-D, and… involve jumping? Bah! They’re barely similar at all! One is a sort of proto-beat ‘em up with a really fun gimmick, and the other is a supersonic hedgehog simulator. Mad speed vs. mad dragons. If they were songs, Altered Beast would be some kind of “angry” heavy metal, and Sonic would have places to go, because he’s gotta follow his rainbow. And those are the two most similar games on the collection! Opa-Opa’s adventure is a shoot ‘em up, while Maze Hunter 3-D may as well exist on another planet. And, including that one boss in Sonic Mania, nobody wants to play a puzzle game five seconds after zooming around at the speed of sound. Variety is fun an’ all, but, short attention spans aside, when you sit down to play a game, you have a certain kind of gameplay in mind, and rapidly switching between different options is unusual and unsettling.

Get 'emBut videogames make it customary! Starting as early as the 16-bit days, videogames had a tendency to randomly veer off into unknown lands with alarming frequency. “Minigames” went from something generally innocuous like a slot machine or shell game, and rapidly transformed into entire games onto themselves. Chrono Trigger is the best JRPG of a generation that incidentally includes the worst racing game ever. Final Fantasy 7 pulled a similar stunt with Cloud Strife 1080° Snowboarding. Even the Sonic the Hedgehog series decided to lean heavily into being a number of different games soldered together. In some cases, these gameplay changes were welcome, in others, it would be nice to not have to participate in a fishing simulator to make progress; but in every example, it meant you were playing something you absolutely did not sign up for. Or maybe I’m the crazy one? Maybe I missed all the times Final Fantasy X made a sale in the name of “incredible water soccer action”.

Now, look, I remember being ten. I remember only having one game a year, and if that game had a mini game that was anything but mini, it meant, oh boy, I got two games. I still remember that feeling. But I also remember the end of Solar Jetman turning into the worst approximation of a shoot ‘em up ever. I remember Devil May Cry pulling the same stunt. And Kirby! A whole bunch of times! Why can’t games just stay their courses! Why do they try to jump the tracks mid train ride like some kind of mixed and poorly worded metaphor? Let the whole album play out! Leave your experimental tracks for the B-sides!

Pew PewSega 3-D Classics Compilation is not one single game, and it seems silly to fault it for being a tremendous collection of superb games. But every time I boot up S3DCC, it’s to play Sonic the Hedgehog. I never play anything else, save the rare occasion I feel like shooting fireballs at chicken legs. There is nothing like Sonic the Hedgehog on this collection, so I only play Sonic the Hedgehog. Full compilation of wonderful games, but the rest never get played, because they’re nothing like the hit single that got me to buy this album. I would have been better off with just the lone MP3.

So learn something, videogame industry. In the age of “binge watching”, people do not want random pauses from Breaking Bad to watch Star vs. The Forces of Evil. People do not want a ska album to break into rap (we still want ska, though). People do not want lame action game wannabe minigames during their JRPGs. People do not want compilations of games that vary so wildly, they may as well exist in different dimensions.

There are enough choices out there. Grant individual genres and games the flow they deserve.

And people wonder why Mega Man Legacy Collection was a tremendous hit…

FGC #384 Sega 3D Classics Collection

  • System: Nintendo 3DS, thus the whole 3D thing. Most of these games can be found on the Sega Genesis or Sega Master System, too, but in a format that will cause me to complain less.
  • Number of players: Altered Beast has two muscle dudes, so it’s gotta be two.
  • WeeeeeHey, smart guy, this is just a collection of games that were (re)released individually, and only packaged into a compilation to get the attention of nerds like you that fetishize physical media: Well, yes, but my point still stands. If they had packaged together games that were a skosh more similar, this whole game would actually get played, as opposed to just 16% of it. Man, if I only played 16% of Persona 4, I’d declare it a complete failure…
  • Favorite Game (this compilation): Err, gee, you think that might be Sonic the Hedgehog? Second place is Altered Beast, and third is Puyo Pop 2. Everything else is just gravy, albeit the kind of gravy that sits in a can in your pantry until the end of all time.
  • Favorite Improvement: Naturally, it’s in Sonic the Hedgehog, and it’s the presence of the spin dash in a game not at all designed for such a thing. It is glorious, and now I want a spin dash in Altered Beast.
  • A word from the Professor: I think this rabbit wants to see the end of mankind.
    Go Bunny

    Don’t listen to him, Trump!
  • Favorite Thing that Makes me Sad: Randomizing the beast transformations in Altered Beast does practically nothing. Considering this is something I begged for when I was a kid abusing the AB cabinet at the local Pizza Hut, I now know that my entire life is a lie.
  • Did you know? There were two other 3D Classic Collections in Japan. The first included Ecco, Shinobi III, Streets of Rage, and Space Harrier… which probably tracks as the most focused compilation. The third and final collection is all over the place, but it includes Gunstar Heroes and Sonic 2, so its absence is keenly felt.
  • Would I play again: I really like Sonic the Hedgehog.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… God of War 2! Rawr! Let’s murder all of Ancient Greece! Please look forward to it! (NOTE: Goggle Bob and the Goggle Bob Blog do not condone the murdering of all of Ancient Greece for entertainment purposes.)

Spoooooky

FGC #157 Kinect Star Wars

Bum Bum BuuuuuuumThere’s enough negativity on the internet, and I always try to be positive in my little corner of cyberspace.

I try.

I really do.

Full disclosure: I was biased against the Kinect from its first moment. It looked like yet another attempt by Microsoft to bite on the success of another device and steal some of the Wii’s voluminous thunder. Don’t get me wrong, despite being in a field that calls for me to curse M$ every ten seconds, I actually generally like Microsoft. I can’t get mad at those guys, because I’ve seen what other tech companies do when they have control, and Gates’ Fabulous Machine has at least steered in a direction that allows for things like writing your own programs without the express written permission of the Jobs estate. But ‘Soft has a tendency toward wholesale theft of whatever is working in the industry, and then attempting to replicate its success without really understanding what made the original so great in the first place. Kinect looked like another Zune from day one, and, when I finally picked one up over a Black Friday sale, I saw nothing to divorce me of this notion.

The Kinect always, always had issues. It was, I suppose, ideal for bars or frogurt factories, but in the average living room, playing a game that was meant for you, Kinect owner, had a tendency to go south real fast. Kinect has been calibrated for Goggle Bob. Welcome, Goggle Bob. Goggle Bob, it appears you have moved six inches to the left, I will now identify your t-shirt as a second player, and you as a guest. That couch behind you is an arm, right? Wow, that arm doesn’t move very much, you have failed. If this problem persists, please rearrange all the furniture in your home. Now shout your commands at me. I’m sorry, I didn’t hear that, but if you’d like to exit the game you’re currently playing, we can recalibrate the microphone again in an environment that doesn’t have background music. Have you considered playing all of your videogames on mute? Pew PewYou might enjoy it. Why are you turning me off in the system settings?

So, yes, not a Kinect fan.

And, as I’ve covered before, I’m not really a Star Wars fan either. I mean, I like Star Wars, I like lasers and laser swords and lasering planets, but it’s never been a must-buy situation. Kinect Mega Man? I’m buying that on day one. But Kinect Star Wars has no great hold over me. So why buy the game at all? Simple: Lucasarts has been working on ways to make “real life lightsaber battles” a reality for ages, and I figured here would be the culmination of that pan-galactic pursuit.

It makes sense, right? Lightsabers are, like Kingdom Hearts, light. There’s not much weight to a sword made of light, and there’s even less to a sword made of nothing. While the common complaint regarding The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword involved pointing out that shaking a wiimote around was nothing like holding an actual, weighty (Master) sword, there’d be no such issue in the Star Wars universe. I’ve seen Jedi twirl those things around like batons, so it’s perfectly canon that wielding a lightsaber would be pretty damn similar to the Kinect’s usual wave your hands around like a dork.

So, great news, thanks to Kinect Star Wars, I’m now completely over this whole “want to use a light saber” thing.

Okay, that isn’t completely true. I still want the ability to easily dice off limbs and cut through walls, but the actual dueling in Kinect Star Wars is about as fun as bathing a wookie. This actually makes me think of Skyward Sword again, because this is yet another game that reduces the act of dueling to Punch-Out-esque “tells” and motions. But please don’t think that because I evoked the good name of Punch-Out that I think this is any good: everything about this dueling system is pretty much the exact opposite of how anyone thinks of superpowered, exciting swordfights. People are fond of comparing Punch-Out to rhythm games, which is wholly justified, but Kinect Star Wars’ duels are practically (super slow) Dance Dance Revolution. VeeeewDown, up, left, attack, down, attack, push… Christ, I just realized this is more Hologram Time Traveler than anything. That’s not good!

And it gets worse! Viewed from a distance, this game is just a series of minigames. I’ve been focusing on lightsaber duels because they broke my heart, but there’s also pod racing, dancing, and Incredible Hulk Rancor-ing. And that’s all well and good, but some nitwits decided to solder a plot on to these events, and… ugh. Like, okay, remember Star Wars Episode 1? Of course you do. Remember the pod racing scene? Well, you’ve got two options there: you either enjoyed that entire protracted sequence, or you found it boring as hell, and spent all your time fantasizing about when that dreamy Darth Maul was going to show up. No matter your choice, now imagine doing that while standing up. It’s cool that Lucasarts decided to produce a Star Wars “cinematic experience” for this otherwise lightweight game, but every minute spent watching a prologue crawl of text or listening to Yoda jibber jabber about light and dark is also a moment you’re expected to be standing and at the ready, and it gets exhausting. Sure, you can sit back down, but then get ready for your Kinect to get confused and mistake the cat for your left foot, again.

At a certain point this game crosses the threshold between “bad videogame” and “psychological torture”. How long have you been standing there in your living room? To access the next level, begin repeating back to your Kinect how many Microsoft and Star Wars products you would like to purchase…

Think about itOh, and the whole thing is “hosted” by C-3PO and R2-D2. If you ever wondered when their crazy antics would get old, well, here you are.

Kinect Star Wars is terrible. It somehow manages to cram absolutely everything bad about the Kinect into one licensed game. There’s potential here! There could, one day, be a good lightsaber game. I think we already had a pretty alright pod racing game. And who doesn’t like to wreck stuff? But what’s here is a game that practically revels in tormenting the player, and brutalizes mind and body in the pursuit of a more “immersive” experience.

I don’t want to be a jedi. After Kinect Star Wars, I don’t even want to stand up.

FGC #157 Kinect Star Wars

  • System: Xbox 360 with Kinect. I don’t normally note required peripherals, but it seemed necessary here.
  • Number of players: I don’t know… two? There’s no way I’m admitting to another real life person that I own this dreck.
  • Kinect Komplaints: I think the number one problem with this peripheral is that, after decades of buttons that work just fine, Microsoft forsook all of that for bizarre hand gestures and commands that are about as precise as Mr. Magoo threading a needle with his kneecaps. Like, if you’re playing Mortal Kombat, you hit the start button, and nothing happens, then, okay, you know this game doesn’t have a pause feature. Attempt to shout the “pause” command during a Kinect game, and nothing happens, you don’t know if there isn’t a pause function, or maybe you said the wrong thing, or maybe it didn’t hear you, Owieor maybe you have to hold your hands in the shape of a giant P, or… what do you want me to do, you blasted machine?
  • Are you sure you’re not just lazy? Look, the physical dangers of standing up over long periods have been chronicled in medical journals that I’m sure I read at a doctor’s office sometime around sixth grade. More recently, though, I’ve read up on cult indoctrination, and guess what’s a great way to wear down a person’s stamina? Kinect is trying to make you do something.
  • If you can’t say anything nice: Alright, I do appreciate that choosing your dominant hand is seamless, and that you’re not forced into being a righty, like a certain right-washed Nintendo elf.
  • Did you know? Thanks to Disney purchasing Star Wars, this was the last Star Wars game designed by Lucasarts. So whenever someone tells you that it’s Disney responsible for over-merchandising Star Wars…
    At least he's alive
  • Would I play again: This is one of the rare games that I couldn’t even wait for an auto-save. I hit the half hour mark, and just declared myself done, and popped out the disc almost immediately. That’s it. No going back.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Family Dog for the SNES. Bark along with our nation’s thirtieth most popular animated dog from the 90’s! Please look forward to it!

FGC #120 Lego Star Wars: The Video Game

BUM BUM BUMLego Star Wars: The Video Game started the Lego video game franchise, and, arguably, revitalized Lego itself as a brand for an entire generation. Obviously, there’s a direct line between Lego Star Wars and the eventual Lego Indiana Jones or Lego Marvel Super Heroes games, and I’m also of the belief that we would never have seen the fantastic Lego Movie and the forthcoming Lego Batman without the success of this one game. Lego Star Wars: The Video Game was the cornerstone of an entire media empire.

And I want to say it was an accident.

LSW:TVG was developed by Traveller’s Tales, a British video game development studio founded in 1989. Want to hear some of their pre-Lego output? Well, this was the studio behind the video game adaptions of Weakest Link, Finding Nemo, and Toy Story. But wait! TT also worked with established gaming mascots like Sonic the Hedgehog and Crash Bandicoot… in Sonic R, Sonic 3D Blast, and Crash Twinsanity. Woof. Your mileage may vary, but Mickey Mania, a 16-bit title featuring Mickey Mouse traipsing through a number of his classic cartoons, seemed to be the only Traveller’s Tales developed video game that could be described without saying “it’s fun, but…” before 2005.

Also, don’t confuse Mickey Mania with Disney’s Magical Quest: Starring Mickey Mouse. Magical Quest was Capcom, and it was unequivocally astounding.

But let’s not spend all day insulting Traveller’s Tales releases, lets also look at horrible Star Wars games. Practically from the moment the You build 'em, you drag 'em aroundmedium was invented, there have been a lot of Star Wars games. It only makes sense, as practically everything in Star Wars translates well to the idea of a video game, from laser duels to space shooting to Han Solo having a dance off against Lando. Unfortunately, your average Star Wars video game… sucks. Like, really horribly sucks. The Atari games were passable, but still very much Atari games. The Super Star Wars trilogy was faithful to the series, but also nearly impossible. And then there’s the glut of games that decided to just focus on some random bit of Star Wars “gameplay”, like the abhorrent fighting game Star Wars: Masters of Teräs Käsi, or that wretched Star Wars Episode 1: Racer. Star Wars games have gotten better in recent years, but I maintain that the best Star Wars game still sits in another franchise. It’s the best Han Solo fanfic out there!

So, given that history, Traveller’s Tales and Star Wars together should not have been any more historic than Muppet RaceMania. And throwing in the Lego franchise, too? What was that supposed to do? Lego is meant for block building, for unfettered imagination that doesn’t require a controller. Sure, everyone has fond memories of Legos, but we all have fond memories of eating boogers, too. You get over it.

But here’s Lego Star Wars: The Video Game and it’s pretty alright. Thanks to Lego figures (minifigs) being literally made for easy customizations, LSWTVG features a whopping 56 playable Star Wars characters. Right off the bat, that’s awesome, because it seems like game designers have a tendency to ignore how very badly the public wants Darth Maul and Darth Vader to hang out. Hell, you could probably sell an entire series on the promise of a Star Wars Universe ping pong tournament. Padme and Leia playing doubles against Anakin and Han… admit it, you’d line up for presales. Lego Star Wars exploits this desire wonderfully, and even creates some memorable moments with its expansive cast.

Weesa gonna dieLSWTVG has ridiculously simple, “easy” gameplay. For instance, you can’t die. Well, you can “die”, but you respawn immediately, and the only consequence is losing a few studs (basically points). The gameplay is essentially closest to being a beat ‘em up, but there are no combos or complicated button presses. Just jump, attack, and “special”. Special, at least, is where the game shines. In order to make the huge cast more distinctive, every character gets a unique action to their class, like Jedi can use the Force to shove blocks around, or gungans can inexplicably jump high. Some of the classes seem like a stretch (blaster characters, like Amidala, get grappling hooks, and “small” characters like Anakin can fit into tight passageways), and, if you think about it, the Force users should have all abilities (Qui Gon can jump higher than Jar Jar and you know it!), but it all blends into a fun reason to switch around between Star Stars. Maybe “beat ‘em up” is the wrong genre… puzzle platformer? Is “remember which character is a Jedi” a puzzle? Is it still a puzzle game if the puzzles are for kindergarteners?

So Lego Star Wars: The Video Game is fun, but is it enough to launch a franchise? Yes, it’s fun for kids and parents alike, but you don’t see Nicktoons Racing setting the shelves ablaze. And keep in mind that this game was released in 2005, well past the time when “run jump maybe shoot” could launch a six part series. This was the same year the perennial Shadow the Hedgehog was released. LSWTVG was a better than average Star Wars game… so why the love?

Well, I think it’s a matter of timing. LSWTVG was released in 2005… before the release of Star Wars Episode 3. Want to know what’s going to happen in the upcoming, highly anticipated finale of the Star Wars Prequel Trilogy? Well here’s your answer, wrapped up in a fun game! Sure, it’s a game that looks and plays like it’s made for babies, but it has answers. Sweet, delicious answers!

Never underestimate a nerd’s desire to know what happens next. If the finale to Game of Thrones was written on George R. R. Martin’s ass, you better believe Gamestop would make a killing selling combination bifocals/nose plug sets.

So sadI take it back, Lego Star Wars: The Video Game wasn’t an accident. If there’s a franchise in this universe that knows how to merchandize, it’s Star Wars. Knowing full well the fan reaction, LSW:TVG was released ahead of Episode 3’s cinematic masterstroke (citation needed). A “pretty alright” game was instantly grabbed up by children, parents, and lonely, spoiler starved nerds alike. The masses catapulted LSW:TVG’s sales into the stratosphere, and it became one of the best selling games ever for the Playstation 2. And a franchise birthed a whole new franchise.

And, really, it couldn’t have happened to a nicer bunch of minifigs.

I said it before, didn’t I? Traveller’s Tales games were never that great… but they rarely received sequels, too. Sonic R? There’s obviously a great game featuring Sonic and his pals racing (and has the subtitle “Transformed”), but we weren’t going to see it on a maiden voyage across the stormy Saturn seas. Lego Star Wars: The Video Game wasn’t all that great, but it succeeded. And that begat Lego Star Wars 2, and then Lego Other Franchises, and now, today, we have fully-realized, amazing Lego game experiences like Lego Marvel Whatever or Lego City Undercover. The series may have exploited a “cheat” to get there, but now we’ve got complete Lego Worlds to play with.

I guess you could say Lego Star Wars: The Video Game was some kind of… building block.

FGC #120 Lego Star Wars: The Video Game

  • Pew PewSystem: Playstation 2, Xbox, Gamecube, PC, OS X, and Gameboy Advance. Game gets around.
  • Number of players: Two, simultaneous, and the game is just plain perfect for playing with a younger sibling, child, or someone who is just plain bad at video games thanks to the nigh invulnerability of minifigs. It’s like someone finally remembered the best feature from Kirby Super Star.
  • Forgetting something? Oh yeah! There are all these vehicle stages to break up the monotony of playing as an adorable lil’ Lego man (or woman). They’re… not that great. But at least they’re not long!
  • Mission Complete: And, yeah, I suppose thanks to the “easy” gameplay, I was subconsciously forced to collect every doodad and stud hidden in this game. All minifigs unlocked (yay Kit Fisto![?]), and my lil’ Lego hangar is the swankiest.
  • Other Tales: Never confuse Traveller’s Tales for Telltale Games. Two tooooootally different companies.
  • Favorite Character: General Grievous, who is quad-wielding lightsabers, and thus the best possible character available. No stupid cough for this cyborg!
  • LAVA!Did you know? According those that combed the code, Spaceman Ben, classic blue Lego astronaut, was planned for this game, but scrapped. That silly shapeshifter assassin from Episode 2 was also supposed to be in there, but who cares?
  • Would I play again: Another “I love this game but there are better sequels to play” situation. At least this one offers that unique Star Wars Prequels flavor, but if it comes down to this or Spider-Man, I know which one I’m going to choose.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Chameleon Twist for the N64! Let’s (Chameleon) Twist again, like we did last (N64) Summer! Please look forward to it!

FGC #077 Final Fantasy 12

Here comes a special gameFlash Gordon: Star Wars :: Star Wars : Final Fantasy 12

Search your feelings, you know this to be true.

As many people know, Star Wars was birthed by a George Lucas who, in an attempt to blow his American Graffiti cash on the dumbest thing he could find, tried to purchase the rights to Flash Gordon, because young George had a vision of updating the sci-fi serial of his youth into a big screen hit for the audiences of today (yesterday). George Lucas, unfortunately (maybe?) was not able to secure the Flash Gordon rights, so he figured he’d make his own damn space franchise, but, like, with samurai, and furry dudes, and maybe a woman in a golden bikini. What could have been a shameless descent into nostalgic wallowing with a graduated fan at the helm became a wholly original universe that has the potential to last until the end of time. And, let’s be real here, the only reason anyone today knows about Flash Gordon is The Best of Queen collections, so maybe things worked out for the best.

Even with the Flash Gordon influence aside, Star Wars is about as “original” as a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, just, I don’t know, with some marshmallow substance wedged in there. After George jettisoned the only original idea he ever had (Willow… it eventually became its own movie), Star Wars was reduced to merely a hero’s journey to overcome his samurai dad and avenge his wizened old mentor while his royal sister makes out with a charming rogue. It’s all archetypes, but, more importantly, it all works, and the world doesn’t need another article cynically ranting about there being no original ideas in Star Wars.

So let’s talk about how there are no original ideas in Final Fantasy.

Final Fantasy (and we’re just going to look at the main, numbered series here, and ignore the myriad of spinoffs, because I don’t have all day, geez) has always had a sort of… let’s be generous here and say “homage” issue. Final Fantasy I was, as many people realized the minute they met a real life dungeon master, a Dungeons and Dragons campaign baked into a digital world, and frosted with a dab of sci-fi. Final Fantasy 3 was, at its core, a battle of the gods and primal forces that tugged your nameless party along for the ride (ignoring remakes). Final Fantasy 5 was a comedy, Final Fantasy 6 was an opera, and Final Fantasy 8 was a WB/CN superhero tragidramedy (admit it, Squall and Oliver Queen could hang out, and you’d watch it). Final Fantasy 7 was Final Fantasy 6’s steampunk universe dialed up to eleven with a cast of whacky adventurers, and Final Fantasy 10 was either a hero’s journey or a particularly subtle take on the idea of being sucked into a video game universe. All of these games, and I do mean all, are great games with plots I’ve enjoyed, but I wouldn’t call a single one of them particularly original. PEW PEW PEWIf you told me William Gibson created Midgar, or Gary Gygax rolled up Matoya, I’d believe you.

Of course, there are two games I didn’t mention in that rundown. Final Fantasy 4 is the game where protagonist Cecil upgrades himself to a shining knight with a magical sword while exploring the ancient, mystical society that is his heritage, then learns that the scary, heavily armored general is actually a blood relative… but fear not! At the last moment, the man in the frightening helmet turns to the light side, and helps the good knight vanquish hate from the galaxy. Sound familiar? Or how about Final Fantasy 2, literally the second Final Fantasy game, where a group of plucky rebels fight against a malevolent emperor who commands a floating battle fortress and a lieutenant who is revealed to be an assumed-dead family member.

Who needs Kingdom Hearts to crossover with Star Wars? Square has already got that one wrapped up.

Admittedly, I may be just a tad too cynical here. We’ve already established that Star Wars wasn’t original to begin with, and stuff like “main villain is secretly… your roommate!” has been an easy story writing crutch since the days of Homer. And an “orbiting death station” really isn’t that different from any given “gain the power of the gods” power play, death from above is death from above no matter how you play it.

But then there’s Final Fantasy 12.Take a Gambit

Final Fantasy 12 starts on a desert planet, but never leaves, because you know that the minute it hit space, Lucas would have sent the lawyers out in force. But don’t worry! There’s still the signature Star Wars hectic space battles with rebel forces combatting imperial fleets and gigantic battle stations… it just all takes place in a slightly lower atmosphere. And all your old friends are here: the rebellious princess without a kingdom, the plucky desert kid that turns out to have a magical attunement with ancient forces, the hero of the last war reluctantly returning to battle to right past wrongs, the smarmy pirate with the superpower of owning a spaceship (I mean… airship), his constant, animalistic companion, and they’re all battling against a mysterious, heavily armored darth judge, who, incidentally, will eventually be revealed to be blood-related to your party and makes a last second turn from the dark side to confront a corrupt and malicious emperor.

But now I know I’m being too cynical, because, when you get right down to it, Final Fantasy 12 does what Star Wars did: takes the same basic elements of the story, and makes something new and interesting.

Consider the Death Star. Yes, it’s an easy parallel to compare the Death Star of Star Wars to Air Fortress of Doom Bahamut in Final Fantasy 12. All the same elements are there: a floating, heavily guarded citadel that is infiltrated by rebels to save the day, because if they don’t, everything on the ground below is going to be a rust mote. I'm Captain BaschBut if we really think of Final Fantasy 12 as Star Wars, then Air Fortress Bahamut is merely the second Death Star, the half completed mess from the finale of Return of the Jedi. The true Death Star in Final Fantasy 12 is the nethicite/magicite weaponry from the opening acts of Final Fantasy 12, and, rather than make it a simple threat to be destroyed, Final Fantasy 12 asks a much more interesting question, “What if Princess Leia gained control of the Death Star?”

If you think about it, it’s a valid question in the Star Wars universe, too. Afterall, those bothans died retrieving the plans for the Death Star, so, hey, why can’t the rebels get their act together and build their own Death Star! With blackjack! And hookers! They don’t even seem to consider it, because, hey, good guys (and maybe there aren’t a whole lot of rebel contractors). Princess Ashe of Final Fantasy 12, though, she pretty quickly gains access to ultimate, city-destroying power, and a significant portion of the plot is given over to the moral ramifications and considerations of using a WMD. Hell, considering the influence of the “old gods” on the FF12 world, you could claim part of the game is about considering if “the force” is ever a morally good thing to utilize. On occasion, it’s some heady stuff, and it makes Final Fantasy 12 better for it.

But would Star Wars be better for it? I very much doubt it.

Please don't lookThis is why Final Fantasy 12 is so great, and, tangentially, why Star Wars is so great. Star Wars, the original trilogy as we know it, very much could be a serial television show, much like Flash Gordon. Like I’m sure many of you have, I rewatched the complete hexology over the course of the last week, and I was amazed at how easily it would be to separate each Star Wars movie into individual, television-friendly chunks. This week, Luke and Han on Hoth, next week, special guest Frank Oz, and then you introduce Lando and his amazing Sky City for sweeps. But, no, Star Wars is a series of movies, and they are optimized for two hour chunks, not commercial breaks (though I would argue that the TV-friendly plotting of the films may have been a factor in their popularity in the era of the local broadcast channel Saturday Afternoon Matinees). Star Wars may have had its origins in a television serial, but in graduating to another medium, its directors and writers wisely ignored the easy pull of nostalgia and built something new and different (and, incidentally, influenced future films forever).

Star Wars is a whiz bang pew pew pew movie, and it has no place for measured discussions on the nature of responsibility and civilian casualties. But Final Fantasy 12? I believe my timer for this game is somewhere exceeding a hundred hours, so I’m going to go ahead and say that at least a few moments can be spared for quiet contemplation before we get back to sky-piratry. Final Fantasy 12 might practically be Star Wars, but it emulates the best part of Star Wars, that, while it’s generally completely unoriginal, it knows what it’s doing, and using the medium to its maximum, so it creates a massively memorable experience.

Final Fantasy 12 isn’t original. Star Wars isn’t original. Flash Gordon was just a racist western in space. But it doesn’t matter. They did what they did well, and they will inspire generations to come.

What is originality in the face of being timeless?

FGC #77 Final Fantasy 12

  • System: Playstation 2. Maybe something portable one day?
  • Number of Players: One. I literally cannot imagine how a second player could be incorporated into this system.
  • You mean the battle system? Yeah, you know, the whole gambit system, where you manually assign macros to your party members, send them into battle, and hope for the best. I know there was a lot of hoopla around the release about “a game that plays itself”, but, come on guys, it’s not like it took that much A lot of time...brain power to hammer on the “Fight” command over and over again, why not just automate and save us all some time? That’s my roundabout way of saying I liked it… except for the fact that all the best gambits aren’t available until the end of the game. Vaan, could you just know what to do with a poisoned teammate? Please?
  • If everything is Star Wars, then how about Penelo? Well it’s not like it’s a 1:1 thing, but considering she’s Vaan’s constant, unwavering companion (which I’ve noted before is a great trait), but is wildly unequipped for the adventure itself, and possess a very specific skillset, she’s basically R2-D2. I know I could see her tasering ewoks.
  • So this is how you close Star Wars week, with Final Fantasy? Well, it’s not like ROB can’t randomly pick another Star Wars game ever again, but I maintain that, even more than anything Lucasarts ever produced, Final Fantasy 12 captures the spirit of Star Wars the best… just happened to forget to acquire that license.
  • Did you know? I feel like Yiazmat is the most misunderstood super boss in Final Fantasy (or maybe even video game) history. He’s not there to be defeated over the course of hours, he’s there so you can play with all sorts of gambit setups, see how long you last, and then adjust accordingly. This is actually pretty great, as Final Fantasy 12-2 was a completely different genre, so here’s one final sendoff for the gambit system before the franchise switched over to… what do we have here… paradigms? That sounds dumb.
  • Would I play again: Pretty inevitable, but it’ll take a local release of the International version or some kind of HD rerelease (or both). I poured far too much of my life into this game, and a rerelease of some manner is pretty inevitable, so I’d hate to start out on the cruddy ol’ PS2 and then upgrade halfway through (and you know you won’t be able to transfer any saves, jerks).

What’s Next? Random ROB has chosen… Neo Geo Battle Coliseum for the PS2. Finally! A fighting game including Neo Geo characters! Who would have ever foreseen that? Please look forward to it!

Darth Judge