Tag Archives: xeno

FGC #278 Bronkie the Bronchiasaurus

Bronkie the Bronchiasaurus is an abysmal platforming game for the SNES. It has floaty controls, terrible stage design, and, despite having the entire prehistoric period to draw upon, populates its lousy levels with the least interesting group of sad little wannabe mascots this side of the last Sunsoft release. BtB is an awful game, but I can’t completely fault it, because it’s trying to help kids with asthma. Mind you, it’s not doing a very good job at that either, but sometimes it’s enough to see your malady, disability, or just plain “otherness” normalized. Superman and Batman don’t have asthma, but Bronkie does, and he manages to (ineptly) save his planet. It’s okay to have asthma! You can still do anything! Videogames told me so!

Which brings us to the sad, true topic of today’s post. Gentle readers, I think it’s time you knew the truth. I, Goggle Bob, have a disability.

I am left-handed.

It’s very difficult to be left-handed. The world is made for the right-handed, and even the most basic of tools are often aimed at the more dominant majority. Everyone knows about the trials of using the “wrong” kind of scissors, but have you ever had the pleasure of using a right-handed gravy ladle in your left hand? It makes properly pouring sauces impossible, and, as someone that subsists almost entirely on gravy, there is something distinctly dehumanizing about being denied even the most basic of (animal fat-soaked) meals. And then there’s the whole mentor thing: want to learn how to properly hit the ball or play guitar? Sorry, you’re going to spend the next couple of years trying to find just one experienced lefty for tutoring, and by the time that quest is complete, you won’t even remember why you started in the first place (reminder to self: it was to pick up chicks). Being left-handed is hard!

ArghBut there is hope. There are many famous and successful left-handed people. Oprah? Left-handed. Bill Gates? Left-handed. Clinton, Bush, Obama? Lefty, lefty, lefty. There are even some excellent, unexpected left-handed idols throughout history; we’ve got Hendrix, Van Gough, Curie, and Aristotle. Nietzsche slayed God with his left hand, and Napoleon changed European road safety forever with his left paw. And there are great fictional lefties in entertainment, too, like John McClane, Rocky, Arya Stark, Fluttershy, and half the Simpsons cast. They might not be local, but it’s not hard to find a lefty to look up to somewhere in the world, whether it be reality or fiction.

Well, except maybe in videogames.

The first videogame I really remember noting a character’s dominant hand is Final Fantasy 4. Most of the characters in that adventure are right-handed, but one of the earliest introduced warriors is Kain Highwind, a left-handed dragoon. That’s cool! He can jump and fly and wears awesome armor and… oh, wait, he’s a traitor. Twice. He’s endangering the world exclusively so he can make out with his best friend’s girlfriend, and, incidentally, he’s left-handed. FEARSo we’re back to lefty equals evil? Wow, how progressive, Square. How about Final Fantasy 4: The After Years? That game introduced about 10,000 new, original, useless characters whom we must pilfer, anybody new to the playable cast a lefty? Yep! We’ve got… Golbez. The other guy that spent all of Final Fantasy 4 trying to destroy the world. Boo, Final Fantasy 4. Boo.

Of course, there are some of you that are likely champing at the bit to smack that comment button and inform this lefty that I’ve missed the most prominent left-handed videogame character of all time: Link of The Legend of Zelda. And, a few years ago, I would have been right there with you: Shigeru Miyamoto, creator of Mario, Zelda, and Olimar, is left-handed, and, presumably in a bout of narcissism, made Link, the hero of Hyrule, a lefty as well. And that tradition continued with aplomb until Twilight Princess, when the “sword hand” matched the player’s right wiimote, and Link was transformed into a righty. However, this switch also caused all of Hyrule to become mirrored for the length of Link’s adventure, so it was kind of forgiven. This is just bizarro Hyrule, nothing unusual about that, of course Link is a righty in this world. But then it happened again in Skyward Sword, and the world didn’t even flip that time. First Link in Hyrule recorded history, and he’s a righty for some reason. And then we got Breath of the Wild, and now he’s right-handed again, and there’s not a wiimote/motion control excuse, he’s just, ya know, right-handed, like normal people. But don’t worry, lefties! Hyrule Warriors introduced an all-new left-handed character to compensate: Cia, the evil twin that is trying to take over the world so she can get laid! Yay! Another shining example of the menacing left!

BAMThough it’s interesting that Hyrule Warriors, with a properly left-handed Link and Cia, allows for an actual lefty vs. lefty battle. That hardly ever happens, as, if you’ve got one (likely evil) left-handed character on the roster, you don’t need any more diversity hires. As an easy example, Soda Popinski is the one southpaw boxer in Punch-Out, so we don’t need another one (even though Little Mac is clearly based on lefty Rocky). And that one lefty is usually meant to be an evil twin of the more virtuous, right-handed hero. A right hand grips the Buster Sword, but the Masamune is firmly grasped only in the left (thanks again, Final Fantasy!). But there is one franchise that occasionally allows two lefties to be seen on the same stage: Soulcalibur. Here, we have both the villainous Nightmare and the villainous Raphael using their left… Wait, dammit… There are like sixty heroes and seven bad guys in that series, and our only two left-handed characters are both evil? Argh…

There are heroic lefties, of course. We’ve got sometimes Link. We’ve got box-art Crono. We’ve got Dunban of Xenoblade… who is only using his left hand because his right arm has been effectively destroyed through right-handed heroism. Um… huh. So you’re either evil, or it’s a handicap? Wonderful. Being left-handed is wonderful.

We got any other left-handed heroes lying around here?

Nero, the bastard of the franchise

You bastard! You destroyed the franchise and made me play the same stupid game twice!

So ya know what? You got asthma? That sucks, and I feel for ya. But at least you got a pair of platforming dinosaurs to make you feel better. The best us lefties ever got was an elf that got promoted to right-handedness when he got popular.

Hey, gaming, I’m saluting you with my left hand right now, but I’m only using one finger.

FGC #278 Bronkie the Bronchiasaurus

  • System: Super Nintendo. Maybe we can put together a petition to get this one on the Virtual Console. I’m sure we’d be able to get a whole six signatures.
  • Number of players: The headlining dinosaur is actually part of a duo. You have the choice between Bronkie and Trakie the Triceratops. I’m assuming Trakie is supposed to be female, but I’m dinosaur-racist, so I can’t really tell the difference between a boy lizard and a girl lizard.
  • Wanna get high? Seriously, there’s no other explanation for what is happening here:

    Dude

    Is this what the cool kids call vaping?

  • Pedantry Corner: Yes, I am aware Palom of Final Fantasy 4 is also left-handed. However, I’m not exactly aware which one of the twins, Palom or Porom, is actually Palom. And that’s the problem.
  • Back to Bronkie: Every stage contains at least two trivia questions about asthma. I’m pretty sure some of the “wrong” answers could lead to dead kids… and those wrong answers might wind up sticking in young minds… so maybe this game isn’t the best thing for children.
  • Did you know? Wavequest produced this game for children with asthma, but it also created Packy and Marlon, a game for kids with diabetes. And the stars of that game are elephants. I… feel like that is maybe a subtle insult.
  • Would I play again? Absolutely not. Reread the first paragraph for more details, but this game is so boring, it’s sinister.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… The Walking Dead by Telltale Games! Time for decisions, zombies, and decisions about zombies. Please look forward to it!

NOOOOO

Xenosaga Episode III Special 4: Beyond Xenosaga

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

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

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

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

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

Wait… no. That’s… that’s not right…

Xenosaga Episode III Special 3: Xenosaga (and me) and Religion

Previously on Xenosaga: After over a year of writing (kinda) objectively about Xenosaga, I figure I’m entitled to one rambling, semi-autobiographical entry about Xenosaga and religion. This one is gonna be short on screenshots and heavy on words…

My first job was at a church. Specifically, it was a non-denominational, Christian church that was only open during the summer. Why was it seasonal? Simple: I lived (and live) in a shore community, and (while this isn’t strictly true) it’s generally assumed the area is deader than Jin the minute the beach becomes unviable. Restaurants close, entire swaths of the island are empty, and, in my youth, they even used to turn off the traffic lights the minute fall hit. It’s gotten better in recent years (mainly because the local chamber of commerce has done its best to extend the season in every conceivable direction), but, even now, that same church stops its Sunday services once the leaves start falling.

But during the summer? Then that church is popping.

This has always been “that church my grandmother goes to in the summer” to me, but it might be nationally famous. At the very least, it gets nationally famous speakers for every summer Sunday. In my first year working there, we had the spiritual advisor to Bill Clinton, the head organists for Radio City Music Hall, and Elizabeth Dole. And those are names I can remember off the top of my head. I’ve never been a big… Christian fan? Like, I don’t know who is big and famous in the evangelical circuit, and I don’t think I have any of the Earth’s Mightiest Methodists trading cards, but even I was able to see that this church was capable of corralling the titans of the Christian “industry”. Or maybe I just thought that because a few speakers required their own security detail…

Regarding my own job at the organization, though, I started as nothing more than a lowly weed-picker. There was a pile of manure with my name on it, literally, at one point. But I quickly rose in the ranks thanks to a combination of endless bragging and generally showing up on time more often than my contemporaries, and, before I knew it, I was the first “kid” working within the office of this church. I was the first web guru/network admin for a 120 year old organization. Woo! Also, to date this ridiculous story, my first task was to make sure the creaky MS-DOS database that contained the congregation’s contact information was updated to account for the upcoming Y2K bug. Sigh, memories.

Despite the seemingly national scope of this church, the office staff was generally limited. There was a “ruling body” of trustees, but they only met once every two weeks or so. The actual day-to-day interests of the church were managed by an operating president, vice president, accountant, secretary, and assistant secretary. There was also a complete grounds staff, but nobody let them inside. I was in that office, though, as, what, did you expect ‘em to keep the computers outside? Bah! I was inside with the big boys, and, as a result, was privy to all the goings-on of what keeps a nationally recognized church operating.

And it changed my outlook on Christianity forever.

Remember how I mentioned that this church got famous speakers from all over the world? Well, those people don’t just call you. A significant amount of effort was expended by the office staff “booking” these big names. Yes, some speakers were “locks” year after year, but there was still a lot of scheduling negotiation involved in even the “easiest” speaker. And then there were the fees involved. Some speakers, some good, Christian speakers, would preach the Word of God for nothing, or next to nothing. It was not uncommon for a speaker to ask for nothing more than airfare and a hotel room. Occasionally, a speaker would ask for those usual amenities, and some level of “base” fee, all the while making it clear that this is how he (inevitably “he”) lives, and it’s only proper to ask for a small donation. And then… then there were a few of the… “other” speakers.

I’m very deliberately not naming names in this article (or even completely identifying the name of the church, as you’ve no doubt noticed), but some particularly famous Christians would speak at the church, some even possibly from churches or ministries you might recognize, and their riders would be… in-depth. I can immediately recall one speaker that was internationally famous as a pillar of the Christian community… and his every appearance demanded a contribution of “the best hotel room available”, a limo from the hotel to the church, a stocked fridge of preferred drinks at the hotel and the church, a limo from the church to the beach after the service, and, of course, $3,000. This was a speaker that would get up every Sunday morning, preach about charity, love, and being a good Christian, and then hop into his limo so he could sip his favorite wine at the beach. Again, some speakers were free, but this guy would score 3K to open his mouth for forty minutes.

Oh, and there was the one time he reflexively spit on a random kid. That was something to see. Do not get that guy decaf. I think it was in the rider.

What I’m getting to here is that, in my teenage years, I learned something important about Christians: some of them are dicks. And I say that as a Christian (oh my God, I might be a dick, too).

I’ll say that again: I’m a Christian. I believe in Jesus Christ, and a healthy percentage of the Bible. I also feel like I have to immediately apologize for my beliefs, because, look, I’ve seen what’s happening to the polar ice caps, I know what’s going on with our environment, and I don’t believe the friggen garbage-based apocalypse is “all part of God’s plan”. But I certainly know Christians that do. I know Christians that will fight to the death to “defend the sanctity of marriage”. I know Christians that genuinely want to see practically all of what we consider to be science abolished. And I know Christians that think it is okay to literally kill to protect fetuses. I… I don’t even know the proper word to use here… I‘m “ashamed”? It’s something like that, but can shame also contain pride? How sinful is that? Whatever the case, I suppose I’m ashamed to be part of a group that is so publicly (and in some cases, proudly) holding back societal progress. Is it a catch-all shield to defend prejudices and indolence, or is it genuine beliefs fueling hate that could last for centuries? Does it matter? In the end, it’s assumed that if someone is willing to say, “I’m a Christian”, then it’s likely going to be followed by, “And that’s why I believe you should have fewer rights.” Paraphrasing.

And, in a weird way, working at that church taught me that that’s… okay.

To revisit the speaker that would require $3K to publicly cough, he was one of my grandmother’s favorite speakers. Since the time I was like ten, my grandmother would tell me about this great minister, and would drag me along to her church every time he spoke. My grandmother was not a very excitable woman, but she would get genuinely enthusiastic about this guy, and, if you believe in being “filled with the spirit”, this guy did it for her (phrasing). I’ll reiterate that this guy once spit hot coffee on a random teenager, and then offered a half-hearted apology that sounded more perfunctory than anything, but my grandmother, someone I genuinely trusted and admired, thought he was the greatest thing since a bowlful of M&Ms. So here was a guy that was a complete asshole behind closed doors, but a perfect Christian pillar for the community. And here I was in the middle of that, trying to reconcile the holy man with the asshole jerk.

And that’s when I realized the moral of this article: there are good Christians that are good people publicly and privately, and there are “good” Christians that are good people publicly, but terrible people privately.

And Xenosaga seems to understand that.

Here’s a fun fact about Xenosaga: there are only Christians and atheists in this cast.

Okay, that’s not exactly true. While it’s not outright stated, Jin Uzuki appears to be a practicing Buddhist. And, while that doesn’t preclude him from having additional Christian beliefs, it’s pretty clear he’s the only guy in the universe with beliefs that aren’t wholly Christian. The rest of the party (save chaos, Shion, and KOS-MOS) seem to be confused by key passages from the Bible, so they’re theoretically not Christian, and, considering they don’t seem to express any other beliefs, we’ll just label them as atheists. Actually, Junior was born and bred to kill God, so he might be agnostic.

But the bad guys? Almost all of them are Christian, albeit a future, perverted version of Christianity. Margulis, Pellegri, Richard, and Hermann are all completely willing to die for their faith, which, again, is stated to 100% trace back to “the Messiah”. Albedo quotes the Bible regularly, and, while it may just be an affectation to match Junior’s “well read” mentality, he is shown to have a certain weakness for holy imagery. And Wilhelm, like chaos, was a contemporary of Jesus, and started the whole Ormus thing that got (his form of) Christianity through the cosmos. You’re still spreading the faith even if you’re spreading a slightly murderous version of it… right? Even Virgil seems to come around to the cross thanks to Feb, and it’s clearly implied by his final fate that he’s found some form of “the Light”.

But this is all par for the course with a JRPG, right? “Fighting an evil religion” is a trope practically as old as the medium itself, and it’s never a surprise when the final boss of a JRPG is “god”. It’s just normal progression, right? Fight a few cardinals, move up to the pope, and then battle god for supremacy of the universe. Afterwards, it’s revealed that god was really holding humanity back, and everybody goes out for fajitas. See also: Breath of Fire 2, Final Fantasy 10, and, I dunno, Demon’s Crest. Wait, which one lets you kill god with a chainsaw?

Except Xenosaga does a few things differently.

For one, this is not some random “mythological” religion, this is Christianity, complete with a guest appearance by Jesus. And this isn’t even a Final Fantasy or Neon Genesis Evangelion situation, where names and themes are reused, but it really has as much to do with Christianity as Quetzalcoatl and Odin ruling over the world of Final Fantasy 8. You’ve got “the lance that pierced Jesus on the cross”, but it’s a giant pitchfork that is capable of being hurled at the moon by a giant robot? Okay, guys, sure. I’ll check the Bible for that bit about an angel that is a bulbous black orb sent to menace teenagers with Oedipus complexes. What’s important in Xenosaga is that this isn’t The Church of St. Generic Badguy, it’s Christianity, with crosses and Bibles and an apostle or twelve.

Which actually neatly brings me to my next point. The Zohar and Zohar emulators of Xenosaga are gracefully named after Jesus and his twelve apostles. At first blush, this seems like another Eva-esque bout of “hur hur, here’s some religious symbolism for you”. However, as the plot progresses, we find that the Zohar was studied extensively by Joachim Mizrahi, and he built the twelve Zohar emulators. And named them. And why did he name them after the apostles? Simple: he’s a devoted Christian, and figured devices meant to speak to God may as well be named after people who literally spoke to God. Mizrahi is, basically, a Jesus fanboy.

And that’s important.

Dr. Mizrahi is Christian, and he’s a good guy. And a scientist! Febronia is Christian, and she’s a good guy. And a Realian! chaos is Christian, and he’s a good guy. And a party member! And Shion is Christian, a good guy, and the main character! Oh my gosh, we’ve got bad guys that are Christians, and we’ve got good guys that are Christians. It’s almost like it’s reality!

And, yes, there are shades of gray even in the good guys. Mizrahi decided to endanger an entire planet for the sake of potentially saving the universe, and he was believed to be a mad man for decades. chaos is constantly doubting himself, and people around him have suffered for it. And Shion… well, I think I already threw a couple thousand words at how she’s got problems dealing with friends and enemies. There are good people in the Xenosaga universe, but they’re flawed, and they’re incidentally Christian. Feb seems to be the only “immaculate” Christian in the bunch, but we mostly only see her through the eyes of her child protégé (Shion) and lover (Virgil), so it’s likely she’s just as much of a sinner during her time off. And she did spend most of her afterlife advocating for the death of her sisters, which seems morally dubious.

So, yes, Xenosaga is a JRPG where Christian symbolism is common, and eventually, yes, you fight a controlling “god” for the right for humanity to live a truly free existence. But what’s different here is that there are NPCs and party members that are Christian, and they all express their faith in different ways. Shion and Margulis believe in the exact same savior, but Shion tries to help the living while Margulis fights to be a martyr. Mizrahi seemingly came to his faith while trying to cope with the death of his daughter, while Pellegri sees her religion as an inescapable, inherited fate. And chaos, the guy that actually got to pal around with Jesus Christ, has apparently spent the last 6,000 years as a directionless loner, but, thanks to Christian teachings, at least tried to do his best as a friendly fellow during his off time.

chaos believes in a universe that involves the freedom of… chaos. chaos believes in a world that could equally love or crucify a savior, just so long as it is the choice of the people involved. That… sounds vaguely familiar.

So Xenosaga does something different from most JRPGs: it actually takes the time to examine the faiths of both sides. It doesn’t blanket call religion bad, nor does it make every religious member of the party a perfect example of heroism. Christians in Xenosaga are like Christians in the real world, simply people trying to do what they think is right. Some of these people are obviously wrong, but that doesn’t change their faith, or what they believe. Good or bad, it doesn’t matter, they can still inspire others, they can still spread their principles, and, end of the day, they can still say they believe in the same Messiah. There are all kinds of people, good and bad, that believe in the same things, and Xenosaga isn’t afraid to show both sides.

You slay a lot of gods in JRPGs, but it’s rare that you find characters that believe in something. Yes, usually there are the old standbys like “friendship” or “the resistance” or “for GP”; but consider that your average JRPG hero is in a literally life or death situation. Isn’t it a little… odd that you have no idea what Cecil Harvey believes will happen to those black mages he killed? Is it weird that 21 year old Cloud Strife is introduced to the concept of an afterlife a few days into a world tour with random eco-terrorists? The world of Final Fantasy 13 has an army of random gods, so Lightning kills ‘em, and then we’ve got two games and 1,000 years where, what, people just believe in sexy sisters that turn into motorcycles? That is a poor foundation for a belief system.

Xenosaga gives you people that believe in a religion, and it gives you good people and bad people that believe in that. And you’ve got people, good and bad, that do not believe in that. And, in the end, neither side is right or wrong for their beliefs, they’re heroic or villainous for what they do with those beliefs. Like in reality, beliefs and religion are just one aspect of a person.

And, yes, in real life there are people that will try to limit your rights because of their faith. There are people that will try to tell you that Jesus saves, and that includes the o-zone layer. There are pastors that absolutely will spit on your friends because they got the wrong coffee. These people might be terrible, and you absolutely should fight against them, but that doesn’t make everything they believe in wrong. Faith is different for every person, and every person is different. Christianity itself is neither good nor bad, but the people that believe in it can be.

Oh, and what I learned at my first job? There are Christians that can be dicks, and it’s your responsibility to be one of the good ones. Always do your best to be a chaos, not a Wilhelm. That’s what’s going to make the universe a better place, regardless of your faith.

Next time on Xenosaga: Xenosaga, where are they now?

Xenosaga Episode III Special 2: Xenosaga Freaks LIVE(ish)!

Previously on Xenosaga: Hopefully the previous update provided all the answers, because now it’s time for all sorts of questions.

Xenosaga Freaks, mentioned briefly at the start of the Episode 2 portion of this LP, was a “promotional” Xenosaga game released in Japan a few months before the release of Xenosaga Episode 2. The Xenosaga Freaks disc contained some Xenosaga word puzzle games, a Xenosaga glossary of terms (which, you’ll note, is missing from XS2), a demo of Xenosaga Episode 2, and “Xenocomi”, a visual novel featuring The Brews killing time aboard the Durandal during some Episode 1 respite. For many years, this game was entirely out of the reach of American audiences, but some brave souls over at Xeno Underground not only translated much of the game, but also programmed the separate Xenocomi stories into simple executables.

Seriously, good job, Jintoki and Kare Reiko.

So, in the interest of covering absolutely everything about Xenosaga for this LP, I contacted Talking Time’s own BEAT about performing a video LP of this crazy bit of nonsense, and he was very gracious in helping me put together a stream of ludicrous twaddle with FanboyMaster and SpoonyBardOL. A recording of the stream is available here.

Since I technically stole BEAT himself for this gobbledygook, I’m also going to steal his general note format.

Notes! With Time Annotations!