Tag Archives: bioshock

FGC #655 Final Fantasy 6: Part 3

Final Fantasy 6 is one of my favorite games, so we are going to have seven different articles about Final Fantasy 6 over the course of the next three weeks. We’ll have two weeks of articles on Monday-Wednesday-Friday, and then the finale the following Wednesday (just to be confusing). The Wild Arms 3 Let’s Play will resume on July 17. Now we continue Final Fantasy 6 coverage with…

This is going to suckWould you kindly choose to read this essay about Final Fantasy 6?

The World of Ruin of Final Fantasy 6 is all about freedom. In the previous five Final Fantasy games, there was often a point where you reached… let’s call it… the end of the world, and…

… Wait. No, that doesn’t work. Errm…

Well, every Final Fantasy is a finite fantasy, and eventually you reach its finale. And, regardless of whether there is a hell emperor or space bug skulking around, you the player reach a point where you’ve seen everything, and have been everywhere. Traditionally, this somehow coincides with earning your “final” airship, whether that be some kind of moon whale or the simple ability to land on unusual tiles. Or maybe the world itself has been fully revealed! Whatever! The point is that there is a “final” point where you have seemingly infinite freedom… but you’ve seen it all. You can go anywhere on the planet, which includes the two “bonus” dungeons left, or a magic shop you might have missed outside the bounds of a town.

In other words, you have the freedom of choice on a global scale, but no actual choices to make.

The Final Fantasy immediately preceding Final Fantasy 6 was, naturally, Final Fantasy Extreme Final Fantasy 5. The final act of that game presented a “brand new world” with unique challenges, an almost immediate airship, and the option of raiding the final dungeon super early. But, like in previous Final Fantasy games, the actual progression of that “world” was less about choice and more about following the traditional upgrade line. The ancient weapons must be collected in order thanks to airship/catapult shenanigans, and, while there are some optional areas about, there is very little to distinguish this general progression from choosing between initially defeating Kary or Tiamat. The whole “final world” scenario of Final Fantasy 5 offered a general illusion of choice (you can always fight the tree! He’s right there in his tree hole!), but it was just that: an illusion. A fantasy.

I know this guyFinal Fantasy 6’s World of Ruin initially follows the same general beats as Final Fantasy 5’s changed planet: you are alone, and things are confusing. At least one blonde is despairing over a lost world. Over time, you assemble an incomplete party, see a few sights from the new world, and get a little bit of a grip on the place. Then you have your airship, the enemy stronghold is immediately available over there, but you know you have things to do before that to plump up your party’s options. The significant difference in Final Fantasy 6, though, is that you truly do have the freedom to do (almost) anything from the minute you start searching for friends. You want to raid Kefka’s Follower’s Tower for treasure? Go for it. Make a beeline for Mog and his encounter-canceling charm? All yours! You can equally dive into a town of children or a sandworm’s clown-filled stomach. Even the trail of Cyan being presented as your next available party member after earning the airship goes cold after he leads you to Gau/The Veldt/Whoever-is-Behemoth-Chow. But even without obvious plot steps, there is not a single character or sidequest in Final Fantasy 6 that cannot be found thanks to a clue from an NPC. You have freedom, and, if you pay attention, you will have no doubt where you have to go.

… Have to go…


As everybody who has played Final Fantasy 6 knows, you have no choice at all in the World of Ruin when it comes to your party. Give or take “a challenge run”, no one who has ever understood how a videogame works has ever given up on a single party member. You know your original party of twelve is out there somewhere, and you will catch ’em all before the final showdown. Triangle Island’s favorite son/daughter might be a little esoteric, but can you honestly tell me someone is going to ditch Relm and leave her to paint in some frog’s basement for the rest of her days? Or you’ll just ignore those thieves on the Veldt all but shouting at you to “form a party of three to find Gau”? No. You’re going to reclaim your friends just as surely as you guided Sabin back from the afterlife. Even if you never plan to add Umaro’s berserker rage to your active party, if you have the slightest inkling that brute exists, you’re going to recruit him. To claim you would do anything else is folly.

The World of Ruin isn’t unfettered freedom of choice, it’s a checklist.

So where is there true choice in this blighted world? Well, it’s sitting in this hovel…

Choose now

I hate this guy. This jerk would give Stanislav Petrov choice paralysis.

Let me explain for anyone that managed to miss this geriatric petitioner of Solomon: sometime after the fall of the world, one of Narshe’s two last remaining humans found a chunk of magicite (or he always had it, and was holding out for the first half of the game). He could just hand over the magicite like every other magicite in the game, but, no, he used to run a weapon shop, so he offers to transform the magicite into a sword. However! This is a one-time choice, so you cannot return later to forge that sword anew, nor can you ever un-sword this magic rock after it has been created. This is a one-time deal, and you must make the choice practically as soon as you unlock his front door.

(Come to think of it… you never do lock his door again after you leave. I wonder if he was eaten by gigantic pink wolves moments after you left. … I wonder why that thought makes me happy…)

Here is your pros and cons list for the Ragnarok choice:

Ragnarok (Magicite)
+ The only magicite that teaches Ultima, the unequalled best spell
+ Anyone can use it
+ Allows for the Ragnarok summon, which can be used to farm rare items
+ Means you’ll have a complete list of Espers (Give or take Odin/Raiden)
Ultima is great, but there are 70 different ways to do 9999 damage in this game
Ultima can be found elsewhere for a significant time cost

Ragnarok (Sword)
+ 2nd best sword in the game
+ Phenomenal critical hit chance (albeit fueled by MP)
+ May cast a free charge of Flare
+ Can be “traded” for the completely unique, absolutely best sword in the game
Not everyone can equip/utilize a sword
Of those that can use swords, maybe two would actually benefit from the equipment in a significant way
If you are a complete moron, you can accidentally Throw, sell, or otherwise trash either sword

I dub theeIn the end, my personal opinion is that there is no clear and obvious winner in the original release. Ultima is great, but you can put in the time and earn it elsewhere if you really need it. Ragnarok – Illumina/Light Bringer is something to behold when you max out offensive capability with a Genji Glove & Offering/Master’s Scroll. Either option gets you murdering Kefka flunkies with inspiring panache, and either option has alternatives, too. It might not be as one-and-done to dispel a cursed shield or pump up Sabin’s magic to properly bum rush his opponents, but you’ve got options.

And that’s the issue here: you’ve got options. You can only choose one option. That’s horrifying.

Which is odd, because otherwise, Final Fantasy 6 is cowardly when it comes to actual choices. Fatally so…

Shadow is the aloof ninja of the cast. In replaying Final Fantasy 6, I was shocked to realize that Shadow can be almost a complete stranger over the course of the game. You “name him” in South Figaro, but he does not join the party at this time. He can join Sabin on his quest across the Doma Kingdom, but it is equally possible he will leave the party literally after one battle. Even if he sticks around through the Phantom Train, he is never involved in the Sabin-Cyan buddy comedy hijinks, and increasingly feels like an afterthought. He can again join the party in the quest for a missing Terra, but that requires almost precognitive-level planning, and all but guarantees you will miss out on some fun world building with other characters for the sake of “guy that throws stuff”. It is only when he is finally required in Thamasa that he actively does something (saving Relm/”you” from a burning building), but that is also a part of the game where he is only a member of the active party for the walk from the boat to town. The end result is that Shadow is a nobody when he joins you for the Floating Continent, and his turn as “I will try to repair the only thing holding this world together, you guys run” is a genuine surprise (if you didn’t have Nintendo Power or knowledge of “assassin with a heart of gold” tropes… or even just naturally accepted anybody that likes dogs more than people). And whether or not you wait for Shadow… well, it’s a choice with consequences. If you leave Shadow to die, he will die-die, and that’s the last you see of Clyde. If you wait for him until the literal last second, he will be saved, and live to see the World of Ruin.

Remember?Which… uh… makes his life worse?

In the timeline where Shadow survives, he gets wrecked by a behemoth. You save him, and he is taken back to Thamasa to recover, as Strago is the only party member that owns a bed that is not haunted (go ahead and do the math on that one. It checks out). Shadow experiences a bout of PTSD at waking up in Thamasa, walks out, and decides to go back to fighting for money and/or swords. Offer the right sword as a prize, and you can beat him into joining back up with the old gang to fight Kefka. He then experiences exactly zero character development (Gau at least gets to buy a suit!), hangs out with the party for a handful of adventures, and then aids in the attack on Kefka. Upon literally saving the world, he apparently decides to take advantage of the chaos of the tower collapsing to straight up die. He perishes lamenting a dead friend, and leaves his dog and daughter behind to a world that is marginally less destroyed than it was immediately after his failure at statue moving.

Shadow can kinda ambiguously die off screen while attempting to save the world.
Shadow can kinda ambiguously die off screen immediately after his friends saved the world.

And if he lives for an extra year in between, he didn’t seem to accomplish all that much. Probably ruined Siegfried’s day at the coliseum once or twice, and that’s about it. You can use that role playing thing to believe he was an integral party member in such events as the Phoenix Cave or Hidon’s Island, but, even among the “optional” events, Shadow does not show any growth or change. He has some bad dreams here and there, and that’s the best he can hope for. Lore, but no learning.

This is another gameSo, once again, there is no choice at all. Though we have not yet been blessed by a Final Fantasy 6-2: Gogo’s Adlai Years, if there were a Final Fantasy 6 sequel, we know the writers would not have to address the player choice of Shadow. Whether or not they wanted to give the dude a grave or reveal he secretly survived his presumed deaths, he would be the exact same character with the exact same fate regardless of player choice. You have some wiggle room with whether or not Gau ever met his father, or if the party ever explored the “secret” War of the Magi castle beneath Figaro desert, but we know for certain that Shadow suffered a sad, lonely death whether you gotta wait for Shadow or not.

A fondly remembered icon of Final Fantasy 6, and he had less options available than a rock.

A magical rock, of course, but still a rock.

But if this nonsense is coming to a point, it is this: that’s just how I like it.

I’ve said this before, but I play videogames to enjoy myself. While this seems like an obvious statement, the corollary is that I do not play videogames to be punished for making terrible decisions. On a daily basis, going all the way back to my childhood (when Final Fantasy 6 was released!), I have had to make decisions, and some of those decisions could have consequences with long tails. I do not choose to get married or start a new career on a daily basis, but I often choose whether or not to start a “project” that has the potential to go nowhere, or if I should offer a friend some advice that could be terrible for both of us. Videogames are so much easier: if you choose to fight the bad guy, you are inevitably impacting that world in a positive way. In fact, you cannot even “choose” to fight the bad guy, because thou must, lest time itself doesn’t pass for your heroes. You will do the right thing, or you just turn the game off.

OWAHSo, in this way, I know I am always making the right choice and always advancing in Final Fantasy 6. Choosing to learn this esper magic is not going to lock me out of that other magic, and wholesale slaughtering cactuars is not going to lead to some ecological destruction just because I needed more magic points for Meltdown. There is no morality, no “builds” to worry about: just do you want to put your party back together or not? And of course you do! That’s why you’re playing the game! You can skip all those Super Mario Bros. 3 worlds with a warp whistle, but you’re only hurting yourself by playing less Mario. You want to play through these dungeons. You want to fight these bosses. You may never add Cyan back to your team again, but do you really want to skip that whole optional quest where you get to pilot magitek armor again for three screens? Of course not! Get in the dream robot, Shinji!

So I feel like I can see behind the curtain, and understand why I liked Final Fantasy 6 from the time I was twelve. The whole World of Ruin offers the illusion of choice, which feels unerringly empowering, but there are really no choices at all. And that’s great! Because I secretly hate choice, and apparently wish my life was controlled by a magical despot that had some kind of “light of judgment” to keep me from making incorrect choices. Neat!

And I guess I’ll just start a twitter poll next time I have to choose between rock or sword. Either that, or play the Advance version where I can get both.

Steal now

Next time on Final Fantasy 6: Hey, speaking of that Advance version…

FGC #416 Bioshock Infinite

Note: This article does contain spoilers for Bioshock Infinite. You have been warned!

BIOSHOCKIN'Bioshock Infinite is god damn terrifying videogame. And it’s even more terrifying that no one identifies it as such.

Let’s hit the basics before we get into the abject horror. Bioshock Infinite is a story-based first person shooter from the creators of Bio/System Shock. As such, it is a ludicrously complicated videogame from multiple perspectives. Combat is conceptually simple (shoot man in head, move on, shoot other man in head) but multiple weapons of a mundane (all of the guns, forever) and magical (“Look, pa, I can shoot lightning”) nature allow for an amazing number of options. Is there water on the ground for conducting electricity? How about some nice, flammable oil? And is this a situation that would better warrant a sniper scope, or a shotgun? Or screw all those options to the sticking place, and ride some sky rails to channel death-from-above action. In a genre that often panders to the lowest common denominator with boring hallways and tedious, linearly graduating weaponry, Bioshock Infinite’s wide open Columbia and all the options it affords are a godsend.

But, as great as the gameplay is in Bioshock Infinite, memories of BI are not of battling crow cultists or the occasional ghost mom; no, Bioshock Infinite, like its Bioshock brothers before it, is all about the story. In this case, we have the tale of Booker DeWitt…

FGC #181 Splatoon

Dance the night awayI dislike anything that looks like a FPS. I’m almost pathologically noncompetitive, not a big fan of guns ‘n ammo, and find the idea of “ranking up” to be tedious.

So why do I like Splatoon?

In fact, why do I really like Splatoon?

Alright, first and most obvious answer is the colors, Duke, the colors. We all know that the FPS genre long ago adopted the gritty, realistic aesthetic and never looked back. My response to this choice has always been some mixture of shock and revulsion. Brown? Bad news, guys, that’s the color of poop. With the possible exception of an emoji or two, “like poop” has never been a desirable trait in any context (see also: UPS). I suppose I understand how some people want realism in their games that involve repeatedly dying and then instantly being reborn exactly the same, but it’s not for me. I’m someone that, for better or worse, painted every room in his house in honor of the great Roy G. Biv. I wore red sneakers to my grandparents’ funeral. I like color, dammit.

Splatoon presses all the right color buttons, and, what’s more, it’s Nintendo-ified up and down. Like Mario, Link, and Donkey Kong, the squidlings are pretty rigidly defined and a bunch of nebulous ciphers. There’s no way you’d mistake a squid girl’s silhouette for anything else, but you’re also free to write a ten thousand page fanfic about the adventures of Mary, Best Squidling Ever (who also might have a tragic past). SwooshThe Splatoon world is typical Nintendo sunny and happy (and maybe post-apocalyptic), and the plot of the single player mode is simultaneously goofy and epic. I doubt the next Marvel Cinematic Feature will involve a malevolent DJ attempting to conquer an old man and two pop stars with the power of octo-beats, but it certainly makes a good capper to some Splatoon times.

Color, engrossing characters, and a fun story? Is that what does it? No. If that were so, I’d be playing Overwatch, which, like many FPSs, I can identify as a good game, but seem to be completely incapable of enjoying the dang thing. So it’s not just the Splatoon universe that gets my ink squirting…

Maybe it’s the fact that it’s not really a FPS. FPS stands for “first person shooter”, and I’ve only really been applying the term here because it “works” so much like other FPS games. This isn’t a first person play experience, the camera is distinctly behind the squidlings, so it’s third person, and thus more… what? 3-D Contra? Maybe something more like Metroid: Other M? Wait, no, I just realized those two games are terrible, it can’t be because I like that perspective if those are the first examples I can recall.

Maybe I just like to jump? I mean, most games that involve jumping I absolutely love (see Mega Man, Mario, and let’s say… Rampage?), and the camera and arenas of Splatoon virtually encourage leaping all over the place. There are moving platforms! And changing water levels! And the fact that it’s not a “true” FPS really helps, because, as the Metroid Prime games confirmed, jumping when you can’t see your feet is maybe not the most fun thing in the world. Not to say it’s impossible in a FPS (I do want to point out that I happily cleared two out of four Metroid Primes), it’s just a tweak more frustrating.

But… there are a number of “FPS games” that aren’t true FPSs. I’ve said before that I’m terrible with “real” genre designations, but is this where the term “Arena Shooter” applies? Or “Twitch Shooter”? Whatever the case, there are plenty of games that share Splatoon’s perspective and general “feel”, and none of them have held my interest longer than a month, left alone a year’s worth of Splatfests.

And it’s not Callie and Marie, because admitting that would be revolting.

No, it’s none of these things that keep me coming back to Splatoon. It’s not the transparently shallow “level up” mechanics, it’s not the easy Miiverse communication in the hub town, and it’s not the flood of puns that threaten to drag Spike the Street Urchin out to sea. No, what keeps me playing Splatoon is one simple thing…


I can shoot the floor. And I’m helping!

I can try to take an objective tone to this problem all I want, but the simple truth is that I’m terrible at FPS games. I have awful aim. My depth perception has always been crap (and it’s a chicken/egg debate as to whether that was impacted by early [continuous] videogame playing, or I naturally gravitated toward videogames because “defined” pixel distances in 2-D games made more sense to my child-brain), and, frankly, I have difficulties with everything from sniping to Pokémon Go (“Yes, keep throwing that pokéball over that Rapidash’s head, good.”). In fact, the idea of a “sniping” based videogame where you sit around and wait to pick off some poor malcontent is right up there with a toenail clipping simulator on the list of games I absolutely never want to play. One of my good friends adores anything that involves a scope, but… ugh, not for me.

And, frankly, I have terrible spatial relations in FPS games. Maybe it’s something about the layout, feedback, or something, but, despite liking SPLATBioshock, my most immediate memory of that game was watching my character’s health drain in a bathroom stall as a splicer repeatedly stabbed me in the back. I know my health is draining for some reason… oh… there you are! Please stop that! I’ve never missed a boo or goomba sneaking up on Mario, but put me in a first person (or similar) environment, and suddenly I have the awareness of a deaf sloth. Splatoon is no different, and the raw number of times I’ve been “splatted” is a testament to that.

And, to top it all off, my brain can’t deal with ammo. I have two mental settings: hoard and berserker. At all times, I am either carefully preserving each bullet like they are precious children, or I’m unloading every last shot into the darkness with the hope that maybe I’ll hit something or other. There is no middle ground. I blame JRPGs and their imaginary insistence that I save that megalixer for some unforeseen threat, but I literally cannot properly ration ammo in a FPS. I’m either going to die clutching that dear rocket launcher ammo, or blow up the entire surrounding area (and myself) inside of three seconds.

This is who I am. And Splatoon helps that person.

Ammo is no big deal, because, while I’m likely to run out, I can quickly refuel in any nearby puddle. I’m going to get splatted, and often, but respawn is quick, easy, and virtually without consequence. And, finally, I need not worry about aiming, because I am WEEEEEEwinning simply by shooting the floor. Heck, I technically don’t have to interact with a single other player if I wander off into some alley and aim down to my heart’s content. Splatoon seems made for me and various neuroses.

Splatoon is an amazing FPS game for people that are bad at identifying/playing FPSs. I’d love to discuss it further, but I’ve got to get back to Inkopolis now. There are some floors that need splatting.

FGC #181 Splatoon

  • System: WiiU, and I hope Nintendo’s next offering involves a similar controller, because Splatoon wouldn’t be as fun without that controller map.
  • Number of players: I guess… eight? I’m going to mark it down as four for the tags, though. Fear of new tags, you understand.
  • What’s in a name? I’ve had the Goggle Bob moniker since high school, so there are a number of people who have been calling me that name for years. This has led to an amusing quirk as my friends started breeding, as now there’s an entire generation of young’uns who only know me as Goggle Bob, as if “goggle” were a title like “mister” or “uncle”. So I was talking to my buddy’s son, an eight year old, about Splatoon. At one point, he asked for my “Wii name”, and I told him it was “Goggle Bob”. He made that Look away“oooooooooh” sound that many kids reserve for when someone says a swear, and he quickly chastised me with, “Goggle Bob, you know you’re not supposed to use your real name online!” I think this generation is going to be alright.
  • Splatfest: I’m going to miss scheduling my weekend around playing Splatoon. It wasn’t about the wins for my team or collecting the shells afterwards, I just liked the idea of people from all over the country coming together to fight for the glory of… Fancy parties? I must have missed that one.
  • Favorite Squid Sister: Callie, you were robbed. Purple and peppy beats green and sullen any day.
  • Did you know? We never received mods/outfits to officially play as Octolings, and that’s terrible.
  • Would I play again: This is one of the few FGC choices that I was basically already playing when it was chosen, and will go back to playing once again after the article is complete. I’m not, like, playing it all the time, but I probably pick it up at least once a month. If you need further explanation of that, please read the article again.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Super Robot Taisen OG Saga: Endless Frontier for the DS! Phew, that’s a mouthful. At least there’s guaranteed to be robots… right? Please look forward to it!

Me too