Do Black Mages Dream of Electric Sheep?

Ok, so why do people love this one in particular? What's so special about Final Fantasy IX? Well... Final Fantasy IX may have the most focused and interesting story I've ever seen in a Japanese video game... Too bad it's surrounded by convoluted abstract ideas that don't always make sense. Let's elaborate, shall we?

DISCLAMER: SPOILERS! A whole lot of 'em! I will RUIN this game for you. Or maybe I'll extract what's cool about it and show it to you. Either way, you will know everything there is to know about its story by the end of this blog thingy.

The Gist

He's the less mopey, more easy-going version of Cloud.

Have you ever heard of Blade Runner? Or the book it was based on, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Well that's FFIX. Yes, it's almost the exact same story, but trapped in a current of all this other bullshit, a current so strong- you may overlook what's special about this game. Let's start with our main dude. Wait... There was a name for that. Prota... Pro... Protag--

Okay, so his name is Zidane (no, not THAT Zidane obviously, he's not bald, and I'm not sure he plays soccer... at least I hope not) he is this thief teenager that ends up saving the princess and... He's a REPLICANT! Our main boy here is a puppet, a robot made outta meat. Let's look at the FF Wiki entry foz Zine... Ekhm, Zidane:

Zidane began his life as an "Angel of Death" created by Garland. Long ago, the people of a dying planet of Terra planned to save their civilization by assimilating another planet. Unable to find a newly-born planet to fuse with, they settled on assimilating the young planet of Gaia. The Terrans left their physical bodies and locked their souls in Pandemonium to be watched over by Garland until the Fusion's completion. The Fusion was a disastrous failure, leaving Gaia's surface in ruin and ending up with Terra shifting inside the planet of Gaia.

Link to the Zidane entry.

What? Ok, so there's a planet named Terra. It's a planet full of selfish pricks that tried to fuse with another habitable planet so they didn't have to die. They put themselves in a state of hibernation in order to survive, and elected a dude called Garland to watch over the whole thing. However, things didn't pan out, and Gaia (because of course it's Gaia), the planet they wanted to fuse with, got effed up. So in order to fix things, Garland sends a big organic device (known as the Lifa Tree) to Gaia's surface to fix things up. He wants the planet nice and pulp before he can begin the uh... Assimilation I guess. When the time is ready, he begins to switch the Gaian soul energy thingies, for Terran energy whatever.

To control the cycle of souls in Gaia, Garland used the Iifa Tree to prevent the Gaian souls from returning to the planet, trapping them within Iifa's roots. Later, Garland constructed the Soul Divider at the Iifa Tree's base that allowed the souls of Terra to flow into Gaia instead.

Link to Garland's Wiki page.

So what does this have to do with our prota... Main dude- Zidane? Well, he's a Genome (you know, a replicant). Garland has created these things so that the Terran souls can be put into these husks later on when the assimilation is completed. But the whole assimilation thing is taking forever, so Garland escalates things. He creates a Genome with a soul. This so called "Angel of Death" is made so that... Uh, I guess a bunch of Gaian people can get smoked? Why wouldn't he use his advanced alien technology to exterminate the people of Gaia? I guess he kinda does that too? By controlling the Eidolons (the summons) with his weird Eye-ship in the sky? Why doesn't he do that all the time? That would be way easier than sending ONE dude down to Gaia so that he can fuck things up. I mean look at this shit, this is when the Angel of Death named Kuja takes control of the Eye-ship (invincible) and manipulates Bahamut:

Couldn't you just use the ship to do this without sending anyone down there? I would use that ALL the time. Those Eidolons work like a goddamn nuke! Here's the power hungry Queen Brahne using Odin:

I guess the Gaians have to create these Eidolons so that they can be manipulated? Garland himself cannot make Eidolons happen? Well that doesn't make sense, the Invincible Eye-ship was designed to control them, why can't it summon them? Wait, forget the Eidolons, just drop a nuke on the planet! I'm so confused...

Hi, my name is Sep... Kuja. It's Kuja. That's my name.

Whatever, Kuja is created and Kuja sucks (well, we all know that), so Garland creates Zidane. Zidane is the superior Genome, he's the better version of Kuja. He's to be taught and then sent to Gaia to do Garland's bidding. Fortunately the whole thing is sabotaged by the jelaous Kuja, and Zidane is stranded on Gaia.

This makes sense. Kuja is pissed off that he is now the inferior being. So why is Kuja inferior? Well, Kuja doesn't have the emotional capacities that allow other beings to go into "Trance", a state in which you can really fuck things up. Apparently being a sociopath has its detriments! He was also designed to have a limited life span (remind you of someone?), but he finds that out later on.

Zidane doesn't remember jack shit of course, as that is the most prominent trope of any Japanese story ever told in all existence of the universe and beyond. So he grows up on Gaia unaware of all this going on.

Then he rescues the princess (who can make Eidolons happen just like that) from her mother, Queen Brahne, and he meets the best character in the FF series. Yes. QUINA.

No..

No, wait, it's Vivi. It's Vivi you guys, sorry about that.

The Cool Stuff

Vivi is like Zidane. He is a robot construct. He is not made of flesh however. The Genomes were made using advanced technology by Garland. Vivi and his fellow mages were made using the crappy Gaian technology. Most of the mages are even more zombie-like than the soulless Genomes. Vivi is a mystery, perhaps a prototype, it's never made clear what makes Vivi special. When he finally meets the other mages, they don't give a shit about him. They act like robots, they can't speak, and it looks like they don't care what happens to them. This short cinematic shows when they are killed by another mage made to capture the princess:

Some of those mages have not been activated yet. They just fall down, lifeless. There's some cool emotional stuff going on here. Even though Vivi can't express emotions as there is a dark void where his face should be, you can really feel his confusion and inner turmoil. This is the first time he sees anything that looks like him, and even though they were just soulless robots, he knows they were his brothers.

Unfortunately for Vivi, these mages were made so that they could be used as soldiers. When the gang arrives at a city that was decimated by these things, Vivi has a hard time fitting in with the town's citizens. Final Fantasy IX has a great feature- when you're walking around the town with your main character, you can see what other characters from your posse are doing at the same time, and you can see some harsh stuff happening to Vivi when he's exploring the city alone. His isolation and confusion are really nicely written.

Much later Vivi finds out that there are a bunch of mages like him living in a secluded village- willing to learn how the world works, willing to live like human beings. They do so in secret, away from humans. Here's a great scene of Vivi talking about what it means to "stop" with one of the mages, the interesting stuff's at 1:20, 5:20 and 11:00:

Also- amusing for the mage to ask Zidane if he remembers being born. And some more dialogue here at 1:20 and 4:00:

There's more of that later on when all the mages are reunited, and it's pretty darn good too.

As you would imagine, when Zidane finds out he's a Genome, he has a crisis of identity. He has different questions going through his mind than Vivi. Vivi thinks about what it means to have a family and what it means to die. Zidane thinks about purpose, and why he was born. Fortunately for our pro.. for Zidane, his friends help him out out of the funk. Here's the scene, it is way more cheesy than it should be, but hey, isn't that the Japanese way? Also, the music is pretty fucking cool:

And so they decide to meet Garland and Kuja face to face and kick their asses.

Unfortunately for them, Garland tells Kuja his time is also limited. This doesn't sit well with Kuja. His motives up to this point were to show the world that he is better than Zidane. That he is NOT inferior. But here he learns that he was built inferior. He is the worse version of Zidane, and that's a fact. This fucks with his head and he goes into Trance and blows shit up.

He blows shit up so well- that the Genomes no longer have a place to live, so the gang takes them to the mage village where they can learn from the "faulty" mages.

It's Not About the Destination...?

I've seen things you people wouldn't believe...

So how does it all end you ask? Well, they defeat Kuja and they defeat the thing that siphons the souls from Terra to Gaia. It's trying to be very bombastic and spectacular at the end, kind of upping the ante, but it's all not very... clear. Nobody is 100% sure what is the thing they're fighting at the end, and why they need to defeat it. Save the world I guess? It gets kinda muddled and, well, dumb.

Kuja's conversation with Zidane redeems some of that baloney. They talk a little about what it means to live, what it means to be created for a purpose, even if you do not agree with that purpose. And Zidane thanks Kuja (who is on his deathbed) for defying Garland, even though he was a huge dick while doing it.

And as for Vivi... Well, he supposedly dies before the epilogue. The game quotes his letter to Zidane in which Vivi accept his own mortality. And even though he still feels lonely and scared in his last moments, he is glad he got to experience life. As he writes these last words, Vivi loosens his grip on a white dove while shutting down for good. Okay, maybe that last part did not happen.

There's a whole lot of good stuff going on in FF IX. Compared to the crap shoot that's FF VIII's story, this is a masterpiece. And there's more to it than Zidane and Vivi. Steiner, the knight protecting the Princess, needs to learn what it means to be loyal, and who deserves his loyalty, even though he's mostly used as comic relief he has a pretty neat arc. Freya is looking for her fiancee for most of the game, and when she finds him- it is revealed he has amnesia and doesn't give two shits about her. She has to reevaluate what it means to love somebody, and if memories are what makes us what we are.

It's a philosophical story, even though there's a lot of bullshit surrounding it, it has a lot of heart, and the dialogue is very well done. In terms of plot- I think it's the best Final Fantasy game. It's consistent in what ideas it wants to explore, and it explores them rather diligently.

35 Comments

Violence, anger, maybe even... Hatred?

The man packed a mean left hook, it left a huge black bruise on my chest. I responded with a swift blow to the head... With a crowbar. This knocked the raider off of his feet, but that didn't stop me. You see, HE attacked ME- I tried reasoning with the man at first, but he didn't listen. He acted insane. It's his fault that I am now standing over him, hitting his chest. He started couging up blood, which seemed to snap him outta that haze he was in. "Give me your stuff, I'll let ya go." I yelled. He didn't plead or beg for mercy- he just started... Crawling away. I followed the blood trail. The crowbar hit him again, and again, the cough was getting worse, he was choking. I kicked him in his stomach, he turned over. Now, laying on his back, he was defensless, but it didn't matter. His mouth was a volcano of blood. He took a last look at me, and drifted off. I found nothing but lint in his pockets. His backpack had an opened can of sweet corn in it. It was full of berries. The berries, as I determined, were the poisonous kind.

Fuck.

That, my friends, is what happened during one of my playthroughs of Neo Scavenger. This game is full of violence, violence that is not always necessary. And it is the ugly kind of violence. The kind that you don't want to see, the kind that makes your stomach turn. The kind that reduce a man to a whimpering pathetic animal that you blugeon to death. The way that it's described- it ain't right. Contrast that with the quick splat of a knife to the face (repeatetly, like "uh, uh, uh, uh") in Assassin's Creed, now that is way more satisfying! it doesn't make you think about mortality, and how we're made of aortas and brain stem. It doesn't make you think whether this virtual being deserves empathy, it's made out of plastic.

That's the kind of violence that is usually presented in video games and enjoyed by everyone, myself included. It doesn't mean jack shit. These games ain't murder simulators. What happened in Neo Scavenger, that was closer to murder. It was slow and painful- for both parties involved (although I suppose the murderee... or, you know, the victim, suffered much more than the murderer). Of course Neo Scavenger doesn't give you a thumbs up for scrambling somebody's brains. This game does not celebrate death, the post apocalyptic world of Neo Scavenger has a quiet, sombre tone. Conflict is something you want to avoid, you'll always get hurt and the enemies rarely have anything useful. If anything, it handles death with appropriate gravitas.

And then there's Hatred. That game that was taken off of Steam and then brought back. It looks like Postal to be honest, nothing we've never seen before. Have you ever played Postal one? The guy went around the neighbourhood and shot at people. They weren't enemies, they didn't have guns, he never had a reason to shoot 'em, they were just regural folks. So are these games murder simulators? Granted, I have not played Hatred, but it seems like it's the run of the mill violence, hundered and hundereds of bodies. Explosions and headshots. Comic book violence. Seems like a teenager's wet dream. There's no malice there, there's no... Hatred (HA-haaa! See what I did there? Guys? ...Guys?).

So whatever. Go on a killing spree in GTA V and hey, maybe you won't even have to buy this game.

Do buy Neo Scavenger though, it's pretty kick ass.

4 Comments

DrewDen? RaiDrew?

Since everyone's sharing their Metal Gear Scanlon Fanart, I'm gonna show ya a sketch I did a week ago (in preparation for MGS2).

Drewden! Or... Raidrew? I don't know.

Kinda more of a... MGS4 design with the Cyborg Raiden thing, but whatever. Everyone knows that's when Raiden got cool.

10 Comments

Chrono Cross- provocative, or totally BONKERS? You decide...

Chrono Cross is CRAZY. look at this description of one of the bosses from Chronopedia:

Dragon God is a race of cybernetic organisms in Chrono Cross. Originating as a Dragonian science, these mechanical reptiles were built to tame, govern, and manipulate the physical world. Born as one beast, the Dragon God eventually split into six: Fire Dragon, Water Dragon, Earth Dragon, Sky Dragon,Black Dragon, and Green Dragon. Of the same DNA, it is believed a seventh dragon emerged. Undeniably containing its genetic pattern, Harle is believed by some to be this creature, but she is only an offspring of the DNA, not a separation of the original being. (http://chrono.wikia.com/wiki/Dragon_God)

...What? This is some Greek mythology bullshit right there folks. Didn't Chrono Trigger have a straightforward story? Wasn't it understandable and easy to follow? Let's make a short synospis right here:

Chrono Trigger: There's this big alien parasite feeding on planets, it attacks earth, you travel through time to kill it.

There. There you go. The whole thing, right there. Now let's try the same thing with Chrono Cross:

Chrono Cross: There's this being called the Time Devourer, it wants to destroy time and space using Schala, you travel through two dimensions to kill it, but not really.

Disclaimer: Before I start making fun of CC's story, let me tell you, it's one of my favourite games of all time. The story is convoluted and dumb in spots (and filled with Deus Ex Machinas and MacGuffins), but there are some really neat ideas here. And the world is super colorful, and the music is amazing. It all has this Hawaiian feel to it, it's super original, and there's nothing quite like it.

Here We Go...

Now, you don't have to elaborate on CT's story all that much. There are nuances, sure, but more or less that's all you need to know. How do you time travel? You have a time machine. Why does the parasite feed on planets? Cause it's an alien animal, it just does. Nature and shit. Why do you travel through time to kill it? You need to understand it to kill it. There you go.

With CC it's a bit more complicated. What's the Time Devourer? Well... It's a... uh... It's a part... of Lavos that merged with Schala... I guess? It resides in a place beyond time, it's like a black hole where all the aborted timelines exist. Why it wants to destroy time and space? It... feeds on time, space and dreams. Yeah, it feeds on DREAMS. That's kind of dumb. Why is it using Schala? I don't know. She's special I guess (because of course that's the explenation).

Why do you travel through dimensions? I don't know. This guy, Balthasar, you know, from CT, devised this super-grand-master plan to repair all timelines and free Schala, and to do so he had to split one timeline into two dimensions. Also, multiple timelines exist within this one timeline. So not only we have two dimensions of one timeline, we have a couple timelines on top of each other here.

Okay, why "not really"? Well, you kind of set Schala free which repairs all timelines and re-integrates all dimensions. You don't really kill her. How do you do that? By using the Chrono Cross of course! What is it? Well... What is a Chrono Trigger? An egg full of potential? It's a MacGuffin. It's a Norstein Bekkler's clone from CT. How is it possible? Who cares, just go with the flow.

Okay, so CC is crazy, but what was all that about dragons at the begining? What's that anime stuff doing there? Well, here's where it gets a tad complicated (ha!). See, I'm not quite sure. Let's see...

[Dragon God] Engineered to crown the city of Dinopolis, it was activated before 2400 A.D.; given sentience, it was able to think and speak on its own. In 2400 A.D., Dinopolis and the Dragon God were both pulled into the Keystone Dimension in 12000 B.C. byThe Entity to counteract the introduction of Chronopolis into the era; a war ensued between the Dragonians and the forces of the time fortress. In the ensuing battle, the actual Dragon God was defeated and somehow consumed by the Time Devourer; a physical avatar remained. (http://chrono.wikia.com/wiki/Dragon_God)

What the hell is a Keystone Dimension? And what's Chronopolis? Okay, Keystone Dimension is the original, main timeline of both CT and CC. So basically, they were pulled from their own timeline where reptites killed humans, and into the timeline we all know and love. What's a Time Fortress? It's Chronopolis. Who's the avatar? That would be Harley. More on that subject later. Now shut up.

Okay, Chronopolis was invented by Balthasar in the good future (after Bro-... Crono and the others save it). Let's read about it:

Belthasar drew up an elaborate plan to create a device known as the Chrono Cross that could free Schala from the parasitic creature. He decided to use Chronopolis as a magnificent instrument to this end; the institution would travel back through time, create and populate islands, and indirectly allocate the necessary factors needed to create the Chrono Cross. (http://chrono.wikia.com/wiki/Chronopolis)

So the islands of Chrono Cross (called the El Nido archipelago) were created by the Chronopolis to create... sigh, to create the Chrono Cross.

How... Why... What... How did he even know that... What?

Oh, and there are these two huge things called The Frozen Flame (a part of Lavos that got chipped off a long time ago) and FATE (a super computer controling the Chronopolis).

Going Deeper

Now, by this time you're probably laughing. Why the fuck would you overcomplicate this so fucking much? What the hell is even happening? Maybe now's the time to talk about Chrono Trigger's sequel. No, not CC, we're talking about Radical Dreamers. A PS1 digital novel released only in Japan. It served as a sequel to CT, and expanded upon its story.

So what's it about? Well, it's about this girl Kid and her buddies Serge and Guile. They're thieves called the Radical Dreamers, and they really want to steal the Frozen Flame because they heard it's totes awesome. Can grant wishes and all that jazz. But ho ho dear reader. There's this dick called Lynx that won't let them. And ho ho ho! Kid finds out she's Schala that was... changed into... a child and sent through time by... the... Frozen Flame.... What?

Kid learns of her heritage as princess Schala of Zeal, a meek girl who was coerced to help awaken Lavos with her magical power. As Zeal collapsed, Schala was wracked with anguish and guilt for her role in the incident. Nearby in the Ocean Palace, the Frozen Flame felt her grief and changed her to a baby, sending her to the modern era where Lucca found her. (http://chrono.wikia.com/wiki/Radical_Dreamers:_Nusumenai_H%C5%8Dseki)

Oh jeez.

Now look, this was only a story that inspired Chrono Cross. We have none of that stupidity here.... Right?

Wrong. Serge is our main protagonist, Kid is a CLONE of Schala (Schala can clone herself in the place beyond time, and can send her clone into a timeline, but she can't help herself? Well that's dumb), and yes, Lynx is here. (By the way, apparently the Frozen Flame was a part of Chrono Trigger, but CONVINIENTLY we never hear about it. Apparently there's only one guy in CT (in the prehistoric era) that refers to it as a weid rock he found near the Lavos crater. During the Ryan/Patrick endurance run they mistake it for a sun stone quest clue).

Now Lynx is a WHOLE nother fucking story. He's this weird cat creature that's evil and a real dick. He needs Serge (our protagonist) to switch bodies with him. Oh jeez. Again with this shit. Why can't this story be. Fucking. NORMAL?! Yes, he wants to switch bodies with Serge. Not because he's a weird fox creature and doesn't really fit in to the rest of the CC universe, it's because Serge is the Frozen Flame's arbiter.

Oh JEEZ.

Okay, okay. I know. I know, believe me. If you were to make a game or a story about ONE of these concepts, it would probably be pretty cool. I mean, multiple timelines, split dimensions, supercomputers controling all life (yeah, FATE turns evil- shocker), it's all cool stuff, but you can't just dump all of it into ONE FREAKING GAME. I barely understand any of this, and I've played the game three times!

Three times!

What was I talking about? Oh yeah. The arbiter. So I guess the Frozen Flame picks the first person it sees as a chosen one or some crap like that. And hey, it just happens that Serge found himself at Chronopolis when he was just a kid (after Chronopolis was sent into past, and yeah, the Frozen Flame powered the Chronopolis). Now Prometheus (Robo from CT, yes he resides in Chronopolis) was suppose to keep that stuff under lock, but Balthasar said it would be wicked cool (not an actual quote) if Serge was the arbiter, cause it's a part of the master plan. By the way, Lynx is Serge's father. Dun-dun-duuuun! He was manipulated and later transformed into a cat creature by FATE, after he killed Serge in the second dimension of our timeline. What? Nevermind, let's continue.

Okay, what about Kid, the... sigh, the Schala clone. You know what? No. NO.

Why would you even do that to one of your main characters? Why is this so convoluted and far-fetched? She doesn't even resemble Schala. look:

Right? She looks nothing like...

Wait... What? Why did they change Schala's hair? She had purple hair in CT. And why does she look like a twelve year old? And for that matter...

...why does Crono and the gang look like they were 8?

We will never get the answers to these questions. They probably didn't give a shit, that's my bet. If I were a Japanese developer, I'd probably say something about Lavos, hair-bleaching energy and stuff like that. Yeah, if you squint hard enough it all makes sense. Right. Chrono Cross is a game about squinting. It ALL makes sense if you squint hard enough. Let's Norstein Bekkler the shit out of this story. Want a clone? Here you fucking go. I'm in a GOOD MOOD today, so HERE'S A FUCKING CLONE.

Too Deep?

So, Chronopolis. What happened with it?

As planned by Belthasar, the resulting catastrophe phased Chronopolis far into the past of 12000 BC Lavos, awoken in the Ocean Palace disaster, used the Frozen Flame in the facility to do this in hopes of mucking with the timeline.Dinopolis was shifted in to the Keystone Dimension by the planet to counter Chronopolis's introduction into the past; once the staff of the time fortress became aware of their surroundings, they dispatched a force to deal with theDragonians. The battle was soon won; FATE divided the Dragon God into six components (...) (http://chrono.wikia.com/wiki/Chronopolis)

Okay. I don't get the logic, but it KIND OF makes sense. I hope you're following all this.

So basically this enormous instalation called the Chronopolis, which was planned to be used as a time controling facility was created to... Well... Control time. But not really- because as it was created Baltasar found out about the Schala/Lavos fiasco. And then he said- hey, I'll create El Nido (those are the islands of Chrono Cross, that's where the game takes place) to create the Chrono Cross! But in order to do so, I have to transport the Chronopolis into the past. And so he did, and the entity (God? The planet? Nobody knows. But it was mentioned in CT during the campfire scene), governed by the laws of time space I presume, countered that enormous paradox by transporting a huge facility (governed by reptites (aka Dragonians)) from another timeline into El Nido.

That is really freaking far-fetched game. And we have to just take all that in. It doesn't happen in the game, it happened BEFORE the events of the game.

Sigh. What's next?

FATE also aspired to construct its own paradise; though its primary objective was to not disturb history until the future came by not making contact with theZenan mainland, FATE drew up a plan that would allow it to create its own civilization and preclude any outside contact. It terraformed the archipelago of El Nido and selected several staff members to populate the islands. FATE also devised a system of manipulation over the island's future inhabitants; called the Records of FATE, these machines could rewrite personality and memory when accessed, ensuring that FATE would dominate the lives of its people. The population it had selected was then wiped clean of its memory and dispersed throughout the islands (...) (http://chrono.wikia.com/wiki/Chronopolis)

Now that's a really cool fucking idea. I REALLY like that. If the whole game was about this? None of this Time Devourer, clones, Cat people, Dragon nonsense? That would have been amazing! I mean, there's so much potential here for some hard-ass science fiction! But no, the game just slaps us in the face with a couple sentences and then carries on with its nonsense. The nerve.

Either way. What's up with those Dragons? Well, the reptites had this Dragon God uber super being that they kept in their little fortress. It was then divided into six less powerful dragons by FATE. How? I DON'T KNOW. Stop asking me these questions! Squint damn you! SQUINT!

So the dragons want to anihilate the humans. Makes sense, they were made by Reptites- Reptites hated humans in CT. And they hated humans because we're apparently twisted by Lavos. Like, we evolved super fast because... Lavos. So, in order to do some espionage shit in El Nido they create Harle, an inconspicuous MIME/CLOWN that speaks with a goddamn FRENCH ACCENT. YEAH. Nice going dumbasses. She blends in quite nicely. Holy shit.

So we have FATE and Lynx as one party, Harle and Dragons as the second party, Kid and Baltasar as the third party and Lavos/Time Devourer as the fourth party. There's a bunch of shit happening in this game at the same fucking time. And that's not all of it. On top of that, there's the return of our favourite MacGuffin Chrono Trigger (second MG in this game! Nice!), the Masamune (Now corrupt) and a whole thing with Guardia and Porre fighting a war, which is way beyond me giving a shit. I mean, there are far more important things happening here! A war?! Who caaares?!

This Is INSANE! ABORT! ABORT!

Okay. This is where things get weider... Believe it or not.

See, I've never told you how the original timeline (Keystone Dimension) split into two. Well Baltasar told kid to go back in time with 2pa... Epoch, and save Serge from being murdered by his father- Lynx. This event was so important to the timeline that it was split into two- one where Lynx killed Serge, and one where Serge survived. So the timeline split into two. Here's... something:

When Home World split off, the conditions of its future were shaped so that it would end in obliteration by Lavos, a reversal of Crono's quest to stop the beast. This resulted in Home World's Sea of Eden reflecting the ruined future; Chronopolis never existed in Home World, replaced by this vision of destruction. (http://chrono.wikia.com/wiki/Chronopolis)

OH JEEZ!

Why would anyone even ATTEMPT to unerstand this hodgepodge of keywords slapped together by a madman?!

I'm done. That's it. I tried to see what's going on in this game, I did. I really did. And I did try to explain it- but I didn't even know how to start! This is IN-SANE. I've TRIED. But I guess it has come to this...

I have to play it AGAIN. This time documenting its weird stupid convoluted plot. Make no mistake though- I do love the game. It looks and sounds FANTASTIC. Too bad it has an inferiority complex and wanted to one-up its predecessor by throwing a bunch of ideas tohgether hoping it would kind of work and be deep and shit. You can't do that Chrono Cross. You have to EXPLORE some of these ideas. Give them depth beyond empty sentences on a computer screen.

Besides, the thing that makes CT really stand out is Lavos. Three hours into the game you see his stupid fucking face, and you know. You know you'll fight that ugly son of a bitch at the end of the game. And on your way there- it's nothing but Lavos this- Lavos that. Even the sound he makes makes your skin crawl. Everytime he shrieks, shit is going down in the story, so at the end of the game it's a Pavlovian-like response to that sound. You just want to run.

Let's compare and contrast, in Chrono Cross you find out about the Time Devourer nonsense a couple hours before the end of the game. Lynx is the main antagonist for 90% of the game, and that cat looking motherfucker isn't really that scary. He's kind of stupid looking.

Bah, whatever. The game's still cool. So there you go. Maybe I'll understand more after playing it again. See ya!

34 Comments

Dark Souls: 279 hours later

The real Dark Souls starts here, 279 hours into the game.

Am I mad? Am I absolutely crazy? Probably... Yeah. I've played almost 300 hours of Dark Souls. I am out of my goddamn mind. And yet... I think the game has even more to offer. I've just begun.

Wait wait wait. lemme start from the beginig. How in the hell have I played 279 hours of Dark Souls? Where did all that time go? My life! Well, instead of playing Dota 2, Starcraft 2, Team Fortress 2 or whatever.... 2, I just play Dark Souls... 1, Demon's Souls 2, Manchester 0. Yeah, I just re-used a Yahtzee joke, big deal.

So what's up with that game? Well, for starters it's gameplay-heavy, it relies on a guy with a sword slashing and mashing his enemies into an undead, hollow pulp. These days stories slow games down to a near halt. Snoozers. Give me a sword, a crossbow and a world to explore and I will relish your game more than those 2 hours of cutscenes you designed.

A wise man once said all games are about that 30 second loop. You have those 30 seconds of gameplay, and you do them over and over again until you get bored. These 30 seconds have been refined here, yes, but I feel there's more to this game than refinement. There's also diversity.

Yeah, there are classes. You can be a pyromancer (easy), a sword guy (normal), a sorcerer (hard) or you can go bananas and make a samurai or something. Okay, a couple of options, that ain't half bad. But wait...

There's more.

You can pick (almost) any goddamn weapon in the game, and you can upgrade the hell out of it, and it can be your weapon of choice. Utilize it well, and you can kick as much ass with a rapier as with an enchanted axe of the stone gods* or whatever (*not an actual weapon name). And the weapons feel very different. By using a weapon, you learn to use it, not your character, you. Change weapons mid-game, and you'll suck horribly. You have to feel that shit in your soul. Your... blackened soul.

You can feel safe with a lame-ass pike+shield combo, or you can go all out by two handing an awesome claymore. Maybe add some pyromancy to that bow and arrow? Or sorcery to that dagger and buckler? Hey, why don't you wear that heavy armor while wielding two small sabers? Makes you as slow as a turtle, but your defense is really high and you can jab your enemy to death. Or maybe run around naked with a club that takes good 30 seconds to actually hit something? You'll be fast enough to dodge an attack and retaliate dealing massive damage!* (*There are no giant enemy crabs in the game)

That 30 second loop? It changes every time you play. It changes only slightly (you still press the RB to attack, there ain't no changing that), but enough to keep things interesting.

You're having some problems with Gravelord Nito as an archer? Play as a pyromancer and his ass is toast. Having problems with Gwyn as the pyromancer? As a warrior, you'd just counter him to death. The warrior has problems with that damn giant moth? An archer takes care of that shit in 20 seconds or less.

Oh, you're a sorcerer? I sure hope you've learned to dooodge!

The rest you probably know. This is an action RPG. The stats matter, but not as much as how you play the game.

Have an hour? Watch this fucker speed run Dark Souls as a pyromancer:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x9ymysN3qQ8

Or watch a warrior speed run:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fMkuj10z7L4

No glitches, jsut some good gameplay.

If you know the game, which stats to boost, enemy placement and such, your playthrough time goes from 60 hours to 6 (my avarage now). Prepare to Die? I laugh at your ungodly visage sir. Death is for pansies. The true Furtive Pygmies die when they want to die, not when Smough orders them to do so.

Am I crazy? Yes. But there are people out there playing Skyrim for 500 hours, and, as Bruce Lee once said, it is better to master one kick for 1000 hours than to master 1000 kicks for 1 hour at a time. Using this quote to describe a video game is the worst thing I have ever done in my life, forgive me Bruce.

Forgive my dark soul.

6 Comments

The Shocks

Ooh, ooh, how about... "Shock it up?"

...

Ekhm... Bioshock Infinite is just around the corner. I've already pre-ordered my copy, I know I'll like it, just as I liked all the previous entries in the... "shock" series...? Yeah, let's go with that. The Shock series. Now, I have played nearly all of them, except for the first one... I haven't played it way back then, and it's not (yet) available on GOG.com. But what IS available through digital distribution, is System Shock 2, and the two Bioshocks. And here's what I think about all of 'em.

Look At You Hacker... Your Flesh Moves Around So Goddamn Slow

Let me preface this first segment by saying System Shock 2 is fucking awesome. It's one of the best old games I've bought on GOG. It's still playable, and the atmosphere, the story and the mix of FPS and RPG elements... Well all of those things are just beautiful. BUT, I do have three and a half little problems with it. Now, this game was released in 1999, so I understand. I get it. Those weren't really problems back in 99. But they still bug me. Don't worry though, every time you'll read a paragraf of hate, a paragraf of love won't be far behind.

There's something about action RPGs that you can mess up really easily: Limitations. It's okay when you're playing a standard RPG and you have a low agility stat, and your character in combat is slower than the rest of your team. Yeah, that's totally fine. But imagine that because of that low agility stat, your character is slow on the world map. It would be really annoying, wouldn't it? You'd be forced to raise that agility stat to improve the game, cause the defeault speed is just painful, and it's taking your character for-EVER to get where you want him to go. That's System Shock 2. And it doesn't help that there's a LOT of backtracking to do (which, hey, isn't a problem for me), so speed is a must have if you don't want to be bored out of your mind slowly stomping around the bloody corridors of the ship.

Some love now! System Shock 2 is fucking amazing! It has awesome character progression, and by the end of the game you feel like you've achieved something. You can smoke the enemies you've had problems with earlier in the game just like that. Even the big brutes are a cakewalk at some point. And with a high agility stat, you're faster than wind! Am I a hypocrite? Maybe so indeed. Maybe so... Indeed.

...Or maybe you are a hypocrite. Think about it.

Another limitation is the way the game handles guns. You can't use a gun unless you have invested points in gun mastery. Even the basic handgun. Come on guys. I've had this freaking handgun for 3 hours now! Let. Me. Use. It. For Christ's sake, I would know how to shoot a monster after four hours with a handgun, come on. Eh, maybe they're future guns... With some... Kind of... Locks on them, I don't know. But that doesn't excuse the fact that it's crappy when I find a gun in an FPS, and can't even equip it. Something's not right there. Ain't natural.

System Shock 2 is crazy! It has a great variety of guns, energy guns, explosive guns, alien guns, and more! It even has three melee weapons! That's crazy, ain't in?! ANd it has majicks! Okay, it's called psychokinewhatever, but you're still throwing ice blasts, mind controls, heals and all of that good stuff around. Hey. This game is pretty great.

Remember first person platforming in video games?! Loved it you say? Well, I'd say you're full of shit, but hey, System Shock 2 has you covered. Only a few instances of this awesome addition to FPS games though, sorry, so it's not exactly Jedi Knight (thank GOD).

Come on bro, it wasn't that bad!

Most of the game is really straightforward though. And except for a few areas, and some backtracking, System Shock 2 has great level design.

And two small complaints, which I guess count as half of a big one. Shitty ending (Jesus Christ it's so bad), and some crappy voice acting here and there.

But Shodan is probably my favourite villain of all time! The ending does suck a big one though, the way they handle Shodan is just damn disrespectful, and I'm really disappointed, because up to that point the writing's solid.

There ya go. That's System Shock 2. Released today, it would still be a great game. Almost 15 years later. Truly a classic. Truly.

Would You Kindly... Read Along? I don't Know Guys, I Tried To Come Up With Something Cool For The Title Here, But I Ended Up Using That Line from The Game That Everybody Knows... Why So Serious, Am I Right? Am I Right Or Am I Right? Ha-Haa! You Know, Like the Joker? Like In That Batman Movie? You Know The One!

You know Bioshock! It's a great game! It ain't SS2 though. Some things were streamlined (thank God), but others... were streamlined (NOES!). So less of an RPG, more of an action game. It's still damn fine though. Yeeeeah the gameplay could've been better, but still, damn fine. I have a beef to pick with the writers though... The story beats are the fucking same! Really. I ain't kidding here. It's System Shock 2 part 2. And yeah, nowadays we make games that are almost identical to eachother, the allstory and all that crap, but this is just ridiculous, even by today's standards.

Okay, this blog is gettin' really long, so... Bioshock 2. A good goddamn game, even though it seems like a cop out, and I didn't think I would enjoy it, there ya go. The gameplay's really good. And they've done something that should've been done in Bioshock uno, you hold your gun in one hand, and magic in the other. I mean, how hard was it to implement that into the game? Clive Barker's Undying done it way, waaaay before Bioshock. Either way, this game's great. And the writing's not bad, really. Maybe I would have prefered it over the System Shock 2 plot of the original Bioshock.

Play Undying, it has some level design problems, but it's fun! And it's on GOG.

Also, Minerva's Den is a damn fine DLC. But you probably knew that already. It's Bioshock 2, but more compact and with a better, more interesting story. It wouldn't do well in a 10 hour game, but as it is, the writing's really solid.

So there you go. The Shocks. In terms of gameplay I'd say SS2 is best, followed by Bioshock 2 and then Bioshock taking the third place. In terms of story... Well, maybe you should just look at that order again. In terms of setting though? Bioshock one reigns supreme. And hey, that's why Bioshock is a classic. It takes what was great about SS2, streamlines it (hey, take the good with the bad I say) and places all of that in an awesome underwater city with big hulking gorrillas roaming around the half-sunken tubes.

Yeah, I think Infinite will be a good game.

2 Comments

Castle Dark Souls

Castlevania

Dark Souls is the best Castlevania game in ages. AGES. And it is the first good 3D Castlevania game, period. Has it evolved? Is it better than the past Castlevania games?

A Tale of Three Castles

Now, which Castlevania is Dark Souls more like? The PS1 classic Symphony of the Night, or the first Castlevania? I'm going to say it's a successful blend of both. Let's start with the basics, what makes these games alike and what makes them great.

Exploration

When it comes to exploration, Dark Souls is more like Symphony of the Night, with its "open world." And by "open world" I mean a world with side areas segmented by locked doors. That said, exploration of said side areas is insanely exciting. When I went down into the castle's basement (known as The Depths), it reminded me of going down into the caves in SotN. This is a feeling that the original Castlevania doesn't have. Mostly because it's straightforward and doesn't let you look back. However, the original Castlevania has something else...

Level Design

Excellent level design that makes combat a riddle, more than it makes it a temporary hindrance. Just look at the medusa head stage, it's perfectly annoying. Look at the enemy placement, it's designed to infuriate you. You have to KNOW the level. The enemy layout, the traps that await you. The timing, the hits, the jumps. This is something that SotN doesn't have. The enemy positioning can be interesting, and can require SOME ammount of strategy, but the "stages" are not as neatly constructed as they are in its predecessor. Dark Souls has that oomph. Around every corner, there's an enemy waiting to bite you in the ass, probably hidden behind some barrels, or skulking in the darkness. On the roofs there are zombies throwing bombs at you just as you are fighting with an undead soldier. The trees wait in ambush as you strike a giant statue monster. Knowing where things are, what they are and how they can fuck you up is key. And they WILL fuck you up. Over, and over, and over again. Which remind me of...

The Difficulty

I'm not going to sit here and tell y'all that SotN is an easy game. It's not. I died. I died a couple of times. But that's nothing. You know how many times I died in the original Castlevania? I died more on one stage than I care to admit. Same goes for Dark Souls. It's madening how difficult these two games are. But they are FAIR. The mistakes are your own, it's not the game's fault that you've done goofed. Prepare to die, it's going to happen. A lot.

Arr Pee Gee

Dark Souls is like SotN in this regard. Hell, it's better. The systems are deeper than most current gen RPGs. You've got numbers for days. You're rolling around in stats. Everything is there. And it's not like everyone has a one charater. Nope. You can either be fucking shit up with fireballs, healing and casting miracles, stabbing fools in the back, guarding with a shield or going in with a giant two handed sword. There are no classes per se, but you are making a character. And everything you wear looks different. The loot is great and varried. This game is deeper than anything I've played in the last 5 years.

Evolved

What's different then? Multiplayer is here, whether you like it or not. You can summon players and cooperate with them to kill tougher enemies, or just to screw around. But you can also be invaded by an enemy player, who will end you and take your humanity (one of two currencies in the game). You can also leave/read signs on the ground that will either guide players, or lead them to their doom. One sign pointed me towards a bug, and I had to use an item to get out of it. I wasn't even mad. I was intrigued.

It's also insanely unforgiving. You die, you loose your souls (you need them to buy items, level up, upgrade weapons and armor... well to do anything), you can corpse run, but if you die the second time, your current corpse replaces the one with the souls. You loose it all. That can suck, but it is also makes the game much more intense.

Play It, Live It, Tell It

Dark Souls is the next step in Castlevania games. It's weird, mysterious, exciting and doesn't bog you down with a story. It's also hard, unforgiving and requires constant vigillance. I was resting by the fireplace (checkpoint), and alt-tabed to a GB video. Next thing I know, my pad is rumbling, I alt-tab back in to see an enemy player kicking me off a bridge. "Dick!" I yelled, and laughed wholeheartedly. I tell this story to my friends. This is how legends are born.

19 Comments

For Might and Magic A Might and Magic VII Tale of Might and Magic

Bought Might and Magic VII from GoG, so hey, I thought I'll document my playthrough with some screenshots and put it on my blog. It's my first time with these kind of games, so I think this is going to be fun. 
 
With four strangers I stepped out on land of Emerald Island, not knowing what to expect. We entered a scavenging tournamnet to win a castle in a foreign land. 
Clearly, a scavenging tournament is the best kind of tournament, action, advanture and danger(?) await. I present to you my four party members: 

A rather unfortunate picture of Babal 
So, yes. From what I gathered, two of them are rather slow. Babal is practically a tomato, barely functioning as it is, Dumpling is an idiot, but at least fun to be around. 
And then there's this half crazed Sorcerer (Sorceress?) named Xonliana. Oh yes, there's also Pontley, but he's wasted most of the time. So yeah, we leave the ship, and the first person we meet... 
...is some kind of transvestite that wants to sell his services to us. Babal is shocked. 
 
Or aroused. I don't know. That guy communicates using only his giant eyebrows. 
So we go look for the items, and the first thing we see are, like, million of dragonflies.  
 
This screenshot doesn't show how many of them are there, but believe me, dear reader, there are many 
Clearly we made a big mistake. A miscalculation of grand proportions. Xonliana kills a few with her fire thingy, because, you know, of course she does, that crazy...lady. 
So after that we back the hell up to the city. Let the goddamn guards take care of these guys. We, of course, help them with fire and swords and all that. 
 
We then make a trip to the local healer. Xonliana is dead, and Dumpling is seriously getting on my nerves with all that whining about her open wounds, geez. 
The attacks (and retreats) continue. After the fourth one we decide to hit the hay at the local tavern. Pontley gets smashed with four bottles of dwarven moonshine. 
 I don't even know what Babal is doing there
After that, we return to the battleground, and kill the remaining dragonflies. A couple of guards die (and some peasants, but come on, screw those guys), but we reach the treasure of the storehouse in the woods. 
 
In it, some items needed for the scavenger hunt! And a whole lot of gold! Bitchin'. 
After we return to the town, we meet a shady guy who offers Xonliana a wand of destruction for a favor in the future. 
Xonliana says "Okay" because hey, why wouldn't she. It's not like  these things can come back to bite you in the ass. 
Yeah, sure, don't think about it. Just, you know, take the wand from the fucking mobster why don't you. Jesus Christers. 
  
So, next up, we have to go to the Temple of the Moon for the next item. We cross the bridge and meet some fellow scavengers. 
 We talk about some of the items needed for the hunt... 
...clearly, Brent, you are an idiot. You may even be dumber than Babal. But I'm not going to tell you why, because you'll never learn that way.   

We also meet a lady bard, and a professional hippie, that would like to play us songs of glory while we fight. 
Dumpling, being the sweet idiot of the group, invites her to travel with us. A hippie. Traveling with us. For money. 
Dumpling, we need to talk. 
 
Anyway...
Onwards to the temple! 
 
As we fight trough a mass of bats and spiders, we arrive to find some guards in a huge librairy. We take the tile needed for the hunt, and we get out of there.  
So yeah, that wasn't too bad. So, these are getting pretty easy. Does that mean the next one will just be handed to me?
 
The final item lies in a cave.  
 This looks okay. 
Oh God. 
Oh Christ.
NOPE. 
I went for the item, and got the fuck out of there. 
 
With all the items collected, I went back to the man responsible for the tournament. 
 
An earlier screenshot 
Hey, I won! I have an effing castle now. Sweet! I got my peeps on a boat (motherfucker), and off we go!  

Yep, that's it for now. Maybe I'll update this blog with some more adventurous adventures of my adventurers. 
The game's definitely fun though, and if you like old games, and open world games, I advise you to check it out.  
Oh, and this is a dramatized verion of what happened, party members do not have their own personality.
Peace!
1 Comments

9/9/9 1/1/11

Well that took me by suprise..

 
So.. I've been playin' some games lately. More importantly, I've bought some games on Steam..
 
Bully
Darksiders
Just Cause 2
Mirror's Edge
P.B. Winterbottom
Recettear
Shank
Torchlight
 
So that's a lot. A lot to play, and... Oh hey, what's this?
 

999

 
Nine hours, nine persons, nine doors, for the DS.. hmm.. well.. okay let's give it a try.
...
...
 
 
 
ALL THESE OTHER GAMES ARE NOW SHIT.
I can't play them. I can't.
 
Why? 
 

The DS Game


It's 2 am, and I can't stop playing. First thing I do when I wake up- play more of this game. Played it all day. Finished it. Shit. The story is so well told and suspensful, the characters and their dialogues are well written, it's funny, it's smart, it's great. 

 I'd totaly make a whole new blog about the character design in this game.

I'd gladly continue to present the different aspects of 999's appeal, from the easily recognizable, greatly detailed (in terms of visual design) and fairly complex characters, to the engaging, unique story, but that's not the point of this blog. Let's move on.

So anyway, I'm a sucker for good story based games.
 
Then I return to my Steam games. I look for a good story, hungry for more. More. MORE!
 

Back to you, Steam


 

Bully

Story? What a piece of shit. What a big pile of excrement. These characters.. UUUGH! All of them, dumb asses. I know, that's the point, but it doesn't make it eaasier to deal with those fucking ASSHOLES. Every one of them. Every last one is a gargantuan dumb stereotypical asshole. The Nerds are nerdy as shit, the Jocks are a bunch of muscled idiots.. Goddamn.

Darksiders

Riiight.. there's no story here. Really. Maybe later on, but for now.. it's just "go there, kill that". And the main character is a big dumb tree trunk. War has NO personality. He barely even speaks. He utters all his sentences through his half clenched jaw, you know, tough guy style. His eyes are constantly narrow, and he doesn't mind the fact that everybody's treating him like a 5$ hooker.  

 I am SOOO bad ass. Holy shit. Do you see how bad ass I am? Hmm.. I should squint my eyes more, shouldn't I?


 
War, do this, do that. Kill that guy. Bring me this. Bring me that. He's a fucking HORSEMAN of the APOCALYPSE. He's WAR GODDAMNIT. Act like WAR. Sheesh.

Just Cause 2

Thank god I've completed this game before 999. Oh thank the LORD in heavens. Oh, don't get me wrong it was SUPER fun, but the stroy is really cheesy. I like a good cheesy story, but this.. ermm.. yeah.

Mirror's Edge

Nope.

P.B. Winterbottom

An interesting title, I dig the whole "Pie Stealing" bit. Might play it some more.
 

Recettear

The dialogues are.. gah. The game's great though, it's really worth your time.
 

Shank

Hahaha, haha.. no.  
 

Torchlight

Sto-ry? Never heard of it. Must be something new in vidja games. In Torchlight, we click on things untill they DIE mister.
Still a good game though.
  

IMPORTANT NOTE:


It's not that these games are BAD, I'm just in the mood for a game with some narrative and interesting characters. And in my humble opinion, these games don't really have this things.. they have great gameplay, but there's a plot shaped (?) hole in my heart..
 

So, my question's this Giant Bomb:

Any good story based games you know? They can be old, new, I don't care. Any ideas?
19 Comments