I know what you’re going to say: “Greg, you write about Final Fantasy a whole lot.” You would be right. I do write about it a whole lot. I think about it a whole lot, probably moreso than most other series. The fact is that I credit Final Fantasy as the reason I’ve always been into games. Sure, Legend of Zelda may have been my very first game, but it was Final Fantasy that hooked me, and Final Fantasy II (which, I would later find out, was the fourth game in the series) that solidified the hold that games have had on my life. It was just pretty amazing to me that a game could have a story to it, and I mean a real story with characters and interpersonal conflict.
Tag: Final Fantasy
So, about a year and a half ago, I reviewed Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn. I was trying it after coming off of two other MMOs that I had been reasonably impressed with, because it was on sale and because I knew other people who played it and found enjoyment in it. I came away from FFXIV also being reasonably impressed with it, though, at the time, less so than I had been with other games. In all fairness, I attributed part of this to MMO burnout, but even then I had pretty much made the decision that FFXIV was a game I was going to put a couple months into, maybe level a character up to the maximum level, finish the main plot, and then leave it in favor of something a bit more single-player.
Eighteen months later, I’m still playing it.
Everything old is new again.
This old idiom, while applicable to a great many things both artistic and not, has a much deeper meaning for those whose musical passion lies in the revitalization of old video game music. For these musicians, it isn’t so much that trends move in cycles, but rather that they are playing an active role in interpreting old music for audiences in new and interesting ways. Whether through the preservation of the original styles or by the creation of new and novel interpretations of classic game tracks, it’s clear that the growing interest in the video game music community is exceeded only by the amount of talent that those in the community draw from.
Enter The Returners, a band whose name (on top of the obvious reference) literally means ‘the ones who bring something back’. In two years since the band’s inception, they have made a name for themselves playing sets at Nerdapalooza and its spiritual successor Orlando Nerd Fest, as well as an impressive number of shows at smaller venues in and around their home base in Austin, Texas. Most recently, they played at PAX South, opening for The OneUps and Paul and Storm. The combination of high profile conventions and several local shows has succeeded in earning them a growing fanbase and a similarly growing anticipation for their first recorded album.
I will freely admit that I have been playing a whole lot of Final Fantasy (and Final Fantasy-like) lately. It’s a testament to my devotion to the series that no matter how many times certain games in it are remade, or how far new entries deviate from tradition, I will still play them. And, really, I will also admit that I still enjoy the series, no matter what direction Square-Enix has decided to take it. Final Fantasy was my first RPG, so I’m not exaggerating when I say that the series has been with me through pretty much the entire course of my life. That doesn’t mean that I can’t see the obvious flaws that it shows sometimes, but I wouldn’t call the series ‘dead’ like a lot of publications are doing at this point in time. Overall, I’d say that my experiences with it remain primarily enjoyable.
Last week saw the release of two much-anticipated Square-Enix games in the North America region. One, Bravely Default: Where the Fairy Flies, is the 3DS spiritual successor to Final Fantasy: The Four Heroes of Light and is a standalone game that should have been released here sooner than it was. The other, Lightning Reutrns, is the actual successor to Final Fantasy XIII and XIII-2, and promises an ending to a trilogy that was never supposed to be a trilogy. It’s really interesting to me that these games were released in the same week. Why? Because they appear to represent two completely different design philosophies within Square-Enix and also represent some truly interesting things about the Final Fantasy brand itself.
I walk into a tavern in the middle of a small seaside fishing village. Since I’m really, really, abysmally bad at geography, I’m really not sure which sea I’m on the side of. I’m guessing it’s the Baltic. Seeing as how everyone around me is speaking Russian, there’s a 75% chance it’s the Baltic. It’s probably the Baltic. Anyway. I walk in, expecting to see a few tired fishermen unwinding after the day’s catch. While I do see that, I also see a lot of other people as well. People who, like me, have come from far and wide to this place without really knowing why. I step up to the bar and order a drink. It doesn’t matter what I order, I still get a scowl from the bartender as he hands it to me. I then notice the man at the end of the bar. He is an elderly gentleman, and for some reason that I don’t think can be adequately explained just yet there is a man sitting beside him with an accordion. Curious, I walk over to the man and start to listen to his accordion-playing companion. The man looks at me, intelligence, and more than a little mischief, in his eye, and speaks to me in English, his voice strong but starting to crack from decades of use. “Let me tell you a story.”
“Uh, er, okay…” I reply.
There is a trend in the circle of bands that cover or create video game inspired music to always be striving to do more with less. Many times, this is by necessity, as the great majority of cover bands draw inspiration from the music and video games of the 1980’s and 1990’s. As technology limited what music could be put in the games themselves, there is an inherent room for expanding those songs. Though the scene started out with a definite focus on heavy metal, there has been a more recent trend in bands that bring diversity to the table and therefore have caused a slight shift in focus. In the past year or two, the focus has not been just on ‘more’ (more energy, more metal, more badass), but on ‘different’.
Codename Trigger Thumb aims to fall directly in the middle of that spectrum, and in my opinion they succeed at it quite brilliantly.
[SPOILER WARNING: This article will be talking about the game mechanics of permanent plot-related character death in video games. As such, you should assume that any game that I mention will be a game in which people die or vanish from the party for long periods of time. I’ll try not to use games any more recent than a year or two old, but still, read this article at your own risk.]
Death. Final, absolute, cold hard death. It’s sort of an oddball thing to handle in video games. Why? Because video games have a very unique point of view when it comes to death. In video games, death is rarely ever final. Death, in regards to the main character, represents the loss condition. It is the point where you say, “I did not complete the level, so I’m going to start over and try again.” Usually, this is sufficient, because the player character is the one who you generally have to worry about dying. Obviously, this is because the entire game is constructed around more and more difficult-to-avoid ways of making the main character die.