Month: December 2015

The DEFINITIVE Final Fantasy Post

OK, that title is a lie.  This is only definitive within my own experience.  I have not finished every Final Fantasy game; there are actually a few I’ll probably never bother playing  again.  However, I can’t overstate the influence Final Fantasy had on me as a kid, and how much it influences my gaming and cultural tastes.

This is going to be very, very long.  Courage.


My first RPG was Dragon Warrior for the NES.  Unless we’re counting the Atari 2600’s Adventure, but we’re not, because it’a hard to role-play as a square.

Anyways, I loved Dragon Warrior.  A totally new experience in gaming at that time, it was a game that allowed me to think and consider my actions, and truly feel like an epic medieval hero.  You kill a dragon.  You save a princess.  You kill a dragonlord.  Everyone loves you.

the music’s in my head already.

Then Final Fantasy happened.  It was just bigger and better than Dragon Warrior.  Four characters?  Up to nine enemies at once?  More than three bosses in the whole game?  Classes?  Ships?  AIRSHIPS?

It was just so much.  I’ve probably only beaten the game a couple times, but I remember so much of it, despite its size.  Dragon Warrior was good, Final Fantasy was great.

(Here’s the part where we ignore, if only for a bit, that Final Fantasy probably ended up as the fourth-best NES RPG in America, behind Dragon Warrior’s three sequels.)

By today’s standards, Final Fantasy the First is probably unplayable.  There’s a mountain of grind, the game gets pretty easy once you figure out its rather simple systems (and pick a well-rounded party).  The graphics aren’t terrible, but they’re early-era NES, and still don’t age terribly well.  The plot, while solid, isn’t anything new by today’s standards.  The only thing that really endures is the music.  If there’s a single RPG from the NES anyone must play, it’s probably Dragon Warrior 4.  Or perhaps Destiny of an Emperor, which is also quite splendid and underrated.

Since I live in the US, I didn’t get to experience the the actual Final Fantasy 2 or 3.  Japan didn’t release them in America because translating was going to take too long, and Final Fantasy 2 specifically had a lot of religious themes that they didn’t think would get through FCC standards.  They instead worked on translating Final Fantasy 4, the first entry on the SNES.

they misspelled “IV”.

As much as Final Fantasy was an influential kick to the face, Final Fantasy 2, I mean 4, was a revelation.  And it wasn’t just the graphics, which were a similar style with just more detail.  It was the music (that Red Baron theme still wanders into my head once a week, to this day).  It was the character development.  It was the plot.  By today’s standards nothing terribly special, but the overall execution was paramount.  The weaving of characters in and out of the party to accentuate plot moments, the dark-to-light transformation of the main character, an actual love story!  Betrayal!  Redemption!  It was special, especially to FF fans who had been waiting so long for just any new game, let alone one on a new system with enhanced everything.

I played the ever-loving poop out of this game.  The characters are memorable, the drama is high, the presentation was superb, and the music was face-meltingly excellent.  It’s my favorite FF soundtrack, which is saying a lot.

(This is the part where we pretend Final Fantasy 5 didn’t exist, because it wasn’t released in America either!  Common theories are that it was considered too hard, that it had the job system which had been introduced in another FF that wasn’t released in America, and that they also considered it a “weaker” entry story-wise, and felt it would fall flat after the dramatics of 4.)

Then, true, unmitigated greatness.

this one gets the full size treatment.

Final Fantasy 3, I mean 6, blew my fucking nuts off.  Graphics: better.  Music: fucking excellent (barely edged out by 4’s music).  Characters: many.  Character development: lots.  Villain: fucking crazy.  Plot twists: hoo boy.  FF6 might have the best plot twist in gaming history.  Character development system: simple, but good (and a first in America).

Humorous aside: FF6 is probably the buggiest major release on the Super Nintendo.  Many of the problems are under the surface, and I honestly played the game the whole way through without noticing any problems.  However, there were ways to break the game all over the place, and many minor issues that secretly plagued the game.  Stats that don’t do anything, a method to insta-kill almost any monster in the game (including bosses), a way to glitch the game and replace a prominent character with a moogle.  And a rather awful translation and censorship effort to boot.  Pretty nuts.

Anyways, this game is amazing.  It’s my personal favorite of the series.  So many characters.  So many fun battle mechanics.  So much story.  A villain whose calling card (the laugh) can still send a shiver down my spine.  The first American FF title that “opened up” towards the end and had many asides, side quests, and even allowed you to choose whether to pick up old party members or not.  Sublime soundtrack.  So much good, so little bad.  I feel that FF6 is the closest to a perfect game that Square has ever achieved (even with all the bugs).

To me, this is where the series changed a little.  I feel that more emphasis was placed on presentation rather than substance.  I feel that the general theming of the games alienated some of its audience.  I feel that there was a magic to FF4 and 6 that hasn’t been recaptured.  I don’t know if it has anything to do with the Super Nintendo, and it’s possible that my feelings are held tight by nostalgia and familiarity.  But this is how I feel, and I can say I experienced all of it.

Here’s a big reason why many (any?) of you may have clicked on this article:

that sword is kinda fucking stupid, you have to admit.

Final Fantasy 7 was a masterpiece.  It almost single-handedly won the console war between the PSX and N64.  It was many people’s first Final Fantasy game.  It has a memorable villain, an iconic hero, and a dramatic, tear-jerking plot that fostered conspiracy theories and false rumors like no other.  It’s character development is top-notch, its music is among the series’ best, and the gameplay was and possibly still is the best of the series.  The materia system allowed for huge customization, which was a welcome “new thing” to American FF fans.  It’s fucking excellent.  Not my favorite, but excellent.  Maybe I’ll examine this vs. 6 another time, because that’s 5000 words waiting to happen.

My only real complaint about 7 is as follows: I couldn’t ever get over how psychologically weak Cloud was.  It’s explained well, and I understand it, but to make that character the hero?  It just never rang true to me.  That all these people were placing their trust in a guy who was so messed up he co-opted a dead man’s life story to just feel better about himself?  I feel Tifa or even Red XIII would have made better heroes.  Just my two cents.

Here’s where I say “stay tuned for part 2.”  I feel this is a good place to break, if only because my relationship with the Final Fantasy series changed after the 7th installment.  I’ll write more tomorrow.


They’ve already won.

This cycle’s presidential primaries are probably the most compelling since I’ve been alive.


bern = felt.

Bernie Sanders has changed the game.  While he still lags in many polls and projections, and he still claims the “socialist” label that will likely keep confidence in his ability to win a general election tepid, his impact on the race has been felt already.

In a way, Sanders has already won.  Even if he loses in the primary or the general election, his views and arguments have now been projected into the mainstream.  Hillary has been forced to entertain or outright co-opt a number of views that many progressives would have only dared to dream would be spoken of on television, radio, Twitter, and countless other media outlets.

Even if he doesn’t win, Bernie Sanders has made an indelible mark on American politics.


it’s gotta be the hair.

Donald Trump has changed the game.  While many pollsters and experts predict his eventual loss in the primaries, and he still claims the “straight-shooter” label that has served him well so far but will likely be his undoing, his impact on the race has been felt already.

In a way, Trump has already won.  Even if he loses in the primary or the general election, his views and arguments have now been projected into the mainstream.  Other Republicans have been forced to entertain or outright co-opt a number of views that many closeted racists and xenophobes would have only dared to dream would be spoken of on television, radio, Twitter, and countless other media outlets.

Even if he doesn’t win, Donald Trump has made an indelible mark on American politics.


I think passion is a really good word to accurately describe things you really care about, because saying the word “passionate” is weird.  It sounds like the cousin of “obsessive” and “fanatic,” and those words aren’t normally used in a positive manner.  I feel using the word “passionate” in itself is a further commitment to what you’re passionate about.  It’s an eyebrow-raising word, for sure.
So what am I passionate about?  What really gets me fired up, excited, energized?
Not a lot.  Not sure if it’s ever been much, so I won’t make this into an “I’m old now and here’s why” shitpost.
My wife.  I’m very passionate about my marriage.  Ashley is pretty fucking great.
My career, sometimes.  IT engineering can have it dreary, soul-sucking moments, but the good times are good, and the “meh” times are still pretty good.  What few bad days it provides are easily shrugged off.
Games.  Of all kinds.  I think I honestly like board games more than video games.  The social interaction, the pieces, figuring out a new game’s inner workings and intricacies; all of those make me do a weird happy dance that only my wife would accept as “OK.”
My friends.  I’m not the best at showing it, and I put in unacceptable efforts at times, but when it’s time to go hang out, I can’t wait for the conversations and poor beverage choices.  It’s easy to take for granted how intelligent and wonderful my friends are.
Humor.  I’ve always relished in making people laugh, and I’m pretty good at it, overall.  I made a weak effort at trying stand-up comedy, but I think I could be decent if I put more effort into it.  But laughs I get in a normal social context are still gratifying.
Technology.  This isn’t tethered to my career; even before IT, it’s always fascinated me.  I feel I grew up in a sweet spot in technological advancement; I might be the youngest person to have had a rotary telephone and a smartphone that has all the information in the world on it.  It’s all exciting to me.
Playoff basketball.  It’s just the best.
Music.  I was a musician; I can’t rightly call myself one anymore.  I suppose my passion for playing music has waned.  But music in general; I have very picky tastes, but relish good music.  I get shivers from good songs.
That might be it.  I guess that list is longer than I thought it would be.  Writing needs to be up there, and may be soon if I keep doing this.
I’m going to do one of the above things now.

Fucking guns.

I’ve felt uncomfortable forming my thoughts on guns into words, primarily because my perspective lacks an entire side of the argument completely.  I am not a gun owner, nor have I ever fired an actual gun.  I probably will someday, in the comfort and safety of a firing range with trained professionals, but that’ll likely be the extent of any gun experience I may or may not have.

However, it’s a completely unavoidable topic at this point, because mass shootings in America are now commonplace, to a point where we’re barely done digesting the last one before the new one occurs.

I don’t have any answers.

I don’t have any solutions.

I probably never will.

What I do have is a dogged thirst for knowledge that leads me down research-gasms in the middle of the night, feverishly clicking and reading and absorbing.  I have an understanding that this is a complex problem that only has complex answers.  I have an understanding that the best possible solution is an impossible one.

I have tears.  Literally, I shed tears at work after learning of this latest shooting.  I don’t always cry when shootings occur, but today I did.  I cried for the families and loved ones of the victims of not just this shooting, but all of them.  I cried as I imagined a loved one of mine being killed in a similar situation.  I cried at the avalanche of stupidity this country embraces in many debates, including this one.

I cried because it’s not changing soon.  I’m not being pessimistic; it’s the purest, simplest fact I learned today.

Now, I only cried for maybe a minute.  But all these things blared klaxons in my head for that minute, and many minutes afterward.

It’s almost disorienting how disingenuous people are about this.

Quickly: here’s the dumbest outlooks I hear when people talk about guns:

– “Take them all away!”  This simply can’t happen.  We’re too far past that point.  If you try to take all the guns away, you will have piles of bodies of all the now-activated crazy people who hoard ammunition in their garage for precisely this reason, and many of the people whose responsibility it will be to take them away.  This isn’t an argument for or against the idea, simply a reasonable prediction of what would happen.

– “There’s no gun problem.”  Anyone who thinks this is dumb, and should stop talking or typing immediately.

– “Arm everyone.”  This is also dumb.  While the people who say “take all the guns away” are naive, at the very least it leads to a logical conclusion.  There are countries where most people don’t have guns, and those countries don’t have mass shootings close to America’s frequency.  However, there are no countries where everyone is armed.  There’s no test case close to it.  There’s no logic to that argument because it hasn’t been tested, nor should it be.  Even if mass shootings went down due to everyone packing, shootings in general would still rise, because humans are stupid emotional creatures who act with passion all the time.  A gun raises the stakes of those passionate moments, increasing the chance of death exponentially when compared to a knife or baseball bat or whatever.

This is what I hate.  This is what turns my tears to anger.  The acts themselves are sad and infuriating enough, but the baseless, idiotic discussions that surround it are baffling to me.

There is no single solution.

There is no simple solution.

America is a unique situation, forged in the fires of her history, creating a cauldron of issues in which gun violence is wrapped up.  It’s tied to hundreds of other contributing factors, causes, effects, and settings.  Neither taking the guns away nor giving them to everyone are answers born from a critical, intelligent mind.

As I said before, I don’t have any answers or solutions.  But I do know some bullshit when I see it.