Month: June 2015

Kingdom Hearts 1 – Welcome to the Worst Wish Ever Semifinals!

Jumping to the outer planets always struck me as daunting for some reason. I’m not sure why, beyond that it’s a feeling left over from my first playthrough. Kingdom Hearts is happy to play the danger card, by opening the first world with a competent villain from moment one.

kh1-2015-06-29-17h30m16s568It’s Agrabah today, home of Disney’s Aladdin, and Maleficent is here talking with Jafar, played by original voice actor Jonathan Freeman. Freeman has played Jafar in virtually every opportunity imaginable, even the stage production. He also voiced the puppet Tito Swing on Shining Time Station. From Jafar and Maleficent’s conversation, it seems Jafar’s been directing the Heartless to find the Keyhole in Agrabah. He’s also looking for Princess Jasmine, who seems to have escaped under his watch. This news comes from Iago, still voiced by comedian Gilbert Gottfried. Gottfried’s got such a distinctive voice that I’m sure you’d recognize him from any role he’s been in (I’m personally fond of his Mr. Mxyzptlk in the DCAU and Lego Batman 3), but he does have one Disney connection I can find: a cameo appearance in The Emperor’s New School as Kronk’s voice under the influence of a voice modifying potion.

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Final Fantasy III – Four Shmucks Walk into a Hole…

kh1-2015-06-27-20h18m29s325Final Fantasy III for the Famicom had a rocky history outside of Japan. Even though it was created in 1990 as the last 8-bit Final Fantasy, it was not ported in any way until 2006, not even in Japan. The hype around Final Fantasy in the PSX era led to PSX re-releases of every game from I-VI except FFIII, and several of the games also made their way to Wonderswan and the GBA. Why not number 3? While I can’t speak for the Wonderswan version, I imagined the lack of a Wonderswan version made porting a GBA version difficult, but hardly impossible.  For one reason or another, FFIII never made it over here until the DS era… and a new set of design sensibilities at Square Enix.

The three eras of Final Fantasy ports that spanned the PSX era and turn of the century had different intentions in mind. The PSX/Wonderswan era was about remakes that were close to straight ports, with GUI, audio and graphical enhancements and little else. The GBA “Finest Fantasy for Advance” line was more eager to add new features, to re-balance FFII, and to scramble FFI entirely with the “New Style” design (technically Dawn of Souls was not part of “Finest Fantasy for Advance” until after the fact, so maybe that explains why it got the most changes). But the games were still closer to straight ports than the DS versions. The DS remakes… were challenge remakes, though it’s hard to say whether or not that was intentional.

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Kingdom Hearts 1 – The World Is Topsy Turvy

kh1-2015-06-24-16h24m21s591Remember the secret passage in Leon’s grotto?  It actually leads to Merlin’s house, but it’s one way.  That means that even if it were open, you’d have to go out the Fire door to leave. There’s an event waiting just outside the Fire door, so it’s clear that someone thought this layout through ahead of time!  Once you go through the door, you get what I think is still one of the biggest surprises in the series. Now, don’t confuse “surprise” with “shock,” but there really is no way to see this coming: as you step out the door in the Third District, you’re attacked by Heartless, and rescued by Riku! After four worlds of trying to find the bastard, he just… shows up, carrying a suspicious bat-winged sword. It’s one of Riku’s greatest character moments, in how it reveals that he never needed your help in the first place! Riku tries to impress that fact on you himself, but is interrupted when another Shadow appears and Sora takes it out with the Keyblade, saying he doesn’t necessarily need Riku’s help either.

Riku runs this entire conversation like a real jerk, talking Sora down, and it’s really not clear why, leaving the player as confused as Sora must be. But Sora either plays it off or is just completely unflappable (either is possible), at least until Goofy mentions the Keyblade and Riku somehow gets ahold of the thing. Of course the player and Sora know that this shouldn’t be possible: when Leon tried to pick it up earlier, it teleported back to Sora’s hand. And never mind the question of how Riku got it, which may be equally relevant. Riku laughs the Keyblade off as not really that important, and returns it.  Sora starts talking about the trips he’s taken around the worlds, but as he does, Riku becomes detached from the conversation. He outright slips away while Sora and Donald are having an argument. Sora’s not exactly happy that Riku has left, but he reasons that Riku’s fine on his own and if Riku’s okay, maybe they’ll see Kairi soon! Sure buddy, it’s not like you’ve been haunted by her ghost or anything.

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The Final Fantasy Legend – Deicide

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“All I did was take everything you had, you can thank me again later.”

So there we were… back at the start of the game… and we found that Base was now populated by our allies from across the worlds.  I still can’t decide if this sequence was meant to be dream-like or real. We said our confused hellos to this surreal assembly, and learned that the new Queen Armor was pregnant! Let’s not think too hard about that.  After a few chats, we bought some top-tier equipment before getting ready to face the game’s final challenge. Time to take one last look at the party.

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Kingdom Hearts 1 – Narrative-Critical UPS Cosplay

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I jumped to a random spot in the Gummi trip back to Traverse Town and Spazbo4 was playing the music with the lasers AGAIN. It’s addicting!

Since I was babbling on about Keyblades and Keychains in the last post, it might be worth pointing out another strength booster I haven’t brought up: permanent stat-boosting items. There are three kinds of these, all rare and hard to resupply: one for Strength, one for Defence and one for AP. And I’ll be straight with you: they should all go to Sora. Sora’s the one that will be doing the most attacking, so Strength should definitely go to him, and he’s the one taking the most hits and costs you the game if he dies, so Defence is a no-brainer. You might consider giving some AP Ups to Donald and Goofy, but Sora’s going to have more Abilities than them at any given point in the game, so while he doesn’t need max AP to cover all his skills, most players will probably still be fine ignoring their buddies. And yes, if you really wanted to, you could potentially use AP Ups on a Guest to fix their “never enough AP by design” problem, but it’s not worth the cost. Why toss away an item that will help you forever, just so Tarzan can get Critical Plus for the short time you’re together?

After clearing Deep Jungle and Wonderland, you’re free to advance the plot, whether you’ve been to Olympus Coliseum or not. Sora, Donald and Goofy return to Traverse Town, and oh — by the way, have I mentioned that these games, especially KH2, always addresses the as “Sora, Donald and Goofy,” in that precise order, as though you’d forget their names if they weren’t constantly repeated at you? Look, that might not seem like trivia worth mentioning, but once you’ve heard it for the hundredth time you start to split the pain. …What were we talking about?

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Kingdom Hearts 1 – An Evil Gourd

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BOW BEFORE GRODD!

Jane is furious at Clayton once you get back to the camp.  …That is, when you go back to camp unprompted. Yet again, the game gives you no instructions at all in a level as labyrinthine as this. She orders him out, and he leaves all brooding, only for something to approach him from the trees. He’s startled into firing his gun, and when Sora and the others go to investigate, he’s vanished. Worse still, it seems the Heartless have come to Deep Jungle. And they’re attacking the gorillas!

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The Final Fantasy Legend – Free Will is an Inconvenience

ffli-2015-06-13-20h32m53s133World 2 is pretty bereft of plot. I get the impression it’s not very popular with fans, either, and the best I can say about it is that the developers certainly did a great job designing a world where you… have to… uhh… operate entirely under your own accord! Personally, I had nothing but bad memories of the place from previous playthroughs. Not only are the clues insufficient, but one of the hardest parts is right at the start and has almost no clues at all.  What a great opening!

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Kingdom Hearts 1 – I thought we LEFT the Maze World?

kh1-2015-06-15-22h40m49s391Deep Jungle, the next world on our list, has an interesting history with Kingdom Hearts. This world is based on Disney’s Tarzan, and it seems that while the Tarzan character is out of copyright, the estate of Edgar Rice Burroughs still held a trademark on the name.  As a result, anyone wanting to work with “Tarzan” would have to negotiate with them, even though Disney’s Tarzan was a separate version. Square did this for KH1, but after Kingdom Hearts 1, either Square or the estate said “no,” and Deep Jungle has never appeared again, not even in flashback, or even the manga of KH1 itself! There were development shots of the world being revisited in CoM, but no dice. Thankfully it was still around in KH1.5.

So take a seat, friend, as we visit the world that only temporarily existed as part of the story.

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The Final Fantasy Legend – Interspecies Dating for Fun and Profit

ffli-2015-06-10-06h59m04s218The game began at Base, a town that was built up around the Tower by a few enterprising young business-people so that the foolhardy could go searching for Paradise. It’s a great bit of worldbuilding. Our party leader was Rei (the party leader gets better stats and starting monster options, and that was the only way to get a Wererat), and we hired the rest of the party members at a Guild. Guilds are present in many towns in the game, as it is possible to change any party member but your lead should they ever die. If you’d rather not lose your party member, you can revive them for 100 gold at a House of Life, but all party members have a set of three Hearts that represent the number of times they can be resurrected (so does the lead, though you seem to be able to revive the lead no matter what). Restoring a lost Heart is prohibitive, so after three deaths, you’re probably going to head back to the Guild instead.

ffli-2015-06-10-08h10m17s881If you should choose to restore a Heart, it costs a hefty 10 000 gold, expensive even in the end game, or you could use a Revive potion to skip the process entirely, even in the field. That’s great and all, but we managed to keep the party alive from bottom to top so it never really came up. Kyle only died once! Sara died only twice. Human armour can be pretty handy. Without proper armour, Liz and Rei died multiple times only for us to hit them with Revives we had found in the field, or to save scum.  Save scumming doesn’t really feel so bad in FFLI. Honestly, you seem to save scum almost as often as you hit Start. It’s a rough game at times. Part of the idea behind Guilds is to replace party members that didn’t level up very well with this game’s expensive, random, or incomprehensible systems, so it does make a certain amount of sense to have Guilds every few towns.

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