Author: marathonrecaps

Final Fantasy VIII – Causality’s Gone to SeeD

FFVIII-00063After the screen blacked out, we found ourselves in control of three different characters in Galbadian soldier’s uniforms. As this went on, spoken dialogue was presented as normal, but additional translucent boxes appeared alongside the regular boxes. It didn’t take long to realize that these translucent boxes conveyed the familiar voices of our original party members, apparently aware of the scene but unable to interact with it (again: credit to the localization for making each voice so distinctive!). Our strange new party was made up of a man named Laguna, who was in charge but had gotten the party lost, and his buddies Kiros and Ward. Laguna fought with a submachine gun, Kiros with a giant harpoon the size of a ship’s anchor, and Kiros with two arm blades. Kiros is also a black man, and he’s about as far away from Barret’s “angry black man” stereotypes as you could be, being something of a ultra-calm monk instead.

Laguna is the only one of these three to get a mocap credit (Ward and Kiros do show up in a later CG, but aren’t moving). He’s played by Akihiko Kikuma, who would stick with Final Fantasy mocap as Wakka in FFX, Baralai in X-2, Sazh in the original FFXIII (and presumably the sequels, though as I understand it from my spoiler-minimizing perspective, the sequels don’t credit anyone in the role). He also did mocap in an unspecified role in Advent Children.

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Final Fantasy VIII – Trainspotting

FFVIII-00053The woman disappears after the dance, after she spots whoever it was she was looking for (we don’t get to see). Squall goes to brood on a balcony. At this point, Quisis shows up… in her casual clothes? She… she has a uniform, devs, we’ve seen it. And her casual clothes are sure as hell no dancing gettup. She looks like she’s raided Indiana Jones’ lost wardrobe.

Quistis tries to chat with Squall, only for Squall to point out what I was thinking at the time: she’s his teacher and god this is really awkward. I think we’re supposed to have seen this scene as more evidence of Squall’s standoffishness, because she laughs and it certainly continues in that direction, but… no, honestly it was just creepy on Quistis’ part! You’re his teacher.

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Final Fantasy VIII – Grading on a Curve the Size of Saturn

FFVIII-00036Stopping off in our classroom (including some card battles with the Trepies), we learned that Selphie had become the head of the School Festival Committee by default, as there were no other members. She also started up a blog, which had only a few entries but was already promising to be comedy gold. She’s such a naïve sweetheart.

After that, I ended up losing some card games, so we decided to move on with the plot. We tracked down Seifer in the hall, who complained that if they hadn’t been forced to withdraw, they could have held the tower and upset the entire Galbadian effort. He’s not wrong, and I find myself once again wondering why we were given the order to prematurely withdraw, which has yet to be explained even as I write this at the end of our session, and frankly seems to have been forgotten by the developers. What gives? Quistis and Xu show up at this point to tell Seifer off for disobeying orders by leaving the square, and Seifer pointed out that he had just done what he thought was best in the heat of things. Once again… not wrong. In fact, in just a few lines, Cid will arrive and say how much he doesn’t want his students to be “robots” and to be able to think on their own. Whether or not Seifer should get in trouble would probably comes down to SeeD’s official procedure and rules but this seems like a lot more of a gray area than Quistis and Xu treat it at the outset. Of course, the bigger problem is Seifer’s attitude, and even though the results of the exam haven’t been officially revealed, Xu lets slip that Seifer will never be a SeeD. He seems to realize the implications of her words and takes it very poorly.

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Final Fantasy VIII – Rail Gun Beach Party

FFVIII-00023After the fight with the Anacondour, it was up a hill to the communication tower, where the soldiers were conducting repairs on the broken tower. Here, Seifer announced that every time he completes a battle, he becomes closer to his “dream.” “You have one too, don’t you?” Yeah, Squall, you have to believe in your dreams or something, and your honour as SOLDIER! Urm… SeeD. Your honour as SeeD. God, I had no idea Crisis Core cribbed so much from FFVIII, this is really disenchanting me from my “favourite” FFVII game.

Seifer ran off at this point, which meant he crucially wasn’t present for the arrival of Selphie, who tripped to our current location complete with… sigh… up-skirt shot. Well I’ll thank you for being honest with us, FFVIII, because FFVII waited until midway through Disc 2 to get to this level of gruel with its slap-fight. It’s good to know your real priorities from the off. Selphie finally gave us her name and announced herself as being from Squad A, with a message for our commanding officer, Seifer. Unfortunately, he was already far off, and taunting us about his secret, “ROMANTIC dream.” Whoa, seriously? That’s more KH2 whiplash from me. I knew from KH2 that “romantic” was one of Seifer’s catch-phrases, but I didn’t think its origin was so… porn-y. Worryingly, Kyle promised that it would get even worse before it was over.


FFVIII-00024Oh, before we move too far along, time for Selphie’s actors. Selphie’s mocap was provided by Miyuki Shimizu, who would return to Final Fantasy to mocap Rikku in FFX (but not X-2). If IMDb is correct, Shimizu would go on to become an animator, working on Midori Days and even providing animation for Suda51 game Killer7. The performer who just mocaped a tumble down the hill was action actor Hoshimi Asai, and you won’t be surprised to learn that she’s a professional stuntwoman. I imagine several of these “action actors” are professional stunt performers, but this is the first time I’ve been able to confirm it. She’s also a “karate master,” according to an unsourced claim at the Eiga wiki.

Selphie jumped down off a nearby hill to go after him, and we were offered the choice to do the same, but by this point I too had glanced at the strategy guide and knew that this would penalize us. We took the long way around before finally rejoining with Selphie, at which point she outright joined the party. Selphie is armed with nunchaku, starting with a weapon the game very generously calls a “flail.” This is… I mean… sort of? Selphie’s starter weapon resembles a proper grain flail, if the chain between one stick and the other was uselessly overlong for a grain flail as I understand them? On the subject, the chain on Selphie’s weapons are easily the worst-looking graphical detail this side of the overworld map, looking more like a bit of stretchy elastic than chain. Her weapons are barely even nunchaku to boot. Speaking generously, she basically uses her sticks like a whip (less generously: “like two sticks tied to a retractable dog leash”), which feels redundant when Quistis is using actual whips!

FFVIII-00026Selphie’s Limit Break was Slots, but like Quistis’ Blue Magic, this was so heavily mutated that it was almost unrecognizable as a returning ability from FFVI and VII… though in this case, thank goodness, since I personally hated the old Slots. In Selphie’s case, there are no actual slot wheels on screen: the game simply offers her a random spell that she gets to cast a random number of times (the list of spells available is based on Crisis Level), and the player is welcome to sit around spinning “the slots” as many times as they please if they don’t like the results! Sure, the enemies are still attacking while you do it, but whatever you think is a priority!

Now with three party members that didn’t piss us off, we finally split up Squall’s GFs and gave Shiva to Selphie, and began Drawing magic for her own personal pool. Unfortunately, we didn’t have much time to mess around, since the boss was just around the corner, or should I say… up an elevator? As Seifer ran off, chasing Galbadian soldiers, we had to head up to the top of the tower on our own, to the place where some soldiers were running the repairs we had heard so much about. And what do you know! There were familiar faces waiting for us: this game’s incarnations of Biggs and Wedge! FFVIII is, unfortunately, Biggs and Wedge’s last major appearance outside of minor cameos for many games (skimming the wiki, it seems they won’t have more than a bunch of brief cameos until FFXIII-3!). Despite being recurring characters, these two oddly just use generic Galbadian soldier models, a G-Soldier and an Elite Soldier respectively, which makes me suspect they might have been a somewhat later addition to the game, but not so late that they couldn’t play a recurring role? In any event, I’m glad to see them.

FFVIII-00029Biggs, the commanding officer, is conducting repairs when Wedge arrives to report on sightings of some kind of boss monster in the area. Biggs ignores him, so Wedge heads off on his own to look for the monster. This leaves Biggs alone when the party arrives, but they’re a little too late, as Biggs manages to complete his work. The Communication Tower produces a huge satellite dish and begins projecting some kind of beam into the sky. It’s here when Biggs turns around to discover the party is uselessly gaping at him, and we get into a fight after Seifer returned and cut off Biggs’ escape.

Being a barely improved version of the Elite Soldier enemy found in random encounters, Biggs was no big(gs) deal, though we had a few laughs at his rushing attack, which played out with him clotheslining his way past our party line, and then politely returning to his starting position after he was done, even though he had been trying to run away before the fight! Wedge showed up part way into the battle, but even this was too late, as the boss monster he had been searching for showed up and knocked them both out of the battle.

FFVIII-00030The real boss battle was against a flying, air-casting monster called Elvoret, who served as a Draw point for an entire GF, Siren! You can get GFs like this just by Drawing them once, it’s no big deal and a pretty easy chore to check each boss in the game for a GF before you start swinging. Thankfully, GFs are openly labelled when you attempt to Draw, while unknown spells are marked with question marks instead. Ultimately, the Elvoret was no threat. Not only had we already killed the T-Rexaur, a monster with ten times as much HP, while we were much weaker and had only two party members, but the Elvoret was a source for Cure spells, and you can also use Draw to “Draw-Cast” a spell directly from the source, without decreasing your supply! Poor thing. If anything, the only thing hard about the fight was the tedium of watching summon animations over and over. Final Fantasy. After clearing this battle, you also get a “Weapons Magazine” (a magazine about weapons, not a cartridge magazine). These magazines give you synth recipes for various weapons, although this one only gave you our current characters’ starter weapons (including Quistis’), in case we needed dupes sometime in the future

At this point, Selphie is finally able to pass on her message to Seifer: SeeD had ordered a withdrawal ages ago and our team now had only had thirty minutes to get back to the shore to evacuate! This left the party with no time to check out what Biggs and Wedge had been doing here, or even if they had been taken out (although for what it’s worth, Seifer also had no interest). Sure enough, they were both alive, and Biggs got ahold of a device Seifer had knocked from his hand earlier on. He used it to give orders to a robotic drone that was supposed to be protecting his squad. This was X-ATM092, and it was impossible to kill without what Kyle called “serious grinding.” The only option was to do enough damage to force the machine to collapse, at which point we could run away. One problem! We couldn’t work out what buttons cause you to run away on our controller! You had to hold down two buttons at once to do it, too, so it was possible we were doing one wrong but not the other? We finally discovered we had to push both the thumb sticks, but it took so long that we actually stopped our recording temporarily so that we could go online to find our answer!

X-AMV42-whatever resembles a spider, by the way, and will actually pick you up and bite you, like all serious military hardware these days

FFVIII-00031The robot mech will attempt to engage you at multiple points, but only the first is mandatory, as the rest can be dodged if you avoid the spider-bot on the map. You have to do some silly things to keep away from it, mind. I like the part where the robot jumps in front of you on a bridge in hopes of tricking you to running into it, and then jumps back the other way in hopes of doing it again! I do not like the point where you have to stop moving when it shakes the earth to keep it from stunning you (something that only happens during this one screen, and not others). Experienced fans of platformers will tell you that this isn’t how shaking floors typically work in games, a mechanic that goes back to the NES if not earlier (normally, one avoids being stunned by a ground shake attack by jumping), which makes it almost impossible to work out before you get tagged for a fight. There are six possible fights, but we only encountered two. There was also a point where I rescued the dog in town square from the robot, which I imagine factors into your mission rating, and another moment where two other students were hiding in a café but then ran straight back out.

The whole time this was happening, I was making one snide comment after another about the silliness of the whole situation. Like how we’re hurting its metal, tank exterior with fists and wooden “flails.” Earlier, I had also been complaining about all the swords and soldiers who attack by clotheslining you. So imagine my reaction when the party finally made their way down to the beach and Quistis filled the robot with bullets from the landing craft. “Ohhhhhh,” I said, in imitation of the party. “Guns.” But seriously, what on earth were we doing to damage the robot earlier if not similar damage to Quistis’ machine gun? It wouldn’t have broken down if we hadn’t attacked it, so it’s not a fuel issue or something like that. This also isn’t covered by the usual D&D HP excuses, where HP can represent luck, agility, stamina and fate. We caused it to break down! Damage was done! If we weren’t tearing holes in it, what the fuck was happening?

After this dramatic, fully-rendered CG animation, we then cut straight to the terrible overworld graphics. Ah, what a refreshing quality plunge!

FFVIII-00034Quistis gave us no explanation for SeeD’s retreat immediately after the fact, much to my frustration. She simply said that we had free time before a proper debriefing back at the Garden. As a result, we spent a little time exploring Balamb Town, and met up with Zell’s mother in town. Also in town was a father telling his daughter the legend of a god named “Hyne,” who had been mentioned briefly earlier in the game. According to the legend, Hyne created humanity so they could do his work while he rested after a great battle, but was so put out by their quick reproduction that he decided to wipe out an entire generation of children. Thankfully, this incredibly nice guy was defeated by children and then “gave up” the weaker half of his body to get away. What exactly is implied by “half,” the myth doesn’t explain, but I’m imagining an NES TMNT3 Krang situation, complete with the legs jauntily prancing off into the sunset.

At this point, Kyle spent our remaining time for this session card hunting, at which point he challenged the guy who had won Ifrit from us, and lost yet again. We decided not to save that loss, and called it quits for the night. Silliness and the baffling writing of the town square sequence aside, I’ve been enjoying the game so far. Keep it up, FFVIII!

We continued with Session 2 the next time we met up, continuing our ardent avoidance of FFT’s grindy final chapter. This session was quite long and covered basically the entire next plot arc: we started with SEED graduation and wrapped up only after completing the “return to Balamb” sequence after our next mission.

We started our session by briefly trying and then giving up on retrieving the Ifrit card at the start of the session. We didn’t try again for the rest of the session! Heck, we’re not even sure if the NPC is still in the game at the time of writing, because he disappeared from his usual location and hasn’t come back!

FFVIII-00035

By the way, check out the rare card we got thanks to good RNG while Card hunting in the Fire Cavern.

Back inside the Garden proper, we overheard two students finally explain why the Communication Tower in Dollet had been abandoned: even though it’s been repaired, it still can’t work. In fact, no such towers work anymore, and haven’t for seventeen years! Apparently some kind of signal noise has filled the airwaves and made such broadcasts unworkable, worldwide. As a consequence, wireless communication has been replaced with cabled television and internet, as well as chocobo-back mail delivery. Strangely, even though the game is adamant that cable television exists, it is somehow impossible for live broadcasts to occur over cable, only recorded ones. I don’t claim to be able to work that one out, but it’s really just the surface the problems with this particular bit of worldbuilding.

Right after this conversation, we learned from the headmaster that Galbadia has retreated from Dollet and apparently has no problems with them taking back power so long as they leave the communication tower online! Geeze, did you ever consider asking or threatening them into repairing it themselves instead of staging a major military conquest?

Prev: Final Fantasy VIII – Chicken-Wuss
Next: Final Fantasy VIII – Grading on a Curve the Size of Saturn

Final Fantasy VIII – Chicken-Wuss

FFVIII-00012We didn’t learn much of value in the search of campus, honestly. There was another mention about a sorceress, more about the Garden Festival, nothing worthwhile. We soon had our uniform on and were meeting up with Quistis in the foyer for the big SeeD exam (curiously, we learn during this segment that Squall must have a roommate in his dorm, but Kyle tells me that we never meet them!). Quistis announces the squad assignments for the exam, and we were put in a squad with someone named Zell Dincht. Zell proved to have about as much military discipline as a… well, Kyle put it better in a later scene, so I’ll wait on that, but let’s just say that he’s doing flips in the foyer as he reports for duty so… that. Zell was a mechanical descendent of Sabin from FFVI. He was a Monk, and his Limit Break, Duel, used specific button inputs to launch attacks. In Zell’s case, these attacks could be chained together into a long combo, with special “finisher attacks” that you can use at the end of your combo, so long as you fit it all in before a timer runs out!

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Final Fantasy VIII – Garden of Soul Sukking!

FFVIII-00002Lot of game mechanic chat today, since FFVIII front-loads a lot of this stuff, but at least it’ll be over with when we’re through!

From here, we headed out onto the world map, where everything looked just… just terrible. The world map has easily the worst visuals in the game so far, with blocky textures and meshes and… ugh. At least you disappear into the forests when you go into them, which is a detail I hadn’t expected after past Final Fantasy games.

We headed straight to our destination, the Fire Cavern, where two men were waiting for us from the Garden. It was incredibly unclear who these men were supposed to be. Obviously they were supposed to be Garden employees, but the game never bothered to establish their actual job. They were wearing what looked to be kasa – a wide-brimmed rice hat, sometimes associated with Buddhist monks in the real world? The kasa hid their faces.

The men were here to facilitate a challenge that I still don’t understand. Here’s the short verison: they asked us to estimate how long it would take us to complete the mission, from a list of 10, 20, 30 or 40 minutes. We would be competing against a timer that ran during battle, victory poses, and even dialogue (dialogue counting against the timer was a real piss-off, let me tell you). It seemed kind of rude to ask you to bet how long it will take you to complete a dungeon with no idea how long that dungeon is going to be, doesn’t it? The game might have been trying to say “Since 10 minutes is an option, the dungeon must be short!” but how do we know that? Maybe 10 minutes is a bluff! Or maybe just for hardcore players! I mean, FFVIII has a special reward for heavy grinders in just an hour or so!

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Final Fantasy VIII – Triple Trial of Patience

ffviii-2018-08-05-23h44m16s950This is the second of two updates today! Go here for the first!

Right, where we we? Oh, yes. Infodumping. Brilliant.

Squall’s “study panel” offered a game tutorial, and also explained a few really shallow things about Balamb Garden and the world. Honestly, for all the reading involved and the complaining I just did, this is one of the least informative infodumps I’ve ever experienced. Balamb Garden is a military school, the first of three opened by the headmaster, this game’s Cid. In addition to schooling, they also operate their own mercenary force of their best and brightest graduates called “SeeD.” (Get it? Gardens? Seeds? Get it??) The field exam Squall was taking was actually for SeeD.

The game even skimped a little information about “GFs,” an incredibly important part of its setting, simply saying that they were developed by studying “a sorceress,” which is an odd thing to say considering another part of the game implies sorceresses aren’t necessarily historical? “GF” stands for “Guardian Force,” which makes for some unintentionally funny reading in the present day, where “GF” stands for “girlfriend.” The game uses the term “GF” almost to the exclusion of “Guardian Force,” and I soon got curious whether the characters were actually saying the letters “G.F.” or if they were actually saying “Guardian Force” every time and the text is simply abbreviated so it would fit in the box? I suspect that it’s the latter. I base this on another abbreviation used later in the game: Squall says that a room is “on the 2F,” as in “on the second floor.” If the game had really wanted him to say “two-eff,” they presumably would have written “on 2F,” with no “the” stuck in the middle.

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Final Fantasy VIII – Yoshinori Kitase, Rambling GM

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“I’ve just had an urge to play FFVIII,” Kyle said to me one day during our FFT playthrough. “I know that’s weird.”

“That is weird,” I replied, “because you’ve been talking the game down for the last twenty years.”

Kyle went on to explain that after all this time, he didn’t really remember the game all that well and wanted to see it over again. As for my part, I was only familiar with a few details, since Kyle’s complaints over the past two decades were mostly concerned with the game’s mechanics, and even those I only knew second-hand. We finally settled in to give the game a play before even clearing FFT, since we were in more of an RPG mood, and Kyle’s change in attitude towards FFVIII had me curious. Better yet, Kyle had dug up his old strategy guides for VIII, IX and X, reasoning there was no sense in leaving them to go to waste! To spare me any narrative spoilers, Kyle handled the guides almost exclusively.

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Final Fantasy Tactics – Appendix: Sound Novels

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As the sound novels were not available for our playthrough, I’ll be using screenshots from the end credits for this appendix.

Remember FFT’s Errands, and the artefacts they sometimes rewarded? You know, the ones that referenced past Final Fantasy games, accelerating the grand, incestuous tradition of Final Fantasy cross-references? In international versions of FFT, there’s only one artefact you get to examine up close: the Scriptures of Germonique. But this wasn’t necessarily the case in the Japanese release, where all the book-like artefacts can be experienced to some degree, in this case in the form of “sound novels.” These were never translated, even in international versions of the remake.

What does FFT consider a “sound novel?” The term shouldn’t be confused with “audio drama,” and the word “novel” shouldn’t be taken literally either. Basically, they’re text-driven short stories that happen to have dynamic background music (the music is available internationally, if only in FFT’s hidden sound test). FFT’s sound novels also happen to be games of a sort, ranging from Choose Your Own Adventure-style stories to games with actual variables to track.

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Final Fantasy Tactics – The Family that Ultimas Together…

Battle 62: Airship Graveyard

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Welcome to Final Fantasy Tactics, the only game in the franchise to end in a garage! An Airship hangar, I mean. Ramza’s summary of the Scriptures of Germonique had already set up the existence of airships in the past, and airships are a franchise standard, so I suppose the authors felt there would be no sense in ending the game without a visit to the airship. Besides… it allowed the devs to cheat. But more on that in a moment.

Apparently, Folmarv sensed Ajora’s spirit lingering on one particular derelict airship, and he had set up Alma’s body with the Virgo stone here to revive the High Seraph. But the ritual wasn’t working… at least not until Folmarv saw Ramza and the party and pulled the title “Angel of Blood” from out of his ass (we’d only later learn that the High Seraph is the “Angel of Blood,” but there was no setup for this at the time, like a lot of name-related things in FFT). He decided to transform into Hashmal, Bringer of Order, the lion Lucavi, to get the blood he needed out of our bodies and all that. Indeed, some fans seem to have decided that the entire War of the Lions was orchestrated for the blood they needed, but this seems unlikely, given that it didn’t occur to Folmarv to add more blood until giving it a few hours of thought. If the War had been a blood sacrifice all along, you’d think “more blood” would be at the front of his mind!

And heyyyyyy! Would you look at that! The semifinal boss in a story about a war between two lion factions is a… you get it? You guys? Do you get it?

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