final fantasy marathon

FFCC: My Life as a King – Bad King Epitav, Rules with a Ghostly Hand

MLK-00033One of these days – one of these days! – I’m going to remember that Daylight Savings Time throws WordPress for a whirl and screws all my scheduled posts. This time I didn’t even realize I had to correct things until a few weeks in!  Sheesh!

It took us a while to get the White and Black Mage buildings. We are not proud. We finally got the White Mage Temple on Day 36, with Dana finally excelling and killing a boss instead of Mr. “You’re Not The Only Hero” Franklin. White Mages start off with nothing but Cure spells, requiring another building for anything else, which makes them awful solo adventurers, but this is the situation the game’s put us in, isn’t it? The advent of mages also introduces Rods to the Weapon Shop and Robes in the Armour.

Thankfully, the Black Mage Academy followed quickly after the White on Day 38, though I insisted we put it further away from the Adventurer’s Quarter, as I was hoping to put another residential district near where the Quarter had been creeping, not knowing that the game was never going to give us another Bakery (in hindsight, the remaining civilian building should have gone there instead of where we ended up putting it, but we didn’t realize it has the same functions as a Bakery!). On the plus side, the Academy ended up between our two residential districts and might have boosted the Intellect stat of local resident adventurers, but not so much that I ever actually noticed it. As for the Black Mage Academy itself: Black Mages start with Fire spells, and never branch out into other elemental disciplines, since the complexity would just make things unweildy.


FFCC: My Life as a King – No one likes a tough pudding

MLK-00056On Day 9, Kyle and I spent our first morale sphere to upgrade the castle, only to learn that you need to do this three times to get any upgrades! Bah! Now we have to socialize even more! And again, bah!

It was around now that the game also gave us the next and, in our experience, the most frustrating blueprint sidequest in the entire game. When someone in town asked us to build a park, we discovered Leo had no idea what even that was, and one of the Moogles suggested it would be easier to draw one if Leo knew what a dandelion looked like. Besides the part where we had to work out (by accident) that the intended NPCs only show up a day apart as I’ve already discussed, the game also insisted the king not stoop to even this kind of grunt work, and instead we had to set a behest for an adventurer to find the dandelions in town! They didn’t imply it was even… a bunch of dandelions, either! Just one!


FFCC My Life as a King – Time Lord Employees

MLK-00018Day 3 opens with a new tradition: Chime’s morning reports. With a fixed angle shot and a chibi host, these sequences weirdly reminded me a lot of Dokopon Kingdom, which is from a completely different genre! Gonna have to cover that game at some point in the future too… The morning reports are split into two parts: first an Adventurer Report, where you can click on various elements for more details, and then a rather sterile, one-page financial report that’s exactly like you’d expect and mostly covers data you already knew. You’ll be spending a lot of time on these screens… urm, the first one, anyways. Kyle and I eventually came to pass the controller back and forth at the start of each morning report, since the game lacked all of our traditional swap points.

After this, we’re given our proper introduction to the adventurer system, and so it’s time for me to explain it here, too! Not far from the foot of the castle’s keep is the town’s one and only fixed, interactive element: the Frog Board. The castle and its surrounds are filled with frog decorations that go completely unexplained (including some that look like a perfect replica of the Bullfrog Studios logo?), and this is one of them. Anyways! Every morning, at the end of Chime’s report, she’ll ask you to place Behests on this and any other sign boards you’ve constructed in the kingdom, one per board. Most of your adventurers will wake up and then go straight to the board that interests them the most, a process that seems based on the level of the challenge, but is still ultimately random, leading to a few wildly inappropriate adventurers showing up at each board basically every morning. You can then assign whichever adventurers you choose from the assembled crowd to do each behest, while telling the others to go mind their own business, which they will do by either grinding for EXP in a dungeon of their own choice, or by resting in town if they’re tired. While you can talk to them as they wait at the board to give them orders or see their stats, it’s faster to got to the board itself, which offers info on everyone present (or not yet present, if you make it to the board quickly!). The interface could still be a lot faster, but it could also be a lot worse, it’s pretty close to the middle.


FFCC: My Life as a King – Amid the Digital Gravestones


Let’s talk about games that have been removed from sale. Final Fantasy is a lucky series as these things go, since all the main series games have generally remained in circulation in some way or another for the better part of the past three decades. In fact, if FFI and II would finally show up on PC (and who knows why there’s a delay at this point), the entire main-numbered series would be on the same platform for the first time since the Famicom days! The series is also lucky enough to say that almost no games had been outright lost except those that require active servers (Before Crisis, FFXI on consoles, FF Airborne Brigade) or the unusual case of Flash game Dive 2 Hunt. I briefly covered some of these games in an filler post several years back.

But when it comes to spinoffs, sequels and other appendages, things haven’t been so certain on the sales front. Some of these losses are quite recent, and the fear that even offline games might be removed is a constant worry at the back of my mind. The Marathon has taken, and will take, years to complete. A decade so far, and who knows how long to go! And that means a lot of time for Square to fuck up and bury something else! Digital platforms are especially vulnerable, since they can’t produce used hardcopies, and smartphones are the worst: a platform infamous for remotely deleting titles without any warning, and disqualifying old software with OS updates. Indeed, the Marathon has already lost one server-free smartphone game: Final Fantasy Crystal Defenders: Vanguard Storm, which can only be played via emulation these days, so don’t expect to see it from us unless they choose to re-release it!

Today’s subject isn’t a smartphone game. With the shutdown of the Nintendo Wii’s Shop Channel in 2018-19, two more Final Fantasy games were removed from shelves and have yet to return in any legitimate manner: Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles spinoffs My Life as a King and its narrative sequel, My Life as a Darklord. But thankfully: we already owned a copy of each!


Marathon Look-Back #2, Top 5s

p1-2016-08-14-17h17m12s500We return to our Marathon Look-Back for the PSX era and its continuations with our Top and Bottom 5 Moments. While a lot of these “moments” can be intentional parts of the stories or gameplay of their respective games, this is ultimately about the experience of playing, watching, or (in the case of Before Crisis) even reading about these products, which means they could also be things that happened organically as a result of the game, or in one case, even a faulty walkthrough! Have a look!


Marathon Look-Back #2, Reviews

cc-2016-09-20-01h59m32s289Well, it’s that time again: time to look back at a long period of gaming spanning several years in both development and playtime. The last time we did this, we were covering the NES, SNES and GB eras, plus their direct continuations. The games we’ll be covering this time are all the PSX-era RPGs and their continuations, basically everything we played after FFVI and up to the present day, including six Final Fantasy games (seven if you count Before Crisis), three Persona games, two Final Fantasy movies, and one Final Fantasy TV show. This is proximate to our last look-back in terms of products (our last Look-Back covered twelve Final Fantasy games, one OVA, and the undersized FFII Soul of Rebirth and FFIV Interlude), but represents way more blog posts overall. The Directory was really getting unwieldy. Admittedly, as Kyle comments in one of his reviews, all these spinoffs and sequels are going to make this something of a FFVII-centric post, but it’s how it’s gotta be.


Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within – A New World, One Way Or Another

TSW-00033Back in prison, the laser bars fail and a loudspeaker begins to broadcast an evacuation order. And then the action scene starts and I can start to cover large spans of time with less summary coverage! Fun times! Gray and Aki are briefly separated from the others by Phantoms, but they all reunite quickly, the Deep Eyes having secured a military vehicle complete with heavy weaponry. During their brief time apart, we learn the Phantoms are now fully visible. Gray says that it’s probably because they passed through the barrier, which is presented with all the air of a line that’s meant to be authoritative and correct. I find this fascinating because we know that it’s actually not true: we know the Phantoms went through the power lines and that’s where they picked up their charge. What an odd little path we took to get here!

After some scenes of chaos in the city (including the death of Dwight Schultz’s one-scene character, an interesting re-use of existing assets), the Deep Eyes decide to go find Aki’s impounded ship from the beginning of the film, probably because it’s the only way they can guarantee finding a space ship with the keys, so to speak. Blocked by a meta, Neil makes a risky jump, but while they escape, Ryan takes a piece of debris to his gut, an innocuous but realistic sort of injury that’s kind of surprising from a film. Their vehicle also loses one of its wheels. Luckily, they’re close enough to the ship to walk, so they split up: Ryan will be forced to stay behind temporarily, armed with the mounted cannon on the back of the ship, while the others prep for launch in various ways, Gray going to the control tower.


Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within – What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

TSW-00021Aki and Gray end up meeting inside of some kind of observation platform where Aki is working, looking for the next spirits. Unbeknownst to them, the rest of Gray’s team are just outside, hot-wiring the platform to strand the two up there for a “romantic” moment. So it goes, and we learn the pair’s history, or at least the end of it: that Aki basically ran away from Gray and their romantic relationship so she could do her job, and they basically just shout at one another a bunch. To clear the air, Gray asks her to tell him about the six spirits they’ve found. Aki relents, and explains that she was the first spirit, suggesting (backed by later evidence) that the spirits are all living things that have come into contact with the Phantoms in some regard, thus why she has to find them outside the cities. Sid must have somehow discovered the wave while in the process of saving her, or something, quickly using it to create the barrier keeping her alive. Most of the other spirits are plants or animals, but the fifth was a little girl who was dying of a Phantom particle infestation, and rejected Aki’s attempts to comfort her by telling her about resurrection via Gaia, saying she’s ready to face the reality of her own death. Aki soon admits to him that she doesn’t know how much time she has left herself. Yeah, uh, like FFIX, TSW’s big theme is about finding comfort in death and living what’s left of your life, I think Sakaguchi had it heavy on his mind at the time. Sadly, it only adds to the idea that this film is a retread of previous Final Fantasy concepts.


Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within – The Fall


I’m excited, are you excited?

Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within was Square’s big attempt to go multimedia. Their brand new “Square Pictures” logo proudly greets you after the Columbia Pictures one. Look at them. King of kings. Look upon their works. But it turns out I may have been wrong when I joked about TSW forcing Square to merge with Enix. I’ve since heard that that’s simply an urban legend, and that the two companies were going to merge to begin with, only for TSW to nearly scare Enix off! This had added consequences, as I’ve heard it convinced Square to suggest the new company should could milk all their franchises for easy money as a way to re-sweeten the pot, leading to the spinoff and sequel boom that played out almost uninterrupted for the next decade or so!


Final Fantasy IX – If these shadows have offended, blame Steiner

FFIX-00130The party teleports away at the last minute, as things collapse back on the Hill of Despair (more on that later), and finds themselves back outside the Iifa Tree in the present, the tree’s roots starting to move like tentacles as they began the process of destroying Gaia, or whatever would happen after the destruction of Terra. Luckily for the party, Mikoto was on board the Red Rose with Beatrix and was able to sense Zidane telepathically, and they sent a message to Cid to pick up the party. But at the last second, a psychic voice reached out to Zidane. I originally assumed this was Garland, but no, it was Kuja, who was still alive. Zidane wanted to rescue or at least go to him, saying that, “Because I might’ve done the same thing if I were in his shoes.” Okay, like, I sympathize? But also don’t agree in the slightest. But whatever, he’s doing it anyways, and to my absolute annoyance, he reneged on his life lesson from Disc 3 and decided to ditch everyone to go in alone. I really expected them to turn him around on it, but Amarant just gave up and everyone ultimately followed his lead, even Garnet, who had the longest farewell speech. Extremely disappointed at this reversal.

After the others were gone, Zidane began his approach. This was shot in a very peculiar manner, with a pre-rendered CG in the background, depicting the Iifa tree nigh-attacking him with its roots, but with Zidane’s in-game model running around on top of the pre-rendered CG in what I can only assume is real-time. I’m not sure why they did this, though I imagine it was budgetary. On the PSX, this looks a little janky but not ultimately that bad. In the HD remake, with the now out-of-date prerendered cutscene in the background and the HD Zidane in the foreground, it looks like absolute crap. Long story short, Zidane finds Kuja, including an unintentionally silly bit where he spots him, time momentarily freezes, and he falls past.