Looking Back on… Final Fantasy VII (Sony Playstation)

Final Fantasy VII
Genre: Role Playing Game
Developer: Squaresoft
Publisher: SCEA
Release Date: 8/31/97 (So here’s a fun thing I haven’t really posted anywhere else: the review I wrote as my application to write for IP Games/DHGF almost a decade ago now. It’s… not great at this point, but it’s fun and considering that it gave me the chance to do all kinds of cool things I wouldn’t have done otherwise, I consider it historically significant at least.)

It’s kind of weird to be playing a Final Fantasy game on any system other than one with the Nintendo name on it. I should admit, I’ve been something of a fan of the games since FF 1 was released back in 1990 on the NES. (This is kind of a fallacy, in that I didn’t play the original Final Fantasy until years after the fact, and in point of fact, Final Fantasy III/VI was my first actual exposure to the series. It’s correct in that I liked the first two games when I played them, but incorrect in that it presents the idea that I played them when they came out, which isn’t even close to true, as I was an SMS kid growing up.) Two SNES titles (as well as a handful of Gameboy games) later, and here we are, facing down the correctly numbered sequel to one of the best RPG’s ever made (that being FF3/6; though I still like Phantasy Star 4 better, I have to give credit where it’s due) (Still true; Final Fantasy VI is almost certainly the very best traditional JRPG ever made, but I still like Phantasy Star IV better because it pays off the franchise storyline well and I like the characters a whole lot. It also kind of pays off the romantic subplot from Phantasy Star II to a point, which is neat, and I wish that the Sega Classics franchise had lasted long enough for PSIV to see a re-release, if only because I’d have paid actual money to see that come to the US. As it is we have a fan translation of the first game, with the sequel being worked on now, so that’s something at least. Maybe someday Sega will finish the series off with a proper remake, but maybe someday I’ll win the lottery, because of the two, that one is the more likely possibility.) on the PSX. I had high hopes as I brought it home and popped it into my system, but I had the utmost faith that Squaresoft would once again deliver the goods with yet another highly entertaining RPG.

Well… not exactly.

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Random Song of the Day – 3/18/15

Today, Utada Hikaru, Japanese version:

This probably isn’t one of my favorite songs of hers (I like it, but there are better), but it is one of my favorite videos, because fucking look at it. It’s adorable.

It’s also one of Utada’s very last actual videos, as she’s kind of been on hiatus for a while; there’s a fairly recent one that seems to lend credence to the rumor that she’s releasing a song for the new Evangelion project coming soon, and that may well be her last actual record, at least for a while, for one reason or another. Alternately, she may be planning a comeback, but that’s the nature of musical rumors-as-filtered-through-Wikipedia for you.

Anyway, I hadn’t posted an Utada video yet, and mentioning her during the “We Are the World” post reminded me of this, so here you are. We have an… interesting follow-up tomorrow.

Looking Back on… The rant heard ’round the internet. (8/19/02)

Hello everybody, and welcome to Your Hot Cup of Rant. I’m your host, who you can endearingly refer to as Rantmaster Mark, or Mark, or Rantmaster, or even Betty. (If you don’t get that last one, watch better movies before you come back, I don’t know what to tell you.) Anyway, we as a collective are a group of whack jobs and shitheads devoted to giving you, yes YOU, reasons to fear for the sanity of the world at large. I am the site’s general content provider, moderator, editor, and general lord and master of all you presently survey. (This was the official “first post” on the actual site proper; I’m skipping a bunch of the archived email list rants because they’re tough, even for me, to get through.) Roll call works as follows:

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Random Song of the Day – 3/17/15

Today, Natalia Kills, proper:

So yes, a little less than a decade later, the cute girl rapping about hitting the club was now singing about being a horrible human being while prancing around in her underpants and a fur coat. She’s still a damn talented vocalist, but she’s essentially doing the Brittany Spears thing, where she did a specific thing growing up, then decided that she wanted to be super different once she got older and remade herself as a half-naked trainwreck. See also Cyrus, Miley. Though I will note that Natalia’s music seems to kind of have a more subversive bent to it, which is part of why I’m intrigued by it; if it turns out I’m wrong and she’s just writing songs about being horrible and shit, then oops, but it seems like she’s kind of making a commentary here, and if so, I approve.

Though speaking as an e-smoker, Blu e-cigarettes cannot produce vapor like that. Fuck you video.

Looking Back on… WWE Smackdown! Here Comes the Pain (Sony Playstation 2)

WWE Smackdown! Here Comes The Pain.
Console: PS2
Genre: Sports (Wrestling)
Developer: Yuke’s
Publisher: THQ (At this point we’re reaching the end of the YHCOR reviews; about two years after this point, I’d be writing regularly for IPGames, and I only had about two more reviews in me for YHCOR before the entire process basically became something I couldn’t commit time to anymore. If I’d had the sort of easy-to-use tools we have now for posting to the site it might’ve been different, but at the time I was working with writing everything in Word, putting it together in Dreamweaver, passing it to my webmaster, and waiting for him to upload it, so it wasn’t the most intuitive thing in the world. These days I’m just too busy to keep focused on it, sadly, but assuming I don’t die by forty I’ll be back to it eventually.)

Ah, wrestling games. If anyone on this earth is familiar with wrestling games, you can damn well believe it’s me. From the glory days of WWF Wrestlemania on the NES (“Glory days,” he says. That game was the Hershey squirts.) to WWF Royal Rumble on the Genesis (Terrible game but man I loved it.) to WCW Versus the World on the PS1 (A lot of people thought that game was terrible, but it was basically a precursor to the AKI games we all loved to death, and for what it was, it was pretty fun.) to Fire Pro Wrestling D (Which was my go-to wrestling game until Fire Pro Wrestling Returns came out on PS2, which I will never stop playing.) and some version of Touken Retsuden on the Dreamcast (Sporadically; I could never get into the Touken Retsuden games, sadly.) to Def Jam Vendetta on PS2 (Vendetta was closer to an actual wrestling game, but Fight for New York was a better overall experience) to Ultimate MUSCLE on Gamecube (Man AKI made a lot of wrestling games even in their death throes.) to… you get the point, if there’s a wrestling game, I’ve probably played it, or some variant of it. I love ’em. (Loved, these days. WWE games tend to be the shits anymore for a number of reasons, and once you get a Fire Pro game in English you don’t need much else. Though man I wish THQ had paid off that rumor of releasing a downloadable version of No Mercy with an updated roster.)

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Random Song of the Day – 3/16/15

Today, Natalia Kills, sort of:

These days Natalia Kills makes weird pop music, often accompanied by trashy videos (we’ll get into that tomorrow), but back in 2005 she debuted as a silly female rapper in a video straight out of the 90’s, about a decade too late. Despite the silly lyrical content and the incredibly dated presentation, though, there’s something here, as she’s clearly a talented rapper, and probably could’ve hooked up with anyone other than Island Records and gotten herself some mainstream US attention with that.

Not that she likely gives a shit, considering she’s doing pretty well for herself in the UK and all, but it’s still kind of a shame all the same.

Random aside on Bayonetta

While I was looking into information for yesterday’s post, I kept coming across posts about Bayonetta, because that’s what happens when you search for stuff about female game characters, basically. The one thing that struck me as interesting was that, while a lot of people point out, possibly correctly, that Bayonetta as a character was designed for making boners, not everyone feels that way, and some women actually quite like her as a character. It’s a really interesting debate if you have the time to sit down and sift through it.

What caught my eye, though, was the insistence by a lot of people, including the folks at Platinum Games, that Bayonetta was originally designed by a woman. That intrigued me, mostly because no one was actually naming her or anything, so I was curious as to exactly who the designer was, and what might have informed her decisions on designing the character.

Well, it didn’t take too long to figure it out: she was designed by Mari Shimazaki.

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Why Redesigning Female Characters is Getting Old and Shitty

So a couple of weeks ago, the newest well-received redesign article popped up in the world, this time from a website called Svampriket, which looks like a Swedish Kotaku. The article, dubbed “Makeover Friday!” which I’ve helpfully linked in translated form, has been linked in a few places as a positive piece, with authors linking the piece and proclaiming the redesigns as a good thing, because of course they are. Interestingly, though, I discovered this thing not through the normal gaming rounds, but through a link that took me to “The Spideygirl Blog,” specifically a post discussing (among other things) this makeover, a recent character addition to Overwatch that came about due to fan objections to female designs, and some general discussions on why the writer thinks the recent discussions in general are kind of shitty. This sort of argument, as well as this one here which talks about why character agency is a stupid argument*, is nothing new, but what interested me was that the source was, by admission, a lesbian female, and the argument itself was less the typical “I LIKE BOOBS RAWR” we expect and more “People want to drag down sexy, large breasted women,” which is an… interesting approach to take, I’ll say that much**. The one thing I read within the post that I did like quite a bit, though, was this:

“This is my problem with the so called criticisms about female portrayals in video games. The people who love to complain about it seem to be inherently sex negative and puritanical. It isn’t so much that there are women who AREN’T busty and sexualized, it’s that there are women who are portrayed as such. And no matter what, apparently, those kinds of characters shouldn’t exist.”

I rather like that argument, actually, because it kind of undercuts a problem with the current discussions that are going on right now: even as someone who supports and fully believes in the idea that we need more equality in gaming, we’re going to solve that by motivating developers to make good characters, not by shaming them into putting pants on Lara Croft.

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Random Song of the Day – 3/12/15

Today, Tyler, the Creator:

I honestly don’t know what to make of Tyler, mostly because it’s hard to really know if he’s serious about anything. Dude’s clearly talented and knows how to get a response from his work, and knows how to make something that looks and sounds interesting, but it’s hard to know if his work is insane and multi-layered satire, or just trolling. Either way, he clearly has something to say, and it’s fun, so I mostly just kind of shrug and go with it at face value, and if I’m putting more thought into it than he did, so be it.