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By Will On 12 Nov, 2013 At 10:58 PM | Categorized As Featured, PC Games, ROG News | With 0 Comments

No GravatarA save file before and after "Boosting"With the Summer long gone. so has the release of Final Fantasy 7 for Steam, and there’s something that just bugs the living shit out of me, Character boosting.

Character boosting is only allowed if you have “Cloud Saves” active for the game saves to be archived just in case your computer takes a shit. When you go to the Square-Enix website, the boost gives you MAX HP, MP, and 50 MILLION GIL while you enjoy the story. “But Cupcheck, why does it bother you?”

The fun part about any Final Fantasy game is the grinding, to look forward to what’s ahead and be satisfied when you get there AND get the positive results when it’s all said and done. The anticipation of what’s on the other side of that one battle you have to grind for, is what makes a game for me. Diablo 2 and it’s expansion is a good example of the road one has to take to fully enjoy the story AND the grind leading up to the ending, where you defeat Baal.

Why only max out stats? Why not go all out and make the team fully customizable from the weapons and gear? The original release on the PC, and the PSX version with the GameShark, are able to let you do it so why not the Steam version? It’s just super annoying that with the ability to cheat, they don’t allow you to do it and make your team completely overpowered!

Send all questions and inquiries about the matter to @CupcheckGE or Cupcheck@RealOtakuGamer.com!

 

No GravatarI’ve been a gamer for a very long time. So long, in fact, I can’t even remember exactly when I started. I know it was in the late 1980s, when my parents gave me an NES for Christmas, and progressed through hand-me-down Atari systems and a scavenged SEGA Genesis. It played out in arcades and at the houses of friends until I finally bought my own PlayStation. It continues to this day in portable form, and on the internet. Gaming runs in my blood, and has been a powerful force on my life.

So it comes as no surprise that some games have had such influence on myself that they have, in their own ways, pushed my life off one course and onto another. That might seem a bit extreme, but it’s true. There’s a lot in my life I owe to games, be they stress release, “moral” support, academic achievement or just plain entertainment. What follows is a list of ten games that have had more impact than most others, but by no means the only ones that have resonated with me. These were there at the right time and hit me in the right way to change something and set me down a new path.

Everyone has their own list. This one just happens to be mine.

1: Final Fantasy VII: This one will always stick with me. While I had cut my proverbial teeth on Final Fantasy back in the late 80s or early 90s, it wasn’t until I played Final Fantasy VII that I knew what a quality game truly was. As used to sprites and spinach green screens, the fact that fully 3D polygonal characters existed blew me away. I was a Sephiroth fanboy, I had a crush on Aerith and Tifa. I played this game three times in the span of a year, and it was the main reason I bought a PlayStation (because the PC version kept crashing at the Crater).

Now this game was hardly flawless, I see that more and more as time goes by. And it does not hold up as well as other games in the series do, despite what the fandom might insist. And the “Compendium” wasn’t much more than fan-service without the interaction that other “fan-servicy” installments in the series have had. But that doesn’t change the fact that this game did change my life. It was my gateway into the wide world of RPGs. It was the first game I ever debated and analyzed. It formed the core of a lot of what I do today. Which, for me, is more important that the replay value.

Plus the music was kind of awesome. And still is.

2: Chrono Cross: Yes, that’s right, Chrono CROSS. Because while I admit that Trigger is, was, and always will be, a superior game, I never would have played it if not for this one.

Chrono Cross was the game I played after beating Final Fantasy VII for the third time. I had bought it because of the rave reviews and the lush environment and colorful graphics the game possessed. Indeed, Chrono Cross is one of the loveliest games ever,  even today, and it still has what I consider to be the best soundtrack of any game I’ve ever played. But much like Final Fantasy VII changed my perception of what a console RPG could do, Chrono Cross changed me opinion of what a GAME could do.

I loved everything about the mechanics in this game. I loved how you could avoid enemies, how you only really needed to down bosses, how you had a huge pool of characters to choose from (even though I only ever used Serge, Kid and Glenn). This game embodied the pinnacle of what Squaresoft could create if it wanted to. Few have even come close to providing the enjoyment and satisfaction that Chrono Cross did. Even fewer have made me go misty-eyed at the ending. And even fewer than that have been sequels to games that were amazing in the first place. This game saved a Spring Break during the most stressful period of my life, and while I haven’t played it since, I can still recall it with perfect clarity.

That, and it did force me to play Trigger…

3: Final Fantasy IX: I played this game over the course of Winter break in 2001, and on the first run through, I didn’t think it was anything special. The characters were entertaining, the story was more developed than the previous two installments in the series, and I appreciated the philosophy that was sprinkled about four discs.

But what made me truly appreciate this game was the foundation it laid. See, this was the game that got me to think deeper about the media I enjoyed. More than just talking about gameplay, this was the game I first started ruminating over. As I’ve previously written, I loved the ties to existentialism present in the game. I loved how the actions and reactions of the party were less idealistic and more based in primal fears. I loved how the world interacted with itself. Final Fantasy IX for me was less a game than an experience, and one that I needed to repeat. It wasn’t until those future plays that I realized how much depth the game had. And I had no idea the direction it would send me in the future.

4: Super Mario Bros 3: The original love/hate game. I loved the world design. I loved the different “suits” a player could wear (even if all you really needed was Raccoon). I loved the scope and depth of the story, which for a platformer was something rare. You weren’t just looking for the Princess or beating up everything on screen, you actually had a quest, one that got progressively more challenging with each successive world. It made all those enemies you were stomping on or hurling fireballs at seem to mean something more than points or coins. It redefined what a platform action game could be.

It also made me throw my controller in despair. How were you supposed to beat some of those levels (especially in worlds 6 and 7, and most of 8). Doors to nowhere, running down the clock? Happened a lot. Enemies jumping out of the water to eat you? Yep. Mini-bosses that were almost impossible to hit? Check and mate. SMB3 was as infuriating as it was enjoyable. And while I never did beat it (at least, not without a Game Genie), that never stopped me from trying.

Oh, and don’t forget to hold “up” after beating Bowser.

5: Rival Schools: The entire game can be summed up as a 3D Street Fighter set in High School. The game never reached the same level as some other fighters in it’s generation, but for me, this remains the ONLY fighting game I was ever any good at. And for good reason- I spent every single day after school at the one arcade that had it (really more of a game store with the machine in the back), dumping in quarters and sampling every team until I had seen all the stories, downed the secret final boss a hundred times, and gained the respect of having beaten all comers over the course of the summer. It was the one, and only, time I ever could brag about my skills in a fighting game, and when summer was over, so was my tenure as champion.

At least until I got a Playstation, and it started all over again.

6: Megaman 2: I was supposed to buy Mario 2, but the store was out of it. Then I looked at Dr. Mario, but something didn’t feel right. In my 10 year old head (at least I THINK I was 10), I wanted to buy a game, but which one? I was too impatient to wait for more copies of the game I came in for, and all the others just didn’t click. And then I saw Megaman 2. It was a full $5 more than I had with me. But it looked interesting. Some other kids said it was a good game. And my mom, God bless her, gave me the extra cash. I wish she hadn’t.

Megaman 2 was my original frustration. I loved this game, so much that I would play it for hours each day. And mostly play the same 3 levels. Megaman 2 was ridiculously hard for me, with my bad reaction time and low patience. The number of times I threw my controller for this game was higher than any other two games combined (Mario 3 included). And yet I couldn’t stop playing. Cheat codes warped me to the final level, and even when that was too much, I kept playing. Grinding extra lives on the Metalman stage became routine. Obsessively hoarding Energy tanks for later was my only way of surviving half the time. But unlike Mario 3, which I never finished, this one I did. Once. And only once. And then I never played it again. Because I really didn’t need to.

But every now and then I hear the music from the opening part of Dr Wily’s Castle, and I think “maybe…”

7: World Of Warcraft: What can I say about this game that others haven’t? It’s a way of life. It’s more addictive than drugs. It’s gobbled up 4 years of my life. It beat television, three console systems and even hanging out with friends (especially on Lich King raid nights). For something so simple, it’s been a force in my life that has impacted me more than any game ever could.

I didn’t want to start playing. The idea of subscription gaming seemed wrong to me- spend a lot of money for a game, then keep spending money for the right to play it. Something just didn’t add up. And then a friend let me borrow his account. 22 levels on a Night Elf Druid was all it took. I loved the non-linear gameplay. I loved the interaction. I loved my guild. I spent four to five hours a night playing it, and full days when I wasn’t at work (and then eventually while I was AT work too).

And then it got boring. And my guildmates stopped playing on my server. And in October 2008 I left it behind, convinced I was done and that I could move on. Until a year later, and Wrath of the Lich King pulled me back in. Collectively, I’ve played this game more than any other game I own. I might have even played it more than all my other games combined. And while I’ve finally quit yet again, I still feel that I will be back with the next expansion. Maybe.

8: Portable Castlevania: This was the reason I bought a GBA. And a DS. And, if tradition holds, will probably be the reason I by a 3DS. While I was a longtime fan of Castlevania 3 on the NES, I skipped out on pretty much every iteration of the game until Circle of the Moon came out, and I discovered somewhere along the line that they had all turned into action RPGs. Circle of the Moon was THE game I played in summer 2001. It was the only GBA game I even owned until late that year, and I adored every second, right down to the painful grinding and almost impossible difficulty of Dracula himself (hint- summon the bloodsucker to death).

In June 2002, I came by an import copy of Harmony of Dissonance, and like Circle, it became THE game of those hot months, stealing me away from my job and forcing me to complete “just one more stage” before moving onto anything. The fact I didn’t understand any of the dialogue was of no consequence, as I blazed through the game more than once that year, then went back and played Circle for good measure.

And in 2003, Aria of Sorrow repeated the process. I once told a friend that “it’s not summer without a Castlevania,” so used to the games as I had become. Even when no new game was released in 2004, I just took the time to play the old ones again, and remember those good old days. While the series lost a lot of its luster after the transition to the DS, and gave me a few ultimately forgettable experiences (only Portrait of Ruin got replayed. Once.), I still recall the anticipation I had for the next year and the next game as June approaches.

9: Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic- The reason I bought an Xbox. I’m not quite the Star Wars fan I once was, but the idea that I could choose my side in the game, and do whatever I wanted over the course of the story was very appealing. I wanted to be the bad guy. I wanted to take my lightsaber and carve up anything in my path. So I went and did it. Fulfilling fantasies I had for almost 10 years, KotOR is still the best Star Wars franchise game I’ve every played. The attention to detail and mechanics that BioWare put into crafting a truly open-ended console game that had a better morality system than Fable could dream of was also the first game I ever beat, then immediately restarted (and I mean immediately, as in a minute or two after defeating Malak) and played through again. Not even Final Fantasy can boast that, despite it being the most played series of games I own.

This game has such strong appeal to me, I can even forgive the debacle that was KotOR 2.

10: Shin Megami Tensei Devil Survivor- There are game addictions, and then there are games that BREAK addictions. Devil Survivor is one of the latter. And the addiction it broke was Pokemon. Specifically, the Platinum version.

Pokemon was the addiction that replaced Warcraft. After a few months of casual gaming (which included LeafGreen, if anyone is interested), I read some stellar reviews of Pokemon Platinum, and decided to give it a shot. Day one, after buying a new copy from the local Gamestop, I spent 10 hours catching and leveling Pokemon. Day two was little better. By the middle of summer (specifically, Anime Mid Atlantic weekend 2009), I had broken the 100 hour mark, setting a new record in single play on a game for me. And I had no intention of stopping anytime soon. Until Devil Survivor.

It was my first MegaTen game. It remains my favorite MegaTen game. I logged at least any many hours in it as I did in Pokemon. I fused all the demons. I saw all the endings. I restarted the game a dozen times, playing through the same early stories just to get the extra endings. I fought, then fused, Lucifer himself. And then, having done everything one could do, I put it away and haven’t played it since. Nothing wrong with the game at all- I loved the story and the characters, and the heavy reliance on mythology and religion. The battle system was tactical, but not too tactical. Strategy was simple to formulate and execute. New Game + made the future plays extremely easy, and gave me a huge power-trip.

But what I love the most about this game was it knew when to end. It had a point where you were finally done, and were satisfied. No way to develop an addiction, but by mimicking the methods of other similar games (read- Pokemon), gave enough to help break one naturally.

I will never play this game again. I don’t need to. But I also will never sell it.

So there you have it: my list. What’s yours?

By otakuman5000 On 3 Jul, 2011 At 05:58 AM | Categorized As Best Game Ever, Featured, Old School Otaku, Reviews, Tales of Real Otaku | With 2 Comments

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My tastes in games have changed many times over the years. There are times when I obsessively play fighting games. At other times, I will want to dig into an RPG. And still other times, a hack-and-slash game is just what I need to get my gaming fix.

But throughout the years, since 1997 there has been one constant: my all time favorite video game, Final Fantasy VII.

There is no game out there which has meant more to me than Final Fantasy VII, not by a long shot. I have spent more time, on this one game, by far, than on any other game I’ve ever played, exploring its secrets inside and out. There is no game which has so profoundly influenced my identity as a gamer. There is no other game that immersed me so fully in its world and the characters that inhabit it.

Final Fantasy VII has been one of the most polarizing games ever made. No other video game has been so fiercely debated in magazine articles and on Internet forms. Its supporters, myself included, love the very same things its detractors hated about it.

Final Fantasy VII truly defined me as a gamer. Final Fantasy VII was not the first RPG I’d ever played, nor was it the first JRPG I’d ever played. It was not even the first Final Fantasy game I’d ever played (that was Final Fantasy VI, three years earlier). But Final Fantasy VII represented a paradigm shift in my gaming habits, getting me hooked on not just RPGs, but SRPGs and even survival horror as well.

That I even bought a PS1 at all was itself a profound change of direction for me. Although I also played arcade and PC games, ever since the mid-80’s I’d always accepted Nintendo’s iron grip on video gaming without question, even though I disliked Nintendo of America’s “we know best” attitude towards gamers enough to pass on the Super NES until 1994, when Nintendo finally stopped bowdlerizing SNES games.

I got a Nintendo 64 and Super Mario 64 for Christmas in 1996. Super Mario 64 was the most impressive game I’d ever seen at that time, and I played the hell out of it. Unfortunately, it became clear that the N64 was essentially a TV plug-in for Super Mario 64 that just happened to have a few other games, most of them terrible. Even Rare wasn’t doing it for me. Meanwhile, FFVII looked better and better with every passing month, and Nintendo’s attempts to prop up the N64’s anemic library looked more and more hollow. Sony’s over-the-top ads for FFVII, ran in magazines and on TV shows where video games had never before appeared, only piqued my interest further.

I admired the sheer ambition and scope of Final Fantasy VII. From the very beginning, Mr. Sakaguchi, Mr, Kitase, and Mr. Nomura had big dreams for Final Fantasy VII. They wanted to create the greatest spectacle ever seen in a video game, and one which would be remembered long after the initial glow of its release had faded. But Nintendo’s decision to stick with cartridges left them cold. They did not want FFVII fettered by the computational and memory limitations of the Nintendo 64… or by Nintendo’s heavy-handed paternalism. It is for these reasons that Square severed its long-time relationship with Nintendo in favor of Sony, which promised better support and greater artistic freedom for everyone, even going so far as to close down their original US office in Washington and moving to California, where SCEA is headquartered.

The environment that created Final Fantasy VII was a developer’s dream, combining a bottomless budget with a relatively liberal creative environment. The sky was the limit, and FFVII’s developers threw everything but the kitchen sink into FFVII, both creatively and artistically. You journeyed through glitzy cities, squalid yet festive slums, quaint villages and through savage, beautiful forests, caves, and snowy mountains. You visited an amusement park which was almost a video game in itself. FFVII’s ambitious design is summed up by iconic images of the game’s first location, the vast, sprawling city of Midgar. The battle effects were exaggerated and spectacular, and the summons were impressive, nor were they overly long as in later games. Beyond the traditional RPG, Square offered simple arcade-style minigames. I could tell the designers had a lot of fun making this game, and it showed.

With Final Fantasy VII, Square succeeded where Sega, Atari, SNK, NEC, and other competitors had failed: they broke Nintendo’s iron grip on the video game industry. Nintendo’s stock plunged the day Square announced Final Fantasy VII’s platform as the PS1. Until then, Sony had been struggling just to compete against the Saturn, despite offering more developer support and better royalties than either Nintendo or Sega. However, the Saturn, even though it was leading in Japan at that time, was still not selling well enough to prove itself an adequate alternative to the Nintendo 64 for most companies, and the Saturn’s weak US sales further deterred developers. Shortly after Square made the PS1 FFVII announcement, its rival Enix likewise moved development of Dragon Quest VII to the PS1 from the Super Famicom. Sales of the PS1 rose rapidly after this announcement, and the PS1 suddenly became a viable, attractive alternative to Nintendo, which had angered developers by choosing to stick with expensive, low-capacity cartridges over the cheaper, higher-capacity CD-ROM format.  As a result, Nintendo spent the 5th generation largely alienated from the rest of the industry.

Final Fantasy VII was an expression of the anxieties of the times. In place of all the medieval kingdoms trying to conquer the world typical of traditional fantasy RPGs, Final Fantasy VII offered something that was quite new at the time for an antagonist organization: the Shinra Electric Power Company. On the surface, Shinra was yet another “evil empire”, but an examination of the times that produced Shinra showed that the corporation was very much a commentary on the economic environment in both Japan and the United States.

At the time Final Fantasy VII was being made, the Japanese economy, after thirty years of robust growth, had gone bust thanks to the price asset bubble that at its peak had for one day in 1995 made Japan’s economy larger than the American economy for the first time since the 1870s. The ensuing market correction resulted in a period of economic stagnation known in Japan as the “Lost Decade.”

The Japanese economy, and to a large degree its political system, are dominated by massive business consortiums known as keiretsu, although Americans popularly call them by their pre-WWII term, zaibatsu. A legacy of the Tokugawa shogunate, the keiretsu have huge operations in multiple industries and control all the means of production and distribution of their products. These business operations are financed by huge banks – and even today, many of the world’s largest banks are Japanese banks. Examples of keiretsu are Mitsubishi, Mitsui, Sumitomo, and Sony. Because of the size of the banks funding them, almost nothing was out of reach for a keiretsu, including exerting a remarkable degree of control over the Japanese government. One of the most telling signs of how pervasive corporate culture is in Japanese society is in Japan’s professional baseball league. Japanese baseball teams are usually named not after their host cities, but their corporate owners, such as the Yomiuri (Japan’s largest newspaper) Giants in Tokyo, the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks, the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters, and others. Think about having sports teams in the USA like the Microsoft Seahawks, Nintendo Mariners, Kraft Patriots, or Turner Braves!

In the US, anxiety over certain large corporations was growing as well. Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer, was becoming notorious for moving into rural American communities, driving out local competitors, and then closing up shop due to poor sales, leaving whole counties economically devastated. Microsoft’s near-absolute control of the PC market, illustrated by the battle between Netscape and MS’s Internet Explorer, was subjecting it to scrutiny from the US Department of Justice and European regulators, culminating in United States vs. Microsoft Corporation. Prior to this was the specter of high-profile industrial disasters like Three Mile Island and Love Canal. Corporations have created powerful lobbies to ensure continued cooperation from Congress, often over the will of the voting public.

President Shinra – the villain behind the villain

By using a cheap, easily exploited source of energy, Mako energy, Shinra had become so pervasive in the lives of the people that conventional governments had ceased to exist. Shinra took over all functions of government, including legislation, finance, as well as police and military operations. All of this came at terrible cost to the environment, as Shinra’s Mako energy was the very life force of all creation, and Shinra was in reality burning human souls in order to create electrical power. Shinra also carried out unethical scientific and social experiments on the populace, showing no regard for human life, including the Jenove Project that ultimately produced Sephiroth.  Despite this, Shinra’s power was largely unchallenged. Mako energy had made people’s lives very easy, giving the contented population little reason to go against their perceived benefactor. Dissenters like AVALANCHE were swiftly punished by Shinra’s police and military services, and portrayed in the Shinra-owned media as terrorists to ensure public support for Shinra.

Shinra was probably most closely modeled on the Tokyo Electric Power Company, or TEPCO – the same company which operates the Fukushima nuclear power complex damaged by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, which is known to have wide influence in the Japanese government. Several of Final Fantasy VII’s cities, including Corel and Gongaga, were laid to waste by explosions at Shinra’s Mako reactors.  It’s also possible that Shinra was a jab at Nintendo, which was experiencing a huge backlash from the Japanese development community over its decision to use cartridges as well as years of heavy-handed policies towards third parties.

I loved the Materia system. Though not everyone liked it, I felt like it added a lot to the game experience. It let me customize my characters any way I wanted, plus unlocking the high-end spells and abilities was rewarding.  It felt like a real treasure hunt. One of the recent trends in RPGs I have never cared for is the ongoing trend towards vendor trash collect-a-thons, and it gets frustrating constantly trying to scavenge ten lizard skins and eight dragon hearts from random drops in battle.

The Materia system was designed for old-school players and beginners alike. The broad customization and ability to mix and match abilities with the Command materia was designed for the Japanese fanbase, for whom FFV was much more popular than FFVI. Since abilities beyond physical attacks and limit breaks were keyed to the Materia instead of to the characters, you could experiment with different combinations to see what you liked. The “linking” Materia system seemed underutilized at first, with only the “All” materia available during the first couple of chapters in the game, but later on, if you understood how to use blue materia, you could create some very effective gambits in battle that would be godsends against the game’s tougher enemies.

Furthermore, the Materia system was set up in such a way as to make power come with a price. The materia, weapons, and armor all tended to be double-edged swords, as Cloud himself says. Magic and summon materia gave you a lot of spells, but also carried penalties to the user’s HP and strength – and the more powerful the materia, the heavier the stat penalty. Stat penalties also stacked. A character loaded down with magic and summons would become a “glass cannon” – able to deal a lot of damage but unable to withstand a lot of damage. The materia system also caused me to rethink my approach to upgrading weapons and armor. Simply upgrading attack and defense is not always the surest path to success. A weapon or armor might be weak stat-wise but give double or triple bonuses for any AP received to any materia placed in its slots. A piece of equipment might have more materia slots, but none of them linked so as to disable support materia. A seemingly powerful weapon could be crippled by having no AP growth for any materia placed in it. A weapon or armor that would have been a great find in any other Final Fantasy game might be rendered worthless by not having any materia slots at all, severely limiting the character’s magic and command capabilities. The game’s most powerful weapons all offered eight linked slots in addition to their attack abilities (which were modified by various visible and hidden states), but zero materia growth, while double- and triple-growth weapons tended to have fewer slots and fewer linked slots.

Final Fantasy VII’s difficulty and rewards were very well-balanced. Prior to FFVII, Square had struggled to find the right balance of challenge and reward for Final Fantasy. For the first five games, they tended to err on the side of challenge. However, this resulted in punishing bosses as well as sharp spikes in difficulty, where inadvertently journeying into a new area of the world map could result in the party being wiped out by random monsters which were too powerful.  This was most infamously evident in FFII with its unusual system of leveling and the fact that it was impossible to escape from more powerful random enemies, but was present in all of the first five games to a degree. Japanese fans liked this level of challenge, but Americans were frustrated by some of the harder fights as well as the grinding required to get up to speed. In Japan, FFIV released in a “hardtype” for series veterans and a heavily stripped-down “easytype” for children. The US version was a port of the “easytype” version.  Final Fantasy VI, by contrast, was a bit too easy, with heavily overpowered player characters, gold given so generously as to be as worthless as Monopoly money, and powerful spells and weapons being given out very early. Japanese FF fans were displeased by FFVI’s difficulty.

With Final Fantasy VII, Square aimed to reconcile the story/cinematic approach that Americans liked with the degree of challenge and customizability that the Japanese wanted. The difficulty curve was reasonable, with the monsters growing in power proportionate to your party’s expected progress and none of the sudden difficulty spikes that plagued pre-VI games. Materia and more powerful weapons were parcelled out at a reasonable pace; monsters yielded enough gold to ensure you could buy basic staples, but not so much as to make money seem worthless.  AP was doled out at a rate which allowed your materia to grow powerful enough to match your enemies. The game was reasonably challenging,  yet no grinding is necessary unless you’re like me and absolutely have to unlock every possible spell and special ability in the game.  For the real masochists, FFVII also offered two optional super-bosses with a million HP, a bonus that was initially offered only to Americans before being added to an “International” version released in Japan a year or so later.

The battle system still entertains me after all this time. Square decided to show off their newfound technological prowess in Final Fantasy VII’s battles, and at the time, FFVII battles were among the best pieces of video game technology around. This showed to greatest effect in summons and limit breaks. While Square would be criticized for making spell and summon animations too long in later games, particularly FFVIII, FFVII’s spells and summons were just of the right length to be impressive without being annoying, and the game didn’t rely on summons and limit breaks as heavily as later games did. But it wasn’t just the summons that were awesome. The game also had more subtle touches like enemies that would just make threatening gestures at party members, which was something not seen in a lot of games of that time.

Final Fantasy VII’s soundtrack brought international recognition to composer Nobuo Uematsu. Mr. Uematu’s compositions were as much a part of Final Fantasy VII’s narrative as the visuals and the dialogue. He intimately understood how his music helped set the mood for every scene in the game. FFVII’s soundtrack is a major departure from Uematsu’s traditional, high-fantasy RPG soundtracks inspired by Dragon Quest composer Koichi Sugiyama. He chose to infuse many modern musical influences into FFVII’s soundtrack, including rock and roll and jazz, to fit with the game’s more contemporary theme compared to the medieval settings of the first six games. Uematsu’s single most famous composition is “One-Winged Angel”, the song that, complete with vocals, plays during the final battle with Sephiroth.

Final Fantasy VII had some of the most memorable heroes and villains in video gaming history. As with other aspects of this game, FFVII’s main characters tended to polarize gamers. But whether you loved them or hated them, there is no doubt of the impact the main FFVII cast had not only on video games, but on popular culture in both Japan and the United States.

FFVII is often credited, somewhat unfairly, for starting a trend in RPGs for super-powered teenagers and leather clothes with too many zippers. FFVII had neither of these things. All of its main characters were save for Yuffie (and maybe Red-XIII, if you believe Bugenhagen’s assessment of relative ages) were adults old enough to drink legally. All of them were either former military or police officers, or were street fighters hardened by life on the mean streets of Midgar.

Cloud, with his oversized Buster Sword, striking blue eyes, and wild, unmanageable hair – a trait specifically designed into him by illustrator Tetsuya Nomura for the technology available to Square at the time – was a memorable hero. Seemingly uncaring about anything except his next paycheck, Cloud is deeply conflicted inside, and this internal conflict is masterfully played by Sephiroth in order to weaken Cloud’s will and make him a willing slave of Sephiroth. As he comes to terms with the conflict within him, between the cocky, aloof persona he projects to the outside world and the scared boy longing for acceptance within him, Cloud becomes a much stronger person and a great leader for AVALANCHE as they battle Sephiroth and Shinra.

Tifa is one of the best-known video game heroines ever, both for her strong personality and her status as a video gaming sex symbol. She is the biggest badass in the game, kind of like the female equivalent of Chuck Norris.  She demolishes her enemies with 7-hit chain combos. She threatens to neuter the local pimp. She’s not afraid to get up in anyone’s face. Even in a rare moment of vulnerability, she’s still Cloud’s rock of solidarity, believing in him when everyone else has pegged him as a lost cause.

 

Barrett, the series’ first black main character, was probably the most complex character in the game. His characterization by FFVII localization specialist Richard Honeywood is the fore-runner of that of Augustus “Cole Train” Cole from Gears of War. He is a capable leader of AVALANCHE and a loving father to Marlene. Barrett believes in the cause he’s fighting for, even though he is aware of his grudge against Shinra for the loss of his family. Towards the end, however, Barrett also realizes the potential consequences of his sometimes rash actions on people and that Shinra, whatever its faults, has also done a lot of good for people. He also reminds me fondly of one of my oldest and closest friends.

Red XIII, real name Nanaki, is a wolf-like creature with flaming red fur who serves as a source of knowledge about the workings of the planet’s spiritual energy owing to his tribe’s intimate connection with the planet. Although he is the oldest of the party members and is very quiet and thoughtful, due to the longevity of his tribe, he is still considered an adolescent and has much growing up to do, physically and emotionally.

Cait Sith, a Puss-n-Boots doll riding atop a giant stuffed Moogle, was a somewhat baffling choice of character… until you played though a lot of the story.  It turns out he’s a spy for Shinra, but seeing Cloud, Tifa, Barrett, and Aerith risk their lives to help a population that will never see them as heroes makes him question his already shaken faith in his employer. Eventually, the player will learn exactly what Cait Sith’s role in Shinra is and how it relates to them.

Cid Highwind, the series’ Cid, was probably one of the more controversial aspects of the game. Like all FF games, he is an airship pilot. Embittered by Shinra closing down its space program after an aborted launch, which would have made Cid the first human in space, he swears and drinks to excess. Shera, the engineer whom he blames for the failure of his maiden space voyage, seeks penance by devoting her life to Cid, but he treats her like dirt, until he discovers that she probably saved him from being killed in an explosion in space.  He was one of the first real attempts at making a less-than-perfect video game hero.

 

Yuffie serves as the party’s comic relief, a young materia-stealing ninja (or so she claims), who eventually robs the party blind of all of its materia. The reason she wants the materia, it turns out, is so she can restore her homeland of Wutai to its former glory after the town was devastated in a war with SOLDIER (detailed in FF: Crisis Core on PSP). One of the running gags of the series is her tendency to get motion sickness on ships and aircraft. Along with Vincent, she is one of the game’s two optional “secret” characters, one who will not automatically join the party by following the story.

 

Vincent, a former member of the Turks, FF7’s recurrent “Team Rocket” bad guys, has sealed himself from the outside world, torturing himself of memories of the woman he loved, whom he believes (mistakenly) that he sacrificed to Shinra’s Jenova Project that ultimately produced Sephiroth. Though he was a secret character, he became one of the most popular characters in the series, enough to warrant his own game. His limit breaks allow him to transform into monsters who are callbacks to the previous games in the Final Fantasy series, including Chaos, the villain of the very first Final Fantasy game.

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IOsQvHLauYE&feature=related

Aerith, the heroine of the game. Cloud meets her at the outset while she is selling flowers in the slums of Midgar, and fate brings him together with her later on. Aerith seems to have a rather frivolous nature, and her attentions to Cloud inflame the jealousy of Tifa. It turns out her flighty nature masks her anxieties over a mission that she knows will almost certainly cost her her life, yet is a sacrifice she must make for the good of humanity, similar to a later FF heroine, Yuna.

 

Sephiroth… a devil with very human motivations

And finally, the villain of the piece, Sephiroth. A product of Shinra’s twisted genetic engineering, Sephiroth is as much a victim as a villain. He went into SOLDIER with the best of intentions, but fell victim to the influence of the blood of Jenova coursing in his veins, causing him to do terrible things. Sephiroth is my favorite villain of all time, not just because of who he is, but because of the way Square presented him. Every time he showed up, you knew bad things were about to happen.  He was portrayed as a malevolent supernatural force with very human, if very twisted, motivations. As a game player, I felt fully the psychological torture Sephiroth inflicted upon Cloud, to the point where he made Cloud doubt his very humanity. Among the best moments in the game are Sephiroth walking through the flames of Nibelheim, which he burned to the ground in a fit of insanity, and of course, the famous scene of Aerith’s death. To me, that was the single most powerful scene I’ve ever seen in a video game – the cinematography, music, and sounds were perfect. I wouldn’t even want this scene remade in HD.

The distinctive looks of the heroes and villains made them iconic video game characters. Not only that, but their popularity transcended both shores of the Pacific. There are few among American and Japanese gamers from the 1990’s who do not recognize Cloud Strife, his famous Buster Sword, or the silver-haired, green-eyed Sephiroth. For all intents and purposes, Cloud was the true mascot of Sony’s upstart PlayStation game console.

A more personal reason why Final Fantasy VII is my favorite video game of all time: Now that I think of it, this part reads a lot like Tifa restoring Cloud’s memories midway through Disc 2. But I digress.

I’ve suffered from anxiety disorders for a long time, and still do. When I was a teenager, I was pretty unsocial because of this. The only time I felt at ease around people other than family was at the video arcade, in fact. My anxiety problems even led me to drop out of school. My folks didn’t know how to help me, and I sure didn’t know how to help myself. I made money doing odd jobs but was otherwise stuck without any clear sense of direction or purpose.

When Final Fantasy VII came out, I saw the TV ads and the store demos and I was hooked. Only problem was, I had no PlayStation to play it on. I bought the game anyway. This provided me with some much needed motivation and direction.

I went out and secured a job at Wendy’s. I promised myself that if I stuck it out, the first thing I’d buy with my first paycheck would be a PlayStation to play FFVII on. Two weeks later I had my brand-new PS1 in hand and was driving home so fast I’m surprised I wasn’t leaving flaming tire marks on Interstate 35. Never had I enjoyed opening up a new video game console so much. For the next couple of weeks, I would come into work very sleepy. I deemed sleep a necessary sacrifice for the greater good of exploring all of Final Fantasy VII’s secrets late into the night.

I’d made it. I held onto my job even once I had my PS1, and spent the next year amassing a very fine collection of PS1 games I still own now while failing to accumulate any kind of significant savings secondary to said PS1 collection. Eventually, I went to college (starting my freshman year with what was technically a ninth grade education!), became a nurse, got married, and started writing about gaming.  Someday, I will hopefully be able to build my own big, beautiful RPG. All of this because I wanted to experience an adventure that “could never be done in a major motion picture,” to quote one of Sony’s overly enthusiatic ads for FFVII.

Don’t get me wrong. Even without this little bit of emotional attachment, Final Fantasy VII would still be my favorite game, for all the reasons I listed above. This is the one game I will pull out and play once a year. I’ll still have just as much fun with it as I did way back whem, and ever once in awhile, I’ll manage to find something new, that I haven’t seen before. Final Fantasy VII’s place on this list, and in my heart, was secured before I recalled these memories of playing a video game I earned for myself all those years ago.

So there you have it. After nearly a year, my list of all-time video game favorites is completed with Square’s 1997 masterpiece. I doubt that there will ever be a game that comes close to Final Fantasy VII in the sheer enjoyment I’ve gotten (and still get) from this title, let alone a game that surpasses it. I replay FFVII once a year, and for 2 weeks of every year, I become the fresh-faced kid I was back then, lost in the wonder and spectacle that Square spent three years and millions’ of dollars making. I also look at the little blurb from GameFan magazine that is printed on FFVII’s back cover, as enthusiastic and bombastic as everything else Sony did to promote FFVII.

“Quite possibly the greatest game ever made.” For me, it still is.

 

By Charles On 4 Jan, 2011 At 10:06 PM | Categorized As Best Game Ever, Editorials, Featured, Old School Otaku, Reviews | With 2 Comments

No GravatarGiven the general trend of today’s games emphasizing style and image over substance, it’s not exactly surprising that a lot of “old” gamers have found themselves going back to some of the gems of yesteryear. Some have even just plain forgotten that there was once a time when games had powerful stories, imagery and emotional depth that set them apart from flashier fare. Unfortunately, as graphics processors increased in complexity and character models became more intricate, games started moving away from their old standards and embracing newer fare.

Take a journey back ten years, to the end of the road for the Sony PlayStation, and there you will a find a game that might have been one of the last to truly mix a compelling story, relate-able and interesting characters, and just enough image to make it a true representation for what gaming could accomplish. Now, a full decade after its release, the game can still stand up against the best of what the modern generation has to offer, with excellent replay value and a lighthearted experience.

And did I mention, it was released by Square?

Final Fantasy IX could have been the biggest thing ever to grace the Playstation and was certainly highly anticipated. Coming off the best selling Final Fantasy VIII (still one of the most played titles in the series), and following several of the best-selling games in RPG history, Final Fantasy IX had all the makings of another instant classic. Yet, when you ask the general gaming public about the game, most are unaware of it, or have simply not bothered to play it. Those that have, speak highly of what they took away from it, but it never had the impact or reach of its predecessors. However, it touched many of those who played it, and many of those players count it as the most repeatable of all the Final Fantasy games.

If someone turned the Globe Theatre into a ship, it’d look like this.

When it was released, Final Fantasy IX was heralded as “a return to the fantasy that made the series so popular.” Whereas some of the more recent entries had gone further and further down the road of science fiction, with big weapons, space travel, and heavy scientific themes, Final Fantasy IX was a fantasy game in the truest sense of the word. At a time when very few of the gaming public knew what “steampunk” was, Final Fantasy IX was using it to tell a compelling story set in a colorful, deep world populated my the types of interesting races and nations that had once graced all their games. Steam powered airships flew in the skies, rolling hills and vast oceans graced the world below, blades and magic replaced guns and rockets, and music was quaint and fitting. Exploration was a huge part of the game, and a very real sense of awe seemed to permeate the places even the Mist could not.

Don’t let the sword fool you, he only uses it to “remind himself how to feel,” and chop the occasional hot dog.

One of the biggest complaints about the previous game (or two, depending on how you viewed Final Fantasy VII) was its heavy reliance on graphics and Full Motion Video over  story, which was one of the leading aspects that set the Final Fantasy series apart from others. Indeed, much of Final Fantasy VIII centered around crafting some of the best video sequences of any game at the time, and truly made the graphics stand out. Unfortunately, at the same time, all those fancy pictures lacked a solid story to connect them. There was little to no character development, the main actors were all stereotypical (especially the “emo protagonist” Squall Leonheart, who seemed to lack all emotion whatsoever), and the exact identity of the villain was murky most of the way through. Despite being built as a game centered around “an epic story of love,” most of the time the game suffered from horrible cliches, idealized characters and stark contrasts between good and bad.

Final Fantasy IX was an almost complete reversal of this trend. Not to say that the graphics were sub-par. Quite the contrary, the graphics were amazing. But this go around, each character was given time in the spotlight, their motivations were complex and individually motivated, and each one seemed to have a solidly scripted personality, dialogue, ‘voice’ and actions. The world the characters lived in was equally as varied, as different nations existed on multiple continents, sometimes tenuously side by side, and they each had their own traditions, taboos and histories. There was still the general idea of conquest floating around, but this time international relations and politics actually appeared. Each nation had it’s views regarding other nations, had its own perceptions of the world, and those who inhabited it with them. And when it came to exploring the frontiers, there was a definite dichotomy between what was clearly urban, and what was not.

Adding to the flavor of the game were the insertions of random cutscenes called “RTE” or “Real Time Events,” which often showed what other members of the party were doing at that point. Since much of the first half of the game was split into two parties traveling along two separate geographical and story-based routes at the same time, it was interesting to see able to see what the others were doing, and emphasized that these were important characters, and not just “meat shields”. There were also plenty of “hidden” RTE events that had to be unlocked, uncovered, or were themselves Easter Eggs dropping references to previous games in the series (as with the early-on insertion of the ship’s band playing the Shinra March from Final Fantasy VII to help “liven the mood”).

It also gave Mecha wings, but we’re not going into that.

The world was truly large, and truly magnificent. I remember saying once to a friend that Final Fantasy IX gave us back our World Map, and it did. Not since Final Fantasy VI was a world map so fully developed, and not since VI was it so necessary to traverse it. Random encounters were welcomed, as enemies changed from zone to zone. Rivers, mountains and fields were all unique (there’s that word again), and varied from region to region. There were dedicated grinding zones, powerful rare monsters, and even noncombat encounters like the “Ragtime Man”, who quizzed you for gold, and the “cute monsters,” who asked for ore/gold/whatever in exchange for massive experience. Leveling was a joy no longer reserved for dungeon or town zones, and it was appreciated, and undertaken greatly.

Part of the appeal of leveling lay with the dynamic of “Crystal Skills,” which were specific abilities assigned to your character that could be activated by inserting “crystals” into the skill slots. Each one offered a different bonus: Jelly, for example, prevented “Stone” status, “Clear-Headed” prevented Berserk and “LoudMouth” warded Silence, but there were also skills like “Auto-Regen” which kept health up. While some of the skills were restricted to armor at first, over time they could be learned by the characters and became part of a permanent inventory. And believe me, these skills were necessary in later levels. (One of the truly great “swindles” in the game itself came at the end boss, who could wipe the entire party with incredible ease, simply because the wrong skills were equipped going in. This was incredibly frustrating, and not obvious either, as I needed a guide just to handle him.) So, of course, the grind to obtain levels and gain new crystals became more and more important, especially when the action shifted, and the secondary party came onto the scene with sufficiently lower levels than the party you were just using.

The Tantalus Players: this is what unlimited wardrobe budgeting can get you.

Mechanics aside, I mentioned earlier how the story of the game set it apart from previous outings into the Final Fantasy world. Well, for the first time in a long time, we were introduced to not one, not two, but three main characters who guided us through the game. Zidane Tribal, the monkey-tailed rogue who we first see in the opening sequence plotting a kidnapping, was one of the truly great Final Fantasy protagonists, and not just because he wasn’t the silent type with a bad memory. No, Zidane was funny, mischievous (he grabs the Princess’ rear at one point early on with the remark “Ooh, soft!”), noble, loyal and humble. Yes, he also didn’t know too much about who he was, but he truly didn’t care (well, he sort of did, but there were more important things to do than dwell on the past). He wanted adventure, but he also didn’t forget his family and friends. And the one point in the game where he does succumb to an assault of self-doubt, he needs not only the support of his friends, but the power of his own will and drive to push forward and protect what he loves, to break the curse and continue on. A radical departure from previous “flawed” heroes who fought because they had nothing better to do, or because they were forced to “by the story.”

For her part, Princess Garnet til Alexandros (or Dagger, as we know her throughout the game…or as her REAL name, which requires an event to unlock), is yet another strong willed female lead, but this time she actually leads, instead of fawning over the male lead and following him everywhere. Early on she’s in charge of her own life and has her own needs, and she’s not afraid to run off to get what she wants. Her own story, one of a false family, broken memories and a mother totally given over to the acquisition of power, drives more of the story than most female leads do in these games- she’s not a secondary character by any means. And when she falls in love with Zidane, you feel like she truly has, and indeed knows what love is, rather than some wayward girl. She is developed, intricate and willful, and not to a fault.

Then there’s the strange case of Vivi the Black Mage. He is the first character you get to control, he acts like a child, is innocent and curious, and his own search for who and what he is in many ways influences the journeys taken by both Dagger and Zidane throughout the game. He’s far more cautious than either of them, far wiser at times, and possesses a great power that he fears to use. He looks up to those he sees as stronger than him, and respects his friends greatly. Vivi’s quest leads him to confront one of the most primal of human fears- mortality- and, though he has some slip-ups along the way, he faces his fears and comes out the stronger.

Adalbert Steiner: Dutiful, loyal, selfless…and in need of new armor.

The supporting cast of the game may not receive the same degree of treatment when it comes to story development, but they certainly are not ignored (something Final Fantasy VIII did frequently to anyone who wasn’t named Loire), and each gets at least one scene devoted to their backstory. The sole exceptions: the knight Steiner, who serves as Dagger’s guardian, and the bounty hunter Amarant. But in their cases, this is more than acceptable. Steiner doesn’t need any exposition as to why he serves Dagger, because it is plain from his actions that he both takes his duty seriously, and that service to the crown was a lifelong dream. And what he trades off in backstory, he makes up for in interactions with General Beatrix later on. As for Amarant…his is a story best left unanswered. It makes him more mysterious that way.

But what would a game be without a little heavy material? In fact, a good deal of Squaresoft games were often defined, an remembered fondly, for their often more “heady” attributes. Would Final Fantasy VI have been so widely acclaimed if Kefka hadn’t been so insane? Hell, Sephiroth stole an entire concept from Jewish Mysticism and made it the defining quality of his character. And I think Chrono Trigger did more to warn again the dangers of time travel than H.G. Wells (or for that matter, Doctor Who) could have imagined. But after the glory days of the SNES had long ended, these kinds of heady themes seemed to die off. That is, until one of the developers of Final Fantasy IX decided to get philosophical and read some Nietzsche (or at least some Camus).

Anyone else want to criticize our “pyntie-hets?”

I point often, when I discuss the game, to a certain scene that I think makes Final Fantasy IX such a memorable game. After the parties have managed to reunite and escape from the main continent, already embroiled in war as it was, they find themselves lost int he middle of a forest, surrounded by a colony of the same Black Mage dolls they had been fighting all along. And little Vivi, as impressionable as ever, finds his way to the town’s makeshift cemetery. And this was where the game takes a turn down a road that both sets it apart from all the other games in the series, but also shapes the rest of the story, right up until the final battle.

Ian Malcolm: “Life finds a way…to kill you.”

See, the Black Mages were made as weapons. Given nearly limitless power and unleashed on the world by Square’s second best mentally-unstable megalomaniac “advisor” Kuja, they were never meant to be sentient. But of course, as Ian Malcolm put so well, “life finds a way” and they manage to come to their senses in time to run away from bloodshed and try to create simple lives for themselves. And then they start dying. They don’t really understand what death is, just that they “stop moving,” at which point they need to be “put in the ground.” Watching these killing machines try to contemplate the concept of death, often with about as much clarity and understanding as a five year old, puts the rest of the game into perspective. And it also gets you to start thinking. Death is one of those ideas that makes even grown adults tremble with some primal fear, and now we see it through the eyes of the truly uninitiated. It can be very haunting at times, and sobering at others, depending on the player’s views of the unknown.

As the rest of the game unfolds, mortality (and more precisely, the fear of it) begins to play a much larger role. We find out that Kuja himself is afraid to die, we see the Black Mages (and even Vivi) switch sides simply to gain a few more years of functionality. We see the characters confront death in their own lives, be it parents or friends, or even their own impending fate. Destruction on a wide scale is unleashed, in the name of survival or simply “if I can’t live, then nobody else can either.” They fight through the fortress of Pandemonium, surrounded by chaos itself. And dragons, one of the original monsters of human mythology, make an attempt to halt progress with a display of power (an numbers) in what is easily the most cinematically satisfying cutscene Final Fantasy has ever produced.

Final Form Trance Kuja: Still the least threatening Final Fantasy villain of all time.

Still not deterred by their foes, the characters enter into the primordial memories of the planet itself in pursuit of the obsessed Kuja. They even find their way into the eternal hearth of life itself, the Crystal World from where all things came and return.There they find Kuja, consumed by his anger and fear, ready to destroy the crystal. They manage to defeat him, but not before he throws a temper tantrum and smites them all with his “Ultima” spell. And it winds its way down to a final battle against, all things, Death itself (embodied in the idea of the Necron, said boss who can wipe you if you’re unprepared). It is here we find what might be the best scene in the entire game: the four party members you are NOT using for the final battle give their own lives to revive the four members who are active, based entirely on who they have the strongest relationship to, in essence sacrificing themselves so their friends can push forward and save the universe. And after all is said and done, Zidane’s answer to the question of “All beings are born to die, so why do you fight the inevitable?”: “Because we can.” How very simple, hopeful, and not just a little bit existential- fighting against death because life, however fragile, is still life, and the memories and relationships we create while we live define who we are and how we are remembered. Cue the violins, break out the champagne and enjoy the last fifteen minutes of exposition. (Die hard gamers will also spend repeated views trying to find the Easter Egg for two previous Final Fantasy titles. Tip: pay close attention to the soliloquy during “I Want to be Your Canary.” )

Maybe I’m reading too much into the game, but that scene, the culmination of four discs of interactions and relationships between eight almost completely unrelated characters, hammered home something important: life goes on, best we can do is go with the flow and enjoy the ride. The message resonated so strongly (not to mention the compelling actions of those playing the story out) that it got me to play through the game far more times than any other RPG I own, and I still play it at least once a year to remind myself of how enjoyable the game actually was.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say that Final Fantasy IX was a game you slept on, or missed. It generated enough buzz to become a Greatest Hit, after all, and even today I bump into cosplayers at cons who appreciate the characters of Kuja, Zidane and Dagger. But it still sold fewer copies than any of the other Playstation Final Fantasy titles, and it’s resale value today lags far behind the juggernaut of Final Fantasy VII. Still, it gathered some of the highest ratings of any Final Fantasy, and left those who did play it generally pleased. Throwbacks to previous titles in the series, interesting characters, deep storylines, fun and memorable music and a simplified battle system (simplified, but not simple) helped the game become something truly enjoyable in the long run.

It’s not a hard game to find, even now. So if you haven’t played this one, do yourself a favor and do so. I still do. Each and every year.

By otakuman5000 On 29 Nov, 2010 At 04:55 AM | Categorized As Tales of Real Otaku | With 1 Comment

No GravatarHello everyone! My name is Tion. I was born and raised in Los Angeles, California. You can say that I pretty much came out the womb as an Otaku! I owe my ‘Otakuness’ to my mom. She may not look like a geek (she’s far too beautiful), but deep down she is one. My mom exposed me to Marvel comics, anime, and video games at a very young age. I started playing video games when I was two years old. The first system that I owned was the NES. Most of time I played Super Mario/Duck Hunt, Final Fantasy I, Dragon Quest I, and Tetris.

Draining HP:  I would switch  from Final Fantasy to Dragon Quest or vise versa, every time I got stuck on a story ark. Talk about living (wasting) my life!

My favorite genre of video games (if you haven’t already take the hint) are JRPG’s; Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest are my favorite JRPG series. Final Fantasy II, IV, VI, VII and  Dragon Quest III, V, VI, and IX are my favorite entries. I’m not a fan of new-school Final Fantasy  games. I hated everything from FFVIII, and beyond with the exception of FFXII.

Final Fantasy VII had the BIGGEST impact on me. It changed my way of thinking, actions, and my attitude towards the people around me. I’ve been told by friends that I am  “dark and gloomy”, and  “too serious”  like Cloud at times. However, deep down I ‘m a funny and down to earth person to talk to. As for Cloud, I don’t mind the comparison. I admired the REAL Cloud, those who have played FFVII know what I’m talking about. He has gone through a lot like I have, so I can easily relate to him.

Artwork by Final Fantasy veteran character designer Yoshitaka Amano, who also worked on the Gatchman TV show.

It wasn’t until I was in middle school that I really got into anime and manga. At that time I was into the popular, “bubble-gum” manga like Ranma 1/2, Bleach, and Dragon Ball. Naturally, over the years my tastes have evolved. As I got older, I gravitated torward superhero-type manga like Devilman, and Akumetsu. The very first, and my personal favorite, anime that I watched was Science Ninja Team Gatchman. What I found unique about it is that the superhero genre in manga and anime is not that popular in Japan.

Hahaha, that’s me at Anime Expo ’04.

Aside from anime, I like to watch a lot of movies. I’m a HUGE horror, or should I say slasher-horror, sci-fi, and fantasy film fan.  Star Wars (the original trilogy), and Halloween (the original film; the Rob Zombie remakes aren’t that bad to take a glance at) are some of my favorite all time movies.

When I’m not writing for Real Otaku Gamer, I attend college majoring in Art and Japanese. Anyone who wants to practice, learn, or teach me something that I don’t even know, feel free to contact me by leaving a comment below.

It has been a blast! Cheers!