WEEK IN GEEK: This week, Andrew actually gets into sports (kind of) after watching the first season of the new HBO basketball docu-drama, Winning Time. D. Bethel plays Studio Koba’s recent release, Narita Boy, and is delighted by its retro stylings and gameplay but also impressed by its impressive step into modern storytelling and themes.
BETTER DREAD THAN DEAD: D. Bethel shares some initial thoughts on the newest 2D Metroid game, Metroid 5 aka Metroid Dread.
EMULATE YOU WANT IT, THAT’S THE WAY YOU NEED IT:Kotaku got in a bit of heat when they reported a story about how people were able to get Metroid Dread up and running on emulators in a smooth 60 frames per second at 4K resolution. The problem is that, in the original story, readers felt that Kotaku was, in fact, recommending people pirate Dread instead of buying it because of the emulator’s stronger performance. This lead to another round of discussion about emulation, piracy, and game preservation. Andrew and D. Bethel do their best to weigh in on these issues.
WEEK IN GEEK: This week, Andrew plays the first few games in Square Enix’s nostalgia-trip, Final Fantasy Pixel Remaster, while D. Bethel dives into nostalgia and music theory reading the newest book from Boss Fight Books, Final Fantasy VI by Sebastian Deken.
“Premature Clapulation” (19 June 2014): In Episode 4, D. Bethel and Andrew discuss the positive qualities of Final Fantasy VI.
“Answer Sandwich” (24 October 2014): Where Andrew and D. Bethel discuss the work of Final Fantasy composer, Nobuo Uematsu.
“BTAS” (7 August 2015): Nearly exactly six years ago, D. Bethel and Andrew talk about the ludomusicology of Final Fantasy VI.
“Alien Control Party” (22 January 2016): Where Andrew and D. Bethel ponder the different ways––and the best ways––to “archive” old games for modern players.
“Five Minutes to Funny” (9 December 2016): Where D. Bethel shares his thoughts reading the Boss Fight Book about Metal Gear Solid, written by Ashly & Anthony Burch.
“Editing Is Magic” (13 July 2018): Where D. Bethel and Andrew read Final Fantasy V by Chris Kohler, published by Boss Fight Books.
“Little Paper People” (2 November 2018): Where D. Bethel reads and shares his thoughts about another Boss Fight Books book, Shovel Knight by David L. Craddock.
CONFIRMATION BIAS:Abandoned is an upcoming Playstation 5-exclusive game made by the small Netherlands-based team, Blue Box Game Studios. After the game’s director made an enigmatic tweet, the internet exploded with conspiracy theories, asserting that the game and its trailers were nothing more than clues that this was not a stand-alone survival horror game but was actually a Silent Hill sequel. More than that, people have asserted that it’s a Silent Hill sequel directed by Hideo Kojima, despite the fact that the studio has gone to great lengths to assure fans that it is not. Andrew and Dan discuss the conspiracy and how it got wrapped up in the darker parts of nerd culture, internet culture, and the complicated edges of fandom.
ELEMENTARY, DEAR WOHN JATSON: A brief look at an upcoming multi-platform release from Capcom that gathers two Ace Attorney games previously unavailable outside of Japan. The collection, called The Great Ace Attorney, features some interesting localization of characters names. While not unusual in itself, the fact that in Japan a character named “Sherlock Holmes” had to be changed––to “Herlock Sholmes” for release in the United States points to some very strange aspects of copyright law. Andrew dives deep into the mystery.
CUTTING CUTSCENES: Based on an GamesIndustry.biz interview with Weird West narrative designer, Lucas Loredo, who posits the idea that maybe we live in a gaming world that no longer has a need for cutscenes in games. D. Bethel and Andrew dive into the purpose of cutscenes and do their best to answer the question themselves.
LOST IN ZEBES: With a lot of internet chatter focusing on the 35th anniversary of The Legend of Zelda‘s 1986 release, it made D. Bethel upset because another major Nintendo franchise was also released that year that nobody––much less Nintendo itself––seems that interested in celebrating, the weird, wonderful Metroid. D. Bethel talks with Andrew to see why this game and the series it spawned never gained the legs and legacy of Nintendo’s bigger franchises.
WEEK IN GEEK: In what should be a Shortcast ended up being an entire episode, this week Dan and Andrew have a lot to say about their respective Weeks in Geek. Andrew attended Emerald City Comic Con and attended some panels and people-watched while also playing a bit of the officially licensed sequel to the NES cult hit, River City Ransom, Conatus Creative Inc.’s River City Ransom Undergroundwhile Dan saw Logan and has a lot to say about it (spoiler-free), nerd tribalism, and superhero movies.
My journey into Final Fantasy continues with the second part of my ongoing series! This time, I actually advance the “storyline” a bit and even find a boat! And by “find a boat,” I clearly mean “take a boat from a bunch of stupid pirates through the use of excessive force.”
The “crossing the bridge” sequence is one of the more memorable moments of the game for me, which I suppose makes sense because it’s so different from the rest of the game. When you consider that the original release simply started with the player in front of Corneria/Cornelia (no cinematic intro) and very little was said outside of single text boxes, that bridge crossing was the closest the game had to a scripted story sequence. It’s the kind of game element that Final Fantasy would later become inundated with, but in the original 1989 release, this was the only one. If you compare it to some of the games contemporaries, that single sequence stands out as sort of a big deal.
As a kid, I never thought too much about how the game is “staged” based on what you can get to. First, you get the bridge to the north. Then, you get a boat, but the boat can only really go to one other place. Eventually, you blow a canal to the outer sea and can go to one or two more places. Then you get an airship. Although it looks like you’re in a big, open world to explore, you’re really not. I suppose I contrast it to the original Shining Force on Sega Genesis, which divided the gameplay into discrete chapters. Once you finished Chapter 1, you moved on to the area of Chapter 2 (and couldn’t go back). At this point, I could not say which method I prefer. Perhaps, when I get to a game that’s more “open world” I’ll have something different to say.
One of the things that became apparent to me during this part of the game was the totally wacky pricing structure within the world of Final Fantasy. It’s always sort of a weird joke when you compare prices of things. At this point in the game, it cost me 80 Gil to raise a character from the dead while it cost 50 Gil to stay at the Inn. A suit of fancy armor was 450 Gil, which is a hell of a lot more than 80 Gil. Of course, it’s a fantasy world and the whole idea of how the economy changes in the presence of the ability to raise the dead is the kind of thing nerdy economists write papers about.
Growing up, I was one of those kids who didn’t have an original NES. I always had PC games to play (and I played plenty of them), but there was always something magical about the NES. I never felt like any of the PC games I had could capture the awesomeness of something like Super Mario Bros. or The Legend of Zelda. Luckily, a friend decided it would be an acceptable choice to let me borrow his NES for a few months some time back in 1989 or 1990, and I finally had a chance to catch up.
At one point previously, a different friend of mine demonstrated Final Fantasy to me. It reminded me a lot of the Ultima series, one of my favorite PC RPGs, which got me really excited. Unfortunately, I did not have a copy of Final Fantasy and the prospect of buying a game for a system I did not own was obviously unacceptable. Luckily, this was the era when video stores rented NES cartridges. The store my family regularly went to had two copies of the game, so I rented it one weekend and started playing.
Many Friday and Saturday night rentals later, I finished the game (with a fair amount of assistance from the official Nintendo Power Final Fantasy Strategy Guide, borrowed from yet another friend). As it was my first JRPG experience, I enjoyed it quite a bit and made a point to get myself some sort of video game console so I could play more of these games. I always kept my eyes open for JRPG ports on the PC, but that was a relatively rare event in the 1990s.
Looking back, it occurs to me that one of the things that appealed the most to me as a PC RPG player was the linearity of the game. Where a game like Bard’s Tale or Ultima threw you into “the world” and let you figure it out on your own, Final Fantasy was a relatively directed game. You begin the game stuck on an island with only one dungeon to explore. When you complete that, you get to move onto another land mass with a cave and a city to explore. Each piece gives you access to a little bit more of the world, but that little bit ends up being the next bit you needed.
I will undoubtedly have more to say about the game as I continue to play through it, but here’s to the beginning of the Final Fantasy. Final, insomuch that there have been some twenty something sequels.