Odd RPG Attacks: When Swinging A Sword Is Just Not Enough

A month or so ago, I was looking through eBay to see if I could find some cheap import games. As it turns out, I found Exstetra for the PS Vita at American retail pricing, around 40 dollars (to put this is in perspective, most games sell for at least 60 bucks in Japan). I remember sending the link to Franklin to have him take a look at it. Franklin thought that the aspect of having the main character Ryoma power up his allies by kissing them on the lips was kind of cool. Ryoma’s kissing powers got Franklin and I talking about how some RPGs have attacks that are just downright bizarre. So I decided to put together a list of games, mostly RPGs really, that feature attacks that are odd, bizarre, or have some kind of strange effect that will make you say “what?”.

Yes, Ryoma can kiss guys too. And no neither side is particularly pleased about it.

Suikoden Tierkreis has your allies attacking as groups, including one group that blinds the enemies with their bare scalps.

I’m not terribly acquainted with the Suikoden series but I had a jolly old-time playing Tierkreis on my DS. One of my favorite features were the Unite Attacks, in which characters linked together in some thematic or story-based reason perform powerful attacks.

The attacks themselves ranged anywhere from absolutely badass to just plain goofy. Here’s a link to the majority of them, but highlights include a love-dovey couple fighting together (and pissing off everyone else), a mother training his son and embarrassing him in the process, dandy young men destroying opponents with their bishonen good looks, combining robots, and, perhaps craziest of all, a trio consisting of an assassin, a blacksmith and an ethereal cosmic entity blinding their enemies with their bare scalps.

I wonder is she polishes her head...?

I wonder is she polishes her head…?

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Gaming With Family: A Link Between Our Pasts

Videogames have been a huge part of my life ever since my earliest memories and I owe them for getting me through some tough times.

Even before learning to read, I wanted to play the same games my older siblings played. That meant clicking randomly in PC games like Super Solvers: Gizmos & Gadgets!, Where in the World is Carmen San Diego?, and Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis. In that little kid fashion, I felt like I was at least doing something. Yet, something inside me yearned to play for real.

Fight me jerk!

The time and quality I had playing videogames were directly connected to my living situation. Both my older brother and I were still in school, but even though he was 7 years older than I, we both had infinite free time, even more so during the summer breaks. This gave us LOTS of time to rent and buy numerous videogames. Our plan of attack consisted of recycling the games we’d beaten to fund the new ones. We lived together in the same house hold for the majority of my life and, because of that, I garnered a special situation with him.

Now that he is married and raising a family of his own, and we live our own separate lives, we still try to find time to reconnect with new games. During the recent Steam summer sale I bought my brother Double Dragon Neon and Sid Meier’s Civilization V with the complete expansions for us to play together. In this day and age though, we cannot return to that nice infinite free time we once had. A place lost in time and space, only accessible now through memories.

Super 90’s as hell!

I was lucky enough to grow up in a house hold where both of my parents were a bit nerdier than most adults (and attributing to who I am today). My father liked to play computer games and I vividly remember him, my brother, and I all huddle around the monitor playing/trying to solve King’s Quest: Mask of Eternity. By the time I had gotten my Nintendo 64, I already had a stack of Game Boy cartridges lying around. Even with all those I was still just wading into the world of gaming. The introduction of my new and specifically first console opened up a whole new world of interaction with my father and brother. We could now play multiplayer games against each other. Before it was all working as one unit (mostly me watching) or us taking turns, but now we were shooting each other and having fun facing off in GoldenEye 007. My parents would soon divorce and the trio became a duo as my brother and I lived with our mother, leaving us the only gamers in the house. With every dark patch there is a bit of light as he and I grew closer and bonded over the Nintendo 64.

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Interior decorating in video games never looked so compulsive.

I want to start this article by doing something out of the ordinary for me, which is discussing current video game news. When news of the 3DS remake of the 3rd Generation Pokemon games Ruby and Sapphire dropped, the first thing my friends and I got excited about was what the secret bases would look like running off  Pokemon X and Y’s visuals. A refresher for those of you reading who skipped those Hoenn adventures of which I feel are the second weakest of the Pokemon Gens (after Gen Four if we are only counting non-remakes, because Heart Gold and Soul Silver were fantastic). Hoenn’s secret bases were located in trees, bushes, and sides of mountains where a player with a Pokémon who knew the move Secret Power could access large hidden rooms.

The only real draw the secret bases had were that they could be decorated with various furnishing like cushions and desks made of leaves to trinkets like Pokémon plush and ornaments like breakable doors, tents, and slides. This has me thinking about how, in general, getting a house or base to interior decorate is one of my favorite added parts in video games (up there with character customization like outfits and hair styles).

You can tell that this is a fan mod image because it was impossible to walk across those ditches. Let alone transport all that plush.

Some games make the player’s base or house an integral part of game progression and the Lost In Blue games on the DS are the first to come to mind.

The Lost In Blue games were spiritual successors to the Game Boy Color series Survival Kids, where the player controls a young kid who ends up as a castaway on a deserted tropical island. The first Lost In Blue was an early DS game for me back around 2006, a bygone time where you could actually find a reasonable copy of Trace Memory. While the original first Survival Kids fostered you with late 90’s card-battle anime protagonists Ken and Mery and their mascot ready pet monkey, the first Lost In Blue assigns you the serious young man Keith and the near-sighted quiet young woman Skye. The goal, learn to live off the land and build a way off the island. Every day has you controlling Keith in finding food and water for the pair, as Skye stays in the cave and preps food.

The cave base as a core concept is great, as building new beds and better fireplaces not only spiffs up the joint, but also either makes the daily progress easier or helps restore Keith and Skye’s stamina and overall well-being. You even get to decorate the place with a nifty barrel so that you can keep water inside so these two young youth don’t die of thirst.

I know I rap poetic about Harvest Moon a little too much on this site (less than the average super fans of the series, but more than the average sane person), but no Harvest Moon game ties game progression as heavily to how big your farm house is as much as Harvest Moon: Back to Nature on the Play Station.

Ah the life of a bachelor. A time where you don't care about the random liquor bottles by the entrance or if you have enough shelves for your miscellaneous boxes.

Ah the life of a bachelor. A time where you don’t care about the random liquor bottles by the entrance or if you have enough shelves for your miscellaneous boxes.

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Franklin Raines’ FPS Tour of the Arts

A common aspect of playing shooters is how you often visit a locale only once. No returning to the burned out house set-piece from two hours ago to revisit an NPC, as most shooters like to make every area a sequestered bubble. My experience with most shooters is that you are expected to only run down that hallway or back alley once, unless you happen to get shot dead before you hit the next checkpoint. Certain games like Resident Evil 4 (whose action hybrid approach to gun fights make it an odd duck in this example) would sometimes have you backtrack for puzzles, but once you crossed that bridge to Ramon Salazar‘s castle, there was no returning to those lovely Spanish households.

First Person Shooters specifically are a great example of a quick type of game where you are rarely expected to sit and smell the flowers. Some FPS developers do try to get their players to appreciate the atmosphere though.  A way that developers utilize in order to get the player to slow down their gun reloading is by simply placing detailed things on the wall. They know players like to speed through their campaigns, as FPSs lead themselves to quick gameplay. I decided that with all the late 90’s and early 2000’s FPSs I have been playing lately that I owed it to you readers to give you a tour of some of the better (or at least odder) art I’ve found at the end of my gun barrel. Let’s call it “Franklin Raines’ FPS Tour of the Arts”, at least until I can think of/patent something better.
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Why We Need Okage: Shadow King To Keep Us Humble

okage A few months ago I was amusing myself with an early PS2 game called Okage: Shadow King, a delightfully goofy game that doesn’t bother to take itself seriously for eighty-five percent of the story. Okage is the kind of game that at first sight, seems purely crafted for goofy entertainment, a fair bit of foreshadowing and clues that let you get  the deeper nature of the game’s world. But ultimately, you will remember Okage because it makes you laugh, snicker and chuckle.It is the kind of game that makes talking in Pig Latin a terrible curse, our protagonist the prize winner for “most overshadowed character”, and includes such bosses as the Sewer Evil King, the Company President Evil King, and the Idol Evil King. I feel comedy focused games are missing nowadays, leaving only games that take themselves too seriously.

As much as I enjoy a poignant narrative, such as: that of Radiant Historia, a story of loss and how time travel will not necessarily solve everything; and Xenoblade, a tale of revenge and how easy it makes it for others to use you as their pawn, great stories, but they have a fill of plot devices we have all seen before. I know that anyone with a true love for games and their favorite genre knows that they all have trappings, traditions, and weird habits that deserve the occasional mocking.

I present to you, the Sewer Evil King.

I present to you, the Sewer Evil King.

I appreciate games such as Disgaea and other titles that NIS publishes that love to use goofy characters ( with outrageous level caps) that make fun of anime and game clichés, to say nothing of obliterating the fourth wall. But even these goofy characters have their share of drama and heavy themes that become more pronounced as the game progresses. I mean, two plots about demon children wanting to overthrow their overlord fathers is enough, okay? I feel like they stand in more as buffers (chemistry humor, yes?). But I feel they do not go far enough into the comedy to get anywhere near Okage. Continue reading

Can Gender Selected Characters Ever Be Growing Characters?

Sometime back around 2000 or 2001, my mom bought me the Game Boy Color remake edition of Dragon Quest 3. This was a big event for me: it was my first exposure to Dragon Quest, one of my favorite RPG series, and it was my first “T” rated game, were I was first exposed to saucy subject matter like Akira Toriyama’s love of girls in bunny suits (which DQ3 practically had as an entire job class devoted to, called a Gadabout) and the fan revered “puff puff” service. Yet the biggest aspect of DQ3 on the GBC for me was unintentionally picking a female lead. See, the probably seven year old me thought that I was picking my weight class, misinterpreting “M” as medium instead of male and “F” as fat instead of female.  So here I was, at party with a beefy warrior, a stocky fighter, a pretty thief, all male, who dwarfed their female hero leader by a foot.

It wasn’t until years later that I learned my character was female, a concept I found cool as I was playing this small woman who commanded orders to these three big male adventures; empowering if you think about it.

Anyone could see my confusion when pretty men like Yuri from Tales of Vesperia are such common RPG protagonists.

Let’s talk about gender selection in videogames, as I’ve got something on my mind.

Character gender selection to me has its strongest ties to RPGs, with simulation games coming in second. Since the main character is usual meant to represent the player’s avatar, a player’s gender is an important means of visual distinction. Often, gender selection is simply aesthetic, like my earlier example with DQ3, its sequel DQ4, and most of the Pokémon games. A pre-construct male or female choice where your silent-protagonist self-insert has little bearing on the story but to play along (well, unless you are like me where playing DQ4 as a girl changed the narrative to “How High Fantasy Lunch from Dragon Ball Saved the World from Evil”).

Further character customization, even going far enough to choose different species, still often only speaks to the aesthetics. I don’t remember Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic ever hinting at the beginning of character creation that making Revan a foxy lady meant getting a stat boost to force lightening and toxic resistance. For a solely fighting game example, the character customization in the later Soul Calibur games did let me make a short and skinny lady who fought with Nightmare’s behemoth Soul Edge. Awesome yes, but it was at the expense of the series’ historically minded 16th-17th realistic setting… a setting that thought it necessary to let that alien thing Necrid exist. In fact, since character creation works on its own plane of wish-fulfillment, it’s hard for it to have any real bearing on the world around it.

Wait a second. This Saint Seiya character was alive in the 80’s. How am I suppose to take her in Soul Calibur seriously when the only thing I can think of is 80’s leg warmers?

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Garr and Yasha in “When You Doubt Your Seemingly Corrupt Leader”

I originally planned on writing this article on the many ways Japanese games represent different world religions, and while I might try again in the future, the only thing that came to mind was how the Catholic church was either a great place to save your game, like in the Dragon Quest games, or a headquarters for the cartoony evil initial villains, like in the Tales of games (Tales of the Abyss even made their Catholic church music themed with evil maestros and everything). I then decided to write about video games that go through religious doubt, but that’s far too complicated. Finally I decided “why not write about two different video game characters that followed similar character arcs to that of Final Fantasy IV’s Cecil Harvey?” In other words, characters whose doubt eventually caused them to refute their leaders’ plans when they decided that they no longer morally agreed.

Warning: Serious plot spoilers for both Breath of Fire 3 (BF3) and Asura’s Wrath (well, statutes of limitation on BF3, as I reserve the right to spoil a PS1 game that is old enough to drive in all 50 U.S. states). 

Garr is one of the four Holy Guardians created by the head goddess of the Urukian tribe (similar to Mayan people) who revere Garr with respect, demonstrated by how they act completely unfazed by his large demonic appearance. Originally created centuries ago to start the Brood War, a conflict against a perceived world threating group of half dragon humans named Broods; Garr spends his semi-immortal life as the reigning champion of an underground fighting competition called the Contest of Champions. I see Garr’s role in Breath of Fire 3 as a world-worn guide for the main character, the once centuries dormant and perceived last living Brood descendent Ryu. Garr’s a perpetually crossed-armed reminder that he’s been around Breath of Fire 3’s post-apocalyptic fantasy block.

Garr, found in his natural habitat.

During the first half, when Garr brought Ryu to Angel’s Tower, a Brood graveyard, Garr secretly planned on killing Ryu. Conflicted about his role in life, Garr often struggled with what was more important: fulfilling his duty to enact his God’s wishes by destroying the Brood; or letting Ryu live. Garr felt doubtful of the Brood after they intentionally didn’t resist Garr and the other Guardians.  Leaving Garr to doubt his actions, but at this point still goes through with his God’s plan.

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