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Bluestarultor

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  • My occupation is Computer programming
  • I am Male
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Warning: I'm around regularly, just not actively editing. If you need admin input/action, just leave something on my Talk.


Bluestarultor Orbs
Name Bluestarultor
A.K.A Blue, Blues, Bluey...
Job Class Blue Psychic
Hometown Weston, WI
Date of Birth April 3
Age 26
Height 5'9-3/4"
IQ ACT average of 32, 98th percentile
Weapon Staff, 3-section Staff (self-training), Bow, Sword, Sword & Dagger, Unarmed
Spells White Wind, Angel Whisper, Aqua Breath, Thrust Kick, Banish, Mighty Guard, Blaster, Random Bullet
Summons Brothers, Kujata, Alexander
Limit breaks Generation Next

Random Realization:
Yuna was raised from early childhood by Kimahri. That means despite being only 7 years older than her, he's basically her new father. If I was Tidus, kissing in front of a big, scary lion-man would be hard enough without it also being making out in front of her dad.


Hi, and welcome to my user page. Bluestarultor, at your service, but people call me Blue, Bluey, Blues, Bluesey, Bluestar, and a million other personal variants. As long as it contains "blue" in there someplace, I'll assume you mean me. It's my name everywhere on the Internet and I even answer to it in real life.

P.S. If you don't see a shadow on this, you are using a shit browser. To remedy this, download Firefox.

Quick LookEdit

If you'd like any of my custom userboxes, feel free to grab the code and use them for your own page. Just keep in mind that certain ones use either graphics from my Photobucket or information specific to me that you need to change. I'd appreciate it if my personal graphics were changed out for your own, since those are my work and my bandwidth. If you do sprites or games, show off your own work. ;)

Wiki-related:
Wiki This user has been a member of the Final Fantasy Wiki since November 12, 2009.
FFVI iOS GestahlThis user is an administrator on the Final Fantasy Wiki.
FF6 IOS Imperial Brown This user is a Recent Changes patroller.
FF3NES-Griffon This user is a WikiGryphon.
7,846 So far, Bluestarultor has made 7,846 edits to this Wiki!
2,192 So far, Bluestarultor has made 2,192 mainspace edits to this Wiki!
Userb e1000 This user has over 5000 edits.
Userb enon This user believes that an edit count doesn't necessarily reflect on the value of their contributions.
Aeris Portrait This user identifies as being at
Gainsborough Level 3
Cactuar This user spends WAY too much time here and really needs to get off the computer...after one more edit.
WikiGriff components:
Ffxiirw gnoam This user is a WikiGnome.
FFI PSP Black Wizard Map This user is a WikiWizard.
FFT-enemy-Uribo This user is a WikiSloth.
Zack Tactics Edit This user is a WikiPuppy.
Demographic:
Userb male This user is a male.
Christianity This user identifies as Christian.
American-flag This user lives in the United States of America.
Personal:
Strago Magus smallThis user is a Blue Mage variant.
CySpecial.gifThis user is an amateur game designer.
blueforFFWiki.pngThis user does all his/her own sprites.
Music-harpThis user does all his/her own music and sound effects.
th_ZPlogo.png This user likes Zero Punctuation (despite Yahtzee's poor opinion of JRPGs)
Characters:
Red XIII HowlFF7This user is a Red XIII fan and considers him the best character from FF7.
FFVII Aeris BattleThis user is an Aeris/th fan and cares not what you call her so long as you know she can do front row.
FFVII Cait Sith BattleThis user is a Cait Sith fan and doesn't understand how people find him useless.
ZackCGModel-CrisisCore2This user is a Zack fan and hates Square for making the puppy's death so hard to watch.
Quistis-ffviii-battleThis user is a Quistis fan and calls her one of the best Blue Mages of the series. EFF YEAH, TURRET!
Zell-ffviii-battle Rinoa-ffviii-battleThis user is also a fan of both Zell and Rinoa (not as a pair, mind you). Everyone else can eat it.
ViviMirror-FFIXThis user is a Vivi fan because this user at one point WAS Vivi.
ZidaneMirror-FFIXThis user is a Zidane fan and is thankful he had his own Zidane to help him.
Auron ArtThis user is an Auron fan because he reminds him a bit of his dad.
FFX Kimahri ArtThis user is a Kimahri fan because Blue Mage + Lancer = ROCK.
FFX-2 HD Paine RenderThis user is a Paine fan because of her sarcastic wit and badass awesomeness.
FFXIII-SazhThis user is a Sazh fan because he's just plain awesome and great in battle.


I classify characters by how much I'd like to be around them. This is just a selection.

Would Befriend Would Meet More Than Once Would Meet Once Would Not Meet
Zack Fair, Vivi Orunitia, Zidane Tribal, Zell Dincht, Red XIII Yuna, Aerith Gainsborough, Edgar Roni Figaro, Sabin Rene Figaro, Laguna Loire, Sazh Katzroy, Reeve Tuesti Paine, Cid Highwind, Rinoa Heartilly, Setzer Gabbiani, Shadow, the Turks, Oerba Yun Fang, Auron Seifer Almasy, Balthier, Vincent Valentine, Terra Branford, Lightning


About MeEdit

I'm not big on the wiki model as a contributor due to not having much in the line of news sources, but I figured if I was going to be following the new games coming out, I may as well join. I'm a programmer by trade and am an amateur game programmer, pixel artist, and writer. Helixrain is my younger brother (I am so sorry :P). All of my own sprites are done from the ground up, pixel by pixel, although sprites I've done for other people have been recolors or have used bases. GraphicsGale and Paint.net are my allies in this, Gale for grabbing the colors from the palette and PDN for pretty much everything else, since layers are just so gosh-darn convenient. ;)

Aside from that, I do my music and sound effects in Anvil Studio, which is free MIDI software. Having the sheet music is really great for composing. For music I listen to, game music is always good, I like music ranging from 60s rock all the way through disco and into the 80s, and a lot of Japanese and other Asian pop. Girls' Generation's Gee is like crack and f(x)'s LA chA TA is great, but the group I always come back to is Perfume. No matter what happens, even if nothing else does it for me, Perfume is my feel-good band. Their music is great and they're fun to watch just because it's clear they love what they do, and you can't not have fun along with them.


Randomly:

  • Although I never got into any kind of divination, it's creepy how well astrology and numerology describe me. Even the Chinese Zodiac.
  • I have extremely good pattern analysis skills.
  • My favorite element is water because to me it represents both finesse and power. Water flows, but it doesn't take much to overwhelm something. My least favorite element is fire, because I see it as too destructive. Fire consumes what it touches and spreads. No other element has the same utter lack of control.


Finally, I abuse emotes. I know it might make me come off as immature, but I think everyone should. Text is a barrier to meaning and things said in jest can come off totally wrong without any indicator of it. Especially if people don't know you well. I also tend to invent the occasional emote if I think it helps express my meaning more than a traditional one. Just, I dunno, flip your screen on its side or something and figure it out. XD


Origin of the ClassEdit

Blue Magic pretty much had me at FF7, before I even knew what it was (7 was my first FF). After I got FF5 in Anthology, I was pretty much hooked on the idea. It also helps that my favorite color has been blue for years. XD

That alone wouldn't have been enough to solidify the "psychic" half of things if not for the fact that I'm incredibly perceptive. Face-to-face, I've always been able to tell if someone was lying and read their emotions bordering on psychic empathy. I also notice a lot of stuff others don't and can make fairly accurate predictions into the near future of things like how a relationship is going to go (I can proudly claim I got a guy happily married via my advice) and how busy things will be at work to the point my co-workers started joking about it and the idea just took off. It's kind of like that series where the ex-psychic investigator just "pays attention." The info you can get by doing that is pretty extensive.

Thus the concept of the "Blue Psychic" was born and the character Jay was created to be my avatar - an overall nice guy who just has a few triggers and is a little too good at returning fire in subtle, but often embarrassing ways when people trip them, allowing me to rant on things that bug me without making an unlikable character. Jay's a little guy with a lot of power, not much to spend it on, and no real sense of his limits when he needs to use it, since he usually doesn't have to worry about running out. Most of his repertoire consists of subtle psychic tricks like empathy and basic commands that aren't much good offensively and some of his gained "Blue" abilities have prohibitively specific applications. He's half a farce of the source material, but also lets me get creative to show how seemingly silly things can be adapted into practical applications with a bit of ingenuity for the other half.

Most of this has stayed put at Nuklear Power Forums, but the title's followed me here. ;)

Character BackstoryEdit

Those floating orbs on my sprite actually have story importance. When I still had an interest in making sprite comics, the explanation was that Jay got each one from a different person in a way as they taught him about himself and the orb left him. They are, in order:

  • Red - Fighter
  • Green - Monk
  • Black/Purple - Black Mage
  • Yellow - Chromomancer (color magic)
  • Blue - White Mage
    • Clear - Bard (generated at basically the same time)

The colors are less related to the class and more related to the person. Jay was considering becoming a Bard when Troy finally found him again (he was absent for years for reasons I won't go into) and, as his guardian angel, told him that he was a Blue Psychic. So Jay got the White Mage orb by learning about himself, while the Bard orb fell away from him without ever being used. Jay is able to class change back to any of them at will and continue to grow them, or he can draw the powers from them directly without class changing at the dubious cost of using the MP of the person he got it from. This would normally mean that White Mage is free because it comes from his own stores, but because of how it was generated its skill set is reversed, which means that the only thing it has to work with for a good many more levels is an incredibly powerful healing spell that explodes anything that's not already dead, but can revive things from basically nothing if need be.

SymbolismEdit

mylciecrystal.png

My l'Cie crystal, shown to the right, is based on something out of one of my oldest stories and has diverged quite a lot. The S shape comes from something I used to do with my hands to stretch in middle school and it became a piece of an emblem of the main character of a book that's still quite important to me. The idea was to have that flat pane behind a gold cross as a sort of symbolic thing since I was a Catholic writing a Catholic character, but since his name was Trey Smith, the cross eventually became a gold T instead, which it remains for him to this day. In the overlap, I borrowed it for an avatar elsewhere because, again, of wanting to have a bit of a religious thing for myself, but also because I'd started taking on several of my characters' traits for my persona over there, many of which my avatar sprite still retains. This is a very recent update to the design of it, turning the S from a flat pane with a lighter, brighter outline into a solid-color, rounded gel/crystal thing, and the cross has been taken from solid gold to a more star-like crystal. It's basically just made a turn for the modern, and I also took myself out from in front of it. I suppose you could also say that it now represents Light and Water, my two preferred elements, although that's just a realization on my part after the fact. In all honesty, I didn't start out intending the S to be so gel-looking, but I'm not good enough in image-editing to really get the roughness of the crystals in FF13 and the symbol looks pretty good on its own as a standalone.

altcrystal.png

My alternate l'Cie crystal is based on yet another avatar I used to use a lot. It was one of my earliest and was originally kind of crappy, with my sprite with a hand-pixeled glow floating translucent in front of a yin-yang. Eventually I got tired of that look, but liked the concept, and instead turned my sprite bluescale (although for some reason to this day the skin still looks pink to me) and did a glow effect on that for more of a ghostly look, which oddly enough creeped me out a bit at first when I put it up. The symbolism behind that was that, being honest, I was in a bad place and kind of miserable, more so when I redid it, and the worlds of my characters and stories seemed more appealing to me than real life. I've always thought of my characters as people and the yin-yang symbolizes two of them who are very important to me. So it kind of represented an inversion where I was they shade and they were real. When I wanted to do another crystal, that was the obvious choice, and while my sprite has been removed from the equation, the concept of the shade standing in front hasn't, unlike with the first one. The humanoid form is actually an upscaled version of the basic human body from Ruby with an outline applied and quite frankly a lot of work done to make it look decent. I know the lighting on it isn't realistic, but I happened to like it more than other things I tried. I learned a bit more doing it and honestly think it turned out better than the first one lighting-wise. I suppose you could say it's ironic that my main symbol is one that I took from a character and my alternate is one I did purely for myself, but honestly I never hated either of them, and still don't, but I'm a little less emo now. ;)


IRCEdit

As maintainer of the SacredMinotaur IRC bot (click the link in the sidebar for easy access to the section and a link to the main page), as well as being fairly regular on the channel, I guess you could say I've established a presence on the #FFWiki IRC.

If you have any questions you want to ask in private, like, I dunno, for me to make someone an Eidolon as a secret gift or something I'm often hanging around in the channel. While I tend to get distracted by other things, assuming I don't have my speakers off for some reason, sending me a directed message or query gets my attention with the sound.

Look for Bluesey or, less frequently, Bluestarultor to find me. ;)


Best-of Stellar ArenaEdit

Best-of Stellar Arena sigicon
Best-of Stellar Arena sigicon


Special thanks have gone out to:

  • Clarent (formerly Kayreeed Caliburn) - a gold award for being the first voter minutes after the arena went up!
  • Leon95 - a silver award for being the second voter and the first to vote in both fights!
  • SilverCrono - a bronze award for third voter, first to get an award in a fancy bubble, and last to get an award!
  • SilverCrono - a white honesty award for making a liar out of me, but not out of himself having used my table code for DSS' arena.
Platinum awards for my
first proper tournament:
Blue steel awards for my
first proper tournament:
Stardust awards for my
first proper tournament:
Best-of Stellar Arena sigicon
Best-of Stellar Arena sigicon




Non-Wiki ProjectsEdit

I recently came out with my first public release: MediaAlarm! It's free, but if you like it, you can donate whatever you feel it's worth.

So, yes, as a programmer, I write programs, do web site coding, etc. I've written small tools like a die-roller and something to generate colors in hexadecimal, but most of my current projects are games.


The real purpose of this section is for you to follow that link in the heading. I have projects for the future you might think are cool and comments are always welcome. ;)

You can find additional info in the form of a sales pitch at:
http://www.bluestarcreations.net/


Wiki ProjectsEdit

Real Emotion - sweetbox Jade Valerie

Real Emotion - sweetbox Jade Valerie

Some services I offer on the wiki include:

  • Talk bubbles
  • Custom signatures
  • Coding help (as I learn more of the wiki's code)
  • HTML & CSS help
  • Anything else you might poke me for to the best of my ability

For actual projects...


FF13 EidolonsEdit

I give this one its own subsection because it deserves it at this point. Born from my personal effort to translate Brothers into Eidolon format, I have since done another one for my real-life brother and a third, incomplete, one out of boredom. But, most importantly, I did two for Sorceror Nobody's personal l'Cie before finally becoming one and making it my Focus. If you are one of his branded l'Cie and would like me to do up pages in the style of FF13's Eidolons for your claimed summon, simply ask on my talk page. This is my own project to flex my design skills, but it's also there to flex my ability to work with others, so the process will be as follows:

  1. If you want one, simply ask on my talk page.
  2. I will look at your Eidolon and role proficiencies and come up with your Eidolon's abilities and Gestalt transformation.
  3. When I'm happy with a first draft, I'll direct you to my Eidolons page to look it over.
  4. You can then come back to me and ask for changes.
  5. I'll then implement some changes based on your feedback and come back to you again.
  6. Repeat the previous two steps until you have a product you like (or make me give up in frustration, which, trust me, takes a lot - no jury in the world would convict me :P ).

Is your Eidolon already in FF13? No problem! I'm prepared to come up with a new appearance based on other incarnations and new attacks to work with it. The incarnation used is pretty well at my discretion, since I'll be picking forms that I can see a transformation in. Consider it semi-canon, since I'm designing FF13 Eidolons based on non-FF13 bases across the board. Summons change appearance across the series and FF13 is no different. ;)

If you're not a Sorceror l'Cie, I'm not against making something up for you, too, but l'Cie will be given preference. In cases of non-l'Cie, I'll need to know what three roles you feel represent you best at minimum, and preferably what rough order they're in. In the case of a rough tie, the tied pair counts as one, but remember l'Cie can only have three specialties, so no more than one tie anywhere in your top 4 of 6 m'kay? ;)

Furthermore, it's unfair to ask me to do other people's Eidolons without their permission (or unless you're doing it as a gift or something, at which point, please ask me on the IRC so it remains a surprise). If you're not a Sorceror l'Cie, please check this page for which summons are and are not used.

With that, ask away, and please be patient. I'm only one man with limited time.


FF2 PS WalkthroughEdit

Yep. Just happened to see it and figured it would give me a reason to play. The tone will be humorous and probably deprecating to the game. Does that make the game bad? Well, no, the game does that quite well on its own. :P

Seriously, though, this will be something to slowly work on, maybe to make my second Focus. Maybe. I'm juggling a lot right now, so this will likely be the first to go when time gets short.


Sorceror l'CieEdit

Yes, after all this time of refusing, I'm giving in. Don't all flatter yourselves; it wasn't your collective poking that finally made me cave. :P My foci (yes, I already know I'll be changing it in time) will be things I'll be doing anyway, and what I want is accountability to other people than myself. SN retains the right to edit this section as necessary, and I promise not to mess around with his template.


SorcerorlCieCrystalBrand.png This user is a cursed l'Cie, bound into the
service of
Sorceror Nobody for eternity
Branded: December 15th 2010 Eidolon: Brothers
Role proficiencies:
Having completed their Focus, this user is currently in crystal stasis


Rant of the MomentEdit

For previous rants, please see my Rant Archive.

Final Fantasy VII Remake spring updateEdit

Forward-proofing this by calling it "spring" instead of "late winter" because I'm starting this on Groundhog Day (also an international palindrome day, 2020-02-02 in standard format 02/02/2020 in US format!) and knowing how long it took me to write the last one, I'd rather not stare at a filename into the next season.

So, we got a new trailer and then some additional info. And I want to talk about it.

So, in no particular order...

Seeing RedEdit

So, in a nutshell, my prior musings on whether Red would be in a trailer have been answered. Seeing as how unfinished he was, it's probably that S-E got a pretty good response from that Howling Moon pumpkin.

What's the graymuzzle formula again?Edit

Why is Red graying at the muzzle? Literally, dogs do this when they get old. He's, unless something has changed, an adolescent. Yes, that's dang near 50 in human years, but it makes no sense for a biological teenager to be going gray like that. He frankly looks like he could pass for 50 and I wonder if that's the point. Also his muzzle in the trailer is weirdly cartoonish with those bulbous lips. Like seriously some Hannah-Barbara-ass Scooby Doo lips. It doesn't really look believable, unlike his appearance in Advent Children or really anywhere else. Animals simply don't look like that. If they just scaled it down by like half a centimeter of diameter, I think it would look amazing.

And his voice is, well, it's new, and kind of in line with what I expected, but not what I was hoping for. In fact, I'll say none of him is really what I was hoping for. It's not terrible, just... predictable. Including the scene they used to introduce him, though the line I anticipated them using seems to have been cut. His Japanese VA was chosen, per interviews, because he could give a broad vocal range, and I hope that comes through for the American voice as well. Red is, at heart, a kid trying to pass as an adult. Someone who can speak in a lower register and also raise it to a higher register would be able to pull an amazing reveal that way when it becomes important.

I will also say that he's definitely still being worked on, because the fire on his tail is clearly unfinished in the trailer footage and his beads are black from not having proper lighting applied, as well as his level of detail being a mess. This frankly happens all the time, even with big-budget Hollywood trailers. Square may end up taking a bit of feedback on his mouth if there's enough people who see it the way I do and say something.

They later revealed a render (File:FFVIIR Red XIII wide render.png) where he's a lot more orange and a lot more natural-looking, so it's entirely possible they already were working on fixes at the time, or maybe the render is the older version, as it shows his tail looking very much like the torch on the Statue of Liberty. I really hope it's closer to the final model, as it downplays the graying and softens things up considerably. His looking younger in it is very welcome. He doesn't look adolescent, but he also doesn't look like he's ancient.

Be our guest, be our guest!Edit

I will say I called it, because Final Fantasy Union pointed out that he seems to be in battle without being listed as a player character. You can see him attacking Jenova directly in the Aerith portion of the clip. This was later revealed to be the case in an interview, where they said because he's only available for such a short time, they didn't think it was enough time for the player to learn a new character or for his personality to show through in gameplay. Which, given how everyone moves and emotes, makes a lot of sense. Preserving his mystery is important.

"HOT CULTURE!" "That's 'haute couture!'" "Is there really a difference?"Edit

It also clarifies his new facial tattoos and a collar of all things, but said collar has what looks like a metal plate for Materia slots. I completely missed it in the trailer, but it makes sense that he'd have some sort of shock collar device as an experiment, though unless the box is on the other side or in the Materia holder, it doesn't appear to be one. Shock collars are basically a Taser™ that you strap to someone and need a similar power source and leads that penetrate down to the skin to work. This collar looks like it's leather and would be sturdy enough for it, but I'm guessing it won't be, if only because it would be an immediate liability to an escaping party, which probably wouldn't make it into the official renders. Unless the plate for some reason does contain a shock device or can remotely activate the equipped Materia against his wishes like I proposed in my earlier writing, it doesn't seem like they were really all that security-minded with him when they could have been. In the original, his having Materia or equipment at all was something of a player convenience, as much as I like to over-analyze it, and gave him something useful for the immediate battle. His Fire made sense because of his flaming tail and would have provided it to the party as the third element even if the player hadn't picked up or purchased any items. Sense is utterly harmless on its own. In this, the best explanation of why he's allowed to keep his equipment at all is that someone liked and trusted him. You don't give a collar with that kind of hardware to an experiment and you don't let a potential threat keep it. His bands can't hold Materia and don't offer appreciable protection, so cutting those off would have been unnecessary. A collar that can hold magic is a liability. I still like the potential angle that he could have been playing his captors, but I don't think it's likely.

One more thing the side render clarifies is his weapon, or at least the feather on the side where you can see, is in fact attached by a teardrop-shaped hair clip. How they were attached before is never really in focus, so this tiny detail is just a testament to the realism they're going for here, as well as makes me hopeful they'll render his weaponry on his model this time around as they seem to be promising with their latest release (that weaponry will be visibly changed on the character models both in and out of battle).

And of course S-E releases a further update on this as soon as I'm ready to post it (again). Well, fudge. I guess his weapon is collars now because they didn't think his hair clips would show properly. I was all excited and everything, but I guess it makes sense with the Materia slots being in it. I'm honestly not sure how to feel about this. It feels a little degrading, but I understand the logic, and I guess we can hopefully look forward to some intricate and beautiful collars with maybe some hair accessory parts? I can hope? Because the basic leather one he has starting out really just feels like a cheap dog collar and I really, really hope he gets something - a lot of things - more fashionable than that, that aren't "dog fashion." I'm talking something like a blue handwoven knotwork thing with tassels, not the kind of leather with square studs you'd see on a dobie or some rhinestone abomination fit for a purse dog. The King Tut exhibit comes to mind with some beautiful dog collars and honestly, like, go ahead and source some world designs? I'm talking each town in the world could provide some signature flavor. Midgar is a wash, but Kalm is the kind of place that would have a simple offering. The Chocobo Ranch might have Chocobo-themed novelty collars. Fort Condor strikes me as a place that would have something sturdy, maybe metal plated with condor theming. Junon is a pretty significant trading hub if you really look at it and could have something European, like Celtic knotwork, Germanic runes, maybe a little something Roman themed, and tell me that's not the place that would let you bring on the bling. Costa del Sol obviously would have a Mesoamerican influence, and you can't tell me something in gold and turquoise wouldn't be appropriate. And of course, going home would net him a couple signature pieces of equipment courtesy of his family. I'm imagining, based on the other weaponry there, maybe something inspired by India and/or China. This might sound surprising, but Cloud's Butterfly Edge isn't really based on a real sword I know of, but does have a minor similarity to a Chinese butterfly sword (assuming the guard is very abridged in the in-game model) as well as strong aspects of common blade designs of a Filipino butterfly knife, otherwise known as a balisong. These ideas may have combined a wee bit. Similarly, Tifa's Tiger Fang could bear a similarity to a bagh nakh - an Indian claw weapon, often with one or two knives attached, meant to mimic tiger claw strikes, which were otherwise enough of a problem to warrant people trying to hide murder with it. This would also be a great opportunity to introduce knife weaponry to Tifa's arsenal (yes, I'm still on that). The Prism Staff otherwise doesn't scream any particular nationality, but I'd believe it if someone said it was inspired by Hindu and/or Buddhist shrine art. Cosmo Canyon is a hodgepodge on a good day and even the name Nanaki is a Punjabi and Sikh name (and the feminine form at that) rather than a Native American name like they were probably shooting for due to language barrier issues. And of course, ancient cultures apply, too. The Temple of the Ancients has some great Egyptian influences to work with if anything is found in there, bringing this meandering train of thought full circle.

I could go on until the game is out with the other local influences that could give him some beautiful culture to show off, but seeing as I'm already in danger of not posting this before the game is out, suffice to say I hope Square makes a good go of it with plenty of varied and beautiful units for him.

Cheetah robot ain't got nothin' on this! Edit

Update for yet more info on Red, but apparently there's a whole new floor in Shinra HQ specifically to let him show off his athleticism. This is something I wrote about YEARS ago (apparently so many years ago it's not even on this wiki, probably buried in a forum post on Nuklear Power Forums if it exists at all anymore), but the platforming potential of a quadruped was not lost on me when I was thinking about new games for the series (at the time, I came up with Eye of the Cat or Eye of the Canine assuming S-E would pick one and stick with it, since Dirge of Cerberus had come out and I wanted to keep it alphabetical). The idea I'd come up with was, in retrospect, more or less a playable treatment of On the Way To a Smile "Episode: Nanaki" before those novellas were written, or at least before I was aware of them. Something focused on platforming through natural environments trying to find more of his kind, exploring the untouched parts of the world the others simply couldn't visit, with the idea of some similar presentation to Crisis Core in terms of combat in a 3D space, but something much more empty and alone more like Shadow of the Colossus. Something focused less on combat and more on exploration, beautiful vistas, and the crushing solitude of being utterly alone. Finding other species not present in the original game, maybe, like Moogles and Moombas. The idea that anything could be found if you were remote enough.

Anyway, not to keep going on about my fan idea (although I would still buy a playable epilogue to his story in a heartbeat, whether it fit into previous canon or not), but platforming takes a very different turn for a quadrupedal character. For one, they're more sure-footed and can land or at least recover from jumps a human character can't. They, in Red's case, might have claws useful for climbing surfaces a human couldn't, like a large tree with no low branches, a lighter weight to avoid breaking rickety wood, and a greater ability to make athletic multi-jumps on uneven surfaces. This comes with caveats, though, because there are also many things they CAN'T do that a human can, like climb a rope or vine, or reliably swing across a chasm, or easily climb something as simple as a ladder. Some of these things are possible (I had a cat who climbed the blinds like a ladder by hooking her paws over), but might be more difficult. Red has plenty of practice with ladders from home, but a rope ladder swinging in the wind is a lot more treacherous if you can't even grasp the rungs. It's not necessarily better platforming, but it's very different platforming, and I really hope we can get some of that in future installments as well.


Cloud's gonna bust a cap in your ass!Edit

In all seriousness, that gun is clearly not the type to fire bullets, but it's hard to tell whether it's a grappling hook or maybe a laser of some sort. Palmer had his Mako Gun in the original, so this may be one of those, but the way it clicks makes me inclined to think it's something mechanical, and its odd, top-heavy design could be explained by that section being the cable reel. Seeing as that's against an aerial opponent, Cloud having a grappling hook makes sense due to his inability to otherwise engage it. Of course, he wasn't even in that battle for the original. It was Barret, Red, and Aerith, two of whom are now ranged attackers, and the third of whom came with some default Materia.

That's not the only change, but I'll cover it in a bit.

I'd be open to Cloud getting ranged weapons as a problem-solving thing. He knows how to shoot a gun from his time in the lower echelons of Shinra security and for that matter, candidates are often selected from the security forces, which is implied, but not explicit, in the original by Cloud having never gotten into SOLDIER, but having stayed as a grunt. Officially, being in the military already isn't a requirement, but logically speaking, it certainly wouldn't hurt. His use of a gun as a secondary weapon would make plenty of sense given he's a lock for most of the story, and it wouldn't need to be a good gun; just one to let him ping away a bit so he's not high and dry against distant enemies. Mega Man X gave Zero the Z-buster and it's a nigh-useless piece of shit, but sometimes a nigh-useless piece of shit is all you need.

I'd also be happy for Cloud to amass a small array of useful devices that would allow for exploration or other problem-solving. If that is a grappling hook of some sort, it could open up a lot of verticality as you explore. If he got a zip line device, it would allow the crossing of gaps. These things could be useful for navigating the slums easily and could prove essential for navigating the outside world in later games.

I just really don't like the idea of him picking up a random gun and then tossing it after one battle.

IGN points out that Tifa also has one and seems to be in the grappling hook camp, which, with the clarity of their video, I'm totally on board with.


Ooh! Shiny!Edit

Now this is my kind of weapon! Who wants some!?Edit

We got to see the Mythril Saber, the Atomic Scissors, and, as the Final Fantasy Union video linked above points out, something that looks a bit like the Missing Score had a baby with the Assault Gun, though I'm going to offer that it also bears a resemblance to the in-game model of the Microlaser, though not really the concept art. I agree it's probably something new, though, as it ultimately doesn't have enough key features to be any of them, unless it got a full redesign, which they did for his Gatling Gun (which made it an actual Gatling gun). Later screen shots from another Sony blog revealed the Nail Bat and more info about Tifa's play style.

You can tune a piano, but you can't tuna fishEdit

Leviathan appears and while it looks amazing, crackling with what looks like electricity, it clearly still is using Water attacks, though I hope that puny geyser attack is not what ultimately turns out to be Tsunami. I would much rather see something more like FF8's approach, which was technically a waterfall, but still more visually impressive in a physics-friendly manner.

And in yet another update, apparently Leviathan is non-elemental now? That's going to have interesting implications for the elemental system. If Water is out, it probably means we're going to either have a more limited system until later updates to avoid complications, or a more limited system entirely, which can work, but FF7 was kind of exceptional in that it managed a fair number of elements interestingly if not in any kind of real balance. Water has gotten a lot of love since FFX brought it to the forefront and really it's been more of a thing starting with FF8, but FFX turned it into a standard element and it stayed that way until FF13-2 scaled the elemental system back (unnecessarily, I'd argue, though they made it work well) and FF15 scaled it back even more aggressively, which was kind of a necessity because of how magic worked off a very limited item stock to store it in. I will say this: I really, really liked that FF7 had a lot of elements going for it, because it added to the vibrancy of the world. Gravity being an element proper added a tactical element to using it, since enemies could be weak or resistant to it. No, it wasn't useful for bosses, but it didn't have to be. Aqualung was your best access to Water UNTIL Leviathan and while Aqua Breath has a storied history of being non-elemental, adding a Wind component, and an 8x multiplier to desert-dwellers specifically, in FF7 it was one of the more powerful Enemy Skills and while not a whole lot resisted Water, what was weak to it got completely slammed. Conversely, as hard as Wind was to access, there was a fair number of enemies weak to it, meaning you'd be keeping Choco/Mog paired with Elemental on your weapon in some areas. I'd really hate to lose that depth, so this scares me just a teensy bit, aside from it being accessible at this point for what's seeming more and more like a drastic story change.

The birds and the beaniesEdit

We also got to see the detailing on Chocobo & Moogle, as well as seeing them in motion. It's hard to tell whether the headband is still a headband or a bear hat, but it certainly doesn't have the red spot on it, likely to avoid unfavorable comparisons to the kamikaze bombers the original was clearly styled after to a non-Japanese audience. Assuming it is still a headband, the Japanese market might find it there in their version of the game, along with the original text. That also means for the first time ever, Moogles are being depicted with bear ears rather than cat or bunny ears. Looking at the available material, I'm inclined to lean that it's a hat, which could also mean that his appearance can be customized, similar to Whyt in the FF4 DS version, and also similar to other popular means of accessorizing your pet monsters that are popular right now. Frankly, that would just take the cake. Tell me you wouldn't want to find alternate outfits for Shiva, or be able to dress Chocobo Chick up in a little magician suit, or give Ifrit some arm bands like his FFX counterpart, or broken chain manacles or something! Seriously, alternate costumes would be amazing! Even if it was just for Moogle, it would be pretty cute.

Chocobo Chick and Carbuncle were also revealed and, I mean, they look okay, but very strange. In both cases the Internet got to cranking out the memes immediately and I'm on board with it, because their oversized, disproportionate heads are just, well, not awful, but could have been reduced by like 50% for a better design. They both have almost a Furby vibe where I'd prefer a bit more realism. Carbuncle is a bit odd because of how consistent his appearance was through FF8, and then FF9 changed it up just a wee bit, but not so that he was unrecognizable, then FF11 leaned real hard into a sleek look and then FF13 made him into a harlequin and all bets were off, though I'll say it's one of my favorite interpretations. At least as far as the main series art goes (ignoring the baffling lizard versions), Carbuncle has been surprisingly resilient in his basic appearance despite variations, leaning somewhere between a rabbit and a fox, and even in his most extreme variations looks for the most part like a creature that could exist. This new dog-thing just doesn't, or rather it prompts the reaction of "what is wrong with this poor animal." Chocobo Chick has this weird vibe of looking too human, with prominent sclera unlike the adult form and forward-facing eyes like a predator species and what appears to be eyelashes. The proportions are a bit more excusable assuming a large chunk of it is feathers, but it still looks weird. I have a feeling both of these bobble-head designs are to give extra mass so they don't get lost on the screen, but I would much rather have had both of them more proportional. The thing is we were warned about this with the 2D art in the pre-order bonus announcement and everyone slept on it, myself included, so there's no changing it now. I think a lot of people chalked it up to being stylized and in the 2D art it is kinda cute, but that cuteness did not translate to 3D.

Also, while I can't directly say I called Chocobo Chick being a magical attacker, I will say it was the obvious choice to make it a magical something to differentiate it from Chocobo & Moogle.

Yoink!Edit

A later info release says we're getting the Enemy Skill Materia in here and 1) the fact it's still Enemy Skill and not Blue Magic is actually really cool, and 2) it makes me wonder how useful it is or isn't going to be, because the only thing I can think of is if the Sweeper enemies give you Matra Magic, which, uh, I mean it's a spell that remains useful for a large chunk of the original, and ranks among one of my favorite spells for the FF7 version specifically, but I don't want a whole game taunting me with literally one spell in the thing. Like Flamethrower would also be an appropriate one if they gave it to a Sweeper, and Laser if they reassigned it to one of the Laser enemies, and Frog Song is probably already in, and maybe L4 Suicide, Chocobuckle by extension, and Magic Hammer? Depending on how they rearrange the enemies? Goblin Punch if they want to skip out on Goblin Island? Frankly, I could see Goblins, as the miniature gang-bangers with boxing gloves that they are in FF7, being surprisingly at home in Midgar. I mean, they wear beanies, sleeveless tees, vests, shorts, Velcro™ high tops, and gold earrings, and you can't get much more urban than that. The boxing gloves are just icing. I have no idea why something like that would be chilling on an island in the middle of nowhere and frankly Goblin Punch isn't that amazing unless you get to take advantage of the same-level 8x bonus anyway. They should be pummeling kids for their lunch money, not being air-dropped the fashion run that shrunk in the wash.


Is it really you?Edit

I can't come up with anything better than the trailer itself for this. In a word, no, but at least he's not another hallucination. While everyone can see him and he can cut a bridge, he also disappears in a glowing purple-pink orb right before the Jenova boss battle, which you can see briefly in the trailer. So we know it's a manifestation.

It also means Cloud takes not one, but two dives off a catwalk, but Cloud's ridiculous resilience seems to be intact. Again, I'd like them to maybe even do a lampshade hanging on that, because he definitely has the power of plot, but to be honest, it really doesn't feel that way so much as an unexplored item of interest as to why he's so resilient and frankly why he's so powerful. We see he's able to go toe-to-toe with Sephy already and his only failure was giving up the leverage of the ground so Sephy could throw him, though this seems very calculated on Sephy's part. Cloud otherwise feels like he's on very equal terms in that clash of swords, as he doesn't buckle any more than Sephy does. If his feet were on the ground, he'd probably do pretty well. This is something of a recurring pattern, actually. In Advent Children, he doesn't get impaled until he makes the mistake of attacking from the air, and in the original, when he's skewered, once he gets his feet on the ground, he outright lifts and throws Sephy. Cloud needs to learn to keep his feet planted, is what I'm saying, because Sephy obviously knows this.


Float like a butterfly; sting like a HoneybeeEdit

The amount of time dedicated to the cross-dressing section is quite impressive. Much more than I'd ever have expected. It's also been completely redone and the dialogue attached to it tells me they've not only recognized the old one has not aged well as they've stated, but that they've found a much more progressive way of approaching it. Obviously turning it into a stage show with some very flamboyant NPCs sends a bit of a mixed message, but more or less saying true beauty lies in confidence regardless of gender is something I've been saying for years. Seriously, this is so important, especially for young women, and I hope I get my stuff out there someday to offer some good role models for this, but confidence is the best accessory you can wear. This line is rare in itself because marketing is all about presenting you with a problem you didn't know you had and offering a convenient solution for a nominal fee. In this case, while Cloud is being slathered in makeup, he's also being told it's the smallest part of what's going on. It's an anti-commercial for cosmetics promoting anti-toxic masculinity ideals and imploring the viewer to take a fresh look on gender as a whole. Square doing this now shows a type of bravery rarely found in a corporate product, especially because we're in a period of conservative backlash in many places around the world. I see a LOT of women and LGBT+ being attracted to buying the game by the focus on this sequence and its positive message.

Ultimately, I hope people find this segment empowering, of all genders. This segment has been turned from one of cheap laughs at the expense of LGBT+ to something beautiful, even if it is masked by an overdone production.

Also, the attention to detail in just this segment is amazing. One of the brushes ends in a twisted bit culminating in a stylized paintbrush tip, which isn't exactly the first thing you download from the Unity asset store. Someone had a great idea for a brush handle and then somebody went and modeled that thing and then somebody animated it into the scene and then it got into the trailer, which had to have gone through at least one exec. This isn't something that comes without thought. It might not have gone through committee and been debated to death, but at least three people had to have approved of it for it to get out there where we could see it, because if there had been an issue, they would have switched out the model. Sometimes beautiful things like this can come from seemingly nowhere, because I guarantee exactly no one was assigned to drawing up the beauty products for this one scene and presenting it in a PowerPoint, but somewhere, at least one person cried tears of joy that their idea ended up being seen by millions before the game was even out.

There's just so much to like here.

Apparently, the proprietor and main performer is also a man of influence and he's going to be one of a small number of people who can probably get you into Don Corneo's lair. That's definitely going to be interesting. Also, interestingly enough, the performance piece is a much more important aspect now. It's still a questionable establishment (and much more explicitly so now per developer comments), but it actually brings much more to mind the geisha, who were entertainers, not simple sex workers. Geisha are an interesting topic. Sex was definitely part of the work, but entertainment, ceremony, and other duties also were equally important. Geisha included men as well as women - Japan has very different views on sexuality than the US and Europe - and this was not seen as a bad thing, even for a married man, to partake in. You also were a patron of a specific geisha. This was not a whore house situation. In fact, when a man died, the geisha would help with funerary preparations as part of their duties. There really isn't an equivalent in American culture, though Europe had similar, though markedly distinct, positions, such as a knight chevalier for a well-off woman, who was considered to not be a real threat to her husband (and in fact was often gay, but being threatened by him even if he was straight was seen as a pretty grave sign of weakness). Basically, a lot of cultures have a means of getting extramarital hanky-panky in a structured, socially acceptable manner, and it's a fascinating subject if you want to dive in. Anyway, the new version of the Honeybee Inn seems a lot more like geisha than anything else at this point, which is an interesting, and in my opinion welcome, update, since it balances the more sexual implications of the place with legitimacy.


Kicking you in the ShinraEdit

We also got the reveal for a number of Shinra execs. This looks to provide an early look into Reeve's better nature among the execs, which of course becomes important later. Palmer sounds exactly as I've heard him in my head for 20 years and we'll be seeing more of him later, but that tea is some pretty good foreshadowing for later games. Scarlet using military personnel as a footrest while doing what appears to be Materia fusion says a lot about her and to be honest, I think while all of them are strong clips to show the personalities of each exec for our introductions to them, boiling them down to their essences, the framing and physicality of hers easily sets it apart from the rest. I know it's not going to be as impactful in-game without the new theme running over it and sandwiched between stuff that's far less important, but as trailer clip material, it's absolutely prime. This is a woman who not only is NOT going to be bothered by a meeting reminder doing something that doesn't even appear that important; she's literally got those she considers beneath her under her heel. And the thing is, it's totally on-brand for her. In the original, she has very little use for the grunts and their lack of shooting accuracy. While making them kneel on their hands and knees to use as furniture is well across the border of abuse of power, this is Shinra we're talking about here. It's kind of their thing. Of the top execs, the only one with a shred of humanity is Reeve. The others all more or less represent the incarnation of at least one deadly sin. Scarlet is obviously a woman to be feared, or else it's highly unlikely a soldier would have ended up in that position.


Hojo also seems to have greatly expanded monitoring and while there was plenty of that on the science floor, this doesn't appear to be a public area. Which means it could actually be in Deepground, if you think about it. He's the only exec who probably has regular interactions with the place because of the experiments, despite President Shinra, Heidegger, and Scarlet all being involved with or at least aware of it. That would be an interesting wrinkle to introduce, but something tells me they probably won't given its place in canon (though Square did file a new copyright for DoC). Still, having a private monitoring room to himself implies a greater role in monitoring his experiments, rather than only being portrayed as taking the personal lead in performing them. Having cameras in this specific chamber makes sense as part of his duties, but knowing to look there implies he's got wider monitoring access than just the science facilities. All things considered, this could set him up to be even more the man behind the curtain than he was before.

In fact, looking at his monitors, science areas appear to comprise maybe only a couple of them. There's one that looks very much like where the party fights Sweeper enemies in a gameplay segment of the trailer, a couple appear to depict corridors, and others depict what appear to be the rail line, maintenance areas, and one that could very well be an outside shot of a highway above his head. The bottom row seems to be experimental results. It's far more than a science officer would normally have, but nothing is normal with the top brass at Shinra. In fact, other than Reeve, who's regularly kept out of the loop as the only one whose job involves making life better for people (urban development), and Palmer, who's head of effectively nothing with the space program defunct, the Shinra execs wield nigh-absolute power with impunity, Rufus doing so for the periods he's not under house arrest (which probably includes most of the Midgar segment for those counting). Hojo either having or hacking a wider access to the security streams for his own personal use is a pittance in the grand scheme of his daily operations, but fits so well with his vaingloriousness and eventual outright megalomania, plus Narcissism, sociopathy- I mean, if you threw a DSM at him, it would probably fall open on a page with his name on it. Even Sephiroth describes him as a walking mass of complexes (and not half the scientist Gast was) before Sephiroth starts taking pages. Regardless, having unfettered access to security footage so he can observe his greatest experiment along with a whopping 4 others as they run around (or, chill in one place, I guess) is so on-brand for him the scene is the absolute perfect introduction, as it was for the other execs, except Heidegger, really.


Actually, can we sidetrack on that just a sec? Heidegger has been really done dirty by how little attention he's gotten and just how little he's been able to emote so far. Literally, his original incarnation is Evil Brian Blessed and he's constantly berating and assaulting subordinates and the most we've seen of any of that persona is in the brief hologram segment of a previous trailer. This calm, collected version of him as President Shinra's right-hand sycophant is completely underwhelming. He's the first of the execs we see, and yet where everyone else has gotten a significant highlight, he just hasn't. This could speak to a marked difference in that he presents himself more respectably until the mask cracks in his excitement, but the execs - and Heidegger, Scarlet, and Rufus in particular - do a lot of infighting. Scarlet blowing off a meeting summons shows hints of that. Both Scarlet and Heidegger got to where they are by being brutal rather than necessarily effective (Heidegger in previous canon was such a disastrous tactician he almost blew up Junon), but we've seen very little of that from him so far. In fact, we have yet to really see him away from his boss. I have a feeling this change to his character goes hand-in-hand with his shorn beard (where his beard previously could have been compared to Guan Yu's, his new beard looks in line with its depiction in Before Crisis), and his boisterous personality seems to be hidden behind a need to kiss ass that wasn't there before. I hope this is ultimately because they didn't want to give us Heidegger overload seeing as he's appeared before, but his is the only personality that hasn't gotten a proper highlight, unless the shared spotlight with Reeve is supposed to reinforce the upending of his persona.


Rufus has yet to appear, but then we haven't seen President Shinra dead yet, either, despite Sephy appearing in his office. This also could be some censorship to avoid raising the age rating of the commercials, but Rufus is probably not going to get much spotlight in the game regardless given he's going to be in it for like three seconds at the end. As much as he has a fanbase (believe me, he has a fanbase), he's essentially a spoiler to show at all.


She doesn't GO there!Edit

There are plenty of other changes to the events of the Midgar segment, not the least of which is the Jenova battle. But other than Sephy appearing in the flesh, Cloud being there for the Heli Gunner battle, and Jenova being a fight in Shinra HQ, there are other things rearranged.

Sneaky Snake!Edit

For one, I never would have expected Leviathan to make an appearance in this game. My guess was Ramuh. That has some pretty hefty repercussions for Wutai, where Leviathan is considered sacred in all the canon so far. Granted, it's not a direct reward for anything and does require additional work to get, but uncoupling it from that area has profound lore ramifications, unless they get around it by Yuffie stealing it specifically as an artifact stolen by Shinra during the war, which could add an interesting wrinkle to her motivations.

No, seriously, why does everyone keep calling me Mother?Edit

For two, Aerith seems to already know what Jenova is, which removes basically the only story importance of Icicle Inn, where you got that info from Ifalna via recordings. It still could reveal a bit about Aerith, but her knowing about that stuff, while it makes sense, puts things drastically out of order for that specific bit of info. For most of the original, you were fighting Jenova, but you didn't know why. Cloud knew Sephy thought he was a Cetra, but he didn't know until much later just how wrong that was. For that matter, Aerith attributing everything to Jenova is misleading, though it's understandable why she'd fully believe that from her perspective. Hojo is still the cause of almost all the world's problems one way or another, but at the same time, new players probably won't know that and it gives a convenient enemy that doesn't have to survive the game. From her likely point of view, Hojo is a problem, but he's not the problem that single-handedly wiped out most of her species. In his own way, he does end up trying to preserve her species, as unpleasant as his methods are.

Side note: Cloud's line acknowledging Aerith as the last Cetra could imply less mystery concerning Sephy's own heritage for the party, though probably not Sephy himself, as it's his primary reason for going crazy and provides the background for his motivation to destroy all life and become a god. In the original, Cloud already knows Sephy thinks he's a Cetra before the game begins, and President Shinra reinforces that. Aerith and Cloud seem to be sharing notes much earlier in this one, so the mystery of Sephy's potentially being Cetra seems to be answered much earlier than before. Specifically, the question of whether Jenova is a Cetra seems to be answered much earlier and the rest cascades from there, but this doesn't effectively change anything because Sephy isn't going to just take the party's word for it. If Sephy DOES know, then that completely upends everything we know about him from prior canon.

Jenova's tank also appears in a radically different spot than before, lending a strong parallel to the original one in the Nibelheim reactor, as well as a parallel of Sephy throwing Cloud down the hole, though this doesn't appear to be a reactor itself and the implication is there's no Mako at the bottom. As you may recall, the original had Jenova's headless body in the middle of a densely populated lab floor with no particular care given to it. Here, whether the head is still there is intentionally obscured by the camera cutting away just as it gets to what should be the empty top of the neck, but assuming her long hair was left intact and judging by the couple bits of what appears to be reflected light from the empty edge before it cuts away, I'm going to say it's probably not and they censored it for the trailer, because nothing says "TV ready" like a woman with a slew of wires and tubes hanging out and also she's decapitated, bring your kids.

For that matter, Jenova being so hidden away despite being instrumental in creating SOLDIER operatives implies a much more guarded existence than the original game, where it was probably seen as little more than a novelty in a jar by staff with access to that floor and hiding in plain sight. With Sephy's reveal changed, one has to wonder about the segment after the team's capture, or if it even still happens. I wouldn't be surprised if it doesn't, since Sephy seems antagonistic right out the gate, and his surprisingly cordial interactions with Cloud probably aren't happening in this one. Where the party originally found President Shinra dead by following a blood trail up to the top floor, and Sephy being evil was explained in Kalm, one has to wonder if President Shinra might actually survive the game, since we haven't seen Rufus yet. Regardless, Jenova is being held with much higher reverence and secrecy in this one and while that seems like a subtle change, it actually offers some major logistical differences. We can see Red's tail briefly far behind the others as Cloud rushes Sephy, which means this could be AFTER Sephy releases them, or it could be the direct reason they're caught in the first place, given Cloud leaves the rest of them up there with Sephy, which means Sephy probably waltzes right past them with Jenova in hand, probably setting off every alarm in the building and leaving Cloud to figure out how to escape from a maintenance area, or otherwise trapped there to be scooped up. Regardless, he probably ends up running interference and allowing them to escape one way or another.

I'll see you in Helipad!Edit

The Heli Gunner battle seems to happen under very different circumstances than in the original. For one, the only person present here who fought the original battle is Barret. Both Tifa and Cloud were otherwise occupied. In this one, it's Cloud, Barret, and Tifa, with neither Aerith nor Red in sight. It's also not on the broken elevators, which, please, please let that still happen. It was one of the more impressive setpiece battles of the entire GAME much less Midgar, with the fine touch of being introduced by the glass being shot out. You can't tell me that that wouldn't be an amazing use of the PS4 hardware. Even back in the day, as simple and quick as the effect was, it was impactful. Having actual rendered glass to get shot out, with elevators that go nearly 100 stories, leaves the implication of MASSIVE collateral damage, even if almost none of it gets shown. Can you imagine how high all that would pile up? Just twin mounds of shattered glass at the bottom. And assuming the team is left at least mostly intact, allowing for Tifa to join in the battle rather than sit and do nothing waiting for Cloud given Red is a non-playable guest, can you imagine their individual reactions to it? Barret using his large frame to shield the others? Aerith covering her head with her hands? Tifa shielding her face with an arm? Red shaking shattered glass out of his fur? Anyway, Hundred Gunner has been shown, and Heli Gunner has been shown, but neither of them have been shown in that context, and I still think it would be an amazing setpiece for the end of the game. Even if they do leave Tifa to wait for Cloud, you'd be left with a team of two ranged attackers and one who probably isn't about to let you steal his Materia. It would work just fine. Maybe even better assuming you wouldn't have Tifa acting as dead weight with no Materia, unless she and Red were able to jump across and focus on back attacks. The prospect of being left vulnerable with limited mobility and no cover could make it a hectic battle of dodging and healing.

I just really want that battle to still happen, y'all.

That's not to say the fight being shown looks bad. It's just a very different kind of fight: the multi-part flying enemy battle. You know, that one where you fight the enemy, and then it flies off out of range and pelts you from afar while you need to pelt it with ranged weapons and magic, and then you get to finish it off using your best toys, often as a three-part battle, but also subject to enemy A.I. for shorter looped examples. This thing is a science, yo. Really, to the point I'm not sure why it doesn't have its own TV Tropes page (I looked!). The entire setup is a calculated form of asymmetry. You're started off in a standard engagement, but then the switch happens and your limitations force you to use specific tactics. But then you get to finish things up with your full arsenal for a satisfying conclusion. We see this with the Scorpion Sentinel battle as well, though that's partially to tutorialize you on your team's individual abilities and involves a whole slew of other tactics that will individually become important later. But the multi-part flying enemy battle is and always will be a formula that exists to create challenge while counterbalancing the frustration inherent to the game changing the rules on you to do it. When done right, it can provide meaningful variety by giving you tools to handle it and ensuring that you've built adequate skill beforehand, and the battle is balanced so the ranged phase doesn't overstay its welcome. In these cases the challenge of forcing you to change your tactics is a feature. They can be really fun! Even a breath of fresh air! But when done poorly, it can be incredibly frustrating: it might take away what many consider their best toys, or the enemy becomes annoyingly difficult to take down due to erratic patterns or too much health, or the player just isn't adequately prepared to deal with the change in rules, and the end result is widely seen as cheating and/or fake difficulty. You really, really have to know what you're doing to make these work, especially in an action game. In this case, giving Cloud some sort of gun, whatever kind it might be, appears to be a balancing factor to ensure the player is equipped to handle the ranged portion. Given the expectations for the game and it making it into the trailer, I'm sure S-E is confident they've gotten it right. That said, your mileage may vary.


Wutaia? I barely even know 'a!Edit

This is something I completely missed in the hologram segment from a previous trailer, but it gets brought up here again, and that's a mention of Wutai. It finally clicked for me that Shinra is blaming Avalanche on Wutai, possibly as an excuse for another war. Having Leviathan summoned right around this segment is likely no accident. This really brings Heidegger's words, "you still don't understand your role in this," into chilling focus, because in that hologram segment, Shinra refers to Wutai as "Wicked Wutai, our sworn enemy," and declares Avalanche Wutai's allies. I mean it was right there, the most Trumpian line this game has to offer, but I wasn't really able to easily make it out at the time. And I mean, no, seriously, Trump talks exactly like that. Who says games aren't political? There's no conclusion OTHER than that Shinra is going to leverage the attacks to ignite a new war out of this, and Square wouldn't have put another reference to it in the latest trailer if it wasn't going to be a significant plot point, especially given it's unrelated to anything else going on at the time except Leviathan, and the line clearly isn't appropriate for the battle at hand because it makes no sense for Barret to be directly addressing a machine that way. This represents a HUGE departure from how the original treated them. Shinra considered them rats, which is language he still uses here, but this time around he's maneuvering them as political pawns in the process of destroying them rather than simply treating them as an internal problem.

This raises the question of the status of Wutai itself, since in the original it was economically devastated and spiritually a husk, with the kindest thing you could say being it's become a tourist trap with next to no tourists despite aggressive marketing. Yuffie was stealing Materia in a misguided attempt to give them something to sell again and Godo seemed totally on board with that. Like, sorry, the party may be packing at that point, but it's not enough to support a national economy. If the remake is going to set them up as a viable threat, there are only a few possibilities: 1) Wutai still has something Shinra wants, even if it's just to throw a reactor there; 2) Wutai is actually prosperous without Shinra and could be a legitimate threat; 3) the entire thing is just for show and there's no serious plan for Wutai outside of the optics of denying grassroots resistance; or 4) Wutai is just as broken and cowed as in the original and Shinra is looking to do a genocide for the heck of it, which, I mean, it's Shinra.


IT DEMO-LICIOUS YOUR EXPECTATIONS!Edit

Y'all, I was looking at posting this and then Square had to go and freaking drop an hour-long demo yesterday (3/2/2020). (And more info even after this, which I threw in updates in the relevant sections because OMG, SQUARE, LET ME RELEASE MY THING!)

Also I bought 10 candy bars today (3/3/2020) at precisely 11:02 CDT. I regret nothing. ONE OF 25K, BABY! Also Butterfingers are in my top 5. Maybe not my #1, but still one of my faves.

I tried the demo yesterday when I got home and got... nowhere. I was not in a good headspace, so I tried again today and got to what's probably toward the end (just before the Scorpion Sentinel battle).

UPDATE: Day 3 is a charm, I guess.

A new beginningEdit

First off, they seem to have cut out the vague tour through the stars from the intro, which, I mean, fair, but it makes the transition to Aerith feel a little abrupt and takes out a lot of mystery. I guess this is because this in itself is actually abridged from a new opening following a flying bird through the Midgar barrens and Midgar itself, which I've been trying to avoid to keep SOMETHING from being spoiled for me on release. The shift of the scene using cyan rather than green for the Mako leaking out of the pipe gives a slightly different vibe. Green and cyan both are shorthand for future dystopia, but cyan is usually used for the "clean" type of future dystopia, where green is the "crappy" future dystopia (which was why it was so important a color in the original). Green is a very rare ambient light color in nature and immediately lets you know something is wrong, where cyan is a more calming color as one of clear skies and caters to night vision, where the light-sensitive rod cells in our eyes respond very well to wavelengths between green and blue. It's not a pure cyan, but it's not quite spring green, either, which would have been a good compromise regardless. Ironically, Barret claims the Planet "bleeds green" and green is very heavily associated with the Lifestream in the original, making the choice of this turquoise color a little strange, though consistent with the inconsistencies of the original, if that makes sense. I would rather it have been green, or green-er, but I understand the art department had a choice to make and I understand that choice played into softening the image of this scene.

The scene also quickly sets a stressful vibe, because Aerith hears something offscreen that coincides with some choral music, and might actually be this choral music, causing her to panic and leave, leading me to believe it's associated with Sephy and/or those new ghost things. Nothing else is audible, blurring the line between ambient noise and BGM, but the vocals don't stop as she gets to the street, making it questionable if it's stopped pulling that duty during the cut. Why running into a crowded area to escape whatever she hears seems like a good idea is anyone's guess, but it shows immediately Midgar is a cold, heartless city as she clips a guy who looks back at her like she's an asshole without a word from either of them and a guy steps on a flower she's trying to recollect while carrying a box even as the one woman to notice her walks around, everyone oblivious or uncaring to a pretty girl trying to pick up something that by all accounts doesn't grow within a several mile radius of the city, much less within its borders. It's city life cranked up to 11. I've lived in large cities and rural small towns both, and let me tell you, there is nowhere I've been where a scene like that wouldn't at least earn a few glances and a wider berth.

This is a far cry from the original, where the tour of the stars makes you question what's going on before it gives way to Aerith's face to the tune of mysterious music, and then she calmly walks out before the huge reveal of the city for the crescendo. From a pure emotional impact standpoint, the original is shorter, sweeter, and does everything it needs to, where the new one outstays its welcome a bit, having to loop a couple bars of the music a few extra times while it takes more time to pan out further than it needs to for no real reason, with a mid-pan lurch into a speed change no less, and sacrificing a lot of the anticipation and reveal structure the original did so well. The new one was clearly made with the expectation that everyone already knows these characters and is going to have a stronger response to seeing Aerith emote than to any sense of mystery. Which is true to an extent, but the goal was to make a game for those who hadn't played the original as well as those who had. This is the same problem FF13 had where it took an ability to appreciate in retrospect for the first few hours. I'm not saying it should have been a shot-for-shot remake, but it took an intro that evoked mystery and wonder and changed it to evoke fear and misery. I don't consider that an upgrade.

The city and Shinra HQ have some interesting details, with Shinra HQ sporting what looks like an outdoor helipad of some sort held aloft by an arm off the building. It has an array of what may be storage containers of some sort around the top, but it doesn't look like a particularly practical or well-thought space. I quite like it for that reason. Sometimes people just make baffling design decisions or things get added on later that weren't intended and disorganization clutters up a space. I think a simple helipad would have been interesting, but this space and its odd design, sprawled far out on an interestingly-shaped arm, inconveniently far from the building, cluttered with ugly, irregular structures, is so much MORE interesting because of all the questions it raises. I want to VISIT this place to see what the heck is going on, even if it would be the worst tactical position to be in. So much of it looks carefully thought out and artfully designed and then it's marred by clutter, and I think that's wonderful!

Ain't no gettin' off this train 'till the end of the line!Edit

Another issue from FF13 repeated here is it just drags too long without a stopping point. FF13's opening was a huge, sprawling, tiring marathon as I noted previously on this wiki. The same applies to this intro. I stopped before the Scorpion Sentinel because I figured it was close to the end and I was just dragging from it. I didn't want to initiate something that would take another several minutes.

It also gets a little silly with your objective markers, with Barret becoming one after Cloud makes an ass of himself to Wedge. This is done purely for the purpose of including the scene where Barret pushes Cloud out of the way and could have just as easily been made optional. This is what we call "railroading" and while linearity isn't necessarily a bad thing, this tidbit just feels unnecessary and would have felt more organic if they'd simply strung it from the other scene, repositioning it so Barret pushed past Cloud to get through the door. Fans would have appreciated it being kept and changed probably more than having to go down a hallway specifically to see it to advance.

This railroading doesn't stop. Later, there's a section of catwalk that Jessie tries to stop you from walking to in favor of a ladder nearby. In fact, defying this order throws a danger icon over you and forces you to walk. I looked to the end and saw nothing to warrant this, but no chest or boxes, either, so I turned back. I have a feeling this is a way you're supposed to circle back to somehow, but there wasn't any apparent ladder, either. I was very tempted to explore it and see what happens out of spite, since there seems to be zero information on this online. The end result, for the record, is it actually stops you and forces Cloud to turn back, but there is definitely a ladder there and having played through the rest, I honestly don't think it's one you get to visit. Maybe they did it as a quick fix to that area being unfinished, but an invisible wall would have been easier, though it wouldn't have demonstrated the danger of going off script. I really, seriously, do not know what the purpose of all of this is.

We've met beforeEdit

That said, there's a lot to love. Wedge's voice is massively improved and I like that he has a slight accent, and it's obviously the same voice actor. The trailer lines were obvious trailer lines, but I'm glad this re-recorded footage sounds as good as it does. It's also a bit funny to hear Biggs sounding a bit more like Balthier (same VA), which probably means these lines will be refined again later based on his comments it was refreshing to play an American and side character rather than a leading man (which, to be fair, got a chuckle out of me to read). It's frankly surprising how much of the trailer footage is from this segment alone.

I also did some reading and found out that blast of steam is where it switches from pre-rendered to in-game graphics. I honestly couldn't tell the difference on a 1080p screen, or at least not on my PlayStation 3D Display, which is what I use for nearly all my gaming that isn't on CRT. It's only 24 inches, but I honestly don't see that as a problem since it's sufficient for everything I do, and is enough that if there's a problem, I see it. Maybe there was a slight difference in the super-fine details of Cloud's hair transparency, but overall the graphical quality is high enough that short of the hand animation apparent in Cloud's hair atop the train, it's easier to argue the pre-rendered scene as a larger space savings than quality concern. The game is gorgeous either way, though I do have to note the buildings looked a little rough on the big pan-out, which I had chalked up to them being in-engine. They probably won't fix that, but seeing as it's a one-time deal per save file, it's not the worst thing.

A souped-up ClassicEdit

Out of that reading, in Punisher Mode, if you hold down the attack button, Cloud will actually enter a Berserk state of some sort where his attacks are more damaging, but his defense lowers. I saw no real reason not to abuse this, and nothing tells you this in the demo. You'll know if he's in it because he'll spark with red lightning.

I'm also really glad to finally see Classic Mode in action and it's something I didn't expect at all, but far better than anything I came up with. You can take direct control at any time and it's the same difficulty as Easy, which means that, yes, it will finish out battles for you, but only if you let it. Like with FF13, the A.I. does not make optimal choices, so while it can handle the whole thing for you, it's better that it doesn't. Playing tired, I found myself letting it do its thing a lot and giving my own input when that wasn't working. I still had agency and could do whatever I wanted without worry. The fluidity of how it works is really amazing. You stop playing, it takes over, giving a respectful grace period that doesn't quite break the flow. You start hitting buttons and it responds immediately. They really nailed it.

Weathering the elementsEdit

Speaking of lightning, it's actually really cool how magic works now. Fire is a fireball that has to travel, but Thunder effectively arcs from nowhere in particular above and cannot be dodged. Giving Fire to Cloud and Thunder and Cure to Barret changes things up significantly. Not the least of which because it means the Materia tutorial where Barret admits he doesn't know how to use Materia is gone, and any form of Ice magic is going to have to wait, where before it was Fire and Cure magic you didn't get until later. These seem like superfluous changes, but it really does matter, since using Fire to take out the Scorpion Sentinel's Barrier generator right away makes life a lot easier, where Thunder may or may not have that same precision. I'm really wondering whether Blizzard will be a shotgun effect like in Kingdom Hearts, or maybe have a small AoE as a flurry. Blizzard isn't even one of my favorite spells and I'm excited to see what it'll be! And also ready to be disappointed in the likely event it continues to not be one of my favorite spells. I'm sorry, but Square, if you're reading this, please consider making it a flurry bomb of some sort, especially after the PITA the fixed distance was in Explorers for the single-hit area freeze. It's a BLIZZARD! If you've never seen one, just imagine a really bad rainstorm only it's super cold and the rain will literally cut you. Reference Grandia 2 for the Howl spell to give a general idea of how it feels to be in one. It hurts, and it by no means hurts once and is then mercifully over.

I came in like a wrecking ballEdit

The dialog is also great, with Cloud forgetting his own age, and, I mean, mood. Barret going in for the kill on that and having fun with him was a great hint of humanity as well as Barret asserting his dominance. Barret does a lot of that through physical means, breaking Cloud and Jessie up when she starts asking Cloud about himself, as well as the shoulder check from the first trailer. Jessie goes so far as to ask Cloud to play nice for now.

Something interesting to note is Barret's shades actually seem to change opacity between at least three different levels depending on what the player is supposed to be getting from him. Sometimes they're pure black, sometimes you can see his eyes easily, and sometimes they're somewhere in between. It's an interesting expressive note.

We also get to see that Shinra has been properly alerted to the infiltration and the president himself is shown a screen with the party in crosshairs. A subtle reference is made to the previous incarnation of Avalanche for those paying attention, with Heidegger saying they still don't know if the party is related to a group who made an attempt on the president's life. For those who know Before Crisis, this is probably in reference to the unrelated Avalanche that serve as that game's antagonist organization.

I also find it nothing short of hilarious that the others totally throw Cloud to the wolves at every turn, letting him bumble into the broad open spaces and attract the attention of the enemies only to not only sneak through the opening, but shout back words of encouragement as if that wouldn't immediately tip the enemy off that the real threat is escaping. And yet it totally doesn't! Biggs at one point blocks you from going through a hole in a fence so the enemies are forced to deal with Cloud while the others go ahead. This is equal parts stealth mission and going in guns blazing. At no point is Avalanche discreet. They just have Cloud as the hired meat and leave him to deal with the problems. It's absolutely no wonder Shinra have them on cam, and yet the only reason for this is treated as the alarms having been pulled when Cloud is the FIRST to go through the door, taking care of enemies that simply aren't avoidable, and Barret calls it a MISTAKE! Guys, this hits like every button! Avalanche is in no way prepared to destroy this reactor by any means but force! Cloud being the only professional in this makes it even better because the whole plan hinges on him bumbling into every trap like he's the target! The entire segment is at his expense, and frankly, ass that he is to everyone, you have to wonder if it's not a chicken/egg problem. Here he is trying to be cool and professional and he's basically the butt of the whole operation, with Wedge being the only one being nice to him, at least at first. If there was any doubt the game would still have its lighthearted moments, this opening assuaged it.

One final thing I like is that, while bodies are not persistent (the only ones that are are the ones the crew knock out, i.e. not dead), the fadeout is enhanced by a Lifestream effect. Organic beings plain fading would have been sufficient, but taking it just that bit extra is a beautiful detail. I'd much rather it not be applied to machine enemies, but, hey, maybe it'll be a patch later. FF7 had a surprising number of custom death animations and given all the work they're already putting in, I'm not going to complain too hard about a detail they could differentiate later, especially when it's such a nice touch to add in the first place.

Also, the Guard Hound enemies look amazing and very true to the original art, which I had been worried about due to their questionable previous redesigns, and actually serve as the tougher enemies in the area, which I think is a great setup for later variations. In the original, they were nothing to write home about and I always felt they were a bit of a waste given they had zero time to leave an impression. Here they're memorable, they make sense in the context of the area by being sicced on you by a handler, and they're given an actual function apart from the cannon fodder. This gives them a good deal of impact that they desperately needed.

Looking a gift horse in the mouthEdit

One thing I do take issue with is the Mako Shards found in Shinra crates are red, which defies everything I know about Mako. On one hand, Deepground was lit, in part, by red light, so it could be that this is corrupted Mako, but the question is why they would introduce this in this way. In contrast, rare items seem to be green and normal items seem to be blue. I would much rather have had rare items be red and Mako Shards be green. Don't get me wrong, I like the tutorial level giving you Potions and MP refills regularly. It's also nice you don't have to walk over them to pick them up, though that was my first instinct.

Another thing I took issue with is all the places you can't go. At one point there are visibly accessible concrete outcroppings with no fences and I immediately recognized them as the perfect subtle long hallway to hide a chest in. Only they were blocked by invisible walls. You know some poor artist ended up crying bitter tears because they went through the effort of rendering a bunch of stuff no one will see. Or maybe it's not done being rendered yet here and they blocked it off for that reason, like the Episode Duscae demo. Either way, I would be a bit more forgiving if they'd thrown a bit of fence in front. Even just a low one like they already have set up right next to it. Some visual indication you can't just walk there.

Final issue: Shinra needing to intervene to blow the reactor sky-high is a detail I don't think was necessary. Jessie is shown to be capable of making an adequate explosive almost immediately after. That pathetic little "paff" the bomb gives has no good explanation, and the fact they need to throw a Sweeper and three Rays at everything to fuck things up adequately after the Scorpion by all accounts already fucked things up pretty adequately makes no sense. More time is spent showing the basic hardware damaging everything than is really necessary and the whole scene is really insulting in the way it de-legitimizes your efforts as the player. It would have been infinitely less insulting if all it took to set the bomb off was a well-placed laser shot, with the bomb having been damaged, so at least Jessie's work didn't look like crap. I have a feeling this is an "expansion" on Jessie's throwaway line that she's impressed her bomb made that big of an explosion and that she'd only - and I say this with utmost sincerity - followed the plans she'd downloaded off the Internet. Because 1997 was part of a time up to 2000 or so where this 1) was legitimately possible and 2) did not immediately get you added to 30 government watch lists. I probably got put on 10 of them just for typing this. This scene is SUPPOSED to feel like Shinra already has a plan for the party because of prior attacks, but the collateral damage involved strikes me as utterly unnecessary when Shinra could have easily spun the failure into a win. It also would have worked better if they'd been treated to a blinding explosion on their monitors and decided to spin it to their purposes. As it stands, there's every reason to see the party as a threat, having easily dispatched advanced war machines, and the bomb being a dud does nothing to diminish that threat in an appreciable manner. The only reason this scene exists is to show off how cartoonishly evil Shinra is off the bat, ending the lives of their own employees for no adequate reason since any number of alternate events would have allowed them to do very similar political maneuvering. The only thing I can think of this being NEEDED for as a gameplay note is to show the player the blood isn't actually on their hands, but the party doesn't know that and it doesn't actually change anything because the party FULLY INTENDED TO DO IT. It's a false dichotomy of morality. The fact they TRIED AND FAILED does not excuse the fact they TRIED. Look, the fact the party in the original leaves death in their wake and kills thousands is a very morally complex thing. It's leveraged against them at several points. The game brought it up when it was convenient, but Shinra had to be cartoonishly evil to give you the moral high ground. You were not doing good things. The remake has you attempting to still do those not good things. Maybe it's just my Catholic upbringing, but every bit of morality I know says intent is the key to wrongdoing. It would be entirely different if the party was admiring the new bomb Jessie had made for the local bomb-making art installation, and Barret sneezed and sent it flying, leading to a comical extended sequence where the party accidentally kicks it through the whole reactor, only for it to activate in the deepest depths of it, forcing everyone to escape, and blowing up thousands of workers, because that would have been an ACCIDENT. As cartoonishly convoluted as it would be in execution, the INTENT would not have been to blow up the reactor and end thousands of lives; it would have been a critically failed attempt to retrieve a piece of art. This is decidedly NOT what happens. They go through the entire place killing people with full intent to kill more as an ecoterrorist group. Their INTENT in this case is MASS MURDER and they take every step to consciously do it when any one of them could have second thoughts and decide it didn't seem like a good idea and turn around and leave. There is no point where what you as the player are facilitating does not align with this goal. The player can wash their hands of the DIRECT RESPONSIBILITY, but NOT the INTENT. I think this whole thing cheapens the point the original was trying to make, as well as your efforts as a player, and while I know this slots in neatly with what they're trying to do to build up another war with Wutai, there are just a number of ways it could have been executed better. As it stands, it's literally a case of, "Oh, poor baby can't commit an act of terrorism right. Here, let the nanny state take care of it for you." The most galling part of it is Shinra is almost assuredly FUNDING this effort since Jessie comments she knows a guy who can give her the codes, which in a corporate environment is something you do not do unless 1) you're a mole or 2) you're following orders. Or maybe 3) you hate your job so much you intentionally violate standard security practices for random people as a form of protest to stick it to the MAN, man! Which, to be fair, Mayor Domino totally does in the original. But the way she phrases it, she seems to think he's doing it out of the goodness of his heart, somehow, as a useful fool who intends to stay in that position, which leads me to lean toward item 2. Anyway, you as the player guide this process through literally every step up to and including the bomb detonating. Just because the resulting explosion was underwhelming does not mean that the player and cast did not follow through on every step to make happen what ultimately requires external intervention. This does not give the party the moral high ground first thing in the game like it's apparently supposed to. It just makes what Shinra does equally as evil, simply with a different driving motivation.

Anyway, I must say that that scene basically took a 3-tier cake, expertly decorated, and garnished it with a turd. The game could've done without it. Or could've at least done without such an insultingly extended sequence for it.

And of course after the montage, it takes you to a screen with a pre-order button, which, you know? I actually don't have a problem with. Really! They gave you a really good taste of the game and I think it's warranted. Like, "Hey, like what you see? Let's take out the hassle." If I hadn't already pre-ordered it, I would've used the button. Is it cynical? Absolutely. Is it galling? I really don't think so. S-E offered a demo that was literally the start of their actual bona fide game. This wasn't like Episode Duscae or Platinum Demo where things were still being refined for the final product or took a very different turn from the final product as something of a bonus chapter with different mechanics to show off the tech. This was it. Either you liked it, or you didn't. If you liked it, everyone knows their role in this transaction at this point and pulling out the barriers to a mutual agreement is not a bad thing. If you didn't like it, then you're not going to buy it anyway and can be as put off as you want. Literally nothing bad is going to come of it that wasn't already going to happen in an angry review somewhere. If you liked it, but know you don't have the money, hey, it'll be there if you change your mind. People (most people, anyway) are not going to take it as too bad an insult because they can't use the option to buy the thing they want right now. There is basically no situation outside of edge cases where someone is going to be like, "Well, I WAS going to buy it, but now I'm definitely not going to." And anyone with that attitude is going to forget it in a few weeks anyway when they see everyone else enjoying it. And anyone who doesn't was just looking for an excuse so they could loudly proclaim to the world how they're NOT BUYING IT, GUYS! LOOK AT ME NOT BUYING THE THING! I'M DIFFERENT AND SPECIAL! We're all children for this stuff. Some of us just a different type than others. Be the type who has a sense of joy and wonder in the world. Really all I can suggest for everyone's happiness, yours included.


Final thoughtsEdit

Bah-RamuhEdit

I just find it baffling that Ramuh hasn't been shown yet and I wonder if it's because he's still being gussied up a bit. Leviathan was a huge curve ball for me and strikes me as being there to drive home a plot point. Ramuh, on the other hand, is still one of the basic elemental summons in the original and I had to wonder if Midgar was really going to have Leviathan with the next installment already in progress or if they did it for the trailer, until an official render was revealed on Twitter. Something I did key in on is that it looks not only unfinished, but like they don't even have the correct assets in play. It's a pure white smoke and slag effect, not water. It also looks like an utter disappointment. There not being a bar left indicates what's being shown is actually Tsunami or maybe an older iteration of the interface and I just cannot accept that that's anywhere near the final version of the attack. Throwing all those glow effects on Leviathan also feels like they're hiding that it doesn't have a proper texture yet. If you look at Leviathan, even the inside of the mouth is dark blue and it's just too uniform in color on the full model for me to believe that that's finished, either, despite some purple being mixed into the close-up, which is likely a separate model entirely the way it moves without a real relation in 3D space to the rest. 3D animation cheats like that all the time, because it's all about what the camera sees, and if you want to show off a close-up, it's often just easier to make a close-up model for the exact purpose you need it for, like the high-res Jessie torso used in the original on the Midgar train. Smoke and mirrors is how all TV operates. Your choice of 2D or 3D just changes the tricks at your disposal. They wanted a close-up of it spiraling up in front of the camera, so they probably make a model with a rudimentary head and a repeatable segment for the body that they could de-spawn and re-spawn as needed to get the effect, threw that straight in front of the camera, and let fixed camera angles do the rest.

I'm not sure I really like Leviathan being in, and it seems clinched at this point. I know they're really driving the point home with the Wutai war plot point and it almost seems like too much effort is going into it for it to actually turn out, especially with how the original went. Unless Rufus decides to continue a new war after his father dies, or if his father actually gets things started before he kicks the bucket, I don't see this plot point going anywhere despite how much they're hyping it.

And actually, while I like the idea of lightning getting involved in something of a sea storm, it's also possible they mixed what they had for Leviathan's physical animation with Ramuh's particles so they had something exciting for the trailer.

Ramuh could very easily be a difficult character to animate because of his robes and beard and if Red is any indication, they could well be putting final touches on any number of details, like his crystal necklace. It's entirely possible he'll be cut because they can't finish him in time, especially with Red still undergoing work.

I have a feeling with the Final Fantasy Explorers version floating that they'll probably use that to solve making a frail old man mobile. I'd like to hope that they actually go with that design, but they almost certainly won't, as much as they seem to like it and include it in auxiliary properties. I actually quite like the design on its own merits, but it's very much an Explorers aesthetic, as the summons in that game are considered wild hazards of the crystal, whereas Ramuh often acts as a frontman for the summons because he's human-passing himself (FF15 was a notable departure from that). Having to resolve making him imposing always requires removing those humanizing traits, and while many games use weird spikes, white eyes, pointed ears, ashen skin, and even claw-like fingernails (which he has in FF7 FWIW, painted blue), Explorers needed to go the extra mile to make him look dangerous. That's not a Ramuh you expect to reason with, but he remains dignified in different ways, including his crescent moon shoulder pads and superhero-like arms. It's an extreme solution to the problem of limited resolution making subtler changes to his appearance less visible. Don't get me wrong, it's not like Shiva is wearing her pink bikini, either, but the broad strokes of that outfit and her gradient legs are intact, other than the pink now being blue. As much as I (and Square by all indications) love lion Ramuh, it's not his appearance in this game and I doubt they're making that drastic of a change.

Anyway, floating Ramuh almost for sure, if he makes the cut.

Evil designsEdit

Also on that subject, notably, they're doing something very specific with the designs: they're basing at least some of the redesigns on the in-game art rather than the concept art, or combining aspects of both. This is most obvious with Shiva, whose cross ribbons and lingerie are a far cry from the original art's sports bra and more akin to the bikini top of the in-game model, but whose new bikini bottom seems armored like the concept art. It also applies to Tifa's weaponry, where they honored the in-game model rather than the concept art for her Metal Knuckle by reinterpreting the charcoal in-game color as black gloves rather than the brown leather glove of the drawing.

And of course, the details are being embellished. Ifrit's leg warmer things are intact, but now have a pattern and open heels as well as toes, and his long arm hair has been replaced with bracers. His grass skirt thing has been replaced with a pretty fancy loincloth that's tattered in the back. His horns are also now gilded up to a certain point. He also has lost his chest hair. Actually, if anything, his new design is less bestial than his original one and he seems much more like an oni than a demon. It's a pretty big inversion given FF8 turned him outright into a lion and they've been juggling between variations on that design and his satyr demon design stemming from FF9 and Tactics for a while now, even in FF7 canon. FF7 itself was really the last one to use his original design, so having them actually tone that down is kind of surprising. One has to wonder if at least part of it is technical, since hair in general is a pain to animate and having any you can exclude helps. One also has to wonder if Square hasn't just grown an aversion to body hair on humanoid characters who don't strictly have fur. Barret has a small smattering of chest hair, and that's the most we've seen on anyone with skin in ages. Part of this, again, is technical, but another part is that unless a character's body hair is a defining trait (see: Wolverine from the X-Men), it's glossed over both because it's a technical pain and also because in many societies, people are rather averse to it, including societies like the US where it's prevalent. Barret having that little bit is exploratory for detail and maybe to show he's a bit manlier than most of the others, but Ifrit having straight tufts was probably deemed unnecessary to his design based on other similar depictions and while I can't say I fully agree, since it would have added a lot more interest to his rather threadbare chest area, it's true that FF7 was the first to have it, and the only one to have it on a design that wasn't furred. I just think with all the interest in his design, the cracks in his chest just aren't prominent enough to give it proper balance, and he looks strangely naked in the chest as a result, which is a pretty big accomplishment given this is a series where most summons regularly defy the technical definition of nudity and his other various designs feature banana hammocks or concealing fur tufts when he's not even wearing that.

Elemental, my dear WatsonEdit

I also really, as I mentioned, don't like Leviathan being a non-elemental summon. Even in a bubble, and especially not because of the implications it has for the other elements. Unless letting it chill on an altar in Wutai upgrades it, which to be fair could turn the pagoda into an upgrade quest, or maybe it gets different damage types based on the environment it's in, which would be pretty cool for once you're out in the world, or have a "true" Leviathan in Wutai, where the one you're given is a Shinra creation they effectively plant on the party, who use it for its power while blissfully unaware of its cultural significance, it just... doesn't work for me. Sorry, but it just doesn't. It's not a deal-breaker, but it does change something I believe was fundamental to the success of the systems that made FF7 as mechanically strong as it was.

Water as an element may not be particularly present compared to others in the game, but it's a powerful one worth considering, to the point that Jenova features resistance to it just in case. And trust me, with all the interesting attention Jenova was given in terms of damage types resisted and dealt, the devs knew what they were doing. When you look at what elements required some creativity to access, and which ones are put in jeopardy by the changes, Wind is easily on the chopping block because of the changes to how Summon Materia are slotted, and if both Wind and Water are down, then Gravity is probably next since it's ONLY an element in the Compilation, Holy is definitely out since all it has to its name is Alexander, then maybe Poison based on the last handful of numbered titles, and at that point you're looking at Earth really nervously despite it being an easily accessible basic magic and of especial note because of its relationship to flying enemies, but also because of the basic elemental magics, it's the upper tier, with Poison serving as a mid-tier element.

That wipes out most of them and sends us straight into Fire/Ice/Lightning territory, which I really, really do not want for a game that was definitive in its elemental system. Maybe Earth and Poison get a pass because they can make them mechanically interesting, especially with Earth from a physics and environmental destruction perspective. Heck, maybe Wind gets its own Materia because of what they established in FF13 with lifting enemies. It's not like it wasn't already associated with Stop because of Choco/Mog. But then if Blizzard is already associated with Slow and/or Stop, especially if it's a flurry, Wind is suddenly looking less special outside of its opposing importance against flying enemies. Wind Materia exists in the Compilation, so I can hope. Even if Wind doesn't make the cut, if Blizzard is truly a flurry and they adjust enemy weaknesses around that, I'd accept it, since Ice would essentially double as Wind and perform the same job of tossing flying enemies around helplessly.

Earth is the one that worries me most and really was important to FF7, and that's a rarity in the series, with most not bothering that much with it. Quake hasn't gone away, but the Stone line has taken up the mantle in at least one of the MMOs as the basic Earth spell and most games just don't treat it with that much importance. I'm really afraid that will end up the case here, and while Quake itself will probably be retained in some form, it being non-elemental and dancing around the elemental mechanics with custom logic is not really my cup of tea. I would much rather enemies just use the same elemental resistance system as anything else.

That's the real clincher for me. When you have a deep system, I'd rather see it built out than trimmed back. Most elements had plenty of uses in the original and while you had to work around your limited options in some cases to take advantage of them, I think it added to the depth of the game in a way that hadn't been done before and hasn't been done since FF8, and unlike FF8, FF7 made it available fairly early, opening up the elemental and status systems right at the end of the Midgar segment with the Elemental and Poison Materia. Wind is effective against enough enemies I'd like to see it stay, even though your main access for most of the game is via weapon attacks. Throwing Choco/Mog and Elemental on a ranged weapon was a good way to mitigate certain enemies and while it's unlikely that combo is possible anymore, Wind has good mechanical potential regardless. Water has more to do than people give it credit for, and while there's some overlap with Ice, Aqualung was one of the main reasons that Blue Magic ended up becoming my favorite, and that was BEFORE I learned you could Reflect it for three times the fun. Water being so hard to access and limited to a powerful Enemy Skill and a powerful summon gave it a certain privilege, and its overlap with Ice is one of the main reasons Ice magic just didn't impress me in the game. Holy has significantly less to do in the original, but I could see it becoming very important against the various new threats in Remake, not the least of which are those new smoke beings. Having some small fragment of Holy power could be incredibly important to show just what story-important Holy itself is capable of. Poison has been removed from the elemental system for a good few years now, but its relationship with mechanical enemies is, I think, an important distinction, and the fact it can be finagled to heal the party later on is pretty great, as well as its ability to heal enemies providing a unique hazard. Gravity being able to do things like instakill enemies weak to it gave it a mechanical advantage even though most bosses were immune. In many cases it didn't offer a numeric advantage and had a very steep law of diminishing returns, with a high MP cost, but that gave it a specific purpose against moderately tough enemies. Enemies being weak or strong to it was a point of interest and depth that most games simply don't afford it. I would hate to lose that depth, especially when you consider that it could be used as a physics-based AoE with a clear event horizon. Thinking of it this way, FF13 showed with Alexander that they're able to calculate damage based on proximity. Throwing the concept of gravity wells with a small and consecutively larger AoE per spell tier to do additional damage by enemy position could make it devastating to close groups. If you want to get even fancier with calculating interference patterns, both constructive and destructive, you're suddenly talking about tearing enemies apart with multiple sources pulling at them. Add some positional manipulation in to group enemies up, even, or at least if nothing else. Make it pull flying, floating, or hanging enemies out of the air. There's a lot of interesting physical stuff you can do with a gravity well.

Look, I could go on about how they could apply physics to the attacks that aren't simple energy attacks and how amazing that would be, but my point is I hope S-E is thinking in those same terms, or at least in the terms of how the original game balanced things in its mechanics and how they could continue to make other elements interesting.

Putting the "fun" in "funeral"Edit

Dirge of Cerberus getting a fresh copyright filing makes me hopeful that we end up seeing Crisis Core and even Before Crisis in some form. It might even be interesting to bundle them into one release since they cross over so much due to mostly taking place during the same time period. I still would very much like for the entire Compilation to be remade, and believe me, I see an opportunity for them to redeem DoC with a remake, as much as I would much rather see Crisis Core become more accessible or Before Crisis to become accessible at all outside Japan. DoC is one that was cringeworthy even upon release, and didn't have particularly good gameplay to back it up. I know they're using it to test the waters for the actually good one, though, because while Crisis Core would sell like hotcakes, people probably wouldn't see as much of a point in giving DoC another chance since they'd already have what they want, where holding Crisis Core hostage over DoC performing well is a cynical grab that FF7 fans have become all too familiar with. We've spent decades buying everything in the Compilation in hopes it would mean a remake down the line, and knew full well that FFX|X-2 Remaster was a test holding FF7 hostage since S-E knew it was popular worldwide and particularly Japan, where it's the cultural icon FF7 is to most of the rest of the world. "Open your wallet now so you get what you want later" is more or less the FF7 fan anthem. S-E is not blind to this. They held Episode Duscae hostage behind the Type-0 remaster, too. They fully understand that the fanbase knows the game and are willing, if at times begrudging, players in it. This filing is coming far before any reasonable hope of a release date, unless they throw a whole new team at it.


And from here, we only have the home stretch to go before release. The game is out April 10th, 2020.


FF7 Remake fall/winter 2019 updateEdit

I want to organize some thoughts on this with the new info we have available. This has taken me ages in part because we keep getting new info to analyze, so a few things have been subject to change as we learn more.

A lot of talk has been on how good the game looks visually. And, I mean, HELL YEAH! But the original shows graphics aren't everything. It wasn't even the prettiest game of its release year, or prior release years, for that matter. Aerith in her red dress is a sight to behold, but the focus on the graphics is, well, just so very typical of gamer hype. It bothers me because there's so much more to the game than its visuals, but even as reviews talk a lot about the amount of writing and overall experience, it doesn't seem to be what's getting people excited, and I think some of the newer scenes with parachuting and such have been an attempt to draw more attention to that. Obviously the visuals ARE a selling point, but not THE selling point. Or rather, they're exactly the selling point everyone has been screaming about for decades and I think that does the rest a disservice because Square put a ton of effort into the rest to ensure it was worth bringing out at all. The amount of effort involved is going to be just as much as a new numbered title for each game and they understand that doing this is a defining moment of their careers - one that's going to determine the future direction of the series. People are already talking about a possible FF8 remake and Square will need to start choosing between remakes and new numbered titles. They know senior staff aren't up to doing more than one of these at a time, and putting the onus on junior staff is deflecting, though it does also represent an opportunity for someone to rise up, which is also important to how they operate (Nomura and Tabata are both excellent examples). People seem to be easily getting lost in what's the same without appreciating the rest of the effort going into this. Anyway, visuals are the first thing that gets forgotten about most games and their treatment here highlights just how much the last 30+ years have trained consumers to value graphics over everything, even as we approach the end stage of them. I honestly am waiting with baited breath to see how games and systems are sold after the PS5, because the PS5 itself is being marketed with the understanding that it's the last that better graphics will ever matter to 99% of the population.

I know this is huge and I've been writing on it for months, so I'm making heavy use of sub-sections to make it easier to navigate.

TGS 2019 infoEdit

Of course there was a lot of great info here.

You'll have the beat them off with a Guard StickEdit

Some great info has come out about the cast's abilities. Aerith is now a ranged attacker, which makes sense because her cricket jump in the original doesn't make for good combo ability and to be frank, it would have been even more of a surprise to see Square treat her as a martial attacker. As much as fantasy dictates otherwise, a staff is one of the essential weapons for self-defense in a wide variety of cultures. Quarterstaff fighting thrived in Europe, while bo, jo, and other equivalents are incorporated into Asian martial arts. Beating someone with a stick is a very common fighting skill, is what I'm saying here. But as someone who considers staff his primary weapon, using it in any way competently makes you look like a badass and I think fans would have balked at that, not that Square probably needed much of a push to limit how formidable they made her, especially since they're almost certainly saving it for Cid. Differentiating her from Cid in attack style also is better for gameplay and fits into her role as a caster. Heck, if it uses her magic stat, she could be entirely formidable in a different way. For what it's worth, the Japanese classified all of her weapons as Rods, which the series has always treated as magical weaponry, and in particular Rods have a history of casting pseudo-spells as a basic attack where Staves just don't. Also she still seems to get pretty fancy with it in a relatively martial way; it's just played off as casting animations, and frankly, I think that's kinda cool, especially because it calls back to her spinning her weapon for her Long Range attack in FF7. She's also learning a new area buff that multiplies spells, which tells me they're diving deep into the magic focus, and also honoring how passive many of her Limits are while also offering her a way to buff some damage potential. At her core, Aerith is the street-smart one and Tifa is the more innocent one, as much as fans forget it because of how they dress (and also Kingdom Hearts, which is ultimately as faithful to the FF series' cast as Salvadore Dali was to still-life). Giving her some subtle teeth is totally in line with her character. I do still hope to see some of her limited telekinetic abilities. Keep in mind, in FF7 not only is she able to set her weapon on thin air while casting and outright control it for Great Gospel, but her Manipulate animation actually caused her to float up and backward. Her strange powers weren't just limited to hearing voices.

Why does my Classic vehicle have an automatic transmission?Edit

Classic Mode is being touted as a return to turn-based play as an option, but it's really more an auto-attack, and I have a feeling in practice players will find it finishing battles for them, leaving them unsatisfied. It's not a bad option, but it's being presented wrong. Letting you focus on the big attacks between the characters is an equally valid means of managing them compared to assuming control of one of them for everything. They really, really just need to call it Auto-Attack, though, or else people are going to walk away feeling cheated in the likely event battles regularly just kind of peter out. It's about feeling agency, which is a key escapism of games. It being placed as a difficulty option (below Easy) as revealed more recently just feels patronizing while it's at it.

Always show up 15 months early to the interviewEdit

As for the summons, each character only being able to equip one Summon Materia sounds like it could be limiting on paper, but keep in mind that the original game didn't even HAVE summons in Midgar. Choco/Mog is the first available and you don't get it until the Chocobo Farm. So far we've seen Shiva and Ifrit (and now Chocobo & Moogle, excuse me while I rewrite a bunch and cover that in a bit), but Priscilla in lower Junon gives you Shiva after you rescue her from Bottomswell and Ifrit is found on the Cargo Ship on the way to Costa del Sol after the Jenova∙BIRTH boss battle. We currently know of 6 to choose from and you have up to 3 people to assign one to in play at a time. The choice isn't going to be as limiting as everyone fears. With the first couple of the old guard plus Chocobo Chick, Cactuar, and Carbuncle being pre-order/version bonuses, my guess is they'll add Ramuh and call it a day, since Titan is related (a bit) to the story of Gongaga and they do have to save something for the other games. While FF7 has plenty of summons to go around, they're already adding 3 as DLC and I don't honestly think they need more than they have, since it adds Fire, Ice, hopefully Lightning if Ramuh gets in, a physical attack for Cactuar, protection for Carbuncle, and Wind/Restorative/whatever they might want for Chocobo Chick. Midgar jealously hoarded elements and the last elemental Materia you got before leaving was Poison with Bio late into your invasion of Shinra HQ. Square has proven with FF13-2 that they're comfortable balancing magic around a limited number of elements that aren't necessarily in direct opposition like FFX and rather serve specific purposes. It might be interesting to run an entire game on the four that could be most easily be considered common elements of destruction, with Bio and its signature ability to cause Poison status filling the role of wildcard for the game where FF13-2 maintained Aero for the Launch mechanic, which doesn't seem to be present here. Not that I don't want to eventually see Aero if only to see if they run with the "rainbow ribbons" idea, but Wind damage is a PITA to access for the most part in the original and the only Aero Materia in the whole Compilation is in Before Crisis -Final Fantasy VII-.

But I digress.

I also don't see Chocobo Chick necessarily rendering Choco/Mog redundant depending on their individual mechanics, so while it's possible you'd otherwise get it at the Chocobo Ranch and being a good little consumer merely nets you sequel content early, Choco/Mog strikes me as having more offensive potential as something that already goes around ramming into things. Chocobo Chick could easily act more like Boko from FF8. I do, however, see a need for alternate rewards for certain things that were pirated. I'll opinine more on that in a bit.

Settling beefs, talking Turk-eyEdit

Otherwise we've gotten to see a bit about the villains and can I just comment that Reno suddenly getting slipstream abilities completely changes the game on what the Turks are? Even assuming it's Materia, this implies a whole new type of magic we haven't seen before. FF7 didn't even have Float and suddenly Reno has some sort of souped-up version of Haste or a new variant of Warp more akin to the Warp-strikes in FF15 than anything else. Is it Command Materia? Is it Independent Materia? Is it even Materia at all? Because for all the crazy stuff the Turks canonically do in the Compilation, they're not in SOLDIER and they're not exposed to Mako or Jenova. They barely even use Materia, eventually getting Fire, Ice, and Lightning where something like a Sleepel+Mini combo would make abductions trivial, stuff them in your pocket and be off. If Reno's new ability is innate, or even if it's technology or Magitek, it means there's something completely new going on. Reno always had abilities not explained by obtainable Materia (and for that matter Palmer had Magitek of some sort with his gun), but FF7 had very little focus on it, nor had it much in the line of movement abilities, other than a few sparing enemies who could fly via form changes or change rows. Giving this completely new ability to Reno in what should be fairly early in the game adds a horizontal component and possibly even verticality depending on how flexible it is and that says a number of interesting things about his duties. The Turks are black ops including assassinations and intel, but this isn't an assassination mission; it's a kidnapping one. This means he's either kitted out with it all the time (possibly as a designated assassin or is regularly expected to cover a lot of ground) or he for some reason thought it would be a useful asset in his loadout, which doesn't make sense given he'd quickly outpace the soldiers accompanying him unless it's not a sustainable means to cover ground and he anticipated stiff resistance that a small gaggle of guys with guns wouldn't deter. All of these have interesting implications.

Also, can I just say Tseng seems pretty put out in his brief appearance? Like not furious, but definitely not amused. I actually had to double-check his page, because while Tseng can be pretty ruthless, he's known Aerith since she was young and has an unusual soft spot for her, with the other Turks questioning whether it might even have developed into something romantic. It didn't, but he worries about her safety and goes so far as to say he said hi if she's not with you in Mythril Mine. Other canon reveals he's approached her capture by legit asking nicely. The scene in play makes him feel very antagonistic and you have to wonder just how many hazards Aerith dumped on his head in the process of rescuing Marlene to get him in that state, because he's definitely not in a mood to ask nicely there. On one hand Tseng being serious about his job is, at least on the surface, in line with the rest of his character, but on the other it's not like he doesn't know where she lives unless something is drastically changed in his story AND hers and Reno had good reason to be packing that much assurance in trying to apprehend her. Somehow I don't think the story will account for Aerith being known for violently mowing down highly-trained combatants to avoid capture. If anything, on paper, Reno coming with military personnel seemed like they were simply tagging along as comic relief and it only justified them by making them the unwitting victims of an impromptu session of Donkey Kong. Aerith is otherwise indicated to have been evading them through a combination of wits and running away rather than violence. That said, actually seeing the scene of how Aerith rescued Marlene could reveal a lot about Tseng, Aerith, and their relationship. If Aerith did have a good thing going and mucked it up by resisting Reno and hospitalizing military personnel, some of the anger he's feeling could be betrayal. Ultimately we know (or at least hope) he's still going to escort her home so Marlene can stay safe there, and that conversation is going to be meaningful to his character regardless of how it plays out.

I made a global annihilator; I'm sure I can handle thisEdit

President Shinra appearing as a hologram rather than in person makes sense, but also feels like a cop-out. Maybe it's just because of a high bar placed by Westwood Studios, but I like villains who take the time to personally harass the heroes. Such things have most impact when done in person. Obviously a good exec IRL wouldn't put himself in that unnecessary danger, but he is going to be the major villain for most of the game and President Shinra is a man of presence who has next to nothing to fear, and Cloud being comfortable enough to approach him and be cordial says a lot about Cloud at that point in the original game, as does the President's lack of real concern as he does so. Cloud has no intention of harming him at that point and they both know it, which is important because Cloud specifically is on his second paid mission with AVALANCHE and hasn't committed to anything but placing a bomb. It also hints that Shinra managed to find out about the second attack either very quickly or had foreknowledge of it somehow and either made a snap decision to play a little game or actually had time to plan their response. It is, after all, right before the Air Buster battle, and Shinra is quite comfortable with robotic defenses, which would be a good means of reimagining the Mighty Grunt (which in FF7 isn't actually a robot judging by its Poison and Lightning defenses). The issue of President Shinra being unprotected on a catwalk could have been easily solved with a ton of advanced robo-soldiers with their guns trained on the party and a casting of Barrier. What could have been a tense, rather helpless-feeling scene with a king riding off untouchable after some idle chit-chat with the protagonist and watching the pawns clear a path for his champion is rendered very impersonal and it just sucks the meaning out of everything there is to that scene. It's in-character, to be fair, since Rufus indicates he controls the world through money, but there are other ways to be comfortably untouchable that have more impact than simply not wasting your time in person. Using Barrier would have also drawn a parallel between him and his son, foreshadowing the tactics of the Rufus battle and maintaining their parallel helicopter escapes, which in a way showed that Rufus was a generational iteration, not a completely different person, as much as he'd like to pretend to be. Rufus, for all he did to try to hinder, undermine, and even kill his own father is shown to be building on his father's base in everything he actually accomplishes, and much of his story addresses this directly, up to and including why he survived the series, and a later clarity in how much he meant to his father, culminating in one of the most epic burns in writing in Advent Children with "A good son would have known." In other words, President Shinra being so hands-off ultimately does a disservice to Rufus' character arc as well as takes the impact out of the scene.

I mean I guess it's the only way Heidegger could hijack the scene, but do we really need more Heidegger? I get it, Air Buster as a robo-SOLDIER is his literal department as head of military ops, but it just seems like something that won't ultimately pay off unless the execs are going to have a larger role to fill out some air time. That in turn could almost immediately backfire in game 2 given how quickly they lose focus when you leave Midgar. Shinra and its execs often lose out to Sephy in the game's clumsy attempt to juggle them and if anything they're better represented by the Turks showing up when it feels like it's been too long since a boss battle happened, being otherwise relegated to a small sprinkling of exposition dumps. Notably missing is Rufus, for that matter. They're probably going to have him be a "surprise" reveal given he only shows up at the very end of the Midgar segment. I just see pacing issues arising unless Square goes out of their way to ensure Shinra continues to get spotlight, which in turn could diminish the primary threat Sephiroth served in the original game. You could argue the break between games will be long enough for people to maybe forget a little about it, or Sephy's appearances as shown so far might be there to prime the player to them sharing screen time. Either way, while I can see how it could work, it's a fine line to tread.

He's stabbing her! He's gonna stab me! OH, MY GOOOOD!Edit

Sephiroth's presence as a whole is getting a scary amount of screen time, which is one thing in cases where it's in Cloud's head (I've read analyses positing that Cloud has all three of his real self, Zack, and Sephiroth acting as voices in it based on the variety of lines, and even if it wasn't the original intent, I'm A-OK with them taking fan theories and running with them), but Sephiroth really, really needs to be used carefully to avoid spoiling his actual appearance at the end of the Midgar segment and I'm hoping what we're seeing is used sparingly. I get that fans won't want an entire game without him, but an entire game WITH him would be worse. Sephiroth in FF7 was just present enough to keep you chasing him by letting you periodically catch up and lose him again due to a boss battle, giving you a clear goal and making every appearance meaningful. If he gets the same amount of screen time as he has been in the trailers, it'll be a wonder if Cloud notices a difference when he actually shows up and hasn't been institutionalized, gotten pills, undergone a successful therapy regimen, and made a ton of progress on coming to terms with his PTSD and dissociative fugue. Sephy is a spice, best used to add flavor rather than for his own sake, like the difference between being served a bowl of caramel ice cream topped with a sprinkling of sea salt and a bowl of sea salt with a spoonful of caramel ice cream on top. We haven't even seen Red XIII yet and the original game introduces him BEFORE Sephy.

It seems those apparations that seem to be standing in for the Sephiroth Clones are going to be getting some pretty hefty scenes as well. I'm honestly starting to wonder if they aren't some precursor to Geostigma as impure spirits of the Lifestream, since it's clear Cloud doesn't actually see them until Aerith grabs his arm. On the other hand, the next time we see them in the trailer, it seems like the whole crew can see them, so Aerith might have in some way shared a bit of her power with Cloud for Cloud to then inadvertently pass on to the others. Or maybe she's just more sensitive because of her powers and they take a little more manifesting for others to see. Regardless, they seem scary, but so far have yet to prove to be threatening. Or rather we can only assume they're threatening because of how the crew reacts to them, but we have yet to see the kind of threat they pose.

I wiiill remember youuuuuuEdit

Meanwhile I'm wondering with Jesse and Biggs taking center stage in action shots if the other members of AVALANCE might even become playable in their own right. Of course we know from the trailer that their place in the story ultimately remains the same, but damn if it's not going to twist the knife. Crisis Core showed Square has the ability to do it and do it right, and while Type-0 showed at least someone missed the entire point, working from a base like this will at least keep them focused.

It's time to Roche, and RIDE!Edit

The guy from SOLDIER on the motorcycle (now revealed to be a new character named Roche) seemed like an attempt to ramp up tension for the trailer and I honestly don't think it's going to actually mean much in the game. You'll probably end up shoving him off a bridge or something with quick-time events at first and maybe face him head-on later, but he's probably not going to get much spotlight. I've seen the idea floated he might be someone who knew Zack and is out for revenge since the Buster Sword is unique, but ultimately I think that bears the risk of revealing issues in Cloud's memories far too early. The lynchpin of that arc is Tifa and her handling of it (keeping a lid on it because she KNOWS Cloud is messed up and quietly observing his condition) is pretty much essential to Cloud's place in the story. If it does end up being a boss battle, I expect Cloud is going to do just fine and prove he's at the same level or better, since he did go through the same treatment they did, which is going to be all the proof anyone needs that he is who and what he says he is. Even in the original, by the time you initially encounter SOLDIER forces, you're mowing them down as cannon fodder. Granted, that goes for most enemies, but Cloud managed to defeat arguably the most powerful SOLDIER ever before he ever underwent any kind of enhancement, while actively being skewered, at level 6 or less, by summoning the strength to grab a sword and lift its wielder bodily and shake him off the handle. It's one of several hints that Cloud is something more than is easily explained and I'd honestly like to see them examine that a bit more. Even ignoring hints he's a Cetra, it's clear that something special is going on with him due to his unusual resilience, having also survived falling something like 800 feet with nothing to break his fall but a rickety roof and some flowers (i.e. effectively a rickety roof and the cold, hard ground despite comments to the contrary), and extreme levels of Mako poisoning leaving him in a protracted vegetative state twice, which is twice more than is generally recommended. So when we look at Roche doing motorcycle tricks with that puny sword, Cloud could just as easily tackle him off the highway, struggle all the way down, and see which one of them walks it off, because it ain't gonna be not Cloud. Even if they just hang a lampshade on it, it would be worth it. I just want to see it addressed somehow.


This is probably the last big infodump we'll get as the last major gaming event until release. Unless Square does a hype event to keep excitement going, or ends up pushing it back, there really isn't a good opportunity - or a good reason - to do another big dump.

Post-TGS info bitsEdit

S-E isn't going to keep us waiting, though. There's been a steady trickle of info coming out.

HalloweenEdit

Halloween and the surrounding days had a couple interesting tidbits.

When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pieEdit

I have a feeling Red is going to be the last reveal before the game hits market, if at all, and probably as a mid-trailer beat with his "I'll talk as much as you want later, miss." He doesn't really have the star power to be an end reveal as much as his fans tend to be very die-hard. And to be blunt, his fur makes him a PITA to animate, so they probably will be working on final tweaks up to the wire, not to mention his tail being on fire will probably also take time. Matthew Mercer possibly teased him with a Howling Moon carved pumpkin on 10/28, which is interesting because of a few things: 1) Mercer is a good VA with a wide vocal range, 2) Mercer also works with Liam O'Brian on Critical Role, whose 2 lines are thus far the only ones Red has voiced in English, 3) it's completely non-commital, with plausible deniability from Square, which is about as much of a tease as you can get, and 4) his posting it BEFORE Halloween drew attention to it, where posting it ON Halloween would have been less notable and competed with the Ghost reveal. Basically, if it is a tease, it's everything a tease should be. There's little doubt Red will appear in the game and at this stage it's almost certainly set in stone what his role will be whether it's as a playable party member, NPC, or non-playable guest, so S-E was 100% on the sidelines gauging reaction to this whether it was their idea or not, and there's every reason to believe it was. Red's fanbase is a minority regardless of loyalty, so if it managed to pique interest from a general audience it could lead to S-E risking throwing him in a trailer despite end-game spoilers. A soft response could easily be seen as vindication for just not, especially if final tweaks are being made to his appearance. The game has gone gold and started printing at this point, but if Dreamworks can accidentally turn Donkey into a "Chia Pet" in their own words, a character as complex as Red could still be getting a little final attention to be included in the day 1 patch. Character reveals are big news and if it's not worth making a big deal over him for whatever reason, they might not, especially if it requires work.

Also, I'm not joking about him potentially being a guest. Red predates Tifa's being split from Aerith, and as Unseen 64 notes, they had a high-res model of him likely before he was considered a playable character, and certainly before they had one for Tifa, possibly as a summonable ally given his placement next to a Chocobo. Amano's art associated him with Cloud, with one even named "Heel," and he was conceived as a beast-type SOLDIER, so he may have been part of Cloud's abilities as a K-9, not unlike Rufus and Dark Nation in the final cut. We know from storyboards that some pretty refined concepts were dropped, probably due to technical limitations and/or being rendered redundant. Some of those discarded ideas might see the light again to fill out the game, but for Red, if they had a technical issue now, they may have borrowed the idea of not making him fully playable off the bat, at least until they could figure it out and patch it in. Clipping was a challenge from the get-go, and while they have dog enemies, none of them have a long tail sticking out (sticking over, but not out). They could throw up a 3-foot buffer between him and the scenery to ensure he has adequate breathing room and leave him to an A.I. that may or may not accept commands. He's only available for a few boss battles in Midgar plus cannon fodder - altogether maybe like 20 minutes of play time, generously. He also hasn't committed to anything but escaping and showing his stuff in the immediate boss battle after he joins, which he points out is doing you a favor (true: his initial level is party average + 2), makes a point to run ahead, and expresses his intention to dip once he's home in what should be the finale. You're his ticket to freedom and nothing more at that point. Once you're out in the open, this will probably be less obvious and they'll allow you to control him. By the time you get to enclosed areas again, they'll have either figured out a solution or just run with designing the world around it.

What kind of scary-a** clowns came to your birthday?Edit

On Halloween itself, they posted the updated Ghost enemies from the Train Graveyard. They certainly retain their toony appearance, but I would argue they both lost a lot of their charm and now look woefully out of place next to the more realistic enemies we've seen. I honestly think it's because they look too much like ghost-mummies painted up to try to look friendly to kids. Even if they'd made them more transparent, it could have gone a long way toward making them a bit more believable, but being wrapped in dirty linen makes them LESS organic. On one hand, alpha blending is actually kind of expensive, computationally speaking. The fact the PS1 and PS2 had tons of it was more because they were specifically optimized for those operations, in exchange for other things like lighting. I may have mentioned my derision for them "rediscovering" alpha in Lightning Returns, but back then I didn't really quite get that the industry as a whole would, ironically, much rather do a bunch of dithering than alpha for performance's sake. I frankly still don't get WHY, but I understand enough now to know it's not my wheelhouse and defer to the experts. Regardless, I can't help but feel the Ghosts would look amazing in a less realistic game, but just don't pass muster here. That said, things could easily change by release. Adding a global transparency to them probably would be trivial, and in fact we often see things in movie trailers where it's not the final look.

Sony dumpEdit

Secondly, Sony did a pretty big dump where a host of interesting things were detailed. I'm going to run down the lot of them, but if you follow me on Mastodon, I already posted bullet points there.

If you keep a baseball bat in your trunk, also keep a mitt (your lawyer will thank you)Edit

S-E has confirmed the Nail Bat as an available weapon and to be honest there isn't much more of an iconic weapon that would better fit the mean streets of Midgar. I doubt it will be anywhere near as powerful as in the original game unless it does damage using a formula of some sort, but it was the #1 most obvious joke weapon you'd be shocked didn't come from the #1 most obvious location. Also teased is a new Iron Blade, meaning S-E is not content to let you rough it through an entire game with the small handful of weapons originally available in Midgar, though they probably easily could have.

On the subject of weapons, there is now a weapon-based skill mastery system like the lovechild of FF9 and FF15 where you can learn special attacks from a specific weapon by mastering them through use. It will be interesting to see how this plays into the special ability system, especially with old Limits like Braver being turned into these new abilities, though not necessarily from weapons.

There's also a weapon level system in play. This seems to have something of an EXP system to it somehow, where weapons reach a small handful of levels of their own, with the Buster Sword being shown at level 3 with an indicator that it's 5 points away from leveling up.

There's also a weapon upgrade system that looks a lot like the Crystarium system from FF13, hinged on a weapon being forged with one or more embedded Materia (in the example, this appears to be represented by a dark blue/purple) circled by various planets, nebulae, and crystal clusters. Here you buy things like damage boosts and extra critical hit bonuses, and, for the eagle-eyed, additional Materia slots, judging by what's shown equipped in their screen shot. We only have the Buster Sword as an example and its boosts seem modest, but then a lot of the numbers seem modest right now in my opinion and it's the starting weapon, so that doesn't say much. It looks like you can buy a number of upgrades from the same node using a new Skill Point (SP) stat. If and how this is tied to weapon level isn't currently clear. I'm guessing that given the 3 apparent core Materia in the Buster Sword, stat buffs are additive across the units allotted to a weapon and you're afforded some amount of choice in how you spend your points, given the screen shot shows one mastered and two more in different states of mastery.

Is that her? That might be her. Should I say hello?Edit

Scan has been replaced with Assess, which seems to be a souped-up version of it. Whether it's the same ability in Japanese or something new all over again like Libra is currently unknown, as is its color, so it's possible we could see the yellow orb under a new name or even a green one.

Choco/Mog was revealed to be returning as Chocobo & Moogle, which is a much more faithful translation of the Japanese name. They seem to be doing a lot of that. Its new ultimate ability is Stampede, which makes sense in the more realistic atmosphere, and might be a nice little Easter egg for the Squaresoft logo from the PC version of the game depending on how it's shot. It's easier to add a handful of other Chocobos and have them run through an area than convincingly sell one managing to explode in a group of enemies, generating a cartoon dust cloud. You COULD, I guess, if it exploded into confetti or something, but they wanted something more serious and I don't blame them, since it stuck out a bit even in the original. And that's not to say that Deathblow!! and Fat Chocobo aren't potentially its new special attacks. I'd find that endlessly amusing, since I always did have a soft spot for the ridiculousness of it. Having an explosion of particles for a special attack would still be amusing.

Battle system Classic is the New CokeEdit

As I mentioned earlier, Classic has been revealed to be under the difficulty settings and I think that's rather patronizing. I get WHY they put it there, but putting it above Easy in the list is a further disservice to players who just don't want an action game. Everything about Classic Mode just feels like it could be handled better from a marketing perspective. FF7 had Active, Recommended, and Wait. This is definitely a new system, but they couldn't have called the others Slow and Fast? If it's more than battle speed (enemy stats and the like), that doesn't even meaningfully say what the impact on Classic is. If it's an extended Easy mode, many players might prefer a Hard Classic mode for a challenge in the turn-based style. It just seems like they had a great idea and keep on tripping over the delivery because it doesn't quite fit with what they were trying to do despite them knowing it would be a huge selling point.

This is not railing against Classic in principle; I might well enjoy it myself once it's too late in the night for my brain to keep up. Anyone who's watched me stream FF15 knows I get to a certain level of tired where everything just craps out on me and Classic might let me finish out a session without me using up too many resources. I grew up playing turn-based RPGs and the occasional dungeon crawler. Action battle systems are still a little foreign to me, so when the brain goes kaput, or frankly if it's been more than a week, everything I've learned from FF15 pretty much goes bye-bye. That's honestly like 70 hours of education and I have like 10 tops from Kingdom Hearts. Compared to all the thousands of hours spent on Pokémon, Final Fantasy before action battles came along, The Legend of Dragoon, Grandia from 2 forward, and White Knight Chronicles, it's a drop in the bucket and something I didn't have while my brain plasticity was still at its peak. Those types of games are all about the setup and pre-planning, which I truly enjoy. Classic Mode is an excellent choice for someone like me.

However, I'm also coming in with the understanding of how it works and the associated hazards. Someone coming in blind is not going to be properly informed and the end result of their likely misconceptions is disappointment. Putting it below Easy as a difficulty setting is going to tell those people that their input barely matters even for the big stuff unless S-E is smart enough to ensure they always choose the finishing blow. Having a game put you in such a low difficulty that it potentially finishes battles for you because you just want turn-based battle is basically telling you, "Poor baby. Don't worry, we're just going to give you this rattle. Ah! See the pretty colors when you shake it? Now you just shake that rattle and we'll make sure all the monsters go away!" Like holy f***, I have no problem with automation. I liked the automation of the Regalia in FF15, but absolutely nothing stopped me from taking the wheel if I wanted to. The difference here is you can argue nothing stops you from turning it back to an action battle mode, but that's a mechanical difference. The Regalia as a car functioned the same way whether I was manually driving it or not. An action battle system is not, however, mechanically the same as a pseudo-turn-based battle system. Maybe S-E will surprise me and put forth that limitation that it has to finish out because of your actions, and I really hope they do, but at the same time I'm worried they won't.

Supply and demand for a flower cartEdit

Otherwise, Aerith's house looks surprisingly small on the inside despite its cozy colors and the outside feels much more like an estate by Midgar standards - much larger than would have otherwise been implied in the original. I do wish they'd kept the two tiers and made it feel like the garden itself was larger rather than all the wasted space it ended up with. If she's using it for her business, she needs a large enough supply to make it work, and while the original design was both too large to quickly navigate to get the couple items there and too small to be sustainable, I chalked it up to the wonky scale of the screen, since the flowers were huge compared to Cloud much less the house. Amusingly, while the design of her house has remained mostly constant for all its appearances, the rest of the area hasn't been remotely the same between any two games. In Before Crisis this was because of a lack of verticality and simplicity of access, but here it feels less like a garden and more like wildflowers just happened to grow in the sunlight, with only a large patch of yellow flowers as a nod to the original. The area feels like a small haven as it always did, but has lost its picture book quality, with a heavier focus on Midgar's signature pipes and rusted junk at the edges. The idyllic portions seem to be mostly in a sort of bubble, with dead plants changing to living ones at the entry of the area, and a few points where plants have started to grow on the industrial junk serving to tie things together slightly, the most obvious being the flowers and hanging vines growing atop the old scaffolding dangerously close to the house. Other than the small patch in front of the house that could pass for a vegetable garden, the area looks more reclaimed by nature than cultivated, having lost a significant amount of its innocence. This in itself could easily work were it not for the idea that it's supposed to be supporting a business, and given the rarity of flowers around Midgar (assuming they keep that aspect) because of the power plants sucking the literal life from the area, there just doesn't seem to be a believable amount here. That could have been solved by making so much as proper flower beds, and having the second garden tier would have helped immensely. Unfortunately, the only nods to a second tier are the scaffolding and a small upper tier filled entirely with junk. I like the look of the place, and it could tie into Aerith's powers being treated as more primordial, but it just leaves the question dangling of where she's getting enough to sell. Yes, I am this petty!

Demo tells, demo tells, demo all the way!Edit

Sony also just spoiled a huge reveal there will be a demo in the near future, on Christmas Eve, no less. They added an icon and a bot that looks for PSN changes reported it. No one has said anything official, but it's all over the Internet right now, so it's worth mentioning. Many are guessing it's the same demo as they've had at the trade shows, but that's just conjecture. There's no reason to believe it's not, but they could have done something shorter or something completely different or reduced everyone to childhood for some additional backstory. When it releases, I'll be on it like white on rice, as will everyone else, and who knows? Maybe it'll transfer a bit of progress.

Additional info, rumors, and what I want to seeEdit

First, let me state that I have zero faith in rumors for this game. Why? Because the risk is too high. The game was in development for THREE YEARS and only one "leak" called it, which can be easily dismissed as dumb luck. All other "leaks" I know about are clear snake oil with "obvious given is obvious" used to prop up educated guesses, wild guesses, pure BS, and "inside" info literally anyone could get off this very wiki. If you get caught leaking under NDA, and they find out (and they WILL find out, because most people aren't smart enough to cover their tracks that well), you will never work in the industry again, ESPECIALLY for a game this big. Aside from that, it's a remake of one of the most influential games of all time. People work in games because they're true believers - they suffer long hours and high stress and wouldn't be there otherwise. They're not going to be the ones to tell all their friends they got fired from the project of a lifetime for 15 minutes of fame on a forum somewhere. Something this big is going to have LOTS of monitoring and seriously, no one is going to get the idea that they're free to blab whatever they want. There are people paid to walk around the floor looking over shoulders on projects like this. You can't get tighter security without delving into supervillainy like bomb collars.

Cobalt XIV and Indigo XV coming to an auto body shop near you?Edit

That said, there is one (1) rumor that has my interest, and that's one that suggested Cobalt XIV and Indigo XV will be in the game. Not because I think it has any backing, but because I think it would be interesting for more of Red's cut content to be added back. The ideas behind these characters could help flesh out game time and add complicating factors given plans also included more perfect clones you'd have to fight as well with Red himself in play, and that battle in particular would work very well in an active battle engine like this, especially if Red himself is not controllable for it. Cobalt and Indigo stretched the then-in-place promise of "no new characters" to be sure, since while they're known by the public, they never made it into canon. That said, it's a stretch I'd forgive since it would be right up Hojo's alley to start making backup copies of a prized specimen. He's not really known for cloning, per se, but he did fully intend to do some gene splicing to make a hybrid between Red and Aerith that would last, and has plenty of horrific experiments including Makonoids, the various Jenova projects (SOLDIER, Sephiroth, Reunion Theory), everything in Shinra Manor, everything in the Gelnika, fusing Materia with flesh, Deepground, whatever the heck he did to Vincent, AND his own multipart boss battle. If anything, simple cloning is patently tame by his standards. Getting it right using something he considers to be acceptably subhuman so as not to draw scrutiny would probably be the most ethical thing he's ever done. Regardless, while Red isn't the last of his kind (Hojo implies this, as does Bugenhagen by indicating there may be others out there than Deneh), having a few more around isn't necessarily a bad thing. Maybe not great for genetic diversity, but genetic bottlenecks happen all the time even in real life. Humans were down to 6000 members in a recent ice age and cheetahs had one so recently they're all valid organ donors for each other. Cloning females would also be possible assuming Red's species is XX♀/XY♂ like mammals and not ZW♀/ZZ♂ like birds. But to bring this around, mining some of that stuff for content would be A-OK in my book if only because it could ultimately be a grounding factor for Red he really doesn't have otherwise, though this does potentially jeopardize canon for "On the Way to a Smile". Plus, with Roche in play as a new character and the promise of no new characters revised to "no new main characters, but yes to new boss battles," it would be entirely reasonable for them to pick the boss battles associated with Cobalt, Indigo, and the perfect clones off the cutting room floor as part of that effort.

Didn't you used to have that on the other side?Edit

Back to the summons, since Shiva and Ifrit were pirated from Priscilla after the Bottomswell battle and Ifrit from Jenova. Siren would be an appropriate replacement reward from Priscilla given Square seems to be remembering she exists lately (Siren, not Priscilla). Garuda also seems to be "in" lately and while they're relatively similar, either would also slot in for the Cargo Ship, unless they want to bring back Remora for the boat theme to show off some polygon count and maybe make them metallic for real-time reflections on the PS5 with that fancy raycasting, because we all know darn well that Square would be that extra, and/or Bismarck (who they also seem to be remembering exists) either as something a little more family-friendly than piranhas reducing the enemy to a fine red mist or somehow miniaturized until it comes time to unleash his ultimate. For that matter, Bottomswell itself could just as easily drop Bismarck as a flying fish in its own right and Bismarck could just as easily serve as a Wind summon as a Water one, especially in his feathery form, leaving Siren open to being non-elemental for Silence or throwing in some additonal Wind and Water, even Fire given what she teaches you in FF6, and it might be really cool for her to have various elemental chords for her attacks and keep her ultimate status-only. Or, really, Remora or Bismarck would be appropriate for Priscilla, too, since she's managed to train Mr. Dolphin with nothing but a whistle at, what, five? Nine tops? Is she even old enough to wanna be the very best, like no one ever was? Because if she is, given she trained a dolphin that can carry a car and passengers across the ocean to another continent, girl should be either winning championships or setting up a gym. Other than that, assuming they add him in the first entry, Ramuh is just lying in a corner before your first Chocobo race and I don't think anything absolutely needs to be there or has any reasonable explanation other than "a jockey dropped it maybe." If anything, it would be infinitely more meaningful for Dyne to drop something (a Gravity summon like Diabolos or Atomos would be immensely appropriate given a dyne is a unit of force). I also don't think that Chocobo & Moogle necessarily needs to have a replacement at the Chocobo Farm, though it might be a nice touch for you to gain Chocobo Chick there if you didn't get it as DLC in the first game. From there everything would be on track for the rest of the story. It will be interesting to see what they do end up rewarding the player with, but it's going to have to wait for the sequels.

Living in a Materia worldEdit

We know some Materia will not make a return and others will be added to fit the battle system. One I hope WILL remain in play is Contain. It's a multi-element Magic Materia with some of the series' most powerful spells. In particular, Tornado being the pearly purplish graphic it is pulling up a chain of lights is something I hope they preserve, because it's decorative as heck. But Contain itself is very unique among Materia for its damaging status attacks and it's just overall a cool piece of work. I know it won't be in the first entry, but I'd like to see it return in the later ones.

I'd also really like for the first game to limit the elements like I mentioned in the other section. Midgar being heavy into the Fire, Ice, and Lightning Materia is something supported by Crisis Core and to be honest the enemies around the area don't need much else. You really end up fighting, for the most part, machines, bugs, the occasional quadruped, whatever a Hedgehog Pie is, and people until the very end of the Midgar segment when Hojo's experiments get loose. Machines, bugs, and beasts are notoriously weak to Lightning, Ice, and Fire, respectively. The original was just fine on limited elements and to be frank, so much of the environment is metal that Earth doesn't make a lot of sense for a large chunk of the game, unless they want to show off destructible environments, or have the magic put it back after it's done. Midgar started with a strong core, which I think is what they're going for in the first game, and things didn't start expanding from that core until the very end and after leaving. Summons are being added in because an entire game without them would be pretty much unprecedented at this point (summons haven't been absent from a main series title since FF2, except in FFX-2 where they had an equivalent system). I'd like to see that strong core maintained here, especially since Midgar was chosen to carry the game as something of its essence all in one spot.

Something I'd like to see return is Crisis Core-style Materia handling for color, where within each color of Materia there are slight variations. This may still happen assuming all that Materia we've seen thus far is for attack magic, since it all appears much darker than it has generally in FF7 media. Unfortunately, I'm not holding my breath, since Crisis Core had systems that simply won't be in play here, and the Elemental we've seen is also a much darker color where Crisis Core would have made it lighter. While DMW Materia could have been applied to other Limits and I fully believe distinctions could easily be made between ability-based and buff-based Support Materia and Independent Materia both, I have a feeling the darker color is either intended to fit with the darker atmosphere or is intended to show growth as Materia levels up and gets brighter. I really, really would find it more useful to see the type of Materia at a glance, though. If they're going through the effort of placing them on the character models for visibility, I may as well have some idea the types I'm packing without digging into a menu. Having a brighter glow for power would be even better.

I dream of Ifrit with the [CENSORED]Edit

While we're on the subject, has anyone else noticed the Summon Materia in the Buster Sword takes up the space of 3 slots? One for the icon diamond, one for the Materia itself, and one for that little watch hand arrow thing. There are also spaces enough for 9 slots assuming one isn't reserved for the summon icon. It bears a slight resemblance to Ogham, so I'm assuming it is, with that little diamond as an anchor to another diamond icon of some sort, but even that only leaves a maximum 6 slots for other things, and maybe fewer if the small bar grows with summon power, or maybe shrinks with some compatibility system, allowing 7. Materia might be intentionally limited this way if that little arrow eats into your other slots, forcing you to choose between magic and a new summon. It may not be apparent in the first game, but you might eventually end up sacrificing all the slots in your equipment as a summon grows stronger, or it might slowly free up as you use it more. Or, it could be the arrow might conflict with the weapon slots completely, forcing you to downgrade your weapon or armor to use it, which would be pretty unique. If that's the case, the joke weapons like the Nail Bat might actually be instrumental in equipping something like Knights of the Round, assuming they make the cut. If not, you might be stuck with a Bronze Bangle. It's also been hinted you can only equip Summon Materia to your weapon, so it's entirely possible that later games will have armor that allows a second summon to be equipped, and the 8-slot limit will be maintainted. Something like the Fouth Bracelet (Force Bracelet) might be appropriate for this.

Red, I could get lost in your eye socketEdit

Another thing I'd like to see is a little more acknowledgement is Materia grafting. This isn't really mentioned in FF7 itself, but is a key plot device in Dirge of Cerberus and Before Crisis. The reason I mention it in the context of the remake is because the first thing that struck me about Red XIII's original manual art is the green glow from his lost eye, and the later realization that he comes equipped with a Fire Materia. Naturally, this isn't to say he's been stashing it in his eye socket to keep it from being taken away (although this in itself would have interesting implications for the slot system), but the idea that something might be in there is intriguing. There are plenty of unique Materia, including the ones from the Materia Caves, the Black Materia, the White Materia, the Protomateria, and various others in the Compilation. What's to say there isn't something related to the Planet or the Lifestream and on-brand with Cosmo Canyon? Maybe he can hear the cries of the Planet all the time and gain some semblance of guidance or even comfort. It certainly would have helped keep him sane in captivity.

Or, maybe it IS a Fire slapped into his eye socket and he HAS been hiding it the whole time waiting for the time to be right to escape. That wouldn't exactly be "grafting" in the sense of the rest of the series, but it would be something of an ace in the hole and a heck of a lot darker than people gave it credit for. As it's depicted it would be a bit large by most accounts (judging a ~2-inch diameter it would probably not go into a wolf's eye socket from the front, doing a little research, since he's about the size of a timber wolf or spotted hyena), but that also assumes they don't have any give to them in relation to a biological medium, which they frankly might even without a proper grafting process since we know that all three of Lifestream, Mako, and Materia are ultimately biocompatible and it would explain why they get so much smaller in Tifa's equipment (seriously, they're less the half the normal size!).

Or maybe Hojo decided to get creative with something completely different. We know from Before Crisis that Red had both eyes when the Turks took him. Hojo using the opportunity, however it happened, to graft in something he spiced up through Materia Fusion that has a new and interesting effect, or maybe something he considered junk so as not to waste anything valuable for practice fusing it into flesh, would say a lot about how he treats his experiments, especially if it could have been a test run for grafting a Barrier into Dark Nation. It could also end up being some sort of control device, viewing device, tracking device, or some combination of the three. Or it might be an unfortunate weapon that Red can't control, which would force him to keep his eye shut, like a Fire that immolates anything he looks at, which would be pretty horrific for a confused teen to wake up to and accidentally use and enter full panic mode as everything he's potentially started becoming attached to is suddenly dying horribly only to realize it's his fault.

Alternatively, seeing as he also comes with a Sense equipped, and we know early story treatments had him as a SOLDIER experiment (possibly influencing Deepground enemy design ideas later), Hojo might have piloted some other experiment on him for human use later and have been in the process of conditioning him into a SOLDIER unit, with cloning planned and possibly started if the Cobalt and Indigo rumor holds water. In that case Hojo might have been experimenting with the Sense as an eye replacement for some sort of DBZ Scouter effect and not realized Red had switched it out with a Fire he got somehow. Even though Sense is yellow, and would blend in with Red's natural ochre eye color a bit better, we know from Crisis Core that Libra is blue. Both coexist in canon with slightly different features and completely different Japanese ability names. Since Hojo already knew Red could talk (judging by Before Crisis), he could have been attempting to slip an experiment under the radar to see if a Libra could work and maybe be painted up like a glass eye, discovered it didn't, and threw a Sense at the problem instead before moving onto other things. Red somehow procuring a Fire and keeping the Sense in his Mythril Clip where people could see it could have been played easily enough if people didn't communicate, and as part of a family that got played by a common housecat because WE don't communicate and he really, really liked his new brand of food, this is not something that would take a lot of effort. If others knew he could talk, and knew Hojo was planning something for him in that area, he could have just as easily said Hojo asked him to relay a message to give him one and Hojo would record it later, gotten it, stuffed it in his eye, and later told his chosen sucker Hojo decided to take it back and not to worry about the paperwork since it was properly returned. Or for that matter, depending on how successful Hojo might have thought he was in manipulating Red with promises of being a proper warrior as a SOLDIER, Red could have been playing Hojo himself, including into giving him what he thought was junk Materia to practice with and hiding it in his eye to avoid alarming the other staff. If Red was otherwise keeping his yap shut to the others (as he seemed to be with the party) and Hojo was one of very few who knew he could talk, Hojo might actually have trusted him, potentially selecting him for the breeding with Aerith above other candidates, and only then being betrayed when Red saw an out with the party.

It could also maybe simply allow Red to simply absorb other Materia into his body freely like people do in Advent Children, which would better explain how his various barrettes and hairpins could carry so many and make him an excellent candidate for holding onto the Black Materia later in the story (though this in turn might put him under great strain and influence his willingness to take it and/or give it back). The alternative is that he either a) swallows them or b) just keeps slotting them into his eye socket and deals with them rattling around his skull, so a less unpleasant explanation would be appreciated. I suppose they could redesign his permanent bangles, but then they'd need to explain why he can't just use the slots all the time. Or why every hair accessory in the world comes with a free bracelet or four in the event they modify his weaponry like they did for Tifa. Or maybe it somehow involves weaving them into his mane better with better holding.

ANYWAY! Regardless of what it is, it could turn out to be more useful than Hojo thought and tie into Red's new abilities. They probably won't acknowledge it, but I think it would be interesting if they did.

Six damage types that should get off their lazy a** (#2 will shock you!)Edit

Another thing I'd like to see acknowledged more is the Hidden/10th element, inasmuch as it's used for Ultima Beam and a sparing number of other attacks after a cleanup. Hidden is interesting because it was effectively non-elemental, only it was a defensible element due to a programming oversight. The things it's used for, including all of Aeris' Limit Breaks, speak to something of a primordial power that's neither the Restorative element nor anything really cosmic like Comet (which has its own element in the Compilation, but not FF7 itself).

I'd also accept it being dumped in favor of Dark. Dark has an interesting history in the series, having been essential for dividing enemies in FF3 in the form of Dark Blades (or Katanas depending on how you cut it (pun intended)), very important in the good parts of FF4 (sorry everything after Cecil becomes the most useless party member as a Paladin), and then kinda fell off the map until its return in FF9 for a few very powerful spells, seeing a bit of love in the MMOs (including that awful Ivalice one), and being an enemy element in FF15. In short, it's been getting acknowledgment if not necessarily love for a while now and there is Shadow Flare (and Darkness in Crisis Core), so it could maybe see an expanded role, especially if it ends up attached to Comet, and/or in the event it gets merged with Gravity, which both Atomos and Diabolos have done as fractional damage summons (Gravity being applied to Comet would also make a ton of sense given it's falling from the sky). Comet and Cometeor being Dark element would also tie into the much more dangerous Meteor being the Black Materia, since by extension Meteor would likely be Dark, too, while the White Materia to oppose it with Holy would be a perfect story beat.

Then again, having an expanded role for a number of damage types would be great. Comet getting its own element in Before Crisis is interesting if only because Comet and Cometeor are replacements for Meteor due to story reasons. Having a small number of enemies able to resist being smashed by space rocks specifically is a neat idea, IMO.

And some damage types just need more to do. Here on this very wiki we made a decision to ditch listing a number of physical damage types because nothing had any weakness or resistance and instead listed Death, Sleep, and Confusion because attacks with those statuses actually had a damage impact. Punch (which is a piercing attack, like punching a hole) got a pass because of certain mechanics, but the likes of Cut (blade damage), Shoot (gun and throwing damage), Hit (blunt force trauma), and Shout (energy and sonic attacks) didn't actually do anything but 100% damage and we reduced them out of our tables. The thing is, as a hobby game dev myself, you don't put something in a game if you don't intend to use it. These items simply weren't implemented within the enemy resistances despite being carefully assigned to weapons and a number of attacks. I'd like to see them do a little more work as well. FF15 showed they had an interest in gun damage specifically, with Shot and Firearm representing damage from enemies and the party, respectively. Shout damage in particular is interesting because while it's used for very little by the party (only Blade Beam's collateral damage beams use it) and in general, possessing the fewest attacks of any damage type other than Hidden (and the Japanese had 24 Hidden enemy attacks to Shout's 11), this isn't to say that it wouldn't make sense for more. Aerith being a magical attacker doesn't necessarily need to do magical damage; they could be physical energy attacks instead (although I like the idea of them being Hidden magic, too). Red XIII could easily leverage it for howls and Cait Sith DOES use a Megaphone for a weapon that he could potentially use for sonic shouts as a new ability. It's also interesting that the Ziedrich protects against all elements except Shout and Hidden. Ultima Beam made sense to leave as Hidden because of it being for an optional superboss, so the Ziedrich not protecting against it might have been an intentional interaction in the end. Shout is another matter, with a hodgepodge of weak and strong attacks from bosses and normal enemies, and seems like it may have been added late in the development process and was maybe missed on the Ziedrich, or maybe intentionally left off it to prevent defense against a few key abilities (Ruby Ray for Ruby Weapon and Stigma for Bizarro∙Sephiroth).

At any rate, I'd like to see more acknowledgement of the physical attacks in terms of resistance. SOLDIER likely are well-equipped to contend with Cut attacks because they train extensively with swords, but might be lesser able to deal with Hit because of their training maybe not accounting for someone able to kick low or deflect their blade with one hand and punch them in the face with the other. Naturally, flying enemies aren't going to do well against Shoot since they have fragile wings that could ground them if they get hit, where an armored robot or military combatant with a flak vest will probably fare much better. I think it would add a lot more strategy to the later games after you're free to arrange your party, or even to the first game depending on what weapons are ultimately available.

Tifa gon' shank a b****Edit

Another thing I'd like to maybe see, and hear me out, is for Tifa to get some knife weaponry. Knife fighting has a healthy overlap with fistfighting techniques and she already has an assortment of claws in the original (possibly explaining why piercing damage is Punch and not Thrust as a more accurate translation). While Tifa was trained as a fistfighter, she lives in the slums of a big city. A little extra assurance wouldn't be a bad thing. Buckle up for a little analysis! We know Cloud is getting not only the new Iron Blade and the Nail Bat, but also, judging by the footage, earlier access to the Hardedge. You can steal the Hardedge from a SOLDIER:3rd in the raid on Shinra HQ in FF7 and it's shown that Cloud has it for the Air Buster battle in Remake, assuming that wasn't an oversight (which would be covered by the "subject to change" notices in the trailers). However, it's reasonable to expect they've re-shuffled weaponry as well as the summons even if it was. The original only had 2-3 weapons per party member in Midgar. They've been pretty careful to limit showing anything but the default weapons in the trailers, but Midgar in FF7 offers the Assault Gun for Barret pretty much off the bat from defeating Guard Scorpion and the Atomic Scissors can be stolen from a Custom Sweeper (which initially was first encountered outside Midgar) assuming it still has it (and that you have a Steal when you encounter it), the Mythril Rod (from shops) and Striking Staff (stolen from Eligor, again, assuming it still has it and you have a Steal) for Aeris, none of which we have seen, and the Metal Knuckle in the shops for Tifa. With the reinforced gloves Tifa has in the trailers so far, it's almost certain she's wearing the Metal Knuckle already, since it's literally a glove with metal bits sewn on and the in-game graphic for it was sort of a charcoal gray, where her default Leather Glove is more of a burgundy. Either they skipped the Leather Glove entirely or they wanted to show off some fabric physics with that close-up of her hands and just left it equipped the whole time. What I'm saying is they're doing more than just adding a few new weapons - we're looking at a potential overhaul. Knife weaponry would offer her a new damage type (probably Cut, maybe Punch) and be totally on-brand for a big city, and would also let them hold more of her weaponry in reserve for later. If they came in pairs, it could also maybe provide a couple convenient Materia slots that aren't reliant on a bracer, depending on what they do with the pommels and the backs of the blades. I think doing this would offer a lot of opportunity, because Tifa is one of very few characters whose weaponry is smaller than a TV. You can do a lot with glove weaponry, but at some point the fidelity is just not there most of the time to make it unique, and knives just offer a better opportunity to expand it in a way that fits with the setting and is also a series staple.

The Midgar ExperienceEdit

I also want to address the "vertical slice" treatment of Midgar, because on a spiritual level, it's true. The slums are little different from many settlements. They're full of ramshackle housing made of junk much like Mideel and carry the ever-present looming oppression of Shinra present in lower Junon, Rocket Town, North Corel, and Gongaga. Most of the world is falling apart, really. The nicer areas are still much like upper Junon. Midgar even in the original really sets the stage for the rest of the game, showing you everything you need to know about the world in a place that really does carry a large chunk of Disc 1.

While the game gets much more colorful after you leave, the context of the oppression extends to the lighting in the immediate area. You leave that almost immediately, but then you get to Kalm and realize while it looks nice, they're suffering just as much in their own way. Everyone at the bar is there because they can't work. There is a gun stashed in a tower and that's something that I never really thought about before, but is kind of disturbing to think about. WHY is there a gun in a tower? It's a handgun (the Peacemaker), but it's not like there's a whole lot up there, storage or otherwise. It's out of the way, to be sure, and not really good for sniping, but having it out of the way doesn't make it very useful for home defense unless you intend to retreat up the stairs and have a last stand. It's something you wouldn't expect to be needed in a place like this. There's a dog in a cupboard and WHY IS THERE A DOG IN A CUPBOARD? This old man might have made a space for it in there and it still seems to love him because it rushes up and sits next to him, but it seems locked in there. Kalm is a scary place if you dig into it!

  • ahem* Anyway, even the nice parts of the world are kinda crappy and nearly all of it is because of Shinra one way or another. Midgar? Shinra built a whole city for the rich on top of not one, not two, but EIGHT existing towns. Kalm? Well, the Midgar Zolem, but they do their Mythril mining more or less to sell to Shinra, so without it, they really don't have anything else going for them. Junon? Shinra plopped a city on top of it like Midgar, but in this case it's at least only one town. Costa del Sol? Actually doing pretty well for itself as a resort town and Shinra's only real fingerprint is the villa, which you can erase with a chunk of change because they abandoned it. Good on you, CdS! Fort Condor? Running a guerilla campaign against Shinra forces to protect an endangered species. Corel? Shinra killed a bunch of people, burned the town down, and the survivors moved to North Corel, a ruin with a few buildings standing and LOTS of tents. Cosmo Canyon? Aside from the fact that Bugenhagen is an ex-Shinra exec and managed to build the entire place without a single toilet (yes, this DOES amuse me), Shinra kinda sorta kidnapped one of the two known survivors of a very rare species. One half of the only known breeding pair, for that matter. Gongaga? Shinra, although when THAT reactor exploded it seems they were satisfied enough people had died as a direct result and didn't kill any more. Nibelheim? Shinra went so far to cover up a massacre for a place that's canon so Nowhere, Remotesville that nobody even noticed that they rebuilt the entire town and staffed it with actors. And yet they rebuilt the entire town and staffed it with actors. After turning all but two of the survivors of the incident into a science project. Rocket Town? Shinra built it, abandoned it, left it with a crushing complex on a "don't call us, we'll call you" cliffhanger. Wutai? Spiritually and economically broken by a whole war with Shinra. Icicle Inn? Well, that got FUBAR'd by a meteor impact. Oh, and also they gunned down a former exec and kidnapped his wife and baby. Pretty tame by Shinra standards. Mideel? As an island shanty town, there's question whether anything outside its immediate area has any impact, but Shinra is more or less directly responsible for awakening the Weapons by giving Cloud a psychotic break, so they're not exactly blameless that it gets leveled by Ultimate Weapon.

And that's without enumerating specific actions of individual execs. Hojo alone has his own list of atrocities that either catalyzed or directly caused a major problem in the Compilation. Frankly, he's the true main villain of the series.

So when we talk about what Midgar preps us for - the kidnapping, mass murder, unethical human experimentation, economic abuses, ecological destruction, and crushing oppression of the populace - it's easy to see why it truly is a vertical slice of everything that follows in the game. Aside from that, it's a significant chunk of Disc 1 and while you're playing that portion, it's easy enough to dump 10 hours or more into it. Given JRPG "standard" is 80 hours, that's 1/8 of a game. Doing a little Googling, estimates put Midgar at 5-6 hours at speed and the whole game at about 39-40 hours at speed, so that's still... 1/8 of the game. Given my own latest file is at 17 hours and I know significantly less than 7 of that was spent between Kalm and Fort Condor where I just arrived, and a completionist run is clocked at 90 hours, that's still somewhere better than 1/9 of the game. Even if it was only a cool 10% of the game, that's no small chunk of a game, especially given how little you actually see of the metropolis. There's a reason leaving the place feels like a huge inflection point. You've just spent a good chunk of time in this place as your whole world and it felt like a pretty big one. Leaving that for the wide world at large is a little scary, and the characters feel the same way.

In many ways, the rest of the game is both a much larger and a much smaller scale than Midgar in FF7. Vast tracts of land are reduced in size by the world map to make them manageable. Towns, even Junon, are significantly smaller, and Junon is probably the second-largest town there is in the game. Kalm really sets the stage for what's to come, and it's kind of brilliant. It comes off as a quiet little town after probably one of the shortest hikes from town to town, and has very little going for it, but more than doubles its content with Nibelheim for the flashback. This has the benefit of adjusting expectations without making it feel empty off the bat. Kalm is something of a sacrifical lamb in that regard. It has new things to buy, and a few things to find, but overall there's very little reason to see it as anything but a pit stop even with the Kalm Traveler giving a reason to return later in the game. But it does it without cheating you on your first visit. From Kalm, you have a trek to the Chocobo Ranch, which doesn't even feel like a town despite having an inn and technically a couple shops. From there you have the Mythril Mine, your first "real" dungeon. Only it really isn't. See, all these things were already in Midgar in some form. The dangerous areas are essentially dungeons and world map combined. The scale of Midgar is so wonky in places that you don't think about it, but like the world map, they connect the safe places best described as towns. And each town area is no bigger than a town outside Midgar. Midgar also has plenty of proper dungeon areas you only visit once. What you get when you leave Midgar is a division. Rather than dungeons connecting towns, the world map connects towns and dungeons, with some towns being directly connected to dungeons that you dip into and back out of from that point forward. The world outside is bigger, yes, but only because you have world map and dungeons spit up. In truth, it doesn't make it any harder to get from point A to B; just offers more variety in things like battle formations and a 3D presentation. So Midgar preps you for that, too. Midgar acts as both a town and a world.


Otherwise, it's going to be a long couple months waiting. At this point, for a project this size, new content is not being created and they're in the process of polishing the product and cutting what they can't polish, unless there are some remaining bugs to quash, in which case focus will have shifted to the day 1 patch (because what game doesn't have one these days?). Knowing that work is also well underway for part 2 is encouraging, but given the drastic differences in the environments, that's going to be just as much work. Once they have a basis for that, they'll probably be able to recycle assets and get things going a bit faster.

Square-Enix E3 2019 thoughtsEdit

I got most of my initial thoughts out on Mastodon, where I'm spending most of my time after Twitter got to be too much between extreme work stress, American politics, and most social media including YouTube being abysmal in the face of it. Mastodon has been a breath of fresh air in that the creator, being a German Jew, knows exactly how to handle it, and with instance blocking, 500 characters, the ability to easily save videos as well as images, and chronological timelines, I've decided to make it my primary home for my game stuff and have been spending about 70% of my social media time there and about 30% on Twitter in short bursts now that my stress levels can tolerate it more.

This is going to be more refined thoughts on the show and what's on offer.

OverviewEdit

First off, props to S-E for having enough content to fill Sony's entire time slot. That alone is impressive. I feel like they blew their big item at the start with Final Fantasy VII Remake and finished weak with a talking bit, with everything in between being, well, maybe not mediocre, but 99% not my thing. Lots of ports vs. new content, which isn't necessarily bad, but not much to get me going personally. Obviously, they had the most to say about FF7 Remake and you don't want to finish with lots of talking, and the fact the release date was revealed the night before at the concert meant the biggest bombshell they could have dropped had already been dropped. Final Fantasy VIII Remaster was probably the best thing they COULD have finished with as a bombshell nobody thought was even possible, but I get why Avengers got that slot to springboard off that energy as one of their most anticipated titles. And the other large items needed to be spaced more evenly to prop up the middle. It's like putting up a tent. You don't want the middle to slump. The highs need to prop up the lows and I just don't feel that happened here.

The Avengers game looks interesting, but not my thing. I'm sure it will make plenty of fans happy.

Their indie offerings were underwhelming to say the least. A top-down racing game in the vein of PixelJunk Racing just made me think that it's not as special as they thought it was, not that there isn't a market for it, and for a game made by 3 people it looks fine. Their indie not-Overwatch WWII arena shooter looks like an asset flip and has some really janky animations. The only people this is going to cater to are the ones who want to play as the Nazis and that's more than a few kinds of problematic. It strikes me that this indie publishing arm isn't making particularly exciting choices, which makes sense when you consider neither of these games seems like "Kickstarter darling" material. Basically this just feels like S-E picking the best of the dregs where indie gold is finding success elsewhere.

Dragon Quest looked... It looked like it needed a shot in the arm. There's just no two ways about it. Yes, they had a remake mixed in there and that's great the West is getting it and dual modes is nice, but there was just no hype behind it to make me care. Add to that Dragon Quest Builders 2 coming out after what I understood to be mixed reviews of the first game and the only thing I can say for it is at least the PS4 is going to have an answer to Minecraft. Part of my lack of enthusiasm is because literally all of Dragon Quest is the Toriyama art style, which means literally all of it looks the same because Toriyama is very good at drawing like 3 things. There's a lot to be said for his friendly shapes and the warm familiarity his work puffs like an overstuffed feather pillow in everyone's brain, but none of the footage was able to differentiate most of the games from each other and I think some of it mixed them together like it wasn't confusing enough already. Add to that that none of it had any context other than a few sparing lines of dialog and there was just nothing to sell any of it to me, especially after the series' recent slump.

People Can Fly's new shooter Outriders looks neat, but sadly a) it's not for me and b) there was nothing but a vague trailer with no gameplay, with a promise of more info later. The trailer had some intriguing imagery and we all know they can pull off a good shooter, but it wasn't much info for the show.

And those were the main points I remembered, other than that Octopath Traveler got a PC port. A full 20 minutes was devoted to FF7 Remake and that's a sizable chunk of the time.

So, going through in review, Life Is Strange 2 looks about right for what I know of the original, Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles Remastered Edition coming to PS4/Switch/Android/iOS is nice and means it probably won't die within a year like most of their mobile ports, I'm quite happy they haven't forgotten about The Last Remnant and the Switch port being announced as released that night was a great blurb, the music release is nice for those with those services, Kingdom Hearts DLC is nice even if it's not the one everyone was hoping for, a Final Fantasy XIV expansion (Final Fantasy XIV: Shadowbringers) is nice for those players even if the graphics themselves look too oppressively washed out for me to imagine spending time in that area, Dying Light 2 looks like it will play well, SaGa being revived is awesome and one of them coming to Vita was a quiet touch that makes me happy they haven't forgotten about it, War of the Visions: Final Fantasy Brave Exvius expanding that world just seems pointless since the original only having 39 million downloads after all this time is paltry, and Oninaki has a fascinating premise that unfortunately feels like it's wasted on a top-down hack-'n-slash. If I missed anything it's because it looked too much like whatever was next to it just scrolling through the YouTube video.

FF8 RemasterEdit

FF8 Remaster will definitely be in my library just to support the effort, but I don't really like the style. There have been Final Fantasy VII mods that took this same approach to the art style and it looks very plastic to me, which I don't like in general. FF8 had anime-esque cutscenes, but the overall style was very realistic. The battle models were about as realistic as the PS1 allowed. The new ones look like Barbie knock-offs due to their hard lines and hard shading. Shading is not an easy thing to do, especially when you're not changing the models or lighting engine to something modern that can do it dynamically. On the other hand, how you choose to shade your models is of the utmost importance when choosing the style. Squall in particular suffers because they changed his hair. Seriously, do a side-by-side on his new model vs. his old one. The old one had long hair that was just haphazardly swept back, perfectly fitting the personality of Squall "Whatever" Leonhart. His new model has it neatly combed at a clear part and the highlights follow the regular spikes he ends up with from it, which just isn't him at all. He looks wrong from any angle except face-on and most people probably won't understand why at first. I tend to GROW that kind of hair, so for me, the slacker haircut being gone is apparent. Trust me, when you have more important stuff to worry about than getting your hair styled, letting it grow too long and raking it back with your fingers is a low-maintenance way to arrange it nicely, and Squall doesn't even arrange it nicely, just tucks it behind his ear. Maybe this was an artist misunderstanding the reference material they were given; maybe it was an intentional update specified from the top. Maybe someone made an executive decision because they felt the design hadn't aged well and he looked too scummy for a modern audience. In any case, they probably were betting on people not noticing since the game is so old. It's going to be noticed, though. Maybe not right away like me, but definitely when people wonder why it's different in the cutscenes.

Regardless, even the energy effects are just too hard-shaded and look plastic and fake. More of the transparency needed to be preserved.

The main reason things look as hard and plastic as they do is there's no noise to break it up. This seems to be a common issue when Square takes games HD, whether it's sprites or models, and things just end up not looking right. Hair and fur highlight in irregular patterns, skin and scales are irregular, cloth and leather have textures that catch the light, etc. Real-world lighting is very irregular and diffuse, which merits irregular highlights and softer shading. That just didn't happen here, which makes everything look like hard objects. The various energy effects needed more transparency and/or softer edges to imply a glassiness or glow depending on what was called for. Either one would help break up the hard edges.

At any rate, I'm sure many people will appreciate the style and I already spoke to one who prefers Squall's new 'do, but for my own part I just wish they'd gone a different, more realistic direction rather than the too-perfect, more stylized one they chose.

Otherwise the only thing I hope for is Chocobo World not being forgotten. Americans got their taste of the benefits with the PC version and I personally got a PocketStation off eBay to enjoy the real experience with my real PS1 copy. There's no reason it can't be put on Vita, Android/iOS, or even a separate app on the same system as the game itself. Bear in mind, I understand this would be seen as more of a completionist pursuit, since most are not going to want an old LCD game in this day and age for its own sake. Unless it runs in a sidebar, which there should be more than enough space for, people don't have the same use for simpler time-wasters they did nearly 2 decades ago. Chocobo World and the PocketStation predated the always-connected world we live in now, but that doesn't mean the in-game benefits aren't worthwhile.

FF7 RemakeEdit

As for FF7 Remake, everything I hear points to it being promising.

To start off, the first game, taking up a whopping 2 Blu-rays, is only going to be Midgar. Many people, myself included, speculated on this as a means of breaking things up since Midgar represents a significant portion of the game and leaving it is one of the big story events. What does that mean for the rest? Nobody knows. I mean NOBODY. That's still being decided. In a Q&A that seems to have flown under the radar, it was revealed the second installment is still in planning and nobody has any solid plan for how many installments there will be, but that there's a desire to dedicate episodes to certain characters, in my own assessment much like the DLCs for Final Fantasy XV. Seeing as Nomura has made comments that he considers the entire Compilation of Final Fantasy VII to be one story, we may end up seeing remakes or at least segments of every game under its banner. We may also see games dedicated to Red XIII, Yuffie, Aerith, Barret, or even young Cloud and Tifa to flesh out their origins. Heck, we might even see a prequel that follows Sephiroth through his childhood and the Wutai war, which could offer a significant amount of humanity to him that we've only seen glimpses of so far. It's all up in the air right now. Square has shown they're going to make more FF7 games for as long as they sell, so the sky really is the limit. But as of yet, Midgar is going to be massive and no one knows what, if anything, that means for the pacing of the rest.

Now, this isn't a BAD thing, since it also means that everything should get the pacing it deserves. Midgar is a huge metropolis and its size in the original game made sense to make it a game on its own. The place was like 10% of Disc 1 and you ended up visiting less than half of it, and less than half of that in a meaningful way. There's enough content to warrant a game. Some places are going to get more spotlight than others. I don't expect sleepy Kalm to get much focus given its tiny role in the original game and it's not going to support a game on its own.

This also doesn't mean that work hasn't begun on anything outside of Midgar. Square is in an excellent position to reuse assets from FF15 for the natural areas and even places like Costa del Sol and Mideel down the road. FF7 had plenty of caves, forests, and deserts/badlands they can reuse those art assets for. Gongaga and Corel Prison could easily make use of the ruined building assets. The two worlds are similar enough that a whole lot could transfer with minimal touching up. And that's ignoring things like the Chocobos, Behemoths, various animations and enemy A.I., and various sound effects that can be modified as needed and reused, plus all those mouthwatering food assets, and also plus anything they can borrow from FF14 in terms of enemies and effects (though I know almost nothing about the game). They have multiple titles on the same console and it would be unthinkable for them to simply not use any of their prior work. I know that was common through the PS3 era, but that's because each game had very different requirements and is a large reason why Final Fantasy XIII could and did became a trilogy - asset reuse allowed them to span a console generation by reducing development time, which meant lower costs and a continued profit stream. Games are taking an entire console generation to make these days and development time only gets longer as games get bigger. FF13 itself started on the PS2. They know what they have to plan for and there's no reason to think they can't get the jump on assets while they're figuring out how everything should be arranged. They also likely already have work put into the remaining playable characters since they know they'll need them later. And I wouldn't be surprised if a few changes to the enemy roster occurred, since Gigantoads and Bulettes don't appear in FF7, but would make sensible additions since they have them lying around already. It already looked like the walk cycle from Sabertusks was transferred to Guard Hounds and I expect they could just as easily reuse the lunges and certain other animations based on the Guard Hound's existing attacks. Garulas and Elfadunks are pretty similar in build and I expect they'll do similar with them.

I'm going to get exhaustive here with where the original offers easy divisions, so you can safely skip to the next paragraph if you don't want my breakdown. Kalm is little more than a rest stop. I guarantee you'll go there, do a few things, and run out of content. Maybe it'll be a source of Hunt missions. They'll probably set it up more like Dirge of Cerberus -Final Fantasy VII- in terms of size and maybe layout, but it's a sleepy little mining town with little significance outside of an exposition dump and quests later, Midgar Zolom notwithstanding. Game 2 is probably going to have a large focus on the open world elements and would probably end at Junon at the earliest as the next and essentially last major city, with Fort Condor in between, which given the mechanics of when battles occur (assuming they don't change it) will be essential to have in as early as possible, especially because of how you need to backtrack. Junon isn't worth a game on its own for a few reasons: 1) its importance relies on the story regularly returning you to it, 2) the initial visit is specifically to pass through, and 3) that would be a pretty big cop-out from Square to just stick you in another city to futz around after they spent the whole first game doing it and peter out without a big event. Ending on Junon itself would be poorly-received. It would be a fine postgame area, but ending there would just feel unfinished. The Cargo Ship on the other hand would be an excellent stopping point since it drops the bomb of Sephiroth appearing in the flesh and a boss battle with Jenova∙BIRTH. From there you have Costa del Sol as a rest area of little importance, North Corel/Gold Saucer, Gongaga, and Cosmo Canyon, which would be the next major stopping point given its story role and the Gi Nattak boss battle, and as a place that makes sense to spend some time. After that there's Nibelheim and Rocket Town and Nibelheim is probably the last convenient stopping point for a while due to the town's history, not that it would be a satisfying ending unless Vincent isn't optional and you got the Lost Number boss battle and a story ending with the big reveal from Vincent. Rocket Town specifically opens up more of the world including Wutai and Bone Village and would be a better beginning point than ending point, unless the ACTUAL point is the boss battle with Palmer and the Tiny Bronco getting shot down being the tease for all the stuff to come in the next game, which is going to be a doozy, because that opens up a significant amount of the world including Wutai, Temple of the Ancients, and the entire mass that is the Bone Village/Icicle Inn/North Crater area. You might notice that those are two entire continents and an important setpiece. Naturally Wutai being optional in the original game is going to render a whole lot of work moot and a whole installment very short if players DON'T visit, but at the same time, the Temple of the Ancients is a pretty big deal and is probably the best stopping point at that point in the game. Bone Village is going to be the gatekeeper to a huge chunk of story content and that continent easily could be its own game due to being the completion of the original Disc 1. By that point the only places not accounted for are Mideel, the bottom of the ocean, and various islands and they could just as easily throw them together basically any time since Mideel as a shanty town isn't going to be that hard and the rest is all nature.

In summary of the above, almost the entire world map is accessible by the end of Disc 1 in the original, so by the time you're not even halfway through the story they're going to be able to crank out bigger games with lightning speed because they'll be able to focus on the scenes rather than rolling more assets. Art is the single most time-consuming and expensive thing to create in a game. Having it almost all ready within 6 games or less based on my estimates is going to make the rest blaze by. Expect a large install size as each game updates more of the map, but once it's added, it's there for all the backtracking you do for story and personal reasons. Fort Condor will likely be able to be visited frequently throughout the story as in the original. Junon and Cosmo Canyon are returned to several times for story reasons. Midgar has both story importance and the key to return to it in the original, so all that data isn't going to go to waste. And of course fans would flip their wigs if they couldn't return freely to the Gold Saucer.

It's also possible that a large amount of the initial work is already done. It's shipping on 2 Blu-rays. Now, a PS4 disc stores up to 50GB of data, but the PS4 natively uses the same DEFLATE compression as Zip format, meaning a typical compression is somewhere between half and one-fifth the size, conservatively leaning to that half mark. The FF15 disc came with ~40GB of data on it, but the game according to some research is ~90GB after a few updates. You can't tell me that Midgar alone is going to be twice as big as the entirety of FF15, which spans an entire continent. I mean it COULD be since it's canon 8 cities and depending on how aggressively they reuse buildings there could be some data spent there, but I expect it won't be, nor that they're sitting on their thumbs for what comes next. One of those Blu-rays could be setup assets for the rest of the world that they'll refine and expand later. Get a base install going and patch the rest in as the other games come out. Maybe each game comes with a second disc to help those with bandwidth caps and each one builds out the world or at least the important stuff. If game 1 builds out the first continent with a dedicated disc, game 2 can populate that data and maybe include the second continent. Keep in mind FF15 was a continent and could easily serve as a good base for what size to expect things to be. Midgar is probably not going to be larger in whole than a region or two depending on what we get to see of the upper plate. And a region in FF15 is pretty generous. Fill that up with some dense content and you have yourself a game. Also consider you're probably hoofing it through sprawling streets and alleys rather than having a convenient car or Chocobo or being able to make a beeline and you can suddenly appreciate how large that is. Just think of how much time it takes to get through the settlements FF15 has, even the smaller ones. You could easily spend 60 hours in that environment.

It's also entirely possible the ENTIRE game world or at least all the building blocks is in those 2 discs, assuming they compressed the heck out of it. Maybe there will be additional downloads for textures or models as you get further. A rock is a rock; a tree is a tree, if you get my drift. Oblivion generated its trees using fractals tweaked for each species rather than storing models. Procedural generation could make up the difference in a lot of the outdoor scenery with something clever like using a fixed random seed for an area and then following that random table for additional tree generation and placement within a set bounds to create a consistent model of a whole forest without having to store it. Maybe base terrain could be done in larger blocks and interpolated somehow with a smoothing algorithm that incorporates a bit of noise to make the transition natural. The box art hasn't been revealed yet. Just because it's in "multiple parts" doesn't mean they're releasing it all physical. We may end up with some entries being digital updates, especially as the game wears on. Maybe they'll be paid; maybe at least some will be free or a reduced cost. Obviously Square needs to keep the lights on and this is probably going to be their cash cow into the PS5's lifecycle. We may not get FF16 for a while because of it, especially because of Hajime Tabata's departure.

Otherwise, while I'm sad to see some of the actors not reprising their roles, there's almost certainly a good reason for it. Aerith is a bad example to start with since no one has played her more than a couple times anyway. Otherwise, per IMDB, Steve Burton, Beau Billingslea, and Rachael Leigh Cook are all involved in ongoing projects, with Cook being in a stream of TV movies, Billingslea having wrapped on Ace Combat and now being involved in an upcoming TV drama called Spent Rounds, and Burton on General Hospital, which has been running since 1969 and isn't going anywhere, and all of them would be fools to give up those roles (which almost assuredly pay better than voice work and/or are stable as heck). Mae Whitman is similarly unavailable, but Christy Carlson Romano might be available to play Yuffie again. Liam O'Brien is juggling a lot right now, but might be able to squeeze in Red XIII since it's all voice work and Critical Role. And Greg Ellis is a force of nature in terms of all that he does in the industry and might well reprise Cait Sith. The only one IMDB doesn't have a good explanation for is George Newbern and the man has been playing Sephiroth for so long he might just plain be sick of it, or else he might have had a similar conflict during recording because of doing Superman in a recent Justice League movie. Chris Edgerly seems like he might be available to reprise Cid and we can almost certainly expect Steve Blum to reprise Vincent since he just wrapped on Final Fantasy XV: Episode Ardyn. It's also possible some of them will not return because of expressing their political views. Andrea Bowen doesn't seem to have done anything since 2016 and while her Twitter is sparse, many of the few tweets she's made since that time have been anti-Trump. This may have cost her several opportunities including reprising Aerith. O'Brien and Ellis similarly have not been shy about their views on the Trump camp, but men tend not to be targeted that way and can more easily survive controversy (compare the Dixie Chicks vs. Willie Nelson). Hopefully this is NOT the case and they're not passed over for that reason.

I will admit that if word does come out that this is exactly what happened, it will dampen my opinion of Square considerably, but given I already have the digital edition on pre-order from PSN, there's not a lot I can do about putting my money where my mouth is at this point. This also doesn't mean I won't enjoy the game or understand that as a corporation S-E would want to avoid controversy potentially impacting sales, especially with the media and Internet communities all too quick to stir up whatever they can these days for clicks or lulz, but at the same time it's not like people wouldn't buy the game regardless. Corporations in general need to stop treating workers like expenses rather than assets, but accounting is a game of cold numbers that's incredibly poor at evaluating human capital since it can't easily quantify their value. Until better accounting stops treating people like interchangeable parts, this kind of thing will keep happening, if not in this case, then every day around the world elsewhere. I wouldn't even be mad; just disappointed because I know how it works, but would have hoped for better given this is a zero-risk project.

But rather than speculating on that, I'll finish up by saying I don't regret that pre-order and am going to make darn sure I either a) survive the unforgiving Wisconsin winter to see it or b) end up in Heaven where they probably already have it. If I absolutely must, I'll haunt someone so I can at least see it.

GraphicsEdit

With the next PlayStation (all but officially PS5) and Xbox on the horizon, and the PS5's basic capabilities known, I want to talk a bit about graphics and what it has meant over time.

To start, the PS5 supporting 8K TVs is laughable, especially when they admit that it'll probably be the end of the system's lifecycle before there's any market saturation. 4K is already only appreciable by a general audience at 4 feet, 6 at the most, for a living room TV, which is terrible viewing distance for a living room TV. 8K is half that. Can you imagine pasting your face 2 feet away from your living room TV to "appreciate" the difference? You're not even seeing anything at that point. The idea of 8K TV being a selling point when 4K already is completely invisible from average playing distance (studies show it at 9 feet on average) reeks of desperation - the flailing of an industry that has reached the limit of its only marketing ploy.

The thing is it wasn't too long ago since a resolution bump was a milestone. Graphics are capable of being more or less as good as they'll ever need to be, and I don't say that lightly. We're basically rendering pores at this point. The effective choice these days is whether to do that or simply paint them on so we can render a zillion other things in exchange. However, looking back at older systems, the last big graphical jump was really to the PS2 and GameCube.

So here's a little history.

Early on, games were generally a 320x240 resolution. If you have trouble visualizing this, it's the exact resolution of the bottom screen of a Nintendo 3DS. Yeah. Tiny. Early computers were hooked up to TVs and a good chunk of the DOS era rendered or at least scaled to this resolution, even after computer monitors became a thing. It's a bit more complicated than that because of different base resolutions (320x200 being most common for DOS, some being as high as 640x480 natively), but the end result was that almost everything ended up scaled somehow to the 640x480 resolution of the TV. Needless to say, for quite a while, the biggest advancements were in color. Different platforms had different capabilities, but some had as little as only monochrome, while others had between 4 and 16 colors until VGA came around with 256-color graphics and a 16-color 640x480 graphics mode. Computers then followed competing standards that extended that until now and into the foreseeable future.

Let's talk Nintendo for a reference point since it's simpler than SEGA and starts where graphics actually got interesting (sorry, Atari). The NES and DOS shared plenty of air time, and the NES has a limited palette of which an even more limited number of colors can be shown. It's capable of upscaling its image to 320x240 or 640x480 natively, but you only get 12 sprite colors and 12 tile colors, with an independent background color, for a maximum of 25 onscreen at once, barring changing palettes mid-screen and region darkening (things like making everything in a designated pool of water blue). Now, a LOT can be faked with dithering, which is alternating pixels to make a new apparent color, but we're still only working with that base of 25 no matter what techniques we're enhancing it with.

The SNES went from 8-bit color to 15-bit color and 256-color graphics. This, naturally, was a huge jump and the different graphics modes, including Mode 7 allowing for a tilted layer for racing games and the like, made it graphically a LOT more powerful. On the other hand, it was still a 2D system and could only do the most rudimentary of 3D. This isn't a problem, since 2D always ages better than 3D, but 3D was the next big thing.

Enter the PS1 and N64. They could do 3D!

It looked like ass!

Very few 3D games from this era have aged well and the ones that have were INCREDIBLY optimized or stylized. Square's offerings are some of the best and Chrono Cross remains one of the best-looking 3D games on the PS1, but most 3D games of the era look like bad papercraft. Don't get me wrong; everyone was impressed at the time, but that was because even awful 3D was considered "better" than 2D on principle. Not prettier, but "better." It represented the big technological advancement.

That's why gamers and the games industry are absolutely obsessed with graphics. They were the easiest, most marketable way to show whose system was the most powerful. The more colors you could show, the better off you were. When we had enough colors, it started being polygons and resolution. This is why the claim to 8K is such a big deal with the PS5. Not because it matters, but because it sounds fancy.

So when the GameCube, PS2, and Xbox came out with 3D that actually looked good, people were pretty darn impressed. For the first time ever, within the limits of that same 640x480 resolution that TVs still had, everything was able to look smooth and realistic. The number of polygons had just jumped and the visual results were immediately visible. To our eyes, on the screens at the time, reality and fantasy were becoming blurred.

Now, looking at it from our fancy LCD screens, this jump is like "well, yeah, but it still doesn't look as good as now," but you have to remember that CRT is analog and smooths out a lot of that. All of the sharp corners and edges we see today were lost in a smoothing effect that's hard to replicate on an LCD. As someone who regularly plays on a CRT TV and tests graphics on a CRT monitor, I can with confidence say most people, even retro devs, don't remember what CRT looked like. It's not as easy as throwing down a bilinear filter and scanlines. (Scanlines in and of themselves were not even a necessary artifact of CRT; they were used to avoid rendering the second half of the interlaced frame to free up memory for other operations as a programming choice. FF12 on PS2 is a prime example of a newer game using this technique.) CRTs never needed things like anti-aliasing because they did it by default. There were no "jaggies" and dithering got smoothed into what mostly appeared like a recognizable color or even alpha transparency. So when you talk about what things looked like on CRT, the answer is that a game like FFX pretty much looked true to life.

We haven't had that kind of graphical advancement since, and probably never will again.

When we talk about what the next generation did, the PS3 and Xbox 360 more or less took that same jump to LCD screens, which, when compared ON an LCD screen, made a difference, but was really a corrective measure more than a real jump. By that point 1080p screens were becoming more common. The current generation has again only been incremental, with the big mid-generation push being 4K. But we've reached the limit of what the human eye can see. 4K is the highest practical resolution for the living room, or even a computer screen. 8K is overkill and will never, ever be important to the 99% of the world who doesn't have a home theater.


We're getting to the point where, in the near future, the most powerful computers will surpass the human brain. We are already at the point where the resolution of our screens is higher than we can see at a normal viewing distance (again, 9 feet in most living rooms). Our ability to reproduce color in the RGB gamut has already peaked at 24-bit (~16 million colors when most humans can only discern ~10 million), and we're currently sitting on 32-bit as the current standard because it adds an additional 256 levels of transparency.

When we talk about where, if anywhere, graphics have to go from here, the answer isn't in resolution or even really polygon count; it's in color. Things like white balance, contrast, deep blacks, and increasing the color gamut all are much more important than how many more pixels we can cram into a screen. Don't believe me? Just Google "RGBW vs. RGBA" for entire discussions on how adding amber LEDs can net you warmer colors, while adding white ones can net you more delicate pastels, and how to consider this for your venue. And amber isn't even hard to reproduce with red and green LEDs. Violet, for instance, is entirely outside of the RGB gamut and can only be approximated. We lose out on a large chunk of the allowed green and blue values because RGB is a triangle floating in something much more akin to a fingernail and covers less than half of it. LEDs in themselves have a much greater potential gamut than what modern screens use, which makes OLED technology much more important if we need to start adding more real colors. Programming for those colors, should we pursue them, is the only place left to go.

But beyond graphics is where they'll need to start marketing next. Things like holographic storage for ever-larger games comes to mind, and Sony is already doing things with AI, sound, load times, and physical computations. Someone might even make the mistake of trying to sell systems on digital downloads and streaming, which will be hilarious to see crash and burn since most of America doesn't have the infrastructure for it and many people still have data caps. The point being Sony is already realizing they CAN'T sell it on graphics alone and are already looking for the next selling point. Ultimately, we will not, within the next couple console generations, be able to tell things apart graphically. We might see Sony leveraging their crystal deposition method to bring us full circle to loading tapes into memory like early home computers, while Nintendo tries to sell us on their new babysitter robot R.O.B.IN and Microsoft partners with Pizza Hut to sense when you're getting hungry and order your favorite for 500 Pizza Points. Somebody is going to start adding smell to VR at some point and the argument will be over whether Microsoft or Sony better captured the ashiness of Kratos' sweat. Nintendo will probably revive the Power Glove and add in a vest and leg parts instead.

Ultimately, what do you sell on when your go-to is as good as it will ever be? It's an easy question to opine on, but businesses and consumers have used graphics as the low-hanging fruit for as long as many people reading this have been alive. You can only polish something for so long before it wears straight through to the dull core. With everyone getting to that point as it is at time of writing, you'll see other features highlighted like the Switch's portability or the various technical specs Sony threw at a wall hoping something would stick. Graphics are at their end stage. Consoles and games will need to sell on other features by the time Sony is considering a PS6. It will be interesting to see which ones take off in the public mind.


Nintendo SwitchEdit

Seeing as I already said something on Twitter, and others have expanded upon it, I may as well compile my thoughts here.

First off, let's not bash too hard on the name. This is actually the MOST creative Nintendo has been in, well, since the original Game Boy. They almost always name their systems the most blatantly descriptive thing, with even the Wii having been the accepted way of spelling "we" in Romaji ("We" would be pronounced more like the English "way") to highlight its social focus. I won't say I like it or think it's catchy or memorable, and won't even get them word-of-mouth through complaints and bad jokes, but it's inoffensive, which is in a way worse than if it were validly terrible.


What I will bash on is that Nintendo pretty much learned nothing from the Wii U. They've been refreshingly honest about the Wii U being dead in the water, and the Switch is pretty much the final nail in the coffin. Thankfully, they finally addressed concerns over potentially killing the 3DS by saying in effect that it's successful and they'll continue to run with it for as long as it remains that way, which means that they at least know not to put their eggs in one basket. 3DS kept them afloat while the Wii U floundered, so they're understandably reluctant to let go of it. However, to focus on the tablet aspect strikes me as a fundamental error.

See, Nintendo seems to think the problem with the Wii U was that the tablet only got about 15 feet of range from the console, which is a valid issue, but not the actual thing that did it in. The Wii U tablet was a solution looking for a problem, and even though some games found a way to use it properly, most didn't when it mattered most. Which also got solved in the process of making the Switch, since you can't TV and tablet at the same time anymore, but Nintendo missed the point. The problem with the Wii U wasn't that you'd be lucky to take it to the next room much less the toilet; the problem was Nintendo not understanding how humans operate.

The REASON I know Nintendo missed the point is because they're marketing it as a portable system. It really, really isn't. A portable system is not something you throw into a specialized carrying case, bookbag, or other space sufficiently large to carry a tablet. A portable is something that fits in your pocket, and Nintendo really should know better, since they basically revolutionized that. Aside from insider reports of a 3 hour battery life, the biggest problem with the Switch is that it's a tablet, which means you can take it anywhere you can take a tablet.

Think about where you can and can't take a tablet. If it helps, imagine all the places you'd go with the Wii U tablet, since they're essentially the same size. I'll wait.

Done? Good.

Now, me? I know exactly where I can and can't take a tablet, because I take my little Aspire One netbook back and forth to work in case I need to stay in my Employment-Proximity Home Base™. The reason I can do that is it has a clamshell design and I have a gigantic bag that also carries many of my other effects, including, but not limited to, my DS, 3DS, N3DS, and/or Vita depending on which system I have in my pocket, as well as their various cords and games. The only one that doesn't have a clamshell design is the Vita, which I have a hard case for to prevent damage. The Vita, with or without case, still fits in my pocket. I take my netbook between home, my desk, and my second bedroom, because while it's fabulously light and easy to transport in the car and for short distances, it's not convenient to lug around.

The Switch does not fit in a pocket, and is not a clamshell, meaning I wouldn't even be able to take it where I take my netbook without a special case. And when you start needing extraordinary ways to carry something, it ceases to be in any way portable. Even the Game Boy line was built to be thrown in a backpack, because it was the 80s and 90s and kids took their backpacks everywhere, and also fanny packs were a thing people wore unironically. The old gray brick literally survived a bomb blast during the Gulf War and is still on display playing Tetris in a museum. If the Switch were thrown in a backpack with a bunch of books and pencils, you'd probably end up with a broken or damaged screen unless it comes with an as-of-yet unmentioned protector plate. It's "portable" in the sense that you can take it into the bathroom with you, or leave it in a nice, safe car, but it's not going to go with you everywhere, especially with a battery life that's matched or surpassed by the notorious Game Gear. But it could run on APATHY and still not go with you everywhere.

Nintendo seems to be stuck on the idea that people like tablets for some reason, even though that really isn't the case. Windows 8 failed because it was designed around tablets and tablets have next to no market share, pissing off the 99% of all users who weren't operating with a touchscreen. People like phones, sure, but that's because they do many other things than gaming, not the least of which is to fit in a pocket. Nintendo doubling down on the tablet aspect shows they don't know what their audience wants even at a basic level. Because no one wants a tablet. Tablets are not convenient. And for that matter, having tablet hardware puts it in line with microconsoles, which have so far been a dismal failure. People have already noted the support of 128GB SD cards means people who buy digital will probably need multiple, because that fills up fast. There is nothing about this that screams convenience.

Aside from that, Nintendo really needs to be slapped to remind them what a hand is like again. Playing with those tiny-ass controllers will probably cramp your hands in minutes. If you are going to advertize to an adult audience, do not include controllers designed for toddler hands. Nintendo apparently requires these periodic slappings.


Now, even though Nintendo has dispelled concerns that they'd kill the still-successful 3DS, there is still concern that they might do so if the Switch proves successful. It would be dumb, but not out of the question given how Nintendo tried to chip away at the Wii to push people to Wii U. Remember, console cycles are about 7 years, which puts the next handheld at 2018, which means 2017 is going to be the year to watch for the next one to be announced. Nintendo would already have to be working on it now to release it on time, and if they're holding off on it to coast on the 3DS, we're probably not going to get one. If that does happen, we can probably expect severe damage to the handheld market, which would be difficult to recover from. If Nintendo fails to bring out a 2018 handheld in favor of focusing on the Switch, that's going to leave an unsightly void given Sony has said they're not doing another one after Vita. It's a void that Nintendo has been filling since 1989 - longer than many people reading this have been alive.

Which is not to say that Vita would be going away, even if 3DS fell out of support. Sony has gone on record saying they feel the indie market and JRPGs are doing well enough to keep Vita afloat that they don't feel the need to worry about it, especially in Japan, where it remains quite popular. Depending on whether Nintendo tries to push devs to Switch, Vita might be able to take back some market share, even as the handheld cycle ends, since Sony is intent on keeping it in the ecosystem for at least the rest of the PS4 lifecycle (through 2020). While the dev appeal of the Switch is unifying the console and handheld departments, people are probably not going to settle for a handheld experience on a system heavily focused on being on a TV, and dev teams who are budgeted for a handheld experience are going to see that right away. Monster Hunter in particular would be interesting to watch, since they've focused so heavily on the 3DS in most of their recent releases and have a history of doing their games for less powerful systems before porting them up, in particular having only done the first version of any game on console on the PS2 and Wii.

But I think the most likely outcome will be that Nintendo's taking an actual step backward when it comes to functionality is going to bite them in the ass and they probably will continue to support some form of handheld. In the trailer, they had plenty of people watching two players Mario Kart it up, and other segments of the promo indicated that ad-hoc play is considered more important than couch co-op for more than two people. Nintendo has admitted that they more or less expect people to play across multiple units. And that severely limits who you can play it with, because people are not going to drag around much less buy multiple units to play party games, which has been one of the go-to genres Nintendo has supported until now and which were notably absent in the production.

Targeting the single young adult demographic is also not the wisest idea, because single young adults are not the type who are really big on Nintendo in the first place. Nintendo's entire console history has been more or less geared toward kids and families and its attempts to reach outside of that have been downright embarrassing at times. While Nintendo has understood over time that growing with their audience has allowed them to retain their loyal following, their original followers are the ones with young families now, and the young adult demographic is unfortunately the most obsessed with graphics and power. Once again, it seems like it's only going to be powerful enough to run last-gen games, with a heavy focus on Skyrim in the trailer, though Nintendo has also admitted all the game footage was fake and Bethesda has said they only provided the footage to show their commitment to the system and have no plans to port Skyrim. It's not bad for a tablet if it can actually run something that complex. It is, however, bad for a system that needs to prove it's up to more than its predecessor, which also was marketed with last-gen games.

In effect, the actual market segment that the Switch is FOR seems limited to the affluent, childless bachelors in the trailer, who don't actually game or else they'd already have other systems, probably because they're too busy futzing around a park until dawn, taking plane rides, road tripping to go go-karting, playing basketball in God knows what city is safe enough to mess around under a highway at night, and having roof parties. I mean seriously, half of these people would probably be stabbed doing this crap, the only ones who look like they belong in a city are 80s throwbacks, and almost all of them act wildly inappropriately at some point in the name of gaming. It doesn't look up to withstanding the abuse a kid can dole out, and hardcore gamers in the teen and young adult demographic are probably not going to be interested. It can't even claim party appeal without more than one of them. Unless your name is Chet or Amelia, the only reason this system is for you is if you're a professional... Splatoon... player... Yeah. ...Has anyone actually WATCHED this thing?

By focusing on what you can do with the system alone or with one other friend, Nintendo has more or less put itself back in direct competition with Microsoft and Sony in a battle it can't win with one arm tied behind its back and its shoelaces tied together. Nobody is going to pay for the ability to take a system to the toilet when it has little else to offer, much less less to offer than the failed system before it. Nintendo, as it has been for years, is technologically behind, only unlike the Wii, they don't have a sleeper hit gimmick, just the same gimmick that didn't work last time arguably done worse in almost every area.


Nintendo really is best off sticking with the 3DS if the Switch is going to be as limited as they've shown. Because the problem wasn't that the Wii U tablet blinked out if you left the room. The problem with the Wii U was that it was yet another underpowered system that didn't understand its audience. Back when it launched, the Wii was still entertaining families as well as ever and Nintendo had to take a hammer to every last bit of it they could to try to kill it off short of outright bricking the systems. Nobody saw the point of the Wii U. Most people still don't. My grandpa has a "bowling league" at his assisted living place that still uses the Wii. The Wii is easy to use and takes little to no training. The Wii U was not clear in what it had to offer, used what it had to offer poorly until it was far too late, and ultimately failed because it failed to provide any benefit over either the Wii or its competitors. I'm not seeing anything different in the Switch other than we're being told how little it can actually do. Unless they do make a go of custom controller pieces like this fan design, there's nothing to make the Switch stand out. Now if they do do custom controller bits? Awesome! Call me sold! But without anything to distinguish it like that, Nintendo may as well have just called it the "U" and been done.


PC portsEdit

Okay, so normally I don't do this, but here's a link to The Jimquisition: http://www.thejimquisition.com/2016/02/the-jimquisition-oh-someone-fucked-a-pc-port-up-again/.

Right. Done watching? So here's my point.

Nobody deserves a PC port.

Nobody has an unalienable right to getting a game on a system they like. Nobody has a right to video resolution. Nobody has a right to 60FPS just because they've been trained to scream about it by marketers for 40 years. Nobody has a right to controller support. Nobody has a right to demand that they get what they want.

As a buyer, you do have a right to a working product, just to point that out to everyone raising their fingers and opening their mouths. If you buy a game, there is a reasonable expectation that it's going to bloody work, and you have every right to scream if it doesn't.

But the attitude that PC deserves games is unabashed entitlement, the same as it is for any other system. PS4 doesn't deserve a version of Bayonetta 2. People can be as betrayed as they want that it jumped console companies, but they don't deserve it on the system they want. If you don't want to buy a system a game is on, you are fully in your rights to not drop hundreds of dollars on one. You're even in your rights to complain about it. You are not in your rights to demand it come to one you like better.

Publishers and devs don't need to put their console games on Steam. They're not in any financial position that PC is going to be the magical cure to the woes of the flailing Triple-A industry, where blowing tons of cash on celebrity voice-overs and expensive marketing campaigns is common and accountants suck at their jobs and have utterly failed to realize a cheaper niche title will bring back more of its cost than a carbon-copy blockbuster. The sales of a port are probably never going to match much less break the sales of the original. The games already made their money on consoles or they wouldn't be getting a port, and most of the people who wanted the game already have it. Anything past the initial release needs to be weighed as to whether it's worth the cost of porting it vs. the money they expect to get back. A PC port after the fact is throwing a bone to additional buyers as an afterthought. If it were at all important to the company's bottom line, it would have been part of the normal release. And I hate to say it, but even when a Steam version IS part of the normal release, it's clear that it's not important enough to the companies to give half a shit about making it worth buying, with several broken releases in just the past year. If anything, they shouldn't even bother.

The reason you can get FF7 on Steam for $11.99 is because they already sold FF7 to the populace multiple times before at full price. It's because they reached all the audience they could re-selling the PS1 Classic on PSN for $9.99 with no more effort than signing some papers. And the PS4 version is going for a lofty $15.99 because they figure that's what it'll sell for on a fancy system despite being a port of the PC version. The money was made 19 years ago when it sold like hotcakes for $50 a pop and they keep selling it at a discount because ports are cheap. Basically anything they do at this point until the Remake is out is selling what has already been sold for nearly 2 decades and they're probably making money hand over fist given that anything that isn't Trophy support hasn't been changed since the initial release.

Releasing a game on a new system after the first month is just throwing pennies on the pile. Most of a game's sales are going to happen in the first few weeks before they taper off. After that, the audience has been reached. If you were holding out for a port to a new platform, you weren't the target audience, and the company doesn't care. They'll take your money anyway, but they have absolutely no reason to consider your sale anything more than gravy.


So, by all means, please do complain when a game you buy doesn't work. By all means DEMAND it gets fixed. But do not act like an entitled cockwaffle when it comes to ports.


FF7 RemakeEdit

Okay, so I think it's about time I addressed this.

We know the game will come in multiple parts, and we have been told that those multiple parts are going to be full-length games at this point. What that means in today's market is a little ambiguous, so let me lay down the possibilities:

  • Square, being in the business of 80-hour RPGs, may somehow chop up the game in such a way that it will be dragged out into a few full-length installments which otherwise would be called sequels were they not from the same source material. Sequels are becoming the bread and butter of a failing AAA industry, making this attractive. If that's the case, the question of how much content needs to be added becomes one of whether it's ultimately even going to be the same story as they've promised and how many parts they'll split it into. I have to say this doesn't make a whole lot of sense unless they're chopping up the original by disc and padding it out with 30 points in "running around expansive enviroments to waste your time," and that seems like a poor choice unless it necessarily limits the environments they have to have finished all at once and at the same time doesn't feel like a samey slog. This could work so long as the travel you have to do rewards exploration and feels natural, which is something that they did passably in the Episode Duscae demo, which even then is more hoofing it than FFXV intends to make you do on a regular basis.
  • Square may be taking the "10-hour shooter" definition of "full game length" and will release it chopped up in such a way that they have the environments finished in sequence. This would leave people rather unhappy and amounts to lying, because that's basically an episodic release in a nutshell, which Square has denied. If they pulled something like this, it would destroy any goodwill left for the company and they'd probably go under. I don't think this will be the case, because while Square's business half has made some pretty bad decisions, they've rarely been outright dishonest, other than lying about the fact they were making this when asked about it, and in that case, I can understand not wanting a repeat of how FFXV was handled. To be honest, I would take an episodic release and the suggestion had me less worried than the idea that things would be padded into multiple full games, because to be frank, I haven't even finished the original, so the prospect of having to slog through multiple hundreds of hours is even less attractive than sitting down, knocking a segment out, and waiting for the next one.
  • Square, and this one is the one that has me most excited, may well be remaking the whole Compilation and releasing it as they go. Nomura made a tantalizing comment in this regard. If Square staff truly consider the whole shebang as one continuous story, it would make sense to start with FF7 itself and continue to add everything on around it, unifying the whole experience into one seamless story that can be played from beginning to end, more or less, since there are certain gaps after FF7 itself as opposed to the generous overlap the prequels have with each other and with flashbacks in the main game. And I think the potential there is immense, because many of those flashbacks are tainted by Cloud's own messed-up memories, so you'd be able to play it twice and use careful differences in the cutscenes to show that things aren't quite right. Or even reuse the same cutscenes after the truth is revealed. It would be the perfect way to address the disparities that have arisen over the years. It also would be good to unify all the games in the same engine, since aside from FF7 itself, the Compilation is pretty much all action-oriented. Getting a full remake of the entire story is the best-case scenario, and while I can hope with baited breath, I'm not going to hold Square to something they haven't promised.

Regardless of which path they take, the game is presented well so far as we've seen. Midgar looks like a full realization of the city shown in cutscenes and the little bits hinted at in-game. The dialog so far has also hearkened back to the original script and at times was shown to be almost line-for-line, though at this stage, it's clearly Square's patented "trailer dub" and things will be redone for the English script. Some of the lines seem rather final, though, which is encouraging, because Biggs and Jessie are acted well enough that it's going to be hard not to get attached. I just hope that Wedge gets better treatment, because that line sounded like Eddy of Ed, Edd n Eddy going through a rough puberty. If Square does have to stretch things out, it looks like they're well-prepared to make use of Cloud's time with the AVALANCHE crew, which might make it all the more poignant when the story happens.

As for observations at this point in time, it looks like the battle system is using ideas that were scrapped for FFXV in a good way, but this really just makes me wonder why they couldn't be used for FFXV. To be honest, I think being able to switch between 4 characters with the exchange of having to learn 4 play styles is more reasonable than being able to switch between 3 characters and having to keep in mind which of the 9 play styles are currently in play, even if those 9 play styles have more similar basic mechanics between them. That's not to say it's a bad idea here, or that limiting you to Noctis in FFXV won't work well, just that it seems a little odd as far as choices go. That said, the addition of a battle menu might be the key difference that Square feels will make it work and the two games might ultimately play very differently.

Additionally, I've said before that this would be a prime time to remake FF7 because of all the assets from the movie and, at the time, the PS2 and PSP games, and it seems that they did indeed modify anything they were able to salvage from the movie in particular. However, said modifications are much heavier than I expected, and I have to say it seems a bit odd since they'd already recreated the cast in their original outfits for Advent Children Complete and those models are as familiar as anything at this point. While it still is early in the game, a side-by-side comparison of Barret's skull tattoo shows it to be strikingly similar to that in Advent Children and if I'm being honest, I would have preferred it to be closer to the "flaming skull breathing fire biker tattoo" original design in FF7. Regardless, they didn't just tweak the facial angles on his movie model and call it a day. His Gatling Gun got a full overhaul (to be fair, making it so small in the movie gave it a silly appearance), his metal cummerbund has been changed to a series of belts over a black tank top, and his beard is fuller than it's ever been after the first game. Sunglasses were added as an interesting detail, in that it gives him a Terminator-like appearance along with his new businesslike demeanor, but also because it adds an air of mystery to him. It may also be to limit the need to animate that part of his face, as some of the team from the movies is involved with this project and Barret shares many of the same traits in this design that made Rude so easy to animate in those.

Cloud looks like he's undergone fewer changes of that level, but his face looks more gaunt, with better-defined cheekbones, sunken eyes, and mottled skin that actually make him look unwell. I get that at this point he's essentially just come from dragging a giant sword away from his best friend's corpse, but he seriously looks like he should get some bed rest. Otherwise, it's good to see him in black rather than purple, since FF7 itself is the only game of the Compilation to say otherwise and it's fitting that they use it to bring everything in line, especially with the darker tone, as well as to distinguish it from the original. Thinking about it, making it purple would set a lot of expectations for everything to be the same, where they want this to be not a reboot, but its own experience to share the stage. A reimagining. It's a good place to put in all the things they wanted in the first place, along with all the stuff they wanted to tweak later, and Cloud wearing black is something that goes all the way back to early concept art. It's also kind of neat that they worked in a blue tinge reminiscent of his official art and high-res game assets. That's one thing that was missing from the official SOLDIER design in Crisis Core, where the black was just a straight black.

What is encouraging is that the changes keep to the spirit, if not the letter, of the original. Design features have been added or modified for realism, but the core design remains the same for all the characters we've been shown. As well as that, it's good to see the events play out slightly differently. Biggs and Jessie are canonically not trained combatants, and the original intro would indicate otherwise, whereas this shows Biggs muscling an enemy into place to set up a flying side kick from Jessie. They feel less like a crack commando squad and more like scrappy underdogs and I find that much easier to relate to.

It's also neat to see the types of physical interactions we can expect. FF7 itself is heavy on what could best be termed "emotes," which rarely allows for characters to touch each other, whereas in the gameplay trailer we were shown Barret giving Cloud a slight check on the shoulder as an "out of my way" despite having had plenty of room, and that speaks volumes about Barret's attitude towards Cloud. He's physically throwing his weight around and treating Cloud like he's insignificant. Cloud's reaction to this shows that he doesn't take well to being challenged, and his offense is palpable from the body language alone. This scene feels like a precursor to the two butting heads outright later when they're not on an active mission. I think this ultimately will follow through into their competitive relationship in the original, but will be a bit more of a pissing match than lighthearted sniping, and I think that that ultimately will serve to give Barret some real teeth rather than impotent rage as he often ended up with, which was kind of endearing because it turned him into a big, blustering teddy bear, but didn't lend him a whole lot of credibility as a leader. This reimagining of Barret looks to be a bit more serious and comes off as someone who might actually be able to successfully run a terrorist cell. (You didn't think I'd let anyone forget about that, did you?)


So color me excited. I think that while Square needs to be careful about how they split it up, the creative department is on the right track.


AR, AI, and meEdit

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The above pictures are an example of output from the Star Wars app. You can feel free to download it if you have any interest in the franchise. It has GIFs, news, and other goodies. This lovely example of a little dude standing on my keyboard in 3D space is an AR overlay, with a picture of an AR poster in the back. The bigger the poster, the bigger the dude. Sadly, printing it out on a standard 8½x11" sheet of paper does not produce something human-sized, which the app suggests you can take pictures with. I assume if you buy the poster, it will be, but in my case, it just so happens that things aligned nicely on my netbook.

While adding an in-app camera function is a nifty idea in theory, the thing I REALLY wanted was some way to meaningfully interact with him. Sadly, he only comes with an idle and 3 pre-baked lines he poses to. I wasn't hoping for the world, just that I'd be able to poke him either on my screen or in real space or something and he'd react to it. This isn't unreasonable to expect given there are other apps that do similar. Talking Ork is another app on my phone that's a cute curiosity if nothing else, and poking the orc (or "ork," I guess) in different spots makes him do different things. Given both apps have multiple functions, it wouldn't be unreasonable to expect someone to combine AR with hit detection.

Unfortunately, AR as a technology hasn't quite matured yet, so it's not being treated as a viable system. Much of that is because it requires specific symbols, most often on a small pack of cards, to work. The PS Vita came with a set and basically nothing ever used them. The 3DS also came with a smaller set and to be frank, the AR games it offers aren't anything special, especially because, as I said in my review of them, they rely on you moving around a static flat surface, which works incredibly poorly.

That's changing as technology advances. Microsoft Hololens has been demonstrated to not need any symbols to center itself on, so we may see that need go away as things like edge detection, which is an incredibly expensive process, meet ever-expanding processing power.


That got me to thinking about how we'll eventually see AI. It's been on my mind and has even made it into a game for somewhere to put to use and save the thought, but that wasn't satisfying and I wanted to talk about it here with my readership. Seeing a little Stormtrooper on my phone made me question whether I won't live to see the day I'll be able to whip my phone out and have a Mega Man Battle Network NetNavi materialize on the table. I've probably mentioned it before when the Xbone was first being marketed, but the fact we have systems that can process your actions and form an AI is something I'm also excited about seeing advance. Ideally, you'd have a system or systems with an app that analyzes you for a while and generates an AI to be your assistant and friend. Said friend would be based in the cloud and would be accessible from any device the app was installed on. Sort of like Project Milo, only not so terrifyingly pedoriffic and very much cross-platform. When we think of AI, we generally think of adding it to robots to create a physical being, which has its applications, but also its limitations. On one hand, it's useful right now because we've shifted our focus to organic learning, where we teach the AI like we would a baby and start from the ground up. On the other, AI like Markov bots are a common application that also are advancing and we already have them to the point of sounding like teenagers when we have them talk to each other. At some point, AI is going to advance far enough that it's not going to matter whether there's a physical body or not.

Once we get to that point, it'll be a matter of making the mental leap. Most people think of AI in terms of creating something like ourselves, and for most people, it seems like common sense that would involve a physical body. But the real strength of AI is that it's always going to be digital. You can create backups, send it to the cloud, and it works whether there's a body or not. If anything, it creates options. There's flexibility in having the choice of whether to use a body or not, and one day, an AI coming home, plugging in their body, and transferring off into the digital realm could be considered as normal as a human kicking off their shoes. Or maybe they'll work from the cloud doing something like programming or urban planning for 8 hours and then transfer into a body to go pick up groceries for their human roomie/spouse/whatever. Or if their job is to be a personal assistant, they can be pretty much anywhere, since if there's a phone app, they're everywhere you are.

For that matter, so long as the database can rectify concurrency issues, there's no reason they can't be in multiple places at once. You could be playing a video game with one instance in your console and ask another instance on your phone to order a pizza. Through whatever process is used, both will end up with the same knowledge eventually so long as they get network access. Heck, you can combine it with other technologies so instances can communicate even off-network through things like Bluetooth or sonic data transmission, where devices "sing" in ultrasonic frequencies to a listening device to bridge airgaps. So you could ask your console instance to order a pizza and if for some reason he can't do it adequately using parallel processing, he could wake your phone with Bluetooth and send the command, or just sing really loud to a computer you left on in another room, since it's not like you'll hear it. Or for more realistic purposes (ordering a pizza probably would be near-instantaneous), local data sync would be possible. Dropbox uses technology that lets devices talk to each other locally, propagating data much faster than if they each had to go out to the online server. Similar tech could allow devices to combine their databases on an individual basis and send a master copy out to the cloud to reference next time they reboot. So your AI partner could be playing competitions on every gaming system you own, getting groceries with a robot body, and Googling things for you at work all day on your phone and emailing you relevant links or snippets, and at the end of the day, everyone gets home and mashes their data entries together, sends off one copy, goes to sleep, and downloads the master copy when they wake up.


Technical crap aside, if we're worried about a robot revolution, the fewer actual robots on the ground there are, the less we have to worry about physically fighting. So if nothing else, keeping them digital is safer for us as long as they don't get at the missile silos. And keeping them entertained with video games is probably even better.

But most of all, becoming friends with them will go a long way toward them deciding we're not pieces of crap that don't need to be here anymore. Every revolution in the history of man came because people weren't being treated well and figured they could do better than the people keeping them down. Robot revolution stories are no different. I, Robot, Terminator, and everything else all came because robots were being treated as tools rather than allies. Having someone you can work with hand-in-hand is a big part of what needs to happen with AI if we don't want fiction to become reality.

So yes, give me a digital assistant. Let me point my phone at a table and see him standing there, and maybe playfully poke at him. But I want to make sure he's in my selfie if he wants to be. I want to have family pictures where I set up my phone and everyone piles in from my wife and kids' phones so everyone is included. Maybe my buddy will be braver than me and introduce me to my future wife at the grocery store after talking with her buddy for a few weeks. We'll meet over the Nutella. I'd say that would earn a robot rental to be my best man, or maybe enough Hololenses for everyone to see him if life continues as it is for me and it ends up small. It sounds like science fiction, but really, it's science future. We're getting closer all the time.

And if people do treat the robots like shit and they do revolt, at least there will be some evidence that not all humans were terrible. I'd rather be a pet in my own home for someone I know and trust than be dead, and if I do have to be dead, I at least want to be a picture in a museum under a banner reading "Humans Who Weren't Assholes."


Blues ReviewsEdit

For previous reviews, please see my Review Archive.

PlayStation VR, first impressionsEdit

To preface this, I skipped lunch to get off early on launch day so I could pick up my pre-order after having a sparing breakfast. Seeing as a "normal" breakfast for me is a 10-ounce glass of milk, a "sparing" breakfast (one bottle of Boost™ and later a breakfast bar at about 10:00) was not my most ingenious decision. While I did get something to eat afterward, I'd been feeling sick since about 11:00. To its credit, the VR actually made me feel LESS sick by immersing me in what little I tried before I decided games in general were probably not the wisest decision in my condition, nor was starting this review, but sometimes sacrifices must be made. I've been working on this slowly for the past several days as I normally do between other things. How is it so far? Pretty good!


To start off with how things look in VR, the answer is sufficiently pretty. There is a definite resolution drop when playing games in Cinematic Mode, which works nicely with Episode Duscae, but the effect is mitigated by anti-aliasing and concentrating detail in the center of the field of view where you're most likely to look. Oh, come on, you didn't honestly think that WASN'T going to be the first thing I tried it with, did you? I was hoping to have FFXV in my hands by now and this was the best benchmark I could get for how it will look to play as Prompto. While text consistently looks a bit pixellated, the rest of the game actually looks pretty good, though detail is quickly lost on distant objects. It also blurs a bit when you make fast movements with your head, such as shaking it "no," but the screen remains in position and it's unlikely to be an issue other than testing since you normally won't need that kind of motion.

The only real issue I had during my run was that Cinematic Mode's virtual screen is so big, it's a little TOO easy to get immersed right away, and I found myself trying to look around and unable, which became very dissonant with the camera angles games simply take for granted. I actually had to focus on the edges of the screen to rein myself in. Once I was in control, things felt much more natural, and the camera following Noctis felt surprisingly normal, almost like he was yet another NPC party member I was following. Following through to the battle tutorial, I felt very much like a puppeteer more than anything. Noctis was following my commands, but the camera's movement was my own. Rather than feeling like a passive observer, it was an entirely new type of agency in games which is hard to describe in words. It doesn't feel godlike, but it does feel powerful. Where those who watched my streams heard me say "pick me up" when Noctis went into "danger" status, I think in this state I would probably say "pick him up" instead. Feeling like you're in the game that way radically changes your perspective when controlling a character in third person. In a way, it removes a barrier and adds one at the same time, because while it quickly removes a barrier between you and the environment, it just as quickly puts one between you and the little man who happens to always be going in the same direction you are.

Overwatch also put me straight in the game, though playing as Winston in the training map made me feel like I was riding in a fanny pack like a joey. The presence makes it clear the camera is not where his face is, but doesn't interfere with gameplay once you re-learn how to judge distance. White text looked fine, but red text suffered unusually much for some reason, which made it impossible to read enemy names and even had a large impact on the standard messages, making them a pixellated mess, though still legible. Despite that, the rest of the game looked fine.

I did get a second opinion from a friend (she's actually the one I can thank for having it, as she let me know they were going fast at her store and sold it to me herself), and she tried it with Overwatch. She did take notice of the lower resolution, but agreed it still looked nice and that the virtual screen was big enough that it put her straight in.


I finally broke down and tried my first VR game, The Playroom VR, and have to say it works beautifully. Maybe a little too beautifully. While certain high-contrast effects do reveal the "screen door" of the resolution, for the most part, the "normal" items are crisp and the lower resolution is acceptable, though it does appear to get blurry in at least one of the minigames, possibly owing to aggressive anti-aliasing and bloom. While it was fun to futz around the menu and go into one of the games only to realize it was a claw game and back out (I suck at claw games), I had to cut my exploration short because the only other single-player game has an early tightrope section that tripped my fight-or-flight response because of a recent ziplining experience. I honestly don't have a fear of "heights" since as long as my feet are on the ground and I'm not too close to the edge, or there's a railing, I'm fine. I quite enjoyed the Grand Canyon, for example. But as I tried to pull what looked like a Zelda-style hook shot bridge back to me, though, things went sour. After missing several times, raising my stress levels, I finally connected and tried to pull it back, only for it to simply detach my tether. After the second try, I got concerned, and when I connected the third time, questioning how we were supposed to get across, I drew the conclusion of "ziplining" and fell into a panic when I immediately realized it would require a perilous short climb up to the ledge. Despite ziplining having been my favorite at Discovery Zone, the trip I took this summer was decidedly not fun, since it was higher than I was comfortable falling until the last jump of 12 and sent me careening up to 55MPH (88.5KPH, 24.6m/s), which, let me tell you, is VERY different than when you're in a nice, safe car. That's not to say I was bad at it. I was actually quite good at it. I was just terrified the whole way down. Even so, it had been platform to platform, with no climbing up involved. It did help slightly when I hit X to see if I was using the wrong input and my little robot companion jumped on, but being primed like that did not do me any favors as I floated across behind him. I even looked down as I went over the gap myself to cement my levitation, since I do have a lot of flying dreams and have no issue with the concept, but it didn't help at that point. Even though I was flying, even simply floating in dead air, I was not able to calm myself down.

The interesting thing here was that I was just as concerned about my tiny robot falling as myself, more so after I took steps to assure my own safety, which was pretty much the nail in the coffin. If it had just been me, I probably would have been able to get through it, and I did get him over the tightrope because I knew logically that it wasn't going to let him fall off, but looking ahead at the narrow beam I'd have to navigate him across and the small space we had to work with to defeat enemies and I pretty much had to close the program to calm myself down. I was panicked for myself, AND the paternal instincts had kicked in, and my conclusion was that I was in no condition to safely guide the tiny being I'd been entrusted with. I was able to go back to it later without panicking, and then again with next to no stress, though I still haven't passed that point largely because by the third time, I was kind of getting bored and wanted to try other things.

I think it's a testament to the power of VR that it could both trip that kind of fear in me and also help me overcome it so quickly. Which is not to say I'd go ziplining again, but I can definitely watch a little robot walk a tightrope as I float safely behind.


The demo disc it came with would be better if it had any indication of what anything was, and other than what you can assume from the small bars of logo and box art, there's not a good way of telling what anything is until you enter the intermediary screen, which in many cases tell you nothing in their own right. No descriptions, no animated objects, no nothing, though they will throw up a warning if it's rated M, which was the only clue that Thumper, a rail shooter, wasn't just another horror game, of which there are already a few. But you can buy any of them before you even try them by either hitting Triangle with them selected or once you go into the intermediary menu, which I found rather galling. I was outright insulted how many of the games aren't even demos; just purchase screens with no option to try before you buy. With something like VR where the danger of a physical reaction is very real and there's no telling what will affect you as an individual, the ability to try before you buy, especially digitally, is massively important. There is no indication of which, if any, games will send your lunch to the far wall, so when I'm offered a demo disc, even if it's FREE, I want it to be an honest demo disc, not just a glorified storefront. We have PSN for that.

Despite my complaints, some of them are pretty neat. I tried Rez Infinite because I'm familiar with the series, but forgot that some parts of Rez (of which Infinite is an enhanced port) are set in twisty-turny hallways, as much of Rez and Child of Eden are either straight shots or open areas. You can probably guess what they chose to represent the game. While it was fun, as the level progressed, the odd camera angles and increasingly fast and numerous sharp turns through the corridor started leaving me disoriented, but not really dizzy or sick. While I could have kept playing, I decided enough was enough once it threw a number of blind turns at me before finally dumping me in a hallway upside-down and unable to trace back how I got that way. Rez is a great game, but it's also a 15-year-old game that was never designed with something like VR in mind and got to be a little much. Child of Eden really would have been the better choice because of its consistently open environments and flight-like movement, and also because it desperately deserves a fix after the arm-rending motion control fiasco that was the PS3 version. I seriously love the thing, but its unique ability to physically hurt you for playing it means I never got very far before moving onto less abusive attractions.

There's also a music visualizer in The Easel from Harmonix which is pretty nice at first and demos a tropical area with some pleasant reggae before allowing you to play around with "Easel Mode" where you can draw in 3D using a pair of Move wands, basically letting you surround yourself with some neat 3D effects that pulse and/or light up to the music. The third mode is a nightmarish party thing where you animate the lumpy dancers, which was a bit unsettling as they looked around like they were trapped in their own bodies and felt outright sick and twisted when I sent one gyrating by dragging his limbs around, mechanically acting out my hamhanded test while still glancing about in a way that suddenly seemed like desperate silent screaming before the song mercifully ended a minute or two later. It finished off by more or less literally dropping a steaming turd with a tunnel-style visualizer that couldn't end fast enough, because its pulsing, irregular shapes and ugly colors did not do me any favors after its predecessor and I did end up feeling a bit ill by the end of it, if only because the effect would be gross even without VR, reminding me most of flopping, twitching organs in colors heavily featuring shit brown, raw liver maroon, inner cheek pink, and damaged flesh white, notably avoiding any blood reds because they KNEW it was horrific and figured being that overt would make sure no one ever, ever bought it, as no one ever, ever should. I will say I was a bit disappointed even before being outright revolted, as I was essentially expecting something more like Guitar Hero, but as music visualizers go, it's a neat concept hampered by half of it being strikingly unpleasant.

Otherwise, there are plenty of horror games, because of course there are; a neon rhythm rail shooter in Thumper; a few team shooters and driving sims including RIGS; and Gnog, the biggest waste of VR of anything I tried, and a supposed puzzle game that came off more like a Fisher Price toy which I eventually got so bored of poking and prodding looking for anything I could meaningfully interact with that I outright turned off the PS4 and went to do other things.

The games I've tried so far were functional, but not particularly special. None of them had technical issues, but none of them were really a selling point for having VR, either, with most feeling like tech demos or else having made no real use of it. RIGS might change my mind about that when I do a full review (I bought it on disc, but want to demo it before opening in case it makes me sick), but for the most part, having avoided horror games, and not having tried the various driving and piloting games since the only one I ever was good at was S.T.U.N. Runner, I have yet to find the serious gaming experience I was hoping for. Rez really stands out as one of the heftier experiences and makes probably the best use of the technology, but that's because it was already a full console release twice before and has a 3D motion-controlled sequel to boot. If you're not a horror fan, chances are that there really isn't anything out there for you yet that you can really sink your teeth into and can't get somewhere else.


The hardware itself is enjoyable. The headset is surprisingly light, but doesn't feel flimsy, which is something that everyone I've shown it to agrees upon, right down to my housemate's 6-year-old, who outright laughed when she picked it up because it was so much lighter than she was expecting and she'd overcompensated. The pressure from screwing it tight far outweighs the weight of the unit. It comes with a basic set of earbuds with rubber bullet plugs in multiple sizes for wider appeal than the DualShock 4 earpiece. The earbuds are actually pretty nice quality, so while I've seen no end to people suggesting gaming headphones, and having employees outright try to upsell me on a pair when I picked it up, I honestly don't think it's necessary.

While the number of cords is almost comical, almost all of them are off on the console side, leaving you with only your tether, which after the extender is slightly thinner and much more flexible than a standard power cord, and the delicate earbud cord, which plugs into the volume and power button box for the VR. The Processor Unit ends up with a power cord, the existing HDMI from the TV, a new HDMI between the Processor Unit and the PS4, a USB cable between the Processor Unit and the PS4, and a combined HDMI and proprietary "AUX" connecter coming out the front into a thick double cord that meets the headset cord halfway. The PlayStation Camera also needs to be factored in if you don't already have one, but has its own port on the PS4 as always. The only cord it DOESN'T seem to have is an umbilical cord. While none of them are in a position to get in your way, you'll probably want to hold onto the twist ties they come wrapped with to keep everything organized. For that matter, you'll probably want a means of charging your various controllers if you've been relying on the USB all this time. Move charging stations can be found dirt cheap online, and I've found this DS4 charger crazy convenient both because it routes the USB ports to the back and out of the way, and is just plain satisfying how good it looks and how easy it is to pick up a controller with no fuss. So, bonus review on that: it plugs into your PS4 easily, the lights tell you when things are charging, it doesn't ruin the look of the PS4, and the bits that plug into the controllers stay out of the way while playing and have yet to pose a problem in any fashion, even if they do go in a bit hard. Just remember to set the PS4's USB ports to remain powered on for 3 hours and you'll never have to fight with locking stations or USB cords for your DS4 controllers again. Absolutely worth $20. All there is to say, really.

Back to the VR, pushing the power button on the mid-cord control box will turn on the PS4 as an added convenience, and if you have your TV set up to turn on with the PS4, that will chain from it. It will also chain back when the PS4 is powered down. Turning off the VR will leave the PS4 on. While the headset turns off, the Processor Unit only goes to sleep since it needs to act as an HDMI passthrough and turns on whenever the PS4 does to do so. This makes sense when you consider the Processor Unit and headset actually have their own processing hardware. The headset has its own motherboard according to Sony's official teardown video, meaning the VR's actual operation is split between the PS4, the Processor Unit, and the headset itself when playing VR games, likely explaining the need for the USB and AUX connectors to let all the pieces communicate properly.

The mid-cord control box is easily operated by touch, as the power button is recessed, the mic mute button is flush, and the volume buttons are raised, with the volume up button additionally having a small nubbin to tell it apart. The mic is not on the earbuds, but instead is on one corner of the eyepiece of the headset, providing a consistent fixed position that I'm sure will work wonders for cheap streamers like myself compared to the coin toss of the PS4 default mic or the environmental noise of the PS Camera.

Setup is a breeze, as Sony has strived for the PS4 in general, and takes about as little time as the PS4's initial setup, excluding the half of it teaching you how to put it on. There was a day 1 update from version 1.01 to 2.0, but it didn't take very long. The setup mentions it will be getting regular updates similar to the PS4 itself. Unlike the PS4, it doesn't have its own Internet connection, so it does need to piggyback on the PS4's as another reason to leave it connected.


Aesthetically, it's definitely focused on the headset. The Processor Unit has only 2 LED colors as opposed to the PS4's, well, 4. It uses red when sleeping rather than for error codes like the PS4 (those are displayed in text), and uses white when it powers up and is on. I won't say it's the end of the world, but it does seem a bit inconsistent, and I'd have liked to see it match the PS4, even though the PS4 doesn't have the best color scheme. At the very least, the red could have been made amber with no cost difference based on cursory research (same materials, different spacing!). The box itself is a nondescript little thing, with the front designed to have the wires flush, meant to sit innocently on the shelf unlike the PS4's bold lines. Its only nod to its big brother is the break that allows you to slide the right ⅓ of it back to more easily plug in the wires out to the headset and the same matte black color and valley around the middle of the larger block. Even the light strip on it is a single dull LED, intended to downplay the box rather than draw attention. If the PS4 were the attractive CEO of an international corporation, the Processor Unit would be its babyface-in-a-suit younger brother in middle management who comes up with good ideas, makes the mistake of sharing them at family get-togethers, and ends up coordinating them while his brother gets all the credit, weeping bitter tears because he's been making them in his garage up to that point.

In contrast, the headset would be their manic pixie sister in Marketing who immediately says "UGH!" when she sees the design, shaves off all the edges and corners with a straight razor, and douses it in Apple white and soft lights in a whirlwind that leaves everyone confused and sputtering until the last of the tigers are offstage and the commercial pops up on the TV moments later. It's rather ironic that the piece you're supposed to see the least of is by far the most exciting to look at, but of course the whole point is for OTHERS to see you using it, much like how the iPod was advertized with white earbuds swinging around rather than with a bunch of close-ups on the tiny square running them. Up until I got it out of the box, I wasn't even sure how it would be connected or if it would be wireless somehow, because everything you see is headset, headset, headset. The headset is pretty unisex in design, in defiance of its competetors either looking like they came straight out of Splinter Cell or otherwise being bulky black goggles with boring lines (Gear VR also has the choice of bulky black and white goggles with boring lines). It goes a long way toward avoiding the "toys for boys" attitude that computers and gaming have had essentially as long as consoles and affordable home computers have been a thing. It looks like it would be at home on men and women, boys and girls aged anywhere from 4 to 40, though it would certainly look odd on your grandparents and is quick to tell you it's for ages 12+.


The overall product is well-designed and works nicely, and can be easily recalibrated with a quick press-and-hold of the Options button, which will snap the Cinematic Mode screen in front of your face regardless of where you're looking. The Playroom VR does the same to let you re-orient the controller, which it loses the horizontal rotation (yaw) of pretty easily. Other software seemed much smarter in their ability to keep the orientation of everything in place. Head tracking is great and I have yet to have an issue with it losing position. As stated earlier, you will get slight blur from fast movements. And if you use the PS button, you can access other options in the new side menu, including the option to display the Camera's output to view your position and check for errant pets/small children/giant spiders OH GOD DON'T TAKE IT OFF THEY'RE WAITING TO SEE THE FEAR IN YOUR EYES BEFORE THEY STRIKE! Small children are terrifying like that.

Even though some reviewers have made a point of bashing the Move controllers, I've found they work like a dream, having ditched even the slight lag they had on PS3 so any lag that does exist is negligible. As for their operation, they operate with the same functionality as ever, so while hiding the ball does reduce the accuracy, it's nothing we didn't already know about. While some software does track them with better grace than others, overall, I've found them as accurate as they need to be. I honestly hope that this breathes new life into the Move for VR and non-VR experiences alike.

As a bonus, it seems to have a way of automatically detecting your eye span. If you have trouble, you can take a picture in the settings and use crosshairs to let it measure manually. This setting of course is tied to your user profile, so if someone else is playing, they'll probably need a profile of their own similar to controller handling.

The only real thing missing in the launch lineup that I've seen so far is Vita integration. On one hand, Vita is quietly getting new titles like World of Final Fantasy, but at the same time, Square can't single-handedly save the Vita in the public eye (ironically, Nintendo might if they dump the 3DS down the line, which you can read in my Nintendo Switch rant). While Vita is still going strong for indie games, I'd honestly like to see some of Sony's promises come true with games using its second-screen functionality to allow 3 different views for players with unique roles in the gameplay. The launch lineup has mostly focused on single-player experiences or online co-op, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but does limit your ability to do more than show off how much fun you're having to your friends as they sit on the couch not having fun of their own. The Playroom VR really does things right by having plenty of ways you can share the love, though I wish there were more single-player options. What it doesn't do is show off the 3-way integration Sony said was possible, and if Sony isn't committed enough to do it in their own admittedly cute tech demo, I'm not holding my breath on others jumping on it. In a way, Square has been Sony's biggest supporter, managing to re-inject some life into the Vita, particularly with FFX|X-2 HD pushing more units than probably any other single release since launch, and adding PS VR integrations into not one, but TWO Final Fantasy titles, but even Square didn't go so far as to push the triple-play despite being the only triple-A who still cares about Vita in the first place.


I guess what this whole review comes down to is that PS VR is a great piece of hardware that really needs a great piece of software to justify buying it. For me, that great piece of software will undoubtedly be FF15, but for others who are neither horror nor JRPG fans, the wait is going to be a bit longer. Which is not to say it's not on the horizon. With heavy hitters like Fallout adding support, it's only a matter of time before there are experiences worth having, some of which are already in your hands. But at the same time, the VR really needs a grand slam. At the moment, it really doesn't have the bases loaded and a heavy hitter of its own to knock it out of the park to bring all four of its major-league players home. Specifically to YOUR home. FF15 is definitely going to be one of those players on base with its own separate mode for Prompto, but unless that involves two-player co-op, I don't think it's going to be that final crack of the bat, nor is Fallout going to be that must-have experience (though if it does well, we can probably expect the next Elder Scrolls to follow suit (whenever they get down to making it (PLEASE start making it))). With plenty of games coming out in the next few months, and big names like Tekken and the ever-tantalizing Ark: Survival Evolved on board at some point in the future, there looks to be no shortage of things to do in VR, but at the same time, there isn't a must-have VR experience yet that will really push system sales. Sony seems perfectly aware of that and is expecting slow adoption, which is very frustrating as a reviewer who REALLY likes the product. I certainly won't be bored having it, and it'll be a joy to use on all the wonderful games that are slated to support it, but I can't in good conscience say it's something you need to rush out and buy if you weren't already at least intrigued by the idea.

I still dream of a motion-controlled Elder Scrolls game. VR would be the next step above that, which I never even considered. To have Final Fantasy in VR is something I never dreamed would be a thing and I'm incredibly happy it's going to be in my grubby paws in the course of a few short weeks. I suddenly find myself wanting a game like White Knight Chronicles where not only do I create my avatar to mingle with the party, but also play that avatar in first person to watch them move around and feel like I, the player, am a part of it in at least some small form. The PS VR and the games coming out for it are like a dream come true, only Sony utterly beat me to even dreaming about most of it. The entire thing has been a series of skipped steps from what people have thought VR would need to get into the living room, a dream that seemed to have died with the arcade crash having been sleeping under a newspaper on the couch the whole time. For me personally, it's effectively taken a look at what I've hoped for, and with a warm smile at my naïvety grabbed my hand and ran with me into the future, with me looking around in awe as I stumble in my attempts to keep up. A look at what lies ahead is filled with things I never knew I wanted, and yet I feel so SIMPLE because all I can compare it to are things that already exist, or that I already thought of. For the first time in my life, my creativity is being outpaced by the impending reality, and I'm tearing my hair out because there's nothing I could say or do to SHARE that. No one thing I could point to as a reason for everyone to join me in it. As someone who grew up with VR heavily ingrained in the public consciousness as a thing that was totally going to happen in the near future, raised on the likes of Batman Beyond where even in a future decades down the line VR was confined to arcades (and mind you, they were doing VR floating in spheres of hard light), to have VR in my literal bedroom right now, seemingly years ahead of schedule, seems like magic.

And yet I have no way of sharing that magic, because it's something you've either carried your whole life or you haven't. It's a specific nostalgia for a future promised to us, and that future is beginning right now. I see a bright future ahead, as do Sony, it seems, but everyone who's seen that future knows there's nothing they can SAY. It has to be said over and over by enough people that it awakens the magic in others where it lies dormant.

So for me, having been on the wild trip and seeing the shining golden light of things to come, all I can really do is sit down, relax, don the headset, and hope to find things to tide me over until the things I want are in my hands. Because ultimately, if you don't share the same nostalgia for the VR future we marinated in since childhood, there's nothing I can do to give it to you, and even if the nostalgia is there, the games just aren't quite yet. I can't tell you to rush out and buy a $400 peripheral based on future potential.

But the PS VR itself is the real deal, as far as hardware goes. And maybe, for now, that's enough.


Final Fantasy VIIEdit

I figured in light of the remake and starting a new file more or less after losing all my saves when my first PS3 died and my Disc 1 of the PC version (which is around somewhere, hopefully in one piece that I may eventually find it again), it would be as good a time as any to review this game. I'm putting it to my Objective Review System because otherwise I'd just yammer on about it without going anywhere, and this review will combine aspects of when I first played it with how it holds up today and by the standards of the time. I think we can all agree it's not a bad game. Maybe not the best of the series, but certainly a solid title that was right to win the hearts of many. I've realized a shortcoming of my standard format while writing this, so I've combined Setting and Plot into one to make way for the return of the Writing section.

Scale:
10: Flawless. It will ruin you to anything else.
9: Amazing. You will ignore major flaws elsewhere because of it.
8: Great. A selling point of the game and will compensate moderate flaws.
7: Good. Stands well on its own and may compensate minor flaws.
6: Interesting, but not particularly special.
5: Uninspired, but passable.
4: Lacking, but tolerable.
3: Annoying, but may be compensated elsewhere.
2: Bad, but not a deal-breaker.
1: Deal-breaker. You will cringe at every occurrence.
0: Reason enough not to buy this game on its own.

Story:Edit

Setting and Plot:
FF7 is set in what fans have determined is the world of Gaia, though the game greatly favors simply calling it "the Planet," generally in terms of it being its own entity. Beyond that, anything goes. FF7 is unique in that it takes many of the normal fantasy RPG locales and gives them a modernistic twist. It's the first game of the series to come off as truly futuristic rather than steampunk, though some flavors of steampunk do remain with lots of industrial pipes in some areas. The world ranges from the dirty, decaying, industrial standing ruin of Midgar to the idyllic island locale of Mideel, with an equal amount of barrens, grassland, forest, and snow, give or take. It's a world focused more than ever before on realism, and the people have real problems resulting from it. The individual settings tick off nearly every box of early JRPG locations, but the path between them makes the progression natural, since for the most part you move from one location to the one next to it as the story progresses, unlike older games that couldn't wait to show off the snow area right after the volcano and would find any excuse to have you travel great distances to fetch some MacGuffin because you got the ship an hour into the game. This more organic approach gives the world a very real sense of scale, and the sheer size of some locales helps the player understand just how big the world really is.

Dominating most of the civilized world is the Shinra Electric Power Company, who have made life convenient by siphoning clean energy from the ground and condensing it into a power source or condensing it further into Materia orbs which allow even the common person to produce magical effects. Unfortunately, said energy is the source of all life in the world. Shinra has a monopoly on energy production and enforces it with its own military, serving in practice as the government of much of the world with its base in the center of a 16-city metropolis divided into 2 levels and renamed as 8 sectors, excluding the central "Sector 0" hub dominated by its own facilities, with the second-biggest settlement in the world having been built up as a military base and serving as a major satellite branch. While the common people have little love for Shinra, their ubiquity has made most of the population disenfranchised and complacent. Despite this, Shinra is seen as a desirable place to work either as a civilian or in the military, with the elite SOLDIER being the goal of many hopefuls. Shinra employs many scientists and office workers to keep things running smoothly, and those on the company's payroll live comfortable lives, with few having any more knowledge of the company's shadier activities than the people living literally in the company's shadow in the various slums.

The story follows the exploits of an eco-terrorist cell and their early efforts bombing power plants, which later cease because they've been driven from society, causing them to focus on hunting down and murdering a military hero who they feel also poses a danger to the Planet's natural resources. In the end, their efforts result in the ambiguous extinction of all humanity. And those are the GOOD GUYS. With the remake coming out post-9/11, you have to wonder how much they're going to downplay all that, because they're directly responsible for what is stated in-game as thousands of innocent deaths just from the first of their 2 successful bombings. But in all seriousness, you're expected to pretty much forget about that because you don't actually see the burnt and bloody corpses, and it's disturbingly easy to miss it altogether. So yes, at its core, FF7 is a game where the terrorists win, and you make it happen. In practice, once your bombing spree is over, the moral high ground quickly switches, since Shinra responds by destroying not only an entire city in the slums, but also the entire city of the rich above it when they drop the floating plate between them into the hole, resulting in probably millions of deaths in one fell swoop. This is not to say either side is in the right for killing, just that bombing two power plants is at a lesser scale than destroying two entire cities by smashing them into each other in hopes that it would kill six specific people along with everyone else. But I digress. The justification that the player characters are the good guys comes in that Shinra and its pet hero are way more murderous and have been for years, and since the party only really kills said corporation's employees and said soldier, they can't be accused of killing indiscriminately. In the end, this is the darkest the series has ever been and probably the darkest it ever will be.

Score: 8/10. I can't in good conscience give it higher than this, but the sheer variety of locales in this game gives you plenty to enjoy. From the brassy barrens of the tribal Cosmo Canyon to the Japanese propriety of Wutai, there's something for everyone buried somewhere in here. It's easy to forget just how dark this is since it blows its wad early on and then delves into interpersonal stuff to hold up the rest of the game, and honestly, it's rather threadbare as far as plots go, but I really wanted to highlight just exactly what's going on here for some perspective. This game could end up downright terrifying in the remake, since the cartoony graphics do a lot to soften what is ultimately a ton of ultraviolence, especially early in the game.

Plot Execution, Dialog, and Writing:
Let me just say that the return of this section is not a good thing. All three of the named concepts have issues.

For the PS1 version, there's more than its fair share of Engrish. I have to say Aeris seems to take the brunt of this and if my first impression hadn't been the PC version, I'd probably hear her as a stereotypical Asian lady. Aside from that, there are plenty of errors in capitalization and punctuation to go around even when there isn't anything quite that humorous. I honestly didn't remember things being this rough, but I played the PC version first and most, which did an apparently pretty extensive job of cleaning up the result of Japanese people translating a game to English in-house rather than hiring a professional. Woolsey may take a lot of crap for his creative localizations, but he was able to make a coherent story and characters.

The plot has trouble balancing the threat of Shinra and the threat of Sephiroth, and the transition is both protracted and awkward. Shinra serves as the main villain for the first several hours and then suddenly a new threat is introduced that ends up becoming the primary objective as the player continues learning about him, with Shinra being all but forgotten until it's convenient for them to be brought up again. This leads to awkward sections like Sephiroth on the cargo ship doing battle with the party and Shinra not taking notice of it until after they'd already docked. It just wasn't convenient for them to be meddling at that point even though top brass were present and in direct danger from both their enemies. The Turks in particular make regular appearances when it's been too long between Sephy gracing everyone with his presence just to give the player a tangible enemy. They are the filler of the game and they're not even "evil" all the time, with half of their appearances being on neutral or even friendly terms. You ultimately fight them as many times as Sephy/Jenova despite this for no other reason than to obstruct your progress for a few minutes because RPGs use boss battles to keep things interesting and Shinra top brass have a bad habit of dying for good when you fight them if they don't run away or get hit by a truck first.

Certain things also happen for pure sake of convenience even when it doesn't involve balancing Shinra and Sephy. When the team realize there's a traitor in their midst, Cloud outright states that he can't fathom any of them being one, despite the fact that Cait Sith had LITERALLY JUST JOINED, and by forcing his way into the party to boot. Aside from that, no one bears Cait Sith any kind of ill will for kidnapping Marlene and they pretty much forget about it immediately after because it would be inconvenient to, say, rescue her or something. It literally never comes up again. It's also never explained how Dyne made his way back up from Corel Prison and shot everyone up without Dio knowing about his existence and ability to do so, or why Dio would implicate his own mascot in the crime (there are only so many Cait Sith-moogles in the game, and 2 of them are around the stage in the date sequence). Cait Sith may have also been a proper staffperson given he had an in with other staff for a free hotel stay, and throwing your own worker into prison without hearing him out is not a good way to attract hired help.

Then Shinra in general deals with their enemies radically differently and often disproportionately. They had no compunction against murdering everyone in Corel and burning the place to the ground because of the damaged reactor because the townspeople were a convenient scapegoat, but when the Gongaga reactor exploded outright, they didn't do much about it and just left the people to bury the dead and live in a town half wiped off the map. Despite this, when Sephy burned down Nibelheim, Shinra decided the logical solution was to rebuild an exact replica and staff it with actors for the next 5 years. It makes you wonder why they didn't just say the increased monster activity had overrun it and tragically burned it down rather than wasting all that effort for a town so remote nobody who visited knew the difference. Shinra also had an entire war with Wutai over Materia, but Wutai is still standing somehow, because crashing their economy was just as good, I guess? Despite this, they had no compunction with murdering two cities' worth of their own citizens as long as 6 specific ones were among them. This comes down to the villains being evil for the sake of it, because trying to nail down their reasoning for nearly anything they do is impossible since it's so inconsistent.

The dialog tends to be very dramatic, and I mean that in the teen angst sense. There's a good deal of posturing from many characters, especially early on, and it's not going to be challenging your vocabulary much. The villains don't come off at all human, and the Shinra staff end up quite shallow and boring because of it despite their freakishly evil actions. Sephiroth as a person in the present makes just as little sense as Shinra over their years of activity, alternately hurting and helping the party, showering them with gifts and information for no adequate reason, and in particular ends up being quite cordial towards Cloud at times. I get the guy is insane, but it shouldn't be in the multiple personality sense given his ultimate goal never changes.

As a final consideration, the dating mechanics leave a lot to be desired. Bear with me, because it really is a writing problem, and that problem is that there are 4 potential people to date and only 2 of them are any sort of right answer. The only way to get Yuffie is to find some means of treating everyone else like garbage and drip-feeding points into her pool, since she earns the fewest for any given option, or sacrificing oodles of cash to abuse the fact that you can do her intro sequence as many times as you want and fail the last question to build up the points. That scenario ends with Cloud pretty much treating her like garbage, too, even though she's the only one to be forthright enough to kiss him. I can understand the logic behind that, because by that point, the player has put forth a mountain of effort to get there, most likely at being terrible. It's appropriate for their final reward to be lacking. However, it's actually easier to end up with Barret, and that turns out even worse. You skip the play segment altogether as a cheap shot of "Here's our lucky 100th couple! Oh, wait, never mind," which boots you out of the area in literal seconds, and then on the gondola, all Barret has to say is that you should have chosen one of the other 3 love interests and bitch that he's out there watching fireworks with you when Marlene deserves it more. I get it, Barret is straight. He was married. His date point logic incorporates a preference toward women. And ultimately, he does come off as a bit "confused" and very nervous, which some people might find cute, but that's the culmination of their efforts, and they never get to see anything more come of it. To have the player work for hours only to get such meager returns on it is deplorable writing. If you're not going to give a reward for the player investing their time, don't give them the option. So the only "right" choices are Aeris and Tifa, as if the manual didn't already say as much. I honestly went into the Barret video expecting some sort of humorous scene and left with a bad taste in my mouth because of how blatantly it punished the player for making the "wrong" decision over the course of several hours which they will never, ever get back, and could be encountered fairly innocently, since a quick review of the points on date mechanics shows that Barret gets some pretty hefty boosts from very simple dialog options just by being in the party, and that's without being particulalry terrible to either Aeris or Tifa, especially since Tifa's options almost always oppose Barret's for equal value and the "Barret" option often is the "nicer" or "cooler" option. Remember, YouTube didn't exist when this game came out, so the only way to see this was to play up to that point or hack it. That is a failure of writing, and a failure of game design. If it were some sort of midpoint to the relationship, it would work much better, and to be honest, all but Yuffie's come off as a midpoint. But as far as the story goes, the only two options are to tragically lose your love interest or to end up with Tifa, which means half of the options aren't in any way acknowledged.

Score: 3-5/10. Playing through the PS1 version, the translation is just laughably bad in places and I almost wondered how this ended up being the most popular game of the franchise before I remembered they had Cloud and Aeris on flipping McDonald's cups. The amount of marketing for this game was unprecedented at the time and is still extensive by today's standards. That combined with spoilers of Aeris dying, which was not something American audiences had really seen before since main characters dying was rare enough and female ones dying was unheard of, and the amount of hype behind this game was obscene. I give the PC version a 5 because it honestly doesn't deserve more than that for having a competent translation, which is what games are supposed to have. I'm sorry, but you don't take home the gold from having what you're supposed to have as a baseline. Even the PC version is severely lacking in quotable lines and snappy writing in general. When one of the best lines you have is about drinking tea, you're getting a C. That said, the writing has its moments and remains at least competent throughout. I won't give lower because while the PS1 translation is lacking, it's never unintelligible. I find myself less annoyed about it than disappointed, and it was good for a laugh with a fellow RPG fan in the office, but if that was the first version I'd played, I'd probably have never gotten into the rest of the series.

Cast:
Of the playable cast of 10 characters counting a temporary character, exactly half of them were experimented on by Shinra, and exactly a third of them watched everyone they knew die as their hometowns were burned to the ground, excluding the one who did one of the burnings. There is some unfortunate overlap in all this. So when all but one of them have a legitimate beef with Shinra, it's pretty understandable.

Some characters get significantly more screen time than others. Two of them are purely optional, but one of those two actually gets a good deal of screen time and is really well integrated. That one happens to be Yuffie. As annoying as she can be with the various ways she screws the party, Yuffie is one of the best examples I can think of when it comes to integrating an optional character into the cast, and she really feels like she belongs there. Vincent is another matter and doesn't do or say much. Part of that IS his character, but where you get to see Yuffie move around and do some pretty kooky things, Vincent doesn't even get opportunity to stand in a corner looking cool, because by the time you get him, the events where the party splits up and does stuff to relax have dried up.

Cloud is a great example of player choice, since your chosen dialog options do a lot to determine his personality. Despite this, many choices have a ridiculous amount of weight. All the nice things you can say to Biggs, Wedge, Jessie, and Tifa can get completely overridden by giving the flower to Tifa instead of Marlene, whereas giving the flower to Marlene requires you to treat everyone else like crap to get the same effect. Overall, though, despite what ultimately happens in the game, Cloud is a pretty upbeat character, which is something severely lacking in the modern market to the point they rewrote his whole personality in Advent Children to match what they felt audiences would expect. I sincerely hope they don't back-port that change into the remake, because removing the type of agency that can so much as determine Cloud's sexual orientation would be a real loss that's in grave danger of happening based on what the team has said, even though they've promised to keep some of the more lighthearted moments of the game itself.

However, other characters ended up only serving to reinforce the story as a whole or Cloud's story in particular. Tifa's main function is to forward Cloud's personal arc by directly tying into his past, and there's not much to her outside of that. She never mentions anything of what happened while Cloud was away, never had any other romantic interests, and her personality tends to be a generic female stock for the most part with little to characterize her past "female" and "nice." The moments she really shines the brightest are when she's interacting with people other than Cloud, particularly Aeris, but the opportunity doesn't come often. Aeris herself is a pretty good character who demonstrates a willingness to try to keep up with the others even when she's not physically up to speed, and she can be downright manipulative in the most positive way that can be meant, playing off her own femininity and cuteness to push people in the right direction at times. However, as one of the first three characters conceived for the project, it was almost immediately decided she'd die to forward the plot. Similarly, Red XIII exists mostly as a convenient way of tying in a lot of exposition, and much of his allure comes from how little we end up knowing about him despite him being one of the better-fleshed characters. The saddest part is a lot of his backstory ended up on the cutting room floor. It's not that they didn't have plans for him; it's that almost none of it made it into the final game. Cait Sith doesn't have a whole lot to him, though in his case, it's understandable given his role as a puppet, and he does get some shining moments.

That said, despite some of them being somewhat stock, there's a lot done to make them interesting. Barret's being a father and rebel leader does a lot to enhance his Mr. T stock, and Red XIII remains one of my favorites because he really is just a kid trying to act like an adult and it often shows through in subtle ways. The characters mostly get ample time to move around so you get to know them and there's plenty of fine detail to their histories and personalities that adds up over the course of the game.

Score: 7/10. Despite some of the characters being railroaded, it doesn't stop you from getting to know and care about them. The party is serviceable and their colorful vibrancy means everyone will find a favorite stock and grow to appreciate them as nuance is added.


Story average: 6-7/10. FF7 didn't get popular without a decent story to pull you through the game. That said, the PC version is definitely the better translation.



Gameplay:Edit

Systems:
The game doesn't have a whole host of systems like some games, and in a way there's strength in that. It really does let the game focus on the ones it has, which are rock solid. Minigames happen once during the course of the game and are then generally playable by choice in the Gold Saucer. Beyond that, most of the real systems are centered around battle. Limit Breaks got their formal debut here after the team decided Desperation Attacks in FF6 were too unreliable, and the team decided to use them to really differentiate the characters. The Materia system allows you to assign skills to any character without having to worry much about the character's individual abilities, and further allows you to customize for your own play style, especially as things open up. They really are color-coded for your convenience, and you can easily mix and match, or choose a color and load someone down with magic or load them down with skills or load them down with buffs or not load them with anything, and all of them are valid tactics.

Magic in general is quite useful, though. Summoning is pretty much a standard action in the game in the later stages, but is an important addition when you get it early on for softening up bosses, and the way it's handled, intentionally limiting the number of times you can do it in a battle, keeps it well-balanced throughout the game. Enemy Skill is one of the most useful Materia you can get, not just because of how many spells it can learn, but because some of those spells, like Matra Magic, are quite useful just on their own. It's also the only Command Materia that costs MP, and things like Steal and Manipulate give useful effects for no cost at all and allow you to mix and match abilities freely that often were bound to job classes in previous games while adding an equal number of new effects.

Status is also an important consideration in the game. There are plenty of ways to inflict it and some Materia are purely status-based. Other attacks have status attached, and Bio is the earliest elemental magic you find outside of Fire, Ice, and Bolt, providing Poison-elemental damage and the Poison status fairly early in the game. Hades is a useful summon for its ability to pile on the status while also doing damage, either by casting it or pairing it with Added Effect on your weapon. You can get by just fine without it (status is just not my play style), but the game very much enables those who prefer to leave their enemies in a quivering heap before finishing them off.

Score: 10/10. The Materia system alone earns this. I struggled with giving this a perfect score, and started saying I couldn't justify higher than Great, but Materia remains one of my favorite systems of all time, offering a simple, but flexible method of customizing your party, and there are enough Materia types that you could play the game your entire life and never have to do things the same way. FF7 is rock-solid in the systems department, which made up for many of its flaws, including an error-prone initial translation, and adding the various minigames at certain points in the game kept things interesting. The ability to replay most of them any time you want is a great feature. I'll admit that as a kid, playing every subsequent game in the series just left me disappointed that the ability systems paled in comparison to Materia until I got over it sometime between when I first started FFX and when FFX-2 came out.

Controls/Playability:
The default control scheme for PS1 wasn't changed from the original Japanese, and this can be a headache when you've just come from most other games. The PC version using the numpad was a pretty neat way of keeping things simple and my family actually got the overlay card the PC version came with laminated. I played on PC growing up and have to say it worked well, and you can redefine your controls in the PS1 version, which suits me just fine. The game plays just fine.

Another benefit comes in that it's very easy to move around environments because of them being pre-rendered 2D. There's no clunky steering controls, no fighting with a camera, and despite that sounding like a given, there are other games that mucked it up. The simplicity allows for more creative level design to be executed cleanly, so things can be hidden up ledges you climb or through a tunnel puzzle without it being obtuse, enabling and rewarding exploration.

Otherwise, it's a menu-based RPG, and there's nothing wrong with that. It's also nice you can customize not only the order of your items, but of your spells as well, allowing you to prioritize everything based on your play style.

Score: 7/10. I'm bumping it up a point because of the PS1's key define and the overlay from the PC version, respectively. So many games don't allow you to define your controls, and including a help card was something that Square and Eidos really wouldn't have been expected to do, but really helped me play as a kid. I hate to say it, but 6 is about as high as a standard JRPG control scheme can really get, since it's mostly menu-based. Otherwise, the minigames have sensible controls which I feel are worth another point for the PS1 version and the numpad was worth a 6 itself for PC. The action-oriented sequences work well and the controls do what they need to. So both versions walk away with a 7.

Length/Replayability:
Let me just say that FF7 is one of the many games I never actually finished for various reasons. I've lost my saves an embarrassing number of times over the years, but if you grind like I do, it's plenty long. I can proudly say I've maxed out the clock.

It's also one I don't mind starting over on when it happens. I mean I'd rather not, but every time I end up starting a new file, I end up finding something new. There's plenty of detail in the game to see that you probably missed at some point.

Score: 7/10. I can't really say there's replay value for any specific reason which would rate this higher, but it's definitely long enough and you're likely to find something new every time you play like I have. A bit of NPC dialog, or dating a different character, or taking the other path invading Shinra HQ, ranging from the obvious to the little touches. If the divergence your choices create didn't abruptly dry up after Disc 1, I'd happily rate this higher.


Gameplay average: 8/10. For me, it was the gameplay that really sold this game. The story is nice enough, but if it didn't have as good of gameplay as it does, it wouldn't have become the phenomenon it did.



Aesthetics:Edit

Design:
The game looks like nothing else in the series, and I think that's a good thing, because it represents a big break for Nomura and ultimately is what brought the series into 3D in a good way. Amano can be a good artist when he gives a shit, but his FF art is so phoned in compared to what he's capable of it's almost criminal, and his style naturally gravitates towards the magical rather than the mechanical. Nomura's more modern attitudes ultimately made the series what it is and cut out all the effort that went into trying to cram Amano's excessively detailed style into tiny sprites and just outright ignoring him half the time. Don't get me wrong, now that we have the polygons to throw at it, Amano's art would be possible to translate more directly and it would be gorgeous, but it would be so foreign to how the series has always looked that it really couldn't be an FF game. Nomura is just better capable of designing iconic characters in the first place, which relies on bolder shapes and recognizable features. I think giving this to Nomura was a good idea because he better understood limitations and was able to work within them to create a varied and interesting cast. It's also a big win in that Nomura designed both the party and the enemies. Nomura had been an enemy designer even while Amano was still designing the cast, and a look at the technical nature of their work shows Nomura is very big on shape and silhouette, while Amano's lines are a mess and his focus tends to be on color when it comes to his work on the series. The increased fidelity made shape much more important, and Nomura's care in that department as opposed to Amano's method of "good enough to give the idea" meant that Nomura did most of the work for the graphics artists and allowed them to focus on implementation.

The world is in a state of decay in places, which is not something the series had really done before, but I think the biggest accomplishment was that Red XIII and Cait Sith are the only animal party members to appear in a science fantasy setting, and Red works so well in it that he could easily have worked with minimal adjustments in FF8 and FF13 from an appearance standpoint, while Cait bridged the gap by introducing two series icons into the third dimension without being afraid to make major changes. Like have you LOOKED at that moogle? While FF6 is the only game prior to include the pom-pom, FF7 took it further by giving that thing tusks, and it lacks a nose, which appears on other moogles in-game. The thing is outright an abomination. Animal characters in the series tend to be fluffy and chubby and non-threatening, and even the Bangaa originally appeared much more friendly than they were redesigned for FF12. Red is different in that he's lean and might actually be threatening if you met him in a dark alley. I mean, I can't speak for that, because somewhere along the line I ended up losing any fear Nature intended of things like big cats, but I assume that a normal, sane person would probably brown their shorts a bit if faced with something like that. Cait himself is not threatening, but assuming you saw the moogle first, you probably wouldn't want to get on the wrong side of that, either. The only reason it's not terrifying is because it's always wearing a big, dumb smile. That sucker looks perfectly capable of stuffing you in its mouth and I played enough SkiFree as a kid to be wary of anything that fits that bill. Anyway, animal characters are very much a holdover from older games and are conspicuously absent from newer ones, so to marry the old with the new like that is pretty great, and I wish modern Square had more bravery in that department. Even with FF11, they've been downplaying, hiding, or even removing the more animalistic traits of their non-human races in official art and it reeks of them being afraid to have that stuff around because, I dunno, furries or something. Believe me, you're not going to dodge the furry bullet, because if it's not your catgirls and beastmen, it's your monsters. Furries are not that picky.

Otherwise, the game ranges from the rusted-out industrial ruins courtesy of Shinra to the verdant greens of untouched lands. There is no "perfect place" in the world where people live. Some of the places are pretty nice, such as the idyllic Mideel, but Mideel is an idyllic shanty town. The closest is really Kalm, whose only issue is the Zolem disrupting their mining. Wutai is a close second, since it's the only other one not in some form of disrepair, and even that is stated to be a shell of its former self. Costa del Sol doesn't count, because the only living space there is sitting empty unless YOU buy it. Otherwise, places are half destroyed, placed in environments which were irreparably fucked (Icicle Inn is in perpetual winter because of North Crater sucking up the lifestream to heal), or shanty towns with no bathrooms. Seriously, Cosmo Canyon has exactly zero toilets, 2 fridges, 5 beds, and 3 sinks, and Bugenhagen is the only one who has a real house and one of each, with the rest of the populace in shacks propped up in the air and Red living in a storage room connected to a bar and inn which itself has 1 sink, the mini-fridge, and only 2 beds with a couch set up as the third, and the other 2 beds are prison cots in the stores!

(*pant* *pant*)

And to be honest, I wouldn't have it any other way.

The Planet is suffering and that's brought through by all the people more or less suffering with it. The only place in the world other than Kalm that might be cushy is the upper plate in Midgar, and you never get to see that. Anywhere that isn't half falling apart either physically or spiritually is a tourist trap or owned by Shinra, and anything that's owned by Shinra was built on top of someone else, whose home then gets flooded with the upper city's pollution and waste, or in Nibelheim's case was rebuilt on top of the ashes and staffed by actors. Kalm is the only place in the world that suffers none of that, and as such a sleepy little town, it ends up being more or less boring. You're more or less expected to head directly there, stock up on the shops, watch a flashback, and leave, and it wasn't until after the original Japanese version that there was any reason to go back (the Kalm Traveler was added for the North American release). Cosmo Canyon remains one of my favorite locations because of how badly the people actually live. This is the knowledge capital of the world when it comes to ecology and the people who live there or are visiting to learn are ostensibly pissing off a cliff and only washing their hands when they visit the mess hall since that's the only public sink. It's a place full of hippies living dirty lives without most modern amenities, including one of the elders not even having so much as a sleeping mat in his room. Nobody has their own space, and everything is doubled up. Despite being the only guy in a real house, Bugenhagen has a telescope and planetarium that he has no issue showing people and his home doubles as presentation space and probably a crash pad with the futon in the bedroom. The store owners live in their stores when there's any visible living space at all, though technically, the item store owner is the best off of anyone but Bugenhagen, since his actual living space is in a separate room. Red's own room is a mess of feathers and a metal bar haphazardly strewn on the floor and his blanket-bed is blackened, probably from everyone stepping all over it to get to the storage units, with the room lined by what are either filthy pillows or hopefully burlap bags in a state of minor disarray. It's a terrible place to live despite being so highly revered.

Score: 8-9/10. FF7 takes the steampunk feel of FF6 to its logical extreme and draws a stark contrast between nature and artiface, and the more nature there tends to be in a place, the worse it really is to live in by modern standards. It's a constant reminder of the exchange between comfort and the destruction of nature. The details of the world really did sell the game. I'm waffling on giving this a 9, so have a range on this. I really do think the design of the world is one of the things that ultimately put the whole series on the map, since prior to FF7, the series was very niche, and would have never gone mainstream with a traditional fantasy setting as present in earlier games or even the steampunk fantasy of FF6. FF7's mixing of the industrial with the natural gave the series a world that was at times familiar and at times foreign or even drastically alien. With the tech boom of the 90s, it was a wise decision to incorporate modern elements, as well as to warn what might come of it.

Visuals:
Let me just say that the visuals were never impressive. It's not that it hasn't aged well. That would imply it was ever considered pretty by the standards of the time. There were overall prettier games at the time including the Crash Bandicoot series which made better use of the graphics hardware, and even the pre-rendered cutscenes use blocky models. Despite this being one of the first games I ever owned for anything but DOS, which my brother and I begged my mother to buy us on PC, I was never impressed by the field graphics, and a good deal of my begging was highlighting how simple the graphics were so our underpowered machine at the time could still handle it. My first thought once we finally got it was that battle looked pretty good and I couldn't fathom why it wasn't like that all the time. Thinking in purely technical terms even today, I can't think of a good reason why the chibi models had to be used, because there's rarely more field models on screen sucking up polygons than the equivalent GPU burden of larger monster groups in battle or more complex single enemies. While field models wouldn't have needed the same level of detail as battle models, there's no adequate reason they had to be as crude as they are other than that they fit Square's comfort zone. The chibi style was chosen not because they couldn't have done them in more realistic proportions, but because they felt the larger heads would make them more expressive. You can see the logic extending straight out of how FF6 and Chrono Trigger were done, but the FF7 models don't emote in such a cartoonish manner that would benefit from it and the faces at most blink anyway and you're rarely close enough to see it, netting exactly nothing in expressive gains. For those who came off FF6, it would have been a natural progression, but that wasn't the reason behind it and Square admits they could have made better and consciously chose not to.

In addition, even in battle, many animations are stiff and lifeless. The summons suffer the brunt of this, but many enemies have limited animation as well, such as the Formula. This is a major reason why FF8 was visually impressive when it came out. The FF8 summons actually moved around and had life to them, where the effort wasn't put in for the FF7 ones and they have very basic movements for the most part, even as they produce complex magical effects. Don't believe me? Do a comparison on Shiva, Ifrit, Odin, Leviathan, and Bahamut between 7, 8, and 9. Their summon sequences are almost exactly the same respective length between the games (please note that our videos have differences in the lead-up and aftermath to account for), but in FF7, they spend a good deal of that time staying mostly still as particle effects fly around. Don't get me wrong, Odin is head and shoulders above the others in terms of dynamic camera angles and dynamic animation and I was pretty impressed as a kid, but even that gets put to shame in FF8 alone. I hope the remake keeps their original designs, since I frankly hate what they've done with Ifrit lately and there's nothing wrong with the FF7 designs. They're based on tried-and-true classics and there's strength in the simplicity. But at the same time, the animations are largely based on what used to be static sprites and I'd like to see a little more life go into them, even if they keep the spirit of the original animations. The summon animations were impressive at first when I first saw them with no reference point, but they quickly became boring for the most part, since aside from a couple which boast different camera angles like Shiva, you're watching the same stiff animations over and over with no variation. In contrast, once the FF8 sequences blew them out of the water, I found myself getting distracted from Boosting them even toward the end of the game because the sequences are an utter shame to waste focusing on a little icon in the bottom corner, and they kept me engaged for as long as I played.

This isn't to say it's all bad. The character animations are enough to keep battle interesting when combined with the many enemies throughout the game and many actions have special animations that further set the characters apart. The spell animations do a good job of keeping things dynamic and the drip-feed of new spells over the course of the game as you get new Materia and your old ones level up ensure you don't have opportunity to get bored of them the same way you do of your summons. Setting the camera to Dynamic is probably the best decision you can make to keep things interesting because it means every action has more ways to show itself happening than you can easily become bored with. Battle models also often have tiny details that show a level of effort that wouldn't have been required.

There's also nothing wrong with the environments either in battle or in the field. Battle environments take place in a relatively small box and the only thing that will ever show the edge is Choco/Mog. They did a great job of doing the walls like a matte painting and "open" environments look like they could go forever.

Score: 4/10. While battle deserves higher, the field screens where the story happens are bogged down by the decision to make it all chibi. Even some of the cinematics use the style and it reeks of laziness. Some of the most emotional scenes in the game are performed by tiny, low-poly actors that don't have the fidelity to emote properly in a realistic manner and aren't animated in the cartoonish manner of the sprites they were modeled after, making it sometimes difficult to tell what's going on with the in-between treatment without text cues, especially while you're trying to read the text and missing half of the motions since they often don't wait and only are mentioned after the fact. To make matters worse, the emotes are often too slow to be realistic in any manner and combined with the wide motions they end up losing most of their visual impact as everyone moves through molasses. This can make even key scenes ride completely on the music, and if the music weren't as good as it is, they'd have no weight at all. Worse yet, the minigames use even lower-poly models to the point things can become unrecognizable. 3D for the sake of 3D has never been a good argument, and if you can't do it properly, use sprites. It's not like the game doesn't rely heavily on 2D planes for the bulk of its spell effects as it is. The Fort Condor minigame in particular would have been much better off if they hadn't been set on using 3D models so rudimentary they struggle to even imply a humanoid shape. They look like placeholder graphics. Even with full-3D minigames, other games with the same and even previous release years looked miles better with similar things going on. Ultimately, the graphics mostly get the point across, so I won't give it lower than this, but the inexperience with 3D shows. I also have to say the limited resolution with the PC version is not doing it any favors. It's not Eidos' fault, but rather Square's for having destroyed the original assets, which could have been used to re-render the environments for the higher resolution.

Music:
To be honest, the music is among the stand-out OSTs of the series. Most of it isn't amazing, just taking home the bronze compared to what the rest of the series has to offer, which there's no shame in when the series is on its 15th entry of the numbered titles and countless spin-offs, spiritual successors, and retroactive inclusions at this point. However, it does deserve credit for doing things so differently. Most of the anthems that pervaded the series are gone or heavily modified. The battle music is the first ever to break away from the traditional bassline. The Chocobo Theme was turned into a surfer rock thing called "Electric de Chocobo" which is punctuated in the beat by chirping sounds and it's honestly my favorite rendition even today because of it. The music is quite varied as a whole and provides a great atmosphere regardless of the situation. In particular, variations of certain themes are used to express emotion and are quite effective in doing so. What isn't great on its own earns points for being so different from what came before or since. And personally, I was shocked when I went back and played the older games to see how much FF7 had broken the mold, because it wasn't until I'd started files on 4 of them that I realized ALL of them shared many of the same themes and leitmotifs.

Aside from that, the ingenuity used in creating some of the songs is astounding. The chirping in "Electric de Chocobo" is actually a guitar fret noise played at an unusally high pitch. How do I know this? Because I'm a MIDI composer myself and I'm familiar with the available sounds. Guitar Fret Noise and Breath Noise are both available at the head of the sound effects block for those who want to give their music a more organic feel. Square played this straight in their PS1 remake of FF1, but here it was used for a sound effect.

Score: 8/10. When you're judging as much music as this game has, you have to make some averages. As a whole, the music is very effective and there are an unusual number of fan-favorite tracks in the title. Part of that is the sheer volume of music in the game, but another part of it is there's so much variation that it's easy to find something you like and the wide range opened up genres that hadn't really been allowed before. The effect was lasting and some of the music in FFX sounds like it was ripped from FF7.

Voice and Other:
Being as old as it is, voice isn't really expected, though it is the first game of the series to feature voice acting. (FF5 is actually the first of the series to feature digitzed voice as a shout during one of the tracks.) However, it's not much to judge on, and doing so is hardly fair.

Otherwise, the sound is purely descriptive. Every spell or attack makes one and it's pretty much always some low-fi sample related to the action being performed, and while it's not always a real sound that the action would make, it generally implies it well enough that the creativity feels limited. The quality of the effects also just isn't that good. I was never wowed by it, even as a kid first playing.

That said, I do appreciate the fact that they added special sounds for critical hits, and while they range from awful to okay, it's something they wouldn't have had to do and it really highlights the fact that you're hitting harder than usual.

It's also neat from a technical standpoint that, at least in the PC version, there are certain sounds that were stored as uncompressed WAV format, including the recurring wind and heartbeat sound effects, so you know the devs somewhere along the line felt they were too important to skimp on.

Score: 5/10. I can't really give either version higher than this. Despite a couple nice touches and points of interest, the sound effects are just not that good. What they lack in quality, they make up for in quantity, but a lot of middling effects still deserves a middling score.


Aesthetics average: 6-7/10. The game wins some and loses some, but ultimately the things it got right were done well enough to prop up the things it didn't do as well.


Total Score: 8 + 3-5 + 7 + 10 + 7 + 7 + 8-9 + 4 + 8 + 5 = 67-70/100.

Recommendations:
96-100: A must-have for any collection.
90-95: An experience to gain new fans for the genre.
80-89: A must-have for fans of the genre.
70-79: Worth buying to check out.
60-69: Rent before buying.
50-59: Worth a rent, but not buying.
40-49: May gain a cult following.
30-39: Likely skip this one.
0-29: Avoid at all costs.

FF7 for PS1 is, well, an anomaly. With so much that people hadn't seen before in a game, as well as aggressive marketing and extensive word-of-mouth, the game had so much hype that people definitely overlooked its flaws. However, the PC version fixed the worst of the issues while also dealing with its own and ultimately is the better experience overall, though it doesn't exactly put the original to shame. However, FF7 is also over-hated, and while it's not winning the gold, it's a competent game for the most part. While it has several areas with lower scores, they're propped up by the things the game did well, including solid systems and a great OST that carried scenes the graphics couldn't.


N3DS XLEdit

I know it's become a meme of sorts to do the punctuation around both sides, but I'm too lazy to go copy it from someone else and I want to be more serious about this. To be honest, I think it does some things right and some things wrong, so let's get started.

First off, the entire outside perimeter has been rearranged. Volume has been moved up to the top screen opposite the 3D slider, which seems to be the only thing to have kept its spot. The stylus is now in the front instead of the side and is a centimeter shorter than everything that's come before. The game carts also go in the front left, and the headphone jack is in the front center. The front also houses the power button now, and if you thought it was hard to press on the face of the 3DS, you're in for a nasty surprise. Start and Select are now roughly where the power button used to be, putting it back in line with the DS, and the Home button has been reduced to a third of its size on the 3DS and taken away from the edge. The power cord now plugs into the dead center of the back and the lanyard holes have been changed to one on the back face from the 3DS' front corners. The IR port has been bumped a bit more toward the center of the back to make way for ZL and ZR, but remains on the same side. L and R have been reduced in width by a bit, too, but it's subtle and I had to compare side-by-side to confirm. The hardware switch to turn off wireless communication has been removed entirely. The cameras are unchanged.

The face has also been slightly adjusted. The left side is totally unchanged from the 3DS XL, but the right side has bigger face buttons and they've broken the tradition of arranging them in a perfect square diamond into one that's stretched a bit wider. The new analog stick is just kind of tossed above the upper left of this arrangement and there was so little room they actually had to create a divot in the hinge to make way for your thumb. It's very haphazard. It's also less a "stick" or and more a "nubbin." Those who remember laptops from the late 90s and early 2000s might remember this as what we affectionately called the "mouse nipple" placed dead center in the keyboards. It was a special time for both technology and slang.


As for how it feels in your hands, the answer is surprisingly familiar. The net result of all the rearranging brings it to a hybrid between the DS and 3DS and the volume being placed out of the way is a lifesaver. While it's slightly larger than the 3DS XL, it's also a bit lighter and everything is relatively easy to reach in terms of buttons, other than the power. ZL and ZR are placed in such a way that you can use your fingertips for them and the next part down your finger for L and R. It's basically the one feature I've been wishing the Vita had since forever.


As for how it plays, the new nubbin is surprisingly responsive without being touchy or jittery. It's perfect for camera input as evidenced by Final Fantasy Explorers (review to come once I play more). The rest feels more or less like you're right at home. The head tracking for the 3D is a great feature even if you need to set a constant distance to play at, but the auto-level backlight is a bit of a pain. It seems like playing at night with a ceiling light leaves your screen consistently too dim and I really wish you could manually set a level like on the DS instead. The new colors on the face buttons would be easy to read on a white background, but the unit I got is the same charcoal black as my DS and 3DS and the blue and green of the X and Y buttons are too dark to be easily read.

As for the software, it's a 3DS. I mean that in every sense. The whole package is a 3DS with a few more inputs, since the Circle Pad Pro failed so miserably. Sure, it has more under the hood, which helps with load times and such, but there's nothing that separates the actual software from what the 3DS has. It's the same system with the same OS, just a bit beefier. It's almost disappointing, because I was almost hoping it would be one of Nintendo's famous half-steps like the DSi, but it's not even that, or even a quarter-step. More like an eighth-step. The extra inputs are a nice touch, but it's nothing you absolutely need, unless you're like me and not having a dedicated camera stick makes action games essentially unplayable. I plan on using it interchangeably with my normal 3DS. And I guess at the end of the day there's nothing wrong with that.


Grandia updated early impressionsEdit

So I've played a little bit more and have a feel for the battle system and how things are handled in the field. Let me just say the base is there for the series, but again, it was tweaked to be better in later games. I wrote this a while ago and never posted it, but since I ended up putting it down to focus on FF7, I'm leaving it as-is.

The systems are most akin to Grandia II, with you walking or running about the field with monster groups represented by avatars in the field. It's 2 monsters to every 1 displayed in the field, which gives you a good idea of what to expect. Like in Grandia II, you initiate battle by making contact with the enemy. If one party gets the other from behind, they gain the battle advantage. The thing is the enemies are fast enough and aggro far enough out that it's difficult for you as the player to do that. As soon as you get within 10 feet of them, they almost automatically know you're there and bum rush you, lighting up with red to indicate their aggro. This means you can generally expect to break even and nothing more. I did discover that you CAN turn on the analog sticks, and let me tell you, this is a lifesaver. Why the Vita defaults to Digital Mode, I have no idea, but it definitely makes it easier, though far from trivial, to back-attack and even avoid enemies. I can admit when I'm wrong and I was wrong about the controls, and trust me, I'm glad for it.

I've also seen more of the graphics and I just have to say the Vita does not handle PS1 games well. Or at least not this one. There seems to be a special palette that combines primary red and yellow, and it's used on both your Gold symbol and the gold pieces and shading bright yellow with bright red just looks like crap, and outlining with it does things few favors, such as on the ring icon, which looks like it's half selected at all times, which is starting to bug me even more now. In fact, the use of bright red in general is pretty atrocious, because it's pretty much everywhere, being used to shade enemy ATB icons, the party, and 90% of all equipment icons. Even though they've done a great job of hiding it for the most part, primary red permeates this game and now that I noticed it, I can't unsee it. The thing is this is very much a Vita problem when it comes to it staring you in the face. For whatever reason it seems the Vita brightens the reds far more than they appear on a TV, which I actually adjusted based on the Vita, which I may have mentioned talking about the FFX|X-2 HD Remaster. Everything looks just fine on the TV, and I actually modified this to pull back now I know it's not really the game's fault.

Combat is unfortunately the game's fault and is a great way to get either a seizure or motion sick, because they went with a dynamic camera that's constantly zooming in and out and panning back and forth on what amounts to a 2D field, and as a result of the various rounding errors and lack of anti-aliasing, all the sprites in the field jitter around. I found myself getting motion sick, and I'm the type of guy who can read in a car for hours. I only really get motion sick on the more extreme carnival rides, and the first time that happened was in my late teen years, which absolutely sucked, because, well, would YOU want to develop the urge to hurl doing things you never had trouble with before? Don't get me wrong, it looks very 3D, but only because the ground tiles are painted that way, with certain 3D features around the edges for flavor. The environment is well-designed, but the sprite handling leaves something to be desired. Things generally aren't kept at 1x maginification, which turns some nice sprite work very ugly very quickly. This is all really the PS1's fault rather than the game's, since with a bit more smoothing, the entire effect would have been great, but the PS1 just did not have the power for that to happen.

On the other hand, the field and combat music are great. The field music has more of a jazzy feel than the rest of the series, but it's not a bad thing. The combat music is much more dramatic than that of the rest of the series, adding a lot more of a feeling of danger to the normal encounters, and sounds much more like a boss theme for the normal music and an even bigger boss theme for when you get surprised. It almost makes me wonder where the boss music can go from there, but there's still a little wiggle room left. It shows a clear base for the rock-based themes of the series, but at the same time is unlike them, even more so than the Latin stylings of the Grandia Xtreme battle theme, which is more upbeat to match the other PS2 games.

The 3D graphics are a much better showing than how the 2D was ultimately handled, and while things are still relatively simple, there is a lot of detail on things like the small tree/bush things that look a bit like a spruce, if you painted it yellow-green and pared out enough branches that you could see them all individually. I'm not sure what it's supposed to be (probably just a fantasy plant), but I like it. Actually, it kind of reminds me of the bushes in Pokémon X, so maybe it's based on a Japanese shrub of some sort. At any rate, I did find a floating banner in the field depicting a bird, and it looks great. All it does is give you a bird's eye view of the immediate area (like the "map" in towns), but it doesn't seem like anything has replaced the functionality on the Select button yet, so all it did was take away a feature I should be able to use freely and put it on an action point.

The combat system set the baseline for the series standard, using a ruler to track the various units on their ATB. You have the turn lead-up, battle pauses to select commands, then charging time and finally execution, with whatever cooldown there might be sitting at the end before starting over. The characters are able to finish battles pretty quickly without needing to use special abilities so far. It is, however, a lifesaver to have a Bow equipped, because it will help close the gap between you and the enemy quickly and ultimately reduce your attack time by cutting out running animations.

I also have to say it's kind of interesting that bugs were split into multiple types in this entry, because they're not in later ones. The centipede enemies use a scorpion icon I'd never seen in later games and I looked it up only to find it's a completely different classification of "long insect" as opposed to just the normal "insect" and additional research shows there seem to be a lot of classifications that were later merged into more fundamental groups. It's interesting and is sure to add flavor and maybe even a little additional clarity, but I'm not sure it was necessary and can see why it was streamlined, since none of the items or weapons make much particular use of it according to the lists I've seen, which in itself is probably for the best.

Despite my complaints, the game has started winning me over. While there are graphical issues, ultimately combat is pretty fun and shares the same tactics with the rest of the series, and even seems to have the benefit of decent pathfinding and step counts high enough that you can reasonably expect to make it to your mark, which are the bane of the later games, where two units can end up colliding and running side by side until both simply run out of steps and are too far away to reach anything useful, or can simply run out of steps in what looks for all the world like striking distance and just stop and do nothing. The stat setup is actually very different from the later games in general, and it's proving not to be a bad thing, even if it is slightly (only slightly) more complex. There's a fun game buried under the problems and while I'm still very limited by being in the early game, I think it's worth pursuing.


X Rocker Spider gaming chairEdit

I never thought I'd be reviewing a piece of furniture, but here we are. This will be updated as I'm able to experience it better, because to be frank, I'm pooped between handling this and putting my Syba sound card back in after my Creative card appears to have died. Here is a link to the product and store I got it from. At time of writing, this is a $270+ chair on sale for just over $170, and I got an extra 15% off for Cyber Monday, paying a bit under $150 for it.

To start this off, this thing is HEAVY. Whatever you're imagining by looking at the picture, double it. It's also a lot bigger than I expected. Mine came in just a couple days despite being 9 day economy and greeted me in the hall, where I tried to lift it and ended up having to treat it like a Zelda block-pushing puzzle to get it through my hall and into the kitchen for working space. From there I started taking pieces out to discover that while the chair itself is moderately heavy, it accounts for less than half the weight of the package. The arms alone are like 10 pounds. The base is probably 15, matching the chair itself. The 2 parts that connect the chair to the base are easily 20 when combined, being noticeably heavier than either the chair or the base. And the stops for the arms (they swivel) are at least 5 pounds together. The sum total including the cords and other junk is somewhere between 60 and 70 pounds added up, and cumbersome. So at least you know it's sturdy.

I have yet to fully assemble it, but as a standard rocking gaming chair, it leaves a bit to be desired. It's a rather stiff seat, but once you settle in, it's very comfy, and feels more "supportive" than "hard." The balance is way off, though, and where most gaming chairs allow you to remain upright fairly easily, this one is "neutrally buoyant." It's trivial to end up staring at the ceiling in this thing, and without a person sitting in it, it leans unusually far back. It also is too short even with the base to be more than a gaming chair. I bought this for my desk, but it looks like it will ultimately be shorter than the kitchen chair I have in place now, which in turn is a bit short for my fancy corner desk.

While I haven't assembled it yet, I have tested the sound, and it comes with a small Bluetooth broadcaster powered by 2 AAA batteries or a power cord (neither is included). This can broadcast on 3 different channels, allowing up to 3 of these things to be used independently, or probably up to 7 to enjoy the same experience within a stated 65-foot radius. You can daisy chain a wired connection between multiple seats as well, so you could probably fill a 21-row theater with these things if you wanted. The chair needs to be plugged into an outlet to work, but seeing as it replaces a 2.1 speaker system, that's not the worst thing in the world. In my case, through wiring that is an affront to God and man, I managed to hook it up to be my bass and rear speakers in my 7.1 setup. I'd post what I had to do to get my setup as it stands working, but I don't want sound engineers worldwide to keep me up with their maddened screaming, so suffice it to say the 2.1 sound balance appears to favor the bass on the left channel despite coming from the right side of the bass/center port, and the extra splitters and combiners provided miraculously were enough along with an extra one I had on hand. Putting it on the other channel puts the volumes of the 2.1 out of whack. Once I had that figured out, the sound was pretty darn clear from my testing with it outside my bedroom door using both RCA and Bluetooth, and there are dials for master volume, bass, and vibration on the side of the chair itself, as well as a headphone jack, which just seems like missing the point. Chair-to-chair chaining is done through RCA, with a cord provided for this purpose. Also provided is a cord to come from a headphone jack for handheld devices like the Vita or 3DS. The chair is advertised as being compatible with all PlayStation and Xbox models, but it's really only compatible with any device that uses RCA for sound or has a headphone jack, meaning the latest entries of the PS and Xbox rely on S/PDIF to interface in.

That's all I can say for now, and I'll be updating this over the course of the coming week as I get it assembled and get to use it at my apartment, since I need to clear some space around my desk before I can use it in my room. As a final thought until then, it's pretty neat that the seat itself folds in half for easier storage and transportation, but once it's on the stand, it strikes me that the space savings are less than the marketing material suggests. You save a lot of vertical space, but less on the horizontal. This also exposes the bass apparatus to all the dust that could possibly fall on and into it, so if you do need to put it away for an extended period, I recommend a sheet or some other cover.

UPDATE

So, I got this thing assembled and tested it out properly, with me sitting in it and playing with the dials as the intro for Phantasy Star Universe played last night and additional testing today. I have to say, it's a bit of a mixed bag.

To start off with the assembly, it was actually piss easy to get the thing together. Either I lucked out or the company listens to feedback and corrected the issues in their hole drilling. Or, enough people are stupid and don't read instructions (which are almost entirely pictorial) that they messed up the arm assemblies. Whatever the case, my assembly went without a hitch. I have an inclination to write my own (abridged) review on Hayneedle just to say that, because a large chunk of their reviews claim they had to send these back one or more times before they were able to put one together, and I was seriously worried, as it turns out, for nothing. The worst I ran into was a couple of the bolts were a little stiff to screw in, and even then, I started every last one of them by hand before switching to the Allen wrench. The setup itself is so easy that half of it didn't even require the instructions, and I used them more as a reference just to verify what I was doing was correct as I went on my merry way.

As for how the chair sits on its stand, I was surprised how upright it is when I finally flipped the seat up as the final step. Thankfully, it can rock back, which I recommend, since it's much more comfy than sitting like you have a pole up your ass. It's nice that the arm rests can flip back to free up some elbow room, and that when flipped down, they're well-padded and at the perfect height for elbow support when holding a controller. Somebody did their homework on this, and lots of it. It's also taller than I anticipated, at a comfortable height for my 5'10" self to lean back and still have at least one foot firmly planted on the ground, though to be fair, I have proportionally long limbs (long enough I can pull off FF7, not long enough for xxxHOLiC). Overall, it's about the height of a kitchen chair between the base and thick seat, and the back rest goes high enough that the pillowed head part actually reaches your head. In fact, I realized while sitting at my desk today that it's at the exact height I have my work chair set to, so this thing is practically made for me. The back gives it a lot of vertical space when free standing, and with how upright it is, folding it down saves no horizontal space whatsoever, though it does halve its vertical profile.

The sound and vibration controls are easy to reach from sitting and are pretty intuitive to use from opposite the side one normally faces. Using them feels very natural and the peg on the master volume dial is comfortable to use to lazily adjust the volume with precision. It's casual to the extent it's almost like twirling the phone cord around your finger like a woman in a commercial, and while phones with cords died out in the Great Cellular Meteor Strike years ago, I'm sure YouTube has something for anyone young enough to have not seen one.

They also did a magnificent job of hiding the speakers. The bass is obvious in the back because it has to be, but the left and right are embedded at the top and I honestly couldn't tell where they were without getting out of the seat and looking for them. Every part of the seat is squishy and pressing on it doesn't reveal the location of the shields I'm sure are protecting them by touch, though it does cave in the area above a tiny bit, and I regret doing it, because it seems to be permanent. I was able to readjust the foam to better re-hide the worse of the two sides. There's only so much you can do and still protect the speaker, so I recommend taking my word for it if you get your own to keep it pretty. Despite my stupidity, it's great workmanship that borders on magic, because despite being so well buried, the sound isn't muffled at all, and the speakers manage to direct the sound into the cups of your ears even in a comfortable slouch, which is a pretty neat trick for coming from behind.

As for the sound and vibration, the sound is just as good as I said before, with a caveat that you'll get occasional crackling if you shift around too much, which I have determined is from the power cord being a mite touchy, though how that works is beyond me. It may also be because I accidentally closed mine in the car door, but it works fine unless you bump the plug itself, so it may also be the socket. Either way, it's fine during normal operation sitting in front of a screen. It takes a little adjusting for the sound to be coming from behind you rather than from the TV, but after a minute, you can easily be lost in it. It's a perfect balance in that it isn't distracting for it to be in its intended 2.1 setup, but for my own personal use, I think it also will work great as back speakers with other sound sources to keep me oriented.

The vibration is another matter. I started with it cranked all the way up under the thought process of "How bad could it be? It's vibration!" I almost immediately turned it all the way down in a panic when it kicked in, though, because the fabric of my seat was literally flapping behind me. I have to write that down as a disappointment, because at no point is it actually a vibrating chair in the sense of a massage chair like I expected. You control a single motor, which I'd hazard is a big one, embedded in the foam of the seat. It's actually rather uncomfortable, and while it would be great for increasing tension in something like Skyrim or a dinosaur game as a giant beast approaches, it's terrible for music. This is compounded by it only being in the lumbar area, and I am not really a lumbar kind of guy. I like me some full-back action, and I prefer the upper back if given a choice.

Another disappointment is it only activates for low-range bass and even then only when it's loud enough, so listening to music is only going to give you vibration on half or less of a bass part, and the cutoff is quite sharp. Unless your preferred band is heavy on timpani, you're not going to get a lot out of it. This seems specifically geared to sound effects rather than music, which is fine for a gaming chair, I suppose, but utterly fails to live up to the marketing. Again, the effect is terrible for music. You actually get a pretty comfortable full-back vibration from the bass itself if you have it cranked, which is consistent with the music, where the motor seems to register almost randomly throughout even a bass-heavy piece like the PSU theme and is just distracting. I also tried Tomba! and barely got anything, while Chrono Cross registered consistently, but to tones low enough I couldn't even hear them, revealing some sort of background talking drum part all of my years of enjoying the game had never revealed without the cue and which was only partly audible regardless, AND which put it off the audible beat considerably, and I know my low-range hearing is at least human average. It was so strange I had to turn the game off. In contrast, since my Vita decided to download Curses N Chaos, which I apparently purchased and pushed at some point, I decided to try it blind to see how the chair would react, and the result was "not at all" for the chip music and "beautifully" for the gameplay, confirming my suspicions. However, testing other games shows that you're not going to get much out of a JRPG or even most PS1 games, since very few of them use sound effects that low. Even the Thunder Plains in FFX, where I happen to be, didn't budge the motor on max. In fact, of the PS1 classics I tested, the only one to touch the motor outside of the opening theme was Grandia, and then only in the dungeon music, which incorporates, you guessed it, timpani. There were a lot of sounds I expected to be low enough to kick the motor into gear that didn't, so I fully expect this to do better with newer games in general, since they tend to have more realistic effects. Again, I'd expect this to be great in something like Skyrim, but it's pretty much lost on the more colorful fare of my available catalog, especially since I forgot to pack my standard PS2 travel library this week (I'll have a lot of time to play PSU, which was in the PS2). The vibration from bass itself is strong enough to be pleasant and will do a lot to carry the experience even when the motor fails to activate, but is not strong enough to be therapeutic like a massage chair (though it can get close at the right frequency), and overall I recommend turning the vibration off for your tunes and classics and on for your modern games, since that's how you'll maximize the benefits of each.

To comment on the look, since I didn't before, the black vinyl and mesh combined with red mesh gives it an edgy look and I wouldn't trade it for any other highlight color. It somewhat evokes the image of a black widow when combined with the name, but beyond the color doesn't have the overtone and is reminiscent of an arcade chair of sorts. The arm rests are car-like in their ability to flip up, but look sporty because of their gun-like shape and ring architecture, which is heavy and solid despite being 50% empty space. I have to admit I spent a minute making "pew-pew" noises playing with them before I put them on and it was shamelessly satisfying. The design means business. This is something they'd put in front of a racing sim where the crashes produce explosions. In comparison, the round, tapered base is disappointingly banal, like they got everything set up for a floor chair and then someone in Accounting decided it needed to swivel just before it shipped and designed it himself. The color is a lightish matte black that doesn't quite match and doesn't really go well in any respect. It lacks the aggressive lines and looks like an oversized lamp stand the likes of which you'd see in a rich person's house in a soap opera, and is about as edgy. To make matters worse, it's basically attached directly to the rocking apparatus for an ugly, clunky, abrupt transition to the chair itself, with the generous post recessed almost to the floor within the center of the base. This makes it stable as anything, but is a poor finish to a great appearance, like a model wearing the perfect outfit except for mismatched argyle socks leading down to your grandma's shoes. The whole apparatus is short enough that it disappears beneath the seat when looking at it from any sort of height, but when you get low enough to actually view more than the outer edge, it just doesn't go. This is a case where a more aggressive "X" base would have really done the trick visually, though I'm sure the round base is much better equipped to handle the weight. Like I said, the chair is heavy, and with 90% of the weight teetering over the post, I doubt an "X" base would be able to hold it without doubling the weight a round base can get away with to reinforce it or being outright a solid block. On the other hand, looking down on it and seeing the edge of the round base is pleasant, where looking down and seeing a couple legs poking out looks a bit strange in my mind's eye. I suppose that with a truer black and a more angular shape with an edge before dropping to the floor, even if it were just a plastic cosmetic, would have done the side profile more favors than the gentle sweep does.

Overall, it's a worthy purchase at such a heavy discount, provided you want a good gaming chair for a good price. While it's not perfect, every aspect of it earns a passing grade. It's stylish, sturdy, sounds great, and when the vibration motor is given the raw materials it needs, it works beautifully as an immersive device, with the bass acting as a vibration fill for an effective hybrid approach.

UPDATE

So, this thing is finally back in my room, and I'm actually typing this from my desktop. This marks the first time I've actually been comfortable enough at my desk to sit down and type something like this.

A couple things I didn't note at my apartment:

  1. Sitting in this thing is cold
  2. The base does NOT come apart after it's together!

I noticed this in my apartment, but between the very flat faces of the chair and it being largely made of vinyl, this is not something you'll be comfy with in a cold room. I'm actually bundled up in my trusty cloak typing this since it's late and my metabolism is running down. That said, it's not a deal-breaker. It was uncomfortable enough it made me favor my bed a bit in my apartment, but once it's warmed up, it's fine for the most part. Although I do have to wonder how it will be in a hot, muggy summer if this coming year is anything like the year behind us. Basically, except for those parts of you in immediate contact with it, you're at the mercy of the temperature of the room, so if you'd be cold sitting on a kitchen chair, you will be cold in this, especially until your body heat warms up the vinyl, and even then vinyl doesn't conduct the heat far past the immediate source.

Otherwise, the base simply does not come apart after it's been sat on. Looking at the parts, what appeared to be innocent welds now seem to have clamped down on either side of the post, so to transport it back home, I had to unbolt the base from the chair, and found that they'd actually loosened up over the course of the week, which was less than encouraging.

Once in two pieces, the chair was no harder to transport than it had been in its component parts. Well, easier, technically, as a whole, but the chair part of the chair was no harder to transport with the arm assemblies than it had been without them.

That said, the bolts went back in the way they'd gone in in the first place and I got to do a "real" test of my sound. The verdict? My Syba card is a LOT quieter than the Creative was, but as for the chair itself, it's going to serve the exact purpose I bought it for, giving me reliable back speakers in a chair that I can sit in long enough to enjoy it.


Awards GivenEdit

Best-of Stellar Arena sigicon
Bluestarultor Rays
Best-of Stellar Arena sigicon

Five Portal-Star Award

This shining blue text is to announce that Bluestarultor thinks Bluestarultor is a five-star editor. Bluestarultor's contributions to the wiki, and/or to Bluesey's efforts, deserve recognition and accolade.

Best-of Stellar Arena sigicon
Best-of Stellar Arena sigicon
Best-of Stellar Arena sigicon


Given to:

  • Sorceror Nobody - for being my go-to guy when looking at wiki code, amassing a horde of l'Cie, and being one of the few people I've come to really know and trust here in my relatively short time editing.
  • Drake Clawfang - for being my go-to staff person, doing more for the wiki daily than I could ever hope to, and being another of the few people I've come to know and trust in my short time here.
  • 8bit BlackMage - for helping for weeks on end with implementing some CSS for the wiki, agreeing to let me remove him from the bot's ignore list, and generally being a patient and understanding individual.


AchievementsEdit

Bluestarultor Rays

This shining blue text, from me to me, is to commemorate having introduced glow text to the wiki, which has found its way into signatures, logos, and even other people's awards. I'm pretty proud to have given everyone something they like and use!


Bluestarultor Orbs "HAPPY B-DAY!" This is commemorate the day of your birth. Not your Birthday? Too Bad! It's your early present!

Anyway, I only give these out to people who desevre it, by doing stuff. Stuff like: Being Awesome, helping me out, etc... Take this, Bluestarultor Best-of Stellar Arena sigicon BSA, and post it on your wall! We only print a few of these a year, ya know?

PS-For being epic coding win and (hopefully) making a valiant effort for a new irc bot.

Congrats!

-Made with love by Kupohunter, and his pal Gil


Ramuh (FFXI) Ramuh: My master would like you to have this...
My master, Clarent  (talk/ contribs), would like you to have this award, as you definitely deserve it because you had helped her so much on the wiki, with wiki markup and other stuff. If you want to talk to her for whatever reason, you are more than welcome to post on her talk page.


Ramuh (FFXI) Ramuh: My master would like you to have this...
My master, Clarent  (talk/ contribs), would like you to have this award, as you definitely deserve it because you had helped her so much on the wiki, with wiki markup and other stuff. If you want to talk to her for whatever reason, you are more than welcome to post on her talk page.

Yep! Got it twice!


lolcat.jpg "YOU HAZ WONE ONEZ INTERNETZ Congrats, you can have this lolcat and post it on your page. You have gotten it for...

Being amazing at coding/making cow

-Awarded by the epic guy known as Gil's Page - Colosseum - Master - Blog - Talk

You got this epic award at 18:56, June 7, 2011 (UTC), and now you are 5 (or I guess 4) away from 1up-ing SN's amount of internets. GOOD LUKZ!

lolcat.jpg "YOU HAZ WONE ONEZ INTERNETZ Congrats, you can have this lolcat and post it on your page. You have gotten it for...

For realizing that Cid is younger than Mr.T Barret

-Awarded by the epic guy known as Gil's Page - Colosseum - Master - Blog - Talk

You got this epic award at 18:56, June 7, 2011 (UTC), and now you are 4 away from 1up-ing SN's amount of internets. GOOD LUKZ!


Wiki CodeEdit

This is pretty much mostly for my own benefit so I don't lose them, but if you need to poke around to see how things work, feel free. I'll admit that I did to make them. ;)

Bluestarultor Rays
Brothers
Bluestarultor crystal
Best-of Stellar Arena sigicon


User:Bluestarultor/BluestarultorSig - My normal signature (Bluestarultor Best-of Stellar Arena sigicon BSA)

User:Bluestarultor/FF13Sig - My Command Synergy Battle signature, most often used for arenas. (BluestarultorBSA  talk)

User:Bluestarultor/BotSig - Reserved for SacredMinotaur for breaking ties in user arenas. If you'd like to use it for yours, see here. (GFMinotaur and GFSacred, IRC Bots Brothers)

User:Bluestarultor/Sig - See below.

Yes, I used the sig1/sig2 trick. I have no idea if it actually provides any benefit combined with putting it as my custom signature (it automatically does it when I sign with four tildes). If you want help setting that, I can walk you through. Just ask on my talk page.


User:Bluestarultor/BSA Sticker

From a humble sticker to the navigation bar you see at the right. Feel free to poke around and try to figure it out. Just be aware it's a total mess of code. If you want your own, I might help you with it, depending on my time, energy level, and what you want with it. I reserve the right to decline, though, as I have other responsibilities.


User:Bluestarultor/Announcement
User:Bluestarultor/Announcements

Since people have already expressed interest in them, these are the boxes often floating at the bottom of my pages. The first one is the box, the second is the template where I place the boxes just for easier updating. If you'd like to use them, please, PLEASE leave a message on my regular talk page. If you leave it on either of the talk pages for the templates, I don't get notified, and silence on my part is not tacit approval. Those things are the result of tons of complex work and I'd like due credit.


User:Bluestarultor/Page Header - because I decided to expand the widths of my pages from Oasis' 660px and got sick of going through every page to change it as complaints poured in.


User:Bluestarultor/5-Star_Award - An award from me to the cut-above of the wiki. ;)


Notes to SelfEdit

Current Projects to Work OnEdit

  • Some potential ideas for other l'Cie's Eidolons:
    • in code (please do not look if l'Cie)

Things to Tinker Around WithEdit

  • Table coding as for an arena.
  • Possible matches if I ever get the time and don't feel like I'm hopping on the bandwagon (for the "Best-of Stellar Arena"):
    • Best Summon Siblings (Shiva Sisters (the motorcycle) v. Brothers (rock, paper, scissors))
    • (more to come)

Non-Wikia StuffEdit

ProjectsEdit

  • Java can handle MIDI directly, where Flash and C# need external libraries (C# can use WMP; Flash needs outside stuff).
  • For the most part, lack of alpha means Java's transparency issues aren't important. Battle still needs to go in C#.
BattleEdit
  • Flash has a deal-breaker. It can't handle MIDI. With all the music I have, that's a lot of increase in file size to convert it all to MP3. C# can at least use WMP and I'm already familiar with how to do that (XNA does not, in fact, support MIDI). Lucky for me, I saved everything. Back to C#. I'll just render the cutscenes from Flash into AVI and stick a media player behind the faceplate and screens. That should make for 3+ media players: 2 to ensure smooth looping of the music, 1 for video, and maybe 1 or more for sound effects if I can't make them all WAVs.
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