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You Want Anything From the Shop?: Edgar Wright’s Cornetto Trilogy and The World’s End

For those of you that don’t know, the movie-making trio of Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg, and Nick Frost is amazing. With Wright in the directing chair and Pegg and Frost in starring roles, you can bet that any movie done by these three is going to be comedy gold.

It all started with Shaun of the Dead  (2004), an absolutely brilliant spoof/homage to the classic zombie horror films of George Romero. And what can I say? It’s a comedic masterpiece that effortlessly blends over-the-top and violent zombie goof and subtle forms of humor rivalling that of Arrested Development (2003-2006, 2013). There was actually a point when this film was played regularly on one of the movie channels, and I would watch it every day. And every day, I would catch a new joke that I had missed in previous viewings. I’ve watched the movie with director’s commentary, and I can watch the Funky Pete television redub over and over again. It’s one of the very few movies that, were I to review it, may get a perfect score.

And honestly, Shaun of the Dead is in my Top 5 favorite films of all time, I think. It just does everything right, and it paved the way for this comedy trio.

Then, in 2007, another gem directed by Edgar Wright and starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost was released entitled Hot Fuzz. This time, it was a spoof/homage to all of the buddy cop films of the eighties and nineties. And once again, it was brilliant. Though, I have to say it’s a bit less subtle than Shaun of the Dead. It starts off a bit slow, but by the end, it’s so ridiculous and action-packed that you can’t help but crack up. Plus, it features some disguised appearances by Peter Jackson and Cate Blanchett. All in all, it’s also brilliant and hilarious, but I still like Shaun a bit more. But either way, if you haven’t seen one or both of them, you must. Now. Seriously, go watch them both now. In fact, go watch them both now, even if you’ve seen them before.

So, considering the amount of praise that I rain upon these two movies, imagine my excitement when a new Wright/Pegg/Frost movie was announced. This new film was to be called The World’s End (2013). And to make it even better, a few select theaters were actually going to marathon all three movies the night before The World’s End’s release. And I managed to get a ticket. So, in addition to a free shirt, I got to spend six hours watching what has come to be known as Edgar Wright’s Cornetto Trilogy.

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And as you might imagine, it was a great experience. Two of my favorite movies and then a third by the same guys. How could it not be great?

Usually, being my cynical self, this is where I would explain how it could not be great. But not today. For you see, the first two movies were just as good as they’ve always been, even after all this time. And The World’s End was highly enjoyable as well.

The film follows a washed-up drunk named Gary King (Pegg) that decides to get all of his childhood friends back together to conquer his hometown’s “Golden Mile”, a pub crawl that will take them to twelve pubs that they had attempted, and failed years before. And then shit gets really weird.

You see, unlike Shaun of the Dead and Hot FuzzThe World’s End doesn’t appear to really be spoofing or paying homage to any particular genre. I suppose you could say that it pays homage to science fiction, but it feels more like they were trying to be a bit more original with their story this time around. No part of the story can really be considered a spoof of any other film. It’s more of a sci-fi/comedy with an original story that’s a little similar to previous sci-fi films. Now, this definitely isn’t bad, it’s just not what I expected.

The first part of the film is spent almost entirely on character development. That’s not bad, but that means that it takes a little while for the plot to actually take off. And when it does take off, it’s very suddenly. It’s just Gary and his friends drinking, joking, and arguing and then, suddenly, the sci-fi elements just kind of appear and the rest of the movie is about that. It’s a bit jarring.

I also like Simon Pegg’s character in this film considerably less than his characters in the previous films. In Shaun of the Dead, he plays Shaun, who’s just a dude that’s a bit down on his luck and stuck in his routine, but he’s ultimately a good guy that you want to root for. In Hot Fuzz, he plays Nicholas Angel, an ace cop that wants nothing but to uphold the law to the best of his ability and is, against his will, put into an unfortunate situation. How can you not get behind that. In The World’s End, he plays Gary King, a drunk that’s still stuck in his high school days that practically forces his friends into doing what he wants. He’s genuinely unlikeable until near the end of the movie.

The plot is really weird, too. Like I said, it’s an original story, and it’s a pretty odd one. But I do like it. It’s similar to one or two older movies, but it does put a pretty cool twist on it and makes it pretty funny, too. And in the fashion of the previous two films, Hot Fuzz a little less so, it also gets very serious in the third act, only to become funny again.

One thing that I’m very happy about though is the fact that Martin Freeman had a much larger role in this film than in the others. He had small parts in Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. In Shaun, he only says one word. That strikes me as a waste of your Bilbo. But he’s one of the main characters in The World’s End. And I like me my Martin Freeman.

They also got Pierce Brosnan in there, too. And that’s just really weird to me. They had a James Bond in Hot Fuzz as well in the form of a moustachioed Timothy Dalton. And that was awesome. Mr. Dalton integrated himself perfectly into the movie and embraced the comedy so easily. He was great. Pierce Brosnan, though? He wasn’t bad, but he still seemed horribly out of place. And it was made even weirder by the fact that he’s not in the movie for very long. It’s just sort of, “Hello Pierce Brosnan… Good-bye Pierce Brosnan”.

And sadly, there were a couple other actors from the previous films that I was hoping to see, but didn’t. Those being Dylan Moran, Bill Bailey, and Bill Nighy. I guess technically, Bill Nighy was in there, but he never appeared onscreen. He just had a voiceover. And that’s disappointing. And Moran and Bailey didn’t appear at all. That sucks.

The ending is also a bit off as well. It’s definitely not something you see coming, and it’s actually pretty dark. With a comedic edge, of course. But it’s still way different than the rest of the movie.

The one thing that I haven’t touched on yet is the effects. And they’re fine. There are some really silly ones, and a few that just didn’t look great. But for the most part, they’re pretty good. But there was actually a surprising amount of shaky cam during the action sequences, and if you’ve read some of my previous posts, you know how I loathe shaky cam. In fact, there was actually a lot more shaky cam in Hot Fuzz than I remember as well. Except in that case, it’s hard to tell why it was there. The people behind the film seem clever enough to have used it simply as part of their spoof/homage. But it also could have been used for the same reasons that every action director hack resorts to it. I like to think it’s because Edgar Wright is clever, though.

I’m going to be quite honest here and just say that The World’s End is easily my least favorite of the entire Cornetto Trilogy. It’s still very good, but it just seems to fall short of the brilliance of the previous films in the trilogy. But the bar was set pretty damn high. Realizing that, it’s hard to be disappointed in it. I’m just glad that it was as good as it was and that the trio behind it hasn’t lost their touch.

Story: 8/10

Acting: 9/10

Cinematics: 7/10

Total: 8/10

Like I said, I like The World’s End less than Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. But that doesn’t mean that it’s bad or that you shouldn’t see it. Because you should. Personally, I look forward to purchasing it when it’s released on Blu-Ray.

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From Back In The Day, Episode 2: Star Ocean ‘Til the End of Time

For the few of you that are interested in reading this silly old blog of mine, I apologize profusely for the extreme delay in this post. But that’s what happens when your computer breaks and you have no money with which to replace it, so you have to wait four months for some French-Canadian dude that you know to give you one of his old computers that he totally doesn’t need anymore, and then you find out that your wireless internet adaptor doesn’t work with the new computer so you have to buy a long-ass ethernet cable, and then when you finally have a working internet connection, you find that you totally have no desire to write anything until today. So, for all of that, I am truly sorry. And hopefully, I will now be back to posting semi-regularly. But maybe not, because I’m moving again in a week. But I’ll try.

Anyway, on to the post at hand!

There was a point, not too long ago, when I enjoyed nothing more than a new JRPG to commandeer all of my free time. I mentioned in my Final Fantasy Retrospective that the RPG genre was and is my favorite video game genre, though the JRPG has fallen a little lower on my list of video game priorities. But back in those years, when to me, the JRPG was just the cat’s meow, two video game developers had their paws elbow deep in my wallet.

These developers were Gust, the developers of the Atelier, Ar Tonelico, and Mana Khemia series. The other was Tri-Ace, of Valkyrie Profile and Star Ocean fame. And that’s the developer about which I would like to speak today.

It all started in 1999 in my local video rental store. Every week or so, my parents would allow me to rent a new video game for a few days. And back then, this was how I decided which video games that I wanted to own. And during this particular visit to the video store in 1999, I was walking down the PlayStation aisle and came across a new game entitled Star Ocean: The Second Story. For some reason, I had been led to believe that this particular game was a sequel to Lunar: Silver Star Story (the PlayStation remake. I had no idea that it had been a Sega CD game with an already established sequel. I was twelve and had very limited internet access, so how could I know?), one of my favorite games at the time. And the pictures on the back of the box even looked kind of similar. So, I grabbed it.

After popping Star Ocean into my PS1, I quickly realized that it was clearly not of any relation to my beloved Lunar. But at the same time, I also realized that this was far better than my beloved Lunar. It had detailed character sprites, rather than the squat potato people of Lunar (though Lunar had much better monster sprites, I will give it that). It had a fast-paced, real-time battle system. It had a complex story with multitudinous endings with a large cast of playable characters, all of which interact differently with each other. Star Ocean: The Second Story was and is a great game. And, more importantly for this post, it got me very interested in Tri-Ace.

From then on, you could say that I was Tri-Ace’s bitch. Every time a new game of theirs was released, I grabbed it immediately. Even Infinite Undiscovery, which I barely even played, because it was so bad (the last original game I ever bought from them was Resonance of Fate, which soured me to Tri-Ace altogether. I have no idea what they’re doing anymore). So, if I was willing to buy those turds of games, you can imagine how incredibly excited I was when a new Star Ocean game was released. It was called Star Ocean: ‘Til the End of Time. Even the title sounded poetic.

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The game certainly looked promising. I mean, even though the series had transitioned to 3-D character models instead of sprites, it still looked similar to the previous game, so my hopes were high. But as it turns out, this game would be the beginning of Tri-Ace’s descent into suckitude.

Except it almost wasn’t. That’s why this game still hurts me so badly. It was a great game until it suddenly wasn’t.

Firstly, Star Ocean 3 has a fantastic battle system. It took the great system from the last game and made it more dynamic and hectic. It had a pretty steep learning curve, however. It took me a long while to fully understand and master it. But once I did… damn. To this day, I think that Star Ocean 3 has my single favorite RPG battle system of all time.

Graphically, I’d say it’s about on par with the PS2 standard of the day. Some of the cutscenes and spaceships look amazing. Some of the character models, textures, and monsters look less so. Not to mention, the character that you control runs like a freaking weirdo.

The character interaction that made the previous games so engaging are still intact here, but the impact of them is considerably lower. In the previous game, you can get multiple endings involving the pairing up of any two characters, each getting their own little scene before the credits. In here, however, you can only pair up the main character with one other character. And that makes it far less interesting.

Speaking of the main character, what the hell is up with Tri-Ace and their characters’ names? The main character here is named, I shit you not, Fayt Leingod. That is the stupidest name of all damn time. Now, you could say, “Hey. It’s a fantasy/sci-fi game. That kind of thing happens. Haven’t you ever heard of Daenerys Targaryen? Or Aragorn, son of Arathorn? Those are equally odd names, and they fit perfectly!” and normally, you’d be right. But those stories take place in their own worlds with their own rules, and I can buy those names and accept them, even if I don’t particularly like them. But Star Ocean takes place in our universe. Fayt here if from Earth. He has a gal pal named Sophia. He meets another Earthling named Maria. So, how in the world did he end up with a stupid name like that? And that’s not even the worst of it. Throughout the game, you get new party members from different planets. They’re humanoid, sure, but they’re still aliens. Do you know what their names are? Peppita, Cliff, and Roger, just to name a few. Again, these are aliens with distinctly Earthling names. So where the fuck does Fayt come from?! I’m sorry to sit here and dwell on this, but it has bugged me ever since I first played the game! If Cliff had been named Fayt Leingod, I still wouldn’t like the name, but I could accept it. Tri-Ace has always been silly about naming their characters. In the previous game, the Earthling character is named Claude. Okay, nothing wrong there. That’s a good, Earthling name. But what’s his father’s name, you ask? Ronixis. While one of the aliens is named Noel Chandler. What the poop? And what’s the main Earthling character’s name in the fourth game? Edge Maverick. Ugh…

But seriously, I’m done bitching about stupid names.

So how is it, do you ask, that a game with my absolute favorite battle system can fail so hard in your eyes, O Wise Organ Miner?

Well, to properly answer your question, I have to tell you a little about myself. I am a gamer of the belief that, in most cases, story is king. Story trumps gameplay. I can have a game with the best game feel I’ve ever experienced, but as soon as the story becomes stupid, all of the enjoyment is completely sucked out of the game for me. Now, that doesn’t mean a game is automatically bad if it doesn’t have the best story. And it doesn’t mean a game is automatically good if it has a good story. There has to be a certain balance between the two, but given the choice between story and gameplay, I’ll take story every time.

So what that means here is that if I was a person that valued gameplay more than story, I would consider Star Ocean 3 a great game. But, I value story. And this story sucks. In fact, it takes a monstrous, watery dump all over the entire story of the whole series. Star Ocean, Star Ocean: The Second Story, and Star Ocean: The Last Hope (the fourth game) are all made worse by the story of this game. In fact, the only way that I can still enjoy the second one is if I straight-up pretend Till The End of Time simply doesn’t exist.

And what really sucks about this is that, until a certain point in the middle of the game, the story is fine. It’s not the best, but it was okay. But then, out of nowhere, the writers just seemed to think, “Hey, you know what would make this story a lot better? If we made this story a lot fucking worse!”. And what really, really sucks for me is that I can’t properly explain why this story sucks so hard without spoiling the whole game. But what I can say is that it takes the events from the first two games and the events thus far in this game, and makes them practically meaningless. In fact, now that I really think about it, the story is actually something that’s been told a hundred billion times, only in a much stupider way with way more plot holes. And it’s made even worse by the fact that, even if it is a cliché, it still had potential and could have been a cool story. And it’s made even worse by the fact that the ending comes so close to fixing it, but falls short.

And one last thing, the optional secret dungeon with over 200 floors is one of the most tedious and horrible things I have ever experienced in gaming and it leads to nothing but two of the most bullshit battles in gaming history.

And you know what the really fucked up part is? I still give Star Ocean: Till The End of Time a recommendation. Because in the end, it still has a battle system that, when mastered, is one of the most fluid and satisfying systems out there, not even equalled by the following game in the series. The Private Actions, though not as involved as the second game, are still great fun to see. And though the story really doesn’t rub me the right way, I can actually see others enjoying it… kinda. You need to decide for yourself.

Gameplay: 8/10: There were a couple things that I didn’t mention that take points away here, like not being able to fast travel and some stupid dungeons and puzzles.

Music: 6/10: I’d say it’s above average, but not very memorable.

Graphics: 7/10: Again, about on par with PS2 standards, but with some really nice ones, and some not-so-nice ones.

Story: 2/10

Total: 6/10


Die Bored 5: A Good Day to Die Hard

Quick! What’s the worst crime a film can commit? Is it being overly and unnecessarily violent with guts and organs flying everywhere for no good reason? No. Is it being too long? No. Is it being another Twilight movie? Well… yes, actually. But after that, what can it be? I’ll tell you.

It’s being completely and utterly forgettable.

I very recently went to go see the latest Die Hard movie, entitled A Good Day To Die Hard (2013), and let me tell you, it was just that.

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Now, I’m in the minority that believes that the fourth movie, Live Free or Die Hard (2007) was really goddamn fun. I loved it. In fact, I may even enjoy it more than the second and third movies (blasphemy, I know), despite how many Justin Longs were in it. I liked it enough to see it in theaters three times, one of which had Czech subtitles, which was awesome. I learned how to say ‘shit’ in Czech.

My point is, I was under the belief that, though completely unnecessary, a fifth installment in the Die Hard franchise might not be horrible if they could keep the odd charm of the last movie. But, seeing the previews, I could kind of tell that it would not be so. But, I thought the same thing about the last one, and I was pleasantly surprised. Maybe it would be the same this time.

I was about as pleasantly surprised by this movie as I would be if a baby suddenly shot me in the kneecap with a .45 magnum.

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Watch out for this little bastard. He’ll cap you.

A Good Day to Die Hard starts with our hero, John McClane, travelling to Russia because his son has been arrested there. Though, I really can’t be sure what he was hoping to accomplish by doing so.

But it turns out that John Jr. is actually a United States CIA agent sent to Moscow to protect a Russian scientist/imprisoned criminal that has information that can bring down an evil, corrupt Russian politician that is trying to kill said Russian scientist to prevent him from testifying against said evil, corrupt Russian politician. John Jr., as it turns out, only got arrested so that he can get close to Russian Scientist, take him into protective custody, and bring him to the US. John Sr. bumbles into this operation and action ensues.

And my Arceus, was it boring… yeah, sure there were plenty of explosions and car chases and gun fights and helicopters, but if you’re not invested or even interested in what happens before and after the explosions, the explosions themselves cannot possibly be entertaining.

Speaking of explosions, car chases, etc., where the fuck was the police during all of it? Believe it or not, Russia does indeed have law enforcement. You can’t run out into the middle of the street, punch a guy in the face, steal his car, use said car to drive off of a bridge and over all of the cars below, all while firing your gun at another car chasing an armored truck and not attract any law enforcement! Especially if you’re a foreigner, like John McClane is. Throughout the first action sequence, only one cop shows up, and is immediately shot and killed. Yeah, killing a cop does not attract more cops. Right.

You can try to make the same argument about the last movie. You can’t crash a car into a helicopter without attracting the fuzz. But in that movie, everything was in complete disarray at the time, and the police physically could not respond. But here, there was nothing preventing them from going after the vehicles currently crashing through every other vehicle. Oh, and all of this was apparently going on during a massive earthquake, judging by how much the goddamn camera was shaking during every action scene! Son of a bitch, I am so sick of this shaky cam bullshit in every action movie! Stop it! Seriously, give the shaky cam a fucking rest!

And then the plot itself begins to get really stupid. And maybe even offensive.

Without giving too much away, there were two big plot twists, and I had called both of them. But even if I couldn’t, they’re presented in such a way that I really couldn’t be surprised by them. Like, the first one. Someone is a traitor. And McClane figures this out because he asks this person how they got to where they were so fast, and they happen to say that they took the one road that John happens to know by name, and John just happens to know that said road “always has bad traffic”. He only knows this because earlier, he just happened to be taking a cab on this one road and his singing driver just happened to mention both the name of the road and the fact that it always has bad traffic.

Bullshit!

Where the plot gets potentially offensive though, is where they take a real-world tragedy and exploit it. According to this film, the real-life Chernobyl disaster was actually caused by a fictional character. It may just be me, but that makes me feel kind of sick. It’s like in L.A. Noire, where in your very own home, you get to catch the real-life Black Dahlia murderer. You know, the actual killer that real police with real police training couldn’t catch? It’s the same thing. And it just feels like an insult to the actual, living people that suffered because of those tragedies.

Also, just as a quick note, the acting, for the most part, was average. Except for John Jr., played by Jai Courtney. He sucked.

As longwinded as this review may have been, the truth is, I’m really having a hard time remembering anything from this film. As horrible as it may have been, it was also completely boring and forgettable. Take every other movie in the franchise. If you mention one of them to me, a few images or lines will pop into my head, whether it’s Hans Gruber’s face as he was dropped from the Nakatomi Building, or John McClane blowing up an airplane with nothing but a lighter, or Jeremy Irons being Jeremey Irons, or even Kevin Smith calling his basement a ‘command center’. Those are all just off the top of my head. And it’s been years since I’ve seen any of the previous four movies.

But I was struggling to find anything memorable about the fifth movie as I was leaving the theater! I had pretty much forgotten the whole thing by the time I reached my car.

And that is the greatest crime that a film can commit. Though don’t get me wrong. A Good Day to Die Hard, though a pretty big pile of sakra, is still quite a bit better than Lockout (2012).

Story: 2/10

Acting: 4/10

Cinematics: 4/10

Total: 3/10


Battle of the Accents: The Last Stand

What can be said about Arnold Schwarzenegger and his action movies that hasn’t already been said? At this point, any person can start watching any Arnold action flick and know basically what they are going to receive. I feel like I don’t even need to explain it here. Though very few of his films could truly be called ‘good movies’, nearly all of them can be called ‘buttloads of fun’.

After ending his career as governor of Cally-for-nee-ah, Arnold appeared in his first acting gig that lasted more than part of one scene in The Expendables 2 (2012), where he kicked some ass with Bruce Willis, a shotgun, and a Smartcar.

It was pretty glorious, I must say.

He tore that door off with one hand, because physics. It was pretty glorious, I must say.

It was a return to the ridiculous Arnold action of yore. And it was great fun.

Shortly after that, we were treated to the preview of a new movie. A new movie with Arnold in the starring role! It looked to embody all of the Arnold movie charm that we have come to enjoy over the years, with a couple small changes due to the fact the Mr. Schwarzenegger is over sixty years old. It was kind of cool to see Arnold back in the starring spot. This would be his first starring role since Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003). And it would be called The Last Stand (2013).

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Now if you went into this film looking for some sort of complex storyline or gripping drama or anything else that is considered part of a “good movie”, well… you’re a butthead. But it seems there are a great deal of buttheads out there, seeing as this film has received a number of negative reviews, receiving a 59% on Rotten Tomatoes, only two percent higher than X-Men: The Last Stand (2006). Now, I’m not necessarily saying that it should be rated fantastically or anything, but a lot of review sites don’t seem to give it much credit and seem to go into it expecting more than a silly Schwarzenegger action movie.

But damn it, it wasn’t that bad. At no point was it trying to be anything but the aforementioned silly action movie, and it should be judged as such, which is what I am here to do today.

And I can say right now that, by that standard, it’s not bad. It does everything that it set out to do.

That’s not to say that there’s nothing wrong with it. I have some problems with Johnny Knoxville as an actor, and leading up the the release of The Last Stand, he seemed to feature rather heavily in all of the promotional materials. As you can see from the poster above, the only person featured higher than Johnny is Arnold himself. In fact, due to this weird advertising, I actually had no idea that Forrest Whitaker was even in the movie. And he’s one of the main characters! So why is Johnny Knoxville, a minor character, featured so heavily? Especially considering he’s in the movie less than just about any other main character. Is he really that big a selling point?

Now, as much as I don’t care for him as an actor, Mr. Knoxville was not too bad in here, mostly because he’s not in it too much. I think that’s the only way he can truly work. Based on his personality and the kind of roles that he takes, I think he would become grating if he were onscreen too long. But in The Last Stand, he’s in there just long enough so that his brand of humor did not become annoying and it simply added to the comedic level of the film.

Another odd, though not necessarily poor choice in casting was bring in Luis Guzman to play a police deputy. Mr. Guzman never really struck me as an action movie kind of guy. He didn’t do poorly in the role. But, in my opinion, it was difficult to see him as anything other than just Luis Guzman playing a deputy. That might sound weird, but I’m going to try and explain. Let’s take his role in another movie, Waiting (2005), where he played an irate line cook. Throughout the movie, I could see Mr. Guzman playing this irate line cook and find myself thinking, “That’s an irate line cook”. But in this role, I never really thought, “That’s a police deputy”, but rather, “That’s Luis Guzman playing a police deputy”. Make sense? Well, too bad, I’m not explaining it anymore. It’s good that he’s trying to take on different kinds of roles, but it didn’t necessarily work as well as it could have.

The rest of the casting was fine, but within that fine acting, we come across another weird issue with the film. The accents of the actors. Now of course, Arnold has his thick Austrian thing going, even though his character is named Ray Owens and where would a guy named Ray Owens develop a thick Austrian accent? But he’s been around long enough, and that kind of thing has happened often enough for us to overlook that. It’s just one of the quirks in his movies.

But then, we have the main villain, a Mexican cartel lord played by Eduardo Noriega, a Spaniard. Now, we’ve seen Spaniards playing Mexicans before, mostly in the form of Antonio Banderas, and it can work. But here, it does not. Again, the part is played fine, but his accent throws me off and makes me laugh. In trying to do a Mexican accent, Mr. Noriega ended up sounding hauntingly like Jet Li, a Chinese man.

There’s also Frank Martinez, a Mexican-American ex-marine, played by Rodrigo Santoro, a Brazilian man. He’s not very good, and his accent isn’t even close.

But by far, my favorite displaced accent has to be the one delivered by Peter Stormare, playing one of the bad guys. Mr. Stormare has a pretty strong Swedish accent, only in The Last Stand, he appears to be attempting a Texas accent. Instead, he ends up with some completely incomprehensible love child of both the Swedish and the Texan… And I love it. For the entire film, I found myself thinking, “Dude, what did you just say? Because those clearly weren’t words”. And let me tell you something. It was great. You have to realize that he’s a bad guy in an Arnold Schwarzenegger film, so what he says isn’t really that important. As long as you get what’s going on around him, he could say anything and the movie wouldn’t be any less entertaining.

But again, for the most part, the acting is just fine. You won’t find any Oscar nominees here, but it’s not bad either.

As for the action, most of it is just as you’d expect. There were a couple explosions, but strangely, none of them seemed totally implausible. They were both caused by an RPG. You know, a weapon designed to make explosions. The gun fights and the blood effects were all mostly realistic and they were all practical effects rather than CG. In fact, I’m not entirely sure there was any CG in the film. If there was, it was very little, and completely unnoticeable. And that’s something that I truly appreciate. The film did have some bad shaky cam moments, which I hate so very, very much. But there weren’t a lot, so I wasn’t bugged too badly.

But there were a couple times, especially during the driving scenes where I simply had to call bullshit. When it comes to action movies, at least to me, there are two kinds of acceptable action. Action like in Children of Men  (2006), where the action is all about accuracy in the physics and psychology, where all of the action seems completely real and plausible. And action as in Commando (1985), when twenty guys can be shooting at our hero and miss entirely, but our hero just waves his machine gun back and forth and takes out seven guys, where the action is more about flash, implausibility, and ridiculousness.

But it seems like, during some of these driving scenes, that the director tried to combine those two forms of action. And the result is, in my opinion, action that is a little too implausible to be real, but not implausible enough to be ridiculous and fun. And it doesn’t work. Roadblocks and police blockades are not that easy to get through. A tiny, flat little Corvette could not do that to two SWAT SUVs and only come out with a couple scratches on the hood. For the most part, the action is great. More than acceptable for the Schwarzenegger standard. But these couple of action sequences left me a little sour.

And lastly, there is something that I need to say about the story. Now, in an Arnold movie, story is not usually important… like, at all. But The Last Stand seemed to want to put a little more into it. And though that’s not a bad thing necessarily, I think they placed just a little too much importance on it. And as a result, we get a bit too much time watching Forrest Whitaker and the FBI trying to figure things out. And though I adore Forrest Whitaker as an actor, we didn’t need the scene where he questions the guy in the orange tracksuit or a number of other scenes involving the FBI. We came here to see Arnold Schwarzenegger kick bad guy ass and talk funny, and the time those scenes took could have been better spent on that.

But still, I could not help but thoroughly enjoy this movie. With the exception of a couple little missteps, The Last Stand was everything that it set out to be. The next Arnold action movie. We got all the staples: Arnold with a plain, American name and an unexplained accent delivering some silly and cheesey lines, foreign bad guys with a ridiculous plot, ridiculous action. It was a lot of fun, I have to say.

Story: 6/10: Again, this is based off of what you should expect going into it, not what makes a movie “good”.

Acting: 7/10: There was only one character that I outright didn’t like, and the accents, though horrible, were so much fun that I can’t in good conscience take a point off for them.

Cinematics: 8/10: There were some very good practical effects and little to no CGI, so it looks very good. But the shaky cam does hurt it a little.

Total: 7/10

The Last Stand in no way stands up to Arnold’s most iconic films, but it definitely holds its own and makes for nothing but an entertaining time.


From Back In The Day, Episode 1: Sweet Home (Famicom) vs. Sweet Home (1989)

Okay, so when I said that my first From Back In The Day would be about Star Ocean: Til The End of Time, I lied. But this subject is far more interesting, I think and may just awaken you to things you had no idea existed. So instead, you get this.

In the distant year of 1989, in January, a new horror movie was released in Japan entitled スウィートホーム (1989), also known as Sweet Home (1989).

 

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The English caption at the top of the poster there actually has nothing at all to do with the film.

It was graphic, gory, and involved shadows that melt people. But at its most basic, it was just a haunted house movie. It was certainly enjoyable, and the make-up, special effects, and puppets were all pretty impressive.

Later that same year, in December, and also only in Japan, a video game was released on the Famicom by Capcom. This game could really only be classified as a survival horror RPG, and is, in fact considered not only the first survival horror game, but is indeed a precursor to Capcom’s many Resident Evil games. It was challenging, filled with puzzles, surprisingly atmospheric, tense, and creepy despite its 8-bit limitations, and brutal and violent to look at. Unfortunately, because it was so visually violent, it would not see an international release.

Luckily for me, some enterprising internet dweller decided to translate it and release it for emulation online, so I got to play it. This video game is entitled スウィートホーム, also known as Sweet Home. Coincidence?

No. The film and the game share the same title, because they tell the same story. The Famicom game is a remake of sorts. In fact, it’s said that the film’s director, Kiyoshi Kurosawa, was deeply involved in the development of the game.

So, having experienced both the film and the game, I thought it would be an interesting venture to compare the two.

Like I mentioned, they share the same plot. A group of people enter the ruined mansion of Ichiro Mamiya, a famous fresco artist, in order to recover and document a lost painting (or paintings in the game). While there, shit goes down and people melt.

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It’s sad that we never got to see this majesty on our American NES. Oh, but seeing Hitler’s head exploding in Bionic Commando is fine!

Both the film and the game are, in their own ways, grind-fests. The film is pretty damn slow at the beginning, but picks up nicely by the end. And the game, being a turn-based RPG, requires a lot of level grinding, even moreso than many other RPGs considering that if one of your five characters dies, they’re gone for good, healing items are so rare, and each character can only carry two items at a time.

Normally, I would really hate such a limited inventory, but in this case, not only does it work, but it really works. It does wonders to add to your sense of desperation, having to decide which items you need to bring with you at what time. It makes you really think about the survival aspect of this survival-horror game.

As much as I wish Capcom would have taken the random encounters and all of those other JRPG elements out, with the limitations of the Famicom, it’s hard to imagine what else they could have done to keep the horrific and tense nature of the game at the same level.

Visually, both the film and the game are done remarkably well. Though it almost seems like a joke to compare the two. The filmmakers had a great deal more resources at their disposal than gamemakers for the Famicom. But both did very well with what they had. Though, the overworld perspective in the game is a bit off. They use the same character sprite no matter which direction you face, so it always kind of looks like the characters are laying on their backs. It’s weird.

Where the game kills it though, is in the soundtrack. The overworld themes do a great job of making you feel uneasy throughout, and the battle theme is frantic, giving you the feeling that every battle is a desperate struggle, even when it really isn’t. I rarely remember the soundtracks to movies, mostly because the soundtracks to movies are rarely a point of focus to filmmakers. And I can’t remember a single tune from the film.

But there is one deciding factor here when it comes to determining which version of the story I enjoyed more. And that is how the story is told.

Now, without giving the plot away, I can say that it is not bad, especially for what boils down to a haunted house story. It’s disturbing and just plausible enough to work.

In the film, the story is pretty much a mystery until a character, which had only been in the movie briefly until this point, just kind of comes out and explains everything… and then he melts.

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Did I mention the melting?

And you know what, that’s acceptable. They only have so much time to tell a story and cultivate a sense of mystery, a sense of horror, and a body count. And at least he was in the movie for a short time before just appearing to tell us everything that we were wondering.

But the game goes above and beyond here. The story is told mainly through journal entries of the owner of the mansion, through hidden messages in his frescoes, and through corpses that talk to you. And though the character mentioned above is in the game, and does shed some light on your situation, he’s only a small part of it. For the most part, you discover what happened and why by yourself, through your own investigation. And that’s just brilliant. It makes the entire game multitudes more immersive. And that puts it over the top. You discover the clues, you uncover the horrific reasons behind this haunting, and you put it all to rest or die trying. Some guy didn’t just come out and tell you what happened.

And it is that factor that makes Sweet Home for the Famicom superior to Sweet Home the film. As strange as it might be to think that a mass of 8-bit pixels and noises can be superior to a film with real-life actors and special effects. But it’s all in how the story is told, and the way the game did it kept the pacing even and the atmosphere tense and dreadful. And though the movie is pretty good, that one factor makes the game more successful in the endeavor of telling this particular story.

Now, if anyone who happens to see this post wants me to do a full review of either the film or the video game, let me know. But if not, this is all you get on the subject of Sweet Home, and I hope you enjoyed it.


Dude, I Don’t Even Know: Double Dragon Neon

One of my great achievements as a gamer is beating the original Double Dragon NES game without cheats or Game Genie, just three lives and my own mettle. What can I say? I was just in the zone. I was fighting for right with the might of the dragon (I think only seven people in the world will get that reference). I got past those stupid blocks in the final level. That douche with the machine gun couldn’t touch me. And the final boss was disappointingly easy. Funny story, I went back to the game the next day with a Game Genie code to give me nine lives instead of the usual three, and I couldn’t beat it.

Anyway, strange personal tangents aside, Double Dragon was a pioneer in the beat ’em up genre. It spawned a great sequel in Double Dragon II: The Revenge, and a  not-so-great sequel with cool music with Double Dragon III: The Sacred Stones on the NES. After that, it got a crappy beat ’em up sequel and an even crappier fighting game on the SNES, plus Battletoads/Double Dragon, a decent crossover game for the SNES and Sega Genesis. It also spawned one of the most hilariously awesome/horrible cartoon shows and one of the most hilariously awesome/horrible movies that I have ever witnessed. After that… nothing. For a long time, we didn’t see hide nor hair of the Lee brothers. To my knowledge, there was only a Gameboy Advance remake of the original Double Dragon, which I only played once. After that, I was almost certain that the Double Dragon series was dead as Prince Imhotep.

And as it turns out, I was right! As from its long-buried sarcophagus arose the reanimated mummies of Billy and Jimmy Lee. And with them came a new game entitled Double Dragon Neon.

When I heard about a new Double Dragon game coming to the PSN, I got reasonably excited. Though it hadn’t been my favorite game series of all time, I remember always having at least one Double Dragon game in my household at any one time. So, it was exciting to finally get a new game to play. And when I did, there was only one thing that I could say.

“Uh… hm.”

On the title screen, you are greeted with a rather heavy and rocking remix of the original Double Dragon title screen. That’s pretty cool. Then you start the game and Marian is punched in the stomach and slung over the shoulder of a faceless baddy. At this point, I was getting a little worried. I was beginning to think that this was just another remake. But then, Billy and/or Jimmy emerges from the building and says, “Marian? Aw, man! Not again!”. So… It’s not a remake? And then we’re greeted with a rock remix of the Stage One theme from the original Double Dragon. So, that’s promising. So far, we’ve heard nothing but remixes.

The first thing you’re going to notice is probably the new look of the series. There are 3-D characters rather than sprites and, if the title didn’t give it away, everything is covered in neon lights. Now, for the most part, this is okay. Most of the characters look okay, if not a little bit weird. But then, Billy and Jimmy (you know, the people that you’re going to be looking at for the entirety of the game) look stupid! And I mean that both literally and figuratively.

They’re wearing basically the same outfits that they did in previous installments, but on the new, slightly disproportionate character models, it looks even sillier. Pair that with a slightly dimwitted looking face and a silly pompadour/mullet hair style (and look. Jimmy even complements it with some mutton chop sideburns. That’s a solid fashion statement right there), and you quickly wish that you were playing as somebody else.

The next thing that you’ll notice is that everybody moves really fucking slowly! Hey, Billy. You might walk a little faster if you didn’t walk sideways and do your ninja pose the entire time. This may seem like only a mild complaint, but honestly, this plodding pace can really get to you after awhile. There is a way to run, but it takes almost two seconds to execute and you can’t control yourself while you’re running, so it makes it practically useless. It’s not like say, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, another beat ’em up that I have recently played, where the character moves really slowly. But in Scott Pilgrim, you can start running on a whim and can move up and down while you do it. That, and you can improve your movement speed by leveling up and eating sushi, so it no longer becomes a problem. In Double Dragon Neon, it’s a problem through the entire course of the game, especially when some of the bosses can teleport on a whim and make you chase them around the battlefield.

The fighting system is kind of fucked up and, let’s face it, archaic. Just like most beat-’em-ups, your main goal is to progress to the right on the x axis to reach the boss and end of the level, but you can also move up and down on the y axis to line yourself up with an enemy to punch him or avoid an attack. And this, though it mostly works, has its problems. If you are not on the exact same plane of the battlefield as the enemy for which you are aiming, you’re hitting nothing but air, but guess what. The enemies can still hit you! Maybe I’m just imagining it, but it certainly feels like you have a larger hit box than the enemies.

Neon also falls victim to a couple other outdated beat-’em-up staples. Like the game reading your controller inputs to create psychic enemies that can dodge and counter pretty much whatever you do. And enemies attacking you from off-screen when you had no idea they were there. And enemies becoming invincible in the middle of your combo so that they can get a free hit on you, especially if they are using a weapon. And throwing in clunky platforming, a beat-’em-up mechanic that you be buried alive in a landfill somewhere, for no reason other than “The other games did it”. And all of these beat-’em-up clichés don’t belong in our console games today. They really hurt the gameplay and the overall enjoyment of the game as a whole.

That’s not to say that there are not any changes made to the formula. Double Dragon Neon, instead of allowing you to just spam the Spinning Cyclone and the Flying Knee, focuses more on ducking and rolling to dodge enemy attacks. When you successfully dodge an enemy attack with the L2 button with the right timing, you enter what’s called ‘Gleam’, where your attacks are doubly powerful for a few moments. This can be the difference between getting your ass kicked and doing some ass kicking of your own. It takes a little while to adapt to it, but once you do, it does make the game marginally more enjoyable. That would be more than marginal if the damn Gleam mechanic actually worked half the time. There were definitely moments where I would dodge an attack and get Gleam, and then just a moment later, I would dodge the same attack with the same timing, and I would not get Gleam.

I have to get off of this subject. Typing the word ‘Gleam’ so many times has made my fingers begin to necrotize.

Also included in Neon is a Special Move Bar located directly under your Life Bar. Pressing R2 activates your special move. And what’s kind of neat here is that there are multiple special moves that you can equip and level up, so pressing R2 will do something different depending on which special move you have equipped. Of course, I ended up simply using the first one you get as, in my opinion, it’s the best one. These special moves drain your Special Meter, and your Special Meter is refilled by attacking enemies.

There are also things in Neon called ‘Stances’, which are basically items that you equip and level up to raise your stats and do some other things like absorb health. This is kind of cool and allows the player to change the game slightly to fit his or her own playing style.

But, as nice as these Special Moves and Stances are, leveling them up is a huge pain in the ass. You level them up by picking them up over and over again. And, as you can probably divine for yourself, certain enemies drop certain items. That’s tedious enough as it is, but there’s more. You can only level them up so high before you have to visit what’s called a ‘Tapesmith’ and have him raise that item’s level cap, after which, you would need to farm for it again. But wait, that’s not all! You can’t visit the Tapesmith from the Level Select screen, oh no. That would just be far too convenient. Instead, you have to visit a stage in which a Tapesmith is present and progress through the stage until you reach him. This is a bullshit mechanic and there shouldn’t have been a single person that thought this was a good idea. But wait! That’s still not all! In order for the Tapesmith to upgrade your items, you need to give him Mythril, which can only be obtained by defeating a boss. And each time he upgrades an item, he requires a higher number of Mythril pieces to upgrade it again. This means that, not only do you have to farm enemies to get the item in the first place, but you have to farm bosses to get Mythril just to be allowed to farm enemies again! And considering how short the game is, you’re going to be fighting the same few bosses countless times just to fully upgrade one Stance or Special Move! Tedium, thy name is Double Dragon Neon.

Now, you may be wondering why it’s called a Tapesmith. Well, this is because your Special Moves and Stances come in the form of, for some reason, cassette tapes. Now, quick question. How many people out there that actually play video games even remember what a cassette tape is? This is where I begin to get confused about just what this game is trying to be.

At different points, it feels like it wants to be a comedy with its goofy voice acting and bosses and rocket pagodas and sing-along credit song. At others, it seems it wants us to take it seriously as a hardcore action game. Sometimes it feels like it wants to be a parody of the beat-’em-up genre. Other times, I feel like I need to leave the room because of just how much it wants to pay homage to it all night long. Sometimes, it seems to want to be a parody of itself, or maybe even the youth of today, by making Billy and Jimmy do air guitar at the end of each stage and using words like bro-op and bro-five. But, I think its main goal was to be a parody of the entire ’80s. But you see, when it tries so hard to be so many things, it kind of ends up as nothing.

And I think that’s what bugs me the most. I got nothing out of this game. Any enjoyment that I got from it was quickly counter-balanced by all of the stupid shit they threw at me. It had some comedic parts and some interesting mechanics, but it also had a stupid, simplistic story, outdated mechanics from old games, mind numbing tedium in its item improvement, and a complete inability to decide what it wanted to be. All of this makes me say that Double Dragon Neon should be played maybe once, because I can see how some people might enjoy it more than I, but I honestly don’t think it’s worth more than one playthrough.

Gameplay: 4/10: It loses a lot for using old mechanics and that whole, horrible Tapesmith thing.

Music: 8/10: I may not have mentioned it, but a lot of the heavy rock music, despite a few remixes here and there, is actually pretty good.

Graphics: 6/10: Despite a few ugly character models, they still come out a little above average, I think.

Story: 4/10: It’s far too simple and stupid. But it gets a point for being comedic and parodic.

Total: 5/10


Final Fantasy: A Retrospective

I recently played Final Fantasy XIII-2. I had a good time playing it. It looked amazing, as Square Enix games tend to do. The storyline and gameplay were both better than Final Fantasy XIII. There were some things that pissed me off. Like, the story, though not bad, was a little complex and even nonsensical. And Mog got me so angry throughout the whole game. Seriously, Moogles do not literally say ‘Kupo’. Moogles say kupo like a cat says meow. Some of the sidequests and enemies were stupid and annoying and downright bad. But I still had fun collecting as much as I could, making my party members stronger, and I really loved the monster hunting/raising.

So, here’s my score for Final Fantasy XIII-2.

Gameplay: 7/10

Music: 6/10

Graphics: 10/10

Story: 7/10

Total: 7/10

Yeah, I know that review was horribly short, but I promise, I am not gypping you here. What I have planned here is something much bigger than myself and the review of one silly video game.

The Final Fantasy series as a whole holds a very special place in my heart. Along with the Mega Man series (to this day, my favorite franchise), I grew up with Final Fantasy more than any other series. Mario and Sonic may be two great series of games, and I played a lot of them. And they are almost definitely far more influential as far as video games go. But nothing got me into the experience of playing a video game like Final Fantasy. I remember my first time playing Final Fantasy III (VI) was also the first time that I ever felt truly immersed in a game’s environment, the first time I cared deeply for a video game character, and the first time that I was genuinely floored by a game’s plot. I realize that there were probably some massive, epic, and equally good RPGs that had been released before FFIII, but I was a bit too young for those at the time. FFIII came out at just the right time. At a time that I was ready to attempt a video game that would take more than a couple hours to successfully beat. And I never looked back. Mega Man may be my favorite franchise, but because of Final Fantasy, the RPG genre remains my favorite genre of video games.

And whatever you may think about the series’s quality, you cannot deny its influence. Think of it like The Beatles or The Rolling Stones. I hate The Rolling Stones, save for a few amazing songs, but I understand that without them, many of the bands that I do like wouldn’t exist. Just like without Final Fantasy, many of the video games that we enjoy today would not exist. The RPG genre, the fantasy genre, and in fact, the entire video game industry would likely not be anywhere near its current status were it not for this series.

I thought about all of this as I was gathering my thoughts for my Final Fantasy XIII-2 review, and I realized that I had a lot more to say about the whole series. I decided that I would much rather do a retrospective of the whole series so far and give my thoughts on how the games have evolved. And I decided that I wanted to do it as a countdown from my least to most favorite.

But first, a few bullet points:

  • This series and its influences are far bigger than any of us. I cannot give a detailed analysis of each game or tell you about the effort put into them by their creators. All I can do is offer an opinion. I can tell you what I like and what I think does work and what does not work. I only ask that you treat it as such. I am not trying to change anyone’s mind about their favorites or otherwise. There are multitudes of opinions and points that can be made for each and every one of them. So, if my opinion in this list does not quite gel with yours, that’s fine. Feel free to leave some feedback with your own opinions and points. I’m excited to hear them.
  • Speaking of feedback, a comment will not be approved for public viewing if it is not constructive in any way. This is a debate that I honestly enjoy if it is done intelligently and reasonably. A comment of, “You fucking suck you piece of shit!” doesn’t help anyone, whereas a comment reading, “I fucking disagree and here’s why!” is fine. Cursing is fine. I obviously like to curse. But the former comment just does not further any conversation while the latter at least keeps the debate open.
  • I will only cover games in the main series. So that means that sequels/spin-offs like X-2 and XIII-2 will not be included. This also means that Final Fantasy Tactics will not be included, or else I can tell you that it would take #1. Also, no Final Fantasy Adventure, Final Fantasy Mystic Quest, etc. 
  • I will also not be including either Final Fantasy XI or Final Fantasy XIV. I avoid MMOs like I avoid Justin Bieber chatrooms. Plus, I have heard nothing but horrible things about both of these games, and I have no desire to play either of them at all. So, feel free to include them in your own lists, but don’t yell at me because I didn’t. This leaves twelve games to be counted down.

So, without further ado, I bring you Organ Miner’s Final Fantasy Retrospective.

#12: 

I can already tell that I’m diving straight in to unpopular opinion, but I’m just going to say it. I hate FFIX. And this is the only one of the series that I can truly say that. But it’s true. There is very little that I honestly like about this game. A lot of the graphics are nice. Some monster designs are really cool like Soulcage and Maliris. And I like some of the soundtrack. But that’s it. The character design and character models are hideous with their grossly disproportionate heads and bodies. They don’t look like people at all, and they’re just ugly to look at. I could overlook this if any of the characters were likable. But no. Most of them are straight up boring and flat. I hear a lot of people say that they like Zidane because he enjoys life and he’s not some emo crybaby like Squall or Cloud. And that may be true, but Zidane only enjoys life because he’s an arrogant, womanizing douchebag. He’s a terrible person. What gets me is the fact that so many people love this one, and I simply can’t see it. The characters are uninspired, the story is uninspired, the villain is uninspired, Tetra Master, the card based mini-game is uninspired (and needlessly complex). Fuck it, the whole damn game is uninspired. There’s something to say about a game when its sidequests are more fun and interesting than its main storyline. I had more fun delivering mail to moogles and digging up treasure boxes all over the world with my chocobo than I did finding out Zidane’s origin. Not to mention, it has the worst method of learning abilities that I have ever seen. If you want to learn a good ability, you need to use a piece of crappy equipment? No. I can’t find the good in that.  One thing that I can say to FFIX’s credit is the fact that it is one of only three games in the series that has multiplayer (which is the only reason I played it more than once). But even that could not save it from the #12 spot.

#11: 

Complain as I might about FFIX, FFIII came really close to taking the #12 spot. But it has one thing, one innovation to keep it from being my least favorite game in the series. And that is the Job System. This was the first game to implement such as system, and I love a good Job System. It’s a big reason why I would place Final Fantasy Tactics as #1 if I had the option to do so. A good Job System is a great way to add a layer of customization to your game. Sadly, I think that’s the only good thing about this one. Aside from the Job System, there’s no real innovation and I found myself getting bored. Of course, that’s not going to stop me from getting it when the Ouya is released. I’m curious to see if they’ll improve and innovate.

#10: 

“But Organ Miner, if you have such a boner for Job Systems, why place FFV so low on your list?” you ask? Granted, the Job System is done remarkably well here. I love it. That and Gilgamesh. I really like Gilgamesh. But the rest is kind of crap. FFV suffers from all of the same problems that FFIII did with small improvements across the board. The big problem that I have though is that pretty much everything about FFV is worse than the game that came right before it. Graphically, FFIV is a bit better and its story is far superior. Aside from the Job System, FFV made no improvements to the series whatsoever. I didn’t like a single character (again, except for Gilgamesh), and FFV contains quite possibly the most standard and lackluster villain ever. The final boss was really cool, though.

#9: 

Okay, now we’re getting into the Final Fantasy games that I actually enjoy… Well, kind of. I really liked FFXII up to a point, and then I didn’t. It had some innovations and it did manage to update the outdated ATB battle system by making it feel like I was doing more than just waiting for my next turn (even though that’s still all I was doing). It also had the complex Gambit system, which is pretty neat and allowed you to develop your own  AI party strategies so you didn’t have to put in a bunch of commands all by yourself. The problem with the Gambit system though is that, if it’s manipulated enough, you can let the AI do everything for you. You don’t even need to play. I won’t knock it too much though, as you can choose not to do that. Graphically, the game was stunning and its art style was something that I hadn’t quite seen before. The story and characters were pretty bland, but not awful, I guess. No, I began to dislike it really late in the game with some really poor dungeon and enemy design choices. It really began to feel like a chore just to play the game. But I stuck with it and collected as much of the sidequest stuff as possible, but after the game did not give me the Sagittarius bow after I fulfilled all of the requirements to get the Sagittarius bow, I stopped collecting the optional stuff and just went to beat the game. It took 120 hours to ultimately be disappointed.

#8:

The one that started it all. I didn’t beat this one until it was released on the GBA as Final Fantasy: Dawn of Souls. And I thought that was done pretty well. While it was quite seriously a Dungeons and Dragons game, this was the game that practically launched the RPG genre. Games like Dragon Warrior perhaps set the groundwork and built the genre in the hangar, Final Fantasy is the game that made it take flight, and you have to give it some credit for that. The initial NES release is a bit annoying and difficult and honestly, not a whole lot of fun, when I finally saw the rest of the game with Dawn of Souls, I finally got to see the rest of the story, and got to see it without the burden of the poor translation that was all early Final Fantasy games. And the story is good! It’s a bit more complex than you might expect from an old game such as this. Plus, the way it ends actually kind of lives up to its title. Final Fantasy. It was kind of cool to see the title kind of make sense for once.

#7: 

“Blasphemy!” screams the masses. FFXIII is pretty consistently panned by most of the people who have played it. I am in the very small majority that doesn’t hate this game. Is it the greatest thing to happen to video games? No. Is it my favorite Final Fantasy game ever? Clearly not, seeing as I just rated it as #7, still in the lower half of the list, and I said its sequel was a better game. But dammit, I don’t think it was bad! There are some legitimate complaints out there: the linear dungeon design, the overemphasis on graphics, even the battle system, which I personally enjoyed, I can see why others might not. And those reasons are why it’s as low as it is. But there are some other complaints that need to be addressed here. A lot of people complain about the battle system because you can just hit Auto-Battle and have the characters do the work for you. But you can’t really complain about that because you don’t need to do it. How can you trash something if you have the option to turn it off? Others complain about the story, and I admit, not much of the story is conveyed through gameplay. But everything you need to know is contained within the Encyclopedia or Data Log section. If you take the time to read that stuff, you can find some pretty interesting shit. It’s a lot more thought-out than one might think. That can be considered a problem, sure. But for someone who enjoys reading and learning the history of these games, it becomes less of a problem and more of a discovery. Like this: My sister played the game and complained that the main villain just kind of appears out of nowhere simply to supply us with a villain. That would be a valid complaint. But I read the Data Log and learned all about him well before the characters had even heard of him. If you just take a little time out of your flashy battles to learn a little history, you find a pretty solid story. But like I said, this is nowhere near my favorite. Most of the characters, I simply didn’t like. But I could relate to and sympathize with Sazh and I thought that Lightning, despite having a silly name, was pretty cool. None of the music, save for the basic battle music, came out at me, which is disappointing, because the soundtracks tend to be some of my favorite parts about these games. All in all, I’m just sorry this poor game gets so much hate.

#6: 

This is where I admit that some of these choices in the middle rankings are a bit arbitrary. To be honest, FFI, FFII, and FFXIII are pretty much interchangeable here. I like them all pretty equally. From what I can remember, FFII was not the most memorable game in the world. But what I do remember clearly is the way that you improve your characters. They improve and level up depending on how you use them and what weapons they use. This gave the game a great deal of customization when it came to your characters, and that’s great. That little innovation alone was enough to give FFII a fairly high spot on the list. It gave it a replay value that nothing else could offer at the time. In FFI, you pick your character classes at the beginning, sure, but you’d better be damn sure about those choices, because you can’t change ’em. Here, if you don’t want someone to use a sword anymore, that’s okay. You just grind a bit and make them good with a bow. Any character could be any kind of fighter. And since I don’t remember disliking the story or the characters or anything, I feel comfortable rating this higher than FFV and FFIII, even if I like the Job System a little more when it comes to customization.

#5: 

Okay, here’s where I really expect some shit to come my way. Final Fantasy VII just barely makes the Top 5 for me. I can admit that, when it was new, I was taken in by it, too. But I played it a bit more recently, and I simply don’t think it holds up that well. It’s quite possibly the most overrated game of all damn time. Now, do not get me wrong here. It’s a good game. You know what, fuck it. It’s a great game! It did a lot of shit right, and I still think that its Materia-based magic system is one of the best there is. But I think a lot of people only like this game as much as they do simply because it was the first game of the series that they played. If they could just look at it objectively, they’d see that FFVII is not a perfect game. I’ll admit, there was a time that I truly thought that this was the pinnacle of gaming, that its only flaw was that it ended. Now that I’ve grown, matured and removed my nostalgia glasses, I see that, though great, FFVII is most definitely flawed. Its background graphics are beautiful, but its character models are not. Its translation is awful. Barrett is a hulking racial stereotype. Cloud and Vincent are whiny crybabies. I’ll admit, I think part of the reason I like it less as time goes on could be because to this day, I constantly hear people rave about how great it is, when it’s clearly not as great as they think. When you hear it so much, you begin to get bored of the whole subject. I also hate the fact that this game got more spin-offs than any other game in the series. Sure, Crisis Core was okay, but it was a story that didn’t need to be told. Dirge of Cerberus was trash. Vincent may have been a crybaby, but his backstory was interesting, but Dirge shat all over his character. And Advent Children was a piece of gold-plated shit. It looked pretty, but it was still just a piece of shit. And FFVII’s fans just won’t shut up about it. They praise Sephiroth as one of the greatest video game villains of all time, which is wrong on more than one level. He’s not even the villain. Jenova is. But I’m beginning to rant here. If you need a more detailed overview as to my feelings on this game, let me know privately. But the gist of it is, it’s a really good game with some definite flaws and horrible fans.

#4: 

This is one that I cannot fully explain. I truly love FFIV. And I’m not sure why. I mean, I love it, and I definitely have to rate it higher than VII, but as I’m thinking about it right now, I can’t think of any reasons why it’s technically or mechanically better. I like some of the complex relationships between the characters, and I believe that this was the first one to kill off an important character, a party member even. And this is a theme that they continued until, what FFVIII? That’s a big step. It’s got some cool monsters, which I always like and one of my top 3 favorite Final Fantasy final boss themes. But I can’t think of any characters besides Kain that I really like. There’s no customization in your party whatsoever. You can’t even decide which party members to bring to the end of the game. And it’s not like previous games or even FFV where there are only four playable characters. There are lots of them here, but you have to bring these predetermined five people? And yet, I love it. I enjoy it multitudes more than VII. Maybe there’s a bit of nostalgia here, seeing as this is the second one that I played, but it wasn’t that much later that I played VII. There has to be something here that I’m just missing, some reason why this one makes it so high on my list. As a game, I honestly don’t think it’s any better than VII, and yet, there’s no doubt in my mind when I rank it higher.

#3: 

FFX gets a lot of guff from gamers. Some of it is deserved, much of it is not. The story is good, but not as good as say, FFVII. Many of the characters are annoying or bland. The mini-games are a tedious pain in the ass. “Then why,” do you ask, “do you rate it so high on your list?”. For two simple reasons, my dear readers. The Sphere Grid and the battle system. For those that don’t know, the Sphere Grid is FFX’s system of leveling up and learning abilities. It’s a massive board, reminiscent of a board game, covered with stat bonuses and abilities with each characters at their own starting place. With the use of orbs that you find throughout the game, you can unlock these stat bonuses and abilities with each character. They each start out with their own predetermined role in battle, but with a little work, you can have any character do anything. It allows for a great deal of customization within your party and makes no character better than another (except for Wakka. He’s the best). Plus, they revamped the battle system, doing away with the outdated ATB system of almost every game before it. Battles flowed more smoothly and were a great deal more fast-paced without being too different from previous installments. To this day, I believe FFX has the best battle system of any of the franchise. And it boggles my mind that Square would go back to the damn ATB system in every installment after. I also want to address another area in which this game gets a lot of disapproval from the public. The main character, Tidus. People in general hate this guy (but love Zidane… go figure). This hatred stems mostly from FFX’s infamous Laughing Scene, and yes, the Laughing Scene is horrible. But Tidus is great as a character. He’s a crybaby (which is very different from an emo. Get it right all of you anti-Tidus people!) doing everything in his power to prove to his father and himself that he’s not a loser, and until a certain point in the game, I hated him too. Though he’s active and full of life, Tidus is also annoying and cocky. But by the end, he has grown and matured tremendously. In fact, I’d say that Tidus is probably the Final Fantasy character that grows the most. And that makes him a good character, goddammit! If you’re going to hate anyone from FFX, make it Yuna or Rikku.

#2: 

If there was any one area of this retrospective for which I would get any shit, it would be here. If there has been any Final Fantasy game that could be considered universally hated (besides XIII), it would be this one. Except, unlike FFXIII, I cannot figure it out at all. In my humble opinion, FFVIII improves upon its esteemed predecessor in almost every way. The only major flaws that I can find, even playing it more recently, are the Draw System and the translation. The Draw System wouldn’t even be a problem if you were allowed to Draw just one more spell per action and its something that I can easily overlook because of the rest of the game. And the translation, paired with a kind of complex story, makes the actual conveyance of the story a bit poor. I’ll admit, when I first played the game, I thought the story was kind of crap. And if I had left it at that, FFVIII would be considerably lower on the list. But after hacking through the terrible translation and figuring out a few things for myself, I found that the story is actually amazing! Dissenters also hate the Junction System, which blows my mind. They say, “Eh, you can just get so powerful that nothing can touch you. It makes it no fun!”. That is a 100% invalid argument, because you don’t have to make your characters that strong! That’s the genius of Junctioning. You can customize your party in any way that you want. Make them as powerful or as weak as you want. That’s the true heart of any real RPG. Getting to go through the story in a way of your choosing. Let’s take the character of Zell. His design suggests that he should be a physically powerful character, focusing on punching things in the head. But with the Juction System, he can be as powerful a mage as anybody, should you choose to do that. And that’s brilliant! People also hate Squall, calling him the epitome of emo, and I can kind of see that. But if you look at his history at all, you will notice that he has genuine psychological issues and a desperate fear of abandonment due to his past experiences. So, yeah he’s going to be introverted. You would, too! Squall make be a bit sulky, but the truth is, he’s probably one of the most relatable characters ever. Not to mention, the graphics are amazing (except for some character models, which are still fantastic by PS1 standards), the cinematics rival some games today, it has the best Final Fantasy mini-game to date with its card-based Triple Triad, the side-quests are all interesting and fun to discover, its soundtrack is still one of my favorites, the final string of boss fights is still jaw-droppingly cool and intense, and overall the execution of the game is brilliant. I want to say that the main reason that people spew bile so viciously at FFVIII, whether they will admit to it or not, is because it was too dissimilar to FFVII. Like I mentioned earlier, FFVII was the first game in the series for most of the American gaming community. So, when the tone, environment, and system were changed so drastically, many of these late bloomers did not want to adapt and that translated to straight hatred. And that’s truly sad, because I see this game as a near masterpiece.

#1: 

Am I being a bit hypocritical by rating the first Final Fantasy game that I ever played as my favorite? Especially after criticizing many FFVII fans for doing just that? Maybe, but dammit, this game is phenomenal! Also, let me say that I’ve changed my mind a million times over the years. FFVII was my favorite for a while. FFX was my favorite when it was new. And FFVIII took the #1 spot for a long time. But, FFVI would always find its way back into my mind, my heart, and my SNES. And now that I’ve grown and matured as a gamer and as a person, I feel like I can finally form an educated opinion based on not only my own personal preference, but on a more objective view of the series as a whole. And this one still comes out on top. I’ve beaten this game more than almost any other game in existence (save for maybe Mega Man III, which I’ve beaten probably 100 times), and almost every time, I’ve discovered something new, be it a new item or treasure chest, or an interesting bit of character development. And I’m still not sick of it. I recently started playing it again with my girlfriend and also started playing the GBA re-release. I’m doing these at the same time! There are a massive amount of playable characters, adding up to fourteen, I believe. And all of them, except for Mog, Umaro, and Gogo, have very interesting and fleshed-out stories and histories. The story is fantastic, regarded by many, myself included, as one of the greatest RPG stories of all time. The Magicite System of magic, though perhaps not the most innovative system ever, is perfectly executed and allows for at least a degree of the customization that I’ve been raving about so feverishly throughout this whole list. The soundtrack is still my favorite video game soundtrack of all time, with every song perfectly encapsulating the setting in which it is played. FFVI has the Opera Scene! The final boss fights are massive and incredibly symbolic. Kefka is probably one of the most detestable (and successful) villains ever. Everything is simply done right. However my opinion on the series may change in the future, I’m fairly certain that Final Fantasy VI will always end up on top and will remain one of my favorite games, not only in the Final Fantasy series, but of all time.

So there you have it. One more opinion in a sea of opinions. Though, even if nobody reads this, I still had a great time writing it. It was an interesting venture to finally put all of this down in writing. And I have to say, I even surprised myself at a couple points. And I do wish that I could do a more in-depth analysis of each one of these multitudinous games. And perhaps I will at some point in the future, but it won’t be here. It would take months or even years to complete such a venture. But, maybe when I am so inclined and free to take on something so massive, I can start a YouTube channel for it or something. But in the meantime, you have one humble gamer’s opinion, and I hope that will do.