My Favorite Final Fantasy

You know I realized while writing all these little posts and reviews and talking about my experiences with the Final Fantasy series as I go back and explore the latter half of the series I never really played when I was growing up, that I’ve never actually talked about my actual favorite Final Fantasy game and exactly why its my favorite.  I have to warn people here though, that the story I am about to tell might be profoundly troubling to some people, oh and there will also be spoilers.  So let me tell you about how I came to love Final Fantasy VI.

Unlike many people I’ve spoken to over the years, my favorite Final Fantasy game is not the first one I played.  Oh no.  That would have been Final Fantasy IV (then localized to be Final Fantasy II) which I would stay up playing at my best friend’s house with pizza and bread-sticks and times of immense joy all around.  But no, my first was not my favorite.  For several reasons really. I mean, I never finished it.  I never actually owned it for one, and it’s hard to beat a JRPG in a 3 day rental.  Combine that with a very difficult boss and a very naive Vry who really had no head for strategy.  Not to mention I never got far enough for the characters to stick with me as likable.  Except Rydia.  I always liked Rydia for some reason.

I actually received Final Fantasy VI for my 11th birthday.  I was so excited about it that I almost got in trouble at school because I wouldn’t stop humming the Chocobo song in class.  I just couldn’t wait to play the newest Final Fantasy game.  Oh and it did not disappoint.  I got to meet fabulous characters, beautiful music, and while I know the Woolsey translation is frowned upon by many nowadays, it was one of the best stories I was ever treated to in my short life.  Oh, I couldn’t stick with the damn hobbits long enough to get out of the Shire in Fellowship of the Ring but I was hooked till the end by the time I actually got to name Terra (And you better believe I used all their real names).

The game was everything I had wanted even back then: good solid characters that you cared about and fourteen of them to boot!  Eleven of which had fully fleshed out story lines and back stories that gave them a truly three-dimensional feel (the other three are really just optional characters. Though that is literally the only time you will EVER hear me say that Mog the Moogle is optional.  Cause you are a cold-hearted monster if you don’t save that dancing furball.) There’s a love story that is so much more than ‘guy likes girl, girl likes guy’.  It’s more like ‘guy likes girl, girl gets amnesia and shoos off guy, girl dies just as her memory returns, guy searches for way to resurrect girl and meets another girl, guy and new girl fall in love but new girl is afraid she’s just a replacement and also has trust issues, and so on.’  Then of course, there’s the little matter of the bad guy actually winning half way through the game.  Holy crap, this didn’t happen when I was a kid.  It blew my mind!

Of course, all these reasons why Final Fantasy VI is an amazing game that is well worth a play are well documented and can be found on any site that talks about it.  Is it the best Final Fantasy?  That’s personal opinion.  I personally don’t feel that it’s ever hit that level of both technical and writing achievement since, but there are plenty who do.  No, this isn’t why it’s my favorite game.  If that’s all it took, there are games out there that have hit all those same notes and will never be a contender for my favorite game.  Yes, not Final Fantasy.  Favorite game of all time, hands down.  That reason is not simple nostalgia either, though I’m sure it contributes a healthy bit to it.  It’s because of what happens in the World of Ruin.

The World of Ruin is the second half of Final Fantasy VI.  It’s not post-apocalyptic, it is just apocalyptic.  The end of the world is now.  The villain has risen up as a god in his giant tower of death and destruction and randomly smites people for no reason.  Monsters of terrible power are now freely wandering around the destroyed world.  Much of the world’s population is dead.  But the core of the tale is what happens with the characters.  You start out with Celes on an island, completely unaware that anyone but her and Cid, her pseudo “grandfather”, are left in the world.  Cid falls sick and you have to feed him fish.  Now, I know now two decades later exactly which fish to feed the old man, but at age 11 I didn’t have a clue.  Hell, I wouldn’t even know what the internet was for at least 4-5 more years.  So Cid dies, and Celes in her despair climbs the cliffs of the island and with a reprise of the Opera Scene from earlier, throws herself to her death as Cid said so many others before her had done.

This is when the game stopped being just a game.  You ever have those moments?  When you finally understand the material on a different level?  I received this game for my 11th birthday.  For my 10th birthday, I was in the middle of a 4 month stay in a mental health facility because when I was nine years old I had tried to kill myself on three separate occasions.  One of those times was by trying to jump from a stairwell.  Celes was no longer the player PROXY at that point to me.

I’ve never really talked about myself as a person much on that blog, and this is one of those reasons.  It’s hard to explain who I am without invariably explaining that at the age of 10, I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder Type II. Which in 1994, was damn near impossible to get a diagnosis for in a child.  Bipolar Disorder happened to people in their twenties or older, not kids.  So with that frame of reference, I’m playing this game 6-12 months after being diagnosed, my medication isn’t quite solidified and my emotions have more control over my actions at times than I do.

Celes, for those wondering who haven’t played (and shame on you), doesn’t die.  She awakes on the shore to find a bird wearing a bandanna that belonged to one of the other characters, her love interest Locke.  However, it is exactly what she needs to spur her to action and leave the island in hopes of finding the others.  Thus kicks off a heavily emotional journey as you find each person trying to seek out something, anything, in this dying world to hold on to.  For some, they seek out hope or giving others hope, or family and friends, or love.  Even Terra, who could easily be argued is probably the first asexual protagonist in gaming, finds the love she was looking for.  Not in the arms of another man or woman, but in the maternal protection of a group of orphaned children who are threatened daily by monsters looking for a meal.

All the while, you have Kefka – our god-king villain – sitting on his tower and blasting those below completely randomly.  Oh, he might collapse your house, or kill that one random dude, or sink a ship.  It doesn’t matter. They’re random.  You don’t have to have done anything to the guy, or done anything at all to be targeted.  Which is probably the greatest metaphor for life in general.  It just fucks with you.  There isn’t any rhyme or reason as to why.  There’s no karmic balance to it, even in the grandest of schemes.  Sometimes, bad things happen.  That’s Kefka.  That’s life.

So at the end of the game, after the journey as a whole and gathering your friends and allies you march up to the top of Kefka’s horrific tower and that is when you get this exchange:

“Why do people rebuild things they know are going to be destroyed? Why do people cling to life when they know they can’t live forever? Think how meaningless each of your lives is!”

“It’s not the net result of one’s life that’s important! It’s the day-to-day concerns, the personal victories, and the celebration of life… and love! It’s enough if people are able to experience the joy that each day can bring!”

For an emotionally unstable, sometimes suicidal, 11-year old Vrykerion…  this was a very powerful sentiment.  Kefka was saying everything that my brain was bombarded with so often.  Thoughts that would leave little Vry crying in his bed at night until the wee hours. Then here were the heroes, my ‘proxies’ that I learned to identify with back on that island when Cid died.  They were saying that those things weren’t important.  The important part was to just to live each day and experience life.  To enjoy living.

Final Fantasy VI changed my life.  I could even go as far as to say that it saved it.  It gave me exactly what I needed, when I needed it the most.  And I don’t know if I would be here today if it wasn’t for that experience.  That’s why it’s my favorite video game.

Thank you all for reading.  From the bottom of my heart.  It means a lot to be able to share this story with you all.

Write or DIE!!! | Sims 4 Shakespeare Monkey Challenge Pt 4

Everyone is sleeping, eating, or having a lovely chat with death but no one is writing anything! How will we ever get to 1 million? Better question: HOW WILL WE PAY THOSE MASSIVE AMOUNT OF BILLS?!

Guuueesss Who? | The Sims 4 Shakespeare Monkey Challenge Ep 3

The money is getting tight, everyone’s miserable, and just when this challenge is looking bleak by the day 2 mark, who else comes a knockin’ but the Great Equalizer itself?  But for who?

FF14: The Great Story Wall of Ishgard

As the date draws closer and closer like some mad sick wolf desperate for a lick of fetid flesh stuck to the bone of a leftover kill, so too do the players of Final Fantasy XIV seek word from on high of the Heavensward expansions looming arrival.  What will be needed?  What will it cost?  What new shinies will be able to grasp in our pixelated and fleshy mitts that will allow us to lord it over our fellow players as a triumph of worth, value, and excessive disposable income?  The answers fall in spurts, small sprinkles descending from the lips of gods that flow down to a drought ridden earth like sweet manna. Here! They say.  Here is what you seek and what you crave!  Here is the nectar from our brow that you will feast upon and then only once the blood-craze has stemmed will you try to analyze.  The newest producers letter is upon you, let the days of milk and honey run wild until your aching bellies cry for retribution and the sour bile spills forth with distasteful criticisms, whining belches, and claims of incompetence.

I know I eagerly await that fated day foretold by the old gypsy woman that the fanbase turns from jubilation over the new pristine words that they have been gifted by developers into rampaging beasts who have been thrown a newborn babe and are unsure whether to devour the helpless creature or to tear it apart until blood coats the walls of their reinforced enclosure like fresh paint.  And a helpless creature it is.  There are no follow ups, revisions, or detractions that will spare the infantile man-thing’s fate once it has been cast out into the hellish home we once call the world wide web or the Information Superhighway in some bold faced and ultimately futile lie to ourselves pretending that information had anything to do with its true purpose.

Oh but what limb shall be the first sacrificed to the masses to ignite the first fires of this mob?  The buff to GP in the Gold Saucer activities?  The nerfing of difficulty with NPC Triple Triad matches?  Nay, I have glimpsed a peek at the vile pits of prophetic darkness and seen what I believe to be the true battleground not only of this next expansion, but everything leading up to the release of the expansion:  The requirement to complete all the Main Scenario quests to access the expansion areas.  Yes, that is right casual perusers of gaming and core of steel ‘gamers’.  It has been said that one must complete the entirety of the main scenario, from level 1 to 50 and for each of the patch 2.1, 2.2, 2.3, 2.4, and 2.5 extensions of that story before you may walk through the gates into Ishgard’s welcome embrace.

What would that hive of excrement production, the World of Warcraft forums, think of such a bold idea?  That they would have to complete Loremaster of Pandaria and the achievements for Landfall, Isle of Thunder, the Siege of Orgrimmar, and the Timeless Isle before being able to move on through the reddened Dark Portal into Draenor?  Especially if those achievements had required dungeons to progress them like Final Fantasy XIV regularly does?  I think we all know what would happened to those dreaded stomping grounds of fonts & fantasy – it wouldn’t exist.  Burnt to the ground and rendered to fine ash only suitable for frolicking by the small rodentia that somehow survived the blazing inferno of rage-naros, elemental lord of pissed off MMO players.  It would be a wall that would be blocking further content, and not one of those acceptable walls that can be justified by simply looking down from it at those poor souls struggling so scale the behemoth and uttering in contempt “Git Gud,” no this would be a wall of story, of plot, and of time.  Like dailies of yester-expansion, this wall would be deemed an insult to the player base who have much better things to do in an role playing game than give two s***s about plot.

However Final Fantasy XIV is not the World of Warcraft.  Nor is it story ‘optional content.’ It’s the main event and routinely required to unlock instanced content like trials and dungeons.  So the entire landscape shifts but the question still remains.  This is uncharted waters.  I can’t recall the last MMO that attempted to stand tall on its narrative and demand that its player base plunge head deep into the thick of it before getting to play the shiny new toy that they purchased.  This is doubly unique in that I’ve never played an MMO with so much current endgame story content.  Each patch extends the main scenario by a few hours of quests at max level.  So it wouldn’t simply be the matter of doing the main story quests while leveling, but also stopping at level 50 to do 6 whole patches worth plot and dungeons (a minimum of 10 hours to be sure) before the expansions content opens up to you. With a bar like that being set, a precedent to be forged from mythril and planted firmly in the stone to declare that this shall be what is expected of you Final Fantasy XIV players, one must wonder as we stand on the edge of the yawning abyss, “What will they say? How will they react?”

This blogger knows where he stands however.  Happily climbing that mountain to reach the promised land.  The story of Final Fantasy XIV has been almost entirely enjoyable, and the idea that you will be required to play through and experience the entirety of the narrative before continuing the tale in the northern lands of Ishgard seems to signal that the tales will be linked, and not some separate new narrative that we deduce how it all pieces together like some jigsawed monstrosity – he mutters in contempt glancing over at the timeline fiasco wrought by the Cataclysm expansion. The story is why I play these games and for once it is a pleasant surprise to have a company put the emphasis on the story above all else.  To build an unflinching wall out of it and to put the players to task on completing the tale and climbing the wall to reach the next tier of play.

Still one has to wonder what will happen when the wave meets the rock…

Things are Starting to Clique: The Sims 4 Shakespeare Monkey Challenge Ep. 2

Cranky old men yelling at each other, women authors chatting in the kitchen, and no one is doing any work! As cash flows dwindle, will Bob save us all?

Fashion, Free Will, & Deicide: Lightning Returns (Part 1)

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So with Final Fantasy XIII and XIII-2 now firmly in the ‘dealt with’ drawer, and Type-0 HD along with the Final Fantasy XV demo knocking on the door, it’s time now to look at the final installment of the “Lightning Trilogy” of the Fabula Nova Crystallis – Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII.  Which is kind of a backwards title to be honest.  That always confused me.  Surely it would make more sense as Final Fantasy XIII: Lightning Returns.  But maybe they wanted it to be viewed as more of a standalone game.  Which is both odd and completely makes sense because this installment is about 90% references to people and events of the previous two games, and the other 10% is the where and how, and THOSE are completely brand new.  Yes, in a weird change of pace, the entire combat system of Lightning Returns is completely different than anything seen in the previous two games and almost seems built as a weird RPG/Fighting game hybrid that somehow manages to actually work really well.  As for the places, well…  that’s best explained by getting into the set up of the story for this installment.

For those who recall my recap of Final Fantasy XIII-2, the game ended with Caius claiming victory from beyond the grave and the heart of the goddess Etro destroyed, allowing the chaos to pour out of the Unseen Realm and into the Seen Realm destroying the space/time continuum pretty much.  Then our main protagonist, Serah, dies and Lightning seals herself in crystal in hopes to ride out the storm for a chance to be reunited with her dead sister someday somehow.  Lightning Returns begins 500 years later.  Yea. You did not read that wrong.  Five hundred years later.  Yea, it’s quite the time leap.  In that time, the world has completely changed.  No recycled areas this time. No, as the sea of chaos slowly consumes the world, the remaining land is divided up into 4 regions: Luxerion – the city of the faithful, Yusnaan – the city of the never ending party, The Dead Dunes – a savage desert, and The Wildlands – a wilderness where folks try to live with nature.  Across these four regions, the remnants of humanity try to live out the remaining few days of the world.  Humanity too has changed a bit.  Remember that bit about the space/time continuum going boom?  Yea, no one ages anymore.  Seriously!  People can still die from things like murder, getting ripped to shreds by monsters, disease, etc but no one has aged in 500 years.  Hence how pretty much every character from the series comes back in some fashion.  The chaos has also had some strange side effects now that Etro is dead.  People and creatures have had drastic changes to their shapes in some cases, or other things like a certain pair of Gran Pulse residents being woken from crystal slumber.

So with no aging and a brand new world, what is the basic plot?  Well, with the Unseen Realm opened up, Bhunivelze the God of Light, Creator of All, Giant Ass Who Killed His Mom, has returned to his creation to find it all broken beyond repair.  He has awoken and tasked Lightning with saving the souls of humanity and preserving them in the Ark (that giant ball that Hope built in XIII-2 which was supposed to be a replacement Cocoon for when the Crystal Pillar broke, which is now just considered a big second moon to the world at large.) before the world is destroyed in 13 days.  Yea, you get woken up and given the task of saving as many souls as you can in 13 days.  All the while you’ll meet up with old friends and enemies, meet new friends and enemies, and Lightning will learn an important lesson.  More on that later.  The whole saving souls thing is done in the form of completing quests.  Quests are the life blood of Lightning Returns.  Completing quests will give you access to equipment, cosmetic customizations, stat increases (no more levels or crystarium), and most importantly: TIME.  Oh yea, time is not on your side.  At the start of the game, you have 7 days of game time before game over.  Wait! Didn’t I say 13 earlier?  Well, yes.  See, the world will be destroyed in 13 days.  If it makes it that long.  You start with only 7 days left, but by helping others and completing quests you will gain more time which will ultimately give you 13 total (technically if you complete all 5 main story quests and enough side quests you can gain access to a special 14th day created from all the lost time after the Chaos flooded and days went from being on a 13 hour clock to a 12 hour one…  Just go with it.  All it really does is unlock the bonus dungeon, I’m surprised they tried to give it a lore based reason for existing at all.)  Any time you are not inside the Ark that serves as a safe haven and base of operations, the clock will be continuously counting down.  You can slow it down using bonus abilities that you’ll unlocked through out the game, but honestly I abused the hell out of them and ended up with 5 whole days of nothing to do but ride the train around.  So they’re not crucial to burn unless you are close to missing a window to complete something since certain quests are only available at certain times each day or give you so much time to complete the task.

So along with the new world and time mechanic, what else does Lightning Returns bring to the table?  Well, there’s the new combat system I mentioned.  Since Lightning is the only playable character this time around, how do you handle the myriad of enemies being tossed at you?  Well, besides being an agent of God (cue the Blues Brothers music please!) you have the ability of rotating through a myriad of abilities divided into the ‘roles’ established in FF13: Sentinel (Tank), Commando (Stagger Retention DPS), Ravager (Stagger Building DPS), Medic (Heals), Saboteur (Debuffs), and Synergist (Buffs).  You change your set of abilities, by changing outfits.  Yes, you play dress up and as a modern 30-something year old man in the 21st century, I will tell you…  it’s pretty damn fun.  The outfits consist of your clothes that dictate your abilities, your weapon that determines your attack power, and a shield that determines your defense.  There are insane amounts of each that allow you to mix and match to your hearts content to build the perfect outfit for combat or just to run around in.  On top of the stat and ability customization, you can change the color of outfits and add cosmetic accessories that do nothing (hats, glasses, plushies on your shoulder, badges, tattoos, etc) but add some aesthetic fun and other things to collect in the game.  In combat, each outfit has its own ATB bar (think of it as energy or mana) to use that outfits abilities.  It will refill as you fight but usually not fast enough that you won’t have to switch between your three outfit slots during the fight to continue the battle.  Each ability is assigned to one of the four main buttons (ABXY on Xbox 360, Square/Circle/X/Triangle on PS3) so you just hit buttons to do the attacks.  During combat (which occurs in a separate little universe like any other Final Fantasy combat), you actual control Lightning’s position, movement and blocking with the shield using the other buttons and joysticks.  So you can move out of a blast, or move to the side of the enemy, or get up close and personal.  Beyond that, the trilogy mechanic of ‘build stagger meter up till staggered then unleash hell for massive damage’ remains par for the course.

The whole combat system is much faster and attention holding than the traditional Final Fantasy turn based method.  As I said, it feels a bit like they tossed in some Fighting game into the mix and it really makes all the repetitive combats fun.  The only down side is that without the slower turn based system, strategizing is usually done with trial and error with lots of dying and restarting the combat, especially on bosses and the heavy hitting enemies.  You can usually load up right back to the start of combat or right before the combat was initiated for a chance to run away, so it’s not a huge loss of time but it can wear on you a bit after dying 5-10 times on a single encounter.  Still, I personally feel the change is a net win.

Moving around the game is fairly the same but with the addition of being able to actually jump whenever you want instead of just certain spots.  The moving around actually feels very similar to SquareEnix’s other series Kingdom Hearts where the movement is really fluid and you get used to jumping up and grabbing onto ladders or snatching poles to slide down on as you run around.  I actually found it perfectly entertaining to just run around Luxerion, climbing up on things and diving off high spots.

The last new mechanic in Lightning Returns is the ability to upgrade your stuff.  The main one is upgrading your abilities.  You will routinely encounter enemies that drop unattached abilities that can be slotted into the blank spots in outfits.  These unattached abilities can often be combined at a shop into more powerful versions of itself, creating higher level versions of the ability and gaining things like the ‘+’ suffix that gives it a bonus to its effects. (If you end up with a ton of them, you can also sell these abilities for cash. Helpful when you have 30 Blizzard Lv. 1’s sitting around.) It also seems clear that Lightning Returns was made to be a quick, enjoyable game that you can and should play through multiple times.  Not only do you get more stat boosts for redoing quests on a second, third or even fourth playthrough (it has diminishing returns and eventually just becomes extra cash instead of stat growth), the New Game+ option also opens up the ability to upgrade your weapons and shields, making them more and more powerful.  Thus you can almost treat the game like Diablo, where you can play through it on the lower difficulties to build up stats and gear to take on the higher difficulties (which also has exclusive gear for all you collectors out there).

Overall, I’ve always felt like the mechanical changes in Lightning Returns were a mixed back.  It felt like, much like the rest of the game, a radical departure not only from Final Fantasy as a whole, but the 13 trilogy as well.  On the other hand, the changes by no means detract from the game.  They are still fun and work with what this game in particular is trying to do.  It just feels odd calling it a Final Fantasy game, or as part of the Lightning Trilogy since its such a radical departure from the established status quo.  It kinda feels more like a spin off than a main entry in the series at the moment.  I supposed the best way to describe the feeling is like being an American trying to pronounce something with the British English pronunciation (think ‘aluminum’). You recognize it as a valid way of saying the word, and it may even make more sense then how you usually say it, but it still sits funny in your mouth.  That’s Lightning Returns on a mechanical level.  Fun, but different.

Anyway, next time I’ll crack deeper into the storyline and characters and we’ll see exactly what the deal with Bhunivelze is after all this time.

Challenge Begin… WRITE! – The Sims 4 Shakespeare Monkey Challenge Episode 1

8 Sims, 1 house, 1 goal: To make 1 MILLION SIMOLEANS in 365 days. Who will survive… The Sims 4 Monkey Shakespeare Challenge!?

Update: Vry Versus Video Games

B1FyMMnCcAA0AXvSo despite a fairly warm reception, some may have noticed that I haven’t uploaded any new lets plays.  And while some of that has to do with the holidays and other real world things, mostly it’s just my own stupidity.  There have been many recording sessions in the past few months, with absolutely nothing to show for it.  Either because of technical problems or my own incompetence I end up with an hour or two of recorded audio but no video.  Other times I’ve had games continually crashing on me at random times.  So it’s not that I haven’t been working on them, and more that the work has been problematic at best.

That being said, I still want to keep recording and putting up more Let’s Play Vry Versus Video Games videos on YouTube.  In fact I’ve recently just finished another near 2 hour session that is sitting on my hard drive awaiting editing.  I really just wanted to give those of you who were enjoying my silly exploits a heads up that it is not an abandoned project by any means and it’s just been a series of mishaps that have delayed it this much.

For those who aren’t sure what I’m actually talking about, I’ve been recording, editing and uploading Let’s Plays of various games under the title of Vry Versus Video Games on YouTube (You can find my channel here.)  I’ve currently been working on 3 different series, changing things up every now and then to keep it fresh for at least me if not you folks as well:

– Shadowrun Returns: Where you get a taste of my strange range of silly voices as I read the dialogue for the characters and play through the game for the first time.

– BioShock: One of my favorite games.  I’ve started doing kind of just a wacky commentary that has devolved into a weird metaphorical revolution as the ‘Luigis’ (Green light wearing hacked machines) are rising up against the ‘Marios’ (Unhacked hostile machines).  A viewer poll decided to NOT kill the little sisters, so we’ve been saving the creepy little girls.

– The Sims 4: Shakespeare Monkey Challenge: The newest series currently being edited takes the concept of ‘putting monkeys in a room with a typewriter will produce Shakespeare’ to a new level.  We shove 8 sims (7 of which are based on famous authors) in a house and force them to write in an attempt to make money.  The original goal was 1 million simoleans in 1 year, but considering how time moves in the Sims world, we might be altering that goal and trimming it back to avoid having several hundred videos.

Anyway, I just wanted to offer an explanation on the status of these projects and to introduce the videos to new readers (thank you for visiting by the way! Always nice to have new folks stop in.)  Hopefully, the drought will be lifted soon.

Card Games on Chocobos? Triple Triad Arrives!

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Greetings gentleman and ladies! The time has come, and the doors are open to Final Fantasy XIV’s very old Gold Saucer.  A fantastic homage to the mini-game capital of RPGs.  Honestly, its probably the most excited and most fearful for a patch I’ve been in quite a while.  The entire ‘personal housing is just guild housing without needing a guild and that’s all’ thing from a few patches ago had me fuming due to the poor implementation and outlandishly high barriers of entry (Level 50, highest rank with your grand company, and anything from 4-20 million gil depending on limited lot availability).  Not to mention the whole real estate war for limited numbers of spaces.  I’m still saving up.  Wait…  wasn’t I talking about the Gold Saucer?

Yes, the Manderville Gold Saucer.  Owned and controlled by Godbert Manderville himself. A statuesque man that you may know if you’ve done any of the Hildebrad quest chain at level 50 or from a disturbing series of quests at Camp Bronze Lake where you help attend to Godbert at the spa (*shivers*).  The Gold Saucer boasts several mini games, events called GATEs, tons of prizes to earn, chocobo racing and what I looked forward to the most: Triple Triad.

Ah yes, the original card game in the Final Fantasy legacy.  Triple Triad involves placing cards on a 3×3 grid and capturing your opponents cards by placing adjacent cards with higher values.  The game originally appeared in Final Fantasy VIII and was one of the MANY heavily divisive features of the game.  VIII even more than Final Fantasy VII was very much a ‘love it or hate it’ experience.  There’s a LOT of hate for it out there, as noted by Noah ‘Spoony’ Antwiler’s scathing series of video reviews but there is also a ton of love for it too.  I particularly enjoyed a good deal of the story and how much of the truth of the events being implied rather than directly stated. For instance, Squall & Rinoa’s romance ultimately being the culmination of the lost chance at love between Laguna – heavily implied to be Squall’s father – and Julia – Rinoa’s mother. Uh…  I suppose spoilers for the 16 year old game?  Wait. SIXTEEN?  Yea. 1999.  That’s right.  FF8 is old enough to drive.  Mind blown.

Triple Triad was however is where it got frustrating.  At the beginning of the game, Triple Triad is a fun side activity to collect cards and have fun playing.  However, as the game goes on more and more rules are added to Triple Triad turning it from fun side activity into a nightmarish mess that will more than likely cost you every card in your deck.  Oh yes, did I forget to mention that winner takes one or more cards from the loser?  Meaning a bad streak of luck can leave you without your most powerful cards with only a chance that you can maybe someday win them back from whomever you lost them to, cause hey, there’s only one of some of these cards IN THE WORLD.

So where am I going with all of this?  Well, with the talk of losing cards to opponents, poor implementation of other promised features, and a heaping mess of confusing rules…  can you blame me for being nervous about Triple Triad at the Gold Saucer?  I mean, am I going to lose every card to some random person who has already grinded out the best cards in the game?  Thankfully, I can say: NO.  In fact, Triple Triad’s implementation is actually one of the most casual friendly, easy to get into, and enjoyably minimal risk side games I’ve seen in something bearing the Final Fantasy name.

First of all, you can’t lose your cards. At all. Once you’ve unlocked a card, it is yours.  So how do you get more cards?  Well, there are lots of ways.  The first way you’ll encounter is to defeat NPCs at Triple Triad.  Each NPC that you can challenge at the Gold Saucer will have 1 or 2 cards you can win off of them.  There’s also a ton of NPCs out and about in the world that have cards you can win off of.  The cards aren’t a 100% drop and really it’s all RNG.  My first card took about 10 wins, the second came 2 wins after.  There’s also a chance for cards to drop from dungeons and trials and this is where I was really happy with how this was done.  The cards are personal loot.  That means there is no rolling on cards, no ninja-ing cards, no arguing about cards – just a chance that when the boss dies you and anyone who participated have a chance to get a card placed in your inventory.  Oh geeze, thank you.  I mean, yea.  It’s not a guaranteed drop that everyone rolls on and I’ve seen some people complain about that, but this is so much less stressful.

But Vry, I hear you ask, I heard you can only have 1 of each card unlocked. Wouldn’t that mean people would eventually not need to roll so everyone would get a card?  No! I shout and bop you on the head.  Because the final way to get new cards is to “sell” your duplicates at the Gold Saucer for points (Points being the universal currency of the Gold Saucer) so you can buy other cards you don’t have or trade in dupes to save up for that snazzy Setzer outfit (Btw, thank you FFXIV developers for all the awesome shout out love you give FFVI in this game.  6 is still my all time favorite and I eat up stuff like Ultros & Chupon appearing.) So yea, you pretty much ALWAYS have an excuse to want to roll on cards.  Hence why personal loot is less problematic in my opinion.

What about the confusing rules?  Yea. Some of those squeaked in.  Things like ‘Same’ where if 2 or more sides of a card match the numbers on the adjacent cards’ sides, all of them are flipped and captured.   That’s actually one of the more simple variations.  Still, the game at least will tell you what the rules are and a brief explanation beyond the name when you challenge someone.  The worst rules from FFVIII were the ones that dictated which cards the winner got.  Like you keep all the cards you flipped so even if you win, you still might lose a rare card or you just win your opponents entire hand of cards.  But since you can’t take an opponents card, these rules don’t exist.  The others, while annoying, are just about trial and error until you get the hang of them and learn to keep an eye out for your opponent trying to lure you into a trap.

So without winning cards, what do you win?  Well, you win gold saucer points.  Also a chance for a card to drop.  You also win half as many points if you draw, and a paltry sum even if you lose.  This seems to be some consolidation for the fact that you have to pay points to play.  There’s an ‘ante’ of sorts.  If you lose you’ll get a portion of that ante back, but not the whole thing.  My limited observation is about 75-80% of the ante is what you get on a loss.

There’s also a nice system in place so you can’t just screw newcomers with overpowered decks.  You are limited to how many high level cards you can place in your deck based on the total number of cards you have unlocked.  Like at less than 30, you can only use one card of two-star rank or higher, and the rest must be 1-star rank cards.  Between 30 and 59, you can use as many one or two-star rank cards, but only one of three-star rank and finally if you have over 60 of the total 80 cards unlocked, you can have as many 1,2 or 3 star cards as you want but only one card of 4 or 5 star rank.   So you can’t just make an ultimate I-Win deck out of all 5 star cards.

So is Triple Triad a success? Well, time will tell.  The first tournament doesn’t begin until next week, and it’s only been around for a day but thus far I love it.  I love that I don’t have to live in fear of losing my rare cards, so all I have to do is play and have fun with it.  I played several dozen matches last night while watching YouTube videos (Shameless plug: Yes my YouTube channel is still up and running with more still coming in the render queue! Subscribe now!) and it was completely and unabashedly enjoyable.  I highly recommend trying it out as a downtime activity while your chilling on your computer or waiting for the DPS queue to pop.

Finally, there’s already an awesome site up and running called A Realm Reborn: Triple Triad that has all the cards listed and where you can find them as well as a breakdown of the rules with a quick tutorial on how to play.  You can find that site here.

FF14: Wrecking the Relic

So, Vrykerion (the character, not me.  I’m the Vrykerion that controls that Vrykerion. Got it?) has finally gotten his first relic weapon in Final Fantasy XIV.  The Gae Bolg and ultimately the Gae Bolg Zenith is now in my possession and I finally have a spear that goes with my wicked looking dragoon drachen mail outfit. I’d like to say that it was quite the accomplishment if it wasn’t for the fact that every step along the path was full of face faults, walking into doors, and the occasional “OH GOD NO!”

For those who don’t play Final Fantasy XIV, at level 50 each class can begin a quest chain to unlock an upgradable weapon unique to your job.  Dragoons for instance get Gae Bolg which matches their outfits general aesthetic.  The quest chain is a mix of random tasks totaling up to some twelve (okay it’s actually 10) labors that you must perform to resurrect a long lost weapon back to its true power.  Some of these tasks involve attacking beast men strongholds to find items or kill a certain number of various monsters.  The first big stumbling block is really creating a base weapon for the relic and then attaching two specific materia to it.  Materia are kind of like enchantments that occupy slots in weapons.  They are really complicated and I haven’t the slightest clue how their various limits work (Like if you have two +10 crit materia in it, but it has a hidden limit of 12 crit or something, your second materia will only give you +2 instead of the full +10…  I think?)  But that means finding a crafter with max level to craft and meld the materia, or level it yourself, or just do what I did and shell out several hundred thousand gil for one with the materia already attached.

The real thing that was just a slog for me to do was the trials and dungeons.  To complete your weapon, you need to do one max level dungeon, and five trials (trials being essentially one room, one boss mini-dungeons) including three hard mode versions of the earlier primal fights and two fights that are unique to the quest chain – the Chimera and the Hydra.  This is my personal hell.  I don’t know how many of my readers have done max level content in Final Fantasy XIV but it was very much a pan to the face, no joking around, do the dance or die kind of experience.  Lag will kill you.  Not knowing exactly where to stand can kill you.  Standing in bad will naturally kill you but sometimes the ‘bad’ is 90% of the area and you only have seconds to GTFO.  Oh, I died.  I died A LOT.  And I studied the mechanics.  Not one fight did I go into blind.  But damn is it another thing to actually see these fights up close versus reading a strat.  I am so glad I’m doing this at the end of 2.0’s lifespan and just before an expansion dropped.  If it weren’t the copious amounts of people overgeared for this stuff I don’t think I’d ever finish.

Again, it’s not that I’m bad.  Far from it.  There’s just a lot of crap going on everywhere, and if you aren’t quick or have a bit of lag, it can kill you quick.  But I was usually dead from either insta-kills or because we were strained from a healer death and took too much unavoidable area damage.  I did the dance, and still would die.  Granted, sometimes I was dumb.  I got smacked by the Primal Titan and went flying off the platform and spent the last third of the fight at the bottom of a hole (still not bad compared to the bard to ended up there in the first minute every single attempt to make many of us wonder if it were intentional).

The whole thing was kind of an eye opener for how the end game of FF14 works.  As far as I know there is some ‘easier’ content, namely the Crystal Tower raids.  But damn if I am not in a rush to try Titan (Extreme) or even Leviathan (Hard) for a bit.  I got my Gae Bolg.  I’m happy with that.  With the expansion dropping in only a few months, I think the rest of my time will be more so spent working on quests.  The main scenario, the Hildebrad and Moogle Delivery quests – fun stuff.  Also leveling all my other classes and jobs up.  Then there’s triple triad coming…  oooooo…

I guess really I should say that while it was a good crash course in the difficulty to expect (WoW Raid expectations: know the fights roughly, try hard, do the dance.  Also that people are really nice in this game and as long as you are trying to darnedest and not just blatantly dying on purpose, they seem willing to work with ya.) but I’m also grateful that I’m sitting at end game with a wide spread of alternate stuff to do.  Maybe not necessarily progression based, but fun nonetheless.  Now if you excuse me, Gae Bolg and I have to get us a cactuar mini-pet! *runs off to adventure!*

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