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by Ethos

The Five Sexiest Dudes in Gaming – #2: Balthier (Ffamran mied Bunansa)

Friday, July 23rd, 2010

Oh Balthier. He is the only character in Final Fantasy XII with any personality (excepting maybe Fran), and boy does he ever have personality. He ran away from his privileged upbringing to run around the world with a half-naked rabbit lady with a giant bounty on his head. If his badboy renegade status didn’t make him sexy enough, he is clever and witty, and is apparently the only character who is capable of having a sense of humour.

Balthier is smooth and sarcastic, yet able to be perceptive and very loyal. Let’s just face the facts, Balthier is the perfect man. Yeah, he’s got daddy issues, and maybe he’s a professional thief, but everybody has their vices. He knows just the right thing to say, and has a solution to every problem.

Also, to use an argument that Riddles likes to use: his game is awesome. Final Fantasy XII is robust and deep. Addictive and involved. Again, not a game known for its cast otherwise, but after all he is the self-professed “leading man” of the adventure, and he has my vote on that sentiment.

Oh, and let’s not forget the fact that there’s no way around it, he’s a beautiful man. Maybe there’s no such thing as “stylish” in the world of Ivalice, but I think the fact that he’s not wearing a crop top vest ala Vaan gives him a pass in that department.

So after all that, what else can be said about the dude? The only mark against him is that we don’t really know what type of badass he is. The license board in FFXII makes classes so generalized that it kind of dilutes fantasies of him glistening from sweat in the heat of battle. He can talk up a storm, but there’s no hard evidence of him putting his blade where his beautiful mouth is.

That’s why our number 1 dude is our number 1 dude. He has everything Balthier does but with that added benefit of unadulterated badassery. But I’ve gone on way too long sexually praising a fictional dude from a video game. Do you think Balthier deserves this spot?

The Final Fantasy Awards: Best Game – Ethos

Saturday, April 10th, 2010

ffixEthos’ Pick: Final Fantasy IX

Well, no surprise here either.

Final Fantasy VII may have got me into the series, but Final Fantasy IX was the first I ever played all the way through, and for good reason. IX has perpetual charm, the best music in any video game, the most addicting PSX-era ability, weapon, and synthesis systems, and the most human characters of any Final Fantasy.

Riddles often counters my argument of IX’s light-hearted tone lending to its credibility by stating that the game is just as melodramatic as the rest. And I’ll agree that it absolutely can be, but it’s the fact that the default tone is that of self-mockery and innocence which gives the game such an uncanny human depth that makes the dramatic moments more believable. I’ll admit that VII is the only other Final Fantasy in my books to also have this ability, but IX extends it further so that each character and locale is dripping with character.

Kuja isn’t a fantastic villain, but he is a fantastic character. He’s scared, feminine, narcissist, and people still make fun of him to this day about it. But the great thing about IX is that it already makes fun of him. The game is so self-aware, that I think its ability to laugh at itself is perhaps its most impressive and engrossing feat.

Now I’ve talked Final Fantasy IX’s character arcs to death, so instead I’ll make my final praise about the cohesive world. Only X has come close to creating such a thoroughly connected universe. While VII can make each area feel unique and full of mood, IX does the same, yet makes sure each area is aware of its place, both geographically and politically. The story returns to familiar locales, but it feels different every time because of the journey the characters have gone since their last visit, replicating yet another emotional phenomenon from everyday life better than any other game I have played.

I entirely understand Riddles’ choice of FFVII as I agree with many of his points and I adore the game myself, but ultimately IX just makes more sense to me as a gamer and as a person.

Runner Up: Final Fantasy XII

Wow, really? Yup. This game didn’t even get so much as a second place during all my awards this week, but it just beat out FFVII for my number two spot overall. And for my reasons, just look to Riddles’ post. Not since FFIX have I been so into the game mechanics themselves. I loved the marks, the massive world, the weapons, and the gambits. I even got some enjoyment out of the – admittedly – incredibly bland License Board. If XII had more than Balthier to buff up its cast, and a legitimate villain and story, the game could have been mindblowing. As it stands, it’s the Final Fantasy I have the most fun with directly after IX.

Although, it is worth mentioning that I haven’t beat IV, V, or VI, and I quite enjoy what I’ve played of V, and I have a feeling I’m going to like VI a lot more this playthrough. We’ll take a look next time we divvy out these awards…

Dishonourable Mention: Final Fantasy III

There are a scary number of contenders here. II is pretty dumb, but has its charm, XIII has a horrendously designed tunnel, but also contains the undeniably amazing Pulse that will happily drain way more hours than the main quest did, and VIII has its soundtrack, art direction, and opening hours to defend itself with. Still, III is the most boring piece of donkey shit I’ve ever forced myself to beat. What a piece of garbage. The positive from all this is that even with the disappointment of XIII, remembering that the greatness of X, X-2, and XII came before it is encouraging. Perhaps XIII is yet another III or VIII. Wait…I’m noticing a pattern here. CONSPIRACY!

…okay I need sleep.

I hate Final Fantasy III.

The Final Fantasy Awards: Best Game – Riddles

Saturday, April 10th, 2010

FFVIIboxartRiddles’ Pick: Final Fantasy VII

Surprise, surprise. Scoring all but one of my awards, Final Fantasy VII almost had a clean sweep.

I don’t gush about Final Fantasy VII as much as, say, Ethos does about Final Fantasy IX. But, if you haven’t figured it out by now, I love the game – it remains my second-favorite videogame of all time behind Ocarina of Time.

Final Fantasy VII is a complete package. The game mechanics are more than solid; standard ATB fare mixed with the delightfully customizable Materia system fit the bill quite nicely. Sure, the battle system is nothing revolutionary, but the diversity of the Materia system makes it the deepest of the three PSX-era Final Fantasies.

We’ve already talked plenty about the game’s iconic characters and storyline. There are few other fictional characters that are as close to my heart as the cast of Final Fantasy VII. As I’ve stated in detail before, Cloud, Tifa, Barret and the gang are simply the greatest group of misfits ever to be seen in an RPG.

Similarly, Final Fantasy VII’s storyline is one of the greatest ever crafted for a videogame. The intensity of the characters, the pacing of the events, and the effectively conveyed themes all come together to form near-perfection. After all of these years, it’s still incredibly powerful – and, has even become more so with the release of games such as Crisis Core.

The artistic vision behind the world that Final Fantasy VII takes place in is unrivalled. From Nomura’s classic character designs to the gritty alleyways of Midgar, Final Fantasy VII is a literal artistic triumph – it’s almost a sin that it’s conveyed in such a pixelated format.

And finally, Nobuo Uematsu’s infamous soundtrack seals the deal. As I write this, the sad theme that accompanies the death of Aeris is playing. And… it’s all I need to go back to that moment.

Final Fantasy VII is so close to perfect that it almost defies belief. Never before, and never again has such a combination of strengths been poured into a videogame – much less a Japanese RPG.

And a word to all you Final Fantasy VII haters: you’re more annoying than we ever were.

Runner Up: Final Fantasy XII

Final Fantasy XII, if you recall, won the first award of the week from me. So, it shouldn’t come as a total surprise that it won my second choice, even if it didn’t score another mention from me. But while the cast and characters are weak, and the music doesn’t quite match up with the top contenders, Final Fantasy XII triumphs in the department of gameplay, immersion, and exploration. Final Fantasy XII was such a joy to play, that I completed nearly every sidequest the game had to offer. Every hunt, every treasure, every secret area. No other game, RPG or otherwise, has had the same effect on me. And few other RPGs are as rich, robust, and immersive as Final Fantasy XII.

Dishonorable Mention: Final Fantasy III

I can’t give X-2 this award, because it partially redeems itself with a fun battle system. I can’t give it to XIII, because it does the same thing. Final Fantasy III, for me at least, is the least enjoyable game in the series. I did not have fun while playing it. I spent most of my playtime hating everything about it, actually. The sad thing is that I actually finished it. How sad is that? The thing is, I might not have hated Final Fantasy III as much if I’d been given the chance to play it in its original 2D format. But, I never got that chance, and instead had to suffer through the awful 3D remake. Who ever thought those ugly things were a good idea?

The Final Fantasy Awards: Best Battle System – Riddles

Monday, April 5th, 2010

FFXIIboxartRiddles’ Pick: Final Fantasy XII

I can feel the flames already, but I frankly don’t care. Final Fantasy XII is one of my all-time favorite RPGs, and one of the main reasons for that is its battle system.

Final Fantasy XII marked the first time in the series that encounters weren’t random. Enemies are clearly visible on-screen, and engaging in battle doesn’t take you out of exploration mode – it’s all seamless, and all beautiful. People compared it to Final Fantasy XI and other MMO battle systems, which is fairly justified, although it’s hardly “FFXI Offline.” Rather, it’s just a seamless, more streamlined version of the same ATB system we’ve enjoyed for years.

The reason why I love Final Fantasy XII’s battle system so much is because it removes all the clunkiness of a turn-based system, but retains all of the strategy. The Gambit system is still the best example of player-programming ever featured in a game; individual character strategies can be programmed in-depth, to the point where many normal encounters can be overcome by simply sitting back and watching the slaughter. Sound shallow? Well. Hardly more shallow than pressing the X button every couple of seconds, wouldn’t you say? Also, the fact that Gambits can be accessed and modified at any time – even during intense boss battles – makes them that much versatile.

But Final Fantasy XII’s battles also maintained this crucial aspect: the ability to issue commands to any character, at any time. If you don’t like how the tide of the battle is turning, not only can you adjust your gambits – you can step in and issue manual commands. And it’s an immediate override – anything you command takes precedence over gambits.  This is exactly what Final Fantasy XIII failed to implement in its super-streamlined, super-flashy encounters. Final Fantasy XII’s battle system is, and remains, the best of the series.

Runner Up: Final Fantasy X

I’m tempted to give this to Final Fantasy VII, but X barely outdoes it, in my opinion. The new ability to switch characters in and out on the fly, coupled with the heavy focus on specific battle roles resulted in some of the most rewarding, strategy-intensive I’ve ever fought. Without a doubt, the greatest take on the traditional turn-based model.

Dishonorable Mention: Final Fantasy XIII

I hate to seemingly strip Final Fantasy XIII of the one honor it has, but unfortunately, I only do what I must. Final Fantasy XIII’s battle system is extremely well-designed, and it’s a lot of fun. It’s very good at what it sets out to be, and it’s certainly not an entirely mindless affair. But despite that, it’s undeniably more shallow than its predecessors. The Paradigm system is cool, yes, but it’s just a very simplified version of Gambits. The inability to issue manual commands is sorely missed. Oh, and the fact that you can’t control who’s in your party for the first 30 hours or so doesn’t help its cause. Is it mindless? No. But it is very watered down.

Concerning Voice Acting…

Saturday, September 26th, 2009

Okay, well it’s confession time here at Riddlethos.com: we’ve failed hardcore at Cheesy Voice Acting week. My apologies to our legions of disappointed fans, but me and Ethos are only human. Or, at least, I’m only human. Ethos can speak for himself.

See, this happens when we don’t employ foreplay foresight while dreaming up theme weeks. I’ve spent the entire week trying to dream up SOMETHING relevant to write about Cheesy Voice Acting, but needless to say, I’ve been drawing blanks. So now I’m just… rambling. Rambling away. Let’s run with it, shall we?

Barf.

Barf.

Just how important IS voice acting to a game, anyway? In my opinion, the gaming industry must strive to achieve competence across the board when it comes to voicework, if it ever hopes to be treated with the same respect as the film industry. And I think we can all agree that, as a whole, the voice acting we hear today trumps what we had even five years ago. In fact, I can’t think of a single game I’ve played this generation that featured truly poor voice acting.

Wait. Strike that. I forgot about a certain Blue Dragon.

Anyway. Regardless, for every Blue Dragon we have a Lost Odyssey. And a BioShock. And an Uncharted. And a Mass Effect. And to be fair, there were more than a few last-gen releases that are noteable for their voicework. Sure, we had the Baten Kaitos’ and the Devil May Crys and the endless stream of licensed games with shitty imitation voice acting, (that stream is still running today, sadly) but we also had greatness in the form of Final Fantasy XII, Xenosaga, Dragon Quest VIII, and surely more that escape my mind at the moment.

Good voice acting is worth the money and time that developers put into it. Would Uncharted be the same without Nolan North’s fantastic portrayal of protagonist Nathan Drake? Can you imagine simply READING the dialogue in Final Fantasy XII? I can, and lemme tell ya, it’s a frightening concept. And on that note, why don’t I hit you with a list made off the top of my head. Here are five of my all-time favorite videogame voice roles.

Major Hottie.

Major Hottie.

Balthier – Final Fantasy XII

Well this one’s a no-brainer. Balthier was easily the most interesting character among FFXII’s (rather bland) lineup, and this is largely due to the fantastic voicework provided by Gideon Emery. Emery himself has a pretty impressive resume, appearing in a number of videogames including Call of Duty 4, Mass Effect, and the upcoming Assassin’s Creed 2. In addition to that, he’s appeared in several popular TV shows such as 24, Burn Notice, and CSI. Final Fantasy XII is one of the last generation’s most well-acted titles, and Balthier stands apart from the rest.

Jansen – Lost Odyssey

Seriously, who didn’t love this guy? Jansen is a perfect example of comic relief done correctly. He’s funny and goofy, yes, but never over the top, and he actually has some decent backstory to his character. Of course, Lost Odyssey’s cast of characters is one of the best in recent memory, which is just part of what makes it my personal favorite RPG of this generation. Jansen was voice by an apparent nobody named Michael McGaharn. By “nobody,” I mean to say that his Wikipedia page is a stub. Other voicework includes… Knuckles the Echidna in Sonic Adventure, and Lead Phoenix in Burning Rangers. Mean anything to you? Yeah, me neither. Ah well, hopefully we’ll get to hear him again in Lost Odyssey 2, which is currently being developed in the little dream world I visit at night.

The Prince of Persia – Sands of Time/Two Thrones

He's more soft-spoken than he looks.

He's more soft-spoken than he looks.

Perhaps you’ve heard me express my fanboyism for Yuri Lowenthal in the past. If not, then you’re about to. Anyone who’s played the original Prince of Persia trilogy knows what a fantastic job he did voicing the titular Prince, at least in the first and third installments. I love Robin Atkin Downes as well, but his gravelly Wolverine-ish performance as the Prince was just one of the many things wrong with Warrior Within. Lowenthal has been in a ton of games, including Tales of the Abyss, Persona 3, Persona 4, and Xenosaga Episode III. He can also be found in a number of animes (including one of my personal favorites, Ergo Proxy) and a some scattered live-action roles.

King Trode – Dragon Quest VIII

This is fast becoming a very RPG-centric list. But like I said, I’m just going off the top of my head here, so live with it. King Trode was one of the best things about Dragon Quest VIII, and that’s saying a lot, because… Dragon Quest VIII was awesome. To this day I’m not quite sure why I loved it so much, since I’m generally turned off by grindy, ultra-traditional RPGs. Maybe it’s because among the last generation’s RPG offerings, Dragon Quest VIII’s presentation and production qualites are rivalled only by Final Fantasy XII. Among those sharp production qualities is a shockingly stellar voice cast, composed mostly of nobodies. But as good as they all are, Jon Glover’s performance as a quirky king-turned-Toad tops them all.

Albedo – Xenosaga Trilogy

This list is in no particular order, but I can safely say that among the five I’ve mentioned here, Crispin Freeman’s performance as the psychotic Albedo is my personal favorite. My love for the Xenosaga series is well-known, but I don’t think I’ve ever discussed just how much I love Albedo. He is, without question, my favorite videogame villain of all time. He’s truly insane, he’s sickeningly brutal, he has no regard for human life, and he laughs a lot. Take Kefka, merge him with Heath Ledger’s Joker, and you get Albedo. Unlike the two of them, though, Albedo actually has a backstory, which is slowly (and disturbingly) revealed throughout the course of the three games. We see everything, from his childhood to the current day, that turned him into what he is. Freeman is another one of my favorite voice actors of all time, having appeared in dozens of games including Tales of Symphonia, Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII, and the upcoming God of War III. His performance in the Xenosaga games is undoubtedly his best work, at least from what I’ve seen. Albedo would still be a fantastic villain without him, but Freeman’s performance is why I still have so many of his insane quips and rans burned into my brain.
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Lists are fun. I like lists. Did you like this list? Do you have a list of your own, perchance? COMMENT BELOW, FOOLS.
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This list is in no particular order, but I can safely say that among the five I’ve mentioned here, Crispin Freeman’s performance as the psychotic Albedo is my personal favorite. My love for the Xenosaga series is well-known, but I don’t think I’ve ever discussed just how much I love Albedo. He is, without question, my favorite videogame villain of all time. He’s truly insane, he’s sickeningly brutal, he has no regard for human life, and he laughs a lot. Take Kefka, merge him with Heath Ledger’s Joker, and you get Albedo. Unlike the two of them, though, Albedo actually has a backstory, which is slowly (and disturbingly) revealed throughout the course of the three games. We see everything, from his childhood to the current day, that turned him into what he is. Freeman is another one of my favorite voice actors of all time, having appeared in dozens of games including Tales of Symphonia, Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII, and the upcoming God of War III. His performance in the Xenosaga games is undoubtedly his best work, at least from what I’ve seen. Albedo would still be a fantastic villain without him, but Freeman’s performance is why I still have so many of his insane quips and rans burned into my brain.

Lists are fun. I like lists. Did you like this list? Do you have a list of your own, perchance? COMMENT BELOW, FOOLS.

‘ELLO GUV’NAH! – September 4th 2009

Friday, September 4th, 2009

Here we go you glorious bastards (NOT A REFERENCE TO A MOVIE BECAUSE I KNOW HOW TO SPELL “BASTARDS”)! The first regularly scheduled ‘ELLO GUV’NAH comes as a present to everybody, except for the British people I offend. Let’s dive in.

batmanlogogameBatman: Arkham Asylum-
Yup, everybody loves this game. Riddles, abe80, The Broken Finger, Nate Liles. I can understand it, the controls are tight, the level design is well thought out, and Mark Hamill kills it as The Joker. And while I’m definitely quite enjoying it, the game can’t really hold my attention for more than an hour or so before I start shrugging my shoulders a bit. I don’t blame anybody for jizzing all over it, I just don’t feel exactly the same way. I’m glad I got it, though, and I hear the experience is pretty short, so I’m sure I’ll beat it.

Suikoden-
Suikoden_USThe one that you can get off of the PSN, not the DS one that I am very slowing inching towards defeating. Except for the item management system, I’m really enjoying this classic. It seems like Suikoden will be a series that I’m going to be getting into. Late in the game, perhaps, but there are at least a number of titles I can look forward to! In any case, this PSX original -besides having the greatest box art ever- is exciting so far and I’m not even at the point when I assume I’ll be in control of my own castle and commanding armies! I’m not really big on the whole 108 playable character hook, but like with Tierkreis I’m sure I’ll find the 10 or so that I really like and stick with them.

ff12_logoFinal Fantasy XII-
I have no idea what compelled me to pick up this title again. I was in the middle of a second playthrough that I stopped about 18 months ago and I’ve jumped right back in as if no time had passed. All this when I just got a PS3, have both modern HD systems and the new Metroid Trilogy for the Wii. Oh well, while I constantly wish for the graphics to look better -they were so good on the PS2 that it just ends up looking like a incredibly shitty PS3 game instead of a great looking PS2 game- the battle system is as addicting as ever, and the cutscenes still blow me away. Seriously, until Uncharted, no game rivaled FFXII in its scene direction, voice acting, and animation. What a waste that (excepting Balthier, Larsa, and maybe Fran) the characters were all boring sacks of shit. But seriously, while any conversation between Ashe and Basch might as well be about sawdust, I’m still glued to the TV. Let’s hope FFXIII combines X’s great story with XII’s great scene direction.

Flower-
flowerlogoYeah, I don’t care that I play this game all the time, this segment is about what I’ve been playing, and I’ve been playing Flower, goddamn it! After watching In Good Company, I felt the second dream was the perfect way to settle the residue emotions from the movie. With its grey beginnings and themes of colour and drab optimism, this level has definitely grown on me the most since I first discovered this game earlier this year. Later, I boosted an already great mood with the game’s perfect finale dream. Anyway, there’s only so much even I can say about this gem.

That’s it! That’s all I got! Suck it!