Deirdre held up a hand,
and brushed nonchalantly at a few bangs.
“Just how long have you been trying to seal the deal here? And how many times have you come up
empty-handed?” She shook her head. “Face it.
There isn’t a shred of proof you could offer, and not a thing you can do
to change the world -- yours, mine, or hers.
You’ve just been wasting your time here -- so why don’t you just accept
that and go with what comes easiest?”
She turned an eye upon Sheila -- fidgeting, and unable to look anyone in
the eye, but still offering a clumsy nod.
“So you would rather
let things stay the way they are, rather than try to improve your lot in life?”
Lloyd asked. He covered his mouth. “I know the O’Leary women can be a bit
stubborn, but to go this far…I fail to see the gain from it.”
I…” Sheila shook her head, letting a few
globs of snot slide across her face in the process. “If things can’t change -- if I can’t change
-- then that’d make all your effort pointless, right? So maybe…I-I dunno, maybe this is as far as I
can go.” She found just enough spirit to
look down at Lloyd. “Maybe it’s better
if you just give up.”
Lloyd’s brow started to
tense. “So let me see if I understand
this correctly. The real Miss O’Leary
would prefer to bring this venture to an end and risk having her body commandeered
by her alter ego. Meanwhile, the unreal
Miss O’Leary would prefer to have her creator suppressed -- if not erased
outright -- even if that could lead to any number of catastrophes, metaphysical
or not. Do I have that right?”
You know what? I just thought of some flaws for this game. And it only took me two months!
--One of my biggest
regrets with this game is that I didn’t get all of the “Heart-to-Heart”
sequences scattered about…but I wonder if that was my fault, or the devs’ overestimation
of the player’s dedication. Unless I
played the game wrong (a real possibility, I admit), in order to get these
special sequences you have to find them in specific spots all over the game
world -- which, need I remind you, are MASSIVE.
But that’s not enough; the characters have to have a high enough
affinity for each other to even start the sequence, and the best way to do that
is to have them as your active party…which I didn’t. And even then you have to answer questions
during them that you have no way of knowing the answer to. It feels like a needlessly complicated system
that locks you out of character insights, rather than promoting them.
--I’m not going to take
back what I said about the battle system (i.e. I think it’s awesome), but I
don’t think the terrain is used as effectively as it could be. It’s true that you can blow enemies off high
ledges to win your fights, but outside of that there really isn’t too much done
with it in the middle of a fight. If it
was, then a late-game boss wouldn’t have been as much of a pain in the ass as
it was; because of its size, the small paths you can fight on, and the acid
surrounding you, it’s more than common for you to get blown -- or even brushed
-- into pools of the stuff so you can watch your party melt before your
eyes. Why that stipulation to battle
would be added in the game’s later skirmishes is a mystery best left for the
…And I think that’s it
for now. At least, those are the big
ones. So with that out of the way, let’s
get to the game’s strength: it’s story.
WARNING: OH MY GOD THERE ARE SO MANY SPOILERS
IN THIS POST. DON’T EVEN THINK ABOUT
GOING ANY FURTHER UNLESS YOU WANT TO HAVE EVERYTHING RUINED. DON’T.
Lloyd took another deep
breath, resting his palms on the desk as he inhaled and exhaled. Just a few moments ago his heart would have
thumped louder than anything the ladies onstage could have produced -- even if
they’d started shouting at full blast.
But now he could hear everything clearly. The hum of their failing stars. Their muted yet panicked whimpers -- from the
recoiling Sheila as well as the humbled Deirdre. And most of all, the thoughts whirling about
inside his head -- a storm of words, linking together into a single chain of
He took one last
breath, and looked up at the pair. It’s time to bring this audition to an end.
“Miss O’Leary,” he
began. He shifted his eyes from Sheila
to Deirdre. “And Miss O’Leary. I understand what plagues you so -- why my
words have dealt you both a critical blow.
I had originally assumed that the reason for an imaginary friend was to
honor and idealize the mother figure.
But I was mistaken; the true intention was to carry out revenge, and
make a target out of the woman who had slighted you so dearly. That was the reason for your original form
being the madam. And the reason for your
current form -- the reason for your reaction -- is an understandable one.”
Sheila and Deirdre
stared at Lloyd with probing gazes. He
knew they wanted an answer. And he was
happy to give one.
So the other day I was
talking with my brother while we were sitting down for a gaming session, and
the conversation ended up shifting to --what else? -- Final Fantasy 13. He still
hadn’t finished 13-2 (and I suppose
he still plans to, even though he admitted it’s kind of boring and the story
makes no sense), but he likes bringing it up on a whim because…it’s a game that
exists, I guess. Anyway, this time
around he said to me, “I think Lightning is a pretty cool character.”
There was silence
between us for about fifteen seconds.
And then I said, “I don’t want to
play video games with you anymore.”
We still did, of
course. But the phrase “divergent
tastes” has never been more applicable than at that moment. If you’ve been following this blog, I don’t
think I need to tell you how I feel about this so-called Lightning Saga…and I’m
pretty sure I
went into grave detail explaining just why I think the titular character
isn’t just poorly-conceived, but accidentally made into the biggest villain the
franchise has ever known. So yeah, I’m not the biggest fan. The mere thought of that saga is enough to
make me cringe.
Imagine my surprise,
then, when I’m forced to come to the realization that Tales of Xillia is Namco Bandai’s version of the original FF13.
The only difference is that they do it RIGHT.
Deirdre hummed to
herself, and pressed a finger to her chin.
“Oh my…I think I’m starting to fall for you, Lloyd. All that passion coming out so freely…it’s
enough to make my heart beat faster. I
don’t suppose staying a while is in the cards right now?” She winked at him and blew him a kiss.
But Lloyd didn’t even
register it. The kiss, her voice, even
her presence; he just stood his ground, his palms digging into the desk and
threatening to snap it in two. His stare
had intensified to an almost lethal degree; the heat it cast could have started
a fire, and each eye shone brighter than one raging in the wilds. If he could have, he would have gladly given
that light to Sheila. She needed it
desperately -- her stars had long since started their final, pathetic spasms.
But that was fine. Lloyd had made his decision. He’d made his stand, his choice, and his
pledge. And now…
“It’s time, Miss
O’Leary. Let’s begin.”
Sheila shuddered and
fell to her knees, but found just enough energy to look up at Lloyd. “I-it’s hopeless,” she said breathlessly --
between pained breaths, no less.
“I…I’m…I’m useless. There’s…nothing
left for me to do…I-I..I’m just too…worthless…”
You know what I just
realized? I don’t know what it means to
That’s a description
that’s popped up a couple of times in discussions about Dragon’s Crown, and I’d agree that it’s a good adjective to use
(and on top of that, I agree with others that think it’s a good game). But what exactly does it mean to be
old-school? I suppose that means being a
part of the gaming chronology for any period before this current console
generation…but where’s the cutoff point?
What’s the system that definitively defines who’s a part of the
old-school collective? The Nintendo
64? The Commodore 64? I’ve been gaming for a while, but apparently
my mom was seriously into the arcade Pac-Man games at one point. Fancy that.
And that only begs the
question of what capacity one has to play games to qualify as old-school. Lines have been drawn this generation between
casual and hardcore players -- both with their own strengths and weaknesses --
but there’s a lot to consider both in terms of games and the players
themselves. I mean sure, I’ve owned games, but for the longest time
(and even to this day) it’s my brother clearing them while I watch. It’s almost contradictory that I’ve spent so
much time being a passive observer for an interactive medium. So
what’s the deciding factor? Who judges
who’s a part of the club? Are there
symposiums held in order to sort out all the vital details and ruminate on the
particulars of games of old?
…Whatever, Dragon’s Crown is still pretty friggin’
It’s at times like these where I have to wonder what sort of deity I’ve
irritated to reach this point, Lloyd thought with sagging shoulders. But he perked up quickly, and focused his
gaze dead ahead. But even if I’ve incurred the wrath of heaven, that’s no excuse for me
to stop now. I need to figure this
out. And soon.
He watched Deirdre’s
stars closely. One fully dimmed; the
other, well beyond half-empty. It almost
looked as if some cruel cartoonist had taken his eraser to the star’s light,
rubbing away every last bit of gleam -- of hope -- he could reach. Despite that, Deirdre looked remarkably calm;
she’d dropped all pretenses of looking comely and seductive, and merely stood
in place with crossed arms and a slight smile.
If Lloyd didn’t know any better, he’d have thought she’d found inner
“Better work fast,
sweet cheeks,” said Deirdre. “If you
don’t figure out what you’ve missed, then you’re going to have to live with the
You know, I’ve been
thinking. (Cue the panicked shrieks of
the masses as they run desperately for cover.)
So word on the street
is that Senran Kagura is coming to the West. That’s interesting, I suppose. I can’t personally summon up too much
interest in the game, but if it’s set to make plenty of gamers happy -- and of
course let the devs offer up something to a wider audience -- then I’m glad
this is something that’s happening. Of
course, I can’t help but get a little nervous about reactions to the game being
released; the whole Dragon’s Crown brouhaha
is still a sore point for a lot of people, and has opened up debates that have
likely done nothing more than spin in circles at 8000 RPM.
I’d argue that Senran Kagura has its own merits as a
game and a series -- artistic merit, creative liberties, etc., etc. -- but even
so it’s a bit harder to defend than Dragon’s
Crown. That game has more overt
throwbacks to fantasy artists and games of the past, with its eyebrow-raising
designs a consequence of applying the amped-up aesthetic and design philosophy
to everything and everyone. It’s very
likely -- probable, even -- that Senran
Kagura exists on the same axis (as an over-the-top parody of
fanservice-laden elements, or if not that then winking tributes), but the line
between playing it straight and playing it for laughs is…er…hazy.
So why is it that the
more I hear about the game, the more I’m intrigued by it?
Sheila shook her
head. “I-I know you mean well, but…even
if you are the director, you’ve still made some pretty big mistakes.” She rubbed her nose, all too wary of the snot
dribbling atop her finger. “Sorry, but…I
think there’s a saying out there about making assumptions. Or something.
I think the saying she’s thinking of has something to do with asses, Lloyd
thought. And if what she says is true, then I’ve been making one of myself
here. His eyes went back and forth
between Sheila and Deirdre; the latter had regained some semblance of her
posture, but now she looked as if she’d been locked in a sauna -- sweating, with
arms pulled in close, and no shortage of frustration in her face. The former, at least, stood her ground -- but
she’d never looked confident in the first place, and wasn’t about to anytime
So close, yet so far. I’m
certain I’ve made strides toward the conclusion, but to be rejected by Miss
O’Leary so directly…could I have gotten off-track somewhere along the
line? If so, perhaps my claims of seeing
her heart were a bit premature.
Sheila sucked a few
gallons of snot back into her system, and took a deep breath. “O-okay.
I guess this is it, then,” she said to herself -- though more than loud
enough for Lloyd to hear from the floor below.
She reached into her shirt and pulled out a roll of papers. “Um…sorry you had to see that just now. Things can get a little…uh…weird when I’m
Lloyd’s eyes darted to
the wall. Sure enough, Deidre’s legs
still dangled from it like a mounted trophy.
“I can imagine. Although I am glad
you made your grand debut. Any more
delay, and I suspect I’d be little more than a smoldering smear.” He turned back to Sheila and nodded. “I’m thankful you decided to step in, Miss
know…” She pressed her fingers
together. “It’s just -- I-I’m kinda
responsible for this mess I’m in. I
mean, that girl is…well, she’s a part of me.
And I guess I need to start taking responsibility for her.” Her eyes shifted around the room. “But, um, I never thought I’d be doing that
in person. This whole thing is kinda
nuts -- I-I mean, I thought I was just coming here for an audition, and then
all of a sudden I’m drop-kicking my imaginary friend.” She scratched at her temple. “And I think there was something about you
turning into a girl…”
“Oh, so you saw that,”
Lloyd said with a nervous laugh. “Not my finest hour, that.”
There’s been too much
negativity on this blog recently.
It’s been a chain of
despair -- one troubled product to the next, or at least things that make me
think harder than any normal person should.
Man of Steel was crushingly
disappointing. The Last of Us came out as a confused tale (and more confused game)
hamstrung by creators and conventions. The Wolverine had good intentions, but
suffered from dull and almost-contradictory drama. Percy
Jackson is just awful. It wasn’t my
plan to do posts on four less-than-savory products almost one after another,
but I guess that’s just the way it goes sometimes.
I say it’s time to turn
the tide. And this post should be just
the thing to start doing the trick.
“Wha…what the hell?” Deirdre stared at the flaming vines with wide
eyes. In spite of her trembling body --
or likely because of it -- she swept a hand about to shift their aim. But it didn’t work; the pair of vines
remained locked on to her curvy form.
Neither of them moved, but the threat of violence proved more than
enough to make Deirdre start sweating.
“So my theory proved
right, then,” said Lloyd. He kept
navigating the vine-laden walls of the pit, but at a much more casual pace than
before; they hadn’t stopped, but they’d slowed down enough to create the
illusion. “Whatever you can imagine
becomes real -- but as an imaginary being in your own right, you’re bound by a
set rules and limitations.”
“What are you playing
“I’m afraid I’m not
playing at anything. Though more than
likely, the one who’s being ‘played’ here is you.” His eyes swept through the pit. “Since the moment this venture started, we
haven’t been alone. You may have been
the first to approach me, but you did so in tandem with one other.”
“Isn’t it obvious? Miss O’Leary is here. Or rather, everywhere.”
“’Now I can see your
heart’? What, is that supposed to be
your catch phrase or something?” Deirdre asked.
“Because if you ask me, it’s a pretty bad one, little boy. Even the worst pick-up line is better than
Lloyd’s finger drooped,
and he rubbed his crown sheepishly.
“Well, truth be told it’s a bit of a work in progress. Though you could argue the same about my mere
existence…but let’s not dilly-dally with semantics at the moment.” He resumed his normal posture, and gave
Deirdre a nod. “There’s a battle to be
won, after all. And it’s thanks to the
dear madam that I have just enough of a foundation for my offense.”
“So, you’re planning on
making me go gentle into the night?”
Lloyd shook his
head. “I intend to save the two of you
in one fell swoop. You are -- or at
least, I hope you are -- two halves of the same coin. To remove one is to restrict the other. Therefore, I’ve but one option.”
“And that is?”
“To reconnect the
disconnected.” Lloyd thrust his finger
at her once more. “Before this is over,
the O’Leary women shall be as one.”
Lloyd rubbed his
hair. “Er, my apologies, ma’am, but I
think I’m missing something here. You
made it sound as if you were responsible for Miss O’Leary’s problems. And as her mother, surely that isn’t the case.”
But Jane gave him a
brisk nod, staring ahead as Deirdre started to drag the soap out of her
mouth. “I’m afraid that’s exactly the case, Lloyd. If it wasn’t for me, maybe you’d be having an
easier time here -- and maybe my daughter and I would be better off.” She lowered her gaze. “I guess I botched this whole motherhood
business somewhere along the line. I had
a hunch that I’d done something wrong, but seeing something like this before my eyes…it’s the kind of
thing that’ll make you regret ever deciding to ride up to Make-Out Ridge after
the big dance.”
“I think this
conversation is in danger of being derailed, ma’am.” Lloyd looked up at the ring above Jane’s head
-- still shining, but with each passing second its innards emptied further. “We’d best cooperate more efficiently. I doubt I’ll be able to do anything without
“You’ve got that wrong,
Lloyd.” Jane shook her head, but smiled
regardless. “I’ll be sure to support you
however I can. But the one who’s going
to win this thing -- the one who’s going to save my daughter -- is you.”