Last week in fun

Oh my god, Darkwing Duck is going to be in the DuckTales reboot! Darkwing Duck is the only superhero I truly care for, and I am thrilled that he gets to be a part of this new, modern version of the Duck universe. He’s not been forgotten! I am very curious to see how this turns out. This also made me realize that 2017!Webby is essentially Gosalyn. It’s kind of ironic that everyone was praising the new Webby as a modernized, era-appropriate reinvisioning, and we all kind of forgot that in the 1990, that character already existed. And I don’t remember anybody making a fuss about it.

Maybe that’s what bothers me about today’s … idk, cultural debates? Everything is so polarizing. Something as mundane and common-place as a female main character is immediately discussed like it MUST be a daring political statement. It can’t be anything else.

I got sidetracked into watching Crimson Peak yesterday. Or at least part of it. I didn’t catch the first 30, 45 minutes or so, but the film was still easy to follow, since everything is really familiar and predictable. Spoiler warning! It looks like most people agree that the plot is predictable. Hilariously there are a few reviews or blog posts that argue against this, and say it’s actually really deep and totally defies expectations! Haha, no? Also, while I understand where people are coming from, and it’s not like I don’t pick up on these things, but I’m not going to praise this movie for its ~feminism~ when it all eventually boils down to a light-coded good woman versus a dark-coded bad woman, and all the men are siding  with the good woman against the bad one. Even the male serial killer has a change of heart, so that in the end, the crazy, evil woman stands alone while the heroine has all the privilege and support of society. A woman hitting another, mentally ill woman in the head with a shovel is not exactly peak feminism. Feminism should punch up, not kick down.

Right, so. Enough complaining. I’m not entirely sure how I ended up there, but Youtube eventually suggested me videos of old Dragon Quest: Dai no Daibouken action figures, so I’ve been watching those. There’s even a figure of Brass! That’s so cool.

Anyway, my immediate future plans: Tell you what, I won’t even TRY to write a blog post next week. I’ll take care of real-life stuff, and only when I’m all relaxed and content will I tackle my backlog of manga, books, videogames and whatever else I’ve been half-assing. That sounds like a good, responsible plan. Right?

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Controversial opinion: I don’t like Dragon Quest’s music.

OK, I do enjoy listening to the music from the Dragon Quest games. It is not bad music. But I don’t think I’ll ever form an emotional attachment to any of the tracks, and that’s because of the way that the music is actually being used in the games.

I’m playing Dragon Quest VII for the 3DS right now. There are many moments that are emotionally touching and dramatic, but it’s like – the music doesn’t care. A cut scene occurs, featuring a sad moment between some characters, but the background music never changes from the same, cheery town theme that you hear all the time anyway. The visuals tell the game’s story. The music is disconnected from it almost entirely. So instead of supporting the mood of a scene, it just plays on as if someone forgot to put it off, which can be pretty jarring.

This is made worse by the fact that the same musical tracks are repeated a lot throughout the game. And by the fact that there are very few sound effects, not even walking sounds for the party.

Music is so important to build atmosphere, it’s really weird to play a game that so squanders an easy opportunity to engage the player emotionally. I am used to games where the music changes for every cut scene, where characters have their own character themes and each town has its own town theme, where there’s music for every occasion, sad, cheerful, creepy or exciting – and even tracks that you only ever hear once during the entire game, and that are nevertheless unforgettable.

Does anybody feel the same? Or am I overly sensitive to that sort of thing?

Dragon Quest VII … Gah, I love it.

Alright, I caved and just started playing Dragon Quest 7 two days ago. In my defence, it was a drearily rainy weekend and I was sick with a cold. There’s nothing better than huddling up in bed with a handheld gaming console and a brightly coloured, light-hearted JRPG! This was exactly what I needed.

I am about nine hours into the game, and now I know what they meant by the game having a slow beginning. But I don’t think that’s a bad thing. First reason: I wasn’t bored. I like exploring cities and talking to NPCs, smashing all the barrels and all the jars. I rotate the camera to admire the gorgeous graphics. Even running around the overworld (which isn’t a world map) excites me because it makes me feel like I’m controlling a cute anime with the Toriyama character designs of my childhood. There’s something dynamic and lively about this game, even when there’s not much action. Everything screams attention to detail, too, so it feels worth talking to everyone, exploring every corner … Second reason: It is very appropriate to run around this small island, devoid of dangers or excitement, for an hour or so. After all, the protagonists are three bored kids who dream of escaping their tedious island life, discover new places and go on adventures! You’re put in their shoes.

One thing I enjoy a lot about the game so far is that it’s all about the adventure, the discovery, the experience. And it is not about fighting all the time. I spent an hour or so yesterday advancing the plot without a single battle. And it was engaging.

Still, I am so happy that the battle screen is more visual than the classic Dragon Quest first-person-view battle screen. You see your character when they attack, which may not be a big deal for everyone, but it’s weirdly crucial for my immersion.

OK, enough blogging. Back to DRagon Quest VII.

Gaming progress

Excellent, they only had 25€  eShop cards, so even after buying the Ace Attorney: Spirit of Justice extra case, I have money left on my account. I could impulse-buy a game! Except that would be a terrible idea. I have enough things lined up as is.

I am Setsuna, for one thing. Yes, I am really … taking my sweet time here. It’s a combination of different factors, one being that it’s been sort of difficult to adjust to home console JRPGs after years and years of playing exclusively handheld titles. I’ve become really used to playing JRPGs just whenever, whereever, without the need to stay stationary for a longer while. And it’s been summer! Now that the days wil be shorter and colder, I guess I’ll spend more afternoons or evenings huddled up inside in front of the TV, for more than an hour at a time. Honestly, it’s a bit weird to play a game where there is snow everywhere, while the birds are chirping outside, the sun is still up at 8 pm and the temperatures are above 30 degrees …

Dragon Quest VII, too. I am awful at finishing Dragon Quest titles, but I am going to stick with it this time. :P I promise. I won’t touch another DQ title before I’ve finished this one, at the least. OK? Deal? Please hold me accountable.

I really hate having games left unfinished, you know. I don’t mean the times when I decide to abandon a game because I don’t enjoy it, but the times when it just happens, because things keep getting between me and the game, because for some reason I cannot concentrate on it at that moment, because something else comes along, or because I’m stuck and grow frustrated and put off trying again and then it’s been two years and I’ve all forgotten about it … D:

I think I have it in my mind that you’re only ever supposed to play one (story-driven) game at a time, from start to finish, without longer breaks or without starting on a new game randomly. I feel the same way about books, but curiously, not about TV shows. Possibly because TV shows don’t require any immersive effort on the recipient’s part? With books and games, you’re in control, you decide the pace and it kind of takes your willingness and readiness to really immerse yourself in the story? I feel like I cannot do that if my mind is still occupied with another story (in the same medium).

Does anybody know what I am talking about?

 

Dragon Quest’s secret power is nostalgia

There is a Kotaku article titled Maybe This Is Why Dragon Quest Never Took Off In The West. Jason Schreier’s main point boils down to: DQ sticks too much to its old traditions, although some of them feel clunky and outdated now and slow down the gameplay, like the save feature for example.

OK, well. I am a bit wary of the idea that there’s some fundamental difference between Japanese and “western” players, and the article never explains why Japanese players are allegedly not “used to more streamlined design” like the Americans. Oh, yeah, in this article “western” means “American”. Because there isn’t really any mystery to why Dragon Quest never took off in Europe: None of the games came out here, until Dragon Quest VIII in 2006. Compare his to Final Fantasy: Europe got their first entry into the series with Final Fantasy VII in 1997 – absurdly late for sure, but still considerably ahead of Dragon Quest. I cannot talk about the UA, but I would wager that there are all sorts of reasons – from timing, to marketing to who knows what – that influenced the games’ reception in the USA. I mean … I don’t think there has to be something fundamentally wrong with a game for it to fail to “take off” in a secondary market.

Still, the article raises an interesting point: The Dragon Quest games do seem to undertake less experiments in style and format than the Final Fantasy series. The look is always Akira Toriyama, there’s iconic monster designs like the adorable slimes, recognizable weaponry and armour, recurring musical themes and many other things that give DQ  its own, unmistakable aesthetic and a strong identity. On the other hand, Final Fantasy seems much less beholden to its own legacy, and is quite happy to abandon its brand and fans and turn into a completely different but ~modern~ game. Honestly, Final Fantasy XV might as well be called Undo the Finality: Fantasia of the Road (I just made that title up – and now I like it???). It might as well not be a Final Fantasy game.

Anyway, back to Dragon Quest. Yes, some of its traditional mechanics are a bit clunky. Aside from the save feature, I dislike the battle system of the older titles, because if I cannot see my characters during battle, I cannot relate to what the hell is even going on. This is something DQ has since moved away from, though, so it’s not as if they are completely averse to change and modernization. I think that Dragon Quest IX – where you could see your team – had much more dynamic and fun battles. Perhaps that’s why it is the only DQ game to date that I managed to play from beginning to end (and then some).

There is a lot I want to write about the Dragon Quest style of saving your game, but it might be best to save it for its own post, no pun intended.

Dragon Quest’s secret power is nostalgia. It’s a sense of nostalgia so strong even I feel it.  I have only played three games, completed only Dragon Quest 9 and read the Dragon Quest manga Dai no daibouken, but it feels like we’ve been friends forever! I think this is because of DQ’s strong sense of tradition and identity. It is all a feature, not a bug. I see a slime, and it makes me happy! I see a certain design of armor, dress or weapon, and I know its’ Dragon Quest! I’ll always love Dragon Quest – and I’ve no idea why.

Never leave a game unfinished.

Today, I loaded up my old Dragon Quest IV savegame. I remember attempting the final boss, but for some reason I had just … given up and forgotten about the game. I really did forget about it. I loaded up the menu and looked at my party members … Who even are these people? I do not remember meeting them. I’ve genuinely forgotten almost everything of the story, which does not usually happen to me. I remember the storylines of games that I merely read about in magazines twenty yars ago, for god’s sake. I just don’t forget stories. Did this game interest me so little?

Dragon Quest was never my franchise, I have to admit. I was introduced to the games much too late, so they simply don’t feel as personal or emotionally revelant as other games. Seiken Densetsu, Final Fantasy and Chrono Trigger were the JRPGs that accompanied me for years and influenced me in whatever small or big way. I think that Secret of Mana is the most important game in my life, together with Monkey Island 2, Mario Kart and Tetris … possibly others, but these were definitely formative.

Still no reason to FORGET a game once played. Granted, it must have been over three years since I played i …. There is only solution to this: I must start the game from the very beginning, as soon as I find the motivation/time. I simply cannot continue with this current savegame. I don’t know where to go, what to do, or why. I would not enjoy it and it would not even satisfy me to beat the game.

And that is why you should never abandon games. No matter how frustrating a boss battle turns out to be!