An Ode to Final Fantasy

Final Fantasy has had great impact over the years. It’s stories have made a difference in my life, for certain, and could be labeled as the source of my inspiration in writing and the fantasy genre in general.

I have long loved the fantasy genre of fiction. Whether books, movies, or video games, I find myself pulled into worlds of mystery and magic. As I have mentioned in previous blogs, The Wheel of Time is one of my all-time favorite series in the genre (and of all time, for that matter). As a kid, I watched and enjoyed movies such as Legend, Star Wars, Labyrinth, and Willow. I can quote many lines from The Princess Bride (I consider it fantasy, even though there is little “magic”). But I never really grasped the genre until I played a little game called (ironically) Final Fantasy.

Admittedly, it has been a while since I picked up a Final Fantasy title. Aside from dabbling in some of the offshoots (Final Fantasy Tactics) or using the characters included in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, I have not really played any of the games much. I have a couple of the classics on Steam, yet I haven’t really dived into them yet. Actually, I haven’t really picked up a Final Fantasy game since Final Fantasy IX on the original Playstation. I guess a big part of it is that the series seems to have slipped away from what I loved back in the glory days.

It’s not that I hate the Playstation Final Fantasies. When FF VII was released, I marveled at the FMVs that carried the story along. I enjoyed FF VIII despite its challenge. I actually liked FF IX the most of the Playstation FFs even though I never finished it (largely due to life and circumstance). But there was something missing in those entries that I could not just get. Perhaps that is why those iterations don’t really resonate with me like the earlier entries in the series.

One of the biggest moments that everyone sites from Final Fantasy VII [SPOILER WARNING from here on out] was when Aeris was killed by Sephiroth. I admit that I was shocked at that moment too, but I think I was more mad than anything. I spent so much time leveling up and powering up the character for her to be gone not even half way through the game. The emotional resonance just was not there as strong for me.

Those who site Aerith’s Death as the most impactful obviously did not live through the sacrifice of Palom And Porom who turned themselves to stone to save the party. Sure, they were restored at the end, but it still stung when it happened. Then there was the moment when Celes, stranded all alone after the world broke, threw herself from a cliff in desperation because all hope was seemingly gone. And while she did so, a version of the song she sang at the opera played sorrowfully in the background, adding to the raw emotion of the scene. It was a masterpiece.

No, nothing beats the glory days of the SNES Final Fantasies. I stand by that statement! Final Fantasy IV and VI (2 and 3 as I remember them) were the real games that got me into the genre of fantasy and, also, inspired me to become a writer. From the moment that the airships are flying across the screen, the story of Final Fantasy IV pulled me in and never let go. Sure, it had some moments of cheesiness, but often that cheesiness added to the narrative in a delightful way (I’m looking at you, “Spoony Bard”). It was an epic battle of Good vs Evil with characters coming and going that elevate it to the Lord of the Rings of video games. It was amazing what could be accomplished with 16-bit sprites.

If Final Fantasy IV was the video game equivalent of LotR, then Final Fantasy VI could easily be equated to Game of Thrones. I mentioned before the scene where one of the main characters attempts suicide. But that is just one of many impactful scenes. The number of impactful, sorrowful, or just plain emotional scenes could fill a book. It was story telling at its finest.

Despite the more steampunk setting, FF VI had the pivotal impact that drove home my desires for my future. I just didn’t know how to get there at the time. Since that game, the phoenix has resonated with me. I feel it is because of the scene where Locke (who I always assumed as myself when playing) attempted to raise his lost love through the power of the phoenix. Now, I have a tattoo of a phoenix on my back. Perhaps it is because no matter what hardships I go through, I keep rising back up to face new challenges.

Whatever the case, Final Fantasy has clearly had a great impact on me and my life. I will always remember the trips I took along the way. Whether it was flying to the moon or taking an airship into the earth and dealing with Dwarves or defying a tyrant by “riding” a castle into the sand or spending a night at the opera, the fondness of those memories will carry on forever.

With that said, I have been working on a project over the last few weeks that would bring my own game to life. Utilizing the program RPG Maker MZ (a tool designed for making games similar to Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest). It is a game dedicated and for my daughter, Savannah. As of this moment, I am about halfway through the outline for the story, and I have found many scenes and elements that are reminiscent of those old Final Fantasy stories. The theme of crystals has popped up in my story and I have quite a few little homages to the series. I find it fitting.

In the days and weeks to come, I would like to share some of the development of this game, and eventually, when I complete it, share it to the world. While the story is more lighthearted and a bit tongue-in-cheek (it IS for a soon-to-be 6-year-old), some deeper elements are seeping in. That is OK. I would be happy if it grows with her. Ultimately, I hope that, years from now, it causes the same feelings for her that I feel for those classic Final Fantasy titles.

Conclusion I’m far from the first person to point out the irony of the use of the word “final” in the title. Not just because the games are still being made, but because of how long even the earlier ones have endured. For me, it was not final, but a beginning.

Update: I’m Still around

A quick update on my status, what I’m currently working on, and my future projects.

I wanted to check in and give an update on my status. I know it has been a while since my last post. The past month has been pretty crazy. After dealing with my diabetes diagnosis, of which I am managing quite well, several other elements have kept me away.

The first, dealing with my diabetes, is that my vision has been out of whack for a bit. While I have been near-sighted for most of my life, the past month has seen a flip-flop of my vision as I have been working to get my blood-sugar under control. It seems to be settling back to normal (mostly), but it made it difficult to focus (no pun intended) on my writing.

At the end of May, I had family come to town for my niece’s graduation. It was a great time and I really enjoyed seeing my mother, sister, and her children and to have my entire family together for the first time in a few years. Especially when we all got together for Maria’s pizza. For those of you familiar with the Baltimore area, that is the Maria’s on Taylor Avenue. We grew up with that pizza and it has become a tradition within our family.

Anyway, some of my freetime has been taken up with getting back into certain games. That started while I was recovering from my hospital visit and my daughter wanted somebody to build her a house in Minecraft. So I did and now I have been sucked back into that game. The recent update adding copper didn’t help. Between that and Miitopia, I have had some needed bonding time with my daughter.

That brings me to my current project. My main computer had problems and I had to reinstall Windows. During the process, I was reinstalling my programs and tools. One of those tools, RPG Maker MV – a program that allows users to make games similar to classic Japanese Role Playing Games like Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest, has also sucked me in. I’ve dabbled with it before but have never completed making a game.

With my daughter’s recent interest and enjoyment of games like Minecraft and Miitopia, and to celebrate her rapid advancement in reading, I started working on a game for her that I hope to have done by her 6th birthday in September. I’m still in the planning phase, writing the story outline and gathering together my resources.

It is an exciting endeavor as it is helping to activate my creative juices and start them flowing. It can be overwhelming to think that her birthday is only a few months away and I am working alone on this project. Even if I only get a single “Act” completed in time, that would be satisfying.

I will try to post updates. And hopefully, I will be able to transition into getting back into my book and finishing that. It may be the encouragement I need to do so. To help, I may ask for assistance in testing, but I am still a way off for that.

Geek Dad

The love between a father and daughter can be a strong one. When you share a joy, it only makes it that much better.

Among the greatest joys in my life is raising my daughter. From the moment she was born, by bond with her was forged and has continued to grow. As she has gotten older, she has developed quite the personality. She is now five years old (she’ll be six in September), and despite some frustrations, I can’t love her any more.

One of the greatest bonds that we have is our love of many things that fall in the “geek” domain. She has turned into quite the gamer already. She’s even beaten me a couple times at Mario Kart 8. Her last birthday was even Super Mario themed. Heck, she wanted me to build a “Super Mario World” (complete with Question Mark Blocks that we could jump up and hit and flag poles we could slide down) in our backyard, but that was a bit out of my budget (and expertise).

When she was younger, I often put her to bed saying “sweet dreams of unicorns, butterflies, and rainbows.” She loves unicorns now. She is my princess (I don’t care if that is cliché). She’s no delicate princess. She is a tomboy through and through. She’ll wear a princess dress and swing a sword around with a snarl on her face that would put Rocky Balboa to shame.

I’ve done my best to foster her love of “geekdom.” We watched many shows on Nick Jr and Disney Jr that had fantastical elements. Some of our favorites have always been Shimmer and Shine, Wallykazam!, Nella the Princess Knight… just to name a few. I bought books such as The ABC’s of D&D and The 123s of D&D by Ivan Van Norman, and Nobody Likes a Goblin by Ben Hatke. If you have seen some of my previous posts, I have even gotten her into tabletop RPGs via Amazing Tales.

Going forward, I hope to encourage her further (while I still have some influence). From Harry Potter to Willow, The Lord of the Rings to The Wheel of Time, and The Legend of Zelda to Dungeons & Dragons, I look forward to many adventures with her. Maybe one day her path may veer away from the world of Geeks and, if it does, I am OK with that. But perhaps the bonds that we share now will carry on her love and enjoyment and be more of a legacy than any book I may publish.

Worse comes to worse, maybe I can get her future brother/sister to take up the mantle.

Gaming with My Daughter: Part 2

This is from the second gaming session with my daughter playing Amazing Tales.

A couple of days ago, Savannah and I continued our “quest” in Amazing Tales. Returning with news of the “Nightmare Army” on the move to invade the Dream Kingdom, Savannah’s Princess Victoria and her faithful knight, Sir Meowsalot, head home to inform the king and queen. Immediately, the kingdom is set into motion and the army sent out to slow the advance of the invaders. The Princess is given a task of being diplomat and seeking the aid of neighboring groups. The first stop, the Dwarves of the northern mountains.

They set out and reach the foothills of the mountains. As they traverse the path, they reach a fork, one going up the nearest mountain, and the other path curving behind a bend. They take the path going up. Near the top, a lone goblin wizard stops them. He demands that they leave his mountain. They explain their task, to enlist the dwarves in aiding in the fight against the Nightmare Army. The goblin, who admits he was once a part of the Nightmare army, only having been kicked out, gives the princess an amulet to aid against the army and sends them back to the other path which leads to the dwarves.

On the other path, they go into a cave that goes deep into the mountain. They reach a large chamber filled with stalagmites with an exit at the far end. As they make their way across the chamber, they are ambushed by a group of goblins (not associated with the wizard from earlier). They fight off a few and quickly make their way to the other side. After tripping up a few goblins, they make it out of the chamber and continue their journey. Eventually, they come to a big door.

The princess knocks and a dwarf answers, asking their purpose. They explain the situation and are taken to the king where they detail what is happening. The jolly king of the dwarves, King Brushelbutt, is happy to help and send his dwarves to help and provides an escort and emmisary to the princess.

Gaming with my Daughter: Part 1

This is the adventure that my daughter and I have been playing through. I originally posted this on social media and I figured that this could be a running feature on my blog. So here is the first part…

My 5-year-old daughter, Savannah, has been begging me to play Amazing Tales with her. If you are not familiar, it is a roleplaying game made with young children in mind. We played before (a space setting) but that did not get too far, though I did see some enjoyment on her behalf.

This time around, we decided to go with a “magical kingdom” (typical fantasy) kingdom. Between us, we set the stage for an adventure. She named the kingdom “Dream Kingdom” and decided to play as a Princess sorceress. Her companion is a cat knight named Sir Meowsalot (her pick of a name). I kind of based him somewhere between Puss-in-boots and Khajiit (from TES).

The start of the adventure began with Princess Victoria and Sir Meowsalot walking through a forest near the Capital (Aluria). Soon a fairy named Tuella came and begged for help from the princess.  Tuella led them to her fairy grove and explained that the bee fairies were attempting to take over the forest. They are led by a strange man known as Buzz Master.

They reach the grove just as a swarm of bee fairies are attacking.  After conjuring a wind that misfires and scatters the grove fairies, Princess Victoria conjures another wind that collects up the attacking bee fairies and sends them off into the forest.

They make their way deeper into the forest to challenge Buzz Master. Along the way, they are ambushed by three forest trolls.  The princess thumps the first troll with her staff, Sir Meowsalot evades the second troll (causing it to become off balance) and engages the third with his sword.  Princess V casts a bright light which catches the first troll and turns it to stone. The third troll disarms Sir M, but Sir M uses his claws in as scratch fury against the troll.  Princess V uses a magic sword to slice the second troll in half before it can recover. However, it then regenerates into 2 trolls.

At the advice of Tuella, she conjures a magic bow and shoots arrows of fire at the two trolls as they are still regenerating. Sir M uses his speed and reflexes and grabs a branch and lights it using the burning trolls and retrieves his sword. He sets the remaining troll of fire, ending the threat.

They make their way to an opening with a giant oak. The oak has a humungous hive that is the home of the bee fairies.  Princess V casts a spell that protects the group from bees (but not the bee fairies). Buzz Master drops from the hive and uncurls to reveal himself to be a man with yellow and black robes. He has a staff and a quarterstaff. The bees begin to swarm but are repelled by the protection spell.  The bee fairies attack and Princess Victoria thwarts them again with her wind magic.

In response, Buzz Master slams the staff into the ground, creating an anti-magic field in the area. He attacks the pair and they engage him. They go a couple rounds and make no headway. What is worse is the bee fairies have returned and encircle them. Sir Meow takes the moment to charge at the staff while Princess V keeps the Buzz Master busy. He uses his sword to break the staff, breaking the anti-magic field. Princess V uses her magic to create her bow and shoots the bolt of fire right into the Buzz Master.  This breaks his control over the Bee fairies and restores order to the forest.  They are rewarded with honey and promise that honey will now flow through the kingdom.

On their way back to the palace, a squirrel gives a message to Princess Victoria (she can talk to animals). The Nightmare Army is marching to invade the Dream Kingdom.

(What Have I started???)

To be continued…