Monday, March 28, 2016

Eternal Senia

I try to devote a rant to most Indie RPGs I play, on the basis that they usually can use the extra publicity (though not always; holy shit Undertale got popular fast). I’m not sure whether today’s subject, Eternal Senia, really benefits from publicity the way most other Indie RPGs would, though, since Eternal Senia is free on Steam--does its creator, Holy Priest, actually get any money from the game? I really don’t have any idea. But I do know that either way, ES is a great RPG and that whether or not publicity benefits it, playing it benefits others, so on we go.

Eternal Senia is a free Indie RPG available on Steam, made using RPG Maker. Now, yes, everyone and their mother seems to have dabbled with RPG maker at this point, but that doesn’t mean you don’t still find some quality works coming from it. Embric of Wulfhammer’s Castle, though sadly getting harder and harder to locate since its creator vanished into the mists of the internet, remains one of the better RPGs I’ve ever played, an artistic work of video game storytelling that contains within it great emotional power and one of my favorite RPG romances to date, and it was made with RPG Maker. And Eternal Senia joins it as another really great game resulting from the RPG Maker program.

Eternal Senia is relatively straightforward in terms of its plot. Senia is a girl who has entered the Tower of Eternity to save her adopted older sister Magaleta, who is a powerful demon-fighting magical holy nun or know, anime stuff. And that really is basically the game right there--you take Senia up through the tower to save Magaleta, learning about their history and the lore of Eternity as you go along. That’s not to say that there aren’t plot twists and story depth in ES, of course, but it all just boils down to a simple story of the incredible, touching love between these 2 sisters.

What makes this game so great is how incredibly poignant it is. Some RPGs are about the ideas and events of a story most of all (Deus Ex 1, for example), some are more personal, with the characters and their interrelationships being the center of game (Planescape: Torment, for example), and most, I would say, are a balance between the 2 sides (Wild Arms 3, for example).* Eternal Senia falls into the second category, drawing you into the story of its protagonist and her sister, and bringing you massive, massive doses of what is clinically known as The Feels. Seriously, if you enjoyed choking back sobs and feeling your heart itself affected by the tale of, say, Mother 3 or Undertale, then you’ll love this game.

It’s actually kind of remarkable how quickly you become invested in this story of love, devotion, and sacrifice. The game is not long; Steam has clocked me in for a mere 5 hours of playtime, and I played pretty close to a completionist run of the game. Yet in that short time, Senia and Magaleta quickly become characters that you have a vested emotional interest in, and genuinely care for. That’s a feat that a LOT of RPGs can’t manage with a full 50 hours of storytelling opportunity, let alone doing so in a tenth of that time. Only Undertale and Eternal Senia can get me teared up for an ending after half a dozen hours or less, and if you’ve been reading my rants in the past couple months, you know that any comparison to Undertale speaks highly for a game.

It must be said, of course, that the game’s not perfect. Some people have complained about the gameplay itself. Eternal Senia uses a very serviceable and smooth gameplay system, but it’s certainly also not very impressive. Basically, you ram your character into enemies to attack, giving and suffering damage at the same time. Not the only RPG that uses this mechanic (Fairune, Witch + Hero), but I can understand why that would be off-putting. What I don’t understand is how anyone finds your standard RPG combat system any more least in Eternal Senia, I’m actually controlling my character’s actions, even if it’s just running around body slamming stuff, rather than simulating the experience of navigating DOS, like your average menu-based combat system.

Of more significant note, of course, is the translation issue. If you can read Chinese, great! You have no problem. If you’re relying on the English translation, though, well...there’re a lot of technical problems with the translation. Grammatical errors and awkward phrasings are, well, abundant. If you grew up with video games in the 80s and 90s, get ready for a nostalgia bomb of Engrish like you’ve never imagined.’s a rather interesting situation, this translation issue. Even though everyone agrees that it’s there, I don’t think I’ve seen a single player of Eternal Senia mention in a review, forum post, or anything else that the translation was a significant stumbling block in playing and appreciating this game. It certainly wasn’t for me! And I’m an English teacher in training! Somehow, the meaning of every line is adequately clear, and you’re drawn into this tour de force of emotion no less for the fact that a lot of its dialogue sounds weird. In fact, I have to wonder whether a small part of how emotionally gripping the dialogue is, could actually be due to the translation...there have been times in RPGs past, such as Final Fantasy Tactics, in which the first, ‘lesser’ translation conveyed the characters’ pathos and ideals much more earnestly than the later, ‘corrected’ translation. Whether or not the subpar translation hinders or secretly helps it, though, the fact is that the dialogue, story, character development, music, and personalities in this game will hit you and hit you hard regardless, so I would urge you not to let this flaw dissuade you from checking Eternal Senia out.

And that’s about all I have to say about this game. Eternal Senia is a rollercoaster of tender emotion, more likely than not to leave you misty-eyed if not outright weeping at its ending, and it does all this while costing you very little time, and no money. Although you can, if you want to show your support, donate via Paypal at!about-us/c21nl (thanks to the Anon who submitted this link!). I certainly enjoyed the game enough myself to donate. I’m told that Holy Priest is working on a sequel,** and I can’t wait to see this story continued. I definitely recommend you check Eternal Senia out; it’s just a lovely RPG.

* Well, I suppose there’s also a fourth type of game: the one that doesn’t bother with either, and is just a pile of boring nothingness, like Lagoon, or Evolution Worlds.

** Thank God. I mean, maybe I’m just setting myself up for more heartbreak by wanting a continuation, but all the same, if there weren’t a sequel in the works, then I’d have a new entry for the top spot on my list of Most Needed Sequels.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Final Fantasy 9's Players' Perception of Kuja's Power

This rant is made possible by the awesome contemplative nature of Ecclesiastes. Thanks, buddy!

Long time reader and good buddy Ecclesiastes posed a question to me a few months back, which essentially inquired why Kuja receives so little attention from players, compared to his Final Fantasy villain peers, for his power, when he has destroyed a planet all on his own. Taken from the email Ecc sent to me:

“Kuja for some reason seems to never be acknowledged in this regard. Maybe I'm not in the places on the internet where he's mentioned, but I don't recall seeing it even one time in the inevitable villain powerlevel bullshit discussions. Just a bunch of Kefka and Sephiroth hype, two of the least powerful FF villains ever. I know IX is underrated to the point that I'm mildly surprised the ESRB deigned to slap a letter code on it, but this is a peculiar omission in what is still a relatively common topic.”

It’s a very reasonable question. Everyone, especially the deranged chimps themselves who work at SquareEnix, goes crazy over how impressive and powerful Sephiroth is. Yet the guy lacks the sheer power to destroy a world on his own, having to rely on a Materia to do it for him, and even in terms of a confiscated power, it’s only so-so. I mean, yeah, Meteor is world-damaging, but it takes a damn long time for it to arrive. At least when Final Fantasy 5’s X-Death, for example, gains the amazing power to take things and put them in other places, he can do so in an immediate fashion. Beyond that, Sephiroth’s limited to just being pretty strong, fast, and having some semi-magical ability. And, I guess, control over plot-convenient pretty boys who are exceptionally shallow characters but can resurrect Sephiroth (sort of)...whatever the hell Advent Children was on about.

Then you take Kefka. Final Fantasy fans who have studied Sesame Street thoroughly enough to realize that the process of counting doesn’t start at the number 7 are all quite familiar with this infamous jester bad guy, and laud him for the fact that he actually did outright destroy the world in Final Fantasy 6.* Usurped the power of not 1, but 3 goddesses, and just fucked the world’s shit right up. More legitimately powerful than Sephiroth, that’s for sure.

But Kuja? A simple observation of his power reveals that he towers over Sephiroth and Kefka in terms of power, as well as most other FF villains. Sephiroth has to borrow a black rock and then has to wait 8 - 10 business days for Armageddon to ship. Kefka has to steal power from others for his Light of Judgement, and the majority of the destruction he causes is just from him moving the goddess statues around--it’s really not even him doing it; anyone physically strong enough to push a carved stone around could have done exactly as much damage to the world as the majority that Kefka gets credited for. Kuja, on the other hand, arrives at the planet Terra, gets pissed about mortality, and, through his own power alone, destroys the planet.

As in, on his own. He didn’t activate a gigantic robot to do it for him (FF4). He didn’t hold onto a black rock and wish super hard (FF7). He didn’t just happen to stand in a convenient spot between three petrified deities (FF6). Kuja destroyed Terra himself, with HIS power. And when I say destroyed, I don’t mean that he made it a very difficult place to live in (FF6). I don’t mean that he badly damaged a part of it (FF7, potentially). I don’t mean that he went around destroying small towns (FF6 + FF10). I don’t mean that he scooped up parts of it and dumped them somewhere else (FF5). I mean that he reduced everything on the planet to fiery slag. And he did it in minutes.

The evidence is patently obvious. Kuja is much more powerful than almost every other FF villain, in terms of what destruction he can accomplish and how fast. And he’s at this level of power on his own, without needing to rely on and steal the power of others, which is more than you can say for pretty much every other FF villain, and hell, most RPG villains period. But Ecclesiastes is right--go to any major FF discussion board topic about powerful villains, and Kuja’s all but ignored in favor of Sephiroth and Kefka’s weak-ass shit, as well as that of the other villains of the series. You’ll be much more likely to see people talking up the power of Sin, Vayne, X-Death, and so on, than you will Kuja. It was true in my experiences with Gaia Online, it’s true for Ecc’s experiences of GameFAQs, and a little searching on my part just now confirms that it’s true on multiple other sites, too.

Why is this? Why do fans so often completely pass over Kuja’s villain accomplishments, when the facts are clear?

Well, there are the usual contributing factors. FF9 is still extremely underrated and overlooked, sadly, and then there are the shallow morons--and they be many--who disregard the guy just for his outfit and looks. And there’s SquareEnix’s marketing strategies, too, in that other villains are much more focused on and popularized by the company itself.

But, I believe that the core issue of the lack of recognition of Kuja is this: Kuja destroyed a planet that doesn’t have a lot of weight to the audience. In Final Fantasy 9, the planet Gaia is where the audience starts the game, and it is the planet which we spend dozens of hours exploring from 1 pole to the other. Through Zidane, we travel across Gaia on foot, on the back of chocobos and gargants, and aboard ships of both air and water. It is Gaia that we know the size and scope of from traveling experience. Gaia is the planet filled with characters we have met and become familiar with, and Gaia is the planet possessing lore and a story which we have watched unfold and participated in all along the way. To whit, everything and everyone that the main characters of FF9 are connected to and fighting for, is on Gaia.

By contrast, what is Terra? Terra is a planet Zidane and company visit only a short time after hearing of its existence. Terra is a planet only a fraction explored--no more than a dungeon’s worth, really. Terra is alien and strange, and connects only in a distant, though admittedly essential, way to a few characters and a little of Gaia’s lore. The simple fact is that Terra doesn’t have substance as a world to the player, not as a Final Fantasy world usually does.

When Kefka ruins his world, he’s ruining the equivalent of FF9’s Gaia, not the equivalent of FF9’s Terra. Kefka ruins the world that we’ve traveled over, whose characters we have met and whose events we have seen unfold. The difference is that Kefka destroys the world, and Kuja destroys a world. FF6’s ruined world is the everything and everywhere of the game, but for FF9, Gaia is that world, and Terra is just an interesting location that is emotionally separated from us. And you can apply this to the majority of the other FF villains, as well--Sephiroth threatens the only world FF7 knows, X-Death messes around equally with both worlds FF5 visits, Sin is a constant destructive force in the only significant location of the game, Spira, and so on.

So, despite the actual reality of Kuja’s power as evidenced by his destruction of Terra, despite the demonstrable fact that he is far more powerful than Kefka, Sephiroth, Zemus/Zeromus, the Dark King, Raem, Vayne, Ajora/Altima (well, maybe), Seymour, Sin/Yevon, the Cloud of Darkness, Galdes, Feolthanos, and probably most of the villains from the FFs I haven’t played...the perception of Kuja’s power is only naturally going to be that it’s less impressive than, say, Kefka’s, because Kefka destroys the world that truly matters, and Kuja destroys its third cousin, twice removed.

* Well, mostly destroy. Nature’s dying, monsters roam everywhere, humanity’s on the edge of survival, that sort of thing. It’s a bad scene for the world and its creatures...still, Kefka’s wrath is a little less impressive when you realize that the worst spots of the World of Ruin would still be considered a vacation retreat for the people of any given Fallout game.