FFIX: Worlds Apart Review/Listening Guide, Disc 2

Oh… Oh shit.  Is this two posts… in two days?!

You bet your ass it is, my adoring fans!

Welcome to my review/listening guide of the first disc of Final Fantasy IX: Worlds Apart, the remix album from the sonic wizards over at OverClocked ReMix!

I’ll be going through, track-by-track, and rating them on a 1-5 “Vivi Scale”, along with giving a few thoughts on why I rated them so.  You can listen along on SoundCloud or download the album yourself at ff9.ocremix.org!

Craic in the Castle Walls (Cid’s Theme)
XPRTNovice

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Another strong showing from XPRTNovice.  I interviewed this guy a while back, and I’ve always been impressed by how he can tie in seemingly-disparate styles and songs to make a super-cohesive, great remix.

Late Night Lindblum (Lindblum)
Mattias Häggström Gerdt

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Mattias, I am unconvinced that you are not Deadmau5 in disguise.  This song was funkalicious, fun, and had some great builds.  Very, very, very enjoyable.  Everyone listen to this shit.

As Long As We Remember (Garnet’s Theme)
Archangel, Claire Yaxley

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This was the only acceptable way to remix Garnet’s theme, and it was perfect.  God, ouch, the feels.  The feels make my cold, deadened heart feel things.  Such goodness.  Loved it.

Zaghnol Comes (Festival of the Hunt)
Sixto Sounds

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ZAGHNOL COOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOMES

Yummy-yummies (Quina’s Theme, Qu’s Marsh)
Mattias Häggström Gerdt

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Mattias, you might be the goddamned MVP of this album.  Loving your stuff so far.  Another great song by this umlaut-ridden homie.

The Knight of Woeful Sorrow (Freya’s Theme)
Abadoss, AndyP, Fishy

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Yep, I’m giving out 5’s like they’re candy on this disc.  Well, guess what?  I fucking love candy, and I fucking love all these songs.  They’re all really good.  Abadoss and friends, you killed it, well done.

You Don’t Know Me (Unforgettable Silhouette)
katethegreat19

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It kinda sounds like she says “Through Ice and Dragon-Fart” at one point, which is kinda funny.  But on the real side, katethegreat19 is a fantastic singer, and I’m super biased – I’m a big fan of… basically everything she’s done.  Her take on Rose of May is incredible.

FIVE.  VIVIS.

Spirits of Gaia (Faerie Battle)
Brandon Strader

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Strader, as usual, fucking slays it.  I love the little wooshy-wooshy woo-woo ghosty sounds, and it’s called Spirits of Gaia, and… yeah.  Jesus.  Disc 2 of this album is… one of the best discs of any album.  In general.  Seriously, listen to the entire thing.  It’s incredible.

You know what, I’m just going to tell you now: the next three songs are all five-Vivi songs as well.  So I’m just going to put them up here so you don’t have to keep looking at them:

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Terraforming Gaia (Kuja’s Theme)
Gario

Remember that cyber/steampunk Steiner spinoff I mentioned on Disc 1?  Yeah, if Kuja were in that, this would be his theme song, and it would be amazing.  Yep, another 5 Vivis, get over it.

March of Robbers in Treno City (Dark City Treno)
Bluelighter

Encapsulates Treno perfectly.  Just the right balance of goofy pomp, light harp/flute, and bass.

In the Hall of the Gangster King (Tantalus’ Theme)
Verdegrand

I like how faithful this stayed to the original, while still giving it a new, distinct flavor.  A little solo piano action to get your Tantalus on.  Delicious.

Ambitious Whispers, Immoral Chants (Wicked Melody, Devil’s Ambition)
Archangel

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The five-star run has ended… because this song was worth SIX out of five stars.  Holy hell.  This is easily the best song on the disc, and quite possibly nails it better than any other song on the album (that’s REALLY hard to say, but it’s definitely top-tier).  Drop what you’re doing and listen to it.  Seriously.  Unless you’re holding, like, a baby or something, in which case, please don’t drop it.

Into the Sandstorm (Cleyra’s Trunk)
jnWake, Argle

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Into the Sandstorm was… creepy.  It was good.  Had a nice sense of foreboding to it, but I didn’t think it was anything special.  The RIDICULOUS run of INCREDIBLE songs ends here.

Tribe of the Sandy Treehouse (Cleyra Settlement)
katethegreat19

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Again, my bias shows.  I’ve been listening to this song for years, and I think it’s absolutely gorgeous.  I can’t bring myself to give it any less than five stars.  Love the drums in the background, and, again, katethegreat’s voice is incredible.

Save the Queen (The Wavering Blade)
IanFitC

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I don’t feel like this remix went far enough.  It was good, don’t get me wrong, but it never really brought in that tension, that intensity that I’m looking for in a Wavering Blade remix.  It had a nice breakdown, but… yeah.  Maybe it’s because it’s surrounded with stellar mixes all over the disc, but it wasn’t impressive to me.

To Be Forgotten (Eternal Harvest)
Fishy, Chris | Amaterasu

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Another song I didn’t particularly care for myself, but I definitely think it was well done.  At about 2:35 it brings in some metally-guitar-stuff that I found completely over-the-top and unnecessary; I would’ve much preferred the acoustic deliciousness from before to continue.

Agree? Disagree?  Comment below and we can talk about this glorious homage to FFIX!

FFIX: Worlds Apart Review/Listening Guide, Disc 1

Hello, and welcome to my review/listening guide of the first disc of Final Fantasy IX: Worlds Apart, the remix album from the sonic wizards over at OverClocked ReMix!

I’ll be going through, track-by-track, and rating them on a 1-5 “Zidane Scale”, along with giving a few thoughts on why I rated them so.  You can listen along on SoundCloud or download the album yourself at ff9.ocremix.org!

Moguo’s Knife Party (Over the Hill)
Benjamin Briggs

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BEAST start to the album.  So funky, with some delicious little ska influences towards the middle…  Guh.  Glorious.  5 ZIDANES.

Sjá, Minn Heim (A Place to Call Home)
M-H

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Before I begin, let me mention that I used to be super into hard rock/metal, and these days I’ve come to start feeling the opposite.  However, I enjoyed this remix.  I liked how it’s not super overwhelming with the intense guitar, and stays true to the melody throughout.

Black Mage Master (Vivi’s Theme)
The Dual Dragons

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Oh jeez, more metal.  Again, I actually enjoyed this music, but… it didn’t sound very Vivi to me, y’know?  The tone was all wrong.  Even at his angriest, I don’t see Vivi in the light I felt this song was portraying.  Good music overall, but I think you need to keep the tone of the song, and the character the song is about, in mind when you remix.

Canaries and Hurricanes (Swords of Fury, Behind the Door)
Fishy

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Remember when I was talking about tone before?  THIS song is perfect for some super-sweet metal guitar, and I think Fishy nailed it.  It’s dramatic.  It’s epic.  It captured the tone, along with being a damn good song in general.

Vamo alla Django (Vamo alla Flamenco)
AndyP, Fishy feat. Dan Bryant

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Hahaha.  I don’t even know how to begin describing this song, except it was three great guitarists just chillin’ and bangin’ out some Vamo alla Flamenco.  I’m going to contradict myself here, and say, regardless of tone, listen to this one.

Lunar Rebellion (Court Jesters)
IanFitC

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Damn.  Yum.  This song was deliciously creepy, and fit Zorn and Thorn perfectly.  I felt the foreboding.  The faithfulness to the source material earns this baby a sweet 5 Zidanes.

Knight-wit (Steiner’s Theme)
ch4rl33

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KNIGHT-WIT IS AMAZING DON’T EVEN WAIT FOR ME TO FINISH THIS SENTENCE LISTEN TO IT NOW SIX ZIDAAAAAAAAAAAAANES ON A 1-5 SCALE

In case you’re still reading, this is so perfect Steiner; plodding, yet the remix makes it super upbeat and danceable.  I’m picturing a cyber/steampunk FFIX spinoff with Steiner as the main character and this as the title music.  Get on it, Squeenix.

Prima Variations (Prima Vista Orchestra)
Calum Bowen

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Damn.  This song… definitely had some variation in it.  It was all over the map, but I enjoyed it.  Not a must-listen (who am I kidding, they’re all must-listens; it’s Worlds Apart, for Christ’s sake), but it’s… good.

Doomed Lovers (Tragic Love)
Brandon Strader

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Another song where the epic power metal is completely appropriate, in my opinion.  Super tragic, super intense.  Loved it.

t.r.e.e. (Danger in the Forest)
Ross Kmet

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I like the direction that Ross Kmet took this song.  I’m no musician, so I can’t speak to the intricacies of composition, but I thought it sounded good, and it kept that creepy, somewhat dangerous feel that the Evil Forest is supposed to have.

Exploda (Battle 1)
Cyril the Wolf, Fishy

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Like the battle music itself, it’s repetitive, epic to a fault, and is ingrained in the mind of anyone who’s played this game.

I wouldn’t have it any other way.  FIVE ZIDANES.

Bossa de Victory (Fanfare)
Calum Bowen

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This was a bold move, and one I didn’t think would work when I first listened.  A minute in, though, I was sold.  Calum Bowen pulled it off.  Well done.  This one gets me groovin’.

The Throes of Death(guise) [Battle 2]
Gario

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Really interesting how Gario would carry the melody with this slow… weird… tone… thing (again, not a musician), but there was always that frantic shizz goin’ on in the background, a reminder that you’re never safe when you’re listening to this boss music.

Corra! (Run!)
Dr. Manhattan

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A perfectly good remix.  It didn’t blow my socks off, and was a liiiiiiiiittle slow and laborious at times for something that’s called “Run!”, but yeah.  It was good.

Memories of Dali (Village of Dali)
Jean Of mArc, Solveig Giffin, Christine MacIsaac

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When I first heard lyrics, I gasped and was ready to ruffle the shit out of my feathers.  “Hurr durr I’m a purist fuck this stupid singing shit SHE PRONOUNCED CHOCOBO WRONG god damn these lyrics suck ass”

And, y’know, the lyrics… weren’t great.  But they told a story.  And the story meshed with the story of Dali, and added a layer of underlying sadness in the music that I had never noticed before.  In the end, I think they added something that, without them, would have been sorely missed.

Birth Under a Blue Light (Zidane’s Theme)
Knight of the Round

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… Well, there had to be one clunker, right?

It took me 3 listens to even tease out the melody of Zidane’s Theme in this remix.  It was far too heavy-handed, and I just didn’t get it.  If there’s one track to skip on this disc, it’d be this one.  End with the super-sad “Memories of Dali” instead.

FFIX OverClocked ReMix Album, Worlds Apart, Drops Today!

SFKHASOIFDHOAIFNEJVNBSAIUOGVCBLKANGLJKAHHFD YESSSSS CLICK THE IMAGE TO GO TO THE DOWNLOAD PAGE NOW

IT’S OUT!  Five years in the making, Worlds Apart has been released!

Like I did with OCR’s FFVI album, Balance and Ruin, I’m going to do a track-by-track review of this I’m-sure-will-be-amazing album.  This pushes the Gaming Inspirations posts back a bit, but I’m going to continue to do at least 2 posts a week, so it won’t be long ’til I’m babbling about how inspiring and amazing FFIX is!

Gaming Inspirations V: Interview: Joe Zieja (Author, Voiceover Artist, Musician)

See the rest of the Gaming Inspirations posts here!

BONUS POOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOST!

I had the great opportunity to interview one of my biggest inspirations, Joe Zieja, last week.  He’s a professional voiceover artist, a fantastic musician, and just sold his first novel, Mechanical Failure, coming out June 7th, 2016 from Saga Press, the new speculative fiction imprint of Simon and Schuster!  He also composed two remixes for the OverClocked ReMix FFIX album, Worlds Apart, coming out tomorrow, 9/9!

On to the interview:

Joe Zieja.  A self-described “Renaissance man without all the lace and tights”.  Ex-Military.  Author.  Composer.  Voiceover Virtuoso.  Is there anything you don’t do?

Absolutely.  I don’t dance, and I can’t even draw a straight line. My handwriting is atrocious, and I tend to screw up house projects that involve anything complicated. I’ve also played  Ticket to Ride exactly once and scored an 8.  Really.  An 8.

I’ll get to all these points, but let’s start with your military experience: you describe your new book, Mechanical Failure, as a “Space Opera Military Science Fiction” book.  Reading back on some of your blog posts, it seems like your time in the military has heavily influenced your writing.  Could you elaborate on how it’s done so?

I think it’s hard for anyone to say that the military doesn’t influence absolutely everything about your life experience. Not only has it altered my writing, it’s altered my worldview.  More specifically,  I guess you could say it’s enabled me to describe the military culture in a way that is accurate and relevant.

Could you explain what a “Space Opera” is, for those readers who may not know?  (Not me, though.  I definitely know what a “Space Opera” is.  Definitely…)

Sure. There are two broad sub genres that fall under neat science fiction. One of them is hard science fiction and the other is space opera. Hard science fiction relies on existing science and extrapolates upon it to come to a fantastical or speculative conclusion. In many cases hard science fiction focuses on a lot of technical detail that is interesting to people who are interested in science in general. Space opera, on the other hand, really is just about having fun in space. I don’t say that to say that space opera can’t be serious, but that it doesn’t overly focus on the science, and you can get away with a little bit more.  Star Wars, for example is a good example of space opera.  Nobody is sitting there explaining to you that lightsabers are a result of positively charged ions reacting in a vacuum.

You’ve remixed a number of songs over at OverClocked ReMix under the alias XPRTNovice, including tracks on the Final Fantasy VI remix album, Balance and Ruin, and on the upcoming Final Fantasy IX album, Worlds Apart.  Which tracks do you remix on Worlds Apart?  

I have two tracks that I did on that album. One of them is Cid’s theme from Lindblum Castle, and the other is Esto Gaza.

Do you have a specific style?  

Haha that’s funny.  the only thing I can really say that’s consistent about my style is that I generally stick pretty closely to the source.  Nostalgia is a big factor for me. Other than that, I’ve done everything from a Bon Jovi style thing to klezmer to bluegrass.

What can people expect when you’re remixing or composing?

Live instruments. I have a lot at my disposal, and I almost always make them the focus.

Before I say anything about your voice work, I gotta congratulate you – you’re the highest-ranked male voice on Voices.com over the past week, and 15th all-time.  

Thanks!

How long have you been doing voice work?

It kind of depends.  when I was a kid at the Air Force Academy I would be official Academy announcer for football games and parades and all sorts of other events, so I’ve been doing something like voice over for a while. If you really mean voice over work like I’m doing it today, I really only been doing it for the last two and a half years.

On your blog, you’ve mentioned that voice work is “the big moneymaker” for you, and that it’s basically your job at this point.  

yep. After I got out of the military in 2012, I worked for the government for a little while. But by time the end of 2014 rolled around, I was ready to quit everything and be a full time voice over artist, which I am now.

What are the biggest pros and cons of being self-employed?

While the military has its exciting moments, it really is basically a desk job for most of the time. It was the same thing with the government. I absolutely love not having a boss, not having set hours, being able to work from home, and being responsible for my own success without having to cater to some arbitrarily organized corporate or military promotion ladder.  I get to express myself creatively every day of my life, which is a privilege that not many people can say they enjoy. As far as the downsides, sometimes it’s a little hard to keep organized, and to keep boundaries on my work time versus my free time.  and now of course I have to pay for my own health insurance and worry about my own retirement if there is such a thing.

It’s clear that you do a ton of creating in many different ways – how do you manage the time between writing, composing, voice work, and… y’know, everything else you do on a day-to-day basis?  

I don’t have a very structured organization for how I split the time between all of that. Basically I know that being a voice over artist is what’s making most of my money at this point in time, so that’s what gets my priorities.  After that comes writing, because I have a book contract and I have deadlines to worry about now.  Lastly unfortunately comes music, because all the way to make money with it from time to time, sometimes I need to just put it aside and focus on the things that let me put food on the table.

What does a day in the life look like for Joe Zieja?

The timing changes every day, but I generally do about four to five hours of voice work. That can be anything from actual microphone time to managing my business to talking to agents and managers. I try to write for about an hour or two every day, but I don’t always get there. I hang out with my daughter and my wife and try to relax as well as get some physical activity in.  The blank spots I fill in with reading or playing video games or playing an instrument.

This interview is a part of my “Gaming Inspirations” series – do you play many video games?  I can’t see where you’d have the time!

I’d be a pretty poor excuse for a nerd if I didn’t play any video games!  I get a couple of hours a week in nowadays, but when I was younger I could binge with the best of them.

Do you find games inspiring?  If so, which ones, and how?

If there’s one common theme in my life, it’s that I love a good story. In order for a video game to inspire me, it has to be very story focused. I generally don’t like to play games that don’t have stories, or don’t focus on them, or don’t have an end like MMOs.  I really loved watching video games develop into a fantastic storytelling mechanism from its roots.  I just finished playing The Last of Us a few weeks ago, & I haven’t played a game in a long time like that that made me put down the controller and stare at the screen in disbelief at what I had just experienced.

What inspires you to create?

What inspires you to breathe? after a while, if I don’t create, I start to feel hypoxic.

What do you do when you don’t feel like creating?  You must feel uninspired, or just feel like being lazy and vegging out, at times – do you have any techniques to help you stay motivated?

My real trick to staying motivated and active is having so many things to cycle through. If I’m feeling particularly uninspired by the novel and writing, I go write some music for a couple of hours. Or I’ll go do some character work for voice acting. Or I’ll go employ creative movement as a parkour practitioner.

What’s one specific action that people could take, right now, to get closer to:

Selling their first book?

Write it. you’d be surprised how many people I talk to who have been writing chapter one of their novel for the past 10 years. Finish the damn thing.

Contributing to their first album?

This may sound redundant, but start writing music. If you don’t write music, you’re never going to get on an album. If you’ve never written music before, start getting educated. Do something ridiculously basic and celebrate because to you it’s something new. Then keep doing new things.

Becoming a kickass voice actor?

People think there’s some kind of magic that has to happen with the voice that God gave you, but I’m not so sure about that. I have well over 15,000 auditions behind me. Yes that’s 15,000.  In between that, I’ve managed my business so that clients come back to me so I don’t have to audition anymore. And when I’m not doing that, I’m taking classes and workshops from the most experienced people I can find. They always say that if you’re the smartest person in the room, you are in the wrong room.

Since this is FinalFantasyIX.com, after all, a few FFIX-specific questions:

Who’s your favorite character?

Freya, maybe.  Aside from Final Fantasy X-2, when girls got different powers by changing into different skimpy outfits, I always thought Final Fantasy had a great edge on the strong female character front. Freya has a great backstory and a great attitude. More importantly, she’s not Steiner, who I hate.

What do you enjoy most about the game?

I think I’d have to choose Vivi’s story. The whole idea of artificial beings and their humanity or lack thereof may be kind of an overused theme, but there’s a reason for it. We haven’t really figured it out yet, primarily because we haven’t gotten technology far enough to force us to do so.

Do you find FFIX inspiring?  If so, how?

If I’m being completely honest, Final Fantasy IX wasn’t my favorite FF by any stretch. While FF8 was a little teenage-angsty, FF9 was on the childish side in multiple ways for me. There are definitely gems in there, though – I love Vivi’s arc, particularly, like I just said.

Thanks so much to Joe for allowing me to interview him – it was a great experience to be able to talk with one of my biggest creative inspirations!  Follow Joe on Twitter @JoeZieja, his musical alias XPRTNovice @XPRTNovice, and give him a like on Facebook.  Keep an eye out for his new book, Mechanical Failure, published by Saga Press!

OH AND HERE’S A LINK TO THE NEXT CHARACTER PROFILE

Gaming Inspirations IV: Character Profile: Amarant Coral

Bookmark this link to Support FinalFantasyIX.com by shopping on Amazon!

Gaming Inspirations I: Personal Party Composition
Gaming Inspirations II: Character Profile: Adelbert Steiner
Gaming Inspirations III: Character Profile: Vivi Orunitia

The badass is strong in this one. Many thanks to sarrus (http://sarrus.deviantart.com/) for allowing me to use his picture!

Hello, friends, and welcome to the third Character Profile of the Gaming Inspirations series!  “Gaming Inspirations” is a series of blog posts that puts into words how gaming has inspired me to shed my anxiety and its negative effects on my life.  Final Fantasy IX has provided incredible amounts of inspiration (probably because it’s the greatest game of all time), so I’m creating a profile for each of the main characters.  Each profile will examine their unique qualities and I will detail how, through physical action, I’m going to help myself lead the life I want to lead by incorporating those qualities.  Today’s profile is about everyone’s favorite ginger dreadhead, Amarant Coral.

CHARACTER SUMMARY

Like Steiner, when I first met Amarant in-game, I thought he was quite dickish indeed: some brooding guy, arms always crossed, and a chin I thought was his nose for years (this doesn’t make anybody dickish per se, but it kind of looks phallic, so I guess it counts?).

Note: Looking back on it, it’s so clear that it’s his chin.  Like, “how could I possibly fuck that up” clear.  But, I did.  HD didn’t exist.  I was ten.  I’m over it.

Anyway, it didn’t take me long to fall in love with him, because my 10-year-old self soon found out that OH MY GOD HE FIGHTS WITH CLAWS.  FUCKING WOLVERINE IN FFIX FORM.  OH, AND HE CAN REPLENISH BOTH HP AND MP?  JESUS HOW DOES THIS GUY RULE SO HARD

BERZERKERBARAHAAAIII’MLIKEAMARANTAGFHADOIUHFAGH

I digress.  He does brood.  He does have a weird dick-nose-chin-beard.  And I love him.  Here’s why:

QUALITIES

Individualistic

Amarant: Hey, Zidane.  I work alone.  Always have, always will.

In case you hadn’t noticed (or if you haven’t played the game, in which case, why are you reading this?!  Buy it.  Now.), Amarant doesn’t tend to play well with others.  When he does decide to team up, he’s not afraid to let them know when he disagrees with their methods: the scene in Madain Sari when he calls Lani a “scumbag” for taking a hostage comes to mind.

Honorable

This is likely my favorite quality I’ve noticed in Amarant: even though he’s a loner and about as agreeable as a snapping turtle with a skin rash, he has an honor code, and he sticks with it.  When he is defeated by Zidane, he joins the party, even though it’s something he may not normally have done; he doesn’t expect mercy, but when he receives it, he’s willing to repay that kindness.

Skeptical

Amarant: The only dependable thing about the future is uncertainty.

Amarant joins the party not only to repay the kindness of mercy that Zidane granted him, but also because he’s puzzled: how did this person who is so reliant on others beat an experienced loner like himself?   Amarant’s whole worldview, one of self-reliance and of seeing dependence as weakness, is turned upside-down.  He realizes that he still has more to learn about individuality, teamwork, and strength, and he follows Zidane to help him find the answers he seeks.

HOW TO INCORPORATE THESE QUALITIES INTO YOUR LIFE

Ever since a singularly horrific experience giving a presentation in college, I’ve had intense stage fright.  Working in groups, speaking up during meetings at my job, etc. have proven to be a supreme challenge.  I always feel like if I speak up, I’m going to get laughed at, shut down, or otherwise silenced in a humiliating fashion.

Now, I’m trying to use Amarant’s inspiration to help me get over that fear.  I’ve got opinions; I’ve got values that I deem important and I try to adhere to; I’ve got unique thoughts and ideas that I think could be useful for others to know.  I need to follow Amarant’s example, realize that these opinions, questions, and ideas are valid, and voice them.

At the end of the day, I’m inspired by Amarant due to his confidence in himself, and his unwavering ability to voice his opinions, no matter how unpopular they may be, even at the risk of ridicule.  Honestly, most of the time, I think my ideas are pretty damn good, and it’d be helpful for myself and for those around me to voice them.  Everyone’s gotta put their foot in their mouth at some point during their lives; don’t do it to yourself just because you’re afraid to speak.

Even if you’re not afraid of public speaking like I am, you can use Amarant’s inspiration in any situation where you feel silenced for an idea you have or a way you feel.  Next time you’re afraid to voice an opinion, to let someone else know how you really feel… let them know.  The result probably won’t be as bad as you fear it will be.

This “being confident in yourself and sticking to your guns” stuff is all well and good, but the critical element separating the strong, independent human and the stubborn, ignorant douchebag is a healthy dose of skepticism.  Amarant was puzzled by his defeat at the hands of Zidane, and he joined the party to find out how this teamwork-oriented dude was able to defeat the power of his individualism.  This is how we know that Amarant is a part of the “strong, independent human” camp: when something crops up that challenges his beliefs, he questions and examines it instead of denying it outright.

I don’t even need to add a joke here.

People think that “values” are immutable and eternal; they’re not.  At the core of every healthy set of values is the ability to change them as circumstances change.  So, while you’re out there being super-awesome-and-confident-in-yourself thanks to Amarant’s inspiration, remember that the person who changed him most was the one who made him question his beliefs.

Thanks for reading, everybody!  The upcoming Thursday post is going to be a recap of what we’ve talked about so far, and how our internal FFIX party is shaping up!  Plus, I’ll have a SUPER SPECIAL BONUS GAMING INSPIRATIONS POST out before then, so be on the lookout!  🙂

Gaming Inspirations III: Character Profile: Vivi Orunitia

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Gaming Inspirations I: Personal Party Composition
Gaming Inspirations II: Character Profile: Adelbert Steiner

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Hello, friends, and welcome to the second Character Profile of the Gaming Inspirations series!  “Gaming Inspirations” is a series of blog posts that puts into words how gaming has inspired me to shed my anxiety and its negative effects on my life.  Final Fantasy IX has provided incredible amounts of inspiration (probably because it’s the greatest game of all time), so I’m creating a profile for each of the main characters.  Each profile will examine their unique qualities and I will detail how, through physical action, I’m going to help myself lead the life I want to lead by incorporating those qualities.  Today’s profile is about the fan-favorite Black Mage, Vivi.

CHARACTER SUMMARY

Vivi is a Black Mage: he harnesses the powers of the elements to lay waste to his enemies.  In the beginning of the game, this fact is taken at face value; as in, “okay, there are beings in this world that don’t have faces and have giant glowy eyes and wear funky hats.  Cool.”  Soon, though, the tone changes: a factory is found that is filled with Vivi-looking dolls on an assembly line.  A bunch of other fuckery goes down, and it’s eventually revealed that Vivi’s body is no more than a shell, filled with a manufactured “soul” made outta Mist, which is basically the broken-down dregs of souls of people who’ve died.  As you can imagine, this causes a bit of an existential-angsty stir in Vivi’s psyche.  But with the help of the friends that he gains throughout the game, he learns what it is to truly be.

Then, he dies.  But at least he learned some good shit along the way!  Let’s examine!

QUALITIES

Inquisitive

Vivi: I don’t think I really understand what it means to live or to die. Where do we come from…? Do we go back there when we die…? If that’s what it means to live… I wonder where I came from… Where will I end up when I die…? Why am I shaking? What is it I’m feeling…?

Vivi’s around 9 years old, and he grew up in a cave.  It shows: he doesn’t seem knowledgeable about… well, much of anything, really.  But he’s always willing to learn, and isn’t afraid to ask questions, especially to those he admires and respects, like Zidane.  This becomes less of an asset when he learns more about what he’s made of and where he comes from, and it gets REALLY intense when he hears about the other Black Mages “stopping,” which, for all intents and purposes, is exactly like dying.  When he learns about this, and learns that his kind don’t tend to live very long… yeah, he freaks out a bit.  But can ya blame him?  Imagine being 9 years old, and someone walking up to you and saying “You’re not a person like me; you’re a shell full of the fragments of other peoples’ souls.  Oh, and you’re gonna die soon.”  I’d say “freaking the fuck out” and “asking some pretty uncomfortable questions about mortality and what it means to be alive” would be a pretty natural reaction.  Regardless of what pushed Vivi to ask these questions, the point is that he asked them, and that’s the sort of existential inquisitiveness that makes Vivi such a dynamic character.

Sense of Wonder

Along with his inquisitive nature, growing up in a cave seems to have given Vivi a sense of awe and appreciation for the outside world.  In the very beginning of the game, he’s seen wandering around Alexandria, and appears to be amazed at the airship he notices flying overhead, while everyone else keeps bustlin’ down the street, paying no heed.  The fear of imminent death put a bit of a damper on this throughout much of the game, but it’s still evident throughout, and especially in his heartbreaking speech at the end of the game.

Trust

 Steiner: “Master Vivi, why would those mages be the same as you? And why would it matter if they were?”
   Zidane: “Rusty’s right! You’re an individual, no matter what happens, Vivi!”

Vivi’s certainly a reserved character, but he tends to trust others quickly, and take their words to heart.  This is a great quality when he’s listening to Zidane tell him that he’s not a mindless automaton, that he deserves life and lives as fully as a normal human; it’s, uh, less great when he listens to Kuja tell him… the opposite.  Once again, this propensity to trust to a fault probably has something to do with being raised by a Qu in a fucking cave (Does anyone else find that backstory, uh, a little strange?).

You might be a little odd if this crazy-lookin’ bastard raised you, too.

Questions.  Cool.  Wonder.  Got it.  Trust.  Sure.  But how do I incorporate those into my life with physical action?

BY READING THE NEXT SECTION OF THIS POST, OF COURSE!

Inquisitiveness: Read a book.  Yes, the ones made out of actual paper.  (An e-reader that isn’t connected to the internet is also acceptable.)

In case you forgot what they looked like. Easy to do in today’s world.

A wizard ain’t shit without their spellbook.  Before this past July, I hadn’t read a book, cover-to-cover, in ages.  I read a lot on the internet and stuff, but that’s mostly, y’know, sports articles and stuff (not saying that that isn’t fulfilling; it’s just a different kind of reading).  But, on a whim, I decided to pick up the first A Series of Unfortunate Events book.  I read them when I was a kid, and thought, “hey, what the hell.”

Those books are incredible.  I read all thirteen of ’em within a month, and have been reading and writing more ever since.  You never know where or when inspiration will strike, which is why being like Vivi and always exploring the world around you, or the worlds in books, is very important.

Works of fiction, unlike car manuals or Buzzfeed articles about puppies, tend to delve deeper into the meaning of existence; they’re not beholden to the truth, so they don’t have to worry about being accurate in that sense.  The world is whatever the writer wants it to be, which allows them (and their readers) to examine deeper truths.  Vivi examines these existential questions throughout the game, and this is the inquisitiveness that reading can bring into your life.

Sense of Wonder: Try something you’ve never tried before.

If Vivi had lived in Quan’s Dwelling his entire life, he would’ve never gone on an epic adventure, sharing incredible experiences with new friends.  Just this morning, I went to a Zumba class.  First time ever.  I don’t dance.  I was the only dude in there.  I looked like an idiot, I’m sure.  But guess what?  It was a great workout, and I actually had a lot of fun.  I’ll definitely go again next week.

There’s always a transition period.  If you try something new, you’ll probably suck at it.  But guess what?  Sucking at stuff is valuable, too.  Which is better: loving what you do even though you suck, or being really good at something you hate?  Your new passion that tremendously improves your life could be five minutes away, waiting for you to discover it.

Trust: Ask questions.  Don’t be afraid to look stupid.

As I mentioned before, Vivi doesn’t seem to know much about the outside world – its social cues, its dynamics.  When he asks a question, it’s from a place of wanting to learn more, and that’s a noble place to be.

Personally, I’m terrified of asking questions – what if someone laughs at me for not knowing?  What if they think I’m stupid?

Vivi inspires me to answer these with another question:  Who cares?

Seriously, fuck it.  If you don’t know something, and you want to, ask!  If someone’s a dick about it, then fuck them!  It’s irrelevant!  Asking someone who knows is the quickest way to learn something new, and guess what?  When you ask, you learn.  Quest complete.  I had to do this when my new public-transport card didn’t work on the train in my new city (I’m from Vermont; public transport is barely a thing).  The person I asked on the train looked at me funny, but explained how the card worked, and guess what?  I’m not going to run into that mistake again.  I’m so glad I asked, and so glad I know.

One really, really cool thing about examining the qualities of these characters is realizing that they’re all connected: just like with the qualities detailed in my Steiner post, working on even one of these Vivi-like qualities will improve your chances of future success in all of them.  Maybe you’ll read a book and develop an interest in something you never would’ve expected, and you go to a meeting with like-minded people and meet the love of your life and BAM!  Your life changes in a completely unexpected way, and it’s all because you tried something new that one time.

Virtuous cycles are the shit.  Vivi’s the shit.  FFIX is the shit.  Hopefully I’ve been able to impart a bit of the inspiration that Vivi gives me to you.

Coming up on Thursday: another Character Profile!  I’m going to keep this one a surprise, though 😉

Stay classy, fair readers!

Gaming Inspirations II: Character Profile: Adelbert Steiner

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Another fantastic piece of fanart by Game-Art-HQ.com’s Fenrir the 2nd. Check out their Deviantart page at http://fenrir–the-2nd.deviantart.com/

Welcome to my first Character Profile, part of the Gaming Inspirations series, where I claw my way out of the deep, dark pit of crippling anxiety that leads to other fun stuff like “drinking too much” and “being generally unkind to my body and mind” by writing about the stuff I love and why it inspires me.  The format will consist of a summary of the character, their qualities (positive, negative, both), and how we can use these qualities to improve our lives in the physical world.  I’m going to start off by writing about the FFIX main character I feel most akin to: my homie, Adelbert Steiner.

 

CHARACTER SUMMARY

When I first played FFIX around 15 years ago, I was struck by how much of a dick Steiner was (the thought back then was probably more like “golly gee whiz, that old man’s a meanie!”.  Hell, I didn’t even know what a swear word was ’til I was a teenager).  For a disc and a half, he’s basically a mindless drone of the queen, doing anything he can to get Garnet back to Alexandria and to have Zidane’s head lopped off.  He redeems himself later, though, and over the years has become one of my favorite characters in the game, with whom I closely relate.

Continue reading “Gaming Inspirations II: Character Profile: Adelbert Steiner”

Gaming Inspirations I: Personal Party Composition

Another great FFIX Fanart – this one’s by Do0dlebugdebz on Deviantart (http://do0dlebugdebz.deviantart.com/).

In games, and RPGs in particular, balance is important.  It can certainly be fun to have a party of four raging barbarians in D&D, smashing everything in your path, but if you run into a caster who flies out of your smashing-reach and starts pelting you with fireballs, you’re gonna have a bad time.  It’s all about diminishing returns – each barbarian you add to the party after the first is going to have less of an effect than the last, because they’re not bringing anything new to the party.  The more diversified a party is, the less likely it is that they’ll run into a situation in which they are at a disadvantage.

In Final Fantasy IX, the first four permanent party members constitute the classic RPG party: a thief (Zidane), a warrior (Steiner),  a wizard (Vivi), and a healer (Garnet).  All have their own strengths, allowing the party to flourish in nearly every situation.

It’s this diversity that I’m trying to bring into my own life.  Committing to being very good at one thing, while an improvement, is not optimal.  It’s more constructive to invest energy in multiple disciplines, to become a well-rounded individual, so you’re ready for whatever life throws at you.

The next eight posts in the Gaming Inspirations series will be profiles for each of the main characters in Final Fantasy IX, what qualities they bring to the party, and how you can use the lessons that they provide to improve the quality of your life.

See ya Thursday!

Here’s a link to our first Gaming Inspirations Profile: IT’S ABOUT STEINER

What I’m reading: As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride.  It’s SO good.  A must-read for any Princess Bride fan! Click the image below to go to the Amazon page:

The XP Rat Race, and Why I’m Starting to Fall in Love with Single-Player Games Again

Hey Y’all, been a while!  You’re looking beautiful as ever 😉

Thought I’d give you a little bit of an update on my gaming life:  of course, as soon as I started recording FFIX LP eps, I saw that Legend of Dragoon was on the PlayStation Store.  So, naturally, I abandoned the LP and started playing.

I finished last night, and I’m slowly realizing that I’m turning back into a single-player gamer again.

I’ve played a lot of WoW in my day.  I’ve played 931 hours (hours.  That’s almost 39 days) of Team Fortress 2.  I’ve played almost 450 hours of Awesomenauts.  And y’know what?  I wouldn’t trade that time in for the world.  I’ve had an awesome time playing those games, preferably with friends, but also just flying solo.  For the most part, it’s been really, really fun.

However, after finishing LoD last night, I’ve figured out what has kept me going for those hundreds of hours in multiplayer games, and why I think that single-player, at least for me, is the smarter, healthier, less-time-consuming way to go.

It’s no secret that multiplayer game developers want you to get addicted to their games:  I’m sure most large sellers of…  well, anything, are doing everything they can to manipulate human psychology into making people buy what they sell.  That’s not inherently a bad thing;  it’s just the easiest way to sell stuff.  This addiction is extremely valuable, especially in the case of multiplayer games that never end, and especially if there’s a monthly fee attached to a game.  If the devs can keep coming up with new and exciting ways to keep you, the player, pushing the “reward” button, then bam, they’ve got what’s likely to be a loyal customer.

Recently, however, I’ve been feeling like there’s something…  missing.

After one of my classic rage-uninstalls of Awesomenauts (something I’ve done countless times), I began to think ahead:  what’s my end-game?  What’s the point of playing all these Awesomenauts matches, and being so pissy when I lose?  Say I get to the top of the heap, become numero uno in the entire world.  What then?

The answer?

Nothing.

There’s no point.  Of course there’s no point.  I’ll get to the top, probably feel really excited for a moment, drink four or five Miller High Lifes (nah, I’ll go Heady Topper.  This is a special occasion), and plummet right back down the leaderboards.  Even in the best-case scenario, I’ll be #1 at the end of a season, then have to start right back from square one.

I’m being needlessly negative here – of course, I love playing Awesomenauts.  It’s a great game.  It’s really fun, especially with my friends, and fun is a totally legit reason to play any game in and of itself.  If you’re enjoying it, that’s the point of the game.  Good job.

I digress.  Getting back to Legend of Dragoon.

I beat it last night, and seeing that “The End” screen gave me a sense of satisfaction unlike anything I’ve experienced in Awesomenauts or TF2.  My total play time was about 51 hours, and I accomplished every goal I set for myself in the game:  got a bunch of super-dank weapons;  leveled my party to almost-godlike proportions;  kicked the final boss’ ass (and the optional superboss, to boot).  I did everything I wanted to do in the game, and at the end…  That was it.  There are no leaderboards to climb, no rankings to compare myself to my friends.  It was a personal journey, one with a beginning and an end, and now it’s over.

When I play Awesomenauts or TF2, I look at the characters less as “characters in a game, each with their own personality, and trying to accomplish a goal”, and more as stat blocks:  anonymous avatars whose abilities will, hopefully, allow me to crush the opposing team’s anonymous avatars.  There is nothing wrong with this.  The personal connections I feel to the characters in single-player RPGs is certainly stronger.  I root for them to achieve their hopes, their dreams, their goals;  I am with them through times of happiness and sorrow, and feel empathy for them.  This is because I feel like we’ve been on a journey together:  it’s not a 20-minute match that can simply be restarted again and again.  Both the characters and the player grow and learn throughout the process of playing an RPG, and when the journey is over, there’s a sense of finality that, while playing these multiplayer games, I forgot I was searching for.

Of course, I have since reinstalled Awesomenauts.  I fully intend to keep playing it.  It’s fun as shit.  But I don’t think I’m going to be quite as… intense about it.  I’m out of the XP Rat Race, the endless quest for higher standing.  It brings me passing, hyperactive joy, but not happiness.  Not satisfaction.

I had forgotten where to find that feeling, the reason I fell in love with games in the first place.  Thanks to Legend of Dragoon, I’ve found it again.