Gaming Inspirations VII: Character Profile: Eiko Carol

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Gaming Inspirations I: Personal Party Composition
Gaming Inspirations II: Character Profile: Adelbert Steiner
Gaming Inspirations III: Character Profile: Vivi Orunitia
Gaming Inspirations IV: Character Profile: Amarant Coral
Gaming Inspirations V: Interview with Joe Zieja
Gaming Inspirations VI: Character Profile: Garnet til Alexandros XVII

Thanks to Kikane (kikane.deviantart.com) for letting me use this in this post! Check out more of their stuff!

Hello, friends, and welcome to the fifth 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 we’re going to talk about the sweetest little kid-summoner in the whole wide world (of Gaia), Eiko Carol!

CHARACTER SUMMARY

Eiko Carol is the lone survivor of a Summoner tribe in the village of Madain Sari (OR IS SHE?!?!?! Spoiler: she’s not).  She lives with a bunch of moogles (the cutest darn things on the planet) and apparently cooks horrendous food.

Her life gets turned on its head when she meets up with Zidane and the rest of the gang, joining them in their adventures and learning what it’s like to interact with others like her for the first time since she was very young.  At the end of the game, after suffering the crippling loneliness of being the last of her kind, she finally feels at home once again.  Yay!

CHARACTER QUALITIES

At first, writing up a Character Profile for Eiko seemed near-impossible: her demographic (6 years old, a lady, plays the flute, horn on her head, magical) seemed so distant from mine (25, dude, utter lack of horns, magic, and musical talent) that I thought there wouldn’t be much to talk about.

Boy, was I wrong.

Throughout Final Fantasy IX, Eiko brings up a major human conflict, one that all of us struggle with: loneliness.

I’m not talking about your average, garden-variety, “All-my-friends-are-gone-for-the-summer-what-am-I-to-do” loneliness, either: I’m talking about isolation.  Sure, she’s got a lot of moogles to talk to, and this is no slight on them, but… she’s different from the moogles.  No matter how nice or comforting they try to be, their core difference from Eiko prevent them from fully filling the void caused by lack of real empathy from someone who knows your struggle.

I’d be willing to bet pretty much everyone has felt this “but they don’t understand what I’m going through!  They haven’t experienced what I’ve experienced!  How could they possibly understand how I’m feeling?” loneliness before.  Hell, I know I have.  A lot.  My experience is different, unique from anyone else’s; it seems natural to assume that, since they haven’t experienced what I’ve experienced, it’d be impossible to understand the depth or intricacies of how I’m feeling.

The “They Don’t Understand” feeling is amplified when the situations or events are completely out of your control, and when is your life more out of your control than when you’re a kid?  Eiko didn’t choose to be born in Madain Sari.  She didn’t choose for her family to be slaughtered.  Hell, she couldn’t even choose who she wanted to hang out with!  When these sorts of things are chosen for you and you’re powerless to change them, it’s easier to slip into a lonely, fatalistic sort of despair.

Let me tell you why this idea is irrelevant and should be discarded.

HOW TO INCORPORATE (or, in this case, dis-incorporate (is that a word?  I don’t think that’s a word.  Whatever)) THESE QUALITIES

This “They Don’t Understand” delusion doesn’t do anyone any good: it’s isolating for the person feeling it, and it makes the people trying to help feel powerless.  But, in the moment when you’re feeling it, it’s very difficult to avoid: how could they possibly understand?  How are you supposed to trick yourself into thinking that they do?

There’s only one thing you can do.  There’s one phrase you have to integrate into your vocabulary, the only thing that will help when you’re feeling lonely and misunderstood:

Control what you can control.

There are going to be events in your life that make you feel like poop and are totally beyond your control.  It happens to everyone, and it sucks no small amount of ass.

Wait.  Did you read that?

“It happens to everyone”.

This is hard to remember when you’re in the throes of despair, but you need to realize that, when your friends are doing what they can to help you, it’s because they have felt pain, too.  No, it’s not the exact same pain.  No, it’s not the exact same situation.  But in the immortal words of Westley from The Princess Bride: “Life is pain, princess.  Anyone who says otherwise is selling something”.  Everyone knows pain, and friends are those who help (or try, at least) to take the pain away.

In these situations, when you’re at your worst, looking at what you can control and taking control of them is a must.  One major thing that you control (when you’re an adult, at least) is who you choose to spend your time with.  Spend time with people who make you happy, and trust that those people will empathize with you and help you in any way they can.  Whether they’ve felt exactly how you feel is irrelevant; what’s important is that they are willing to try and shoulder some of that burden with you.

When Eiko meets Zidane and the gang, she sees that she doesn’t need to be alone anymore.

You don’t, either.

All it takes is a little trust, concentrating on what you can control, and getting by with a little help from your friends.

Gaming Inspirations VIII: Quina Quen

Gaming Inspirations Recap: Where We’ve Been, Where We’re Going

GAMING INSPIRATIONS BY THE NUMBERS

DAYS SINCE I STARTED GAMING INSPIRATIONS: 40

TOTAL POSTS IN THAT TIME: 12

WORDS WRITTEN: 11,399

POUNDS LOST: 10.0

Whew!  Just over a month in, and Gaming Inspirations has had some super-positive effects on my life.  Now that we’re at the halfway point, I’m going to do a quick recap of the characters we’ve covered, hey they’ve inspired me, and how successful I’ve been in incorporating their lessons into my day-to-day:

Steiner: Morning gym sessions, increasing my sense of accomplishment early in the day and improving my physical health

So far, this has been a MODERATE SUCCESS.  I haven’t kept up with my four-day-a-week 5:00-AM gym sessions, but I’m going at least 4 times a week still, which is good.  I’ve been floundering a bit; a lot of my friends are moving to my new city, so there’s been a lot of partying/staying out late/not going to the gym in the morning, but after being pretty consistent for about a month, I’m confident I can get back on the horse pretty easily, starting today.

If you want to join me, pick up some running shoes.  Really, that’s all you need to get started, along with some t-shirts and shorts/sweatpants.  Personally, I use Saucony Cohesion 7 running shoes.  They’re super-duper comfy, never had a problem, and relatively inexpensive.  If you think you had to drop three figures on running shoes, you don’t!  Pick up some shoes and get runnin’!

Vivi: Reading books, trying new things

I’m going to say that I’ve had SUCCESS with this, as well.  I still don’t ask as many questions as I’d like, mostly due to my fear of looking stupid.  However, I’ve been doing a lot of reading, and I think that the fear of asking questions/looking stupid will ease as I continue to try new things and have new experiences.

A few of the books I’ve read this month are As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of the Princess Bride and You’re Never Weird on the Internet… Almost by Felicia Day.  If you love the Princess Bride as much as I do, or if you’re interested in reading about Felicia Day’s transformation from deep-south home-schooled geek into internet superstar, then I’d highly recommend those books.

Amarant: Self-confidence, skepticism

Again, my lack of confidence rears its ugly head.  I think I’m good at entertaining views without accepting them, and I’m good at hearing others out who have differing opinions on things, but I am still not confident enough to truly do and say what I feel is right most of the time.  I’ve had some level of success with this, but not much.  As I said in the Steiner recap, the more confident I get with the things I’m good at will have a positive effect on the things that are difficult for me.

Princess Garnet: Taking notes, having patience with myself and others

I’ve been killin’ it with the taking notes recently, which is a cornerstone of any sustained success.  For money-budgeting, I use You Need a Budget 4.  It may not seem to make much sense to spend money on budgeting software, but if you stick with it, I guarantee it’s worth the one-time $60 payment.  There’s also a 34-day demo and free classes to help you get started (it’s also available on steam for you gamers out there!)

For my diet, I use the MyFitnessPal app on my iPhone.  I’ve only scratched the surface of what it can do; but even simply making an educated guess at my calories consumed each day has helped me to lose 10 pounds in the past month and a half.  It’s a great piece of software that helped me a lot.

I’ve also used a free app that has started to help me with my patience.  It’s called Headspace, and it’s a guided-meditation app.  The first ten 10-minute sessions are free, and the technique I used has helped me to calm down in situations of high stress.  Check it out!

Out of all this, though, one of the most positive effects I’ve seen is the reaction from my readers.  I’ve got some great feedback, and I look forward to what you guys will have to say about my upcoming posts.  I know I haven’t strictly kept to the Thursday/Sunday schedule, but I’m gonna try my darnedest to get back on the horse; if it’s too much of a strain, it might become a Sunday-only thing.  I’ll keep y’all posted.

Thanks for reading!  Take care, and feel free to tell me how I’m doing/share your stories in the comments below!

(Also, side note: I just started playing Kingdom Hearts 2 HD on my PS3, and that shit looks incredible.  It’s only 20 bucks on Amazon right now.  Very worth it, imo.)

Gaming Inspirations VII: Eiko Carol

Gaming Inspirations VI: Character Profile: Garnet til Alexandros XVII

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
Gaming Inspirations IV: Amarant Coral
Gaming Inspirations V: Interview with Joe Zieja

A huge thanks to chitobein for letting me post this badass picture! You can check out more of their stuff at chitobein.deviantart.com!

Hello, friends, and welcome to the fourth 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 we’re going to talk about the Princess of Alexandria herself, Garnet til Alexandros XVII.

CHARACTER SUMMARY

Here’s the breakdown: Garnet is a classic “damsel in distress” character… for about the first ten minutes.  She’s beautiful, sad, and there are evil thieves trying to kidnap her.  But, when the thieves come to whisk her away… She asks to be kidnapped?

Wut?

Throughout her adventures and experiences in Final Fantasy IX, she grows from a nerdy member of the royalty who doesn’t know how to interact with common folk to a compassionate, fearless leader of her kingdom.

QUALITIES

Book-Smart

In the game, Garnet has a personal tutor who is known as one of the smartest people in the kingdom (correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe he’s the only person to have the title of “Doctor” in the entire game).

He also has a top hat. And glasses. What a nerd.

Under his tutelage (combined with her love of learning), Garnet becomes… pretty damn smart.  At one point, she mentions how she’s read all of Lord Avon’s plays, which seems like a pretty impressive accomplishment for someone to do before they turn 16.

Street-Stupid

Sure, she was raised in a castle and is a super-smart beautiful princess-lady, but you learn pretty darn quick that her royal mannerisms and demeanor are… kind of hard to hide: for example… well, just watch literally any FFIX Let’s Play when the party is in Dali for the first time.  It’s an express train to Cringeville.

Being sheltered her entire life, she never learned how to interact with the common folk, much less blend in with them.  This is a huge challenge in the first disc, though she gets better with time.

HOW TO INCORPORATE THESE QUALITIES INTO YOUR LIFE

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from the smartypants…es(?) in my life, it’s that their smartypants…iness didn’t happen overnight, nor did it happen without a good amount of work.

There are two things in the smartypants toolbox, however, that I’ve found make the process a whole lot easier: notes and patience.

Out of everything I’ve learned throughout these posts, one of the biggest has been the importance of note-taking.  I’ve been budgeting my money (because damn, student loans are expensive and I need to plan for them) using an app, You Need A Budget, for about a year now, so I’ve had some experience with “note taking”, in a sense, but now I’m starting to apply it to another part of my life: my diet.  Before I started counting calories, I’d say to myself, “oh, well, you had that venti Pumpkin Spice Latte, so now you can’t eat breakfast.  Or lunch.  Or dinner.  Or anything for the next week”.

Eventually, I’d get sick of this whole not-eating thing, eat an entire goddamn pizza to my face, and be right back where I was.  I used to think there was something magical about the 209-pound mark that I simply couldn’t pass; I’d struggle to get there, and as soon as I did, I’d slingshot myself back 10 or 15 pounds with a few “cheat nights”.  Now, I’m taking notes: I know what my “budget” of calories is for the day, and it helps me to better inform my decision-making and pace myself when eating throughout the day.  It’s working: when I started the Gaming Inspirations posts, I weighed 218.8 pounds.  This morning, I weighed myself, and I’m 208.1.  Not bad, man.  Even rudimentary calorie-counting has taken me from floundering in the darkness of “hurr durr I can’t lose weight” to slow, steady progress towards my goal weight.  Garnet didn’t just fall into Doctor Tot’s lap a damn book-learned genius: she had to take notes, study those notes, and adjust future actions based on what she learned.

The second thing that Garnet taught me, patience, is a lot harder.  Anyone can take two seconds to write shit down (not to shit-talk note-taking; it’s an integral part of the self-improvement process), but patience is much more of a practiced skill.  A skill that I’m pretty bad at.  But hey, I’m not gonna get better without practice, so practice I shall.

Garnet, when she had to go incognito as Dagger to avoid recognition, sucked at being a “normal Alexandrian”.  She didn’t speak the way they did.  She didn’t act the way they did.  But when Zidane said “hey, Dagger, you probably oughta stop acting so weird and naive and princess-y for a sec”, she listened.  It’s hard as hell to change behavior, no matter who you are, and she underwent a drastic change to achieve her goal of not getting caught.  Sometimes, changes can make you feel… strange.  Uncomfortable.  Not like yourself.  I feel this way a lot when I’m trying to implement the changes I write about in these posts.  Am I someone who counts calories?  Am I someone who stays positive, who speaks up in a group, who is unafraid to try new things?

I’m not yet.  But I’m trying to be.

This is how Dagger, raised in a castle removed from the society she was to rule, learned her compassion for the common folk.  She may have known about the life of the commoner before she ran away, but being forced to live as one, as awkward a transition as it was, gave her a perspective she never would have had as secluded royalty.

I used to let the fear of failure deter me, but now, I know that I’m going to fail, and I’m okay with it.  The only reason Garnet succeeded in escaping from Alexandria Castle is because she was patient and strove to understand those different from herself.  When she failed, she noted it, she learned from it, and it helped her be better in the future.  Change isn’t instant; it’s a slow grind to get from where you are to where you want to be, but you’re not going to get anywhere if you’re not willing to change, to get a little uncomfortable, to fail once in a while.  Princess Garnet helped show me that it’s worth it to work hard, be patient, and strive for what you really want.

Wow, we’re halfway through, guys!  Sunday’s post will be a recap of where we’ve been, and what’s coming down the pike 🙂

FFIX: Worlds Apart Review, Disc 4

Hello, and welcome to my review/listening guide of the fourth and final 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 “Dagger 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!

Inritus Bellum (The War to Nothingness) [Guardians]
Mikeaudio

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Okay, Trent Reznor, when did you sneak into this album?

In a word: epic.

In three words: epic as fuck.

In… more words: A perfect remix of “Guardians”.  Great build, great sense of… urgency, I guess?  I dunno.  It’s just super badass.

Ghosts (Terra)
LuIzA, Level 99

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I really wish I could rate this remix higher – I really like the music, and I think that the lyricism is some of the best on the album (far better than “Memories of Dali”, for example)… but… I didn’t like the singers.  Kind of a dealbreaker.  If I had enjoyed the voices themselves more, then this song would be a four, at the very least.

Ground Zero (Bran Bal, the Soulless Village)
halc

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There was nothing about this remix that really blew me away.  It seemed relatively conservative, relatively uninspired.  There were no risks taken to really get this remix to “the next level”, as it were, but it was good nonetheless.  I quite enjoyed it.

The Fallen Savior (Pandemonium)
Darangen

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First off, badass name for a Pandemonium remix.  Really shows that the artist knew what was going on in the plot of the game at this point.  Definitely enjoyed how the melody was introduced by some super-badass guitar, and punctuated by a nice drumbeat.  Reminds me of how badass Zidane really is.

You and I (We’re Not Alone) [Not Alone]
Poolside feat. Amanda Appiarius

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You know, I really liked this song on its own.  I enjoyed the vocals (they’re probably the best on the album), it had a nice, driving beat, and the lyrics were… acceptable.

All this is rating the song itself, however.  As a remix, it falls flat on its face.

Okay, so: “You’re Not Alone” isn’t a romantic song.  It’s not, like, Dagger going “omg zidane ur zooooo hawt will u date me y/n?”.  It’s an inspirational-as-fuck song during which, at Zidane’s lowest point, his friends refuse to leave him.  He had helped them realize that they all had priceless life experiences, and that they all had something worth living (and, indeed, thriving) for, and now they finally return the favor.  It’s about saving the savior when he can no longer carry the weight of the world on his own.

This remix completely missed that, and that’s unacceptable.  The strength of the song alone brings it up to a 3.  As a remix of one of the marquee songs in FFIX, I’m very disappointed.

Viking Funeral for the Damned (Silver Dragon)
Knight of the Round, Adam Higgins

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“Silver Dragon” gets the metal mix it richly deserves here.  This isn’t something I’d personally listen to (I find double bass fucking obnoxious (because it is)), but for “Silver Dragon”?  I’ll allow it.  Damn good remix.  The opposite of the remix above, basically: the song isn’t close to my favorite, but it’s damn faithful.

Filtering Through the Memories (Memoria)
sephfire

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Oooooh, here we go.  A fantastic remix for the nostalgically, creepily spacey Memoria theme.  I’m a huge fan of this remix.  When I hear this, though, I know I’m approaching the end, which is an excitingly scary prospect…

Crystalline Tempest (Crystal World)
Archangel

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All right, I’m calling it, it’s official – Archangel is the MVP of this damn album.  He, katethegreat, and umlaut-man all absolutely killed it, but… man.  Archangel knew the tone he wanted to strike in every song, and executed them all to perfection.  Well done, yo.

Arxidopita (The Darkness of Eternity)
SnappleMan, finbeard, norg

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DUDE.  I LOVE how badass people have made Kuja’s themes in this album.  As I’ve said before, I think Kuja is criminally underrated, but this album sonically draws him up to be the badass he really is.  Like, if you’re not intimidated when you listen to this shit, you need to check your amygdala (or whatever the part of the brain that handles intimidation is.  I’m no surgeon, fuck off).  The breakdown in the middle is great – it takes us back to a better time in the game, a less-intense, less-“existence-is-on-the-line” time, as if the artist is trying to escape the reality of the battle themselves.

Zero World (The Final Battle)
Fishy feat. Ludiotic

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FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCKTHISSHITWASINCREDIBLE.  I love how the actual FFIX lines were uttered in the beginning and end; so epic.  I’ve always thought of Necron’s voice to be an… “anti-voice”, a sonic nothingness, greater than the deepest silence, cutting through the noise of the world around it… but I don’t blame the mixers for, y’know, not being able to do that.  That’s kinda tough.

FIVE.

EPIC.

DAGGERS.

Prelude to Fantasy (Prelude)
Archangel

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I mean, there’s honestly not much to say – here we are at the end of the album, and who’s here to punctuate it but our man, Archangel.

Do I even need to tell you that he earned a five?

This is another song, like “You’re Not Alone”, like “Melodies of Life”, that if you fuck it up, that’s some bad news.  Luckily, Archangel was on the job and up to the task, putting together the BEST “Prelude” mix I’ve ever heard.

It’s amazing.  It’s transcendent.  I wept in my office at work.  It was worth it.

Worlds Apart, OverClocked ReMix’s incredible FFIX album, five years in the making, doesn’t go out with a whimper.  It doesn’t go out with a bang.

It goes out… with a Prelude.  As it was always destined to.

Thanks for joining me through the greatest remix album ever to be released.

God, I fucking love Final Fantasy IX.

FFIX: Worlds Apart Review, Disc 3

Hello, and welcome to my review/listening guide of the third 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 “Steiner 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!

A Rose in the Storm (Roses of May)
Natalya Zarraga feat. Seth Tallman

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Man.  I don’t think I’ve ever heard a bad “Roses of May” remix (and trust me, I have sought out many).  This mix is no exception – methodical, cathartic, with a nice little breakdown in the middle.  Nice use of harp.  Fuckin’ love harp.

Dig This Fossil (Fossil Roo)
Mazedude

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Y’know, out of the entire OST, Fossil Roo is one of the few I’m relatively “meh” on (it’s still Uematsu, so it is still, by definition, perfect… but you know what I mean).  This remix is definitely an interesting take, but it doesn’t really have the “wow” factor, nor does it make me look at the original song in a new way.  Still good enough for three Steiners, though.

Rally-ho! (Conde Petit)
Moomba feat. Fishy

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Dude.  Fishy rules.  I don’t look at the artists before I write these, but color me unsurprised that he (along with Moomba) took this remix and kicked its ass.  I thought I was going to fall asleep in the beginning, but they came back strong with some grade-A remixing starting about a minute in.

Fixations (Before the Altar)
RiverSound

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LOVED IT.  Made me feel like I was at the (fake?) wedding in Conde Petit.  Great take on a song which, had they fucked it up, I would’ve been quite saddened indeed.  This one tugs at the nostalgic heartstrings.

Blakk Majik (Black Mage Village)
Brandon Strader, Jeff Ball

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Another song that, while well-executed, doesn’t seem to allow the true tone of the original song to shine through.

OH WAIT WUBUBUUWBUWUWUWUUBUBBIIES

+1 for dubby-wubbies.  They’re used to great effect, adding a layer of quirkiness that would have been lost had they gone with the more-aggressive guitar sound for the whole song.

+1 for having a Wicker Man reference.  WELP, I started this review at a 3, now it’s a 5.  Whoops.

I Am Gonna Stop Eventually (Unforgettable Sorrow)
Brandon Strader

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Utterly fantastic.  It really packs that “I just realized that I’m going to die one day” emotional punch.  Very sad, as it should be.

Plus, I’m a sucker for solo piano.  Sue me.

I’ll Always Be There (Eiko’s Theme)
Flexstyle

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Aside from the creepy whispers that sound more serial killer-y than like friendly reassurance, I thought this was a great remix.  Relatively light and bouncy, but with a tone of sadness, just like the character.  Flexstyle did a great job.  Highly recommended.

Iifa, the Super Tree of Death (Iifa, the Ancient Tree of Life)
ch4rl33

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You can tell that this one’s by ch4rl33 immediately – sounds just like Knight-wit.  And, if you remember my review of that remix, that’s not a bad thing.

ch4rl33 does a great job of keeping the foreboding of the Iifa Tree, while adding his own dubby-wubby, constantly-morphing flavor to the music.  Another ch4rl33 remix, another 5/5 on my board.

Assassimander (Amarant’s Theme)
ch4rl33

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OH NO, CH4RL33 GOT SOMETHING LESS THAN A FIVE!  GASP!

Don’t get me wrong – Assassimander.  In fact, the more I listen to it, the more it grows on me; hell, it might be a five in my book sometime soon.  I don’t think it carries the same glorious epicene that his previous two offerings provide, however.  It may look like I just give out fives willy-nilly, and sometimes I do, but I can be picky; I expect a lot from ch4rl33 now, and with that comes higher expectations.  Four out of five.

Four Score and Six-Eight (Tetra Master)
djpretzel

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Speaking of high expectations, I have them for djpretzel.  On a lesser album, perhaps I’d give this a four, but surrounded by the other stellar offerings, “Four Score and Six-Eight” musters no more than a three.  It’s definitely good; it’s definitely worth multiple listens; it’s not as good as many of the other songs on this album.

Miles and Miles Away (Esto Gaza)
XPRTNovice

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Man.  After my FFVI reviews, if you had told me that XPRTNovice wouldn’t get a 5/5 on this album, I would’ve said you were crazy.  But, hey, here we are.

This remix was quite close, actually – I looooooove smooth jazz, and this shit is smooth as a baby’s bottom wrapped in silk and dipped into a vat of liquid velvet.  Unfortunately, it didn’t have the “wow” factor; it never blew me away.  It worked great with the tone of Esto Gaza, but it’s squarely in the 4/5 range.

When Love Must Be Saved (Broken Spell, Healed Hearts)
Bluelighter

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It took a few minutes, but this remix came into its own… eventually.  Kinda.  Before the halfway point, this thing was headed straight for Onesville.  Honestly, I was just bored to tears.  It picks up a bit towards the end, however, and earns a bump in my rating.  Nothing special, but okay.

The Final Melody (Melodies of Life)
Jovette Rivera feat. ISAO

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There are a few things you need to know about me: one, I’ve been looking forward to this album for years; two, the FFIX OST is quite possibly my favorite musical piece of all time; three, if you fuck up a remix of Melodies of Life, there will be hell to pay.

Luckily, Jovette Rivera knocks it out of the park, yo.  5/5.  Listen.  Love.  Listen again.  Love more.  Repeat.

Through Sun-drenched Skies (Aboard the Hilda Garde)
Archangel

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Dude, Archangel is really fucking good.  The whimsy and glory of the original song is balanced and mirrored perfectly in this remix, while the artist definitely makes it their own.  That dude with all the umlauts in his name from Disc 1 may just have a competition in the MVP discussion for this album.

Bibliotheca ~ Dreamer in the Library (Daguerreo, the Hermit’s Library)
katethegreat19, Chaeley

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So remember that time (read: those many, many times) I called katethegreat19’s voice gorgeous?  Yeah, well, it is.  And it remains so throughout this song.  The music is perfect for Daguerreo, one of my personal favorite locations in the entire game.  A fuckin’ library city thing built into a mountain?  How fuckin’ cool is that?

Anyway, yeah, five.  A fantastic run of songs to end the third of four discs.

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.

Kuja: The Most Underrated Final Fantasy Villain of All Time

Let’s face it:  when you ask someone, “Who’s the most badass Final Fantasy villain of all time?”, you’ll probably get one of two answers:  Kefka or, far more likely, Sephiroth.  If the person you’re asking is from the Jurassic period, they may say something like Exdeath or Zemus, but most likely, even these geezers will be saying Sephiroth, as they rant about the better days of gaming, back when Pong and Missile Command ruled the arcades, when they listened to Pinball Wizard as they… You get the idea.

This is not a “hate-on-Sephiroth” post.  Far from it.  I love Sephiroth, and his badassery has shaken hardened gamers to the core since they first heard “One Winged Angel”.

Remember this?  Yeah you do.  Everyone else does, too.  Why?  CUZ IT'S FUCKING BADASS.
Remember this? Yeah you do. Everyone else does, too. Why? Cuz it’s fucking BADASS.

All I’m saying is that Kuja doesn’t get enough credit, and I’m going to outline the reasons why I think that, even if Kuja isn’t the most badass FF villain, he’s definitely the most underratedly-badass FF villain.

Reason #1:  He Finishes Off the First Big Baddie that was Ever In the Series

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(If you want an explanation for the above image, follow this link and check out a really cool site about localization of video games.)

Garland, if you remember, was the first boss that was encountered in Final Fantasy I.  (There are spoilers starting in the next sentence, so if you really don’t want to see spoilers, I’d skip ahead.  I’d also get going on playing FFI – it’s well over 20 years old at this point.  C’mon.)  You defeat him, but he manages to become immortal by creating a crazy time loop and becoming the god, Chaos.  In Final Fantasy IX, he even references the events of the first game in the series, saying that he tried to assimilate Terra into Gaia by force five thousand years before, but he failed.

Pretty badass, right?

Kuja didn’t seem to think so as he KICKED HIM OFF A PLATFORM TO THE NOTHINGNESS BELOW.

Kuja_kills_garland
#NoFucksGiven

Granted, Garland had just finished fighting the heroes of the story, so Kuja didn’t exactly kill him in one-on-one combat.  Still pretty cool, though.

Reason #2:  He’s the only Final Fantasy Villain to Successfully Annihilate a Planet (In the Scope of the Game, at least)

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He… Doesn’t look happy.

Garland tried to take over the world and failed.  Kefka gained powers of a god and shifted the World of Balance into the World of Ruin.  Jenova, well, Jenova goes around annihilating planets like it’s her job, but you never see it happen in-game.

Kuja gets pissed off and decides to blow a planet up, and within minutes, it’s gone.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DxgYPMN5gJ8]

Pretty intense.

Reason #3:  Let’s not Forget, He was this close to Destroying the Entire Fucking Universe (And You Could Even Argue that He Succeeds)

Not impressed yet?  Check this out:

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See that cool-lookin’ crystal in the center of all that craziness?  Yeah, that’s the Origin.  You walk through Memoria, get to the Edge of Space, cross the Bridge to the Origin, and it leads…  here.  The first Memory.  The Source of all life.  The memories of every living being in the universe, when they die, return here.

Kuja uses Ultima, the most powerful black magic in the world, and blows it up, along with the entire party (I’m not sure if it’s officially true, but I’ve got a theory that the party dies after the Trance Kuja fight, which causes a lot of metaphysical craziness for the rest of the game;  I’ll probably write a post about it at some point.  Very interesting how they handled that part).

I hear a lot of complaints, saying that Kuja’s super emo with his whole “if I can’t live, neither can anyone else” spiel.  I agree with this.  You gotta admit, however, that if someone’s powerful enough to almost turn that statement into a reality…  That’s pretty badass, regardless of intention.

Reason #4:  Anyone Who’s Able to Fool People into Thinking that He’s a Woman for Discs at a Time Deserves a Medal

Yo girl, how you doin' tonight?  Lemme buy you a-   wait, what
Seriously, though.  My girlfriend just played through the game, and she saw Kuja referred to as “he”… in Disc 3.  She had no idea.

Another complaint I hear about Kuja is his effeminate, unthreatening appearance.  While he certainly doesn’t have the giant-sword, brooding badassery of Sephiroth or the maniacal, creep-inducing psychosis of Kefka, I think that this complaint is more a cultural difference than an absence of a threatening appearance;  it just didn’t translate very well into American audiences.

Y’see, there’s this cultural thing in Japan called bishōnen – it’s a cultural aesthetic that “provide[s] a non-traditional outlet for gender relations… it breaks down stereotypes surrounding feminine male characters. These are often depicted with very strong martial arts abilities, sports talent, high intelligence, or… flair”.  Wikipedia goes on to add that these bishōnen are normally androgynous in appearance.

Sound like someone you know?

He may not have (apparent) martial arts abilities, but Kuja is an extremely powerful mage, intelligent enough to manipulate a queen into war with peaceful neighboring countries, and flair for days.

Check, check, and check.

While he may not be the normal American flavor of badass, his appearance and his mannerisms shouldn’t take away from the fact that he is, indeed, a pretty scary dude to his enemies.

I love Kuja, man.  Such a baller.  Great villain.  Great badass.  Hope this post illuminated some things for you.  Feel free to argue with me!  Thanks for reading.