#22: My Endlessly Flowing Thoughts on Voice Acting, OCD, and More

I think I should try my hand at writing a video game walkthrough.

Not because I’m a particularly talented gamer, though it’s always been one of my foremost interests, but because I already write in my head when I’m playing anyway. And not just random quirky thoughts, I write full-on essays mentally as I’m running around the streets of a town, listening to some bad voice acting, analyzing a character, or trying to solve a befuddling puzzle. I’m very analytical that way, and I usually find most of the stuff I say in my mind pretty entertaining. Perhaps rather than a walkthrough, I should just do step-by-step commentary of a video game.

For instance, today I’ve been playing Final Fantasy XII. Because I have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, or perhaps because I’m just such a clean freak (and the two are not far from being the same thing), I like to absorb every inch of storyline, and Final Fantasy XII has a pretty complex storyline. Well, not so much complex as that there are a lot of strange words and names, and if you can’t decipher who is who, living where, and using what sort of mystic weapon, you will find yourself wandering, confused, through an otherwise easily comprehensible landscape of gameplay, imagery, and storyline.

As I mentioned, I’m a clean freak, and if I skip a scene or don’t read some dialogue from the characters, I’ll not only feel immediately that I missed something, but I won’t be able to continue playing the game because I’ll feel that I’ve lost a whole piece of gameplay that would otherwise have made my experience full and complete. This is probably the reason why, every time I sit down to play Final Fantasy XII, I start the game over from scratch. I can probably quote the opening scene to you from memory at this point.

Year 704, Old Valendian. Kingdom of Dalmasca – The Royal City of Rabanastre. “In the name of the Father, and in the presence of these holy relics, I hereby pronounce you man and wife. May the blessings of the gods light your path for all eternity. Fharam.” … “If, following this, Archadia should launch an attack from both land and air, Dalmasca will stand little chance of -” “Nabudis has fallen!” “My father?” “I know not. I am sorry.” “If Nabudis has indeed fallen, (—————). Secure Nalbina with all haste.” “I will go.” “And I will go at his side.” … “Galtea stand watch over your life.” “That I be considered worthy… Hyaah!” … Nalbina Fortress, Dalmasca Nabradia Border. “(——-) We must retreat!” “The paling still stands! For my father! For my father!” … “Shield beyond sight, ne’er failing light…” … “Lord Rasler!” … “The blessings of the Great Father descend, and guide your body’s return to the Earth. Great Father guide your spirit’s return to the Mother of All.”

The death of Lord Rasler Heilos Nabradia was one of but many tragedies to befall the Kingdom of Dalmasca. (——)Dalmasca had been set adrift at the mercy of history’s restless tides. At that time, two kingdoms struggled for dominion over  Ivalice. Archadia in the North, Rozzaria, the west. Nabradia was Archadia’s first step in it’s westward march. Pretences of peace left by the wayside, it seemed clear the Empire would soon mete out a like fate to Dalmasca. A counterattack was mounted by the Knights of the Order of Dalmasca, ever brave and faithful, but against the martial might of the Archadian army, they stood little chance of victory. Indeed, their defeat was to be absolute. Soon thereafter, Archadia came forward, offering terms of peace, or, as one might rather put it, terms of Dalmasca’s surrender. It was, thus, only with reluctance that Lord Raminas, King of Dalmasca, and my dear friend, set out to Nalbina to affix his seal to the emporor’s treaty of piece. (——–) …for a terrible revelation awaited them. The treaty would be signed with steel, and writ in royal blood.

-Memoirs of Marquis Halim Ondor (–)
Chapter 12: Of the Fall of Kingdoms

See? That was all from memory, with only a few holes. But it proves my point about Final Fantasy XII: there are an abundance of names, both of people and places, provided immediately and given within the first 15 minutes of the game. In order to really follow the story, you have to pick up immediately on who everyone is, and that’s a lot of facts to remember for one opening scene!

There is another element of Final Fantasy XII’s plotline, or rather setting, that I’d like to address. I think I really like Ivaliace’s religion. It seems to be a combination of most religions, all into one. We have a Father, as in Christianity or any other religions that worship God, a Mother and a mention of the Earth, as in Paganism or any religions that worship the Earth itself, we have a mention of various gods, as worshipped in various ancient civilizations (Greek, Norse, Egyptian, etc.), and even a mention of holy relics, which could be a shoutout to most religions, since most contain some form of relic or another. If only in incorporated ancestor worhsip (which you could take Mother of All to be related to), it’d be perfect! Somehow, one unified religion, combining a Father, a Mother, the Earth, god, relics, and ancestors just seems like it would work better for today’s world, don’t you think?

But back to my Final Fantasy plot evalutation; the storyline varies greatly from installment to installment. Final Fantasy XII is set in Ivalice, the setting for not only other Final Fantasy games, but some games by Enix too. This appears to be the same Ivalice in which Final Fantasy Tactics was set, and Tactics was another game filled to the brim with names and places that were hard to remember, along with a storyline that barreled forward whether you were following or not, with little time for reflection on past events to catch the player up and keep them involved.

In Final Fantasy VII, the storyline was pretty clear-cut, but it was riddled with plotholes that were never quite filled, and it’s spinoffs didn’t really help to make the story and clearer, mostly it made the subplots less clear, or turned them into a cheap cartoon-like version of the original game’s story. In Final Fantasy VIII, the story began simple and then began to take drastic turn after drastic turn, until by the end of the game, I’m not sure even the characters themselves knew what they were doing. In Final Fantasy IX, the storyline actually built very well. It started small with a bit of mystery, and expanded upon intself very nicely. My only points of confusion were when the story began to involve the original home of the game’s villain.

Final Fantasy X was drastically different from most other titles, because the plot (along with the gameplay) were spoonfed to you like a toddler. I’ve heard the argument that Final Fantasy X is mostly walking in a straight line, and it’s true. In Final Fantasy X, you pretty much just remain on the path, and then when you reach the end of the path, travel to some new destinations only available by airship. The storyline wasn’t bad, but I think it’s a bit overrated, this game has probably gotten so much attention because it was the first to feature voice acting.

There’s another element to Final Fantasy that fluctuates: the voice acting. Most of it is far from terrific. I think the main reason for that is because, in Final Fantasy X for example, the characters facial expressions and mouth movements are tailored to their original Japanese dialogue. Obviously the dialogue, when translated into English, can’t have the exact same amount of syllables, and as a result, characters like Yuna often deliver their lines in awkward, rushed way (Throughout the game, Yuna says “Okay” in an infamously quick manner, to where it’s really more of a half-second long “Uh-keh.”), or in an unneccessarily slow manner, with huge pauses in the middle of sentences for no reason. Only characters like Auron, whose mouth isn’t always visible, have much hope of delivering their lines with some feeling.

Final Fantasy XII partly rectificed this problem, because most of the game is spent with the characters in what I call “sub-FMV mode,” or the way that their character models would be rendered in battle. Their faces in this mode are like blank prisms with a mouth and eyes drawn on, and some blinking action. In full motion video sequences, their faces and eyes are fully animated, and this is where the voice-acting faces the most trouble. In Final Fantasy X, the game was very sporadic as to exactly when a character would be in “sub-FMV mode” or somewhat fully animated (the best example of this is the string of beads around Lulu’s neck, or in fact, her breasts, which are shoved into the camera every other scene for no real reason other than to keep the less-interested of a mostly male audience involved in the scene. In some scenes, her beads are just painted onto her body, and her chest is just one huge obstrusion with cleavage drawn in, and in other scenes her beads are shining and sitting atop her skin, and her breasts are invididually animated).

Sometimes the voice acting is pretty bad, though. For instance, about a half-hour into Final Fantasy XII (which is still at the very beginning, before any random battling of the player’s own accord can take place), the main protagonist (arguably), Vaan, speaks to a guy named Tomaj. Tomaj is a very minor character, so much so that he really only interacts with the main character in one scene, and otherwise can be approached in the bar later, but his character does have a voiceover. In his animations, Tomaj way overgestures constantly, and while this wouldn’t necessarily be all that bad, his voice acting is so bad that combined with the animation, I pretty much cringe when I hear this guy speak. Tomaj has little hints at his dialect, like an “eh?” inserted at the end of a sentence, and the word “what” in place of the word “that,” but the voice actor speaks like a businessman, and because of that everything he says sounds cheesy, be it four lines in the game or not.

I’ve been playing Fire Emblem lately. I played it a lot on that beach trip I told you about in the last entry. You know who I never gave a chance? The dark mage character. Why? Well, because his attacks involve lots of glyphs and symbols and other such commonplace magical elements seen all the time in fantasy games, and when I started playing the first Fire Emblem (well, the first Game Boy Advance release in America) I was heavily into my super-Christian phase, and immediately sought to avoid the spawn of the devil. Having grown up a bit since then, I’m of course open-minded enough not to stop playing a video game just because there’s some symbolism in it, but I haven’t been able to completely shake off my fear of glyphs, and so until recently, I refused to use the dark mage character.

Glyphs, pentacles, and other such symbols are but one of many irrational fears I’ve had throughout my life. At one point, I was terribly afraid of the number 666, and as you can imagine, that was not very helpful during math class, because who knew you would run into that number so many times? On top of that, it wasn’t just the three sixes in that order that go to me, but I began to be afraid of the number 6 itself, and also anything else that could somehow communiate the number: a number divisible by 6 three times, etc. When I was a child I had a horrible fear of dinosaurs both from watching the film and playing the video game, Jurrasic Park. That one’s probably not too outlandish, but it is a fear I had when I was a kid.

Nowadays, my main fears seem to be of the mental kind: afraid to say something because it might come true, afraid to think about something I’m afraid of because I’m afraid I’m giving it the energy to happen, and then here’s the best one: inanimate objects. Now, I should make it clear that all of these fears are kind of subconcious, and while I’m aware of them, I don’t find myself paralyzed in the corner because of them, but I do, to some degree, and in certain situations, find myself at least cautious or wary of inanimate objects. Why? Well, here’s an example. If I want to get a new mp3 player, and I say, in front of my current one, that the one I have now sucks, I’m afraid that somehow, it’s going to try to exact revenge on me. Silly, I know, but this is the way my mind works. While being inventive has it’s perks, it also has it’s downsides, like irrational fears. Of course, that might also be contributed to the Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, which I among an elite few who claim to have the disorder can actually say I was diagnosed with. Sure, it was when I was a kid, but that doesn’t mean it never went away.

And while I’m prattling on about my own disfunctions, I might as well elaborate some more on the Obsessive Compuslive Disorder, because surely you have nothing better to do than listen to me talk about my problems. My compulsions change less and less as I get older, but it’s always seemed to move from one thing to the next. When I was a kid I used to compulsively crack my jaw, and then I moved on to closing one eye and opening the other and switching between the two. Then, I moved on to compulsively blinking both eyes rapidly. When I was about 13, I started compulsively saying or mouthing words, which I still have a problem with. I think the first phrase I constantly repeated was “One might have said,” as in, if I said something but was afraid saying it might make it come true, I would silently add “One might have said” to the end of the sentence, freeing me from all responsibility, and thus allowing me to move on without bringing something about verbally. It’s completely silly, I know, but I never claimed any of this was rational. It’s called a disorder for a reason.

Then, the words began to turn into pieces of words, in that I started sounding them out. I don’t know why I did this, but I added the word “or” to the beginning of the phrase and would pronounce it as “Ah. hrr. One. Might. Have. Said.” Oh yes, I also pronounced it with an accent. I guess because of the “Ah. hrr.” part.

This has turned from a simple blog post in which my intentions were to briefly rant about Final Fantasy Twelve and post some pictures of me with my new glasses and my two new volumes of Inuyasha, into a detailed glimpse into my strange and inexplicably weird mental world. I apologize. I think it’s time to make this post private and do something poiniant with my next one, so as not to bore everyone to tears.

What have we learned today, Jesse? Well-structured sentences and witty paragraphs do not make pointless rambling very much more entertaining for the unsuspecting reader.

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