The Best Songs I Discovered This Year

Before we begin, here’s a random picture of Jeremy Sumpter playing Peter Pan in 2003. To this day 
I’ve never seen this live-action film version of the story, but when I first saw him on the movie cover,
my twelve-year-old heart went pitter patter.

Doing year end wrap-up style blogs is fun, but honestly, if I were to do a blog post about “the top songs of 2015,” I’d be pretty sorely disappointed, but frankly, the last few years haven’t been great years for music, particularly popular music. But then again, that’s just my opinion, and it doesn’t even matter anyway because this post is about my favorite songs that I DISCOVERED this year. So songs in this list are not necessarily new (in fact I don’t think a single song in this list is from this year), but they are songs that I discovered this year and spent a lot of time listening to. Frankly, this list was a lot longer because it was originally “the songs I listened to the most this year,” but I decided it was more fun to go with songs I discovered this year. That’s the rule that I mostly stick to, though some of them are songs I discovered before this year but listened to obsessively this year.

Also this rambling introductory paragraph is a good excuse why you shouldn’t listen to really fast Ben Folds music rambling into your ears because it makes it damn difficult to concentrate. One final thing I want to mention is that unlike most of my other fun little lists, these aren’t in any particular order.

Say Something
A Great Big World

I first heard this song around Christmas 2013 when it became a big hit, and the lyrics really hit me like a brick. 2015 has been a year which, for me, has been primarily defined by crushing depression, loneliness, fear, and a desperate struggle to get over a relationship that lasted three years and ended just before Christmas of 2014. My relationship was strained from the beginning, but when I first heard the words, “Say something I’m giving up on you,” it so perfectly described how I felt in my relationship that seemed completely stuck and moving nowhere. In the silence between us was a sadness and a void, and though I wasn’t ready to say it out loud yet, this song said it for me.

I spent considerable time this year curled up in bed crying and listening to this song, much like I did with Kesha’s “The Harold Song” back when I experienced another traumatic breakup a few years ago. I also want to mention that I usually listen to the original version of the song, though I enjoy the version with Christina Aguilera as well (in fact I was shocked to learn that the girl in the song was Christina because she doesn’t over-sing like usual, and manages to be soft and heartfelt; well done Christina).

Bigger On The Inside
Amanda Palmer

Oh god I think my heart is breaking already. I read Amanda’s book The Art of Asking earlier this year, and by read I mean I listened to the audiobook, and it was nice to hear Amanda’s voice telling the story. Not only that, but the audiobook actually featured ten songs from throughout her career, including the original version of Bigger On The Inside, which was talked about near the end of the book and played before the final chapter of the audiobook. The version of the song featured in the audiobook is simply Amanda, vocal and ukulele, and this song is about trying to deal with her best friend and mentor dying of cancer, as well as the communal heartbreak we all feel all the time; she even references a fan who sent her a letter about being raped, who said that they were scared and wanted to know how to keep fighting. You pretty much can’t listen to this song without your heart completely breaking. It’s gorgeous. When I first heard it I was driving with tears in my eyes.

Love Me Or Leave Me
Kerli

Okay, so I’m suddenly noticing that the majority of the songs I’ve listened to this year are sad, but hey, it’s been an upsetting year. This one I haven’t listened to nearly as much as the others, but I got into a relationship this year that unfortunately only lasted a few months, but early on, he showed me this song, and I loved it both because it reminded me of being with him and because it’s so beautiful. I first heard it while watching Kerli’s performance of various songs from Utopia in Estonia.

Nothing Really Matters
Madonna

I had a BIG Madonna phase this year. There were a few months where I listened to just about nothing but Madonna. I could have chosen quite a few songs here (Angel, Ray of Light, Falling Free, Easy Ride, Erotica, Deeper and Deeper, Vogue, Survival, Runaway Lover, Secret Garden, Human Nature, Music Inferno…. the list goes on and on), but ironically I chose the one Madonna song I discovered AFTER my two-month Madonna binge was completed. I was trying to show off Madonna’s flexibility and the huge amount of ground she’s covered in career to a boyfriend (mentioned earlier) and I remember that the Nothing Really Matters video had seemed kind of cool and creepy, and I found that I accidentally really loved both the video and the song, so I spent a while binge-listening.

Spinning Around
Kylie Minogue

I accidentally found this song a while back when listening to Kylie’s Aphrodite tour, because it was done right after Get Outta My Way, and I can see why because the songs have very similar choruses, so earlier this year I went through a short Kylie phase, and I started exploring some of her older music, and discovered that I really like Spinning Around. I listened to the live version from the Aphrodite tour, and found myself insatiably hungry for the studio version, and once I heard it I pretty much didn’t listen to much else for days on end.

Swallow
Emilie Autumn

I was only vaguely aware of Emilie Autumn before this year, and Fight Like A Girl is actually the only song of hers that I’d ever heard, but only once, when a friend shared the music video upon it’s release. My short-term boyfriend from earlier this year is a huge Emilie Autumn fan, and successfully converted me over to Emilie’s team by showing me her music, her poetry, her writing, and her story of mental illness and her struggle with it. I was very impressed with Emilie upon listening to her Opheliac Companion (which was about eight hours plus), where she talks about how she’s dealt with mental illness, rape, abuse, and expresses her creativity. It was very inspiring. Though Fight Like A Girl remains one of my favorite Emilie songs (it’s a freaking earworm, and it’s a fantastic battle anthem), the song that really one me over was Swallow, which is a six-minute long journey through something that might be underwater and might be floating through the air, and describes the struggle of taking antidepressants and accepting all that comes along with it, because it’s the only way to survive when you’re about to drown.

By the way, I had a very difficult time choosing one Emilie Autumn song because there have been three that I’ve listened to absolutely obsessively: Swallow, Fight Like A Girl, and Opheliac. I highly recommend all three of these, especially Opheliac since I didn’t talk much about it here.

Tusk
Fleetwood Mac

I went through a Fleetwood Mac / Stevie Nicks phase earlier in the year, also influenced by the aforementioned short-term boyfriend, whose favorite music is Stevie. I discovered a lot of songs I didn’t know, or songs I’d heard before but hadn’t given much time to, but I’d absolutely never heard Tusk before and I was shocked that I hadn’t, because it’s such a great uptempo rock song, with something of the feeling of dancing around a campfire mixed with marching band brass. I was pretty surprised that I’d never actually listened to a song that is apparently one of Fleetwood Mac’s hits, but then, they have so many hits that it’s difficult to know when you’ve heard them all.

Lost
Amanda Palmer & The Grand Theft Orchestra

I’ve had Amanda’s album Theatre Is Evil for a while, and even binge-listened to a few of the songs in the past few years, but I had never actually listened to Lost until I heard it on the audiobook of The Art of Asking. Funnily enough I actually didn’t finish listening to it when I heard it on the audiobook, but I came back to it later and found that it reduced me to a blubbering mess in the midst of all my heartbreak. “No one’s ever lost forever, they are caught inside your heart, if you garden them and water them they make you what you are.” I found myself driving down the road in the middle of the night and crying loudly just listening to this song on repeat (along with Want It Back, another song that’s happy, but heartbreaking).

Rather Be
Clean Bandit

I fell in love with this song the moment I first heard it on the radio back in 2014. Clean Bandit is one of those bands like Freemasons that just gets House music right, and I have a real love for House music. I can’t tell you why exactly, I just love how it seems to have this kind of depth, if that makes sense, and I’m talking about the way it sounds, it sounds deep. Like, physically deep. I know, describing music is something that doesn’t really make sense but there you have it. Anyhow, earlier this year I found myself listening to Rather Be on an infinite loop, and screaming with joy when I heard it. It’s one of the happiest songs I’ve ever heard, and it’s difficult to wear this one out (though I’ve moved on to some other Clean Bandit songs now, I recommend Stronger).

I Just Wanna Dance
Alison Jiear

Now, this song has apparently been kind of a gay party anthem for a few years, thanks to a dance remix, but even though I really enjoy the dance remix, it’s the original version of the song from Jerry Springer: The Opera that I adore. It’s funny, because Jerry Springer: The Opera is as silly and tongue-in-cheek as it sounds, but this song manages to be so incredibly expressive and beautiful, and what begins as the story of a white-trash poledancer turns into a gorgeous song about longing, the desire to cast aside all worry and a deep need to experience life. I found myself crying to this song more than once, and it was my go-to song right after my breakup.


Bernadette
IAMX

This one is a recent find. I’ve known about IAMX for a while, and always enjoyed the song Spit It Out (particularly it’s re-released single version and Imogen Heap’s remix), but I hadn’t really listened to his music in a while, because even though I liked a few of Chris Corner’s songs, and bought Kingdom of Welcome Addiction, nothing really stuck with me much. Earlier this year I decided to watch How To Get Away With Murder, and I was amazed at how great of a show it was, and at the end of the first episode I could hear a song called I Come With Knives, and though I’d never heard the song I immediately recognized Chris’ voice, and it turns out that IAMX is featured in almost every episode of the show, which adds an incredible depth to both the show and the music, because I find certain IAMX songs a lot more meaningful, having memories of the show attached to them.

Bernadette, however, is not featured in How To Get Away With Murder, and I think I must have found it just by seeing it in a related links bar on Youtube while watching other IAMX songs, and the moment I heard it I was addicted. Interestingly, I’ve gotten my little sister addicted to the song too. It’s this carnival cabaret song with toy pianos and strings and a theremin, and falls somewhere between Pink Floyd’s The Trial and some kind of creepy carnival dance. It’s entrancing.

~

There were a lot more than eleven, but I decided to narrow the list a bit. I didn’t include any of Ben Folds’ music, because I went through a phase earlier this year listening to his album Way To Normal, and also had a huge Dresden Dolls bender as well, but these are pretty much the big highlights of the songs that kept me company this year.

And now, here’s another sexy picture of Dylan O’Brien. I may need to make this a regular feature of blog posts.

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You Can’t Steal My Soul!

Dissidia 012 Q&A

I have now invested almost 60 hours into Dissidia Duodecim Final Fantasy, otherwise known as the sequel to Dissidia Final Fantasy, Square Enix’s RPG-style fighting game involving the entire cast of main heroes and villains from the Final Fantasy series. I found a blog where someone did a thirty-day Dissidia 012 survey they created themselves, and while I really don’t think I have the patience to give complete answers to all thirty questions, nor you the patience to read them all, I will answer some of my favorite questions.

Characters

Question 1: Preferred Faction?

So, in Dissidia, you have two sides to the war: warriors of light, fighting for the Goddess Cosmos, and warriors of discord, fighting for the god Chaos. In the original Dissidia, there was a split down the middle between good and bad guys, with the two secret characters Shantoto and Gabranth being on the side of Cosmos and Chaos respectively, though both decided to flee from the battle and live in the void rather than fighting an endless war. It’s debatable to me whether Gabranth is really a villain anyway, even in Final Fantasy XII I never much considered him a bad guy, even if he DID kill the king, impersonate his brother and have him wrongfully imprisoned, directly bring about the downfall of Dalmasca due to his actions, murder his best friend Judge Drace, join the nation that destroyed his homeland and become the king’s lapdog, fight the good guys twice and stab Reks through the heart… well still, it seemed like his heart was in the right place.

At any rate, in Dissidia 012 there’s a sort of mini-faction within the warriors of Cosmos: the new characters, led by Lightning, who are seeking to find a way to destroy the manikins. And in the new game some of the roles are reversed, since this takes place before the thirteenth cycle of conflict seen in the original: Jecht is fighting for Cosmos, and Tidus, Cloud and Terra are all warriors of Chaos, though they all clearly don’t have their heart in it.

One thing that Dissidia 012 does do a great job of, though, is making the villains LIKABLE, which the first game did not. They were all pretty clear-cut evildoers who wanted to destroy the world, and while some of them still remain so (lookin’ at you Exdeath, ya bastard), most of the villains were given proper backstories and many are shown to want to end the war as much as the warriors of Cosmos. Kuja chooses to abstain from fighting and befriends Cloud, and even helps Zidane before being caught in the act by the warriors of Chaos. Golbez, even more so than in the first game, is constantly sneaking behind Chaos’ back and helping the good guys, even going so far as to come to Cosmos upon her awakening and inform her about the outcome of the previous cycle, complimenting her resolve. Golbez more than any of the other warriors of Chaos really shows that he isn’t a villain, just an emmisary of darkness who can’t quite reconcile himself to living in the light. Some characters like Jecht never really seemed evil at all and are even less so in this game, Jecht himself stating that he doesn’t care about the war, he just wants to end it so that the warriors of Cosmos (including his son) can go back to their homeworlds. Even Cloud of Darkness, a literal embodiment of dark energy that doesn’t even really have a personality or consciousness, helps the warriors of Cosmos by telling Laguna how to stop the manikins.

So as it goes, it’s difficult to choose a faction, since Cosmos herself doesn’t really seem to care too much about ruining the lives of her warriors, and does little but sit around looking sad most of the time, and Chaos is just an asshole. As it were, if I could count the outliers who choose to run away from the war as a faction (Gabranth and Shantotto), I would, but I suppose I’ll side with Cosmos… for now.

This is totally not the shot from Final Fantasy XIII where Lightning holds a floating dandelion spark thing on Pulse. Really, it's not.

This is totally not the shot from Final Fantasy XIII where Lightning holds a floating dandelion spark thing on Pulse. Really, it’s not.

Question 2: Favorite Characters/Least Favorite Characters?

There are quite a few likable characters and some personal favorites from the Final Fantasy series that show up in this game. For Dissidia 012, I’m so glad they chose Tifa Lockhart to add to the fray from the cast of Final Fantasy VII, as she’s perfect for a fighting game and has appeared in one already. As such, she is my first pick. Tifa’s personality is great, she’s as cheerful and determined as she was in her original game, and is one of the very few good guys to fight up close or to not use a sword. I really, REALLY wish her DLC outfit, “Enforcer,” was available in the US, but unfortunately you had to pre-order the game to get it, and that I know of there’s no other way of getting it. It’s based on her Amano artwork and looks totally awesome.

Then of course there’s Lightning. Final Fantasy XIII is still an interesting and divisive experience for most Final Fantasy players, but of all the characters in the game, Lightning really shines as a genuine hero. She was supposedly designed to be like a “female Cloud,” but she’s really nothing like him, and I’m pretty thankful for that. Apparently Cloud’s personality outside of his original game has been a sniffling emo kid who just whines about how useless he is, and Lightning is exactly the opposite of that. She’s extremely determined and never waits to take action. Whenever she doesn’t have an answer, she kicks some ass until she finds one. She is the perfect leading character and I’m not surprised to see her take on a similar role in this game to the one she held in her original Final Fantasy title: defying her fate and seeking to stop an endless cycle of misery, to save herself and her friends.

Onion Knight

Next, there’s my little pal, the Onion Knight. The first time I played Dissidia, I thought he was okay but didn’t pay him much thought after I’d completed his story. After playing the sequel however, I’ve discovered just how powerful he is. A lot of his attacks are either long range magic shots or a close-up barrage of small, weak swordswipes, but as he grows, every single one of his attacks gains extra abilities, and they can all be turned into easy damage dealers that are extremely difficult to dodge and make him one of the quickest characters in the game to plow through tough enemies and get out of nasty situations with. As a character, he’s a charming little kid who is a little bit full of himself, but is extremely intelligent and brave. In the twelfth cycle he is treated like a little brother by Vaan, which he doesn’t entirely like but I suspect gives him some amount of comfort, and in the thirteenth cycle he makes himself Terra’s noble defender, promising to stay by her always, and continuing to journey with her after she turns on him under the control of Chaos’ forces.

There are some characters who I really like that I hardly ever play as, like Kuja, who is my favorite Final Fantasy villain. He’s just as arrogant, self-absorbed, and fabulous as he was in his original game, though as I’ve mentioned he displays a desire to end the war and to help the good guys every now and then, but though I like his character, he’s very difficult to play as. When the computer is controlling him, he kicks my ass with an endless barrage of magic attacks that sling an opponent around the stage, but when I play as Kuja I have a hard time getting a hit in edgewise and have difficulty trying to control his magic attacks. Another character I love is Shantotto, who I’d never seen before this game because I’ve never played Final Fantasy XI, but who is hilarious and speaks mostly in rhyme, laughing and taunting all of the other fighters from both sides about how inferior she is to them, but I find her difficult to play as, as the line between her bravery attacks and HP attacks seems to be very blurred. Gabranth was one of my favorite characters in the first game just because he represented Final Fantasy XII in some way, but in both games he’s annoying to play as, capable of delivering HP attacks only when he’s in Ex Mode, which means you will have to end every single battle with his Ex Burst, and it gets a little old to not have any real options of how to fight. He’s also extremely slow in his normal form and his bravery attacks in that form are pretty underwhelimg and uninteresting. I still love him though, hound of hell that he is.

In an interesting twist, I have always kind of disliked Warrior of Light for some reason, I don’t know if it was his outfit, the fact that he never really existed before this game, or his goody-two-shoes attitude of “Light will prevail!” but I just recently discovered that I kind of like him. I think his new alternate outfit that dresses him up in the classic warrior attire from the first Final Fantasy, complete with short red hair, made me warm up to him a little because he looked like less of a blameless hero. It turns out he’s actually extremely balanced and easy to play as, so he just may make it into my final party for Scenario 000.

Warrior of Light vs. Garland

As for my least favorite characters, there are a few. I dislike most of the classic Final Fantasy villains, as they’re pretty one-dimensional and boring. Garland is just an angry Chaos pawn who runs around wrecking people’s shit, the Emperor is a scheming bastard bent on ruling all of existance who is constantly stabbing his fellow back-stabbers in their already stabbed backs, Ultimecia is similar to the Emperor in that she’s mainly interested in usurping Chaos, and toying with the warriors while trying to kill them. Then there’s Exdeath, the single most one-dimensional villain ever. I don’t know if he has a single line that doesn’t include the words, “The Void.” Kefka is a maniac who you can tell the designers really wanted to be funny but who just comes across as mostly crude and silly, but not exactly hilarious. There are some heroes I’m not crazy about either: Firion is a character I didn’t know of before Dissidia, and he left basically no lasting impression on me other than his love of wild roses, which I expect would make much more sense to me if I’d beaten Final Fantasy II, but beaten it I have not.

I also really, really dislike Kain. I have no idea why. He actually seems pretty cool: he’s a dragoon and it’s apparently mandatory for Final Fantasy fans to like dragoons so alright I really don’t have a problem with that, he has some cool attacks, he whips his helmet off to reveal his beautiful flowing Pantene Pro-V hair and painted Amano lips in his Ex Mode, and he’s even voiced by the guy who later voiced Cauius Ballad in Final Fantasy XIII-2 (which lead to some very strange moments for me watching him interact with lightning). However I really disliked him. He is going around betraying the warriors of light, knocking them out and carrying them away to some secret hiding place, and though his reasons are explained later on, he just remains kind of unlikable to me. I’m glad they made him an assist character during the final chapter of Main Scenario 012, because I really didn’t want to play with him very much in the first place.

So as it goes, I love me some Final Fantasy heroes, especially obnoxious little guys like Onion Knight and Shantotto, and free-spirited characters like Zidane and Bartz, but all in all if I really have to choose a favorite from amongst the entire cast, I think I’m going to go with Golbez. As I mentioned before, he’s constantly playing both sides to try and help his brother and the rest of the warriors escape from the cycle of war, and though he serves Chaos, he really doesn’t align himself with either side for most of the game. He never genuinely turns to Cosmos’ side, but without his help, the warriors of Cosmos might never have stood a chance in the first place. As for least favorite character, I almost handed the title over to the Emperor. I find him annoying. He looks pretty and all, and may be representing the shall we say not-so-heterosexual side of Final Fantasy villainy, but I just don’t like him. But then I remembered that Exdeath exists and had to hand the title over to him, because not only is he so one-dimensional he makes President Shinra look like a complicated and complex villain, but he’s annoying to fight, even more annoying to play as, and he literally walks so slow that good luck if you ever try to control him on the world map.

Pandemonium: Top Floor

Question 3: Favorite Stage/Least Favorite Stage?

There are a few new stages in this game, and while some of them do get old rather quickly (I’m so tired of playing in Order’s Sanctuary, it seems to be the default location for every friggin’ battle in this game), many of the old stages still retain their charm and the new stages add some variety and fun. The Lunar Subterrane stage from the first Dissidia is still one of my favorite’s because it’s so huge and has so much room to roam around in, not to mention all the fun breakable rocks. I like The Rift for similar reasons, with lots of space to roam around in and crazy jumps from platform to platform. Planet’s Core isn’t much to speak of on it’s own, but it’s Omega version is much more fun, with shit flying around everywhere. As for the new stages, I am happy to finally see Final Fantasy XII represented, with the Sky Fortress Bahamut stage, that I at first thought was the bridge of the Palamecia from Final Fantasy XIII. They even included a stage that is so literally closed in that it’s just one small train car that you can’t burst out of (as far I can tell anyway…). All in all though, I think my favorite stage is probably Final Fantasy XI’s Empyreal Paradox, and it’s just a simple, open area with a giant crystal in the center, and that’s pretty much it. It’s fun to throw people around in and doesn’t really have any gimmicks (lookin’ at you Ultimecia’s castle, with your frickin’ broken floors and your clock tower gears). Another favorite is Orphan’s Cradle, as it’s just so much fun to be in an enviroment from a super HD game on a handheld console with the graphical power of a PS2, it’s like Final Fantasy XIII got a reverse graphical makeover that I really enjoy, and looks like it belongs with the rest of the games instead of out in it’s own freaky Paradigm-shifting universe.

And speaking of that, my least favorite stages, there are a few. I’ve already mentioned Order’s Sanctuary, which is so vanilla that it isn’t great but isn’t terrible either, and Ultimecia’s Castle, where every move you make knocks you into a gear, a wall, or a banish trap (they’re on the ceiling for God sakes), so I won’t bring those up anymore, but there are some others. Pandemonium is pretty, but very difficult to fight in, and the spikes on the floor in the Omega version make it even more difficult. Dream’s End is a cool place to be just because of it’s significance in Final Fantasy X, but unfortunately I get stuck under the main platform a lot and have a hard time finding my way back out of the FIERY PIT OF DEATH below. Speaking of getting stuck under the stage, this happens quite a bit in stages with high or floating platforms, but I tend to have the most trouble in Kefka’s Tower. Now, I do appreciate the variation in these stages and I’m glad they’re not all flat planes, so I wouldn’t want them to be gone from the game, but they can tend to be a bit difficult to play in.

Tifa's Enforcer Costume

Question 4: Favorite Alternate Costume?

The one you see above, Tifa’s Enforcer outfit, which I cannot have and which makes me very angry because I cannot have it. It looks so much better than any of her other outfits, and I didn’t even have a PSP or a job when this game came out so how was I supposed to pre-order it? I’ve considering importing the European special edition which comes with a download code for this outfit, but I’m afraid it wouldn’t work in the US and also I do not have the money to be doing that. But still, I’d like to find some way to get this costume someday that doesn’t involve illegally downloading the file from the internet, which I totally have not thought about doing. Totally.

Dissidia 012 does introduce some pretty sweet new digs for the characters, including DLC costumes for a buck each for all of the heroes and some of the villains. Lightning’s second alternate outift, the conceptual Guardian Corps uniform, looks great on her and though it lacks her trademark flowing scarf, I prefer to play with her in this outfit the most. Onion Knight’s blue recolor of his initial outfit is fun because… well, because it’s blue, what more do I need to say about that? Longtime fans of Final Fantasy VIII are no doubt thrilled to finally be able to wear his SeeD uniform in battle, and I am one of them. Cloud’s Advent Children outfit looks great on him, and comes with his sword from the movie and a different Ex Mode as well. Laguna looks much better dressed up in his Galbadian soldier uniform in my opinion, and Gabranth even has an outfit in which we can clearly see his face! For the whole battle, too!

You also get to dress a couple characters up in their original outfits, rather than their Amano-inspired Dissida ones. Warrior of Light’s Classic Red costume, which I mentioned earlier, is very fun to play with, and Bartz actually gets to look like himself in this game with his new Freelancer outfit. I have both of those characters’ DLC costumes, the former is Warrior of Light with his helmet off as seen in the opening sequence of Dissidia 012, and the latter is Bartz in his dancer attire. Even though Kefka dresses like… well, a sociopathic clown murderer (meaning: murderer who is a clown, not one who murders clowns), I even like his new costume. Cloud, Squall and Sephiroth all have their Kingdom Hearts gear, but unfortunately only Sephiroth’s is available for download in the US. Seriously it’s been three years now, Square Enix, can we please have the rest of the DLC?

Apart from Tifa’s enforcer costume that I probably love so much because I covet it and yet cannot have it, I really love Ultimecia’s new outfit, called Edea’s Corpse. It’s not a reskin but a completely new character model that uses Ultimecia’s attacks, and it’s basically like having Edea as a character, which frankly I’ve already thought would be kind of a better idea than Ultimecia, even though I know Edea is not the real villain of Final Fantasy VIII.

*sighs dreamily*

*sighs dreamily*

I’m probably forgetting a few, because unlike in the last game where the designer mostly just recolored the characters’ main outfits, they actually put some thought into these new ones, and it makes playing as these characters a lot more fun. The only thing negative that I have to say about them is that they can’t be worn in story mode anymore, which I guess I understand for continuity reasons but still, I would like to have  the option. Screw continuity, this is a game about all the Final Fantasy heroes fighting the villains together! It’s basically a fanfiction wet dream with a world map and button mashing. Note that these are all good things, and are NOT critcisms, because dammit I do love fanservice, and not the bare-breasted kind. Oh yeah, that reminds me, I think I ought to mention Tidus’ warrior of Chaos outfit. It’s Tidus, in his torn up pants, with no shirt. I really cannot explain it any simpler, and as I’ve always thought Tidus was a sexy beast, I quite enjoy it. It is at least forty percent of the reason why I ever play as Tidus now.

Red Mage

Question 5: Characters You Wish Would Have Made It Into Dissida/Characters You Would Like To See In A Future Dissidia?

RAMZA. Motherfucking. BEOULVE. Seriously, Final Fantasy Tactics got no representation in either Dissidia game, and even though I get that they’re drafting characters from the main series, he really should have been included as a hidden character. He’s literally the most competent Final Fantasy hero in the entire series, he’s the only hero who doesn’t suffer some deep existential crisis, he gets shit done, saves all of Ivalice, and still manages to have personality depth and remain completely likable. And on that note, one of my friends suggested that Delita would have made an excellent warrior of Chaos, and with this I completely agree. Since all of the Final Fantasy characters’ storylines tend to revolve around the same themes that permeated their stories in their games of origin, I could completely see Delita working for both sides of the conflict in an effort to make himself king, or kidnapping Yuna or some such lovely nonsense. Agrias Oaks would have also been an excellent choice, as there are quite a few swordplayers but none that use holy sword abilities, even our sparkly heroic Warrior of Light.

As for characters from the main series, I was actually quite surprised that there were no nods to the Red Mage in any way. I figured Warrior of Light would have had a Red Mage costume or something, but nothing. Because he’s such a versatile character, he could equip various weapons the way Vaan does and use all sorts of spells. All of them, in fact, since he’s a Red Mage. I’m also pretty surprised that the reboot Final Fantasy III characters got no representation, other than being the names of a couple of Onion Knight’s alternate costumes. I get that he was already an established character, but there’s no reason that it couldn’t have been revealed in Duodecim that his name was really Luneth, or even Ingus.

Dissidia seems to have a problem with characters either being up-close sword weilders or long range magic users. Now to their credit, those are the already established characters that they have to work with, and they managed to make each character’s fighting style unique from the others’, but there could have been some more out-of-the-box characters included. Nanaki would have made an interesting addition, since he could be an up-close attacker and a fire magic user, although I imagine his grinding animation would be pretty hilarious. Similarly, Kihmari would have worked well since he has such a wide variety of Blue Magic abilities, or by the same token, Quina, even though I admit Quina would be ludicrously weird, but any of the token non-human characters would have sufficed.

"I feel pretty, and witty, and..."

“I feel pretty, and witty, and…”

A villain that I’m really surprised wasn’t included is Seymour, since he was really the villain of Final Fantasy X, and he would have been a perfect character. I could see himself allying with Kuja to try and manipulate the other warriors for his own ends, and having a cool Ex Mode that involves the Mortichorus or whatever the hell that thing that sucks his life out of him in Final Fantasy X is. I have a feeling I know why they didn’t include him and chose Jecht instead though, because as I mentioned they already had quite a few magic slingers and Jecht, though technically sword-wielding, is more of an up close beat-em-up character. Also from Final Fantasy X, Auron would have made a good addition because well, he’s just badass, and his Bushido abilities would be fun to play with.

Some more long range characters like Yuffie or Wakka with their throwing weapons would have been a cool addition, as Laguna and Ultimecia are really the only genuine long-ranged fighters, and speak of long ranged fighters, Sazh Kazroy would be a fanastic addition the crew and I would love for Balthier to make an appearance in a future Dissidia game if ever such a thing will come to be. Another character I’d love to see is Balthier’s ambiguous “partner” (make of that what you will, fellow gamers), Fran, who I just adore and who I would love to see included in more Final Fantasy media. And finally, from Final Fantasy XIII, the addition of a heavy magic user like Hope or Vanille (“I have to see this through!” *INSTANT DEATH*) would have been great, or if we could have just completely swapped Kain Highwind out for the much superior Oerba Yun Fang, that would be completely fine with me, thanks.

And there is one another character that I really, REALLY think should have been included from the beginning: the random battle monster. I know that this is a fighting game, but since you spend so much time wandering around the world map or fighting your way to GET TO the villains, it would have been nice to have some enemy-only monsters with simple movesets that were easy to beat, or some superbosses like Final Fantasy XIII’s incarnation of Adamantoise, or even the almighty Omega Weapon. It seems kind of silly to pepper story mode with crystalized copies of the enemy fighters, because this concept gets pretty old and boring pretty quickly, and throwing in fewer manikins and more classic Final Fantasy monsters as enemy-only fighters would have been a great addition to the game from the very beginning. Even just using five to ten of these simple monster designs and recoloring the stronger ones like they do in every other Final Fantasy game would be a huge step up from just fighting crystalized versions of your opponents, and since a Dissidia sequel would have to be something taking place outside the conflict of Cosmos of Chaos as we have come to know it, I think it’s a simple idea that could drastically improve a future Dissidia game.

Warrior of Light

And so, those are some of my thoughts about Dissidia 012. It’s a triumph of a game, with so much content and so much to explore. I’ve invested 60 hours and I haven’t even completed half of the total storyline, and there are still a ton of unlockables for me to achieve, not to mention every single character has a level that can reach 100, and every day you get a new message from the Mognet moogles and prizes in their letters. Add this to the museum of unlockable cutscenes, the exclusive weapons and (sometimes) armor available for each character, the giant list of Battlegen items and Accomplishments, and Dissidia 012 really makes for an extremely solid RPG fighting game, perhaps truly the first of it’s kind, with an interesting story that weaves together the Final Fantasy universes and gives longtime fans a chance to experience their favorite characters in a new way. Getting this game was certainly one of my decisions as a gamer, and I genuinely recommend it to any fan of the Final Fantasy series, and I think that newcomers to the series would enjoy it too.

A Final Fantasy Survey

(originally posted via Tumblr, 10/26/2012)

Lightning

    1. Introduce yourself.

Jesse. There you go.

    2. What makes you love the franchise?

In addition to the unparalleled storytelling, outstanding music, fantastic visuals and cinematic aspects, as well as the fact that the games give you an experience of another world rather than just making you feel like you’re playing a game, they’re fun. I have not found many other games that can rival the Final Fantasy franchise in terms of genuine fun gameplay.

Mako Reactor 1

    3. Tell us about your first Final Fantasy gaming experience. 

I came home from school when I was 7 years old, my cousin was playing a game on his new Playstation (for which he had traded his Nintendo 64, and I naturally was not happy and having lost the ability to play Super Mario 64), and I came in just as the opening cinematic of Final Fantasy VII began. I sat down to watch because the main character looked familiar (I assume I must have tied him to Super Saiyan Goku without having known who that was at the time), and the rest is history. I think it was the music that kept me hooked, and enchanted me like nothing has ever enchanted me since.

Zidane

    4. Tell us about your favorite game.

It’s hard to choose a favorite, because my centimental favorite will always be Final Fantasy VII, both for it’s outstanding score (it’s some of the most moving music I’ve ever heard and it’s in MIDI, for christ sake) and immersive world. However, I would really have to choose Final Fantasy IX as my overall favorite, both for it’s originality and the fact that I find it’s battle system to be one of the best the series has offered. I don’t particularly love VII’s materia system because there’s so much customization that characters are all carbon copies of each other. In Final Fantasy IX each character has their own strengths, and by choosing new party members you can have a unique gameplay experience every time you play.

Fran
    5. Who’s your absolute favourite character? 

This too is a hard one, because for a very long time I probably would have said Zell Dincht. I always liked him, I always kept him in my party to see what his reaction to things would be. Rikku is another longtime favorite, she stole the show in Final Fantasy X, I like peppy upbeat characters (with the notable exception of Selphie Tilmitt, who I have grown to feel neutral toward as oppose to outright hating). But the thing is, Final Fantasy is so beloved because of it’s incredible characters. Tifa Lockheart, Fran, Balthier, Lightning Farron, these characters are all emotionally involving and as a player and a person immersed in the Final Fantasy experience I really want the best for them. I want these characters to succeed, and to be happy, and that, I think, is what makes Final Fantasy so special.

Chummy bastard

Chummy bastard

    6. What character do you want to cast Ultima on repeatedly? 

Snow Villiers. I cannot stand him. Every word that comes out of his mouth makes me cringe. Every time Lightning punches him I feel a little flutter in my chest. Not only is his relationship with Serah vomit-worthy and unrealistic (seriously, there’s no development for them whatsoever, we’re just led to believe they’re in love and take it at that. They act like SUCH a couple in XIII-2, let me tell you. That, incidentally, was sarcasm), but his character design is pretty lazy. He looks EXACTLY like Seifer Almasy. He’s a combination of Seifer’s original design from Final Fantasy VIII and Seifer’s Kingdom Hearts incarnation, from the tan trench coat and beanie to the blonde hair and combat boots. I think it’s possible that Snow’s entire purpose is to provide a disparity between an idealistic hero whose all talk and emotions but no action (himself), and a genuine hero who fights all odds to save themselves and the people they love (Lightning).

Beatrix

    7. Favorite class.

Most people say Dragoon. I can see where they’re coming from, Dragoons have some of the highest strength, HP, and all-around stats in the series. Honestly though, I really like White Magic, and as such, I’m going to say Holy Knight, a la Beatrix. There’s something very comforting about the ability to whoop ass with a sword but still heal yourself, and besides the white knight concept just has a lot going for it aesthetically and practically.

 Carbuncle

    8. Favorite summon? 

I had to think about this one. It’s kind of a tie between a few of them, I always love when Leviathan shows up, because water is an element that just doesn’t get enough attention. Phoenix is another favorite, both because of it’s usefulness in battle and how visually appealing it is. Alexander is always great because Holy is a rare and fun element to play with. If I have to pick one though, I think I’m going to go with Carbuncle. He’s adorable, he’s helpful, and I always smile when I see him. He’s like a little Summon buddy.
  Final Fantasy Tactics

  9. What game has the best battle system? 

As I mentioned before, I think Final Fantasy IX has a fantastic setup. Granted, if the series had kept one battle system and never changed, I wouldn’t have enjoyed it, and I’m glad that they always innovate. Still, I love classes, and Final Fantasy IX does a great job of keeping characters within their classes. If you want to have White Magic, you need to use one of the White Mages (incidentally, I prefer to use Eiko), and if you want Black Magic you’ll need to use Vivi in your team. This does unfortunately mean that characters like Freya, Steiner, and Amarant have to be picked from because three of the party slots will be filled with Zidane, as well as a black and white mage. Still, the system of learning abilities from your weapons and armor, both battle abilities and passive abilities, is a lot of fun and gives you a reason to experiment with different equipment. Also, the ability to learn Beatrix’s abilities with Steiner is pretty exciting.

Final Fantasy IX is not the only game to have a superior battle system, though. Final Fantasy X does a great job of keeping characters within a certain class but still allowing you the freedom to customizes the characters in any way you like. The Sphere Grid was a fantastic battle system that effectively got rid of a level cap, since filling the entire grid would probably be impossible. But, if we’re going to talk about which game has the BEST system, I’m probably going to have to side with Final Fantasy Tactics. Every single aspect of battling is important, from the direction you’re facing to which spells and abilities you use, to how your zodiac sign aligns with other characters, and since you can use the abilities of an additional class, you can cross any two classes together.

By the way, it should be noted that my LEAST favorite battle system is Final Fantasy XIII’s, which was ambitious but ultimately fell flat. Top to bottom, from the unsatisfyingly narrow battle roles to the inability to do any damage without Staggering, to the constant need to put up buffs and debuff enemies, not to mention the useless potions, ridiculous status ailments that all basically do the same thing, and the linear Crystarium that was basically a base imitation of the sphere grid and offered no customization for characters, the setup was promising but ultimately didn’t accomplish anything it set out to do.
 Dissidia 012

   10. What game has the best plot, and what game has the best cast of characters?

I am somewhat partial to the Ivalice games for their depth, with political intrigue, betrayal, magical warfare, racial diversity, and mythology. Final Fantasy IX, however, had a great storyline as well as some extremely likable, quirky characters. Steiner was hilarious, Eiko and Vivi were lovable, Garnet was compelling, and Zidane was probably the best Final Fantasy hero. Final Fantasy X takes the cake for emotional intensity, the lake scene between Tidus and Yuna is downright romantic, the Al Bhed singing the hymn of the Fayth as they blow up their home is moving, and the excitement of crashing Seymour’s wedding to save Yuna, and her daring fall from the building tops to be saved by her Aeon are incredible. I think that the Fabula Nova Chrysallis series has the potential to become a pretty incredible storyline, and I have this idea that the events of Fabula Nova Chrysalis may become the origins of the Final Fantasy universe as we’ve known it up until now, what with the theme being “cocoons” and “transformation,” and the seen and unseen realms converging on one another to (theoretically), create the spirituality we’ve seen in Final Fantasy games before in which all life cycles through the planets of the universe, but we’ll see what they do with Lightning Returns.

 Cosmo Canyon

   11. If you could go into any FF world, which one would you choose? 

The choice is clear: Gaia from Final Fantasy VII. I’ve dreamed of seeing that world in person my entire life. Although Final Fantasy IX would be a very fun, adventurous world to live in.

   Serah

12. Which game do you like least?

Of the games I’ve played, I’m going to say Final Fantasy XIII-2. While not a terrible game, it started promisingly and ultimately felt very shallow to me, with the exception of the moments involving Lightning, which were few.

   Zell & Seifer

13. What’s your Final Fantasy OTP (One True Pairing)?

Zell and Seifer. I know it sounds crazy, but I totally see it, and I think it makes perfect sense. There’s so much sexual tension between the two of them, I think there are a lot of feelings lurking beneath that rivalry, and both of them could easily be gay. I don’t think this is an unlikely pairing, I think that given both of their characters, it could be entirely possible.
  Fireworks

  14. Tell us an unpopular opinion. 

Well, I’ve already praised both Zell and Rikku, both of whom get a lot of hate from fans as being too loud and annoying, but both of whom I greatly enjoy and always have a spot for in my party. I can think of a lot of things that might be controversial: Ultimecia is a horrible villain, Snow and Serah’s relationship is shallow, teenage, and stupid, Serah is ditzy and vapid, and Noel is underdeveloped and uninteresting. However, I think that a lot of people already feel similarly about these things, so I don’t know that they’re unpopular.

As such, I will just go with this one: Cloud is NOT an emo kid. The Compilation may have made him appear to be one, but rest assured, if you play Final Fantasy VII, you will find Cloud is a cocky (but lovable!) jackass. Even though he adopts Zack’s personality for the majority of the game, he’s still his normal “Let’s mosey!” self after he remembers who he is in the Lifestream. Similarly, Vincent was verbose, poetic, and somewhat dark in Final Fantasy VII, but also not as self-loathing and emo as he was made to be in Dirge of Cerberus.

Tifa's Piano

    15. Favorite soundtrack? Favorite vocal song? (Feel free to grace us with a demonstration if you so choose?) 

Final Fantasy VII without a doubt. I hope that one day (perhaps if Final Fantasy VII ever does get that hotly requested remake fans have been begging for since the arrival of the Playstation 2) there will be a fully orchestral version of the entire soundtrack, and that the songs will continue to see new arrangements and remixes from Square Enix. As for vocal songs, Kiss Me Goodbye by Angela Aki was beautiful.

 Moogles

   16. Which creature (e.g. chocobo) and/or monster (e.g. malboro) do you most want to be real? 

Kupo? I believe I’m going to go with Moogles, for sure. Both the cute fluffy kind (i.e. Mog), and the more sophisticated, wordly kind (i.e. Montblanc). I don’t think Viera count as creatures because they’re people, but if another race can be used as criteria, I am fascinated by the Viera and would love for them to be real.

Beatrix & Steiner

17. Overall favorite scene from any game?

I think that Final Fantasy’s most involving moments are during gameplay, for instance, the entire experience of busting Steiner and Marucs out of their cage, flying to Alexandria to prevent Garnet’s execution, rescuing her and battling Beatrix, fleeing down the spiral staircase with Garnet in your arms, playing as Beatrix betraying her queen for the good of the Princess and her country, and fleeing on the gargant is an extremely thrilling gaming experience. Those are Final Fantasy’s best moments, not the pre-rendered cutscenes. Following Noel across the mountains of A Dying World under the red sky, fighting the Galbadian soldier and stealing his jetpack to save Rinoa, and subsequently running through the crowds of battling Garden students to get her to safety, or climbing the tower in Sector 7 to help Barret fight to keep Shinra from dropping the plate on the citizens of Midgar, are all great example of this kind of gameplay. The best moments happen in the middle of the action, not always in battle.

Still, there have been some great scenes, like Yuna clenching her fist during her wedding kiss with Seymour, Tidus realizing that Yuna has been intent on sacrificing herself the whole time and Valefor cradling him in her wings, and Fran asking her sister to speak to the Wood on her behalf. There have been too many wonderful moments to count, and I hope that Final Fantasy will continue to deliver more in the future.