Patron Blog #1: Creation

(The following is cross-posted from Patreon. If you don’t know what Patreon is, basically it’s like an interactive Kickstarter, except that instead of funding one big project, you pledge a certain amount per creation, as much as you’d like to give, to support artists who are creating anything you can imagine. I’m trying this out as a way of gaining feedback and motivation to write my novel, and hopefully get a taste of what it’s like to actually make money for my art. I’m not trying to make a living on Patreon – not yet at least – but this is a great starting place for me. If you like what I write, or you like my music, or you just want to support me creating something in any way, you can become a patron and get access to a lot of neat stuff.)

patreon blog

I’ve always created stories.

As a child, the way I had fun was to wander around outside, on my own, using my imagination to create big adventures. My first inspiration was and continues to be video games, and I still remember when I was seven years old, running around the back yard with a stick in my hand that could be used either as a sword or a gun, whenever I needed it, and creating stories about my favorite video game characters.

The first game to ignite my imagination was Final Fantasy VII. I loved this game in a deep and profound way that can’t honestly be described. The music, the scenery, the vivid story hooked my attention and my imagination and never let go. I used to draw the characters on paper, then cut the pieces of paper out and use them as toys and have them battle. I would go outside and grab a stick, and sing the battle music and I executed turn-based combat all by myself, playing both the player character and the opponent, in what I’m sure was a hilarious sight to behold.

As I grew older I continued to play this way, and it’s the way I got out my creative energy. I never wrote down the stories that I made up, which started out as fanfiction, long before I knew that fanfiction existed, and even long before I knew that there were OTHER people who also loved Final Fantasy, Sonic the Hedgehog, Zelda and Mega Man the way I did. When I played with my toys, I created platformer video game style levels for them to hop around and pitted them against enemies in video game fashion. When I was thirteen, my method of play didn’t change, in fact it evolved. Now the stories I made up were a little more complex. There were villains with motivations, there were relationships between characters, and I even started to come up with stories that, even though they were heavily influenced by video games and television, were still my own.

At fifteen I continued to play this way by myself, only it was much more conspicuous to be seen waving a stick around and talking to yourself, especially with the emotion of someone acting a character on stage, so what I began to do was just go on long walks, and see the scenario in my mind, and speak the characters’ dialogue under my breath. When I was seventeen and started to enjoy listening to music, I would create dramatic music videos that often involved fight scenes between characters in the games I loved, or even my own characters.

I’m twenty six now, and I still come up with my stories this way. If I have an open space where no one can see me and a stick, I will indeed pick it up, use it as a sword, and engage in my own RPG style combat against imaginary enemies, create characters and soliloquize from the perspective of villains or protagonists. I also take copious notes and write a lot of scenes out of order, with the result being that many of those scenes no longer make sense in the stories the way they are now.

The first time I sat down to write one of my stories I was twelve. Well actually, technically the earliest story I can remember writing was a Sonic the Hedgehog fanfiction when I was in second grade. My mother still has the paper. I also wrote one in third grade about James Bond, in the style of the Nintendo 64 game Goldeneye. But the first earnest attempt to write an actual book, a real cohesive story, was when I was twelve. It was a fantasy story, intended to be an epic in the style of Final Fantasy. The concept was that the story took place in a world which had once been devastated by a great flood akin to those in various religious mythologies (indeed, the first thing I sat down and wrote was a prologue that occurred during the Christian Biblical flood), and a certain demon who could take the form of a great leviathan had survived the flood, and was now out to kill a young man whose destiny it was to vanquish him.

Not the most novel idea, but I still say that it wasn’t bad for a twelve year old. I didn’t get very far with the story, but it stayed in my mind and continued to evolve. I created more characters as time went by, added subplots. The main character’s brother was killed in the opening scene, but when I started listening to My Chemical Romance’s Black Parade, I decided that he had faked his death to protect his brother. When I started listening to Queen, I added a scenario in which the main character was thrown into prison in a gladiatorial coliseum, and created a character named Dexter to help him out of the situation, and funnily enough Dexter actually survived and is now a character in the novel I’m writing. When I became interested in choral music I created a mournful scene in which Dexter lamented the death of his lover (no longer a part of Dexter’s character in the new novel, by the way).

All of this played out in my head, very little was written down. And this is the way my stories have always been. Pages and pages of dialogue are improvised by me and most of the time I never write any of it down. It’s still the way I’m most comfortable writing, although now I’ve learned to either record myself speaking, or take notes as I’m talking.

Every idea spirals into a series of ideas, and eventually they start connecting to one another, and then there’s an entire story, complete with subplots and character arcs and relationships… but it’s all in my head. I speak the characters lines when I’m in the shower, when I fall into depression and I feel lonely I play a scene in my mind of two of my characters cuddling and falling asleep. These stories are a part of me, and they go with me wherever I go. These characters exist. And I want other people to see them.

Music is probably an important part of everyone’s life, in one way or another. But the funny thing is, I actually hated music (that is, pop/rock music, anything you might hear on the radio or on a CD) until I was a teenager. My mother actually commented to me how weird it was that I didn’t like music, and I did ultimately start getting CD’s (the first one was In The Zone by Britney Spears, the second war The Very Best of Cher), but I hadn’t developed any kind of passion for music yet. But over time I realized: I DID have a passion for music and I always had, it’s just that it was all video game music. Sonic the Hedgehog, Final Fantasy, The Legend of Zelda, and theme songs to television shows, I LOVED that music.

I started learning to play piano when I was sixteen, because I wanted to learn how to play a song I really liked (it was Axel F from Beverly Hills Cop, as remixed by Crazy Frog). My chorus teacher taught me to play the song and I instantly wanted to learn to play others. The second thing I learned were the opening chords to Roxanne by The Police (simply because that was the nearest songbook on hand in the chorus room), and then of course one day I realized that Final Fantasy songs could be played on piano, so I brought him the sheet music to one of my favorites, the Final Fantasy VII battle theme, and watched him play it. I was amazed. I was really, truly hearing the music, in real life, coming out of a real instrument.

From that point there was no turning back. Video game music was why I learned to play piano, and as I grew up and discovered Tori Amos, Amanda Palmer, Imogen Heap, Amy Lee and other artists who use the piano to communicate their music, I learned to play their songs, and I learn more about how to play every time I play one of their songs.

And that’s the thing. I’ve always thought that I couldn’t be a writer or a musician because most of my ideas aren’t entirely original, they’re borrowed. I borrow my story ideas from Final Fantasy and Breath of Fire and Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles, I borrow my musical structure from Evanescence and Tori Amos. I’ve always thought to myself, “Well yeah I like to play music and write, but no one would pay for it, I can’t actually be a real artist, because everyone will see right through it to the sources from which I pulled.”

But I didn’t realize that everyone pulls from everyone else. No ideas are entirely new, and in fact most of the best stories are retelling of mythological stories and campfire adventures, with characters who are archetypes. Some of the best musical pieces in history are variations on themes from earlier times. Good artists create using borrowed ideas as well as their own ideas, and what comes out is something unique that no one else can create in exactly the same way as that artist created it.

Everyone’s voice is unique. Their vocal ability, the playing of their instrument, and the way they write their poetry and their stories, it’s unique to them. Neil Gaiman says, “Tell your story in the way that only you can tell it.” Every artist fights against directly copying their inspirations, and it’s terrifying to see something you’ve created and know that a part of it’s skeleton is borrowed from another artist. The bones holding together my stories come from more places than just my own imagination, and the chord used to keep my songs going don’t come from my mind alone.

But that’s okay.

What’s important is that the creation happens. What’s important is the warm, beaming pride I feel when I look at the screen and see the words that came from me. Their origins may have come from other places, the ideas and the concepts might have been borrowed, but those ideas were churned through my mind and I created something that only I can create. Sometimes it’s better than other times. That’s okay. Kesha says “You have to give yourself permission to suck.” And it’s true. No one becomes a great writer by starting out writing something brilliant, and no one becomes a great musician by composing their master work on day one. But the important thing is to KEEP CREATING.

So that’s why I’m here. I’m here to create. I’m here to write the novel that’s been growing and living inside of me. I’m here to write the songs that I sing to myself, and to recite the lyrics that I hurriedly copy down on sheets of papers, sticky notes, and the notepad of whatever device I’m holding.

I want to share it with you, and I want to know that you hear me. I want to hear your ideas about what I’m creating, I want to know what you think.

Everyone is going to die. Most of us are afraid of that. I certainly am. But it helps me to know that I can create something that will be here after I’m gone, a record of my thoughts. A story that talks about the things that are important to me. Characters who address the things I’m afraid of, the things I long for, the things I wish were true, and the things I hope will become true.

There is much work to be done. There are more details to go into and more specifics to explain. But this is where it begins.

The simple explanation is: I’m writing a fantasy novel. I write poetry, I write fiction, I want to write a nonfiction book about my experience with religion and maybe even an autobiographical book of stories from my life. I play piano. I sing. I write songs.

This is the first step.

If I keep going, I might be a real artist one day. Someone who wakes up in the morning and does what they love.

That is my dream. That is my wish, and my goal.

Thank you for being here with me. Thank you for helping me. Thank you for listening.

Let’s get started.

Advertisements

Some Random Facts About Me

I am gay. I am attracted to both cisgender and transgender males. As far as I know there isn’t a specific classification for this, because it isn’t pansexual since I’m not attracted to trans females. I think I shall call it Ultimate Level Gay

I identify as non-binary gender with a leaning towards male.

I am a Hufflepuff

I play piano

I’m a Baritone, though I was a Bass 2 in high school chorus

I have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Social Anxiety Disorder

As a child I had Deinophobia (fear of dinosaurs), Mysophobia (fear of contamination by dirt or germs), and I was also afraid of words that began the letter “T”

I was raised by Christians but it never took, I went through an incredibly religious Christian phase, then became Pagan, and finally became an “IDGAF Atheist”

I am left handed

The first time I tried to write a novel I was twelve, the villain was a leviathan who could transform into a human and controlled water, and the book was called Horizon Zero. For exactly no reason whatsoever. I was twelve.

As a child my favorite movie was Little Mermaid. I used to put my legs into a pillowcase to be my fin, and sit at the coffee table and pretend I was Ariel singing on the rock in the sea. I even pushed my chest out the way she does.

My all time favorite album is Boys For Pele by Tori Amos

I put so much cream in my coffee that it usually turns cold

My guilty pleasure artist is Nicki Minaj. As an artist I find her reprehensible, but I know every word to Stupid Hoe and Roman’s Revenge.

I can name every Madonna album in chronological order, including the compilations

My favorite classical musician is Mozart, and my two favorite pieces are Lacrimosa and Rondo alla Turca

I hate plain chocolate ice cream

The first five albums I ever received, in order, were: Oops! I Did It Again (Britney Spears), Beware of Dog (Lil Bow Wow), Unleash the Dragon (Sisqo), In The Zone (Britney Spears), and The Very Best of Cher

The first anime I ever watched from beginning to end was Pretear

I want to be a writer, and an English major, even though I failed Creative Writing and English 12 in high school. In fairness, I failed those classes because I was lazy and refused to finish my work, not because I’m bad at those subjects.

Aside from the normal everyday colors you learn in grade school, I learned all of my intermediate colors (like Aquamarine, Teal, Periwinkle, etc.) from Microsoft Works Word Processor

I once tried to write a fanfiction novel based on Kingdom Hearts called Kingdom Spades (I didn’t come up with the name, my best friend at the time insisted upon it). Interestingly, I invented Drive Mode in my story before I saw it in Kingdom Hearts II.

I’m hypersexual. A therapist told me this. That’s how I know it’s true. Also, ask my ex-boyfriends, they will confirm.

My first crush was Nick Carter, followed by Lance Bass, Tom Felton, and Liam Aiken. Clearly I had a thing for twinks when I was a kid.

In a related story, I dyed my hair blonde when I was eleven because of my crush on Draco Malfoy

I once lived with a Presbyterian Minister and his family for two months. I convinced his son (who was the same age as me, by the way) to play “you show me yours I’ll show you mine.” On several different occasions.

My favorite animals are pigs, rats and cows

The first song I ever learned completely to play on piano, through sheet music and without any help, was Hello by Evanescence

My first date was the movie Juno. The movie sucked, but I did get to hold the guy’s hand and make out with him in his car afterward.

The first guy I ever had sex with was someone I had met an hour before.

When I was eighteen, I went through a severe depression and identity crisis in which I destroyed everything I’d ever written, including close to two-hundred poems, three novels I was writing, and all journal/blog entries I’d ever written.

The first boy I ever kissed was cheating on his boyfriend with me. I knew this going in but I didn’t care. For the record, it was an amazing kiss, and my heart was broken for months when he chose his boyfriend over me.

The song that makes me happiest is Watchin’ by Freemasons

(EDIT 2/18/16: I’m going to overrule myself here and say that the song that makes me happiest is Walking on Broken Glass by Annie Lennox)

The song that makes me saddest is The Bed Song by Amanda Palmer

(EDIT 2/18/16: Overruling myself again, there are a LOT of songs I could choose but I think Iris by Goo Goo Dolls is the song that makes me saddest)

If I ever get a tattoo, I want it to be lyrics. Most likely the chorus of Iris by Goo Goo Dolls

When I was fifteen I had an online pseudonym of Roku Matsamura

I have a fear of heights with one exception. From the time I was twelve until fifteen I used to play on an old rickety abandoned railroad bridge above a river, complete with loose boards, huge holes in the bridge, and I even did this during winter when the whole thing was slick with ice. I was not afraid.

I once fell in love with a fictional character from a television show. And I mean that I really and genuinely believed we were together.

I had two imaginary friends throughout my teenage years. Their names were Lance and Max. They originated as my “good” and “evil” sides, but it was more like “naughty” and “nice” sides. Lance was the naughty, foul-mouthed one, he was tall with blonde spiky hair, and Max had shoulder-length straight brown hair. Over time, Lance became the only one to usually speak, while Max was constantly somber and emotional. Eventually, I went through a bad breakup and told them to go away. I didn’t see them much after that, but the last time I spoke to them they were in love with one another and were together as a couple.

When I was fourteen, my best friend was a stuffed dog. I talked to it, took it from room to room with me, and slept with it.

I have acid reflux and can burp on command.

I become a complete needy emotional baby when I’m sick. It’s best if I’m in a relationship during these times, and woe betide the poor boy who has to take care of me.

I’m incredibly clingy with friends and especially with boyfriends.

I have a fantasy of a boy whispering sweet nothings into my ear in German.

The first gay-themed movie I ever saw was a German film called Sommersturm

When I see dead animals in the road, I think about coming back with a shovel and burying them in the woods.

The earliest video game I can remember playing in Super Mario Bros, followed by Mega Man 2.

My favorite series of novels as a kid was A Series of Unfortunate Events

Part of my Obsessive Compulsive Disorder was that I used to go through phases of taping sitcoms and watching the episodes over and over and over again. I taped and watched every single episode of Seinfeld ever made, and watched them so many times I knew them word for word. Strangely, I never actually found the show funny.

One of my all-time favorite video games is Breath of Fire III. I’ve played it many times but never actually beaten it. Maybe I don’t want it to end.

My favorite musical is Into the Woods (the original stage version, not the Disney film)

As a kid my favorite television show was Dragonball Z, and I used to read a magazine called Beckett Dragonball Collector

In my opinion, the greatest video game system ever made was the Sega Dreamcast

My favorite fictional witches are, in ascending order of awesomeness: Luna Lovegood, Myrtle Snow, Elphaba Thropp, and The Witch (portrayed by Bernadette Peters in Into the Woods)

 

I attribute my creativity, love of fantasy and adventure, and love of music, to Final Fantasy VII.

On a similar note, the next few facts are going to be all Final Fantasy related. I first learned to play piano so that I could play songs from Final Fantasy VII.

I have never played through Final Fantasy VIII without using Zell Dincht in my party, primarily because I’ve pretty much always had a crush on him.

I have spent something like two-hundred to three-hundred hours playing Final Fantasy XIII, and have never once voluntarily included Snow in my party.

Fran from Final Fantasy XII is one of my all-time favorite Final Fantasy characters, and one of the first songs I ever composed on piano was inspired by Fran’s feelings about leaving the forest.

I’m obsessed with the concept of Mages, particularly their color sorting, with differently coloured mages having access to different spells (black mages cast offensive spells, white mages can heal, green mages can affect stats and both positive and negative statuses, etc.) This system was a big part of what inspired the novel I’m currently writing.

My two favorite fictional heroes are Lightning Farron from Final Fantasy XIII and Ellen Ripley from Alien

I wish people had tails, similar to Zidane from Final Fantasy IX and Goku from Dragonball Z. I think they would be useful, fun, and could be an interesting erogenous zone.

My favorite Final Fantasy villain is Kuja.

My favorite Powerpuff Girl is Bubbles

My favorite female name is Bronwen

My favorite male name is Oliver. Or Wolfgang. I’m not sure I have a difficult time making decisions.

I am generally very indecisive. I’ve spent days not beginning video games because I couldn’t decide what to name my characters.

Bout Of Books August 2014: Update #2 (And An Unexpected Rant About The State Of Video Games As An Art Form)

Bout of Books 11

The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda @ On a Book Bender and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, August 18th and runs through Sunday, August 24th in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure, and the only reading competition is between you and your usual number of books read in a week. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 11 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. – From the Bout of Books team

I admit, I’m a little disheartened. I have had a very tough time living up to the goals I set for myself at the beginning of this week. I have not read every day, nor have I read for at least an hour per day, and my updates have been kind of sporadic. I also didn’t start at the beginning of a book, and I will by no means get through two by the end of the week. In short, I failed at all my original goals. However, as my friend who got me into participating in the read-a-thon pointed out, “If’ you’re reading at all, you haven’t failed.” So, since this is a no-pressure read-a-thon, I am once again amending my goals. My new goal is to simply read something this week, and I want to finish the book I’m currently reading, which shouldn’t bee too difficult because I’m about seventy percent of the way through it.

In my defense, I have been busy this week with work and with writing, as I’ve begun writing my novel for the second time (the first one turned out to be a false start with completely separate characters who had nothing to do with the plot of my book, so they’ll get their own story sometime if I ever come back to them). I’ve also had my hands full with playing some awesome video games. As much as I do love literature, video games are my first love, and though I do sometimes overload myself on them, I always come back to them.

As weird as it sounds, playing video games is actually a creative outlet for me. I don’t know how, because I’m not really creating anything that can be shared, other than a save file, but throughout my life when I’ve felt the need to create flowing through me, the desire to write, to draw, to make music, I have found video games to be a great release. I get all that creative energy out customizing my characters (since I tend to gravity almost always toward role-playing games, particularly those with “Final Fantasy” in their name) and battling enemies and immersing myself in a deep story. It’s a part of why I feel very passionately that video games are an entirely legitimate art form, comparable and sometimes far superior to novels or films, because the experience is both thrilling AND personally engaging. Unfortunately, games like the Call of Duty franchise have not only lowered the bar so much that many game designers just pump out horrible crap that makes millions of dollars, but it’s also given a false impression of video games as a whole, and there are people in the world who think video games are still just beep-boop-bop noisemakers with PacMan on them, or that they’re all shooting games where people blow each other’s heads off. The amazing creativity, lush and beautiful art and music composition, and engaging systems of battle and play in games like the Final Fantasy series or Journey (which is as much a masterpiece as any video game ever produced) are completely ignored by most of the world, both gaming and non-gaming, because many gamers only play shooters or massive multiplayer online games, or “western RPGs” that are nothing but glorified shooters with slight RPG elements thrown into the mix.

But anyhow, my new goal is to finish The Wolf Gift by Anne Rice (or any novel, for that matter) by the end of the week. Wish me luck!

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.