VI Awesome Things About Final Fantasy III

While I recently declared Chrono Trigger to be the superior Super Nintendo RPG experience, that doesn’t mean I think Final Fantasy III is a steaming pile of triceratops shit. Far from it, in fact. It truly is a fantastic game with a multitude of memorable moments, and just to show that there is no ill-will from Camp Chrono, the following are six reasons why FF3 is one of the greatest games ever:

Yes, this man is the last boss. And it's awesome.

Yes, this man is the last boss. And it's awesome.

Kefka

Kefka is great. His sinister yet playful theme and his wicked 16-bit laughter are the stuff of legends. While a demented court jester / soldier / flamboyant underling of the Emperor may be an odd choice for a main villain, Kefka pulls it off nicely without all of the pretentious of later Final Fantasy villains.

The Lete River Loop

While it does suck some of the fun out of the game, overlevelling your party while on the Lete River is an awesome exploit that practically everybody has used at least once while playing FF3. It’s simple — set the battle memory so Edgar always uses Auto-Crossbow and Banon always uses Heal, use a penny and a rubber band to keep the ‘B’ button pressed down, and then go to bed . Waking up the next morning to find Terra knowing Fire 3? Priceless. Consider it the “New Game +” of Final Fantasy III.

Genji Glove + Offering + Atma Weapon = Epic Win

This combination, especially late in the game with an overlevelled party, is brutally unfair, yet sadistically amusing. Feel like killing Kefka in a single turn? Well, here ya go.

Quotable Quotes

Chalk it up to a shitty translation if you want, but Final Fantasy III definitely has some awesome and memorable lines:

  • Son of a submariner!
  • Run, run, or you’ll be well done!
  • You can’t escape … nowhere to run … nowhere to hide …
Don't mess with the Phantom Train.

Don't mess with the Phantom Train.

Hell, I still use some of these quotes with my friends, and if I see somebody running down the street, I can help but think that are desperately avoiding becoming well done.

The Opera House

Out of all of the scenarios in the game, this one is perhaps the most memorable, simply because it’s so different than the rest of the game. Read the script, get your lines right, and save the day. Doesn’t hurt that the music is pretty nice, too.

Leafers

Assholes.

Pure evil.

Quite simply the most fearsome and demonic enemy ever found in an RPG. Just look at those glowing red eyes …

All other monsters in the history of video games bow down the might of the powerful Leafer.

Oh yes, they are most powerful. So powerful, in fact, the Leafers never utilize their awesome might, because doing so would completely destroy the universe. That’s why they just sit there on a bunch of lettuce. Doing anything else would cause mass levels of extinction.

And there you have it. Six great things about a truly great game. But Chrono Trigger is still better …

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The Final Verdict: Chrono Trigger vs. Final Fantasy III

Since the dawn of time, mankind has sought to answer one simple question: “Which classic Super Nintendo RPG reigns supreme — Chrono Trigger or Final Fantasy III?”

Families have been torn apart trying to answer this very question. Best friends have turned against one another, sending each other to the hospital — or worse — when heated debates turn ugly. Indeed, nations have been forced to the brink of civil war by opposing factions arguing the merits and virtues of their Squaresoftian  champion.

And now I dare to step into the fray? Yes. Yes I dare.

Chrono or FF3 ... only one can be victorious.

Chrono or FF3 ... only one can be victorious.

Before we begin, I must state that both Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy III (and don’t give me none of this VI bullshit … the cartridge I played on back in seventh grade was labelled “Final Fantasy III”, so that’s what the game is called) rate among my favourite games of all-time. But clearly, only one game can be superior. Only one cartridge can be the king of 16-bit Japanese role-playing awesomeness. But which one?

Well, back in 1995, I would have told you that FF3 was the greatest game ever made … or at the very least, ranked somewhat higher than Chrono Trigger (and other top contenders such as Earthbound and Secret of Mana). But as the years go by, my video gaming pallet has become more sophisticated and refined, and I have come to realize — and wholeheartedly accept — that Chrono Trigger is the undisputed champion of SNES RPGs.

There is simply no arguing this fact. If you think FF3 is a superior game to Chrono Trigger, you’re wrong. End of story. Now, I don’t fault you for thinking that way, but trust me, you’re mistaken.

Allow me to explain:

ROUND 1: BATTLE SYSTEM

While it definitely works, there’s absolutely no denying that the battle system in Final Fantasy III is rather conventional, and some might say antiquated, even by 1994’s gaming standards (as it’s basically a refinement of all of the previous FF games that came before it). Fight, Magic, Item, Defend, plus each character’s unique ability. That’s about it. Sure, there were some Espers thrown in here and there, but for the most part, the battle system was pretty dull and no different than scores of other RPGs.

Assholes.

Assholes.

And you can’t forget about the random battles — the bane of any sane RPG player.

Seriously, my party just wants to take a nice walk in the field during a sunny day on the outskirts of Narshe, but nooooooo, those pesky Lobos and Leafers won’t back the fuck off.

Chrono Trigger, on the other hand, was a breath of fresh air. For starters, no random battles! Even better, no more warping to a separate battle screen! The enemies are right there in the dungeon — if you bump into them, you fight them. What a concept! Even when the battles forced are upon you (such as baddies jumping out from behind trees and whatnot), it never feels as tedious or grinding as the battles in the Final Fantasy games.

Sure, while Chrono has its fare share of “scripted battles” that are completely unavoidable, they aren’t “random”, and that’s a big thumbs up in my book (my book is actually just a collection of thumbs oriented in various directions, by the way. Quite grotesque, now that I think about it).

Triple Tech! And boom goes the dynamite.

Triple Tech! And boom goes the dynamite.

Once a battle is initiated, of course, there’s Chrono Trigger’s amazingly kickass battle system, which allows different characters to combine their skills into face-shattering Dual and Triple Techs. Unlike FF3, your party is not simply a collection of individuals bashing their weapons in turn against the monsters’ skulls (Auto-Crossbow, Aurabolt, rinse, repeat). Instead, your party can (and must) work together, with each character’s skills complementing another in a variety of ways.

It all comes together to keep battles fresh and interesting (and not to mention visually stimulating .. the simple act of seeing Chrono actually leap towards the enemy and slash at it is much more engaging than watching Cyan simply wave his sword in the general direction of the bad guy).

Winner: Chrono Trigger

ROUND 2: AUDIO-VISUAL STIMULATION

For its time, FF3 was an impressive looking game, but it certainly does not hold up to the ravages of time as well as Chrono Trigger. I think the main thing that really gets me about FF3 is the blockiness of the characters. It’s as if all of the characters were shoved in to a tiny box at birth and forced to grow into that shape in the same way that Chinese women bind their feet.

A little known fact ... Terra and Locke are made out of Lego.

A little known fact ... Terra and Locke are actually made out of Lego.

Chrono Trigger completely blows FF3 out of the water in this area. While there’s no denying the fact that many of the characters look like Dragon Ball rejects (unsurprising given Toriyama’s involvement in the game), the anime-inspired sprites in Chrono Trigger simply have more personality than FF3’s Lego-men.

When it comes to audio-visual stimulation, however, the real champion is the music of Chrono Trigger. Magus’ theme, the Tyrano Lair, Frog’s theme, Zeal, the Boss themes … all true classics. Sure, Final Fantasy III has the opera house scene, and the final battle with Kefka, and many other great  pieces of music, but as a whole Chrono Trigger’s score contains more well-crafted and memorable pieces than FF3.

Winner: Chrono Trigger

ROUND 3: CHARACTERS

Final Fantasy III has a pretty solid cast — Terra, Locke, Edgar, Sabin, Cyan, Seles, and Shadow are all great characters with well-rounded back stories (Mog, Gau, Relm, Strago, Umaro, Gogo … well, they suck anyway, so who cares about them).

The black wind begins to howl ...

The black wind begins to howl ...

In fact, some proponents for FF3 tout this is an advantage of Chrono Trigger, stating that Chrono’s characters are one-dimensional and boring. And yes, this might true of Chrono (a generic deaf-mute), Ayla (a generic cavewoman), and Robo (a generic robot), but I counter with the almighty trump card — Magus.

In fact, I believe that Magus is actually the true main character of Chrono Trigger. Chrono is just some dude who happened to be in the right place at the right time, but Magus is central to all of the major story events and his presence is felt throughout the entire game (in particular, the Frog / Cyrus storyline, as well as pretty much everything to do with the Kingdom of Zeal). Plus, going from a mysterious Fiendlord threatening Guardia’s safety to a sympathetic figure looking to avenge his homeland and family makes him a truly awesome and memorable character. The fact that he becomes a playable character is just the icing on the cake.

Winner: Magus (I mean, Chrono Trigger)

ROUND 4: REPLAYABILITY

As a general rule, RPGs usually suffer from rather low replayability. For starters, the games take dozens of hours to complete, so the notion of slogging through the entire game again can often be disheartening. Combined with the fact that the core game experience won’t change drastically with each playthrough, most people won’t pick up the controller again for quite some time after the final monster has been defeated.

Chrono Trigger breaks the mould by allowing you to defeat the final boss at pretty much any point over the course of the game. In addition, it offers the always welcome New Game + option, allowing you to smash your way through the entire game with beefed up characters and weapons in order see more than a dozen different endings (or just to see how quickly you can complete the entire game, I suppose).

You're useless, Gau. Go away.

Usless.

FF3, on the other hand, offers the same experience time and time again. While it’s a solid game and I’ve played through it numerous times, it usually comes down to using Terra, Edgar, Sabin, and some other character to plow through the game. Only the sick and twisted would subject themselves to using Relm or Gau in their main party, and while I suppose trying to beat the game with various combinations of shitty characters is a form of replayability, it’s also a form of torture — meaning it gets no points from me in this category.

Winner: Chrono Trigger

ROUND 5: FINAL BOSS

No matter how awesome the rest of the game is, if the final boss sucks,  your perspective of the entire game will have changed considerably (and probably for the worse). Luckily, both Chrono and FF3 offer extraordinary climactic showdowns.

Kefka's final form. Watch out for "Fallen One"!

Kefka's final form. Watch out for "Fallen One"!

The last battle in Final Fantasy III is quite epic, no doubt about it. The initial battle up the tower of monster corpse things, the extremely bitchin’ music, and of course, Kefka’s final angel form … all truly awesome, but in the end, it feels rather empty. After all, Kefka’s already kicked the world in the balls — what’s beating him really going to do? Not a whole lot, really. No more lasers from the sky, I suppose, but the world’s still in the shitter, with or without Kefka in charge.

Seriously ... WTF is this supposed to be?

Seriously ... WTF is this supposed to be?

The last battle in Chrono Trigger, however, provides a real sense of finality and a culmination of everything you’ve achieved up to that point. During Lavos’ first form, you have to fight all of the major bosses throughout the game once more. While many other games have done this (the Zelda series, for example, among others), the combination of the epic (yet somehow haunting) music, and the fact that Lavos is emulating the bosses (instead of your party fighting boss clones or what-have-you), makes for an interesting and impressionable last battle experience.

Yes, once inside the Lavos shell, things fall apart somewhat as you end up fighting some goofy looking alien thing with ill-defined evil intentions, but hey, the music is cool, the changing backdrops are sweet, and the swerve job of making one of the tiny pods the true last boss is an interesting touch that really throws you for the loop the first time through.

Winner: A Draw, I Guess

THE FINAL VERDICT

Without question, each game has a plethora of good things going for it, and just so it doesn’t leave with hurt feelings, I intend to write a post outlining many of the cool things about FF3 that make it one of the top games of all-time (but just not better than Chrono Trigger).

But in the end, the engaging battle system, the lush graphics, the beautiful score, the memorable characters, and the sheer replayability of the game all lead to one decision — the true champion of SNES RPGs is and forever will be Chrono Trigger!

Chrono Trigger is victorious. Fuck you, Heckran!

Chrono Trigger is victorious. Fuck you, Heckran!

The Flawed Script of Gran Torino

Yeah, yeah, I know … Gran Torino came out a couple months ago, and in terms of the Internet, that’s like a billion years and therefore it’s no longer a film that is worthy of discussion. Well, screw you all. I didn’t have a blog back then, and I’ve gotta get this off my chest.

First off, let me say that I thought Gran Torino was a pretty good movie. Not the best movie of all time, but it certainly didn’t suck, and I left the theatre feeling as though I got my money’s worth.

However, while watching the film, I couldn’t help but notice how unbelievably awkward the script was at certain points. Unecessary dialogue, blatantly loaded exposition … all sticking out like the proverbial sore thumb.

Being somewhat of an aspiring screenwriter, I decided to check out the script (written by Nick Schenk) to see if it was actually as rough as the movie itself made it out to be.

And that’s when I discovered that the script for Gran Torino is a giant pile of turds.

"Get off my lawn."

"Get off my lawn."

I sat there stunned as I read Schenk’s script, bewildered by the number of rules he breaks within the first few pages alone. Seems the dude has a bit of a problem with telling instead of showing. And when I say a bit of a problem, I actually mean a huge friggin’ problem.

Let’s take a look, shall we?

From the very first page, when we first meet Walt:

Walt Kowalski looks young for his age. He has slate blue
eyes, physically fit and has had the same buzz cut
hairstyle since getting out of the military in 1953.

Okay, the first couple of lines check out, but … excuse me? Just by looking at him, we can tell that he’s been out of the military since 1953? How the hell is that even possible?

I think this passage could have been improved simply by saying that Walt was in his in his seventies (but looked young for his age) and had a military buzz cut as though he had worn it his entire life.

See? Simple. It tells the reader that Walt is undeniably a military man, but without providing random dates and facts that cannot possibly be discerned from our very first look at the man in the very first scene in the movie.

Perhaps the worst example of Schenk’s “telling” is on the fifth page, when Walt lays eyes on his Hmong neighbours:

Next door to Walt’s house some sort of party is going on.
Walt can see through the window that the living room is
jammed with at least forty people, all Asians, all Hmong.

And this is a problem for Walt, because Walt is a full-
blown, unrepentant racist.

Walt lights a cigarette and speaks to his dog, Daisy.

WALT
Jesus Christ, how many swamp rats
can they cram into a living room?

Walt spits in the snow and walks back to the garage.

Now tell me … just what in the fuck is the sentence “And that is a problem for Walt, because Walt is a full-blown, unrepentant racist” doing in the goddamn script? There’s absolutely no reason to include this line! None whatsoever! Especially when we get a glimpse of Walt’s racism from his dialogue in that very same scene! It’s “show, don’t tell” … not “tell and then show”.

Want some more? Let’s roll:

The Gran Torino is in mint condition. It has been babied
since the day it rolled off the line.

Walt goes in the back door and a moment later the kitchen
light comes on. The Gran Torino remains in the driveway.

It’s a challenge, an invitation. Walt is daring the
thief to come back. And Walt’s ready this time.

What does that even mean? How is he ready? Is he sneering, face tense, scanning the night like a hawk while clutching his rifle? Show me, dammit!

It just infuriates me to see professional screenwriters making these amateur mistakes (sidenote: I can no longer say that word without thinking of Christian Bale), but all it takes is for Clint Eastwood to come along and take them on a ride to Awesometown.

Ah well, guess it gives a little bit hope for schlubs like me …

"I said, get off my lawn."

"I said, get off my lawn."

The Habs are Choking … And I’m Loving Every Minute of It

Although I currently live in Ottawa, I grew up in Southwestern Ontario. As a result, I bleed the Blue and White of the Toronto Maple Leafs, with Doug Gilmour and Wendel Clark being my favourite Leafs players of all-time.

As such, I have a moral and legal obligation to seethe venom in the general direction of the Montreal Canadiens and the Ottawa Senators (yes, I said legal obligation — it’s in the contract one gets when they join Leafs Nation).

In the case of the Habs, it’s a no brainer. Toronto and Montreal have been and always will be hated rivals. Heck, this very fact is taught to us in grade school as we read Roch Carrier’s The Hockey Sweater. Well, let me tell you something … I never wanted to comb my ‘air like Maurice Richard. I’d rather have a bitchin’ Wendel Clark moustache (except for the fact that I can’t grow a moustache).

Every time Carey Price loses, an angel gets its wings.

Every time Carey Price loses, an angel gets its wings.

Even though the Leafs and Habs haven’t met in the playoffs in a million years, this long-standing historical rivalry is the very reason that I can never bring myself to cheer for the Canadiens. Ever. Not even if they were the only Canadian team left standing in the playoffs, as they were last season. The mere thought of cheering on the Habs is just plain wrong on so many intangible levels.

But Steve, you ask, shouldn’t you be a good Canadian patriot and have a burning desire to see the Cup come back home? Well, yeah, that would be great, and I was actively cheering for Calgary, Edmonton, and yes, even Ottawa to bring home Lord Stanley’s mug (partly because it would have been cool to see a Stanley Cup parade in person. But I actually rather enjoyed seeing Alfie and the Sens get dismantled by Anaheim).

But the Habs? I was hoping they would collapse completely and lose to the Bruins in the first round of the playoffs (and they almost did). I can’t quite fully explain it. It’s almost more a gut instinct, really. All I know is that the Habs must lose.

In fact, I’d rather see the Columbus Blue Jackets win the Cup instead of Montreal … which is why I derive great satisfaction from their current slump. Indeed, nothing would be sweeter than seeing the Habs miss the playoffs entirely during their centennial season. And it would be suitable punishment for the Habs fans that voted that heartless chump Kovalev into the All-Star Game starting line-up over the greatest player in the league today, Alex Ovechkin.

I mean, seriously … did you see that goal he scored the other night against Montreal? As Pierre “Monster” McGuire said, “it was insanity.”

Hey, I may be a Leafs fan, but I’m not stupid. I know they’re not making the playoffs (unlike some delusional Senators fans), so I’m throwing my support behind Ovie and the Caps. Ovechkin, Semin, Backstrom, and Green are an absolute pleasure to watch.

Gently Rapping

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.

Stop! Hammertime.

Stop! Hammertime. But ... you know ... gently.

“‘T’is MC Hammer,” I muttered, “rapping at my chamber door —
MC Hammer, and nothing more.”

A Cuppa Joe 65 Million Years in the Making

Editors Note: While I originally posted this on my work blog, The Daily Breakthrough (as it’s marketing related), I feel that I can … how shall we say … more pungently describe my feelings in this space.

Last Thursday, I was tasked with the incredibly tedious chore of attending a government RFP briefing session and taking notes on behalf of one of Marketing Breakthroughs’ clients. Sounds exciting, I know, but let’s set the stage, shall we?

First, despite the fact that the presentation was entirely in English, it was presented by a couple of dudes with thick Quebecois accents, making aural comprehension a chore, to say the least. Second, all these guys did was read their lame PowerPoint slides word for word, simulatenously infuriating and boring me to death.

So I was sitting there, entertaining the notion of imploding my skull by bashing it repeatedly against the table, when a shocking revelation struck me with the force a thousand charging yaks. You see, my clients decided to stop off at a nearby Second Cup while on their way to their meeting, and since the speakers weren’t doing a damned thing to win my interest, I decided to study the coffee cups. And that’s when I noticed something very peculiar …

Welcome to Jurassic Park!

Welcome to Jurassic Park!

That’s right. The Second Cup logo is the Jurassic Park logo.

Apparently Second Cup changed their logo a couple of years ago, but I’m not a coffee drinker, so this was entirely new to me. And let me tell you … it friggin’ blew me away. In fact, I was utterly transfixed on this unparalleled example on insanity that was just sitting there right in front of my face.

I mean, sure, Jurassic Park is a kickass movie, and the visual effects still hold up amazingly well to this day. But for a coffee chain to completely ape the logo? How in the holy hell did that happen?

I can just imagine some Second Cup marketing genius circa 2005 or 2006 pitching the following to the execs …

“You know what all the kids all raging about these days? That dinosaur movie from 1993! If only we could somehow capitalize on this phenomenon, we’ll be riding the express train to Moneyville, all the way to the corner of Blow Street and Hooker Boulevard!”

Insanity, I tells ya. Insanity.

And the worst part is, staring at the logo didn’t make me want to buy a coffee or hot chocolate … instead, it put John Williams’ score in my head and made me want to watch Jurassic Park for the hundredth time.

In fact, I’m done talking about Second Cup. Fuck Second Cup. I hate coffee anyway … vile, nasty swill that should only be consumed if there is no suitable motor oil substitute available. Let’s talk about Jurassic Park instead!

“He left us! He left us!”

“They should all be destroyed.”

“But John, if the Pirates of the Caribbean breaks down, the pirates don’t eat the tourists.”

“Clever girl …”

“Please! I’ve had it with this hacker crap!”

“And that’s when the attack comes … not from the front, but from the side, from the other two raptors you didn’t even know were there.”

"Yes, we have a T-Rex!"

"Yes, we have a T-Rex!"

Enter the Blogosphere

So, it’s finally happened. I’ve started a blog.

Yeah, I know, it’s frightening. Completely out of character, really. I mean, I can hardly think of anything interesting or relevant to share on my Facebook or Twitter accounts, let alone on something as in-depth (yet incredibly mundane) as a blog.

But hear me out. Launching a blog is actually something I should have done a long time ago. It’s been ages since I wrote anything creative that wasn’t work related, and you know what? That really burns my toast. Grinds my gears. Gets my goat (wait, I have a goat now?). I’m supposed to be a creative type guy, and I can’t even bear to lay a finger on the keyboard once the work day is done?

Well, fuck that, ‘cuz shit’s a-changing. And it all starts here.

In the end, this blog is simply an outlet to get me writing again. Writing anything, really … whatever the hell pops into my head. Hopefully nothing too lame, however. My plan is to keep this a fairly creative and substantial piece of work, so you won’t see too many posts consisting of “OMG I had choklit ice crem today! and I loves it!!!1!” (besides, that’s what Twitter is for).

Sure, there are many questions. How long will I stick with this blog? Will anybody read it? Should anybody read it? I dunno. We’ll cross that bridge when we get there … and then we’ll send truck after truck across that bridge to determine how much weight it can hold.

"And here ... we ... go!"

"And here ... we ... go!"