Editorial Miscellany: Episode Springcae

It looks the part.
It is a PSP game in HD.

Good afternoon my fine LusiDuscaeans. I am used to March being a month that everybody thinks is going to be warmer but ends up just being another February. However, up here in Toronto at least, it has actually been very pleasant. I tend to enjoy Winter, and I liked this one in particular, but there is something about the warmer weather that makes it feel like it is thawing out the fire in my soul.

Yes, my introductory paragraph was about the weather.

Onto video games.

Final Fantasy Type-0

I only played the intro mission while I waited for Episode Duscae to download, so it is hard to have a lot to say at the moment. I am looking forward to how the gameplay will develop and I am enjoying the way in which I have to be very active to play and that combat is not just button mashing. Maybe it is supposed to be difficult to harvest the souls (or whatever) from the dead bodies as a way to include difficulty and strategy, but I feel like there could be a better way to achieve that that does not include using the button that is essentially the regular attack button. Or maybe that is the point.

The opening cutscene was atrocious. So often in video game writing we are given grand sweeping premises and philosophies but very rarely is it realized that these things are meaningless just as statements. A world’s lore could be as rich and complicated as Middle-earth’s but it does not matter because, in fact, Lord of the Rings begins with “Concerning Hobbits”, a humble and playful chapter focusing on the most – seemingly – unremarkable corner of his incredibly detailed and intricate world. Tolkien knew better than to bash people over the head with the lore and philosophy of his epics and that every good story – no matter the scale – is personal.

But holy crap, that Ramuh summon.
No awesome dragons yet.

Of course, I suppose that Type-0 tries to make it personal by taking ten minutes to show how one kid dies. But this scene is designed from the outside in in an attempt to manipulate people into feeling the pain of war. The death is drawn out and full of that subtle camera shaking that has become so popular, but everything that happens – from the dialogue to the camera work – rings false. And not in the “Japan is different from us, lol!” way that some people can use to dismiss different manerisms or approaches to character and story-telling. The dying kid tells his Chocobo that he always thought the Chocobo’s name was weird. This is supposed to create sympathy and bittersweet comic relief, but the attempt is transparent. The annoying part is that the conceit of the whole scene is not a bad idea, but it is clear that the writer(s) were not actually inside the scene when they wrote it. They were watching the scene in their minds and thinking about what would be most effective. Psst, what is most effective is honesty.

Anyway, enough of that.

Tipping Stars

Yeah, that Mario vs Donkey Kong game. I played a bit and it was fun. I like the more active and fast-paced approach to puzzle-solving. Caileigh picked it up much faster than I did, which was no surprise. It happened with Pushmo too.

Episode Duscae

The code feels rougher than I expected it to be, but it was a damn fun demo. I logged five and a half hours. Of course it is impossible to tell at this point if the promising stuff is going to implemented effectively or if the negative stuff is going to be addressed in development or reframed by the rest of the game. I do have to say that I loved the cave portion, the fact that I could visually judge encounters in the daytime before I engaged with them, or the fact that I could overwhelmed in battle if I was not careful. The flow of battle works pretty much how I expected it to, with frantic pushing of buttons taking a backseat to constantly judging the battle field and using my moveset and environment effectively. I am curious about how enemy and location variety will affect this.

Final Thoughts

I really am excited for the future of the JRPG in this console generation. I think the confusion about what the “Western” audience wants combined with the rapid growth of development teams is going to start to settle out and the big Japanese developers will start using their voice again instead of awkwardly trying to imitate a North American voice. Bring it on. What do you guys think?

11 comments

  1. I found the dying chocobo scene to be immensely effective when I played the PSP version with the fan translation.

  2. That makes complete sense to me. Especially after my most recent playthrough of X I’ve been wishing I knew Japanese for when the localization seems to be rough. I would trust a fan translation more. It’s true for some Anime in my experience as well. Even the fan translation of Advent Children was way better.

  3. Meaning change “writers” to “localization team” in the article. I would actually go in and do it, but this way the narrative of the correction is more honest.

  4. My memory may be failing me, but I don’t even recall the dying kid talking about the Chocobo’s name in the fan translation…

    Also, if you don’t like the English voices then I believe Type-0 HD allows you to switch to Japanese audio.

  5. Yeah, you can switch it to subtitled and Japanese audio, which is the route I always go when given the option. My only real quarrel with the game is how fast the camera spins to the left and right. I can’t find an option to control the sensitivity.

    Beyond that? It’s fun, fast-paced combat. I was stunned at how gravely serious it was. I’ll echo Julian’s thoughts about the emotional impact of the dying Chocobo and soldier at the outset of the game too. Can’t really think of a time in a game where a dying soldier’s last minutes hit me in the heart, but listening to him wail, the chocobo crying alongside him in agony? That hurt.

  6. Hm, it felt transparent, manipulative, and trite to me. Attempting some humanity, but ultimately being void of it. But maybe I had figuratively crossed my arms too soon in addition to the localization. I’ve barely started, so considering your comments, maybe I’ll start from the beginning when I return to it.

  7. It felt less contrived to me than the ending of Crisis Core. After watching it in English dub I still have no problem with the scene, though it perhaps could have been a touch shorter.

    My main problem with the game [besides the awful camera] is the absolutely abysmal graphics. I don’t know what SE used those 20+ Gigabytes of data for, but it certainly wasn’t high resolution textures…

    I swear the game didn’t look anywhere near this bad on the PSP. It looks absolutely laughable playing it on the PS4.

  8. I’d have my own two cents to put into this game and demo, but I have no time (or money) for anything except that which I’ve set aside for Bloodborne.

    You can bet your sweet cheeks I’ll have more than just two cents to throw around for THAT game, once I’ve had time with it!

  9. I will actually have time to play a few minutes of Type-0 this week.

    The dying chocobo scene kicked me right in bottomless pit of malice that is located where my heart should be.

  10. I am enjoying Type-0 a LOT more than I thought I would. The gameplay is fast and fun and the fourteen playable characters have some nice variety to them. The voice acting is not bad, but it isn’t great. Some characters are better than others.

    The dying Chocobo scene had me a little misty eyed.

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