All right, it’s about time to post again. Horrible Doom itself is somewhat lessened, though my Free Time hasn’t really recovered yet. On the positive side, here’s a few things I’ve been able to do in lieu of other things that I really want to do (but they take up too much time):
1) Final Fantasy XII. (Now some might argue that if I have time to play FF12, I darn well have time to run a Savage Worlds game. To a certain extent that is true, and normally I’d agree, but there are other issues besides the total amount of time it takes to play some FF12 in a week and the total amount of time it takes to play Savage Worlds in a week (which is roughly equal for me). Savage Worlds can’t be played for just one hour before work by yourself. Savage Worlds can’t be played for just an hour before bed by yourself. Savage Worlds can’t usually be played by yourself, period. I’m not complaining or campaigning for some computerised solo-play SW game (though that would be cool), it’s just the nature of the situation I’m in. )
Anyway, FF12 seems merely good at first. It takes a while to start to understand the sheer depth and nuances of the game part, not to mention the truly epic storyline. But once enough time is invested, the gold starts shining through the silver coating. I am a Squaresoft Fanboy 4 Life, but I was dissapointed in the relatively mediocre FFX and never played FFXI. XII not merely takes elements of many past Final Fantasies (most obviously Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, but also some very significant plot devices* from Final Fantasy VI and IX), and the style and other references to Star Wars and LOTR, and a whole bunch of new stuff of it’s own… It soon becomes clear that it’s more than the sum of it’s already quite awesome parts.
The Gambit System is a fully realised concept of something I’ve wanted them to include since I first played FFVII: just telling the characters to always do x when x’s condition is triggered so I don’t have to manually tell them every time. Being a programmer (or Coder if you want to be geeky), I occasionally feel that it’s way too simple and I want Balthier to do “x if not y or z”, but with a little tweaking I can get them to act almost exactly how I want them to act every time with just the “bare bones” system that is there.
It’s so good that it really begs for parodying, and I’m casually making notes and a draft of a parody fanfiction, but I’ll probably never get more than a chapter done. Of course, I never finished that Series Of Unfortunate Events / Harry Potter crossover either…
Anyway, FF12 = great. Play it. It’ll take a while to fall in love and it does have a few faults (like not giving you nearly enough guidance on how to actually use Gambits to their full potential when you get them or bothering to explain what Chains actually are in-game), but it’s as close to a “perfect Final Fantasy” that there has been so far.
If you’re a Savage Worlds fan and you still need convincing, let me say this: Licenses = Edges. The License Grid is slightly arbitrary in it’s layout, but it’s the closest thing to Edges/Feats there has been in a Console RPG so far.
*When Magicite was first mentioned, I was like “Wait… like FF6 Magicite? Are they serious?” And then the casual mention of “Manufactured Nethecite” and a laboratory in Archades and the poster in Gamestop with the tagline “Discover the secret that will unravel an empire” and the mysterious (at the point that I’ve played to) connection between Mist (as in FF9) and Magicite… Well I knew right then XII was going to rock. Rock Hardcore.
2) HARDCOVER MEGATOME 1!!!! Oh yes, I have The Precious. Signed by Pete Himself. Of course you may not touch it, pesky Hobbitses! It is mine, all MINE! AHAAHAHAHAHA!!!!
3) Howl’s Moving Castle: the original novel. I’ve seen the movie a few times but only recently read the book.
I had heard that the movie was radically different to the book and that is literally about half true. Except for just one scene, the movie follows the plot of the book almost exactly until halfway through the book. The book doesn’t have any of the anti-war sentiments that seemed a bit tacked on (even when I saw the movie before I read the book), and in fact there isn’t any mention of war in the book at all. Howl is just as selfish but not nearly as much of a cad in the movie which is originally an important clue. Wizard Suliman isn’t a villain at all in the book. The movie eschews the seven league boots, Sophie’s magic talent, and the big pyrotechnic battles between Howl and the Witch of the Waste. The movie also does not mention Martha, the Martha/Lettie subplot, or the fact that Howl and Suliman are actually from “our” Earth (which I thought was a very odd subplot and ultimately didn’t have much impact on the plot).
But it is actually quite similar. Frankly, Suliman is a minor character in both versions, the Scarecrow’s subplot makes more sense in the movie, Howl is still quite selfish, the Castle itself remains mostly the same but ends up a bit neater in the movie. Sophie is the same. Calcifer is the same. The Witch of the Waste is more subtle and manipulative and less of a murderous maniac but otherwise just as callous and power-hungry.
Overall, despite the meddling with the plot, I think I prefer the ending of the movie. The ending of the book is something of a mess with too many things happening at once and some too-complicated plot twists that are absolutely impossible to figure out unless you know more than Sophie does*. The main plot twist is kept the same, and the main villain actually ends up having a bigger role in the movie despite the distraction of the secondary villain… But… Yeah, I admit it would have been nice if Miyazaki hadn’t messed with the plot and characters as much as he did. But it’s not a deal-breaker for me. The LOTR movies were good too, y’know.
Anyway, overall I think both versions are good. Neither one is perfect, but between the two of them is a darn good tale.
*Frankly, the whole Miss Angorian thing is cheating. And so is the “jigsaw” revelation. And did Howl and Suliman learn magic on our world first before coming to Sophie’s world? If they did, why did they come to Sophie’s world in the first place? If they didn’t, is “our” world actually more like the Harry Potter-world? Is any of this answered in other books (possibly)? If the Witch is so (relatively) easily defeated, why wasn’t she dealt with before, especially since she’s so much more overtly murderous in the book? Yeah, I heartily agree with a bunch of the changes Miyazaki made, dang it!
That’s it for tonight and probably the rest of december. Such is the way things are for now…