Sunday, February 28, 2016

Fire Emblem Fates: Honest Character Blurbs - Birthright

Warning: Potential Spoilers!

Shared Characters

Corrin: A prince/princess raised in Nohr after being abducted from Hoshido as a child. Can change into a dragon and wield the sacred blade, Yato. He/she is a blatant Gary Stu/Mary Sue and makes terrible life decisions if you choose Conquest. Has the most incestual potential.

Azura: A princess raised in Hoshido after being taken hostage in exchange for Corrin. Becomes unrecognizable while wearing black, even to her close friends and relatives. Her songs sound incredibly stilted and awkward. Most suicidal unit in the army.

Gunter: A Nohrian knight of middling birth who reached his rank on talent and discipline. He now serves as Corrin’s retainer. He is exceedingly eccentric and everyone who knows him calls him weird. Consistently draws attention to his age and the fact that he is old, especially when unrelated to what he is doing at the time.

Felicia: One of the Avatar’s Ice Tribe retainers, along with her sister, Flora. She is a terrible maid and not very good in battle either. The most useless.

Jakob: A multitalented Nohrian butler who serves the Avatar at home and on the battlefield. While generally cool toward Corrin, he's pretty much a total asshole to everyone else, including his son. Not a good person.

Kaze: A Hoshidan ninja. Has an identical twin who looks nothing like him. He is disturbingly loyal to his chosen liege, willing to give up his very life, even if his liege chooses to cut down his friends in front of him. Most likely to betray his homeland for petty reasons.

Silas: A newly appointed Nohrian knight of noble birth. Claims to be a childhood friend of Corrin, who doesn't recognize him. He has a very generic personality. Most forgettable in the army.

Shura: The leader of a group of thieves in Nohr. Former ninja who was forced to become a thief, which is confusing because ninjas are the equivalent to old school thieves in this game and he's actually a totally different class. Great at kidnapping little girls.

Izana: Archduke of Izumo. Descended from a divine dragon, he has amazing hair and a side job as a Loreal fashion model. Often surprises his guests by being a gigantic doofus. Largest ego in the army.

Mozu: A daughter of farmers from a small village in Nohr. Lacks confidence and generally sucks compared to Donnel, who she wishes she was. Has a frighteningly tragic recruitment story for a Fire Emblem Game. Good luck training her in Conquest.

Hoshidan Characters

Mikoto: The peace-loving queen who rules over Hoshido. Corrin’s birth mother, but not the mother of the other siblings, which the game expects you to know but doesn't tell you. Puts Corrin's goody two shoes personality to shame. Voted most likely to die early in the story.

Rinkah: Daughter of the Flame Tribe’s chieftain. Passionate and powerful, she's a total brute with zero manners and hates everyone else in the army. Accidentally traded voices with Hinoka in an unknown ritual.

Sakura: The youngest princess of Hoshido. Unlike her Nohr counterpart, she's a likable and reserved character. Also unlike her Nohr counterpart, she is completely outclassed by the other healers in Hoshido. A fair trade. She has a severe speech impediment. The best at giving children a cool hair color.

Hana: A Hoshidan samurai serving as Sakura’s retainer. Her favorite phrase is "get rekt," which Nohrians have come to fear when heard on the battlefield. The best at redefining gender roles.

Subaki: Sakura’s retainer and a Hoshidan sky knight from a long line of talented knights trained to be perfect. His rampant perfectionism annoys friends and foes alike. Is actually a man.

Saizo: A Hoshidan ninja who serves Ryoma and is the fifth to carry the Saizo name. Constitutes one half of the Christmas Ninjas. Curt and taciturn, with his bad attitude rivaling only Jakob. Dislikes everyone more than anyone.

Orochi: A Hoshidan diviner who served the late Mikoto. Her parents gave her a name that means "snake," which is ironically one of the animals that she cannot conjure. Jokes around in times of war, making others uncomfortable. Laughs at inappropriate times.

Hinoka: Eldest princess of Hoshido, she was a noob as a child and let Corrin get stolen by Nohr. After this, she heard a divine message from the Dawn Dragon whispered into her ear: "git gud scrub"

And so git gud she did. Many think she is an alternate universe version of Buttercup from the Powerpuff Girls, but her voice was actually changed with Rinkah's at an unspecified point in the past.

Azama: A Hoshidan monk who serves Hinoka. Likely forced into the shrine by his parents, as his combat oriented growths indicate that his true calling lies elsewhere. Doesn't give a fuck about anything. Trolls harder than anyone in the army.

Setsuna: A Hoshidan archer and retainer to Hinoka. She is known to down an entire bottle of cough syrup before every battle, and her mental state is in question. The biggest weed smoker in the army.

Hayato: An orphan from the Wind Tribe raised by their chief, Fuga. He is a one note character in a game of one note characters, so get ready to hear about his insecurity issues. Not very good at anything.

Oboro: A spear fighter from Hoshido who serves Takumi. Her family ran a tailor shop, so naturally she became an expert spear fighter in the Hoshidan military. Goes clothes shopping in between slaughtering people on the battlefield. The most racist in the army.

Hinata: A Hoshidan samurai from a long line serving the royal family. Shares a name with a useless female ninja from another popular series. His son thinks he's a total dork.

Takumi: A Hoshidan prince who wields the legendary Fujin Yumi. Hates Corrin for no reason. His personality frequently shifts, leading many to speculate that he suffers from bipolar disorder. Most likely to jump to extremes.

Kagero: A ninja from Hoshido and Ryoma’s retainer. Idolizes Bob Ross. She knows she has a nice body and isn't afraid to show it. Voted coolest female in a Fire Emblem game.

Reina: A Hoshidan knight who served the late Mikoto. A closet sadist. Stay as far away as possible.

Kaden: A Hoshidan kitsune who serves as village chief. Manages to get lost so hard that he ends up across the ocean. Promotes into the Nine-tails from Naruto. Has the worst daughter.

Ryoma: The high prince of Hoshido and wielder of the legendary Raijinto. He is such a big lobster enthusiast that he dresses as one in public, much like his late father, Sumeragi. A sweeping whirlwind of death, woe unto those who experience this sea creature aficionado on the battlefield, for he will end you and all of your friends with little effort, all for the glory of Hoshido, with his overpowered range, dodge, offense, supports, weapon, and basically everything else


Scarlet: A hearty resistance fighter from Cheve. Ain't putting up with Nohr's comic book villain nonsense anymore. One of the few people from her homeland with both combat skills and common sense.

Yukimura: Hoshidan strategist and retainer to the late Mikoto. Extremely irresponsible and prone to leaving armies of puppets to defend an entire kingdom. Total nerd. Keeps accidentally breaking his glasses.

Shared Children

Kana: Corrin’s son/daughter, raised in the Deeprealms. Typical annoying little kid. Has her own dragon language that she playfully made up after almost being transformed into a mindless, murderous dragon for the rest of her life. Enjoys being a dragon.

Shigure: Azura’s son, raised in the Deeprealms. The only human being in the world not to inherit their father's physical traits. Shares a love for Bob Ross with Kagero. While mild and kind, he can also be oblivious to obvious things. Didn't realize his voice changed after puberty.

Dwyer: Jakob’s son, raised in the Deeprealms. Lazy bum who possesses talent and doesn't use it, using this combination to justify himself talking smack to his elders and slacking off at every possible opportunity. Voted most likely to drop out of high school and maybe get a GED when his parents get tired of him living at home in his late 20's.

Sophie: Silas’s daughter, raised in the Deeprealms. Her father gifted her with the worst horse imaginable on purpose, which she loves, planting the perfect foundation for an abusive relationship. Eternally optimistic regardless. Her horse, Avel, is legit dangerous and tries to eat people and their hair. A case study for growing up in a bad environment.

Midori: Kaze’s daughter, raised in the Deeprealms. An accomplished apothecary despite being a child, she received her P.h.D. at the age of 13 after witnessing Dwyer's laziness, fearing a bleak future. Her father was creative enough to name her "green," after the color of his hair.

Hoshidan Children

Shiro: Ryoma’s son, raised in the Deeprealms. Doesn't share his father's enthusiasm for lobsters, but loves him regardless. Friendly and skilled, but pales in comparison to his beast of a father. Seriously, nobody can compare to his father. Ever. Forced to eternally live in the shadow of a God.

Kiragi: Takumi’s son, raised in the Deeprealms. A less memorable but more likable version of his father. Like Shiro, his father is superior to him in every way. Just reclass him and give the poor boy an identity.

Asugi: Saizo’s son, raised in the Deeprealms. Totally not Gaius from Awakening. Somehow eats sweets constantly and never gains weight. Really, he's not Gaius, I swear. It's not like his name is an anagram or anything. Voted most hamfisted parallel to a preceding game.

Selkie: Kaden’s daughter, raised in the Deeprealms. No, not the cool Selkie race from Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles. Technically half-human, but you could never tell. The most mentally challenged in the army.

Hisame: Hinata’s son, raised in the Deeprealms. A total badass. This guy is basically a nicer Battousai from Rurouni Kenshin with dad problems. Hates his father for being a dork. The coolest child unit and an apology for the decidedly average second generation.

Mitama: Azama’s daughter, raised in the Deeprealms. A starry eyed anime stereotype. Loves to eat toast on her way to school. The most likely to say "uguu~"

Caeldori: Subaki’s daughter, raised in the Deeprealms. Totally not Cordelia from Awakening. Her mother's womb is rumored to contain a trans-dimensional portal.

Rhajat: Hayato’s daughter, raised in the Deeprealms. Totally not Tharja from Awakening. A stalker and occultist, she is creepy AF and everyone is scared of her. Nearly decimates your army before joining and is completely forgiven despite showing homicidal tendencies. A mentally unstable mess.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Parasite Eve Retrospective: The Best and Only Video Game Novel Sequel

Ok, that's a pretty confusing title. What does that mean? Simple: the original Parasite Eve was a Japanese sci-fi horror novel. The 1998 PlayStation game is a sequel to the novel. What an intriguing concept for a game, right? The connections are subtle enough that you need no knowledge of the novel to enjoy the story of the game, but nuanced enough so that fans of the original story will appreciate the nods to its plot.

So, onto the game itself. Parasite Eve is an oddball. It was released by SquareSoft, known for its fantasy role-playing games, as a third person horror/RPG hybrid set in the real life setting of the at-the-time contemporary New York City. I don't think anybody expected this game to be made, and it was likely inspired by Capcom's very successful Resident Evil series, which kickstarted the "survival horror" genre. News Bot makes the claim that "Parasite Eve II was directed and written by Resident Evil planner/writer Kenichi Iwao, with art staff comprised of RE1 and RE2 artists. That's why it feels like a Resident Evil game. They were pretty much asked to make a competitor and did very well." The game's parallels to Resident Evil are entirely intentional, and it shows.

The game takes place in New York City, set during the Christmas holiday season in 1997.
The gameplay could best be described as turn-based horror RPG. Boy, that's a mouthful. Much like the Resident Evil games, you explore desolate, haunting locations full of mutants and monsters, and you explore them alone. Also much like the Resident Evil games, you are a mostly ordinary human being forced to defend themselves with human weapons. The protagonist of the game, Aya Brea, is a police officer, and thus uses various guns as her primary weapons, and each gun has a limited amount of ammo. Unlike the Resident Evil games, Aya can also cast "magic" in order to heal herself, remove poison, and even shoot energy blasts. As ridiculous as this sounds, there is a narratively sound reason for this, which we'll get to in a moment. Also unlike Resident Evil, combat is semi-turn based; Aya can move freely and avoid enemy attacks at all times, but can only fight back when the action gauge is full, much like the ATB system used in the Final Fantasy games.

Aya fights a monster. You can see the "AT" and "PE" gauges in the corner, as well as the limited space that Aya can attack, signified by the green wireframe. The AT gauge is the action gauge, whereas the PE gauge functions as a resource for Aya's more magical abilities.
Aya is able to customize her firearms using tools found in the overworld, as well as allocate stat points to improve her inventory space and the speed in which the action gauge fills itself. Aya's method of combat is a blend between Final Fantasy and Resident Evil, which is pretty much exactly what you'd expect of a Resident Evil inspired game made by SquareSoft. In addition to the Resident Evil-esque areas of the game, Parasite Eve also has areas that function much like towns do in a traditional RPG - the police station and museum are full of characters you can talk to and devoid of monsters or conflict. The police station even functions as a "shopping center" of sorts, where you can visit the resident firearms expert to have him help you upgrade your guns. In this sense, there are essentially "dungeons" and "towns" much like there are in an RPG, although the actual map traversal feels much more like a Resident Evil game. It sounds strange on paper, but the way that it functions in-game works surprisingly smoothly and provides a unique experience that you cannot find in any other game. Even the game's own sequels went for a different approach, leaving the original as the only game of its type even to this day.

You can customize your weapons, adding to their stats, or even adding additional effects, such as frost.
The setting and story are as unique as the gameplay. As previously stated, the game is a sequel to Japanese horror sci-fi novel Parasite Eve. The game's plot is very science oriented and relatively grounded in comparison to SquareSoft's more typical fantasy narratives. The primary focus of the plot is on the concept of mitochondria - the cell's primary source of power - and the scientific theory that mitochondria function as a parasite to the cell, based on the fact that it shares unique DNA from its host.

Mitochondria functions as the center of the game's narrative.
The story makes the jump to science fiction by implying that mitochondria has its own intelligence, and has been shaping humanity from the very beginning to create the "ultimate being." From the wiki of the original novel: "The novel's plot supposes that mitochondria, which are inherited through the female line of descent, form the dispersed body of an intelligent conscious life-form, dubbed Eve, which has been waiting throughout history and evolution for the right conditions when mitochondrial life can achieve its true potential and take over from eukaryotic life-forms (i.e. humans and similar life) by causing a child to be born that can control its own genetic code." Of course, being horror themed, the mitochondria is malevolent in nature and very much hostile to humanity, seeking to use it only as a tool to achieve its own ends. The monsters encountered in-game are all ordinary creatures mutated by Eve. In this sense, Eve and her mitochondria are Parasite Eve's equivalent to the T-virus and its creation of zombies in Resident Evil. Where Parasite Eve differs from Resident Evil is in its protagonist; whereas Chris, Jill, and the rest of Resident Evil's leads are ordinary humans in an extraordinary environment, Aya has explicit connections to the character of Eve that I won't reveal in order to keep from spoiling the narrative. The parallels between games are apparent and even obvious, but also differ enough so that the game feels like it has its own unique identity. The game's story is very intellectual, especially by comparison to most video games, which is a treat to those looking for some depth to video game storytelling.

Aya shares a special connection with Eve. What could it be?
The game's artwork is done by SquareSoft character designer Tetsuya Nomura, perhaps best known for designing characters such as Cloud, Sephiroth, Tidus, Yuna, Lightning, and the rest of the Final Fantasy cast in many games from Final Fantasy VII and onward. The timeframe that Parasite Eve was released places this as what was arguably Nomura's prime, right around the time that he designed the characters for Final Fantasy VII, which is what put him on the map. Aya Brea and her supporting cast all evoke Nomura's signature style, and bear much resemblance to his other works of the time, which is a huge plus for fans of his original style. The character design is distinctly Nomura, but also manages to fit with the more grounded look and atmosphere of Parasite Eve, adding to the unique visual identity that the game has become known for. As an added treat for fans of the old SquareSoft team, the soundtrack was also done by Yoko Shimomura, who has since become well known for composing the Kingdom Hearts series. 

Having recently replayed this game, I took my experience to NeoGAF, where I received some interesting responses from other users who had enjoyed their time with the game.

"This is one of my favourite PSX games, I've played through it about 4-5 times. Every time, I always enjoy the blend of survival horror, action, and RPG. The plot is great, and it's really refreshing having a strong female character who isn't overly sexualized."

"Excellent story. Excellent setting. Excellent narration via the day system. Freaking New York under siege by monsters. I loved how the police precinct would be your basic town hub."

"It's a fantastic game with some refreshingly brisk pacing. That, New Game+ and the weapon and armor upgrading system help the game lend itself well to replays. And on a personal level, I loved this game a lot as a kid. I always thought it was so cool to have a JRPG take place in my home city.

Probably Shimomura's best OST behind Legend of Mana, too. Some of Nomura's best art is on display here, too."

"I loved this game and the ambience it gave off. The soundtrack was amazing.

I often just sat in the police station listening to the theme music."

"Game was enthralling, ominous as hell... I've never been able to really enjoy it a second time because the atmosphere is so dependent on its mystery, but that first time playing it back when it release was rather intense. Great environment art, especially the city buildings. Haunting soundtrack, too."

"This game gave me a head start in middle school science. My 7th grade biology teacher was amazed I was familiar with mitochondria."

"Oh wow, I had forgotten about this game, but it was amazing. Since I was still a kid at the time, it scared the shit out of me. Seeing that rat mutate gave me nightmares and forced me to put the game down. I remember spending so much time in the police station, since nothing would go wrong there and the music settled my racing heartbeat."

Parasite Eve is a gaming experience like no other. Its sequel, Parasite Eve 2, plays more like a traditional survival horror game, and the side story The Third Birthday plays like a third person shooter. One day I'll revisit those titles, but, in my personal opinion, the original Parasite Eve is the pinnacle of the series. The scientific narrative, real-life setting, unique gameplay, phenomenal soundtrack, distinctive art and haunting atmosphere all remain prominently in my mind even years after playing it for the first time all the way back in 1998. The game is currently available on the PlayStation Network for PS3, PSP, and PS Vita, so I highly suggest you check it out if you have the chance.