Monday, July 10, 2006

Kingdom Hearts 2's Jack Sparrow

Today's rant is brought to you largely by the recent, terribly disappointing Pirates of the Caribbean sequel. Let it never be said that outside factors don't influence my rant topics.

So, there are a few general complaints people have with Kingdom Hearts 2 that you hear repeated very often. These usually include the following criticisms:

1. Atlantica Sucked (Myself, I found it not so terrible--at least its dumb minigames gave you the idea that you were ACCOMPLISHING something, instead of just fucking around finding honey or pretending to be Tony Hawk).
2. Aeris's Voice Acting Sucked (No arguments here--man, I thought I'd been prepared for bad voice acting by other games, but this is in its own league of awful)
3. Sephiroth Is In It (Meh, big deal, it's still not like he's hard to beat, and Nomura has such a narcissistic infatuation with his own creations, both good and godawful, that you can't really expect anything else)
4. Nomura doesn't bother to even try to understand any FF character not his own (Oops, sorry, did I stick a personal complaint into this list? Silly me)
5. Jack Sparrow Wasn't Done Right

Number 5 there I was fully willing to believe before playing the game. I mean, the character of Jack Sparrow from the original Pirates of the Caribbean is a pretty unique fellow, with enough quirks and mannerisms that he's gotta be hard for anyone to reproduce (as further proven by the terrible job that Depp himself does at trying to recreate him in the afore-mentioned sequel). So I went into KH2 with a reasonably low expectation for the PotC world's central character. So I get to the PotC world, start busting up undead pirates with my trusty cartoon friends and fucktarded Keyblade, and hang out with Cap'n Jack for a while, and come to the following realization:

I have no idea what everyone's complaining about.

The general movements and gestures for him are all spot-on. He's got the same noticeable, but not glaringly obvious sway, the same smoothly flimsy hand motions, and even the same gracefully uncoordinated way of fighting. Even when he's doing the kind of wildly unrealistic stuff that hanging out with Sora allows you to do, particularly during joint Limit Breaks, he's still the same off-kilter pirate we all know and love.

Personality-wise, he's also just about a perfect fit. He still has his own best interests in mind, while still having that ambiguously friendly personality that can convince you that, just maybe, he's also just as motivated by the urge to be a decent guy. They even kept the line that I think really best describes him and the uniquely uncertain motivations for all he does: "Have I ever given you reason not to trust me?"

What seems to inspire people most to say that he's not right is the voice acting, I've found. Which confuses me as much as their criticism of any other part of him. To be sure, he's not voiced by Johnny Depp. But while you can tell this if you really, really listen for the difference, the voice is honestly so close that I doubt I could have told the difference without knowing beforehand that it wasn't Mr. Depp doing it. It's certainly closer than quite a few other Disney character voices get in the game, but you don't really hear any complaints for them, so I'm gonna have to say it's probably mostly the deranged Depp fangirls and fanboys who take any strong notice of this difference. Overall, I think SquareEnix did a damn good job with the character of Jack Sparrow, and anyone who has a problem with him is being too picky even for me.

Monday, July 3, 2006

General RPGs Minigames 2: Chinchirorin

Alright, folks. You know I love Suikoden. Like, just really love the series a helluva lot. So much so that I'll neglect ranting, and just about all other aspects of my internet life, for about 2 weeks to finish a new installment in the series.

But the series has its faults (besides the entire game of Suikoden 4). I mean little faults, annoying things that happen inside even the great games (which would be all the others). There's that frustrating problem in the endings of not giving you enough damn time to read the little bits for each character about what ends up happening to them post-game, the strange feeling of It's Here Because Plot Needed It that always springs up near or at the final boss, and the never-ending problem of not having enough money regardless of how long you've been whacking monsters.

The fault I'm really interested in today, though, is the minigame angle. Yes, Suikoden has minigames. Lots of them. Suikoden 5, in particular, seems to be littered with the damn things. And you know, sometimes, they're not all terrible. I mean, Suikoden 3's horse racing minigame was kinda sloppy and choppy in its controls, but nothing anyone who's handled Epona in Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time can't deal with, and you do get some kinda okay rewards from it, and it's not, to my memory, mandatory in any respect.

And of course, there's always the Suikoden 2 Iron Chef minigame. That was actually pretty damn awesome.

But man, most of the time, these minigames are boring and stupid in their best moments. You take this one from the earlier games, Chinchirorin (you can tell it's going to be a BLAST with a name like that). Now, this one you can count as mandatory, because you have to play it to get a couple of characters, and without them you can't get the good ending in either game. What it basically is, is you throwing some dice in a bowl and seeing what number they turn out to be. Then, if it's a good number, better than your opponent's, you win money. If it's not, you lose money. It seems to be at least 98% random as to what you're going to get regardless of where or when you throw the damn little things.

Yeah. Fun. Let's play a game where you press a button, and a random number is generated beyond your ability to influence it with any skill or reasoning, and, depending on what number comes up, you might win, or you might lose. They might as well just call it Random Number Generator Minigame, drop all the pretense and save themselves some time on animation and programming by just having a random number come up and tell you that you lose. Who knows, maybe it'll be so stupid that it'll really catch on and become a classic (worked for Rock Paper Scissors). I know casinos would LOVE it; so much easier to rig than slot machines.

How does a game that stupid even come to exist, anyway? Like, I mean in real life here. There are plenty of incredibly simplistic and frankly dumb pastimes people have invented, often involving dice or cards or hunting rifles. But what exactly inspired this one, I wonder? Why the bowl? Was randomly rolling dice to see if a certain number came up just not exciting enough? Did somebody think, while watching his comrades bet their livelihoods one day on a set of dots adorning a certain face of a tiny cube, "You know what would liven this game up a lot? A bowl. This game needs a bowl." And thus was invented the game of Chinchilla or whatever it is, dice tosses made special, somehow, by the presence of a salad bowl.