Wednesday, February 28, 2018

General RPGs' AMVs 15

Yup, I was short on rant ideas again. Sue me.


Final Fantasy 8: Final Devotion, by Lunarstudios:
The music used is To the Moon and Back, by Savage Garden. This is 1 of those AMVs that’s so damn good that it’s really just barely shy of deserving its own rant. The timing and scene selection is excellent, perfectly following both the mood and rhythm of the song, and its lyrics. And the latter is a real accomplishment, because this is a long song, and it’s 1 of those songs whose focus is on telling its story, making the act of following along with said story much more challenging. The only flaw I can say this video really has is the fact that it’s kind of hard to sustain a roughly 6 minute song with FF8’s FMVs alone, particularly when they’re so carefully restricted to coordinating with the song’s nearly always present lyrics...but even as it gets a little old, it’s still really good. Really, this is just an expert AMV from start to finish; that’s all there is to say about it.

It’s a shock to me that this isn’t the best AMV of today’s lot, actually, but I suppose that really just emphasizes how truly excellent All About Us one further below really is.

Final Fantasy 8: Mentos, by Jimbo Studios Entertainment:
The music used is from a Mentos commercial, by who the hell knows. There’s nothing to say about this. It’s just glorious.

Final Fantasy 9: Demons, by Argol:
The music used is Demons, by Imagine Dragons. This is a really well-made AMV that consistently matches the scenes of Final Fantasy 9 to the lyrics of the song extremely well, and has a good eye and ear for keeping the visuals of the AMV appropriate to the tone of the song, as well. It’s one of those cases where it’s more the game being worked to fit the song, rather than the song fitting to the content of the game, but there’s still plenty of synergy between them that goes both ways. Overall, this is just a really strong AMV.


Fire Emblem 14: Believer, by TheHeroStainedRed:
The music used is Believer, by Imagine Dragons. This is a solid AMV that shines for how well it pairs the game’s footage and action to the heavy, powerful beats and tone of the music. I hadn’t really noticed just how much of FE14’s cinematics were devoted to pain, death, and heavy movements, but apparently there’s enough there to adeptly coordinate with this entire song.

Fire Emblem 14: Hey Brother, by Artishe:
The music used is Hey Brother, by Avicii. Alright, in fairness, when it comes to making a Fire Emblem 14 AMV, pretty much half the job is already done for you the moment you get a song primarily about brothers and sisters. Still, this is a skillfully made AMV which competently takes advantage of the automatic connection between song and game, and ties them together into a solid video about the focal point of Corrin’s character and motivations: her family. The tone of the song is pretty well connected to the scenes shown, too, which is also nice.

Fire Emblem 14: This is War, by Hawkscape:
The music used is This is War, by 30 Seconds to Mars. Again. Ugh. Okay, so this is a very strange AMV, because its first half is such a creative, thoughtful, and well-executed take on the lyrics of This is War that it actually makes the song seem fresh and interesting again. Awesome! And then...the AMV transitions into the second half, skipping to the end of the song and the end of the game, and it’s just boring. I mean, the scene and actions in it fit to the song well enough, but overall you’re just watching an almost unaltered video of the end of FE14, to a song which sucks. It’s baffling, honestly; this boring section is by the same guy who actually managed to breathe new life into the song in the first half of the AMV?

As it stands, the first half’s quality still outweighs the second half’s lack of originality or skill, to me, so I’m still sharing it here. But what started out looking to be a truly excellent AMV turned out to just be a fairly okay one, and that’s pretty disappointing.


Kingdom Hearts Series: Wide Awake, by Sarady:
The music used is Wide Awake, by Katy Perry. Kingdom Hearts has a natural resonance with certain types of songs, and that’s definitely present here; Wide Awake definitely holds the kind of tune and lyrics that really just meld well with the game. That’s not to say that Sarady deserves no credit for this combination, however. To the contrary, this AMV’s creator has skillfully used the song and game footage to glimpse at the stories of the Kingdom Hearts series’s protagonist Sora, and 2 semi-protagonists Roxas and Aqua, and the result is a high-quality AMV that’s engrossing from start to finish.


The World Ends with You: All About Us, by Digital Surgeon:
The music used is All About Us, by t.A.T.u. Ugh, t.A.T.u. What is this, 2002? I thought I was done having to listen to this duo’s shitty music after my sister moved out for college. I guess I should just count my lucky fucking stars that Digital Surgeon didn’t go with All the Things She Said.

Okay, well, regardless of my at this point arguably lifelong dislike of t.A.T.u, this here is a damned good AMV. The tone of the song coordinates nigh perfectly with the style of The World Ends with You, both in terms of its art style and its sequential-art-esque animations, and the AMV’s creator does a spot-on job of coordinating scene changes so that almost all the actions and scenes shown are matched to not just the lyrics, but the beats themselves of this energetic, aggressive song. I just freakin’ love the part from 0:59 - 1:10, for example. The chorus...the obnoxious, incessant, so-repetitive-that-level-grinding-in-The-7th-Saga-is-starting-to-look-fresh-and-interesting-by-comparison chorus...obviously works very well conceptually with this game, a game all about finding the value in bonds with other people. This is one of those cases where you almost don’t know where the game ends and the song begins, because they’re fitted together so well that you can’t tell which is supposed to be the one supporting and emphasizing the other.

My one complaint is that the video uses a few lines of dialogue from the game, which should be a plus (why do AMV-makers shy away from this so much?), but unfortunately, the music isn’t adequately subdued during these moments, and so everything said is completely lost in the noise. It’s too bad, because a few well-placed lines from TWEwY would have doubtless been solid gold for this AMV. Even with this flaw, though, this is a really great music video.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

General RPG Characters' Preoccupation with Hand Warmth

Time for another rant about a trope that’s broader than just RPGs (this one’s quite popular in anime), but which does show up in them frequently enough that it annoys me. Yes, it’s time to talk about Warm Hands!

So, something that happens now and then in RPGs is that you have a character, almost invariably female, and also usually sappy and annoyingly positive, who takes someone’s hand in theirs, and from this small touch divines that the person whose hand they grasp is a good person with a good heart. What is the source of this intuition, you wonder? How have they so confidently inferred the hidden nature and plumbed the depths of the soul before them? Why, it’s very simple!

That person has warm hands.

Yup. That’s it. That’s all there is to it. The person has warm hands, so according to your oracular party member, they must be trustworthy. Background history? Discussion of one’s ethics and beliefs? Personal experience with the individual? Considering the person’s actions to this point? Even just looking them in the goddamn eye? All unnecessary. This person’s hands possess a higher temperature than the party member’s own, so they must be a trustworthy and laudable person within.

It’s idiotic. I don’t even know where to start with this trope. I don’t know why I should HAVE to. Hey, uh, assorted RPG writers of companies both big and small, did you guys just...miss fourth grade science, or something? See, there’s this thing about human beings. And that is that we’re mammals. And mammals, it turns out, are warm-blooded. It means our blood--the blood that circulates through our body, including the extremities like the hands--is meant to stay at a specific, constant, regulated temperature, regardless of the environment around us. And 1 of the side effects of that usually-learned-in-elementary-school fact is that we give off body heat. Like...ALL of us. Regardless of the moral fiber of our character!

How exactly does this reasoning work, anyway? The person’s heart must be warmer if their hands are warmer, and warmer heart = better heart? Or maybe the person’s heart is extra functional, pumping their warm blood into their hands much faster than a regular person’s? Because I’m fairly sure these are less a sign of moral integrity than they are of cardiovascular diseases!

And even from the perspective of whatever bizarre reasoning RPGs have for this trope, it still doesn’t make much sense to use as a moral barometer. I mean, even if having naturally heated hands were somehow indicative of a good person, it’s still not a reliable measure to use. What if a decent person happens to just have bad circulation? What, no good human being ever got diabetes, or had a blood clot? For that matter, no evil person ever had a fever?

What about characters like Deekin from Neverwinter Nights 1, Mipha from The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Frog from Chrono Trigger, Koops from Paper Mario 2, and Psybe from Cosmic Star Heroine? You’d have a hard time arguing that any of them weren’t highly decent people, but lizards, fish, amphibians, turtles, and most insects are cold-blooded; there’d be no warmth in any of their hands. Or characters like Spar from Breath of Fire 2, and Camellia from Arc the Lad 4? Pretty sure that anthropomorphic plants wouldn’t have much in the way of body heat, but that doesn’t bar either from being decent individuals. There’re plenty of ethical characters in RPGs who are aliens, like Raja from Phantasy Star 4, and Garrus and Padok from the Mass Effect series. Even if they might be warm-blooded, their physiology could be such that the warmth was less than our own. And then there are good-hearted vampires like Joachim from Shadow Hearts 2, helpful ghosts like Pamela from Mana Khemia 1, friendly skeletons like Papyrus from Undertale, and just a whole hell of a lot of nice robots. Go ahead and try to tell me Aegis from Shin Megami Tensei: Persona isn’t a truly wonderful person. Go ahead, try to say it. You’ll live the rest of your life knowing you’re a fucking liar.

And even beyond the fact that body temperature can be affected by health problems, and the problems that arise from RPGs’ trend toward especially peculiar casts, it also seems like it would be easy for a villain to dupe this format of moral checkup. All any villain needs to do is keep his hands in his armpits for a few minutes before shaking hands with the heroes he wants to dupe, and he’s golden! Or hell, why settle for his pits? He’s a villain! He can shove his hand down between his asscheeks for a bit--he passes the moral test, and gives the heroes a good stink palm at the same time! Effective, and diabolic!

It’s just a really stupid, nonsensical trope. It’s silly and dumb to anyone with common sense and even a beginner’s grasp of human biology, and even if you were to take it as somehow legitimate, it still seems absurdly unreliable and easy to fool. Thankfully, though it does pop up now and then in games from developers both mighty* and minor**, this bizarre little cliche shows up in RPGs far less frequently than it does in anime. Still, every time I come across it, the sappy stupidity of the warm hands = good heart thing just makes me groan and shake my head.

* No, Grandia 3’s Alfina, Yuki is not a good person because his hands are warm. He is a good person because he keeps saving your stupid ass.

And maybe also because he actually has the patience to be able to put up with you. Hell, if the measure of character actually were hand heat, then that level of sainthood would require Yuki’s hands to be outright on fire.

** No, Marine from the Millennium series, Bokden showing up and proving that your faith in him was justified is an occurrence independent of the fact that his hand was a degree hotter than yours when you grabbed it.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

General RPG Valentines 2

It's that time of year again, ladies and gents! Yes, that magical, wonderful time of year in which we celebrate Love, that highest virtue of humanity, by ritually sacrificing it to our soulless corporate masters on a holiday that twists the concept of human affection into an economic obligation. In spite of my cynicism, however, I wholeheartedly love any holiday devoted to the concept of reminding others of just how important they are to you, and so, I have created for you all 20 more ways to tell someone you love them while being an RPG dork of irredeemable magnitude. Enjoy, and have a Happy Valentine's Day!

But of course, if you're a sourpuss about Valentine's Day and want everyone to know about it, while also letting them know that you're an RPG addict beyond saving...well, I've got a few of these things for you, too!