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Writing Takes Passion.
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For anyone who has played the game in its entirety (or maybe I should just say "finished it", because 100% in this game seems as far away now as 100% in Morrowind seemed when I was ten), I have a few questions. These questions SHOULD be directed towards the game's developers, by play testers ideally, but I seriously doubt there's any chance of that happening, since ya know... Languages and shit. So of course, I don't expect anyone to answer FOR the developers, I just wanna know what's going on in some areas of this game, because I got a grasp on some of it, but the rest is just menus, walls of texts and cylinders that I do not understand.

Question #1: If I do absolutely none of the sidequests, how fucked am I going to be later on?

#2: Was "Face" supposed to be translated as "Mask", but got changed?

#3: Is rebuilding Colony 6 just a great big bundle of fetch quests? Or is there like, dialogue and narrative depth to it and shit?

#4:What the hell is with the gem crafting system? Are those important? They don't feel important.

#5: What is anything worth? Am I going to get all my best items off drops, or am I good buying weapons and armor?

#6: Which parties just don't work? Or can I just fill my group up with whoever?

#7: No seriously, the fuck is the crafting system about? Why do I have to go all the way back to Colony 9 to do them? I like that it's only a few menu options away, but it kinda breaks the atmosphere of the game that I can just leave almost any dungeon at any time to go get a sweet charge on my crystals.

I guess I take so much issue with a lot of its game design because I don't like the MMO-style gameplay that it's outright going for. It's not bad, I just don't enjoy it. Millions of people play World of Warcraft, and it's more likely that I just have different tastes than all of them are wrong. What I DO enjoy though is this game's story, though I'm not in love with all of it's writing, which leads me to my final question.

#8: WHAT IS THE MONADO A METAPHOR FOR?!

It has to be something, the game has a deeper narrative than it just being a glowy McGuffin. As far as I can tell, the game is kinda about dealing with natural disaster, or at least was inspired by a cultural idea of what natural disasters do. To elaborate: The main characters get struck with something terrible and lose a lot of their home, and the game is about them learning to deal with the fact that terrible things are gonna happen in the world. I get the feeling the theme of the world being able to just wipe you away is very rooted in the game's Japanese...uh, roots. Having to deal with earthquakes, tsunamis, monsoons, wars both internal and external, their history is very used to the idea that huge bunches of people can just disappear.

There's a bit of terror to that thought though, since as an individual it seems like you're pretty powerless against such forces. Therein lies Xenoblade's narrative: The individual who has to go on living in a world where entire colonies can disappear overnight. So within all this, the big question becomes "What is the Monado's place?" Is it something that prevents disaster? Is that its purpose, or just one of many uses it has? That would seem to be what its myriad of functions available in battle indicates. I don't wanna call it too early, as I'm only about 12 hours into the game, which I hear is quite a bit longer than that, but I would ask anyone who has made that journey if anything I'm saying rings any bells. Because if I get through this whole game and find that they played it safe, that this esoteric theme nonsense was all set up and no payoff, I'm not gonna be pleased.

Given the previous games in this series, I'm pretty optimistic though. Xenosaga might've sucked, but it certainly had bawls, and Xenogears is an undisputed masterpiece (for everyone else I mean. I haven't played it, so I'll reserve judgment...).
Quick preface: I think I'm gonna start writing a lot more of these "thoughts" things that I've done every six months or so. I've find writing hard in the middle of the school year, but I can always jabber on about something relating to games, books, movies or anime, so it's good to get the brain working in any way I can.

Besides, it lets me get my opinions out there, some of which might not sight right with everyone. But ya know, I really do just enjoy displeasing people sometimes. Anyways... 



    Oh, this game. This fuckin' game. I like this game. But before I start talking about this game, let me regale you with the story of another game.

    Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn is the most expensive game you can get for the Wii at Gamestop. I figured, it being a Wii game, this meant that it was way rare, and hadn't considered that it might be good. I bought it in a buy-two-get-one-free deal, getting Metroid Prime Trilogy and Xenoblade Chronicles along with it. Even if it was the most expensive, I was really there for those two anyways. I bought it because I planned to sell it. I did not plan on liking it. But I spent 60$ on it, so I figured I might as well give it a chance. Let it try and impress me. Best case scenario, I have fun, worst case scenario, I have something to make fun of.

    Well fuck me sideways if it didn't totally defy my expected reactions.

    According to my sources (Kotaku and TV Tropes), Radiant Dawn is the hardest game in the Fire Emblem series. I was oh so thankful to hear that, let me tell you, because my God it does not forgive you for anything. Early on, any unit dying is a game over. All these units have paltry stats (in fact, I found out later that the characters the game was forcing me to rely upon in its early stages were actually pretty worthless in the long run), so dying is an easy thing to do if you're not careful. And even if you are careful, a 70% chance to land a hit is a nerve-racking set of numbers to see when you know that it means you have a 30% chance of failing for no other reason than your army's inadequacy.

    I won't fault it for this (too much) though, because Radiant Dawn makes some narrative decisions that make it feel justified. You're fighting a revolution, and you don't have a real army at that point in the game. By the time you get a real army, you've come so far with those tin soldiers that you're still afraid of losing them. They go from being valuable because they're all you have to being valuable because you've always had them. That kind of attachment is hard to develop in a game, so it's majorly impressive that they pulled it off; the player will likely value something less valuable because they've been forced to live with it for so long.
  
    So what the hell does all this have to do with Awakening, besides them being in the same series? Well I'll address that in two ways: Firstly, if I assigned someone to make for me a follow-up/sequel of Radiant Dawn, I would say they failed the assignment but still made something outstanding. Secondly, to the end it directs itself towards, Fire Emblem: Awakening does as good a job as Radiant Dawn does, with its only fault being that very end to which it works.
    Awakening is very much about relationships, so points right out the gate for being about something. Narrative-wise, this is examined through interpersonal relationships, student-teacher relationships, and then the really interesting ones, leader-follower relationships, ruler-people and past-future. Mechanically, its representation is (deservedly and effectively) more complex. Your units' personalities interact with each other through a system called "Support" (capital S, even has its own menu), where if they are nearby each other or outright paired up (sacrificing one of the two paired units' turns for a boost in stats, possible Disgaea-esque follow-up attacks and Support progress), they become more effective relative to how much they support each other. This makes your army feel less like a toybox of anime archetypes and more like a cohesive whole, a group where their interactions and personalities really matter.

    Sadly, there are no personalities that will come into conflict or just not click, and this Support system isn't as deep as later Persona games' Social Link system, so in the completely unlikely event that you get EVERYONE'S Support maxed out (I'm pretty sure this was designed to be impossible without fucking years of grinding), everyone will get amazing stat boosts all the time. Not that it'll take all strategy out of the game (the years of grinding you do to get there will take care of that), but it is worth mentioning that they only accounted for opportunity, not for actual social dynamic. Though it could be argued that the decision was preferable to the alternative; is it better that the social dynamics be unrealistically agreeable for the sake of consistent gameplay, or that social dynamics be realistic but risk infringing on other parts of the game, denying the player bonuses for units they worked to build relationships with purely out of some adherence to tone? I find that serving tone isn't as important as serving gameplay in a game, but some might disagree.

    The writing isn't always there, I'll admit. Especially annoying is a moment in the second mission, where a character remarks on how good you, the player-generated character, are at fucking everything. I hate that in games. I should feel rewarded for/by accomplishing something, preferably something difficult. It devalues the sense of accomplishment for another character to tell me I've accomplished something because A. I should be the one telling myself that with having met the challenge as my proof and B. She gives you praise for one of the earliest missions, as in a mission that's practically a tutorial. Anyways, the writing goes everywhere from good drama to melodrama, good comedy to cringe-inducing nightmares, and weird, cheesy romance to...well, I'll be honest, I didn't really like any of the romance. But I also just don't like romance, and I hear other people like it, so maybe it's a taste thing. Considering that most of the important stuff is good, and that even if it's not done FFIX-calibur it still has a theme that it approaches pretty maturely, I'll let the crappier stuff slide as being part of a big joke. The writers know how to write, or are at least trying, and considering it only ever enhances the game aspect of the game, that's all I'll really ask.

    It does mess itself seriously on one point: Time travel. Oh, spoiler alert, but it doesn't really matter. The fact that there's time travel is pretty inconsequential, though not nearly enough as it should be. It delivers characters into the narrative, but in at least one case it fails by trying to make a heartwarming moment out of that character reuniting with a past version of their parents, who are dead in the future. Because we don't follow this future-person, we really have no emotional pay-off, and the fact that they react so well to seeing a grown-ass version of their child makes the whole scene come off as forced at best and utterly surreal at worst. I should clarify that I mean it's inconsequential as far the narrative as a whole is concerned; someone coming from the future could easily be replaced by someone having a vision of the future, or simply making a really convincing guess. I'll illustrate this point by using Berserk, because it exemplifies everything I consider "good writing" and I love it: The Eclipse's affect on Casca couldn't have been actualized in any action other than the ones taken. Anyone who has seen/read Berserk knows what I'm talking about. Anyone who hasn't, should. 

    This brings up my biggest complaint about the game, as it's related to the writing: There simply aren't enough internal conflicts between characters. There are disagreements and moments where they bicker, but nothing that isn't solved within the same cutscene or Support conversation. I'm willing to give it a pass, as the developers were working with a system that had little precedent within the genre of game they were making, and likely didn't want anything written that might interfere with their set image of how the heroes behaved towards each other. This is unfortunate, as a few more dramatic confrontations would've filled out the characters a bit more, and made the entire thing seem less escapist. The Fire Emblem series has enough black-and-white morality as it is, but they're meant to be epics, rolling numerous characters of varying degrees of characterization into a multi-arc narrative concerning one central conflict. They could've done better, but it's easy to see what made them play it safe is what I'm saying.

    There's a bit of an elephant in the room when you talk about Fire Emblem games, though I would be quick to remind everyone that they're not the only ones who do it, and the games do it far from perfectly: The spicy-hot permanent death mechanic. Tactics Ogre, Final Fantasy Tactics, Jeanne D'arc and Valkyria Chronicles all do this as well, and all being turn-based strategy games, I assume they got at least a little inspiration from the Fire Emblem series. Mechanically, it ensures that you actually play tactically; if you command like a ponce who expects to have infinite reserves, the game lets in a little ray of reality to blind your arrogant ass, killing anyone you don't treat like fine China. So, of your limited pool of characters, dying means dying, and yes the game can become borderline unwinnable this way, because that's kinda the point. I'll be honest and state that Awakening might still be winnable if you let everyone but the main characters die- since if you lose a main character, it's instant game-over anyways- due to them being so powerful. But still, the game is designed around them having allies, and the missions would take so long and likely require so many retries that it's not really a factor, since at that point it's more time-efficient to restart the game. So even on normal you have to be careful (not Radiant Dawn careful, but come on, that game was ridiculous). So what can we take from this mechanic?

    Well, two things: Firstly, we get an entire legion of elitist middle-to-high-schoolers who believe anyone who plays with permanent death turned off (that's an option in Awakening) is a pussy and needs to be reminded of their place in the universe (I don't have a very high opinion of "Hardcore" elitists who call everyone who isn't them a "casul", as you might have figured out). Secondly, we get some really interesting design decisions. See, on normal difficulty at least, missions aren't designed to kill you. That is, they're not designed to kill every single one of your characters (not until later at least, and they totally do get there). They're designed assuming that you're doing no more than the main missions and possibly the paralogues (battles with little side-stories). So as long as you're not steam-rolling battles with completely over-leveled units, there's a good chance anyone can die if you make a mistake, but there's no mistake you can make to make everyone die. This is because the game doesn't want to force a game over in the beginning- it's designed so that you let one or two units slip through the cracks in your tactics purely out of convenience. It's an element of that relationship theme, in that you are a commander, and even if your troops love each other, sometimes you have to own up to your decisions and let the dead bury the dead. What's respectable about this is that it's almost the opposite of Radiant Dawn's approach. Radiant Dawn almost encouraged instant restarts on losing one unit in order to condition an attachment to that unit, while Awakening inwardly conditions you to favor convenience while outwardly demanding you own up to your failures.

    A game that lets its player fail and own up to it is a good thing, and Awakening is much better at illustrating the player's role in their own failure than Radiant Dawn was. Better than most games in fact, which is what I think makes the Fire Emblem series (and the tactical RPGs that take inspiration from it) so appealing. It turns the gameplay into a drama, where people live and die by each other. And while the central narrative and its influence on the game is lacking in comparison to Radiant Dawn, Awakening certainly makes up for it in its implementation of an entirely new system, a thousand smaller narratives that have just as much influence as they work together. It's a different beast from any Fire Emblem game that came before it, and that evolution makes it one of the best games I've played in a long time.

    You can totally expect to see some journals about my second playthrough, whenever that happens. I plan on doing a hard difficulty classic mode no-restart run. Yeah, that's bound to end in tragedy. So stay tuned.
You're one
And you're only
And you're alone

You're not stars
And not sky
You're the Sun

And we're night

Want something?
Come and take it
Foul! And pervert!

You'll die
And we'll not
At least

We don't think
Some Pig
I never been too big on poetry, but I've recently been reading a book called "Old School" by Tobias Wolff, which is about a boys school that's rather literature-obsessed. Seems like an interesting place to be, considering that every school I've been too is either literature-apathetic or literature-hostile, though there are enough people grasping at genius and coming out literature-retarded that I think I was better off coming across writing naturally than having it set up for me.

As well as that, I watched Dead Poets Society with my papa last night, as it is one of his favorite movies and we needed to honor Robin Williams somehow. Robin Williams wasn't my favorite actor, but I always knew of him as a free spirit, indulging in mathematics and Warhammer 40K as much as he indulged in raising his own kids and, ya know, acting. I can respect someone who doesn't just go outside the norm to visit, but straight-up lives outside the norm. I find his suicide unfortunate. Wish I coulda talked to him to see what was going on there, or at least just listened to him.
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www.kongregate.com/games/jorda…

It's called "Loneliness", and ironically, it's best played with other people. Not even friends, hell, get some people you don't like in on this shit. Maybe you'll have deeper understandings of each other after.

The game is about not being able to get close to others. Literally, they move away every time. But you can make contact if you really try, and the interesting part is seeing what people do in approaching that factor of the game. Being the rebel and forcing yourself into groups whether they like you or not, trying to be gentle, trying to fade into the background, all tactics used by different personalities in response to social landscapes, and all can be represented in the game. Everything delivers you to the same end, so how you play in the game-space in the most important part.

Have "fun".
*And why I'll be removing RSP, Visitor and Pisces from my page.

Maybe not Pisces honestly. As behind as I've gotten, I still feel the most connected with that one. But I haven't updated jack shit on this site for months and months and months now, so I figure that if I want anyone to understand why my output has lulled, I better say something on the matter eventually. I think the topic of productivity goes beyond myself though- a broad-ass word like that fuckin' better- and hopefully this will help others understand a bit about their own mode of working.

The crux of this is series. Series seem like good ideas. If you have a concept that seems like it would span a longer body than a short story, but don't want your artistic output to break while you work on it, then turning it into a weekly series appears to be the logical solution. You say to yourself, as I did, "I should be able to do this". And, strictly speaking, there's no reason you can't. I mean, with nothing external stopping you, you could. But there's never a situation where there's nothing external in your life. I had heavy hours at work, and as soon as they started, Pisces fell by the way side in favor of other projects.

Suddenly, the appeal of the series got turned on its head, as making time week-to-week seemed like more of a burden than the more broad planning that a full-on short story requires. Output of quantity was impossible when I was already dedicating myself to other things, essentially. That didn't mean I stopped working; I actually got three other projects that I won't be posting here completed, edited and submitted for publication (all still under review, except for one of the three projects, which might be up in the air and back to me soon enough) while Pisces sat in my files, going days or weeks without being touched.

At the same time I was being physically spent at work, I was being emotionally spent in my social life, and considering that I plan the progression of my series week-to-week, this meant that my mindset was not in the place it needed to be for the stories I was writing. For instance, I was really bummed out (I will NOT say "depressed") when I started Pisces, but have since lightened up. You can see in where the story went that it's a much more colorful, less gritty tale at its current point than when it started. This is good for my stories overall. I'd rather careen off the borders of Crazy Town than bore people to death with darker-than-dark military-realism for chapter after chapter. But for Pisces in particular, that gives away its short-sighted planning, as elements that I established as integral to the narrative early on are, simply, not as appealing to me now, and I'd be liberated by doing away with them.

So let this be a lesson to anyone who faces the same trouble: A series is only a good idea if you write it knowing that it's going to be a series, that is, subject to change drastically from chapter to chapter as you change in your own life. For this reason, RSP would actually be pretty alright for me to return to someday, if I could find a way to improve its...everything. Meanwhile, Visitor and Pisces will need drastic thematic revisions before they can function, and even then, will have to be written without the weekly schedule.

Second: Don't be afraid to take down your own work. Or even not post work for a long while. I was considering deleting this DA and starting another, just out of shame that my production had seemingly stopped. The last thing I wanted, after all, was to appear like I had "lost interest" in writing, like a spoiled child getting bored with a toy. But whatever this does to my ethos, I'll take the hit, because ya know what? I don't care what anyone else thinks. That ethos is only precious to me because it's how I view myself- though that may be misusing the word "ethos", but whatever- and will never be subject to submission to other people.

So there it is. Read it and take what you will. And read all my other stuff if you haven't yet, it's pretty amazing.
What I learned in the last year
With omissions of specific events in fairness of...well...everyone. Including me, honestly. Yeah, I fucked up a coupla times, but it's cool, no one died.
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For anyone who has played the game in its entirety (or maybe I should just say "finished it", because 100% in this game seems as far away now as 100% in Morrowind seemed when I was ten), I have a few questions. These questions SHOULD be directed towards the game's developers, by play testers ideally, but I seriously doubt there's any chance of that happening, since ya know... Languages and shit. So of course, I don't expect anyone to answer FOR the developers, I just wanna know what's going on in some areas of this game, because I got a grasp on some of it, but the rest is just menus, walls of texts and cylinders that I do not understand.

Question #1: If I do absolutely none of the sidequests, how fucked am I going to be later on?

#2: Was "Face" supposed to be translated as "Mask", but got changed?

#3: Is rebuilding Colony 6 just a great big bundle of fetch quests? Or is there like, dialogue and narrative depth to it and shit?

#4:What the hell is with the gem crafting system? Are those important? They don't feel important.

#5: What is anything worth? Am I going to get all my best items off drops, or am I good buying weapons and armor?

#6: Which parties just don't work? Or can I just fill my group up with whoever?

#7: No seriously, the fuck is the crafting system about? Why do I have to go all the way back to Colony 9 to do them? I like that it's only a few menu options away, but it kinda breaks the atmosphere of the game that I can just leave almost any dungeon at any time to go get a sweet charge on my crystals.

I guess I take so much issue with a lot of its game design because I don't like the MMO-style gameplay that it's outright going for. It's not bad, I just don't enjoy it. Millions of people play World of Warcraft, and it's more likely that I just have different tastes than all of them are wrong. What I DO enjoy though is this game's story, though I'm not in love with all of it's writing, which leads me to my final question.

#8: WHAT IS THE MONADO A METAPHOR FOR?!

It has to be something, the game has a deeper narrative than it just being a glowy McGuffin. As far as I can tell, the game is kinda about dealing with natural disaster, or at least was inspired by a cultural idea of what natural disasters do. To elaborate: The main characters get struck with something terrible and lose a lot of their home, and the game is about them learning to deal with the fact that terrible things are gonna happen in the world. I get the feeling the theme of the world being able to just wipe you away is very rooted in the game's Japanese...uh, roots. Having to deal with earthquakes, tsunamis, monsoons, wars both internal and external, their history is very used to the idea that huge bunches of people can just disappear.

There's a bit of terror to that thought though, since as an individual it seems like you're pretty powerless against such forces. Therein lies Xenoblade's narrative: The individual who has to go on living in a world where entire colonies can disappear overnight. So within all this, the big question becomes "What is the Monado's place?" Is it something that prevents disaster? Is that its purpose, or just one of many uses it has? That would seem to be what its myriad of functions available in battle indicates. I don't wanna call it too early, as I'm only about 12 hours into the game, which I hear is quite a bit longer than that, but I would ask anyone who has made that journey if anything I'm saying rings any bells. Because if I get through this whole game and find that they played it safe, that this esoteric theme nonsense was all set up and no payoff, I'm not gonna be pleased.

Given the previous games in this series, I'm pretty optimistic though. Xenosaga might've sucked, but it certainly had bawls, and Xenogears is an undisputed masterpiece (for everyone else I mean. I haven't played it, so I'll reserve judgment...).
Quick preface: I think I'm gonna start writing a lot more of these "thoughts" things that I've done every six months or so. I've find writing hard in the middle of the school year, but I can always jabber on about something relating to games, books, movies or anime, so it's good to get the brain working in any way I can.

Besides, it lets me get my opinions out there, some of which might not sight right with everyone. But ya know, I really do just enjoy displeasing people sometimes. Anyways... 



    Oh, this game. This fuckin' game. I like this game. But before I start talking about this game, let me regale you with the story of another game.

    Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn is the most expensive game you can get for the Wii at Gamestop. I figured, it being a Wii game, this meant that it was way rare, and hadn't considered that it might be good. I bought it in a buy-two-get-one-free deal, getting Metroid Prime Trilogy and Xenoblade Chronicles along with it. Even if it was the most expensive, I was really there for those two anyways. I bought it because I planned to sell it. I did not plan on liking it. But I spent 60$ on it, so I figured I might as well give it a chance. Let it try and impress me. Best case scenario, I have fun, worst case scenario, I have something to make fun of.

    Well fuck me sideways if it didn't totally defy my expected reactions.

    According to my sources (Kotaku and TV Tropes), Radiant Dawn is the hardest game in the Fire Emblem series. I was oh so thankful to hear that, let me tell you, because my God it does not forgive you for anything. Early on, any unit dying is a game over. All these units have paltry stats (in fact, I found out later that the characters the game was forcing me to rely upon in its early stages were actually pretty worthless in the long run), so dying is an easy thing to do if you're not careful. And even if you are careful, a 70% chance to land a hit is a nerve-racking set of numbers to see when you know that it means you have a 30% chance of failing for no other reason than your army's inadequacy.

    I won't fault it for this (too much) though, because Radiant Dawn makes some narrative decisions that make it feel justified. You're fighting a revolution, and you don't have a real army at that point in the game. By the time you get a real army, you've come so far with those tin soldiers that you're still afraid of losing them. They go from being valuable because they're all you have to being valuable because you've always had them. That kind of attachment is hard to develop in a game, so it's majorly impressive that they pulled it off; the player will likely value something less valuable because they've been forced to live with it for so long.
  
    So what the hell does all this have to do with Awakening, besides them being in the same series? Well I'll address that in two ways: Firstly, if I assigned someone to make for me a follow-up/sequel of Radiant Dawn, I would say they failed the assignment but still made something outstanding. Secondly, to the end it directs itself towards, Fire Emblem: Awakening does as good a job as Radiant Dawn does, with its only fault being that very end to which it works.
    Awakening is very much about relationships, so points right out the gate for being about something. Narrative-wise, this is examined through interpersonal relationships, student-teacher relationships, and then the really interesting ones, leader-follower relationships, ruler-people and past-future. Mechanically, its representation is (deservedly and effectively) more complex. Your units' personalities interact with each other through a system called "Support" (capital S, even has its own menu), where if they are nearby each other or outright paired up (sacrificing one of the two paired units' turns for a boost in stats, possible Disgaea-esque follow-up attacks and Support progress), they become more effective relative to how much they support each other. This makes your army feel less like a toybox of anime archetypes and more like a cohesive whole, a group where their interactions and personalities really matter.

    Sadly, there are no personalities that will come into conflict or just not click, and this Support system isn't as deep as later Persona games' Social Link system, so in the completely unlikely event that you get EVERYONE'S Support maxed out (I'm pretty sure this was designed to be impossible without fucking years of grinding), everyone will get amazing stat boosts all the time. Not that it'll take all strategy out of the game (the years of grinding you do to get there will take care of that), but it is worth mentioning that they only accounted for opportunity, not for actual social dynamic. Though it could be argued that the decision was preferable to the alternative; is it better that the social dynamics be unrealistically agreeable for the sake of consistent gameplay, or that social dynamics be realistic but risk infringing on other parts of the game, denying the player bonuses for units they worked to build relationships with purely out of some adherence to tone? I find that serving tone isn't as important as serving gameplay in a game, but some might disagree.

    The writing isn't always there, I'll admit. Especially annoying is a moment in the second mission, where a character remarks on how good you, the player-generated character, are at fucking everything. I hate that in games. I should feel rewarded for/by accomplishing something, preferably something difficult. It devalues the sense of accomplishment for another character to tell me I've accomplished something because A. I should be the one telling myself that with having met the challenge as my proof and B. She gives you praise for one of the earliest missions, as in a mission that's practically a tutorial. Anyways, the writing goes everywhere from good drama to melodrama, good comedy to cringe-inducing nightmares, and weird, cheesy romance to...well, I'll be honest, I didn't really like any of the romance. But I also just don't like romance, and I hear other people like it, so maybe it's a taste thing. Considering that most of the important stuff is good, and that even if it's not done FFIX-calibur it still has a theme that it approaches pretty maturely, I'll let the crappier stuff slide as being part of a big joke. The writers know how to write, or are at least trying, and considering it only ever enhances the game aspect of the game, that's all I'll really ask.

    It does mess itself seriously on one point: Time travel. Oh, spoiler alert, but it doesn't really matter. The fact that there's time travel is pretty inconsequential, though not nearly enough as it should be. It delivers characters into the narrative, but in at least one case it fails by trying to make a heartwarming moment out of that character reuniting with a past version of their parents, who are dead in the future. Because we don't follow this future-person, we really have no emotional pay-off, and the fact that they react so well to seeing a grown-ass version of their child makes the whole scene come off as forced at best and utterly surreal at worst. I should clarify that I mean it's inconsequential as far the narrative as a whole is concerned; someone coming from the future could easily be replaced by someone having a vision of the future, or simply making a really convincing guess. I'll illustrate this point by using Berserk, because it exemplifies everything I consider "good writing" and I love it: The Eclipse's affect on Casca couldn't have been actualized in any action other than the ones taken. Anyone who has seen/read Berserk knows what I'm talking about. Anyone who hasn't, should. 

    This brings up my biggest complaint about the game, as it's related to the writing: There simply aren't enough internal conflicts between characters. There are disagreements and moments where they bicker, but nothing that isn't solved within the same cutscene or Support conversation. I'm willing to give it a pass, as the developers were working with a system that had little precedent within the genre of game they were making, and likely didn't want anything written that might interfere with their set image of how the heroes behaved towards each other. This is unfortunate, as a few more dramatic confrontations would've filled out the characters a bit more, and made the entire thing seem less escapist. The Fire Emblem series has enough black-and-white morality as it is, but they're meant to be epics, rolling numerous characters of varying degrees of characterization into a multi-arc narrative concerning one central conflict. They could've done better, but it's easy to see what made them play it safe is what I'm saying.

    There's a bit of an elephant in the room when you talk about Fire Emblem games, though I would be quick to remind everyone that they're not the only ones who do it, and the games do it far from perfectly: The spicy-hot permanent death mechanic. Tactics Ogre, Final Fantasy Tactics, Jeanne D'arc and Valkyria Chronicles all do this as well, and all being turn-based strategy games, I assume they got at least a little inspiration from the Fire Emblem series. Mechanically, it ensures that you actually play tactically; if you command like a ponce who expects to have infinite reserves, the game lets in a little ray of reality to blind your arrogant ass, killing anyone you don't treat like fine China. So, of your limited pool of characters, dying means dying, and yes the game can become borderline unwinnable this way, because that's kinda the point. I'll be honest and state that Awakening might still be winnable if you let everyone but the main characters die- since if you lose a main character, it's instant game-over anyways- due to them being so powerful. But still, the game is designed around them having allies, and the missions would take so long and likely require so many retries that it's not really a factor, since at that point it's more time-efficient to restart the game. So even on normal you have to be careful (not Radiant Dawn careful, but come on, that game was ridiculous). So what can we take from this mechanic?

    Well, two things: Firstly, we get an entire legion of elitist middle-to-high-schoolers who believe anyone who plays with permanent death turned off (that's an option in Awakening) is a pussy and needs to be reminded of their place in the universe (I don't have a very high opinion of "Hardcore" elitists who call everyone who isn't them a "casul", as you might have figured out). Secondly, we get some really interesting design decisions. See, on normal difficulty at least, missions aren't designed to kill you. That is, they're not designed to kill every single one of your characters (not until later at least, and they totally do get there). They're designed assuming that you're doing no more than the main missions and possibly the paralogues (battles with little side-stories). So as long as you're not steam-rolling battles with completely over-leveled units, there's a good chance anyone can die if you make a mistake, but there's no mistake you can make to make everyone die. This is because the game doesn't want to force a game over in the beginning- it's designed so that you let one or two units slip through the cracks in your tactics purely out of convenience. It's an element of that relationship theme, in that you are a commander, and even if your troops love each other, sometimes you have to own up to your decisions and let the dead bury the dead. What's respectable about this is that it's almost the opposite of Radiant Dawn's approach. Radiant Dawn almost encouraged instant restarts on losing one unit in order to condition an attachment to that unit, while Awakening inwardly conditions you to favor convenience while outwardly demanding you own up to your failures.

    A game that lets its player fail and own up to it is a good thing, and Awakening is much better at illustrating the player's role in their own failure than Radiant Dawn was. Better than most games in fact, which is what I think makes the Fire Emblem series (and the tactical RPGs that take inspiration from it) so appealing. It turns the gameplay into a drama, where people live and die by each other. And while the central narrative and its influence on the game is lacking in comparison to Radiant Dawn, Awakening certainly makes up for it in its implementation of an entirely new system, a thousand smaller narratives that have just as much influence as they work together. It's a different beast from any Fire Emblem game that came before it, and that evolution makes it one of the best games I've played in a long time.

    You can totally expect to see some journals about my second playthrough, whenever that happens. I plan on doing a hard difficulty classic mode no-restart run. Yeah, that's bound to end in tragedy. So stay tuned.

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IcePowers

Artist | Student | Literature
United States
I'll be posting short stories on here, usually stuff I don't plan on having published (or rather, don't think I can GET published). I may also post little rants and tirades that I have, and I would appreciate feed back on these ideas, as well as the stories I post.

Something you should know about me now is that I am going to be saying things that might come off as sometimes trying to sound super-intellectual. My intention is not to sound or pretend to be really smart, but just to sound like how I am and kind of hope that I AM really smart, or get really smart eventually, or something like that.

Hope you enjoy reading :D
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:iconlily-lucid:
Lily-Lucid Featured By Owner Jul 26, 2014   Writer
What would you say your opinion is on Frozen?
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:iconicepowers:
IcePowers Featured By Owner Jul 30, 2014  Student Writer
Why? And what's your opinion?
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:iconlily-lucid:
Lily-Lucid Featured By Owner Jul 30, 2014   Writer
I'm seeing it everywhere! xD
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:iconicepowers:
IcePowers Featured By Owner Jul 30, 2014  Student Writer
Good, but very vanilla. Replacing romantic love with family love isn't much of a change in my opinion. The main character is still loved, still gets the ending they and the audience hoped for, so it's still formula-one Disney.
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:iconlily-lucid:
Lily-Lucid Featured By Owner Jul 30, 2014   Writer
Yeah I thought the movie was pretty good :)

But I think it's getting too over-hyped!The Lion King didn't get this much hype when it came out, my goodness! >.<
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:iconauthorkatieolson:
AuthorKatieOlson Featured By Owner Mar 30, 2014  Student Writer
Thank you for the fave on Inventor and Creator Part One. :) Also I love your game of thrones gif. 
Cheers!
-Katie 
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:iconaerode:
Aerode Featured By Owner Mar 30, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
Thank you for the Favorite! :la: How's your day?
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:iconmt-artwork:
MT-Artwork Featured By Owner Mar 29, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Thank you very much for the +fav :) (Smile)
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:iconicepowers:
IcePowers Featured By Owner Mar 30, 2014  Student Writer
You're welcome :)
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:iconhentai-kitty:
hentai-kitty Featured By Owner Mar 8, 2014  Professional Traditional Artist
Thank you for the :+fav:!
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