Undoubtedly one of the key elements of the Final Fantasy series and its success as a franchise is found in the strength of its characters. If you’re going to be spending a significant amount of time with these people as your main driving force for going through a 40+ hour journey, you had better be interested in them.
Perhaps this is a central reason as to why Final Fantasy VII still holds such an enduring place in gaming culture. Sure, there are a bevy of other reasons why FFVII has remained so iconic and everlasting for RPG fans (not the least of which is that it finally made them seem sort of cool) but when most people talk about what they love about this game, it usually has to do with the spectacular cast of characters and the journey of self-discovery they undertake in their quest to stop a certain androgynous test tube baby.
With that in mind, if a fellow were to, say, rank the characters from a whole bunch of Final Fantasy games, this would almost certainly be the game to start with right?
9) Yuffie Kisagari
Yes, Final Fantasy VII in general has a very strong cast of characters but obviously someone had to come out at the bottom of this list. That person is Yuffie Kisagari.
Despite the fact that many a young man has obsessed to an absurd level about this fictional woman (more on that as this list develops), Yuffie is easily the weakest of your main party members in terms of characterization.
Essentially her entire character boils down to a one note joke: she wants that materia! Even when the end of the game looms, and every other character delivers a heartfelt speech about what this clash with ultimate evil means to them, Yuffie is still just obsessing with all of the materia she might be able to take home with her.
Being a character that has little, if any, significant growth throughout the game, Yuffie is the clear party member to put at the bottom rung of this ladder.
8) Cait Sith
Though Cait Sith is given a bit more relevance in the adventure once his true identity is revealed as Reeve, an undercover Shinra operative, that doesn’t change the fact that this character still spends much of the journey as little more than an after thought to the overall plot.
Cait-Sith does force the player to re-examine some of the things they’ve been party to over the course of their adventure, including the opening reactor bombings, but even that relevance is more or less canceled out by the awful character design and truly odd lineage of the Cait-Sith robots.
How exactly is a megaphone a weapon? Isn’t Reeve controlling the whole works anyway? Someone should’ve reined Nomura in on this one.
7) Barret Wallace
Barret is the first of the nine Final Fantasy VII party members that the player meets and, as such, tends to occupy a pretty strong place in a lot of folks’ hearts.
However, underneath the pretense of an eco-terrorist/surrogate father figure is some of the most offensive writing of a character in RPG history. Much of Barret’s dialogue translation reads like a white guy’s reinterpretation of the sort of jive talk that was often featured in the blaxploitation films of the 1970s.
Unfortunately this isn’t just a PC police situation as the increasingly silly dialogue the character is given robs Barret of much of his emotional gravitas, even during his most pivotal moments.
6) Cid Highwind
The gruff, curmudgeonly Cid of Final Fantasy VII may be the most popular iteration of the character in Final Fantasy history.
While Cid Highwind is a truly memorable character with one of the best back story’s in the game, his truly awful treatment of his underling, Shera, has never really sat all that well with this writer.
Still, one would be remiss not to point out the importance of having an older, more seasoned warrior as part of the group, and a chainsmoking sea captain type is certainly a unique archetype for the series to draw from in establishing this character.
5) Aeris Gainsborough
That’s right, I still call her Aeris, and I ain’t changin’ it now. Her name was Aeris in the game I played and, to me, Aerith just sounds like I’m saying her name with a lisp.
Though she is probably best remembered for her untimely demise at the end of Final Fantasy VII‘s first disc, Aeris is also a fairly rich and well-developed character in the grand scheme of the game’s narrative.
As one of two possible love interests for Cloud, and a hefty lynch pin on which much of the plot hangs, Aeris is given plenty of screen time to build into a memorable member of your party, and her memory lingers in the minds of players long after she has found herself on the wrong end of Sephiroth’s sword.
4) Vincent Valentine
Now we’re on to the really cool, and totally ridiculous, characters of Final Fantasy VII. Vincent Valentine sleeps in a coffin in a haunted mansion. He also has the ability to turn into JRPG versions of the classic Universal monsters of yore. All of that nonsense aside, he’s also got a very cool outfit.
In truth though, what makes Vincent such an effective character isn’t all of the theatrical elements, it’s his more human struggles. As we learn through his various side quests, Vincent once worked for Shinra where he was betrayed and murdered by Shinra’s resident creep in chief: Hojo. His love interest, who would eventually commit suicide, gave birth to Sephiroth in a laboratory.
The shame and regret that Vincent holds onto, for all of his unwitting parts in the terrible state of affairs the world currently finds itself, leads to the coffin bound exile he is in when you first find him. The strength and resolve he finds in himself to get out of that coffin and finally do something about it is what makes him a great character.
3) Tifa Lockhart
Remember when I said we’d get back to the internet nerds overly obsessing with a fictional woman? Well look no further than Tifa Lockhart. As a simple Google image search will plainly show there are, ahem, a couple of key “character” elements that people tend to focus on when it comes to this ridiculously endowed heroine.
Move away from that though and you have one of the most compelling and well-developed (no pun intended) heroines in the entire Final Fantasy series. As one of the only survivors of the Nibelheim disaster, Tifa was well aware of the horrors of the world from a very young age, and instead of resting on her laurels, she decided to do something about it.
With her fierce yet compassionate demeanor, only Tifa can see Cloud through the mental breakdown and identity crisis he suffers in the second half of the game, and her steadfast loyalty to him is shown time and time again, even if she does play second fiddle to Aeris depending on your choices.
2) Cloud Strife
As we’ve seen time and time again in this series, Final Fantasy protagonists tend to come with a whole lot of baggage. Cloud Strife takes the cake in this regard.
It would take several paragraphs to tell his entire back story so let’s settle for the short version, shall we? Cloud told Tifa he would leave their home town of Nibelheim and become an elite soldier when they were both kids… only he failed. After the traumatic events that followed he adopted the persona of his friend, Zack Fair, who had actually been the elite member of SOLDIER that Cloud aspired to be.
This disparity leads to the mental breakdown Cloud suffers during the second half of the adventure. But far from taking away from Cloud’s characterization, these plot twists only add to the depth and scope of his character. Essentially Cloud fully embodies a dozen heroic archetypes when we first meet him, and as they are slowly stripped away one by one we begin to see the real man hiding beneath.
What is eventually revealed is the true essence of a hero: a man who faces his demons down, and comes out on the other side stronger than ever.
1) Red XIII
At last we come to the end. I’m not sure everyone else is quite as enamored with Red XIII as I am. In fact he may be my favorite character in the entire series.
So what makes him so special? Well maybe it’s the fact that I, like many others, grew up with a faithful family dog. As such I tend to attach strongly to pet-like characters quite a bit.
Still the coolness of Red XIII fully supersedes whatever complex I might have in regard to animal characters in JRPGs. For starters he’s a wolf crossed with a lion, which pretty much makes him the gnarliest animal in the history of the world. Also, like Cloud, he’s motivated by a back story that turns out to be mostly false.
Red XIII was told from a young age that his father, Seto, was a coward who abandoned their tribe when it was attacked by a neighboring tribe. As it turns out it’s just the opposite: not only did Seto give his life to protect the tribe, his body still stands vigil there today, petrified atop a cliff by poisonous arrows.
The scene in which Red XIII learns of this truth might be the most powerful moment in the game, as he howls out his grief for a father he despised. As the small, sparkling tears appear to fall from his dead father’s statue, you’d have to have a heart of stone yourself not to squeeze out a tear or two of your own.
Even the FFVII team itself must have known what a strong creation they had in Red XIII as when the final moments of the adventure come to a close after the credits, it is a 550 year old Red XIII that we follow to the final revelation of the 60 hour journey.
‘New Super Lucky’s Tale’ is Polished, Pleasing Platforming
Streamlined, focused, and tons of fun, New Super Lucky’s Tale is a fantastic reworking for the Switch that absolutely nails the lighter side of Nintendo-style 3D platforming. Tight controls and a nearly flawless camera support running and jumping challenges which more often than not emphasize creativity over complexity, and it’s all set against a colorful, pun-filled, charming world full of quirky characters and light satire. Though the experience is not as epic or razzle-dazzle as something like Super Mario Odyssey, developer Playful has wisely trimmed the collect-a-thon fat that so many others in the genre employ in order to pad play time. The result lasts long enough to satisfy, yet also instills a fervent desire to see more adventures from its fearless, furry hero.
In the fine tradition of its gaming ancestors dating back to the N64 days, the basics of New Super Lucky’s Tale revolve around acquiring arbitrary objects sprinkled through various stages in order to unlock doors and move on to the next area. This time it’s pages from the mystical Book of Ages, which contains the power to travel between worlds, and is the endgame of an nefarious cat sorcerer named Jinx and his gang of cartoonish thugs, the Kitty Litter. As part of a secret organization sworn to defending this kiddie-friendly Necronomicon knockoff, it’s up to Lucky to track down as many of these clover-embossed pages as he possibly can, and hopefully complete the book before his nemesis can get his claws on it.
It’s doubtful that the story will be what compels most players to keep going, and to that end, New Super Lucky’s Tale‘s simple setup also fits right in with its genre brethren. Still, Lucky is an amiable and upbeat fox to follow around, and Playful does an excellent job of surrounding him with a cast of gibberish-spouting weirdo goofballs that includes hayseed grub worms, supremely zen Yetis, loyal rock golems, and slick carny ghosts. Though their dialogue does little to drive any sort of narrative, it is endlessly amusing and often witty in its cheesy wordplay. In other words, the writing has a very Nintendo-like feel in its eccentricities that adds to the overall fun.
Those jokes would be less endearing without fantastic gameplay, but New Super Lucky’s Tale delivers some of the best running and jumping this side of Mario. Though this fabulous fox can’t quite match the plumber’s precision, Lucky does feel extremely responsive, and has a nice sense of weight and momentum that never feels out of control. He also comes out of the den with a well-rounded moveset, including a nifty double jump, a swishy tail (a la Mario’s spin punch), and the ability to burrow under ground. These moves can be chained together to create a satisfying flow both when exploring 3D stages and side-scrolling ones alike, and will surely inspire players to use them in creative ways in order to access seemingly out-of-reach spots.
And they’ll have to if they want to find all four pages hidden in each stage. New Super Lucky’s Tale requires a bare minimum of these leaflets to be found (and simply beating the stage merits one as a reward), but it’s in rooting around those nooks and crannies where much of the fun lies, and it gives the developer a chance to squeeze every ounce out of the unique mixture of environments they’ve created. From the assorted carnival games of a haunted amusement park to a beach party dance-off, there are a surprising amount of different things for Lucky (and players) to do here, with hardly any two stages ever feeling alike. One 3D level might task Lucky with casually exploring a farm as he gathers up the members of country jug band, while a side-scrolling obstacle course sees him dodging canon fire from an airship piloted by a feline Napolean. Some stages have a platforming bent, while others emphasize searching out secrets tucked away in mini puzzles.
It’s an absolutely delightful mix, and that sheer variety keeps New Super Lucky’s Tale fresh all the way through to the epic battle with fat cat Jinx himself. And though platforming veterans might find the overall challenge a bit too much on the friendly side, a few of the later bosses and and bonus stages may make that 100% goal a little tougher than it at first seems. And yet, it’s hard not to want to go back to incomplete stages or that block-pushing puzzle that stumped the first time around; the brisk pace and clever design will likely compel many players to find every scrap of paper out there.
No, Lucky isn’t the second coming of Mario, but there are few 3D platformers that offer such a polished, concise, joyful experience as New Super Lucky’s Tale. It may have taken a couple of efforts to get there (and for those who have played the original Super Lucky’s Tale, levels and bosses have been reworked here), but Playful has nailed a balance between creativity and efficiency that begs for more.
How Do ‘Pokemon Sword and Shield’s’ Max Raid Battles Measure Up?
Max Raid Battles are one of Pokemon Sword and Shield’s premier new features. Do they live up to their full potential? Let’s find out.
One of the most heavily promoted new features of Pokémon Sword and Shield have been their Max Raid Battles. These gargantuan fights are both a key part of the online experience and likely the first taste most players will get of Dynamaxed Pokémon in-game. So, how’d this take on Pokémon Go’s raid system pan out in the series’ first mainline entry on console?
Well, on the plus side, getting into the thick of a raid is super straightforward. After the opening hour or two, players are introduced to the Wild Area and can access Max Raid Battles straight away by walking up to a pillar of red light on the field. From there you can invite others, challenge the raid with NPCs, and choose which Pokémon you want to use.
Real Friends Raid Together
Playing with friends online, though, is a bit more convoluted. There’s no “Invite Friends” option to be seen. Instead, all social features are handled through the Y-comm (literally accessed by pressing the Y button). It’s here that players can Link Trade, Link Battle, exchange player cards, and more.
After actively connecting to the internet–which has to be done each play session and each time the Switch is put into sleep mode–it’s up to the host of the match to find a portal and send an invitation to everyone. A notification will pop for friends on the side of the screen, and then it’s up to everyone to join the match directly through the Y-comm interface.
If players want real people to fill in any remaining slots (all raids are four-person affairs), they’ll need to join before the room fills up. Setting a Link Code avoids this hassle by creating a room but, unlike Salmon Run in Splatoon 2, only computer players can fill remaining spots after friends finish joining this way.
After some experimenting and fudding about, my buddy and I were able to hop into matches fairly quickly without much issue. Nonetheless, it’s hard to shake the feeling that creating friend lobbies is only such a headache because it had to be tied to the Y-comm. Pair this with the fact that battling while waiting for a friend to create a room can cause the notification not to pop, and getting a group together is a bit more painful than it should be.
Max Raid Battle Rundown
The raids themselves are a surprisingly engaging twist on the classic Pokémon battle formula. Groups of four challengers work together to take on a Dynamaxed raid boss. Each raid boss has a different star rating, and even the 1-star battles are no joke the first few times around. These boss Pokémon are merciless, and regularly one-shot lower leveled ‘mons with ease.
To combat these monstrous foes, one random trainer in every group is granted the ability to Dynamax their chosen Pokémon and lead the charge. The Dynamaxed Pokémon gets the benefit of having extra-powerful moves and increased HP, though it’s rather disappointing that there only seems to be one Max Move per move type (one Grass move, one Dark move, and so on). Each of these has a secondary effect on the battlefield; some trigger sandstorms, others trigger a health regeneration field that heals everyone a bit each turn. Regular moves with type advantages deal a significant chunk of damage, but it’s Max Moves that can truly turn the tide of battle.
If one of the group’s Pokémon faints, that trainer has to sit out for a turn before it automatically gets revived (a smart design choice to keep all trainers actively involved). However, the fainting of each Pokémon triggers the storm above to become more and more vicious. After four faints or ten turns, everyone is booted out of the raid sans rewards.
The Fruits of Victory
Two of the easiest ways to better your odds are 1) Choose a Pokémon with a type advantage going into battle, and 2) Manage who Dynamaxes when. Each trainer’s Dynamax meter grows periodically and, though only one trainer can use it at a time, multiple players can activate it over the course of a raid. It also seems like each raid’s star rating is tied directly to the raid boss’ level, so bringing a generally powerful Pokémon to a lower-level raid is another viable strategy for success.
Aside from the chance to capture the raid boss itself (and some Pokémon are Max Raid Battle-exclusive), winning a raid nets players some very worthwhile rewards. These include everything from EXP candies and berries to nuggets and TMs. It’s not so much of a haul that it hurts the overall balance of the game, but there’s enough to make getting a few friends together and grinding raids for a couple of hours worth it.
Though Max Raid Battles are just a small part of the overall Sword and Shield package, they’ve ended up being a rather fun take on Pokémon’s traditional multiplayer offerings. For as unnecessarily complicated as playing with friends is, there are also a few cool ideas here, like being able to join a raid from anywhere on the map as long as the host is at the raid pillar. There’s some good fun to be had here if you prefer to battle alongside your friends instead of against them.
15 Years Later: ‘Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater’ Is Kojima’s Espionage Love Letter
On November 17th, 2004, ‘Metal Gear Solid 3’ was released, marking the first entry in what would become a major part of the Metal Gear Saga.
“After the end of World War II, the world was split into two — East and West. This marked the beginning of the era called the Cold War.”
On November 17th, 2004, Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater released in North America and Japan marking the first entry in what would later become a line of prequel games within the Metal Gear Saga. Big Boss’s story would finally be expanded upon in the Hollywood action game that forever changed the course of video game storytelling.
The legendary mercenary’s journey began in Kojima’s espionage love letter to the ’60s that broke the primordial gaming standards of both interactive design and visual storytelling through immeasurable gameplay depth piled onto a mind-boggling top-notch origin story. Snake Eater was only the beginning of a tale of how one of gaming’s greatest heroes descended into a villain through what is not only arguably the most compact and well-executed Metal Gear story, but Kojima Productions story ever conjured up to date.
Taking the Narrative Back
Snake Eater ditched Solid Snake and Raiden’s current predicaments in a postmodern world to provide audiences with background knowledge and explanations for the previous chapters that came before it in what was intended to be Hideo Kojima’s final Metal Gear game at the time. Cold War political fiction and espionage thrillers from the game’s time period such as the Sean Connery and Roger Moore James Bond 007 films became the foundation for this entry’s story and tone; a balance of both goofiness and seriousness that is simply unmatched when compared to the rest of the series.
Metal Gear Solid 3 marked the beginning of a prequel series of games that would later proceed to continue after Solid Snake’s story had concluded in Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots. Snake Eater threw players back in time to tackle the story of Metal Gear and Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake villain Big Boss, who was formerly referred to as three different names being John, Jack, and of course the iconic codename Naked Snake — the first character to take on the reptilian infiltration name.
Whereas Metal Gear Solid and Sons of Liberty questioned the fantasy aspects of the story, Snake Eater fully embraced the campiness that it provided. A gun-slinging, cat-growling GRU Major or a man who is able to manipulate bees are never questioned by the game’s characters. Nothing feels out of place due to how accepting everyone is of what is going on in their interpretation of history. The first fantasy aspect that players encounter is during the opening 5 minutes of the game when Naked Snake makes the HALO jump. The location the game takes place, Tselinoyarsk, is not the actual name of the location and isn’t an area of the world that has jungles.
Political fiction often comes into play during the story by incorporating real figures and the game’s characters into events that actually happened during the height of the Cold War. For example, Eva and Ocelot are depicted as the two NSA codebreakers, Martin and Mitchell, who defected to the Soviet Union. Weapons and designs featured in the game such as the hybrid screw-propelled metal gear, the Shagohod, are based on real blueprints for military weapons of the time period. While the story incorporates science fiction and fantasy aspects, the story still remains grounded and has its own limits even in gameplay.
A Whole New Meaning to Survival
When Hideo Kojima and Yoji Shinkawa saw the 1987 movie Predator, one concept from the film that stuck with them was how the technologically advanced alien Predator used camouflage within the jungle setting to stealthily take out a military rescue team lead by Arnold Schwarzenegger. Camouflage became part of the foundation for Snake Eater‘s gameplay that delved into the realism and campy side of the series. Players could swap outfits and face paints at any given moment to adapt to their current surroundings. The top right-hand corner has a camouflage index that constantly keeps track of how well-hidden you are in the environment.
Just as gadgets are a critical part of James Bond’s arsenal of weapons, Snake Eater saw the Metal Gear Solid series expand on the variety and utilization of items. The number of different ways to tackle standard environmental obstacles and boss battles was exponentially increased due to how many ways one could actually use their equipment. Grenades, lethal firearms, night-vision goggles, cigarettes, and even cardboard boxes all inherited a multi-functional philosophy that most players would never even discover unless they had experimented during their playthrough or were told to do a specific action. Even food became a weapon of war that could be used to poison and distract guards if it had gone spoiled.
On the topic of food, alongside the standard health bar, Snake has a stamina meter that must be ministered to constantly by eating foods found on-site and administering proper medical treatment. Animals, fruit, medicinal items, and various packaged resources must be collected and watched over throughout the game. All food items ran on a real-time clock leaving food to go unsanitary and rotten after a matter of real-time days.
The Beginning of Product Placement
The Metal Gear Solid series kickstarted Hideo Kojima’s constant usage of product placements within his games that are still ongoing today. These products include but are certainly not limited to clothing, accessories, toys, household items, and of course, food. Snake Eater began a trend of future Kojima Production games featuring real-life items that are purchasable in many small scale and large retail stores throughout Japan through the brand of nutritional energy bars and gels, CalorieMate.
The chocolate-flavored CalorieMate Block appeared in the original version of Snake Eater, while the maple-flavored kind replaced it in the HD Collection due to it being the latest flavor release at the time. Advertisements for CalorieMate during the game’s release showed Naked Snake holding a chocolate-flavored Block saying “If you wanna survive in the jungle, your going to need one of these.”
When initiating a Codec call with Paramedic after eating a CalorieMate Block, the character will question the legitimacy of the food. In reality, CalorieMate first released in 1983, contradicting the 1960’s setting of the story, therefore, making its placement in the game an anachronism; an object or person that is displaced in time.
A Legacy Worthy of The Big Boss Rank
At the time of Snake Eater’s release, although the game garnered a completely positive reception from critics with a 91 Metacritic score, it was highly debated whether the sequel-prequel was superior to the entries that came before it. Critics commonly praised the graphics and cinematics the game had to offer but questioned whether the gameplay was too complex for its own good. Snake Eater also had to ride the coattails of unsatisfied audiences originating from the previous entry’s lack of Solid Snake being the protagonist which ultimately lead to sales of the game being significantly lower than the previous Solid entries.
Over time, Snake Eater became the fan-favorite entry of the series and would go on to receive the most re-releases out of all the Metal Gear games to date. Most notably, in 2006 Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence expanded upon the online mode in the game and added a completely new third-person controlled camera system that enhanced the overall experience and became the right analog stick standard for future entries. Buyers of this version were also treated with the original two MSX Metal Gear games found on the main menu- the first time the original Metal Gear and Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake had ever been localized outside of Japan.
2011 saw the release of the Metal Gear Solid HD Collection, a compilation title that included an updated version of Subsistence — arguably the best way to play Snake Eater today. In 2012 the game also saw a release on the Nintendo 3DS dubbed Metal Gear Solid 3D: Snake Eater which included a new real-life camera camouflage system and multiple gameplay changes inherited from Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker to accommodate the 3DS’s lack of dual analog sticks.
Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater is a true patriot that definitively holds its ground against the rest of the series today due to its creative liberties that the series never quite revisited in complete depth. Hideo Kojima and his team of masterminds behind Kojima Productions are well deserved of a salute for the tremendous efforts they put into creating a groundbreaking title that forever changed what it meant to be a cinematic video game. From its action-packed plot to its cinematic orchestra inspired-score, even after 15 years the pure indigenous nature of creativity from the studio never ceases to amaze audiences.
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