KH-Vids Podcast Episode #37: Gamers Talk - A Look at Square Enix

Discussion in 'Community News & Projects' started by Peace and War, Jan 9, 2014.

  1. Peace and War Bianca, you minx!

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    Hello everybody.
    Today we give you the utterly deep pool of conversation that is Square Enix. The company behind our much loved Kingdom Hearts series and other franchises like Final Fantasy. We take a critical look at their involvement since they merged from the two separate companies, Squaresoft and Enix, up until the present day and what could happen beyond.

    We have our resident Square guru, libregkd, and our regular feminist, Square cynic, Misty. And me, Peace and War, the only one who seems to have played their western games series. We are obviously amateur observers whose opinions are our own, so on and so forth, so don't take our word for gospel. Just our views.

    We'd love to hear your opinions on the topics we bring up in this podcast, and would be willing to answer any questions about the topics we discuss.
    So let us know by commenting. Thanks for listening!

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    Intro: A Fleeting Dream by Nobuo Uematsu
    Outro: Road to a Hero by Yoko Shimomura

    Have suggestions or questions for the members of the KH-Vids Podcast? Let Peace and War know, or bring it to our attention in the posts below! Just be sure to follow the rules and guidelines here.
     
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  2. Explode Who?!

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    Very interesting talk. Clarified a little bit about SquareSoft and Enix's merger that I didn't know about.

    *KH spoilers below*

    I definitely agree with Misty on BBS. I've said this before, for someone who immersed himself in the lore of Kingdom Hearts, it was the most satisfying game in the series, having answered a lot of questions that I had. Ansem Reports hinted at a lot of stuff that I wanted to learn more about, and before that I felt I was missing a huge chunk of information.

    To be fair to DDD, time travel was introduced as a possibility in KH2 with the Timeless River world (even mentioning the possibility of changing the future), they just didn't do very much with it. While it's immensely confusing, I don't dislike the plot point, because they did cool things with it (the new Organization), and it breathed new life into the old story (I'm a huge sucker for callbacks). That's why I'm okay with a lot of Kingdom Heart's bulls*** (with the exception of Coded, which I could do without). Even though they clearly didn't plan it all out in advance, they add layers to the story and end up explaining just about everything.

    I am a little weary of what Kingdom Hearts III will look like. They have to, in my opinion, toe a very fine line of not complicating the story further, but avoid making it a very predictable story wrap-up (which I felt Kingdom Hearts II did).

    I must confess I haven't completed a single Final Fantasy game. I'm not really a fan of the gameplay. I think it works in Pokemon, but for a full 3D, highly story-driven series, it makes me feel disconnected from the characters. I borrowed VII for a while, but had to return it. I own XII and played it for a day and liked it, but for whatever reason haven't picked it up again. I'll probably buy the FFX collection sometime in the future. My knowledge of Lightning Returns (or FFXIII in general) goes only as far as about 10 minutes of cutscenes (I think the opening cinematic and a boss battle). It looked pretty stunning, and the writing didn't outright offend me. I'm curious on Misty's take on Lightning, since she seems like a pretty cool, not overly-sexualized character. I trust your judgment, I'm just wondering what I'm not seeing. What with not having actually played the games.
     
  3. Misty gimme kiss

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    I'm not sure how much Ross put into the actual episode but we got into a pretty lengthy argument about this, heh. Glad to have more support.
    That's true, I hadn't thought of that. Timeless River was sort of... self-contained time travel, though. The Cornerstone was a plot point for Disney Castle but in terms of the overarching plot, it didn't mean much. Dream Drop Distance made time travel key in the Xehanort Saga, so the gravity of the situation is a bit more extreme heh.
    Oh yeah, I don't think I have to justify my infatuation with the KH series, even now that it's kind of gone a bit crazy in terms of plot. I think KH3 can definitely tie things together and ground the plot a little bit more. I would like to see some more prior planning in future games, just because you can only pull things out of your ass for so long, but KH doesn't quite yet boast the craziest sequels of Square.
    It depends. I would like to see characters explored a little bit more (namely Sora and Kairi). Having Sora struggle with the darkness is some long overdue development that I really hope makes it into KH3, and in the recent GameInformer interview Nomura did say there'd be some intrigue about who exactly are the 7 lights and 13 darknesses (and that we'd be guessing about it through the game). I really hope they'll play with characters' allegiances like they did with Axel in CoM. That said, I think we can all kind of predict the ending: light triumphs over darkness. It is Kingdom Hearts, after all, and that level of predictability doesn't really concern me, as long as the journey to get there is exciting.
    I've actually never finished one either, unless you count Tactics Advanced (which I don't but it is a magical game). I've tried and failed with FFX many times, getting stuck near the end, but that hasn't stopped me from loving the game. I never finished XII (though I'd like to, but imo the game requires a lot of grinding and that makes it a bit of a chore. Also I want an HD remaster). I got pretty far in XIII, and played a little bit of III. I'm also not a fan of the gameplay, though XII did change it up quite a lot--so if you have trouble with the style in FFVII and FFX, I'd recommend giving XII another try, or even going for XIII. The gameplay isn't perfect in either but they're a little bit more fast-paced.
    As a disclaimer I haven't played XIII-2 or LR, nor did I finish XIII. I've gathered a lot of the plot details and followed the games with passing interest.

    I'm not too offended or bothered by FFXIII. I'm glad that Square finally made a game with a female lead, and the female supporting characters (Fang and Vanille, though Vanille is definitely sexualized) are far more interesting than some of the males. Snow is pretty awful in XIII, Hope is kinda whiny but I like him, and while I didn't dig Sazh he's not bad. FFXIII is a decent if uninspired Final Fantasy. It's beautiful to be sure, but the storytelling has some serious flaws (all the interesting stuff is shoved in datalogs, you never connect with the setting or the characters), and the linearity is a problem (I think we discussed all of this lol). In the scope of just the first FFXIII, I don't find Lightning to be sexualized all that much--her skirt is definitely short, but beyond that, I don't have any problems. She's kinda bland in terms of personality and the voice acting doesn't help*, but I don't think the first game is really problematic. The second game barely features Lightning so I won't include it in here.

    Lightning Returns, however, things went completely overboard. They decided to sex Lightning up to help sell the game. A major component of the gameplay is switching Lightning's costume to let her assume a different job. This is nothing new with the Final Fantasy series--it's quite similar to the system in FFX-2, actually (FFX-2 is a different animal in terms of sexualization and my problems with this system tho). LR just really took it to a new level, essentially making Lightning the player's doll.

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    Even her base costume is pretty revealing.

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    Now, don't get me wrong: I'm not calling for my females to be covered in layers and layers of clothing (though leaving your back exposed in battle seems to be a pretty stupid decision). In fact, I think portraying and empowering female sexuality is needed--but you have to look at the intent; it's not empowering if the portrayal is there to satisfy the male gaze. Female sexuality is not empowered if it is based on the approval and the notice of an onlooker, which LR has turned into. This is pretty easy to blame on Toriyama, who has made no secret of his raging boner for Lightning. Some choice quotes:
    It's just really sad to see that a female character that wasn't really sexualized at all--maybe wasn't strong, but wasn't sexualized--has now been run into the dust. This doesn't even mention how aggressively they've pushed Lightning, either.

    Also, this scene is a real thing that happens. It's so over the top and hilarious that I cannot actually believe it exists. It's produced some good gifs, though.


    * = just to note, this isn't a shot at Ali Hillis at all! She voiced Liara in the Mass Effect trilogy, who I am deeply in lesbians with, and I thought she was great. I think either the script or the directing (or both) for FFXIII was just so, so uninspired. Lightning isn't exactly an emotive character but in the few scenes where she had to be it still fell flat.
     
  4. Explode Who?!

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    Definitely in favor of more depth of character for Sora. I still like him, but he's among my least favorite characters in the series, which is kind of sad. He was given some internal struggles in Dream Drop Distance and his shortcomings were put somewhat in the spotlight, so I was glad to see that, but aside from that and CoM, he hasn't gotten many chances to be "imperfect".

    Good point about the allegiances, I forgot about that, dare I say, X factor. I am looking forward to seeing Isa's role in the plot, as well as who the remaining Xehanort incarnations are (though I think I know most of them). And yeah, I wouldn't expect them to not have light triumph, I just hope it won't be boring when it does. Organization XIII's defeat in Kingdom Hearts II seemed so inevitable, and even kind of trivial. Sure, the fights were pretty tough (the only not stupidly easy parts of the game) which I liked, but they were just swatted down one by one. They were a physical threat, but unlike in CoM, they didn't each make Sora doubt himself/effect him on an emotional level. Sora was too bullheaded in this game to have much introspection (other than learning the truth about the Keyblade in Hollow Bastion). That's what I'm most worried about I guess. Having a plot dominated by action, when I think Kingdom Heart's best moments are the more subtle, thoughtful ones. Being the next numbered title and the end of an arc, there might be more pressure to be super-flashy with comparatively little depth, as they just go through the motions of ending things. I'm not saying that will happen, or that I even think it will happen, I'm just worried that it might.



    Okay, I wasn't aware that the costumes were an actual gameplay element. I mean, adding in fanservice-y costumes is kinda skeezy and personally I wouldn't put it in my game because I feel like it cheapens the character, but I don't have a huge problem with it as long as it's optional.

    Alternate costumes aside, I think it's hard to draw a line between empowering female sexuality and not having men (and women) be enticed by it. Whether it's an intentional selling point or not, you don't have control over how the audience reacts to it: otherwise you're saying the equivalent of "don't like this thing I made". You do however, have control over how she interacts with other characters, and how they perceive her, which I think is much more important. Again, I'm only going on the approximate 10 minutes that I saw, but Lightning's personality is not "hot girl". She seems to be treated with respect, and has an air of cool confidence. She doesn't try and seduce everyone she meets (something that happens way more than it should in video games). Her wardrobe does not define her character: in other words, she could be wearing more typical clothing and her character would still make sense. That's not to say she has a particularly inspired personality, but it wasn't tailor-made to make the player all hot and bothered. For me at least, that's the distinction between empowering and objectifying.

    I understand your complaint about the functionality of her wardrobe (with her back exposed). It gets a bit of a pass from me, knowing that it exists in the Final Fantasy universe where all clothes are dumb and make no sense, but I get it, especially on the issue of the alternates.
     
    Last edited: Jan 10, 2014
  5. Misty gimme kiss

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    My distinction wasn't in-game, actually: it's the consumer. The dramatic shift that was Lightning's wardrobe becoming a major advertising point for the game, and Toriyama's comments, lead me to believe that the change was ushered to in to appeal to a male player rather than characters. As far as I'm aware, within the Final Fantasy XIII storyline, Lightning doesn't have any romantic or sexual interests (I did ship her and Hope while I played but I don't think that ever had any real suggestion :v). Basically, they decided to make Lightning "cool" and "sexy" in this sequel, exploiting the female character's sexual appeal for marketing appeal, and therefore, sales. I'm drawing a line here between empowering female sexuality and using female sexuality for personal gain. Sorry if I was unclear, ha.

    Final Fantasy games only really go as far as hinting at actual sex/sexuality; there are some heavy-handed undertones for sure, but sexuality is never a major topic where we'd be discussing how Lightning functions sexually within LR.
     
  6. Explode Who?!

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    That's a good point which I forgot to consider. It's a common, somewhat understandable pitfall for people trying to create a strong female character. Taking "I don't need a man in my life" to the extreme and making them asexual or extremely bitter. Unless that's the point of the character, but then it shouldn't happen that often. I understand your frustration more now.

    I definitely sympathize with being angry about using sex as a selling point, specifically because that's not how it started out, and it's not the genre of the game. Thinking about Aqua, who's my favorite Kingdom Hearts protagonist (alongside Riku), it would piss me off beyond belief if Square exploited her character to sell games.
     
  7. darkmandrago Merlin's Housekeeper

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    I have to agree with the more in depth exploration of Sora and Kairi and there relationship. I think the dark struggle with Sora would be very interesting because with BBS at the end of Ventus's story when him and Vanitas's hearts get shattered, did they become one again, if so does that mean that when Sora took Ventus into his heart he took in Vanitas as well, if so then that could explain why Roxas was so angry and why Xion which was supposed to be a clone had black hair instead of brown. And since i think Sora will bring Ventus back does that mean that Vanitas will leave him as well or will he have an internal struggle with Vanitas.

    Another thing i found interesting is that Riku's sword and keyblade bothe have little blue eyes on them, as did Vanitas's and Master Xehanort's keyblades. Riku's dark clothes also look almost identical to Vanitas's Clothes. does that mean that if Terra is freed from Xehanort's control he will go after Riku and gain control over him instead, after all he has already been possessed by "Ansem" in KH1 and looked like him in KH2, so it's setting him up to fall back to the darkness as with how Terra started the fight good but lost to the darkness in the end. Who knows there are many possibilities with that.
     
  8. Misty gimme kiss

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    I agree; there have been a lot of teases to exploring more of Sora's character but it's just never come to fruition. Given that Kingdom Hearts 3 will be such a big title, I hope we see it in there.
    That's definitely an interesting theory. Kingdom Hearts loves to use parallels, and there's a definite connection between Vanitas and Riku (if only that they once were Xehanort's pawns). Who knows what KH3 will bring~
     
  9. Plums Wakanda Forever

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    Noice podcast guys.

    I do agree with Ross, not on that BBS/KH3D/Days (I'm gonna touch on this one after this) are plothole solver for plotholes sake, but that the sheer amount of these "sequels" does make the transition for someone who's gone from KH1 -> KH2 kind of difficult. KH2 was my first game, and I hadn't played CoM...ever, lol. I didn't find that it hampered my ability to understand what was happening with the Organization or Sora, though. The Roxas Intro did a pretty good job of overviewing the main parts of KH1, and Namine did pretty alright at handling the CoM stuff. It never went to into depth, but it covered the important parts (Sora was tricked by Org., his memories were fried).

    With going from KH2 -> KH3, you have four games worth of pretty mandatory content to catch up on. I'm hopeful that KH3 will do what KH3D did and have those memory archive things, they were really good overviews for all the other games. It's also made much more easier and accessible with the HD remakes, but the fact that there's so much mandatory content for KH2 -> KH3 when there was like...three sentences worth of stuff you needed to go from KH1 -> KH2 can be hard for a KH casual to jump into if they only played the first two main games. I do think the games are important though, and I'm glad they're moving them mostly over to PS3 (which, tbh, should have been where BBS/3D/Days should have been from the start, imo).

    Re:Coded, while super fun, is basically "here is letter...save these ppl sora...do the thing...btw xehanort is back ayyy lmao"

    *Days: I think Days is important not for the Organization but mainly for explaining why:

    1. Namine took a whole year to repair memories she wrecked in 20 days.
    2. How Roxas managed to absorb all of Sora's memories. They could ahve just gone along the lines of "Sora needs his body back or he will die" and Roxas would provide that. Though I still question how he was able to coproduce Namine with Kairi since his body was used in the making of both her and Roxas.
    3. Roxas' motives for leaving. I never really thought they did a good job with it in KH2, so it was nice to have that expanded on in Days.

    I mean, tbh, I would've been fine if they just had it as a cutscene movie like they do in 1.5 now. But I do think it answered questions about Roxas that were relatively important and unanswered.

    tl;dr i am probably a xion stan