Saturday, May 21, 2016

Invasive Doodle: Creative Platypus

A quick doodle in honor of our school's favorite invasive species.

Thoughts on Final Fantasy II (Cont.): Platypus Nostalgia

Something I forgot to mention in my prior post:

Final Fantasy II is an open world. Once the party gains Minwu's canoe, it can reach just about any area on the map with enough effort. Paid travel via Cid's airship or Leila's pirate vessel make travel even easier as the game moves on. The only restriction on the character's travels is their ability to survive the increasingly difficult monsters that wait only a little ways off the beaten path. As the heroes begin as a trio of nobodies, this creates another in-world reason for the characters to restrict their actions to certain areas of the map. The bottom line of this is that it gives the game the feel of a real world in which you are free to travel from A to B but must suffer the consequences if you try. While this hides a good deal of rail-roading, it does so in a way that makes it easier to suspend disbelief and by in to the story the game is telling. That suspension of disbelief is key to creating the sense of wonder, of fantasy, that the entire series revolves around. In this respect, though it is only the second title in the series, Final Fantasy II outdoes several of it later descendants.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Thoughts on Final Fantasy II: Platypus Nostalgia

I remember when SquareSoft's (now SquareEnix) original Final Fantasy came out. It was a turning point in the evolution of the game industry and it took my young imagination by storm. What I didn't know at the time was that there were a host of other titles in the series already in the works. What we Americans would know as Final Fantasy II would actually be the fourth title in the franchise. After Square made the switch from Nintendo to Playstation, they began releasing these other titles for the American market. I had other things to do while that was happening, so it's only just now that I've gotten around to playing Final Fantasy II and experiencing the adventures of Firion and his friends.

Final Fantasy II makes a number of ground-breaking improvements over the original title. There are defined player characters with their own rudimentary stories and personalities. Some of these characters come and go, as in Final Fantasy IV, but the number of them that meet a grisly end is much higher than subsequent titles in the series. The world the characters inhabit is well defined with a host of distinct kingdoms and towns that each have their own personality while still fitting in with the overall world of the game (something I felt was lacking in Final Fantasy VII and simply under-developed in Final Fantasy I). The character advancement system, which focuses on how the characters are used rather than simple leveling up, is also a welcome innovation that sadly was not followed up in many of the subsequent titles. It is also one of the real challenges and pleasures of this particular game.

Two aspects of the original title that remained that I particularly enjoyed. The first, was that in contrast to Final Fantasy IV and VI, Firion and company start out as nobodies and have to work their way up to becoming the most important people in their world. This allowed the story to grow and widen with the player characters creating and added sense of adventure and accomplishment. I also enjoyed the high medieval fantasy feel that marked the earliest titles in the series before giving was to a steam-punk/cyber-punk feel in Final Fantasy VI. As with the original Final Fantasy, the world of Final Fantasy II is a vast and coherent place to explore.

The above represents my initial thoughts immediately after completing the game. If other ideas occur to me over the next few weeks, I'll be sure to post them here at the Platypus of Truth.

Sunday, May 01, 2016

Aeneid Doodle (Cont.): Creative Platypus

Quick marker doodle of a soldier from Virgil's Aeneid. I did a little research on Etruscan armor in an attempt at verisimilitude. The shield is too small, but I like the roughness and slight awkward angle of the spear. It gives it a little more of an "authentic" feel. ...and that's so much of Virgil: modern, apartment-dwelling, fast-food-eating Roman tries to imagine life over 1,000 years ago in a way his urbane audience will buy.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Earthsea Doodle: Creative Platypus

Drawing Virgil's Fields of Asphodel put me more than a little in mind of Ursula K. Le Guin. Along those lines, I began thinking of a similar scene in the Earthsea Cycle that I could draw using the same techniques. Here we have Ged in the Otherworld trapped between the Land of the Dead and the Shadow. I'm most happy with the Shadow and Ged's cape. These are the pastel pencils again (Conte) on black paper. There's a little computer editing on the midtones to bring the scan closer to the original.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Kamelot Doodle: Creative Platypus

Working with chalk pastels on black paper again today. There's some editing on the color balance in an attempt to get the scan to match the original drawing (just a little fiddling with the midtones). This is a scene inspired by the song Sacrimony from Kamelot's Silverthorne album. As a fan of Victorian Gothic, I appreciated the Fall of the House of Usher meets Phantom of the Opera quality of the story. Here we have the Good Brother receive a vision of his dead sister as The Angel of Afterlife descended from Heaven to judge his case. I wish I had enough skill to do this dark theophany credit -but oh well...

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Aeneid Doodle (Cont.): Creative Platypus

Take two on yesterday's drawing of Aeneas visiting his father on the fields of asphodel. I've switched the medium from oil pastels to chalk pastels. This is that nice French set some friends sent me for Christmas. The chalk is easier to blend, but far easier to blow away or smudge and doesn't adhere to the paper as readily. The overall effect is finer than the oil pastels but, at this low technical level, I don't think the difference is too great.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Aeneid Doodle: Creative Platypus

The difference between Virgil and Homer is the difference between written poetry and oral poetry: Virgil is finer, but Homer is truer. I've preferred Homer since my student days, but I have had to teach Virgil on occasion and each time I give it my level best. When all else fails, I can fall back on the sheer beauty of Virgil's imagery. Here we have a scene from Book VII where Aeneas meets his father's ghost on the fields of Elysium. The asphodel shines in the twilight of the Dead Realm as Anchises shows his son the spirits of famous Julio-Claudians yet to be.