Saturday, February 28, 2015

Fun With Pastels: Creative Platypus

So along with a cheep set of colored pencils, I also picked up a set of pastels.  We were taught how to use these in high school and I fiddled around with them a little in college.  This past Christmas, I decided it was time to begin experimenting again and the above is my humble first attempt.  Below is a pastel sketch of Arthur Hughes' "Ophelia" that I did in college (Note: I have used ms paint(rather poorly) to erase my name and some unsightly blotches).

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

More Fun With Pencils: Creative Platypus

Concept art for a novel in the editing process.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Back to Square IV (Cont.): Platypus Nostalgia

A sudden bout of illness has made normal activity difficult again, so I've had more time than usual to mash buttons.  My play-through of the port of the DS reboot of Final Fantasy IV has taken me right up to the foot of the tower of Babil (gotta love the dwarfs!).  Earlier meditations in this series can be found here and here.

I have to say that I like the way that characters pop into and out of the story.  I always felt weird leaving characters behind in FFVII.  In FFIV, there's a plot excuse for why a character suddenly joins or leaves the party.  I've already mentioned in a prior post that this forces a player to keep adjusting their tactics as the composition of the party (and their respective skills) changes.  It also means that when characters rejoin the party, they may do so at higher or lower levels than the other characters and thus make game play more challenging and unpredictable than it would be otherwise.  Finally, not all characters increase their stats as they go up a level.  Tellah, the sage, loses speed and other stats the more levels he goes up as a nod to the fact that he's an elderly man.  What this means on a practical level is that I have to consider my tactics more carefully than in FFVI, FFVI, or Chrono Trigger.  It also means that my party dies much more frequently.

On the level of story, I'm continuing to enjoy things.  The variety of locations and characters is much more complex and feels more organically united than in FFVII though it's not quite as much so as FFVI.  I particularly like the Dark Elf in his Lodestone Cavern and the Dwarf Kingdom in the underworld.  Everything feels distinct as if it had an existence of its own.  None of the towns or castles scream "we needed something to go here" (see Kalm in FFVII).  Nor are there any locations so far that are coherent and interesting, but feel like they belong in a different game (see Cosmo Canyon in FFVII).  All the character plot-lines continue to interweave as we see Cecil taken back to Mysidia to receive mercy and help and to liberate Baron.  Edward's story continues even though he's not allowed to rejoin the company and Kain also continues to develop as a a character while he's away.  Even though Rosa's tied to a post (geesh), her pity for Kain helps keep him sympathetic even as he turns traitor.  One story complaint I had is that Golbez's seeming immortality isn't sufficiently explained.  How badly did Tellah's "Meteo" hurt him?  Why didn't he die when the party overcame him in the Dwarf Crystal Room?  Oh, and why is he twice as tall as everyone else?  It seems like they could at least have him fall over when Tellah blasts him and maybe explain what spell he's using to stay alive after Cecil, Rydia, and Co. paste him.  Oh well.  That's nit-picking.

So there you go.  I have some more thought jumbling round inside my head, but they'll have to wait for another post, maybe of the "final thoughts" variety.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Back to Square IV (Cont.): Platypus Nostalgia

I've played my way through the DS version of Final Fantasy IV up to Cecil's transformation on Mount Ordeal.

Thus far, I've been impressed by the amount of plot material and the careful attention paid to each member of the cast.  The later is something that I felt Final Fantasy VII occasionally fell flat on.  I also enjoy most of the heroic fantasy melodrama and find that it's worn well over the years (perhaps an updated translation of the dialogue helps with that?).  Rosa needs a serious feminist intervention, but her kindness toward Edward and Rydia give her a little counter-balancing depth to all that save-me-save-me-Barbie-princess non-sense.  That aside, every character has a well-established motivation and background that fits in well with those of the other characters and the overall plot.

Another difference from Final Fantasy VII (the game in the series that I've played through most recently) is that each member of the ensemble has very distinct skills that have to be used in tandem in order to succeed.  Since characters come and go over the course of the plot, the player has to quickly adjust to working with different combinations of skills.  Furthermore, each character's stats can only be raised to certain levels that vary from character to character. I have to say that I like working with these set characters rather than having every character be widely customizable and capable of near-infinite progress.  It gives a greater sense of constraint to Final Fantasy IV and makes it more challenging than VI and VII.

Those are my notes so far.  I'm enjoying the game and will report back with more thoughts as soon as I have covered some more ground.

Saturday, February 07, 2015

Back to Square IV: Platypus Nostalgia

The First Final Fantasy title was a major event in the formation of my creative imagination.  I was fresh from my first reading of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit and primed for the idea of exploring a fantastic world peopled with strange heroes and even stranger monsters.  A friend and I teamed up and spent months carefully working our way through the world of the four crystals armed with a whole host of maps, charts, and strategy guides.  We never quite beat the game.  I believe baseball got in the way.  In my mind, only a short time passed before another Final Fantasy title hit the shelves -this time with a much expanded world and more intricate plot- and we were off again into a world of adventure.  This time, we did beat the game and hang up our controllers with honor.  More Square Soft titles came and went, and I have to confess to never having gone back to either of the first two games in all the years that followed.

It was with a sense of delight, then, that I noticed yesterday Final Fantasy IV (released as Final Fantasy II in America) popping up on Steam for 50% off.  I scooped it up this re-launch (originally created several years ago for the Nintendo DS) and have played a little less than the first two hours.  The updated graphics, sound, and (I think) translation, are a welcome change, but all of the old fun is there as well.  We'll see how my trek progresses over the months to come as I look at this child-hood favorite through adult eyes.  Whatever I discover, you can be sure that I'll share it here at Platypus of Truth.