Shorts Week

A sudden heatwave in early December? Alas, no.

So my plans for NaNoStream-o were a complete bust. It didn’t help that I spent about half the month face down with a case of Covid, and then the second half dealing with a depression episode. But hey that’s life. That also means I’m out of Final Fantasy footage to put together for these Friday posts, but I wanted to put together SOMETHING, so here’s a collection of Shorts that have been uploaded to the channel – but never posted here!

Most of these are just weird moments that I found myself laughing at from gaming on some means other than my streaming PC – usually my Xbox or Playstation. However, since I can export those clips, I dragged them over into the editing bay and had some fun with them. And by editing bay I mean my editing PC, and by editing PC I mean streaming PC, and by streaming PC I mean my PC… I only have one PC.

No One Ever Does (Cyberpunk 2077)

How can I resist that line? That delivery by the always charming and slightly weird Keanu Reeves? Have I ever mentioned the strange similarities between Christopher Walken and Keanu? Like… they both give very weird performances that we are utterly fascinated with.

Sleepless in Del Sol (The Sims 4: Get Famous)

The amount of laughter I got out of this weird little bug bordered on the ludicrous. Essentially it boiled down to the fact that whenever the Sim went to bed, they skipped the sleeping bit and went straight to the waking up – but it’s the sleeping part that updates the Energy stat. So poor Howard Boltechi (HoBo for short) was stuck going to auditions with no energy. I assume he’d probably pass out at some point, but we never got that far and the save file got lost in a computer crash. Luckily, I had the full video backed up on Vault-kerion.

Teen Trouble with Kratos & The Head (God of War: Ragnarok)

I was surprised when I started playing God of War Ragnarok only to find that the game didn’t have a dark and fearful tone but rather one of a frickin’ family sitcom. It even has laugh breaks! So I did my part and added the canned laughter back in for Santa Monica Studios. They can thank me later. Maybe with a life-size Mimir statue or something.

Non-Sequitur Thy Name is AI The Somnium Files

You wanna play a weird game? How about a sci-fi murder mystery with polar bears, song & dance numbers, and grade schoolers with the power to take down armies of disposable goons? AI: The Somnium Files is a very, VERY weird game and I still quote it and its sequel constantly, but what else can you expect from the same people who gave us Danganronpa?

Carlos Was Not Kept in the Loop (Zero Time Dilemma)

Speaking of Spike Chunsoft, do you know what’s weirder than a Spike Chunsoft game? The third game in a Spike Chunsoft trilogy. Zero Time Dilemma is the third chapter of the Zero Escape trilogy that began with 999 and Virtue’s Last Reward. It’s a game about psychic powers, time travel, and an insane Saw-like game used to manipulate events to either cause or stop the end of the world. However, in the third game, when you have characters from across the trilogy united along with a few new faces – it can be easy to forget that not EVERYONE is on the same page vis-a-vis your weirdo psychic timeline-hopping superpowers.

Tullius Needs Glasses (Skyrim)

Hey you! You’re finally awake, huh? You were trying to avoid playing Skyrim. Well, don’t worry. Todd will make sure you do. Since Skyrim now runs on almost as many devices as DOOM (Now also coincidentally owned by Bethesda), there won’t be escaping it. Still, over ten years of this game and we still find ways it surprises us. Like in this clip, where I discovered that the General of the Imperial Army has no idea what a blade is.

Gotta Be Careful (Yakuza: Like a Dragon)

You know what’s more hax than a gun in a martial arts battle? Try a grenade.

Negotiations Have Broken Down (Fallout New Vegas)

Honestly, the worst part of this was I couldn’t take his entire inventory nor did it advance the quest in any way. I really should finish my evil playthrough of New Vegas one of these days. Especially now that I’ve modded the game a bunch to improve the quality of life and visuals. I should just finish playing New Vegas in general. I’ve never beaten that one.

And Finally, Some Final Fantasy Shorts…

Well, it IS Final Fantasy Friday I suppose. Might as well end this with a few from our recent playthrough of Final Fantasy V, including my new vTuber avatar of a little adorable lopporit from Final Fantasy IV & XIV.

Thanks for sticking around folks! I promise I’ll get some streaming done soon and we’ll continue the Final Fantasy Retrospective.

Cyberpunk 2077: Keeping the Faith

With the next-gen updates and most of the DLC finally released, I decided to take up playing Cyberpunk 2077 once more on my PlayStation 5 to see how it goes. I must say, there is a marked improvement over my original play-through when the game first released. Outside of the copious amount of weird glitches, bugged missions, and the near clockwork reliability of the game crashing every 30 minutes on the dot (later improved by early patches to 2 hours on the dot) – I still found it to be an okay game that I went on to platinum.

The updated PlayStation 5 version is pretty much the same without all the headaches. Oh I still run into the occasional silly bug or graphical glitch, but it’s nowhere near what it was. Now I can focus wholly on enjoying the game which I’d start mark as an above average RPG experience. Let’s be honest, narratively it doesn’t have the diversity of choice that would put it on par with Dragon Age Inquisition let alone Skyrim, and it cannot even touch the original Deus Ex. But it is still a fun game, with interesting characters, and a solid embodiment of the entirely depressing world that the cyberpunk genre offers.

That said, while I’ve been playing through the game again, I’ve noticed something. See in the world of Cyberpunk 2077, cynicism is king. The corporations can’t be trusted, people are usually listening to their worst instincts, and any attempt to improve things is routinely beaten back and down until you learn not to try. In the words of the setting’s creator Mike Pondsmith, “you can’t save the world, you can only save yourself.” Still, Cyberpunk 2077 does offer a single exception to this. One which I would say it’s inclusion by CD Projekt Red runs counter to the vaunted ‘non-political’ Cyberpunk they expressed to create: Religion.

Religion is not a running theme in the game, and unless you explored all the side jobs I couldn’t blame you for missing it entirely. But it does come up a number of times through the game, and it is almost always approached with a certain level of sincerity and optimism that quite starkly contrasts the rest of the game. I would honestly argue that the game ultimately depicts faith as the opposite of the dark cynicism of humanity.

One of the earliest examples is a small side job in north Watson where a monk who believes that cybernetic implants desecrates the body and prevents reincarnation that has been forcibly chipped at the hands of the Maelstrom gang. This belief is ridiculed or treated with suspicion, but viewed as a honest belief and his plea to save his brother from being implanted is believed in good faith. You are even incentivized to follow the monks’ belief of non-violence in regards to resolving the mission. Should you succeed, you can find both monks later on in the game and have a religious debate with them about the nature of artificial intelligence and mental engrams of living people and whether or not they qualify as a having a soul or being eligible for reincarnation. The entire conversation is a fascinating philosophical debate in religion combining with science fiction.

One prominent side character in the game is Misty, proprietress of Misty’s Esoterica and your partner’s girlfriend. She is fond of giving tarot card readings that are always accurately reflective of where you are in the main story of the game. She warns you of various characters intentions and potential threats for that leg of the narrative – and it’s always correct. So not only are we treated to a debate of whether an AI can be reincarnated with a Buddhist, and now are given the example of functional new age beliefs in this world of cynical science. Combine this with a series of small missions that involve doing zen meditation with a mysterious Zen Master that can appear and disappear at will and begins each stage of the job with an offer to pay him some money or nothing at all – only to find at the end that it doesn’t matter if you paid him or not, it’s all about whether or not you find enlightenment valued in cash or not. (Note, you DO lose the cash if you give it. But nothing changes between paying every time and paying nothing at all)

The most prominent example is the side job called “Sinnerman” which begins with a man wanting to kill the murderer of his wife, which if you don’t stop the cops from killing him leads into a weird trip into Christian iconography. You see, the murderer – Joshua – is set to be put to death. Instead of state executions, he ends up teaming up with a film studio to recreate The Passion, or the death of Jesus. The studio is pretty much treated as cynically as any other corporation in the game, but the murderer who found religion is treated as a true believer – something that we are explicitly told is something incredibly rare in the setting. You have lunch with Joshua at a local fast food joint with 11 other people in the diner to recreate the Last Supper, the studio offers you a bribe to betray Joshua’s trust and walk away in reference to Judas Iscariot, and finally you are asked to pray with Joshua and then assist in nailing him to a cross for his execution.

There’s no snark, so cynicism, and the entire side job is treated with a level of respect and sincerity that almost makes you forget that a half an hour earlier you were helping a man with an exploding genital implant get to a doctor while he screams at you to just run over a group of children. It also never forces you to participate. Outside of the studio trying to buy you into leaving, you are given a chance to walk away from the murderer-turned-zealot at every step of the way. When asked to pray, you can pray with Joshua to one of a number of provided faith options, choose to sit with Joshua as he prays or just not pray at all. By the end, I almost forgot that the whole reason he was being put to death was because he was… ya know… a murderer.

In fact I would say the only exception to this maybe would have been the Voodoo Boys. A bunch of a Haitian immigrants who have occupied the southern district of Pacifica and still perform a large number of ceremonies associated with their native country despite being portrayed by those outside of Pacifica as tribalistic and violent. That however doesn’t hold water, because as soon as you talked to the community leader of the Voodoo Boys – Maman Brigette – she flat out tells you that they left their faith behind in Haiti and it has only made them stronger. The religious practices in Pacifica are window dressing done out of habit. They are far more interested in escaping into the virtual world and joining forces with the Rogue AI than the old ways.

Ultimately, I found it very interesting in that a setting where corporations are depicted as controlling and greedy with no regard for human life, people operates almost on a Hobbesian level of natural law in the streets, politicians are universally corrupt, and the only person you can trust in Night City is yourself and your gun (except Skippy. Lying stupid little smart gun.) That religion in the game is almost always treated with a sense of reverence and purity that is absent literally everywhere else. There are no religious nuts firebombing Ripper Docs, or hate mobs protesting outside of the Doll Houses or Brain Dance Clubs. There aren’t any televangelists tricking their flock into forking over piles of eddies. Religion is the sanctum from the corruption of the world, and arguably the only one.

I would honestly argue that claiming that faith – any faith – is the only way to escape all the awful in the world and then couple that about putting it in a game that is very much at its core about the fear of death is a political argument. It is making the case that there really is only one way out and it is very much a belief you have to buy in to. It’s a well disguised sermon without any specific practice being vaunted as the right one – but the game is still a sermon.

But maybe that’s what Pondsmith meant when he said, “you can only save yourself?” Or perhaps this is what CD Projekt Red took away from that statement. Wonder if Hare Krishna is still around in 2077…

Skeletons, Wyverns and Elementary Education, Oh my. – Final Fantasy V Pixel Remaster #3

We venture through the Ship Graveyard, visit a town with some great tunes, learn that Bartz is a complete idiot, and find Lenna’s pet dragon… wyvern? Thing.

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Dragged Into Another Mess – Final Fantasy V Pixel Remaster #1

So we begin again at the start of another journey, but definitely one that our dear audience-voted-on-named hero Bartz doesn’t want to be part of…

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Final Fantasy V Pixel Remaster Stream Archive #1

We had to restart the stream at one point to fix some major encoding errors that were popping up, so the first stream of Final Fantasy V got split into two, but both are here for your enjoyment!

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The Death of Hate – Final Fantasy IV Pixel Remaster #31 [END] & Final Thoughts

We enter the depths of the moon and begin to carve our way into the sealed prison of the fiend Zemus, but are we prepared for what we find?

Vry shares his final opinions and thoughts about his playthrough of the Final Fantasy IV Pixel Remaster.

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Enter The Dragon God – Final Fantasy IV Pixel Remaster #30

The final hour draws near but there is one final task ahead of us, the ultimate trial of Rydia the Summoner. We must face terrible danger, certain death, and general forgetfulness to claim the prize and defeat the Dragon God himself: Bahamut.

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Why DID Ultima Suck So Much in Final Fantasy II?

The Ultima Bomb Unleashed (Final Fantasy Type-0)

Now that I’ve finished up Final Fantasy IV and looked back a bit on my previous journeys in The Final Fantasy Retrospective I always come back to my one utter bafflement, the one joke of a concept that ended up with me throwing in the towel on the whole game and declaring my intent to just finish it and move on: The Ultima spell in Final Fantasy II.

For those who haven’t watched my series on Final Fantasy II, a large chunk of the game’s narrative is spent building up this legendary world-shattering spell that will only be unlocked when the end of days is truly upon the world at large. There is only one copy of said spell, meaning only one person can learn it and if they forget it to learn a different spell then it is gone forever. But why would you forget it to learn something else? It’s the ultimate spell. A white magic spell said to turn the tides of the very apocalypse.

Well, probably because it did less damage than Fire?

Yeah, the spell ended up completely sucking for me. A massive whiff. Didn’t do a dang thing worth spending the MP on. But why? Why did this narratively important spell turn out to be so underwhelming? Well, I decided to spend my weekend trying to figure that out – and boy oh boy did I find a treat. The spell doesn’t suck. My characters sure as hell did.

See, Ultima in Final Fantasy II is a spell that has a unique damage formula built on the mechanics that are completely unique to that installment in the franchise: Skill proficiency and leveling. The potency of the Ultima spell swings wildly depending on the number of ranks you have in the spell AND the average number of ranks you have across all the other weapon skills and spells you can use in the game. So if Guy only used Axes, and has Rank 16 axes, but only has Rank 1 for every other weapon? That’s gonna hurt him. For every 24 cumulative ranks among all eight weapon skills and sixteen learned spells, you increase Ultima’s power by one “tier”. The end result makes it one of the most wildly swinging spells with the following formula:

Ultima Level * [FLOOR(SUM(All Weapon Skill Levels + All Magic Spell Levels) / 24)+FLOOR(FLOOR(SUM(All Weapon Skill Levels + All Magic Spell Levels)/24)/2)]^2 + 100

Or to clean it up a bit:

LEVELS = Sum(All weapon skill ranks + all magic spell ranks) — Unlearned spell slots count as Rank 0.
TIER = Floor( LEVELS / 24 )
BASE_DAMAGE = Ultima Rank * (TIER + Floor(TIER / 2))^2 + 100

So what does that mean? It means that at it’s lowest point – all weapons at rank 1, only Ultima learned and at rank 1 – a cast of Ultima will deal 100 damage for the cost of 1 mp. Which isn’t bad! Really, not taking into account the possibility of a critical hit (Double damage) or random variance (giving it a range of 61 to 139), it still deals better damage than a Rank 1 Fire spell at the start of the game… but you don’t GET Ultima at the start of the game. And it’s a hell of a lot harder to get than a Fire Tome.

What about if we tweak that some? What if we maxed everything BUT our newly learned Ultima? Rank 16 on every weapon and 15 spells, but with rank 1 Ultima. Just learned it. How much will it do then? Between 556 and 612 damage. So if we leveled up EVERYTHING but Ultima to the ultimate pinnacle of our ability, taught that one character to use every single weapon and grinded them out to Rank 16 along with 15 other spells… we do about 6x more damage.

Well then, let’s change that up. What about maximum rank Ultima? Say we could learn Ultima right away and start the game with it, and for another scenario let’s figure out the absolute maximum damage that the spell can do when everything is at Rank 16. Well let me crunch the numbers…

Scenario 1 (Rank 16 Ultima, Rank 1 Weapons, Rank 0 for all other spells): 116 damage.
Scenario 2 (Everything Rank 16): 9,316 damage.

So uh… That swings a bit, right? Lemme put this information in a Handy-Dandy Table(tm):

Rank 1 UltimaRank 16 Ultima
Minimum Rank Everything Else100 Damage116 Damage
Maximum Rank Everything Else584 Damage9316 Damage

It’s not really hard to see why this spell is only rewarding if you fully take advantage of leveling all your proficiencies. Especially since Ultima doesn’t take into account strength or magic power, it doesn’t matter what kind of stat growth the character has had as long as their ranks are high – preferably maxed out. Because if even one skill or spell is 15 instead of 16? That damage drops by 1500. A “tier” of 15 instead of 16 is that much of a drop, and a reminded that with the way it’s calculated, Tier 16 is only obtainable with all max ranks. Anything less starts dropping hard. Tier 14 – which is between 336 and 359 cumulative ranks – drops by another 700 points of damage.

So why did my use of Ultima not work out compared to other spells? I gave it Firion who pretty much only knew how to use swords, so there’s what? A total of 16 ranks. He only knew 9 spells out of his 16 and Ultima was at Rank 7. Assuming most of the spells were rank 8 through 10… plug that in… carry the one… Yeah. That fits. Sub 1000 damage. Based on the numbers in my actual streams & videos, I’d pin my total putting me at around tier 6 or 7, which would be about right with the numbers. Though in my defense, the numbers were on par if I had maxed EVERYTHING else and only leveled Ultima up to like rank 2… So which really was the best use of my time? I dunno. I still won in the end.

So yeah, that’s why Ultima sucked in Final Fantasy II. Unless you knew how it worked, and knew that ignored all other stats in favor of how many bars you filled up in the skill and spell proficiencies, chances are you’d end up screwing yourself and have better luck chucking Flare or Fire 10+ at the Emperor for the final battle.

Why did I go into this? Because honestly I’m sometimes very curious how the numbers shake on the back side of games, and the complete bafflement at how this amazing plot-demanding spell turned into a total dud. One time I did an entire breakdown on Tumblr on Final Fantasy XII’s Flowering Cactoid and why even at level 90 in New Game Plus, the fight can wipe you if you haven’t recruited Balthier yet or don’t have any guns to bypass the little things insane evasion (Guns bypass evasion in XII).

At least I didn’t play the original Famicom version. Apparently that one had a bug that capped the damage at 500 regardless of anything you did.

THAT would have sucked.

The Moon Strikes Back – Final Fantasy IV Pixel Remaster #29

We return from Moon-cation to find an invasion in progress. The free peoples of… well, I guess just “Earth” must now stand united against uh… a giant killer robot from the moon? What game am I playing again?

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