Final Fantasy 2 and the Spoony Bard
posted by B on 8/25/01
You can't help but have to hang out with your mom's friend's kids. My first experience with the phenomenon involved a tubby kid with a mullet (I DO live in Virginia, remember) pinching me and biting me on my navel. That experience ended with the shoving of his head into a McDonalds playland window and pounding his face into the ground. Suffice to say I was forced to hang out with him a few more times after that, but two things were established -- one, the biting of my belly button is an accostable offense unless accompanied by the neck, torso, and subsequent reproductive organs of someone who is closely entwined with Victoria and her secret; and two, if you're gonna try to mess with me at the McDonalds do it somewhere that isn't deadly and made of glass. Like the stupid metal crawl-through cheeseburgers or the balls. THE BALLS OMG
Go play in the balls, baby.
The second memorable experience with my Mom's friend's kids was when we moved to Lynchburg, Virginia. My Mom's always worked in various video stores, and has the Japanese work-ethic that allows her to immediately usurp the role of MANAGER in a matter of moments and get one of those nifty super nametags most places give out about a week into the job. It was 1992, and the first place that hired her was a drug store called Phar-Mor. She was hired at minimum wage for 10 hours a week. The next day she was the assistant manager. The best part of the job is that her coworkers all seemed to have broken free from the insane asylum and mastered in "Dur-hur" at the local Clown College. So you can imagine what their children are like. Yes, PHAR MOR RETARDED. Haw haw, I'm the best writer ever!1
My mom's friend was named Jeannine, and she had one of those giant blonde outerspace haircuts, where it goes WAY up in the front and then cascades down the side of her skull like she's wearing a samurai battle helmet. She had two kids...Robert, who relayed stories about his guinea pig eating it's young in front of him between extensive research missions into Marvel Super Hero trading cards, and B.J., the older brother who was into country music and was called "B.J" on a regular basis, REGARDLESS of the heckling ramifications. When I have a son I'm going to name him "Rimjob." Who am I kidding, I'm not gonna name my kid Rimjob. I'm-a name her Bonnie.
B.J. was taller than me and had that wavey Eddie Vedder hair that was all the rave around that time, so I made the best of my trips to their house by using him to improve my own popularity stock. Perhaps the oncoming threat of puberty hurt my attempts, I can't say for sure, but all I ever got out of the friendship was knowledge of skin-care cream and the lyrics to every "Tracy Lawrence" song. "My little TEEEEEEEEEEEEEExas Tor-NAYDOHO....blowin' me away a geeeen....."
It was actually my friendship with Robert that gave me something I still cherish today, and it's neither creepy little boy sexual experimentation or that Rogue X-Men 30th Anniversary card that looks just like the normal card only it's got a little bit of gold foil on it. It was one of those nights when I was sleeping over and B.J. was submerged in his new Pearl Jam CD (hence the hair). I decided to see what Robert was doing. Granted, this could've exploded into a HILARIOUS "Tony-walks-in-on-Angela-in-the-shower" sexual misunderstanding, but (in what will come as a relief to all of God's creatures and people who never wanted to associate Tony Danza with child pornography) he was playing video games. Now his normal video game regiment involved Mortal Kombat for the Super Nintendo, which is about as thrilling as setting your crotch on fire. There were no threatening cries of "COME HERE" in the air tonight (the kiddy porn jokes keep on coming, folks). The air was full of something much more magical tonight...
And here I thought I could just jump on people's heads and take their coins....damn. (thunder crashes)
And when we were done with the burgers I saw "Final Fantasy 2" in the Super Nintendo. "What's that, a game about porn?" I though to myself. Then I thought how cool it would be to have a porno Super Nintendo game, with like a little fat naked plumber guy who could get inside of a big shoe and jump around and crush people by jumping on them with his shoe and then when he gets outta the shoe you don't wanna get in yourself cause it's sweaty and full of loose hair and Super Mario spunk. Then I stopped being a giant fucking freakshow for about two seconds and asked Robert about the game. He showed me, and I haven't been the same since.
Final Fantasy 2 (which is actually the fourth in the series, because the Japanese have stunted growth from bomb radiation) changed the way I saw video games, movies, and storytelling in general. It took plot elements that I avoided like the plague: castles, dragons, Chinese guys with kung-fu allergy attacks...
...and made them make sense in a Universe full of people who acted like real, if not completely exaggerated, human beings. They had plans, motivations, reasons for what they did...the closest thing I'd ever gotten to a video game motivation was to see if those goddamn Mushroom guys were gonna tell me the Princess was in another castle or not. Final Fantasy broke down the front of my face and drove my brain out in a giant beer truck.
Place weak ones in the rear row? What? You're telling me that you want to place Stone Cold Steve Austin in the rear row? Am I weak to you? What?
There are so many great moments it's hard to get any goofy jokes out of my memory. There are adventurous moments like the quest to find the Big Whale (a spaceship buried beneath the ocean) and heartbreaking moments like when two children you've grown to appreciate (especially if you walk around for hours making the more powerful via the inane video game tradition known as "leveling up") sacrifice themselves to save your life. There are moments to stand up and cheer, such as when a friend you haven't seen in a long time shows up to save your ass, and moments when you throw your controller into the television and scream "FUCK I CAN'T FUCKEN BELIEVE OH FUCK FAAAAAAAAAACK!!!!," when a teammate betrays you after arguably the hardest part of the game. It's a roller coaster ride of emotions that sticks with you for years, that Roeper and Ebert would give "two thumbs off" if they weren't busy whacking off in the projector booth to Charlie's Angels and being general turdwankers.
With it's bright colors and simple graphics it looks like a dinosaur to the people who discovered the series with the Playstation entries. It's really almost grown into a piece of art -- beautiful in it's simplicity, so complex that you don't realize the emotions it's evoking from you until long after you've felt them. For me, Squaresoft came along during a time when I really needed something to make me feel better, such as being in a house with a deadly guinea pig and people who did not actually want to stab Billy Ray Cyrus in the face with a salad fork. Can you imagine that? I'd use any kind of fork myself, as long as it made him bleed and go "aw man come awn man" like I can picture him doing.
You can tell my liver, I never will forgive'er
Sometimes I think it's just a pocket of nostalgia in my brain somewhere, but the recent re-release of the game proves that my love for a group of pixels thrown together and given names is not without a full set of reasons to back it up. Cecil, the protagonist battling a darkness within himself. Rosa, a white wizard who just wants a normal life but can't catch a freaking break, what with being a video game heroin and all. In a game you're 100% more likely to be chained up beneath something prepped to murder you than go to the bathroom. The list goes on and on...Edge, Kain, Cid, none of whom make me want to make awkwardly placed wrestling references of any kind. Not to mention EDWARD!
No...not to mention Edward at all.
Where to begin?
I'm having problems even thinking up a good analogy for it. Y'know that song by Alanis Morisette, "Head Over Feet?" She actually seems to be making an effort to be a decent singer in that song, massively deluded and covered in green slime though she is, and then in the second to last line of the song she does that PAINFUL voice warble thing. "I've never wanted...something ration-AALEHEEH" And then you're like "AUGH, FUCK, NEVERMIND" and you go into the closet to beat yourself with a belt because you didn't just hate the song to begin with.
I got one hand in Dave Coulier...and the other one is saying Cut It Out-UURAAH
That's not a very good analogy.
It's more like watching Terminator 2. That movie's like two hours of hardcore action. You've got helicopter explosions, guys getting knifes stabbed into their heads, and Eddie Furlong at least ALMOST getting killed. There's even an argument for nuclear war, when Linda Hamilton dreams about dying. So the whole time you're all "YEAH! YEAH! GO! GO!" and the Terminator is kicking all sorts of Flight of the Navigator morph-effecting ass. Then you get to the ending, after a killer 20 minute fight with the T-1000 and Terminator realizes that he must be terminated himself to end the threat of world-destroying war. So they lower him down into the molten lava (let me pretend) and the audience begins to tell their spouse or life partner about how much they enjoyed the movie, and that's when it happens....
HE GIVES A FUCKING THUMBS UP.
OMFG I GIVE LATIN CLUB A BIG THUMBS UP LOLOLOL
The Terminator, the most hard-assed guy in the history of hard-assed guys gives a big goofy thumbs up and everyone all at once, no matter where they are in the world and no matter what they are doing, drops everything and goes "AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAUUUUGHHHH." Every few minutes somebody in the world reaches that point in the movie, so if you're on a blind date with Eva Herzigova and she's in a red latex bodysuit and she's getting ready to go down on you, but right before her supple lips reach the promised land she stops to go "AAAAAAAAAAUUUUGGGGHH," don't worry so much. It's not because you're hung like a candy corn, it's because of Terminator. At least that's what my Mom tells me.
So yes, Edward is the Terminator Thumbs Up of Doom of Final Fantasy 2. The plot: The Kingdom of Baron has its eyes on these crystals because they look really nice and the king's into nice dinnerware. Using the power of airships, there is nothing that can stand in the way of the Red Wings - Baron's elite air force. Only a former Dark Knight of Baron (Cecil) and a small group of companions have the power to do something. They will soon discover that there is something more behind the Kingdom of Baron. This means giant monsters that can control the elements, a lot Star Wars references, and life-threatening battles around the planet. Who would you want to have on your side? A knight? Sure. A master of martial arts? Yes. A guy who can make meteors come out of the sky and crush people. Damn straight. A bard? A BARD?
bard - n. - a composer, singer, or declaimer of epic or heroic verse
I guess when I go off to save the world I want my biographer to follow me around, crouching in the corner to scribble down sassy sayings while I try to slide my broadsword up the ass of a giant bird that can turn me to stone. Edward is so hardcore that his "weapon" of choice is his harp. He just waltzes up to your screen in his nifty little hat/cape combination outfit and makes musical notes fly around. This is almost as effective as it sounds. Sometime along the journey I know I was begging for Edward to just drop the stupid band camp jazz and just hurl some rocks at the monsters. There've GOT to be some rocks laying around, or at least some sticks.
Edward this, Edward that...this trip was supposed to be about US!
Your first meeting with Eddy comes very early in the game, when you come across a castle that has just been attacked by aforementioned Red Wings, who take a break from being a communist hockey team full of old guys to fly airships around the Final Fantasy world. Thankfully they didn't let them make a "tire that is on fire" be their logo, the King of Baron may be fictional but even he knows how retarded that looks. Obviously Edward and the kingdom of Damcyan aren't the most popular people in this fictional world, because (besides being bombed) Cecil himself comes across an old magician named Tellah on his way to the city that has intentions of beating the piss out of Edward.
It turns out that Tellah's daughter Anna is a complete hosebag and, like ANY other female I've ever met, decided to ditch responsibility and obligation by running off with a rock star. If you can call a "bard" a rock star...he's no where near the Styx-like ROCK OPERA of the Magical Dreamers of Chrono Cross, but in a world where every town has it's own set of dance numbers the guy with the harp is like Carson Daly. I don't care what you say about that guy, he's a MASSIVE, MASSIVE tool, but he has done the dirty donkey dance with not only Jennifer Love "Breasts of your Life" Hewitt and a Pussycat. Sure, she's the stupid drugged up Pussycat, but a Pussycat nonetheless.
W-D's Sex-O-Meter <
ranking the importance of your sexual encounters
Edward also is the "prince" of Damcyan, which could really help him out as far as getting chicks goes or is possibly his "club name." Regardless, if he's actually a prince he'd better have some assless pants beneath his bard getup. As if being firebombed wasn't enough, shortly after the attack Tellah shows up demanding satisfaction. Of course Edward is completely flustered from the attack, prancing around like a goon possibly because his curtains were damaged. Tellah feels as though his demands for satisfaction have not been met, and takes it upon himself to deliver a first class ass blasting with the greatest non-Base related game translation of our time:
All your spoony bard are belong to us.
The only thing that keeps Tellah from shining up his rod, turning it sideways, and sticking it up Edward's candy ass (as gay as that sounds) is Tellah's daughter speaking up and stopping the violence. ERASING THE HATE. It turns out she was mortally wounded in the attack on the castle, because she took an arrow for Edward. Yes, the bard used his girlfriend as a shield. It's a humiliating affair for everyone involved, causing Tellah to storm off in a fit of rage no doubt caused by an overwhelming feeling of old man stink. Edward begins to cry like the pussy he is, until Rydia tells him to stop being a pussy and you're on your way. Gotta love a man who gets bossed around by little girls.
Besides being a complete wienerdog and having a useless weapon, Edward's real shining moment in the game's run is his "special attack." Most characters have a special attack that does something monumental to help out. For instance, Kain the Dragoon has a jump attack that allows him to do heavy damage to the enemy. Palom and Porom use a powerful "twin magic," ninja Edge can throw weapons, and engineer Cid can find out valuable information about the enemy (including amount of hit points remaining and weaknesses). Edward has two AWESOME attacks:
Song: Using the "song" attack, Edward can sing to the enemy. This will either put the monster to sleep, confuse it, or do nothing at all. Usually this attack is as useful as Mariah Carey's sanity.
Mariah, you so crazy. Psy yi yi!
Hide: Using the super bard powers Edward can use the "hide" attack to...hide. He just turns tail and runs off the screen, leaving everyone else on the team to fight without him. This is about as pleasant as Mariah Carey's singing, and causes almost as many curse words. I used the phrase "FUCKING COCKMASTER" a lot, and I was only twelve.
Thankfully Edward doesn't stick around too long, only long enough to make everything more difficult than it needs to be. He makes a battle with an ant lion (and animal that most 10 year old boys can kill with a magnifying glass and an eerie disposition) a challenge, has a creepy midnight rendezvous with a sea hag (which is similar to visiting my ex-girlfriend's webpage), and stumbles around and acts like a fudgepacker while you're trying to prevent the castle of Fabul from being taken over by monsters. It's a lot like having Chris Burke help you defend the world, only you're unable to make all those awesome "Weh-cum do Mac-dunnals" jokes.
After the failed defense of Fabul (I'm really into alliteration in this article, all apologies) Edward is lost at sea, a tragedy that should've been very sad but comes across more as release not to have to hang around with the dorky kids at lunch anymore. It turns out that Edward washed ashore and found succor in the hospital of the Final Fantasy world's greatest lesbian kingdom, Troia. Even hanging around a castle full of women Edward is a be-all and end-all ballsack. He spends the rest of the game lying in a bed, being attended to by a male nurse. Now granted, he DOES roll out of bed once to help you defeat a boss called the "Dark Elf" by using beautiful music, but even after almost a decade I have trouble admitting that I like anything involving elves, so let's just ignore that.
The final insult of Final Fantasy and it's prissy parnassian is Edward's role in the game's ending. If you've finished Final Fantasy IV you've actually accomplished something -- this is before Squaresoft started making games that old senile women who cannot poop without assistance from a staff of highly trained professionals could finish. Much like the rest of the games in the series (save for part VII) the ending scenes for the game are amazing. They leave you with a feeling of closure for these characters you've just spent forty or so hours of your life with -- and just like those forty or so hours before, you don't really give much of a steaming shit what Edward has to think. Rest assured, he's still being a life-encompassing taintburglar about EVERYTHING:
Yes, friends, while other characters are coming to terms with their lives after saving the world from sure destruction, Edward is trying to convince a bunch of children to rebuild the castle for him in exchange for stories. It's a fitting end for a bard who let his girlfriend die as his shield, made lives difficult for the world's most moral people, and played music to piss an elf off. So when I remember the joy that was Final Fantasy 2 to me, I will never forgive the bard for making it, if only in part, a regrettable memory.
Ya fuckin' spoony ass bard.
ROMs Download FFIV(2) here