Saturday, January 27, 2018

Earning trophies in eternity

PS Trophies or XBox acheivements don't really do too much for me, I'm not that bothered about them for some reason. But I know that there are plenty of people out there who really are.

Sometimes it is fun reading up about the trophies that are out there for games, the crazy little
challenges that have been added on top of a game to add an extra layer of challenge or competition. One I read about a little while ago was the challenge added to FFIX to get Vivi to jump the skipping rope in Alexandria 1000 times! From my memory, doing it 100 times was a challenge enough! Looking over FFVII, there are some hardcore challenges- get Aeris' final limit break, obtain maximum Gil, beat Emerald and Ruby weapon.

All these trophies got me thinking about our Holy Faith.
Maybe there are heavenly trophies to be gained in life, and stored up in eternity?

Resisted impure temptation on 5th May 2016,
went to daily Mass every day for a year in 2017,
spoke to a random person about saving their immortal soul last Tuesday,
this morning got up an hour early to make a meditation.

What if we are earning trophies all the time and don't even know it? What if there are trophies out there that we will only find out about in eternity? I think there are you know, I think there are acheivements to be earned every day of our lives, this is when we use our free will to co-operate with His Holy grace and do great things for Him. These are the kinds of trophies I am interested in, because they really mean something and they truly last forever.

Having Platinum trophies for 100 games, that passes away, but the trophies of merit that we earn for eternity, they will NEVER fade away.

Rev 22:12- Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done.

1 Cor 3:8- Now he who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor.

2 Tim 4:8- Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day--and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.

Matt 10:42- And whoever in the name of a disciple gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water to drink, truly I say to you, he shall not lose his reward.

What are you waiting for, through Christ, with Christ, in Christ, earn those trophies, build up a treasure for yourself in heaven! But remember, if you commit a mortal sin all those trophies get taken away from you, you disqualify from the race- but, praise God, they are returned when you make a good confession and return to God's friendship- He forgets your evil deed and returns all those trophies once more.

Praise be Jesus Christ, now and forever! We are more than conquerors through Him.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

I'm that guy!

I am replaying Suikoden 2 at the moment, a game I last played back in something like 2001. I'm now playing it on PSN, purchasing it for something like $5.

 Funnily enough though, I actually owned the game back in 2001! The actual CD! FFVII basically took over my life when I was 11 years old and after completing it, and becoming obsessed with it, I started looking through my back copies of the Official Playstation Magazine to try and find some games that were like it in some way, part of this genre called "RPG" which I had never even known to have existed previously (I'm not sure I can be blamed for this either, because in the UK we hardly received any RPGs for consoles).

I made it my mission to check out the used sections of Electronic Boutique and the other second hand games shops near me (which included a shop called a record shop called Bebop and another which I think was called Games Express in Sutton, surrey).

 On one fateful day, I found it, Suikoden II, as I flicked through the boxes in Games Express. From what I remember, I think I payed an insignificant amount for the game, I certain don't remember having the save and go back, I'm guessing it must have been about £10. I took it home, I played the game through and I had a great time with it, it isn't too tricky and I completed it, getting the 'bad ending' the only ending I knew of at the time. And then I took it in a second hand game shop and sold it.

 I'm that guy! I had Suikoden II, now worth £150 on EBAY, and at points in the past worth even more. I have almost no recollection of exactly what I traded it in for. Sometimes I like to tell people I traded it in part exchange for Chrono Cross.... but I don't know for certain if that is true. I know I definitely got CC pretty soon after Suikoden II, but I don't know... another memory says I traded it in for Ergheiz (now worth as much as Suikoden II on EBAY! A game which I also traded in!), or possibly it was Destrega or Street Fighter Alpha 3. The thing I do remember though is that I was surprised at how much the store gave me for Suikoden II, I think it was £15 or something, more than I paid for it to begin with.... I think they got the recommended price out of a book.

 Anyway, I'm that guy, the guy that traded a super rare and expensive game in for almost nothing. But in all things Praise be Jesus Christ now and forever. Games are there for fun and recreation, and if we are really lucky, we can find something good and true and beautiful in them which can lead us to praise Him and bless Him and love Him more. Games aren't my life, my life is hid with Christ in God.

 I played a lot of great games back in the day, I owned and played almost every PS1 RPG released in the UK, and now I own Suikoden II once again on PSN, in all honesty I have no regrets that I sold it, but it makes a fun story. I am going to write a review on Suikoden II soon. There is a lot in this beautiful game which is genuinely inspirational and supportive of the truths of our holy faith.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Final Fantasy 6 Review

From Guest blogger Helen Davis

Final Fantasy 6, or known as 3 in North America, is one of the greatest RPGs of all time. It  certainly ranks high on the nostalgia factor, and many iconic moments in Final Fantasy history are portrayed in this game. An unforgettable cast of characters, top-notch graphics for the time, a stunning soundtrack and an intriguing storyline keep the player hooked till the very end.  How does it hold up from a Christian perspective?

Very well, actually.  Though there are some moments that are questionable, mainly that one of the final bosses is based on the Virgin Mary, the plot throughout the game more than makes up for it.  Unlike FF9, which views souls as recyclable and life as meaningless, FF6 seems to incorporate more of the biblical worldview, or at least, not anti-biblical. Many of the characters face losses but deal with them in ways that are more consistent with Scripture—Locke feels remorse over the death of his first love, Rachel, believing he couldn't protect her.   He resolves his guilt at the end and decides to move onto his new love. Cyan loses his wife and child and is nearly destroyed, but receives his courage back, believing he must move on and leave the past in the past.  He later becomes a powerful asset to the party, although the Dreamscape sequence in the World of Ruin with Cyan is somewhat creepy. Celes tries to commit suicide after the loss of her only family member, but regains her courage and gathers the party back together.  Though the reason why she should not commit suicide is not addressed, the fact that she is able to recover, move on, and reunite the party shows why we should not. 

The star of the show, though, I feel is Terra. Terra is, in many ways, quite similar to Christ. First of all, her Japanese name, Tina, is actually a shortening of Christina, a feminine form of Christ's name. She is also half human and half esper, and bridges the gap between them, much like Jesus bridges the gap between God and man.  Terra also desires to learn what love is, and finds it not in a carnal way, but in protecting the children in Mobliz. Terra is also unjustly accused and persecuted during the course of the game. At the end, Terra even offers to sacrifice herelf for the party, but remains on earth as a human, in a somewhat interesting parallel to Christ's resurrection. 

Those who begrudge Final Fantasy females such as Aeris and Rinoa should look to Terra and Celes. Both women are strong female protagonists that overcome personal and exterior difficulties to emerge as leaders, Terra in the first half and Celes in the second.  Both are amazing women that complement each other and even form a friendship.

Kefka is also an interesting counterpart to Satan. Saying he wants to destroy all and create a monument to nonexistence is exactly what Satan wishes to do—in Jesus's words 'the thief comes but to steal, kill and destroy.' What words better sum up Kefka Palazzo?  The first scene of him shows him 'destroying' Terra's innocence and ordering her to 'kill kill kill!' The second scene has Kefka 'stealing' General Leo's authority over the Doman mission, killing many with poision, and 'destroying' Cyan's life. His horrors do not end here, as in the interlude on the Floating Continent, Kefka commands the warring triad to strike down Emperor Gestahl so Kefka can rule- an allegory to Satan trying to usurp God. Kefka is later known as destruction and seems to be completely evil with no redeeming qualities, unlike villians such as Golbez or Sephiroth, who at least showed remorse or motive.

The end of the game shows the cast finding joy in spite of the fact the world is nearly dead. Terra has found love. Locke and Celes have found each other. Cyan carries his family inside of him. Gau has his friends. Sabin and Edgar have each other. Setzer has his dream After threatening to destroy  all their dreams and hopes, Terra counters that life continues and that it's not the end result of life that matters, but the day to day joys of life and love. 

Is FF6 perfect? No. But in comparison to the poison of FF7's recyclable souls and FF9's 'our memories live on', it's a breath of fresh air. Highly recommended.

Friday, September 1, 2017

The popularity of Vivi

I was looking over a subreddit within the JRPG community thank showed the results of a poll of the most popular JRPG characters of all time.

In the results of that poll Vivi ranks as number 2. second to a character from a game I haven't played yet (Breath of Fire iv). Vivi is the highest rated FF character.

I found this really interesting. Vivi is definitely one of my favourite characters also, and I think it is for exactly the same reason. He is one of the only JRPG characters who shares us genuine anxieties and worries about death. He allows himself to actually sit with and dwell upon the mysteries reality of life coming to an end, he has an interiority that the gamer can relate to, but perhaps would never vocalise, would never admit to being able to relate to,

As Catholics, members of the one true Church, with the entire truth about reality, we want to help poor Vivi realise what awaits him after death, what awaits all those who have failed to be regenerated by grace, and all those who have been regenerated, those few who have persevered to the end as friends of God.

There was a beautiful comment on the review of FF9 by a reader-

"Vivis ending is also very sad. I wanted to go into the game and tell him all about Jesus."

That is certainly true, because the best the game can offer the reader is continuing existence through your offspring, having meaningful friendships while you are alive, living on in other people's memories..... basically the kind of stuff you get in humanist funerals.

What Our Lord and saviour offer is the full truth, heaven or hell and for eternity.

I am glad Vivi is the most popular character because it shows that there are so many individuals who, deep down, are worried about the eternal truths, they are worried about death, they are worried about who they really are and what purpose they are made for.

This is fantastic, it shows there are people who are preparing themselves to hear the Good News. Because Jesus Christ's message can only reach those who have got this degree of interiority, who aren't just chasing after pleasures but are genuinely seeking meaning, answers to the biggest questions. Vivi embodies that. Vivi doesn't get the answers, but we have them.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

30 games for 30 years

The games I enjoyed the most at each year of my life (so far!)

1986  As a baby I can't remember playing any games so nothing here
nor here
 Nor here
 Nor here

1990  I received a hand-me-down from an uncle of an old pong-clone with about 6 different sports variations on pong.
 I got a NES, loved Super Mario Bros
 Wizard and Warriors
Metal Gear
 Zelda 2

1995 got a Mega Drive. Golden Axe
Super Kick off 2
Super Street Figher 2
Got a PS1 and got a PC, loved Premier Manager
Final Fantasy VII

2000 Final Fantasy VIII
Chrono Trigger (Rom)
Half Life for PC
RPG Maker for PC
Chrono Cross

2005 Got a pocket PC-  played Age of Empires on it
 Pocket PC replaying Final Fantasy IV
Was doing my university finals, not sure I did much gaming this year!
Seminary in Spain- no computer, no video gaming.
Zelda II

2010 got a PS2, played FFX
Suikoden 1
Wild Arms

2015 Castlevania Symphony of the Night
Metal Gear Solid
I am Setsuna

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Priest as Sacrifice. Inspired by I am Setsuna/ FFX.

The world is soaked in sin, and sin is adding to sin, evil upon evil, every day. The peoples of our world are seduced by the evil one, and he gains more slaves every day. Gripped in the slavery to the evil one many souls are falling into hell like snowflakes in winter, like the leaves in autumn.

See the people living lives of despair! Under fear of the unknown, fear from the meaninglessness of their existence, and fear of death, the great enemy of humanity.

Is there an escape from this misery? Is there a pathway from the great plague of our time?

It is said that many ages ago a perfect sacrifice was offered, a sacrifice to do away with sin, an oblation to release souls from the grip of the evil one, an immaculate offering that compensated for all the outrages of our peoples.

This holy sacrifice, this wondrous oblation has been taken into eternity, into another dimension, into a perfect domain, here is the answer to humanity's woes! Here is our hope! Here is the desire of the nations!

The Almighty wishes this perfect sacrifice to intersect with time, to touch each age of the world, to encounter the sins and peoples and needs of every day of history.

He calls forth men, chosen men, to enter the domain of the perfect sacrifice, He sets men apart to pass through the veil into the fiery realm of the eternal perfect sacrifice,

These men are to encounter the Holy of Holies and to be the conduit for allowing that perfect Holiness to intersect with our daily realities- to dissipate sin, to snatch souls from the evil one, and to offer a glimpse of hope to the broken world.

O noble priest! O Catholic priest! You are that man set apart, that man summoned from a country village, from a city tower block, from an anonymous suburb- you are that man who perpetuates the sacred incarnation of the sacrifice, who allows us mean folk to meet the all holy God, and brings the absolution of the Most High to the dead and the damaged.

O God, how you whisper into ears of that young man, how you speak in the silences of his prayer, how you lure him with the scent of your beauty. You set before him a holy pilgrimage, a mountain of trials, a way of self denial, in order for him to become a man worthy of victimhood, worthy of entering the Holy Place and encountering the All Holy.

Know this young man, at the end of your journey lies death. You will die when you pass through that sacred veil, your pathway ends in complete oblation, the loss of all the things that you would desire in this life.

And yet your oblation is needed if the world is to find peace! To have any hope of salvation! Any respite from the evils of sin and the damnation which poison the great multitude of our race.

Hear His voice and follow Him.

Bring the calm that the nations yearn for,

allow your life to become His Life, to be the perpetuation of His Sacrifice, the perfect eternal sacrifice,

become Christ, bring Christ.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

I am Setsuna review (total spoilers alert)

By accident when I was watching a video on the Nintendo Switch, I caught a brief description of the game I am Setsuna which the show promised would be coming to the Switch, I loved the sound of the brief synopsis of the game- the allusions to Chrono Trigger, the 16 bit style RPG genre, and above all the idea of escorting a sacrifice on a mission to save the world. I was overjoyed when I discovered I could already get the game, so I bought it on Steam and played through it within a few month. I had a few days away from the parish on a break in mid-January and that's when I knocked in a few hours tapping at my computer keyboard and conquering this epic RPG. 

I was hoping that the game would offer a different better take on the whole "I must sacrifice myself to save the world" than FFX ended up producing, I was bitterly disappointed when FFX turned out to be an occasion to preach moral relativism, the sham of organised religion, and the ineptitude of sacrifice.... would the plot of I am Setsuna be more noble? I couldn't wait to discover. 

Like always my review is going to be focusing on to what extent the game endorses a Christian worldview/ philosophy... whether it can be a propaedeutic for the values of Christ, whether it inspires the gamer to seek the truth, and to live the moral life.

Character and identity

So, does the game present a clear acceptance of free will and the ability of good and bad uses of the will to alter and pervert character? Does the game have an understanding of vocation- of characters trying to become what they are called to be, of growing closer in approximation to whatever likeness of Christ they are called to reflect?

I know guys, we are talking about a videogame and not a novel, and not real life for that matter either, so our expectations won't be super high, but there should be something that supports a Christian anthropology. 

The characters in I am Setsuna are not overly developed, we get some back stories, especially in the optional side quests, but a lot of the characters are still a little unfleshed by the end of the game, that's ok, a lot of the modern FFs go crazy in trying to put every character in the psychiatrists chair, and they end up doing a really awful job. I am Setsuna is closer to a 16 bit game in the level of characterisation. Chrono had very little depth, Ayla hardly any, and even Marle and Lucca only really had their one special focused sidequest. I am Setsuna gives you enough on each character, and what it gives you, frankly, is pretty good.

Those who follow Setsuna are all wounded in some way, they are all broken, following a broken dream, with a broken past, or destined to be broken to pieces very soon.

A strong thrust of the game is the harm of hatred in corrupting a character, the message is repeated throughout the game that power and hatred and playing God all lead to personal disaster.  

The game faults in failing to present the corruption of evil as corrupting right down into the inner core of the person. Too often in the game it is revealed that the bad guy is a good guy deep down inside, underneath all the hatred and anger that he had worked up. The reality is though, evil reaches the core of the person and whilst, in one sense, everything that participates in being is ontologically 'good', mortal sin makes the very person evil. 

Setsuna, our deuteragonist (alongside a silent player-character called Endir on the lines of Chrono), has the annoying trait of always trying to see the good in everyone, now usually that is virtuous, but you get the sense that if she got thrown in a cage with an angry lion she would try and stroke it rather than shoot it with a gun. This is Setsuna's character, she is a one off, she is the sacrifice, she is the girl that has been chosen to give her life to hold back the monsters, much like Yuna was to give her life in order to bring a period of calm.

Setsuna embraces her call and has no doubts about it throughout the entire plot. Setsuna is resigned and she is resolved, she will be the one to bring life to others. I found it moving when some young guy tells her that he would like to have married her, to which she responds, "I guess you will have to experience this happiness for the both of us", there are some great lines and great moments of motivation for the Catholic Priest who is himself a living sacrifice, and who in celibacy renounces much in order to more effectively renew Christ's sacrifice for the benefit of the world.

None of the characters are escaping their vocation, no one is depicted as finding fulfillment through running away from the pathway that nature and providence has put before them. 

The main gripe I had with some of the characterisation was the role of women in the world of Setsuna. It is a poor cliche of RPGs that they insist on including a woman who is tougher and stronger than all of the men around, in this game there are 2 of them! God's design for women is not to be the bad ass leader of an army who inspires fear in her soldiers due to her strength- this is unnatural and frankly ridiculous, especially in a medieval RPG setting. Setsuna is fine, she is a essentially a white mage, but Julienne, who is the strongest character in the game is given far too many male qualities and the fact that she was female really added nothing to the story, it only made the thing seem ridiculous. The same can be said for the NPC Freyja. I would love to see an RPG which really presents a woman as aspiring towards motherhood, we never see that and yet Almighty God's design if for women to exhibit maternal, nurturing, empathetic virtues. Setsuna in some way fits this mold but it is unfortunate that aside for her there are no maternal icons within the game.

Reality of Objective Moral laws.
Are the actions of characters that are wrong depicted as breaking some moral law, of pricking the conscience, or of harming themselves in some way?

There is clearly a sense that harming another is wrong, that definitely comes across, but, as I mentioned above, sometimes to attack an agressor is virtue, and sometimes evils need to be opposed vigorously. Whilst I am Setsuna clearly presents the abuse of power, and the use of others against their freedom as terrible evils, there is a tendency to justify the evils that people commit by some explaining factor in their past. The monsters are only bad because they keep being given a hard time, the ultimate evil boss in the game had his generosity abused and became the subject of experimentation thus beginning the evil within him,  and so on. A proper Christian worldview should accept that people are characters chose to become depraved by repeated choices of evil- they change.

Occasionally the main character gets a dialogue choice, I think unfortunately sometimes the two options are both immoral, perhaps one is a lie and the other is rude. If there are going to be dialogues and the main character is meant to be the player, the player should be able to make moral choices in his speech, anything else is to trivialise virtue.

Chrono Trigger style dual techs are fun and numerous

Interior Struggle to pursue the good.
We see a couple of instances of this in I am Setsuna. Kir goes through a little bit of a struggle in order to make a choice of self sacrifice, and we are allowed to hear a little bit of his thinking. Again, with Nidr perhaps there is a struggle to overcome his past ghosts and the mistakes he made and to now put things right. Ultimately however Setsuna, who could have had some struggles in her vocation as sacrifice, doesn't really voice them.... the good for her is easy, or so it seems, which is great for her, but not much in the way of encouragement for the gamer's own life struggles

Divine Providence working through free will.
Fate certainly gets a mention throughout I am Setsuna, and there is a sense at the very end of the game that the main character- Endir is somehow a providential and fated individual who has entered into the cycle of sacrifice offerings and will now be able to break that cycle for the good of the world. Setsuna sees this from the very beginning of the game, she has dreamt of Endir, she knows that he is essential to completing her mission, and she knows that she must complete this mission.

Perhaps in Julienne's side quest there is a sense that her recovery of her kingdom is a fulfillment of prophecy and that, nonetheless, she is co-operating to bring it about.

Self Sacrifice for others
Here obviously is the big one for this game. Setsuna sets out selflessly to go to the Last Lands on a pilgrimage to offer herself in sacrifice to somehow keep the monsters at bay for a period of time. Unlike in FFX this is not revealed to be a sham invented by a corrupt religion- the sacrifices do actually work! The only problem is they are less effective than they used to be and so the decision is made that the party will try and kill the source of all the evil rather than keep him at bay by sacrifice of Setsuna. Ultimately however, after they defeat the evil he manages to flee back in time, Setsuna and Endir follow him, Endir manages to destroy his mortal frame, but his spirit seems to be out there seeking another host or something... Setsuna steps in the breech and embraces his spirit, she consoles him, she seems to allow it to enter within her and then, as she has him in her grasp calls on Endir to sacrifice her, in hope that it will also do away with this spirit, will bring him to the next world, and to peace. That's how I interpret the end of the game anyway and I think that is a legitimate reading of it. So Setsuna becomes the last sacrifice who does away with the source of the evil. But ultimately the evil originated in the lust of power, the abuse of magic, through human experimentation
 and through the accumulation of anger and hatred in an individual. The real roots of evil remain, but the present danger and the source of the monsters is now eliminated through this sacrificial offering.

Alongside Setsuna, Kir is another beautiful example of sacrifice, he allows his lifespan to be drastically shortened, essentially, he catches a deadly disease of magic poisoning in order to help our Setsuna on her pilgrimage and restore her to health.

Finally there is Aeterna who is a projection of the Time Judge who is keeping the great evil at bay, once the great evil is defeated, the Time Judge will finally be able to go to her eternal reward and so Aeterna will disappear- a little bit like Tidus being the dream of the Faith. Aeterna has no probs with this fate, but nonetheless it is still very noble of her.

Basic Christian Theodicy- Monotheism, Goodness of creation, understanding of eternal reward/punishment based on moral behaviour.

This is where the game has a couple of unusual Japanesy dodgy bits. There is clearly "a next world" but it seems like a kid of spirit world- we see Setsuna enering this domain at the end of the game. At the same time it seems possible for a character' spirit to inhabit a magic stone and so to remain with the character, watching over them in someway- this is very Japanese, the Kami of Shintoism which are spirits that inhabit inanimate objects. How far this is from the truth! Once we experience death we are immediately judged by Almighty God and go to heaven, hell or purgatory based on the state of our immortal soul. There is no sense in IAS that evil characters go to hell because basically, deep down, everyone is good- that is dodgy and has to be rejected totally- it sounds like some dodgy Redemptorist who has long abandoned the writings of St. Alphonsus, and thinks everyone is going to heaven now.

So whilst we have that unfortunate view of the next life, the positive theodicy is the acceptance of the importance of prayer- that comes across, many characters tell the sacrifice that they will be prayer for her. My memory doesn't serve me on whether there was any mention of God in this game, there certainly wasn't any public religious cult which was unfortunate, so whilst there was prayer, it didn't necessarily make any sense- prayer is directed to a person, or it isn't more than human esteem and empty hope.

There is also a certain reverence towards the sacrifice as a consecrated person, I liked this- sacred things and people should be respected. 


Overall, I really enjoyed this title, I felt that it made up for some of the mistakes of FFX, Yuna finally got sacrificed and in doing so she really did bring calm to the world, the longed for calm. The game isn't a big budget title, it would have been great to see this story and this world on a scale of one of the FFs- that will never happen though. 

There is something a little unfinished or unpolished about the game which stops it reaching the heights of Chrono Trigger, if there had perhaps been another 10 hours of gameplay, a few more side quests and a little bit more narrative, the game would have been a masterpiece. 

The battle system is good, but again, the enhancement of the spritnite with extra qualities didn't come out great in execution. Dual techs were good, as were triple techs. The game has the battle system that Chrono Cross should have had, a slightly tweaked version of CT with a little more depth. 

The soundtrack is enjoyable and keeps the mood of the game, although at times the tracks play for far too short a time- a track will play to catch the mood of about 5 dialogue boxes, them we will get another track!

There is a lot of good in this game and a lot of fine examples of heroism and self sacrifice, the big downer is that evil is not appreciated for how hideous it really is. We are in a battle and we have real enemies who want to drag our souls to hell, I am Setsuna gives the impression that if only our enemies sat in with a bit of talking therapy they would come round to being nice and we could all live in peace- unfortunately that isn't the case, evil can't be trivilialised, sometimes it must be conquered by force.