Tag Archives: shadow

The Happy App

On Feb 6th, happiness came available in the iTunes App Store.

Ok, not really, right? Because we all know “You can’t buy happiness.”


It sells for $15.99 under the (perhaps confusing) title, Final Fantasy 6.

Want a powerful but flawed and inexperienced female protagonist whose choices may shape the world around her? Forget Katniss and Tris, and go with Terra (or whatever 6-character name you choose).

Need a roguish hero driven by love and loss, torn between the girl he hopes to bring back from the grave and the woman whose life he does manage to save?

Royal twin brothers split up over responsibility and duty? One who took the throne, and one who fled to the hills?

A general cast out by the Empire she loves, because she wouldn’t forsake her ideals, fighting against a madman in charge of a powerful army, willing to murder whole cities to get what he wants?

How about a boy raised in the wild, cast away as a baby by a mad father, seeking restoration of the relationship?

Or a knight who loses his wife, his son, his king, and his kingdom, seeking vengeance on those who would use treachery where they cannot prevail in honorable combat?

Any one of these arcs can make a story worth telling. Not enough selling points?

How about this: Steampunk.

FF6 (FF III when it was released originally in America on the Super Nintendo) introduced a fantasy world with the industrial revolution in full swing. The whole storyline is about mixing magic and technology (and also people). Scenery ranges from rolling plains, dark forests, mountain passes, rural villages, up to the ironclad streets and metal walkways of the Empire’s capital. The game starts you off stomping around in mechanized suits with Magitek lasers.

FF6 was into Steampunk before it was cool.

Then there are the character powers, which tickled my nostalgia oh so right. More varied than any game that springs to mind, FF6 gives each playable character something to set it apart from every other.

  • Thieving from monsters.
  • Absorbing magical attacks.
  • Using a variety of tools (including an automatic crossbow, drill, and chainsaw) in battle.
  • Performing martial arts super-combos using button sequences like Street Fighter.
  • Triggering a wait timer to build up and release insane attacks.
  • Throwing stars (or all sorts of other objects)
  • Rolling dice or slot machines for special effects
  • Sketching copies of enemies to fight for you
  • Being a yeti. (‘Nuff said.)
  • Learning to mimic monster special attacks
  • There’s probably more but I haven’t unlocked the rest, and I don’t remember. And yet, each new character unlocked in the story brings the same reaction: “Oh yeah! That guy! He does that awesome thing in combat. Sweet!”

    I was a Hadouken-throwing beast in Street Fighter II, to the dismay of my brother and his friend. Sabin’s SF-style move Aura Cannon won my heart from the get-go, and it’s just as awesome now as it was back then:


    FF6 includes the requisite slew of magical items and trinkets with various powers. They quickly amass, providing options and opening up combos of benefits to the thoughtful player. There are plenty of FAQs and guides online for character gear optimization, but it’s also not so complex that a new player couldn’t figure their way through.

    The plot and dialogue maintain the right level of humor and avoid being too campy or melodramatic, unlike some JRPGs, which leave me asking “What the heck is going on, and why do I care?” Just as before, I quickly became invested in these characters and interested in their stories.

    The new version provides a helpful clue button and expandable map in the upper left corner, in case you forget your overall goal at the moment, kupo!

    The music is top-notch for the era. It is no overstatement to say absolutely nothing compared to what this game brought to the SNES in the 90s, and the game still holds up well today. (It was ranked #3 on a list of best SNES games ever, right behind Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, and Super Metroid. I think there’s some worthy debate to that ranking.)

    On top of all that, FF6 was one of the first games to use the SNES’ graphics scaling capability. And it executes that perfectly. Whether riding a chocobo, marching Magitek armor toward a town, flying an airship across the skies, or following a flying character around the map, FF6 gave gamers a touch of 3D in their usually flat world.

    But if you ever played FF6, you probably already knew all that.

    So, what’s wrong with it?

  • I often have a glitch if other apps are open. The game seems to start then blanks out. In fact, it’s just another open app, and swiping over gets me going on the game. But you can imagine that was disconcerting to see first, after paying 16 bucks.
  • The touch screen controls can be tricksy and false, Precious. This leads to wasting abilities or opportunities, and general frustration when you’re bumping into a wall trying to get down some stairs.
  • There is a “fast forward” arrow button in combat that lets the game run your characters for you. The AI seemed fine at first, but then it started making horrible decisions, like wasting 250 HP potions to heal 3 HP. After advancing the story and trying again in a different area, I am seeing sound decisions from the AI. But I include the above example as a way it sometimes goes wrong, just because it frustrated me.
  • Not really something “wrong,” but I’ll warn any old player who might have forgotten some details, there are decisions you can make with permanent effects. Wait for Shadow to catch up! Also, “save early save often” applies here. No one likes reaccomplishing the same parts of the story.
  • I recall my delight at finding some Final Fantasy games on the App Store a year or more ago. This was the first game I checked for, and I left crestfallen. I kept coming back and hovering over the “Buy” button on different games, in the hopes that perhaps just maybe it might bring back some of the joy teenage me remembered getting out of FF6.

    I never bought any of them, though I’m sure they’re fine games in their own right.

    Then this popped up on the new releases, and my decision to buy was immediate. I started the game with trepidation – what if like so many other “amazing” things from my youth (G.I. Joe and Transformers cartoons, for example), I look at this in horror, realizing all its flaws?

    Those fears were pushed down from the start, and utterly quelled under the feet of Magitek armor marching into Narshe once I reached the initial credits screen.

    This is not just nostalgia. It’s a portal back in time and space to a place of joy filled with people I loved and never thought I’d see again.

    Walking Death pt. 2

    Welcome to the first Saturday Storyline post. This certainly isn’t the first story I’ve posted. But this category gives me the opportunity to post a weekly piece of fiction, from ongoing projects or from writing just for fun. And for this post, you get part 2 of Walking Death chapter 1. (See the first part here.)

    To recap, the Assassin fought her way to her target, Lord Tarrandin Condral, only to discover he’s not the easy mark he seemed.

    Walking Death, Chapter 1, part 2

    Tarrandin Condral moved with inhuman speed. The Assassin expected this of Cursebearers. The demonic curse, the Kem, imbued Tarrandin with the strength of ten men.

    But this speed, this agility… it’s not possible, even for Kem’neth. He is in two places at once!

    A blow across the jaw shook every thought from her mind. Strands of black hair came loose from her headband as the grey-cloaked Assassin crashed onto the head table. Dinnerware rattled and glass shattered, pieces tinkling on the hardwood floor

    Her quarry-turned-assailant leapt upon the table and landed nearby. He thrust massive black-clawed hands at her. She rolled to the side to escape, but somehow he was already on the other side of her, sinking sharp nails into her skin.

    Her shoulder burned as she twisted out of his grasp. She Stretched, trying to push him away, but her powers seemed muted. She slid backwards across the table, sending plates and silver flying. Tarrandin stepped back at the Stretch, unaffected.

    She Pooled as she rose. Tarrandin strode through the darkness with ease. Pooling slowed Tarrandin’s guards, but it doesn’t faze him. Three past encounters with the demonically augmented beings were similar. Two ended with the Assassin fleeing. The one I managed to kill was a lucky shot while he was unaware.

    The Assassin slid backwards, eyes on Tarrandin. Safe to assume all Cursebearers are immune to direct attack from my powers. Time to shift tactics.

    A heap of utensils, goblets, and plates rose and hovered in the air before her as she Pooled. One by one, she Stretched metal missiles at Tarrandin.

    The projectiles missed each time. Some passed through the cursed lord. She Stretched others at him only to find he was not where he appeared, his preternatural speed outpacing her senses.

    This looks like another retreat.

    Her mind raced, recalling all she knew about various Kem’neth. She dodged and weaved, always backing up, always on the defensive, trying to avoid the swipes of his claws. His eyes burned with yellow light. His teeth seemed elongated, a beast’s fangs, hungry for flesh.

    And always he stayed ahead of her.

    Her back screamed in agony as his nails raked her, rending cloth and skin alike. Blood trickled down her spine and her left arm. Pain is clarity. Pay attention. Tarrandin’s fist swung out at her, and she ducked. His hand reached out, grasping for a hold. She twisted out of the way, then rolled and kicked behind her. My foot passed through his groin, but struck nothing.

    I cannot defeat what I cannot hit. Retreat became the priority.

    Tarrandin slid to her left now, slashed her hip with his claws. She lunged to the right.

    Deceit. The symbol he drew, a lidded eye of blood upon his forehead.

    His Kem was Deceit, casting false images. She would see what he wanted and no more.

    A fist caught her right cheek. Tarrandin stood a safe distance away to her right. Or so it appears. His meaty hand slapped her, and her knees wobbled. His foot came up and kicked her square in the chest. Air rushed past as she flew across the room.

    The Assassin crashed into the rubble left by an Arcanist’s fireball. Sharp rocks dug into her back. Darkness Pooled about her again, even though it did no good against this foe. The hundred spikes of pain in her mind drove her onward. She stumbled to her feet, gasping. Her body wanted nothing more than to stay down in the shadows and rest.

    Tarrandin approached on her right, aiming a short kick for her ribs. She covered up her left side, anticipating more deception. His boot struck from the right and knocked the wind out of her.

    Of course he would expect me to figure out his power. Sometimes the best ruse was to play no trick at all. She coughed. A fine red mist sprayed into the air.

    She tried to roll over. The hole in the wall beckoned. Escape.

    Tarrandin watched and paced, the cat at play with a trapped mouse. She crawled away. His boot rested on her rump. He kicked, and she slid through rubble toward the opening.

    Weakened, she tried to Scatter, hoping to clear a path through jagged rocks and broken wooden beams. A thousand cuts shouted from her arms, legs, and chest as she skidded through debris.

    Need to get out.

    The Assassin Stretched against the ground and lifted into the air. At the same time, she Flexed toward the hallway through the hole. Tarrandin stomped and cracked the ground where she had been.  She pulled herself over the burned rim of the opening in the wall. Once through, she released her powers and flopped to the ground, landing hard on one knee.

    Light shone from a doorway down the hall. She struggled to gain footing, then lurched toward the door. No chance of success… have to withdraw…

    “Heading for the ballroom balcony?” Tarrandin spat, hissing with a voice not his own. It’s dominating him. Kem’neth were like dogs on a leash at times. Sometimes the dogs broke free, and the demons enthralled the Cursebearers. Tarrandin’s a shell now, a form of flesh to cover the demon like my cloak covers me.

    She felt hot rancid breath on her neck. It spoke again. “Very well. I will make sport of you before my guests. They don’t understand yet, but they must suspect that Lord Tarrandin isn’t all he claims.” Clawed hands closed around her shoulders. She fought the urge to shudder.

    “They will recall why they obey him,” Not-Tarrandin went on. “Why they should fear him.”

    He shoved her. The bright doorway rushed at her as she tumbled down the hall.

    The Assassin landed in the darkest portion of the hallway, between the door and the nearest glowing magic Shackle on the wall. The silhouette of Tarrandin strolled toward her.  Yellow eyes shone in the shadows as he blocked the light of the Shackle.

    I need darkness… not for my powers, but for his eyes.

    The Assassin pulled at the shadows as if trying to rein in a wild horse. Her muscles shot fire through her veins. More. Shadows flowed like rivers toward the dim hall. Streams of black swirled around her and blocked the light of the Shackle and the doorway, plunging the two foes into a tangible darkness. Even Tarrandin’s hungry eyes disappeared.

    Not that I can trust the image of them in the first place.

    Her chest ached like a man lost in the desert who drinks too much upon finding an oasis.

    But she felt his presence in the mass of darkness. She crouched, ready to strike. I can’t touch you with my powers, and your powers blind me.

    He stood still, hesitating as shadows rippled about in waves.

    You can disappear, but you can’t dissipate.

    Wind whistled in the black as she drew her bootknives and slashed both arms outward, crisscrossing the demon’s abdomen with deep cuts. He howled. The force and fury shook the walls of the Baricund, disorienting the assassin. She lost her hold on the mass of darkness, and it rushed away in all directions, revealing the doorway behind her. Spurred on by success, she ran.

    Tarrandin bellowed in that alien language and gave chase. Each stomp shook the floors. He moved slower than before, his breath raspy and labored. That wound would kill anyone else. The Kem is the only thing keeping him alive. She neared the lit doorway.

    There’s only one way to kill a Kem’neth. Now I have a chance at it.

    Ahead, she heard confused chatter from the thousands of gathered guests. The music and conversation stopped with the echoing scream. Many eyes were on the balcony where Lord Condral addressed the crowd earlier in the evening. The crowd gasped and murmured when the bloody Assassin appeared instead of Tarrandin. Some cried out for guards.

    The Assassin ignored the crowd for the moment, turning to face Tarrandin. He lurched toward her. Murder burned in his yellow eyes. A string of saliva waved back and forth from his chin with each step.

    I can’t affect him with my powers. And he’s still too strong for direct combat.

    The magic light of the Shackle sparked her memory. The eyepieces Arcanists wear are immune too. Tarrandin was essentially a living, moving Ocular, untouchable by her powers.

    I only need something else I can touch.

    She reached behind her for the two sword-breakers in brown leather sheathes on her back. Each slender shaft of razor-tipped steel had two prongs curved out to the sides, designed to catch enemy blades and snap them with a twist.

    While the crowd looked on, she took a ready stance on the balls of her feet. No need to run now. Tarrandin closed in on her. She Pooled once more.

    I have one chance at this.

    The balcony and doorway vanished in darkness.