Recently, Art Attack was finally able to convince the Wife With One F to try some of the Final Fantasy games after a decade of wheedling. We started with the DS re-release of Final Fantasy IV, and since then she has been completely hooked. Now, we spend our evenings (after the kid goes to sleep) sipping wine with her and punching the Joker in Batman: Arkham Asylum.
Every once in a while, though, she'll stop to ask us questions about the game. Not about strategy or tactics, but about the overall world in which the games seem to take place. Many of these questions involve things that simply never occurred to the seven-year-old who picked up the first game in the series the day it was released. They're perfectly commonsense questions, and we don't have any real answer to them.
In each game, to varying degrees, the main party eventually comes across some isolated or hidden town that is instrumental to the quest. Thamasa from VI is probably the best example of this. Even though the town may have been cut off from the outside world for as much as a thousand years, they still have an inn for travelers, all their shops accept current currency, all their prices have followed the same level of inflation as more populous centers, and their technology is as current as anywhere else.
Imagine a real-world town that had been isolated for just the last 30 years. It fell off the map the year we were born. Everything in that town is a third cheaper than it is everywhere else, there isn't any Internet, they have zero idea what AIDS is, huge portions of your vocabulary are meaningless, and for all they know the Soviet Union is still kicking around.
Now imagine you just waltz into that town and start going on about an important geopolitical event they are completely clueless about and start trying to buy weapons. How do you think those people are going to react? Now extrapolate that by as much as 300 percent. Yep, our heroes are getting lynched.
Something else that had literally never occurred to us is the fact that every single main protagonist of every single game is an orphan. ALL of them from every game except the first, where the characters were generic, without back stories or dialogue.
Even in games where their parents may still be alive, they are often completely absent. In VIII, Laguna Loire has no idea that he has a son in the game's main character, Squall Leonhart. In VI, you get to watch Terra Branford's mother murdered and her father die. Hell, in IX, the main antagonist is the POV character's father, who has been turned into a monster.
We don't know why the series has such a hard-on for orphans. Would it really be so distracting if a character occasionally got to keep at least ONE parent? It's not like they have to be a driving force in the story or anything. Couldn't they stop into the house they grew up in and drop off their laundry like the rest of us do?
We're assuming that the ether in use in the games is diethyl ether, a compound once widely used in medicine as an anesthetic. It's also a recreational drug. Anyone who has read Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas or seen the movie will remember the line, "There is nothing in the world more helpless and irresponsible and depraved than a man in the depths of an ether binge."
In the game series, ether is rare and expensive due to its ability to restore valuable magical power for casting spells. That means that at some point in the conference rooms at Squaresoft, someone asked for the name of something that would increase your ability to throw fire and heal the wounded, and somebody else, possibly in the throes of an ether binge, suggested a compound that is either used to knock out people for surgery or send them into a crazed drug haze.
Eventually we hope that a Final Fantasy game changes the item used for curing ailments like poison and confusion from remedy to absinthe. It would more accurately mirror real life.
Speaking of magic, one of the most basic spells learned in every game is the thunder spell. In the original game translation was lightning, but in subsequent releases they have returned to using thunder. The spell, by the by, hits your opponent with a bolt of lightning.
Which begs the question, why the hell is the spell called thunder? Technically, every one of us has been hit with thunder dozens of times. You just never notice it. Why? Because it's just a sound wave. It's like throwing a Katy Perry song at someone.
We blame mythology for this one. There are lots of thunder gods in the history of the world, and every single one of them actually uses lightning to smite.
As we mentioned before, we got the wife hooked through IV, and in that game two thirds of the main playable cast dies. Most of them just temporarily, but at the time each scene is heartrendingly sad. The lesson we learned from that game is that everyone you love can be taken away from you at just a moment's notice.
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And what fan of the series doesn't remember the exact moment when Sephiroth killed Aeris in VII? It was like the night Gwen Stacy died. Many a teenager in the late '90s learned what loss truly was during the sorrowful funeral scene shortly after.
That scene is so moving that it was part of the musical repertoire of the Final Fantasy: Distant World's concert we've twice covered. As the music played, and tears rolled down our face, the wife leaned over to ask what was going on since she hadn't played VII yet. Choking, we explained that Aeris had been killed while trying to summon a holy power to save the world.
"Oh," she said. "Couldn't they have just given her a phoenix down? That's what I do when my characters die."
... fucking Squaresoft. You broke my heart!