Super Loops

SPOILERS for Final Fantasy (the first one) and The 7th Saga.

The idea of a time loop is one that comes up occasionally in fiction, sometimes as simply a repeating part of history, and other times involving time travel that turns out to be necessary to the present. It’s not surprising that this concept would show up in video games, as they’re pretty much based on having to repeat the same events over and over until you get things right. Some games actually have time loops incorporated into their plots, however, one such being the original Final Fantasy. As an early role-playing console game, the plot is mostly straightforward. You travel around the world fighting monsters, kill the four Fiends that are in charge, and then restore peace and order by beating their boss. The weird element is that this final battle actually takes place 2000 years back in time. After defeating the Fiends, you find a way to travel back 2000 years, and you once again encounter the game’s very first boss, the evil knight Garland.

He tells you that, when you defeated him the first time, he was drawn back in time, and he then sent the Fiends into the future.

He then turns into a monster called Chaos, and killing him is the only way to end the time loop.

In-game text indicates that Tiamat, Fiend of the Wind, appeared 400 years previously to destroy the highly advanced Lufenian civilization. The Kraken ravaged Onrac 200 years later, and Lich had just recently started rotting the earth. The Fiend of Fire, called Kary in the original translation and Marilith in later ones, apparently wasn’t supposed to show up until 200 years later. She woke up after the Light Warriors defeated Lich. She was obviously present at the time of the game, however, and didn’t have to be sent forwards in time. Couldn’t they all have just hibernated until they were needed, or for that matter just destroyed the world 2000 years earlier? And if Chaos was formed in the past, wouldn’t he still be around in the present? Or did he need to transfer his consciousness into Garland and perpetuate the time loop in order to keep existing?

Even god-like beings have their limits, I suppose. According to the confusing ending story combined with some dialogue from elsewhere in the game, Garland was a loyal knight of the Kingdom of Cornelia until “a twist of fate” resulted in his becoming corrupt and seething with hatred. I haven’t played the Final Fantasy Dissidia games, but I understand they add more to the Garland/Chaos back story. Chaos was a biological weapon created by Cid of the Lufaine (originally, FF1 was the only game in the series that didn’t have a character named Cid) who went rogue and created the alternate world where these games take place. Cid also charged Garland with overseeing Chaos’ battle with Cosmos, another powerful being he created. It’s very puzzling, but you wouldn’t think someone named Chaos would come up with a straightforward plot, would you?

The comic 8-Bit Theater, which loosely retells the story of FF1, doesn’t use the Garland/Chaos time loop. There is, however, a time loop of sorts with Sarda. He’s an actual character in the game, but a minor one, a sage who gives a magic rod to the party so they can lift a stone plate in the Earth Cave.

In the comic, his role is greatly expanded into that of the near-omnipotent Wizard Who Did It (a reference to a Simpsons joke about how all technical errors in TV shows are caused by wizards), who has a penchant for rearranging reality just to mess with people.

It eventually turns out that his child self exists in the same time period, and is constantly tormented by the Light Warriors, especially Black Mage. He studies to become a wizard, and then sends himself back to the beginning of the universe so that he can remake it. Unfortunately for him, he accidentally sends White Mage back to the dawn of time as well, and she becomes the new creator instead of him. He’s then stranded in space for billions of years, finally sending the Light Warriors out to retrieve the Orbs so he can siphon their power for himself. He’s the one who becomes Chaos in this retelling of the story, and while Chaos exists in the present time instead of the past, time travel was still a necessary part of his origin. Garland is in the comic, quite prominently in fact, but he’s presented as a totally incompetent villain.

Another game that uses the time loop idea, and in a quite similar way, is the notoriously difficult Super Nintendo adventure The 7th Saga. Part of the back story of the game is that, 5000 years previously, the hero Saro (apparently no relation to Psaro from Dragon Quest IV, who’s called Saro in the original translation) defeated the evil Gorsia with the help of seven magic runes.

In the present, King Lemele sends his seven apprentices to search for the runes, only to reveal once they’ve found them that he’s actually Gorsia in disguise, having journeyed into the future for some reason. He sends you back in time 5000 years, and you can defeat him, but he takes you down with him.

Saro then resurrects you in the form of…King Lemele. So is anything actually accomplished here? I’ve seen theories to the effect that the defeat of Gorsia means he won’t be able to travel through time again. There’s also an indication that Saro will warn Lemele about Gorsia’s treachery.

If so, the villain must have made a mistake in sending you to a time in which you could potentially defeat him. Or was that the only time he could access? Regardless, it’s kind of disappointing that the ending is the same for every character even though their motivations for gathering the runes are totally different.

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The Shadow Falls

The Magic Chest of Oz, by Donald Abbott – Published in 1993, this is another one of Abbott’s tales of Oz during the Scarecrow’s reign in the Emerald City, and has him again adventuring with the Tin Woodman and Cowardly Lion. Interestingly, the Lion seems to retain his characterization from the end of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, when he no longer felt afraid. By the time he reappears in Ozma of Oz he’s back to his old fearful self. The plot involves two Munchkin farmers accidentally freeing the shadow of the Wicked Witch of East. Books of Wonder also published The Nome King’s Shadow in Oz around this time, so apparently villainous shadows were in vogue then. The shadow, called Malvonia, teams up with a nasty imp and the Hammer-Heads in conquering the city. As with Abbott’s other Oz books, it’s a fairly thin plot, but brings in several elements from L. Frank Baum’s work. Two minor characters are based on Sir Dashemoff Daily and Cynthia Cynch from Baum’s stage play, but for some reason the former is called Sir Dashabout and the latter is only referred to by her first name. Were there still copyright issues back then? Sir Wiley Gyle and Brigadier-General Riskitt appear under their actual names from the play in other books by Abbott.

Posted in Book Reviews, Characters, L. Frank Baum, Oz, Oz Authors | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Define and Conquer

I’ve been thinking a bit about people not wanting to call themselves feminists because they don’t really know what the term means nowadays, as Bill Maher more or less put it. The thing is, I have to wonder if that’s letting the opponents of feminism define the term. I think it’s becoming thankfully less common for women to say, “I’m not a feminist, because I shave my armpits and don’t hate men!”, but that stereotype still exists.

“I also don’t need to check the definitions of words or do even the most basic research, because thinking too much gives you wrinkles.”
When was feminism EVER about hating men, though? Sure, you might be able to pull out a few examples of women who identify as feminists and genuinely hate men, but I’m inclined to think they’ve always been the exception rather than the rule. It’s a straw man argument (well, maybe a straw WOMAN argument in this case) that people take seriously for some reason. That seems to happen a lot, though. Along the same lines, I’ve seen some online criticism of “social justice warriors,” as if social justice is somehow a bad thing. Okay, maybe the “warrior” part is, but it seems like part of that mindset to insist that everyone who disagrees with you is fighting a war.

The prime example here is Bill O’Reilly with his Culture War and War on Christmas, in which he might well be the only participant. Actually, I think I’ve heard of some people with the opposite opinion of O’Reilly’s using the term “culture war,” as well as some who use the term “sexual revolution” when they think it was a good thing. I doubt it’s all that common, however. I’m guessing that most of the people O’Reilly thinks are fighting against him in these imaginary wars have never even heard of them.

He calls them secular-progressives, because I guess progress is a bad thing now. Well, I suppose it is if you’re a cranky old man who’s set in your ways. When you get right down to it, though, does anyone really think progress is bad, or do they just think that some cultural changes aren’t actually progress at all? It’s kind of a significant distinction. I also have to think back to when John Kerry was running for president, and people kept calling him “liberal” like it was a bad thing. Instead of arguing that point, however, he more or less said he WASN’T a liberal, thus allowing his opponents to set the playing field. I don’t know. Language does change, but I feel that letting people who are against something define its key terms is problematic. Just ask the heathen.

Posted in Feminism, Language, Politics | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Mixed Mythology Makes Mischief

It’s no secret that I enjoy fiction based on classical mythology, or that I put a little too much energy into pondering how crossovers work. And when something includes elements from the mythology of various cultures, it can often become confusing in the same way. For instance, if you’re using the Norse gods, are you also assuming the Norse creation myth is true? That is, after all, an important part of that universe. But how could the world be created from the body of the frost giant Ymir AND have emerged from the primordial waters? Is the Sun driven across the sky by Ra, Apollo, or Sol?

Were humans first made from clay, trees, or corn? Is the world of the dead ruled by Hades, Osiris, or Hel? Do Zeus and Thor both control thunder and lightning?

Picture by GodAntichrist
There may be ways to make these different stories work together, but there are definitely going to be some contradictions in the details. Then again, most of the old mythological sources we have contradict each other anyway, so maybe this isn’t such a big deal. And different cultures were constantly stealing myths from each other and inserting their own gods in them. It is interesting to me, though, especially when the old gods exist in the modern world, where we know for a fact that the Earth orbits the Sun, and the chances of a land of dead people physically existing underground are rather slim. Rick Riordan usually hand-waves this away by saying that two things can be true at the same time, as in the Sun being both a star at the center of the solar system AND a flaming chariot driven across the sky. It’s kind of a cop-out, but probably necessary for the stories he writes. Many cultures had rather intricate family trees for their gods, tracing their ancestry back to personifications of chaos and the like. When Greco-Roman culture insisted that Odin was actually Hermes/Mercury and Thor was Zeus/Jupiter, how did they reconcile this with Zeus being Hermes’ father but the relationship being reversed for the Norse deities? I also tend to take note of when modern fiction links gods of different cultures through family relations, like how Christopher Moore’s Coyote Blue identifies Coyote and Anubis as brothers.

This becomes even more complicated when you’re mixing gods from largely defunct religions with those from active belief systems. There was apparently some backlash when, back in 1980, the Marvel Comics version of Thor beat the snot out of Shiva.

Marvel had to later retcon this to say that this Shiva was actually Indra in disguise, apparently acceptable because Indra isn’t one of the three most powerful Hindu gods. Of course, there are still people who worship Thor, but their lobby isn’t anywhere near as strong. Hell, I remember hearing there were complaints from Hindus when Heidi Klum dressed up as Kali.

Of course, this was a drop in the bucket compared with what would have happened if she’d dressed as Muhammad. While there are modern works that take a negative or at least somewhat flippant attitude toward Judeo-Christian mythology, they tend to receive more flak than those that use pagan gods. Hey, the very first Percy Jackson book has Chiron make a distinction between God and the Greek gods: “God–capital G, God. That’s a different matter altogether. We shan’t deal with the metaphysical.” The Greek gods might not be omnipotent and omniscient like the Judeo-Christian God is said to be, but I’d say they’re still quite metaphysical. From what I can recall, Jonathan Stroud’s The Ring of Solomon, which includes the building of the Temple in Jerusalem, simply has someone comment that the Hebrews worship a different god than the surrounding cultures without going into specifics. There definitely seems to be a general trend in modern writing that it’s okay to present gods who aren’t commonly worshipped these days as silly or nasty, but it’s harder to get away with the same thing for figures from religions that are still quite active and influential. So could Thor beat up Jesus? Well, Jesus wasn’t so big on fighting back, but I wouldn’t imagine the thunder god would be able to inflict any lasting damage. And of course the Norse gods aren’t fully immortal, as Thor is supposed to die at Ragnarok.

Posted in Authors, Christianity, Christopher Moore, Comics, Egyptian, Greek Mythology, Hinduism, Judaism, Mythology, Native American, Norse, Percy Jackson, Religion, Rick Riordan | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Kouretes in the House

One group of beings from Greek mythology that I couldn’t recall having read about before but that stuck with me when I read Percy Jackson’s Greek Gods were the Kouretes, warriors and ritual dancers who attended to the infant Zeus. The original Kouretes were said to have sprung from the earth fully grown and in full armor, sometimes said to have been produced by the blood of Ouranos. A major reason that Rhea brought her baby to Crete was that the ritual dancing of the Kouretes, performed in armor and accompanied by drums, was loud enough to drown out the cries of Zeus so his father Kronos couldn’t find and devour him.

Rick Riordan highlights the association with noise by having the Kouretes speak in all capital letters. The Kouretes were the first inhabitants of Crete, and its earliest human residents were their descendants. In addition to being fighters and dancers, the Kouretes were also sometimes seen as metal-workers, healers, and magicians. They are closely associated with the Korybantes, another group of male warrior dancers who lived in Phyrgia and worshipped by goddess Cybele. Also quite possibly related are the nymphs who reared Zeus on milk and honey, and the tiny Dactyls. Often identified as five male and five female spirits, but the number varies somewhat, they are said to have been born when Rhea, in labor with Zeus, dug her fingers into the sides of Mount Ida. They are sometimes seen as representations of human fingers, and are credited as the inventors of metal-working and mathematics. These similar beings are often confused in mythology, but the Kouretes in particular were mostly associated with Crete. Other myths say that they cared for Zeus’s own children Dionysus and Zagreus, so they had a reputation as divine babysitters. There’s also a tradition that they sought out King Minos’ son Glaucus when he disappeared.

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School Is Hell, Cooperation Is Divine

Here are a few new book reviews, with a few spoilers.

You Can Date Boys When You’re Forty, by Dave Barry – Now semi-retired but with the same basic sense of humor, Barry discusses such topics as Justin Bieber and Fifty Shades of Grey. There’s also an account of his family trip to Israel that, while jokey in spots, makes genuine cases for both the Israeli and Palestinian viewpoints. I believe I’ve read all of his humorous essay books, but little of his fiction. I’m trying to work on that now. It’s weird how Barry suddenly switched wives in the late 1990s with no mention of details when he’s usually quite open about his personal life, but maybe it was part of his divorce settlement that he couldn’t.

The Blood of Olympus, by Rick Riordan – The last book in the Heroes of Olympus series ends pretty similarly to the final battles in his other mythology-themed series. Opposing sides put aside their differences to fight a common enemy, a villain sacrifices himself to take out a larger threat, and there are casualties but most of the main characters survive. There are also a lot of couples formed, although most of them got together in previous books. Leo Valdez is reunited with Calypso after successfully cheating death, and even the gloomy Nico di Angelo is hinted to have started up a relationship. Definitely an engaging read, and there are satisfactory solutions to the vast majority of loose ends, even with the expanded cast that features in these books. I have to wonder if this is it for Riordan and Greco-Roman mythology, except maybe cameos and short stories. He’s already gotten two series out of it. That said, he seems to have an uncanny knack for coming up with new ideas when you think he’s exhausted just about all of them. There’s a bit of a set-up for his upcoming Norse mythology series, which will star one of Annabeth Chase’s cousins.

The Eye of Zoltar, by Jasper Fforde – The third book in the young adult Chronicles of Kazam series escalates matters somewhat with a cliffhanger ending and likely change to the status quo. Jennifer Strange and her companions find themselves searching the Cambrian Empire, which used to be Wales but is now a deadly land of monsters under the rule of a crazy tyrant. While not as complicated as Fforde’s other series, there is plenty of his usual style of humor to be found here, addressing such topics as the mathematics behind jeopardy tourism, the ups and downs of futures speculation, and the best method of harvesting angel feathers. The titular Zoltar is a no-longer-living magician, but I have to wonder where the name originated. I know it’s the name of fortune-telling machines and a villain from Battle of the Planets. Anyway, I’m hoping for a new Nursery Crime book next, and it looks like I might get my wish, although the anticipated 2014 release date is now unlikely.

Satan’s Prep, by Gabe Guarente – My wife bought this graphic novel because she knows one of the artists, Dave Fox. There were actually a few different people drawing for the book, and you can see obvious differences between the parts. The protagonist, Trevor, dies from electrocution by a cheap guitar amplifier, and ends up in high school in Hell. It’s not really all that different from regular high school, except the bullying jocks are demons, Cerberus is the principal, sex ed videos feature your parents, and being cooked and eaten alive (okay, not quite ALIVE, but you know what I mean) is a viable punishment. I thought of the recent Simpsons Halloween segment where Bart finds out that he’s much better at school in Hell, but this book came out before that episode aired. I found it clever and the artwork appropriately gross, but I’m not quite sure about the ending. I mean, it was a resolution of sorts, but kind of depressing when you think about it.

Posted in Authors, Book Reviews, Chronicles of Kazam, Dave Barry, Heroes of Olympus, Humor, Jasper Fforde, Rick Riordan | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

One Game at a Time

I already reviewed Wreck-It Ralph two years ago when it was new, but I watched it again a few days ago, and have a few additional thoughts on it. First of all, I reported misinformation in the earlier post. Apparently Mario, Luigi, and Dr. Wily not appearing had nothing to do with licensing fees. Rather, the creators just couldn’t figure out how to fit them into the film. The Disney Wiki has a good list of video game characters who appear or are mentioned in the movie, which is handy as I missed some of them, and others were just from games with which I wasn’t familiar. The way it’s explained in the movie, the characters from the arcade are confined to their machines while people are playing them, but can move freely between them at other times. Game Central Station, located in the power strip, is the nexus between worlds.

Characters from games that are no longer active can apparently still exist there as well, as shown with Q*bert and Turbo. People have wondered how a Dungeons & Dragons Beholder got in there, since they aren’t in any arcade games. Why WOULD an arcade have a role-playing game, after all? Apparently, while based on the Beholder, the monster’s official name in the film is “Cycloptopus.”

The Satan character who prefers to be called “Satine” might be from a 1982 game called Satan’s Hollow.

It’s a lot like Galaga, mostly being an upward scroller where you shoot gargoyles; but you have to face off against the Devil himself on a few occasions.

Satan is also the main villain in Ghosts ‘n’ Goblins, and I’ve seen Diablo cited as another possibility.

Bowser is presumably from the arcade version of the orginal Super Mario Bros., although he could also be from the arcade Mario Kart.

Pac-Man is also in that one, so if Litwak’s Arcade DOES have that, could there be two Pac-Men at once? For that matter, do the characters follow the continuity of games that aren’t in the arcade? Does Bowser have to take care of his kids, or is he spared that because they don’t appear in any arcade games (as far as I know)? The made-up game Fatal Assault features the dinosaur and octopus from Meet the Robinsons.

We can also see Star Wars and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles machines, but no characters from them show up. Oh, by the way, isn’t Vanellope technically a Disney Princess? Maybe she and Eilonwy can hang out and complain about not getting invited to the gatherings.

Posted in Comics, Games, Mario, Monsters, Pac-Man, Revisiting Disney, Video Games, VoVat Goes to the Movies | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment