Hoztorians Outside Oz

Spectral Snow: The Dark Fantasies of Jack Snow – Snow was the author of the thirty-seventh and thirty-eighth of the official Oz books, and a known scholar of L. Frank Baum. He also wrote horror stories in the fantasy vein, with kind of a Lovecraftian tone to them. This work by Hungry Tiger Press collects eight of these tales. Most of them are written in the first person as things experienced by the narrator or a friend of acquaintance of his, generally someone with some interest in the occult. Stories involve a practitioner of the dark arts leaving his body to experience pure evil, a rope trick that leads to another dimension, a flower that feeds on blood sacrifices, and a radio broadcast of a dead woman singing. “Dimension of Terror” shows some influence from the Magic Flower episode in The Magic of Oz, with its narrator visiting an island where plant life attempts to consume him. And in “The Super Alkaloid,” a story about a drug that can blur the line between reality and imagination, the chemist who creates it replies to a question about whether “the brain retains a record of every sensation, event and scene experienced by the individual with, “nothing, not even the stamp of a foot in childish anger, is left unnoted.” This is likely derived from a description of Glinda’s Great Book of Records in Tik-Tok of Oz: “The smallest things and the biggest things are all recorded in this book. If a child stamps its foot in anger, Glinda reads about it; if a city burns down, Glinda finds the fact noted in her book.” I’d read the final story, “A Murder in Oz,” before; but here it’s presented with illustrations by Eric Shanower and an afterword by David Maxine. The story has various Ozites discussing the possibility of murder in Oz, followed by a revelation that Ozma was actually murdered. SPOILER WARNING! It’s revealed that the murderer was Tip, the boy form in which Ozma lived while in Mombi’s care, who was existing as a disembodied spirit. David speculates that Ozma’s suppressed male self trying to find a way to live again is a reflection on Snow’s homosexuality. It does offer an interesting take on how transformation magic in Oz works; do the alternate identities of other transformed characters also continue to exist in spirit form? Melody Grandy had another way to bring back Tip as a separate entity in her Seven Blue Mountains of Oz trilogy, and I suspect the best way to fit the two together is simply to assume the attempt to revive Tip in “Murder” doesn’t work, although I think Jeff Rester might be planning something different with his long-in-progress Death Comes to Oz.

Tales of the Crocheted Cat, by Hugh Pendexter III – I read this author’s The Crocheted Cat in Oz years ago, and I was aware that the characters came from earlier non-Oz material he’d written, but it wasn’t until recently that I obtained a copy of this. It’s a collection of stories about the cat Pendexter crocheted for his daughter, who in the tales comes to life for two children due to his being made with love by their mother. The cat, Theobald, can also transport the kids through a picture book into another world inhabited by a good wizard and a wicked witch. Other crocheted animals also come to dwell there: a kangaroo, an elephant, a giraffe, and a dolphin. These were presumably also based on real toys, as they’re all pictured on the inside cover.

The stories are mostly pretty slight and a little schmaltzy, but enjoyable. I believe that the follow-up, Farhold Island, is all one story; but I don’t have a copy of that one. Although published after the Oz crossover, it introduces the character of Lone Badger, who played a larger role in the Oz book than Theobald, if I remember correctly. It might be worth re-reading The Crocheted Cat in Oz, although I’m not sure if I should look for a copy of Farhold Island first.

Posted in Book Reviews, Characters, Eric Shanower, Fairy Tales, Hugh Pendexter, Jack Snow, L. Frank Baum, Magic, Melody Grandy, Oz, Oz Authors, Sexuality | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Quester vs. Jester

I recently started playing Dragon Quest VIII, and I’ve made it as far as the hill near Ascantha where wishes are supposed to be granted, although I haven’t finished with it yet. While mostly functioning like other DQ games, there are some significant stylistic differences. One is that, instead of the typical top-down map view, there’s a moving camera instead, which takes a little getting used to. There’s also voice acting, not all the time but for cut scenes and key bits of dialogue, including before and after boss fights. The main protagonist never speaks, however; it’s sort of an RPG tradition. In terms of story, it’s interesting that it starts out in media res, and has you fight a battle before you really know what’s going on, with no introductory speech or anything. I guess it’s sort of like the beginning of DQ5 in that you’re more or less thrown into things there, but there your protagonist starts out as a kid. Here, your characters know the back story, but the player doesn’t until it’s explained in flashbacks and stray bits of dialogue.

Fortunately, the battles are pretty much the same as ever, although there are a few new techniques.

What’s interesting is that DQ9 promptly removed these innovations, probably because it was for a less advanced console (the DS instead of the PlayStation 2; the version I’m playing is on 3DS). It did retain the ability to increase tension and to distribute skill points into various categories when you level up, though. The hero is the only guard to survive an attack and curse on Trodain Castle, and now travels with King Trode, who’s been turned into a toad-like monster; and his daughter Medea, who’s now a horse.

Also accompanying them is a tough and former thief named Yangus, who talks with a cockney accent.

Actually, pretty much all the characters I’ve come across so far have British accents of some sort or other, the only exceptions I can think of offhand being the fortune teller and his daughter, who have an Eastern European dialect. I’m still pretty early on in the game, though, so I don’t know whether that pattern will hold. The game so far has the party chasing after the villain who cursed them, an evil jester named Dhoulmagus.

As he’s a psychotic clown with a thirst for power, I have to wonder if he was influenced at all by Kefka from Final Fantasy VI. After all FF took from DQ, it’s only fair, right? While Trode and Medea journey with you, they don’t participate in battles. The quest so far has led to two other party members who do, however: Jessica Albert and Angelo. The former is a member of the noble family of Alexandria who wants to avenge her brother’s death, and the latter a roguish monk whose abbot was murdered by Dhoulmagus. One of the skills you can build up for Jessica is sex appeal, which is useful (apparently monsters have very human taste in women) but perhaps a little overly fan-service-y, especially considering that her character as portrayed in dialogue is rather serious and not flirtatious, at least as of yet.

Angelo is kind of a jerk, the sort of person who gets away with lying and cheating because he’s charming, and he’s awkwardly hit on Jessica a few times.

I’m hoping there will be some sort of redemption for him. It’s not too unlikely, as we’re shown that Yangus originally wanted to rob Trode and his companions until the hero saved his life. Besides, four party members are better than three. I suppose the other two people in the picture at the top of this post will join later on; I believe they weren’t playable in the PS version, but are here. Oh, and I can’t forget Munchie, the hero’s pet mouse, who is vital in retrieving a letter.

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Perfect Tin

The Tin Woodman of Oz, which is a century old this year and hence the main theme of the upcoming OzCon, was the third Oz book I read, way back in 1989. After reading Wizard and Land, I checked to see what the local library had, and it was this and Cowardly Lion, as well as The Sea Fairies and Sky Island. So I knew about Ozma, and I think I’d heard before that Dorothy eventually returned to Oz to live, but there were a few mentions of characters I was unfamiliar with, like Polychrome and Tiny Trot. It actually ties in pretty well to the first Oz book, not just because the Tin Woodman and the Scarecrow are main characters, but because it gives a resolution of sorts to Nick Chopper’s original back story concerning his old sweetheart, here given the name Nimmie Amee. When a boy called Woot the Wanderer visits the Woodman and hears this story, he convinces Nick that it’s his duty to find Nimmie Amee, and they set out to the Munchkin Country with the Scarecrow. The three of them blunder into a few new locations, including the former home of the giant Mr. Yoop (who appeared in Patchwork Girl), still inhabited by his wife. Mrs. Yoop transforms and imprisons the travelers, but they manage to escape along with another prisoner of hers, Polychrome.

When they reach Jinjur’s house, Ozma shows up to break the transformations.

The party goes on to the forest where Nick used to live, finding along the way another Tin Man, this one a soldier named Captain Fyter who was also in love with Nimmie Amee and also had his body parts gradually replaced with tin ones by the same tinsmith, Ku-Klip. On his advice, they go to Nimmie’s last known residence at Mount Munch, and, in a weird twist, find her married to a man made from the cast-off parts of the Woodman and Soldier.

It’s another unsuccessful quest like Ojo’s search for magic ingredients in Patchwork Girl, although here it really makes sense. Nick no longer loves Nimmie, and it makes sense that she would have moved on by this point. It’s mostly his ego that leads him to believe she still pines for him, and might also contribute to how he and the Scarecrow have no problem entering places without being invited, which repeatedly causes trouble. It’s not one of the more fun or exciting Oz stories, but it has a pretty tight narrative for the most part. When going back and reading earlier books in the series, I found it interesting that Ozma and Polychrome don’t show any particular skill at magic until this one.

L. Frank Baum had gradually established in earlier books, starting with Road, that death is practically impossible in Oz. Here, he gives an explanation for it with an origin myth that an enchantment by the Fairy Queen Lurline halted death and aging in the land. It’s not entirely consistent with everything else we’ve been told about the subject, but it’s a vital piece of history all the same. This story is a digression from the main plot, but it does help to establish the idea that Nick’s old flesh body parts are still alive, which becomes central to the resolution. He talks to his own former head, and finds that the two of them don’t get along.

Even more problematic is Nimmie’s husband Chopfyt (I still think “Chopfyte” would have made more sense), a lazy, surly individual made up of parts of both Nick and Captain Fyter.

Hey, Neill, where’s the tin arm? And why is he dressed like a UPS delivery man?
The thing is, while he’s rude to them, it still doesn’t merit the reaction the Tin Men have where they offer to cut him back into his component pieces. Jealousy mixed with confusion over identity can lead to some dark thoughts. Not only is their old girlfriend married to someone a lot like them, but someone who at least partially IS them. Chopfyt does seem to be a failure as an experiment in person-making, although Dorothy defends his existence by saying the body parts would have otherwise gone to waste, a bizarrely whimsical and amusing notion. In these later tales, Baum’s humor is less broadly comic in a vaudevillian sense and more subtle, even if there are characters named Bal and Panta Loon.

Posted in Book Reviews, Characters, Humor, John R. Neill, L. Frank Baum, Magic, Oz, Oz Authors, Relationships | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Son of a Peach!

I was watching a video about the possible mythological origins of Princess Peach in the Mario series, and it mentioned the story of Momotaro.

I don’t think I’d ever heard of it before, although it had elements that appeared in other fairy tales. The story has it that an old, childless woman is washing clothes in a river when she finds a giant peach floating there. She takes it home to her husband for them to eat, but when she cuts it open, a baby emerges.

Some versions of the legend have the baby already able to talk, but regardless of this, they name him Momotaro. Momo means “peach,” and taro is apparently a common name for first-born sons, so he’s basically called “Peach Boy” or “Son of a Peach.” For what it’s worth, I’m pretty sure the Princess of the Mushroom Kingdom is never called Momo; she’s Pichi-Hime, as it’s common for bits of English words to be incorporated into the names of characters. Something like that, anyway.

There’s probably no connection to Ozma being trapped inside a peach pit, but that’s just another example of mythology fitting together even when it’s totally unintentional.

Picture by Sam Milazzo
The tale of Momotaro is particularly associated with Okayama in southwestern Japan, and this area was subject to many demon attacks at the time. On his fifteenth birthday, Momotaro asked his parents for permission to take the fight to the demons’ homeland of Onigashima (literally “Demon Island”) to the northeast, often said to be Megijima in the Seto Inland Sea. It’s kind of a strange claim to fame to say your island was the home of ravenous ogres, but the caves at Washigamine Summit are a popular tourist attraction for that reason. The most common version of the tale nowadays has Momotaro willingly traveling to Onigashima, but there are variations where he’s strong but lazy, and has to be goaded into it.

Our hero asks his mother for some millet dumplings known as kibidango.

And that’s another Mario connection, as the original Super Mario Bros. anime had a character with that name, who guided Mario and Luigi through the Mushroom Kingdom and turned out to be an enchanted prince.

It seems fairly common in Japanese media for characters to be named after food. Anyway, Momotaro meets a dog, a monkey, and a pheasant along the way; and is able to recruit them as allies by sharing his dumplings with them. The animals fight with each other at first, but eventually learn to work together.

When they reach the island, the bird flies into the demons’ fortress and flies around pecking them on the heads, distracting them from the monkey scaling the wall and letting Momotaro and the dog inside. The dog bit the legs of the ogres, and Momotaro battled them into submission.

The peach boy took the demons’ leader prisoner and took all the treasure stolen by his people, as well as freeing two young women who were forced to work for the oni.

Okayama now has several statues of Momotaro, and Inuyama has a shrine to him and celebrates a Momotaro Festival on 5 May. (And yes, I briefly considered saving this post for the beginning of May for that reason, but I decided against it because I don’t think anyone else really cares. If you do have an opinion on this matter, let me know.) According to Wikipedia, Momotaro and his friends were frequently used in World War II propaganda, with him being a symbol of the Japanese government as the oni as Americans.

Posted in Animals, Fairy Tales, Japanese, Mario, Monsters, Mythology, Oz, Video Games | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Tentacles of Time

Day of the Tentacle – In my younger days, the NES version of Maniac Mansion was a favorite of mine. It was bowdlerized somewhat from the original computer version, particularly in terms of Nurse Edna’s sexually suggestive comments. Nintendo initially missed that you could microwave a hamster, though.

Anyway, the game was mostly intact even in the edited version and a lot of fun regardless, if some parts of it were pretty much impossible to solve except either with a guide or a lot of trial and error. It involved three kids breaking into a mansion to save the main character’s girlfriend, who had been kidnapped by the mad scientist Dr. Fred Edison. It’s eventually revealed (SPOILER ALERT for a game from thirty years ago) that the doctor is under the control of a sentient slimy purple meteor. LucasArts went on to make several other point-and-click adventure games that weren’t ported to Nintendo systems, including this direct sequel, originally from 1993. It takes place five years later, or at least the beginning does, as there’s time travel involved. Radioactive sludge has caused the Purple Tentacle to mutate and decide to take over the world, and Dr. Fred’s solution is to kill both him and his green brother. The Green Tentacle manages to get a message to Bernard Bernoulli, one of the heroes of the previous game, the ingenious but awkward nerdy kid. He was actually an optional playable character in that one, but this game treats his taking part in the last adventure as canonical. None of the other earlier heroes show up, Bernard instead bringing his roommates, fat metalhead Hoagie and mildly psychotic med student Laverne. After Bernard stupidly frees both tentacles, Dr. Fred’s new plan is to send the three of them back in time to turn off the sludge-making machine. Due to a malfunction with his time machine, Hoagie ends up 200 years in the past and Laverne 200 years in the future. In the late eighteenth century, it just so happens that George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Hancock, Betsy Ross, and Benjamin Franklin are all staying at the inn run by Dr. Fred’s ancestor Red, and working on writing the Constitution.

They’re all portrayed as comical caricatures: Washington has an obsession with chopping down cherry trees, Jefferson refuses to use his log to make a fire for the shivering Hancock, and Franklin talks with a lisp and acts like a mad scientist. The whole style of the game is cartoonish, based largely on a Chuck Jones style of animation. All of the characters move in their own ways, and there’s even part where a cat is mistaken for a skunk a la Pepe le Pew’s would-be paramour. The version I played was the remastered one, but the style appears to be the same, just in higher resolution. In the future, the Purple Tentacle rules the world and his kind keep humans as pets.

Dr. Fred confirms here that he created the Tentacles, so how there came to be more of them isn’t entirely clear. How they’re able to grow facial hair is lampshaded, but not really answered. While the machine won’t transport any more living matter without a diamond, it can be used to send objects between time periods. Changes made in the past can affect the future, and there’s a tendency for huge alterations to history being the only way to solve relatively minor problems. By the end of the game, both the Constitution and the American flag have been significantly altered. The layout of the house is basically the same in all three time periods, which is strange as it isn’t much at all like it was only five years previously. The hamster having been microwaved is considered canon, and not only has Weird Ed been through intense psychotherapy that resulted in his being a practically zombified stamp collector, but you do the same thing again. This time, though, it’s in the future, and the hamster survives.

Dead Cousin Ted plays a more significant role than in his first appearance, and he’s apparently been dead even longer than we previously thought, unless that’s a different mummy in the eighteenth century.

More meta-humor involves Maniac Mansion existing in-universe; you can play it on Weird Ed’s computer (I didn’t, but it’s a cool feature), and part of the plot involves Dr. Fred never having signed the contract that would have given him royalties for the use of his family in the game. As with other games of this sort, some of the puzzle solutions are pretty obvious, while others require weird logic but at least are generally funny after you’ve learned what they are. I will say it’s considerably less intense than its predecessor; you can no longer die or make a mistake that results in the game becoming unwinnable, and there isn’t the constant threat of being thrown in the dungeon.

Well, except in this part, but it doesn’t last as long.

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Hokum If You Got ‘Em

The Asylum for Wayward Victorian Girls, by Emilie Autumn – I believe I obtained this as a free eBook, which is good because I hear it was previously only available in an expensive and barely edited hardcover. I understand Emilie is trying to launch a musical based on it, and is using this as promotion. I quite like her music, so I thought this would be worth checking out. It’s partially an account of her stay in a mental institution after a suicide attempt, and partially a totally fictional tale of poorly treated patients in an asylum in Victorian England. Emilie presents the parts about her as excerpts from the journal she kept while institutionalized, and the other story as something that appeared in said journal when she wasn’t looking. The main character in this part is an analog of Emilie named Emily (with a Y), and I believe some of her fellow inmates were also based on people she works with. Veronica was presumably named after burlesque dancer Veronica Varlow, whom I recently saw perform with Kim Boekbinder; and she’s had two different backing performers called the Captain. Emily ends up in the asylum after defending herself against a noble patron who molests her, and she and the other patients learn about a plot to use the inmates as prostitutes, and another one by a mad doctor who wants to infect them with the plague in order to find a cure. I’m sure shady things happened in Victorian asylums all the time, but the one described here was over-the-top in its corruption. Eventually, the inmates take over the asylum. This book is very polarizing; I’ve checked the GoodReads reviews, and there are a lot of really positive and really negative ones. I was generally more sympathetic to the negative ones, even though I thought the book was a decent read, and I think some of the reviewers went too far in their condemnation. The thing is, in the allegedly autobiographical segments, Emilie comes across as rather entitled and unlikable, fat-shaming and making disparaging comments about other patients. If we just take these as reflective of her state of mind at the time, it’s understandable; but it’s complicated somewhat by how the book ends with some fairly lucid, astute observations on mental illness. If she was able to think more rationally about her experience later on, would it have been all that difficult to apologize for some of her meaner moments? While I’m sure mental institutions really are uncomfortable, non-forthcoming about treatment, and prone to drive someone mad even if they weren’t when they were committed, we have to remember that: 1) they’re underfunded, and 2) there’s a lot we don’t know about the workings of the brain. It seems like a lot of treatment for mental illness is done in the method of throwing things against the wall and seeing what sticks, and I feel bad for the people who have to be subjected to this, but it’s probably largely unavoidable. To imply things haven’t changed much since the Victorian era is…well, not something I’ve studied, but likely not entirely fair, even if there still is a lot of stigma attached to mental conditions. I know Emilie mixes fact and fiction when giving information about herself to the point that we don’t entirely know what’s true, and that’s fine in and of itself; I appreciate artists who can craft far-fetched biographies and absurd images. What’s less fine is when someone uses this to address an actual social issue like the treatment of mental patients, when there’s no way of knowing how much of the story is even true. The blurb for the book claims that it ” has been cited in text-books used as part of the psychology curriculum at Oxford University in London,” which I’m pretty sure is completely false.

The eBook in particular is somewhat of a multimedia production, including hyperlinks and puzzles. At various points in the narrative, there will be a link to a song, protected by a password that’s an anagram of bold letters from preceding pages. It’s any interesting idea, and I did manage to solve a few of them, but I mostly just found myself searching for the answers online so I could move ahead with the thing. I’m reminded of how the DVD of the first Harry Potter movie made you play a game just to access deleted scenes. The songs are a mix of old ones and newer stuff for the intended musical, and I quite like them, which made reading the book a better experience overall.

Bunk: The Rise of Hoaxes, Humbug, Plagiarists, Phonies, Post-Facts, and Fake News, by Kevin Young – This was a Christmas present that I just finished reading, and it’s a fascinating read, but kind of all over the place in what it covers. That’s not really bad, but it makes it difficult to sum up the whole thing. Young comments on various hoaxes throughout history, starting in the time of P.T. Barnum and continuing to the present. These include plagiarized works and falsified memoirs, including the Howard Hughes biography and the Hitler Diaries, as well as more recent fakes like James Frey and Rachel Dolezal. One theme running throughout is that of race, how many hoaxes of the sideshow variety were based around the notion of non-white people as mystical and exotic yet still lesser, and how more recently it’s often a case of people making up stories that perpetuate racial stereotypes. It was interesting that the fake rumor that white people were beaten up just for going to the theater to see Black Panther came about as I was finishing this. Other people sold work by claiming to belong to minority groups that they really didn’t, or just making up stories of encounters with exotic cultures. Young frequently comes back to the idea that, while it’s easy to dismiss such forgeries as harmless fun (and, indeed, many of them are rebranded as fiction once the falsehood is uncovered), they can belittle the experiences of others. Another point made is how hoaxers often include clues in their work as if they really WANT to be found out, and are frequently quick to denounce or expose others doing the same basic thing. Barnum, for instance, wrote a book called The Humbugs of the World while still perpetuating his own humbug. But another part of Barnum’s appeal, and that of others who have followed him, is that they make anyone who is able to see through the deception feel smart. Young considers this aspect to be less common in the modern age, with people like Donald Trump more or less suggesting that the truth is totally irrelevant, rather than just something that can be played with. It’s interesting that I started reading this when already in the middle of the Emilie Autumn book, since I can see some elements of the hoax present in that. For that matter, there was a movie about P.T. Barnum released not long ago, and the trailers made it seem like they were presenting him in a positive light. I haven’t seen the movie and know trailers are often terrible representations, though, so maybe that’s not accurate to the film as a whole.

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Orgodemir or Bust

It was over a year ago that I started playing the 3DS version of Dragon Quest VII, and now I’m finished. Well, finished the main game, anyway. I know there’s some bonus post-game content, like a dungeon where you can fight God; and I never finished with Monster Meadows. Really, though, I’m a little anxious to move on to something new. This game is long, which isn’t a problem in and of itself; it’s more bang for your buck.

Get it? Because there’s a spell called Bang in the series?
Still, it can get a bit overly complicated and tedious at times. I already mentioned how much of it consists of going back in time to restore various places, and while each of them has their own traits, it can be hard to remember which is which when you have to return to one of them for some reason.

You don’t always visit the places in the past in the same time period, and some characters reappear in a few different quests. You see Greenthumb Gardens on two occasions thirty years apart, the torban player Florin becomes an old man by the second time you encounter him, and you complete the Providence scenario before the Vogograd one even though the latter occurs earlier in time. Speaking of time, the town of El Ciclo is stuck repeating the same day over and over again, which is interesting considering that, in games like this, the townspeople always say and do the same things unless they’re involved in a major plot point, so in many ways it doesn’t even seem that different. The problem is that a bridge is supposed to open the next day, and this won’t happen until you defeat the monster who’s causing the time loop. After restoring the world, you have to defeat the Demon King Orgodemir in the past, then help the Roamers revive God in the present. It doesn’t take a Seed of Wisdom to realize something is wrong, though, especially after God seals off several parts of the world again and brings monsters back to the overworld. He also bans the use of weapons, never a good thing in a game centered around fighting monsters. I’m surprised Republicans haven’t yet used this as an argument against gun control. Really, though, it’s hard to get a consistent message about such things. You can sort of see a theme against seeking too much power, as with the magical town of Hubble almost bringing about its own destruction and changing to focus on music instead; but your characters are certainly encouraged to build up their magical powers.

There are three other regular party members besides the ones you start with: Ruff, a wolf cub magically turned into a human; Sir Mervyn, the ancient paladin and chosen companion of God in his battle against the Demon King; and Aishe, a strong fighter who’s been trained as a dancer, and turns out to be descended from Kiefer after he leaves the party. The quest to recruit Mervyn is especially involved, as you have to seek help from the richest man in the world (whose main mansion you can’t reach until you have the flying carpet) and climb the tallest tower in the world in order to free him.

Being an old and out-of-place knight, he reminds me of Sir Hokus of Pokes from the Oz series. I recall him starting out a bit weak for that point in the game, too, although it’s not that difficult to build him up. The job system allows anyone to master any skills, but the characters remain stronger in some respects than others, and the weapons they can equip depends on the character rather than their job. Unlike in the PS version, you don’t keep all the skills you learned from one vocation upon changing to another, although you do retain some. As such, they don’t get overpowered as easily. I do like how you can max out a job, though, as it’s a convenient milestone to use, especially as it seems like normal leveling up is really slow in this game. When there’s no endpoint, it’s more difficult to know when to switch. Anyway, I felt that the heroes received less respect than is common in DQ games, with non-playable characters liable to think of them as just kids. In fairness, the characters you start with do act quite young and inexperienced, and it’s difficult for your fame to proceed you when most parts of the world are cut off from each other.

As a villain, Orgodemir doesn’t really have much of a motivation or personality, or at least we don’t find out a whole lot about them. That’s common for the main villains in DQ games, although after some rather more complex characterization for Psaro in DQ4, it’s a little disappointing that they went back to mysterious ciphers in later installments. Like Angra Mainyu from Zoroastrianism and some conceptions of Satan, he opposes God and seeks to destroy creation just because it’s what he does. And this God, while powerful, hardly seems to be omnipotent. I mean, why would you need a ritual to revive the Almighty when he’s supposed to be, you know, almighty? But I don’t expect a video game to necessarily address theodicy that directly.

Anyway, Orgodemir (Orogu-Demira in Japanese, so “God” being part of his name was presumably a coincidence, although I’m sure someone noticed it) must have a lot of power to seal off entire continents like that, but in the end he can be destroyed by being stabbed enough times. In appearance, the Demon King is sort of a cross between a dragon and a centipede, with a giant head, three eyes, and an exposed brain.

The big boss having multiple forms is only to be expected, but it’s strange that one of Orgodemir’s is a rather flamboyant humanoid one in tight clothes, sort of David Bowie with three eyes and large green wings.

After you finally vanquish this foe, the ending sequence has the Skystone automatically transport you to several locations where the people congratulate you and some plot threads are resolved. It’s a tradition in this series to be able to explore a bit after you’ve won and see what people might have to say, but it can be rather tedious trying to find the few who DO have something to say beyond a general message of thanks. The automatic transportation here streamlines this a bit. Then the hero finally goes out on a fishing trip with his father, marking his coming of age, even though you’d think he’d have already accomplished that multiple times over by saving the world. But then, he’s a little young to retire, so why not continue to be a productive member of society? It also comes back to the whole thing about your starting characters needing to mature.

I played the very beginning of DQ8 after finishing this one, and it was a pretty different experience. There’s voice acting, movement is no longer strictly based on an overhead view, and it starts in media res with your hero already traveling the world with companions. I’ve also played a bit of the remastered version of Day of the Tentacle on PC, so I’m not sure which game I’ll write about first. I’ve gotten into the habit of writing about a game after playing enough of it to get a general impression, then again when I’ve won or at least come as close to winning as I’m going to attempt for a while. I’m not always sure when is a good time to do the former, though.

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