rionaleonhart: kingdom hearts: riku, blindfolded and smiling slightly. (we'll be the darkness)
I don't have much experience of large music events. I've been to see the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain a few times, mainly in small rooms, once at the Royal Albert Hall. I saw a Paul Simon concert in my teens, in a well-lit room with a largely middle-aged audience. I saw Glee Live! at the O2 six years ago.

Linkin Park is not quite like any of those things.

But I saw Linkin Park at the O2 last night, and it was great. Extremely loud! Which probably shouldn't be a surprise. But great. I'm glad I've now belted out 'Crawling' with an arena full of people to the accompaniment of lovely piano music. It took me a while to grasp that going to a screaming rock concert is not at all like going to a Paul Simon concert and singing along is encouraged. We all made very dramatic gestures during 'In the End'.

They did everything I could have hoped for! 'Castle of Glass', 'Breaking the Habit', 'Crawling', 'Leave Out All the Rest', 'Faint', 'What I've Done', 'In the End'. At the end I was going 'wow, what a great setlist, but I wish they'd done "Numb",' and then they came back on and did it for the encore.

(A part of me was a little sad they didn't do the one cover I've ever heard Linkin Park do, which, to my absolute bewilderment, is 'Rolling in the Deep'. I DON'T KNOW WHY THIS EXISTS, BUT I'LL TAKE IT.)

'It's weird when they're polite,' my friend whispered to me, after lead singer Chester called 'Thank you!' to the enthusiastic audience. Moments later he launched into 'One Step Closer', which required him to scream 'SHUT UP WHEN I'M TALKING TO YOU' at us for a full twenty seconds. I could see what she meant.

Chester steadily stripped off more and more items of clothing as the evening went on. He was shirtless by the encore. I was really curious to see whether he'd lose the trousers. Alas, no. He also inexplicably (but delightfully) spent most of the first couple of songs spin-jumping on the spot and waving his arms.

As mentioned, this was a pretty new experience for me, so some things really caught me by surprise. You can feel the drums vibrating through your chest, like a heartbeat. Some irrational part of me was struck by the fear that the drums had somehow replaced or taken control of my heartbeat, and that my heart would stop when the drums did. (It did not. I am fine and have not been forced to hire Linkin Park's drummer to follow me around for my continued survival.)

I wish I could go back in time and tell thirteen-year-old me about this; she'd be awed.

(I briefly wondered which icon to use for this entry. Riku. Of course it's Riku. Riku is by far the most Linkin Park character in my icon collection and is possibly the most Linkin Park character of all the characters I love.)
rionaleonhart: ffxv: prompto is trying to listen but actually thinking about his giant crush on you (prompto has a crush on everyone) (i can be serious)
Final Fantasy XV is, it turns out, a pretty good thing to play when you're feeling down or distracted. You can lose yourself in lengthy battles, watch your boys drive across the world, take up low-effort hunts or sidequests, fish, wander the landscape, collect ingredients in an attempt to help Ignis invent new recipes. There's so much aimless pottering around to be done. I finished the actual plot about fifty hours in, but by this point I've accumulated over eighty hours on my save file, and there are still sidequests I haven't finished.

There are also still lines I haven't heard and animations I haven't seen before. Prompto and Noctis teamed up to take down an enemy and then high-fived in the middle of battle. Ignis and Noctis did a flashy move together and then stood back-to-back like cool dudes. What a great game.

I also enjoyed this exchange, from the Balouve Mines:

Prompto: At least if we get lost, we can follow the rails back.
Noctis: Good point, Prompto.
Gladio: Even you can come in handy.
Prompto: And even you can be annoying!

Every so often, I find I've written down something I have absolutely no recollection of. In this case, 'I dreamt I tried watching Game of Thrones but couldn't take it seriously because Jaime was played by Julian Barrett in a bad blond wig. Also, Brienne was seduced by a woman and was then heartbroken when the woman turned out to be Grindelwald in disguise.'

The part in DN Angel vol. 9 where Daisuke brings Satoshi to his house is absolutely heartrending. Not because anything bad happens, but because it's just a nice, warm moment in the icy desert of self-loathing that is Satoshi's life, and you know it's fleeting. Satoshi says he ends up destroying everything he cares about. Am I something you care about, Satoshi? Because you're destroying me.

I don't know how this never occurred to me before, but Riku/Sora from Kingdom Hearts and Satoshi/Daisuke from DN Angel are very similar pairings: the reserved boy who believes he doesn't deserve happiness, the spiky-haired optimist he's quietly in love with. The difference is that, if Riku is in love with Sora, it may well be reciprocated. There's no 'if' in Satoshi's love, but there's also no reciprocation. Poor Satoshi.
rionaleonhart: the mentalist: lisbon, afraid but brave, makes an important call. (it's been an honour)
Recently, I've been working on and off on two works of fanfiction: a Neon Genesis Evangelion AU for Kingdom Hearts, and an Animorphs AU for The Last of Us. I've only just realised that this means I'm crossing over four different canons about fourteen-year-olds being horribly traumatised. Why do so many things I love feature fourteen-year-olds being horribly traumatised?

(I cannot guarantee that either of these ill-advised fics will actually be finished, but we'll see!)

In the absence of a PSP, I've spent the past few days watching the story of Crisis Core, the prequel to Final Fantasy VII. Some kind soul has compiled all the cutscenes into a three-hour film over here. It's well worth watching! (Or playing, I assume, if you have the console.)

I was slightly startled by how quickly everything in Crisis Core became heartbreaking. In retrospect, I feel a little silly. Was I really expecting a Final Fantasy VII prequel about Zack Fair to be relentlessly cheerful?

Although the sheer ridiculousness of the new-to-Crisis-Core plot (which, as far as I can tell, is 'hundreds of Gackt clones are terrorising the world') helps to dull the blade a little.*

Zack himself is awfully endearing. I love his expressions.

There's a strange thrill in seeing familiar locations from Final Fantasy VII rendered in glorious PSP graphics. I'm still thoroughly fed up with the people who comment on every Square-related article to say 'EVERYTHING SQUARE HAS DONE FOR THE LAST EIGHTEEN YEARS IS CRAP, REMAKE FFVII', but a remake would be pretty cool. Although there's no possible way it would appease the complainers. I am absolutely convinced that, if they actually did remake VII, with updated graphics and remastered music and voice-acting and a better translation, ninety per cent of the people baying for an HD version would hate it.

Beneath the cut are some spoilery notes on Crisis Core. They only spoil things that are revealed in Final Fantasy VII's backstory, though, so you may be able to read them safely even if you haven't played Crisis Core itself.

Further notes on Crisis Core. )

I'm so glad I can enjoy the Final Fantasy VII universe now. I've finally managed to look past the worst parts of the fanbase and appreciate the source material, and it feels great.

Watching Crisis Core has actually sort of made me want to replay Final Fantasy VII. But I played it so recently! Well, a year and a bit ago, but that's relatively recent.

I suppose what I need is a remake, so I can re-experience the game in a fresh way.


* My attempt to explain this game to [ profile] th_esaurus:

Riona: So there's this guy who looks like Gackt, and he's always quoting from a ridiculous play called Loveless, which I think is also the name of some sort of catboy manga, so clearly he should be quoting that instead. And he has a wing - just one wing - and there are a load of clones of him running around. At one point they jump out of the sea, wearing scuba gear, and attack our hero Zack while he's shirtless at the beach on holiday. And he has to grab an umbrella to fight them.
Riona: This game is really depressing.
RD: Why does Final Fantasy exist?
rionaleonhart: kingdom hearts: sora, riku and kairi having a friendly chat. (and they returned home)
I was pleased when Aqua reached Destiny Islands in Birth by Sleep, because I seemed to recall that she met the young Sora and Riku and it was adorable. I had forgotten that Aqua in fact spent that scene reflecting on how Keyblades have ruined the lives of everyone she loves and are probably going to destroy these kids as well. I'd misremembered that scene as a reprieve from the heartbreak of Birth by Sleep, but there are no reprieves in Kingdom Hearts.

I've never really mentioned Chain of Memories in this journal, even though I did play the original GBA version years ago and, more recently, watched the remade cutscenes from the PS2 version. Overall, it's my least favourite game in the Kingdom Hearts series; I'm not a huge fan of the gameplay or of Castle Oblivion as a setting, and too much of Chain of Memories is spent going over the same ground as the original Kingdom Hearts.

There are, however, some things I like a lot about Chain of Memories. Firstly, it introduces the core themes of memory, identity and what makes a person 'real', which are some of my favourite themes running through the Kingdom Hearts series. Secondly, Sora's interactions with Naminé are awfully cute (in the remake, at least; I don't remember the GBA version very clearly).

And then there's the Riku replica's big gay meltdown.

Now, I've 'shipped Sora/Riku for over a decade, and it's a pairing I still hold a lot of fondness for. I've only just realised, in the course of writing this entry, that it fits perfectly into my 'cynic/idealist who makes the cynic a little less cynical' 'shipping pattern. And it contains one of my favourite character types: the character who makes horrible mistakes and is then deeply ashamed and tries to atone. I was doomed from the start.

Ahem. My point is this: I've loved this pairing since the first game. I read a lot of fanfiction back then (all of which treated Kairi atrociously, unfortunately). And then Chain of Memories came out.

And the Riku replica, who has Riku's memories and believes himself to be the real Riku, has a big gay meltdown in front of Sora.

And I missed it.

The scene in question, in the remake, goes like this:

Sora: C'mon, Riku. Let's quit fighting - let's go help Naminé.
Riku: Together? Right. So like you, Sora - you're always trying to worm your way into my heart!
Sora: Hold on! When did I ever do that?
Riku: Hmph, you forgot that, too? You never cared! It never mattered to you! (runs off)

Perhaps there's a possible interpretation of this that isn't 'I'M IN LOVE WITH YOU, YOU MORON', with a possible side of 'and I can't believe you forgot about that one time we made out'. Perhaps. I certainly can't think of one.

I was so confused when I hit this scene in the remake, because I had no recollection of it from the GBA version. How could I have missed this? I would have to investigate. Maybe the translation of the original was slightly less gay?

Sora: C'mon, Riku, let's quit pushing each other around and go help Naminé.
Riku: What, together? That's so like you. You're always trying to worm your way into my heart.
Sora: Whoa, whoa, time out! When did I ever do that?
Riku: Hmph, you probably forgot. It never mattered to you how I felt! (runs off)

In conclusion, I am hopeless at picking up on subtext, even for pairings I already fiercely 'ship.
rionaleonhart: kingdom hearts: sora, riku and kairi having a friendly chat. (and they returned home)
A couple of days ago, I looked at images of Axel, Roxas and Xion until I eventually snapped and started making SOUNDS OF HORRIBLE PAIN in my throat. MORE LIKE KINGDOM BREAKING MY HEART.

I am shocked and appalled that the HD remake of the 358/2 Days cutscenes cuts out the scene with Axel trying to explain love to Roxas on Day 171, i.e. the best conversation in the entire game.

Axel and Roxas discuss love. )

It's an all-round lovely scene, and 'there aren't steps' is a sentiment I wouldn't mind seeing more often. And they cut it out! I tried to look the HD version up specifically to see this one scene! How could you do this to me, Square?

I've had Kingdom Hearts on my mind lately because I received Kingdom Hearts II.5 HD Remix for Christmas, meaning I'm now actually playing through Birth by Sleep for the first time (although I did watch all the cutscenes a couple of years ago). Everything is still horribly tragic. Aqua and Utena still need to meet (she would strike such awe into Utena's heart!). I'm still 'shipping Terra/Cinderella quite a lot more than I probably should.

Important gameplay note: in Birth by Sleep, you can collect sparkly stickers from different worlds and then put them in an album. This feature allows you to put a sparkly chipmunk on Ven's head. This feature should be included in every single game. (Obviously you can only put a chipmunk sticker on the image of Ven's head in the album, so it's not quite as great as the accessory system in Lightning Returns, which allows you to put a miniature Chocobo on Lightning's actual head.)

Second important gameplay note: as if Finny Fun weren't enough, this game features a rhythm-action minigame set to 'It's a Small World After All'.

We still don't really know any details about Kingdom Hearts III, but I'm getting increasingly excited about it. Here are some of the things I want to see:

- A Sora-Riku-Kairi party! This would be delightful. I don't want Donald and Goofy to be forgotten, but I really, really want Riku and Kairi to be my party members at some point.

- No solid establishment of Sora/Kairi as a romance. (Or Riku/Kairi, or indeed Sora/Riku, much though I love it, but I think Sora/Kairi is the biggest threat here.) I've always loved how Kingdom Hearts is first and foremost about friendship; there are no canonically established couples in the original cast, and I'd like it to stay that way. Although I'm a complete hypocrite, because I suspect I'd be fine with Sora/Riku/Kairi. I'VE ALWAYS LOVED HOW KINGDOM HEARTS IS FIRST AND FOREMOST ABOUT THREESOMES, APPARENTLY.

- Frozen and Tangled worlds! I think there's a good chance that we might actually get these.

- There is, on the other hand, next to no chance that we'll visit the Shibuya of The World Ends With You, but I still want it.

- We may well get some Final Fantasy XIII characters! Kingdom Hearts can do some odd things with the Final Fantasy characters it gets its hands on (SETZER IS NOTHING LIKE THAT), but I'd like to see a Kingdom Hearts interpretation of my favourite Final Fantasy cast anyway.

- WAIT. BALTHIER AND FRAN. I can't believe I forgot about these two! Can we have Balthier and Fran? This would be the best.
rionaleonhart: final fantasy versus xiii: a young woman at night, her back to you, the moon high above. (nor women neither)
[ profile] th_esaurus and I have been watching Rebuild of Evangelion, a series of films retelling the story of Neon Genesis Evangelion. [ profile] th_esaurus has seen Neon Genesis already; I have not. We've now seen all three of the films released so far, and it's been great to watch her descent from 'wow, this is exactly like the anime, shot-for-shot' to 'wait, I don't recognise that character; what's she doing there?' to 'EVERYTHING IS WRONG AND I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT'S HAPPENING'.

My conclusion is this: Evangelion is surprisingly similar to Kingdom Hearts. It's a story about fourteen-year-olds who achieve remarkable things using the POWER OF FRIENDSHIP and are then horribly torn apart, and everything is incomprehensible, and then a catchy Hikaru Utada song plays over the credits. If Kingdom Hearts III concludes with an exact recreation of the second film's ending, with Sora as Shinji and Kairi as Rei, I won't be surprised.

Well, I might be slightly surprised by the nudity and the corpse tornado. But everything else would fit right in.

If I were a horrible person, I would be considering a Kingdom Hearts/Evangelion fusion in which Sora, Riku and Kairi pilot EVAs. Or possibly Terra, Ventus and Aqua? Axel, Roxas and Xion? I feel that putting Xion in something approximating Rei's role would make a lot of sense, and I find Roxas easier than Sora to picture in Shinji's role; Sora is too psychologically resilient to fit in the world of Evangelion.

But obviously I would never dream of writing such a thing.

(Honestly, although the horrible fusion is tempting, I don't think I'll ever actually be able to write Evangelion fanfiction; I am far too confused by everything. (This is also, I suspect, why I've never written much for Kingdom Hearts.) Possibly for the best?)

For some reason, I'd gleaned from Internet osmosis that Shinji was an incredibly difficult character to like, so I was pleasantly surprised to find that I actually like him a fair bit. Although I sort of wish I didn't, because my heart is breaking for him constantly. I was so pleased when the second film let him go to an aquarium and have a nice day for once. He actually got to smile! It wasn't to last, of course, but I was glad to see him have a moment of happiness, however fleeting.
rionaleonhart: kingdom hearts: sora, riku and kairi having a friendly chat. (and they returned home)
I've just finished the third chapter of Bravely Default, and it's such a charming game; I love the way your party members are constantly bickering. It also has a rather beautiful soundtrack. The short piece that replaces the battle music when you use Tiz's special move is one of my favourites.

At one point, I changed Ringabel's job from Monk to Pirate, suffering a huge drop in HP and a substantial drop in agility, purely because the pirate costume was so cute. This is the danger of giving clothing an impact on combat; I will end up going for suboptimal combat clothing because I like the way it looks. This was also a problem in Lightning Returns.

(I think I should be applauded for my restraint in not making everyone into Red Mages. The Red Mage outfits are so pretty!)

I think I may sort of 'ship Edea/Tiz/Agnès/Ringabel as a big ridiculous OT4. Edea and Ringabel are entirely fine with this arrangement; Tiz and Agnès are a bit flustered.

(I'm quite amused that, when I searched for 'bravely default ot4' on Google, I found someone who started 'shipping them as a foursome at the exact point I did: the third-chapter cutscene where they all have to work together to rescue Egil in the volcano. Apparently there's something particularly polyamorous about that point.)

I have also recently played Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance, which I shall henceforth refer to by the no more ridiculous title of Kingdom Hearts 3D: Doodly Deedly Dum. It was a lot of fun! I really enjoyed the Flowmotion system, and it was great to play as Riku. And I thought the Nutcracker Suite background music worked really well for the Fantasia level, although I'm less certain about the weird drum and cymbal noises that replace the sound of your Keyblade.

I just checked my diary to see whether I'd made any notes on Doodly Deedly Dum, but all I could find was 'Riku always looks at Mickey Mouse like he's about to make out with him. It's disconcerting.' Thanks for recording that for posterity, me-from-a-month-ago.

One of the things I like about videogames is how completely you can know the world. I know the layout of Hope's Peak Academy in detail any other medium would lack. I could draw you a map of Balamb Garden if you asked me to. (The above-ground bits, at least. It gets a bit complicated below the surface.) I think that puts me at ease when I'm writing for videogame fandoms; it helps the story feel more grounded, because I know where the characters are and what's been happening 'off-screen'. If I'm writing for television, my mind goes 'okay, now they're in the library, wherever that is'; if I'm writing for a videogame, my mind goes 'okay, they leave the gym, go up the stairs, pass the swimming pool and the library's on their left'.
rionaleonhart: final fantasy xv: prompto, the best character, with a touch of swagger. (looking ahead)
Out-of-Context Theatre, Text Messages from My Housemate Edition:

I'm running late could you turn the oven off? You can leave Will Graham in there to keep warm though.

I've started playing unsettlingly violent post-apocalyptic survival game The Last of Us, which is quite a weird experience, not least because I've been playing so much Kingdom Hearts recently. Kingdom Hearts and The Last of Us are very different games.

Not that that's kept my mind from trying to combine them. Imagine The Last of Us with the same serious tone, the same realistic graphics, but you fight with a Keyblade. And you get the Kingdom Hearts cartoony effects on every strike, too.

I'm not very far yet; I've only just met Ellie. I have, however, played enough to know that, as I suspected prior to playing, I am not very good at The Last of Us. It demands quite a bit of stealth. I possess exactly no stealth. At one point I attempted a stealth kill on a guy who had his back to me... while he was in conversation with another guy. A MAGNIFICENT DISPLAY OF SNEAKINESS. NOBODY COULD SUSPECT A THING.

(I may be slightly playing this game on Easy mode. I'm not usually an easy-mode person, but all my pride as a gamer goes out of the window when I'm playing scary things.)

The Last of Us is very recognisably made by the same team as Uncharted, but it doesn't feel like an Uncharted game. The Uncharted games never quite take themselves seriously; The Last of Us is extremely straight-faced. I think that's why I have to imagine Keyblades into it; at a certain level of seriousness, I start desperately searching for ways to make things lighter.

There's some really nice detail in this game. At the very beginning (the opening was very good and very unsettling), I was struck by the way the body language of the character you were controlling changed when she realised that something was wrong. It's also quite cool that your eyes take a moment to adjust when you move from a dimly-lit area to a bright one.

This attention to detail does cause a bit of a problem in one respect, though. When a character is speaking off-camera, their voice will sound slightly distant and indistinct. It's a cool idea, but not necessarily a good one. When Ellie tried to speak to me just after we'd met, I had three choices: I could carry on down the corridor we were in, which meant that she'd be off-camera and I might not be able to make out what she said, or I could stop to listen to her, which would slow down the pace of the game, or I could jog backwards whilst conversing with her, which would be immersion-breaking; when you're in a dangerous environment, you generally keep your eyes on where you're going. Might end up having to turn subtitles on, which I don't really want to do; they'd be a distraction during cutscenes. We'll see.
rionaleonhart: kingdom hearts: sora, riku and kairi having a friendly chat. (and they returned home)
Finished replaying Kingdom Hearts Re:coded!

It's not clear when Data-Sora realised he was a digital replica of the real Sora, which bothers me a bit. You'd think that would be quite a big revelation. Sora takes a lot in his stride, but surely you would need at least a moment to sort through your thoughts after discovering that you and your friends and your home are actually just data inside a computer.

(Data-Riku seems to have been fully aware of the situation from the start, which is just as well, because Riku would definitely have been upset by having that revelation suddenly dropped on him. I suspect that, whereas Data-Sora is unshakeably sure that the people of the datascape matter, Data-Riku has trouble believing his own existence is of any real value. He still values Data-Sora, though. EXPLAIN THAT, RIKU.)

Here's the text of one of my favourite scenes in Re:coded:

A rather lovely exchange between Sora and Riku, post-Hollow Bastion. )

I've been ungenerous to Re:coded, I think. The plot may be a bit nothingy and the camera may be infuriating, but it has some of my favourite character interaction in the entire series, and I really love its take on Castle Oblivion.

That said, I started Days after finishing my Re:coded playthrough (because apparently I'm replaying all my Kingdom Hearts games? I swear I don't just play videogames all day, even if my recent entries really make it sound like I do) and was startled by how strong my emotional reaction was right from the beginning. Re:coded is fun enough, but I'm not particularly invested in it, whereas I care intensely about Days.

(ROXAS'S ADORABLE DIARY. All games should have the protagonist keep an adorable diary. See also Uncharted 2, in which Nate's journal slowly fills up with both puzzle hints and incredibly silly doodles.)

A thought: where was Kairi in Re:coded? We never meet a Data-Kairi, and I think the real Kairi is mentioned a grand total of once. Poor Kairi; she does get a bit neglected. Riku plays a significant role in Chain of Memories and Re:coded and Dream Drop Distance, but Kairi seems to be almost entirely absent from the spin-off games, and she's unconscious for most of the original Kingdom Hearts. Maybe she'll finally get a larger role in Kingdom Hearts III? She's not one of my favourite Kingdom Hearts characters, but maybe that would change if we actually got to know her.
rionaleonhart: kingdom hearts: sora, riku and kairi having a friendly chat. (and they returned home)
Finished my replay of the original Kingdom Hearts! I startled myself by sobbing throughout the entire ending and half the closing credits. This game. Those poor kids!

(If you are not familiar with Kingdom Hearts: Kingdom Hearts is a lovely, fun, charming, Disney-filled series of games about friends being torn apart from each other in horrible, horrible ways. If you haven't played it and you own a PS2 (and, er, you're not overly prone to motion sickness, because the first game is good but the camera is terrible), I fiercely recommend giving it a try. You can probably pick the main titles up quite inexpensively nowadays.)

I keep catching myself humming the Traverse Town music. It's going to be stuck in my head for ages. I love Traverse Town; something about it makes me feel so comfortable and at home. Twilight Town is nice, but it feels very empty, somehow. (Not that Traverse Town is exactly thriving beyond the First District. The Kingdom Hearts games could definitely do with making their worlds feel more populated; the sheer emptiness of the Traverse Town hotel or the Tram Common in Twilight Town gets a little eerie.)

I'm still ill at ease with the fact that Monstro's bowels lead straight into its mouth. That's just bad whale design.

As I seem to be in a rather Kingdom Heartsy mood, I thought I'd try replaying Re:coded next.

I've got a lot of problems with Re:coded - the combination of 'atrocious camera' and 'LOADS OF PLATFORMING' makes it fantastically frustrating to play, and the plot is paper-thin - but I suppose I do sort of owe it something, because this was the game that made me realise how fond I was of Sora as a character (even if the protagonist of Re:coded is technically a digital replica of Sora, rather than Sora himself). He's ridiculously loveable. There's a lovely moment where Riku tells Sora to run to safety so Riku can sacrifice himself for the good of all, and Sora basically laughs in his face and saves him instead. You should know by now that you can't sacrifice yourself for Sora's sake, Riku; he just won't let you.

It's a lot more addictive than I remember, actually. The plot may be a cop-out, but a lot of effort's gone into the gameplay. The levelling-up system is pretty clever, too. SHAME ABOUT THE TERRIBLE CAMERA.

I sort of want to write Kingdom Hearts fanfiction. I'm a little sad that my only contributions to this fandom are a ridiculous Derren Brown crossover and a work of terrible teenage romantic angst I'm too embarrassed to reread. But I have no idea where to begin! The world of Kingdom Hearts is so sprawling and the plot is so convoluted! It's like going to buy a toothbrush and being paralysed by the sheer amount of choice on offer. Do I want to write about Hayner and Seifer having reluctant adventures together, or Sora-Riku-Kairi friendship, or Data-Sora having an existential crisis, or poor tragic Roxas having a nice day for once, or Hayner and Pence and Olette feeling as if something's missing, or Riku struggling with his past, or Sora visiting all of my favourite fandoms and meeting all of my favourite characters? I just don't know!
rionaleonhart: kingdom hearts: sora, riku and kairi having a friendly chat. (and they returned home)
Hilariously, someone's started an e-petition to bring Kingdom Hearts III to the Wii U and PS3, because obviously Square are planning to release it on the most powerful consoles available purely out of spite. Why don't you demand a SNES port, while you're at it?

The Kingdom Hearts III announcement inspired me to resume my Kingdom Hearts replay, even though we probably won't actually be seeing III for a good while yet. I was at the first Hollow Bastion visit. Thoughts!

- The second Riku fight in Hollow Bastion? The one in front of the Keyhole, where Riku's wearing his grass skirt I ALWAYS DO THIS. Riku isn't wearing a grass skirt! For some reason he's always in a grass skirt when I picture his odd purple getup in my head, but when I pay attention to his clothes I can see that it is, in fact, a decidedly non-grass buttcape. Anyway! That fight. The one where you don't have Donald and Goofy with you. The one with a mile-long unskippable cutscene preceding it. The one I'd been dreading ever since landing in Hollow Bastion. The terrible fight.

I didn't have any trouble with it this time. I beat it quite comfortably on my first try.

It was weird.

- Dragon Maleficent, on the other hand, was a bit of a nightmare. Eventually I had to run back to Traverse Town and beg the moogles to make me something with really good defence.

- Some day I'm going to count up all the characters who've been literally inside Sora's heart at one point or another. By now I think it must be in double figures. Kingdom Hearts III will be set entirely inside Sora's heart.


- (I've mentioned that I really, really love redemption stories, right? Rikuuuuu. The poor kid never really manages to escape from his guilt after this game.)

- 'Don't worry, Sora,' Leon says. 'If anyone can save your friend, you can.' But then if you talk to him again afterwards he mutters things like 'Maybe it's hopeless for ordinary people to oppose the darkness', of course, because Squall is terrible at being reassuring.

- It's strange to replay the first game, because the plot is so straightforward compared to the ridiculous mess it's since become. AND ALSO SORA'S BABY VOICE.

- It's also strange in the light of my realisation a while ago that, although I'd always thought of Sora/Kairi as a canonical couple, it isn't one. It never strays beyond subtext. Kingdom Hearts is very much about friendship and very much not about romance, which I think is quite nice. I feel that the first game toyed with the idea of making the Sora-Kairi relationship romantic, but then later games scrapped that and gave all the relationships in the Riku-Sora-Kairi friendship group the same weight.

I suppose it's possible that the Sora-Kairi relationship might become romantic in Kingdom Hearts III, but it would honestly surprise me by this point. (Unless I was correct in concluding that the Riku-Sora-Kairi connections were all weighted equally, but failed to clock that in fact that's because they're all weighted romantically? Maybe the next game is going to be all about their ménage à trois relationship. HOW DISNEY.)

There was a time in my teenage years when I didn't really have much patience for Sora. Looking back, I don't understand why I didn't love him from the start. He's such a sweetheart! As I've grown up, I think I've become much more kindly disposed to relentlessly cheerful, optimistic characters.

Something in Dream Drop Distance that I think sums up Sora perfectly: almost exactly sixty seconds after meeting Neku for the first time, Sora says, 'Why don't I just help you out as your friend?'

Oh, Sora. ('Do you trust every total stranger you meet?' Neku asks. He has a point, especially considering that he's been vaguely hostile during most of the minute they've been acquainted; the first thing he says to Sora is 'Shut it.' But still Sora considers him a friend within seconds, because he is Sora.)
rionaleonhart: final fantasy versus xiii: a young woman at night, her back to you, the moon high above. (nor women neither)
Today I woke up to find that Kingdom Hearts III had been announced and that Final Fantasy Versus XIII had been rebranded Final Fantasy XV (here's a trailer) and was coming to the PS4.


(What I really, really, really want to see in Kingdom Hearts III is the Shibuya of The World Ends With You. I don't know how likely this is - there's never been a Square world in a Kingdom Hearts game, after all, despite the presence of Square characters - but Shibuya was mentioned in Dream Drop Distance, so it definitely exists in the Kingdom Hearts universe!)

And of course there's Lightning Returns coming out in February. Square Enix is going to destroy my bank balance and I'm looking forward to it immensely.

(One thing that does annoy me, though, on the subject of bank balances: the PS4 is to cost almost a hundred pounds more in the United Kingdom than in the United States. That's really quite outrageous. I'm hoping the price will have come down a bit by the time the games I want to play are released, though.)

I'm replaying a bit of Final Fantasy XIII here and there at the moment. I love the way the characters communicate during battle in this game. I love that they'll sometimes address each other directly, or call out to check on someone who's been hurt. It's such a small, charming detail. Sazh saying, 'Thanks, Vanille' when Vanille heals him really makes me smile.

I also smiled when Hope, travelling with Lightning in the Vile Peaks, quietly told himself to calm down. Oh, Hope.

It strikes me as a strange decision to have the party broken up into two groups of two for such a long time. It's good on a story level, allowing the Lightning-Hope and Sazh-Vanille relationships to develop, but the battle system really wasn't designed for fewer than three characters. Not that this is the only time Final Fantasy XIII prioritises story over gameplay, of course.

It's difficult to claim that Final Fantasy XIII is a good game, despite the strength of its battle system - it's a game that actively resents being played and takes every measure it can to minimise the player's input - but it's probably my favourite film. I just adore the way it builds up all these relationships within the party. To me, no other cast in the series felt as strongly bound together.

I've also been replaying Dark Chronicle recently, because apparently I'm in a very videogamey mood. I have my issues with Dark Chronicle - although it's fun and pretty, it's also awfully repetitive and makes me feel a bit empty if I play it for too long - but it's got one of my favourite soundtracks of all time. Just listen to that boss battle theme. Or the Gundorada Workshop music. I nearly linked to six other pieces here, but I'll restrain myself.
rionaleonhart: kingdom hearts: sora, riku and kairi having a friendly chat. (and they returned home)
I saw Skyfall yesterday. It was the first James Bond film I had ever seen and I was deeply, deeply confused by the title sequence. I exclaimed 'What?' aloud when the giant hand pulled Bond down. I'd assumed that when things happened on the screen in a Bond film I could trust that they were actually happening in the Bond universe! I wasn't expecting a high-definition Terry Gilliam sequence!

I also slightly wanted Bond and M to make out at points, I have to confess.

Prior to entering the cinema, I'd gathered that Bond walked sexily out of the ocean in every film and possibly every scene. I was rather disappointed to find that this was not the case.

Wow, I did not remember the bit in Kingdom Hearts where a gorilla leaves a shiny red poo behind and you pick it up and install it on your spaceship.

I have occasionally wondered why the Tarzan world never appeared in any Kingdom Hearts games beyond the first. On this replay, I have realised the reason is that Deep Jungle is a terrible world and the developers should be ashamed of themselves. Stupid vines.

Kingdom Hearts is a harder game than I remember. I must have blanked out all the level grinding in my fond memories of it, along with how tricky precise jumping is. I also don't remember it giving me such bad motion sickness. I love you, Kingdom Hearts; please stop making me suffer.

I've finally located the origin of my intense dislike for Kingdom Hearts Hercules! After you pour a huge amount of effort into defeating Cerberus, who's a hell of a boss to spring on you so early in the game, Hercules leans down and mutters to Phil, 'Just between us, I'd already worn Cerberus down by the time the little guy jumped in.' Screw you, Hercules. Although this is the first time it's occurred to me that he might actually not have been lying. I always assumed he was just trying to take the credit. DON'T THINK THIS MEANS I'VE FORGIVEN YOU, HERCULES.

I'd completely forgotten that you meet Riku in Traverse Town! I'm always so pleased to see him. Well, as I recall there's a nightmarish boss fight against him in Hollow Bastion, so I probably won't be terribly pleased to see him there, but for now his appearances delight me (even though the Traverse Town visit is quite distressing, because it leaves Riku thinking Sora's replaced him with a duck).

I love Riku. I love redemption as a theme, and Riku is made of redemption (you know, after he does all the things he actually needs to redeem himself for). Seeing him in Dream Drop Distance really warmed my heart. He's matured so much! He feels so indebted to Sora!

Speaking of the friendship between Sora and Riku in Dream Drop Distance, there's a ridiculously adorable scene between them towards the end; it starts at the 8.30 mark in this video (the link should take you to the correct time) and lasts about a minute (up to Sora's 'Thanks, everybody'). Bless you, Sora. I wish you were my friend. You probably would be if we met for more than half a second, because everybody is your friend.
rionaleonhart: kingdom hearts: sora, riku and kairi having a friendly chat. (and they returned home)
After seeing Aqua's storyline in Birth by Sleep, I think I might sort of be 'shipping Terra/Cinderella/Aqua. All right, then.

Aqua is such a prince. I'd like to see her meet Utena, actually. I also love the hell out of her character design, even though I've played so many Square games that symmetrical clothing looks strange to me.

Also, Aqua/Zack would be adorable. I was already sort of 'shipping it whilst thinking 'what are you doing, Riona, there is no basis for this at all, you're only thinking about this because he put his hands on her shoulders and spoke earnestly to her', and then Zack asked Aqua out and I was delighted.

It's also got some gloriously terrible potential pairing names. Aquack! Zacqua! A to Z!

I want Aqua to play big sister to the Destiny Islands trio forever, too. I GENERALLY WANT A LOT OF THINGS TO DO WITH AQUA.

I've actually started replaying the original Kingdom Hearts, for the first time in goodness knows how long. I've just finished the first visit to Traverse Town. Thoughts!

- I'd forgotten how long I always spend running around on Destiny Islands, levelling up until I can beat Riku. I'd also forgotten how frustrating that race against him was. Why are you so much better than me at everything, Riku?
- You hear Sora's mother calling him for dinner just before their world is plunged into darkness! What happened to his parents?
- The camera is worse than I remember, and I remember the camera being pretty dire.
- I think I like the first game more than the second gameplay-wise (although Kingdom Hearts II smooths out some rough edges, I feel it also tones down the exploration element), but I do like that the Destiny Islands trio in the second game are all friends friends friends, whereas there's a lot of jealousy complicating things in the first. You wouldn't have got any of that 'who gets to share the destiny-binding fruit with Kairi?' business had the subject of the paopu come up in Kingdom Hearts II; all three of them would have shared it and thought nothing of it.
- Aerith says 'This is from Leon' and gives you an Elixir and Leon closes his eyes and turns his head away awkwardly! I had completely forgotten about that. Squall, you are so precious. (I had not forgotten how worried he was about the missing dalmatian puppies, bless him.)

In case you don't play Kingdom Hearts and would like to be able to follow my posts about it, here is a quick summary of the plot of every Kingdom Hearts game: DARKNESS LIGHT DAAAAARKNESS LIIIIIGHT HEARTS DARKNESS. Also half the characters end up in Sora's heart metaphorically and the other half are in there literally.
rionaleonhart: kingdom hearts: sora, riku and kairi having a friendly chat. (and they returned home)
I've started watching the cutscenes for Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep, in the absence of a PSP to actually play the game on, and have found myself quite intensely 'shipping Terra/Cinderella (or, perhaps more accurately, Terra/all the classic Disney princesses and possibly also Minnie Mouse). I, er, I wouldn't have expected this.

...all right, since writing that I have finished watching Terra's storyline. I don't think I was prepared for this game to be so completely heartbreaking. I'm always inexplicably surprised when a Kingdom Hearts game upsets me, having apparently forgotten that I cried enough to fill a small reservoir at the end of Days. Kingdom Hearts: a charming, Disney-filled, child-friendly series about friendships and how they are inevitably and horribly torn apart.

And since writing that I've watched Ven's storyline. This game is heart-shattering and adorable in equal measures. On the one hand, there's the endless tragedy; on the other, teenage Lea! Hanging out with teenage Isa! Making friends by being obnoxious! Amazing! I knew Birth by Sleep was a prequel, but it hadn't occurred to me that the human versions of the Nobodies we'd later meet might appear.


It's been ten years since the first Kingdom Hearts game was released (ten years? really?), and I still can't quite believe the series exists when I really think about it. Disney and the makers of Final Fantasy collaborating on a videogame series: it's such an April Fools' joke of a premise. I'm glad it's real, even if it results in a surprising amount of emotional devastation.

Speaking of ridiculous game-related things: I like how videogames seem to make perfect sense when you're playing them, and then you're looking through that videogame's wiki and come across a line like 'Joshua attacks by typing in digits on a phone to summon random objects to bombard enemies from above' and go 'hang on a second...'

I've played too many Square games. I just take these things for granted. Seemingly human enemies turn into dragons mid-fight, my ally's 'telekinetically throwing a soft toy at foes' battle technique becomes more effective if she wears a pirate hat, mobile phones are deadly weapons and I blithely accept it. I tried to explain The World Ends With You to [ profile] th_esaurus and realised too late that absolutely nothing in that game makes sense. But I love it so much!
rionaleonhart: kingdom hearts: sora, riku and kairi having a friendly chat. (and they returned home)
I finished The World Ends With You yesterday evening and haven't stopped thinking about it since. Such a good cast! Such a good everything!

Huge spoilers for The World Ends With You. )

Very soon after completing the game, I watched all the cutscenes from Traverse Town in Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance; I doubt I'll ever be able to play Dream Drop Distance, because I have no 3DS and no intention of acquiring one, but the Traverse Town storyline features The World Ends With You characters and I couldn't miss it. I was disconcerted by how adorable I found Kingdom Hearts Joshua. Fairly certain that's not supposed to happen.

And then I played the bonus 'Another Day' non-canonical chapter, which is just unashamed crackfic. I love this game. It also contains the following rather delightful exchange, if you head to the Shibuya River. (Note: at this point in the story, the characters have been assigned colour-based code-names. Neku is 'Blue' (or 'Black 'n' Blue'); Joshua is 'Pink'. In Joshua's own words, 'I should be Pink, because Pink is love, and a humanitarian like me loves people.')

Shiki: Sorry, but I'll pass. These boots were so not made for sewer-walking.
Beat: Yeah, this ain't my style either, yo.
Neku: I guess that's understandable. All right, I'll go check it out.
Joshua: Whoa there, Black 'n' Blue. I'm going with.
Neku: You? You seem like the last person who'd want to go in there.
Joshua: I could never live with myself if I let you go alone. Let's spend some quality time.
Shiki: Whoa-ho-ho!
Beat: You guys are... Like, you ain't...
Shiki: Blue and Pink!? Sure, they go... but I didn't know they went LIKE THAT!
Neku: Now look what you've done!
Joshua: Hee hee... Shut up and walk, dear.
Shiki: ...I'm going, too. If something happens, I want to see... I mean stop it.

I was also quite amused by what happens the first time you talk to Joshua in 'Another Day' (which in the 'Another Day'-verse is the first time Neku and Joshua meet). Neku approaches him to challenge him to a game of Tin-Pin Slammer:

Neku: Hey, wanna play me in—
Joshua: Say, did you know? We all perceive the world around us differently, filtered through the lens of our desired reality.
Neku: Huh!? (Is this kid high?)

Oh, Joshua. Joshua.
rionaleonhart: okami: amaterasu is startled. (NOT SO FAST)
I sort of want to write Dangan Ronpa fanfiction, set during chapter two, in which everyone takes [name redacted]'s very sensible suggestion of sharing their biggest secrets right then and there, and they all bond and it's heartwarming and extremely unconducive to murder. The trouble is that there are a few characters I just can't see ever agreeing to it. Stupid people with their stupid understandable reluctance to bare their souls.

You may be wondering why the character's name was redacted up there. Here is the problem with Dangan Ronpa: almost anything I could say about it would be a spoiler. It's a problem particular to fandoms with very high bodycounts. If I say 'I really like the friendship between A and B', for example, you'll know that neither A nor B will die before they've developed a friendship. I don't even know whether any of you intend to check Dangan Ronpa out, but I don't want to risk spoiling anyone because it's so worth going into unspoiled.

(And generally worth going into. The character designs are so great! Look at those character designs! And I have a particular liking for or interest in at least ten of the fifteen inmates (maybe eleven; I waver on Maizono), which is quite impressive for a cast of that size. Although my interest in Leon is mainly based in the fact that his facial expressions are hilarious.)

Naegi reminds me oddly of Roxas from Kingdom Hearts in the trial scenes. I suppose it's the build and the fact that his hoodie/school uniform combination looks vaguely like an Organization XIII coat at a glance.


And now a few notes on Glee!

You know, I may not be as invested in Glee as I used to be, but I do really like that the theme of the third series was essentially 'Rachel Berry Makes Friends With Everyone'. I care so much more about Rachel's friendships than I do about her romances.

Worst thing about 'Goodbye', the third-series finale: nobody sang 'Goodbye' by the Spice Girls. I was so disappointed. COME ON, GUYS.

I actually spent most of 'Goodbye' freaking out because I had convinced myself, based on no evidence whatsoever, that Burt was going to die. I was incredibly relieved to be wrong. (I don't think 'this character whose death you have no reason to anticipate doesn't die' is a spoiler, is it? Unless, of course, you're talking about Dangan Ronpa.)

...oh, dear, this was an unfortunate combination of fandoms for an entry. I am now, inevitably, wondering how the Glee kids would cope with a Dangan Ronpa scenario. Sue Sylvester locks the New Directions in the school; the only way to escape is to kill a fellow captive without getting caught. It's a fairly ruthless lot in that choir room; I thought 'who would be prepared to commit murder in that situation?' and five names immediately popped into my head. Probably best to end this entry before it goes any further down this line of thought. (Even though I sort of want to read this.)
rionaleonhart: top gear: the start button on a bugatti veyron. (going down tonight)
Back in 2010, I attempted a self-imposed challenge: alphabet ficsnippets (A to M, M to Z). The idea was that the first snippet concerned one character whose name began with A and one whose name began with B, the second a B and a C, the third a C and a D and so on. As I had so much fun with them, I thought I'd attempt another type of alphabet challenge: snippets for each letter of the alphabet, each concerning two characters whose names begin with that letter.

As my snippets seem to be a bit longer this time, I'm probably going to post these in more than two instalments. This entry contains six: A, L, M, O, P and X, because I don't have the discipline to write them in alphabetical order. Also, I cheat outrageously in the very first ficlet by never actually having one of the characters appear or indeed be mentioned.

Fandoms represented in here are Glee, Final Fantasy XIII, The Mentalist, Death Note, Mulan, Red Dead Redemption, Dangan Ronpa, Phineas and Ferb, Kingdom Hearts and X-Men: First Class. Enjoy!

Same-letter alphabet ficsnippets: A, L, M, O, P, X. )

And that's all for the moment!

The fabulously-named Dangan Ronpa: Academy of Hope and High School Students of Despair, if you're curious, is a game about a group of students who have been trapped in a prestigious school; the only way to escape is to kill someone without anyone else finding out you did it. It's never been released in English, but it's being translated with screenshots over here; there are links to the entire story so far in the first post. If you're anything like me, you will become super high-school level attached to almost every character and then get really distressed both when murders are committed and when you realise who the murderer is. I read through the second chapter yesterday and ended up all teary.

(EDIT: Should probably mention that the Let's Play link leads to the Something Awful forums, which have a rather idiosyncratic profanity filter. For 'gently caress', read 'fuck'; for 'poo poo', read 'shit'. I think 'fucking' becomes 'loving' as well. Mondo Oowada's speech becomes very weird if you're not aware of this. (Mondo, incidentally, is my favourite and I love him.))

I actually started reading Dangan Ronpa because someone said that Touko Fukawa, the 'Super High-school Level Literary Girl', was me. This was, I have come to realise, rather an uncharitable thing to say.
rionaleonhart: final fantasy xiii: lightning pays intense attention to you. (speak carefully)
More thoughts on Final Fantasy XIII-2! I've finished the Bresha Ruins and moved on to the Yaschas Massif.

Final Fantasy XIII-2 notes: Bresha and part of the Yaschas Massif. )

This game is actually really addictive.
rionaleonhart: final fantasy xiii: lightning pays intense attention to you. (speak carefully)
I've been playing Portal 2 for the past few days and would highly recommend it! I don't think I've ever played a game that gave me such a strong sense of achievement before. The puzzles that frustrate me the most when I'm trying to solve them tend to be the ones I like the most in retrospect; it's so satisfying to have a sudden breakthrough just when you're reaching hurl-the-controller-through-the-window levels of exasperation.

I'm in a really videogamey mood at the moment, actually. EVERYONE GET INTO VIDEOGAMES AND THEN TALK ABOUT THEM FOR ME. This is such an exciting medium! It's changing and developing at an incredible rate! Nobody knows what it will do next! And yet the mainstream media still consider gaming a weird niche thing that people should grow out of, and that makes me really sad.

A few months ago, The Times had two articles in the same week over which I scribbled furious 'NO, YOU ARE WRONG' notes. The first was a report on the controversy surrounding Battlefield 3, in which the reporter expressed the belief that 'plots in video games are about as sophisticated as those in porn films', making it quite apparent that he doesn't play videogames himself. You wouldn't find a mainstream newspaper commissioning a journalist who had never been to the theatre to report on a controversial play; a piece on a controversial game should be written by someone who knows about games.

The second article was an extract from You and Me: the Neuroscience of Identity by Susan Greenfield, and contained the following:

When you play a computer game to rescue the princess, it is not because the princess is meaningful or significant to you - you probably won't care about her as a person - but because of the thrill of the process of playing and winning. Yet when you read a book, it is because you care about the characters, their relationships with others and their fates: their past, present and future and interrelations with other characters give them meaning.

There is indeed a game in which an essentially meaningless, characterless princess is kidnapped as a simple excuse for the actual gameplay. It's called Super Mario Bros, and it was released in 1985. That was more than a quarter of a century ago, and in the interval since then games have gone from looking like this (Super Mario Bros, Nintendo, Nintendo Entertainment System, 1985) to looking like this (Uncharted, Naughty Dog, PlayStation 3, 2007). Is it possible that game storytelling has become more sophisticated as well?

I've warmed a little to it now, but when I first started playing the Uncharted series I hated the combat system. I was terrible at it. I died all the time. Despite not liking a huge chunk of the gameplay, I carried on with the game, and I carried on with the game because I cared about the characters. In this case, I wasn't playing for 'the thrill of the process of playing and winning'; I was going through that process because I really, really wanted to metaphorically rescue the metaphorical princess.

Final Fantasy X and Final Fantasy XIII contain about ten hours of cutscenes each. If the story and character interaction in those games were conceived as a flimsy excuse for the actual gameplay, Square put in a frankly surprising amount of effort.

The ending of Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days made me cry until I couldn't see the screen. Just listening to the final battle music afterwards could still make me sob. I can assure you that I wasn't crying because I was so thrilled to have won the game.

I'll happily admit that some games are focused almost exclusively on gameplay and don't give much thought to plot or characterisation, and that's fine, but dismissing games altogether as a storytelling medium absolutely infuriates me. I opened this entry by praising Portal 2 for its satisfying puzzle-solving gameplay, but even a game as gameplay-focused as Portal has a backstory and sharply-drawn characters. If you say that videogames have no plot, no soul, no characters worth caring about, you are wrong. It's as simple as that.

Well, that was an awful lot of ranting at people who probably aren't reading this journal! Something positive to finish: it may interest you to know that [ profile] penny_lane_42 is hosting a fic-request meme for interaction between female characters. Enjoy!