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Monthly Archives: January 2013

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Devils and demons often play an antagonistic role in fantasy. They take on many different forms and come about in so many different ways. Some are malevolent spirits, others are creatures summoned from another realm, others come from the ground and have nightmarish bodies. All seem to be evil or at least neutral, and are often dangerous when summoned, kept barely under control, if controlled at all.

The concept is mostly associated with Christianity, where the devil, Satan or Lucifer, is a fallen angel opposing God’s plan, and trying to lead men to hell. Some say he is the master there, others that he just wants people to be miserable with him. Some say he works alone, others with his demon minions. Most other religions have a devil or some other sort of adversary as well, although now people seem to want to focus on goodness and leave the devil out of it, ignoring him or not believing in one.

The image of the devil came in the middle ages, when priests thought that their followers were not scared enough by the devil, so they made an image meant to frighten people into righteousness. The devil had horns on his head, hooves like a goat, claws, and a tail. Kind of like a satyr, but red. Sometimes they gave him batwings. He used a pitchfork as his weapon. Other demons had similar characteristics. Usually ugly, they might also be beautiful, to seduce you.

Usually in books, these devils or demons don’t look like the classical description. The most common is the spirit, since that is what devils are, if they exist (you don’t see demons walking around, at least not how they are shown in pictures. People you know, however, like your in-laws if you’re unlucky, might be personal demons for you). Sometimes they will possess bodies, a common idea in fantasy.

In games, sometimes they will be shown in a physical form. In Heroes of Might and Magic 6, the demon faction has 7 creatures, each representing one of the deadly sins. In literature, they represent the dark side of humanity, the nightmares, the fears, the depraved acts humans can commit. In this way, Pandora of mythology was the mother of all demons. They also often represent fire, or are represented by it, which, with Prometheus, acted the same way as the forbidden fruit of Adam and Eve: it brought knowledge to humans and the ability to act for themselves, separating them from animals. This knowledge burned with the pains of sin and the light of knowledge.

Since they are rarely, if ever, the good guys, they are a bit more one dimensional than other fantasy creatures. Because of this, and because people are more uncomfortable with religion, they are less and less common as characters. If thinking about using demons, be aware of what they represent and if they go long with the story, and use them in a creative way.

Yesterday I talked a little about fantasy in video games, and mentioned some series I liked when younger. One of the most well known of these was probably Final Fantasy. So I thought I would post my own rankings and thoughts on each one I played (I didn’t play 11, 13, or 14). Yes, I know it might be a bit controversial, I’ve seen other rankings, and everyone feels strongly about their favorite. Remember, these are my opinions, not meant to offend. I enjoyed playing them all, it is a good series, I finished each one (usually getting all the extras as well). So if one is at the bottom, it doesn’t mean I hate it, I just don’t like it as much as one at the top. So let’s unveil the order:

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Final Fantasy 7
Overrated? Maybe. But it’s still my favorite. The first one I played, it was also the one I played the most. I liked the characters, the story, the villain. It caught me up more than any other, even with ugly visuals at times. Yes, I cried when Aeris died. This game didn’t need sequels, it needed an HD remake.

 

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Final Fantasy 10
Like 7, I got caught up in the story of Tidus and Yuna and their pilgrimage. Plenty of emotions and twists. The amount of time you had to spend to get the ultimate weapons and other sidequests was a bit much, though and the sequel was a bit ridiculous.

 

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Final Fantasy 6
My favorite of the spite graphic games. It had a lot of characters, but they were interesting, and I wanted to punch Kefka in the face every time he laughed, that clown. The bonus movies included at the end of the Playstation version made me tear up.

 

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Final Fantasy 8
Despite Squall being an emo punk, there was a lot covered in this game and it was interesting. It had a more mature air than many Final Fantasies. There were also some strange plot twists that didn’t really help, though. All from the same orphanage, evil witch from the future, frozen witch in space? The love story was both good and bad: When Rinoa and Squall are together, she annoys him. When apart or she’s unconscious, he’s obsessed with her. Romantic.

 

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Final Fantasy 4
Don’t really have a lot of strong feelings on this one. Some say it’s their favorite, I say it’s OK. Standard bad-guy-is-really-good-and/or-relative, but is possessed by evil force. But hey, you get to fly to the moon in a whale.

 

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Final Fantasy 12
It had a good battle system, for the most part. Once you have a strategy, you can kind of sit back a relax instead of button mashing. With Yazmat, could leave the room and come back a while later. No more random battles, either! What I didn’t really like was the plot. I wanted it to be good. Instead, it was: Meet bad guy. Get object A, find out it’s useless. Get object B, find out it’s useless as well. Run to heart of empire, then to other side of world. Get object C. Useless. Kill bad guy. Realize that main character had no reason to be included and the whole game would be the same if they took him out.

 

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Final Fantasy 9
The main character’s a monkey. Who later turns out to be all powerful. The main antagonist is a cross dresser (I seriously thought he was a she until half way through the game). CGM just for the princess cutting her hair. Last boss pops up, I was like, “Where the heck did you come from? You were never mentioned in the game until now.” It was kind of depressing too, even with cartoon-like characters. The second time I played, I was a little more tolerant. But still didn’t like it much.

 

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Final Fantasy 2
I don’t remember this one really well, but I do remember it was an interesting game. At times it got repetitive, though (go for this spell, now this one). Magic was useless and weak. I was mad that I sold the sword midway through the game would make killing the last boss easy.

 

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Final Fantasy 5
Couldn’t really take this game seriously. Turtle! Bad guy named X-Death! But it was fun to make fun of. And to play with the jobs.

 

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Final Fantasy 1
Not much of a story (Kill the first boss, find out that monsters are invading the land, you have to go back in time to find out the first boss had seen the future where you kill him, so he wants to kill you from the past by sending out those monsters. Yeah, I didn’t get it either). But it was kind of fun in the fulfill-a-quest-to-open-an-area-you-were-wondering-about way.

 

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Final Fantasy 3
This one didn’t have much of a story that I could remember, either. The jobs were kind of fun, though.

Up till now, I have mostly been focusing on fantasy within books. While that is probably where it is the biggest, there are other media that handle the fantasy genre. Movies, television, and video games all do it well, some better than others. For example, with movies, you won’t find much of magic and wizards outside of the Lord of the Rings movies and Harry Potter, both of which were extremely successful, so maybe the movie industry will start taking the genre more seriously. On television, there are series like Once Upon a Time and Merlin. But outside of books, the biggest place for fantasy is probably in video games, which makes sense. It is one thing to read about sword fights and wizard duels. It is another to experience them in video games. The RPG (role playing game) is probably the biggest that supports fantasy, but there are others as well. Strategy games, adventure games, online games. In this post, I am going to go over a few series of games that shaped my youth.

Final Fantasy

Square Enix

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This series has come to represent the Japanese RPG, a way of doing RPG games that often involve turn based battles and heavy characterization. There are fourteen entries, plus spinoffs and sequels. Every entry is a unique world with unique characters. Often, they mix technology and fantasy in interesting ways. What they don’t do is let you create your character and make game changing choices (except in the online versions, 11 and 14). So you pretty much have to follow the script, but in some ways that’s better, because it allows the makers to create a story that is more interesting that way. There are memorable characters (Cloud, Sephiroth) and beautiful graphics, at least in the later entries. Final Fantasy 7 is the most famous, and one of the best rated.

Warcraft

Blizzard

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Warcraft is a RTS (real time strategy) game, where build up cities, recruit troops, and lead the to war. Originally it was human versus orc, later they added undead and night elves in. It was easy to spend hours on building up an army, and multiplayer was tense. Then Blizzard came up with World of Warcraft, which grew to be the biggest massively multiplayer role playing game in the world, and they left behind the strategy part of Warcraft. I don’t play, since it costs a monthly fee and I don’t want to be addicted like some people end up being, but I heard it is fun.

Heroes of Might and Magic

Ubisoft

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This game is also a strategy game where you lead mythical creatures to war, but this one is turn based and the battlefield is set up like a chess board. I actually enjoyed it more, as you had a little bit of time to think, unlike warcraft, and there were more types of creatures, from titans to dragons to centaurs to phoenix. I spent a long time playing this one. The latest versions haven’t been as fun to play, though.

Zelda

Nintendo

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This series deals with solving puzzles and fighting with a sword. It is in real time, with just one character you’re controlling, Link. It can really force you to use your mind and the items you collect. The latest one used the motion controller of the Wii to its fullest extent. A really fun series.

This term has come to mean many things, and in some ways, nothing. On one hand, it envelops science fiction and fantasy and other less mainstream genres, like horror. On the other hand, it might also be a small subset of science fiction, what deals with what could happen in the future without any great leaps in technology that is usually associated with science fiction. Distopian fiction is a big part of this.

The word speculative is related to conjecture, which is an opinion or conclusion formed on the basis of incomplete information. Basically, it is supposing what might happen if circumstances were different. Which is basically all fiction, any story not based on hard fact. Even a lot of history involves some conjecture. That’s why movies are based on true stories, and aren’t true stories themselves.

But in the literary world, it is used to label stories based on circumstances that are unlikely or impossible, hence fantasy and science fiction. Both of these try to explore how humans might react to things that haven’t been experienced yet: magic, alien invasions, exoduses to new worlds, etc. Since they’ve never happened, how can we know at all how people would react? We can’t, but we can guess. And all these things do have some basis in reality, anyway. Some authors even use these events as representation for things that have happened. Our technology is magical in a way. Ask your grandma if she’s still alive. There are people who have seen technology evolve from radios to television to computers to ipads. From cars and trains to rockets and space stations. From telephones to cell phones to iphones. From newspaper to news television to internet. This is magic. How many of us actually understand how the internet works, or their iphone, or biogenetics? The only reason we don’t call it that is because we have scientists telling us this all adheres to the laws of physics. Alien invasions exist as well, just in a different form that extraterrestrial life invading. We’ve had the Romans invade the Greeks, the English invade North America, the Spanish invade South America. United States culture invading the world. And there have been exoduses to new worlds: Moses to the promised land, Europe to America, Latinos to the United States, etc. Science fiction and fantasy are just taking these ideas and showing them through different worlds with different rules.

Some writers, like Margaret Atwood, write about distopian futures and take the label of speculative fiction for themselves. Orwell, Huxley, and others also wrote about the same, although I am only aware of Margaret Atwood separating herself from science fiction and saying she wrote speculative fiction (which felt a bit pretentious to me). Because their books don’t rely so much on technology, they prefer a more literary title (Margaret Atwoods thoughts are explained here). Basically, people often don’t take science fiction seriously, or fantasy for that matter, but there is literary quality work in both genres. Dune is one, The Once and Future King, and other novels have used these genres as ways to delve deeply into humanity. Others in the genres have given them bad names for their superficial treatment. In every genre there is good and bad.

For my preferences, though, we should call everything what it is and not worry about being called science fiction because you might not get some awards. People will see the quality or lack thereof and judge it that way, not by whether it is in some snooty literary genre. And people read to be entertained. Some are entertained by deep ideas, while others want to escape and experience an uncomplicated world. To each his own.

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A week ago I said I would review this book once I finished. Well, I finished. For those of you who have read the Wheel of Time books, this is for you. If you don’t know what the Wheel of Time is, then you can skip this, or you can start from book 1, The Eye of the World, by Robert Jordan.

This was the book I had been waiting for since first picking up The Eye of the World when I was a teenager. Overall, the book was great, and it provides a satisfying ending to the series. Getting into it, I had to remind myself of some of the minor characters, and there were some that I still don’t remember from before, but it did focus on the main characters more in this book than in the last few of Jordan’s books, especially after the beginning. It started a bit slow, but did keep you hooked, although partway through, there were a lot of battle scenes that, while setting the mood for near hopelessness, did feel a little long and took up a good portion of the book. Mat was my favorite character, although he didn’t appear for the first few chapters, but once he did, he served as a good comic relief to keep it from getting too desperate. The scene where he and Rand reunite was one of my favorites. Some characters die, so there is a sense of peril, but it does end well, for the most part. The Dark One wasn’t as menacing as I had hoped, and the ending didn’t have any spectactular twist, but like I said, it is satisfying. What happens after the last battle is kept open for speculation, not every question is answered. Overall, a great book, Brandon Sanderson handled it well. I can’t wait for his next book in the Stormlight Archive, which looks like it will replace the Wheel of Time as the current epic fantasy series. If you’ve read the other books, read this. If not…I don’t know if you want to sludge through thirteen books before this. It is a good series, but there were parts that could have been cut. Anyway, the Wheel of Time has come to an end.

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The newest member of the Knights of the Dragon, a blindfolded elf who, even though he can’t see, is able to win the Tournament of Honor. Many suspect him using magic, but can’t prove it.

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Here are two Knights of the Dragon, the highest order of knights in the kingdom of Mith, in the Sage Eyes world.

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