mark_asphodel: Sage King Leaf (Default)
Since tumblr sux for archiving things, I made a little series of posts on tumblr regarding what I call the "baby cavaliers" and I may as well link to it here.

For reference, these are the babby cavaliers:


With bonus essays on Geoffrey and possibly Noah (not yet posted).

FE13 has no babby cavalier because it's defective and I want my money back.

Oh Shame

Jan. 22nd, 2014 07:34 am
mark_asphodel: Sage King Leaf (Default)
"Ideas are not bad.  Bad happens in the execution."

I've believed that for fifteen long years now, since landing into BSSM fandom in 1998.  I'm starting to wonder if this, like a lot of things that were acceptable in progressive/underground circles in '98, now marks me as a dinosaur.

Discussion of  )
mark_asphodel: Sage King Leaf (Default)
I was planning to write about pie but this has been bugging me.

So today I was thinking about what specifically grates me about Phila. I have downright negative feelings toward her-- not merely "meh," but more like, "Sucks." As in, I feel kind of slighted when people do like her. Stupid but true.

I mean, I understand liking an underdeveloped character; witness my soft spot for Norne even before FE12 came out and gave her a bit more dialogue. I have headcanoned Norne to a crazy extent. Her brief turn on FE11's stage charmed me. So yeah, I completely get latching onto a character regardless of development or dimensionality.

But then I circled back to an essay on Disney characters that I read a few days ago and mostly did like but had some misgivings about.

Long. Annoyed. )

mark_asphodel: Sage King Leaf (Default)
So, last weekend I spoke at a local sci-fi con (about actual science) and attended some of the workshops before vegging out in the anime room and watching Bodacious Space Pirates.  One workshop I attended was simply called "Combat for Writers," whose appeal to me should be obvious.  Trained martial artists (Western, mostly) acted out various scenarios so we scribbly types could see things play out in 3D.  Pretty cool. One attendee wanted to know how an unarmed "street thug" or two would fare against any random person with a sword and moderate training.  In the opinion of the workshop leader, it was an easy answer.  Your stereotypical low-level thugs, he said, operate on the following principles:

1) They work in gangs to outnumber their victims
2) They don't expect anyone to actually put up a fight

It's not about actual combat, it's about numbers and terror.  They're bullies punching down.  A decently skilled sword user walking into a street tough scenario with the intent of giving them a fight has everything on his/her side.

That got me to thinking about the oh-so tiresome opening chapters to most FE games, which tend to consist of BANDITS!  and MORE BANDITS! and DIFFERENT BANDITS!!! (apologies to [personal profile] hooves ).  But even given FE's bandit/pirate/brigand thugs are armed with shitty axes, having them as your opening opponents really is ideal to ease the player and cast into the game.  Your OP crutch character (Seth, Evayle) can dispatch a BANDIT without breaking a sweat.  Your moderately experienced characters (Christmas Cavs, someone like Chrom or Sigurd) can take on bandits and triumph without much trouble.  And these unskilled bullies are ideal as a whetstone for your genuine nooblets like Eirika and some of the random kids you get in opening chapters (baby cavs, baby archers, baby peg knights).  Sure, your lordling might get killed in Chapter One (Leif, I am glaring at you), but overall your playable cast should fare well against no-name loser thugs who are used to pissing on unarmed civilians. They're punching back, even if some of them are punching up.

I think pondering this helped give me clarity on why the H5/Lunatic modes of the DS/3DS era feel so unfair and un-fun to me.  Why are these damn no-name bandits so ungodly hard that even someone like Jeigan or Frederick can't take them down in one hit?  Actually, even FE11's H5 I can kind of understand, since these particular pirates have overtaken an entire country.  But those stupid bandits in FE13's opening chapter?  Having them be anything other than a cakewalk for even a fraction of the Shepherds pits storyline sense against gameplay mechanics in a way that just doesn't sit right with me.  

IDK.  There's got to be some ideal "this is hard as hell but fun" balance that takes the good stat-based parts of FE11's H5 and the good bullshitty parts of
Thracia 776. Right?
mark_asphodel: Sage King Leaf (Default)
I never much liked Celtic myth, despite being 1/4 Irish and having it shoved at me periodically as part of my heritage. My mother, who had everything from The Golden Bough to Hermes Trismegistus on the bookshelf in her bedroom, didn't much care for it either. I recall one conversation we had when I was about 13 or 14 wherein we agreed that Celtic myth was basically about beating people up-- the more people you beat up, the bigger a hero you were. I was far more interested in myths that praised wit and cunning-- the exploits of Theseus and Odysseus, Raven, Anansi, Daniel and Joseph from the Old Testament. Even famous Celtic stories that involved trickery, like the one where Fionn mac Cumhaill decides to fuck with Cuchulainn to get out of fighting him, didn't seem especially clever or admirable. I mean, Cuchulainn's dumb as a rock anyway, so fooling him isn't much work. Also, biting someone's finger off is a pretty nasty trick, but if your magical powers are stored in your middle finger I guess it's a valid target.

I think the other thing I didn't like is I didn't understand how justice worked in these stories. It didn't seem to, really. With characters like Odysseus and Joseph, there was an actual payoff in their exploits. Live right, honor the gods, outwit your enemies, persevere during your hardships, and you get rewarded in land, women, sons, renown, etc. Sure, things often fall apart a generation or two down the line (or in the case of Theseus, in his own lifetime) but there seemed to be an actual, you know, life lesson involved her. Teacheable moments and (mostly) happy endings.

A petrified brain in a slingshot )
mark_asphodel: Sage King Leaf (Default)
What it says on the tin.

Alright.  General Seth of Renais, aka the "Silver Knight," appears at first glance to fit neatly into an archetype box.  Older sources will assure you that Seth is "an Oifaye," aka "a Jagen that stays good," but these are now classified as fictions based on a misunderstanding of Jagen's usefulness in FE1 and an inflated sense of what Oifaye can do in FE4.  Stats aside, though, he's definitely appears of a sort with Oifaye, not to mention FE3's Cain, FE5's Finn, and Seth's successors Titania and Frederick in FE9/10 and FE13.  All of 'em are veteran fighters who fall somewhere in their mid 20s to mid 30s-- definitely with an edge of age and experience on the teenaged main cast, but not, you know, Jagen-Mycen-Marcus levels of old.

Seth is definitely top dog among the knights of Renais-- here he is with the resident red/greens, Forde and Kyle, plus Forde's little bro Franz, the requisite n00blet knight.  One would assume Seth to be the eldest of the four by some years.

Except there seemed to be some textual evidence suggesting that Seth might actually be younger than Kyle (and presumably Forde) and must be one hell of a prodigy.  This hypothesis was advanced by korsriddare back on the old magvel comm, and I'll let his evidence speak for itself.

Now, FE8 never gave us concrete ages for anyone but Myrrh and Dozla, so this could certainly be true.  Seth arguably looks older than Kyle'n'Forde, but art can be misleading.  Also, Seth-- unlike all the rest of the Jagens/Oifayes/whatever you wanna call 'em, can get with his leading lady, which might imply he's actually rather close in age to Eirika.  Wouldn't hang my hat on that one, though-- FE doesn't shy away from May/September kinda relationships. (Oifaye has a game-endorsed pairing with a lil' pegasus knight who's probably twenty years younger than he is, and let's not even get into what Frederick can do.)  

So really, it's down to sifting through these little clues from the support conversations.  Does the death of Forde'n'Franz's father ten years ago really imply Seth was a mere apprentice at that time?  And was Kyle truly a fully-fledged knight, possibly Seth's senior, at that same ten-year timeframe?  

Well, I ran the Kyle/Syrene supports by the friendly local FE Japan translation tumblr, and it looks like NoA look a few minor liberties with the text. Nothing earth-shattering to the meaning of the conversation, but the original text just doesn't state that Kyle was a knight ten years before the start of the game.  He was a horseman, yes.  Running errands, yes.  Being very brave, yes.  A knight, not necessarily (and Syrene apparently wasn't either but that's not clear).  Kyle could just as likely have been an overly-conscientious n00blet himself at the time.  He was delivering a letter, fercryingout loud.  Even in "peaceful" Magvel I'd hope they weren't wasting the time of a fully qualified knight with the royal mail service-- there's brigands and pirates and whoever the hell keeps hiring Jehannan mercenaries to worry about.  But an apprentice of, say, thirteen or fourteen who knew which end of the lance to hold and wasn't inclined to get into trouble might well have been entrusted to deliver a letter by himself.  Same goes for Syrene, who could've been a Florina/Shanna/Karin type at the time, able to fly and fight but not properly a knight.   

[It was Kyle's statement about "I had no idea you'd become a knight!" to Syrene that got me on this track again.  This Frelian chick bailed him out of trouble... and wasn't a knight.  Just some random teenager with weapons and a flying pony? It made me wonder if Kyle himself weren't exactly a proper knight in shining armor at the time of this bandit encounter... and, per NoJ, he may not have been.]

In conclusion... d00d, this is Magvel.  At the end of the day we still don't know anything!  We don't know whether or not Seth was still a "mere apprentice" when Forde'n'Franz's father died.  We don't know whether or not Kyle was a qualified knight during that same time period.  We don't know how old they are in relationship to one another or to anyone else beyond that yes, they're both clearly younger than Dozla and Myrrh.

Unless Seth's not fully human and is actually, like, sixty or something.  At this point I'd believe almost anything.

mark_asphodel: Sage King Leaf (Default)
Just to get these thoughts down in one place...

I don't know about y'all but I found little things about the way female characters were handled to be a very off-putting thing in FE13. I didn't like a lot of the Big Things in FE13 either but small disparities really got under my skin. At this point, the high-water mark for the franchise treatment of female characters looks to be Tellius, but it's worth examining the baby steps-- both forward and backward-- it took to get to that level, or even to FE6's level of female empowerment.

Spoilers for FE1-FE10 )
mark_asphodel: Sage King Leaf (Default)
Why not?  The more I write the more I have to think about it.

Jugdral, like most FE worlds, appears to be strictly Northern Hemisphere, possibly at the latitude of Europe considering the snow-covered state of Silesse. Silesse could, however simply be at a very high elevation which allows for the whole continent to be closer to the equator. It really does look like Fake Europe tipped at an angle the way that Archanea/Valentia[*] look like Fake Eurasia and Fake Americas.  Orgahill would be Great Britain, Agustria is France and Verdane Spain, Grannvale is Germany and Miletos Italy, Northern Thracia is the Balkans and Southern Thracia Greece, while the Yied is Poland, Isaac is Ukraine/European Russia, and Silesse is Scandinavia.

But my headcanon doesn't entirely play that way.  My headcanon also says that a warm ocean current akin to the Gulf Stream keeps Western Jugdral much warmer than eastern nations at the same latitude-- so, Northern Thracia and Southern Agustria aren't in the same climate zone, and Souther Thracia is far less warm than the south of Verdane.  Silesse meanwhile takes the full brunt of a cold airstream that glances off Isaach.

My headcanon also doesn't bother mandating a distinction between Old World Food and New World Food like I do with Archanea/Valentia.

* I refuse to call them Ylisse and Valm.

fooooooooood )

So, where does the coffee grow?  We have to have coffee.  Originally I thought coffee might grow in Isaach because hey, "exotic" peoples at the edge of the desert, but the latitude looks aaaaaall wrong. 
mark_asphodel: Sage King Leaf (Default)
Well, I touched on this in the comments of the previous post, but there was more I wanted to say about it.

Fury occupies a special place in Jugdral canon as the only one of the "breeder pool" of FE4 ladies to have her marriage, uh, canonized via FE5 and other sources like the current Jugdral family tree. She's Lewyn's wife, reigning queen of Silesse in his absence, and mother of Forseti!Ced and Fee. She's also dead by the time Year 776 rolls around, but that'd be true regardless of her status re: Lewyn.

Anyway, there's a lot about Fury that's related to us that's really compelling. Once Lewyn bails, it's Fury who has to hold together the tattered remains of the kingdom from their court in Thove/Tovae while at the same time raising and educating Ced'n'Fee. The kids, quite plainly, think the world of her. I love the detail in FE4 about how Fury inspired Fee to become a crusader by telling her stories about Sigurd's campaign. It feels real and natural and yet so many kids kind of blunder into the war or have it otherwise forced upon them that it gives Fee a unique dimension to her character-- and it's all the better for being a warrior mother inspiring her daughter. Lewyn references her stubborness and Ced notes that his mother "could never turn a blind eye to somebody in trouble," traits her crusader kiddies share. Offstage!Fury is all kinds of awesome.

[She's also totally hot. Let us not minimize this aspect of Fury's appeal.]

The Fury get we on screen, however, kind of underwhelms.

Cut. )
mark_asphodel: Sage King Leaf (Default)
X-ref earlier posts on "fanfiction tiers."

I was thinking about Gen 2 again light of a couple of things-- my assertion to the maintainer of the fe-according-to-japan tumblr that "Gen 2 kids enjoy actual popularity in Japan" and a conversation I had with [personal profile] raphiael about "the Julie Taylor test" wrt Fire Emblem characters and fanfiction. Simply put, my version of the Julie Taylor test is that I deem a character poorly written (as opposed to poorly acted) when I cannot fathom their inner life enough to 'fic them. That goes for underwritten SNES characters and it goes for some FE13 characters with pages upon pages of dialogue and nothing whatsoever I can relate to under the surface. It certainly applies to Gen 2 and I have a pile of never-finished WIPs to back it up.

Gen2 kids have four main avenues for establishing characterization.

1) Plot relevance-- cut scenes, recruitment dialogue
2) Family conversations
3) Lovers' conversations
4) Boss battle dialogue

Then you have the odd Easter Egg like Fee's conversation with her pegasus Mahnya.

Anyway, in the spirit of some earlier rankings of characters and how difficult they are to master, here is a tier list of the Gen 2 boys. The girls present a slightly different challenge, as we may (shall?) see.

Long as hell. Under the cut. )

On Kid!Fic

May. 1st, 2013 05:27 pm
mark_asphodel: Sage King Leaf (Default)
[personal profile] kyusil  asked for this ages ago, and since [personal profile] lyndis  mentioned Michelle Tanner... here goes nothin'.

Kids.  What's the matter with kids in 'fic?

Uh... mostly everything.

Kids in fiction tend to be horrible anyway-- witness George Eliot skewering horrible portrayals of little Victorian angels in her rant against bad lady novelists.  We can't reasonably expect kids in 'fic to be much better given what the, ah, professionals churn out.

Long. )

Basically, Toddler Leif is better-written than 90% of the ickle kiddies in fanfic.  Which is pretty damned sad.
mark_asphodel: Sage King Leaf (Default)
Eh.  This post was originally about something else altogether but I think this is a better issue than what I was originally banging on about re: "archetypes" in FE-land.  OK, so we've all seen fans going on about how they like X type of character.  Maybe it's mashing all alleged Devoted Knights[*] together so that Kent equals Seth equals Geoffrey equals whoever the hell, or maybe it's glomping all Angsty Wyvern Riders collectively[**], or all "Navarres" or all the "Julians" or... eh, whatever.  Y'all know what I'm talking about.  

And that, at least in 'fic, leads to the characters in question being blurred and mushed and just not themselves.  I'll never forget the 'fic I read that was allegedly about Navarre wherein the author deliberately used the characterization of FE7!Karel for Navarre because they knew Karel and didn't know anything in-depth about Navarre himself.  OK, we've talked about this phenomenon more than a few times.

But, actually... isn't the opposite kind of the case, if you're actually into the characters and not just the niche they fill?  I think what I've found, personally, is that if I latch onto a particular Pegasus Sister Trio, or a particular Angsty Wyvern-Riding Turncoat, and so on, then the other ones of that type just don't DO it for me.  I mean, I might have some (or a lot) favorable bias toward them, but it's just not the same intensity of feeling.  And the clone characters may be good characters, but they're just a little too similar along Axis X and a yet a little too different along Axis Y when compared to the character I actually love.

It's like the Dick York/Dick Sargent thing in Bewitched, in a sense.  Yeah, superficial resemblance.  Yeah, playing the role and reciting the dialogue.  But I liked Dick York better, dammit, so please bring Original Darrin back and send this impostor packing, stat.  And some people, somewhere, liked Dick Sargent better.  These people are wrong, but whatever.

But I think this gets to the heart of why I just can't work up any enthusiasm for, say, the FE6 Pegasus Trio sisters or other characters who strike me as too much the New Darrin when held up against a character I actually like.  I lovelovelove Palla-Catria-and-Est.  Something about the FE6 girls just feels kind of hollow to me, whereas the FE7 Peggies have moved enough along the "same" and "different" axes that I like them a good deal better[***], and then by FE8 we still have three Peggies but only Syrene's hairstyle hews all that close to the template.  

(And you can argue that green-haired sisters Syrene and Vanessa are evoking Mahnya and Fury instead, but they are most certainly NOT replicants of Mahnya and Fury.  Syrene and Vanessa are, um, Syrene and Vanessa.)

Anyway, I don't know if anyone else gets their hackles up when confronted with the New Darrin phenomenon in Fire Emblem, but I'd sure like to hear it if you do.  Because it does seem to explain why I just can't warm up to some characters even though, working off a characterization/archetype checklist, I "should" be crazy about them.

Note: This is one criticism I cannot level against FE13.  Chrom and Cordelia aside, I don't think there was anyone in FE13 who really set off my New Darrin radar.  And if there was, I've mercifully forgotten it. 

* Usually "all the ones they know about," as in nothing pre-FE7 and nothing from the Archanea reboots.  This is probably a good thing, at least for me.  

** Ditto.  They're not gushing over Dean.  

*** Mostly Farina's doing.

On Glade

Apr. 18th, 2013 05:03 pm
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Glade. Or Grade, if you prefer.

He generally referred to as "Finn's best friend." Which he is. Only close friend, really. Maybe a "special" friend, depending on what you want to read into Selphina's little rant in Chapter Nine. But this isn't about that.

Nope, this is about why Glade even exists.

I was going to write about FE power couples and got sidetracked )

I've no idea why all this changed to the extent that it did, why going through FE5 leads to a repeated sense of "Remember that thing you saw in FE4? DIDN'T HAPPEN!!!" But it most certainly changed, and I can only assume the designers had their grand design.
mark_asphodel: Sage King Leaf (Default)
I think every Fire Emblem saga has a moment that acts as a reckoning for the main character, a pivot point where they realize the world just doesn't work the way they think it's supposed to. Sometimes it's a sort of cosmic reckoning, an up-ending of the rules by which their entire world functions, and sometimes it's personal. In Thracia 776, it's quite a political moment, something that can map to our own world in ways that stories about magical artifacts and supernatural bloodlines can't... and therein lies its perverse fascination for me. I quote-mined a good portion of this for my "disturbing stuff in FE5 post," but it's best to see the entire thing in context.

But why can't these slackers get proper jobs? )

It’s not very nice, but I’ll take this line of FE debate over The Power of Friendship any day, thanks.
mark_asphodel: Sage King Leaf (Default)
OK.  So I was looking over AceNoctali's translation of the FE4 epilogue to help with a scene in "While You Were Sleeping." I hadn't looked over that translation in rather a long time and this time around something leapt out at me.

Well, for a start, the fan-translation implies that Azel's dead, which was kind of an issue for my story. But that's what fanfic is for, so never mind. But it also confirmed two other Gen 1 characters as pushing up daises: Ayra and Raquesis. The former was not much of a surprise, given that Larcei's stubborn insistence that her mother wasn't dead seemed like more of a character flaw on Larcei's part, one not shared by her twin.  I've always figured she was dead anyway.  The latter is, uh, explicitly contradicted in FE5.  

And you thought those FE13 Paralogues were problematic. LOL. )

That J!fandom website maintainer who spoke of FE4 as the "Sigurdverse" or however she put it was onto something.
mark_asphodel: Sage King Leaf (Default)
We all have our "types."  Some people like peppy mages, some like dark mages, some like "noble" paladins, some like thieves, some like swordmastery-myrmidon types even though any continuum with Navarre at one end and Mia at the other makes no sense.

And one thing I am absolutely a sucker for, apparently, is a particular kind of FE squishy boy.

mark_asphodel: Sage King Leaf (Default)
So, I made some new pals over on GameFaqs after some of us hijacked a troll thread on the FE13 forum and turned in into a debate over whether Sigurd, Eltoshan, or Cuan was the biggest dumbass in Jugdral.  (Hint: Sigurd.)  And one of these new pals compared the plot of FE4 to FE13 in that both start off very strong and turn into a "clusterfuck" (though s/he also took points off FE13 for blatantly riffing off FE4).
I think "clusterfuck" is a strong term for Gen 2.  It's dramatically flawed to the point where it both challenges adaptation and undercuts its own "aria" moments in the script, to be sure.  I've pondered before what precisely is so bad about it, and I had a handful of answers.
Spoilers and opinions )PS: Chrom's ultimately a bigger dumbass than Sigurd, too.
mark_asphodel: Sage King Leaf (Default)
I'll say right up that I love the atmosphere and ambiguity of Thracia 776 and I'd like another FE game along those lines (but without the BS elements to gameplay, thx). But there is a lot, and I mean a LOT of stuff there to make the player go, "Hm." Here is an incomplete list of messed-up stuff in Thracia 776, with a rating system-- 1 to 5 on the WTF scale, with 5 being jaw-dropping.

Note: these are not necessarily plot holes or the characterization equivalent thereof, as I'm willing to believe that many discrepancies between FE4 and FE5 were deliberate retcons.  There's too many of them not to be.  They may be problematic in a meta sense, but not necessarily nitpick problems.

In chronological order... )

And to show I have no hard feelings against the game or its characters, I wasted my writing time this weekend on 5K words of gooey Finn/Raquesis sugar.  No, really.
mark_asphodel: Sage King Leaf (Default)
I am seriously bummed out today. See, my most excellent spouse and I have some mutual friends we've known for about fifteen years. We all met on the same Usenet group in the late 90s and they, like us, became an item after a few years and have been together now for more than a decade. We've stopped by their apartment in the next state over, petted their cats, gone out to dinner, and maintained an online relationship through the years. They mean more to us than 99% of our friends from the brick-and-mortar universities we attended in those halcyon Usenet days.

Now they've broken up, for good, with the root cause being mental illness that's basically crippled one of the pair. It's terrible and sad and, given the length of time things have been crumbling, inevitable. Some people can't be fixed, or the fix is something that costs them the life they used to have. But it's just depressing as hell.

So, I will resurrect a post I started on last year, after feeling another overdose of fannish sentiment that Fire Emblem is aaaaaall about making happy love relationships. Whatever you think of FE13, that sure wasn't always the case. Here's some relationships that weren't built to last, and I don't mean relationships that were doomed from the start because of trickery or some other coercion (Hardin/Nyna, Arvis/Deirdre), or something like Lewyn/Fury wherein the supernatural is clearly at play. I mean relationships that people fuck up themselves on their own time, because of who and what they are. Fifty percent of this is old news to y'all because the germ of this post is so old, but two of these topics are things I've never harped on before that are at least worth a look.

Relationshippy spoilers for Archeanea, Jugdral, Elibe, and Tellius )
mark_asphodel: Sage King Leaf (Default)
That final chapter was strange.

Discussion of gameplay )


Discussion of storyline and morality )

Yeah. So when's that King vs King DLC coming out?


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