Doctor Strange: A (mostly spoiler-free) Review

Tonight, my housemate Gareth and I went to see the latest Marvel movie, Doctor Strange. I was mildly anxious about it, given the whole whitewashing thing they pulled with Tilda Swinton, but at least the director has since owned up to it, which I respect, condemnation aside. It’s handwaved in the film by their claim she’s of Celtic descent, rather than an outright Asian woman, but as a white person, it’s really not up to me to say if that’s an acceptable excuse or anything like that, and I hope the high-profile racebending is addressed and fixed satisfactorily in the inevitable sequel.

That said, I did find Swinton’s performance to be the strongest in the film, bringing resilience, serenity and maturity to the role of the Ancient One that is both soothing and authoritative simultaneously. She plays an excellent mentor with considerable depth and the implications surrounding her character and her decisions are fascinating to watch. It’s the kind of role I would love to see more of Swinton in in future performances.

Unfortunately, the person she interacts most with is Benedict Cumberbatch’s titular Stephen Strange, who may be the most punchable “man of science” fictional character since the entire cast of The Big Bang Theory. There is nothing redeeming or likeable about the selfish, arrogant, prat of a man whose actions utterly fail to reflect what we are routinely told about him. It’s claimed that Stephen got in to medicine to help people, but he frequently contradicts this in the early scenes, turning down cases that aren’t “interesting” or could damage his “perfect record” in surgery. It is impossible to develop any sense of sympathy for him, even when he receives debilitating nerve damage from a car accident (that is entirely his own fault – so much so that the film includes a disclaimer about dangerous driving in its credits) that kills his career as a neurosurgeon stone-dead, his lashing out, particularly towards Rachel McAdams’ Christine Palmer, renders him utterly contemptible. It never gets better, Stephen is supremely arrogant and lacks foresight or care about consequences and really doesn’t grow as a character, other than accepting the whole magic and mysticism thing.

Strange has been compared to Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark, but I would disagree – he is much less endearing, and it is not at all helped by Cumberbatch’s performance. He utterly fails to hold a convincing American accent, he frequently mumbles lines and oh, lord, the action scenes are not his strong suit. Neither is the nerve damage in Strange’s hands, which is incredibly inconsistent throughout the film. Sometimes it takes him great pain and effort to open his hands, other times he’s casting spells without a care. It really sucks you out of the film, which is a shame, because Strange‘s strongest asset is its world-building and atmosphere. The visual effects are utterly breathtaking (though if I were Christopher Nolan, I’d probably be calling my lawyer) and the opening scene in which The Ancient One fends off the (incredibly forgettable, but it’s a Marvel movie, so what else is new) villain Kaecilius and his thugs on the side of a building, sets the tone for unequivocably the best-looking Marvel movie so far, though the action choreography frequently clashes with the visuals, which is a shame. Strange’s cosmic trip as he learns about the world beyond what he can see is also a genuine treat and reminds me very much of Kubrick’s iconic visuals from 2001: A Space Odyssey. That said, the extra-dimensional entity reminds me just way too much of Andross from the original Starfox, and just looks silly.

The final thing I must praise from Doctor Strange is its superbly entertaining supporting cast. I already mentioned Tilda Swinton of course, but Benedict Wong as… Wong (coincidental according to the comic lore), the librarian puts on a delightfully deadpan performance; stonewalling Strange at every turn while still teaching him plenty about the world of magic. Plus you’ve got Chiwetel Ejiofor as Mordo, Strange’s fellow student who serves as a strong foil, and he’s pretty great in everything. Rachel McAdams, sadly (especially as she’s the only other prominent female character), is criminally underutilised and it feels like several scenes of her interacting with Strange ended up on the cutting room floor, probably because Cumberbatch is in his worst performance since Hamlet. It leaves the resolution to their characters arcs feeling very out of left-field and unsatisfying.

Apart from those points, this is very standard Marvel fare. A script with a lot of great jokes (any scene that humiliates or brings Stephen down to earth is a great example), a villain who makes no impact whatsoever, some cosmic lore that enhances the whole cinematic universe and a couple of stingers, with the promise that “Doctor Strange will return!”

Does he have to though? Does he really, really have to? Yes? Damn. Cumberbatch needs to up his game bigtime for his next appearances. It’s confirmed that he’ll be playing a role in Thor 3: Ragnarok, as well as Avengers: Infinity War and at the moment, I can see him being a very weak link in the lineup. Doctor Strange is honestly worth seeing for its cinematography, gorgeous visuals and soundtrack, along with some strong turns, if you can look past the most overrated actor in modern Britain being garbage, and the whitewashing. Still good, just certainly no Iron Man or Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

I am a survivor of sexual assault and ableist abuse

Going to put a content warning here for descriptions of sexual assault, naturally, and ableism.

You’ll be friends with the people you meet in university for life, was advice I was given in upper sixth by one of my French teachers. I believed her and saw the reasoning – by studying the subject of my choosing, I’d be meeting like-minded people with similar interests and personalities, in theory. Once first year began, I latched on to a group and thought we would be good friends. Sure, there was a lot of teasing and needling each other, but for the most part, it was in that vitriolic, but friendly way. Bear in mind I said for the most part. It’s taken me a very long time to come to terms with this, but I now know and believe that those people were abusive towards me. We had our good times, yes, and there was genuine care and affection, yes, but here is the truth of the matter. Firstly, I was always the butt of the jokes, and my autism played a factor in this. They knew I had it but still mocked me for my reactions and pressured and forced me to sing and dance for their amusement despite my obvious discomfort and humiliation while we were spending time together. Some even saw me as a mere resource rather than a human being, just asking me for information and help without even so much as a “Hello, how are you doing”. While I was slightly flattered that I was the first one they came to for help, it also made me feel used and sub-human. I’m not an encyclopaedia. With the benefit of hindsight, therapy, opening my eyes and the support of many truly loving friends, I see this treatment for what it was. Abusive and discriminatory.

The worst thing they did to me came just after we started our second year. One night, we decided to stay in one member of our group’s houses, have a bit of a laugh, some food, some drink and a good time. Sounded like fun. It was four years ago now, but I still remember the night fairly clearly. The night proceeded as normally as one of our nights out always had really, but at about 2am, I’d had enough and decided to go to sleep in the conservatory (a terrible decision – caught a nasty cold). Now once I do get off to sleep, even if it takes a while, I am a very heavy sleeper, especially if I’ve been drinking. I’d had about four or five pints of cider that night, plus a King’s Cup, so while not completely blind drunk, I was still fairly intoxicated, as was everyone else. However, once I did eventually get off to sleep, some of the boys in the group decided it would be hilarious to do things to me while I slept, with one of them rubbing his genitals on my face and putting them in my mouth. I don’t know if photo or videographic evidence of this exists and I don’t want to know.

So from my description, an obvious question comes to mind: how do I know this happened if I was asleep? Simple, I was told. But I was not told out of concern, or out of disgust at what had happened. I was told mockingly, to wound me and to make it clear that I was a complete joke. I wasn’t told immediately. I was told a year and a half later, on the night that we graduated. My graduation was consciously ruined by these people mocking me once again, throwing the fact that I’d been sexually assaulted by one of them (who wasn’t there) at me as a total joke and that they were all complicit. I don’t know where to begin with how incredibly wrong this incident was from start to finish. My trust was abused. I was abused. Criminology students, who are exactly the sort of people who should understand the impact of sexual assault and how criminal what they did was, my peers, abused me and treated me as a joke. And that is deeply concerning on many levels.

It’s been two and a half years since I was told about my assault. I’ve frequently discussed it in therapy. I’ve discussed it with some close friends. I shared it with Everyday Sexism. And while many were sympathetic, some blamed me for passing out. What could I expect? Now that I know, I can’t unknow and I can’t unsee it. I regularly have images of what it might have looked like flash through my mind and keep me up all night. I feel sick. I feel like a thing, a toy. I never went to the police. Why would I? I had no evidence, I know how they treat survivors, and I knew that they would all back each other up. My word against six or seven others’.

That’s my story then. I’m still surviving and doing my PhD. I have much better friends than they could ever hope to have been to me, and if I ever have the misfortune to lay eyes on the one who specifically violated me, or those who enabled him, I’m not sure how I’ll react. Maybe I’ll cry. Maybe I’ll scream. Maybe I’ll fight. Don’t know. Would rather not have to deal with it. I deserve better. Which is the message I want to end on: I deserve better. Talk to your friends about people with autism. Tell them how to treat them with respect. Talk to your friends about consent and sexual assault. Make them understand if they don’t. I can hear people roll their eyes at this. “Decent people don’t rape”. “None of my friends are like that”.

Yeah, that’s what I thought too.

The musical theatre moments that give me chills

Musical theatre has been an enormous part of my life since I discovered it as a young teenager. Granted, of course, I’d seen a lot of the classics around Christmas as a kid. Grease, The Sound of Music, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, and of course, plenty of Disney movies, not that I recognised them as musicals at the time. And while my opinion on the mentioned titled has soured over the years (Disney movies aside), performing in musicals and watching a larger variety over the years has given me a much deeper appreciation for the genre. The introduction of music gives musical theatre an extra tool in story-telling, and when used effectively, can create truly spine-chilling moments and performances that cannot be replicated by any other form of media. That is not to suggest that shows that don’t do this for me or failures – there is merit to the more light-hearted and “frivolous” and some shows just don’t benefit from those types of moments – The Producers and Avenue Q spring to mind, despite being two of my favourites. To celebrate and demonstrate this, I wanted to list off (in no particular order) ten of my favourite moments that really do give me those chills and bring out stronger emotions that simply couldn’t have worked for me without music.

  1. Non-Stop from Hamilton

Beginning with the most recent addition to my list and most recent ear-worm, Hamilton is a brilliant piece of theatre told in an incredibly innovative manner, and I cannot praise it enough. I’m really not a hip-hop or rap fan and yet I honestly cannot get enough of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s masterpiece. But the moment that gives me chills above all others from Hamilton (and it would be easy for me to just stick the whole thing here) comes from the close of Act One and Non-Stop, detailing the titular character’s tireless work ethic and his incredible rise to power and prominence as America begins to set itself up having defeated the British. Narrator and rival Aaron Burr describes it brilliantly in the coda, and his delivery truly sells both how impressed he is and the incredible feats Hamilton is capable of.

Alexander joins forces with James Madison and John Jay to write a series of essays defending the new United States Constitution, entitled The Federalist Papers. The plan was to write a total of twenty-five essays, the work divided evenly among the three men. In the end, they wrote eighty-five essays, in the span of six months. John Jay got sick after writing five. James Madison wrote twenty-nine. Hamilton wrote the other fifty-one!

  1. Tonight (quintet) from West Side Story

Moving back a good 50-60 years now to a musical I’m proud to have performed in and respect hugely, though I strongly question its structure. In most stage performances of West Side Story, the interval is after the rumble and the deaths of Riff and Bernardo. In the performance I worked on, it was instead set after the quintet and before the rumble, allowing the tension to be kept over the break. But I digress. The reprise of Tony and Maria’s romantic duet allows for outstanding harmonies that, as said, dramatically ramp up the tension before the fight between the Jets and Sharks and create contrast between the purity of Tony and Maria’s infatuation and the violent hatred and racial tensions between the two gangs.

  1. Will I? from Rent

This one is slightly more personal – while I was working on a performance of Rent, my great-uncle passed away, the very day that our cast was learning this song and the routine to go along with it. As such, it always brings back memories of how he was after having his stroke, permanently bed-ridden at home. Even without that though, the round creates arguably the most human and tragic moment of Rent. The story of the main cast screeches to a halt as the members of the AIDS support group stare their mortality in the face and question what’ll happen to them as their health inevitably deteriorates. The way the round builds is what sells it for me, growing each verse.

  1. Javert’s Suicide from Les Misérables

Javert is one of my favourite characters in musical theatre, and every confrontation between him and Jean Valjean offers a critical eye on his zealotry, unflappable determination and belief in the justice system, even when it is shown to be wholly and unnecessarily cruel, something Hugo critiqued for a good hundred pages in his original writings. Seeing the character as this moment of vulnerability, worn down from his repeated encounters with Valjean and grappling with his moral quandary shows his resolute stubbornness to adhere to his principles at the effective cost of his life, and the mirror with the show’s opening as he leaps from the bridge to his death is one of Les Mis’ highlights.

I will never forgive Russell Crowe for his mangling of it.

  1. No Good Deed from Wicked

Defying Gravity is the obvious choice, and indeed, it has that effect on me as well, particularly in its final verse, but No Good Deed comes at the lowest point of Elphaba’s life and is all the better for it. The ice in her voice as she declares herself evil because she has no other option is palpable. It’s a very bitter song, full of years’ worth of resentment towards everything that has backfired on the Witch of the West and cost her friends, family and her lover and can hit very close to home for anyone who’s felt similarly misfortunate despite their best efforts. The vocals are incredibly challenging, but very rewarding for any actress who can pull them off, and her pure despair can make for haunting and chilling performances.

  1. The Hunt from Whistle Down The Wind

Another tension-building song, The Hunt is perhaps an unusual choice, but I love the way that the townspeople’s bloodlust reaches its peak here. But juxtaposing it with the children’s innocence and determination to protect The Man, whom they fervently believe is Jesus reborn (literally), and having the adults reprise No Matter What is a brilliant stroke that underpins many of the themes of Whistle Down The Wind, as is highlighting the conflict between Sparrow and her father Boone. It’s the show’s dramatic high point, and is sold almost entirely by performance, as the vocals aren’t especially challenging or interesting – this just speaks to the strength of the lines and music as well as actors’ ability, and is one more wonderful phenomenon within musical theatre.

Take my word for it, I can’t find a link for this one.

  1. Music of the Night from Phantom of the Opera

The musicality of Phantom makes any of its numbers excellent choices for this list but Music of the Night plays to its biggest strength – the Phantom himself and his incredibly alluring character and underpins a lot of what the show is about – the beauty of music in itself. It’s a melodious and gentle piece that directly contrasts with the Phantom’s mighty introduction and is more about his character than his mythos. The contrast is perfect and the wonderful musicality combined with quite soothing vocals make for one of Phantom’s most spellbinding moments.

  1. The Next Ten Minutes from The Last Five Years

The Last Five Years’ unique structure is at its peak here, as the midpoint of the show and the midpoint of their relationship allows for the only point of the show where Jamie and Kathy sing together (though not at the same time). It makes for one of the most romantic pieces in musical theatre, made all the more poignant by the audience’s certain knowledge that things will all end horribly. All at once both beautifully heartwarming, and sure to make the eyes water, The Next Ten Minutes is a romantic duet that pulls at every heartstring it can to drive daggers into the audience’s chests, making the most of dramatic irony.

  1. Mister Cellophane from Chicago

Mister Cellophane is a rather unassuming number – much like the character performing it. It’s a very quietly resentful and self-loathing song from musical theatre’s biggest doormat, but utterly showstopping in its own right and it’s oddly inspiring in that way. In a show full of over the top characters, sex appeal and bombastic jazz numbers, Amos apologises to the audience for taking up their time, but refuses in his own small way to go quietly into the night and stands up for himself by complaining – possibly for the first time in his life. Granted, I’m perhaps reading too deeply into it, but it strikes a chord with many people frightened of confrontation and who consider themselves doormats like Amos. It’s a song that conveys a lot of sadness and his final “never even know” is frequently a haunting moment and highlight of any performance.

  1. Madman from Blood Brothers

I really like the songs where everything just goes to hell, if you can’t tell. Another piece where dramatic tension is built up as high it can go before the finale, Madman is notable for being the culmination of the Narrator’s ominous prophecies – the Devil has Mrs. Johnstone’s number. I’ve had the pleasure to play this part myself, and it’s very hard not to get into it and be almost pleased that things are coming to an end this way. The bombastic vocals are an excellent tool and give off the impression of madness that matches both Mickey’s bloodlust and the mood of the show as Mrs. Johnstone and Linda panic and rush to stop him from shooting his brother dead.

In concluding, writing this post finally got me to put words to exactly why I love musical theatre, why it is so valuable and how strongly it can affect our emotions. May it never cease to do so.

The little ball of rage in my chest.

I am exhausted all the time. I am angry all the time. I am miserable all the time. I struggle not to weep all the time. Why do you think that is?

Every day, I wake up and I dread getting out of bed. I dread checking Twitter or Facebook or any news sites. The latest bullshit is in from a world that utterly despises women, anyone who isn’t white, able-bodied or minded, heterosexual or anything outside their assigned gender. I rant about it on Twitter, feel my heart rate and blood pressure accelerate, that tight little ball of rage in my chest grow hotter and hotter until I want to scream and cry and break down.

What do I have to complain about though? I’m non-binary, yes, but largely male-presenting and even using male pronouns, not to mention white and heterosexual. Autistic as well, but everyone tells me they’d never guess. As if that’s a compliment. That I resist completely being myself and have trained myself to adapt because I’ve been told I have to, not just by parents, but society as well and violent people who despise everyone like me. It is not that long ago that Scott Vineer was beaten and left for dead in the town I live in. It weighs on my mind any time I leave the house, especially at night. But I can get by. It’s empathy though that leads me to feel that ball of rage. Donald Trump argues women should be punished for seeking abortions. And the world continues laughing at the clown, while ignoring that that is currently a reality on the island of Ireland, where women in the North are currently being prosecuted for using pills to induce abortion with a potential life sentence and in the Republic, the 8th Amendment casts a dark shadow over women. Trans men who have not undergone gender reassignment surgery as well, but when was the last time transgender people actually factored into a discussion that wasn’t about how they’re traps or rapists or dangerous or mentally ill? It makes me want to vomit.

Men harass, stalk and beg women to send or post nudes, but god forbid they take any sort of control over their own sexuality – women’s bodies exist solely for male pleasure. Cover yourself up, love. Have some self-respect. Some dignity. But let me have a wank first. The message is clear: men are desperate to control women at all times. They do not exist for themselves. They cannot be allowed to feel pleasure in their own skin, and the vagina is a dangerous thing that must be mutilated in many countries. And should women dare to enter the domain of “men things”, they are treated with pure scorn, accused of wanting it all to themselves, taking it over. Targeted harassment campaigns, such as those against Anita Sarkeesian, Alison Rapp, Zoe Quinn, Brianna Wu and countless other women on the internet and in the gaming industry in particular are increasingly becoming the norm and have already been for years at this stage. Being a woman on the internet is dangerous and even more so if you hold the radical notion that you’re an equal.

The MSM blood ban continues to hold, LGBT rights are run rampant over and their organisations’ funding are slashed, while the DUP councillors who uphold this and prevent change through undemocratic abuse of the petition of concern, intending to keep Northern Ireland as far behind as they can run for re-election and have their posters up already. Edwin Poots and Paul Givan’s faces litter Lisburn everywhere I walk, and the little ball of rage gets hotter when I see the posters.

And this is just everything on my mind over the last 24 hours or so. I have not even scratched the surface of everything that weighs on me constantly and how much I want to work for change and to believe it’s possible, even in the face of all fading hope. The only palatable radical politics come from old, cisgender white men, because when anyone else talks about an unequal society, they’re lambasted and ignored because of their marginalisation. The marginalised are further marginalised. The situation is bleak, and desperate. I want to believe. But every day I get a little sadder. A little angrier. And a little more exhausted. I am so tired of feeling this way. I am tired of the unending torrent of bullshit that is heaped onto anyone considered different. I am tired of people begging for their rights to be recognised as human and treated as equals in a culture of desperate control and marginalisation. I do not want to live in a world like this. Not in my name.

Ask me again why I’m always so angry.

2564 - Final Fantasy V Advance (U)(Independent)

Final Fantasy V Four Job Fiesta Challenge – for Child’s Play (part 6)

Welcome back to a somewhat shorter update in the Four Job Fiesta, dedicated entirely to my favourite part of the game while I explain a little more about why I want to support Child’s Play and why you should consider doing so. For maximum effect, you’ll want to be playing this area’s AMAZING music throughout – Clash on the Big Bridge!

Are you playing that link? Because you really should. It’s a major reason this area is my favourite, and plays throughout every single fight on the bridge. It’s one of my go-to songs when I need to get pumped up.

Big Bridge 1

In a game that surprises you with random encounters every other step in dungeons and on the world map, this is a bold statement – it says you had better be ready for an exhilarating experience. You’ve seen this bridge already – Galuf’s forces were struggling to take it right before he went off to rescue you. Thus, not only are you doing the job an army couldn’t, you’re reinforcing that army against Exdeath and clearing a path to his castle. Slightly awesome.

Big Bridge 2

Every encounter here is predetermined – you’ll be ambushed at set points as you run up the bridge. These guys aren’t too bad, since they don’t have much health, but their Mustard Bomb attack hurts like hell, doing about 300 to a single member. Take them out quickly.

Big Bridge 3

Again, these enemies don’t seem very tough, but it’s the numbers that get you. The game is throwing a horde of weak enemies at you with little respite in an effort to slow you down and wear you down – but you don’t. You toss them aside and keep going and feel like a badass for it.

Big Bridge 4

This was the moment I really began to love Final Fantasy 5 when I played it as a young teenager. I became totally immersed in its world for a while and it helped me escape my troubles for a while. I came away from the game afterwards feeling like I could conquer the world. It sounds so silly, but anyone who plays a video game can say the same thing, after defeating a rough level or boss or something that’s been giving them trouble. It’s a massive stress release in a lot of ways. You just forget. You forget how crap your own world might be to get lost in another. Imagination is an extremely powerful weapon, especially in the hands of a young person. I feel like the adult world laughs at people who do still daydream and imagine worlds like this, even when we perhaps need it the most after a long, hard day or some sort of difficult trauma. But this is the big reason I play games, I always have and always will. From my first adventures with Pokémon Blue to experiences with the Legend of Zelda series and the likes of the Batman games, I want to find myself free and immersed in a world where I am strong, even and especially when I’m struggling to cope with life.

I’m 22 years old. Can you imagine how strong this feeling is for a seven year old who’s never felt shame for loving playing with their toys or games? People with children or who work in childcare, like my mother often find themselves bombarded with comments and knowledge about their favourite movies, tv shows, games and toys (my mother in turn bombards me about it all!). Their faces light up with excitement about these worlds they can access so easily and explore. That’s why I support Child’s Play. To let children hold onto that innocence and excitement. Maybe sometimes we grow up too fast.

Big Bridge 5

Midway through the bridge, we run into Gilgamesh again. Have I mentioned how much I like him?

Big Bridge 6Big Bridge 7

In his first phase, Gilgamesh doesn’t do very much. He hits about as hard as he did when Galuf fought him alone and not fast enough to make him a threat. However, I do use this time to set up Protect on everyone, because…

Big Bridge 8

At this point, Gilgamesh casts Haste, Protect and Shell on himself and starts using the Jump ability. This allows him to do double damage and make himself untargetable for about a second. Jump is the bane of queued attacks, so this battle becomes a matter of waiting for your strike to make sure you don’t whiff while he Jumps.

Big Bridge 9

He’s still not a huge problem, and runs away again.

Big Bridge 10

Like I said, the Gilgamesh fight is only halfway along the Big Bridge! That was a huge shock when I played, that I wasn’t done yet. Had to just keep going through the gauntlet to the very end.

So that’s the Big Bridge. A very simplistic part of this game, but one that holds a dear place in my heart.

Big Bridge 11 Big Bridge 12

To close out the update, I stopped in the next town to pick up the next level of magic! Drain Sword makes my Mystic Knights self-sufficient, Break Sword lets them one-shot damn near anything and Bio Sword is just lovely. Shell is Protect’s magic counterpart and Blink allows for automatic dodging on physical attacks. A lovely selection here.

childsplay_logo

2564 - Final Fantasy V Advance (U)(Independent)

Final Fantasy V Four Job Fiesta Challenge – For Child’s Play (Part 5)

Welcome back to my Four Job Fiesta, where I have quite a long update because I took a lot of screenshots. Today I get my fourth and final job too! As ever, this run is dedicated to the Child’s Play organisation, which receives $15 if I succeed, $30 if I fail, and $10 for each bonus boss I beat. Since I’m playing the Advance version of this game, I’ve decided to go into the added bonus content, and I’ll also be attempting to beat the upgraded versions of Omega and Shinryu and Enuo, each providing another $10 for Child’s Play.

God help me.

But please consider donating to them yourself!

Adamantoise 1

Today’s update begins with an immediate need for an upgrade to the airship we just got because we can’t fly directly to the fortress in the sky – the Ronkan Ruins, where the Earth Crystal is, necessitating picking up some adamantite from the meteor from the beginning of the game. And a tortoise doesn’t like that very much. The Adamantoise isn’t a huge deal though. He does hit very hard, but it’s nothing I can’t outheal, and he’s weak to Ice, so Spellblade makes him easy prey. I do love filler bosses. With that taken care of, it’s on to the Ronkan Ruins themselves, which are, for some reason a) flying and b) guarded by big badass cannons.

Flame Thrower 1 Flame Thrower 2

Frankly the cannons are only really a threat if they come in a mixture of Rocket Launchers (whose only attack takes you down to 1/4 of your health) and the above Flame Throwers whose… Flame Thrower… attack isn’t overly damaging. They’re all weak to lightning though, and my Ninjas have a stupid amount of scrolls to throw.

Soul Cannon 1 Soul Cannon 2

The Soul Cannon is slightly more threatening, and is another potential roadblock. Because I have scrolls to throw at it as well as Thundara Spellblade and White Magic, I can very easily beat it in a damage race though. The Soul Cannon’s gimmick is charging up for about 10 seconds then firing its Beam Cannon. At this stage of the game, it’ll do about half your health and inflict Sap. Always fun. Without reliable ways of exploiting its lightning damage or recovering from its assault, the Soul Cannon can be a considerable problem for Fiesta participants, but one who is still defeatable – I saw one participant exploit the Bard’s Hide ability to dodge the attack since it’s so well-telegraphed and pop out to attack afterwards before hiding again. Clever. The Fiesta really does force creativity sometimes.

Ronkan Ruins 1 R. Ruins 2

The Ronkan Ruins mark another step up in difficulty for the game as a whole, but my scroll-spamming is a major help here. The Ra Mages will cast second-tier spells against you, Ronkan Knights tank your attacks well, Enchanted Fans spam White Wind to heal their groups and Aera against you, Lamias inflict status ailments on you, or will just kill you in one hit with 1000 Needles and then there’s the Hydra and the Ghidra…

R. Ruins 3 R. Ruins 4

These two enemies from the bottom floors of the ruins can really ruin your day (Eh? Ehhhhh? 😉 ) with their powerful Lightning spells, Poison Breath and absorption of elements – especially the Ghidra. They can also take one hell of a beating. I exploited their vulnerability to Confuse and Silence to take them down, though I forgot that the Ghidra is undead, so I could’ve killed it in one hit with the Raise spell. Whatever.

Archeoavis 1

That brings us neatly to the boss, Archeoaevis. He is a dick, with quite high physical defence and four forms. Not that the game actually tells you when he’s going through each form. His physical attacks are mildly painful. Fortunately each of my frontliners has something that gives them a fair chance of dodging (Shields, the Main Gauche, Elven Mantles). He can also confuse characters, so it’s a good thing I have the Esuna spell. Archeoaevis spends most of his time casting Blaze, which of course, inflicts Sap. Again. Yes, this is a trend with bosses. The “gimmick” with the boss is that he uses Wall Change to switch his elemental weaknesses up. He didn’t do this at all during my battle with him. Meaning he stayed without weakness for the entire thing. Cheater. Speaking of which!

Archeoavis 2

I lied when I said he had four forms. The fifth form is where he starts casting the nasty Maelstrom spell, knocking the party down to single digits. Cura spam is my solution. Bartz and Faris do nothing but cast Cura from here while Lenna and Galuf do the heavy lifting. This makes sure that when he does cast Maelstrom, our recovery is quick enough that he can’t take advantage of it and knock anyone out.

It proves effective.

It proves effective.

Despite the whole killing the boss thing, the Earth Crystal still gets broken for some reason, releasing the seal on Exdeath. Oops. At least Galuf gets his memory back!

Memories

Yes, he does this by throwing a question mark above his head away. I love this game. Oh, and then the ruins explode.

Look! Decent capture! I'm the BEST

Look! Decent capture! I’m the BEST

But nobody is here for the plot, because now I have my fourth job. The Earth Crystal jobs are a little bland in my opinion. Chemist is certainly overpowered if you know what you’re doing, but it’s not a class I enjoy. Samurai and Dragoon are quite fun to mess around with, but fairly basic. Samurai dodges and throws money at people, Dragoon jumps out of the way of things. They’re good, but not flashy. I didn’t get any of those.

Dancer

I just wanted to show that this line exists.

I just wanted to show that this line exists.

My final job is the Dancer, probably the least powerful of this bunch, and certainly the most flimsy. Dancer doesn’t have much defence or good equipment options. There are two big gimmicks here – the ability to equip the Ribbon headgear, protecting against nearly all status, while also providing a nice all-round stat buff and the Dance command. This has a 25% chance of confusing an enemy, 25% chance of draining HP, 25% chance of draining MP and 25% of doing 4x normal damage. A bit too random for my liking to be honest. Offensive equipment is also limited to knives, which are rather weak, and only do full damage from the front row (same with Dance), so I can’t stick the Dancer in back for protection without sacrificing damage output.

I can still definitely beat the game with this setup, it’s just going to take slightly more strategy now. Which is a good thing in all honesty. Anyway, now that I have all four jobs for my four characters-

Farewell

Oh, right. Galuf leaves for now. Umm…

Well, no matter. I go to Jachol Cave again to do a little ABP grinding. Bartz becomes my Dancer for now, Lenna goes Ninja and Faris is a Mystic Knight. All eventually get White Magic as their secondary, and believe me, that’s necessary.

Status 1

That’s the post-grind. Now then, the party wants to go find Galuf, so getting to his world requires… something with the adamantite and the meteors I dunno it isn’t explained very well. This requires three filler bosses! One of which causes my first party wipe, so I end up fighting them all twice. I forgot to save before each, yes.

Purobolo 1 Purobolo 2 Purobolo 3

The Purobolos are first, and are easily dispatched by throwing two scrolls at them. Their gimmick is that upon dying, each Purobolo will cast Arise, which revives all the dead ones. However, killing them all at once means they all cast Arise while still technically alive? I don’t really get how it works, but it means they fail. If you can’t kill them all at once though, they only have enough MP to cast Arise once each and have about 2000 HP, so it’s still not too hard a fight. Unless they blow up on you while they have high health. They didn’t though, so meh.

Titan 1 Titan 2 Titan 3 Titan 4

Titan is slightly more problematic. He hits HARD and has adequate defence. The biggest threat is his Earth Shaker ability, which he’s using in that third screenshot. It damn near kills my whole party, so Cura spam is a must. Apparently I could’ve really trivialised Titan by going back to the North Mountain and Confusing a Gaelicat, so that it would cast Float on my party, nullifying Earth Shaker. Oh well. Titan’s big dick move is that he casts Earth Shaker when he dies as well, so if you kill him with less than full health, you’re gambling. It took out Bartz both times I did this fight. At least after the fight, Titan is nice enough to submit to our will and let us summon him… But I have no Summoner.

DEATH

The Manticore is the last of the three filler bosses and he is a complete tool. Titan but with more options and no way of trivialising him with a Float spell. The Manticore will attack physically, but he’s more likely to use Aqua Breath, which is exceptionally painful and Frost, which isn’t quite as bad, but inflicts Sap.

Manticore 1 Manticore 2 Manticore 3

I do manage to come out on top the second time around, but only through patience and Cura spam. You may be noticing patterns in my boss strategies and Square’s techniques for making bosses painful. But with that, all three meteorites are cleared and it’s off to Galuf’s world.

Sword Dance

I took this for two reasons. Firstly to show off Sword Dance, which is the Dancer’s best way of dealing damage without a subcommand and to show the Pao. When you land on Galuf’s world, you land on an island you can’t move from. Progressing the story requires using a Tent. These Paos, the only enemy you’ll find here will always drop Tents. Game design! I could farm these for a while, but that feels unnecessary. I didn’t cap it, but I actually had Dancer Bartz beat the Abductor you’re supposed to lose to here. He confused him with Tempting Tango and then drained the life out of him. See, Dancers are awesome. Sometimes. But the plot intervenes and makes me open a chest full of knockout gas instead so I can get captured, meaning it’s Galuf to the rescue!

Galuf alone

I probably should’ve given Galuf both Moonring Blades as soon as he found the party’s equipment and stuck him in back, but it really wasn’t necessary, especially since he had White Magic as his secondary. This came in handy against everybody’s favourite FFV character.

Gilgamesh 1 Gilgamesh 2

Gilgamesh! Galuf set up Protect on himself, watched Gilgamesh bounce off him and beat him for a while until Gilgamesh declared that he was letting me go this time. Gilgamesh is a great example of this game’s silliness and he only gets better. I love him. After that, Galuf gets the party out and I swap around the jobs a bit to let everyone get some experience in a class they either haven’t used yet. Bartz is a Ninja for now, Galuf goes back to White Mage, Faris starts getting Dancer experience, leaving Lenna in Mystic Knight.

Status 3

And that’s it for now! Next time is my favourite part of the game – The Clash on the Big Bridge! Stay tuned!

childsplay_logo

2564 - Final Fantasy V Advance (U)(Independent)

Final Fantasy V Four Job Fiesta challenge – for Child’s Play (Part 4)

Apologies for not updating this run recently – been very busy. Even in this update I don’t really get a lot done and mostly just side quest. Still, it’s fun. And as always, please consider donating to Child’s Play, they’re doing wonderful work. I know it doesn’t seem that useful – toys for kids in hospital? Who cares, right? – but here are a couple of examples from their site of just how important and helpful these can be.

This gift allows us to make the child as comfortable as possible. Hospitals can be scary places, and things like movies and video games give the children a sense of normalcy in what is not a normal situation for them. – Patti Brahe, senior vice president of Parkview Women’s and Children’s Hospital

Our department has had these items on our ‘wishlist’ for years, knowing that with them we can support our patients in new and better ways. Believe me when I say the donation we received could not have come at a better time. Not only will it provide our patients with support, distraction, and therapeutic play, it has already revitalized our staff morale. – Bethany L. Fisackerly, Child Life Specialist

There are a lot more testimonials on the Child’s Play website I linked, making it honestly a pleasure and a privilege to support them through the Four Job Fiesta, which as of this post (to be clear I mean the event as a whole, not me specifically, obviously) has now raised over $10,000 for the charity – we’re now shooting for $12,500!

At the end of the previous update, I had unlocked my third job, Ninja, and proved that I should consider buying a lottery ticket. So, to continue the plot, I need to fix the boat, but Cid won’t do it because he’s a mopey panda, which necessitates heading to the Library of Ancients. Partly because we need to find his grandson Mid to cheer him up (not that the game explains this), partly because it’s the only new place we can go now that we’ve… exploded Karnak Castle. You’d think that we’d face some sort of repercussions for that This is another reason I ended the update by grinding – as you may have seen, I ended up with all my characters at level 16, which is rather helpful for this dungeon.

Why no, the Library isn't a problem for me.

Why no, the Library isn’t a problem for me.

It’s even less of a problem considering I have three spellblade users, two of which dual wield. All the enemies in here are weak to fire, meaning Spellblades cleave it in half, and Black Mages burn it to a crisp. But the main reason to not be level 15 in this place is that it makes you a target for one enemy’s Level 5 Death spell – Page 64, who naturally I didn’t screenshot.

That’s going to be a theme this update. Anyway, these… books… are the only enemies who show up in the library, so it’s a bit of a joke. Speaking of jokes!

But I don't even have a summoner...

But I don’t even have a summoner…

Ifrit is effectively the midboss of this library, you can’t proceed without acquiring him. Fortunately, I have Spellblade.

Yes yes, very intimidating.

Yes yes, very intimidating.

Ifrit will essentially just spam fire attacks, with his most threatening one being Blaze. He’s like a less intimidating Liquid Flame really. Yes, it’ll hurt if he single targets, but Cura fixes that no problem if you keep your health topped up.

The God of Hellfire ladies and gents.

The God of Hellfire ladies and gents.

Yeah… Needless to say Ifrit gets dropped in about three rounds, because dual-wielding Ninjas with Spellblade wreck him.

Sensing a theme there?

Scrub.

Scrub.

I’m pretty sure I had more trouble with Shiva, frankly. And I definitely have more trouble with the other summon I acquire this update. Spoilers.

Ifrit gets RESULTS.

Ifrit gets RESULTS.

With that, it’s on to the rest of the library, which is honestly a pretty short jaunt until we reach its end-boss, Byblos. Who is another book.

Byblos 1

Book burning time!

Byblos is a boss who is potentially problematic if you don’t really understand what you’re doing or have been unlucky with either the RNG or your job rolls. He has a lot of nasty counters that inflict status ailments, including Toad and Confuse. He’ll also halve your level to hamper your stats with Dischord, buff himself with Protect when struck with physicals (though this is random) and halve your MP with Magic Hammer.

Byblos 2 Byblos 3 Byblos 4

However, he is also weak to fire, I have dual-wielding Ninjas with Spellblade, and I actually only got him to use Protect once. Seriously considering that lottery ticket thing, Byblos’ biggest attack is his Drain spell, which is still very painful at this point in the game, though at least the health he replenishes from it is nothing compared to what I’m doing. Look, I even captured his special boss fadeout! I’m the best blogger ever 😉

Anyway, we get Mid, and thus get our hands on a boat, which if we’re playing normally will last us a grand total of five minutes. FFV is really schizophrenic about its vehicles. However, I decide to sail over to Jachol first, intending to upgrade my equipment (which I didn’t capture) and grind some ABP in the Jachol Cave (most of which I didn’t capture either). The equipment I get is very useful though, most notably the Mage Masher daggers, which can inflict Silence at random. I have plans for this, much later down the line.

Tiny, but deadly.

Tiny, but deadly.

The treasure in the cave is mostly useless, but the encounters aren’t. Formations of Nut Eaters are the most common, easily killed and delivering 2 ABP. The Skull Eaters give 5 ABP, but a) good luck hitting, damaging and killing them, and b) good luck surviving a fight with them. They’re nice enough to flee most of the time though, awarding you ABP anyway. What a bro. You’ll notice that I switch Lenna to Mystic Knight and Bartz back to White Mage, to let them both get some experience in their other classes. That’s the only new thing I can do with the boat, so we sail over to Crescent, where the boat is promptly sunk in an earthquake. I do… things in Crescent? I think? Look I did this a week ago and there isn’t much in Crescent that’s very useful for me at this stage. I do get the Black Chocobo though, so that’s lovely. And now I can access a few more places – Istory Village to pick up the Toad and Esuna spells (I forgot I could get Esuna in Karnak Castle) and encounter an optional summon. Sidequesting!

Wild old man attacks!

“Get off my lawn!”

Ramuh is the most challenging of the three elemental summons at this stage in the game, mainly because I can’t absolutely ruin him with Spellblade. It’s a more straightforward slog through his 4000 HP. Shockingly, Ramuh mostly sticks to lightning spells, which are fairly damaging. and puts Bartz on constant healing duty, occasionally supported by Lenna, while the ninjas rip into him. If the Mage Mashers got to silence him, (both Ninjas have one) this would be a breeze, but he’s immune to it. It’s a fairly standard battle of attrition, but nothing I can’t handle at this point of the game. So of course I didn’t capture most of it.

Next on the list is Lix Village, which is mostly useful for abusing the half price discount for items, getting some backstory for Bartz and purchasing throwables for Ninjas! … Which I forgot about until after the next boss, so sequence breaking ahoy.

Kind of wish I'd remembered to do this before Sandworm...

Kind of wish I’d remembered to do this before Sandworm…

The scrolls are for elemental damage and are currently my only way of dealing damage to a whole enemy party. I buy twenty of each. Shuriken are stupid expensive and not damaging enough to justify it at this stage. Note the Water Scroll in particular – it’s my only way of dealing WATER damage, because in FFV, Water and Ice are completely different things and elements. Maybe Ice is made of frozen lemonade or something.

Enough stalling, because it’s onto the biggest challenge of the update, and a major Fiesta roadblock. We go to the Desert of Shifting Sands to do battle with the Sandworm, so we can cross its corpse to chase a king’s ghost through a ruin to fall into a trap and get an airship as a result.

No, really, that’s what happens. FFV is so silly.

Why can holes cast magic?

Why can holes cast magic?

So: the Sandworm. Ordinarily, this boss is a matter of patience. He moves between the three holes here, so mashing A is not recommended, especially because the holes will (somehow) counterattack when you hit them with Gravity, halving your HP. The Sandworm’s only attack meanwhile is Quicksand, dealing a flat 60 damage across your party, but inflicting Sap, causing your HP to tick down rapidly. It’s like poison, but with more pressure.

Note: Ice is not Water.

Note: Ice is not Water.

The Sandworm is weak to water, which means that if I’d remembered to buy those scrolls in Lix before, I could’ve trivialised him (though I’d have incurred my fair share of Gravity counterattacks for Bartz to tend to). Oh well, where would the challenge be in that, right? Lenna is using the Blizzara spellblade here and her damage at its normal rate, because water and ice are totally different things, because fuck you, that’s why.

So why is the Sandworm a roadblock if you’ve been unlucky? The biggest problem is lacking a decent healing option at this point of the game outside of White Mage, which you more than likely haven’t rolled. That means you’re relying on Potions to heal, which at 50 HP a heal have long since outstayed their usefulness. The rate at which Sap ticks your HP down constantly turns the fight into a mixture of a damage race and a war of attrition, and god help you if you incur a Gravity counter… Which is damn near guaranteed if you have, say, a Berserker, which targets enemies at random. There ARE ways to trivialise him – Water scrolls from Ninjas, Aqua Breath from the Blue Mage or capturing a Dhorne Chimera with a Beastmaster (which deals absolutely absurd damage to Desert-type enemies), but the Sandworm is a potentially brutal fight that is very hard to keep up with the damage from.

But I have White magic. Bartz spams Cura and we get through.

Yeah, Ninjas are awesome.

Yeah, Ninjas are awesome.

… This by the way is what Water Scrolls do to enemies in the desert.

So after that, it’s on to the ruins, where the things I described earlier happens. Chase the ghost. Fall in a pit. Get an airship. Pick up the Mini spell on the way. And then get randomly attacked by a “boss” that clung to the airship as it rose. For those of you keeping score at home, this is the third vehicle in this update, yes.

A palette swap? Why it's not even my birthday!

A palette swap? Why it’s not even my birthday!

Cray Claw is a pathetic reskin of the game’s second boss, right down to his stupid Tail Screw attack. I finish him in two hits by having Ninjas throw Shuriken at him. I found them while picking up Mini.

Freakin ninjas, be less amazing.

Freakin ninjas, be less amazing.

Yep.

Next time, I’ll use this airship to finally go hunt for that Earth crystal… Right after I go buy some more scrolls.

Status!

Status!

childsplay_logo