Ep. 140 - The Other Belmont

In this episode of Insert Credit, we delve into the contents of the latest issue of Game Speculator. Music ‘Theme of the Cheetahmen’ from Action 52, Remix by YouTube User GaMetal Remix and ‘Reincarnated Soul, Part 2 (Stage 1)’ from Castlevania Bloodlines.

**Questions this week:**

  • 1. The Legacy of Andy McNamara (05:03)
  • 2. Is Video Game Box Art Important? (11:41)
  • 3. Worst Industry First Impressions (17:42)
  • 4. Video Game Dog Toys (24:20)
  • 5. THEME SALE: Super Punch-Out, Skies of Arcadia, Ratchet & Clank Future: A Crack in Time, Resonance of Fate, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (30:22)
  • 6. What beloved games are mostly regarded for their localization? Question by Patreon Supporter Colin (41:25)
  • 7. The “Luck” Stat (48:11)
  • 8. The Most Inaccurately Adapted Sport (53:50)
  • 9. Super Coen Bros. (1:00:25)
  • 10. The New York, California, Nevada, Indiana, and Florida of Video Games (1:07:32)
  • LIGHTNING ROUND: Name a Fake Castlevania Game (1:15:07)

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    O Brother, Where Art Thou feels like it could have had an amazing bad SNES adaptation in the 90s that you‘d get at Blockbuster for a weekend and then forget about. It’s really vignette-y in a way that would translate weirdly well to individual sidescroller levels, and a lot of them even have their own boss. You could fight Big Dan, Baby Face Nelson, the sirens, the Klansmen… since Big Dan already returns as a Klansman, maybe all the bosses come back in that scene and it‘s like a Mega Man-style endgame boss rush. That Governor guy maybe fights with a broom, and the Little Man is bouncing around and he’s invincible… I have too many ideas

    Oh, and you usually play as Everett, but you find Delmar and Pete in the levels chained up and breaking rocks, and it's like freeing Diddy from the barrel in Donkey Kong Country. You can switch between them, and each one has a different skill. Everett shoots text projectiles from his mouth, Delmar can turn into a toad, and I dunno, maybe Pete has the longest life bar or whatever. When you have the full trio, you can unleash a Soggy Bottom Boys performance that wipes all onscreen enemies

    This defamation of Final Fantasy Tactics will not stand.

    Maybe we will get into it in a future episode so that it'll stand even harder!

    Box art! I‘d say it was supremely important in the Atari/8bit days where you needed that visual aid to get your imagination to fill in the gaps between pixels. One green block looked much like any other so something had to inform you that no, that’s an Intrepid Explorer you‘re controlling!

    16-64bit is when the box art could get abstract (obligatory Phalanx mention) because the graphics could begin to resemble what they were trying to portray.

    Then you get into the PS2/DC era where the box art might as well be (and often was!) a screenshot of the game, kinda boring really. PS3/360 was more of the same, and I don’t think it's changed much since except for deliberately “artistic” box art, special editions and such.

    We should bring Criterion Collection covers back.


    Man…. I can understand preferring other TRPGs (including Tactics Ogre) for strictly abstract mechanical reasons, but FFT is about the full package and nothing else I’ve played has come close. Maneuvering your dudes feels cool. Mixing and matching your Job abilities like FF5 on steroids is about as big a thrill as RPG menus can deliver. The sprites and art direction are gorgeous; the soundtrack is amazing; the plot is still one of my favorite in video games and so well conveyed that Ivalice feels alive and lush with history even though you only ever see it in isometric maps.

    Yeah the balancing isn’t the greatest and focus on individual units over group tactics kinda fucks with the flow of battles, but idk, I think if people consider it the gold standard for the genre there are some very good reasons beyond just having a big name attached. (Though these days, Gen Z-ers are likelier to have _Fire Emblem_ as their genre reference point than _FFT_ I’d suspect)

    In some fairness: _Into the Breach_ taught me just how dissimilar an isometric tactics game can actually be from _FFT_! That took a bit of adjustment but it was worth it.

    Also I want to have a bit of whatever spiked braggadocio juice Tim is on because I obsessively worry I make a bad first impression on everyone.

    Warms my heart to hear all the Minnesota talk this week. Grew up there. Love me some lakes!

    Also the first time I've heard anyone mention Child of Eden (was it ever called Project of Eden?) in years. Kind of doomed itself to obscurity being a 60$ sub-3 hour artsy arcade rail shooter that required an expensive peripheral in 2011, but at least it's affordable now! Picked it up for pennies a couple years ago when i was on a light-gun binge. That game's pretty cool.

    Well, I understand that folks like it! But for me:

  • - the art, while nice, is designed around forcing you to move the camera to see characters, hiding things behind height fields. They really wanted to show that you could rotate the map, but then they made rotating the map take ages and only go one laborious quarter turn per rotation. This is a minor blocker.
  • - the job system slows down gameplay by a) being relatively obtuse and not giving you much information about why you should use it or where the characters will go and b) making your characters not that good for a couple rounds as they level up, while you figure out if this character is even good for this job, etc. That is not fun to me, I really dislike the job system a lot, not just for the pacing interruption but for the imperfect information provided.
  • - grabbing items from downed enemies etc is another "let's slow this down" element that makes you make a choice between attacking and getting items - but it's not a fun or interesting choice, because of course you want items, and of course you need to attack - so you wind up wanting to leave one enemy alive so you can go around collecting items or whatever which also slows things down unless you just decide not to do it.
  • - the focus on individual units also messes with the flow of battle as you mentioned.
  • - the story (no offense!) is probably oriented toward folks that read all the bonus lore in an open world RPG - it's very details-oriented and written in a stilted way and not very character focused (as I recall), and winds up being a bunch of relationships and terms to learn without having a character to connect to emotionally. seems like you feel differently about that!

  • So for me, it's a game with nice art and a stilted battle flow that just feels very dated, and was supplanted by tactics games that came after it. It's not nice to *play* for me, though I understand why some folks like to experience it. Of course I accept that other people will feel differently, but after playing a lot of other tactics games I just could never come back to this one. The first tactics game that really stuck with me was Black Matrix, and I think a lot of that was thematic, because aside from a few cool ideas, it's pretty straightforward. But after Jeanne D'arc (which has a dumb story), I realized what a tactics game that feels good to play could be like, and any game that slips below that line just won't cut it for me!


    I don’t think you have to read any of the supplemental lore entries to understand the plot! I didn’t, and I played the game with the sometimes-barely-coherent PSX translation to boot, and it certainly left an impression on me. All the political structures and machinations and complex relationships between characters can get a tad convoluted, for sure, but I appreciated the complexity of the game’s setting because it serves the story quite well. Ramza is a decent dude in a brutal world who really just wants to do the right thing, but the byzantine and amoral power politics that surround him often make it difficult to tell what that is, and his socially privileged position within a horribly unequal society makes that basic moral anxiety all the more compelling. To me that’s a pretty strong narrative foundation on which to stack a bunch of worldbuilding and lore. I buy the world and this sense of the story being fictional history in motion because I buy into the basic dramatic contradictions at its center, which imo makes it more like a genuine epic than something like Elder Scrolls that approaches the concepts of worldbuilding and lore from this detached, clinical kind of vantage point.

    _Tactics Ogre_ and _FFTA_ both lack some of the retrograde quirks in _FFT_’s system like the slightly wonky 3D battlefields (which I still kinda like) and ridiculous item/crystal farming mechanics (which I always regarded as just a nugget for completionists more than an integral part of the game design). Though _FFTA_, for better or worse, goes even harder on Job min-maxing and such. Weirdly, I tried playing _Jeanne D’Arc_ a couple years back and found it incredibly stilted and dull! The PSP’s loading times seemed to make battles especially sluggish. The game systems felt just like _FFT_’s except dumbed down. Does it take a while to get good or something?

    I also gotta confess I’ve never looked deeply into the large _FFT_ modding scene, which I’m told has produced some pretty excellent stuff.

    ah, with the story I wasn‘t complaining about there being extra lore to read - I was saying the main game reads like elder scrolls lore tomes! it felt detached and clinical to me. but it’s been a while, maybe I'd appreciate it more now…? I dunno.

    Jeanne D'arc smooths everything out for me, and the god armor system leads to an interesting play style, because anyone with god armor gets an extra move after a kill. So you get into a state where you use all your non-armored folks to do some damage to enemies, and then hopefully you've positioned an armored unit to try to take as many of them out in one go as possible. also just basic things like crafting, camera movement, auto-selection for default actions, etc has all been made player friendly.

    I only just now learned there was a modding scene! somewhat curious about that now.


    More Castlevania titles:

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    Megamix of Malevolence

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    Medley of Deadly

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    Tuba of Tears

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    Trombone of Trepidation

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    Polka of Pain

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    Ocarina of Time

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    Clef of Deaf

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    Hornpipe of Horror

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    Wah-wah of wuh-oh

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    Piano of pain-o

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    Scherzo of Shadenfreude

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    Hymn of Grim

  • Song of wrong

    FFT has the fatal flaw of incentivising really boring grind. When I was struggling with the game, my friend advised me to get the last enemy in a random battle down to low health so that they would run into a corner and leave my guys alone, then just stand them in a grid and get them to all attack each other for like an hour straight for job xp. Terrible.

    I do think the job system has a lot going for it but it's gated behind too much of a slog. I understand
    a) if you're good at the game you won't need to grind and
    b) people enjoy grinding
    but I think the game would live up to it's reputation more of it was less stingy in giving out job points, so experimenting with builds wouldn't be so much of an investment.

    pop song of punishment

    top forty of hurty

    Is Video Game Box Art Important?:

    I really appreciate releases that have reversible covers, especially if it's the original cover from the region it came from, and it seems to be way more common now. It felt like for a while XSEED was the only one really doing that.

    Limited Run definitely helped fulfill a dream of being very involved in packaging design, and there have been moments where I might not grab a limited physical of a game I actually want if the packaging just wasn't thrilling enough.

    The recent Steam launcher update was cute, changing game banners in the library to be more vertically oriented and game-box-like to match other game launchers like GOG Galaxy and the Epic Store. Close enough to resemble a digital _Cool Gamer Shelf_ without diving completely back into mid 2000's skeuomorphism. Now if only I could flip them around to have a back-of-the-box description of the game with some screens instead of going to a separate page.

    _Worst Industry First Impressions:_
    I was going to an afterparty/drink gathering and a friend invited Manami Matsumae to join us. We were introduced, and I instinctively gave her my business card. She was nice enough to dig through her purse to give me her's in return, but it was kinda rude at the time.

    _About Lunar:_
    I kinda want to revisit it now and see how dated the localization and jokes feel.

    It's been so long since I played it, but I did end up getting both Lunar and Lunar 2 on the Playstation with all of the plastic and fabric bells and whistles, including a Magic Emperor Ghaleon punching doll. I'll never say it's the best RPG ever, as I did get sick of grinding in them and eventually turned to cheating just to see the story through, but I think I was mostly just razzle dazzled by the anime cutscenes, music and some of the settings. I'll even occasionally go back to the Sega CD version specifically to look at the cutscenes for reference.

    Most of my fondness of Lunar now comes from it being sort of my JRPG on training wheels after experiencing Mario RPG, which felt more like a cooler JRPG Big Wheel.

    I can't stop doing these now

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    4/4 of Gore

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    Vio-lins of Vio-lence

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    Motif of Grief

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    Timbre of Somber

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    Bouzouki of Spooky

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    Samba of Sadness

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    Reprise of Demise

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    Tune of Misfortune

  • There are no other topics to discuss. There is only the Castlevania game.

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    Etude of Mood

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    Beguine of Beguilement

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    Bassoon of the Moon

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    Madrigal of Sadrigal

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    Harmonica of Harm

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    Woodwind of Wide Wounds

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    Triangle of Tribulation

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    Trumpet of Trouble

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    Horn of Scorn

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    Oboe of Oh No

  • McKee‘s “Story” is a real good one. I was lucky enough to attend his seminar before the world ended. He’s an Old Bastard but he knows what he‘s talking about. I believe he’s doing online seminars now on various topics.