I will be the first to admit, that I give too much praise to the video games I love. It is difficult for me to provide adoration for new games I play. But, I love the games I do for a lot of reasons. Final Fantasy 9 is one of my favourite video games ever, and E V I L F O R E S T is one of those reasons.
Despite a generic name, E V I L F O R E S T (I shall keep typing it like this, as the level deserves the spooky text) represents something greater. This level reflects that Playstation 1 JRPG nostalgia perfectly. What I mean by this, is FF9 evokes a sense of warmth from me. All aspects of this environment work to immerse the player into its world.
Any mention of FF9 always comes packaged with a compliment to the soundtrack. I shall not differentiate myself whatsoever, because the song that plays here is tonally amazing (music puns).
I suppose I should provide a summary of the events before entering E V I L F O R E S T. You take the role of Zidane, a monkey-tailed thief, who is a member of the bandit group Tantalus. Tantalus meets on a train, with the master plan to enact a play for their country’s royalty in the capital city of Alexandria. The play is called “I Want To Be Your Canary,” and it is a tragic love story (obvious foreshadowing, Square Enix.) Tantalus will play characters, while Zidane goes and steals the Princess from her seat.
But woah, what, plot twist, she actually WANTS to be kidnapped by Zidane. The Princess is named Garnet, and she despises her royal life, and the feeling that she in unable to change the world. Eventually, after a lot of hi-jinx, Zidane, Garnet, Garnet’s personal guard and captain of the royal Alexandria Knights, Steiner, and the black mage Vivi all make it to the Tantalus’ ship. The queen notices that Garnet has been stolen, and launches cannon fire to destroy the airship escaping with the Princess. Unfortunately, the cannon fire hits, and the bombastic scene ends with the airship crashing into the E V I L F O R E S T.
The game goes from jovial, acoustic ballads as you pretend duel with your friend, to a mysterious, calming tune. The fun and games are over. Everything is serious now.
Even worse, is Garnet has gone missing, as she fell off the airship as it was crashing. She could be dead. Tantalus could be branded as criminals (I mean, they probably already are. Their plan was to steal Garnet because she was attractive. Not the brightest group.)
But what is most interesting about the music, is it reflects the downfall of all major characters. Zidane, frustrated with Tantalus`complacency, decides to leave the group, and his friends to pursue Garnet. He is then banned from Tantalus. Although they leave on good terms, it is still a painful goodbye. Steiner, commander of Alexandria’s Royal Knights, is seen as a blathering idiot in this group of people. He is out of his element, and his knightly qualities are constantly called into question. Vivi is just a child, thrown into a mysterious forest full of man-eating plants and beasts. Garnet, too, lost her royalty and servants, her protection, and is now lost in the forest, prey to her surroundings. Everybody is powerless now.
There is no glory in the soundtrack. No brass to signify explosiveness. No light guitar plucks to indicate playfulness. Just a mysterious, yet calming tune. The song relaxes the player, and lets them soak in everything that happened, and the consequences of the main character’s decisions.
Pre-Rendered PS1 backgrounds are my guilty pleasure. I think they’re gorgeous, and they will stay gorgeous throughout history. People may think they’re incredibly jarring when the pixelated 3d models are put against it, which is understandable. But a pre-rendered background ensures that the game displays a timeless aesthetic.
The shading on the environment is incredible. The level itself, isn’t very special. It is a handful of linear pathways that hold few alternative paths, save for small treasure spots.
But it is just the imagery that accompanies it, that really makes you feel that you are engulfed in a foreign environment. I mean, just look at some of these images:
The foliage around is haunting and claustrophobic. It feels that there is no escape. I mean, the player knows they will eventually leave, but it works so well as a contrast from the bright, beautiful oranges and reds of Alexandria.
But, my favourite part of this level, has to be this area:
This is a small pond, and the only area where the light touches the forest. This is conveniently a save point as well, so you are able to track all the progress you made up to this point. It is your safe area. Nothing can touch you here. It blends imagery and game play together, to leave a feeling of comfort in the player. It’s an example of the power of games as storytelling mechanisms. This one area accomplishes so much, and that is great level design.
Woah this is the end of the article where the hell have I been?
I owe you all an update. I was completely silent for all of November, and most of December. There are a lot of reasons for this. Let me list them all really quick so I don’t bore you:
Applying for a massive $10000 scholarship by writing an essay with 50+ sources
Searching and applying for dozens of jobs, trying to find work after my job ends on December 22nd
I began DM’ing for Dungeons and Dragons, and that necessitated the creation of personal campaigns. That was where a lot of my writing focus went towards.
Transitioning back into University took a ton of my time.
BUT I WILL TRY MY BEST TO RETURN! Next up, will be a snowy themed thing to match the cripping snowfall in my hometown.
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