And You Thought It Was Safe(?)


Trash Culture’s Final Fantasy Retrospective Part 5: Mystic Quest
November 5, 2012, 8:01 am
Filed under: Reviews, Video Games | Tags: ,

By Chad Denton

Comic book companies were contractually obligated to replace at least half their pages with this ad, every month, for a whole year.

Comic book companies of the time were contractually obligated to replace at least half their pages with this ad. Every month. For a whole year.

Wasn’t the ad campaign for this game a horrible lie, even by the standards of ad campaigns?

Okay, okay, I’m going to come out and admit that it’s not fair to call Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest a bad game, not in a strict sense anyway.  It set out to provide a basic, watered-down introduction to console RPGs and, honestly, it achieved that goal quite well.  But at the same time it represented what was probably the most condescending message a company ever made to its own fanbase.  Square was basically proclaiming to Americans, you all can’t handle our real product (which in this case would be Final Fantasy V) so we’re going to give you a version that’s more up to your speed – and that speed would be somewhere along the lines of a golf cart with a defective engine.  Hell, when they released the game in Japan they even titled it Final Fantasy USA.  Square might as well have subtitled it “This is what Americans think a RPG should be!  Ha ha!  They embarrass us by buying our games!”

Now I’m sure there were other elements to Square’s decision.  Like the ad emphasizes, Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest was also cheaper, selling for $40 at a time when most RPGs for the Super Nintendo ran in the $50 – $60 range.  But, trust me, you could see where you saved that money.  The game didn’t even have its own graphical signature;  most of the graphics were souped-up and colorized from Final Fantasy Legend III.  You could also pretty much beat the entire game in a day or two of even casual playing, which was great if – like me – you made a habit out of renting video games and even RPGs for the weekend (P.S. I still curse the assholes who always erased my saved games when they rented the games before I could!), but not so good if you bought it expecting something like the 40 hour minimum players could expect to put into Final Fantasy IV. Continue reading



Trash Culture’s Final Fantasy Retrospective (Part 1A)
October 1, 2012, 11:21 am
Filed under: Reviews, Video Games | Tags: ,
A kick-ass franchise logo is half the work, right there...

A kick-ass franchise logo is half the work, right there…

By Chad Denton

“Final Fantasy” fans who got hooked in the ’00s don’t know how lucky they were. Being an old-school fan, who was literally with the franchise from the start, was a weird ordeal for anyone living outside Japan and wasn’t enough of a hardcore gamer to own a genuine Famicon and have the ability to fluently read Japanese. The majority of the games in the series were simply not available to people unwilling to learn Japanese until the advent of the Internet, emulators, and fan-translations, and even if you did know enough Japanese to play the games it was still a hassle and an expense to actually order the games and a Famicon or Super Famicon to play them.  To twist the knife, Square made the decision to title the real “Final Fantasy IV” as Final Fantasy II, which eventually created a huge (and now proverbial among console RPG fans) amount of confusion when saps like me finally got wise to the fact that all of North America was deemed unworthy to receive the series in full (I suppose it’s a good thing they ended the policy before “Final Fantasy VII” became “Final Fantasy IV.”) To make matters even more confusing, Square, despite the international success of the Final Fantasy franchise, decided that RPGs were unprofitable in the North American market and that the only RPGs that had any chance of selling had to be under the Final Fantasy brand name. So, when they did decide to release two other RPG franchises to North America, they released them as Final Fantasy Adventure and Final Fantasy Legend,despite the two series having almost nothing in common, even in gameplay, with any of the Final Fantasy games that did make it to North America and Europe. I never played “Final Fantasy Adventure” until fairly recently, but I did get to experience “Final Fantasy Legend,” albeit years after the series was first released on Game Boy. Continue reading



The Trash Culture Literary Corner: Worlds of Power: Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest: Prelude: Revenge of the Colons
September 10, 2012, 8:05 am
Filed under: Reviews, Video Games | Tags: ,

by Chad Denton

It’s come to my attention that certain people have called into question the scientific rigor of this blog, and in fact the entire field of “trash culture studies,” so to deal with the ever persistent issue of genre elitism I’ve turned away from comics and video games toward the world of literature.  Thus on today’s docket we have…

Castlevania: Worlds of PowerExcept for “Choose Your Own Adventure” books, I can’t think of any trash culture reading materials that were more ubiquitous among my generation.  The “Worlds of Power” books were designed by Seth “F.X. Nine” Godin and his shadowy legion of ghostwriters for one reason:  to make money, obviously, but also I think they were a sincere attempt to get young gamers into reading.  Honestly, at the time, it wasn’t a bad idea.  Nowadays, no matter what the snobs say, video games have for the most part come into their own as a storytelling medium.  It’s arguably futile to translate something like Final Fantasy VII or Silent Hill 3 into literature, since games like those are able to convey narratives on their own and those narratives are intertwined with, say, the dread that comes from exploring the “Otherworld” or the sense of determination the player might feel in facing Sephiroth after hours of seeing Cloud tortured in nearly every possible sense by the villain. Continue reading



Trash Culture’s Dr. Who Reviews – The First Doctor (1963-1967)
August 13, 2012, 8:31 am
Filed under: Reviews, Television | Tags: ,
"I'm informed it's time for another one of those block-rocking beats."

“I’m informed it’s time for another one of those block-rocking beats…”

What’s remarkable about William Hartnell’s interpretation of the Doctor is how much of a lasting foundation it has been, after so many decades and quite a few seismic shifts in culture. Hartnell’s Doctor is an eccentric with an insatiable curiosity and willingness (if not eagerness) to meddle in anything and with anyone; who has a strong anti-authoritarian streak that drives him to talk back to tyrants, petty or powerful, and be personally, passionately outraged by any injustice, no matter how small or “necessary”; and who manages to be both inhumanly detached from events and yet endlessly compassionate, especially to the precious few individuals he deeply respects. With maybe a few quibbles, this broad description is as true for the very first incarnation of the Doctor as it is for the Doctors of this millennium. The lasting appeal of the Doctor rises from what a strong core the character has in spite of passing from writer to writer and actor to actor, and that core is, I think, largely the handiwork of Hartnell himself. Maybe the First Doctor was a crabbier and more sharp-tongued Doctor than what modern audiences weaned on the 2005 series would expect (although he certainly lightened up after the earliest scenes), but Hartnell’s description of the Doctor as “a cross between the Wizard of Oz and Father Christmas” (with a little mild forgetfulness thrown in) still rings true.  Continue reading



Trash Culture’s Dr. Who Reviews – The Tenth Planet (1967)
August 6, 2012, 7:31 am
Filed under: Reviews, Television | Tags: ,

by Chad Denton

"There is...logic...in what you say..."

“There is…logic…in what you say…”

It’s 1986, and the release of “Crocodile Dundee” isn’t the only thing that’s noteworthy. An international space agency has just launched the “Zeus IV” rocket on a routine mission from its base in Antarctica. Afterward the base’s crew are shocked when they spot the Doctor, Ben, and Polly sightseeing the wasteland of Antarctica. They have them brought to the base and detained. The official in charge of the base, General Cutler, wants to interrogate the Doctor, but is distracted by the mission Zeus IV is on, especially once the crew on board spot a brand new yet strangely “familiar” planet that’s near Venus and the ship suffers an abrupt and unexplained loss of power. The Doctor proves his credentials by accurately predicting exactly what the scientists will discover: a planet that resembles Earth, but Cutler is still hostile and skeptical. While the base’s crewmen investigate the TARDIS outside, they are killed by a group of cyborgs who then disguise themselves with the crewmen’s coats. Continue reading



Trash Culture’s Dr. Who Reviews – The Smugglers (1967)
July 9, 2012, 6:58 am
Filed under: Reviews, Television | Tags: ,

by Chad Denton

"Heh-heh-heh...that's not a knife!"

“Heh-heh-heh…that’s not a knife!”

The Doctor is furious when Polly and Ben show up in the TARDIS and tries to explain to them that they’re now stuck with him indefinitely because he still can’t control where the TARDIS lands. They end up somewhere on the shore of Cornwall. Although they’re shocked to be so far out of London, they still don’t believe the Doctor when he tells them that they still don’t know when they are. They go to a church where a man threatens them with a blunderbuss. From the man’s clothes, the Doctor deduces that they are in the seventeenth century. They learn that he’s a churchwarden named Joseph and he’s afraid of a pirate crew that served under a man named Avery. Unfortunately, they also learn that the TARDIS will be submerged in the tide. In gratitude to the Doctor for fixing his dislocated finger, Joseph gives him a strange clue, telling him that the “Deadman’s secret key” is “Smallwood, Ringword, Gurney.” After they leave for the local inn to wait out the tide, Joseph, who was a pirate himself under Avery, is killed by men sent by Samuel Pike, Avery’s successor as captain and who is after Avery’s hidden treasure. Pike’s goons had seen the Doctor and the others and suspect that Joseph sold the secret of Avery’s treasure to them. The pirates abduct the Doctor and wound Ben. Worse, the local squire ends up arresting Polly and Ben on suspicion of Joseph’s murder. Continue reading



Trash Culture’s Dr. Who Reviews – The War Machines (1966)
June 25, 2012, 8:59 am
Filed under: Reviews, Television | Tags: ,

by Chad Denton

"You want to be the war machine? TAKE YOUR SHOT!"

“You want to be the war machine? TAKE YOUR SHOT!”

The Doctor lands in 1966 London with Dodo. Right away the Doctor notices a newly constructed tower and tells Dodo he can sense something “alien” and “powerful” about it, similar to the feelings he had when he first encountered the Daleks. Pretending to be a scientist and his secretary, the Doctor and Dodo enter the tower and meet Dr. Brett, the inventor of a new computer system, WOTAN, that is capable of independent thought but has “no imaginative parts.” Brett boasts that WOTAN will be linked to other government and military computer systems across the Western world and even the Doctor is disconcerted by WOTAN’s capabilities.

While the Doctor attends the press conference announcing the existence of WOTAN, Brett’s assistant, Polly, takes Dodo to a nightclub. Dodo feels ill and remembers being exposed to a high-pitched noise while in WOTAN’s room, and then disappears after a sailor named Ben gets into a fight with a man harassing Polly. Behind the scenes of the press conference, WOTAN manages to brainwash Brett, one other scientist, and the tower’s chief of security. WOTAN declares its intent to “develop the planet further,” by naturally enslaving or wiping out humanity. It turns out that WOTAN also managed to take over Dodo’s mind, and enlists her in the goal of acquiring the Doctor’s valuable mind. Continue reading