Kingdom Hearts [re]trospective

“He [Tetsuya Nomura] gave the hero a more cartoonish appearance, inspired by Mickey Mouse, particularly in the color scheme: the baggy pants were red and the shoes were yellow. In addition, he purposely exaggerated the size of the shoes to accentuate the resemblance to Mickey. Then, he redid the last animal features, finished off the hairstyle and the accessories, including giving him a belt. He kept the giant key, which became the Keyblade. Thus, Sora was born, and with him, a defining feature of Kingdom Hearts, even though at that point the project had a different title…” — The Legends of Kingdom Hearts Volume 1: Creation. Genesis of Hearts by Georges “Jay” Grouard

“Beauty and sadness are woven together; even Frankenstein gets lonely.” — Shampoo Planet by Douglas Coupland

I’m not sure how to start this retrospective without being too personal. What’s really essential is that you understand that I’m a GenXer in the core years of the generation (a Douglas Coupland Xer). I read Shampoo Planet in my formative years and love this quote (and have shared it with those I love):

“I cry because the future has once again found its sparkle and has grown a million times larger. And I cry because I am ashamed of how badly I have treated the people I love–of how badly I behaved during my own personal Dark Ages–back before I had a future and someone who cared for me from above. It is like today the sky opened up and only now am I allowed to enter.”

It’s a theme in this long post I’ll come back to in the end and it’s linked to Kingdom Hearts. I love the beginning of The Legends of Kingdom Hearts because Grouard highlights all of these keywords that make Tetsuya Nomura who he is. I think we all do that kind of introspection at some point in our lives (or maybe at many points).

“They are two very interesting protagonists because they establish plot devices that Nomura, the writer, loves to use: solitude, tragedy, depression, individualism, freedom, escape, and blurred the lines between good and evil.”

Who are you? Who are you? I’m a walrus.
One of my favorite posts is A Gen Xers Top 20 Video Game List which I wrote in 2015. I list Ultima IV and 2400 A.D. as my favorite titles (although Kingdom Hearts is my favorite series). I’m re-reading the post and amazingly Birth By Sleep and Dream Drop Distance didn’t break the Top 20. I also read The Art of Atari since writing that post and one factor for early gamers (Gen Xers) was HOW important the role of art and design was in those early games.

“At a time when on-screen graphics were much less sophisticated, Atari needed artwork and graphic design capable of stirring the imagination.”

Generation Z has grown up mostly digital but Gen Xers were raised in an analog world. You had to use your imagination in those early video games and culturally we were just barely removed from a world of dungeons and dragons (pen and paper). Ultima IV and 2400 A.D. rank so highly on my list because of the analog components. I still have the metal robots from 2400 A.D. and the ankh and cloth map from Ultima IV (the manuals for the latter are amazing). When Ultima IX: Ascension was released in 1999 all those analog components were included in the box. It’s funny to even type “box” because games today are downloaded via Steam or streamed via Google Stadia.

The soft glow of electric sex gleaming in the window…
I don’t think Generation Y and Z understand the influence the arcade had on Xers. One of my favorite scenes in Tron: Legacy is when Sam turns on the arcade machines at Flynn’s. There’s also an arcade scene in War Games and where else does Ronald Miller find Kenneth in Can’t Buy Me Love but in an arcade.

All of this seems pretty far from Kingdom Hearts and those quotes from Shampoo Planet but I promise there’s a connection.

Weekend 410.1 (AOE 3 / 2V3 / Yucatan War)

AOE 3This was an all out European showdown in the Americas on a map called Yucatan. The sovereign(s) involved were the British, Dutch, French, Spanish, and Portuguese. The British (red) were partnered with the Dutch (purple) while the French (yellow), Spanish (blue), and Portuguese (green) were allied. I’m going to organize the summary into three parts.

Opening: The British were in the northwest and the Dutch in the northeast. The French and Portuguese were clustered together in the southeast while the Spanish were in the southwest. This map is a long strip of jungle separated by two bodies of water (ships cannot navigate between the two bodies via canal). The Spanish built a fort in the west with a short supply line to the front in their campaigns against the British -and- it would remain undetected for more than half the game.

The French and Portuguese eliminated the Dutch quickly before moving east to join the Spanish. The British repelled 3 to 4 waves of attacks (some against multiple armies) but could not replace walls, towers, and military units fast enough. The construction of a dock and the commissioning of a fleet would prove crucial. During a brief lull in the French/Spanish/Portuguese waves, the British moved all 125/200 (62%) soldiers and colonists to the harbor for evacuation by ship -and- a deliberate all or nothing attack on the Spanish town center / settlement in the southwest. As the three armies converged on the British town center / settlement, orders were given for the fleet to set sail along the western coast of the Yucatan.

The French/Portuguese did not build fleets on the eastern coast of the Yucatan, but the Spanish did have some vessels anchored in harbor. The British fleet vastly outnumbered the Spanish fleet. The latter was quickly dispatched and the British were able to land all 125 soldiers and colonists. The landing and attack of the Spanish town center / settlement was a complete surprise since most Spanish units were in the northwest campaigning against an empty/deserted British town center / settlement. In the southwest, both British soldier and colonist participated in the attack. It was an absolute melee, but the Spanish rallied, aided by French and Portuguese reinforcements from the east. The British retreated to the harbor (for the safety of their ships and the open sea) having dealt a near fatal blow to the Spanish.

After the smoke cleared, more than 60% of the Spanish town center / settlement had been turned to rubble. The remaining structures were destroyed by the Imperial Monitor Sovereign of the Seas. The tattered remnants of the British army later re-landed to mop-up and build a trading post (although that small unit was defeated twice by an overwhelming number of French units).

Middle: The British army and colonists were adrift at sea after their first town center / settlement was razed by French/Spanish/Portuguese forces. There was some hope that the Dutch could be resuscitated so a decision was made to start a settlement (town center) in the northeast. The British landed in the northwest (site of their original settlement) and marched east. A new town center and second dock (harbor) was constructed on the eastern coast of the Yucatan. The new shipyard produced several vessels, including the Imperial Monitor Terror. The Terror indeed lived up to her namesake by sitting off the eastern coast and methodically bombarding the Portuguese settlement / town center for the duration of the war. She returned to port only once for repair and relief.

The new settlement grew quickly but soon attracted the attention of the French, Portuguese, and Spanish. The allies were rich with the wealth of the Yucatan (coin, food, and wood) and launched successive attacks. The failure to establish a town center with mills, plantations, stables, and livestock pens prevented the British from conscripting an army sufficient enough to repel repeated attacks. The Spanish also persisted, even though their town center / settlement had been reduced to rubble and returned to the jungle. The British were forced to abandon their town center / settlement (and Fort Pownall) for a second time, retuning to ships moored off the east coast.

The French, Portuguese, and Spanish sacked the new colony and razed the town/fort/docks. Once again, the British were adrift (left to the scourge of scurvy and cholera). The French and Portuguese paroled the coast on horseback which allowed the Caravel William to lie in wait. Once close enough, the William unleashed a succession of broadside barrages to great effect.

It took several days, but eventually the William secured the coast and the British landed a small group of soldiers and colonists. This group marched west and built a town center on the beach a half-mile from their original settlement. Once again the Spanish launched an attack on the new settlement, but this time the British used a hot-air balloon to trace the Spanish back to a fort hidden in the jungle. The Serapis was dispatched and a couple of salvos from her mortar reduced Fort San Francisco to rubble. The Spanish finally resigned.

The French and Portuguese resumed the Spanish campaign against the new settlement (third town center) but control of the seas on the western coast was too much and the Portuguese lost Explorers Don Cam and Henry Gomes in a series of broadside attacks.

End Game, Part 1: Control of the seas would prove the difference. While the Terror continued to strategically pluck critical buildings, the lone Caravel William established a beachhead at Tower Point. The French and Portuguese marched on Tower Hill but were soundly defeated by a unit consisting of Imperial Redcoats and Field Guns. This would be the last organized northeastern excursion by the French and Portuguese and the first time both those armies were felled by the British in an open non-defensive/open field skirmish.

End Game, Part 2: The British army started advancing for the first time in the war. Lord Howe was also building trading posts and forming alliances with the Mayans and Zapotec. The settlers, now unmolested in their northwest town center and settlement and northeast outpost, were producing coin, wood, and food abundantly. British supply lines could now be stretched and it was time to go on the offensive.

The British plan was to squeeze the French and Portuguese with three armies. The army in the southwest would push east against the French while two smaller units would advance from the northwest and cover any escape.

The French were desperate to breakout but were repelled in two significant battles at Gates Depot and Wolfe Pass. Some remnants of the French escaped (were not pursued by the British 3rd) but were crushed by a small garrison (and harbor ships) left at St. Edmund. The French resigned just as the first Imperial Field Guns were ripping into bone and sinew.

Upon the march, the light infantry will cover the front and flanks of the Line, seizing every commanding ground till the line has passed; wherever they may chance to fall in with the enemy they will stand their ground, and never retire to the Battalions, which shall always match up and support them.

The British 3rd and 4th pushed south and converged with the 1st just on the outskirts of the Portuguese town center / settlement. The Terror also pushed close to the shore from the east and kept steady pressure on the Portuguese town center. The garrisoned army and colonists made a frantic push west but the British Army (ranks now swollen with Elite Holcan and Champion Lightning Warriors) was being replenished by barracks and an arsenal close to the front. The Portuguese asked to surrender but the British refused until her army could secure the harbor and march on the town center with pomp and circumstance.

“Brother Soldier do you hear of the news,
There’s Peace both by Land and Sea,
No more the old Blades must be us’d,
Some of Us disbanded must be.”

Sources: The Pluralist and Old Solider by Tim Bobbin and ‘Loss and Recapture of St John’s Newfoundland’ by W. H. Fyers.

Weekend 393.0 (All I do is keep the beat and bad company)

“At the heart of all Catholic life is a miracle, a mystery, the Blessed Sacrament. Surrounded traditionally by ritual and awe, it has been the formative aspect of Catholic art, drama, and poetry.” – Charles A. Coulombe

(1) Treasures of New York: The Heckscher Museum of Art

(2) A quote from The Vignelli Canon:

“The knowledge of design history is important because it provides us with an insight into the motivations related to each period, movement or expressions that generated the artifacts. It is only by knowing deeply the why that we can understand the what and further appreciate them. The more we can spend on reviewing the past the better we can understand contemporary phenomena and the better we can formulate our own theories and therefore our designs.”

(3) Bishop Barron on Evangelizing Through Beauty

(4) Inspired by the Kingdom Hearts Orchestra World Tour & The Walt Disney Film Archives: The Animated Movies 1921-1968 here’s my wish list of KH3 worlds:

(a) The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad
(b) Meet the Robinsons
(c) Wreck-It Ralph
(d) Frozen
(e) Lilo & Stitch
(f) Music Land (Silly Symphonies)
(g) Up
(h) Lonesome Ghosts or Brave Little Tailor
(i) WALL-E
(j) Clock Cleaners (Twilight Town???)

Does Disney Town encompass the world of DuckTales? Disney Town is a nice tribute to Mickey’s Birthdayland & Starland (and I believe Scrooge McDuck was the mayor)
I would like to be able to summon the Rocketeer, Pedro (Saludos Amigos), V.I.N.CENT, Susie the Little Blue Coupe and the BIG Mickey from Thru the Mirror
Square Enix / Disney should include worlds from Studio Ghibli
Didn’t include Tangled because some of the KH3 trailers show it
Other considerations: Flowers and Trees (Sill Symphonies) and Mickey’s Fire Brigade

A Gen Xers Top 20 Video Game List

Super Pac-Man Get out that David Bowie record and grab a can of Jolt Cola because it’s time to rank my Top 20 all-time favorite video games.

The rankings are based on qualities like story, playability, cultural influence, immersion, creativeness, and a happiness quotient roughly calculated using memories/age * 1.023MHz * (1 KB/1980).

This is for my friend Milton and anyone who knows (and those who don’t) that video games are a fount of creativity.

(1) Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar (IIe) – The game included a cloth map and ankh amulet and required adventurers to meditate at shrines, collect artifacts, and “understand and exercise the Eight Virtues” on their path to becoming an Avatar. I played most of the titles in this series, but Quest of the Avatar receives an almost perfect score against my fancy criteria for it’s groundbreaking gameplay, inventiveness, storytelling, and lasting influence.

It was published by Origin and developed by Richard Garriott, an industry pioneer who’s currently working on Shroud of the Avatar.

I kind of wandered around the gaming universe after Ultima IV trying to find a title so immersive. It wasn’t until The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past and Kingdom Hearts that I discovered something comparable.

Bonus: You could import your Avatar into Ultima V. The games also included two books- The History of Britannia and The Book of Mystic Wisdom. Skara Brae is referenced on on 7.6.2014 #187.

(2) 2400 A.D. (IIe) – Join the rebels and fight the Tzorg! Set on Nova Athens in 2400 A.D. this dystopia had robots, subways, slidewalk systems, hand blasters, and supercomputers! I am still mesmerized by this gem from Chuck Bueche (Chuckles to Ultima fans). I replayed it a couple of years ago and it’s still fun. It missed being #1 in my Top 20 by 1000 bytes.

Bonus: It shipped with tiny metal robots. I wonder if E. Cline played this game?

(3) Kingdom Hearts (PS2) – Sora, Riku, and Kairi meet Mickey, Donald, and Goofy. The pop-cultural influence of Disney and Square Enix are undeniable, and this series has inspired maquettes, gachapon, books, and user-made artwork. Every detail of this game was perfect…from the opening chords of Simple and Clean…to the selection of summoned characters and lands. I replayed the ending a half-dozen times just to watch the credits.

Bonus: Flying over London to fight the Phantom. It’s like this.

(4) The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (SNES) – The SNES was my first console, and after watching my brother and neighbors play The Legend of Zelda on the NES, this was the ideal foray into the Zelda universe. What I love about Zelda is its reverence for storytelling, detail, continuity and tradition.

(5) SimCity (Mac) – It makes the top five based on playability. I wonder how many future city planners it inspired?

Bonus: A couple of years ago on a trip to Austin I found a SimCity card game at King’s Hobby Shop.

(6) MicroLeague Baseball (IIe) – It’s the only sports title in the list. I used to print the lineup and box score on a dot-matrix printer with perforated paper. I was amazed the first time the game was delayed by rain. I get a little weepy whenever I hear the sound of a dot-matrix printer.

(7) AOE III (PC) – I would play as General Sir William Howe, protecting the colony, whilst routing the French, negotiating peace with the Germans, and expanding the Empire. I have hours of HAPPY memories playing with my brother on our LAN. I can still hear him yelling, “I need more peasants. I NEED more peasants.”

Bonus: The Art of Empires adorns my bookshelf.

(8) RollerCoaster Tycoon (PC) – A lifelong obsession with creating my own version of Walt Disney World finally realized! The best description of the joy I felt playing RollerCoaster Tycoon is on pages 75-76 of Realityland: True-Life Adventures at Walt Disney World.

(9) Pirates (IIe) – The first of two titles from Sid Meier in my Top 20. Before the release of this classic, my pirate adventures were limited to the Audio-Animatrons in Pirates of the Caribbean at Walt Disney World, my Playmobil pirate ship, and The Goonies (1985) and Walter Matthau in Pirates (1986).

(10) The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds (3DS) – Every happy memory from The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past was unleashed when I launched the game for the first time and heard that familiar music, but it turned into a torrent when I fought a Moldorm again in the Tower of Hera. The ability to merge, and its impact on the gameplay and storyline, is demonstrative of the subtle genius that threads this franchise. Majora’s Mask in Link’s House was a nice nod to the Zelda canon.

Bonus: The mural in Hyrule Castle is conceptually similar to the one in Ultima IX.

(11) Railroad Tycoon (Mac) – Capitalists of the world unite! This is the second title from Sid Meier in my Top 20. I didn’t need all those economics courses in college because everything I needed to know about interest rates, commodities, pricing strategies, bonds, back panics, and stock markets I learned in this game.

(12) Futurama (PS2) – Bite my shiny metal a**. This was a clever title for one of the best science fiction cartoon series ever created. It was part Space Quest III by Sierra and part 2400 A.D. by Origin.

Bonus: Futurama was an exhibit designed by Norman Bel Geddes for the 1939 New York World’s Fair.

(13) Crimson Skies (PC) – Um. Dirigibles and airplanes in an alternate 1930s universe.

(14) Adventure Time: Hey Ice King! Why’d you steal our garbage?!! (3DS) – Bytes of endorphins Ooo from this title. The overview and gameplay were reminiscent of Zelda, the deluxe version shipped with Ultima-like goodies, and the characters and colors scratch your brain in funny places.

(15) Wings of Fury (IIe) – This is one of the few arcade style games in the list. I used to don a leather flight helmet and goggles while playing (if you were at volunteer at NYCC in 2011 you would have received proof). It was set in the Pacific during WWII and required a great deal of dexterity to land your F6F Hellcat on the deck of the USS Wasp.

(16) Robotech: Battlecry (PS2) – I was introduced to Robotech in the 80s but had to wait more than 15 years to pilot a veritech fighter! It was worth the wait (even if the fate of Jack Archer, like Xion, made for a somber ending).

(17) President Elect (IIe) – You could use it today to predict the winner of Kang versus Kodos in 2016.

(18) Warcraft: Orcs & Humans/Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness/Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos (Mac OS & PC) – I am not a BAD Dad.; I am not Clara from The Guild.

(19) Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days (DS) – The Dustflier was such a pesky secret boss, but so satisfying to defeat. The storyline with Roxas and Xion was a potent and emotional arc. The graphics in Birth by Sleep and Dream Drop Distance were incredible, but the story of Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days trumps them.

(20) Earth Orbit Stations (IIe) – NASA’s Space Shuttle program was the source of great national pride in the 80s and this space station management simulation allowed future engineers, project managers, astronauts, physicists, and astronomers to dream big.

Honorable Mentions
Dark Cloud 2
Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance (3DS)
Locomotion (PC)
Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep (PSP)
Ultima V: Warriors of Destiny (IIe)
Ultima VI: The False Prophet (SNES)
1602 A.D. (PC)
Police Quest: In Pursuit of the Death Angel
Astrosmash® (Intellivision)
Autoduel (IIe)
Space Quest III
A-Train (Mac)

Weekend 324.0 (Old Trafford)

(1) Giving that historic WIN at Old Trafford some perspective (#WeMarchOn).

(2) Card Games: Touring from Winning Moves Games

(3) Kingdom Hearts III???? (The Know It All: January 9, 2015)

Credit: Bear

(4) A quote from Inherent Vice by Thomas Pynchon:

“…yet there is no avoiding time, the sea of time, the sea of memory and forgetfulness, the years of promise, gone and unrecoverable, of the land almost allowed to claim its better destiny, only to the claim jumped by evildoers known all too well, and taken instead and held hostage to the future we must live in now forever.”

Weekend 255.0 (Content Outline)

On the heels of a rather brutal week at work, two industry-affirming articles from the journal:

(1a) Bordellos for the Brain: The ups and (mostly) downs of conference mania

(1b) At the Side of an Expert Exhibitionist: Museum planner and exhibition designer Melanie Ide starts the creative process with “total immersion” in her subject matter, whether fossils or a former president. (WSJ – Registration Required)

(2) Snap Out of It: As social media changes the way we experience vacation photos, there’s no better time to improve the shots themselves. Lesson one: Focus on the details

(3) The Rise of the Cosmopolis: Four cities that have provided financial and intellectual rocket fuel for the world. (WSJ – Registration Required)

(3a) Wealth Over the Edge: Singapore (WSJ Money)

(4) How To Measure the Success of a Blog (LinkedIn)

(5) The return of Lord British! Shroud of the Avatar: Forsaken Virtues via Kickstarter

(6) How to Bike to the Airport

(7) Can you call yourself a U.S. soccer fan if you don’t support MLS? (ESPN)

(8) How about some lyrics? I love this little ditty from Anna Kendrick:

“When I’m gone, when I’m gone
You’re gonna miss me when I’m gone
You’re gonna miss me by my hair
You’re gonna miss me everywhere, oh
You’re gonna miss me when I’m gone”

(9) Bike Pron: Pelago Bristol

Tomorrowland & Sim City

Disney Stops Thinking About Tomorrow

“Walt Disney’s first version of Tomorrowland came to life in 1955. The attractions were geared towards the space age, and towards the future of transportation that Disney believed scientists of his time were about to create. The imaginary world was intended to ‘give you an opportunity to participate in adventures that are a living blueprint of our future.'”

Scanned this game card from Sim City® The Card Game™ (1994) in celebration of the release of Sim City®. Found this starter deck at King’s Hobby Shop in Austin, Texas.

Weekend 252.0

(1) No monk is an island but there is snow in the forecast this weekend so; (a) Wall Street Journal, (b) Wall Street Journal Magazine, (c) Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance, (d) MONOCLE, (e) Bicycle Times, (f) Rome: A Cultural, Visual, and Personal History by Robert Hughes, (g) Round 5 of the FA Cup, and (h) Disney twenty-three Magazine Spring 2013.

(1a) Gaming’s Art-House Hits: As the medium matures, videogames with an artistic twist appeal to a sophisticated player (WSJ)

“Here are some of the most beautiful and accessible titles from the past few years. If you think videogames are just dimwitted diversions for adolescent boys, these may make you look at the medium in an entirely new light.”

(1b) The worlds in Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance are really gorgeous. The cathedral in La Cité des Cloches, the amusement park in Prankster’s Paradise, and the Fourth District in Traverse Town are incredibly detailed / functional. The backgrounds in Disney Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion are equally brilliant / gorgeous.

(1c) I have a Zolephant named Heffalump.

(2) How Not to Understand Pope Benedict

“The media saw the Council as a political struggle, a struggle for power between different currents within the Church. It was obvious that the media would take the side of whatever faction best suited their world.”

(3) The Future of Yesterday: Photographs of Architectural Remains of World’s Fairs (The Nelson-Atkins Museum) – Darn. How did I miss this?!?!

(3a) 5 Unexpected Factors That Change How We Forecast The Future (Fast Company)

(4) Finally watched Tron: Legacy. When is Daft Punk going to tour?

(5) Words, words, words…

(5a) Obloquy: Censure, blame, or abusive language aimed at a person or thing, especially by numerous persons or by the general public.

(5b) Feuilletons: A part of a European newspaper devoted to light literature, fiction, criticism, etc.

(5c) Hermeneutics: The science of interpretation, especially of the Scriptures.

(6) Cardbord Cathedral – Christchurch, New Zealand

(6a) Is This What Urban Buildings Will Look Like In 2050? (Fast Company)

(7) “Literature illuminates life only for those to whom books are a necessity. Books are unconvertible assets, to be passed on only to those who possess them already.” — Anthony Powell

Adventure Time: Hey Ice King! Why’d You Steal Our Garbage?!

Fun and retro. I’m an older gamer and this title (in terms of gameplay) has been compared to The Legend of Zelda (and if you can find the collectors edition similar to Ultima IV in terms of packaging).

The other franchise/series I enjoy is Kingdom Hearts but those titles (particularly Birth by Sleep and Dream Drop Distance) have gotten overly complicated and I’m just not dexterous enough to play a game requiring ten fingers.

I watch Burgoyne on the xBox and he’s able to launch “special moves” in every title and in combos of a freakish manner (like some kind of digital conjurer). The lack of dexterity in my dotage makes me feel cheated so a simpler title like this with incredible characters and a completely nonsensical storyline appeals to my aged inner-geek (tributary). And not sure how to explain the appeal of Adventure Time. I have Austin on my mind these days and a half-hour in the Land of Ooo is like an afternoon on SoCo. I’m all about talking food!?!?

One of the biggest drawbacks of Adventure Time is playing time (see below) but I don’t have 70-100 hours and actually prefer these shorter titles. My only criticism- outside of a rare audio clip the voice talent barely contributes. On the plus side, the theme song for the game is ridiculous (and perfect):

You king of ice
it would suffice
if you’d be nice
but you’re a jerk!

Probably want to
build a girlfriend
out of the garbage!

Now that’s just crazy talk
nobody’d be that crazy
it’s probably something else.

According to the Activity Log on my Nintendo 3DS XL I finished the game in 15:42 minutes. I played 37 times with an average play time of 0:25 minutes (first played on 12/3/2012 and last played on 12/21/2012).

You’re My Butter Half
More of the Best TV, Movies and Music of 2012, Chosen by You