Maeda of Dishonor

You’ll be happy to know that I’ve taken everyone’s netbook advice into consideration, thought carefully about what to do to gain access to classic PC titles, and have come to a monumental decision: skip the netbook and buy a 1TB drive for my laptop for a dual installation of OS X and Windows. Not that I’ll likely boot into Windows very often, since I always have half a dozen articles and InDesign files open at any given time and hate to disrupt my work flow, but at least I will have the option. And a new drive works out to be about 1/3 the cost of a decent netbook while taking up a lot less space, so it’s the better solution all around.

Wait, what’s that? You’re not happy to know that? You… you don’t care at all? Oh. I have grievously miscalculated. Alas.


On to another note, then. Yesterday, Famitsu released a few new screens of The 3rd Birthday, and I have very mixed feelings about what I’ve seen. The screen above makes me super happy, because the dude talking to Aya there is none other than Kunihiko Maeda, the goofy scientist from the first game. Sure, he was basically a proxy for the Japanese audience, an excuse for the rest of the cast to explain fundamental (or, at times, hilariously inaccurate) things about New York City and America… but he was likable, too! And his presence means that, despite the title change, the game really does belong to the larger Parasite Eve world rather than simply being a game about a lady named Aya Brea.

On the other hand, there’s this:

Maid :(

Two of the big things Square Enix is touting with The 3rd Birthday is the fact that (1) Aya has access to lots of costumes and (2) her health status is reflected in the state of her clothing. When she takes damage, her clothes shred. Her body is fine! It’s just her clothes that fall apart.

This may not be as bad as something like Criminal Girls or Disgaea 4 (wherein you spank female characters to punish them and make them obedient), but it’s a symptom of the same general malaise — the one that has transformed a significant percentage of the anime market into cookie-cutter pap about half-dressed, big-eyed, underaged girls in vaguely (and often not-so-vaguely) fetishistic situations. Namely, the fact that the Japanese market for nerd pastimes is shrinking, and publishers are growing increasingly desperate to keep the audience’s attention. The one remaining reliable market segment seems to be a small but distressingly visible slice that eagerly buys up pandering or borderline-obscene content. Make no mistake, this is hardly indicative of the tastes and interests of Japan gamers at large… but this particular audience does represent what may be the closest thing to a guaranteed sale over there these days, so publishers seem to be increasingly willing to suck up their dignity and cater to them.

I’m disappointed to see that Square Enix has given in to this particular rend, and that Aya is their sacrificial lamb, so to speak. I suppose it does make a sort of sense, since she’s always been the company’s “sexy” character, which is to say she wore a somewhat slinky formal gown for an hour of the first game and appeared in an obligatory PG-rated shower scene in the second (spending the remainder of both adventures in a practical jeans-and-leather-jacket ensemble), but it’s a shame that the series’ long-awaited return has to be marred by this sort of nonsense. I rather doubt that having Aya in a sexy maid costume which can be ripped to revealing tatters by enemy attacks will in any way improve my game experience, let alone convince any skeptics I know that gaming is a healthy, mature medium that is as friendly to adults and women as it is to adolescent boys.

What makes it especially galling is the fact that one of Aya’s most publicized costumes is that of Lightning Farron from Final Fantasy XIII — no real surprise given the involvement of key FFXIII staff like Tetsuya Nomura and Yoshinori Kitase — yet this flies in the face of the fact that Lightning is one of the few times Square has truly gotten a female character right. Sure, Lightning began as an admitted female stand-in for Cloud Strife, a way to let legions of Final Fantasy VII fanboys explore their attraction to Cloud without being forced to confront uncomfortable questions about their sexuality, but she transcended her obvious inspiration to become a great character in her own right. She’s definitely an atypical Final Fantasy lady, as her story doesn’t revolve around a man and she never mopes about oh poor me what do I do. She’s motivated by a threat to her family; she comes from an experienced background, yet still manages to grow as a character over the course of the story; and while she begins the game with a pretty rotten temper, it actually seems perfectly justified given that she’s really just pissed off about what happened to her sister. Say what you will about FFXIII, but Lightning was a well-written character who avoided all the meek clichés so common to females in Japanese media. She didn’t stand around with her lower lip trembling as she clasped her hands to her bosom, but neither was she just a one-note violent maniac. Her outfit wasn’t even particularly sexy or revealing! Honestly, of all the games I’ve played over the past few years, the only female character who’s impressed me more than Lightning has been Commander Yukiko Shepard.

So yes, it rankles me that this creative team is allowing their designated peek-a-boo sex kitten to dress up as an effigy of their one bit of evidence that they actually can write respectable female characters. I’m still looking forward to The 3rd Birthday, because everything else about the game seems great so far. But every time Famitsu shows off Aya’s latest piece of fetish gear, I can feel my fingernails digging into the palm of my hand in irritation.

25 thoughts on “Maeda of Dishonor

  1. Ugh, external drives. If you get one, make sure you back it up and don’t have to plug it onto a wall. I don’t really care for netbooks either, though. And I DO have a drive that plugs into the wall (2TB), so what do I know.

    (I secretly want a Macbook Air. And an iPad. What I need is a new Windows laptop. Being a poor nerd is so tough.)

    As for Lightning, yeah, she was awesome. Hope and Snow were so awful, though, that it made her bad through osmosis or something.

    • I meant an internal drive.

      Also, the reverse is true: Lightning was so good that she made Hope better by osmosis. Snow was irredeemable, though.

  2. Damn it, I, too don’t care much for the “sexy thing” they got going for Aya, but…but…Maeda! I love Maeda (and yes, I am an idiot fangirl who ships him with Aya despite the age gap) and it makes me want to seriously purchase a PSP just for awesome Maeda. Damn it.

  3. You mean you DON’T like it when heretofore strong female characters are degraded and over-sexualized in the name of pandering to pathetic fanboys who can only get an erection when looking at an unattainable girl in a maid costume?

    It’s like I don’t even know you anymore.

    • I honestly don’t see that at all — what about Lightning says “mopey amnesiac private military academy brat with a matching scar-and-rival set and a budding crush on a childish Sorceress”? Besides, I remember reading that one of the FFXIII crew came out and said, “Yeah, this is basically She-Cloud.”

      • Basically the gunblade, plus having been in the military and being mean. I think of Cloud as the mopey one and Squall as mean. (Yes, I know Cloud was in the military too.)

  4. “I’m disappointed to see that Square Enix has given in to this particular rend”.

    Dude, hasn’t square Enix been there for years? I mean just look at FFX2.

    Or don’t because it’s an abomination unto man and god, but you get the general idea.

  5. Eh, hasn’t Aya always been oversexualized in all of the marketing and concept art? It’s not like this is something new here…

    • There’s a pretty big difference between “showing some thigh” and “being made into a dress-up doll that becomes progressively more naked as she suffers injury.” Besides which, the former was peripheral to the older games, while the latter is integral to the mechanics of the new game.

      • Eh, pandering is pandering, no matter what you say about it. It may have been peripheral to the game, but you can’t just deny it and say “publishers are growing increasingly desperate to keep the audience’s attention” when Square Enix has been doing this stuff all the time. And I’d say stuff like this is a little more than “showing some thigh”.

        I’m not saying that this isn’t worse than what Square has done before (because having the pandering stuff in the game is worse than just leaving it in marketing), but this is the sort of thing that Square has been doing with the franchise from Day 1.

      • Huh, I didn’t realize so much of Nomura’s PE promo art was so skeezy. But that doesn’t change my point: marketing and promotional materials are not integral to the game, as evidenced by my having played PE1 & 2 (though not all the way through with the latter) and being unaware of some of the more questionable promo art. Aya’s costumes and progressive semi-nudity, on the other hand, are an unavoidable part of the game. I’ve seen lots of terrible ads for things I love, but those crappy ads don’t make me hate the thing in question — they just make me hate the ads for being such a poor representation of something good. But that’s not an option in this case, because the sleaze has soaked into the product itself.

  6. So where’s Daniel Dollis? Dude was Aya’s mentor and was pivotal in saving all our butts in the first game!

  7. At least Aya is a grown woman, I’ve read reports that she is in her 30’s in this game! That’s like 80 in anime/ Japanese videogame years.

    I hear you on the sigh inducing trend of pandering to otaku’s basest desires to sell games/anime. Even Talking Time’s beloved Etrian Oddysey is guilty of it, although in a greatly subdued form.

    • But shes physically in her early twenties! The lesson here is that its okay to be old in a Japanese game so long as you don’t look it.

      And I think whats really funny is that this is openly misogynistic and pandering yet people won’t nearly get as outraged over it as they did with Other M.

      • Probably because only a fraction of the number of people who played or payed attention to Other M will be interested or even exposed to this game. Parasite Eve can hardly be considered iconic the way Metroid is, and it’s on the PSP, a marginal platform at the best of time.

        The way you say this makes it sound as if there was nothing at all problematic about Other M. People do realize that you can enjoy the game while, at the same time, being disappointed in Nintendo’s handling of Samus’ gender identity, right? Personally, I think the growing interest in the portrayal of women in video games is encouraging.

      • I think you’re reading too much (or too little) into what I said. People should be calling game companies out for this kind of thing regardless of whether or not a series is considered niche or not (which both Metroid and Parasite Eve qualify as. The popularity of either compared to the other is moot).

  8. …yeah, bigger internal HD makes more sense. (A friend of mine removed his optical drive completely so he could have dual HD’s.) I’ve got a couple machines in my house that are triple-boot.

    I don’t think Boot Camp officially supports Win7 at this juncture, but you can force it; you just have to run a driver executable off the disc after the installation.

    • Why would you even want Win 7? I’m not sure there is much of anything that doesn’t run on XP. And the games you find that won’t are all 3.1-98 titles. (Which is where Parallels or Fusion can come in handy.)

      Not to mention that newer Windows always require more and more memory, HD space, and system performance…

      Unlike how most OSX versions seem to get faster and more efficient Windows versions ask for more and more.

  9. “Honestly, of all the games I’ve played over the past few years, the only female character who’s impressed me more than Lightning has been Commander Yukiko Shepard.”

    Haha, I made a pretty similar comment on an article about strong, non-clichéd female characters in RPGs on HG101’s blog.

  10. Many P.E. fans are complaining about S.E. giving players the option to live their erotic cosplay fantasies in The Third Birthday. Then again, it’s S.E.

    I have always believed Aya Brea was Nomura’s best character design, and despite what the promo art showed, I was glad she was never objectified in the actual games. Unfortunately, the irritating demand for a second shower scene ruined it.

    Also, I have never heard or thought of Aya as the company’s “sexy” character. S.E. ignored her for a good decade while making money off Nomura’s other female designs.

Comments are closed.