legend on the shill

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I’m not sure how many people know this but if you choose to do the Happy Mask Salesman’s sidequest in Ocarina of Time, you have the option of showing the first four masks to Zelda (and she makes a cute noise, like a laugh or a surprised sound)!

It might not seem like a big deal but I think it’s a cute aspect of the game. The fact that she’s one of the NPCs that they gave dialogue to for when Link wears a mask is actually kind of interesting. Because if you’ve played OoT, you know that you have to go through the courtyard undetected to speak to Zelda, and sometimes it can be really tedious.

This means that Link cares about Zelda so much that he’d risk sneaking past the guards– and possibly getting caught –in order to show her something as simple as a mask. There’s no way that he’s unaware of the chance of getting caught, and if you’ve ever been caught by a guard while playing the game, you know they treat him kind of bad and literally throw him out. 

But he’s willing to risk it just so he can see her smile and hear her laugh. And if you think about it, he’s taking a break from collecting the Spiritual Stones– which he needs to save Hyrule– so he can do something that’ll brighten her day. He cares about her much more than you’d think.

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Play This Game - The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel (PS3/Vita)

So, with Trails of Cold Steel 2 set to come out in early September (or late Sep, XSeed employees have said the September 6th date is a placeholder) and the first game being one of my top games of 2015 I figured I’d write a little post encouraging people to get into this series.

The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel is an JRPG made by Falcom. If you haven’t heard of Falcom (and sadly, a lot of people haven’t) they’re a relatively small Japanese developer who have been around forever, and making awesome games the entire time. Most notable is probably the Ys franchise.

Trails of Cold Steel is a game about a class of students at a military school in the nation of Erebonia - A vaguely Russian-esque nation currently in the middle of a large amount of class-based strife (the social kind, not the academic kind.)

Erebonia is an empire with a monarch and nobility, with the nation separated into many small provinces ruled over by nobles. However, the Prime Minister, who wields a significant amount of power, controlling the national military and many other aspects of the government, is a reformist. He wants to do away with nobility entirely, a stance that naturally causes a lot of tension between himself and the nobles. It’s all very interesting and Falcom’s world building is one of the best parts of these games.

This conflict is tied to the core plot of the game, and it’s actually written very well. What’s really impressive is that Trails of Cold Steel avoids not only the most common issue stories like this have, but also the trap hole most people who dodge the first fall into. Neither side is presented as smelling like roses - although most people are still going to side with the reformists, the story doesn’t portray the issue as totally black and white.

Furthermore, it avoids the cheap route of making one side ‘right, but then comically bloodthirsty’ that a lot of lazy stories go with (cough, Bioshock Infinite, cough). The reformist side is headed by an authoritarian who is also big on expansion and imperialism. He has a heavy hand and isn’t particularly sympathetic when people oppose him, but he’s also genuinely interested in dismantling the rigid class system of the nation has. 

To contrast, while the nobles are amicable and generally seem alright, they really do believe they’re inherently better than you and you need to stay stupid and working, peasant.

The circumstances of the protagonists art part of this. The military school that serves as the primary setting for the game has classes separated by social class, but the protagonists are part of a new class, that’s mixed with members from both social classes. This comes up multiple times, with tension between the classes leading to tension between members of the party.

As for the party themselves, they’re all great.

I’m sure a lot of people tensed up seeing a picture of the cast because they look so similar to the cast of a lot of bad animes - but that’s sort of the point. Falcom really loves using current trends in anime in their games, but since Falcom has a really good team of character designers and writers, the result is almost always really good. I’m paraphrasing, but a Falcom executive once literally said “we might put moe stuff in one of our games someday, but we’re going to make it good” which I think is a pretty good philosophy to have. The cast all have really distinct personalities and actually have backstories that make their personalities make sense. And while at first glance they appear to be archetypes, Falcom subverts your expectations by fleshing them out into well defined characters distinct from the typical stereotypes. I mean, they have a tsundere with twintails and isn’t intolerable and acts like a real human being. That alone is pretty impressive.

To flesh out these characters, you get to.. well. They’re Social Links. Continuing with the ‘Falcom likes to make trends their own’ thing, the game features times when you can spend time with your party, in ways that are more less exactly like Social Links in Persona (although more focused on character relations, than fixing their personal problems). Further fleshing out the characters is the fact that each part of the game focuses on two of them, their relationship to the protagonist, and what’s more important, their relationship to each other. It might come off a bit formulaic, but the focus on establishing the party’s relationships with each other rather than simply the protagonist goes a long way in making everyone feel like actual characters, rather than simply a gallery of people you can potentially romance.

The format of the game is chapters - each one takes place half at the school, and half in another part of the country, on a field study. This seems a little formulaic but it actually makes the world seem pretty big, and it keeps the places you’re running around diverse enough that the game never feels repetitive. And being able to see the way the country works adds depth to the central plot conflict of the reformists vs. nobility. And even at the school, nobody is ever in the same spot twice (thankfully, the map shows where your party members are, so you never have to hunt them down), even NPCs, and all your party members and even most of the NPCs have their own little 'stories’ they go through over the course of the school year - some you can interact with, and some you can only watch occur from a distance.

The gameplay is not world-changing, but it’s a very polished JRPG system, with some twists that make it more engaging than normal affair, including the ability to interrupt turn order with a super move, which actually does make quite a bit of difference. Since some turns get bonuses, like extra damage or guaranteed crits, interrupting the turn order to make sure a boss doesn’t get to crit your entire party is actually very, very important. The gameplay is enjoyable and won’t get stale, it’s complicated enough to have some strategy in bosses but not so complex that every random encounter requires a ton of strategy, which would quickly get tiring.

The visuals are basic, being a game that’s also on the Vita, but everything looks distinct and the music is incredible; Falcom has always had amazing composers working for them and Trails of Cold Steel benefits immensely from a great, memorable sound track.

The game is relatively affordable and can be completed in around 40 hours, give or take a few.

“My father and Lin got along famously” - Tenzin

I friendship Aang and Lin way more than I romantic-ship anything in the avatar series. Way too much considering its absolute lack of screentime. And I love it more as the show goes on and we learn more about their respective families. I’ve also had a lot of Beifong feels lately, with the show focusing so much on them and all (they’re all so awesome omg). So I thought I might write some of this stuff down.

So this post is basically a lot of rambling. Like headcanons mixed with interpretation.

Beifong family trash (version 2.1: three main ladies)

  1. What I got from the show is that Lin tried hard to be the mom in Toph’s place (making sure she went to school, didn’t end up in bad company and just generally watching out for her). Su would resent that at the time: dismiss it as a need for control and attack on her freedom or arrogance on Lin’s part. But later, when she grew-up and realized how much Lin did for her, it would be part of why she was so intent on wanting her back into her life.
  2. Basically, Lin took upon herself the responsibility of looking after Su and essentially being her mother without having none of the power. And the person with the real authority, Toph, undermined her efforts by simply not caring (about Lin’s attempt to restrain Su - ofc she cared about her daughters).
  3. I think Lin was just giving too much of herself in this relationship, but not getting much back. She obviously loved Su very much and wanted the best for her: “You have so much potential” and “What are you doing hanging out with these losers”. Lin despite everything truly thought Su could become great and stood above her current company. That’s recognition. In response Su mocks her and her life-choices. She aggressively and scornfully rejects Lin’s attempt to look out for her, and she also outright refuses to see her as “a real cop” and to give her the respect her status demands (it all comes to a head after she’s caught with the triad ofc - Lin’s authority as an agent of justice is brushed aside like it’s no big deal). Su basically indirectly called Lin a failure - not even a real cop, has no life (Well that’s what she says, I think she's a lot harsher than she means to be and that part of it is just self-defense/defense of her own lifestyle).
  4. Then there’s her relationship with Toph. Toph seems like the kind of mother who would treat her kid as a friend, in a sort of “I respect you but you respect me too, and I’m in charge” deal (cool mom but also clearly the boss if needs be). I think since she was busy a lot and valued independence so much, Lin grew up mostly having to take care of herself, and was treated more like an adult than a child. So when Su came along, Lin naturally took charge of her too. The way I see it, Toph and her would be really close during that period as kind of the two adults in the house and share responsibilities, with Lin being more or less unchallenging. And at first, I imagine the fact that their family was atypical would bring them closer more than anything else.
  5. We know the girls had a bit of a hero-worship going on toward their mother (who wouldn’t, it’s mf Toph Beifong!), and competed for her attention. And like, it’s not that I think Toph is unable to give praise, or that she never did (heck she was praising Aang all the time). But it does seem like her praise would have to be earned, and might also have been lost in her easy sarcasm and own self-aggrandizing. I can imagine Toph being like “Yeah of course you can do this you’re my daughter” instead of just “Wow you can do this you’re amazing”. I don’t think she would have been much more generous with her daughters than she was with Korra (In the contrary really like “my girls never really picked up metalbending all that well” right).
  6. So I think there’s a point where Lin and Toph’s personalities would begin to clash. They have very different worldviews, personalities and values, and Lin inherited her mother’s stubbornness if nothing else. I think there would come a time when she would start to see her flaws with regards to her parenting method towards Su (see point 2. - she really didn’t seem impressed with her in ep 3.06), and also w/ her constant boasting. That and she’d start feeling seriously undervalued by her family for all she’s done. So it would be a mix between frustration building-up on one hand but also really wanting recognition from her on the other.
  7. Then there’s the whole Su affair. Toph basically punched right through both Lin’s moral compass and her feelings with this one, by taking Su’s side over hers and not arresting her (also completely ignoring the fact Su assaulted her as a police officer). We don’t know what happened exactly with the cover-up but it must have been nasty business and Lin was involved against her will, right at the start of her career.
  8. Then Toph gave-up her position as chief of police. Over something Su did. It’s funny because that way, she also cut out a great percentage of the time she must have used to spend with Lin, like a whole dimension of their relationship, as chief and officer. The part of their life that they shared but Su didn’t. And it’s funny because the reason Lin wanted to be a cop in the first place was to follow in her mother’s footstep, to earn her respect but also I think to be more like her. When you think about it, the cop-part of Toph (protector of the city, the bad guy’s nightmare) must have been the part of Toph that she really looked-up to, the one that most aligned with her own personality (it’s also an attainable objective - not as far-away, unreachable and suffocating as her world savior reputation might have seemed for her first-born child). I just think Lin would have been super-proud of her mother’s job. Well, and then Toph botched it by poisoning both of their careers with corruption right before resigning.
  9. IIRC, the show doesn’t actually say if Lin and Toph kept in touch or not? It’s definitely implied they didn’t stay close.
  10. It’s interesting how things turned out. Su implied Lin didn’t have much of a social life outside of her job, so this means she really stayed within Toph’s circles both family/friends wise and professional. Add to that the fact that she was responsible and did her best to share the responsibilities, and you’d think her relationship with Toph would have been more of a partnership both at work and at home, while Suyin as the rebel and the baby of the family couldn’t have been part of this shared culture. Usually with this set-up, the parent would have a closer relationship with the kid that shares their passion and follow in their footstep, kinda like Aang with Tenzin. But when Su talked about how they competed for Toph’s attention, she doesn’t seem to feel like she had been at a disadvantage. Lin clearly states that despite what she hoped her becoming a cop didn’t make her mother happy.

Aang and Lin friendshipping nonsense

  1. Aang is the Avatar. I just love the idea that the most important person and greatest bender in the world thought she was great. We know Aang is generous with his praise, so I think he would let her know, and he might be the one person who’s more acclaimed worldwide and in Republic City than Toph. So for Lin who’s grown-up in her shadow and found herself lacking by comparison, who was so hungry for her praise, I just think it must have meant a lotI like to think that she got this validation not just from an adult but from this adult.
  2. Aang, like Toph, can also be a bit of a show-off from times to times, but he displays his confidence in a much more subdued way that I don’t think would suffocate her at all. It’s usually all in a fun spirit and engaging, and he’d mean it as encouragement to love and value herself.
  3. I think Lin, like Tenzin, would have been the kind of serious child who prefers the company of adults rather than kids their age. And I don’t think Aang would look down on children. He’s always been able to interact with different people on their own level. I’m sure there would be some light-heartedness and easy affection to their interaction but also a good dose of maturity, and Lin would have enjoyed (and needed) both. Anyway, we do know from the show Lin found him sweet, which is cute.
  4. For both of them, it would be a relationship free of the baggage they carry with their other family members (his children/her mother and sister). While of course I do think Aang loved his kids very much and vice-versa, and I’m sure they had lots of good times and cheesy moments, etc…, they were just put in an extremely difficult situation to navigate on several levels - as the sole survivor of genocide and his heirs, as the Avatar and his children, as a worldwide celebrated war hero and his legacy. Their relationship seems to have been so full with a lot of complex feelings and misunderstandings, sometimes kinda strained in Kya’s case or too intense in Tenzin’s. So I think he would have really appreciated being able to just have a nice time with a kid/teenager/young adult/whatever that was close to him, but not so close as to share all of his issues.
  5. Time wouldn’t really matter in this situation, since there were no expectations to fill to begin with, and you can be incredibly close with someone you see very little - not even once a year, speaking from experience (and I think they must have seen each other pretty regularly actually).
  6. I really wonder how being fatherless really affected Lin (like Su sure believes it was really significant but what about Lin?). I don’t think she was necessarily out looking for surrogates (perhaps she was idk), but I do think she felt it anyway because Toph was always so busy and relaxed in her parenting and she had to step up and be an adult. I think basically it would make her appreciate the other adults in her life more, Katara, Aang and Sokka if he was there (it is implied he went back to the Southern Water Tribe at some point after the Yakone affair?). (I actually have loads of Katara/Sokka/Lin headcanons too) (I have headcanons about basically everyone with everyone I swear)
  7. Aang would have loved Lin not just because she was Toph’s daughter, but for herself also. She shares a lot of good qualities with Katara, after all: the sense of responsibility, maturity, and capacity for hard-work (new generation airbender’s white knight basically), and I feel like Aang would admire those even more because they came so hard to him.
  8. I think it’d make sense for Lin to have spent a lot of time on Air Temple Island her whole life up until the Linzin break-up. When she was little because her mother was busy a lot of the time, it was a safe place to stay and she had a friend the same age as herself there, and when she grew-up because her boyfriend lived there. These folk were basically family twice over, through the Kataang and Toph friendship and through her own relation with Tenzin.
  9. People pointed out how airbend-y Lin’s bending can be sometime. She probably trained with Tenzin and Aang from time to time (she’s his most likely sparing partner anyway).
  10. So there’s plenty of ground there for a relationship to flourish, particularly since they were both so close to Tenzin. Like he was essentially her father-in-law?
  11. I feel like Lin, as a cop and later as chief of police, and as someone with a strong sense of duty who also had a hard time balancing her personal life with her obligations, would have been able to understand and sympathize with him a lot better than Kya or Bumi ever could. Basically I think there was plenty of mutual respect here from the start, and even more so after she grew-up. Particularly as I imagine they must have worked together from time to time due to their respective jobs in Republic City (or just interacted with each other in a work-related domain).

(not really ordered despite the numbers bcs that cloud of ideas in my head makes a lot of sense to me but usually doesn’t want to translate to written form with any sort of coherence, sorry I try)

(My favorite thing about all of this is just how much more bitter it makes the Linzin break-up for Lin)

(Edited ‘cause I forgot to add point 9)