J. Arthur’s Gaming Workshop: Rival School Games in The Present. (2020’s)

Whether it’s in movies, books, or tv adaptations, older shows from the past tend to be a recurring topic going into the present. When developing new media, some franchises are used divisively to promote new growth within the show’s already durable source material. An example of this would be with the original Twilight Zone and its use of “weird, unusual circumstances and situations” to promote a manner of recognizing real, impactful notices to concerning topics. It presents something new but still invokes the general premise of what it was based on; furthermore, using the context of “weird” and now relating it to “normal abnormalities” creates a more persuasive narrative towards The Twilight Zone’s ominous take on the unknown and informing others about what is obscure; using an old franchise to promote new concepts.

The same works in regards to older video game franchises, and this was made relatively clear in a character announcement for Street Fighter 5. Since its inclusion of Seasons, a regularly attributed notice to new DLC in the form of characters, stages, mechanics, and so forth, Street Fighter 5 has built itself from its initial launch back in 2016. The game was, in a word, “rough,” and fans felt shortchanged by the efforts that Capcom produced with one of their biggest IPs and a staple point in fighting games everywhere. With their announcement of Season 5, the fanbase was surprised and blown back by the sudden appearance of a particular character, a character that hasn’t been seen in years, in the form of Akira Kazama from the Rival School Series.

They said it couldn’t be done….they said it was dead. My god….they were wrong.

Such a character’s announcement was unexpected due to the lack of interest Capcom showed towards their older games, especially towards its fighting games. Titles like Power Stone, Star Gladiator, and Rival Schools are just three of many forgotten fighting games that Capcom hasn’t digitally released or rumored for a very long while despite being popular IPs that fans, young and old, still love in the present. Since her announcement was made in August of this year, fans have been speculating the power dynamics of what Akira’s appearance could mean for Capcom fighting games.

At the time of writing this article, Producer Yoshinori Ono has departed Capcom after 30 years of working with the company. Producer, Shuhei Matsumoto, and director, Takayuki Nakayama, will potentially be responsible for the direction of new content in regards to Street Fighter, Fighting Games, and Capcom’s possibly underused series that still holds a place in older fans memories.

However, in the case that they would revitalize an older series, Rival Schools’ idea as a current fighting game is both exciting and divisively-speaking, a problematic development. As someone who wishes to create new games creatively and narratively, I wanted to try my hand at figuring out how a current generation Rival Schools game would look, feel, and be developed through a gaming workshop. In this article, I’ll focus on four points of interest that are necessary for rejuvenating the franchise and providing new content for players. These four points will be Presentation, Mechanics, Story, and Inclusions. I will be using these four interests explicitly to construct what I think a new Rival Schools game would be like. In adapting multiple references and ideas from previous Capcom games, and other notable fighting games, this is my video game workshop towards a new and improved Rival Schools innovation.

  1. Presentation

    As an older franchise reintroduced into a new generation, the first idea that popped into my head was its presentation. Presentation plays a big part in how it will be received within the media and its community fanbase.

When Street Fighter IV was announced it displayed distinct animations with a flowing display of painted colors and backdrops in trailers. Artistic depictions of strong ink motions with a brush, and calligraphy-inspired movements (Which in turn would be a definitive feature known as “A Focus Attack“) made the characters feel like they were fighting on an artistic landscape. This excited fans about the future of the Street Fighter series. This presentation, first shown in FMV (Full Motion Video), before it was demonstrated in gameplay, made fans excited to play Capcom’s classic 2D fighter as a 3D fighting game.

Regarding Rival Schools, I don’t think the style of Street Fighter IV or V is necessary for their presentation. When I first heard about the Rival School series, I imagined it more like “Street Fighter High” rather than as a full-blown fighter in multiple countries. Because of its local feel, and whatever the story may be within it, I thought that the presentation for the game could be something similar to Street Fighter IV’s approach with artistic representation. Since it also has ties to being like a Marvel vs. Capcom game, perhaps it could also take a page from out of MVC3’s comic popping inspirations, and, lastly, the game itself could be presented as both a throwback and as a recollection of events that occurred within the series – like a yearbook OR a scrapbook.

Imagine it: Rival Schools’ idea as a new game would also be seen as a throwback to various events within the franchise. The game would be presented through pictures, comic strips, and the characters seamlessly walking in cutscenes from one image to another, and so forth. This would build upon the already established comic style inspirations found within the MVC series and would also play coyly with that of the Arcade endings in SFV, and tastefully incorporating the traversing mechanics of an older Sega Genesis game called Comix Zone. The game (Comix Zone) explored the idea of traversing comic panels, going page by page throughout the adventure. The presentation, not so much the gameplay, could be played around with in regards to the cutscenes with fading backgrounds, dropping polaroid frames to connect to another scene, turning the page, etc.

An example of how it could be implemented but NOT EXACTLY like TTYD.

It’s innovated enough to show growth and presents the game in remembrance as a franchise, continuing to play upon the yearbook theme in this title. A yearbook filled with memories about Rival School characters is the perfect setup to include multiple, and I mean MULTIPLE, costumes for the franchise. Whether it involves an entirely new generation of fighters for the series, OR revels in antics made between past and present views from within the series. This level of presentation would not only make the game a standalone fighter for the series, but, in case it isn’t the best game in the world, it provides it with a last ‘hurrah‘ in regards to its comeback within Capcom’s eyes.

2. Mechanics

When it comes to the mechanics for a new Rival School game, I believe it should be a mixture of old and new; however, it should be simple for newcomers and intricate enough for older fans. Given that the game’s last entry was a mixture of tag-team combat and one on one battles, I think that system should stay with new additions to the mechanics that work the 2D&3D fighting perspective:

  • 2D to 3D to 2D Battle Transitions: Justice Transitions

Project Justice’s Sidestep/Dodge Mechanic into a German Suplex

If this particular Rival School’s game was to go in the way of being an MVC fighter, yet still grounded with what makes Rival School such a nostalgic gem, one aspect that I think Rival schools would be terrific in implementing is a 2D to the 3D transitional battle system. When I thought about Pokken Tournament and their use of 3D to 2D combat, this idea came to me, transitioning from a 3D combative phase into a close-quarters 2D phase. The plan would be implemented in a distinctly different manner than Pokken’s and would involve brief transitions to 3D, rather than a full shift into a 3D arena mode.

Let’s call these moves “Justice Transitions” (Like transitioning between 1st Period, 2nd period, etc.), and it could be used as both a dodge against specific attacks with low frames and even some of them could have super armor enabled for them, while others can be used as counterattacks to change the flow of battle. Whenever the action is perfectly executed, it leads to a transitional cut between strips of a comic, or pictures in a yearbook, that turns the arena on a 3D-axis as the opponent is propelled into nearby objects (trash, benches, statues, handrails, etc.). The follow-up can be with the controlled character for extra damage, OR it can be transitioned back into a 2D state.

An inspired take on what a Justice Transition could look like in-game.

Regarding the 2D vs. 3D issue, this issue can be explained through the arena. As fighters are going against one another and use a Justice Transition, bouncing on the object that they would hit, another hit can be executed to turn the stage, showing another portion of the screen and, technically, resetting the stage or getting themselves out of the corner. This system could evolve through updates or new mechanics being added into the game; however, until that beautiful Season 1 update occurs – I believe this should suffice for the first stage of the game’s evolving combat.

  • Versatile Focus Attacks: Hall Pass Kenpo
It can be used to set up faints and counter-attacks.

Hall Pass Kenpo, or evasive moves/counters, could be implemented into the game to give everyone options when dealing with various kinds of matchups. Some of these moves will help their character speed pass projectiles, pushback opponents, initiate feints of some sort, amongst many other things that the game includes in its revamped playstyle. This would also, story-wise, make sense since for most of the characters. The use of particular sports, hobbies, and activities to produce a powerful combat style would make a bit more sense in this game if 1st years, or students that could defend themselves, had suddenly developed particular strengths in this installment. It’ll be treated as a ‘video game rule’ that the students in this game can do because of their love for the “fill in the blank activity” and that this makes sense within the game.

  • Perfect Guard: Grade Adjustment(s)
A perfect guard that can push back OR counter an opponent’s attack.

Grade Adjustment would be the equivalent of a Perfect Guard, allowing the characters to guard and secure further damage from making their HP gauge decrease. While this sounds very similar to the parry system, this idea actually came to me from a concept found in some forms of JRPGS.

This particular idea came to me from games like the Mario&Luigi franchise and Paper Mario series, respectively. A chance to decrease damage, or nullify it completely, sounds like a pretty basic concept since its foundation in many fighting games comes in the form of counters and parries. The idea of being able to counter and have the choice to push back or power through to attack the opponent is only found in some technical 3D fighters; an excellent example of this would be found in Tekken and Soul Calibur as reversals.

Grade Adjustments would give the choice of either being defense or using it to be offensive. In a sense, you’re adjusting your school work/homework and making it into something viable for a better grade. It could also be used to improve your rank at the end of the match; A+ being the highest and D- being the lowest, since F wouldn’t really exist because you have to move and/or do something in these matches.

  • Team Assistance (Support Attacks):
Initiating attacks into an assist attack OR the assist attack that you can use to catch others off guard.

Team Attacks, which could also include specific centered Vigor Combos for each character in addition to them, could be done in three different formats. The first would be the simple assist that comes out when you’re on the ground, the next would be a different assist that occurs while you’re airborne, and the third would be a brand new assist attack that uses the combined efforts of the two assists that you are using.

When used together, it would do something along those lines but as support; not as a super

Depending on the characters you’re using you’ll get different results and, in the case they don’t go together at all, the assists will come out just as they normally would; however, in the fact that they’re relatable to one another, the characters will produce a unique animation and attack, or support, for the fighter on screen.

  1. Story
20th anniversary. Perhaps a re-release or new game is necessary?

In regards to its story, Rival Schools can go in multiple directions with its narrative. Since Akira’s inclusion into Street Fighter 5 is supposedly in the future, where Sakura goes to a university, it could be implied that the adventures in this entry are of the past. By the story’s conclusion, older models of the students could be revealed, and through the season, for both young and old models, costumes could be added for each of the characters; Past and Present versions included.

  1. Inclusions

Now with most of the newly added mechanics implemented into the game, how it will be presented in-game, and a sampled story for the narrative enthusiast, let’s discuss the inclusions within the game. A game like this should have more than just the game (Controversial, I know) so, here’s a couple of ideas that could be implemented, HOWEVER, it’ll be done without a heavy data consumption:

  • Digital Download of Rival Schools (1 and 2)
Sprite Fighters, anyone???

Sweeten the deal with a digital release of Rival Schools OR even redeem codes to download it with the game’s purchase. Gathers the old, introduces to the new, and establishes the communities that love the games.

  • School Life Mode (Arcade mode, Synopsis and History Compendium, Time Archives)

School mode should be unique, maybe even like an arcade mode but with story mode notes and, if the yearbook motive is still active, you can learn more about the past of individual characters as it leads up to their graduation; so it’s sort of like a “fill in the blank” on certain characters history and giving them a synopsis by the time of their graduation, and where they would be in the Street Fighter Universe. It makes it interesting for casual players, and for diehard fans can appreciate the detail made in giving a complete synopsis on characters that haven’t been seen for 20 years!

In conclusion, this is just a possible continuation of the series and one way to pay respects to the franchise. Whether it becomes a thing or appears in the form of a new IP, this is my take at workshopping a classic game for the current generation of fighting games.


Putting Identity to Ethnicity; Dark-skinned Heroes and Villains in Gaming

What makes a good character stand out? The struggle of their character as they ascend from the bottom of the barrel to the top of the leaderboards in character development? The development of what kind of character they’ll be throughout the story? While all of these factors, and plenty more, attribute to the development and construction of a character, there has always been a unique connection – a fine line – that’s crossed or maintained when ethnicity is calculated into a character’s bio.

Over the past few years there has been a resurgence in promoting dark-skinned characters through movies, television shows, and comic books (Luke Cage, Black Panther, Black Lightning, Spider-Man, etc.), however, the iconizing of dark-skinned characters has always been prevalent in one form of media or another. In this article, I will display my findings and knowledge towards the establishing growth of dark-skinned characters in video games. I believe this development will garner fruits of representation within the black diaspora and can open the doors towards representing different ethnicities and, from a linguistics point of view, can offer a form of ‘code-switching’ that can be seen from a bigger viewpoint; virtually and culturally outlined with an interactive perspective provided by video games.

  1. Dark-skinned characters to Black/African characters

    Let’s talk about the elephant in the article: Are dark-skinned characters considered to be Black? The answer can be split down the middle, depending on how you view the character and the media it hails from. You could say that dark-skinned characters represent the black diaspora and that each character you find that happens to be darker than most is just another variety of Black/African characters. On the opposite side, you could argue that a dark-skinned character isn’t considered to be black because of their identity within the work of fiction they originate from and could be considered a mixture of different ethnicities – a melting pot – which speaks to the perspectives of different races that aren’t represented in multiple characters BUT is represented in one character. Both answers hold valid points – points that can be made and have been exemplified in various characters over the years within different video games. While some are a bit more obvious in regards to representation with a dark-skinned character, there have been subtler accounts of dark-skinned representation within gaming.

    Suikoden Revival

    A good example of diversity between dark-skinned characters can be found in an old JRPG (Japanese Role-Playing Game) by the name of Suikoden. Suikoden was a notable game for its tactics and implications for war-based strategy, and the turn-based battle system that had players forming a party of six characters rather than the general 4 found in other RPG’s like Final Fantasy. In addition to its unique system of battle, the game gives the opportunity to incorporate 108 special characters into your army that ranges from multiple races and species that inhabit the game. Ever wanted to have flying squirrels, griffons and unicorns as a companion that helps you fight against a tyrannical empire – Suikoden 2 offers that in spades. Ever thought that beavers were capable of dishing out damage and could be a solid foundation for representing third world countries – Suikoden 5 answers that question for you. However, within every entry of Suikoden, there has always been a representation of multiple ethnicities and cultures within the games.

    Starting with the game that introduced the first two dark-skinned characters within the franchise, Suikoden 2, are Hauser (Right) and Bob (Left). At first glance, Bob seems to mirror someone familiar – perhaps iconic – and you would not be wrong in assuming such a thing. Bob’s character is based, in appearance, to that of the legendary musician Bob Marley. From his dreads to the carefree nature that he holds, Bob is a subtle nod to Jamaican heritage within a European fantasy-based war game made by Japanese developers. While he isn’t the main character or a character that’s necessary to the story, the option to recruit him and know more of his history and skills is what makes the goal of finding 108 special characters in each game an intriguing objective. Once you recruit him, you learn that he isn’t actually human but is that of a Lycanthrope (Werewolves) and happens to be the last of his clan. The rune that’s embedded on his right hand, known as the Rabid Fang Rune, doesn’t initiate his lycanic transformation but actually prevents him in being able to transform. His appearance as a dark-skinned male isn’t racially attributed to anything outside of the fact that he appears to have dark skin, however, it’s the subtlety of his history and his lineage that paints a different perspective towards the character. In a description of his village and people, a darker tone is showcased and a word, or two, seems to be relatable to another incident that’s occurred within the bowels of history:

    Once a village of lycanthropes located in the Grassland, Lycanthrope Village was destroyed by Windy in her quest to find powerful runes, leaving only one survivor, a young man named Bob who participated as a soldier in the Dunan Unification War. As a result, Lycanthropes have become extremely rare and little information is known on lycanthropes or the village they once inhabited. The Holy Kingdom of Harmonia has several lycanthropes living within their borders; however, they have been integrated into the non-human class and thus are treated little better than slaves.

    On the other hand, there’s Hauser, another dark-skinned character and one that would paint the argument that his skin and structure would be ideally linked to that of African heritage. Unlike that of Bob, Hauser has importance to the story and is a commander of his own forces before joining that of the hero’s main army. He is a soldier, a knight, and a strong C.O. (Commanding Officer) to the forces he leads. There’s no identifying his race or status, other than being human, but the closest thing he has towards the representation of the black diaspora is that of his facial structure

    Black Male Gaming Characters - Face Structure

    Hauser’s distinct features are linked to a particular art style that’s uniquely attuned to that of Black/African drawings. The structure of the cheekbones, the accentuation of the nose and, most notably, the appearance of the lips. While it’s easy to write off that Bob and Hauser’s ethnical identities are a part of the black diaspora, it’s to be noted that Bob’s appearance, from a visage approach, is ethnically different from that of Hauser’s. Granted that Bob’s appearance isn’t naturally that of a dark-skinned male, and is more of a lycanthropic wolf-man, the two distinct styles in how they were drawn plays against the idea that “all Black people look alike” and that the diaspora of Black/African people can be seen in different views; even as different species.

  2. Implication vs Confirmation

    There’s a lot of trial and error when it comes to making a character, especially a character that is linked, or seems to be linked, to a race, or ethnicity, that’s had its fair share of criticisms. While it’s not impossible to make a good character that can represent the black collective, it’s entirely possible that the implication can overweigh the confirmation in the brainstorming process.

    This process can be called “Implication vs Confirmation“. As a writer and storyteller, there’s always an invisible list to which needs to be filled when creating a story that’s comprised of elements which can enhance the reader’s, or in this case ‘the player’s’, experience. A protagonist to lead the story, an antagonist that makes the events for the protagonist, or the story, more difficult, and many other options can be found on this list. The idea of creating a character that’s ethnically unbiased within a game is plausible. Most games that take place in a fantasy setting require that the characters themselves be unified under one term – Humans. The idea of race and individual ethnicities is turned on its head, subverting expectations, which creates a clearer narrative without the addition of white noise in regards to a person’s race convoluting the storyline. This is the Implication.

    The second part that has to be confirmed is, well, Confirmation. Does the character’s persona appropriate or appreciate the ethnicity? Are certain colloquialisms necessary to convey identity towards a culture? Is it necessary for them to be “too much” of a certain cliché or stereotype in regards to their ethnicity? Every decision to these and other questions is what outlines a character – what makes the character shine as their own individual presence. If the implication of a dark-skinned character has to be showcased through certain actions and provocations, does it create the display of ethnicity that grounds their character OR could it be used to heighten their character’s story in addition to character development? Confirmation plays an important role in structuring and developing a character in regards to their personal narrative. When it comes to race and ethnicity, the outline of character can be based off a figure or even constructed to be similar towards one, however, characters shouldn’t be objectified to a list of demands that MAKE the character.

    Another first in the series of dark-skinned characters comes from Barret Wallace from the Final Fantasy series. Barret stands as the first of the dark-skinned characters introduced within the series and one that can be closely identified to Black/African collectives in regards to representation within video games. While his initial introduction and artwork painted him as a virtual copy to that of Laurence Tureaud (Iconically known by the name “Mr. T”) his character within the game and throughout the game is anything but that. He’s the leader of AVALANCHE, a dutiful father, another main character next to Cloud Strife, and much more. His presence throughout the story is filled with various colloquialisms and vernacular English that’s directed towards, or from, AAVE (African American Vernacular English) which portrays his character.

    The implication that was crafted for Barret was to possibly give the image of a Black/African man with strong leadership skills, a brash/ruff attitude, and a character arc that has gone through strife in more ways than one; in the past and in the present. His conflict in trying to save the planet and to save his daughter, who (SPOILERS) isn’t related to him by blood, develops his character and confirms his identity as a man fighting for what is right; under the circumstances, he endures. He isn’t identified as a Black/African male and outside of his appearance to Mr. T, he isn’t considered to be an icon for the race. He just happens to have dark skin, a hi-top fade, a beard that would make Mr. T proud, a gun-arm, and a mission; both personal and economical.

    Barret Wallace Remake

    With the Final Fantasy 7 Remake, a plethora of design choices and tweaks have been made for the cast. No longer exists the old Mr. T inspired look for the leader of AVALANCHE as he has now adopted a more modern design for the hair on top of his head and on his face. Sporting a nice fade from each side, leaving a short but slicked back layover for the top, a rugged but maintained beard lineup, while outlining various elements to his visage from the initial character design; Barret has evolved. In addition to his pronounced features (outlined in the same account as Hauser’s from the previous number) Barret’s appearance shows a confirmation to the modern era of hairstyles and beard lineups, however, he also showcases how a dark-skinned character can appear within video games. While the industry has access to mocap technology, using the contour of models and other personnel to digitally craft features in real-time, Barret’s design proves that a fundamental choice in perspective from one figure can be transcended with different likenesses. He may have been rough and hard to handle in the beginning, but the development of his character visually can, and has, been improved over time.

  3. Dark-Skinned Villains; Reasons, Motivations, and Script

    With every great hero comes a daunting force of conflict in the form of an antagonist or villain. While villains don’t necessarily need to be dark-skinned to impose themselves against others in a game, there have been some candidates in the last couple of decades that have showcased that their skin color isn’t entirely necessary to convey their story as a villain.

    Rolling back around to the 2nd and 3rd games in the Suikoden series we’re introduced to another dark-skinned character: Lucia. As a villain, Lucia was a unique character right from her introduction in the second game. A young leader of the Karayan Clan, a clan of dark-skinned warriors whose cultural background shares an affinity to Native Americans, she fights to protect her people and collaborates with one of the leading characters in order to ensure protection for her people and the securing of new land. Her role as a villain is further enhanced by the means in which she uses to execute her desired goals. She was merciless in nearly killing the main character, showcasing many of her abilities – which are further fleshed out in the proceeding title, she has ideal strategies in regards to war and tactics, something which is further enhanced in other games due to becoming a leader at a young age after the death of her father (Another interesting point that fuels the flames of her villainy), and was willing to do anything to enact vengeance.

    In comparison to other villains within the game, Lucia’s role is rather minor. She appears near the beginning of the third act with little to no involvement in the main story. She’s propositioned land and safety for her clan, she’s given command of her own forces, made a general within the army (albeit until the end), and fights against the opposition due to personal incidents regarding her clan, family, and how it shaped her life.

    As a character, Lucia has motivations which develop her character and those motivations within Suikoden 2 is what makes her a unique villain. Furthermore, going into Suikoden 3, because of her experience from the previous game, she’s further relentless in believing that no kingdom is worth aligning alongside. The disrespect that is shown to her people, the destruction and theft of their lands, play an important part in the formula that makes Lucia a well-established villain.


    Next on the list is that of another popular figure modeled after, well, a popular boxer: Balrog.  Not to be confused with the mythical beast from Lord of the Rings, this Balrog comes from the highly popular fighting game series “Street Fighter” and has been a prominent member of the cast ever since his inclusion back in Street Fighter II. Identified as an African American he’s modeled after Mike Tyson and is quick to make as much fight money as possible. Balrog’s villainy already shows through his moral compass and decisions in regards to fighting for the main villains, yet his race is never an account for his underhanded tactics and infamous moves throughout the story. His countenance is more towards the sin of greed than it is to villainy, however, given the context of working for Shadaloo, an evil organization infamously known throughout the series, Balrog’s conscious decisions do not promote the inner good of doing the right thing.


    To his credit as a character, the motivations he carries is undeniably linked to his entire persona. He doesn’t feign ignorance to being better than what he shows to others, as he implies that he’s the best at what he does, and his honesty is enough to make a lie detector look stupid; cause his cold hard truth would make it seem inefficient and useless as a device. Since his appearance, he has been a strong, tough, and rash individual that has been seen as a villain. A rough nature and a smug attitude, Balrog’s street skills paints the scene for a villain pugilist with little concern for others well being; with more selfish and greedy intentions just for himself.



    Ansem, preferably the ‘Seeker of Darkness‘, is a fundamentally intriguing villain within the Kingdom Hearts series. In explaining his origins, an account that I will not do in great length, showcases that his existence and connection within the story is, for clarification purposes, fundamentally sound and acknowledgeable to the lore that’s presented within the story. However, if you take out the complications with the lore, this version of Ansem was the first and pressing antagonist that started the Kingdom Hearts series. A shrouded figure in the darkness that did research on hearts (metaphorically and semi-physically speaking) he was the imposing figure that stood in the shadows of Sora and Riku’s adventures within the game. His acts included corrupting Riku’s heart with darkness – a poignant act that would play an important role in the character’s development within later games – and the construction of Kingdom Hearts through the obliteration of multiple worlds.

    ansem smirk

    His appearance on screen is unexpected and the appearance he takes is just as foreboding as the voice that comes from it. He doesn’t pardon his actions and he only parleys for small moments with the main cast of characters. His intentions to find Kingdom Hearts and to use it for his own well being, in addition to filling all of the worlds with darkness, is a straight and simple goal for his agenda. What made his goal and presence unique was the lack of involvement he played within the game itself. The game, Kingdom Hearts, associates most of its story to Sora, Donald, and Goofy as they travel to different Disney worlds and preventing their collapse from the Heartless; which Ansem also happens to be, however, this isn’t prevalent within his appearance as it is more of an epiphany in later games. In future games, an explanation is given as to why he has dark skin and silver hair, however, before those games were even a concept, Ansem’s appearance wasn’t a hot-button topic. His attitude, the role he was given, and how it was implicated within the game is what made Ansem a great stand-alone villain within the series.

  4. Conclusion ~ Representation

    As an African American, I’ve learned that representation within different forms of media is a necessity going forward. Black and African figures in today’s media have been brought into the light for the public through the use of comics, instilling a sense of understanding and acceptance to one’s race that isn’t seen as often. Video games have provided chances for African Americans to be expanded within the media, however, I’ve found that the representation for the race has been used in different contexts; whether it’s from the east or the west gaming franchises.

    I avoided putting any American games in this article for a couple of reasons. One of them was because of how the interpretation of race is seen when compared to the most popular games in America vs the fantasy elements found within most JRPGs. Popular titles like the Assassins Creed series deals with the re-telling of history and the amplification of the past and presents involvement. In Assassins Creed: Black Flag’s DLC “Freedom Cry“, the character Adewale, a former slave with an education that would soon become a pirate and eventually would become an assassin, would embark on his own journey which would lead to many historical bouts against the Templar and freeing captured slaves. I appreciated the bold storytelling, the use of history, and its importance in regards to African heritage, however, I feel that the game is only one example that places the character in an ethnically threatening situation which garners a greater change in their character. Other popular games like the Grand Theft Auto series paints a stereotypical image which, in most cases, presents a toxic representation in regards to cultural appropriation. The games are not bad – technically speaking – but the storytelling for dark-skinned characters like CJ (San Andreas) and Franklin (Los Santos) seem to always have a unique turnabout in regards to their characters.

    In fantasy RPG’s, East or West, the context of the story is vitally important to each character. While there are some tropes that can be filled with throwaway characters, the development of any character should always be seen as a vital component in regards to crafting a great story. While most protagonists can be seen from a Eurocentric viewpoint, the choice to make dark-skinned characters protagonists is just as valid to other perspectives. Square-Enix’sFinal Fantasy” series may have gotten the ball rolling with Barret, but the domino effect of different dark-skinned characters like Fran (XII) and Sazh (XIII) have also been introduced into the fold of dark-skinned representations. There identities as humans, or Viera in Fran’s case, are established as their main identity and the way that they speak are clarified to that of their characters; Fran uses her voice as a means to showcase respect and authority, as her race generally acknowledges is a valuable trait, while Sazh uses comedy and blunt statements, mixed with AAVE, due to a tragic past and coming to terms with the world he now lives within; these developments are paramount to the character’s progression.

    In starting with Suikoden for this article, a game which I have personally favored since playing its second installment back in 1998, it introduced to me, a young, African-American man, that a story can involve many ethnicities and that the concern of “race” shouldn’t affect it. From the second title in the series to its fifth installment on consoles, Suikoden has proven to be a game that uses its diverse cast as a means of storytelling. The third installment showcased the Karaya Clan, previously mentioned with Lucia’s appearance from the second game, which amalgamated Native Americans and Africans as a single clan; pressing the matters of land reservation, cultural racism, and hate crimes – yet their clan isn’t the only one who experiences these events; broadening the subject to others, however, making an impactful statement that alludes throughout the entire game. Further titles would introduce new clans that would further represent Africans, Asians, East Indians, Cubans, Anglo-Americans, and many more. Topics of war would continue to be targeted and even topics of social hiearchy would be challenged in each installment; including issues that pertained to Feminism, Sexism and Gay Rights. To me, Suikoden was like the older brother to Pokémon who preferred World History rather than Zoology. While Pokémon has gone out of its way to make 819 creatures based on actual animals, splashed with some creatures that are more akin to folklore/mythology, Suikoden has created 540 characters that have represented most of the races and ethnicities on our planet.

    In conclusion, this article isn’t a compilation of reasons to make more dark-skinned characters. This article is to bring awareness to how dark-skinned characters can be made and the impact it has on gaming and media. While the progression of Black/African protagonists is few and far between, the acceptance of race and its accumulation in games is slowly developing towards a positive retrospect. From Pokémon’s extending cast of different races (The trainers, not the Pokémon) in their games to the rise of more prominent characters that share in the representation of the black community, I believe that representation will be seen as a positive investment towards the identity of ethnicity in games and media going forward.




J’s Writing Corner: Main Characters

Allow me to introduce you to the first of many articles focused on the scope of writing and development within storytelling. These Writing Corners will act as my personal interpretation into distinct elements for storytelling and other topics that align with the main focus of the centered article. While most of the examples that I will use will be related to video games, I will outline the most important parts, aligning them in reference to written literature structures, and using them as a base to universally connect the two forms of art together. In this week’s WC, I’ll start us off with a concept that is essential to creating a story, a fundamental that is necessary for direction and establishing forms of narrative: Main Characters.

What makes the Main Character the main interest of a story?

In many stories, if not all, there’s a directive notice to the plot in which the MC is either apart of or has a hand in playing which leads to the events that create the story. Their appearance is used in a way to narrate the story, illustrating points and/or details that would’ve had otherwise been overlooked through the eyes of multiple characters. The main character could be considered the “missing puzzle piece” within the story that prevents further conflict from arising within the world or could be the very thing that is causing conflict and is unaware of it.

When introducing the main character within your story, it’s important to remember simple concepts and structures that are to be used with every character:

  • Story and Character Development: A character within a story deserves every bit of detail and attention to their appearance within their works. This application doubles in priority for the main character as they are our eyes and ears to the situation within their titled works. A knight that is tasked with saving a princess and slaying a dragon would be informed about the dragon, how powerful it is, whether it’s safe to fight it now or later, and if it can be defeated. As much detail can be given about the dragon that hasn’t been seen on the screen/page, the same amount of detail can be given to the titular character that isn’t aware they are the main focus for us, the readers/players, as the tale unfolds.dragon-quest-viii-journey-of-the-cursed-king-444835.2 A good example of story and character development for the main character that I found to be one of the better standards was in Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King. The synopsis of the tale accounts to a cursed king, cursed into a toad-like monster, and his equally cursed daughter, who’s been turned into a horse, roaming the land alongside a single guard who was unaffected by the curse that had been cast by a vengeful jester wielding an ancient and powerful staff. While the title of the game states that the cursed king might have some importance within the game (Which holds true in some degrees) it’s treated as a red herring but, in a twist, it’s subverted in the direction of our silent main character. With the king and princess in their altered states, one more hostile to civilians than others, the guard acts as their liaison, representing the kingdom, fighting their battles, sharing in part their troubles as a soldier, and continues to follow the king and princess, instilling hope in their advances to defeat the man that caused this conflict, lifting the curse and bringing peace back to the kingdom.

    Now, without saying a word, the main character has already shown a distinct sign of loyalty to his king and princess in helping them regain their kingdom. The game follows up with the player in revealing more about the main character as a knight that has served the king faithfully and has suffered from amnesia since appearing at the castle as a young child; showing proof in further testimonies to his development as a character – un-wavered by these memories throughout the entirety of the story. Along the way, he’s met with other characters that join in his quest to help the cursed king. He’s shown immeasurable trust amongst these characters, which furthers develop his ability to lead as the game progresses, and is even recognized through the efforts of the cursed king who deems him worthy as a candidate for marriage with his daughter; something which is exclusively forbidden since commoners are unable to marry royalty without their own royal backgrounds within this setting.

    Despite his silent disposition, he’s established his character as a righteous knight that travels with the remains of royalty from a cursed kingdom and sees the journey to an end in the hopes of making things right once more. His story has a definition to the role he plays within the game, he’s developed from that of a guard into that of a leader while engaging in liaison affairs on behalf of his cursed king, and these developments are made prominent from the involvement of other characters as they progress to the endgame. Not bad for a silent protagonist, huh?

  • Involvement within the story: Plot twists and secret developments aside, the involvement of a character, main or not, is credited as having some sort of part to play within the story. Whether they were a simple cattle boy that tended to a farm before being visited by an intergalactic samurai of the distant past (Star Wars) or a primate that travels across lush jungles while fighting off anthropomorphic reptiles that have stolen his bananas (Donkey Kong Country), the prologue of their beginnings are made clear.job-classes-skills-stat-bonuses-chart-octopath-traveler

    Octopath Traveler
    is a game that uses this concept as its main form of storytelling and focus, giving you control over eight characters whose individual tales play an important narrative in revealing the world to which they inhabit. Unlike that of the pride and true method of some stories, the main character for this game is split amongst the eight party members that you can choose from when starting the game. Each is given their own specific narrative which provides them with a background to their story, a goal they are in pursuit towards, and a climax of events which leads to their stories conclusion.

    While playing a character, the involvement of other characters is virtually unseen within that character’s story. While this could be seen as inefficient to the establishment of character it actually does the opposite. Their narrative is uninterrupted by outside sources, creating a raw and tangible continuation in their tales. For example, Cyrus, an astute scholar, begins his adventure in search of a missing book from his kingdom’s library that’s known for its dark magic; he’s blissfully unaware of this little fact, mind you. Each chapter, in his narrative, showcases that the individuals who had possessed the book had been wrought with great power but with the price of their humanity as the cost. By the end of his journey, he learns that the book was being used to convert humans into a red crystalized substance and that those who knew of this power, which is revealed to be a nice handful of individuals amongst the eight storylines, could lead to the very resurrection of a demonic monster that nearly brought ruin to the world from a millennia ago.

    These events mark an endgame that never occurs within the main story. Yes, I’m not joking, an awesome setup that could lead to our eight heroes fighting against an apocalyptic monster is an optional quest that never interferes with the character’s main narrative. Cyrus’s goal in finding the book, meeting old acquaintances that promote his character along the way, revealing his intuitive detective skills that could even impress Sherlock Holmes, his persona of a high-educated scholar whose goal in life is to teach others in hopes that they will one day become teachers in some way, and his obliviousness to social situations is the life’s essence within his narrative and that of his traveling companions; individually different, narratively sound.

  • The Characters are Extensions of the World: Whether it’s one or two main characters, a character is supposed to represent something new and different; Different parts of the world, different cultures, different groups, etc. The diversity of establishing characters as something unique, distinctly different than the cliche of making them the main focus of a story because of A, B, and C, is an on and off again occurrence within acts of fiction and written literature.ID - MCs

    One example from a film that was executed well in using two protagonists was Independence Day (1996). This particular film as a summer blockbuster used the dynamic star power of Will Smith as Captain Steven Hiller and Jeff Goldblum as David Levinson, to tell a story from two different perspectives in a story about aliens invading from space. Steven Hiller’s role within the movie was to encapsulate a certain crowd and a distinct measure of authority for his character. He was in the armed forces, a captain, an African American, his girlfriend-turned-wife is a stripper, he had a child, respected as a leader and experienced survivors remorse (In a more angered fashion) all throughout the entire film. On the other hand, David Levinson used to work with the government, now working for the people, an untypical nerd archetype, conflicted scientist, riddled with guilt from his past mistakes (Love and Success), survivors remorse (Incredibly emotional) and an
    evolving mind.

    The two individuals come from entirely different backgrounds, sharing very few similarities in regards to their unknown positions as main characters. They start from the opposite side of the continent, a West Coast-East Coast comparison, which eventually leads them coming together in a place that doesn’t exist, however, is used to center their assault on the alien forces (Area 51) by using the unknown to create a new future (Defeating the aliens). A union of two characters, different personalities, familiar goals and attention to details within their own specifics; he shoots and he will science.

  • Personality: That last thing that any character needs, ESPECIALLY A MC, is the lack, or interest, of having a personality. In my earlier thoughts, I explained how a silent character, whose personality is pretty neutral, can be demonstrated by their actions; this is used to convey an “actions speak louder than words” prerogative. On the other hand, the implication of giving the main character a personality is what sets the tone of their story.Travis Touchdown

    In a game called No More Heroes, the title card protagonist for this game is a man by the name of Travis Touchdown. His personality is a unique blend of social tropes, doused with a bit of realism, subversion of cliches, and a mockery to multiple stereotypes. In other words, he’s the anti-hero to your general perspective of heroes; hence the title. He becomes an assassin just for the hell of it, indulged upon with the idea of getting some “naked tango” lessons from another character if he ends up becoming the number one assassin amongst them all, all while giving very little details about himself including his past and his motivations. He uses this persona to engage the audience that’s clearly playing the game, messing with the meta, yet again, in regards to the 4th Wall Breaking format.

    He uses his personality to subvert expectations to which the story might imply, leading the player along in a world that is, without question, a cliche and stereotyped obstacle that he, our main character, is going to break down. If Travis had no personality, or refused to develop one by the end of the game, his actions to do what he does and his ability to connect with the player, or the audience – as he puts it, would disengage the player and make the game less of a contrived story with flaws that held inner meanings – rather than a game that was just being played because it had an interesting title and story, but with a protagonist that was a dull as loose board.


J’s Design Corner: Kingdom Hearts and Atlantis: The Lost Empire

Since its release in 2019, The reception for Kingdom Hearts 3 among its fans has been hot and cold due to the complaints of several game design issues. To its benefit, the game included new and intriguing forms of combat, which allowed players to make Sora into a more than capable protagonist with additional abilities and skills that ups the young keyblade warrior’s strengths for this long-awaited sequel. However, on the other hand, the presentation of narrative throughout the title tends to feel rushed in certain parts of the game’s story. Even though the “ReMind” DLC does a fair job of filling in the plotholes from the main game, it still doesn’t make up for the lack of absent narratives that could’ve improved the final product.

However, I’m not here to banter or go off the deep end about what has happened with Kingdom Hearts 3. Instead, I’m here to discuss what the future of Kingdom Hearts worlds could look like through my creative game design crafting and narrative design implications. Kingdom Hearts 4, or any other title that seemingly connects us to Kingdom Hearts 4, is probably a long way off from being announced or even in production. While it would be ideal to say that we know where the story is going, even after the teasers of a world based within “reality,” there’s not enough concrete evidence to determine what comes next within the series.

For whatever may come, or whatever may not come, the wellspring of ideas for which worlds Square Enix focuses on is, unironically, a mystery. However, I like to put my hat into the ring and suggest a world that holds elements of fantasy linked through mythology and works as a world that’s split between fictitious and non-fictitious realities: The Lost Empire of Atlantis.

Source: Walt Disney Pictures

This design article will elaborate on Atlantis’s history and significance with other Disney worlds and the mythological implications within the current Kingdom Hearts mythos. The narrative design elements that appease or displease Disney’s brand, the gameplay elements, the crafting around its story, teammates, areas of exploration, and bosses. By the article’s end, a detailed and elaborate design for the world of Atlantis and what it could look like within the following entry for the series will be present. My creative analysis will highlight game design elements from Kingdom Hearts alongside the narrative design aspects, accompanied by visual examples and cues from the film.

History and Signifiance: The World That Never Recovered

Source: Walt Disney Pictures

From the beginning of Atlantis’s story within the film, the premise for war, the loss of life, and the mystery behind the city of Atlantis’s destruction can create an intriguing narrative that Kingdom Hearts can quickly introduce within their mythos. While most of the worlds in the series were restored via the destruction of the Heartless, Kingdom Hearts, or seemingly exist within the Realm of Dreams, other “worlds” exist as fragments of a former reality.

For example, Pinocchio’s world from KH1 and Dream Drop Distance are two exclusive examples of a world that exists on two different plains of reality. In Kingdom Hearts, the monstrous whale of Monstro exists in traveling the vast void of outer space without water, air, or a world to inhabit. Without any explanation, Monstro should cease to exist. Additionally, Monstro exists within the Realm of Dreams – the realm that seemingly has living worlds that are continuously slumbering until a certain keyblade wielder awakens them – which takes place at different times and ignores the anomalies of time for plot purposes. Are you still with me? No? Yes? Hang in there, it’ll make sense in just a moment.

Source: Walt Disney Studios

Now, regarding the status of Atlantis and where it resides between the realities of fiction and non-fiction, let’s assume that the world existed at some point within the game’s universe. The world was destroyed, much in the way the empire had been within the film; however, let’s interpret that the world still exists within the “spaces between worlds” in which the Gummi Ships have to navigate. By regulating the world to live, yet not occupying the space within one reality or the other, the empire continues to be “lost” in more ways than one. Is it in the world of fiction? Non-Fiction? The Realm of Dreams?

To answer this question that eludes future narrative inquiries, we must first answer how Square Enix and Disney can narratively design this world.

Narrative Design: Creative Liberty vs Disney’s Hierachy

Source: TheThings

Now, let’s address the abundantly giant, annoying elephant in this discussion: What will Disney do to muck up this imaginative, creative, and awe-inspiring world for a dream project such as Kingdom Hearts? Well, let’s not get ahead of ourselves, shall we?

As the years have progressed, Disney has evolved from what it initially was back in 1923. As a result of its progressive progression, the world’s eyes are now on Disney. Unironically because of its status as a global superpower gatekeeper in the world of animation, this translates into Disney giving the people what they want and what they thought they didn’t need.

Disney and Pixar’s blossoming relationship has created hits like Toy Story, The Incredibles, and the latest film (At the time of writing this article), Encanto, with a watermark of family-friendly expositions packaged with intricate and subtle story initiatives that speak to all ages. On the other hand, Walt Disney Animation Studios are creating shows that speak to the other side of the public and social initiatives. Shows like “The Owl House” have brought awareness to the LGBTQ audience through character interactions and developments that aren’t forced or inherently driven by fan speculations or wanting. Overall, the coin that is Disney has two sides to it; one that keeps the status quo appropriate and one that experiments with what could be the status quo.

Atlantis: The Lost Empire” has enough “Disneyiums” to stand alone as its own world without altering the story. However, some discrepancies that the current Walt Disney Company might not find suitable for today’s audience could promote a few changes for a variety of reasons:

Source: Fanpop


The death count in Atlantis is pretty high for a Disney movie in the 2000s. Still, The implications of death in other movies pale in comparison to this film, with it stating that at least 200 died in the first act with the Ulysses scene, possibly over 100,000 more with the destruction of Atlantis, 9 Atlanteans near the final act, and 22 members of the surviving crew that sides with Rourke. So while I’m sure Disney wouldn’t have any troubles in allowing death to be present within Kingdom Hearts, despite altering certain scenes in other worlds with Disney properties, the general understanding of death is continuously played around within the Kingdom Hearts series. Also, yes, KH isn’t shy to let you know that people across multiple worlds are either dead, killed, or deceased – hence the Heartless.

If Atlantis was allowed to be a world in the next game, I believe this world would be the best exhibition for death. The Atlanteans have lived for over 8800 years. Given that they could die without the Heart of Atlantis – something demonstrated in the film – the healing properties of the stone and how it affects the king of the empire after being roughed up by the villain, Rourke, would teach the audience and Sora about the sad reality that an immortal life doesn’t equal happiness. Not only would this be a valuable lesson for Sora, but it fits into the wheelbarrow that Tetsuya Nomura uses in most of his titles, using a simple concept that links to a complex idea that requires thought and perception. Combine this with a memorial for the king, Kashekim Nedakh, and the actor who played the king, Leonard Nimoy, and you’ve got a world that seemingly does two things: It celebrates the concept of life and acknowledges the reality of death.

Source: Tumblr

Sex Appeal

American animation and 3D Polygons have come a long way since the early 2000s to present this topic. While Kingdom Hearts isn’t mainly known for making their characters into sexpots, early age Disney has some explaining to do, and Atlantis might have a couple of issues. The most obvious wouldn’t be any of the crewmates – one is too young, the other is too old, and the last one is evil (Which may or may not give her a pass for a tank top reveal). The most obvious is Kida and her Atlantean garbs before ascending the throne as the queen of Atlantis.

Kida’s Atlantean apparel isn’t the worst when it comes to censorship. You could argue that Kida is modestly covered where it matters outside of a particular swimming scene. Plus, I doubt Disney would be on the warpath to ignore that Kida, an 8800-year-old woman, doesn’t have curves, breasts, or some cleavage while wearing her traditional garbs. Outside of Sora and company, the Disney characters – excluding Mickey Mouse and his affiliates – – are given just enough sheen and shine to impress at a glance, but they won’t be the game’s main attraction; only the attraction of their world. Much like Ariel and Jasmine, Kida should be fine and untouched by Disney’s ethics department for this virtual exploit.

Source: Tumblr

Tobacco (Smoking)

This issue is pretty obvious for those that know what Disney wants and doesn’t want within their movies. There are two simple fixes for it: Packard has less screentime alongside the other crewmates, OR you never show Packard smoking in the first place.

At the time, I could imagine that Disney’s idea for Packard was something along the lines of an “old woman in her 60’s that’s assisted the military in many joint operations but has a tendency to slack and be a bit of chatterbox. Rourke and the others recruited her for the first expedition to Iceland to recover the Shephard’s Journal with a certain professor by the name of Thatch.” A no-nonsense, candor attitude that’s “too old for this shit” demographic.

Her inclusion within the story would be as part of the crew—nothing more, nothing less. If you take away her cigarettes and not her personality, it’s still the same Packard.

Gameplay Elements (Abilities): Deep Sea Diving and Flowmotion Expansion

Source: Buzzfeed

Deep Sea Dive (Atlantean Lungs):

Like many other water worlds after Atlantis, Sora needs some exclusive ability to swim without limits. In Kingdom Hearts, he was turned into a merman and learned how to swim against the rushing currents of a pressurized water hole. When KH3 came around, Sora just knew how to swim, fight and open treasure chests with relative ease.

Source: Giphy

For the adventures he would have in Atlantis, Sora would need something akin to his KH1 adventures that mesh well with his natural ability to swim in KH3. Therefore, I propose that he learns how to swim faster and deeper within the depths of the ocean by the Atlanteans. While Milo was able to keep up with Kida in their swimming escapades, it was clear that Kida had more practice, experience, and vitality to perform the task without injuring herself. Therefore, allow Kida to teach Sora how to perform a deep-sea dive and allow Sora to adapt and create an ability that enables him to swim deep within the crevices of the Atlantean waters. Not only will this ability be exclusive to the world by its moniker “Atlantean Lungs,” but it can be included into his list of significant abilities when he is off-world, by the name Deep Sea Dive.

The introduction to a significant skill while in a world mostly covered in water sounds appropriate and narratively makes the character stronger regarding their advancing skills with swimming. After all, Sora is an island boy.

Flowmotion Expansion

The presentation of abilities and skills with Flowmotion has been well-received for the most part. A mechanic that allows you to run up walls, spin on poles, dash back and forth with swift strikes while also performing unique and genuinely extraordinary feats has become a staple for the series.

Flowmotion’s expansion needs to happen in the next Kingdom Hearts title. While it was introduced to us through Sora and Riku in Dream Drop Distance (DDD), the mechanic also appears in A Fragmentary Passage with Aqua. Suppose Aqua, an official keyblade master, is capable of using Flowmotion. In that case, it’s not impossible to say that she, and most likely others, can use more Flowmotion techniques that have yet to be shown or discovered within the games. For example, many parts of the world in Atlantis have high cliffs, steep canyons, frozen wastelands, and even an active volcano segment.

I propose that through the arduous journey Sora and the gang have through these different sections, Sora recognizes he can expand his skill with Flowmotion. Perhaps he learns a little more about Flowmotion through Milo and the Shephard’s Journal? Maybe he realizes it on the fly? Maybe both?? Whatever the answer might be, I believe a lesson or a chance to upgrade his abilities on one of his adventures is pivotal to future battles and a better understanding of Flowmotion as a mechanic. As a new staple within Kingdom Hearts, it should be improved and expanded upon through experimentation throughout other worlds. Atlantis would be one of many worlds that teaches Sora how to develop, improve, and use it.


Dive to the Heart – Kida. Source: Pinterest

The Story: The Search for Atlantis (KH Edition)

Now, regarding the story of Atlantis, I will be taking creative liberties in narratively constructing the beginning, middle, and ending sections of the world. Since I have outlined the possible lore implications with Atlantis earlier and how it could fit within the Kingdom Hearts series, let’s take a collective breath and say: “This won’t be a scene-by-scene retelling or reimagining of the film.” My narrative construction is based heavily on the scale of the story and how narratives can modify it within a set of circumstances orchestrated by interactive-fiction storytelling techniques.

The Beginning: An Expert in Gibberish

Source: Fanpop

Milo, our main protagonist and resident linguist of the film, runs into Sora and the gang at some point in their adventures, primarily in the world or section of that world considered a home base for the characters. After introductions and a looming worry by Sora and others about Milo, the group follows Milo and accompanies him visiting Preston B. Whitmore. The scene that plays between Milo and Preston goes off without a hitch, even with the inclusion of Sora and others present; however, there is something different about the state of Atlantis.

Change #1: The City of Atlantis Was Destroyed Earlier Before Milo’s World.

Suppose the world of Atlantis’s destruction predates the destruction of Milo’s world, which we’ll nickname “Earth-1912,” that sets the narrative timeline for Milo’s world and the “rules” behind knowing the existence of other worlds. This moment ensures some wiggle room regarding the existing plotholes of different Disney characters that have appeared throughout Kingdom Hearts without good reasons as to why or how they got there.

Additionally, Preston’s importance holds a significant change in this adaptation and builds upon a notable foundation that, more or less, isn’t talked about enough in the series.

Change #2: Whitmore is a Competitor in The Production of Gummi Ships.

While it’s clear, or not clear enough, how Scrooge McDuck is responsible for the procurement of Gummi Ships, it is not an impossible thought to think that there’s a rival company that wants to do better than the richest duck in Duckburg. Outside of magic, dark portals, and the occasional “I’m just here because the plot demands it” excuse, Whitmore’s endeavors with machinery could be the reason why he’s rich in Kingdom Hearts. Furthermore, you can’t deny that the Ulysses looks a bit like a futuristic spaceship.

Everything that follows after this conversation remains faithful to the film, albeit it takes place within a Gummi Ship hangar, which leads to the following events:

  • Milo and gang sees the Ulysses for the first time.
  • The crew is introduced.
  • The Ulysses is under attack by the Leviathan (Gummi Ship Battles).
  • The Great Escape (Downplaying the excessive amount of death).
  • The Entrance to the Ruins of Atlantis.
  • The Great Cave Offensive (No, not the Kirby game).
  • The Great Campfire Offensive (No…at the time of writing this article).
  • Milo is found by Kida and the Atlanteans.
  • The discovery of Atlantis.

The Middle: Separated by Time and Reality

Source: Fanpop

Once Sora and the gang have arrived at the entrance to the castle, the events of the movie continue:

  • Everyone is introduced to the King of Atlantis.

Oh, right, I almost forgot. There’s a couple of changes to introduce:

Change #3: The King of Atlantis Knows About Other Worlds and About The Keyblade.

In much the same way King Triton of Atlantica knows about other worlds and the keyblades, it’s not a stretch for another king to know that vital secret as well. The idea that royalty, Disney or not, knows about other worlds and keyblade wielders would be the best-kept secret and trope that KH could have in regards to its lore. It doesn’t have to be confirmed; however, it would be clever if they brought it back after so many games with it being unmentioned.

Change #4: The Atlanteans are Aware of Their Situation

Well…Kida and her father are aware of it.

Events continue, again, in an alternate fashion:

  • Milo spends time with Kida (Featuring Sora from Kingdom Hearts).
  • They overlook the city and discuss about its culture (Fishing minigame, Ancient discoveries).
  • Evening Swim (Underwater Dungeon).
  • Deception, Disgrace (For those that get that reference, I appreciate your Disney showtunes knowledge).
  • The Heart of Atlantis.
  • A Change of Heart (Good Crewmates Return)

The End: In The Eyes of Our Kingdom’s Heart

Source Walt Disney Studios

Let’s skip along to the final climactic moments of the film:

Change #5: Rourke’s Defeat Immediately Begins Another Boss Battle: His Heartless

Imagine this: Sora, Milo, and the gang have caught up with Rourke and Helga at the base of the inactive volcano. Fighting off soldiers on the ground and in the skies, Rourke tosses Helga off, Helga shoots a signal flare at the rising balloon, and the party fights against a deranged Rourke with an ax.

After defeating Rourke with a final cut from an enchanted piece of glass from the containment unit, Rourke realizes that his life is about to end, and you see his “heart” leave his body. The balloon lands on the ground in a fiery explosion, a pair of bright red eyes pierce through the combustion of flames. It’s a Heartless!

Milo anchors/tethers Kida to one of the flying vehicles, and they rush through the cave while avoiding the giant Heartless. The lava overtakes Rourke’s Heartless, seemingly killing it, as Sora and the gang reach the city’s top to release Kida. After successfully freeing her, Rourke’s Heartless suddenly appears, and the final battle is on between our heroes. Finally, the Heartless goes down, the city is revitalized, and the nightmare has ended.
  • Kida is safe.
  • Milo stays in Atlantica with Kida and says farewell to Sora.
  • Whitmore reads the last letter from Milo.
  • The World’s Title Card Appears – End of Story.

Teammates (Characters)

Five Party Members; 2 AI Partners – Source: Walt Disney Studios

Milo Thatch

The Coolest Nerd Alive – Source: Fanpop

KH Milo&Company (One For All and All For One): Milo Thatch is an interesting case in developing a character that’s primarily non-combative for a game based around combat. Milo is more book smart than street smart and more of a grammar nazi than a street fighter in the films. Despite this, Disney has yet to fail in making any of their peaceful, non-combative protagonists into some form of combative or highly underestimated party member from their game catalog. In the 2000s, Disney Interactive Studios created multiple games about Atlantis: The Lost Empire. The two most popular versions of Milo were a jack of all trades without combat experience OR a combative tinkerer with hazardous equipment. 

Source: Fanpop

Honestly, Milo’s past video game exploits could determine Milo’s capabilities for battle. Sadly, from a narrative design aspect, that doesn’t work. However, Rourke says something that, metaphorically, works as a combative plan to make this version of Milo critical and aggressive. Rourke says, “From here on in, everyone pulls double duty. Everyone drives, everyone works.” In the beginning, Milo is just a simple character that can attack with his wrench and use items to heal party members. After a couple of character moments, gaining the crew’s trust, he slowly gains access to three other party members: Vinny, Dr. Sweet, and Mole.

Vinny will be in charge of explosive techniquesMole will have control over dirt and ground attacks, and Sweet will have better healing techniques, all while Milo wields the Shepherd’s Journal like a pseudo wizard. As the story progresses, Milo will lose and gain these techniques for primary reasons; however, he’s still a linguist. So, while reading Atlantean, you’re going to have to pull double duty when others do not accompany him.


The Heroine, Not the Princess – Source: Fanpop

Kida tends to be a hand-to-hand fighter in most of her gaming depictions. However, despite how great she is at close quarters combat, I believe that Square Enix would have fun incorporating one of their most iconic job classes into Kida’s combat style: Dragoons.

In Final Fantasy, the Dragoons are knights iconic for their speed, jumping prowess, and spear work. Kida is first introduced to audiences while wielding a spear of some kind. Give her a spear, some CQC attacks, and some magical attacks – courtesy of the Heart of Atlantis – to make her unique and, respectfully, give her the credit she deserves with a weapon that she’s had plenty of years to practice with on previous intruders.

Source: Walt Disney Studios

Furthermore, Kida would be a unique character as a party member. As mentioned with Milo’s combat, he’ll lose specific abilities when he’s unable to have specific crewmates near or around him in the story. Kida would fill in the gaps for those missing abilities, next to Sora and the gang, and when removed from the party for story purposes, Milo will be back at full strength with all of his abilities/crewmates by his side. A push and pull relationship between the two-party members as Milo needs Kida when he has no one else, and Kida needs Milo when she’s the one in danger.


Areas of Exploration (Levels)

{1} – The Great Expanse/ The Ship Graveyard

This is where most of the Gummi ship minigames/battles will take place. The Leviathan will be fought here for the story and possibly as a Superboss.
Source: Newsedgepoint.net

{2} – The Great Cave: Ruins of Atlantis (Entrance)

{3} – The Great Cave: Ruins of Atlantis (Canyons)

{4} – The Great Cave: Ruins of Atlantis (Subzero Wastelands)

Source: Fanpop

{5} – The Great Cave: Ruins of Atlantis (Firefly Lanterns)

{6} – The Entrance to Atlantis (Outskirts)

Source: Fanpop

{7, 8, 9, 10} – Atlantis (Harbor/Town, Throne Room, Forests, Evening Shore)

{11} – Underwater Temples (With or without water)

Source: Google Images

{12} – Heart of Atlantis/ The Crystal Chamber

Source: Atlantis: The Lost Empire Wiki

{13} – Volcanic Ash Caverns

Source: Walt Disney Studios

{14} – Proving Grounds

The battlegrounds that Sora and others will fight on when battling against Rourke’s Heartless.
Source: Fanpop

{15} – Atlantis; New Outskirts

Source: Fanpop


Source: Fanpop
  • Leviathan (Gummi Ship Battle; Possible Superboss)
  • Heartless Bug (Based on the giant bug seen in the movie)
  • Heartless Fireflies (Based on the Atlantean Fireflies seen in the movie)
  • Rourke and Helga
  • Rourke’s Heartless

Conclusion: A Rare Uncut Gem for Kingdom Hearts

Atlantis: The Lost Empire brings elements of action, story, conflict, and exploration as a world for Kingdom Hearts. Atlantis, amongst many other films by Disney, can be utilized to create fantastic worlds and re-introduce old characters to an entirely new generation of viewers.

If Disney plays nice with Square Enix and vice-versa, the potential for new worlds is limitless. However, the corporate side of businesses is fundamentally heavy regarding the use of another company’s work and current IPs. However, I believe that it is still possible to make Atlantis into something that would be a success and not a flop. Though we don’t know where the road begins for Atlantis, hopefully, this article is the first stone in the paved road towards its conception.

Clearing The Air: The Importance of Racial Equity, Equality, and Unity in the United States

On January 20, 2021, Joe Biden transitioned from President-Elect to the United States President. While the capital was still on high alert from the insurrection on January 6, I listened to President Joe Biden’s inaugural address and the incorporation of unity. The idea, to me, seemed like a no brainer. The United States, in the last four years, was divided by controversial topics about race, politics, and values undermined and devalued because of Donald Trump’s unprofessional actions and disturbing antics. Unity was something that we all needed, and yet the concept seems so distant because of the pandemic and the scars left by the Trump administration.

The day after the inauguration, I was walking my aunt’s dog and came across an older gentleman. As I was making sure that he (My aunt’s dog) was not trying to run into the street, we engaged in conversation. Sadly, because of COVID-19, I could not exchange in any normalcy with people I used to see when I was walking the dog around the neighborhood. Casual conversations with others walking their dogs or just hanging out in the area felt so distant, and I thought that the reason for such caution was due to the apparent confusion brought about in handling this pandemic. People were scared, others were dying, and it didn’t seem like life was ever going to be the same. Systemic racism was abundant, police brutality was unchecked, and the government showed no signs of fixing the cracking mirror known as America.

While we casually continued to talk about the day and how windy it had been, since conversations with strangers can go in a myriad of ways, he gave me a strange, almost, a cautious look as he said, “So, what do you think will happen now?” At that moment, what could’ve been awkward had felt like a relief. I may not have known this man and his struggles during this pandemic, but the moment he felt comfortable enough to talk about the country’s state made me realize just how vital President Biden’s words were to the people. He wasn’t vulnerable for talking about politics or breaking the status quo of ruining the mood but showed strength in asking the questions that mattered without facing social repercussions.

To overcome these challenges — to restore the soul and to secure the future of America — requires more than words. It requires that most elusive of things in a democracy: Unity.

46th President: Joe R. Biden

As he waited for his steak burrito while I was handling an overly excited bichon frise, we talked about the state of the country. The country’s economic repair, the damage on Capitol Hill, and what that means for the people were some of the many subjects in our discussion. As a Latino American, he told me stories of how others looked at him on the streets and how Trump supporters reciprocated his family since Trump had been in office, spouting about the threats of Mexicans being within the United States. I hung on to every word he told me because not only was it essential to hear, but it confirmed just how much hate and malice continued to exist within our country. As an African American, I’m no stranger to racism; however, I believe that no one deserves to experience unbridled and unjustified hate the way that this man told me about his last four years while Trump was in office. He continued to explain that when COVID-19 occurred, it almost felt as if the blame of being “the bad guy” was shifting from one race to the next, and while it wasn’t any better for his family, he confided in me that, “this country has a lot of cracks and a lot of holes. Whenever something new happens, they just paint over it and hope that the paint will fill in the cracks. Trump was the biggest crack of them all, and I don’t know if we’ll fix it because everyone’s ‘America’ ain’t the same.”

America’s definition and what it means to be American continues to be an open-ended question with no answer in sight. It continues to be controversial for those that lived in this country for years. The threat of being denounced as an American, or not being American enough, has divided the country like a canyon. Furthermore, as the canyon grows more in-depth from the erosion of institutional racism, right-wing insurrectionists, and the corruption of the democracy, the importance of unity in Joe Biden’s words ring clearer.

Today, on this January day, my whole soul is in this: Bringing America together. Uniting our people .And uniting our nation. I ask every American to join me in this cause.

Uniting to fight the common foes we face: Anger, resentment, hatred. Extremism, lawlessness, violence. Disease, joblessness, hopelessness. With unity we can do great things. Important things. We can right wrongs. We can put people to work in good jobs.

We can teach our children in safe schools. We can overcome this deadly virus. We can reward work, rebuild the middle class, and make health care secure for all. We can deliver racial justice. We can make America, once again, the leading force for good in the world.

I know speaking of unity can sound to some like a foolish fantasy. I know the forces that divide us are deep and they are real. But I also know they are not new.

46th President: Joe R. Biden

To me, unity is not a foolish fantasy. Unity comes from trust, understanding one another, agreement, and the idea that all people are equal. While the Biden administration tries to create harmony with unity, it’s important to remember that “Unity can not be legislated.” The definition of unity is “the state of being united or joined as a whole.” At the same time, legislations are a step in the right direction; although, they are not the final say in what creates unity. The country must learn to understand everything that’s occurred within it and promote change to the things that have long been ignored to establish unity. Whether it’s from the accounts of institutionalized racism in the last century or the continuing strains of racist/sexist/conservative standards in this century, the collection of unity that Biden speaks of will not be easy to obtain. 

As our President, Joe Biden has declared that he will fight for us and help us repair, restore, heal, build, and gain much more as the President of the United States. As the people, we can only hope for so much, so now, let us hope that we can unite and proudly show that our flag, which still stands there, represents something real for our future.

On and Off Paper: The Inner Progressions of Mario’s Paper Thin Series.

Paper Mario’s Progression ~ Source: Nothing But Games

The Paper Mario series has been a unique trek in establishing new roots while promoting older sources, with the famed mustached plumber’s adventures in a 2D scope world. Since its release in the 2000s, the game’s received praises for unique takes on the Mario series through the scope of adventures in a paper-thin universe. It reintroduced Mario to the world for younger viewers, and older viewers saw his newest experiences as a continuation of his adventurous exploits from previous titles.

The original game was well-received by fans on the Nintendo 64 console back in 2000 for Japanese audiences and 2001 for North American audiences. It was a light-hearted, fun, and reactive combat RPG for children of all ages. It’s success promoted a second installment for the series, The Thousand-Year Door (TTYD), which acclaims as the best installment in the series. Furthermore, it’s the one that fans have remembered, cherished, and have hoped would continue to be the traditional formula for Paper Mario games in the future. Despite this, the series has gone through several changes and has left fans questioning its progressive development.

Since its second installment, the series has always presented a unique take to the word “paper” for the Paper Mario series. Through the incorporation of particular abilities that Mario gained through his travels, it allowed him to solve puzzles and traverse the world, which brought a new dynamic element to the games. This mechanic progressively became a selling point for future titles in the series, with its fundamental mechanics tied to a specific innovation, paper or otherwise. While the games released were seen as useful additions to the Paper Mario series and were welcomed despite older fans criticisms of its new direction in game design, the games paper mechanics’ core principle continues to be implemented within each installment. At the time of writing this article, Paper Mario: The Origami King has been well received by gamers since its release on July 17, 2020, and has currently sold 555K digital units since July.

Paper Mario: The Origami King sold 555K digital units in July. While its performance was nowhere near those of the last big Switch exclusives, Animal Crossing: New Horizons (5.0M) and Pokémon Sword and Shield (2.7M), the game did better than Fire Emblem: Three Houses when it launched in July 2019. 

Source: Superdata

The games complement visual prowess with colorful graphics, awe-inspired papercraft designs, excellent soundtrack, and creative takes on turn-based battles. In addition to cementing the mechanics and ambiance of Paper Mario, it has showcases different systems as a core principle for its game design and game development.

Throughout this article, points of interest in the Paper Mario games bring attention to new developments and new perspectives explored throughout the series. These referenced points showcase change for each title in the Paper Mario franchise and its progression from past to present. It will detail how it has achieved new structures from its original release back in 2000 towards its latest title in 2020. By the end of this article, a summary of where the Paper Mario games will lead and how its future titles will gain traction with old and new gamers’ generations shall unfold.

  • The Expansion of Characters (Enemies and NPC’s), Mechanics, and Story

A growing staple found in most Mario games is the increasing roster of characters that Mario meets, whether it’s friend or foe. The Paper Mario games are no exception to this rule. They have transitioned countless characters from Mario’s famous adventures within the Mushroom Kingdom; primarily, notable enemies and species from his most famous outings. The games also established other known species like the Toads, Goombas, Koopas, Boos, etc., and fleshed their lives out in a way that was befitting of an RPG. This exploration of the different species would cement a more robust narrative that fans would enjoy playing other Mario titles.

If not the most important, one of the essential factors lies in the foundation of its mechanics. Each game illustrates something new that’s added to the world of Paper Mario, whether its from the paper dimensions or the level of meta within Mario’s paper world. The narrative design in the stories for each game is equally important. Nintendo continues to make a convincing story that appeals for kids; however, underneath the surface, it can also be relatable to adults; after all, E for Everyone doesn’t mean it’s only for kids sometimes.

Source: Super Mario Wiki

Paper Mario (Nintendo 64)

Characters/Enemies: The first Paper Mario supplied 233 enemies for Mario to battle throughout the story and allowed him to fight four additional enemies as optional side bosses making 237 enemies. The game also promotes multiple species as allies to Mario, aside from the essential trio of Goombas, Koopas, and Bomb-Ombs, even giving them a bit of history in terms of how their names come to be. Other characters will share the same development of mixing their species name, or the animal they’re based on, to create their name while showcasing various Mushroom Kingdom species’ culture.

The dichotomy of Mario’s enemies and allies introduced gives substance to their species within the RPG setting. Toads weren’t just citizens but also salesmen, soldiers, and martial artists, proving that the species wasn’t incapable of defending themselves, or their sovereign, and that they have merits in protecting the Mushroom Kingdom; which, at the time, seemed to be solely the responsibility of Mario and Luigi. Enemies like the Goombas and Koopas showcase that they are unwilling participants in assisting Bowser’s army, provoking the idea that Bowser’s anarchy on the Mushroom Kingdom through fear and power might have been the reason for Mario’s rogues’ gallery.

While Paper Mario isn’t the first game to establish this relationship between Mario and the residents living within, around, and above the Mushroom Kingdom, it paints the picture differently compared to earlier games in the franchise. It establishes growth, understanding, and develops the characters found within Mario games. The idea that Parakoopas are excellent at delivering mail, Goombas are inherently peaceful unless threatened, or that Boos pride themselves in scaring people was a notable first in the series. That Bumpties are a different kind of penguin than actual penguins, Shy Guys are mischievous collaborators with different shapes and sizes, Bob-Ombs are gendered, Sparkies are sentient, and that Toads are resourceful was also a surprise. This momentous decision helped shape worldbuilding and character development for future Mario titles in the future.

Mechanics: The Partner System was the first support system for the titled game in the series. Each partner could be related, in a pseudo sense, to HM’s from the Pokémon series; subsequently, they were incredibly important to the progression of the game. The characters that joined Mario’s adventure adds to the expanding world that Mario explored, influencing the story with their connections to the locales.

The Perspective of Story: The original game’s most refreshing take towards a narrative design comes from a storybook. Memorable titles like Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island was known for its storybook progression sequences, and Paper Mario’s story delivers lines that take it from beginning to end. The start of Mario’s journey, successes, downfalls, and the final battle are all accounted for, like a bedtime story for the player.

Source: Super Mario Wiki

Paper Mario TTYD (The Thousand Year Door)

Characters/Enemies: The second installment within the series cuts its roster down to 124 enemies, but introduces new species like Caws, Ratooeys, Bristles, Nibbles, Twilighters, and subspecies of Humans (Flavio, Wonkie, Merlon, etc.); furthermore, reintroducing other known species like Swoopers, Squeeks, Piantas (Mario Sunshine), Doogans, and the return of Duplighosts from the first game.

The characters found within TTYD could be considered one of the most relatable characters written from a Mario game. Unlike the fairytale-inspired locals that the Mushroom Kingdom usually showcase, the game’s enemies and NPCs are linked by the troubles in their environment. Rogueport could be considered the ghettos of the Mushroom Kingdom, showcasing the slums and how corruption by turf wars, crime, and the destruction of the ‘former town’ becoming known as the Rogueport Sewers. Almost every town/locale showcases a different threat that affects the townsfolk, which, in turn, is represented by the threat that Mario has to help them conquer.

  • Petalburg: Fear and Endangerment.
    Threat: Hooktail’s attacks promotes fear, lack of confidence, and anxiety for the villagers; furthermore, in addition to his father’s disappearance, this affects Koops’ anxiety.

  • The Great Tree: Harassment, War, and Survival
    Threat: Jabbies (Natural Born Enemies) and X-Nauts threatening their way of life; furthermore, this prompts Punio to stand against their oppressors and rallies his fellow Punies to fight.

  • Glitzville: Greed, Gluttony (Power), and Confinement
    Threat: Grubba’s binding contract forces the Glitz Pit fighters to continuously keep fighting, while isolating them from leaving Glitzville (Mario); furthermore, Grubba entraps potential stars for his own machinations.

  • Twilight Town: Bullying
    Threat: Doopliss’s schemes of turning the innocent Twilighters into pigs, and shaming Mario as he tries to get his body back; taunting/threatening him outside of town, and every time he leaves or approaches it.

  • Keelhaul Key: Betrayal and Isolation
    Threat: Cortez and, to an extent, Lord Crump’s involvement; Cortez’s betrayal and the deceitful actions of Flavio’s ancestors, and Lord Crump’s involvement with the crew before revealing his betrayal.

  • Excess Express: Trust and Deception
    Threat: Doopliss’s deception as Zip Toad, Heff T.’s deception of Chef Simi’s stew, Ghost T.’s trust in Mario (which could also be deceptive), and Pennington’s trust as a detective and as the sanctum holder for the Crystal Star in Poshley Heights.

  • Fahr Outpost: PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)
    Threat: No notable threat causes this in game, however, the Bob-ombs in various titles are always involved with battle or war in some way (Bobby the Bob-omb, Bombette was a prisoner (Prisoner of war)), like how General White was apart of something akin to the Cold War.

In addition to the town’s circumstances, The Trouble Center expands on characters Mario meets on his adventures and fleshes their stories out. Issues of losing a loved one, mid-life crises, bioterrorism, etc. are just a few examples of how the game tackles serious matters; furthermore, it’s optional to be experienced or wholly forgotten by the whim of the player.

An arrangement of Paper Mario’s most notable partners within the series.

Mechanics: The Partner System continues in the next installment; however, the first paper mechanic introduced via an interesting “curse” that’s linked to the lore of the story. The game utilizes the idea of being paper-thin with advantages. Mario’s abilities with turning into paper airplanes, paper boats, rolled/tubed papers, and being paper-thin, was a creative execution of the title character’s abilities, figuratively and physically speaking, ironically.

The Perspective of Story: TTYD takes from the perspective of a story, a common point in all of the games, and inadvertently makes the game feel like a pop-up book. Every location that Mario travels towards to find the Crystal Stars, a new site is revealed in a way similar to a pop-up book; however, only when it’s necessary. Switch blocks push the initiative to reveal different paths, uncover secrets, and change the landscape in many other areas that Mario visits within the game and promotes the idea that this storybook has additional features.

Source: Super Mario Wiki

Super Paper Mario

Characters/Enemies: The third installment in the series provides 200 enemies for battle; however, the complete cast of characters included within this game bumps the total to 234 characters. The enemies that return for this installment are the stapled types from many of Mario’s games (Goombas, Koopas, Pokeys, etc.) with the inclusion/debut of a couple of enemies absent from previous Mario games that couldn’t be fought (Thwomps, Tromps, and Cheep Cheeps).

Super Paper Mario’s take on characters was uniquely executed to imitate the mechanics available for the game. Instead of being one dimensional, a joke in the sense that their from a paper-verse, the game prides itself in showing two layers of complexity for the characters. The game showcases “light” and “dark” personalities through the interdimensional citizens known as Flip-Flop Folk. Flipside represents the light side of things, while Flopside represents the opposite with the dark.

Mechanics: There were two systems implemented for this game that continued the previous system mechanics from TTYD. The first system, The Flip System, allows Mario to transcend his 2D plane perspective and transcends into a 3D plane perspective for a limited time. The addition of the Pixls, additional partners that assist Mario with his main partners (Bowser, Peach, and Luigi), allows access to previous partners and paper moves. With additions in being more of an RPG-platformer, this system made the new battles fun and provided additional gameplay options.

The Perspective of Story: The Pixls stories have a heavy concentration on the concept of life. Amongst “other characters,” the game presents a unique take for the NPCs living in that world, impacting the story with a conservative take on life and how it can be easily lost. This concept, considered to be very dark at the time of its release, plays with the trope of good and evil and subverts the expectation of light and dark affiliate forces within a Mario game; such as the rivalry between Bowser and Mario, Bowser and Peach’s complexities, and Luigi’s inferiority complex.

Paper Mario: Sticker Star

Characters/Enemies: The fourth installment in the series drastically cuts their enemies down to 83, concentrating their efforts more on the gameplay with the use of Stickers and Paperization techniques. Stapled enemies in the franchise would continue to appear; however, based on Shigeru Miyamoto’s decision to use species from only Super Mario, this increased the catalog of returning Mario enemies. This change included the debuts of Snifts, Ninjis, Scuttlebugs, Scaredy Rats, Spinning Snowmen, Rocky Wrenches, Broozers, and Whomps.

Aside from wanting us to change the atmosphere a lot, there were two main things that Miyamoto-san said from the start of the project—”It’s fine without a story, so do we really need one?” and “As much as possible, complete it with only characters from the Super Mario world.

Kensuke Tanabe’s response to “two main things” informed to him by Shigeru Miyamoto for Paper Mario: Sticker Star’s development.
Source: Iwata Asks

The focus on characters was not as strong as previous installments; however, a specific character does get a bit more shine than others as a pivotal point with in-game mechanics, plot, and being the “voice” for Mario at times.

Mechanics: A system overhaul was requested for this game, allowing the paper techniques to be used more frequently and within battles. This idea was made way by the Sticker System, introducing stickers’ concepts within the paper world. Its mechanics were similar to some Mario and Luigi games with the Bros. Attacks; however, unlike M&L’s techniques, the stickers were collectible attacks and not progressively learned abilities.

The Perspective of Story: The story went back to its roots of generalized Super Mario games with Bowser as its antagonist and Princess Peach as the damsel in distress. Its perspective was still an open storybook; however, it would be negligent if it wasn’t a sticker book with storytelling elements within it. In addition to introducing “Things,” the tongue and cheek of fully realized objects in Paper Mario’s world present humorous results in and out of battle.

Source: Super Mario Wiki

Paper Mario: Color Splash

Characters/Enemies: The fifth installment lowers its roster of enemies to 73; however, including different variations and unique takes on enemies, totals the enemy roster to 88. Newly introduced enemies include Bone Goombas, original concept Lava Bubbles, Ptooies, and Dhino Rhinos’ debut within the series.

The introduction of Huey, Mario’s partner for the game, was a well-rounded addition in the catalog of partners that Mario has had throughout the Paper Mario series. His positive attitude, courageous sacrifices, and Mario’s relationship would be fondly received by fans, old and new. This development of a “partner” made the story of Color Splash an enduring tale; however, the combat’s prowess for older fans did not appeal to them as much as the story would for others.

Mechanics: The Sticker System from Sticker Star was revamped into the Battle Card System for Color Splash. Additional tweaks to the system provided a new, yet familiar, overlay of battle within the game; including the added objective of paining the environments and enemies.

The Perspective of Story: In ways similar to the second game, Color Splash introduces the concept of a mystery and how it can be solved alongside Huey throughout the game. As it progresses, the storybook motive is ongoing; however, the idea that Mario’s adventure is now in a paint book would be tolerable from the paper mechanic focal point.

Source: Super Mario Wiki

Paper Mario: The Origami King

Characters/Enemies: The fifth and recent installment boasts a roster of 61 enemies, which is currently the lowest count of enemies in a Paper Mario title. What they sacrificed in numbers, they made up for in new additional species. The appearance of GaloombasSidesteppers, Crowbers, Nipper Plants, Chargin’ Chucks, Stingbies, Sumo Bros, and Mechakoopas are welcomed additions to the series.

The introduction of Olivia creates an origin to the Origami King. Though not unique in design, the addition of partners makes its return with partners like Bobby the Bob-omb, Kamek, Professor Toad, and others.

Mechanics: The newest mechanic introduced in The Origami King is a unique take on “turn-based battle systems” that allow for diverse strategies in formatted battles. Weapons return in a system similar to TTYD, where they can be upgraded; however, accessories and artillery can be bought from shops as a first in the series. The origami aspects outside of battle are highlighted with the use of Magic Circles and the 1,000-Fold Arms.

The Perspective of Story: A giant origami project would be the best explanation for the game’s perspective. The game’s use of paper perspectives, highlighted in various ways throughout the game, makes the world feel grand in size rather than linear in its design.

  • Where is the series heading? Will it ever be the same as the first or second games?

The Paper Mario series’s future has been questioned ever since the concept of Sticker Star was presented to fans back in 2012. While different, Nintendo’s direction with the games was not without merit in regard to the continued success of the series. Additional restrictions by Shigeru Miyamoto, Nintendo’s guidelines in the use of Mario, and the targeted audiences for those games have continued to be a private and public debate regarding the direction of the series. The first generation of fans that grew up with the series remembers what made Paper Mario so memorable for them. Whether it was the concept of partners, the 2D paper-verse that Mario travels, the whimsical soundtrack, or just the fact that it was a new Mario game, those fans were excited to play the game, seeing where Mario’s next, big adventure.

“The game development philosophy I’ve adopted from Mr. Miyamoto is developing innovative and unique gameplay systems. I’m not opposed to the fans’ opinions. However, I view my game development philosophy as separate from that. If we used the same gameplay system wanted by the fans again and again, we wouldn’t be able to surprise them or deliver new gameplay experiences. We always try our best to exceed expectations in surprising ways. At the same time, there’s no guarantee that we’ll always succeed in doing that – so it’s a real challenge.”

Producer Kensuke Tanabe’s response on the development of new Paper Mario games.
Source: NintendoEverything

Applying the same logic that fans love Mario games and are excited to play them is to be noted; however, the reality that Paper Mario is changing should not be ignored. Kensuke Tanabe’s response in developing “innovative and unique gameplay systems” is a statement that continues to hold for all the Paper Mario games he’s worked upon in succession with others. He knows about the core principles that fans loved in TTYD, and he’s worked on every game involving Paper Mario as a producer to implore new ideas for the series creatively.

“Mr. Tanabe is correct about us having complete creative control over the crucial elements of the game. We were constantly checking whether or not our approach was moving too far away from the Mario universe. During development, we were also careful not to disappoint the expectations of fans of the core Mario series. As mentioned, there are strict guidelines related to the use of characters. It’s a challenge to emphasize the unique aspects of the game while still adhering to the guidelines.”

Director Masahiko Nagaya follow-up in regards to Tanabe’s statement on “creative control” in regards to Paper Mario games.
Source: NintendoEverything

In my opinion, I feel that the series hasn’t lost its edge or has gone down the wrong path. As I continue to grow as a narrative designer, hoping to create a video game series of my own one day, the backlash of writer’s block, creative slowdowns, or the lack of inspiration, impedes every project I create. Good ideas will be altered heavily, and perfect ideas will be seriously flawed when revisited later. The concept of creating innovations is crucial to the continuing success of any idea. Whether it’s in advertising food, publishing new stories, designing new fashions, and creating video games.

Whether it’s Super Mario or Paper Mario, the franchise continues to promote creative innovations. Source: Fawfulthegreat64

The continued success of Paper Mario depends on the fans, young or old. After the release of The Origami King, details on the production of Paper Mario games have been made aware to the public. It shows that the team behind the games wants the fans to trust that they will get it right, and even if it’s wrong, they’ll continue to create great additions for the series. Nintendo’s famous franchises have had their fair share of unique games from Yoshi’s unique adventures with crafts, or as crafts material, Kirby’s adventures with yarn and paint, Pokémon’s otherworld adventures (Mystery Dungeons, Pokémon Conquest, Detective Pikachu, etc.), Link’s multiple timeline adventures, and so many more.

In the end, Paper Mario will continue to be a prominent series that Nintendo works hard to achieve. Whether it’s an RPG like the first two games or plays around with the concept of paper from the last three games, Nintendo’s development team will continue to make the games relatable to the fans, whether it’s paper-thin or folded over.

Marvel’s MCU: What will the X-Men and Fantastic Four bring to the cinematic universe?

For anyone who is a comic enthusiast, a 90’s baby, or just a lover of comics in general, the idea of seeing a great movie about the Fantastic Four and X-Men in theaters has been a dream that most fans have wanted for a very long time. Now, since Marvel Studios has acquired the rights in making their movie franchise with these two series, this introduces a new phase of characters that will now get the spotlight alongside everyone who was, or perceived, as an Avenger by Endgame.

In addition to new characters, villains, powers, and the like, an important question that NEEDS answering is how the two groups will fit into the narrative constructed by Marvel Studios and, to another extent, Disney. At its earliest stage, the Fantastic Four were about superheroes, taking on bad guys that threatened the city, and the world, from chaotic turmoil. On the other hand, The X-Men have unique origins. Those origins, compared to current events, are a powerful narrative that Disney could play around with to make into a pseudo “family-friendly” topic; however, changing that narrative could be both good and bad.

For this article, I’ll be presenting three topics within Phase 4’s possible cycle, including The Fantastic Four and X-Men. The issues I’ll be focusing on will be integrated within the story as a prominent point of focus for these two groups, evolving, and progressively changing the scope of how they’ll present with future plot points. As a rule of preference towards constructive worldbuilding and storytelling, I won’t be including casting predictions or indictive biases. For this idea, let’s imagine that we (the collective fanbase) have received what we wanted in terms of “The Perfect Cast” for these movies. Henceforth, removing the debate of how the characters would look (White, Black, Asian, etc.), body types, and how Marvel Studios/Disney will promote them (Johnny being a playboy, Iceman potentially being gay, the existentialism of The Thing and his powers, etc.).

  1. The Fantastic Four will be the next Captain America ‘Ice Story‘ for the MCU.

Synopsis: The story for the Fantastic Four would start somewhere in 1989. Their account will be linked together with the Quantum Realm, Pym Particles, and Mitchell Carson (The person that Michael Douglas ((Hank Pym)) punches in the first Ant-Man film). Reed Richards and Susan Storm would be recruited by Mitchell Carson to explore the possibilities behind Pym Particles; however, Carson lies to the two of them when in regards to Hank Pym’s participation and continues to lie to them as they work in succession towards using the Pym Particles. Eventually, the experiment leads to the shrinking of our four heroes, in addition to various pieces of tech found within the laboratory. Upon arriving in the Quantum Realm, Reed quickly develops a way to build off of the shrunken tech that’s entered, or is continually appearing, within its space to ensure their survival. Eventually, after a certain amount of time has gone by, the team experiences the first symptoms of their newfound powers and use these powers to build their home in the Quantum Realm.

Since the flow of time in the Quantum Realm is different, explained loosely by Scott Lang in Avengers Endgame, the idea that five hours would equal five years positions our characters in an intricate time frame. The team would’ve been stuck in the Quantum Realm for at least 24 hours, unaware of how to get out of it while experiencing shifts in their powers, until Hank Pym and Janet Van Dyne develops a way to get them out.

Unlike Captain America, the group won’t be officialized in the media until their first big fight, or first overall win, against their first villain. As their adjusting to the world, learning about the things that haven’t heard or known about for 24 years, the development of small character arcs would be implemented for the group; such as Reed trying to figure out how advance the world has become, Susan’s grief over the loss of those she used to know, Johnny’s disposition as a Millennial but with a Generation X mindset, and Ben’s grip with being The Thing which makes him feel like more of a mutant than a human. The team will argue, break-up, and nearly come back together for all the wrong reasons – until the right reason comes at the final act, solidifying the group and naming themselves the Fantastic Four after two specific characters, recognized as Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, leave a letter behind for the team and characterizes them as “Four individuals that will do fantastic things.

Conclusion: Whenever Marvel Studios decides to release the movie, the amount of time passed within the Quantum Realm, compared in real-time, affects what kind of Fantastic Four team we’ll get in the future. If the story occurs in the ’90s and the movie is released in 2024 (Branding possibilities, it’s going to be significant), that would be the perfect sweet spot for its development. This development re-introduces the Fantastic Four to the present and works as a double entendre for the MCU franchise.

In other words, the sweet spot for The Fantastic Four is to be old but relatable.

  1. Mole Man could be an introduction for mutants and for the X-Men.

This idea sounds blasphemous when you compare the wants of an X-Men movie before a Fantastic Four movie; however, this premise is on the belief that what comes after the Fantastic Four movie is in the interim of the X-Men series.

Synopsis: The side plot found in Avengers Endgame comes from the amount of energy released from Thanos, and the snap felt worldwide. In this interpretation of the character, Mole Man could be one of the many people affected by the wave of power that covered the world from the Snap/Blib. His story would be, more or less, the same with a few adjustments to his character and how he would eventually end up as the Mole Man. His abnormal appearance could be altered much like Oswald Cobblepot’s (The Penguin) appearance has been shifted from fat to skinny in various Batman Origins. His pursuits of finding the Subterranean Realm would lead him to understand his newfound powers. As the world progresses, Mole Man’s complexes could provoke him into wanting to show the world how it’s treated him and decides to use the Fantastic Four as an example by devaluing their abilities when compared to his own.

Mole Man’s story, outside of the Fantastic Four’s, could be structured differently to make him the focus of what he has become, or what others will think of him, as a precedent to introducing mutants. In discovering his powers, acknowledging the cruelty he received before gaining them, his attempts at showing his newfound abilities, his confrontations with the Fantastic Four, and his loss against them, Mole Man could be the start of mutant propaganda. In the movie’s final post-credits scene, Mole Man appears to be in a dream-like area and is approached by someone as they talk about rehabilitation and understanding his pains with having this power. Mole Man refuses his help, stating that he knew what he was doing and doesn’t want to play soldier for someone like “him,” before revealing to the audience the first glimpse of Professor Charles Francis Xavier otherwise known as Professor X.

Conclusion: While Mole Man’s inclusion within the MCU would be a stapling achievement for the Fantastic Four as their first big bad guy, he also plays a part in the development and announcement of mutants within the MCU. It shows off what new mutants, or whatever the safe word will be for them in the MCU, are capable of and how the Mole Man practically starts the Civil War (Comic Book story) between humans and mutants.

  1. Each X-Men film will focus on new members (young and older additions) while exploring unheard events between 2012 and the present.

The idea sounds like a no brainer; however, the image I would like to implement for the movies is that the team is nonexistent at the time of the Fantastic Four’s appearance and has, for the most part, been hearsay from different sources. For anyone who’s read the comics, there are HUNDREDS of mutants within the series. A lot of them don’t get as much attention due to their abilities being too dangerous, not practical, or just irrelevant in a fight. The movies will buildup the initial roster, minus Wolverine for various reasons, and creates the original team that will eventually coordinate with other notable members as the films progress.

Synopsis: The story behind the various films would have ranged in regards to certain characters. The first established members, depending on the storyline and timeline of when and where the initial conflict begins, would revolve around Professor X and Magneto’s public figureheads. Before the snap, Mutants would be the focus of the first film that roughly crafts Cyclops, Jean Grey (Marvel Girl), Angel, Beast, and Iceman. Later movies will see Colossus, Storm, Kitty Pryde, and eventually Wolverine joining their rosters; however, each film is a separate synopsis of a smaller/larger arc that’s interpreted differently by the main cast of characters within that movie.

The first movie will discover the initial five, which roughly takes place somewhere between 2012 and 20?? (Whenever the movie comes out). It’ll be a melting pot of revelations for the group that will start the X-Men with the appearance of aliens, costumed superheroes, vigilantism, the government, and how all of these things shape the MCU version of the team. They’ll start in their original outfits as a way to hide their faces and to essentially avoid being called criminals; a throwaway joke about “wearing ski masks” could be used here for comedic effect. Eventually, through shenanigans, they’ll get a taste for their costumed individuality and create outfits that work for them, perhaps an amalgamation of the original with their more iconic look. Like Wolverine, specific characters would be integrated into later films after his debut film, amalgamating two prominent storylines from a plethora of different characters within the series.

Overall, this sets the tone for the franchise with self-discovery and individuality. Each film will dive into the good and bad portions of the X-Men mythos and highlight a powerful sentiment that is present in most MCU films. Eventually, Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters will be a reality in the MCU.

Conclusion: The MCU’s timeline and movies are ever-changing regarding the development/inclusion of a new series. While the X-Men are hopeful stays in the MCU, the ability to craft a reasonable and updated timeline with those characters can be a plaguing problem. By approaching each movie with a narrative that focuses on the characters, as it’s worldbuilding develops with other films, the X-Men movies will be able to fully flesh their names out for years to come in this cinematic universe.

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