Monday is “Grab Bag” day here at Entertainment Legends Revealed, with each Monday featuring a different area of the world of arts and entertainment (that is not featured on the other four days of the week, that is). They’ll eventually repeat, but for now, we’re still on the initial installments of each of the various “Grab Bag” legends!
This is the first in a series of examinations of legends related to video games and whether they are true or false.
VIDEO GAME LEGEND: Final Fantasy got its name because it was the “final” shot at the company succeeding.
STATUS: Basically True
Square was founded by Masafumi Miyamoto in 1983 soon after graduating from college. At first, Square, which was devoted to developing computer games, was part of a larger company owned by Miyamoto’s father, but in 1986, Square spun off as its own company. Its games were published under the brand name Squaresoft.
One of the earliest employees at Square was a young man who had recently taken a break from college, Hironobu Sakaguchi. Sakaguchi began working part-time at Square, and while part-time, he developed Square’s first two games, The Death Trap and its sequel Will: The Death Trap II, but by the time that the company spun off, Sakaguchi was the Director of Planning and Development.
Square’s first games, which were developed for the Nintendo Famicon Disc System, did not go over very well.
The company was in desperate need of a success soon or it was very likely that it would go out of business.
Sakaguchi, too, was frustrated, but the company placed all of their hopes on a game that was designed to respond to the success Square’s competitor, Enix, had with the role playing game Dragon Warrior.
The game was titled Final Fantasy.
It sold 400,000 copies and basically saved the company from financial ruin.
There are basically two stories about where the name Final Fantasy came from (it IS a bit of an odd name).
In one version of the story, it is because the company felt they were going under, so this literally was their final shot.
In the other version of the story, it is specifically Sakaguchi who is talking about this being the “final” shot.
In a good interview at Develop.com with Ed Fear, Sakaguchi said:
The name ‘Final Fantasy’ was a display of my feeling that if this didn’t sell, I was going to quit the games industry and go back to university. I’d have had to repeat a year, so I wouldn’t have had any friends – it really was a ‘final’ situation.
Really, though, I don’t find the two versions of the story really all that at odds with each other. Whether it was Sakaguchi’s specific idea or not, the basic gist of the story is the same – the game was considered a “final” shot.
If I absolutely HAD to pick one version, I think Sakaguchi’s take probably makes a bit more sense, as I’ve yet to see any clear evidence that this was absolutely a MUST win for Square. It was certainly a major deal, and if it had failed, they’d be in trouble – I am just unsure if it would have been THE end if it had failed. Sakaguchi, though, I could believe literally WOULD have been gone had the game flopped, especially as he was extremely proud of the game – a major facet of the game’s success was the fact that he convinced the company to up their initial production from 200,000 copies to 400,000 copies, as he knew that if they printed only 200,000 and sold out, it would kill the momentum of the game. In addition, the fact that the company was in the financial position to be able to agree with his request also lends me to believe that Square was not going to be going out of business if Final Fantasy did, in fact, fail.
But if I’m wrong, then fair enough – it doesn’t take away from the basic idea of the legend, which is that Final Fantasy was called that because it was the “final” shot.
Final Fantasy is so popular that the THIRTEENTH version of the game is due out later this year!
Thanks to Ed Fear and Hironobu Sakaguchi for the information!
VIDEO GAME LEGEND: Iraq was using Playstation 2 to help develop their weapons systems.
STATUS: Apparently False
The second edition of Sony’s popular video game console, PlayStation, was released in 2000. Through various delays, only a million or so people had purchased consoles by the end of 2000, making it an extremely hard to find item, especially for Christmas 2000.
Right in the middle of all the fears of the shortage of PlayStation 2′s was the report in December of 2000 by WorldNetDaily that Iraq had imported 4,000 PlayStation 2s!
The WorldNetDaily report tied in with some reports that had come out when the game was first released. When the PlayStation 2 was first produced, the Japanese Ministry of Trade had to approve of its release outside the country because of two aspects of the console.
1. It had a powerfully encrypted memory card. Anything over 56 bit encryption has to be approved by the Ministry before it is exported from Japan. PlayStation 2 had a 128 bit encryption. Sony said it needed the encrpytion to keep people from making copies of videos or music.
2. The central procession unit (CPU) of the PlayStation 2 had impressive graphics processing. It theoretically could be used as the “eyes” of a missile guidance system.
WorldNetDaily argued that that is why Iraq was importing all of these PlayStations, because the “toys” would be able to pass by any weapons embargo placed on Iraq.
It’s certainly an interesting story, but for one, the Ministry of Trade DID end up approving all of the PlayStations to be exported out of the country, so they were not too worried about it, and in addition, military leaders decried the fact as nonsense, as there was no shortage of other places where you could get CPUs as powerful as PlayStation 2 and that most of these items were commonly sold in Iraq already (which was a big part of WorldNetDaily’s position – the unsupported position that PC equipment is banned in Iraq) and if you really wanted to get at CPUs, there were heck of a lot more efficent ways of doing it than importing and taking apart a bunch of PlayStation 2s.
And, of course, as time bore out, Iraq did NOT end up doing anything with the PlayStation 2s, so there’s that, too.
It’s a really interesting story, though!
PlayStation is currently up to PlayStation 3!
VIDEO GAME LEGEND: Super Mario Brothers features a transgendered character.
STATUS: In a way, True
In Nintendo’s Super Mario Brothers 2, one of the various bad guys that Mario and Luigi have to fight is named Birdo.
Birdo would spit eggs, flames or some combination of the two. In Japan, the charcter was known as Catharine.
In the user manual, here is how Birdo is described:
Birdo thinks he is a girl and likes to be called Birdetta. He likes to wear a bow on his head and shoot eggs from his mouth.
The Japanese version says “Catharine” and “Cathy” in place of Birdo and Birdetta, respectively.
Well, as is the case with most of his former villains, Mario ended up befriending Birdo, and Birdo shows up in Mario Tennis…
Here is Birdo in Mario Tennis…
In Mario Tennis, Birdo is now referred to as “she” and is shown apparently being romantically involved with Yoshi.
Birdo has been playable in many games since, and the gender of Birdo always APPEARS to be female….
Recently, Birdo was playable in Mario Kart…
However, in Super Smash Brothers Brawl, they make a point of calling Birdo “it” and specifically do NOT assign her a gender.
It appears likely, though, that Birdo is, for all intents and purposes, a woman, making her one of the only transgendered video game characters out there (and certainly the first!).
Good for you, Birdo! And good for the game designers (well, except for those who made a point of calling you “it” – bad on them!)!
Okay, that’s it for this week!
Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments, particularly other themes for future grab bag Mondays! My e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org