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Axe of the Blood God Episode 3: Inaugurating Our RPG Canon with a Classic

Kat, Bob, and Jeremy return to Final Fantasy VI for our inaugural Canon of the Blood God segment. Plus, an interview with Robert Boyd and a mailbag!

Article by Kat Bailey, .

What are the essential RPGs that every devotee should experience at least once? The canonical games that define the genre? Ask this question, and you'll get a million different answers. So we're inaugurating "Canon of the Blood God," which is an opportunity to comb over some of our favorite RPGs and talk about how well they hold up today.

With Final Fantasy Type-0 HD and the Final Fantasy XV demo just around the corner, I thought it would be fun to kick off the series with a look back at a critical and fan favorite from the series — Final Fantasy VI. In this segment, Bob, Jeremy, and I share some trivia, dissect the battle system and sound track, and talk about how well this all-time classic holds up today (Spoiler Alert: It holds up pretty darn well so long as you're not playing it on mobile).

In addition to revisiting Final Fantasy VI, we also have an interview this week with Zeboyd Games co-founder Robert Boyd, who is currently hard at work on Cosmic Star Heroine. We talk about the nitty gritty of designing an RPG, and also wonder why Sega CD RPGs don't get a bit more love. Afterward, Bob, Jeremy, and I reconvene to discuss some of the listener comments on our "What is an RPG?" episode, and to talk briefly about Code Name: S.T.E.A.M. It's a really packed episode, so join us!

As a sidenote, we'd love to hear from you. If you want to talk about Final Fantasy VI, Cosmic Star Heroine, or just RPGs in general, drop a line in the comments below. Conversely, you can reach me at kat.bailey@usgamer.net. We may read and discuss comments we like in an upcoming episode of Axe of the Blood God.

If you enjoy the show, you can find Axe of the Blood God on iTunes by following this link. Please subscribe, rate, and review the show! The more we're rated, the more visible we'll become. If you don't like us, then... er... don't do anything!

Our RSS feed is here: http://bloodgodpod.libsyn.com/rss. If you want to directly download the episode, you can find it here. We're also on Soundcloud along with Retronauts and our flagship podcast From US to You.

Show Description

Kat, Bob, and Jeremy inaugurate the "Canon of the Blood God," where they decide whether to add Final Fantasy VI to the canon. Plus, Kat interviews Robert Boyd, creator of the upcoming retro-styled RPG Cosmic Star Heroine. Bonus: A quick mailbag!

Music from Axe of the Blood God is courtesy of Leif Chappelle, who has also contributed the themes to Active Time Babble and Roleplayers' Realm. I also use music from the RPG Music Pack over at rpgmaker.net. Check it out!

Next week: I have no idea! But Bloodborne, the Final Fantasy XV demo, and Final Fantasy Type-0 HD are coming up fast!

This article may contain links to online retail stores. If you click on one and buy the product we may receive a small commission. For more information, go here.

Comments 30

  • Avatar for cldmstrsn #1 cldmstrsn 2 years ago
    Awesome podcast guys! anything Final Fantasy gets me excited even talking about old FF's. FF VI should most definitely be canonized!Edited March 2015 by cldmstrsn
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  • Avatar for hiptanaka #2 hiptanaka 2 years ago
    This podcast started great but is only getting better. I especially liked the mix of discussion, interview and mailbox in this episode. I don't know if it's possible, but it would be really cool if you had a short discussion on the things learned in the interview, after it, in episodes where there is one.
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  • Avatar for SigurdVolsung #3 SigurdVolsung 2 years ago
    Anything good you say about Final Fantasy VI, I will likely agree with. It's possibly my favorite game of all time and a game that I go back to frequently as comfort food. Can't wait to listen to this at work.
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  • Avatar for Arvis-Jaggamar #4 Arvis-Jaggamar 2 years ago
    Final Fantasy VI is what got me into RPGs, back when I was like... 12. Still perhaps my sentimental favorite.
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  • Avatar for smartfish13 #5 smartfish13 2 years ago
    I too love FFVI, but am surprised (and maybe a teensy bit relieved) that you managed to go the whole segment without mentioning FFVII, and whether that is the better game or not.
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  • Avatar for garnsr #6 garnsr 2 years ago
    I can't believe there was any question of FFVI being one of the great RPGs. I started playing RPGs with Dragon Warrior, so maybe the guys, like Kat and Jeremy, who started after there were a number of SNES RPGs already have a different view of it, but I thought was way better than IV or VII, and still ranks in my mind over Chrono Trigger.
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  • Avatar for Kat.Bailey #7 Kat.Bailey 2 years ago
    @smartfish13 You don't know us very well if that's what you were afraid of.
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  • Avatar for SigurdVolsung #8 SigurdVolsung 2 years ago
    @garnsr Yeah, Dragon Warrior wasn't even my first rpg. I started rpg's on the PC with the old D&D games like Pools of Radiance and Curse of the Azure Bonds, and the very early Ultima games. And even then, Final Fantasy VI was a transformative experience for me. In fact, I loved it so much that it was the first experience I had with the world of internet fan fiction. Back in the very early days of the internet.
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  • Avatar for SatelliteOfLove #9 SatelliteOfLove 2 years ago
    "Ahem, THERE'S SAND IN MY BOOTS."
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  • Avatar for jeremy.parish #10 jeremy.parish 2 years ago
    @SatelliteOfLove It wasn't even "in"! It was "on." Kefka was just that much of a jerk.
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  • Avatar for SigurdVolsung #11 SigurdVolsung 2 years ago
    By the way, as a kickstarter backer of the game, I really appreciate the quality interview for Cosmic Star Heroine. I am so excited for it that I actively try to put it out of my mind in order to make the wait more bearable.
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  • Avatar for Active-ate #12 Active-ate 2 years ago
    The first segment should be canonized as the official FFVI episode of Retronauts. I really enjoy listening to Kat, Bob, and Jeremy talk (gush?) about games they know well and remember fondly. I share the golden delicious memories of FFVI, even though, like Kat, I played it after I had already played FFVII. Well done again, team!
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  • Avatar for Thumbscar #13 Thumbscar 2 years ago
    Great podcast. I love that the inaugural game to enter the Axe of the Blood God canon was FFVI. Appropriate, yet ballsy.

    Personal anecdote, there have been a few times in my life where I've tried to ease someone into the JRPG genre. FF VI usually goes over very well for someone who isn't already familiar with the genre's conventions and doesn't want to commit 40 or 50+ hours. Specifically, I think the game does a good job introducing your to job-style archetypes without dropping you in the deep end. It does take a while for all the systems to be rolled out (Espers and the moderate customization that comes with it), but in the mean time it gives you fairly balanced teams to play with, then experiment with, before the game gives you the opportunity to potentially break it's systems. That said, the game is too easy, some kind of "hard mode" in a remake would be welcome. Or better yet, FFVI Zodiac Job System Edition (ala XII).
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  • Avatar for econmara #14 econmara 2 years ago
    Great podcast!!

    The interviews are very interesting gimme more please.
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  • Avatar for Lord-Bob-Bree #15 Lord-Bob-Bree 2 years ago
    Woo! FFVI is my favorite game! (Though sometimes it's replaced by Mother 3) I'll try not to be That Guy and be nitpicky, but the submariner line was changed in the Advanced version, to sandworm.

    Anyway, one thing I feel wasn't mentioned is that the story and characters have more to them than just save-the-world (though still not particularly high-literature). I used to think that it was kind of empty and a mess, but upon typing up a response to someone to that effect, I ended up convincing myself that there was more to it.

    It's quite thematic, I think, focusing around despair and hope. Through the game, most of the characters, as well has the entire world, end up depressed and without hope, in one way or another. Terra has to deal with being unable to understand her emotions and inability to love. Cyan is faced with the loss of his family. Strago thinks he loses his granddaughter. As the story progresses, though, they all find some resolution to their problems and find hope for the future (except Shadow). They all even require other people to help them out of their despair (importantly, except Shadow), showing that some problems are too much for a person on their own.

    I also don't feel that the game falls apart with the WoR. It turns from a generally-linear, directed story to one split off into smaller, character-based stories. They're just sidequests, but I think the structure of the WoR, and the fact that many of these sidequests are necessary to rerecruit characters, makes them more important than sidequests usually are. Far from falling apart, I think the game finds a new strength.

    The battle system, though, is disappointing in ways. As you said in the podcast, "customization" in it tends to result in a homogenic, give-everyone-magic approach. Sure, some characters have their own unique traits that they can use well (Edgar and Mog and their spears, for example), but magic is always the superior option. FFV kind of had that problem as well, with how Freelancers/Mimes with !Rapid Fire or !Dualcast were the obvious ways to go, butI think splitting things up into classes also made it a bit easier to experiment. With FFVI, though, why use Lore when it's essentially a worse Magic?

    (Also, I like Rage and hope it finds a refined form in a future game).

    Also, great interview about Cosmic Star Heroine! I really like BoDVII and Cthulu Saves the World, and looking forward to getting into CSH.
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  • Avatar for SatelliteOfLove #16 SatelliteOfLove 2 years ago
    Uematsu's magnum opus. Every theme, every battle, every everything...Dancing Mad even stands to this da the greatest final boss track ever (and in a world where Merciless Savior exists, this is no mean feat!)

    Nice point about the openness of WoR; the theming of this game soup-to-nuts for both the heavily linear WoO and WoR is a mandatory course for world-building and character development being influenced by the plot and world of an RPG.

    Interesting interview with Boyd; I can't wait to get ahold of that one "Gun Mage" in CSH (so boss!)
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  • Avatar for detten17 #17 detten17 2 years ago
    I played this game original through a ROM back in the day, loved it for the story and gameplay, this and Chrono Trigger, although I'll still give it to the VII as my favorite. Guess whatever Final Fantasy you played first will alway be your favorite.

    Can't really agree with Jeremy on VIII or XII, those two, along with X and XIII, really soured me on the series. I was really hyped for the sequel to VII and I got this teen angst love story, the fighting was meh' at best, Square brought it back with IX, though. Then they lost me again with X, another love story with horrible VO (Tidus mainly), although the grid sphere was cool. But the real kicker for me was XII, after playing Tactics and getting introduced to the world of Ivalice and then getting stuck with Vaan and Panelo; I'm not 100% sure how many hours I was in, somewhere past the desert after meeting Balthier, who should have been the main character, and Fran, I believe in the mines, where I just stopped b/c I wasn't having any fun.

    Looking back at them, I feel that the weaker FF I mentioned had their memorable characters, Waaka, Auron, Balthier, Basch, and Fran, but they were always relegated to sidekicks and we had to follow the cliche goings on of Squall, Tidus, or Vaan.Edited March 2015 by detten17
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  • Avatar for cldmstrsn #18 cldmstrsn 2 years ago
    @detten That's not necessarily true. While FF VII was the first FF I beat completely and was my favorite for a long time when FF XII came around it just blew my mind how much I loved that game. The setting of Ivalice is probably the best setting for an FF. It has that medieval feel but then all of a sudden you have awesome modern technology like airships and big cities like Archadia. It still blows my mind to this day how big and expansive that game was so I am sorry to hear you didn't enjoy that as much but with anything to each their own.
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  • Avatar for Mikki-Saturn #19 Mikki-Saturn 2 years ago
    Great podcast! I'm loving it. Slightly off topic-but I think FFVII gets a bit of a bad rap. I'm talking about the "all the characters are the same" thing that I hear pretty often, as well as some other comments that I see around. You guys kind of got into that just a little contrasting it to FFVI. I think, in some ways, that game is under appreciated (although that sounds crazy to say). Anyway, hopefully you guys can talk about VII more in a later episode (I imagine you will eventually)!
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  • Avatar for orient #20 orient 2 years ago
    I've been waiting for FFVI on a modern handheld but I don't want to play the PlayStation version on Vita because I hear there's loading times. A Virtual Console release of FFIII would be great, but I really see no reason why we're not getting GBA games (inc. FFVI) on 3DS Virtual Console. Biggest disappointment for me.

    I just watched the alpha footage of Cosmic Star Heroine and it looks really cool overall. It's great to see someone attempting a 16-bit RPG, even if visually it looks a little inconsistent. I'd love to see them hire a great pixel artist for their next game to help smooth things over a little.
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  • Avatar for hal9k #21 hal9k 2 years ago
    I'm flattered that you mentioned my post! The FF6 trivia was awesome. You also taught me the correct pronunciation of "Celes." I've been saying it something like "seal ease" all along. It took me a good minute to figure out who the heck "Celeste" was (or Seles, the tennis player?).

    If I remember right (sorry if not!), Jeremy's written before about briefly falling out of gaming in college, and having one particular game, Secret of Mana, pull him back in. FF6 was that game for me, in high school. As@Thumbscar and others have said, I've also found it to be a great introduction to Final Fantasy, RPGs, and just gaming in general for new players. I had never considered how the structure and pacing of the game contribute to that accessibility, but those are excellent points.

    I also laughed when Kat mentioned that she got her SNES from a coworker at KFC. That must happen a lot. I spent a few years at a certain major doughnut retailer, and was given used copies of both Chrono Cross and Breath of Fire 4 by coworkers. I also gave a DS and a Phoenix Wright game to a kid who was trying to save up for her own. It would be cool if she grew up to be the next Kat Bailey.Edited March 2015 by hal9k
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  • Avatar for Kuni-Nino #22 Kuni-Nino 2 years ago
    Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy VI, and Super Mario RPG were the games that informed my RPG tastes. I'm glad to see a proper discussion on FFVI. For some reason, it feels like I've never heard one before even though the game is beloved.
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  • Avatar for NYCAlex #23 NYCAlex 2 years ago
    Great show once again! Between this, US to You and Retronauts, I can't get enough pod goodness.

    Two points :
    1) Is the PSN version of FFVI that bad? I'd wait for the Wii U VC version but Square apparently hates money and the NA market.

    2) Thank you to Jeremy for teaching me how to pronounce Cait Sith. I've been living a lie for decades!
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  • Avatar for josephhoopman34 #24 josephhoopman34 2 years ago
    I was one of those people who, for whatever reason, didn't realize there was an entire second half to the game. For whatever reason, I never quite got around to finishing it back in the day; should really rectify that.

    Speaking of which: I know the mobile version is bad, but these days what's the best way to play FFVI? Especially for those of us without handheld systems?

    (That would be my one recommendation for the canon discussions -- maybe a brief discussion of various versions and/or recommendations for how best to experience the game in this day & age.)
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  • Avatar for SatelliteOfLove #25 SatelliteOfLove 2 years ago
    @detten

    Blame Wada. In fact, for 80% of SE snafus over the last 15 years, "Blame Wada".
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  • Avatar for JohnnyBarnstorm #26 JohnnyBarnstorm 2 years ago
    Oh man! Why haven't I subscribed to this yet... come on, phone! DOWNLOAD!
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  • Avatar for Barf! #27 Barf! 2 years ago
    I don't actually think Mash is supposed to be Matthew. Matthew would be マシュー whereas Mash's name is written as マッシュ in the game.
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  • Avatar for detten17 #28 detten17 2 years ago
    @NYCAlex

    It's honestly not, I would say that the Chrono Trigger port is more annoying but that barely puts a damper on two great games, I have almost all the classics on my Vita
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  • Avatar for Compeau #29 Compeau 2 years ago
    I had the FF6 soundtrack playing on low while listening to this podcast. It made it 10x better. I'm going to have to do that for every RPG Canon episode.
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  • Avatar for PlatypusPlatoon #30 PlatypusPlatoon 2 years ago
    I haven't played FF6 since the year it came out, but this episode *really* makes me want to go back and revisit it. I'm impressed by all the minor details all three podcasters remember about the game, down to individual lines of dialogue, all things which escaped me as a 13-year-old. Which is another thing I hadn't realized - Jeremy is a fair bit older than the rest of the cast! I'd always thought his crotchety old man gimmick was just that - a gimmick - but now I see he comes by that jaded cynicism honestly. Kidding aside, I very much enjoy the rhythm and chemistry on this show - it feels like it's coming into its own!
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