If you’ve played an RPG, be it a JRPG, western RPG, Korean RPG, or ZuluRPG, you’re familiar with the bane of the item-hater’s existence: the status effect. With the power to turn a potential victory into a crushing defeat instantly, they’ve frustrated gamers for years. Why put up with it? What attachment do we have to status effects that developers still feel that it’s a good idea to include such a ridiculous set of rules?
It might be argued that status effects add to the strategy of a game, forcing you to manage not only the dealing and healing of hitpoints, but also the constant threat of being poisoned, silenced, turned to stone, or even turned into a tiny bipedal frog thing. On paper, it might sound great, but the avoidance of status effects so often comes down to that same thing that causes countries to fight wars and families to be torn apart: money. For with enough money, one can keep a constant stock of potions and bracelets devoted to keeping these pesky properties at bay. Then, the battle against status effects becomes more a matter of remembering to visit the shop before embarking on your next adventure than strategically planning out each battle to ensure victory.
Still not convinced that status effects are nothing but a nuisance? Let’s take a quick look at some of the most popular status effects and why they are utterly stupid.
OK, I’ll start this off with a concession: poison makes a fair bit of sense in some situations. If Edge Maverick, hero and undisputed “best name ever” belt holder, gets bitten by a rattlesnake, that mopey little bitch is going to get poisoned. You probably won’t want to do this, but if you have an antidote bottle in your inventory, you could give it to him and cure his affliction. So far, everything seems to be matching up with the world of the sane.
But, oh no! Skip ahead two seconds, and the rattlesnake has bitten Sarah Palin – uhh, Edge Maverick again, and those green bubbles reappear above his head. Didn’t I just fix this shit? Why do I have to do this like five times in the same damn battle?
Let’s take the case, also from Star Ocean 4, of Bacchus D-79, a cyborg character who also has a tendency to get him dumb ass poisoned despite the fact that he’s covered in more metal than Scandinavia. Oh, you argue, but he was poisoned by that giant green cloud of bile that this little rabbit summoned! Yeah, ‘cause that makes sense.
So, poison, I’m giving you a pass just this once, but not your kin like “on fire,” which acts in the same way in many games as poison. But, what the fuck, didn’t anyone ever teach you “stop, drop and roll?” My five-year-old niece knows that.
Ahh, sleep. In the real world, I love sleep. Nothing’s better than birthday-suiting up (save for my socks, of course) and tunneling under the covers. Sleep is truly a joy of this world.
But it is not a joy that extends to the battlefield. No, the notion that someone could fall asleep in the heat of battle…and remain standing…is simply beyond my comprehension. There’s so much wrong with the sleep status effect, but let’s just cover the basics.
For one, battles tend to be pretty noisy. You know, people yelling, reciting spells, dying. This wouldn’t keep them alert? Actually, perhaps that explains the sleepy protagonist trope…they all sleep like comatose babies. Regardless, the idea that someone could fall asleep in the middle of a battle and not wake up instantly is pretty ridiculous. The best part is that some games give you an “alarm clock” item that lets you wake a party member. Yes, because that will be the loudest thing during the battle. Just bang your sword next to his ear!
But what of the waking up process? Games like the Final Fantasy series give you the option of waking up one of your afflicted party members by giving him a stern whack with your weapon. I mean, a full on attack. Really? You can’t hold back for your buddy? Not even a little kick to the shin? A bucket of water to the fact? You have to slice his fucking face off? Well, that’s certainly more effective than Folders in your cup, but oh the missed product placement opportunities!
Here’s my problem with silence: it begins with the assumption that magic requires speech, which not all games really seem to conform to. Now, for a person to be unable to speak, I imagine that one of three things must happen. Either that person must have such a reduced mental capacity that he loses the ability to speak, his tongue is either removed from his mouth or otherwise seized in some manner, or the lips are temporarily sewn or melded together to completely prevent the escape of sound. All of these are dumb.
On the side of the reduced mental capacity, how do we explain how a person is still able to fight and doesn’t just hang out in the corner watching Monkeybone? The tongue removal thing seems pretty permanent, so I think we have to discredit it since silence is a temporary thing. And the closed mouth? Kind of hard to ingest a potion that way, yes? Unless the use of a Neti Pot is sufficient. Neti Pot = Panacea? This blog just cured cancer…yet still silence plagues us.
Yes, there are positive status effects too! Reflect has become a staple in the Final Fantasy world despite the fact that it is shite. Why, you ask, is it thus? Why must I question everything that you love, especially when a spell like reflect actually does make you think more about strategy?
Well, reflect is shite for the simple fact that it is nonsensical. If you’ve ever seen reflect cast, you’ll know that it’s basically this invisible spherical shield that makes you rubber and him glue. Cast, boing, zap.
Where the hell are my physics? I’m pretty sure that if a bigass bolt of lightning strikes from the sky downward on a single point, it’s not magically going to bounce over to the person who cast it, unless it flies back up to Zeus himself, who says “Where the fuck did this come from?” and fortuitously chucks it in what just happens to be the direction of the latest, greatest Pikachu imitator. But that would make for a damn good game.
The best part of reflect is that it makes healing totally useless, even from within the bubble. Tell me how this makes sense: you’re hanging out doing your best Jake Gyllenhaal impression in your reflect bubble when a truck comes out of nowhere and nails you head on. Ouch! You’d better cast heal!
“Hell no,” sez reflect. It’s going to bounce away and heal that truck. “But I’m inside the bubble,” you say. It doesn’t make sense to me either. Where do the forces that create healing power originate from? Why aren’t they inside my bubble! Now you’ve made Jake Gyllenhaal sad. Way to go. You’ll never get to live out that twisted Donnie Darko sex dream now. Not even the bunny will show up.
All right kids, this story is getting kind of long and it’s way past your bedtime, so I think we had better end here for the day and pick up tomorrow night (which has no actual relation to when I’ll write another one of these). But there’s plenty more to learn about these terrible blights upon the world. For now, we’ll just have to cast…STOP.