Final Fantasy XIV x Chan Luu Job Bracelets: For The Ethically-Conscious Warrior of Light



On November 9th the social media channels for Final Fantasy XIV announced a new partnership with fashion and accessory designer Chan Luu. The collaboration will produce a line of the designer’s popular hand-made beaded bracelets with a Final Fantasy XIV twist; each piece will be themed after a job class from the popular MMORPG and decorated with a charm depicting the logo of each job’s respective soul crystal. These charm bracelets are a way to subtley show off pride for your chosen class and look good doing it.


Chan Luu may not be a household name for most Final Fantasy fans but her work has been worn by Lady Gaga, Brittney Spears, Emma Watson, and Tom Hanks just to name a few. It might seem odd to some RPG fans for Square to be partnering with a designer whose work you’re more likely to find at Saks Fifth Avenue than GameStop, but it’s certainly not the only time Final Fantasy and fashion have crossed paths. Characters from Final Fantasy XIII  were featured models for Prada in 2012 and Lightning returned to the fashion world as a model for Louis Vuitton’s Spring/Summer 2016 collection. Final Fantasy XV’s fashion connection is even more a part of it’s DNA – Japanese designer Roen worked on the costumes for the main cast and the mother of punk herself, Vivienne Westwood, designed Lunafreya’s wedding dress.


Vivienne Westwood canonically exists in the world of XV. Does that mean the Sex Pistols do too?

The XIV charm bracelets are certainly more subtle than, say, Prompto’s asymmetrical studded leather vest and plaid half-skirt thing, but they speak to the series’ appreciation of distinct design. That design comes with a cost however and for many players of XIV commenting on social media the $139.99USD price tag attached to these bracelets is a cost they’re not willing to pay.

I was expecting $50 at max but then again this is square enix. Should known better”, “$140?????? At least price them a standard gamer’s wage!”,
I can make these for a fraction of $140. I’ll pass on this rip off

Comments like these are common in the facebook thread announcing the collaboration. Similar sentiments can be found in many of the replies to the twitter counterpart. It’s easy to jump to a conclusion like some of these commenters but there’s more to this price tag than just a well-known fashion designer and a videogame license adding up to a prohibitive cost for the average ‘gamer’. It’s unfair to pass this off as just an attempt to gouge fans of the game (that’s what the Mogstation is for anyway (I joke, I joke)) without considering the larger business ecosystem at play.

Chan Luu is known particularly for her devotion to ethical practices in her factories. In an industry where mass-production and sweatshops are common, Chan Luu’s accessories are hand-made and her workers are paid fair wages that ensure a decent standard of living. Originally from Vietnam, Chan Luu later lived in LA and began designing jewelry in the 90s. As her business grew she hand-picked a factory in Vietnam that she trusted for it’s ethical labour practices. She also established a factory in Nairobi, Kenya, employing women who were experts at hand-crafted beaded jewelry as part of an initiative to create sustainable jobs around the world. She has employed 782 people in Kenya alone and Chan Luu Inc’s partnership with the United Nations Ethical Fashion Initiative should continue to provide safe, well-payed, sustainable work to more and more people every year.

So is $140 too much for a bracelet? In an article for Boston University Luu says “It’s up to you to decide whether you support what I do or you don’t… The people who make this get paid fairly and have a safe place to work. And some people buy my jewelry only because they love it, but other people do care about those things…”


After a long journey, four young warriors arrive, each holding some BLING

The game industry is no stranger to controversy about working conditions. Consumers are being confronted more and more about how to ethically consume and it can be uncomfortable to think about how an individual’s spending can impact the lives of the people making a product. It’s important to not always make the number one priority be “spending as little as possible for a product” when the other side of that transaction could be exploitative and damaging. I won’t profess to being an expert on economics but even I can appreciate when a big name publisher like Square Enix is willing to form a partnership that has its roots in the fair and ethical treatment of its workers.

That said, I’m totally broke if someone wants to spot me $140. I play NIN or MCH. tfp o/

The Final Fantasy x Chan Luu Job Bracelet line is accepting orders until December 11th 2018 for North America and December 13th 2018 for Europe. Items will be made to order and can be pre-ordered here.

Timed Hits List 002 – Promised Grace (Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles)


I won’t even pretend that I’m not excited about Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles Remastered. I’ve spent the majority of my spending money over the past year or so optimizing my audio/video setup for my Gamecube — the primary purpose being to play Crystal Chronicles with the highest fidelity possible. And now, on the cusp of making that dream a reality, it has all been rendered moot with the announcement of a Switch version. I’m not even a little bit mad; the more chances people get to play this tragically overlooked Final Fantasy the better. Especially if it means more people experiencing the soundtrack that proved Nobuo Uematsu wasn’t the only game in town.
Kumi Tanioka, who at this point in time was co-composer for Final Fantasy XI, masterfully scores the world of Crystal Chronicles with a band composed of traditional instruments from all over the world. We’re talking all kinds of lutes, recorders, bagpipes, crumhorns, and medieval instruments.


Now that’s what I call a crumhorn!

There are ton of highlights in the Crystal Chronicles OST; Departure, the game’s first dungeon theme sets the melancholy tone of a world full of adventurers not seeking glory, but the means to keep their villages alive. Sad Monster and Unite, Descent provide a backdrop for an uneasy and wholly unique final boss battle. Tanioka even provides two different takes on Uematsu’s Moogle Theme from Final Fantasy V, Cripper Tripper Fritter. That melody won’t see that much love again until Masayoshi Soken’s Danny Elfman-inspired rendition in Final Fantasy XIV a decade later.

The track that I want to highlight today is from around the midway point of the main story – Promised Grace, the theme of Veo Lu Sluice.

One thing that really can’t be captured by listening to just the OST track is the stage introductions that accompany entering an area for the first time. Every level begins with a brief but outrageously charming monologue narrated by a northern English dialect that would make even the citiest of slickers yearn for the rolling emerald hills and grey skies of some kind of ‘–shire’. It also features one of the best sound design details in the series. Check out the video below to around the 1:30 mark:

Leaving only the barest of instrumentation during the spoken intro and then firing up the melody right as the stage name is introduced is such an excellent touch. Crystal Chronicles is also not a particularly lore-heavy game so these drip-fed bits of detail about the world (also the only part of the original release of Crystal Chronicles to be fully voiced) are a welcome moment of appreciation.

The song itself is just a blast. The instrumentation and Renaissance flair are reminiscent of Final Fantasy IX’s more traditional tunes — Rose of May meets Vamo alla Flamenco – but with a nuance that only Tanioka’s live band can provide. It’s not too much of a stretch to think that Final Fantasy IX character designer Toshiyuki Itahana’s involvement in the look of Crystal Chronicles could have influenced Tanioka in the same way it influenced Uematsu’s score for IX.

This really is one of the best examples in Crystal Chronicles of Tanioka’s commitment to a traditional sound. It’s not hard to imagine this playing in the background of any period film where everyone dances in a circle mid-high-five — I went to a Shakespeare festival or two; I know what’s up. In fact the return of Promised Grace’s melody is in nearly that exact kind of setting. Veo Lu Sluice’s theme returns in 2008’s spin-off of a spin-off, Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers where it provides the music for one of the title’s several rhythm mini-games. Take a listen to it and some other further listening down below, including a piece from Tanioka’s beautiful stand-alone piano album, Sky’s The Limit and a piece from her iconic work on Final Fantasy XI.

Who knows if/when Tanioka will return to game composition but in the meantime she has left a unique footprint on the Final Fantasy series that deserves to be remembered fondly.

Further Listening:

Review – Star Soldier R


Star Soldier R

Developer: Hudson Soft
Platform: Wii (WiiWare)
Price: 800 Wii Points (Wii Points unavailable for purchase at the time of this writing)

With the Wii Shop set to completely shutdown in early 2019 and users being locked out of the ability to add more points to their accounts, this review couldn’t have come at a more pointless time. But if, like me, you have a few hundred extra points burning a hole in your digital pocket then this review might just help you decide which ‘Buy’ button to point your Wii Remote at. Especially if you’re looking for experiences that as of this writing are exclusive to WiiWare.

I don’t profess to being an expert of the shoot ‘em up genre but it has always been a part of my palate – an R-Type machine was right across the street from one of my usual summertime haunts and Space Megaforce was a staple of sleepover game rotations. But it wasn’t until the Virtual Console began releasing shooter after shooter after shooter than I understood the breadth and variety of the genre. The Star Soldier series, primarily released for the Turbografx-16, was particularly beyond my purview. Luckily my desire to grab just about anything from the WiiWare service that seemed remotely interesting led me to Star Soldier R and subsequently to the rest of the Star Soldier series.


Star Soldier R also has what looks like a moon, so bonus points from me

Even within the Star Soldier canon R is an atypical game – gameplay revolves primarily around a short main game designed to be played many times for a high score. The game is even split up into “2-Minute” and “5-Minute” campaigns. And yes, they are quite literally 2-minutes and 5-minutes long; regardless of where you are in the game’s two stages, when the timer runs out it’s game over. This length lends itself incredibly well to return sessions every few months or even years. Players are meant to spend the first few plays memorizing and then the next thousand plays optimizing. For people who find other “full length” shooters to be too intimidating or too much of a time commitment, Star Soldier R offers a bite-sized experience that begs to be replayed over and over.

For a game this slight of content, the amount of time devoted to story is kind of amazing. Waiting on the title screen long enough will trigger a series of still images and text that explain Star Soldier R’s place in the greater Star Soldier timeline and give context this ship’s particular mission. This is so wholly unnecessary that I can’t help by find it outrageously charming. The earnestness with which Star Soldier R presents its story perfectly captures the feeling of an arcade cabinet attract mode. Each stage is also bookended by short cutscenes showing the player’s ship taking off or moving on to its next destination.

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I tried to find more screenshots but Hudson’s old URL is now owned by an ENT in New York. So here’s this guy.

Mechanically Star Soldier R is pretty basic; there are two kinds of power-ups that operate linearly and simultaneously. Blue capsules create satellites around your ship that can be sent of to automatically target enemy spacecraft, while pink capsules enhance your main ship’s shot. There are no branching weapon types or alternate types of fire (beyond the aforementioned satellites). Taking a hit will knock the player down a weapon-level and destroy the player’s ship if at the base weapon-level. This combined with the fact that there are no lives and infinite continues means that anyone can get through a round of Star Soldier R provided the death count hasn’t led to too much lost time, particularly when fighting one of the bosses.

Star Soldier R is a difficult game to recommend logistically speaking – I can recommend it all I want but the chance that anyone is in a position to purchase it is incredibly slim. If you happen to be one of the five people left on the planet with 800 Wii Points to spare and a desire to pick up a short score-attack space shooter exclusive to WiiWare, then by all means, Star Soldier R is the way to go. There are dozens of other games that will give you more content for 800 points on the service but Star Soldier R is fun little revival of a series that is unlikely to resurface anytime soon. Give it a shot if you have to ability to do so.


The Best Place 001 – Luna (Tales of Phantasia)


The Best Place is a series about the Moon in videogames. Because the Moon has done a great job so far and it deserves it.

I don’t need to tell you why the Moon is the best place but I will. Without the tides, life may not have evolved the way it did. Tidal pools and the movement of the ocean facilitate some of the most complex and important eco systems in the world. Human society’s most important stories were inspired by it. Cultures all over the world have used it to justify weird gender stuff, sometimes empowering and sometimes subjugating women. That same weird gender stuff has been co-opted to justify new age philosophy and religion. Your aunt probably has a lot to say about the Moon. A race to it determined the political landscape of the latter half of the 20th century. Dogs bark at it maybe. The Moon has gravity. It has a pull so powerful that people confuse it for a lot things it isn’t.

Because it’s just the Moon. It’s perfect and just there. Quiet and mostly empty and sometimes light and sometimes not and it doesn’t care what you think it means. It doesn’t anything because it’s just the Moon. Your aunt is wrong.

Videogames do a lot with the Moon. And that makes sense because The Moon is the best. I hope this series will help you understand that.

The first videogame moon we’re going to look at is the personification of The Moon from 1995’s Tales of Phantasia for Super Famicom, Luna.

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That’s her up there. She’s a moon girl about to laser some ghosts.

Luna is the name of the Greek Goddess of the Moon. She is often depicted with horns on her head obviously because of the crescent moon, you see? The studio behind Tales of Phantasia, Wolfteam (wolves also are very much into the moon), decided this was dumb and instead made her into what appears to be some kind of child’s mobile. If you can find a gif or video you’ll see in her idle animation that the stars and moon around her swing slightly as if suspended from above by an unseen thread. This is super cute and Luna would already be great if this was all there was to her. But there’s so much more.

Tales of Phantasia was re-released several times and with those re-released came updated sprite art and character designs. None were more important than Luna’s.

In Phantasia’s lore there is a long-lost ancient city called Thor. While most of the locations the player visits are the usual fantasy JRPG fare, Thor is a decidedly modern-looking place with skyscrapers, computers, and robots. It’s completely abandoned when the player arrives but I like to imagine that Luna, with her “Eat-At-Luna’s”-style love for noble gas, was familiar with the city during it’s active period.

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Just look at her though. She’s having a blast. What a fun moon. The fact that her little neon sign WITH HER OWN NAME ON IT changes to announce the firing of her laser is about as charming as it gets. It’s not up for debate; Tales of Phantasia, you have given us a wonderful moon, full of life, love, and laughter.


I know we started things off with a real bang here — Luna is a treat and we’re gonna have a hard time following up this excellent moon, but please stick with me as we journey through the many many moons that videogames have to offer us. And please, remember…

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