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Most Overlooked Characters In Video Gaming I: Flora

Warning: This post will be reeking with SPOILERS for the first three Layton games, so read at your own risk.

I'm trying to start a little series here where I want to shed light on characters that I feel are under-appreciated or were not used to their best potential. As this the first post, I'm still somehow experimenting with the layout, so bear with me here. I'll outline the character's role in the games they appeared in and then go on to ramble about that.

Flora Reinhold is a recurring character in the Professor Layton franchise. Although we only meet her at the end of the first game and she doesn't get a lot of overall screen-time, she also is the very element that the actions of the first game revolve around. The little time she got to speak for herself was enough to make me fall in love with this adorable little girl and I was hoping that she would be added to the regular cast in following games.

At the beginning of the second game, Flora is inexplicably absent although we know it's set shortly after the first game, at the end of which Professor Layton took her in. We then get to meet her in a sorry excuse for a disguise on the Molentary Express, where Luke and Layton for some reason fail to recognise until she drops the charade. As we explore the village where the Molentary Express has to stop for a while, Flora is with us just as good protagonist would be. Not for long though, as she soon gets kidnapped and replaced by a disguised Don Paolo (you gotta hand it to him, HE knows how to disguise himself). She remains absent for the rest of the game until she is discovered sleeping peacefully in a barn. Meh.

Flora in disguise.

Can't say she didn't cater to my thing for glasses, though.

On to the third game, where – surprise – Flora yet again fails to appear at the beginning of the game. We only meet her as we set foot into Layton's office where she has been waiting for Layton all the time because he left her alone. She then goes to make tea and cucumber sandwiches for the professor and Luke, an opportunity they use to abandon her yet again (for safety reasons, as the professor says). Flora is less than amused and trails Layton and Luke to the clock shop, where Cogg hauls everyone present to the future before Layton can kick Flora out. After that she is pretty much dragged around without ever getting mentioned until she once again gets kidnapped – this time by Clive. Layton proves what a knight he is by putting her rescue over London's rescue, then follows the Happy Ending, etc.

Now, as you probably caught from my tone already, I'm less than satisfied with the way Flora was handled in the games. The first game set Flora up as an interesting character in my eyes. She has had a troubled past, has lived in a city inhabited by robots built to entertain her and now as an orphan has to handle being the future heir to enormous wealth and all the problems that come with that. On a side note, she also looks incredibly cute (come on, don't you just want to hug her whenever you see her?) and would surely have made a good counterpart to Luke. That is a promising premise and so I was psyched to see where the developers would go with that in the following games.

Enter the second game, where she's absent and unmentioned at the beginning, as if to prove that she's not been accepted into the ring of protagonists and that she's not a part of their everyday puzzle-solving life. When we then meet her in her extremely easy to see through disguise, the otherwise so sharp Luke and Layton fail to recognise her. Have they already forgotten how she looks or did just try to leave her out of the plot a bit longer? It turns out Flora has followed them onto the train, all on her own. It may be subtle but to me, she already proves at this very point that she is more capable of taking care of herself than anyone gives her credit for. So when we already rejoice about her finally getting added into the crew, the party doesn't last long. Flora gets kidnapped in Dropstone when the characters lose each other in the crowd. Of course we as the players are in the know but the fake Flora that returns so obviously is off that we are left to wonder about why the two again don't recognise the change. Necessary for the plot? The two just don't know her well enough to notice the difference? Or they simply never listen to her? Heaven knows. At the end, Flora is found peacefully asleep in a barn, placing her somewhere between delusional and bad-ass and making her appearance in the game even more anti-climatic.

Her involvement in the story of the third game is surprisingly similar: Not there in beginning, complains about being left alone and trails Layton and Luke, is kidnapped and successfully saved by Layton. The third game only makes a point of making the process of Flora being left alone all the more horrible. Flora, willing to forgive Layton for leaving him alone, goes to make tea for them and then they have the nerves to just up and run. Layton says that it's "all just for her safety" but that is a weak argument in face of the fact he takes a roughly ten-year-old boy to casinos and mobster hide-outs. Flora doesn't give up, though but goes on to prove her woman-balls once again by trailing Layton through half London, only to not be left behind again. Even in the face of this – for a small, young girl - astonishing accomplishment, Layton has nothing better to do than to send her home again. I really wanted to punch him by that point.

Now, why is it that all this wonderful premise went to waste like this? My personal answer to this question is simple: She wasn't written as a character.

If she wasn't written as a character with her own will, importance, thoughts, feelings and motivations, what was she written as then? A characterisation device. Nothing more. She only serves one purpose in the second and third game: To give Layton a chance to prove how much of a gentleman he is towards woman. That is why he always grounds her, that is why she always has to get kidnapped: So he can save her and say a few lines about how gentlemanly that is. Now you might say that Clive just wanted to kidnap someone dear to Layton – then why didn't he take Luke? The relationship between Layton and Luke (and I'm closing my eyes to everything fan girls will interpret into that now) is MUCH more of a focus in the games than the one between Layton and Flora. Ten-year-old Luke is just as defenceless against being kidnapped by an adult as Flora is; and wouldn't it have been much more interesting if Clive took Luke? To separate the Holmes/Watson duo and see Layton and Flora rush to Luke's rescue? That would certainly have been fuelled more by genuine character relations and not the typical damsel in distress-blah.

Now that's what a good girl should be like.

What has happened to Flora and also to many other female video gaming characters (Samus, anyone?) is what I like to call the Japan-treatment. Female characters don't get credit for what they achieve, or even better, can't achieve it without male help. They also regularly let out high pitched screams, especially when as always being the one chosen to get in an unfortunate situation everyone could have gotten into. If possible, add some household-related hobbies and remove any form of deepness and bad-assery. There you go, a good female character that won't distract any positive recognition from the male cast.

Suggestions and critique are very welcome. Also feel free to correct any grammar, spelling or punctuation mistakes or point out where my tone sounds "un-english", English isn't my first language.

What's with all the complaints?

Lately, I found it very enjoyable to read the blog posts by authors featured on the soap box. How I never realized the potential of awesome in this feature is beyond me; here's my tip for everyone: Take a wee bit of time and read those posts, they're absolutely worth it. So, while I was reading through many, many blog posts there's one subject that especially caught my eye: game reviews. It's not the matter addressed most or the one debated most furiously. Game reviews have, however, been the subject of some high-quality editorials, amongst others by the much-appreciated masterpinky2000.

Common to a lot (not all!) of those comments on game reviews is a massive critique on the system of game reviews, either on the scoring system or on the fact that a review just reflects the reviewers opinion. The good comments also include ideas alternate rating system, that include abolishing the score completely, introducing multiple scores or by direct comparison to similar games. I'm not a rating-score fangirl or extremely conservative but I think that most of those comments have one flaw in common. They always criticize the way a review is written – but when I read the complaints about rating games, I think the major critique should go to the way we read a review. Most of the problems we encounter when discussing games and game reviews are in fact not caused by the review system or the concept of a review. The very problem lies in the perception and consideration of the content of a game review by the community. To evaluate that rather brisk statements, let me give you a few examples from complaints about game reviews:

A high review score can mislead you into assuming a game would be a great purchase although you don't like its genre: Of course, a review will always be written by a reviewer that likes the genre of the game he is reviewing. If the reviewer doesn't like the genre in general, he won't be able to appreciate the game's features, compare it other games of the genre he has played etc. And naturally, the review is written mostly for people that have a positive or at least neutral disposition towards the genre it belongs to. Why bother with reading the review of a first-person shooter that will point out this specific game's strengths and weaknesses when it's the genre as a whole you dislike? As a person that absolutely cannot find any form of enjoyment in a FPS, the variety of weapons, the enemy-AI or graphics will not change anything about the fact that I dislike the game's principle. If a game is great accomplishing what it wants to, like being a unique FPS-experience, the reviewer has every legitimation to give that game a high rating – I myself have to decide whether that score will probably reflect my opinion of the game based on my disposition towards the genre.

A game's review score doesn't reflect the specific appeal of a game to a gamer: It certainly doesn't, correct. But as I will point out in the next paragraph, this is not the purpose of the score. But let's take a deeper look into a review, there is a lot of attention spent on specific appeal. Obviously, there is the comparison of good and bad aspects right at the beginning of the review. I personally think it's a simple, yet brilliant feature. It lists the game's strengths and weaknesses on the spot and you yourself can decide how important each of those aspects is for yourself. Furthermore a quote from the last review I read, for Demon's Souls (PS3): "Of course, the game's greatest potential drawback is its level of difficulty. If you are easily frustrated, or looking to unwind for the night, Demon's Souls isn't going to fit the bill, though that doesn't mean it's generally cheap: it always abides by its own laws." The game got it a 9.0, marking it a great game. But review clearly says that if it's unbearable for to try passages again and again until you make it through, this game probably won't be suited for you. Can one address specific appeal even more openly? The game's score is very high because if you have no problem with this (like me), it will be a great, challenging experience (and boy, challenging games seem to be untrendy nowadays) – this score does not apply to you if you belong to the easily-frustrated sort. Sometimes I wonder whether people even bother to read any further than to the score.

Review scores are one-dimensional: While I agree that there is a truth to this statement, I also think that it's a necessary evil. What do we want from a review? We want to know how likely it is that we will enjoy this game and base our decision to purchase the game (at least partially) on this. So what should a review score be? It should reflect how much fun an average gamer with a positive or neutral disposition towards the genre (see above) will probably have with this game. An average gamer will enjoy a game that fairs well in aspects of gameplay, story, graphics and music with the first factor being the most important. So, the review score takes into consideration those four factors – but it will not be an average of scores given to the individual aspects. It moreover tries to give people an idea how well the overall presentation of a game is and thus how much we are probably going to enjoy it. Probably. If a game has fabulous graphics and music but tedious, frustrating gameplay most people won't enjoy it a lot. There may, however, be gamers that care about the graphics or music most, to which this will be a great game. Does this group represent the majority of gamers? I think not. So, yes – a review score is one-dimensional and it does leave out personal preferences. Why? Simplification. Remember a review score is not a whole review, it's a short glimpse on how much the average gamer will enjoy this game. That's it, not more, not less. If you want to take deeper look into why the game got this score etc. there's still the full review to further evaluate that. If, however, we accept that, yes, a review score is a simplified, one-dimensional number, we also shouldn't over-estimate its meaning. It's not absolute, it's not definite, it's not all-embracing. When discussing games, we shouldn't get down to comparing one-dimensional numbers.

There you have it, my plea for review scores and reviewers. Many of the reasons why people complain about reviews could be taken care of if they just gave the question what a review score is for a thought. Or if they just read the complete review before complaining. Certainly, if one positive aspect of a game is over-whelming for you but not for the reviewer, you're opinion of the game is not properly reflected by the score. Is this important? Take a quick look at the review and you'll get an idea of good the game will be for you. It's just personal perception of the game. The reviewer also presents a personal perception, although he of course will try to be as rational as possible. Games are, like films and music, a matter of taste. Just try and keep in mind that the review score is not everything. It's an attempt of the reviewer to express as simple as possible the "fun factor" of a game. People should stop battling over review scores, like game X actually deserved a 8.5 but got a 8.0 but game Y got a 9.0 while deserving a 8.0. And I will not even comment on console wars and review scores. I won't.

Now, after all the good words for game reviews, there's one issue that concerns me and apparently others as well: "Safe Scores", i.e. all established, hyped franchise installments getting scores in between 8.0 and 9.0. Safad0 addressed the matter briefly in this post so I think I'm not the only one who noticed. This is especially tasty here on GS where certain things we all know happened that are certainly connected to this matter. Maybe I'll comment further on this in a later blog post. Cheers :3

Gaming. Finals. Gaming. Vacation!!

Wohoo, I'm done with my finals. I made it, I made it, I made it! I'll only get the result on 10th June, though ... for the written exams, that is. I took my .... *cough* "oral" exam on Tuesday in Religion and I got an A+ - yay :D (it was about criticism on religion in the 19th century and its impact on modern theology, if anyone happens to be interested).

Apart from studying for test (which I did the last time two weeks ago ...), I've been enjoying a lot of free and thus, gaming. Due to uh ... an improvement of my PS2, I've recently been able to enjoy Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2 (which was my first real game), Devil May Cry and FF7 (not emulated this time). THPS2 rocks my world, I one day got a blister on my left thump from playing it o.o DMC was a cool game, too. (And Dante is one cool ****) It could have been a bit longer and more story-driven, though. And some jumping passages killed me x.x

And noooooow, I'll go on a trip to Mallorca! Yeeeha! I'll fly there tomorrow with some friends of mine and stay for eight days, until 30th May. I'm looking forward to it sooo much, getting to relax, going to the beach, enjoying the weather =3

See you at the end of the month guys *insert heart* *shakes fist at GS' HTML*

Christmas has come early

(Someone got the reference?)

After half a year with nothing to write about and little activity on GameSpot in general, I decided that Christmas and beating Level 20 together finally deserved a new blog post. And the reference in the title.

I find that the titel does actually fit the way things are going now. I mean, on Wednesday?? I never saw that coming. Plus I tend to forget to open the windows on my advent calendar ... And, typically for me, I haven't got a single Christmas present for anyone. Hell, I haven't even thought about presents yet! I also don't know what to wish for ... I don't want to receive just money christmas. That's not nice. And no presents to open under the christmas tree. So, no money. But what else? Everything else would be too expensive. I really gotta kick my own ass and think of something. Or hope that my relatives think of something neat. ... Okay, I gotta think.

Anyways, I have holidays now!! YAY!! I needed that, really. Gee, school was exhausting me. Just a couple of months left to go. As you may have read on Nerd Rage, I have started to work after school in september. So I don't really have a lot of free time anymore. However, I don't care at the very moment, because I have holidays. And I spent my time on partying, drinking beer,eating cookies, gaming and watching The L-Word. That's what life should be like ^_^

Oh and one last thing: Our union, The Chillin' Zone For Guys And Gals, has an own social network/website now - and it's really cool. Check it out: (Okay, chances are that if you read this blog, you're a member of the union and know about it already, but who cares XD)

Well then, I wish you all a merry Christmas! And I hope that we're going to see more activity here in the next year. We never give up hope!

A revelation. A very little one.

Well, I don't actually now why. Maybe because I'm almost a year here by now. Or because of Turbo's idea in the Chillin' Zone. Or because I'm a little Attention Whore. Anyways, what I am going to reveal is ... me! Well yes, this will be the first time I'll post a picture of me. I usually don't like to because I am not photogenic. It's not like I'd look great in normal life but bad on photos. It's just that I never manage to look normally into a camera. It just doesn't work. Don't ask me why. Apart from being unphotogenic, my looks are pretty average, I'd say. And, for the Chillin' Zone member, yes - I am a Blondie.

There you go.

And for those of you who have the cartoon version of me - these are the glasses I drew myself with. A friend of mine says, I look like a lesbian pimp with it. :D

I also tried to draw myself because it's still holidays and I don't know what to do anymore. Unfortunately, I left the 11th grade before drawing faces was a subject in art. Therefore, I have no practice at it. It's exactly the third time in five years I've drawn a face. I'm not really skilled at doing that and I just gave it a try. Or, to ba more accurate, I have absolutely no idea about it. So, I'd really appreciate if you guys could give me some tips on how to improve my drawing. You have been warned. Well, it actually likes I'm sixty years old on that photo but it's not that bad in the real version of the drawing. That's somehow caused by the photo. Oh, and that what looks like a plaster on my forehead is actually a piece of paper I had to put on it because the paper ripped :(

Why may I not include the word "cla$$"?? Is there something dirty about the word??? I replaced it with grade and now it seems to be fine. Strange.

Oh, and another thing I've wanted to add - two out of three people have given my review of Final Fantasy X (of which, I suppose, almost everyone has written one) a thumb down.This really worries me - is it because they don't like (I gave it a 10.0 *.*) or because it's bad? I wonder why people why people call sensitive ... :P

Jeez, it took me SIX edits before GameSpot displayed all of the text :roll:

Surf Into Summer

Well Buddies, I'll leave you once again. But only for a week. I'm staying with my godmother in Italy. She has a house at Lago di Garda. This is gonna rock, truly. There will be friends of me (another godchild of her and her own children). We will be surfing :) The weather is supposed to be great, at least she said it was great now when she phoned today. I'm looking forward to it so much. I'll fly there tomorrow at 12.

See you!

Got caught. Am back.

I actually have to admit that I was being way too dramatic in my last blog post. In some way, I knew I wouldn't make it this time either. So many times have I tried to escape. I never made it.

This time, I was caught by the police. My father had called them. It was actually pretty easy for them catching me because I was on drugs and quite unaware of what was happening to me. Well, not really on drugs. Just incredibly stoned. For years I've had problems with drugs. After a withdrawal, I stopped taking drugs on a regular basis. But when I have problems, I often end up doing some or other drug. It happens about once or twice a year.

When my father picked me up, he told me I mustn't run away because of my family and my grandma. My mother earns the money in my family. She's a psycho, really, everyone says so. When my runaways cause her to totally crack up, the financial future of my younger siblings is not safe. This is teh first reason why I have to stay. The second is my grandma. She couldn't live with me gone. And I love her. She's the last person I want to cause suffering. It was clever by my dad to tell me I would make others suffer with my disappearing. He knows I don't care about me or my future or my surviving. He knows that all respect I ever had for myself was destroyed by years and years of torture. I hate myself because I got told a million times that was the only thing I was deserved.

Now, after a few days staying with my grandma, I'm back home. Not because I want to, not at all. I hate it here and I would give everything I have to get away from here. But I have to stay. For my siblings' future. I simply don't have a future. Well, my father said about this whole thing: "There are less noble things than sacrificing yourself for your siblings' future." That's pretty much it. I sacrifice myself. For my siblings that will certainly have a better life. I always try to protect them. Although this always ends up bad for me. Everything ends up bad for me.That's just the way it is. I have been maltreated for eleven years by now. And nobody sees a reason to help me. I guess there is no help for me.Normal people can't understand. Normal people can't imagine what it feels like. It's hell, simply hell. I hate it and everything and everyone around me.

So, all in all, everything's back to normal. Everything's back to horrible.


I am very very sorry I have to tell you this but I'm leaving GameSpot. It's not because of you. You guys were awesome, really. Especially my dear friends from the Chillin' Zone - Pantom, Sam, Luke, GNA, KoM.

The reason I leave is that I finally have decided to run away from home. For years I have been tortured and humiliated. I can't near it any longer. It's too much to take for me. I feel almost dead inside, my soul is full of pain. I also noticed that I don't ger along with other people as good as I used too because my situation is impairing my mental health.

So, I decided to run away. Where I'll go, I have no idea. I'll go into some or other forest. Maybe to a foreign country. I don't know yet. Fortunately, I'm an outdoor freak and I have the skills and the equipment to survive in the wild nature. I don't plan on ever coming back again. Maybe once in a few years to take revenge on my mother.

Apart from that, I'm very sorry about everything and everyone I have to leave behind. My friends, the parts of my family I like, my schoolmates, everyone. There are so many people I'll miss. And a lot of things I'll miss. Drwaing, painting, biking, the Internet, gaming, going out with friends, music ... almost everything I like in my life, I have to leave behind. It's really really saddening but I have no other choice. I'm going insane here.

I know it will be hard, but nothing can be as hard as staying here. Things just got worse and worse all the time. I guess I'm a complete loser. Now, I have nothing left at all except for my life. And that's not a lot, really.

I wish you the very best for your future and your lives. Behave good, you listen? And in case you ever have children, please, be aware that they are precious little livings - precious but so frail. Make them enjoy their childhood. Protect them. Never beat, not a single time. Give them all your love. So they don't end up like me.

Should I return, I got caught. I hope this doesn't happen. If I get caught, life here will sure be even more like hell.

God bless you all.

Sudden sad update

Although I made my last blog post just yesterday, I felt I had to write a new one due to the fact that some sad events occurred.

First of all, as I already mentioned in yesterday's blog, my girlfriend split up with me. It's a complicated story. To make it short, the break-up was caused by two major things. One is my lack of veracity in that matter and the other is an intrigue that was led against us. It's terrible because I blame myself for all and I still love her and at the moment, it just really makes me sick. Literally. But, well, I am at a point where I have to realise I can't change it anymore, I'll just have to get over it. And her. Which is really sad because I don't want to get over her but have to because it really benumbs me thinking about her all the time.

Then, two lives around me have come to an end. Last week, my guinea pig died at the age of five. We don't know why exactly. But my sister and I assume that it was because of her fellow guinea pig's death a few months ago. That one had been old and died of cancer. From then on, the left guinea pig refused eating most of the time, lost a lot of weight and got weaker all the time. So, we guess she died of loneliness. My sister and I always wanted to buy a new mate for her but my mother forbid it. Evil person. -.-

Tomorrow morning we read in the local newspapers that a friend of our family has died in a car crash on Tuesday. Although didn't have a lot of contact with him in the last time, this is really sad. Not long ago, we used to fight together. You know, in the sporting way. While I am a dirty-learned-it-on-the-streets-fighter, he was a kick-boxer. He was way superior to me, at least a head bigger, older and more muscular. But he taught me how to properly punch and kick. It was funny, back then. He was 24.

Well, I just wanted to add this ... I'm way talkative. It always helps me, expressing my feelings. Also writing them here.

Hooooooolidays, my friends

Yay – I have had holidays for a week now and there are five more weeks to go.

Sad things first, I had been looking forward it being able to spend a lot of time with my girlfriend. But since my girlfriend broke up with me a month ago, I am left without a girlfriend and with a lot of time. „Fortunately" (cough), my parents make me spend my time on stupid works. My sister's room is getting renovated and guess who has to do the work …? I'm getting tired of carrying around furniture -.-

Apart from that, I'm enjoying the time left. Most of my time, I spend on my bike or running in the woods. Ahh, precious sun! I love sports, really. It's fun, it helps me lose weight (my endless struggle…), it builds up muscle (to carry furniture), it gets me a nice sun tan … There's nothing better. And in the evenings, I enjoy the fact I live in Germany – which means I drink delicious cheap beer. Or smoke hookah. Or design shirts. That's also fun.

All in all, this means my presence on GameSpot will be irregular. Some nights I spend in front of the computer, listening to music and painting at the same time. Other nights, I won't be online at all because I'm going out. And during day time … furniture, sport …

Well, I wish you all nice holidays/ a nice summer time.

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