Benny and his friend Griffin at Ocean Beach in San Francisco.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Darn that Deifacted Nethacite

My party of heroes enters the inner sanctum of the grim and ominous Draklor Laboratory, where the evil Dr. Cid awaits us, laughing maniacally in a glowing red coat. My heroes make short work of Cid with some fancy sword-and-sorcery. But despite his defeat, Cid still has the energy to make a convoluted – if not incomprehensible – speech and a grand departure in a flying chariot.

I sit holding the controller, baffled. For the first time in four months, I’ve turned on my PlayStation2, hoping to pick up the thread of the game “Final Fantasy XII.” It’s your typical role-playing weirdo fantasy thing with neat graphics and an imaginative if confusing story line.

Now I’ve defeated a Big Boss, and I have no idea what to do next. I didn’t understand one word of his speech. Before the battle, some guy with big sideburns popped out of nowhere and carried on a baffling dialogue with the villain.

“Cid!” he shouted. “You know deifacted nethacite brought down the Leviathan!”

Unfortunately, after a four-month hiatus from the game, I have no idea what the Leviathan is, or nethacite, or how it was deifacted – if I ever had. Now Cid was gone.

“Now what do I do?” I wondered aloud.

The little 3-year-old curled up next to me came to my rescue. “Go after the guy in the red coat, Mommy!” he commanded.

I looked down at Benny. “Really?”

“He wants you to follow him,” Benny said confidently.

Um, OK. Apparently my young son managed to pull a relevant thread out of that tangled speech, so off we went to the holy city of Guggenheim or Googleville or whatever.

Yes, I play “Final Fantasy” with my kid. Video games are supposed to be a troublesome issue in children’s lives, an addictive, time-wasting, antisocial pastime that leads to thumb sprains, learning disabilities and bad skin. And here I actually promote this cerebral drug.

Worse than that, FFXII has become a little routine, a 15-minute mother-son bonding session after dinner. It’s a fairly innocuous-looking game, mostly picturing Our Hero running around various scenic landscapes, contending with various monsters that emerge from trees, lakes, stone ruins, glaciers or sand dunes. (This game’s world, called Ivalice, has a very diverse climate.)

Benny likes the running part, although he gets a little restless when we have to shop. “Can we chase monsters now?” he asks.

“Our friends need new clothes – maybe even a new staff,” I said. “Poor Penelo will never stop falling down if we don’t get her some new armor.”

So Penelo got some neat Diamond Armor and Ashe received an Embroidered Tippet -- increased her skill level and was still cute enough to show her friends – and it was time to hit the road again.

We found ourselves in a some haunted castle and all these ghouls kept coming out of the floor. Not just ghouls, really, but ghosts, skeleton soldiers and some creepy, glowing, floating balls. But the ghouls were especially prominent, slithering out of the stone floors.

“Why do those guys come out of the floors?” Benny asked me.

“That’s what happens when nobody mops,” I answered, defeating a ghoul with a flick of the thumb and a lovely fire spell.

Benny stared wide-eyed at our own wooden floor, obviously expecting a skeleton to rise up, because clearly that floor hadn’t seen a Swiffer in some time.

“Mommy?” he asked. “Will the good guys always beat the bad guys?”

“Oh yes,” I said confidently. “No monster can beat Mommy.”

“Because you have the best magic?’

“Nope,” I answered, and pulled a computer printout from behind a sofa cushion,. “I have the best walkthrough.”

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