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Final Fantasy 3 Music Extended Essay

The Past, Present, and Future of Japanese Role-Playing Games

Whenever I’m asked what my favorite video game is, I’m torn between Super Mario Bros. 3, Metal Gear Solid, and Final Fantasy VI (originally titled Final Fantasy III in the US due to gaps in the import schedule). But deep down, I know it’s Final Fantasy VI, that dorky alchemy of mages, rogues, and opera interrupted by an evil, talking octopus.

Released in 1994 by Square when I was ten years old, Final Fantasy VI was the first Japanese role-playing game (JRPG) I obsessed over. Developed by Square and directed by Hironobu Sakaguchi, Final Fantasy VI takes the familiar feudal/magic setting of most JRPGs and splices it with a techno steampunk flair. The game opens with three robots slowly trudging through a snowstorm as credits scroll. That might not seem revelatory now, in an era when so many video games resemble movies, but you have to remember this was 1994, a time when the cartoony Earthworm JimDonkey Kong Country and Doom II topped the sales charts. The opening to Final Fantasy VI as experienced in 1994 was shocking and epic, a dramatic departure from so much of what came before. After the prologue, you embark on a 60-hour campaign of expert storytelling, compelling gameplay, and a sense of freedom and exploration against the familiar JRPG backdrop of swords and spells.

The foundation of most early JRPGs is the turn-based battle system. In games like the aforementioned Earthworm Jim or Super Mario Bros., you have one-to-one control over your avatar. Press right on the controller, and your avatar moves right. In JRPGs, you have one-to-one control during exploration segments, say spelunking a cave or chatting up townsfolk in a local pub. But once you encounter an enemy, you’re whisked away to a battle scene where two warring factions dutifully line up on opposing sides like Civil War soldiers. Usually, you have control of a large party of highly customizable wizards and warriors. Train your characters to be healing mages or knife-wielding thieves or powerful summoners; the choice is usually yours, and that’s the fun. The actual battles themselves, on the other hand, are controlled by menu choices, more like chess than Mortal Kombat. Instead of pressing B to attack, you select “attack” from a menu and patiently watch your character independently move to the opposite side of the screen and whip the enemy in the face. It’s a thoughtful game engine that rewards strategy over brute force, and although some early JRPGs deviated from this formula—the Tales series utilizes a Street Fighter-lite battle system—this was the happy standard.

Beyond the battle system, Final Fantasy VI neatly mixes narrative and exploration. After the opening robot march, you’re treated to long text scenes that slowly explain the war between the Empire and the Returners. These chunks of narrative are broken up by brief moments or battles in which you’re given control, but the first twenty-five minutes are highly structured. Once you escape from the Empire through a subterranean cave, however, the world opens up in many intriguing ways. Travel south through a forest, and you’ll encounter a castle shimmering in the desert like a mirage. Go east and discover a cave filled with mysterious wonders and fierce opponents. The structure of Final Fantasy VI and the vast majority of early JRPGs is this: explore a dungeon, fight a boss, watch a cutscene, explore the map, find a town, watch a cutscene, repeat for thirty hours. Early JRPGs are perfectly tuned artistic structures: chorus-verse-chorus. Exploration is balanced with narrative, and the player is successfully immersed in the artificial digital world. This sense is heightened in most of these games when you discover the inevitable vehicle—usually an airship—that allows you to explore the game world at your will. Some areas may be inaccessible to you, and the game always prods you toward the next triggering cutscene, but these games feel massive and open, and that sensation—even if it is a total lie—is the key.

In Janet H. Murray’s prescient 1997 book Hamlet on the Holodeck: The Future of Narrative in Cyberspace, she stresses the importance of agency in all forms of digital entertainment. To become truly absorbed in a piece of digital narrative, she argues, the user must be able to feel like they can affect the digital world. Unlike film or literature, video games are not a passive medium; they thrive on interactivity. This means that a user is immersed in a video game when they feel like they have interesting choices to make—everything from the story decisions in Heavy Rain to whether or not you should run under a platform of bricks or volley over it in Super Mario Bros. The same goes for something like the outmoded hypertext fiction of the late 1990s. Allowing a reader to select their path forward, the next lexia, the right door instead of the left, provides them with a sense of agency.

This feeling, however, is just an illusion. You have zero agency in hypertext fiction, just like you cannot truly impact the world of Heavy Rain or Super Mario Bros. But the designers of Super Mario Bros. can program so many possible procedural rules with so many choices that it feels like you have agency. For example, you can’t dream up a gun in Super Mario Bros. and run around shooting every Goomba you see, but you can attempt to leap for the difficult-to-reach Fire Flower and kill everything in your path instead of dodging your way through a swarm of foes. You can only make that choice, however, because a designer programmed it for you. This provides the sensation of agency without actually granting any real freedom. The user is always trapped within the rules of the game, hypertext, etc., but they feel like they aren’t.

All of this brings me to Final Fantasy XIII, the 2009 installment of the landmark JRPG franchise. I came to FFXIII after an extended hiatus from console games. I hadn’t immersed myself in a Final Fantasy game since 2003’s unfortunately titled Final Fantasy X-2, a bizarre but thrillingly fun installment tonally similar to the Charlie’s Angels films. I purchased Final Fantasy XIII

While the extended essay is an excellent opportunity to explore a topic of choice in depth, it is important that we adhere to the basic requirements of the IB.  It is easy to become carried away with an idea that seems fantastic, but in the end is neither relevant nor focused.  This page offers an overview of the changes to the EE guide with exams starting in May of 2018.  It also provides general and subject specific requirements. 

3 Major Extended Essay Changes for First Exam in May 2018

1.  Reflection Sessions and Paperwork

  • Students must fill out the "Reflections on Planning and Progress Form" or RPPF.  It can be found on the Online Curriculum Centre (OCC). 
  • 3 meetings with the supervisor must occur: initial, interim, final (also known as the viva voce).  
  • After each meeting or what the IB calls a "reflection session," students must fill in the correct box on the RPPF. 
  • The total word count for all three reflection sessions must not exceed 500 words. 
  • Supervisors are to sign and date the RPPF immediately after students have filled it out post meeting (ideally that day or the day after).
  • The RPPF is used to assess Criterion E: "engagement." 

2.  Criteria

  • The criteria have changed. They are: focus and method; knowledge and understanding; critical thinking; presentation; and engagement.   Find a more in-depth explanation of the criteria here.

3.  Other

  • More emphasis on research and secondary sources, although the primary text(s) still play a major or starring role in a Category 1 or 2 extended essay. 
  • A Group 1 Category 3 EE must use a text or texts originally produced in the language of the essay.  
  • The research question must be stated as a question in the introduction. 
  • The extended essay no longer requires an abstract. 

General Requirements

  • The extended essay is required to receive the full IB Diploma. Failure to submit an extended essay will result in a failure of the Diploma.
  • The extended essay may be no longer than 4,000 words. Although there is no minimum word count, it is recommended to write at least 3,000 words.
  • The essay is assessed externally by an IB examiner. 
  • The topic of the extended essay is focused around a research question.
  • The topic of the extended essay is chosen by students. It must relate to one of the DP courses. Schools often decide that the topic must relate to a course that the student takes and the school offers.
  • Each student is assigned a supervisor who spends 4 - 8 hours monitoring, consulting and supervising the project. The supervisor is usually a teacher of the subject that the essay is based on.
  • Students must meet internal deadlines set by the school, both for the final result and for tasks that the supervisor and school set.
  • Students are required to fill out the "Reflections on Planning and Progress Form" or RPPF during the process of the extended essay(see IB Extended Essay guide).
  • The essay is assessed according to the assessment criteria.  See criteria page.
  • The final marks from both the extended essay and the Theory of Knowledge assessment are combined in a matrix to form a maximum of three points for the IB Diploma. (A total of 45 points are possible for the IB Diploma; 7 points for each of the 6 subjects, plus 3 for extended essay and Theory of Knowledge. You must have at least 24 points to earn an IB Diploma, excluding the points (0-3) earned for TOK and extended essay.) The matrix, which has been taken from the Extended Essay guide, can be found by clicking here.
  • If a student gets an E on their extended essay, they will fail to get their IB diploma. 

Language and Literature requirements

As the Language A: Language and Literature course falls in Group 1, which is intended for native and near-native speakers, essays should demonstrate an appropriate level of proficiency in the language. If students want to write in their second language, a Group 2 essay would be more appropriate.

For all Group 1 courses, there are three categories of essays that students may choose from. The following are outlined in the Extended Essay guide. 

  1. Category 1 - Studies of a literary work(s) originally written in the language in which the essay is presented.
    • literary criticism
    • well-structured and persuasive arguments
    • in-depth understanding of the texts
  2. Category 2 - Studies of a literary work(s) originally written in the language of the essay compared with literary work(s) originally written in another language.
    • equal comparative analysis of both texts
    • cross-cultural understanding
    • well-structured and persuasive arguments
  3. Category 3 - Studies in language.
    • textual analysis skills
    • reference to culture and context
    • rooted in primary and secondary sources originally written in English

Remember: The definition of 'literary work' for the extended essay may include works studied in class. Having said this, students are expected to take a new or deeper approach in their studies of these texts than that taken in class. Students are also free to choose literary works from anywhere. They do not have to be taken from the Prescribed List of Authors or the Prescribed Literature in Translation. Having said this, works chosen must merit a certain level of literary quality. The professional judgment of the supervisor may be consulted for this. 

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