Retracing Steps: Monty Oum, RWBY, & Final Fantasy VIII – Prelude

This is a project I’ve had in mind for a while. February isn’t a fun month, really. It’s likely some of you have started another school year, and if it’s summer time where you live, you’re probably cursing the weather every minute like I am. Getting to the point, though, February 1st is the same day Monty, a man many of us respect, passed away.

I still vividly recall the moment I found out. I was playing Final Fantasy XIV and was having a grand time with a group of friends on there – we found some people engaging in questionable but amusing behaviour in one of the game’s locations. News spread and people came to stare at the odd scene. I said something funny about it. Everybody laughed. But then someone I was close to sent me a message on Steam.

It was a bizarre moment, getting depressing news while being at the site of a comedic scene. It didn’t feel right, and I rarely saw this person get upset. I logged off from the game, but didn’t specify why to people. Not much conversation ended up happening between that person and I – we were just shocked. The following days had a very somber atmosphere. There were lots of loving posts written by those close to him, fanarts of him with Team RWBY, and the occasional unappreciated question from generic Twitter user #20124: “what’s going to happen to rwby?”

It’s likely that the people reading this were there when it all happened, so I’ll refrain from writing an essay about it and move forward to the present day. But to move forward, it is often a good idea to keep the past in mind. It’s the third year since Monty’s passing, but it’s not the third year since I’ve been aware of him. Actually, I knew of him long before his RWBY days. Some of you might recall a little something called… Dead Fantasy.

All existence denied.

Years ago, I was a member of a Final Fantasy forum. I have a ton of fond memories of the place and the people I met there felt like a family of sorts. We grew up together in this awkward corner of the internet, bonding over our shared interest. There was something I always noticed in the corner of my eye, though – a forum topic for Dead Fantasy. It was always there, I cannot express how impossible it was to not be aware of its existence. Days, months, and even years can go by, but heaven forbid a Dead Fantasy topic doesn’t rise from the dead, or have a new one take its place. I’m going to be honest, though – I never clicked on them.

Dead Fantasy was a fanmade crossover of Monty’s, primarily featuring female characters from Dead or Alive, Kingdom Hearts, Ninja Gaiden, and of course, Final Fantasy. There are a number of these videos, and people still dream about getting a new entry to this day. Getting to know the name Monty Oum was not a mere possibility, it was something inevitable – DF was shoved into my face by YouTube, probably because I spent a fair amount of time looking up FF videos. I took a gander, but I wasn’t really too interested since I didn’t know three quarters of the characters involved, and younger me just wanted to see more FF. I did admire how much Monty was able to achieve, though – there was a unique flavour to his animations that made every fight fascinating.

But what does this have to do with RWBY? Well…

“Keep your old animations, make new ones. There’s stuff I still use today that I made from Haloid and earlier.”

The above is something I pulled from a reply comment Monty made on Reddit. For those unaware, Haloid is the name of a Halo and Metroid crossover he produced prior to Dead Fantasy. I’m not trying to make the implication that every single bit of his past work has leaked its way into RWBY. What I’d like to highlight is that the man had no aversion to taking things from his past to craft new experiences – not everything has to be built from the ground up, and I don’t doubt that he enjoyed making little nods and allusions. For instance, does the following image look familiar?

I don’t want the future. I want the present to stand still.

You might recall that Yang shows Junior a picture of her mother in RWBY’s Yellow Trailer; that picture was not actually Raven Branwen. It was the Transient Princess, artwork made by Monty of Rinoa Heartilly, a character from Final Fantasy VIII. It just so happens that she’s in Dead Fantasy and hilariously overpowered – yes, even compared to the other ridiculously capable characters. Rinoa can become a devastating combatant in FFVIII, that’s true, but what she’s capable of in Dead Fantasy appears to be something else entirely. Would have been cool to see her demonstrate such power in-game.

FFVIII just so happens to be Monty’s favourite FF game as well. I know I’ve seen this confirmed somewhere, but with the passing of time, I cannot for the life of me find him saying this anywhere anymore. There’s a topic on Reddit that supports this, however, and the signs exist in other capacities. Rinoa’s immense power, the Transient Princess’ appearance in RWBY, not to mention a number of interesting parallels in the show itself.

This is where I get to the point. I feel there’s a fair amount of FFVIII comparisons that can be made with RWBY. There are some obvious ones, and some not so obvious ones. Some can be made with FFVII too, though to a lesser extent. The obvious one is Dust being comparable to Materia, and I don’t even want to get onto the topic of Jaune Strife here. Not today, blond protagonist. I’ll get to you some other time.

Wait, that’s not my mother…

The project is to do a full playthrough of FFVIII, covered through blog posts and footage of myself playing the PlayStation version of the game. This way I can show the game in a visual format, while also getting to write in detail about its main events. Posting in this manner is convenient as well, as I can show off additional sequences I might not find worth recording, as I would ideally want to avoid the videos being too lengthy. The aims of this project:

⦁ I get to point out all FFVIII elements I’ve noticed in RWBY.
⦁ People become aware of one of Monty’s inspirations.
⦁ I can work on something that pays respect to him and a game he loved.
⦁ I get an opportunity to talk about fandom, game design, and writing.
⦁ Discuss elements of FFVIII’s story casual fans may not be aware of.
⦁ Drag people I know in the RWBY community into FF hell (I can dream).

Just be forewarned, don’t expect comparisons to be made on every update – RWBY and FFVIII are their own unique entities. I do not consider them to be twins, although there are definitely things you can point at and go, “oh, this looks very familiar.” I will also not hold back on RWBY spoilers – this is written with people I know in mind who are up-to-date with the show. They’re my only audience at the time of writing and therefore my focus will be on them. Lastly, I am well aware many other things can count as inspiration for RWBY, but FFVIII is the most familiar territory for me and Monty loved it, so that’s what I’ll write about.

Well, let’s get moving. Be ready, because this’ll be a long journey.

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