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Hok Talk: What if the Royals were Final Fantasy

We have reached the portion of the season where I talk more about video games than real baseball.

Kansas City Royals v Seattle Mariners
I’m not sure what spell Jorge Soler is casting, here, but I suspect it’s a powerful one.
Photo by Lindsey Wasson/Getty Images

We all already know exactly how bad the Royals are. There’s very little useful to be said on that subject anymore. So now it’s time to turn to the more...shall we say...esoteric... analyses. One of my fellow RR writers posited the following question to me that I found more interesting than pretty much any other topic about the Royals, right now.

The immediate answer that comes to mind is the original Final Fantasy II. Not the US Final Fantasy II which is actually Final Fantasy IV, but the one that was originally released in Japan and didn’t make it the US until 2003. The Final Fantasy games have a lot of things in common but they all have their own takes on the base ideas. Sometimes they’ll even change things which seem like the bedrock of the gameplay.

Final Fantasy II is one of those. One of the staples of the Role-Playing Game genre, even Japanese RPGs, is the leveling system. The ability to grind experience points to earn levels which make your character stronger. The most basic form of this system awards experience for every enemy monster you destroy. There are common variations which award points for completing quests or performing certain actions. FFII does none of those things. In fact, you don’t gain character levels at all. Instead, they implemented an activity-based progression system instead. If you want to gain health you have to finish a fight low on health. Same for mana. If you want to gain strength you have to use a bunch of physical attacks and use a lot of magic to gain magic attack power.

The developers planned that this would end up working a lot like regular leveling. As you fought tougher enemies you’d naturally finish fights low on health and have to use more and more attacks. And, unlike, other games, you couldn’t level up your magic abilities by bonking enemies on the head with your staff. But the end result didn’t match their vision at all. Players often found that they could too easily dispatch their foes and wouldn’t gain any strength at all or they’d face enemies that were too tough for their current abilities. And that’s what’s up with the current Kansas City baseball team. Management had a certain plan for how the players were going to progress. And it didn’t work out that way at all; in fact, they all seem to have hit a wall where the competition is just too difficult for them.

Final Fantasy II also introduced the concept of temporary party members. And the Royals are familiar with that idea, too. Lucas Duda, Billy Hamilton, and Brad Boxberger won’t be around when the Royals finish their current journey by winning another World Series. Of course, in FFII the temporary party members were usually extremely powerful and very helpful to the main heroes on their journey. So the Royals screwed that part up, too.

Ultimately, Final Fantasy II has value as a video game beyond its awkward gameplay elements because it tells an interesting story of loss, redemption, and never surrendering in the face of evil. The Royals...probably won’t have a story like that. So they’re probably going to need to change things up in order to find more traditional success but Final Fantasy II lays the groundwork for that, too.

Ingenious players faced with the deficiencies of Final Fantasy II’s leveling system came up with a work-around. It turns out that if you went back to the starting area and engage enemies there they can’t really hurt you. Then you can do the unimaginable; have your characters completely ignore the ineffective attacks of the enemy and instead turn their swords and spells against each other. Then they could safely level their abilities while low-level enemies could do nothing but watch and flail helplessly. Based on this, perhaps the Royals should take the entire team to the Arizona rookie league, schedule a game against a team that belongs there, and then charge the field armed with bats, balls, and gloves, and beat the ever-loving snot out of each other with them.

Or maybe some intrasquad games? Yeah. That’s probably a better idea. Who knows. Maybe if they did that they’d level up enough order to compete for that second wild card after all...

Things the Royals are not

This is just a list of things the Royals definitely are not and could absolutely never be. These things are flatly impossible and in the coming weeks you will definitely see them continue to be true.

Martín Maldonado is not peak Buster Posey.

Ryan O’Hearn is not peak Jim Thome.

Nicky Lopez is not peak Jose Altuve.

Adalberto Mondesi is not peak Alex Rodriguez.

Hunter Dozier is not peak Adrian Beltre.

Alex Gordon is not peak Alex Gordon.

Billy Hamilton is not peak Lorenzo Cain.

Whit Merrifield is not peak Barry Bonds.

Jorge Soler is not peak Mark McGwire.

Danny Duffy isn’t Chris Sale.

Brad Keller isn’t Max Scherzer.

Jakob Junis isn’t Corey Kluber.

Jake Diekman isn’t peak Billy Wagner.

Brad Boxberger isn’t peak Mariano Rivera.

Ian Kennedy isn’t peak Wade Davis.