|On August 21, 2020, user WildcatJF started a thread exhibiting Talking Time's top sixty video game enemies, as determined by write-in votes submitted previously.
Talking Time popularity contests such as these have a tradition of faking everyone out when they get to number one, before revealing the real thing.
In October 2020, Wildcat reached out to a handful of people including me to contribute our own hoaxes, which were then posted ahead of number one in January 2021.
I chose the two-in-one pairing of Christopher and Ziggy from the Final Fantasy series, who had been on my personal list of nominations.
Christopher and Ziggy have only appeared in Final Fantasy VII, in a particular area of the final dungeon. I've always been fascinated by the contrast between their obscurity and the personality of their designs.
Since they are, ultimately, nobodies, I thought it would be funny to pretend they had not only won first place but were also series mainstays, beloved by all throughout the series' history.
|I placed Christopher and Ziggy in an out-of-the-way corner of the waterfall cave in Final Fantasy (1987).
Since it's a real area in the game, it looks authentic. But since it's a spot you probably won't visit, it looks like part of the game you haven't seen. At least, that was the idea.
The roaming bat shares a color palette with Christopher and Ziggy. FFI only loads one palette for your player character and another for all NPCs, so you often see bats of different colors like this.
It's hard to describe, but I did my best to mimic the voice of FFI's English script.
In FFI, the text box overlaps the speaking NPC if you prompt them from below on the screen. I kept this true, even though it obscures the sprites I drew.
"Why didn't you pose the player approaching them from the side, then?" Well...in an overhead view, it just feels more like encountering an enemy if you're coming from below, right?
|Here are my FFI-style Christopher and Ziggy, now fully visible. These are 4x scale.
I picked colors that already exist in the game, though there's no single palette that groups these colors together like this.
NES sprites can only use four colors, one of which is used for transparency. Black is versatile since it makes a good outline, and white accounts for Christopher's ears and the white half of his mask. I used the final color for his blond hair.
This leave his skin tone, which should put us over the limit, right? Well, many sprites in FFI get extra colors by dividing themselves between top and bottom tiles, using common colors to hide the separation. So you won't see any yellow on Christopher's bottom half or any peach on top.
All this consideration for Christopher means Ziggy's colors are quite inaccurate to his design, but this was often the way of things at the time. I'm sure he switches to a more familiar palette when you enter the battle.
FFI doesn't have many creature sprites to reference, so to draw Ziggy, I instead looked to Final Fantasy II for hints at depicting a quadrupedal beast in this style.
|When I came up with this concept, I believe a battle scene in Final Fantasy V was the first thing that came to mind. By comparison, the FFI field scene above was something easier that I could do for variety's sake.
I wouldn't have picked Final Fantasy VI for a parody since the battle graphics in that game are just exquisite. With respect to FFV, its battle sprites bear a certain roughness that I was more confident I could imitate.
It's usually easy to insert your own text into screenshots of old games since it tends to lie on a uniform grid. If it's an RPG, you can also see what every text character looks like just by referring to a name entry screen.
This holds true for the smaller text in FFV, but the larger font here actually inserts some space between characters. I had to dig the graphics out of the ROM both to find the characters I wanted to use and to see where their boundaries lay.
If you can't read it, Christopher is about to use "Stardust March," one of his abilities from Final Fantasy VII. He can only use it while Ziggy is alive.
The HP values refer to December 6, 1992, the release date of FFV; and August 21, 2020, when the top sixty enemies thread started.
As for the heroes, I just depicted each of them as using the job with my favorite design.
|Here are my FFV-style Christopher and Ziggy—2x scale.
Super NES sprites can use palettes of up to sixteen colors (again leaving one for transparency). Christopher and Ziggy's designs were never made to consider such restrictions, but I was careful to make them work within parameters.
All the colors were selected from existing FFV boss sprites. Really, I just dislike picking colors, so it suited me to narrow down my options this way.
My initial sketch had Ziggy looking much the same (a sort of Amano-like charging horse, hopefully), but Christopher was riding on his back. I eventually decided such a grandiose image would just be too much for a regular enemy, and Christopher and Ziggy gain a certain something by being separated.
I'm fairly pleased with the ribbon-like lighting on Christopher's ears, if I may say so.
|Of course I wasn't fooling anyone, but I thought it would be that much more fun to play up the "hoax" by stretching the screenshots to a 4:3 ratio and placing a CRT effect on top.
Rotating them a little makes them look like they were cut out of an old magazine layout, too. Forbidden knowledge waiting in ancient scans—I suppose that was the feeling.
|Part of the conceit of the thread was that Wildcat's original characters were observing the top sixty enemies in a museum.
Each of us contributing artists were to choose one character to depict going off on their own and encountering a false number one. I picked Soya, who wears glasses and punkic jewelry.
Here are the graphics I drew for her, removed from the text I prepared. The scale is 1x.
I placed her in a Super NES-like frame, but since bust-up portraits like this were often stored as multiple layers that could each have their own palette, I let myself stop being quite so exacting about the color count.
I referred to graphics I've captured from games like Metal Slader Glory and Ys IV: The Dawn of Ys to determine the timing of her blinking. All the knowledge that I possess is stolen.
One of her earrings is the Morphing Ball from Super Metroid, redrawn at a smaller size.