Nera’s Dress from Dragon Quest V: Hand of the Heavenly Bride

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Brian got Dragon Quest V: Hand of the Heavenly Bride a little while back, and we traded off turns playing it for weeks. In terms of overall plot it’s pulled straight from the big book of RPG cliches – evil dude wants to take over! only the legendary hero can defeat him! queens are kidnapped! – but there’s two things that really make it great. One is “party talk,” where in different situations (entering a new town or dungeon level, for example, or after talking to most NPCs) you can talk to the characters that are in your group. The amount of dialogue this game must have is staggering – imagine writing a different response for all those different characters! It’s amusing because a lot of the time it’s stuff that you, the player, are probably thinking, so hearing it from another character in their own voice can be a little startling. It really helps make the characters real, too, when they have their own takes on situations or wonder about things that you might not even have noticed. That leads into the other thing that makes the game great: the generation system. You start out as a little kid, then time skips forward and you play as an adult, getting married, and then time skips forward again and your children are old enough to go adventuring with you. So it’s not like your character is accompanied by some random red mage, fighter and white mage: you’re almost always with friends, often with family, and they always have some interesting thing to say. For someone like me, who likes story and character interaction better than battle systems and so on, the game was great fun.

In the DS version of the game, you have the option to marry three women: Bianca, your childhood friend, Nera, the kind and gentle daughter of a rich family, and Deborah, Nera’s haughty and blunt sister. The game pushes you to choose Bianca (you have adventures with her in your childhoods, Nera has another guy that loves her, heck, in the old versions of the game if you didn’t choose Bianca her father died) but you can choose any of them. So I did choose Bianca my first time around, but Nera definitely has the prettier dress, and anyways she’s more my type, if I was a male RPG hero. (Although I suspect that playing the game with Deborah around to talk to is the most fun.)

Mermaid Monday #11: White Mermaid Ball Gown with Embroidered Choli Top and Aquamarine Overskirt

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Mermaids are not universally welcome at human balls. In most kingdoms near the sea their presence is unremarkable, but the further inland one goes the less mermaids visit, and the appearance of one at a ball can be a serious disruption. It’s not surprising that they cause annoyance and envy among the human women and prompt duels and inconvenient attachments among the human men, but besides that they are difficult to feed, not always aware of proper deportment and their air of superiority and condescension is often a little hard to take for humans of either sex. One insecure queen went so far as to ban them from all events given during her reign. (Mermaids mostly stay out of human politics, but stung by this, the equally insecure empress of the nearest mermaid empire ensured that said reign would be a short one by secretly inciting treason and eventually civil war in that kingdom. The loss of life and damage to the kingdom was incalculable, but the mermaids got their dances back.)

A mermaid choosing a gown for a ball thrown by humans generally wants to outdo every other woman there, human and mermaid alike, because the most common fault among them is vanity, followed closely by pride. Some of them do it by going with human fashions, thereby beating the human women at their own game, and some prefer to go with gowns designed for mermaids, which tend to evoke the sea, be less formal and hide the legs. (Most mermaids are self-conscious about having legs, as the vast majority of cheap mystics really don’t have the skill or knowledge of anatomy to form perfect ones for very long, so mermaid skirts are inevitably long and loose. The mermaid wearing a miniskirt is the one who gave up her firstborn.) This dress is definitely a mermaid gown; the human women at the ball where this will be worn will all be wearing more elaborate gowns, closer to what I think of as stereotypical princess gowns: tight bodices, poofy skirts. (Although some human women near the sea, where mermaids are more likely to show up to balls, have taken to wearing things mermaids can’t: shorter dresses, gowns slit up the side, tight skirts.) The choli-style top, the lotus and wave pattern, the fluttery aquamarine overskirt all make this gown arresting and otherworldly: just the thing for toying with the hearts of humans, leaving them crushed like a shellfish dropped onto a rock by a seagull. Later the human women will gossip about how revealing and tacky the top was, how unfashionable the whole savage getup was compared to their gowns, but the target of their ire will be already safely back under the sea with new stories to tell.