8-bit theater

Get into it now before the journey ends.

I’m going to deviate a little today from my daily game posting.  This is because I wanted to shed the spotlight on something I think is very special that will be coming to an end very soon.

8-bit theater is a sprite comic.  For the uninitiated, a sprite comic is very much like any other serial comic you may find in the newspaper, or any webcomic with one difference; instead of hand drawn characters and images, all, or at least most of the images and characters you see are the old pixelated models, or sprites, from old video games.

Why would anyone do this?  Aside from an inability to draw, usually sprite comics tend to parody the games the images are taken from.  This tends to fit extremely well for the older video games where the characters involved usually didn’t have much in the way of a voice, or when they did what they had to say was typically bland and generic, you know, like, “We must save the world,” “Sorry, but the princess is in another castle,” or “All your base are belong to us.”

This gives the writer freedom to impose upon previously personality-free characters with whatever persona they desire, hopefully for humorous effect.

There have been hordes upon hordes of sprite comics since they first became popular several years ago, but the well written and executed sprite comic is a far more rare creature.  Somewhere at the top of the shortlist of solid webcomics you will likely find Brian Clevinger’s 8-Bit Theater.

A parody based on Sqaure’s original Final Fantasy, 8-Bit Theater follows the misadventures of the “light warriors”, a dysfunctional group of slackers who somehow managed to con a king into believing that they were in fact the heroes of destiny fated to save the world.

This group of misfits includes the profoundly stupid Fighter; a character so stupid that every once in a while he’s absolutely brilliant… though it should be mentioned that he’s never actually brilliant when being brilliant is what one would call an asset.  He likes swords, and his great contribution to humanity is the invention of “sword-chucks”, the natural combination of swords and nunchuks.

You have Thief; an elf who enjoys a complete lack of morals and ethics as well as an uncanny ability to rob and con people blind.  Early on it is established that he is so good at what he does that he can steal your clothes while you are wearing them.

There’s Red Mage (affectionately, or not so affectionately referred to as RM on occasiona), who is an unapologetic “twink”, and a self described genius.  I say self described because no one on the face of the planet would use the same terminology.  RM seems most adept at taking the final results of an incident, and claiming that it was a good thing he had planned things out that way.

Finally, you have Black Mage, quite possibly the most evil thing on the face of the planet.  At one point in time he becomes the ruler of Hell itself, but even that doesn’t fully satiate his appetite for evil, and he eventually rejoins the rest of his friends.  Of course, friends is an appropriate word here only if it can be defined as a group of people whom you thoroughly detest and wish to see die a death so horrible that you would be willing to die a million times if only it gave you the opportunity to watch them die a million and one times.

He’s also a pervert.

8BT starts out modest enough.  It’s solidly put together, but not exactly flashy.  The humor is more on the inside than it appeals on a massive scale, most of the jokes directed towards people familiar either with video game RPG’s, or their more traditional table top predacessors.  It is good that Clevinger’s style of story telling is easy, relaxed, and while the source material may not necessarily be accessible, the way he communicates through his characters is.

This means that for someone who never really got table top rpgs, like me, you still stay interested as his sense of humor opens up.

But what is the most stunning aspect of Clevinger’s long running masterpiece is his characterization.  The main characters are far deeper and fleshed out than the rudimentary pixels they are rendered in.  They have personality and style.  They are so potent that you almost see facial expressions where there are none, you hear michievious chuckles.  Further, they interact perfectly together, you get a sense of the group dynamic, and you begin to understand it, and ultimately anticipate it.

You know that when they are confronted with some doom-filled obstacle, Red Mage is going to declare, “I HAVE A PLAN!” and you know that the rest of the group is going to groan.

All this to say that Clevinger has mastered his craft.  This might be why, since starting 8BT, he has had a book published entitled “Nuklear Age,” and is now writing the script for a series of award nominated independent comics in print entitled “Atomic Robo.”

But Brian has said a long while ago that 8 Bit Theater will not last forever, and for the past year give or take a few months, it has been widely suspected that it will end sometime this year.  Just recently events in the comic have greatly seemed to confirm this, as anyone who has played the original Final Fantas can attest.

So, while there is still time to get caught up, I wanted to pass this wonderful little story along.  Go, read, get addicted, and of course, enjoy!

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