Last time we checked in on Cartoon Network's Amazing World of Gumball, they had just dedicated an entire episode to shredding their shoddy Chinese ripoff. Now they've taken that same creativity and dedication to skewer (somehat lovingly) video game RPGs, specifically of the Final Fantasy variety. The episode "The Console" is wall-to-wall in-jokes and references, and they nail pretty much every single genre trope, and then some.
The story begins when Gumball is given a Game Boy knockoff called a "Game Child," complete with a copy of a game called "Inverted Paradox: The Enemy Within," which you could easily mistake for a new Kingdom Hearts spinoff. When the magical Game Child sucks its user into the game, Gumball is naturally delighted, especially since it allows him to name himself "MY BUTT."
It's not long before Gumball runs into silly JRPG cliches.
A battle ensues (the one in the pic up top), and the gang comes away victorious with only a few HP worse for the wear.
Those who are familiar with RPGs on the PS1 will instantly recognize that classic camera pan around a sparse polygonal landscape, sweeping around characters celebrating their win. You can definitely tell this was made by people with a deep affection for a particular era of gaming. Hell, even the victory music is dead-on.
Gumball soon figures out that living in a video game and following its rules has pretty nice benefits to go alongside its minor annoyances. Which is why he doesn't have a problem looting a house in the neighborhood.
Other characters in the world are a little concerned about committing criminal acts, but Gumball knows what's up -- in an RPG, pillaging someone's house for their valuables is not only consequence-free, it's encouraged. And since everyone knows that Gumball is the hero of this story, they have no choice but to play along.
So far, the parodies we've covered have been well-executed jabs at well-known features and situations in JRPGs. But the show isn't afraid to make some pretty pointed jokes that younger kids might not understand. Like when Anais suddenly finds herself with a new costume:
Arguments about censorship in Western releases of RPGs have up until this point existed almost entirely on the internet. Not only is Gumball directly referencing forum squabbles about sexy outfits being altered from their original Japanese versions, but they actually managed to make it into a decent gag. And science thought it couldn't be done!
There's gotta be some huge nerds over at Cartoon Network. Case in point: Anais' outfit is actually based on an actual character from a JRPG.
On the left we have Luso, the male protagonist of Final Fantasy Tactics A2: Grimoire of the Rift. As you can probably tell, Luso is infamous for having one of the busiest, most ridiculous character designs in gaming. Which is why it's so awesome to see a version of that costume on Anais. Giving your cartoon an outfit based on a Game Boy Advance spinoff of Final Fantasy that came out in 2008 is what we call a deep cut, folks.
That isn't to say that everything is an obscure reference. When it turns out that the Game Child console was the secret Bad Guy All Along, it turns into a very familiar "Anime God of Life And Death."
It's funny to think that this show is technically aimed at kids, because if this episode is anything to go by, the target audience is really kids who grew up playing video games in the 90s and are now in their 20s and 30s. Not that I'm complaining. When Gumball starts using summons with overly complicated and long cutscenes, it feels great to have something that feels like it was specifically made for me. Hell, the "Thousand Blows" summon is almost a shot-for-shot remake of the Cactuar "1,000 Needles" summon from Finaly Fantasy VIII.
We skipped over a ton of great parts in the episode -- like how the team has to grind out low-level enemies before they fight the big boss -- so if you like what you see here, definitely check out "The Console" on one of the billion platforms and apps with which you can watch TV these days. Just be sure to set aside another 80 hours after that for your umpteenth playthrough of Final Fantasy VII. Tristan Cooper can be found on Twitter.