Tag Archives: Squaresoft

87: Shrink Plastic

You remember shrinky-dinks, right? I spent a good handful of childhood afternoons trying to cook little plastic cartoon characters alive. As it turns out, they’ve had this shrink plastic material as letter sized sheets perfect for inkjet printing for years now! Jen picked some up on a recent trip to the craft store and this week, I’m going to see how well they work with the laser.

The army I gathered for this particular project.
The army I gathered for this particular project.

First, I had to settle on what to print. I have a shameful secret, and it’s called Final Fantasy Record Keeper. It’s the only microtransaction-fueled free-to-play mobile game I go anywhere near, and it’s all because of my slavish addiction to its weaponized nostalgia. One of the most interesting traits of that game is that the development team creates Final Fantasy VI-styled sprites of characters from every Final Fantasy, upgrading the older NES and SNES games and creating neat retro takes on the polygonal entry’s protagonists. The active time battle gameplay is surprisingly faithful to the series, too, so if you’ve got fond memories from the Final Fantasy series, and you can stomach an energy meter in your game, you should give it a try! (This is a friend invite link, but it doesn’t involve any social networks.)

Printed people. I used too much ink, which would cause issues later.
Printed people. I used too much ink, which would cause issues later.

I selected a gaggle of my favorite warriors from the game and printed them out on the shrink plastic paper. While it was obvious that I had to print them bigger in order for them to shrink to about half an inch size, what wasn’t obvious was just how much more ink I was using than I should have been. In my excitement, I missed the step in the instructions that suggested printing with the graphics lightened to about a 50% screen. Because the ink condenses when you cook the plastic, this results in much darker images than what you see when you first print it out.

More plastic warriors of light fresh out from beneath the laser.
More plastic warriors of light fresh out from beneath the laser.

Before I could cook them, though, I set up the laser cutter to cut out each character with a generous amount of space around them; this was primarily to avoid any registration issues but it also helped ameliorate the awkwardness you can get when a black printed surface is cut away to a bright white edge. One thing I had to keep in mind was how thin the material was; despite it being a kind of plastic, I had to treat it like paper and weigh it down so that the cut outs wouldn’t get sucked into the exhaust.

Rosa and others, hanging out around Jennifer's 3D letter M.
Rosa and others, hanging out around Jennifer’s 3D letter M.

When I finally cooked the characters, I did so in three batches. 275 degrees caused the characters to curl up so severely that I was sure the project was lost; I didn’t remember from my childhood that the pieces would eventually flatten back out. They did, but it wasn’t until the third batch of characters that I realized I had to help finish flattening them immediately out of the oven. One of Jennifer’s heavy museum studies tomes did the trick.

Cloud and Rikku are perfectly flat, but Josef is a little curly.
Cloud and Rikku are perfectly flat, but Josef is a little curly.

For the most part, the characters came out great. My bumbling with two batches resulted in some pretty curled up corners, particularly with Final Fantasy II Josef’s bald head. The ink did exactly like the instructions said it would and condensed down, making several of the characters very dark; for the purposes of this entry I’ve adjusted the images to restore what I could from each fighter’s original palette.

So many FFRK characters!
So many FFRK characters!

Oh, I think my stamina meter is full again. I better hurry up and play FFRK because otherwise I’m wasting stamina recharge time! Did I mention F2P games are awful? Fun, awful, but also fun, and mostly a little bit awful. 😉

 

39: When Lavos Wins

A shot of the engraving before it was cut out. Flat type.
A shot of the engraving before it was cut out. Flat type.

Chrono Trigger is a classic, a great example of what can happen when you get a bunch of incredible talent in the same room and say “make something cool.” One of the best elements of the game is the abundance of endings available based on how and when you take on the game’s final challenge, and if you’re too cocky and get blown away, one of the endings even shows you when happens when the villain wins. The result of that bad end is above: a wrecked planet identical to the one you tried so hard to prevent. In the end, the future refused to change.

What refused to change?
What refused to change?

If you don’t hear the blood-curdling scream of the SNES S-SMP audio chip when you see the image above, pehaps you never lost. I did, and sometimes intentionally; it can be fun exploring exactly how the world ends if the hero fails to save the day.

What did the future do?
What did the future do?

I wanted to pay homage to the game over screen and set out to recreate the original rectangular pixel source image in a vector format. The defeated planet was simple enough to run through a few filters, but the letters had to be hand drawn. I wasn’t able to find an exact match while searching for a font out there, but you might know! Drop me a line if you do. While recreating the text, I tried my best to keep the spirit and shape of the letter forms, but I didn’t have any qualms about fixing kerning issues. The line leading, tracking, and the text’s relation to the planet are otherwise identical to the source material, just given a coat of vector goodness and mercilessly cut into acrylic.

Depth was added by cutting the letters twice and gluing them together.
Depth was added by cutting the letters twice and gluing them together.

It was 1/8″ thick black acrylic with a white cap layer, so the engraving ate away the white to reveal the black underneath. A halftone pattern gave the planet its bleak shades of grey, and a second set of letters cut out of the same acrylic were glued into place by hand rather haphazardously. Maybe you can’t tell in the pictures, but I sure can see it and should work more on using transfer tape to get more exact applications.

A close shot of the engraving's halftone texture.
A close shot of the engraving’s halftone texture.

The final piece is 23.5″ wide and about 11″ tall. It’s not tiny! It’ll find a resting place somewhere near my desk, possibly near where the black wind howls…