Welcome to the column at the end of the universe, the cosmic ark where we answer all your questions as you watch your planets crumble into stardust out the window. All this over a couple of drinks or a multi-player game of Darwinian Mog House, while our chorus of televangelist revenants warn of the evils of RPGs, giant meteors and FMV. Adult hour features exotic dancers in moogle suits over a special dessert.
Spend a year dead to evade taxes or compensate for that rack-of-chocobo you couldn't quite afford. Come back and do it all again at your leisure.

meanwhile, this site is simply too cool not to plug. Gamasutra is a haven for game designers and those aspiring. Members include amateurs and professionals alike, and you'll find plenty of info, advice, discussions and job listings(members can even opt to put their resumes up).

I'll put (sin!) after every potential thing I say here that might lead me to hell. Then if it makes you happy, add them at the end and give me a sinner purity test score.

Ohk. Ah yes, lettitorials.


Dear Michael:

First off, if Thor is a Norse God, then aren't you an archangel?

Secondly, dealing with the "Disappearing Fantasy" in the Final Fantasy series, I remember a general definition someone once gave me regarding fantasy and science fiction. I'm not saying these are finite definitions, but they may lend some light to the debate. According to this source, science fiction is what "could be" and fantasy is what "never has been." What do you think about these definitions? Do you think they apply to Final Fantasy?


Michael: Perhaps I was, in some past life(sin!). I agree with your definitions, and attribute it to why science fiction is so much more popular than fantasy. There's plenty of sci fi movies out each year, and a channel dedicated to it. But really, how much new fantasy have you seen lately? People much prefer something that at least brushes believability. Hence the Squaresoft trend towards a more human-based science fiction and away from a multi-race mystical old world fantasy setting.
The joy of Ramen [gratuitous]

I'd like to become a disciple to you, o great Radical Ramen Rabbi. Now, how come none of your fans and followers know what ramen is? You should tell them, and preach to the masses!

~ I eat in the morning!
I eat it in the evening!
I eat it at supper time!
If it's in the bag, I'll eat it anytime!

~ -The New Disciple and chocobo breeder BJ


As any other college student will tell you, ramen is divine(sin!). There exists no other bane of grade Z- specially processed assorted recycled meat that Mariott dishes out 3 times a day at our expense. Ramen is something that every college gamer should down at least once during Sephiroth's super-nova execution. Ramen is pure, quintessential bliss going at 6/$1. (no, they aren't paying me for this) Okay. If you're to be my disciple, the first step is to find me a truckload of cambell's beef baked.

Crono Legal?

Dear Michael,

I..don't understand it. What the hell is wrong with Chrono Trigger?! I found an emulation for it, and I'm at Beyond the Ruins, and I've been trying for *days* to open the friggin' door! Oh, bloody, bloody hell... I cought the rat, tried following the instructions...Nadda. Please, oh mighty RPGuru (or whatever you want to be called), help me before I snap...And those voices can be awful tempting...



Here's my advice to you: instead of the potentially flaky rom, play the cartridge, which you obviously own in able to legally ask me this...oh! You misplaced the cartridge? I understand :) Okay, just follow the instrictions on the rat that tell you how to open the door, do know it's referring to the controller buttons to press, right? It's probably one of the most straightforward puzzles in the game, so if this doesn't help write back with more specific details of your problem and I'll see what I can do.

The maltese key?

I have a question about FF7. I was in the town of Mideel (the one which was swallowed by the lifestream) and i was in the house in the top right corner as you enter.. where the Chocobo is and tghe old man. I accidently hit my controller while I was on the walkway outside. Cid then said " hey.. what's this? A key, Hmm.. seems to be jammed, guess some things werent meant to be found" And I can't get this key.. do you know what it is?

P.S. A friend of mine said that this might be a key to Midgar.. that you give to the guy in the tube by Aeris's house.


No no, if I understand what you're talking about the Key to midgar is in the bone/archaeologist village. It's usually somewhere in the upper left hand corner of the town, ignore the directions indicated by any workers. Do a dig there for...normal treasure, I think. Then again, one time I found it looking for special treasure, so it might be either.

The key you've stumbled upon in mideel is a fake key that Tifa has to force in a fake door somewhere in a shop. And(get this), once you do that the shop owner apologizes for you not being able to pilfer something valuable and gives you a present(hrmph. This never happened to me in NYC...)

bad blood

When exactly did Howard Lincoln bite his thumb at SquareSoft? Reason I ask is because my friend and I were playing Secret of Evermore and Secret of Mana the other day, in German. Yes. In German. Anyway, on the Bijou theater in SoE, the movie title in the present reads (Loosely translated) "The triumph of Nintendo's Ultra 64". Maybe back then there was still some loyalty. Either that, or the European translation teams didn't know squat about what was going on. I think Secret of Evermore was published in 1996, if I remember correctly. Giving a year for the translation efforts for Europe, that would put this in 97...and I think NOA snubbed Square in 96.

I asked this other question of Thor, and he didn't reply...but I'll ask you as well. What do you think about Square's move to the one-weapon-type-per-person model? I personally liked having to sort out all my weaponry and dole it out among everyone as I saw fit. Hmm...I have a Drain Sword. Shall I give it to Cecil, or take that stupid Dreamer Harp from Kain and equip him with it? Same thing in FFV and FFVI...but with Chrono Trigger and FFVII (And I haven't played Xenogears yet - That's this weekend), we have each character specializing in one weapon and one alone. There go the customization possiblities...Dare-ga baka desuka?

Michael: I remember hearing of the Nintendo slam against Square roughly...two years ago. "Such a slow-paced and tedius game" was what they called FF7. Meanwhile, who's third party support dropped like a drunken sailor in Japan? Hmmmmm...

Square's uniform weapon styles are perhaps a weak attempt to compensate for the increasing non-individuality of character types as magic becomes more and more like pieces of armor you just pass around(musical materia, anyone? =p).

SonyCrash 1.001

Michael "Neo," My playstation recently broke down. The freaking thing won't spin the disk at all, so I am assuming that it is the laser assembly (mainly the motor) that is messed up. My question is, where's a good site to buy a replacement assembly or motor? BTW, I really like EGADS, and I think it'll be great once it gets into full swing! Joshsquall

Mayhap your model number is 1001? That's the early shake-n-break version. Try playing it upside down. If all else fails, maybe you'll be lucky enough to find something on ebay.
The 4 [late] Questions

Hey Micheal (smelly?)
First off, this is my first time writing, blah blah blah. I have a few questions and comments-

1. First, I would say I am a pretty good RPGer. My first one was Zelda 2, but the first one I truly played was Phantasy Star 4 and Shining Force. You don't come across classics that often, now do you? Nothing can compare to the greatness of those games. Shining Force was the best stratagy game I've ever played. Darksol I thought was the only true villian I've seen.What do you think? What are the true classics?

2. OK, this doesn't relate to RPG's but if you have a playstation, I can only assume you've played Metal Gear Solid. At the very end, it's reveled that Revolver Ocelot is not really himself, but supposedly the mastermind of the whole plot in league with the true enemy, the president, the "third brother". He is also reveled by Raven as General Ivan. Since Metal Gear Solid is my first Metal Gear, who is General Ivan, if he has any role in the other Metal Gears?

3. Lunar: What's all the hype? Is it going to be a great game? When's it coming out? Am I missing something? I think it will look awsome, but should I buy it? What would you compare it to? Breath of Fire 3? Phantasy Star 4? I need an expert opinion on this!

4. I think there is an RPG for everyone. Mine were either Phantasy Star 4, Shining Force, Breath of Fire 3, or Xenogears.

5. Have you ever noticed, more often than not in Square games, that in the beginning there is a mood that's set, but by the end of the game a devastating disater has struken (mostly the due date is coming up and Gasp! the game designers have to rush) and all the main characters are thrown together at the middle of the game to save the world. I liked it how it was in Phantsy Star 4, there were main characters (Wren, Chaz, Rune, and Rika) and other supporting characters. But in almost all games, it's the giant bad evil in the big crater in the center of the world after some devasting force has ripped through at least half of the population. I think that someone should have a new ending, and it should be the main characters vesus the main corperation. Or it should be the main bad guy as the main boss, not some surprise super demi-god demon thing. Also, there should be a break between characters, not like the usual main character gets knocked out for plot purposes and his lover wishes that he'll return by jumping into his brain, it should be a few characters doing something, then other characters doing something.

Whoa look at how much I've complained. Sorry about that. Just my two cents on this. Well, I gotta go, there's two good movies on (Rocky 4 and Wes Craven's new nightmare) and one hell of a good cartoon (Dragon Ball Z which I've just gotton in to this week and also the only cartoon that can compare with Pokemon) on the bube tube. -The hound Man (an intermidiate, not newbie and not veteran RPGer, for no one is a veteran)


1) True classics? Well there's Adventure for Atari 2600 if you're an old timer like me. Then there's Dragon Warrior, Crystalis, FF1, 2a and 3a. To name a few. As for Sega...the Phantasy star series I suppose.

2) Sorry amigo, I haven't played Metal Gear Solid. I've only seen my roommate go through it. Excellent plot, I must say, but I don't know/remember the answer to your question here.

Mr. Tidwell: Michael? That does it. I've had it with your faŤade as my weekend Q&A guy. The foul play involving Drew was enough. Now I find out not only are you clueless when it comes to Sega games, but you can't even answer this simple question? You've leeched enough money and airtime from us, and that Gohan printing this week was inexcusable. You're fired!

Michael: Wait, wait! I'm sorry, I'll do my research! Let me finish, I promise I'll be good! Please! Here here, let me finish this guy's questions!

3) compare it to? Um...Lunar. Yeah. Americanized Lunar, I suppose, since that's what Working Designs does. Here's an easy algorithm to compute the release date: add one month to the current one. Simple and free of constants, eh? Following that, the most recent delay would be June.

4) I think so too. :)
Mr. Tidwell: You call that a professional response, Mr. Greenhut? Hrm...I need you for now, but you're on thin ice, buddy. Watch it.

the Lore of lai

Hey you...

I can't believe you wanted the subject to be 'pooberries'... you sick freak... Oh, anyways.. *ahem* Did you know that there was a randomnly generated name in Ogre Battle.. and it was 'Laurelei'? Hmm.. And there was a Lorelai in Suikoden... And there's a Lorelai at RPGamer... I bet there will be somebody at RPGamer called BRATT or DREYFUSS or PEACHFUZZ next, huh? Sigh. (by the way, is 'Lorelai' Lorelai's real name?) And also, FFT isn't made by SQU/\RE... You can tell it was made by Quest because of the way the battle fields look, the randomnly generated names, and the character artwork... You cheating SQU/\RE bastards, I will bring you to your knees when I fight Warren, cuz a bunch of people will suddenly join the rebel forces. Oh wait! That wouldn't do at all. Nowadays you need to have stunning 3-D graphics, an awesome soundtrack, an innovative and fun battle system, and a deep and involving storyline. Dammit! Oh well... Maybe some other time... Take care, Michael, and tempt not The Fates. THE FATES!? You atheist bastards at Enix will die like dogs! ...... oh, nevermind.. Bye.

-Dark "oh I'm a flamelet" Neko


Thor put in that topic, not me. It's part of her real name, I think(er, I mean Lorelai). Middle or something. What really happened was a few gamers who'd had too much to drink wound up back in time, stole her birth certificate, thought they were dead and thus proceeded to generate a new game character profile. On her birth certificate. That's why she's seen in so many games. FFT was made by a combined effort from Squaresoft and the director of TO. And I tempt the fates at least once a day, I hear it's healthy. Atropos in particular is quite peeved with me these days(sin!).

Defining hard core

Hey Not Quite As Explosive as Thor But Still Fairly Explosive Dude! First things first: I have been playing RPGs for longer than six months, so I'm not a newbie. I like a nicely balanced storyline & gameplay, so I'm not "hardcore". (but Al snow is..) I welcome change whenever it brings something good and/or new to the genre, so I'm not a traditionalist. What am I then? Am I simply a lonely, unclassified RPGamer? Am I meant to drift, unlabeled and unwanted in this sea of hardcore traditionalist newbies?

And another thing, Todd, the self titled unenlightened idiot of the masses, said that linear plots draw you into the storyline more. Wouldn't making your own decisions and affecting the storyline thusly be more immersive than a game where you have no real control over what your character says, or what effect your choices have on the story?

And by the way, R.L. Stine writes teen books too, which aren't much better than his children's books, and his one attempt at writing an adult novel felt, to me, like he just took one of his teen books and added more sex & blood. Of course, that's just my opinion, I could be wrong.

Thank U Drive Thru, Tedman

Michael: Please don't take offense but you're still a semi-newbie, I'm afraid(flexing my 8 years of RPGaming experience). Not necessarily unenlightened, or sheep, but relatively new nonetheless. The only cure for the newbie syndrome is time, and I remember how that feels. One day, time will just explode and it'll be 5 or 10 years later, but envy not the may look back with nostalgic sorrow on your glorious early days of gaming one day.

Well, here's the thing. If a storyline in this day and age is to be non-linear, sans several inconveniently large buildings of memory, it has to be severely restricted and generic. For an analogy, think about character creation: it would be wonderful if you draw your own character right from your imagination into the game and have him be as developed as cloud and be able to create his personality, right? Obviously, there's no technology for anything close to that now, so if you were to make a character yourself it would have to be from only simple templates, and if you were to choose his personality it would also have to be from only a set of simple, predefined concepts that the game would have to anticipate and thus not be able to mess with fluidly. The same applies to story. Since non-linear stories don't have the technology to be as real and intense as a predefined, preset story, they're less popular.

I've never read anything by R.L. Stine, but my little brother loved his Goosebumps series. John Bellairs was my favorite as a's a shame he died 8 years ago. :(

Uh yeah, pooberries to ya too.

It seems "hardcore" RPGamers are born with a silver spoon in their mouth and can never be satisfied.

If an RPG's storyline is too linear, they complain about how they didn't get the feeling of a "true RPG" and how they couldn't control their own destiny *cough thooor cough*. Take out the linearity, and they complain about the lack of a storyline and how characters don't have any personality. *cough thoooraaaaaccckkkkk cough*

And don't get me wrong on this, but how the hell can anyone cry over the opera scene in FF6? Those lyrics aren't exactly poetic, and the voices used sound like belugas in a blender. I found the suicide attempt more emotional than the opera. Those same people who cried over the opera scene probably wouldn't cry at real operas, and if presented with a performance of Madam Butterfly, would be scratching their heads in response.

It's hard to support the majority of FF6 lovers when a vast amount of them get emotional about four-frame "dancing", garbled voices, shallow librettos, and a two-cel animated orchestra. But I must say the backdrops were nice.

Yes, I voted for the Aeris scene. At least there was cause for emotion there. Note to people who live with FF6 opera floozys: Keep your loved floozy away from sharp, pointy objects during FF8's love scenes.

Michael, to preserve my faith in you and your comparatively small hypocrisy *thorrraacckk*, promise me you won't cry during FF9's figure skating scene.

-the Opera Floozy

Michael: LOL generally means laughing out loud. It also stands for Legend of Legaia, hence people wondering why I LoL six hours a day while on IRC.

::sob:: I promise! There are only two games I remember making me cry. The Shyron Fort scene in Crystalis, and the bomb shelter with dead children in Final Fantasy Legend. Of course, this was 7-8 years ago when I was a shrimpy little junior highschooler.

Warning: massive sin below

Hey Mike,

Seems that the Resident Square God missed one painfully easy boss in Friday's Ask Thor. I suppose you could say it's not technically an FF game, but it was called one here in the States, so that's good enough for me.

The boss of FF Legend, Creator (who I might add was a worse "surprise" boss than Zeromous), could be beaten in exactly one round by your first character to take a turn. See, there was this one item called the Saw that you could get (and also I believe could be used as an ability by certain monsters, but I'm not certain) that instantly cut any enemy in half and killed them. Well, the programmers, brilliant as they were, forgot to make Creator immune to that little item. (Or maybe it's on purpose... I never could beat him any other way ;-)

- Sho

Michael: Oho, that's right...guess what? You think everything combined up to now warrants fire and brimstone? Well, listen to this: The creator was the final boss of FFL. Yep, God. And you know what else? I killed him with a SAW!!(Sin? I think so!) And what else? I played through and did it Again! And AGAIN! And countless more times(...) Then I finally learned how to kill him with the glass sword and masamune(...get the idea?...)
Echo(echo) Night(night)?
According to EGM, this RPG is comming out on the playstation sometime this summer.. I have even seen a half-page addd for it in the June EGM (which I got today). What is it? I havn't seen anything about it on RPGamer.. now, i doubt this is the case, but have you been ingoring it perposefully or slacking off? or has nothing been released about this game yet??

Q-Burn, The Black Q-Bert

It's an obscure Japanese(for now)RPG involving an obscure story and mystery. That's all I or anyone else I've talked to knows. I saw somewhere that it was slated for s 2nd quarter '99 release.

Devil's Advocate?
Ask Michael
(bubble and boil, my Ramen pot...)
Try the Archives
Now Playing
Legend of Legaia
Received Telegram from Hyperion: you have died and gone to H[eaven?]

Michael's mirror

Guess what? I finally died in Legend of Legaia. Beware of big wave, my friends. It's painful. a 10-page paper to write on [my choice] Neverending Story, the original novel by Michael Ende. Much work ahead, I sense. I'd recommend it for the children-at-heart.
Still no internship...hopefully Gamasutra will help a bit with that. Things are looking grim, though...
Ok, better put this thing up. Time to watch DS9, then work on a pet project of mine for tomorrow(maybe).

RPG Darwin Award:

Whilst playing Phantasy Star IV, and being unable to understand those wonderfull Spell and item names, while trying to fight the first boss in the basement, I ended up Curing the Igglanova, and Vortexing my Characters to a fiery death.

-some AOL user

Shadow Zero Attack Mega! Michael "builder of amish droids" Greenhut

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