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River of PRAWNS!

Andrew Long - August 14, 2004 23:06 EDT

TRIPLE DRY SEC AND TRIPLE DRY waking up early to go to work have made me a jelly-brained little boy, it seems. Even so, I am able to absorb facts from the National Geographic Explorer Challenge Board Game Factastic cards that litter my desk, having failed to make the cut for my fabulous prize, which I may get around to mailing by tomorrow, or possibly Monday!

Yes, from those cards, I have learned that the country Cameroon is named after a river of prawns, and as prawns have always been generally helpful to me on such maps as Stranglethorn Vale and Tsunami, it surprises me to discover that in fact, an African country I knew little or nothing about is in fact related to a crustacean that I know little or nothing about that is related to a river I have never seen, except possibly in National Geographic game card form.

You might think that with all these super-duper degrees of separation I'm knitting together into an elaborate pair of wool socks which you'd better wear if you don't want to catch your death of cold, that I have some sort of shocking revelation, but alas: as I have spent the past twenty four hours in equal parts depriving myself of sleep and bombarding my brain with the stupefying effects of three different types of hard liquor in one cup, all I can offer is some surprisingly useful commentary on Alpen Bitter: it's not really all that bitter (and I don't really know how to spell it all that well)!

And now you know, and knowing is half the battle; and with that part won, you must now strive on to the more important fight, reading this column! GO JOE!


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The kupomogli LJ

Mommy, Where Do Chocobos Come From?

Oh J-Pop
Why must you be
Such an abomination
I mean
Pop in general is crap
But crap at double speed
Is somehow more galling

Now what would make you say I'm particularly scornful?...Oh, right... the scorn

Hello, You don't know me, I read you sometimes, when they let me out of my cage, you bring the funny, I like that.

As I was saying, I don't play rpg's over books, or movies, I like all of them.

You read a book, you see the images in your head you have no control but its still interesting specially if you have a brain like mine which sometimes tells me to do things not bad things nice things.

I'm almost positive I don't want to know what you mean by that, but I suppose it's a fairly good summation.

You watch a movie, its not as detailed as a book, cause its hard to itterate in a movie what a person is thinking, also some things are impossible like human with biger then normal heads/boobs/bums/hair etc etc, assuming your not one of those japanese people who, while being really nice and the like, have a pretty strange and amusing taste in cartoon but you get the general idea yeah I hope so.

When did this turn from a discussion of literature vs games into a discussion of hentai, fanservice and your overactive imagination? >_<

You PLAY an rpg, it has the best of all worlds; you read quite alot of it and it manages to tell a good story while expressing thoughts and also the really crazy stuff you can't really put in films can be in a game like big heads, boobs and bums (also have you noticed in games no matter how big said boobs are and no matter what kind of crazy moves characters do they never slip out of their costumes.. strange but true) As an added bonus you get to make the little people do things... lots of little numbers and stuff, and and and... the number one reason I play rpg's. I get to save the world... most entertaining rpg's demand you save the world, you're the only one who can, noone else has figured how you swing a sword at people yet. Most rpg fans deep inside have a hero complex they just wanna save the world. You'd think we were all hippys or something.

In conclusion, I like rpg's. They are Funnest.

K, I talked alot. I'll stop now.

p.s if you feel the need to be particularly scornful of this email due to it being written by an idiot... Thats all good :D

An RPG certainly has a combination of all worlds, but I wouldn't necessarily say it has the best of them. Granted, in the case of 16-bit RPGs, you were forced to enhance things a little with your imagination (probably why some newer RPGs are a little disappointing), but in that respect, you can't beat the exercise your mind gets from constructing all the imagery apparent in the simplest of novels. On the other hand, while video game graphics are the cat's meow and all, the levels of technological wizardry in a movie far surpass those found in most games. So really, when you get right down to it, the interactivity is what sets games apart; you can interact with books and movies to a limited degree (or write fanfiction, if you're truly desperate to pair up lovelorn characters) but with a game you're in charge of what happens.

And as for your P.S, Dr. Phil would be very mad at you for putting yourself down, which I know because my mom's house is an O Magazine pit trap, laden with issue upon issue of fabulous Oprah in various sassy poses, while all other reading material is bland gardening digest-style junk (and since there's no TV, reading is pretty much it for entertainment). Curse you, Oprah!

Kevin, if that is his real name, opines

Okay Andrew,

I assume the question is why do you play RPG's (or games in general). Honestly I don't know why we torture our selves with some of the crap that comes out these days. I have to say I play the games that are first and foremost fun. If I play games to have fun not to get stressed out. but secondly I look for customization. making my own characters and what not. I like to have my game my own game my own way. Which is why I liked RPGs in the first place. The freedom to explore and play the game the way I want to. I can't stand games that are so specific in trying to tell a sucky story in a way that isn't fun.I play games because there fun. I honestly don't prefer them over a good book or movie, but they do last much longer. Then there's the whole I am good at them and its fun to beat your friends in a game with out having to move more then your thumbs. well hope you have a good reason to play games.

A reasonable argument, aside from the fact that if you follow it to its logical conclusion, thumb wars would be a major sport.

Note to self: never mention Xenosaga and personal hatred thereof again

Poorly executed Xenogears spoilers
I haven't actually played Xenosaga yet, but I DID just beat Xenogears and I read about what each game in the xenosaga is supposed to contain. XS ep II should, if they follow the original plan, have a LOT happen in it. Its in the timeline when the ship containing ***SPOILERS*** God (Deus) and the Zohar Engine crash into the planet and start what Xenogears is about, so of course theres room for a plot. And what about the later games in the series... what will episode V be about? At the end of Xenogears, it says Xenogears Episode V THE END. Just stuff to think about...

- Calebros

Umm... Episode V, my friend, will be about a guy named Citan and the Robotjoxx who loved him, since Xenogears is Episode V. Episode II better have a lot happen in it, because Episode I, while it sets the scene and all that jazz, gives me that down-home .hack feeling; you know, the one where you pay four to six times for the same, unnecessarily complicated game.

Well, at least he answered the topic eventually


If you and every Xenosaga hater couldn't stand the fact that Xenosaga had absolutely no music everywhere they went, be warned:

Episode II is *full* of music, and I have never wished harder that the Elsa/Durandal/Second Miltia/Kookai Foundation was silent. The worst thing is that you'll be spending disgusting amounts of time travelling back and forth between these four locations, and its music will drill a hole through your eardrum, birth parasites, and give you brain infections. A shame, because the story actually picks up and reveals a fair bit.

So be careful what you wish for.

To be honest, I was sort of wishing Gamera would stop knocking down Tokyo Tower long enough to make a side trip to Namco headquarters, where it could gut the entire production staff while I sat watching, cackling with glee, but since that obviously isn't going to happen (at least in time to save us from Episode 2) I'm going to have to look into ensorceling Mothra instead.

Back to your topic.

I prefer playing RPGs because at least my hands are doing something in between all the mindless watching. For some reason sitting down and watching a movie is akin to being lazy for me (ask my friends, they'll tell you how hard it is to get me to watch a DVD).

As for books, I've developed some kind of migraine reaction to them after slogging through Lord of The Rings some years back, so that's just my loss.


Thanks for sharing, DMJ. Personally, when I watch videos, I usually end up doing something else as well, be it playing my GBA or reading. Nine times out of ten, you've seen videos you're watching at home anyway, so it's not like you really miss anything (you can always look up during good scenes!)

There we are... perhaps there will be no further mention of Xenosaga?

Sometimes I ask that question to myself when I'm about to throw the disc of an RPG out the window, in a fit of rage. But anywho, why I keep coming back for more role playing action. I like a combination of addicting gameplay and a classic storyline, accompanying characters that will forever be etched in your mind for years to come. Another aspect of an RPG that I've found myself going back for more is the soundtrack.

Some of them, like the classic RPGs, make you want to play more. For instance, the first RPG that solidified my interest for the genre was Final Fantasy 7. That may sound like the typical statement by a fanboy, but it's true. Of course, I've played all of the old school RPGs for the NES, SNES, and so on, but FF7 went beyond the genre's limits. It had an interesting world, more in touch with reality. OK, enough of the babbling, there it is.

Take care.

Alex Gjata

Music has always been one of my favorite elements of video gaming, and there's just something about an Uematsu riff that a movie composer can't match (and obviously, books don't have scores, so games win there by default.) In fact, when you get right down to it, music was the main reason this site came into existence, which makes it kind of sad that Trick is getting zero submissions lately. In the name of nostalgia, I beseech you - flood Trick with cheap, plentiful midi and mp3 remixes! Your brain will thank you later!

Thus ends the shameless plug portion of this evening's affair.



People can hate Xenosaga for any number of reasons. That is completely fine - lord knows it isn't a perfect game. What is not fine however, is for people to hate Xenosaga because of the same tired, illogical, and completely idiotic claim that a videogame's plot is of no consequence and should be disregarded due to the existence of books. It irks me, Andrew, it irks me to no end.

Look at the Final Fantasy series. No, take a minute and actually look at the series. Do you play the Final Fantasy series because the battle system? What exactly defines the "gameplay" of the series? The equipping of characters? The flip-flop of active-to-turn-based battles? Gaining XP? Talking to townspeople? Playing another iteration of some godforsaken card game? Why continue buying these games? What is the point?

The point is the combination of interactivity, music, story, and presentation into a single, unifying experience. No other medium can offer all four aspects simultaneously, and most have trouble even providing more than two. I don't want just a story, I want the entire package - that's the reason I don't "just read a book." That is the reason I play videogames, and that is the reason I play RPGs in particular: a story is coupled with music, interaction, and a compelling presentation.

As an aside, Andrew, I want to ask you a question about a comment you made concerning Xenosaga being a drawn-out puppet show. What makes Xenosaga more of a puppet show than Chrono Trigger or FF6? The fact that you have less control of the puppets? Does having more control make the entire thing less of a puppet show?

Something to think about.

-Red Raven

I suppose you've got me over a barrel there, since if I were to say that more control meant less puppety goodness, I'd vanish in a fantastic puff of logic. Nevertheless, I do think that having more control over things lessens the feeling that you're just being dangled about on a string from one place to another, and I appreciated that in FFVI, there was a fair degree of open-endedness in terms of how the second half of the game played out, while Chrono Trigger, while about on par with Xenosaga in terms of interactivity in some respects, more than made up for it with presentational quality and a kickass story.

I guess, in the end, it comes down to execution. Xenosaga, while it might contain as many nifty ideas as Chrono Trigger, lacks the engaging qualities that make the latter one of the most popular games of all time. Chrono Trigger, meanwhile, managed to take all those nifty ideas and combine them with gameplay that was interesting enough so that the story wasn't the only thing you were playing for. Let's face it - wandering around a spaceship just isn't very much fun, while travelling through time, while arguably just as mundane, is nonetheless much cooler because of the simple fact that while walking around a spaceship seems pretty conceivable (or at least, similar to plodding through an office building from one meeting to another) whizzing through time with a sassy frog, decrepit robot, and pack of your friends is just a little less prosaic.

At any rate, I'm not quite sure if that's a good enough explanation, but it will have to serve, since my eyes keep trying to close for some reason.

An interesting take

I play RPGs because I'm an intellectual. You see, it's not because video games are intellectually stimulating that I like them. If that were what I wanted, I would be constantly trying out new, original games of all genres, trying to expand my mind. That would be dumb. I like video games because an intellectual's dream world is where everything can be broken down into sets of rules. This is by far true the most of RPGs and strategy games. The rules change as the game goes on, or from game to game, but I strive to keep up, for this is what I like: that simply by knowing how things work, I can control everything around me to do exactly what I want. It's a power trip for me: I can control the world simply by being knowledgable and a good strategist. With nothing but the right plan, everything will go my way.

Developers of RPGs know this. They play to it. RPGs rarely require reflexes, rarely have significant randomness, rarely let the player see the game over screen, because players like me aren't playing for the challenge. Challenge isn't fun to me. What's fun to me is winning, and knowing that I won because I was smarter than the other side. This is why I respect Contra, Half-Life, and Mario Kart, but do not often play them. In those games, strategy and forethought are not nearly as important as actual skill. I don't want to have to develop skill, I say. I should be able to win just by knowing what to do, I say. This isn't fair; it's too much like real life. So I go back to something turn-based, where I can sit and think what the best move would be.

The story? It certainly helps. RPGs by their nature are slow and often repetitive. A good story can distract me from that, can make the game entertaining on more than one level, can make me keep playing for more than thirty minutes, or, if good enough, can even inspire me and make me keep playing for no other reason.

I don't like voice acting in games unless the story is just fantastic. Otherwise, voice acting usually just reminds me that there are stupid people with annoying voices who are a lot more successful than me in their mindless jobs as adolescent heroes, or village elders, or well-endowed kung-fu bartenders, or B-rated voice actors.


I just don't like voice acting period, but that's another argument for another time. I wish I'd read this letter before I'd replied to the previous one, because then I could have stolen your answer and applied it to CT and Xenosaga. Actually, as you can probably see, I'm going to do that anyway, just to illustrate what a terrifically clever point you've made. One of the most annoying things about Xenosaga, early on, is a scene in which you have to outrun a couple of security guards. Now, as I no longer possess the twitchy reflexes that once put rubber mallets the world over to shame in years past, I have been pathetically unable to complete this simple challenge, which, while not central to the game, is just further illustration of the uneven level of gameplay in Xenosaga. Not only is all the wandering about so dull as to make paint drying seem wildly exciting, but then they have to drop in pointless games of reflex, which are bad news for old geezers such as myself.

Chrono Trigger, on the other hand, lets you act like every good old man and bet on the damned race (and when you end up running in it, it's not exactly hard to beat a man wearing full plate armour, a guy in a lizard costume, and the ever-adorable Catalack who, while generally reliable when stacked up against his less-than-stalwart competition, is no match for a spiky-haired dude in a karate outfit). Moreover, the race is a ten-second diversion in a five minute scene in CT, while the scene in Xenosaga is a ten-second diversion in an hour-long "Bring this fax over to accounting" assignment.

Yay! It's Unc-y Stom!

Hey, thought Id rant on something in one of your columns, but Damn, people! Xenogears came out FIVE YEAR AGO! No one cares who likes it and who hates it now. Especially me, who hates it and hates talk about it.

I figured Id change to the subject to the Nintendo DS, which I think will ironically end up having a decent amount of ports of PSX RPGs and remakes, such as Vandal Hearts. It also has a lot of support from Square Enix with five games already announced. I see a generous amount of RPGs in this puppys future, and it will grow up to be the big dog who jumps the fence, bites your ass, and steals your creamsicle as you run screaming.

Your thoughts?

- Uncle Stom

Gee, I don't know, Uncle Stom. Are you perhaps hinting that a certain mystery game could be appearing on the two-screened wonder, or at least, the successor to that certain mystery game? Cuz that'd be neat. That notwithstanding, yes, if S-E has jumped ship from the Sony side of the fence (which I guess isn't necessarily the case since few developers are stupid enough to sign exclusive deals with Nintendo anymore) then it follows that the rest of the development houses, like the trained seals they are, will follow suit, since sinking ships don't tend to be a popular commodity for some reason. Not that I'm suggesting that a few NDS RPGs will sink the PSP, but if one system manages to establish itself as the RPG powerhouse over the other, it will certainly pay to put out games on the system that the most S-E titles are on, I would think, since that's where your target audience will be firmly ensconced.

Toronto or not, this is just Unfit for Print

Dear fellow Torontonian ( that doesnt look right)

I heard a couple years back that the makers of ffvii were actually thinking of bringing Aeris back at the end of the game, but because they ran out of time they couldnt. Is that true, cuz I never heard anything like that on the net. So tell me, does my friend know what hes talking about or what? Also, i feel your pain for the TO teams, cuz only the leafs are worth anything now, esp now that the QB for the argos is out.

It never fails to amaze me that after almost seven years of myself, Googleshng, and our various predecessors telling dozens upon dozens of gullible saps that no, in fact Aeris, General Leo, and that can of tuna you had for dinner last night can't be revived, more people will continue to write in and ask about these nonsensical rumours, which make no sense either in terms of the game's story or heck, artistic integrity. No, Aeris cannot be revived. She is dead, sworded, stabbed, sliced, gutted, slashed, murdered, and generally an untidy pile of Masamune-inflicted fury, which by the way is bloodless because Masamune was a neat freak and stuff. She is dead because she had to die to save the planet, and bringing her back would kind of negate that meaning not only would the meteor have hit, but the story would be a shameless pile of dreck. If you want your dead characters to come back to life, play FFIV; even the annoying ones like Sperm and Worm get to come back in the end, so you should have more than your fill of tearful reunions while you fight Zeromus and wonder why exactly this was a good idea.

And yeah, the Leafs are the only ones worth watching... If we get to watch them at all. I swear, if that season is even delayed by a day, I'll show those lousy owners the meaning of cost certainty... in the face!

All I have to say is,
I found out Mitsuda is not doing the music for Xenosaga Ep 2. The game is destined to be the "Batman Forever" of RPG's.

For making me laugh out loud, I hereby declare this the best quickie evar. Uproarious!

yes indeed,
the floating island has been arround a long time. don't forget FFV and the entire Lufia series! (oh how I miss you Lufia 2... infact i think i might just go play you now)

Yes, I would be remiss if I didn't mention all the craptacular RPGs that include floating islands, so you can tack LoD onto that list while you're making love to Lufia 2.

I'm with you in thinking that
Pavement-cloning rock-revival sculch should do the old Dick Cheney, but not in knocking skintight tees. I'm convinced the latter ups my tippage by a good ten percent.


Hmm...You're right, I never did consider the impact of eliminating tight shirts upon the checkoutability of people at, behind, and dancing on top of bars. My bad!

About Suikoden IV
and savegame data transfer: according to an article in Electronic Gaming Monthly, there will be no data transfer between Suikoden III and IV. Makes sense, Suiko IV being chronologically much earlier than III. What kind of data would you transfer, besides stats for a single, time-travelling character?

-The Cranky Dragon

Oh, you! Thanks for sharing, Cranky Dragon; once again, your sarcasm has reminded me what a dumb sack of crap I am!

Who would win in a fight:
An Alien/Predator hybrid, or the bastard love child of Freddy Kruger and Jason Voorhees?


I'll go with the bastard love child, because that can't be an easy way to grow up, so he'll be tough enough to take whatever the hybrid can throw at him!


Yizzawn and all that jazz. I tire not of you or this column, but of consciousness, and must sleep. For next week, I have to ask: if you're one of the lunatics who actually likes voice acting, what is it you prefer about hearing utter retards say lines as opposed to just reading them? If you're in my camp, on the other hand, what is it that cankers your soul every time you hear voice acting? Is it the terrible enunciation, the mis-timed exclamations, the generally weenie voice actors they get to play virtually every male lead? There's plenty of reasons to hate, and I'm sure you lovers can think up a few good ones to show us who's boss too!

As for tomorrow, Googleshng has professed mystification at the continued existence of Working Designs, given the gratuitous amounts of time and money they sink into the various remakes and collections they spew forth. Enlighten the slime, for while he probably has ideas of his own, I am sure yours are far more fabulous and probably involve at least three different theories on why Aeris has in fact been revived and will be making a cameo in Growlanser 3. I think that alone should be reason to talk about Growlanser (and I really do mean that alone!)

So I bid you farewell, and as always, may all your troubles be creamsicle-related.
Sadly, no trace of Andrew Long was ever found...



Synchronized diving is BS!

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