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Rock the Cashbox!

Andrew Long - September 12, 2004 01:43 EDT

SO ANYWAY, THERE IS both a sordid tale and some reasoning behind the switching of days, and that sordid tale is this: my father, deciding to go cold turkey on his burgeoning Counterstrike addiction, ditched off his computer on my sister and I took mine with me. Herego, I lack a computer at one of my two places of residence - namely, the one which I frequent every other (and in the case of September, every) weekend. Happily, Google was nice enough to let me infest Wednesday through Friday until such a time as my dad caves and buys a new monitor to latch onto my rickety old P3 733, whereupon I shall return in due course and all that jazz to weekends, possibly even forthwith!

For now, however, I must tell you: this Wednesday business isn't all it's cracked up to be. I seem to remember it being much more fun back in the day, when I was young and idealistic and wrote far more witty and charming introductions, because that's what we did in those days and we enjoyed it. Now I'm a bitter shell of a man, but I have Wednesday in my pocket for the time being, so let's make the best of it.

Also, Canada is once again the hockey champion of the world. Go us!


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When it comes to "classic" RPGs, game makers rip off battle systems like zombies do to their victims soft flavorful flesh. Is the same thing happening to Action RPGs?

To start, let's look at the first three console RPGs that most people think of: Dragon Warrior, Final Fantasy, and Phantasy Star. Cosmetic differences aside, they all have the same battle system: characters and enemies take turns wailing at each other in menu-based combat, random encounters are done the same, etc. Yet, each one has different ways of character development that influences how the battles actually play out. In FF, you get to choose classes and spells, and you have so many spells per pay rather than MP. In DW it's one-on-one, versus PS which gives you a preset team.

Same battle system, minor tweaks. Even nowadays, popular games like Xenosaga are simply bastardized versions of older battle systems. The thing is, it's difficult to come up with an original RPG that flouts the old DnD combat rules. That's what Action RPGs are for- fewer or more cleverly hidden menus sometimes make you forget that what you're playing is an RPG. And that's where the Tales games come in. More action, less fiddling in menus, it strayed from the mainstream. Eventually, everyone started to do it... just look at what's been done to Final Fantasy! The 5-system-linking calamity that was Crystal Chronicles, and even FF12 looks like it's going to be more action-based..

Does this mean an end to "traditional" RPGs? It's not like the concept hasn't already been done a hundred times over. Still, I doubt these games are going to fall by the wayside just to make way for more action. TRPGs are the very essence of the old pencil-and-paper mainstays, and they remain popular as ever.

Which brings me back to the original question: are they all rip-offs? Pretty much. Does it bother me? Hell no! Personally, I like how they keep some things constant while adding new content. What it means to me is whenever I pick up a new RPG, I don't have to worry about what the "attack" and "run" commands mean in-game. I embrace what's new and interesting, but I don't let go of the past. To me, that's what being an RPGamer is all about.

It's all about the fun, anyhow.

I don't necessarily think that traditional RPGs are in very much trouble, either; for all the action elements inherent to its battle system, ToS still retains a curiously old-school feel, and I would argue that it represents a fourth variation upon basic RPG mechanics rather than something more akin to action RPGs. Action RPGs, after all, are fully interactive, and tend to involve a more 3D oriented approach throughout the game; thus it is that games like BoF V can still seem more traditional than action RPG, at least in my eyes.

Then again, maybe I'm just seeing things the way I want to, but hey - it's my column and I'll be pigheaded if I want to!


While I have no clue as to why they release big games in the fall, my work experience in the theater industry will let me shed some light about the Movie world.

First off... Fall is not the time they release the "best" movies. Fall is your gamble season until Thanksgiving. Fall is usually the movies that might make money, but they aren't going to put it up against the big dogs of summer. Sometimes you have freak occcurance 80 million dollar earners, but its rare. Resident Evil for example opened at 22 million. During the blockbuster season of late spring to mid-summer, 22 million wouldn't even make up the budget. 22 million is what 6th place gets, not first. These are calculated on the weekends, not through the week. So school(at least all the places I worked) barely effects how many attend on the biggest money nights, Saturday and Friday. Certainly not 40 million bucks worth of difference. Of the fall, September is the black hole of the season, if its released in September it means the test audiences didn't like it, but the execs think they can market it.

The big disappointments are moved to end of Febuary and first of march. Example, Alamo. Rewritten tons of times, was supposed to be the christmas blockbuster... sucked so bad they sent it to re-editing and decided to release it in march.

January is the time used generally for theaters to catch up on the limited released movies and independant stuff. Frailty, Oh Brother Where Art Thou?, Big Fish. All released before christmas, most theaters get in January.

Actually, you get more teenagers and early 20's in fall than any other demographic. Also, they seem to generally want to see the movie they are about to attend. During the summer, they show up to the theater and make their decision while looking at their options. In fall they make their decision before hand. They wanted to see Resident Evil or Aliens vs. Predator because they liked that kind of stuff, not because it was all shoved down their throats non-stop during a TV show.

Well, I don't see how any of this correlates to games - after all, the only test audiences video games get (besides MMORPGs) are the QA department, so basically the only thing game developers are thinking about is "MONEY MONEY MONEY MONEY". I suppose it's the same for those film execs, but the two still don't really correlate.

Ooh.. It's like arguing on a message board... except I'm not arguing, and THIS ISN'T A MESSAGE BOARD

Thanks for posting an answer to my previous question. You've given me a place to start... A couple follow up questions

You claim you like good gameplay and yet you sat through both Golden Suns? Hmm... I don't know if there's any helping you.

haha, yeah I did like the Golden Suns. Maybe it was the puzzles, or the story, or the fact that this was the first RPG i had played in years, but I definately liked it,

"Don't flame your lack of knowledge and ignorance?" Forgive me, but flaming ignorance is what I do, because ignorance is mostly what's wrong with this world. That said, just because you're rabidly loyal to Nintendo for no apparent reason doesn't really qualify as such, although you have been missing out on some mighty fine games thanks to your closemindedness. Since you claim not to enjoy pretty graphics, that pretty much rules out anything made by Square, except for FFT, which you should pick up immediately, and Breath of Fire V, which looks pretty AND has great gameplay. Shadow Hearts is, by all accounts, the bees's kneeses, and Disgaea is funtastic. Finally, I think you've been missing out on some Nintendo stuff as well, because I don't see Mario and Luigi or Skies of Arcadia on your list, and if anything has engaging gameplay, it's those two. Hopefully that'll be enough games to tide you over for the time being, but meanwhile, if you can somehow get your hands on Valkyrie Profile, that's another good bet.

Loyal to Nintendo for no Apparant Reason? Probably True. Nonetheless, I have time for only one console and Nintendo has kept me happy for years. But now that I have more free time (Out of College, working full time) and have a PS2, I have the option of playing these other games. I didn't say that I don't enjoy pretty graphics, its just that there are other factors that supercede it when choosing a game. As for Nintendo stuff, I have played through (and loved) Mario and Luigi. Haven't checked out Skies of Arcadia, but will be on the lookout. Valkerie Profile? Is that a hard to find eBay game? Also as far as Fintal Fantasy Tactics - are the games on GBA and PS identical?

Thanks Again

VP is indeed a royal pain to uncover, as it was a fairly limited release, but it is well worth the hunt, I am told. And such blasphemy as you have just spoken can never be forgiven - the GBA FFT is an abomination which takes the original, wraps it in a lousy episode of Sailor Moon, throws in some ugly moogles, and dumbs the whole thing down to the point where it is no longer recognizable as a sequel, direct or otherwise, to FFT. The original FFT, on the other hand, has it all - great gameplay, a wicked story (though its translation is legendarily bad, so you'll have to struggle here and there) and a whole lot of customizability. The soundtrack also kicks ass, so you definitely can't go wrong with FFT.


For the record, I wanted to see the new Resident Evil movie, until I saw the second trailer for it. Then my wife really wanted to see it. Since it's like trying to swallow a brick to get her to see a zombie flick, I figured 'Hey, this is my chance'. Unfortunately, she loved it. Now I'm stuck going to see Shaun of the Dead in a few months.

Also, what's with the new QNA address? Will that just go into a queue for you and/or Andrew, or just one of you, or what?

The new Q&A address resulted from our evil overlord Zack demanding a means with which he could more closely monitor our activities, because there had been some rumours of me using that little q&a mailto for some not, strictly speaking, legitimate purposes - not that I would ever smuggle killer whales, of course!


Ah, geez... get her outta here, boys!! You saw nothing, ya hear? NOTHING!

And, on a somewhat related note. I'm playing Phantom Brave, and I just am not into it as much as Disgaea. I'm at, what I presume to be, the last boss. The story's nice and all. In fact, I like the story more than I did Disgaea, I think. But the game mechanics just aren't as much fun. It's sort of like when you go to a concert and you hear someone play a piece they wrote that pushes the technical boundaries of music composition. Then someone plays a piece that uses traditional composition techniques and does them real well. I much prefer the former, because the latter's a good exercise, but isn't suitable for reaching me, the audience, until it's had time to simmer and be perfected. Does that make sense? Phantom Brave has got a lot of technical things that are pretty nice about it. The vector movement system is excellently done. But the tradeoff is that you don't have all the fun patterns that you did with the grid system's magic. The dynamicity of the characters being able to become anything and weapons being anything and all is well done, and cute for a little while. But after a time, I just start wishing that there was an obvious straight progression of weapons so that I could just grab the next best one if I didn't want to worry about leveling the weapons and such. Or maybe I'm just whiny.

Submitted for your extrospection.

Whiny or not, you've got a flair for word embellishment that would put Don King to shame. "Dynamicity"? That's positively dynamite! Incidentally, I dunno about you, but I got pretty bored with the grid system after awhile, myself. That isn't to say I still don't enjoy dropping a dozen hours on Disgaea now and again (I still haven't beaten it) but it can get pretty repetitive, especially when you level up ridiculously in the item world and make the regular maps a breeze. I have yet to play PB, but I don't see how everyone could have expected it to be exactly the same as Disgaea - games have to progress, or people call them uninnovative, and their sales are fustigated, resulting in a profound inability to sustain verticality.

Eww.. petitions? You've changed, Lizzy ;_;

Battle systems, eh? By Tales-based, I'm assuming you mean Tales of Symphonia combat. And if you are, it can only be a good thing. Most Rpg's battle modes are sooo tedious. One of the two reasons I liked FFX-2 was because the battle system was so fast paced (The other reason was the Paine storyline, I wish they had developed that more. Although, I completely agree with you in saying that I prefer to pretend FFX-2 never happened). Tales of Symphonia's addictive battle system should be copied by as many game developers as possible! Petition for better battle systems, sign here!

"Gamers across the world rose up in protest, and then sat immediately back down, panting heavily."
-The Lizard

They better sit down... RPGamer does not support petitions of any kind! I'm not so sure that too many games are as tedious as you're making them out to be, anyway - FFX was easy, but then became a challenge once you had to figure out how to keep monsters alive as long as possible so as many characters could gain experience as possible (at least, if you're a balance-whore like myself.) BoF V's was, while simple, sufficiently engaging for a 30 hour game, and Disgaea, as mentioned, gets the job done overall. Pretty much the only game I can think of that didn't really do it for me in the PS2 generation is Xenosaga, and that was mostly because the rest of the game was so godforsaken boring.

Which is why you should make a full transition to whale trafficking!

Shut up, shut up!

Discus Stu was talkin' to you!

Subject: questions All headers

Hey Cast, got a few things on my mind, so of course you're the man I come to. Doesn't that give you a warm fuzzy feeling inside?

Why yes - it's almost exactly the same feeling I get each time I capture a whale in the wild and - then let it go once I get clear of the whale-eating barracudas... Yes, that's what I do with them!

1)Do you know of any RPGs where you are a ship's captain and you're able to add to your ship or buy a new ship? I'd appreciate it if you could help.

Do you mock me? The only one anybody was able to come up with was an obscure series for the SNES or PSX that you have to stretch just to call an RPG.

2)I'm working on a new Final Fantasy game. It's a lot like FF6, except the difference is that instead of Kefka, the main villian's name is KefkO. I figure that's enough creativity to keep Square Enix off my back.

So you're definitely mocking me ^_^

3)I agree that Chrono Cross fell far short of expectations. It may be that there were way too many characters to realistically make them all integral to the story, or it could just be that Chrono Trigger had become so legendary that any sequel would have fallen far short of the anticipation no matter how good it was. As it stands, it seems more like a spinoff than a proper sequel. The Joey to CT's Friends, if you will.

I prefer the classier example, the Frasier to CT's Cheers.

4)Since everybody else seems to feel special by telling you about theirs, here's my rankings for Final Fantasy games: 6-10-9-7-4-3-2-1-8-5. I refuse to count FF11 as a real sequel, I consider it to be as much a Final Fantasy as Mystic Quest as far as bestness goes. 5)For what it's worth, I find bastardized English to be ironic as well.

Transsexual satan worshipers rule.

Robust Stu

Swell Reviewer/Gold Guy/One Badass Sexy Mofo/Ayatollah of Rock and Rollah

Thanks for sharing, Stu. When did you pick up your latest title? You're beginning to look like one of those guys who has three engineering degrees and a BA in funk!



I like RPGamer, but I seldom have time to look at the website all the time for updates. Any chance of RPGamer getting something like an RSS feed?



Slim to none.

When in doubt, eat into the FFVIII stockpile

Many a person, when deciding to bash Final Fantasy 8, always cite that the Junction system is too time-consuming, and pointless. They say that it doesn't work well in the flow of the game, and that it is stupid for you to have to sit there and constantly draw the spells.

Now, there is one thing that I haven't yet heard anyone say about this. The game was not made for you to sit back and continuously draw spells. It simply isn't. The fact that the monsters level up with you are testament to this fact. Some may say monster's leveling with you are to keep the game at a difficult level throughout. Yet I beg to differ; I believe that they level up with you so that you can beat the game without hyper-leveling up your characters for hours on end. If the monsters are level 20 when you are level 20, then you can still advance. Now, with that in mind, why would Square intend for you to sit back and draw spells to boost your stats?

The answer is, they didn't. You shouldn't be constantly drawing spells til you recieve 100 of them for each person, rather you should draw a few, and make use of the draw/cast command. How many people actually use that? I'd be willing to bet not many. While people sit and complain about the difficulty of this game being incredibly easy, I bring up this analogy. If you were to play Final Fantasy 7, and spent the same amount of time leveling as you did on drawing spells, the game would be a cakewalk. So, the only logical fact that can be deciphered here is that you aren't supposed waste hours on end drawing spells so you can super-power your characters. If you tried to get through the game without giving yourself 100 full life spells junctioned to your Hp, then yea, the game will become much less tedious, and much more challenging.

But alas, to tie this long rant back to my question, I pose this: Since when did videogamers become such overachievers, that they are willing to spend countless hours hitting the draw command? Half of the people who play these games are most likely bad students...not stupid, but probably don't care too much about doing homework and the likes. But why then do they overachieve in videogames?

~Kevin Coletta

Okay, while I myself may be a bad student, that in no way reflects upon the countless others who are fans of RPGs who end up being merciless overachievers in school as well. People who play games are willing to spend that amount of time because a) in a lot of cases, they have it to spare, and b) because there's a significant number of us that like doing stuff just to see what'll happen.


Okay, so I guess I never did contact those winners - I've been busy with moving and such, and then this column got horribly delayed when I was randomly waylaid by some sort of wildcat illness that has mostly vanished now - but I will do my best to get around to it as soon as possible, since Zack is breathing down my neck trying to find out what game he'll be getting for our grand prize winner. For tomorrow, Let's talk about expectations of sequels. It seems that deep down, everyone wants a game to be exactly like its prequel, and yet, when a game comes out that shows virtually no innovation at all, it gets blasted. Are we all idiots? Discuss.


It's a hard life, plying international waters, avoiding pirates and clubbing those adorable baby seals because our evil nature demands it of us, but at least we have glorious freedom! If you're interested in contraband whale and whale products, join us at Whalexpo 2004 this weekend at the Secret Shady Cove Convention Center, in Undisclosed Location, USA. Andrew will be appearing as our international star of renown!


Ha, ha, ha... FLEE*
Andrew Long knows nothing. NOTHING!



Blub, blub, blubbery blubber

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