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Ten Times Ten Times Two Totals Twenty Tens

Andrew Long - October 17th, 2004 - 1:25 EDT

AS YESTERDAY'S INTRODUCTION was mercilessly long, I thought I'd spare you the babble today and make it mercilessly short, although I rather suspect the title of yesterday's column was a bad idea and nobody read it. That, though, doesn't take into account the fact that I've got letters. How very curious!


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Mommy, Where Do Chocobos Come From?

Ouch, Boston
Very ouch

O.O Paper Mario 2 is out?

Greetings Googlemel...yeah dunno which of you will get this...

I am writing to express my orgasmic like of Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door. It's the first 10/10 I've seen in quite some time, as I'm 20-odd hours through it and have yet to see one single problem in its execution. Flawless translation, typical Nintendo make-the-prozac-dependant-happy music, kick-ass translation, superb graphical presentation (hey it ain't Metroid Prime 2, but it does it's job), and above all, amazing translation. I can't get over how engrossing the game is. This brings up something I've been thinking about a lot lately.

Why must people act surprised when Nintendo games turn out to be entertaining? They always have been, and as long as they keep Miyamoto's head in a Krang suit after he dies, they always will be. Of course, the occasional forays into Dimension X will be a bit of a distraction, but as long as there are a few Ninja Turtles to keep him at bay, things should go just swimmingly.

Back in the day, it seemed that RPGs which followed the age-old Fight, Magic, Item, Run trend could become superstars, whereas now it requires a massive break from the norm to really go down in the history books. I can't remember the last truly, truly truly traditional turn-based RPG that got the gold in terms of reviews. Skies of Arcadia, maybe, but even that had the whole focusing thing that wasn't too trite. Chrono Trigger, aside from the Double/Triple Techs, was Final Fantasy III with one less party member and one-less-digit of HP/MP caps.

I don't know how to conclude this email. I sorta wrote myself into a corner. Baten Kaitos looks pretty...

-Doby G

There, there, Doby. You've raised a good point, although I think I can easily explain the phenomenon. The way I see it, as things become more complex, the basic level at which they are expected to function will rise in conjunction with the complexity inherent to their current state. For example, take us. A million years ago, apologies to antideluvians, we were all living in trees eating ticks out of eachother's hair. Back then, eating ticks and lying around and badgering the female monkeys was a-ok. A thousand years ago, the basic level of existence was a dung-and-wattle hut and the dubious mercy of God. A hundred years ago, the basic level of existence (in the western world, anyway) was a sooty shack in a big city as the human machinery powering the slightly greasier metal machinery. Fifty years ago (again sticking with the western world), people went to church, drive-in movies and drive-in diners, and powered greasy metal machinery for more money than their forefathers. Today, we have this fancy interweb, sixty zillion channels and reality TV, and people powering greasy metal machinery for slightly more money than their forefathers.

The point I'm trying to make is, the growing complexity of human life has changed what role we play in life, although the extent of that change sometimes varies with the difference in complexity. Such is the case with RPGs - the move from FFVI to CT wasn't all that great, but FFVII was like the light bulb and internal combustion engine all rolled into one. It set a new benchmark for the minimum level of crap you can expect to find in an RPG, and games that don't meet or in some way exceed the expectation of that level don't tend to garner much popularity. This is much the same as how living in a dung-and-wattle hut with the King of England always in your face has fallen out of favour.

Round 1

Hey guys,

Just thought I'd chime in on the community video game ratings rant, since that's current topic of rantage. It seems to me that amidst this whole issue of rating games and carding kids and whatnot, people are forgetting the most important element here, one that can't be dealt with by any govt. or industry official - the parents.

The parents of the kids that play the games are the most responsible here for what results come about as a result of said game playing, since they're the only ones that can give kids the ability to make the distinction between games and reality. In this day and age, no parent should be unable to just get on the damned internet somewhere and find out exactly what's in any given game, instead of relying upon some vague letter rating or whatever. You know - "if you want something done right, do it yourself."

Example of parents' responsibility to be informed themselves (actually happened to me the other day): I was talking to a lady from my history class the other day after class, and she mentioned how her 8-year-old son wanted to get a PS2 for Christmas. She said how he likes games where you go around shooting stuff and that she didn't really mind him playing them (giving me the impression she does take at least some responsibility in the matter). Then she said how he wanted to get GTA3, because you can hijack cars and drive around and shoot people and whatnot (if she doesn't mind, then OK; not my place to argue). At this, I told her how the game wasn't exactly that simple, and how you can get health powerups in the game by screwing hookers, etc. Needless to say, she was surprised (and grateful that I warned her ahead of time). I'm glad to have done someone some good in this instance, but I'd be willing to bet there are about 4 bazillion cases just like this one where chances are, no one will do anything, and no one knows what the result will be.

From where I stand, you're on to something, but a bit wide of the mark. You can rant about the shocking evil of screwing hookers for health all you want, but the role parents should have, and indeed do have in the majority of cases, is to ensure that their children have a basic level of moral and cognitive understanding before allowing them to partake of any medium whatsoever. A 9-year-old who realizes that hey, you don't go around killing people in real life, and gee, paying for sex is more likely to leave you with syphilis or HIV than a miraculous cure for your gutshot wound is certainly capable of playing a game like GTA3 without being adversely affected. I grant that there's an argument for desensitization, but what's the use in wrapping your head in wool? The world is a lousy, dangerous, violent, porn-infested place, and it's likely to become a lot more lousy, dangerous, violent and porn-infested during our lifetimes, so why bother pretending that this sort of stuff doesn't happen? Playing RPGs hasn't really created much desire in my heart to go around decapitating people with oversized swords, and I have to hope that the vast majority of kids aren't thusly inspired either. In the end, the vast majority of adults do possess the capability to pass on morals and the critical apparatus to figure out why exactly we shouldn't emulate videogame characters.

Sadly, there are those who do nothing for their children, and I suppose this law does an admirable job of addressing their shortcomings as they relate to videogames. It does nothing, however, to address their overall situation, and thus there will continue to be overcrowded prisons and women who sell their bodies for money and all the other wonderful stuff that, however much you might strain to declaim it, has absolutely nothing to do with Grand Theft Auto.

Basically, the real problem here is mankind's age-old nemesis - stupidity. Stupid parents are the ones causing the problems, not the games themselves, because the stupid parents are the ones that refuse to take responsibility for what their kids see and do. If you don't want your 8-year-old "learning" about prostitution or whatever, then find out what's in the games your own damned self and limit what he or she plays accordingly. It's that simple. Too bad the govt. is equally stupid and ignorant and can't be trusted to do anything about this.

My solution to the problem of stupid parents? To take a cue from Bob Barker:

"Help keep the moron population down. Always have your idiots spayed or neutered."


I dunno about the authenticity of that quote... Bob Barker should have a vested interest in keeping the moron population good and high.

Round 2

Hey Andrew, I have no objections to video game rating systems. However, it is my belief that the age rating should refer to the playerís maturity level, not necessarily their age. Iíve played plenty of M-rated games before turning 18, yet have never received the urge to shoot up my school (well, some of my tormenters did make me contemplate it at points, but I did have the sanity to contain myself). I also have beefs about content indicated in the rating, such as "Mature Sexual Themes," that isn't even in the games; for instance, all the .hack games and "La Pucelle" are rated T for mature sexual themes, yet I could never see any trace whatsoever in the games. I've also seen and heard some profanity in games, yet the rating doesn't at all indicate "Mild Language" or "Language." Finally, the fact that the U.S. TV rating is 14, yet the movie rating is PG-13 and T stands for age 13 up, is a bit weird in my opinion. I'm done.

-Jeremy, the Duke of Otterland

That really doesn't make sense, since TV is much more rigidly controlled than movies or games. Handily, where I come from, Canada, the movie rating is 14. I should also note here that I have no objection to age rating systems; I just think that they should be entirely up to parents to enforce.

No more rounds for you!

Dear Andrew,

I was wondering what the take on RPG gamers has been with Mortal Kombat: Deception. I remember back when Nintendo Power had questioned if sports games could be considered RPG's, and the RPG gamers responded with a hardend NO. I wonder if this applies to fighting games though, as more and more are gaining RPG elements. Those who've played Soul Calibur 2 know what I'm talking about, with the Weapons Master mode.

Well MK: Deception has this mode called Konquest, which requires you to run around a 3D field in a psuedo RPG type adventure game. I do not say it's an action or adventure game, based on the gameplay. You do not fight in real time, rather the game will pop out "random battles" or boss battles (in which of course you fight in Kombat mode). You have to collect items, perform quests for people, have the choice to do good or bad deeds, etc. There's some quests that you can miss completely if you don't do them at the right time, some are available even after beating it. Very similar to those special weapons in RPG's that you only have one chance to get. The point of this adventure mode is to unlock all the fighters, costumes, moves, arenas, etc rather than entering in codes or beating the arcade game with every character. I'd like to point out that this Konquest mode is also 20+ hours to get everything, longer than some RPG's including Koudelka.

Also consider the storyline and cast of Mortal Kombat (the series) has propelled to epic proportions, more than any other fighting game. Being it's the sixth in the series, and on-going in storyline, the story has grown from a simple tournament to an ultimate battles between heroes, demons and gods. The cast is certainly more interesting than some of the latest RPG's, including Final Fantasy X and I dare say Shadow Hearts Covenant (also published by Midway). Characters such as Liu Kang, Scorpion and Sub-Zero are certainly recognized by most RPG gamers and more beloved than annoying RPG heroes such as Tidus and Squall. Even new characters in the game, such as Ashrah, have more character depth than someone like Wakka.

Finally, in wake of the storyline spin-offs such as MK Mythologies and MK Special Forces (the "Crystal Chronicles" of the MK series), Midway's next MK game is MK: Shaolin Monks. This might be of interest to RPGamer since it is said to be an action RPG rather than a fighting game. It is like the Konquest mode of MK but made into an entire game, I guess.

I do not expect RPGamer to cover the Mortal Kombat series anytime soon (although MK: Shaolin Monks will be in the same genre as Zelda and Kingdom Hearts). But I'd like to bring to attention this game to RPG gamers since it has plenty of elements that would attract an RPG fan to a fighting game, perhaps even more than Soul Calibur II. It may not have propaganda such as Link as a fighter, but it DOES have Hara-Kiri's.

- Elranzer

Okay, let's all admit it - the definition of RPG is a dodgy one at best, and at its most literal state could be applied to virtually every video game there is. The fact that we don't do it that way means that there's a certain schizophrenic liberty we have to employ when deciding what to cover. Zelda makes the cut because readers like reading about Zelda and we would likely get a thousand emails a day asking why we aren't covering Zelda if we didn't, but games like this Shaolin Monks dealie you're waxing eloquent about have to pretty much be the next coming of FFVI before they can receive consideration (though being made by Square Enix counts for 50 bonus points.) We have already significantly broadened the scope of our coverage with the continually diversifying nature of the genre, and while there are a lot of games you should argue we should cover, we have to draw the line somewhere.

Thanks for sharing your tale of Shaolin Monks, though.

Pesky TVs and their problems

To answer Gryphon's question about his tv cutting off images from the last column, that is a phenomenon known as "overscan." Your tv is actually subject to a set of alignment calibrations the same way computer monitors are. In fact, consumer tvs even have a hidden access menu known as a "service menu" that contains the same kind of adjustments that computer monitors do and more. This includes geometry, overscan, greyscale tracking, and a torrent of other things. Unfortunately the standard for setting these when a tv is made is very low. The alignment can vary from set to set as they are produced, and the base settings that are used during manufacturing are often poor to begin with (some intentionally, but that's another ball of wax).

Entering a service menu is different for each brand and model of tv and usually requires a specific combination of keys to be pressed on the remote or face panel as an access code. Also, most service menus are written so as to only be used by professionals, some even using hex code.

I find it unusual, however, that your tv would only be overscanning on the top and left side. Overscan usually affects all four sides, with the top/bottom and left/right sides suffering from equal amounts of image cutoff. I find it very unlikely that the PS2 could be cropping that much image information, so it's still the most likely explanation though. Hacking a service menu is not for the faint of heart though. It requires some technical knowledge, test patterns, and often a service manual from the manufacturer or a printing of one online. You can seriously mess up your tv by changing the wrong settings. Most likely you'll have to live with the issue. Keep in mind that overscan of 5% - 7.5% is very common on tvs, especially on the left/right sides.

I hope I've been helpful, although I doubt this rambling off-topic letter will be printed. Can't hurt to try though, right? ;)

- Ty "Resident HT geek" G.

Fast fact: saying you doubt your letter will be printed is probably the surest way to make it so.


And that, my friends, closes the saddest chapter in American history. Well, it didn't really have much to do with American history at all, but I never was one to pay too much attention to things like "making sense" and ooh! A dog! With a puffy tail! I am SO out of here!

For next week, though, we will start things out with an open topic day on which I might just print everything I receive. Until such a time, may all your misfortune be creamsicle-related.
Andrew Long does, in fact, call that a beer.



Although you could certainly argue a case in favour of computer speaker...

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