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questionanswer&andrew


Resorting to Fisticuffs?

Andrew Long - November 21, 2004 - 2:17 EDT

SO YEAH. Events last night have proven that in fact, the only method of entertainment you can possibly enjoy without being scarred for life, or at least pummeled by Ron Artest, which actually has a pretty good likelihood of having lucrative lawsuits attached so maybe it's not all that bad, is gaming. Before we lament the lack of safety inherent in the nation's sporting venues, however, let me just say: why oh why were fans wasting perfectly good beer on players? Not only are players used to bathing themselves in far more luxurious things like champagne or money or steroids, but I mean... Beer's for drinkin'!

To elaborate: too many nights have I been at a party only to run out of sweet sweet beer and be forced to spend the rest of the night moping about in a half-drunk stupor. I say we rush city hall until Detroit promises capital punishment for all wasters of beer! ...Hold up just a second. I just realized this entire rant is based on a flawed premise. I take it all back. This is American beer we're talking about, after all.

Then again, stadium beer hereabouts isn't particularly good either, and comes with the added disadvantage of costing like six hundred bucks (plus tax). Herego, I once again have to conclude that staying home, playing video games, and getting boozed is the far more amenable activity, and urge you all to remain in your homes forever, except for a select few of you, who must now work on home-based Dorito delivery systems to ensure a healthy climate for trolldom.

So as we march towards that great future, let us all thank the Detroit Pistons and Indiana Pacers for showing us the way, for truly, without obnoxious violence we probably would have found it anyway. That is all.




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Handbrawl:
A game even kids can enjoy!
Equipment: gym ball
Rules:
You must kick
the ball into a goal
to score a point
Though you may handle it
As you see fit
At all other intervals
That is all
Body contact is encouraged
Bonus points for breaking legs

Clearing out the queue


Hello Andrew,

Long ago, I played RPGs a lot but I haven't really played new RPGs in the last couple of years. I have a PS2 and the only RPG I have for it is Suikoden III, which I don't like that much (but, unusually, Suikoden I/II are some of my favorites...).

Anyway, I'm looking into getting a few decent RPGs (or TRPGs) for the PS2 this xmas to see if I can't rekindle my liking for the genre. One of the last things RPGs I remember trying was FFX and I didn't really like it when I rented it (shortly after release). I'm not all that keen on graphics/visuals - the story and gameplay is far more important to me... do you have any suggestions for me?

ANDREW
Actually, a number of people who loved both of the earlier Suikoden titles ended up disappointed with III, so don't feel too badly there. I like X, but there are two schools of thought on that game, so if you didn't like it, you should definitely avoid its sequel like the plague. If you're into story and gameplay, Shadow Hearts II mixes both quite well, and I never miss an opportunity to plug BoF V. You should try either Disgaea or Phantom Brave on the T-RPG front, and if you've got a GBA kicking about, pick up Mario&Luigi (and Paper Mario 2, for that matter, should you also possess the grace and wisdom to own a 'Cube.) Star Ocean III doesn't really have much in the way of plot to offer, but it's attracted a fair number of devotees based upon its battle trophy system, which offers countless hours of replay value. Finally, if you're looking for a longshot, pick up Unlimited SaGa. It's not for everyone, but if you like your everything unconventional and you can get used to the painful interface, it's actually quite enjoyable.


NDS Anorexia?


Hey Andrew,

I noticed only two RPGs on the Nintendo DS upcoming list so far (Final Fantasy 3 and Pokemon). There are also still a bunch of GBA RPGs still set for release in the next seven or eight months. How quickly do you think developers and publishers will start switching from GBA to DS? Will we still see GBA releases through the end of 2005?

I also think it was rather sneaky of Square Enix to announce Final Fantasy 3 for the DS instead of the GBA, especially since they acknowledged that it will have the graphics style of the upcoming I+II GBA release. If the map on the second screen is the only difference, why not just put it on the GBA? Maybe Nintendo came to them and said, "Put FF3 on the DS so that RPG players will have a reason to pick it up before 2006."

Finally, do you think we'll continue seeing lots of NES/SNES RPG remakes on the DS? Or are they running out of things to remake yet?

kweee

ANDREW
I think you'll probably see the usual year or so of sub-par knockoffs heading to the GBA, with the occasional playable game appearing over the next twelve months. Dead systems are dead systems, whether or not you just paid $150(again) a year and a half ago, unfortunately.

You are right to think it was rather sneaky of S-E, too, although as far as skulduggery goes, this little bit is transparent at best. Of course S-E is going to release its game for the NDS, because Nintendo probably put the kibosh on a GBA release for the very reasons you mentioned. Since the PSP is languishing in the throes of tinkering over its pathetic battery life, S-E kind of has to bow to Nintendo's whims in the matter anyway, unless they want to *snicker* release it on the N-Gage (I suppose not releasing it at all remains an option, but I'd imagine the bottom line figured into this decision somewhere along the way for S-E, probably right at the outset, and there'll be at least a couple months in 2005 when people won't be going crazy over FFXII and / or DQ8).

And as long as there is a library of SNES titles that is hundreds strong, there will remain a potential for hundreds of remakes, for any system.


When Logic Fails


Hey which-ever-of-you-does-the-next-column,

Is there any reason RPGamer can't use halves with the (not-so) new 5 Point system? You get most of the exactitude of the 10 Point system, but without the confusion of whether 5 or 7 is the 'Average' score.

ANDREW
For the last time, halves would make /5 /10, because then average would be 2.5, which is the same as 5/10, which means there's no real point in making it out of five. It's the same reason we didn't allow halves on /10, because that made the scale an effective 20-point margin, which is just plain silly (whatever Ryan Amos might try to tell you). If you put the halves in, people will start giving games 3.5 stars habitually and we'll be right back where we started. Much as I prefer the /10 standard, no soup for you, my friend.

Also, I've been thinking about buying SH2, but I've not played either of the other titles in the Series. Is SH2 still worth playing to someone like me?

ANDREW
I am someone like you, and SH2 is well worth playing to me.


The nature of RPGs, according to Blane


Well, as with Fantasy novels, RPGs follow a cycle using a formula. If a whole genre of books uses the same cliches, why would we expect that that storylines of games mostly based on that genre to break these conventions?

ANDREW
Because some of those conventions are in dire need of updating, that's why. For instance, allowing Paxil-riddled execs to dream up the story as opposed to hiring writers. Or saving the world. Or tiresome stock characters who vary from each other mostly in hair colour. I should also mention that while I used to eat genre fiction up, it tends to give me the same reaction as discovering that I have to save the princess or fight still another evil form of a big dark evil thing that was holding out on its super evilness just because.

FOLDING TOOL HEAVY DUTY
I mean, honestly. What was Zeromus thinking with that Zemus character? Tentacles are totally passe, and I thought that zone-shifting attack had much more punch than anything his wimpy second form could come up with. An utter disgrace all around - and don't even get me STARTED on Golbez... Blue armour? What is this, a dog show? No people, it's a talent competition, and third-rate evil just doesn't cut it!

Another question, or point. Well, it's a combination. I don't get nostalgia for game, but more for concepts. I liked the idea of each player being unique, having special abilities. I use FF VI as my primary example. All the characters were somewhat unique. And then FF VII and VIII came along and they started giving all characters the chance to learn most everything skill, which takes away from the character's uniqueness. And I think character abilities, though it's silly notion and a dependence on stereotypes and archetypes, but those unique abilities add to a character's personality, especially in games like Disgea. I think FF X had a nice balance to the game, and liked the storyline. I guess my question would be, do you think that making characters more "customizable" hurts characterization?

ANDREW
Not really, no. I mean, does Strago learning how to use Pearl Wind from a stupid squirrel enhance your notion of him as a wise, learned mage? Of course not! I mean, if the guy is eighty and squirrels are still outjazzing him, I can see why Hidon won so easily back in the day. Anyhow, I agree that the occasional special ability is nice, but ultimately, some such abilities are utterly useless, and my idea of fun is not getting stuck with utterly useless characters for any length of time.

And S-E's success is not dictated by a composer. I just had to get that out there. I mean, music is nice, but it does not make a game. I'd just as soon turn off the sound and listen to CDs.

My .02
Blane

ANDREW
Yes, your two cents. In case you hadn't noticed from the tone of these letters, some people actually like video game music, and to those people, the loss of a composer they've been admiring through much of their gaming careers is a significant loss. Obviously, you're right when you say losing Uematsu won't be a problem for S-E, and I don't think anyone ever suggested that. What has been suggested is that hey, when the best a company can do in a year is release an expansion pack for a mediocre RPG and an oft-delayed sequel to a terrible one, announce three spinoffs to a game it made almost eight years ago and constantly procrastinate on all other new projects, things ain't looking so hot for that company, especially when a significant portion of its creative talent has gone elsewhere in the past three to five years.

Obviously, 2005 promises to be a better year for S-E, and DQ8 and FFXII might shut us all up, but you can forgive people for being a little nonplussed by what we were offered this year.


Why I never miss an opportunity to rag on FFV


Sorry if this is re-treading old ground (I'm new to the site), but I was curious why FF V gets such a hard time of it. I mean, is it a brilliant game? No. But I think it's at least comparably fun to a number of other games in the series. It's certainly as good as FF IX, imo, and it's not as though IV is such a masterpiece of genius that V fell completely off the slack. Admittedly, "X-Death" has got to be the worst name ever for a main villain. And the story and character development aren't exactly brilliant. But the job system was a good innovation and there were a lot of cute/funny parts (e.g., baby chocobos!).

ANDREW
Nope, FFV isn't brilliant, and while it does offer a certain amount of fun for the first ten hours or so, the shine sort of wore off for me after I discovered that in effect, Square expected me to play through the same game three times in a row. Unlike FFVI, where there was some noticeable difference between the WoR and WoB, FFV was pretty much just the same thing three times over, and all the environments looked kinda the same. Sure, the job system was okay, but FFT did it better and had a great story to boot, and you could also control the encounter rate, whereas in FFV you were stuck fighting every two steps or so.

Look, my favorite game in the series is VIII, with VI close behind. Compared with these, V obviously doesn't measure up. Nevertheless, I think V offers something unique in the FF pantheon: among all the gloom and doom and angst and heaviness (and "Time Kompression," whatever that is...although as I admit that VIII is my fave) of the other games, FF V stands out as light-hearted and breezy. Sorta happy-go-lucky. And while that doesn't make for a masterpiece, perhaps, I certainly think it offers a nice change of pace.

ANDREW
I'm not quite sure what you're talking about here... One fifth of the main cast gets killed off, there are two cataclysms, and you have to fight against an evil emperor who, while terribly named, is plenty evil enough to darken things up. There's also the fact that death, death, death seems to be the only thing that the development staff uses to move the characters along, and all they do is sit around whining about it most of the time.

So I guess my question is: why is it that you and others find the game so repulsive? And is this assessment ripe for reconsideration?

Thanks, Dan

ANDREW
Your assessment is your assessment, and if you liked FFV, that's your decision. While I am inclined to think that decision is in poor taste, I am not inclined to try and change your mind; know only that I find FFV to be the height of mediocrity, a bland, repetitive experience with unendearing characters and little in the way of innovation or clever gameplay to buoy the experience. If you'd like a more detailed expression of my arguments, I direct you here.


Speaking of doom and gloom, here's another person who fights it


Hi,

I think it's rather silly that people speak about how Final Fantasy is 'dying.' It's almost as if they want it to die. In any case, I've never thought it was getting progressively worse, just different. Over the span of 14 or so years, a videogame series tends to change. Square has been trying to pull the same strings since day one. FF6 or 7 the last good RPG? Why, because of the story? I think the gamers are just getting older, and are disappointed because they don't feel the nostalgia they once did.

ANDREW
I concur. I loved FFX. I'm worried for the future, that's all, since currently it seems S-E is so very in love with stupid FFXI garbageface it's trying to incorporate it into FFXII's battle system. Or so I hear.

Nostalgia is a strange thing. When you actually play the game you enjoy it in a much different sense than when you enjoy it the second or third time, because you are familiar with the music, gameplay, and plot of the game. It's like love-sickness, and I know this sounds very wrong, but the two feelings are a lot the same (one is a little more painful). You recall a memory and you want to experience it again so bad you end up replaying the game again (or in case of love-sickness, just sittig around feeling the sickness of nostalgia because you can't do anything about it). I don't care what people say, you can feel nostalgia for even the WORST kinds of games. It's just that overtime it seems like nostalgia is like an ingrained emotion, and when you play new games and you don't feel it it doesn't have the saem effect. When I played FF9, it had such a different feel, that I completely disliked it the first time around (or so I thought). After thinking back on the game almost 'grew' a nostalgia for it and needed to play the game very badly.

ANDREW
Well, as I mentioned yesterday (or maybe Friday), my own gaming nostalgia tends to be centered around events that happened to me while I was playing a game rather than the game itself, so yeah, that sounds about right.

And now for MY ultimate nostaligia that I dislike having very much: Xenogears, Dragon Warrior 7. I have replayed DW7 almost 4 times without beating it, stopping in just about the same spot. Thats almost 250 hours of gameplay spanned over the past 5 or so years for those of you who don't know the horrifying length of DW7. 250 hours of DW7 has probably damaged my brain in one wy or another. The fact that I haven't beaten it still bugs me today. Xenogears is the EXACT same way. Played through it once and fell in love with it, got to the final dungeon and stopped. I played through the game again 2 more times; once stopping in the middle of it, and the second time stopping before the final dungeon. Again.

There is some seriously strange behavior associated with nostalgia and videogames, and I know a lot of people who have done similar things to what I have done because of it. I like the way FF 12 looks. I saw the trailer and I love the music and graphics. Why? nostalgia from Final Fantasy Tactics and Final Fantasy 9, both of which I happen to find my favorite games of the series. My third favorite FF was FF5, and I hated that game the first time around, it was complete torture. Only nostalgia ranks it up very high. Same with the Lunar series. I think you get the idea.

I just thought I'd share my strange conglomeration of thoughts with you.

Brendan Mesick

ANDREW
Yep, nostalgia is pretty much the only thing Lunar's got going for it, so I definitely see where you're coming from. I should hasten to say again that I was in love with FFXII up until I heard those pesky rumours about the battle system. Now I'm fearful, cuz it looks otherwise great, and I wouldn't want my experience ruined just because my bangaa was being forced into a Taru-like battle stance.


Undertalked about != Underrated


Greetings Email Answerer of Choice

In response to the guy asking about RPGs becomine more mature, I'd just like to point out Shin Megami Tensei. And the other one. You'll figure it out, that's what being a Q and A person is all about.

And in case that doesn't give you enough material, do you have a GBA or SP? If so, have you played Mario and Luigi: Superstar Saga? That game is underrated in my opinion.

"I HAVE FURY!"

The Wandering God

ANDREW
I have, I have, and I disagree. Lookie here: as you can see, the vast majority of publications rate the game 90% or better, and everyone I've talked to who has played it loved it to death. It's just... Well, it was released almost a year ago, and there's a buffer period between nostalgia and hype that we're smackdab in the middle of. Bide your time, things will look up.


Not in good faith, no...


Hi there!

Could you recommend an rpg that...

1. is for ps1, ps2, or pc
2. has cute chibi characters running around
3. has an awesome story w/character development
4. a bonus for me would be a strange unique style of art (in characters or whatnot)

I'm open to just about any genre! (no hentai please, lol)

Take care!

ANDREW
Hmm... Well, very few games that have awesome stories have chibi characters running around, so you're pretty much limiting yourself to Harvest Moon. Happy farming!


This and that


First off, I would like to say yay, for your usage of asshat in your column.. It fills me with glee. Secondly, from what I can discern of your taste in music, there is a group that you might like called Cursor Miner. Finally, I would like to ask you a question. Do you have any idea what Phantasy Star Universe is supposed to be? I have searched, and searched, yet have discovered nothing even remotely descriptive. If you can even vaguely answer this, I would be most grateful.

Hypno-Toad

ANDREW
Alas, there is no information on Phantasy Star Universe, presumably because Sega has not yet decided to release any. This game is shrouded in mysterious hype, so if I had to guess, I'd wager you'll next be hearing about it in March or April as Sega blazes its path forward for fiscal 2005, or at E3 2005, since it's not that uncommon for substantial info on games to span E3s.


YOU 'DREW
QUICKIE I
Hey Andrew,
I had a nosebleed this morning.

Well, you said you were hurtin' for letters, so that was the best I could think of. You know, you could ask people about RPG dreams--that'd make a topic, right? Not that I can think of any RPG dreams, or else I would've shared them here, instead of my nosebleed.

-Jackson Ferrell

Andrew:
I could make that a topic... But I'd much rather tell you to keep your finger out of your nose, you mangy dog!

QUICKIE I
Hello. Am I allowed to just send a quickie where I guess what you referenced in your last column title?
If yes, U2 - Sunday Bloody Sunday.
If not, /me jumps out the window.

Andrew:
In accordance with the "Andrew's Whims Doctrine" of 2003, you are in fact allowed to. In fact, you're even correct. Sadly, that's where it ends - there's really not much else to say.



DA LAST GRUMBLE

That's more like it. Watcher, you still owe us a quote, so be sure to send it in if you want to see your tildes ALIVE! For next Friday, we shall talk World of Warcraft and NDS, because well, those seem likely to be the largest sources of interest. Have a good week, keep it real with Google and as always, may all your mishaps be creamsicle-related.

castomel@rpgamer.com
Andrew Long wonders what this "Black Friday" you speak of is...

SNEAKY G THE LOVABLE MULE WILL PROVIDE THE ANSWERS, YOU PROVIDE THE

QUESTIONS


Okay, I know, I'm just gloating cuz our Thanksgiving was a month ago ^_^

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