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Googleshng - August 23 '04- 4:00 Eastern Standard Time

The worst kind of spam is spam with embedded images. Not only is it essentially impossible to filter, but rather than telling me to come see their collection of pronography, it loads right there on my screen faster than I can hit delete. It's really amazing that there's nothing I can do about such spam, but if someone was sticking this stuff in my mail box, they'd do some serious jail time. I have half a mind to run for senate just to fix this.

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Elemental Dungeons

Speaking of mega-man, RPGs, and elemental dungeons, am I the only one who's tired of stages based on the same stupid stereotypes? In every roleplaying game, there's inevitable either a fire stage or a volcano stage. There's an underwater or a an ice stage. There's an in the air or on a mountain stage. Then there's the underground or in a mine or whatever stage. It wouldn't be so bad, except the designers seem wholly bent at putting only enough creativity into the stage to find out how to make it the most archetypal stage of that variety. Baldur's Gate II drove me nuts, because you have to go through not one or two, but three different sets of elemental stages. How tedious is that?

Then you get megaman (and, uhh... mega man command mission, yah, so it's RPG-related) which, as you've mentioned before, has an Ice/Cold/Freeze/Arctic man in every game, and a Heat/Fire/Flame/Burst man in every gamed a Wind/Air/Plane/Helicopter man. Luckily they tend to be more shy of the earth type (although there are a bunch). Why can't they have a guy whose stage is based on a DNA-helix? Just something totally different. Same thing with other RPGs, why does it always come down to putting in enough thought to come up with how to apply the theme, but not the extra half-second's effort that it would take to come up with an aesthetic asymmetry (since the effect they're going for is the symmetry of the four elements)?

Along the same lines, I don't want to see any more deep-dark forest areas, or heart of the jungle areas, or riding a raft down the river stages, or flying in an airship areas, or going through the mines of moria areas, or any of the other trite motifs that plague every single game out there.

Honestly, only the first two Mega Man games had an overriding elemental themes, then they branched out into obtuse weirdness. Anyway though, the question at hand is why most RPGs reuse the same clichéed dungeons, particularly the ones with the whole elemental kick. Well, the basic issue here is that the videogame industry has a philosophy that if it works, stick with it. This is why every game for 5 years had a minecart level, but hey, it's also why we have Symphony of the Night so don't knock the system too much.

So yeah, it can get monotonous at times. Especially when you make an entire game out of old clichés (Legend of Dragoon). The issue isn't quite as wide spread as you think though. There's plenty of RPGs out there which don't get into the elemental stuff. First off, all the oldest RPG franchaises. Ultima is all about the Virtues, Dragon Warrior (at least the first couple) are just about exploring a stock fantasy setting... well, if by "exploring" you mean "killing hundreds of slimes in" at least. The Phantasy Star games have you hopping between 3 planets each with their own climate but it hardly dominates the imagery. Final Fantasy is really where the elemental dungeons kick got started, but a few games have bucked the trend since. Anything with a modern, historical, or sci-fi setting tends to shake things up, as do more or less all TRPGs. Then of course we have Skies of Arcadia, which does do the whole Collect the Elemental Crystals schtick, but rather than design all the dungeons around that, things are primarily inspired by the various regions of the real world around the time of the industrial revolution.

Of course, you're never going to eliminate every cliché out there. I mean, it's hard to create a sweeping epic story which never involves anyone having to go into an abandoned mine or exploring some lost ancient city.

I'm not an FAQ, but what the hey.

on Zelda: link to the past, on super nintendo, How do you get into crystal castle number 7 with the turtle. i am haveing a hard time trying to get into it and hope you can answer my question. thanks and hope to hear from you soon

Climb onto the back of it and use the obvious spell. Simple enough really.

It's a POS-ter!

Q&A Host:

Do you know of any good places on the interweb to find video game posters (specifically RPG ones)? There should be a lot floating around because of all the propaganda that companies put out, but it's surprisingly hard to find outside of eBay.

Your reader,


OK, that letter title isn't a very good Scrooged spoof in text, is it.

Anyway, the problem here is this. Game companies don't generally make posters to sell to people. They make them to stick in store windows to promote their games. So really, the best way to get them I would think would be to get connections with some game store and snag them when they get thrown out. Ditto movie posters. There may be some web site out that that hordes them and sells them though if you look around.

Multiparter with just one question.

A couple things. I just read the guy saying that he wants to know who played BoF 4 and I am one of those that did. I never beat it though, got pretty far through a couple times, and I enjoy it.

My whole take on the voice acting thing is that i'm not too knowledgable. Lunars 1 and 2 had good VA for the most part. Tales of Symphonia has AMAZING voice acting. Robin from Teen Titans as Lloyd? how can you go wrong? FF X was alright, although Tidus and Wakka were pretty horrible. Can't think of many others off the top of my head.

Another thing, from the topic a few Q&A's ago, the one about races in video games. One of the most blatant uses of minorities in a video game is in Suikoden 1. There was only one black person in the game and, ironically, his name was Blackman. Also, and you thought it couldn't get worse, he was the resident gardener.

My question deals with the Star Ocean and Shadow Hearts series. I'm interested in both series (since they both have new games coming out) But I've yet to play any of either yet. I've head lukewarm reviews of the new Star Ocean and great things about the new Shadow Hearts. Have you played any of the previous installments of either series? If so, how were they? And what have you heard about the new installments? Thanks

The man, the myth, they legend

Most people I've met seem to think Wakka's voice actor actually did a pretty darn good job. Matter of taste I guess.

Anyway though, Star Ocean and Shadow Hearts. I've played Star Ocean 2, and I was very much underwhelmed by it. There's a lot of good ideas in there, but once you get used to them, you're just left with an exceptionally mediocre game. It falls flat on the fundamentals.

Shadow Hearts meanwhile is one of the best RPGs in the last few years. It's the sequel to Koudelka first off, it has a really unique style to it, and it really expands and improves on the who timed button press for extra attack damage bit from SMRPG. Plus you get to turn into demons. So I'm going to have to go with the general public on yon sequels.

Devil's Advocate

ok, so you want us to talk about Mistwalker eh? well then, i gotta got a couple o' questions. first off, is there any actual titles being announced from them? i can't wait for them to start producing games man.... also, can ya tell me what other big names in gaming other than Sakaguchi are part of Mistwalker?

lastly, i was quite offended by your big rant on how crappy Legend of Dragoon is. i found it to be quite an excellent game, if perhaps a little cliche. but i suppose we're all entitled to our opinions, so whatever.

Sincerely, Grand Lethal.

As soon as some serious announcements from yon little Square offshoot come out, we'll be reporting it.

And on the Legend of Dragoon front, yes, I suppose people may be a tad too harsh about it at times. True, it's completely lacking in originality, and it comes off 3 years older than it really is, but if someone has never played an RPG before in their life, they'd probably love it.

The Last Laugh:

Hmm... I was intentionally delaying today's column because there were some delays on the weekend and I wanted to make sure everyone saw yesterday's, but it seems I miscalculated a bit there. Sorry about that, I'll straighten things out over the next couple days.

Googleshng "Time for zombies!!!"

It's ALWAYS time for zombies.

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