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Allan Milligan

Not a whole lot to report on today. I'm toiling away at FFTactics (current at Chapter 3), recovering from my illness, and doin' the daily update thang. I'd also like to applaud every letter I received today, as every one of them was properly capitalized. I appreciate it greatly - it makes things a lot easier to read.

Anyhow, no major topics of conflict today, and there are only two addendums to last night's column. First off, I've been sent confirmation and (in one case) a pic from Ehrgeiz for PSX, showing that Cloud, Tifa, Yuffie, Vincent and best of all, Sephiroth (woo!) are playable characters in it. An FF fighting game? Not quite, but it'll certainly do. :)

Secondly, in a brain harf moment, I left part of the Q&DT section blank, answering the question "What is Kefka's last name?" His name is Kefka Palazzo. Spelling varies, as is the norm with Japanese-English translations, but that's the name.

Q: After listening to the main theme of Final Fantasy VIII, I think that it's safe to say that Hans Zimmer (composer of the soundtrack to the films "Crimson Tide," "The Rock," and others) could file a lawsuit against composer Nobuo Uematsu.

If anyone has ever listened to both the main theme of Final Fantasy VIII and the soundtrack to "The Rock," I think it's safe to say that there are some startling similarities. For one, the sequence of notes in the themes are identical, and the actual notes themselves are almost the same. Not only that, the tempo is exactly the same as well. This is not coincidence, people. I know that some of you are going to pan it off as such, but if you do, then you obviously haven't compared the music.

This turn of events does not surprise me, considering that much of the music in Final Fantasy VII was hauntingly similar to Danny Elfman's "Batman" soundtrack. But I digress. Congratulations, Mr. Uematsu. Now, whenever I hear the main theme to Final Fantasy VIII, all I'll be able to think about is Nicholas Cage and Sean Connery fighting their way through Alcatraz. Bravo.

What do you think? Please don't try to pass it off as coincidence...

Second Impact

Allan: A-HA! I knew I wasn't totally crazy when I saw the FF8 demo and kept on thinking of Crimson Tide instead. You're right, they're undeniably similar, no question. So what's going on? I have no idea. Has Uematsu swiped, and if so, should he be sued for it? I'm no lawyer, so I'll hold off on judgement, but they're waaaay too similar for it to be coincidence, IMO.

Q: A lot of people want RPG maker to come to the US and I used to be one of them, that was until I thought about it. Not only is it hard to make a good game (sure we all have ideas but would they be fun other people?), also its not like you can swap with people all over the place, just your friends unless you have a card that connects the PC to the game shark or whatever. And also TEXT! Think how long it takes to type in your name on a high score board, realize you aren't typing with a keyboard or anything, you will be punching in ALL DIALOGUE LETTER BY LETTER. And that's in caps so it must be important.

- PenPen

Allan: It hadn't really occurred to me, actually. But yes, that could be annoying. Has anyone reading this imported the game from Japan, and if so, how annoying is the lack of keyboard input? I imagine really dedicated types are the target audience here, who are willing to spend umpty million years typing things out letter by letter, but I don't think I'm one of them. Gack. My kingdom for a Playstation keyboard...

Q: Okay, My questions are

1) Is RPGamer covering Pokémon?

2) If they are, will there be a fan art section? (please say yes!)

3) Would they consider covering the Pokémon cartoon? (such as episode guides, and sounds from the show)

4) And could they make a spot for Pokémon in the Message Boards area?

Thanks for your time! (And Allan, you're doing a great job! Keep up the good work, and your health.)


Allan: All right, all at once: RPGamer is, and will continue to cover Pokémon. If people submit fan art for it, I can only imagine it'd be put up. We will not, however, be covering the cartoon: time we'd spend on that could be better applied expanding our RPG coverage, and hey, there's no shortage of Pokémon fans out there to do cartoon-centric pages anyway. And lastly, I wouldn't be at all surprised to see a Pokémon board up, given how many threads it makes for in the Miscellaneous board right now, but that's not my department. In short, if there's something about the game Pokémon you want to know, we're gonna cover it. Fear not.

Q: There has been a lot of discussion lately about a games for the SNES called Terrangima, which is very similiar to Illusion of Gaia and Soulblazer. I was wondering if this game is also called "Creation of Heaven and Earth", or if that is an alternate name for the game. Also, can the US SNES play European games, or not?

- Robindra N. Deb

Allan: Terranigma is also known as Tenchi Sozo in Japan, or Creation of Heaven and Earth. It was, at one point, going to be released in the US by Nintendo of America as simply "Creation", according to an old EGM, but those plans were clearly scrapped. As for a US SNES playing European games... hrm. You see, European televisions use a different resolution set than US and Japanese ones: European ones use PAL. (I'm not all that clear on tech stuff, so people, feel free to explain the exact differences between the two standards.) In any case, I don't believe you can play European games on a US system without some sort of adaptor, but I haven't any idea where to get my hands on one. I'll probably know by tomorrow, so hold tight 'til then.

Q: (Watch out, Shining series spoilers)

In addition to Magnus Pihl's comments in the last letter's coloum, There's some continuity between Shining Force 2 and Shining Wisdom, in that characters (Sarah and Kazin) from SF2 turn up in Shining Wisdom at the end of the game. Also, Shining Force 3 happens ten years after Shining the Holy Ark, and features some recurring characters (I've only played part one, but I know Galm turns up, and I suspect some chars from STHA will turn up when you get to the village where the Innovator lived...) I also *think* Justin is the boy who asks you to look for his father at Aborigine Mansion in STHA, although I haven't played part 3 yet so I can't be sure...

Oh, and the final boss in SF1 was Dark Dragon.

- Scotty

Allan: This, this is what I get for being a close-minded Nintendo 4-ever idiot for too many years of my life. I, foolishly, didn't get into Sega systems at all until Working Designs started developing for the Sega CD. Sad, yes, but true. So now I'm playing catch-up on all these old, cool games, like the Shining games, Phantasy Star, and so on. 'Course, there's worse kinds of work to catch up on, hmm? :) Thanks for the added info, Scotty.

Q: RPGs definitely need to be more difficult. I think that enemies need to be tougher, but not in the sense that you need to level-up constantly to beat them. For once, you should actually need to use all the 'effect' magic like barrier, haste, slow, life 3, etc. Bosses should be able to hit for at least half your max HP and inflict more status ailments. Also, attack strengths of the characters need to be lowered a lot (Knights of the Round makes for a REALLY fun and challenging game, doesn't it?). There's nothing more to it than that. FF5 had the perfect difficulty level.


Allan: Y'know, a lot of people tell me that FF5 was a challenging game, and I just didn't see it. I played the game without a walkthrough, without knowing Japanese, and never had much trouble with any of it. I mean, it was cool and all, and there were some tough fights, but I didn't find it much harder than FF6 on my first time through. What, might I ask, made FF5 challenging for people? What were the tough spots?

Q: As for challenge.... A lot of people had gotten into debates about the use of puzzles in RPGs to increase challenge, and more have gotten into arguments on level-building as an importance... And yet a few have even mentioned the strategy aspect. They're all important and usefull when you use them right. And while not all are necessary, it is dependant on what you want out of the game. There are several type, and none are better or worse for excelling in one type over another. In fact if every game were a challenge in every aspect, it'd become a turn-off for the game, because people who enjoy one type will have to suffer through the others.

As for the types that are really abundant, the first and most classic would be the story-driven RPGs. People don't buy them because they're looking to stay up all night on greuling battles, or they actually enjoy outlasting the timer on their game. They buy them because of the brilliant plots (so long translations don't butcher them ;), the beautiful scores, and the close interaction with the characters. Now, admittedly, it can be a turn-off if they're too easy... So they have at least decently challenging bosses, and enemies just enough or a bit less so that you keep up at a regular level if you don't run away. And this works. It doesn't scare off people who don't like the monotony of running around for hours, but hopefully isn't so easy people get disgusted with them and sell them to pawn shops. Most of the Final Fantasy series belong in this category. And the sad part is that these are the gaems most people complain about being too easy. You don't buy these games for challenge. They have other aspects to redeem themselves. Now I am disappointed that they be "watered down" or "dummied" so that the battles are less of a challenge, such as the infamous mangled work of FFIV. What would be a great game in many respects now serves as an icon of bad translations and censorship and NA dummying for all other games.

The next kind of challenge would belong to the Puzzle RPG. These are made to have puzzles. That's their purpose. You don't buy one because you liked FFVI. You buy them because you don't like your hair in it's place. You buy them because your house is a delivery stop for Jolt Cola. You buy them because you don't have anything better to do and you don't want one, dammit! You NEED your fixation, and if they don't give you challenging enough puzzles, you're dissapointed. Now of course these games need plot, but when you think about the driving factor for the fun of the game, plot's only second-priority. You could care less why you have to retrive this golden idol from the trap-filled ancient temple... all that really matters is that you need it... and need to survive the puzzles. It's almost as futile as debating the plot in Mortal Kombat. It's just not why those games exist. If you like these types of games, however, chances are you like games like FF series, and you like games like oh... Lemmings, or 11th hour. So it's a nice cross between puzzle games and RPGs. Just don't confuse what's really important.

And a third oft-overlooked kind are the strategy-based ones. Final Fantasy Tactics seems to be the definitive game for this one, although they've been around a lot longer. Like Puzzle games, the plot's not quite as important n these games as compared to the story-based ones, but it doesn't matter because they have a redeeming factor. It's the challenge of combining what you have and trying various tactics for achieving your goal. It's more intensive on the stratgy parts than the plot, of course! This showing a perfect reasoning why battles in FFT could last well over two hours, but the plot scenes are only a couple of minutes and far inbetween. The people who like these are the same people who would like games such as Risk and Civilization II.

And a final more recent type, possible with the leapthroughs in FMV technology, would be Cinematic RPGs, which are like watered down story-based RPG, only with less challenge expected, and more of a linear point-and-click movie. Parasite Eve is a perfect example, and FF7 was to a much much less extent. You'll see games that aren't as dependant putting little or no emphasis on FMV, because that's not what's important to them.

When you get right down to it, people just aren't happy. They always have something to complain about. They expect more plot from Strategy games, and want more character development from puzzle RPGs, but still complain about how short cinematic RPGs are, and want more of a "challenge" from 'standard' RPGs. They never seem to be satisfied with the goodpoints a game does have, and want some mystical GOD RPG that has everything, and yet isn't too tough. The only problem is that people's tastes differ, and while some people found one RPG the most evil game in existance, others blow right through it. But mostly some people are better at other things than others. Some people can sit and build up to level 60 and use Meteo on everything once they get Rydia in their party. Others can't stand that but still just breeze through Alundra and want more...

Of course, if you have a very flat game, the negative aspects will distract from a game, so a good mix, especially with the universal LEVEL BUILDING existant in almost every game, being the definitive RPG trait. Having a challenge that fits the target audience, and being appropriate with the other aspects of "challenge" the game posess is important.

Be content with what you have. If you liked Final Fantasy 7, but hated Mystic Quest because it "Had no plot", then don't buy Saga Fronteir. Get a game more like what you enjoy. And if you're gifted enough to enjoy a wide variety of games, don't waste it. Don't quibble on other games for their faults, look at the merits they have. Also, there are a lot of new and unusual RPGs out there, some which are very innovative and fun. Don't be afraid to try a game because it's different, but don't scorn it because it's not your cup o' tea. Someone out there must like it. If you dislike a game so much, why put the effort forth on it to actively hate it?

That's my ¥2 on the whole stupid debate on challenge and why such and such game sucks or not. I'm very impartial about some games, and have taken up a position to try to not hate any. For example, you can read my editorial on Secret of Evermore.

- WrexSoul

Allan: On one hand, your points are well-taken. On the other, I think it's reasonable to voice complaints about games. We're never going to see a "perfect RPG", but discussing and identifying what we, as gamers, like or don't like in existing games gives us information in two ways. First off, we can inform developers (in theory, at least) what we'd like to see in future products. Secondly, it gives us foreknowledge of why we like or dislike some aspect of a certain type of game, so we can choose games we're more likely to enjoy. For example, I've really enjoyed the recent surge of less traditional RPGs, with more a more modern, technological or horrific bent. Ergo, I'm pretty sure I'm going to love Parasite Eve, if I ever play it. Likewise, if I hear about a game described as being as challenging as 7th Saga, I'm going to stay the hell away. An informed customer is a satisfied customer, and there's no more direct source of information than an open forum discussion.

So long as things stay relatively mature and light-hearted, I think these sorts of discussions are valuable. Easier said than done, of course. But most of us try.

Quick 'n Dirty Tidbits: Bikke asks why Bill Gates doesn't hire a mad scientist to put bugs in Mako energy (because smart people don't go near Billy boy) and whether the Star Ocean title is the Star Trek: TNG title font (sure looks like it - when I typed out Star Ocean in that font, that's exactly how it looked), James Willis asks what a PDA is (Personal Digital Assistant, a upcoming add-on for the PSX that's inserted in the memory card slot, and allows manipulation of game data outside of the Playstation via a small LCD display), Zach reminds us that there's going to be Chocobo Racing for PSX in the near future (FF driving game, check...), Ben Boswell asks where the results of the Azure Dreams contest held a little while ago are found (if you weren't contacted by now, I'm afraid you didn't win), Mr. Saturn asks about the last names of FF4 characters (see the FF4 Character Statistics file, here at RPGamer), and Mary asks why Enix of America shut down (bad sales and public response to their last few games for SNES, like 7th Saga, Brainlord and Robotrek prompted them to pull out of North America, just before their games got *really* good again, ironically).

Not much else to say. Ta ta.

- Allan Milligan, singing Alegria

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