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Allan Milligan

Man, whatta day. This is going to be a late update, for which I apologize, but between the Big Special Project and the 116 (!) letters I was deluged with today, it's been quite a busy night.

As expected, the bulk of the mail addresses the "does FF5 suck?" letter. As expected, some people responded very passionately, defending the game against Caine with, in some cases, far too much vigor. Some became outright abusive and insulting for no good reason. Passionate arguments are fine and dandy, but I do not appreciate or condone personal insults, whether against me, or anyone who writes in. Except RPGMaster!. Maybe. :)

What was, however, a surprise, is that those defending the game were in a minority. Of the eight-two letters received that put forth an opinion on the subject, only seventeen praised FF5 outright. Twenty-two said it was pretty lame, and the remainder maintained that, for many reasons, it was not the god game it's often made out to be, but not all that bad. I was expecting rabid response, and instead half the letters started with "Caine has a point about FF5..." Veddy interesting.

2D vs. 3D - Why?

Here's something I've wondered. What's the big deal with fully-rendered polygonal graphics and 3D everything? On the same token, why's everyone so nostalgic about 2D sprites and stuff? Sheesh, it's all hardware capability and best cinematic value. Even the 2D stuff, during the NPC scenes, games made use of fades, setting, etc.

It's my belief that people shouldn't trash someone's work just 'cos it's 2D or 3D or whatever-D, just because it's not nostalgic or higher-than-high tech. If it makes for a good experience, then it's fine.

<cheap plug>I wouldn't say anything, if I didn't have anything in development, and I'm trying to stay abreast of the market. =) </cheap plug> Seriously though, why can't people just look for the good things instead of nitpicking on every little bad thing in a game? Okay, so FFIV contained some indeveloped plot points, it was still a good game. FFVI had silly dialogue, so what? All you sons of submariners out there would probably still admit that it was a good game, right? You enjoyed it, right? If not, then fine, for thee I have offended. Otherwise, they should just think to themselves it's just a game, and should really just relax. Yeah. My two rupees.

- Doc

Allan: I agree, pretty much. 2D, 3D, whatever. It's how *good* it looks that matters to me, not what approach is taken to achieve that level of beauty, or lack thereof. The nostalgia for sprite-based RPGs is part and parcel to the whole "getting away from what made RPGs great" zombie thread that some people are really pepped up about, and which is covered in Editorials somewhere, so I'm keeping my hands off.

Earthbound's Final Boss - Wimp?

Heeeeeyyy Allen! So, who is really the worst villain?

(Drumroll)The award for worst villain is...Giygas!

Now be honest. Who loved Earthbound but truly hated fighting Giygas? Who thought that Giygas was a waste of time and too easy? Hands up. I thought so.

I really believed Earthbound was challanging. This is probably because I kipped gaining levels so much that by the time I got to Giygas, Ness was the only one above level 65. And for those of you that have not played Earthbound, being able to have less then 65 levels by the end of the game is all but impossible. As I prepared for the final battle by shopping, I completely fortified myself with insanely powerful items, preparing to fight the entity that killed the universe that was mentioned dozens of times during the game. I buy items that can kill most bosses a once. I buy half a dozen elixer-equivelants. I buy half a dozen Hyperether-equivelents. I even build levels, something I very rarely do before fighting final bosses. And What do I get?

I get a boss I could have killed at the beginning of the game.

No, seriously. Okay, first you kill some annoying little dude with mabye 2000 HP. Them you have to live through two turns of not doing any damage to Giygas. Then when you finally actually get to the part where you kill him, he throws level two and three spells at you and whines. Not quite the kind of guy I picture killing the world in a fiery cataclysm. And to kill him, all you need to do is use Paula'a skill a few times. You don't even need anyone left alive. Are you telling me the climax of such masterpiece is this garbage?

I would be the first to admit that the end of this game is the best in any I've ever seen, but an ending this great shouldn't come after an anticlimax like this. I don't know for certain who the Best RPG villain is, but I can tell you that Giygas is the worst.

~Kebabu

Allan: Rare are Earthbound letters 'round these parts, so I figured I'd post this little rant. Thanks, Keb, and yes, I found Gigyas surprisingly easy as well. Maybe we're just far better gamers than the programmers accounted for, hm? :)

Quick Questions

1) I read in a previous RPGURU about a Finsl Fantasy 6.4 What Is that?

2) Notice that some popular new media mediums have a Love theme on their cover? 2 examples:

1> FF8

2> Titanic

3) an idea: How about a Final Fantasy Animated Series? It would be sort of like a Robotech or Dragon Ball Z type Anime...

Allan: 1) No such thing. It's probably a typo.

2) Comparing the popularity of FF8 to that of Titanic is like comparing the enormity of the universe to a toothbrush. Being that as it may, love is, has, and always will be a major factor in human life, and by association, in art. FF8 and Titanic have no more of a thematic tie than FF4 and When Harry Met Sally.

3) Been there, done that. The Final Fantasy anime OAV series has been out for years, and released in the US to boot, subbed and dubbed. It's not very good, but it's there.

A sprite is a sprite, and a polygon is not

Couple things about FFT . . .

When the camera pans around the battlefield, the rotation is smooth for everything except the characters, who are violently turned at 90 degree angles after a couple seconds of camera panning. How difficult is it to smoothly rotate a small object compared to rotating the entire battlefield? Also, when rotating the field with L1 and R1, why is it that the worst possible angles are chosen? In forests, there would be times when characters would be blocked by trees no matter what angle I looked at them from. They should've made it so you can rotate it to any angle (that wouldn't require much more effort on the programmers part), and also get an overhead view. Sounds like the FFT staff got a bit lazy in the graphics department (not to mention in the translation department). What's your take?

-CS-

Allan: The characters in FFT are sprites - 2D images. The backgrounds are polygonal. To circle around a sprite and see it from all angles, you need to animate that, redrawing it at every conceivable angle of view. This would take up a whole lot of a) time and b) memory, probably more than the PSX could handle. You only see characters in Capcom fighting games from one angle, and they often drop frames of animation to keep the game flowing smoothly. Same idea here: in order to handle a dozen smoothly animated sprites having it out without killing the processor and animating them in a zillion different ways, they opted to limit the basic views of the characters to four directions. Yes, the camera sometimes doesn't rotate that well, but it's not laziness on the programmers' part: it's practicality. It happens in all sorts of games: Azure Dreams, Vandal Hearts, Breath of Fire III, and probably Dragon Quest VII.

The only way to solve the problem would be for everything onscreen to be polygonal, which would allow freer camera movement. But Square went with sprites, and the limitations that went with them. (Of course, whether the PSX could handle 12 characters plus detailed backgrounds is up for grabs, too.)

Lodoss War RPG Information! Told ya so!

I didn't think you'd get any information on Lodoss War. The anime/OVA itself is not very well-known, at least not over here in the US. It might be more so in Japan.... This information is probably gonna mean squat to anyone who hasn't seen the OVA; I'll try to explain it as best I can, but I don't want to spoil anything. Anyway....

In the Record of Lodoss War RPG, which was never released in the US, was set in the time of the first Six Heros (who consisted of Beld, Fahn, Wort, and two others I forget, plus Karla.) The game starts (after a massivly LONG introduction that is hell to go through if you can't read Japanese very well) right after the six have vanquished the Demon King - at least as far as I can surmise. For some reason, the other five heros leave Karla, who is wounded, alone in the castle, and thats where the game starts.

So you control Karla. This is evidenced by the fact that, as you leave the castle, you are attacked by a theif in a rigged battle. You die quickly. And Karla's crown is transfered to the theives head, and you become the theif.

I havn't gotten to far in the game (I play it off and on), but from what I can see, there are certain people whom, if you let kill you, you can transfer into their body. You use this ability to get past certain areas. (For instance, to get of Marmo in the beginning of the game, you need to let a sorcerer kill you, and transfer into his body to talk to the ferryman, who won't let you across as a theif).

The battle system is very interesting. Its sort of like chess, in that its played on a 5x5 chess board, and one of the enemies in the King (you don't know at the beginning of the battle, but if you hit him, a crown appears above his head). If you kill the king, everybody dies. There are two ways to kill the King, or any other bad guy: Whack 'em with weapons or magic until they croak, or (since when you hit anybody, they going flying backwards one tile) hit them into the single black hole at the top of the screen, and they'll die instantly. The King system works for you, as well, I think. If you have more than one person in your party (I still have only one....) the one at the top is the King, and if he/she dies, thats it.

I can't read Japanese very well, and I'm not very far into the game, but I'd guess that the story would evolve along the lines of "the Six never really defeated the Demon King, and but reassemble to try again" But I could be wrong. Fans of the OVA will be a little dissapointed that favorites such as Deedlit, Woodchuck and all the others don't make an appearance. The only people you see from the OVA are the Six Heros.

-- Josh

Allan: I knew you'd come through for me! Thanks a heap, Josh!

Final Fantasy Five On Trial

Guru,

Final Fantasy V is proof positive that the rose-colored glasses thing is a fallacy. Anyone who likes FF5 better than FF6 should just jump off a cliff now and save himself years of misery. When I played it, I honestly couldn't believe it was the real thing, but it was. Not only were the graphics stale, the characters nothing more than place holders, and the plot repetetive and cliched, but the music was Uematsu's worst work ever. It was beyond me that our pal Nobuo could have written it. There was not a single song on the whole soundtrack that I enjoyed, with the possible exception of the battle theme.

I have a Final Fantasy web page, with a special section ripping apart FF5. You can find it at http://members.tripod.com/~Firebrand_X/ if you are interested. And if you posted a link in your column, you would make this RPGamer (and one time editorial author) very, very happy.

-Rob Reebel

 

In response to "Caine, the Human Lemur."'s letter bashing FF5...

Ok, there's no character development. I admit it. BUT... i've had a LOT of trouble with the enemies... I had to level up to defeat ExDeath at the end of the second world(I'm now playing through the game for the first time, I missed the esper/summoned monster in ExDeath's Living Castle)... The game stands by itself because it is FUN. I have yet to master a class(I can't decide which classes to choose first!) so it is difficult(my own fault as some may point out) and the mastering is part of the challenge.

Square should release FF5 here if it is ready now under a "Classic Final Fantasy" or "A Final Fantasy game you HAVEN'T played" (much like Nintendo did with SMB2j in Mario All Stars....

 

In response to Caine, the Human Lemur, I submit that Final Fantasy V was certainly one of the best of the series, if not *the* best. It had four characters who did undergo development (not as much as VII, but there's a lot more freedom in exchange). V also had dragons as transportation, which was a first and last for the series, they had 3 worlds to explore, a submarine, an airship - which transformed into a boat on command, black chocobos, a yellow chocobo character, and even the final boss's second in command turns against him and becomes an ally in the end. To top it all off, Exdeath was certainly the last of the great *mysterious* bosses (Kefka and Sepheroth were both present throughout their respective games so much that they were almost taken for granted by the end of the game). And one last note - the music from the game is unequalled even today. Just go back and listen to Gilgamesh's theme, or the finale medley and it becomes clear.

I found the game to be quite difficult, in fact. I strolled in to the last battle with less than 2500 HP per character, and against the bets of my friend, I eventually won. If you had over 8000 HP per character, you probably got stuck in the game a lot or kept exploring the same places over and over. In either case, you had to have spent a great amount of time doing it. That's the case with most RPGs, by the way, the longer you play, the easier it is - that's not a flaw.

In short - FFV is the last of the great classics in my opinion, and even though VI was great, it was the first of the new breed of FF which is continued through VII and VIII as well.

Sorry about all the spoilers, but I needed some support.

-John Michel-

 

Oddly to say, Caine says there is no character development in FF5. Well, let's see. We find out that Faris is a princess and is related to Leena, the man with the missing memory Galuf recalls that he is from a distant planet, and is a king there, you are captured and put in a prison cell and, get this: Instead of the door either a) Magically opening, or b) A guard opening it, you have to use another separate character to bail the other's out. Get that, something that was quite realistic.

Then there is the truth of the story. If there was no wind on the earth, birds wouldn't fly and waves wouldn't be, without fire the world would start freezing over, without earth the world would rot, and I forget what it was for water :). You journey through cave and castle, towers and towns, and all through it you are trying to prevent the destruction of the world.

- aerity (message snipped for brevity's sake)

 

 

I can understand how Caine would be disappointed with FF5, because it was quite different from other FF games most RPGers have played. But there is a reason for that. You see, Square has a system for their FF games. Every odd numbered FF game focuses on battle systems, magic and jobs, all the "technical" stuff. The even numbered FF games focus more on character development and plot twists and all the "artsy" stuff.

Square of Japan, realizing that US gamers had loved FF2 (ff4j) because of it's storyline, figured that US gamers would not understand if the next FF game released had little to no story. So they release the kind of stuff we like (or what they think we like), plot driven games. So for those who thought FF7 (ff7j) was not as good storywise as FF3 (ff6j), remember that it's an odd numbered FF game and FF8 is even numbered (=~-^=). I hope that clears everything up.

 

OK, Caine, the whatever you are!! Tell me this. If FFV is so bad and in your words "the worst in the series", then why is it the best selling FF game in Japan to date?? It has sold over 2.4 million copies, which dwarfs any other sales of any other FF game.

- dman6

 

Uh oh. This is about FF5. I liked the game, but I also have a grievance to share.

Battles aren't based on stragety. (Not at the end anyway). Instead, you can pull of cheap move combos to win every fight easily. How many of us tore through the last third of the game throwing our life savings? When I couldn't do that, I beat Bahamut and the similar boss in the Cleft of Dimension with a knight, equipped with Excalibur and Drain Sword (Mystic Knight ability). But the first part of the game was much harder. I had a hard time with it, anyway. (BTW, level 40 on the last boss)
- h.goff

 

I now flame you for bashing Final Fantasy 5! Even if hypothetically you did nothing of the sort! I hope at least 3 other people agree with me!

-Her highness the lobatomized

Allan: Cheers to everyone who sent me a fake flame, so I could win my twenty-dollar bet. Much appreciated. :)

Well, the above pretty much covers the gamut of FF5 letters. Nobody can seem to agree on whether the music bit or rocked, few people were satisfied with the plot and characters, and most of the praise centred on the gameplay, specifically the job system. For bloody obvious reasons, I had to cut most of the letters, but I think the above sampling covered most of the main thrusts of discussion, and a few of the side roads.

So where, you're probably wondering, does the RPGuru weigh in on this hot topic? Well, I will say that I own FF5. I found a local video store with a few import games in it, gouged and scraped up some money, and bought it, lock stock and barrel. And I played it. And I loved it. It didn't make any sense, but it was my first imported RPG, and the mystery of, well, everything was blinding and enthralling. I gobbled up walkthroughs and translations to help me along, and finished it off a few weeks later.

Later on, after the excitement had worn off, I gave it another try. Armed with a full script translation, certain flaws became rather evident. I did find the characters extremely dry, especially after playing FF6. The graphics weren't nearly as cinematic and dazzling as those in FF6, nor did they as many great monster designs as FF4 did, like Rubicant and Zeromus. Some of the music was excellent (My Home Sweet Home and Gilgamesh are wonderful), but as memorable as many other tunes I'd heard elsewhere. It slowly sunk in that FF5, the much-touted Greatest Final Fantasy Game Of All Time, hadn't lived up to my expectations. Instead of replaying it, I found myself tossing Chrono Trigger and FF6 into my SNES instead. I never wrote any fanfic about FF5. I never put up a lame web page about it. I played it, finished it, and let it slide away.

In short? I think I, and many others, expected too much of FF5. Yes, it has its rabid fanbase, but it is not infallible. I was expecting perfection and came back with something more realistic: a good game. But that's me.

Quick 'n Dirty Tidbits: Two things: first of all, Gremio is a guy (I know, but lots of people cited him as a less-than-dazzling woman, so I mentioned him), and the Sprite from Secret of Mana is a guy (though, admittedly, something short of masculine...). Oh, and Fish wants to know what I think of the Lunar series. In short, I think it's a fantastic series. Not perfect (it contains perhaps the most grotesquely super-deformed overworld characters in RPG history), but also boasts excellent music and voice acting, good gameplay, classy anime cutscenes, and most of all, it just has the magic that the best games have. I play it not as a reviewer or a hard-nosed gameplayer, but like someone who's utterly entranced by what's going on in front of him. I can't describe it very well, but suffice to say that I love the Lunar series, and recommend it wholeheartedly.

Whew. Don't all feel obligated to send letters tomorrow, by the way. I've got a backlog, I assure you...

- Allan Milligan, clearing his head

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