Manic Monday


In the PSX


Nuttin' Honey




I triple dog dare you to send a letter to
Joshua Reid

Yikes friends. School kicked me around most unmercifully today. If you don't mind, I'm going to just post some letters with brief commentary. But no matter what boulders Life hurls my way, I promise to hurdle them all and provide you with a daily column filled to the brim with your keen insight and probing questions.

The Character Criticisms Continue--FFVII

Everyone keeps saying that FFVII had two dimensional characters. Does anyone else think that this is completely wrong? I mean look at disc one. Cloud is almost completely serious about everything until he meets Aeris in the church. Then, as they're running away from the Turks and jumping across the junk heaps, Cloud says, "I thought you were cut out to be in Soldier." The first lighthearted thing he says in the game. It wasn't a complete change of heart, but it was a definite sign that Aeris brought out Cloud's human side. After Aeris dies Cloud is overwhelmingly sad at first and then descends into anger and hatred and then eventually questions his and abandons his humanity.

FFVII is full of stuff like this. I find the story is actually rather complex on a level that I think eluded a lot of people. No it wasn't 100% perfect, but I have yet to see an RPG where the story was.

But why don't people see this the way I do? There are myriad reasons, different for each person. But overall I think there are 2 major reasons...

1.) FFVII is the newest and best looking game in a popular series, and is therefore in the limelight. For this reason, people feel obligated to knock at it. Since RPGs are noted for having great stories, saying that the characters are "underdeveloped" is just an easy shot to take at it since any story's characters could theoretically be argued as such.

2.)Square uses much less "in your face" melodrama than previous FFs. In an older FF Cloud might have said something like, "Woe is me! My poor Aeris is dead . . . but I must move on!" (maybe not quite THAT stilted . . . but you get the idea) Where as in FFVII he said, "She was smiling right to the end." This gets the same basic point across in more subtle and natural fashion. Unfortunately, it doesn't jump out at you as much, so I think a lot of people used to the older way of doing things missed it.


Joshua: You make some great points in this letter, Rkeener. Personally, I believe many would agree that Cloud is pretty complex for a video game, but the bulk of criticisms--rightly so, I believe--have been aimed at characters like Cait Sith and Yuffie. Sometimes a flat character fills a comic role or a specific niche, but any player character should never be as random and shallow as that stuffed Mog. What makes FFVII so frustrating for me is that it was such a wonderful attempt, but could have been so much better . The beautiful graphics, FMV, and--at certain times--brilliant script made the games' weaknesses seem even more grievous by contrast. I have read books that I could not criticize without seeming petty, but I have not encountered a RPG of the same caliber. Yet I'll keep playing, and hoping . . .

Easy RPGs

Is it just me or is there a real lack of challenge in today's RPGs? About the only decent challenging RPG for the new systems was Shinning the Holy Ark. Most have no-brainer battles until the very last 10% of the game, if that. I miss the old days of just making out of a battle with one guy alive with 2 HP and everyone else in the party has bit the big one. Building up your characters a bit because the next area has such tough fights. Thinking about what your next move should be in a battle.

What do you think?


Joshua: Some of you may have noticed that Xenogears is Squaresoft's attempt to recreate that sense of tension in battles. I call this new approach "Gimmick" battles (gimmick appears a lot in these columns, because RPG designers are obsessed with gimmicks). Gimmick battles are fights where the boss has a special attack or special weakness you have to figure out to defeat him properly. Usually this takes dying, resetting, and equipping the right kind of armor or weapon next time, and feeling very frustrated.

I miss the bosses that were tough, but had a multitude of ways to beat them. I enjoyed the bosses you had to think your way through (as you pointed out Kel), sweating as they pummeled you, in lieu of, "oh, this guy's impossible unless I equip the ___ armor." Remember the Delta Sisters in FFIV? The boss in Cyan's Dream in FFVI? There were many strategies you could adopt to destroy them.

I think the main reason why there is no challenge is because players can attain God-mode through level-building enhancers like the Experience Egg, or finding cheesy combinations that are relatively unstoppable against any enemy. Xenogears has tried to curb these practices by putting you in situations where you can't level up before a boss fight, or you have to weather a series of battles. I respect the game for these attempts at innovation, but you may find them, as I did, to be a little annoying when used over and over again. Maybe the answer is for Square to design a boss that really adjusts according to your level.

I want my FFVIII! Now!


Can ya find out for me why it takes Square over six months to translate FFVIII? I'm dyin' for that game and six months might just be enough time for me to learn Japanese.

--your fellow RPGamer

Joshua: Why does it take over six months to translate FFVIII? Probably because the script is very long and very Japanese. I also considered learning some Japanese for that same reason, but I don't think that language is all that easy to master, and playing a game with a script isn't half as fun. I know it's hard to sit here twiddling your thumbs when those enviable Asians are playing to their hearts content, but you've got company. See if all the other great games coming out between now and then can satiate you. Remember, there will be a demo in BFM, which is only a week or so away. Here's another compelling reason to wait till the import: Maybe U.S. FFVIII will have extra goodies like the American FFVII did. Remember Emerald Weapon? You couldn't fight it in the Japanese version.

Warning--Long Letter Ahead

I really disagree with you about FFIV's ending. While, like you, I am certainly a sentimental fool and cried at the end of, hmm lemme see, FFIV, VI, and VII (V's ending wasn't very dramatic, which I'll get to in a minute), I still preach that FFVII's ending is the best. You want closure in your ending? FFVII's is the ultimate: Everyone dies (except Red XIII). I don't want to drag up old arguments, but I truly believe that art of the message of FFVII was how humanity will eventually destroy itself. Bugenhagen even says that Holy "will do what's best for the planet" and that it will destroy "maybe even ourselves." Then there's the big flash at the end and then you see Aeris (as Cloud finally gets to see her again in the afterlife).

I really didn't like FFIV's ending, mostly because there was _too_ much closure, which made it rather hoaky. You see Edge rebuilding the castle, Kain goes off to purge the evil within himself, Cecil and Rosa tie the knot, Rydia helps bridge the gap between humans and summoned monsters, etc, adnauseum. It ended up making it feel altogether too planned out. In shouldn't all happen like that. There would at least be some lag time in between all these events. Then we get to FFVI's ending. Oh gawd . . . the only reason I got teary eyed was because of the whole Strago/Shadow/Relm relationship. I found it so sad that Relm never gets to find out her connection to Shadow because he basically commits suicide. In VII's ending, the beauty was that the closure for each character had happened, and the only thing remaining was to save the planet.

I also feel that endings aren't the most integral part of the game. For instance, FFV's entire story was extremely weak. Very little character development, although we see the Lenna/Faris (vague enough to not be a spoiler?), Butz's relationship with his father, and the Cara & Galuf saga (again, purposefully vague). The ending was also weak, but again I liked it in a deep way because, like FFVII, it gives the feeling that everything has gone full circle, and that life is a cycle, how the four spirits live on to fight again another day. But despite the fact the ending really wasn't great, FFV is still my favorite RPG. Why? The gameplay! I just couldn't get enough of the class system. It's the best thing in a combat system I've ever seen. As for people who complain about making "super-characters," you can do that in every other RPG. In FFIV my party is at level 99 with 9999HP/999MP (even Kain) thanks to the items in the Japanese version, in FFVI every character knows all the spells and is at level 99, in FFVII all my people are at level 99 and they all have 3 master materia each, and in Chrono Trigger all my people are at level 99 and Power/Speed/Magic tabbed to max. The beauty of FF5V's class system was you could make the characters what _you_ wanted them to be. Their abilities in battle didn't affect the outside story, so you could mold them to your liking.


Joshua: Whoa. That's a lot to digest. I'm not going to add to eyesore---I think this piece speaks for itself. Any reactions?

Breast Factor

Oh great RPGuru, might I ask you why Xenogears has received next to none attention from any sort of media or anything. They have this campaign for Parasite Eve which isn't even half the game that Xenogears is. Xeno isn't even advertised in the ad papers and IMO it is one of the best games to date. So why, why must they ignore this great game which kicks MGS [butt]? Also, my Saga Frontier cd makes the perfect coaster. Just thought you might like to know :)


Joshua: You want to know why Xenogears has been neglected? Breast Factor. I do not lie. Games can't sell anymore unless they have Breast Factor. Tomb Raider marshaled in this new phenomenon with style. How many of you hang Lara Croft posters on your walls? Don't fib! I know they are there. Look at Dead or Alive, that fighting game where one of their own characters are quoted on the back (it's hilarious--check it out). Blatant exploitation of Breast Factor. You see it everywhere. Baywatch thrives on Breast Factor.

Xenogears doesn't cut it because Elly doesn't have the Breast Factor. I'm sorry. Tifa did, Aya did, Elly doesn't. If the lack of BF doesn't spell doom for a game, then Xenogears' Crabbit Factor seals the coffin lid.

Actually, you should be yelling at Squaresoft. I'm not sure why they let this one slip through without the hu-ha that Parasite Eve received. Then again, how much publicity did Einhander get? Tobal No. 1? This is a decision made on the marketing level, Kefka. Square can't afford to promote every import like they do PE or FFVII. They make the shots. I don't think Xenogears sales will suffer too poorly, however. Did you need adds to know about it? To want to buy it?

Now if Xenogears isn't covered by the popular gaming mags and sites with the respect it deserves, then that is truly a travesty. Xenogears is not without its faults, but it is a monster of a game, with a lot of fresh innovations.

RPG Women are Out There

Hiya!  Tell Michael Goff that he was asking the wrong kind of person to Homecoming. Heck, if I'd been the one he asked I would have accepted, if only because I knew we had at least a video game in common. Remember, guys, women who love RPG's really DO exist. We're usually plotting the deaths of the sorority girls at our respective colleges, so we hide a lot. But we are there.      

-Toni of Boulder, Colorado  

P.S.  I have the ability to make the Broncos win by not watching their games. Every time I watch one, they do horribly. I accidentally saw part of the game yesterday, so that's why the first half was awful. Sorry about that!

Joshua: Down boys down! I am not giving you Toni's number, or her e-mail address!

It's great to hear from a woman (in general--I don't get out much) and a roleplayer to bat. I am guessing, however, there are a lot more women players now than companies think, or they'd stop pitching their games to rabid adolescents raised on Pamela Lee. Many designers are fretting over how they can draw a female audience without "damaging" their male following.

All right women, I have a theory. I believe that RPGs are more popular for women than any other game genre. Why, you ask? Only because that's the only type of games my sisters like to play--and because women are intrinsically wiser and have better taste than men do. I admit, my studies aren't foolproof, but I'd like some feedback. What do you think? How many of you readers are women? And if there is a lot of you out there, why haven't I received more marriage proposals?

Toni, I'm sending your name to Mike Shanahan. Let's see what he has to say about your little "ability." In the meantime, please stop watching Denver games. Check out some Vikings games, or Green Bay games if you want, but stay away from Denver. Have you been an avid Washington, Philadelphia, and Detroit watcher as well? That would explain a lot.

Gaming Bites

There wasn't a 7th Saga 2, at least to my knowledge.

YS: Actually, if you've gone by working design's web site recently (, you'll notice that many people have mentioned the YS series to them. I quote: (not directly of course.) "We would love to do the YS series, and if someone gave us the chance, we'd be there in a heartbeat." It'll happen eventually. I hope.

Japanese games: SoM 1 was Final Fantasy Adventure on gameboy. (Seiken Densetsu 1 over in Japan.) SoM2, or SD3, is totally awesome, but it's not ever going to be re-released - I don't think Square would do that just for US markets.

Soul Blazer 2 was indeed Illusion of Gaia (I think on the British version it actually says "Soul Blazer 2: Illusion of Gaia" on the title screen. Soul Blazer 3, if you could call it that, is "Terranigma" - and that game is really good. They all got released by Enix in Europe, and we didn't get Terranigma in the US. Hope that helps some.

-Matt "talk like caveman when tired" Hanyok

I was wondering if you've ever played Terranigma. It never came out in the US, much to my dismay. I finally got a chance to play it and I was blown away by it. The graphics once you are outside the original town are wonderful! If you look at the top of the screen, you see the world reflected in a dome! It scrolls along with you! It's just beautiful. It's also pretty tough. I'm not more than three hours into the game and I already have to go dungeon-hopping . . . er, dungeon-crawling . . . through levels I've already beaten. In other words . . . I'm stuck, and can't find the solution . . . oh well. It'll eventually come to me (or I'll come to it, whichever happens first . . . ). I'd say the graphics alone on this game would probably beat FFVII, just for the sheer intricateness (is that a word? It sounds like one. . . ) created from all the details. I told you, it's beautiful. And I just love RPGs where you control one person who goes dungeon crawling and gains levels through real-time fighting. That's the best!


Joshua: Here's some information for William Burns specifically, and anyone else who wonders about these classic games, and a letter about Soul Blazer 3, a.k.a. Terranigma

By the way Kain, if rappers can make up words, so can you. And hitherto, I dub thee Ellipsis Knight, Defender of the Parenthetical!

Scattered Thoughts: I need a nap. Have a wonderful, wonderful day!

- Joshua Reid

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