Just Under The Wire|
February 5, 2002
I'm almost concerned. It's barely been over two weeks, and here we are again. Lesson learned: ignore dignity altogether and whine like a baby, and people will write.
Lately, I've been having a lot of trouble deciding which one of the three systems I should get since my wallet is rather lacking in content. For those of you who are new to the concept of reading articles about a system other than the one you currently own, I refer to the PlayStation 2, GameCube, and Xbox. Being one who doesn't stick completely to a single genre, RPGs alone aren't going to be a dominant factor in my decision. At the moment, I have my eyes set on Final Fantasy X for PS2, Phantasy Star Online for Gamecube, and Jet Set Radio Future for Xbox. I guess I'll figure something out in a few more months.
This brings me to another possible topic to write about... here's your chance to bash other systems since it's the cool thing to do, or perhaps tell us why bashing systems is for losers. Make sure to be as persuasive as possible.
|The Widest Range
While examining the online reviews for one of the titles I was considering for my next console RPG purchase, I found something that surprised me. After converting all evaluations of this game to the percentage scale (e.g. two out of five would become 40%), the ratings of this game ranged from a dismal 20% at the low end to a perfect 100 from the top review with plenty of intermediate scores throughout the range. I was left confused. Although tastes differ from person to person, I found it very odd that a single title could get reviews that ranged from ‘game only good as a doorstop’ to ‘perfect gaming experience.’ As a person trying to select a product and make an informed decision, I would have hoped for something closer to a situation where most people stuck within a thinner range and the consensus was easy to see. With no general trend in the reviews at all, I had no idea if I would like it or not. It was at that point that I realized something: RPGs are very delicate. Perhaps I should say that the enjoyment a person gets from them is fragile. By fragile I mean that small flaws in a mostly good RPG can make it nearly unplayable.
One of the more debatable areas in RPGs is graphics. I certainly don’t think that anyone would say that they like sub-par visuals in RPGs, but they might throw around terms like ‘eye candy’ if they think too much effort was put into graphics when it could have gone elsewhere. Some would almost go as far as to call good graphics in an RPG out of place. One could argue that the existence of the genre is in danger when the graphics get too good (relative to the rest of the game) because to some, the one thing that separates RPGs from their other non-rpg counterparts is the fact that they put other aspects above the mighty power of good visuals. Others would say that the whole point of a role playing game is to play a role in another environment, and high quality visuals best create that other world. So really the potential for a bad gaming experience can go both ways here. Some ‘old school’ gamers might say that games with a high visual impact are merely trying to impress people with flashiness rather than substance, however others might say that a game with dated visuals is not as realistic and involving as it could be.
Earlier I said that some believe RPGs exist as a genre because they put other aspects above graphics. The aspect many RPG fans tend to want the most focus on is the storyline. Storyline and character development are often the core of a good RPG. When a game strikes the right chord with you in this area, you just have to keep playing to see what happens next. Conversely, if a story is too slow or the characters are unlikable, the player will have to either drop the controller and seek enjoyment elsewhere or suffer through a bitterly displeasureable trip through a hellish vortex that takes hours from their life giving them nothing in return but the pain of knowing they’ve wasted a good portion of their day. There is another side to this however. While nobody will say that they hate a deep story, someone might think a game that is too heavy on its storytelling is too convoluted or wordy. So once again there are two traps a game can fall into here. It can have a slow boring plot or a deep and heavy story that is difficult for some players to follow.
Gameplay is what really makes games an active form of entertainment, rather than a passive one like books or movies. While films and rpgs share the elements of visuals and storylines, the third word in RPG is game. Many games with exciting ideas have fallen short in this department. Gameplay that some would call tedious, like a complicated weapon building system, others would call deeply involving. Game difficulty issues also come up here. Some people like to be forced to really work hard and train their party or character to be successful at a game. Of course others might see this as artificial difficulty that should not be there. In the infinite gameplay mechanics possibilities, there are many ways for a gamer to be dissatisfied.
Other areas that can sink an RPG exist as well. Sometimes a person may like a game in all aspects but music, load times, game length, or translation and hate the game as a whole. These issues aren’t necessarily small or insignificant, but they don’t fall into the other categories. One could go deeper and extend this category to things like manual design or other issues that a few may care about but seem rather trivial to most.
A failure in any of the four of the areas I mentioned could easily lead to a bad gaming experience. I want to stress that this is on the level of the individual, not the game. There is no universal standard of what is fun gameplay or what is a good storyline. My observation is simply that in other genres, it is much easier to get past a couple flaws, whereas in RPGs, a couple flaws can remove the fun from a game. A person may hate an otherwise great game because the story was not to their liking, but another individual may like the story or not care so much about it and find that the game is great. So try that game that your friend says is terrible. Have a look at the title that got a three out of ten from your favorite gaming magazine. You just may find a diamond in the rough. One of my most memorable gaming experiences came out of a title that received universally mediocre reviews. Do not be afraid to experiment out there and go off the beaten path. For the record, I haven’t had time to play Legend of Dragoon yet, but it is on my list of games to try out.
Great article... I think if anything, we've become more picky with games. What was once acceptable, in this day and age can be considered flawed. Even I am guilty of this, where I played Final Fantasy VII and got annoyed by some of the dialogue, yet I was able to sit through Phantasy Star II and ignore the problems in that title. Admittedly, that's hypocritical, but like I said, I think we've grown pickier with our tastes. Nostalgia seems to play a significant role in things as well. For instance, the infamous Dragon Quest 7 which is very "old school" has garnered mixed opinions in the audience that played it. Some find the "old school" elements unacceptable, while others feel it great to experience old style gaming again.
Well, ladies and gentlemen, after a lengthy break from the editorial business, here is my glorious return. While I didn't have much time to play games or write anything creative thanks to exams at university, I still managed to play through the tenth installment of no, not Dragon Quest, but Final Fantasy. Don't worry, this isn't a review, but rather an editorial (as you might have guessed) featuring one of Final Fantasy's most controversial features. Called Espers, Summons, Guardian Forces, Eidolons and Aeons, ever since Final Fantasy IV it was possible to call upon legendary creatures, whose appearance caused various reactions from enemies and users alike. The enemies are most likely to either smile, when the summon only manages to take away 1.578% of their total amount of HP, or shake with fear when only being in the possession of 100 of those valuable live points, while longing to survive a total of 129,987HP damage caused by Knights of the Round. The users on the other hand are first impressed, then happy, and sooner or later bored or even annoyed. Impressed by the stunning visuals, happy to see a (hopefully) large amount of damage being dealt to their foes, and last but not least bored, by having to bear witness to the very same 144.2 second-long sequence for many, many, many times throughout the game. Despite all the critcism, admit it folks; we still love our friends from beyond time and space as much as we love, eh... random encounters for instance? Oh well, not exactly the most fitting comparison, I suppose. Anyways, below you will find my very own and highly subjective Top 10 list:
Hades - Black Cauldron, Final Fantasy VII
Sure, he isn't exactly the best looking summon, the soup in his cauldron definitely smells bad and he doesn't even have a white beard like Miraculix that would provide him and his wonderous liquid with some badly-needed dignity. Still he is one of my very favorite summons. Actually I even pity the poor fellow. First, Weapon sunk the Shinra airplane he was on, then he crashed on the ocean floor. Afterwards the entire plane was invested by all those annoying Unknown creatures, who are as sick as their inventor, Hojo. To make things even worse, water entered the storage room and he obviously caught a cold or something worse (otherwise he wouldn't have such trouble talking). He could also be the brother-in-law of MediEvil's Sir Daniel Fortesque, who knows?
Knights of the Round - The Ultimate End, Final Fantasy VII
While Anima's destructive power surely is impressive, there is no summon that comes close to Final Fantasy VII's ultimate weapon, King Cloud's 13 knights. While I dare to doubt, that the MP-HP switch materia is worth the effort of raising and breeding chocobos, Knights of the Round definitely is worth the investment of thousands of gils (damn you and your prices, Chocobo Sage) and two hours of precious time. Hidden in Round Island's materia cave, the only way to get your hands on the precious gem, is to breed three generations of chocobos and train them in Gold Saucer's Chocobo Racing. However, I have never regret doing so, for it's a wonderful feeling to be capable of disposing of a final boss in one turn. Obviously, the Knights have to work much harder against two other foes, Rudy and Emmy. In the end however, it is always the last knight's final cut that puts an end to the miserable life of any enemy in Final Fantasy VII.
Alexander - Holy Judgment, Final Fantasy VII
Ever since his first appearance in Final Fantasy VI, Alexander has been one of my personal favorites. Sadly, the Invincible's eye consumed him in Final Fantasy IX, and ever since he has been missing. Let's hope for his glorious return in Final Fantasy XII. In Final Fantasy VI he was king, dealing more damage to opponents than most other espers, in Final Fantasy VII only two or three summons were ahead of him, but in Final Fantasy VIII he somehow had lost his magic touch. Returning more powerful than ever in Final Fantasy IX and even kicking Bahamut's ass above Alexandria, he sadly disappeared thereafter. But I'm sure he will be back soon, coming out of the ground to tower above his enemies before unleashing his deadly lasers.
Yojimbo, Final Fantasy X
When you walk into the cave, where the stolen fayth has been hidden for years and Lulu's first summoner's life was so tragically ended, you might wonder why good old Yojimbo couldn't have looked out for a more comfortable hideout. That was at least my first question. When he first graced me with his presence in the fight against Lulu's ex, he didn't have the opportunity to show his skills to me at all, since he couldn't stand the massive PAIN, Anima's Oblivion apparently caused to him. When I entered the chamber of the fayth and listened to its short introduction, and was wondering why exactly nobody had dared to speak out his name aloud. The reason probably wasn't his infamous sword, but rather his prices. At slightly above 200,000 gil, at least he isn't a bargain in the winter sale. And while his appearance initially suggested to me, he would call himself the sword of divine justice, now I'm firmly convinced, regardless of his Chinese roots, it's the sword of capatalism. Since I'm a curious person, would anyone mind telling me what he spends all his money on? Don't tell me he is just buying food for his doggie...
Anima, Final Fantasy X
I have to admit when Seymour summoned Anima in Luca I was impressed, when I had to fight it or her (thinking of FFX's most powerful being female, just proves that this has become a woman's world), I was cursing and when obtaining her, the usual, tiny, sarcastic grin appeared around my lips, as I sensed mass-destruction being at my disposal. And that's despite the thing's poor looks. I mean, do you really want to be a chained and tortured fish, which even has to live with such an insane roomer. It's just her luck that this guy is usually well chained and hidden below the surface. If he gets visitors from above, ... just don't ask. My senses didn't deceive me back then, 99,999HP of damage say it all.
Magus Sisters, Final Fantasy X
When first hearing about them on the net, I had high hopes. Naively, I underestimated Square's creativity and hoped for some sexy ladies clad in dark robes (or bikinis :P) with an evil Magus-like aura. However, I was disappointed as I found out the bitter truth: Seemingly, Tetsuya Nomura wanted to bring some Disney-style characters to Final Fantasy X in order to wet fans appetite for his upcoming Disney RPG, Kingdom Hearts. While Anima's Oblivion overdrive is way more powerful than the Sisters' delta attack, they were definitely worth the trouble to get them.
Diablos - Messenger of the Dark, Final Fantasy VIII
Just like Jeany in her bottle, that winged guy's residing in a rather tiny lamp. Unlike those infamous bottle ghosts that fulfill your dozens of wishes or Stan, Okage's slim shady, Diablos isn't very pleased to be disturbed in his slumber. Too bad for him, that his long nap has apparently drained his freshness and power, thus obtaining him and thereby forcefully persuading him to join is pretty easy. The most fascinating feature of Diablos however isn't even he himself, but rather his black demi ball. Created with one of those powerful 3D modelling tools however, it still shows some pretty suspicious edges. It's almost a miracle in my eyes, that non of those lovable Square bashers jumped the scene and called the entire game "crap", just because of that sweet, little detail.
Bahamut Zero - Tera Flare, Final Fantasy VII
Bahamut's biggest brother is Final Fantasy VII's second strongest summon behind the most powerful summon in FF history, Knights of the Round. Well-hidden in Bugenhagen's space observatory, Bahamut Zero has to wait until disc3 before he finally sees action and can enjoy his beloved panaramic view on earth from a few hundred miles above ground. Of course, it is also a pleasure to him to unleash his powerful tera flare upon those standing in Cloud and Co.'s way.
Ark - Eternal Darkness, Final Fantasy IX
Similar to its predecessors KotR (FFVII) and Eden (FFVIII), its almost everlasting sequence would probably turn off most players, if Square hadn't introduced the short-sequence feature in Final Fantasy IX. Hence, Ark's performance is usually pretty short, but still pretty powerful. Optimus Prime from Transformers would probably be proud of Ark's transformation skills. Originally an airborne battleship, it mutates into some kind of robot with a huge horn and easily becomes an enemy's nightmare.
Odin/Raiden/Gilgamesh, Final Fantasy VI-IX
Odin can look back on an impressive Final Fantasy history from his home in Walhallah. Riding on the back of his legendary horse, he and his brothers Raiden and Gilgamesh have cut hundreds of foes into pieces. Whether it was Seifer, who already triumphed after finishing off Odin, only to be finished off by Gilgamesh or bosses in Final Fantasy VII, that celebrated too early, when Odin's sword couldn't slice through them. Just too bad for them, that Odin was carrying another weapon along. And all of the sudden a nice surprise called Gundge Lance was coming from above.
- Professor Gast
Neat article, which brings us next to...
|Ifrit...I CHOOSE YOU!
Or the big, bad monsters who you use to destroy your enemies.
In the long-standing (well, at least standing) tradition of my colleague Gast and I writing dueling editorials, I have decided to give my take on his rather interesting topic of discussion.
Summoned Monsters--as they were originally known--have been a staple of Final Fantasy ever since Square moved the series from the NES. From Young Rydia's cutesy Chocobo summon, to Yuna's fear-inducing Anima, Square has typically integrated Summoned Monsters into both the gameplay and the story of everyone's favorite RPG series. With the exception of FF VII, not only have Summon's been a staple, but rather an integral plot-point with much significance to the game. Final Fantasy IV's Summoned Monsters, and their land, played a very important role in the unfolding of the game, while VI, IX, and X especially dealt with the harnessing and, typically, the misuse by "evil" forces of these grand creatures.
Aside from the story-related involvement, Summoned Monsters have always been the ultimate tool in dealing large amounts of damage to one's foes. In this capacity, they have always been able to dish out absurdly high bouncing white numbers--from 9,999 in earlier games, to the occasional mind-blowing 75,000 in FF X. At any rate, I have compiled my "Top 10" list in terms of both effectiveness and coolness. Also, unlike my friend Gast, I will be sorting my list by actual individual Summons themselves, instead of a particular game that they are in.
Everyone's favorite Cactus! Granted, we've mostly seen this little guy and his friends on the opposing side of the battlefield...but FF VIII gave us the opportunity to recruit a Giant Cactuar on our side. Admit it--you love him.
Perhaps one of the single most evil-looking Summons ever. Diablo looks much as his name suggests, and could easily pass as the devil himself. Not to mention, he teaches the amazing techniques of Enc-Half and Enc-None in FFVIII, so he is quite practical as well.
Making its debut in FF VI, Phoneix has stuck around to be the saving grace of many a difficult battle. Pheonix was especially useful in FF VII, where it could be paired with the Final Attack Materia to make for a lovely come-back move on those difficult bosses.
Shiva's trademark Diamond Dust has always been a useful tactic, ever since the first Summoned Monsters were around. Always showing up in a revealing outfit just to waste a whole batch of enemies at once, Shiva will probably always be a staple of the Summoned Monster gig.
6) Ifrit (Jinn)
Ifrit has been around forever, and probably always will be. Ifrit has simply gotten more and more fearsome in every successive game, and finds himself being quite the fierce beast in FF X. While in close running with Shiva, Ifrit ends up a bit higher on the list simply because he has evolved a bit more over the years--while Shiva has stuck with the ol' Diamond Dust.
Portrayed as the King of Summoned Monsters in FF VI, Leviathan has always been quite useful. Unfortunately for him, his influence and usefulness has waned over the years, dropping him from the big Number 1 down to #5 on the chart. He's as cool as ever, just not always so powerful. Even worse, he was dropped from FF X, and it's unclear if he'll be AWOL for a while more.
The only relative newcomer to make it higher than #9 on the chart, Yojimbo just oozes class. Sure, he costs money to use, but he'll settle for 1 gil an attack if you want. Considering how imposing the guy is, it's well worth the money.
Alexander was probably the single coolest Esper design in FF VI, and Square has made him increasingly huge and powerful as time goes on. While he was unfortunately absent from FF X (I would have loved to see that,) he played a starring role in FF IX--shrouding an entire city in his newfound wings and making Bahamut look like a pathetic weakling. He clocks in at #3 simply because of the lost ground to his main competitor, Bahamut, in FF X.
Odin is an enigma. While he's never the most powerful, or even the most used, he's almost always the biggest badass in the batch. While you may not have seen him much, he was simply at his peak in FF VIII, slicing and dicing while carrying himself as the God of the Undead Warriors he is. His transformation into Raiden in FF VI is also notable, although I always preferred the rugged, evil Odin over the stately Raiden myself.
Bahamut is the King. That's all there is to it. With the exception of Alexander if he were to see some more action, there is simply nobody even capable of touching the #1 spot this guy occupies. He's huge, he's mean, he's powerful, and he always looks awesome...it's hard to come to any other conclusion that Bahamut is the quintessential Summoned Monster. From his
super-strong Mega Flare in FF IV, to his amazingly intimidating self in FFX, not only has he maintained himself as the best Summon, he's usually one of the harder bosses as well. (When they follow tradition and force you to
fight him to get him.)
So, there you have it. That's my top ten list. Other opinions? Write Parn now! I'm sure he would appreciate some more editorials. =)
Groovy stuff, but I can't make any inane commentary toward either summon article. And there was much rejoicing.
|The Hypocrisies of a Single Person = The Masses
It seems that time changes. Constantly. Video games are now becoming a bit more mainstream; which is good on almost all accounts, and our parents will take out time from his/her busy schedule to play with us. I for example, often play Mario Cart with my mother. But the real question is, "what if I'm alone?"
Now, we all love rpgs, but one can only replay one so much. What I think online rpgs (or online games in general) have to offer is competitiveness, not to mention a feeling that one would have a greater role or more freedom in a game. I personally love the idea of an online game. There are so many different approaches a company could take with it.
It will become a genre in short; whether or not it is an rpg.
Yet another side of me says never to lay my hands on such again. One can say that graphics can only become as real as we see life. I hesitate and ask, "Will we not live these fantasies in time to come, and will we not lose who we are?" In essence I look forward to the advancement of online games, and games in general, but a step such as this means once again we come to close to calling technology a superstitious fancy. The self delusion of the twenty-first century.
Last two sentences taken in part from Michael Moorcook, The Eternal Champion.
Concise... your title kind of threw me off at first, I thought you were going to discuss opinions, and perhaps reviews of games. Oh well, you get brownie points for writing in though.