Big Money Grip
April 16, 2002

Look here real fast.

Now, far from it for me to tell anyone how they should spend their cash. After all, I put up with enough of that when I was younger, and was told by the mothership that I can't buy candy with the money I earned taking out the trash, or whatever other chores I did when I was really young. But where exactly do you draw the line?

I think it's kind of extreme, when you start forking out hundreds of dollars for something that isn't even tangible... particularly when one would think more than half the fun of a game is trying to beat it on your own terms. Purchasing an already ultra powerful character for an online game is like beginning Final Fantasy VII with Cloud at level 60. Forget leveling up or anything, or even bothering to fight the bosses, what's the point? You already know you're going to win and can't possibly lose. Might as well get spoonfed the whole story.

Thoughts? Comments? Write in.

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Scary Things Man

He has spent the last 12 days playing Super Smash Brothers Melee. Again and again he battled one-on-one against his best buddy. After having spent the entire night in front of his TV set, experiencing the gameplay goddess that is Goldeneye on Nintendo 64 for the 8023th time, he stands up, his limps are shocking. As he sits down in front of his PC screen, he already feels the first withdrawal symptoms of not holding his Super Famicom, N64 or GCN gamepad in his hands, which give him the feeling of total happiness. Luckily for him, the programmers of the evil Bill Gates have included a highly useful feature into Internet Explorer called favorites. Moving his mouse in zig-zag lines over the mousepad, he finally manages to click on one of his favorites: http://www.rpgfan.com. At first glance he wonders, then thinks he's dreaming, before breaking down before his PC, breathing heavily and whispering, "yaaaaaahhhhh, Square... is... back... with... with... Nintendo... Nintendo... Nintendo....!" Suddenly, he jumps out, runs to the wall, where his personal Hiroshi Yamauchi poster is hanging, hugging and kissing it.

Only a few days later, the first Square title for GBA was revealed, and it got even better. And yes, don't forget that the great, outstanding, excellent and total genius Hiroshi Yamauchi even brought him and his fellow Nintendo fanboys the greatest present ever: A Final Fantasy game on the GameCube. While sleeping, he dreamt of the future: Square abandons Sony and returns to its roots, becoming exclusive to Nintendo again. First Capcom deserted Sony, making Biohazard a GameCube exclusive franchise, and now Square is back onboard, and soon many more developers will follow to help restore Nintendo's unrivaled greatness of the good old Super Famicom days... and my name is Humpty Dumpty, earth is the center of the universe, Japan lies in Northern Europe, and this season's NBA champions will be the Knicks. Dreaming is allowed, but too much of it makes you lose every sense of reality, which tends to look a bit differenty, and damn nastier.

1. Currently the PlayStation 2 has an installed hardware base of almost 30 million units worldwide, four times as much as GCN and Xbox combined. Leaving 30 million customers behind isn't exactly a clever idea business-wise. Current projections estimate that Sony will be able to defend it's worldwide market share of more than 50% in the current generation of consoles. Nintendo comes in second at about 30% and the remaining 20% being captured by the newcomers from Redmond. Looking at release schedules, great shifts or a major change in 3rd party support for the three platforms isn't in sight. Square's philosophy has always been to support the best-selling platform, or in this case platforms, namely the PS2 and the GameBoy Advance. More than once, Square executives made it pretty clear that their vision of online gaming strongly differs from Nintendo's version. Whatever games Square might end up developing for the GC, they are developing them just to please the old man in Kyoto. What mattered to the gentlemen from the Arcotower were the GBA licenses.

2. Sony is Square's second largest shareholder holding a 19% stake in the company. In exchange, Sony covered Square's development expenses for the next two fiscal years. Surely they won't allow Square to spend a single yen of their money on a game heading for a Nintendo platform. And since it was back then Square president Hisashi Suzuki who approached Sony to strike a deal and not vice-versa, it doesn't seem like Square is abadoning SCE. Rather, they are betting very heavily on the PS2 card--and not for the short-term future.

3. While Square has been pretty talkative about its GBA plans, stating they want to release FF Tactics on Nintendo's handheld, as well as a mix of original titles and further remakes or ports of their bestsellers, the information released about the GCN development plans is sparse and controversial: a brand new type of (Final Fantasy) game, that should be released on both GCN and GBA, featuring connectivity. Only a few days later, a toned-down version of the story emerged, stating Square wasn't sure whether they would make use of the connectivity feature, not to mention the little conversation Square's decision makers had with Ken Kutaragi at SCE's headquarters in Tokyo's Minato district. According to Yoichi Wada, president and CEO of Square, Kutaragi wasn't exactly pleased. Not informing Sony on important details of the deal, among them bringing a FF game on the GCN supposedly wasn't exactly a great idea. So far there hasn't been any information about details, so speculating at this point is pretty senseless. The interesting question in this context is about the details of the contracts Square has inked with Sony and Nintendo. Apart from that, Square's development plans for 2002 are still unknown. Kingdom Hearts has been released, and Final Fantasy XI and the company's second foray into baseball games on the PS2 will be released this month as well. Eeven if the development of Final Fantasy XII will swallow as much cash as FFX's, there is still plenty of money for more high-profile Square titles on the PS2.

4. The Biohazard issue: Sure, the Cube remake of Biohazard looks easily gorgeous, and damn, even the author of this editorial would like to play it (preferably not with that standard GC controller though). As Shinji Mikami explained, remaking all Biohazard games on the GCN would take too much time, thus GCN owners will receive ports of Biohazard 2 and Biohazard 3: The Last Escape (RE3 Nemesis in the US). In other words, games that have already been available on the Dreamcast for two years now. After adding some new scenes to the PS2 version and "Complete" to the title, the GCN version of Code Veronica will feature yet some more new scenes and the label "Final". Big deal (of course, this is just me editorializing there. Hehe. ;-). Then there is Biohazard 0, the prequel to all current Biohazard games and in development for quite some time; first for the Nintendo 64 and now for the GameCube. Last, but not least, originally in development for PS2, Biohazard 4 is the latest incarnation of the famous series. But does this mean the series is exclusive? Until a few weeks ago the answer would be an emphatic yes, at least for those six titles mentioned above. At the PlayStation meeting 2002, Capcom in a shocking and very surprising move, announced Biohazard Online. Shocking, because Biohazard was supposed to be exclusive. Surprising because, well, the game is PS2 bound, surprise, surprise.

Oh, I almost forgot to answer the most interesting question of this editorial: Who is the guy, whom I, unfriendly as I am, only referred to as "he" all the time? He and I beg you pardon, ladies, you might forgive me and just add an "s" to the "he", if you insist. You might find him in a tiny apartment in Osaka, on a big ranch in Texas, or a small terrace house in a small suburb somewhere in Europe. He isn't just one individual, as this would make many things easier, but rather one representing thousands, sadly. Purchasing everything that has Nintendo on its cover, hating Sony and Microsoft with a passion, and living only for their one ultimate goal, he and his fellows are referred to as "fanboys", in this case "Nintendo fanboys". And their ultimate aim? Only once in their lifetime kissing Hiroshi Yamauchi's not-so-pink lower back. The world may or may not be Square, but the time when Big N from Kyoto was king is long over.

- Professor Gast

I must confess, as I'm more or less a fanboy in a sense, as I always keep my eyes on what Sega's doing. However, I played the blind favoritism game a long time ago, and have matured enough to know that no one is perfect, and it applies well enough to Sega. I enjoy their games and continue to purchase whatever consoles that feature their games, but I'm smart enough to notice when they royally screw up. I think the biggest problem with fanboy-ism is that the average person tries to make more out of the most miniscule of facts and creates something larger than what it really is.

If Nintendo wanted me to become a drooling fanboy of their company, they'd release the broadband adapter and modem for the GCN sooner, so I can play Phantasy Star Online sooner. Then I would shout "Nintendo roolz" until I'm blue in the face. *hint hint*

Censorship in video games and RPGs comes in many forms. The first kind of censorship, is self-censorship. This comes in many forms itself. Some companies, especially early on, refused to do violent games, focusing on childrens games and so called infotainment. I remember that the old THQ was such a company focusing on sesame street, school games, and board games, who now have recently released Evil Dead: Hail to the King, a RE type game based on Sam Raimi's classic trilogy of horror/comedy. Obviously, when violence and obsenity rule the marketplace, this type of censorship is decidedly rare these days. Another type of video game self-censorship is slight alterations in the game, adjusting it to the audience through translation or minor game changes. Working Designs does this best, adeptly changing game text almost entirely, attempting to adjust it for the American audience.

Another form of video game censorship is that of the system's owner itself. So if Nintendo, Sega, Sony, NEC, or Microsoft say you can't have that in a game, you can't do it, or they won't release your game. Nintendo censored alot out of FFII for SNES (FFIV in Japan), like the secret Dwarf programmers room, and editing some of the dancer routines. Square's own translation and decision to bring over easy type rather than hard type, further made the game worse on top of this censorship. Fortunately for FFII, there really was no competition at launch beyond Drakkhen, Lagoon, Arcana, Actraiser, and Zelda III. However, playing FFII makes you mad, seeing how many commands were dropped, and seeing all the perfectly harmless scenes that Nintendo had deleted.

Another way of censoring video games, is the ratings system. This is something congress passed a while ago, and decided to let video game companies decide their own game ratings. Mostly these ratings are E for Everyone, T for Teen, and M for Mature. But these ratings rarely seem to match content. Vandal Hearts recived an M merely for having blood splatter when characters/monsters die, and a game like Persona recives a T despite it being a game where you make deals and negotiate with demons, something many parents would probably not like their kid doing. On the surface, the blood may seem like a worse thing, but in Persona you are doing some Faustian stuff, anathema to many religions. Having video game companies make their own ratings rather than have an independent and impartial group like the FCC instead makes no sense, and leads to errors in doling out ratings. Like other forms of entertainment, movies and music, young kids are able to obtain mature games anyway. Don't expect the greedy toy or video game store to care about the content of the game or the moral ramifications of selling it to an adolescent, their true concern is the pursuit of profit. All in all the ratings system is to pacify adults and assure them that their is some censure to the industry. The reality is that parents must be there when their kids buy games, music, and movies, and pay attention to the ratings system on the games, and the backcover info as well. The parent must then decide whether the content is inoffensive or not, based on the families religion, and own viewpoint. Many people would not find a Persona or Xenogears game offensive, but the religious aspects of those games would certainly give some parents pause. If the parent uses the ratings system as a guideline and didn't read the reviews or the backcover, they might miss these issues, since both games are rated T. This is another point, parents must know what their kids are involved in and get more information about it through reviews. Having more information, leads to more informed decisions about game content and what your child should be playing. All of this also applies to movies and music as well. With so much foul language and violent content out there in many forms of entertainment, the job of a parent is much more tougher than in the past. Only an active role in knowing what form of entertainment a child is into, and an active role in picking out that entertainment, will prevent the latest RE, GTA, or State of Emergency game from entering the house.

- Steven the 'Old School' Gamer

I'm afraid I have to disagree on the part where you mention that parenting is more difficult; I'd say it's even easier. The only way you could possibly assist parents more in regards to information on game purchases is to literally hold their hand and tell them what to specifically buy for their child and what not to. The information is all right there before them at their disposal, it's a matter of whether they care enough to bother reading up on any of it or not. People are always looking for a scapegoat, whether it be the gaming industry, or the people that rate entertainment, and it is precisely why we have so many problems these days.

I particularly get irrate when politicians get involved into this big debate and start making illogical claims about how videogames or some controversial television show made some kid do whatever stupid act. For instance, remember the kid that set his little brother on fire because of MTV's Beavis and Butthead? Forgive my lack of political correctness, but whether he watched Beavis and Butthead or not, if he's setting siblings on fire, he's not going to grow up to become another freaking Mozart. He's a moron. Sure, a lot of us mimicked GI Joe or He-Man when we were young, but we knew where to draw the line: you get hit with a blunt metal object, it HURTS. You touch fire, it HURTS. We can accomodate the minority, but the majority shouldn't conform for the minority when the problem is with the minority. That's lunacy.

Censorship can be a good thing, but too much of anything is bad. You can try to hide them from any game with violence, but the moment they walk outside, they're going to be involved in some form of confrontation eventually, and then won't have any clue on how to deal with it. You can try to hide your kids from any TV show with cursing in the hopes of him/her not ever using the language themselves, but they're going to eventually hear it from another source, and unless you expose them to the problem beforehand and EXPLAIN WHY IT IS WRONG, they're going to pick up on it and start using it. THAT is where the REAL problem comes in, parents neglecting to explain to their children right from wrong and how to deal with certain issues. Just telling a child "no" doesn't solve a damn thing. Children are ignorant, and unless you teach them, they will remain ignorant.


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Lufia II: Rise of the Sinistrals • 3pm PDT/6pm EDT

Star Ocean: Till The End of Time • 3:00pm PDT/5:30pm EDT
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