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Lady In Black
May 15, 2005

Good day, everyone.

Of all the games to replay, why in the world did I choose Final Fantasy VII? I guess that long year I spend reading all that horrible fan fiction just wasn't enough. It's a great game, but my opinion of it has been tainted forever by its rabid fanbase.

It's refreshing to see a scene between Cloud and Sephiroth that DOESN'T involve them making out, though. I had forgotten that a scene like that didn't actually exist in the game itself. Didn't stop me from getting twenty fics a day with a little homoerotic lip licking, though.

And don't go looking for them; I didn't put them up. :P

Honestly, that's enough about that. To the letters.

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...Needs more guitar.

How about music, then?

Of course, for years now, music has set the scene, amplified the feelings in RPGs...

But at times, it feels like it arrives at the point where RPG music that sounds like generic RPG music just isn't enough. Maybe it needs some sort of influence, a certain kind of style to separate itself to truly be special now... yet, I still wander back and enjoy typical RPG music from my precious SNES games. When I hear it now, in a new game, though, I'm just disappointed. Am I jaded? Have the rules of the game changed? Are composers not up to their old standards? Or is that ear infection finally catching up to me? =(

This is something I've noticed since about halfway through the PS1 era. The music in RPGs has been, for lack of a better word, dry. By the numbers. Safe.

After a little reflection, I came up with a theory: composers have gotten lazy. In the days of the NES and SNES, when a composer's choice in sounds was far more limited than now, it took skill to create a song that gamers would find pleasing. A song pretty much HAD to be catchy, because they couldn't be all that complicated.

Nowadays, games can feature fully orchestrated soundtracks. As such, the focus seems to be shifting from simple melodies to complex arrangements. Look at Mitsuda and Xenosaga for a prime example of that.

Whether or not this shift is a positive or a negative is up to you. Personally, I like a good strong melody, something along the lines of the Valkyrie Profile battle theme. Well, anything by Sakuraba that isn't in a Star Ocean game, really. :P

 
When I was a boy, we fought imps for hours. And when we crossed a bridge underlevelled, we DIED.

Dear RPGFan,

I'd like to start off this letter like I have every other in the past, by expressing how much I appreciate your site, as well as the vast knowledge it bestows upon the general public of RPG lovers everyday. Undoubtedly it's the finest source of RPG info on the net today, and by far a great deal more userfriendly than RPGamer.com.(hate that site).

Anyway, getting to the point, I'd like to state that I've noticed a big change in terms of the direction most RPGs seem to be taking nowadays. I remember long ago during that Golden Age of RPGs(refferring to the SNES days of course)where it seemed nearly every RPG that debuted on that system was a gem and adventure in of itself. Such days brought us Chrono Trigger, Lufia II, Illusion of Gaia, Final Fantasy IV, and my all time favorite, Final Fantasy III(VI in Japan). One of the shining aspects of each of these games was its story, an aspect of any RPG that in my opinion, is its biggest factor. In my eyes, RPGs represent a higher form of gaming, one beyond the simple button mashing to unleash that ultimate combo, or the frantic movement of a joystick to dodge space aliens. Based on my experience, RPGs have always gone one step further to drawing in an audience. They give that player the option, should they be willing, to become characters in worlds that they only dreamed of as kids. The stories weave before players tales of treachery, adventure, danger, and sometimes, even romance. In my opinion, RPGs are, put simply, playable storybooks. We are given the roles of of characters who range from heroic knights, ruthless kings, greedy mercenaries, or even simple farmers. Yet, despite the variety, we always seem to find a way to grow attached to these characters. Their struggles become our struggles, and in turn, we find a bond with them that we could never find with say, a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle.(forgive my reference TMNT fans) Because of this, RPGs usually become the favorite amongst most players, as they get to see first hand that flashy graphics and dazzling combos aren't necessarily all that's needed to produce a quality game.

However, despite what we all love about RPGs, I've seen a pattern emerging over the past few years that I pray isn't a premonition of what is in store for RPGs in general. For the past year or so, I've seen many games produced that lack that special aspect of what makes an RPG, and instead try to compensate by adding "innovative new battle systems", "more advanced graphics", or worse, "hundreds of new minigames". It seems far too many companies are turning to that dark side so to speak, and robbing us of good writing in exchange for tweaking game mechanics that have for years been what has set RPGs APART from other games. To name a few examples, Grandia Xtreme(I know it's just a dungeon crawler but it's still a sequal to a GREAT game), Final Fantasy X-2, Suikoden IV, UNLIMITED Saga, and a few more.

In essence, I'm not sure if anyone else may agree that a pattern IS emerging. One can only hope that the major RPG titles of the upcoming months and/or years will not suffer the same fate. In closing, I can only cross my fingers and hope that these titles will indeed embrace what sets them apart from other games, a well written story.

And that, my friend, is one of the big problems I see in today's gaming world: innovation only for the sake of innovation. It's one thing to come up with new ideas, but it's a whole other thing to integrate these ideas into a pleasing package.

While I love FFX-2, it's a bit annoying to play at times due to all the "LOL LOOK, SCANTILY CLAD WOMEN IN PASTEL CLOTHING, JUST DON'T EXPECT A STORY TO GO ALONG WITH THEM" and whatnot. :P

But on the other hand, without innovation, you end up with stagnation, a parade of sequels with little to no deviation from the games that came before. That's the main reason I'm looking forward to FFXII: it's actually a little different. If any game on the horizon can actually be an innovative game that turns out to be a total package, it'll probably be that one. It's the only one I'm looking forward to, at least.

Let's rock, baby.

Daniel,

Is it just me, or are the lines between action games and RPGs gradually blurring? As recently as the late 90's, you had to play an RPG if you wanted a storyline, compelling characters, skill building, etc. I loved the "interactive movie" aspect of roleplaying games, which is why I stuck to playing RPGs for many many years, forsaking all other genres.

Imagine my surprise when I started playing other games. Link and Ys are classified as role-playing games, so I can't include those. But Ico? I enjoyed the heck out of that game. And I just started playing God of War the other day, and I'm loving it. In fact, the storylines of Ico and God of War are actually more interesting than most RPG storylines I've seen lately. My most recent RPG was Stella Deus. I quit after 20 hours, mainly because the storyline was the same old crap (and the Catacombs sucked). That's just one example. Xenosaga II and Suikoden 4 were also huge disappointments. And Baten Kaitos, while I enjoyed it, did have a very cliched story.

As I get older, I find my attention span is getting smaller and smaller. Why waste my time levelling up and planning strategy when I could just whack the crap out of things and decapitate minotaurs? And I'm not saying I haven't enjoyed ANY RPGs lately (Shadow Hearts: Covenant and Star Ocean 3 were great), but I'd really like to expand my horizons, now that I have a new appreciation for action games. I'm thinking about catching up on the Onimusha series (I've only played the first). Is there anything else you would suggest along the lines of an action game with RPG elements?

Sincerely,

A girl who actually enjoys hacking & slashing

Wow, it's like you crawled into my head and wrote down my thoughts. :P

I've always preferred action oriented games. Secret of Mana? Oh my God, a thousand hours of play at least. Illusion of Gaia? Almost as many. Actraiser? I spent more time as that naked angel than I care to admit.

With this generation of consoles, I've found that the action genre has produced more fantastic games than any other genre, specifically because they've evolved well past the "start on the left side of the screen and scroll right" thing that I grew up with. Action games with complex yet responsive control schemes, great graphics, and good stories are becoming more common all the time, and I couldn't be happier. Well okay, I could be happier: if someone produced a sequel to The Guardian Legend, I'd go crazy with joy. :P

If you want an action game that has RPG elements, there are several that come to mind. Since you didn't list a specific timeframe, I'll just name off a few.

First and foremost, go to the store right now and buy Devil May Cry 3. Not only is it the best game I've played in years, it would fit your "RPG elements" criteria. See, the game has several different facets of levelling up. You power up your melee weapons, your guns, and your various fighting styles. I spent hours replaying early stages just to get a little bit stronger. And the story is quite good, particularly if you had the good fortune of playing the first game in the series.

And I know you mentioned the Ys series already, but it bears repeating: Ys VI is fantastic. It's a little light on plot, but it's solid fun.

Also, you can't go wrong with...well, practically every Castlevania game since Symphony of the Night. Symphony is my favorite game of all time, and Aria of Sorrow comes pretty damn close.

...I think that's enough. :P

 
Closing Thoughts

It's that time of year, everyone. What time, you ask? Go check the new topic and see. :P

~ Daniel Stringer (letters@rpgfan.com)



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