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December 13, 2005

Hello everyone.

I'm telling you, I couldn't have been happier to find out that the boys at Square Enix announced a Valkyrie Profile sequel. I haven't been excited by most gaming news lately, but that tidbit of information definitely changed that trend.

So what have I been playing lately? Not much, to be honest. I don't want to get started on something lengthy here before Christmas, as I'm sure I'll get a few games...or I better, anyway. :P One game I HAVE played is a little bit of Animal Crossing. It's somewhat of a tradition to check in on things this time of year, and I was curious as to how things were going in my humble town. Believe it or not, they don't seem to mind that I cut down every single tree and destroyed every flower. :P

Now then, time for letters full of holiday goodness and replies full of Christmas cheer. Only without the Christmas. Let's face it, probably without the cheer as well. :P

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IMPORT YS NOW OR FEEL MY INTERNET WRATH

Hi Daniel!

I'm a really big RPG fan and I stumbled across a site (http://www.toysnjoys.com/psx2specs.html) advertising imported PS2 games from Japan. I keep pretty good tabs on RPG's and I've never heard of any of these like Fragarance Tale, F-fanatic, Rah Xephon, Rhapsodia....in fact I don't even know if they are PRG's lol but the covers look RPGish :P Are any of these games imported Japanese only games on par with say FFX, shadow hearts, star ocean, or digital devil saga? Am I and other gamers missing out that don't know how to read Japanese? I've always wanted to learn Japanese anyway, it's not like I'm going to run out and learn just to play video games, I mean I'm not THAT obsessed lol, but for my own piece of mind am I missing out on anything??

Thanks!!!!

I have to tell you, it's been while since I've seen a Japanese-only RPG that I really wanted to play badly. It seems like everything I want to play ends up being released on this side of the pond. That's a nice change of pace, eh? Now if they could just go back and release older things like Ys IV or Seiken Densetsu 3. It'd probably take the help of a magic lamp for that to happen, though. :P

With that said however, there is one particularly fantastic RPG released this year that might not see the light of day over here...but there was absolutely no way I was gonna miss out on another Ys game, so I got it anyway. :P Ys: The Oath in Felghana has a lot of love here amongst the RPGFan staff. If you don't see it on half of our Game of the Year lists in a few weeks, I'll be stunned.

And just so you know, Rhapsodia is avaliable here now. Go take a gander at Suikoden Tactics the next time you're out shopping. :P

 
*jog* *jog* *jog* *jog* *jog* *jog* BANG *jog* *jog*

Dear Daniel,

I see that many RPGs are following Star Ocean and the Tales series with the action-based battle system. Where in you run around attacking foes instead of standing still. But while enjoyable, I found Wild Arms 3's way better. You got the action of characters running around and still could make use of classic RPG tactics without wondering where your other character were and how badly they were being beaten. Problem is, you only control one character with SO and Tales' style, if they made it so the characters ran around and dodge while you control one then the others, it'd be better. But as of now, I believe WA3 is still the most convient.

As much as I like Wild Arms 3, all that spastic running around got on my nerves. If there was ever a game where standing still in a fight would actually make sense, it's that one. Unless your last name is Stallone, you stand still when firing a gun, especially when the vast majority of your targets are either unarmed or have melee weaponry. I appreciate the effort at making things a little more visually interesting, but having your team move around the screen at a slow jog is not the way to go about doing it. :P

In my day, we didn't have this fancy "orchestration" in our RPGs. And we walked five miles to school in shoes made of sandpaper and broken glass, and we LIKED IT.

Dear RPGFan,

As I always start out my letters to your website, I'd like to once again thank you for a job well done on keeping up the most up to date, most informative, and downright prettiest RPG website around :). However, to take a step beyond flattery, and more onto the topic at hand, I'd like to discuss with you my opinions on how far RPG music has come, and ask that you indulge me with your opinion on the matter as well. To start out the letter, I'd like to refer back to the golden age of RPGs, the SNES era.

Way back when, like..when we were just a tad bit younger, definitely not wiser, but younger certainly :), RPG music was beginning its climb into the hearts of future VGM lovers worldwide. From Chrono Trigger, to FFIII(FFVI), the music throughout the role playing genre was becoming less of a complex series of bleeps and bloops, and more of a combination of synthesized marvel, specifically the two soundtracks I listed above. These two soundtracks gave rise to soundtracks to other gems of the RPG genre, such as Romancing Saga 3, Seiken Denetsu 3, Albert Odyssey Gaiden ~ Legend of Eldean, and of course, one of my personal favorites, Ys V. As the technology for systems progressed, and more composers found time, these soundtracks were mixed, arranged, and even orchestrated for their fans.

Needless to say, it's been the better part of a decade since some of these games were released, yet I can't help but wonder the reason they are held with such high regard. Obviously they are masterpieces in their own right, and I even have the pleasure of stating that I own the OSTs and arranged albums for each of these titles. Yet, I get this feeling that the music of yesteryear isn't quite the same as the music in our modern day RPGs. To clarify my assumption, I basically feel as if the music we heard almost 10 years ago is well....better than what's being put out now. Undoubtedly there have been recent games with heralded soundtracks. In fact, the titles Valkyrie Profile, Final Fantasy Tactics, Panzer Dragoon Saga, Vagrant Story the Lunar series, and even Dragon Quest VIII come to mind.

Yet, regardless of their popularity, it almost feels as if these games, and their soundtracks, are simply too far apart. In an age where production is rushed to meet consumer demand, and tride and true RPG elements are sacrificed for flashier finishing moves and better graphics, it almost seems as if RPG soundtracks in general aren't receiving the respect and dedication that was once presented to them. My question to you at the RPGFan staff is whether or not you too have noticed this, or perhaps if I'm simply missing out on a few amazing soundtracks from some of the more recent titles. As I didn't name all of the soundtracks I currently own, I also ask that you perhaps include a list of some of your picks for some worthwhile purchases, and those that are not on my own list, I will be sure to look into. As always, keep up the good work on the site, and I look forward to your response.

You better believe I've noticed. I used to think it was just nostalgia, but after I started comparing today's RPG music to yesteryear's, the difference in composition quality was evident. I thought about it for a bit and came to somewhat of a conclusion: the music of old is better because the composers had to try harder. When you're limited in the sounds you can use, it takes a little more effort to craft a good tune, much less a great one. Additionally, I've always been more fond of simple melodies than complex orchestral chamber music yawnfests. To this day, I can hum damn near any song from Final Fantasy IV, but I don't remember a single song from Final Fantasy IX.

As proof, I would direct you to a game I mentioned earlier in this edition of the Mailbag: the newest Ys game, The Oath in Felghana. It's far and away the best OST I've heard since Valkyrie Profile. Nothing else remotely touches it as far as I'm concerned. But Oath is a remake of Ys III, which came out in 1991. The music is simply a remix of the old compositions. While hearing a modernized version of these songs is fantastic, the main reason these songs are good is because they always have been. A good compostion is timeless, and these are great ones. But take a look at the music of Ys VI, which nearly everyone agrees comes up short to its predecessors. The ability to use any sort of sound SHOULD be a boon to composers, but I can only see it as a factor in sloppy composition.

If I had to pick some games from this generation that have fantastic music, I would choose three: Final Fantasy X, Baten Kaitos, and Castlevania: Curse of Darkness. As far as I'm concerned, none of those games disappoint in the musical department. Curse of Darkness is especially noteworthy; I feel it has the best music in the entire Castlevania series.

 
Closing Thoughts

There you have it, another Mailbag update put down like a filthy mongrel. Not that anyone who wrote one of these letters is filthy or a mongrel, mind you; I'm just starting to run low on metaphors, I suppose. :P

You know what would make this holiday season special? You writing me a letter. Now get to it before I beat you about the head with my Yule log. :P

~ Daniel Stringer (mailbag@rpgfan.com)



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