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Ask Thor
A disturbingly good Monday
  Need a friend? Too bad. Need a question answered?
  Ask Thor
(I'll be your friend if you give me all your stuff, though.)
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 Xenogears
(Good Lord the dialog is awful.)
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 See how many typoes you can count! The archives await.

Get ready for few questions, lots of comments, and a lil' dab of love. Consider today as sort of a Thursday Thorsday Madness preview, since so many of the questions are off-topic. (Ever notice how strange this column reads? One day we're all debating, the next there's a ton of serious questions, the next we're discussing the origin of 'Blarg'.)

Oh, and here's a switch: I'm actually feeling pretty good, despite this being a Monday and all. A sign of the impending doom? Oh, you betcha!

Dexter's Laboratory

Dear Thor, I write to you in the hope that you can save my sanity. You see, my memory card has just decided to wipe itself clean, and take my 50 hrs Xenogears save game with it. If you, or any RPGamers know where I can get hold of a save game for the US version, near the start of disc 2, please let me know - I'm tearing my hair out waiting to find out what happens next!

-- Chris.

Unless you can talk someone into sending you their memory card (perhaps a really, really nice person on the Message Boards?) your best bet is the DexDrive. For the price of a PlayStation game, you can get this dandy little device which allows you to back up save game files on your (Windows 95/98 based) PC. So, if you had the DD, you'd just need to find another Dex'ter and have him e-mail you his save file. (Fine, him or her. Political correctness blows.)

Cowards everywhere breathe a sigh of relief

I just read that in Final Fantasy VIII, you can gain experience by running from battles. This means that we'll never have to fight a single battle, right? Or do we gain less experience than if we killed the enemies? I figured you might know. This is probably old news, but if its not, please post this letter?

-- The Wizard of Old

Can't say for sure, but I think it's a pretty safe bet that the experience you gain will be less than half of what you'd get if you actually, um, fought. I figure this was just Square's way of dealing with that age old first time RPGamer goof of running from every fight then getting the, er, carp kicked out of you later in the game. What ever happened to learning the hard way?

Shadowrun 64. I wish.

Hi Thor. I noticed in your Feb. 4 Ask Thor you mentioned that you really need a Shadorun (Genesis) section. What kind of stuff do you need?

I've already tracked down a walkthrough or two, so I'll say screenshots, music (midi/module), and anything else you can scrounge up, save for Orc toenail clippings.

I really liked the game too (The SNES game was nice, but the Genesis kicked butt!), in fact, I just went back and started playing it again this week, and its still fun! When I heard Micro$oft killed off the Shadowrun:Assassin game FASA Interactive was working on, I knew that we would probably never see another SR game. I guess the idea of corps that make billions and run the world getting broken in by shadowrunners gave them nightmares :)

-- Dedric Ramsey

Leave it to Microsoft to kill a game about evil corporations, hackers and alternate operating systems. They're even more evil than Sony's lawyers. We can only hope FASA escapes the darkness that is 'soft eventually.

"Why is Squall's groin so pronounced?"

A person named "Sadie" asked Ryan Amos yesterday why Square's heroines are always so busty. (I'd love to know which Square games Sadie has been playing...cause none except FFVII come to mind...but oh well). the truth behind this fact is simple. Terra and Celes were decidedly.....the opposite of busty. The same goes for Rosa, Rydia, Faris (tee hee), etc. So they created Tifa's cupsize to compensate. Now they should even out, since they've made up for the backlog of....non-bustyness. insanity abounds

-- Kupan

Guys. Please. Lets stop and take a moment to think about this topic.

Can you imagine, just for a second, discussing the size of Cloud's package? How about Cecil's area? Or Vincent's back porch? Icky, right? Well, that's how girls feel during debates like this. I'm not blaming you, or the chap who wrote the initial letter, I just think it's time we all stopped talking about Square's fictional breasts and moved on with our lives. I know, it's hard. I've fallen off the waggon and made a Tifa/Pam Anderson joke or two in the past. You just have to live one day at a time, pray, and drink plenty of coffee.

Devil with a blue dress on. (Don't punny topics suck?)

Hey Thor,

In the Sages' column, someone brought up the topic of angels as the big boss in a lot of Square games, so I thought I'd share my thoughts on it. I personally don't think it's meant to be angels you are fighting, but rather fallen angels a.k.a. demons. Think about it. The biggest villain there is, the biggest villain there was, and the biggest villain there ever will be, Satan, is a fallen angel. Demons are the other fallen angels who sided with Satan against God. The depiction of Satan and demons as having horns and pitchforks and whatnot are a product of the middle ages where newly converted Christians painted them to look like monsters and stuff taken from their previous pagan religions. Maybe Square is just looking past the common image of demons and going back to the fact that they are fallen angels. They seem to do a lot of research to come up with their ideas, so I think they've done that again. Just my thoughts on the subject.

Everyone I heard from shared your thoughts (though you were the only one to bring up the pagan thing). I can only hope that Square got bored of the whole Christian symbology kick before they set to work on Final Fantasy VIII. It's never a good thing when people know what the main enemy will look like before any screenshots are released.

PS- I also have a theory about Red XIII's aging. Is that topic considered dead?

-- The Bad Guy

Dead and buried. I mean it. I'd better not get any letters. I'm warning you! Look, don't even try it. I've recently aquired UGP's old The Box, and am willing to use it. Is it ethical to swipe another letter column's gimmick? No, but they're as dead as the Red XIII debate, so I don't hear anyone complaining, heh heh.

Off topic babble, skip at will.

Blarg: I'm curious... where's this from? I seem to remember playing a PC shareware RPG much in the Zelda vein called God of Thunder, where you controlled yours truly. In that game was a character called Blarg, and I'm pretty sure some people used it as an exclaimation much like you do. Blarg! Well, you seem to be spreading the word across the web now... I face Blarg at every turn.

God of Thunder rocked, I don't remember anyone named "Blarg" though. Spooky coincidence?

Anyway, quick explanation: Blarg surfaced here and there throughout history, but was never made trendy until I came along. A few years back I started dating a girl who screamed "Blargle" when pissed. I shortened it to "Blarg", and formed a small technomancy cult based on the word alone. (Yes, seriously.) Nowadays the cult is gone, but I still like to use "Blarg" as a swear replacement. (By the way, "Blarg" is in more places than you may think. I can say no more, just keep your eyes open and PlayStation on, heh heh.)

BTW, in Allan's column today he said he could beat you in a fight ;-) That should be fun to see.

Well, must get back to work now.

-- Hahn's Clone, Robug Farmer, Blarg!

Hah! Nothing but childish boasting and self-delusion! The digital equivalent of whistling in a graveyard, I tell ya. My superior height, strength and martial arts skills (two years of Aikido, whapa!) would make short work of Milligan. And that's not even factoring in outside support: I have thousands of (or at least two) adoring fans; Allan just has an old sock with a face painted on it named "Mr. Bubzo". I rest my case.

Uhuhuh. He said 'hard'.

Hello, sir Thor:

I was reading today's (Feb. 5th) column, and I noticed something discussing the difficulty of RPGs, which got me to thinking - what exactly is the correct level of difficulty in an RPG? And what exactly is the correct way to apply difficulty? I know this letter may stir up some debate, and I'm curious what other people think - anybody out there have a formula for good and difficult games?

-- Clovis, ruler of the Merovingian Empire

Sorry I had to cut your nifty rant. I think it's time we stopped making public or favorite and least favorite games, at least if you'll use over a paragraph listing 'em.

There is no such thing as "good" difficulty. It's all subjective. Some people like mindless hack and slash, others like their battles few but really hard (FFT), others prefer breezing though their game. The only good difficulty is one that you can select yourself, since it's a mater of personal taste. (Optional puzzles, a random encounter % meter, and the ability to lower or raise the attack/defense/etc. of enemies would be nice.)

As to what exactly is an RPG's difficulty, well, this I can handle. There are three basic elements of an RPG's difficulty.

  1. Battle difficulty: How hard the random/boss encounters are. Duh.
  2. Puzzle difficulty: A few RPGs are filled with hard to solve puzzles to pad out the game. It's really kinda cheesy, but some people are fond of puzzle-heavy RPGs.
  3. "Where the HELL am I?" difficulty: Sometimes RPGs are really vague about what you should do next, so you'll spend hours wandering around and looking for clues. This is either the result of bad game design or a developer who is going for the "100+ Hours To Complete!" tagline.
And there you have it, the Trio of Challenge. They range from necessary (battle difficulty) to absurd (WtHaI difficulty), with puzzles sleeping nice and snug between the two. Going from one to the other, and sometimes both at once; professing its love on Battle Difficulty, then turning right around and saying the same to WtHaI; hanging up the phone without even saying goodbye; cheating on me with that rat bastard Ma--er. <blink> Moving on.

Waaah!

o Thor,

I think you should edit out greets that exceed four letters. This is getting out of hand - you're creating your very own 'crabbit.'

-- Rob Emes - Vandole

Yeah, I figured as much. From now on, just open your letters with "Yo, sexypants".

Now that they're taller than half an inch, they SUCK!

How could they!?!? Ok let me explain myself before I start ranting. I thought the clips of FMV for the FF4 remix looked very nice, I had no problem with it, but it didn't really hit home because FF4 wasn't exactly one of my favs (you can start yelling at me now or wait later). Ok, I also liked the FMV in FF7, beautifully done, more or less saved the game from its lack of content (bashing time yet?). Now I was wandering into RPGamer.com just a couple days ago and what do my eyes see ~ FMV cuts from the FF6 remix. I frantically clicked the button to see and I browse through the pics. Ummm... when did Kefka become a transvestite (just wondering?)

Never. He's always been a fem, you just couldn't tell when he was 32x32 pixils. Now that Kefka is larger than life, he just looks a bit like pre-Omega Marilyn Manson. (Kefka? Fallen angel? Antichrist Super Star? Today's column has an eerie underlying theme...)

When did Terra change her hair color and start to look like George's dead fiancee from Seinfeld (any answers yet?)

Well, she didn't, not really. Amano has always drawn Terra with blonde hair, so the FMV artists stayed true to his original concept.

Sabin looks just... ummm.. weird?

Oh come now, is that even a valid complaint? I thought he looked cool.

and well Edgar is the only one that seems alright... not that bad. I personally don't like all this realistic FMV Square seems to be dishing out like in FF8 *belch* (Ok now if you're not bashing me thank you very much) and now FF6 remix. In addition, my saddest scene of any RPG of all time is actually not a death (can you believe that?) ~ Its Gau's confrontation with his dad and when his dad doesn't accept him, and guess what, I am afraid with what Square might have done to that.

-- Moogli

Animated it realisticly instead of with blocky little sprites? God forbid. Now that Square is so hip to full motion video, the character designers have a lot more to deal with. I mean, look at Amano's original drawings of the Final Fantasy 6 gang. Everyone looks kind of... female, right? Well, those are what the characters were supposed to look like, it just didn't translate well to sprite form. But now that you can render up basicly anything, character designers have a lot more to worry about. Take Laguna Loire for example: Tetsuya Nomura drew what looks to be Sandra Bullock. No problem in polygon form, no problem in sprite form, but when rendered Laguna looks like... well... Sandra Bullock. There was no change when converted from sketch to game.

I hope this kind of clears up why the characters look so "weird". Square didn't change anything, they were just finally able to convey their original idea. Just 'cause you're used to a watered down version doesn't mean the FMV ruins Final Fantasy 6. Lets cut 'em some slack. :D

Insane fan #1

To My Sweet Little Thor,

Hello Thor, don't you remember me? It's your grandma. You haven't talked to me in a long time, and don't gimme that "but grandma I was busy" crap cause I know all you do all day is sit on your butt watching the Young & The Restless. Anyhow sugar, you really need to listen to your elders, cause they know a heck of a lot more than you!

Yeah, well, at least I know one thing you don't: How to control my bladder.

When that Temjirim freind of your's emailed you on friday about FF8 being extremely hard, I've concluded he was talking about the demo, which is hard by the way since you're given to few items, no directions on how to use stock or draw, and can't even build your levels. It even took your loving grandma 2 tries and a bottle of advil to thrash the demo. This would explain the part about the game not even being released yet. The demo, BTW, came with Brave Fencer Musashiden (a game about a loud-mouthed kid with 2 swords), and had really good FMV, and character animation.

Keep in touch, Love,

--Grandma Gilchmeyer

Ayup. You got it. Tem wrote me and said that, indeed, he was refering to the demo. I guess we'll have to wait a few more days before we know if Final Fantasy 8 is hard or easy as Cloud. (Come on, people: He could date Tifa, Aeris, Yuffie or even Barret. We're talking major sluttage, here.)

Insane fan #2

I was inspired by the picture in Friday's column to create my own little picture based on your glorious image. How afraid are you of your fans now? Gwa ha ha ha ha!

P.S. Just kidding. Don't, like, sue me or anything.

Too late. I've already contacted Beezel & Lucifer, Sony's law firm.

You know, some people have too much time on thier hands. This guy actually grabs the time others' hands just so he can have more in his. here's the disturbing picture he submitted. Beware, it's bloody. :o

...and back to Q&A

Thor,

Take a look at the NPCs in the game. There are, in fact several black and darker skinned persons in FFVII. The daughter of the grandpa train engineer in North Corel is darked skin. The "stay out of the kitchen" woman in Kalm (?) is black. There are a few others I can't remember off hand. There is a range of colored skin from butt-white to pitch-black. (I'm secretly convinced Cid was modeled off a Japanese chain-smoking graphic designer, but that's just me.

Good eye for, er, minorities there, dudette. You were the only one to send in that correction. Be proud.

And for the question: Are the Final Fantasies made for the GameBoy worth the plastic they were molded from? I'm thinking about acquiring one and would like to see what you have to say.

Oh, they're quite worth it, in a way that games like Final Fantasy VIII and Xenogears will never be. With the absence of all but an almost laughable excuse for storyline, you're forced to slip into sort of a weird "Kill or Be Killed" mindset, where your only goal is to make it through the dungeon--not to see some FMV, not to find out why Fei wears his hair the way he does, not to play a hastily put together minigame... just to kick some butt.

It's not for everyone, but most I know find it quite enjoyable, and a nice break from more plot-heavy RPGs. (I like both, depending on what mood I'm in, just for the record.)

By the way, I enjoy your column a lot. You have a good sense of humor.

-- Princess Artemis, holding her tongue about a million other things.

That makes one of you. Say, why hold back? I want all the questions I can get. If you want to know something, no mater how silly, unusual or trivial, send it in. Unless of course you want to know the length of my tongue, which one reader was, um, bold enough to ask. (How the heck would I know, anyway? Sheesh.)

Quickies: Off topic sillyness and shortarse corrections.

A helpful and sadly unnamed RPGamer wrote in: "For the guy who wanted to know Madonna's last name yesterday: it's Ciccone." Thank you, kind sir. You've made life happier for us all. // Another unnamed gamer asked: "do you think once your picture is posted everyone will stop writing in with stuff like: 'dear thor god of thunder my head feels like it's going to explode from the praise'". Honestly? Yes. From the day after I post my picture on, people will open their letters: "I want you. Is that wrong?" // Orion had this to say about the phrase "Stud-muffin": "when people are in love they call each other random crazy names, like 'muffin'. When you're breeding horses (with horses, I see that crazed look in your eye Thor...), you generally have many females, and one male to, uh, play with the females. He is called the stud. So there you have it, it's a cross of being a sex machine and being loved. Great little term, ain't it?" Ahh. Life is good. // Hoenir wondered: "Do you have a stereotypical Nordic accent? And if so, could you make a wav file of you saying one of your catch phrases with the aforementioned accent?" Actually, my accent is so unique no two people agree on what I sound like. Some say German, others English, others Californian, and still others insist I sound somewhat like JFK. It's a combination of 'em all, I guess. But I can tell you one thing for sure: I don't pronounce my R's. Fear. (Or, uh, Feea.) // And finally, AFGamer wondered: "Why?" Why? Because we like you. I am going to hell for that one, but it was worth it, heh heh.

Thor Stuff

Before I begin: DOWNLOAD THAT FF MOVIE CLIP! MY GOD! JUST DO IT!

Ahem.

Not much to say today, but only because I've got a full fledged rant for you tomorrow. Did you guys know that when I started writing about videogames, I wanted to be a colmnist? Yes, being a Q&A Dude played second fiddle to bitching weekly and getting paid for it.

Now, I've discovered I like Q&A'ing more, for the most part. More interaction with you guys. I love interacting with my readers, ya'll rock--hardcore. Even the guy who wanted me dead... just to a lesser extent.

Thing is, I haven't lost my love of whining like a little girl offering thought-prevoking commentary. So, I guess I'll make this a semi-official thing: Expect at least one bigarse Thor rant a week. Just don't hit me if I miss one.

- Thor "I'm finally human!" Antrim
I don't bathe, I shower. Soaking in my own filth isn't my idea of cleanliness.

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