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ASK ANDREW
Hier Ist Davda Duck April 14th, 2005

Andrew Long - 1:55 EST

HIER indeed. It's nice to know that the Ducktales theme song is just as awesome in multiple languages, yesno?




L E T T E R S
More monkeying around


Morning Castomel,

First off, your suggestion last week worked brilliantly. I laced the bananas with a drug used often in ancient Chinese interrogation chambers. Steve was completely out of it! And the best part was...while he was drugged I had him do my taxes for me!

Thats it for the good news...the bad news is that when I got home today I noticed that poo was smeared all over my house. I can't help but think that this could have been avoided if I had handled the situation better. Any advice?

----
Best Regards
Christopher Beaupre


ANDREW


I think the time has come for you and Steve to settle your differences with conversation. Now I know most monkeys can not talk, as such, but Steve seems to be pretty handy with a keyboard, so I think if you two take the time to talk things over, you'll find that once you get beyond the poo-flinging and tranquilizer lacing, the only reason you're at odds is because I keep pitting you against one another in a struggle fiendishly clever in its Machiavellian intricacies.

But don't blame me! You asked for the advice, after all.



PCtastic


Hey Andrew,

Hows it going? I'll start by saying I feel your pain when it comes to the weather. I live in Newfoundland, and anyone who ever lived here can tell you that the weather here sucks, always. Anyway,I've been playing RPG's forever it seems, but one thing I never did was play many on my PC. I don't know why, I guess I just never got into them. My question is, do you know any good RPG/Strategy games for the PC other the Star/Warcraft, and Diablo 1 and 2, also don't include any MMORPG because I can't afford to pay online fees (stupid university eats up all my money)?

BTW what would your pick for the greatest RPG ever?
purelunatic


ANDREW

Whoa... they have universities in Newfoundland? Okay, now that I have the obligatory Newfie joke out of the way, you can hate me forever and I can recommend Knights of the Old Republic (or its sequel, or both!) or Neverwinter Nights or Fallout to you on the RPG side, and give you a cautious nod towards C&C Generals on the not-made-by-Blizzard strategy front. There are a few other RTS out there as well that are allegedly fairly good, but regrettably, they are all within my PCGamer, which is a whole two rooms away.

Anyhow, best RPG ever? Tie between Chrono Trigger and FFVI.



And now, for A Succesion of Noveletters, or Fitos Lusec Noves Tecterons


Andrew, I think I may have been living in a cave too long to understand your Jeopardy references.....but the cave I live in now is called Japan, and I might be able to shed some light on 7evilz' comments on Before Crisis and perhaps by extension the entire compilation [sic? I'd think it would be completion] he/she brings up.

Let me start by stating that Before Crisis is NOT a bastion of superior gameplay (the hit detection is not as bad as say, Elevator Action, but it ain't what I'd call good, either; at times the game can't handle too many bullets on the screen at once--on rescue missions for captured Turks my pistols can go through the animation for firing but not execute an attack--often at the most inopprotune times). For a mobile phone game over here, its graphics are certainly okay, but the upcoming Devil May Cry (unfortunately for a different company's phones) looks much slicker. The use of your camera to create materia is a novel integration of features, but frankly I've had a hard time trying to create advanced materia lately now that I've maxed most of my lower-level spells out, and am starting to hurt for something a little more powerful. The updates also make for slightly inconsistent gameplay--in the past, I could count on say, Comet to do a certain amount of damage depending on the level of the materia--now there is more variable damage (this could have something to do with enemy magic defences, I'm not entirely sure).

But despite all these flaws, the game is a lot of fun for me to play. Not only because it helps me practice my kanji, because it does give some interesting glimmers of insight into what were really great archtypal characters in the console game that sometimes lacked the development we've become used to here in the post FFX era (where sometimes even minor characters are granted what would have, in the past, been considered a considerable amount of backstory). The plot sequences are often pretty short, and many of the "original" characters feel very cookie-cutter (the upper echelon of Avalanche feels at times like the cast of Battle of the Planets (ie some 80s anime space opera)), but it IS fun to get glimpses of a lot of the original game's cast. For example, I haven't seen as much of him as I'd like, but Rufus' (probably my favorite character from the PS version) interaction with the President provided some welcome backstory to their bad relationship--I now feel I can see why he was sent away from Midgar. Reno has a playfulness to his character that we see twisted later into sadism in the original game (after he's had a chance to really be poisoned by Shin-ra's dirty politics). I'm not up to speed with the latest chapters (I'm currently at Five of, I think Seven), but Cloud has just finished with his Soldier basic training, and I'm very excited to see how his presence figures into the story.

I think it's amazing that there's a (admittedly heavily flawed) game which develops characters many gamers have probably come to think of as unredeemable villains, and casts a group we were previously conditioned to think of as Doing The Right Thing into the antagonists. Although I only play as one character (the ex-mafia bodyguard, with the dual pistols), meeting the other avatars during rescue missions (if you are "killed" in gameplay, you have the option of waiting in an Avalanche prison cell for another Turk to come and rescue you, saving you from losing rank points, essentially AP) gives a good impression of the kind of people Shin-ra is willing to put into service (sociopaths like Sepharoth notwithstanding). They aren't all bad.....in the end, it's a living.....

In closing (I've let this drag out WAY too long for it to get posted, I think, but maybe you'll find it enlightening, or can forward it back to 7evilz), I'd say that Before Crisis certainly is far from "kicking ass," but for 500 yen a month it's great to kill time waiting on friends or between classes at school (I'm in JET, a program occasionally referenced in a different column on this site).....and it does give a (moderately) worthwhile glimpse into what the world of FFVII was like before Shin-ra was in Absolute Power. Based on what I've seen here, I think there's no reason to badmouth these spin-offs. Are they motivated by a desire for financial gain? To quote FFVII's translation, 'off course'! Square-Enix needs to prove to its shareholders that this merger was a good idea, and to its main (read: Japanese) fanbase that it's responsive to their desires, despite the namechange. A company is a machine which exists first and foremost to make money, and in today's age of franchise gaming it makes good sense to target a beloved title. But despite all that, I think that these games can and will offer another glimpse into a world that a lot of gamers would like to see, not to mention hopefully filling in some of the sketchy details of the original game.

So I guess I should include a token question too then, huh? The last time I wrote a letter to the RPGamer Q&A it didn't have a question, but that was when Thor still answered the letters. What do you think the ultimate appeal of Final Fantasy VII is? Historically, it changed gaming forever, really introducing the concept of the "blockbuster game," but is it only the wide base of players which makes it so enduring? Or is it something more? I remember I received a promotional VHS tape for the game from Square's mailing list in late '96, where in an interview Sakaguchi detailed how during the making of FF V his mother died, and VII was largely a result of his coming to terms with his grief and moving on in his life (which might explain why VI is my favorite of the series, being a game steeped from its creation in grief and doubt of salvation). Does the game encapsulate that for the audience, or was it another factor, or combination? What's your take?

Chrysolite (long ago posting as Schwa, The Unknowable Letter, for anybody who remembers the ancient argument over opera in games and the virtues of character design by Amano vs Toriyama and/or Nomura--ie none ^^)


ANDREW

I think someone hit the nail on the head yesterday when they called it a "decent game at the right time", but more than that, it was also the first RPG that chose to delve into the psyche of both the good guy and the bad guy as deeply as it did, and when you combine that with the first-ever heavily polygonned boobies, you've got the makings of a fairly compelling mix for a fairly compelling cross-section of the population. Granted, the translation we got here was abominable, but all in all, the story in FFVII was a good deal more complex than pretty much any game we'd ever seen here in North America, which is probably why it sold so well. Moreover, it was an enjoyable game to play, in keeping with previous FFs, and the sheer number of combinations possible with the materia system gave it some pretty decent replayability.

I think, however, that it would be silly to discount the impact the advertising campaign had. When you look back, FFVII's commercial pretty much changed advertising of videogames. Before that came out, you were pretty much limited to stuff like this, which can't possibly have made any sane person want to buy videogames. Actually showing what the game had to offer was a big step forward, which you think they would have made earlier, given the success of 30-second movie trailers.



Noveletter 2: First Blood


Hey there Castomel,

Remember the out of touch gamer topic from months ago, I had the misfortune of running into a person who knew nothing about gaming yesterday, fear not Cast this story will be shorter than my disgaea made me relove strategy rpgs alittle too much story, anyway Tuesday my mom's car had some issues so we took it to the car dealership to have it checked out, while in the waiting room we sat beside an elderly lady of about 65-75 who proceeded to tell us about her son breaking his nose while learning karate then running away to join the navy then becoming a police officer like his brother and so on and so forth, I couldn't give a crap unless you payed me so i whipped out my trusty GBA SP cause I'm too poor for a DS or a PSP, and started playing FF1, then the old lady asked if that was one of the new gameboys and I said said yes it's a GBA SP the third generation of Gameboy, well does it play old games, What do you mean by old games I ask, the regular games she said, I then proceeded to tell her about it having backwards compatibility with the original Gameboy games but that I'd never tried it because honestly none of my regular gameboy games are worth a ---- and i could careless if they worked, well is that one of the ones you plug into the wall or is it one that needs batteries, I explained about it's battery life, well my son left his gameboy at home when he joined the navy so I tried to play it but it ate up too many batteries so I plugged it in a wall and then it never worked again, then thankfully she left and I don't wanna think about the fate of that poor gameboy... not quite as entertaining as a clerk in walmart thinking GBC games plugged up to the X-Box or two hillbillies thinking Sega dreamcast games play on the X-Box because apparently SEGA made the X-Box... and not microsoft but yeah... people arround here think the X-Box can do anything I guess...

Also Square even admitted to coasting buy purely onthe Final Fantasy brand name in an interview I read shortly after FFX came out in Japan, that they planned on releasing remakes and sequels containing the Final Fantasy name because after travesties like Vagrant Story, Chrono Cross and Legend of Mana, the Squaresoft logo on a product wasn't tricking unsuspecting gamers into buying their stuff any more, so they planned to ----- out the Final Fantasy name to full affect and so far they've been keeping to their gameplan, I for one plan on buying the compilation, not so much because of it being FF7 related but to keep track of how the are DBZing FF7 out, by which I mean adding in a villian that is pretty much like Sephiroth but a little harder so that the world of FF7 is always in constant danger and when Cloud and co get to old to carry on the fight their children will pick up where they left off, and honestly Square could do the same with 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, and they've already started on 10 desent into horrid sequels, So yeah I will watch the FF7 movie and may or may not play Vincent's spin off, not so much because of FF7 but to see the travesty unfold and look for some redeeming feature when they inevitably tank, so yeah nice job sticking to your gameplan Square

Also on the game companies releasing something because people signed a petion for it, I've had the misfortune of buying a certain anime themed game people lobbied for which has to have some of the worst gameplay mechanics and translations I've seen in awhile... not to mention atrocious voice acting, so I agree with your long standing it stayed in japan for a reason, that reason because it sucks statement

Anyway off of me being a masochistac gamer at times, by which I mean I buy crappy games and struggle through them looking for one reedeming quality, and onto a question

What's the most god awful game you've ever played?

And do you know of any RPG creation engines were you can make a strategy/tactical rpg with it?

Cause I have a few ideas rattling through my brain which are best put into a gridded turnbased strategy rpg but I have not the resources nor the time or attention span to learn programming so I want to take the cheap and lazyass way through

Arros Raikou
proudly displaying his & and still a rambling lazyass bastard


ANDREW

Okay, last time a letter like this gets posted for you. Please have a point other than random anecdotes, because while hearing about that old lady made me chuckle, a chuckle does not an answer make, and that's my purpose here. As to the RPG engine, we're not supposed to talk about such things here, since they're frowned upon by the same people that frown upon ROMs.



Brevity is the soul of not pissing me off


Okay, so I keep reading this nonsense from people who are either complaining about or defending the SquareEnix methodology of rerereleasing Final Fantasy VII in various aged, bite-sized chunks. Let me break this down for both sides, so perhaps they can clearly understand one another.

For those who are angry at SquareEnix: Get over it. This is a company who needs money. They got broke, they got bought, and now they need to fix some things. Haven't you wondered why there's been no new Final Fantasy and only limited information on number 12? This is because right now Final Fantasy XI and Final Fantasy VII are the most profitable, the latter still. The game has an almost cult-like status and you need to face it. People want this game, and the company is giving them what they want - more. Its simple business. And it's going to get them customers.

For those angry at the people who are angry at SquareEnix: You, too, get over it. Not everybody likes that game as much as you. On that note, not everybody wants to play fifteen expansion packs for Final Fantasy XI, and are perhaps still bitter that the only new Final Fantasy for them to play was the scantly-clad Final Fantasy X-2. In fact, they are probably more upset because the Square side of SquareEnix has been essentially neglecting a lot of its fans by only making expansions and spinoffs, and don't start talking about Kingdom Hearts because not everybody appreciates fighting in Disneyland, not unless you can take down Michael Eisner as well. But you can't. The company's recent announcements that they are going to focus more on online games now is leaving a rather giant hole for the non-Final Fantasy VII and Kingdom Hearts-inclined. Why are people angry at SquareEnix? They want games.

The RPG market has been in a kind of stale zone lately. There's a lot to play, but very little is new or worth looking at. What was the last game to be released? SquareEnix, or rather Square, used to be the big kid on campus who put everything of themselves into innovation and new material for their fans to play. It's their lack of efforts in that regard now that has gotten people upset. And who can blame them?

Yet I am cautiously optimistic. Why am I? Because I figure once SquareEnix has released their Final Fantasy VII set, they'll realize that the cow has gone dry, and soon their milk supply will go sour. And while there's no use crying over spilled or sour milk, someone needs to clean up that problem, and when that time comes we might get something new and interesting.

I will be waiting. My day will come soon.
--Ryan


ANDREW

That's all very balanced of you, but I don't think Square Enix will realize that the cow has gone dry. I think they'll keep pumping out FF crap, and it will take serious financial consequences to cause them to realize the error of their ways, which won't happen in the short term because Dragon Quest VIII is going to sell well and FFXII will presumably turn some pretty big numbers too, given the fact that it's been almost 4 years since the last console FF was released.

In the end, the new titles like Radiata Stories have become increasingly few and far between, and the simple fact of the matter is that Square's top three development teams have by and large bolted for greener pastures. Enix, while attracting a strong following in Japan, has never really been a bastion of exceptional RPG development outside of Dragon Warrior, and most noteworthy titles bearing its name were produced by other outfits like tri-Ace, which, while somewhat dependent upon S-E is not really a part of it as such.

Overall, I find the milking of the FF name to be deplorable, and I don't care how much people don't like me complaining about it - it deserves complaining about. Square used to be reliable and now I barely trust them to turn out a game I won't want to pitch out the window.





C L O S I N G
IN CONCLUSION:

Short column today - sorry, I kind of ran out of time. Tomorrow will be an open-topic day, so send in what you will, for I shall endeavour to answer it all.

castomel@rpgamer.com
Andrew Long wishes he was as good at Gradius as he was six months ago.


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