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"There's a problem with the zombies, they're bleeding!" February 23, 2005

Googleshng - 4:00 EST

The great thing about having to make pieces for a game you're going to show off at a convention is how you end up with people shouting things like this at you from across the room.




L E T T E R S
A Meandering Xenosaga Question


Dear Googleshng,

I will preface my question (as many writers do) by addressing the video game whence it came. I was playing Xenosaga II and it occurred to me that what is missing (among other things) from Xenosaga I is a level of customization. I understand they can't make the second one like the first, and I understand that there's a certain bias because I've grown accustomed to the first Xenosaga. But still, Xenosaga I managed to balance customization brilliantly; each character maintained their own originality and uses through things like variations in leveling up among characters (unlike, say, FF1 or FF5 where it was all random anyways) and a difference in skills (which FF1, FF4, or FF9 had in full force, but would be considered lacking in games like FF5, FF7, or FF8 for example). Personally, I am a huge fan of FF6 because it maintained a balance between the usefulness of each character to the overall (Gogo is to Locke as Galuf is to Butz??? no!) while still allowing lots of customization by the gamer to take place through the use of espers (level up bonuses, magic, special attacks that no one used).

Episode 1: Der Wille zur Macht improved on that concept (with a totally different system) by making the stats much easier to manipulate using Tech Points, having several skills and spells which all characters could use (most ethers), adding more character-specific skills (the remaining ethers) and deathblows for each character that are also even MORE manipulatable through tech points by doing things like adding attack power to the deathblows or eliminating the wait-time. (but you already know all of this)

It isn't until I played Xenosaga II that I realized how much of that customization I appreciated in Xenosaga I. This skill system is like a weakly constructed, poorly thought-out combination of FF7 and Dragon Quest using the accessory ideas they already had from Ep 1; I don't much care for this "pool of skills" design, and even the cute little 3D planet diagram doesn't make up the difference.

As such, my question is how do you feel about character customization as a facet of RPG construction, and which games got it right, in your eyes?

PS. I agree with you about the disappointing carry over. I was hoping for like a "real" carry over (.Hack) seeing as how I beat the game my first time through at like level 40. But then that would give the so-called 'video game elite' the opportunity to call it "more of the same". Is it so wrong to want more of the same sometimes?

Googleshng

Yeah, I really don't understand why they took the surprisingly fun and complex skill system they already had, and replaced it with a new one. The new one isn't bad mind you, but if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

I rather liked the branching skill trees, but having pretty much complete control over what characters gain what abilities in one order can be fun too.



Where are they now?


I'm a huge fan of the Dragon Quest and Lunar series'. I have questions about the release of titles that I thought were annonced, but can't find any substantial news on. I know DQ Online was announced a few years back, has this been cancelled, or have you heard any evidence that it's in development? And has anyone announced a Lunar 3? All I've seen are rumors. Thanks for your time.

Eric

Googleshng

Things have been pretty darn quiet on both fronts. I don't think we're going to get a Lunar 3 anytime soon, DQO might come up again at E3, or might have been mothballed. So uh... watch and wait I guess.



A Controversial Opinion


have always kind of had a grudge against real-time RPGs of the 3rd dimension for some reason. A couple of months ago, I had the intense pleasure of playing through and beating Grandia 2, a game that mashes the turn based menu battle method along with a few real-time aspects and ideas. Since I thoroughly enjoyed the game, I decided that I was fed up with not playing 3D real-time RPG's. I decided to pick up a game that I had heard so much about but was reluctant to play - Kingdom Hearts. I started it up with hope that it would be amazing and blow me away. I was disappointed to say the least. As I see it, this seems to be the formula they had in mind when creating Kingdom Hearts:

-Some Disney characters and Disney world settings,

-Random Final Fantasy characters that have nothing to do with the plot at all and do nothing more than blotch up the plot of the games they belong to when they could just as easily be replaced by generated NPCs and not be defaced,

-The worst camera angles I've seen in my entire life,

-An embarrassing targeting system,

-A nonsensical plot line based on the love triangle of three 9 year olds,

-An angsty and annoying 9 year old main character,

-And the greatest button mashing demand this world has ever seen.

Take all of that and slap SQUARESOFT on it and suddenly its a real-time RPG masterpiece. I think the integration of Disney characters in combat worked surprisingly well, and strange enough, I found myself enjoying scenes involving the Disney characters. I'm just confused about why this game was seen as this "huge leap" where Square would masterfully put Final Fantasy characters and Disney characters into the same game and make it work. What purpose did the Final Fantasy characters serve in the plotline that required nothing more than a simple, "My world is being/has been destroyed by the Heartless!" How do the Final Fantasy characters even tie into the Kingdom Hearts storyline without blotching up their own story line? Tidus is a small kid living on a tiny island; Cloud has turned into some kind of demon; Sephiroth is back and in an arena killing kids; Aries is alive and has teamed up with Yuffie and Squall to help out the Keyblade Master; FF7 Cid is now building Gummi Ships for outer space travel in a town full of refugees. The list goes on. I applaud Square for taking on the goal of putting the unlikely pair together in a game and doing it so well, but why so much praise? The game mechanics weren't very impressive and nothing too innovative. I'm sick of Squaresoft fanboys hassling me for not thinking Kingdom Hearts was a Square masterpiece, a title that is reserved for a select few pre-PS2 RPGs they churned up. One redeeming quality of the game was that it was pretty challenging at some parts. The last battle with Riku comes to mind. The ending was cool, anyways.

andy

Googleshng

Here's why there are FF characters in Kingdom Hearts. Rabid FF Fanboys are the loudest voice in the RPG playing community. If you toss something in for them (Cloud in FFT, the characters in KH, any game with Chocobo in the name), it's guaranteed not only to hugely boost your sales, but keep people from pointing out any problems they might have with it, out of fear of frothing zealots.

If you want a slightly less cynical answer, the whole reason the game exists is that the character designer for the recent FF games wanted to see his characters cavorting with those from Disney movies he really likes.



Xtrategies


Have you reached the Ormus Stronghold in Xenosaga II yet? There's a boss, Orgulla, that's giving me one hell of a time. I go to message boards and they're like "yeah she was teh ez i killed her in 1 minte hahaha", and yet her attack power is mind-boggling in her second form. Maybe I'm a bit underlevelled, but the regular battles around there are taking like 4 to 8 minutes each, so I was wondering if there were any useful strategies you've found to ease the battle. Once I got her to around 5000 HP left, then she cured himself in one turn for 4500 and I almost broke my controller in frustration. Help!

- Feep "Damn androids..."

Googleshng

I've been working my fingers to the bone getting this stuff ready to go, so I'm not quite that far. I can tell you that there's plenty of FAQs floating about for the game that can help you out if you poke around though, or if you just want some general purpose advice for bosses in the game in general:

  • Moving your biggest damage dealer behind the boss helps immensely.
  • Hoarding Stock and Boost for a giant combo of death at the last minute thwarts both low HP attacks, and helps nail those skill boosts.
  • Pretty much every skill has a use in some situation or other, so make sure someone has all your bases covered.


The Perks of not Having an Office


Okay, as a brief follow up to KOS-MOS' awful voice, she doesn't talk too much. It's really kind of sad (although fortunate in the sense that we don't have to hear her). I'm about 6 hours into the game, and KOS-MOS hasn't said another word since her opening lines. Sure, she's in some scenes...but she's not talking. Perhaps Monolith realized their error and could only correct it through silence. This in fact does prove that "silence is golden."

On the question. First and foremost, everyone at your site does a remarkable job. There are some other video games sites that I also go to regularly. I've noticed, though, that I shouldn't expect any updates over the weekend, or during a holiday from those sites. At your site, though, the updates always seem constant. So, do you guys ever take a break? Of course, if you don't, that's wonderful for us, but seems awful for you.

an RPGfan

Googleshng

Not only did the developer not pick KOS-MOS' new english voice, they'd already written the whole script before it was cast.

Anyway though, yeah, I can't think of a time when RPGamer, as a whole, has ever had a day off. Individual staffers will go on vacation sometimes, for maybe a month out of the year, but even then, that tends to be the exception. Basically, we all work from home, honestly have pretty short hours when it comes down to it, and love working here. At least until collapsing from the stress of working for 3 straight years with no vacation causes us to snap or something, but that's when those rare vacations come in.



Story Time


I'm a firm believer that a RPG is only as good as its story. I can handle a poor battle system with a good story better than a good battle system with a boring story. I'm really enjoying Xenosaga 2 right now and the most enjoyable aspect of the series is how deep and interesting the story is. I thought the story in FFX was good and put together with FFX-2, made it even better, but only if you get the good endings. Vagrant Story is my favorite game of all-time and I thought that story rocked, so I was wondering what RPGs do you consider to have the best story in them?

Googleshng

Assuming we're going with "most amusing" as a definition of "best" as opposed to "having the most to say about life" or something pretentious like that, I think I'd have to go with, in no particular order... Disgaea, Skies of Arcadia, and Koudelka off the top of my head.





C L O S I N G
Googleshng:

Seriously. The Move command in Xenosaga 2 is crazy good. Anyway, I just have 2 days left to prepare, and a sleep schedule to fiddle with, so if you'd be so kind as to try and get the letters for tomorrow's column to me early, I'd appreciate it.

googleshng@rpgamer.com
googleshng@rpgamer.com


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