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Original Editorial: The Problem with Modern Gamers
[Author's note: This editorial can be broken up into two parts: the first having to do with graphics not killing the game; the second accepting Magentice's Xenogears/FF8 hypothesis.]
Have you read Magentice's editorial on "The Problem with Modern Gamers"? If you haven't, I suggest you do before reading this one, since I'm writing a rebuttal of sorts.
Now that you know what I'm up against, let me start out by saying... "Now that's just wrong."
(Pt. 1) I'm a "modern" gamer. I started with Final Fantasy VII. FFVII was my first Role Playing Game. What's that? Role... Playing... Game. Let's look at that genre title just one more time. Role Playing Game. Not Two-Dimensional-Or-Die Playing Game. Not 3D-is-Satan Playing Game. The definition of a Role Playing Game is a game where you're playing a role.
Now, this can be deceptive; in Super Mario Bros., you play the role of Mario. However, "Role Playing Game" has several connotations which are different for most people who play them. Many will say it is a long, drawn-out quest to do something, whether it be to save the world (Final Fantasy et al), save the Princess (er, Zelda?), or find out just what the hell you are, anyway (BoF3). Some say there must be multiple characters and interaction; others insist that there must be subquests and an intricate plot above all. The connotations of an RPG are broad and quite varied, but the most heinous thing to insist is that graphics make it something besides an RPG. Graphics, my friends, do not kill the game.
I love FFVII. I really, really love that game. T'was my first RPG! Nostalgia reigns over all, you know. The music, the gameplay, and the graphics were all wonderful. Just excellent. I'd never experienced anything so cool in my entire life. To say "we over glamorized our games" is just wrong. If you want to use your imagination, play a pencil-and-paper RPG. I want to see the story unfold before me, while playing a part in that story. FMV sequences, 3D battles, and beautifully rendered backgrounds do not detract from this experience! Rather, they add to it. I would rather play FFVII through again than FFVI, and I think they're both just awesome. It's not that I'm a graphics whore, but nobody can tell me that Aeris's death in 2D sprites would have had nearly the same effect. Those of you who have seen an entertaining little image entitled "Final Fantasy VII for the Atari 2600" know what I mean.
(Pt. 2) Ah, but I digress, for I believe that the point Magentice is trying to get across is that once the hordes of "modern" gamers start wondering if there was a FF6 or FF5 before the FF7, they'll seek them out and play them. Consequently, they will hate them because they have bad graphics, even though Magentice seems to think their gameplay and plot are just as good, if not much better. I, for one, have Final Fantasy Anthology, if only to make my wonderful ROMs legal. I've played through FF6 numerous times; I think it's just as great as FF7 once the nostalgia element is scrapped. FF5 is less enjoyable for me than FF6, but that's probably because I haven't gotten very far; the story hasn't really picked up yet. My only problem with FF4 is that I don't have the time to level up to enter that final dungeon. My point is, if someone plays FF6 and despises it for bad graphics, it is 1) their fault for being rather shallow individuals, and 2) none of our business, as it doesn't affect you or me in any way. That means there's essentially no reason to complain about it, but I'll accept your little hypothesis anyway:
If someone changed FF8 to make it look exactly like Xenogears, anime sequences and all, I wouldn't enjoy it as much. Ya know why? Not because the graphics aren't as good. Because the graphics are different; the graphics would be Xenogears graphics, the battles would be Xenogears battles. Don't get me wrong, I think Xenogears is GREAT! But the feel of Final Fantasy VIII is unique, and that's what makes it such a great experience. If Xenogears looked exactly like Final Fantasy 8, it would seriously suck. The experience and wonderful feel of Xenogears is great right where it is, sprites and all.
In conclusion, the beauty of an RPG is melding a story with gameplay. Graphics are a nice bonus. I do, however, believe that if too much of a company's time is spent developing graphics, it can detract from the time spent developing plot, gameplay, etc. I believe there has already been an editorial written on this, though, so I'll just say 'Ta-ta...!' for now.
Questions and comments welcome, of course.
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