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Note: I am not the most avid RPG gamer, and I'll be the first one to admit it, but I have played the two games that are mentioned in this editorial, so my opinions are not entirely unfounded.
So, I have a theory, and it goes like this:
Three years ago, Squaresoft announced that the next game in the popular Final Fantasy series was going to be developed for a new system, called the Sony Playstation. It was not long before the first pieces of information dribbled out of RPGamer and other gaming magazines. I, like many others, saw those first bits of info about the story and the fuzzy screenshots, and I thought the game looked HORRIBLE. It's true. I could never imagine anyone wanting to play a game about some rebels who decide to blow up a power plant.
However, the game soon gained popularity as well as publicity. It was the first RPG that had a commercial I had seen on TV. The game itself was called "revolutionary", moving from 2-D sprites to rendered landscapes and full-motion video. It turned out that there was more to the game than playing the role of a terrorist after all.
On the eve of the game's release the anticipation had reached a fevered state. When the game finally hit the shelves after months of delay it was quickly sold out and smashed previous sales records. Web pages dedicated to its music, art and story sprang up everywhere. Message boards were never still, for every two seconds someone posted their opinion on the game. Its popularity had reached a climax. I personally did not play it until some time later, but I loved it as well.
After some time, the frenzy died down, and complaints began surfacing, everything from "Aeris should be revived" to "The ending sucked!" to "I hate the materia system!" to "Why do these people have hooves?" And the criticism kept coming, and it goes on even today, when we are still debating about the significance of its ending. Final Fantasy VII somehow managed to be the most popular and the most criticized game ever made.
Then, last year, Squaresoft unveiled the first glances at its newest creation, also for the Playstation, called Final Fantasy VIII. I looked at it, and again, I thought the game looked extremely bad. Squall? Leonhart? Rinoa Heartilly? Talk about cheesy names! A floating garden of mercenaries? What were these people thinking? This isn't what a Final Fantasy should be!
This time, however, there were no TV commercials, at least none that I've seen. People talked about it, but there wasn't quite the anticipation that FFVII had sparked. I can't explain why, perhaps it was that the Playstation was no longer the new, fresh system it once was. Perhaps people, as they have made it seem, are disillusioned about Final Fantasies. Perhaps Squaresoft's hold on the market was beginning to wane, as there were now an abundance of 32-bit RPGs about.
When FFVIII was released, the sales numbers were good, but it did not come close to that of FFVII's figures. There weren't as many web pages devoted to it, and message boards weren't nearly as active. Personally, I thought that the story was a bit convoluted, but the graphics were amazing, and the music didn't disappoint me.
Yet, there is something interesting about FFVIII. It obviously could not compete with FFVII in terms of hype and hysteria, but people weren't complaining about it half as much, either. Aside from the occasional "All graphics, no story" or "Whatever happened to armor and having my own magic?", there wasn't as much negativity towards it as there was for FFVII. Maybe this means something. Could there be an direct relationship between how much hype a game receives, and how much people complain about it? Sure!
The more people hype a game up, the more they are going to expect from the game, but as we all know, you can't please everyone (that's a whole another editorial). Not even Squaresoft, the biggest RPG-making company, can accomplish that. FFVII was an experiment, that's a fact. After all, it was a tremendous shift from 16-bit to 32-bit. The hype, however, caused many of us to expect that FFVII be exactly our conception of the game. That's just not possible, because FFVII is only one game. To please some would alienate others.
FFVIII never achieved that level of hype, and even though it introduced a whole magic system, like FFVII and other FFs before it, people didn't seem to gripe too much about it. It also made huge advances in graphics and general chronology of the game, but that was accepted, albeit somewhat reluctantly. At least that was the impression I got.
My point is that hype sells games, but it seems to taint public opinion of the company. And I do think that both games for the Playstation had real flaws that could have been fixed. But in the end they are both good, enjoyable games. Why is one regarded so differently from the other? It's all in the eye of the beholder.
You are all welcome to correct me on any mistakes, as my mailbox has been gathering dust. My address is Macabre_Incognito@Juno.com. If you have a different opinion regarding something I've said, write your own editorial! I'd like to hear (or read).
[Editor's Notes: This editorial is very well written in the sense that it gives several ideas for people to ponder while remaining very well-written and it is totally devoid of personal opinion on the matter from what I can see. That makes for one heck of an editorial-reading experience.]
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