A rather scathing editorial about the RPGamer awards of 2000

All right, this being my first editorial ever, I'll try to make this good. Recently, I had the displeasure of reading some of the most biased and inaccurate (in this author's not so humble opinion) awards I'd ever seen. Now, I understand that this site used to be The Unofficial Squaresoft Homepage, but I had hoped that the fine employees of RPGamer would have grown past that original boundary. I noticed that, wherever applicable, a Squaresoft game won the awards. There were only three exceptions. Letdown of the Year, which I don't count because it's not a positive award, Best Graphics, which was given to Shenmue, with runners up of Skies of Arcadia (which I will cover later), Chrono Cross, and FF9, in that order, and Best Dialogue, which was given to Lunar 2, with the same exact three runners up as Best Graphics had. I don't have anything seriously against Squaresoft, but I believe that it is a little bit excessive to say that FF9 and Chrono Cross (the two games which really cleaned up), were in fact so superior to all other challengers that they either won every single award, or were present as runners up where they didn't win.

The only game that detracted from Square's immense success in these awards was the highly talked about Skies of Arcadia. Having never played the game, I cannot make any informed criticisms about it, or say that I know for sure that it didn't deserve the awards it got. I will assume, for purposes of argument, that Skies of Arcadia did indeed justly win the titles of Best Gameplay and Best Plot. But the runners up are highly contestable. FF9 and Chrono Cross are present in both categories, as runners up. And for Best Gameplay, Front Mission 3 also gained a slot, making the whole line of runners up consist of Square games. I've never played FM3 either, so I won't contest that one, but FF9 and Chrono Cross are once again gaining superiority over far more deserving titles. One game which seems grossly underrated in these awards is Valkyrie Profile.

I loved Valkyrie Profile. In my mind, it consisted of everything that a good RPG should have. An innovative and fun battle system, likeable characters, an intriguing plot, and just enough non-linearity to make it fun but not a pain in the rear to figure out how to finish. And when you heap on excellent voice acting and animated art flawlessly mixed with CG effects, the result is a gem of a game that deserved far better than RPGamer rated it at. As for the Best Graphics slot, I would like to point out that although Shenmue did have admittingly stunning graphics, that is only one type of art. The style of art that is fading out of existance these days is the animation and sprite art that was beautifully done in Valkyrie Profile. Oh, and I'll give you one guess as to what the runners up were. Yup, you got it. Skies of Arcadia, FF9, and Chrono Cross. Note the lack of any animated game in those rankings.

Most Fun to Play is a highly difficult ranking to decide on. Not surprisingly, a Square game won, in this case it was FF9, with runners up of Skies of Arcadia, Chrono Cross, and Lunar 2 (which is also underrated, but at least it sometimes got third place runner up and in one case won the whole title). I'd have to say that I don't think FF9 was all that fun to play. It was, to put it simply, way too easy. You can't have the most fun game be one that is too easy. It just doesn't work that way. At least, not in my opinion.

As I get closer to my final point, I will cover the second to last topic I find a problem with. Best Music, which should have rightfully gone to Valkyrie Profile, has been awarded to Chrono Cross, with the first two runners up being Squaresoft games, and the final one being Valkyrie Profile, which was one of the only three places where it got onto the charts for anything (The other two being PSX RPG of the Year, which it also got 3rd runner up on, and Battle System, which it got 2nd runner up on). Chrono Cross had beautiful music, and a wide variety of tracks, but it wasn't up to the level of Valkyrie Profile. Valkyrie Profile had a wonderfully diverse selection of tracks, each capturing a different feel to it, each drawing you into the dungeon that it represented. If you don't think so, play on Hard Mode and visit all the dungeons. A good 30% of the game's music is only available on Hard Mode. The final boss of the A ending had music in the background that was just perfect. In fact, the whole game was close to perfect. Had RPGamer been less biased in favor of Square, I have no doubt that Valkyrie Profile would have gotten the recognition it deserved.

It looks like I'm going on and on, so I'll wrap this up. My final argument is found by looking at the Letdown of the Year award. Yes, you read it right, Chrono Cross is one of the runners up. The word 'How?' comes to mind. Chrono Cross admittingly had trouble living up to its hype, but if the people at RPGamer thought highly enough of it to rate it so well, how could it have also been a letdown? To bring this all to a close, I think that FF9 and Chrono Cross were great games, and I can't deny that they deserved some awards, but I just can't see how they were good enough to win positions on ALL the awards. Perhaps RPGamer should start considering games other than Skies of Arcadia, FF9, and Chrono Cross as superb? Only time will tell if the bias will eventually vanish. I think I've rambled on long enough. Feel free to blast my arguments out of the water if you think you can stand my rebuttal of your rebuttal, and I will eagerly await any replies.

While I can't fault this editorial for being original - it's certainly nothing I'd ever have expected - I can fault a large number of points here. The first, largest and most obvious is that the RPGamer awards are based upon the /opinions/ of the staff - there's automatically a bias because it's someone else's - in this case, a group of people's - opinion. You cannot have an award show with objectivity, and this appears to be lost on the author.

Secondly, the author never once made any concession to the fact that Final Fantasy IX and Chrono Cross may have deserved the number of awards that they did get, thusly accused RPGamer of being biased, and then spends almost two entire paragraphs throughout the editorial praising the glories of Valkyrie Profile, making his claim that RPGamer is biased more than a little hypocritical. Added to that the relative lack of stating this is the author's own opinion, and the tone of the piece isn't going to make him any friends.

There's also a fairly large coherency problem - the author mentions that only Best Dialogue, Best Graphics and Letdown of the Year aren't won by Squaresoft games, and yet then goes on to say that Best Plot was won by Skies of Arcadia, which isn't a Squaresoft game. This is either a sneaky way to reinforce his point or an oversight, and in both cases it's confusing. To add to this, the editorial flows rather badly.

As far as spelling and grammar goes, it is grammatically correct, but 'admittingly' in used twice in place of 'admittedly' and 'existance' should be 'existence'.

All in all, while I respect the view of the editorial, and while I don't want to appear biased towards RPGamer (Mistress Nightshadow refrained from marking this to avoid bias, giving it to me since my links to RPGFan effectively remove site bias), the holes within the arguments are too large for me to ignore. Any comments you may have on my grading, please make sure you send them to rather than Mistress Nightshadow.

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