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RPGamer's Look Back on 1999
           Welcome to RPGamer's Look Back on 1999: The reflection upon the most hot, interesting, and memorable moments of RPGamer and the RPGaming industry during the year of 1999. Within this time trip through '99, expect a lot of intriguing and interesting events that made the year what it was. So, enjoy this small New Years presentation brought to you from the staff at RPGamer.

RPGamer and RPGaming Industry News of '99
           The year opened with optimism and change towards the gaming world. Early in the year, SCEA announced that they had picked up the rights to bring Grandia to the United States via the Playstation. In Japan, Grandia had been a success and SCEA decided to make it one in America too. For several months the game was continually delayed and did not come out until December, but was received with a welcoming audience of RPGamers.

           Within the Final Fantasy Movie hype of '99, several rumors floated around the internet towards possible cast members such as Meg Ryan. A confirmed cast list showed many famous United States actors and actresses to be amongst the cast. Square flexed its movie-making muscle with graphics that would go beyond any that the movie industry had ever seen. Another game-based movie soon began to surface with rumors: Parasite Eve. Rumors had picked up that Madonna had bought the rights to the Squaresoft game based upon an opera singer named Melissa Pearce who performs a mitochondria evolution to become 'Eve'. New York cop Aya Brea traveled across New York to stop the menacing Eve from destroying the entire human race.

In both America and Japan, Final Fantasy VIII exploded into stores and made record sales. Final Fantasy VIII talk became all the news for the gaming industry. Rumors and pictures floated around the internet until finally the game was released. Popstar Faye Wong teamed up with Nobuo Uematsu to create two songs on the Final Fantasy VIII soundtrack: Eyes on Me and the Ending Theme. Squaresoft made an instant success with the eighth installment of Final Fantasy, setting records on both Asia and North America.

           Sega released its new, impressive system, the Dreamcast, in Japan. With graphics unlike the Playstation or Nintendo 64 had seen, the Dreamcast seemed to be the next ultimate gaming system until at the 50 millionth Playstation sold party, Sony decided to unveil their Playstation 2. Featuring better graphics and sounds than the Dreamcast, Playstation 2's games looked as if they were FMV movies. Incredible graphics and an all-star lineup of companies for the PSX2 hindered Dreamcast sales. However, in America, the Dreamcast has succeeded very well.

           With such plans as Phantasy Star Online, the Dreamcast still believes it will be an influence upon the gaming world for quite some time. Sega had two very important announcements within the 1999 year: One of which was that Sega will focus more upon the internet multi-player/gaming community. The other of the two was the resignation of Sega of America's president, Bernie Stolar. Soon after the resignation of Mr. Stolar, Working Designs, who has had several problems with Bernie Stolar in the past, announced that they are considering working for Sega once again. Also, Working Designs recently announced Lunar 3 for the Playstation 2.

           Nintendo got a piece of the profit pie with the superhyped Pokémon. Between the shows, games, toys, dolls, stickers, Pokémon made millions. Early within the year, it was announced the first Pokémon movie entitled "Mewtwo Strikes Back" was to arrive in theaters late fall '99. Sony tried to compete with Pokémon with Digimon but has not received as much success. The second Pokémon movie was later confirmed to be released Summer 2000 and the company is in the process of making a third movie. Will the multi-billion dollar trend ever end?

           Well, at this point, the answer is "No, we at Nintendo are not through milking this cash cow at all." With that, Nintendo released Pokémon Silver and Gold in Japan. The true sequels introduced over one hundred new Pokémon in a fully-colored world. The sequel takes place after the original, and you play the role of a small boy who wants to become a Pokémon master. With the addition of a real-time internal clock, an upgraded Pokédex, and several other new goodies, the sequels expand the license, and its marketing possibilities, even further than ever. These sequels are already breaking sales records in Japan. It's too bad that these games won't hit U.S. shores til fall.


           In a more future note, Squaresoft announced that there will be indeed a Final Fantasy IX. Surprisingly, it was confirmed to be for the Playstation instead of the Playstation 2. Unable to keep up with their earlier promise of making over twice the profits of 98 and 97, Squaresoft silently went to work on various projects. The millenium conference looked to be the unveiling of Final Fantasy IX. Unfortunately, it was delayed to late January so only time will tell. Like Phantasy Star Online for Dreamcast, Square has also announced that the Playstation 2 Final Fantasies will feature networking.

           One of the most amazing news stories of the year was the announcement of the sequel to Chrono Trigger. Long awaited by fans and hinted at by Square as 'The best RPG ever,' "Chrono Cross" was destined to be a hit. Traveling through dimensions, Chrono Cross brags beautiful music by Yatsunori Mitsuda, who composed Chrono Trigger and Xenogears' music, and excellent graphics. Aside from Chrono Cross, Square announced a Chrono Trigger remake with anime sequences shown throughout the game- including movies that lead the plot to Chrono Cross.

           With all the Dreamcast and Playstation 2 info in mind, Nintendo decided to announce their next system under the codename Project Dolphin. Nintendo promises the graphics power will be "at least equal" to that of the Playstation 2, and with help from IBM and ArtX, among others, the DVD system is starting to sound very good. Nintendo has also announced the Game Boy Advance, a new 32-bit portable system that will have graphics that will be better than the Super Nintendo. Both of these systems are scheduled to be released in Japan this year, and, although speculation says otherwise, Nintendo still claims that Project Dolphin will arrive to the U.S. before Christmas.

           Under the shadows, Microsoft has been rumored to have their own next-generation gaming platform under development. Little is known about the X-Box but 2000 may prove true to show it.

           Enix also surprised the gaming world when they announced their return to America after several years. With their long-delayed upcoming game, Dragon Quest 7, Enix has planned a strategy to strike back into the gaming industry with success. Dragon Quest 7 preorders in Japan have already surpassed Final Fantasy VIII's.

           1999 also proved an intresting year for change at RPGamer. The old green format of RPGamer was changed to blue after 'Lavos' attacked on January 23rd. New design changes for RPGamer followed over 6 months later to get rid of frames and make the site more professional.

           Also, RPGamer's The Music Box set a place in the history book with the first Video Game MIDI remix competition ever. In conjunction with VGMusic and SStrax, the competition "X-MIDI-1" set forth many remix competitions for other groups.

           Proving to be a successful year for many things, RPGamer will hope to bring the best in coverage of all the news of 2000 and beyond. The second half of our 1999 feature looks back at the games that were released in the United States.

The Games of '99
Chocobo's Mysterious Dungeon 2

           Late December '99, the sequel to Japan's Chocobo's Mysterious Dungeon hit the United States shores. The dungeon is full of intrigue, mystery, and fun. With the help of friends, Chocobo blazes through randomly-generated dungeons to finally accomplish his goals. As with most new games from Square, Chocobo's Mysterious Dungeon 2 features most of the monsters and characters seen throughout the Final Fantasy universe.


Guess who's back in another sequel?

Lacking Proper Translation Yet Brings Memories
Final Fantasy Anthology

           Shortly after Final Fantasy VIII was released in mid-September, Square released two of the classic Final Fantasies for the PlayStation for a new generation of RPGamers: Final Fantasy V, which had never been released here in the US, and and VI, which was originally released as Final Fantasy III for Super Nintendo, were included within the Anthology. Both games featured beautiful FMV movies for the intro, ending, and opera(FF6). There were some complaints about the less-than-stellar translation of Final Fantasy V and the excessively long load times for both games, but nonetheless, old and new gamers alike rushed out to get these two classics to enjoy again or for the first time.

Final Fantasy VIII

           On September 9th, the United States received one of the greatest games to ever hit store shelves: Final Fantasy VIII. Squall Leonheart and his friends attend the magic-fighting school of Balamb Garden. At the Garden, the group is attempting to become members of the top elite fighting squad known as SeeD. SeeDs are dispatched around the world as mercenaries. With the Galbadia Garden ambitiously trying to seize control of the world with the help of a mysterious sorceress, Squall and his group are placed in a world in dire need of saviors against an evil unlike the world had ever seen.

           Final Fantasy VIII displays beautiful music and graphics with excellent FMV movies. Popstar Faye Fong Wong sang two songs within Nobuo Uematsu's music for the game that has sold over a million copies in the U.S. A classic for all time, Final Fantasy VIII was one of the best games for 1999.


"A Timeless Classic to Survive even Time Compression"

Sue and Puffy... Kawaii!
Grandia

           U.S. gamers were thrilled to hear that the beautiful game Grandia was to be released later in the year of 1999. Featuring an interesting and devouring storyline with fantastic characters, beautiful art, thrilling music, voice acting, and FMV/Anime movies, Grandia is one of Game Arts' best games.

           The story unfolds as Justin yearns to become an adventurer like his father and grandfather. Grandia's world opens up more to interesting characters and enemies, bringing an old school feel to the Playstation RPG.

Jade Cocoon

           Jade Cocoon takes the player into a new realm of gameplay with heavy Pokémon overtones. Via strategically capturing and training monster allies, the player navigates through this lush world in which the powers of light and dark have disappeared. Jade Cocoon is complete with beautiful music and art by one of the students of Hayao Miyazaki, of Mononoke Hime fame.


"Beautiful Anime Shows True in Jade Cocoon"
Legend of Legaia

           Contrail and SCEA produced Legend of Legaia earlier this year. With some well planned graphics and music, Vahn and his friends rid the world of a sinister mist which is turning all of the animals into monsters and making humans go insane. Arriving early 1999, Legend of Legaia had a unique fighting system and intriguing storyline.

Lunar: The Silver Star Story Complete

           The summer of 1999 saw yet another classic game re-released in Lunar: The Silver Star Story Complete. Originally for the Sega CD, the title was completely remade by Working Designs with new storyline elements, refurbished graphics, and animation sequences completely redone. The result was a beautiful, polished game that reached its way into more people than the original did and earned recognition beyond their own expectations.

           The player takes the role of a young dreamer from the countryside town of Burg named Alex. Alex ultimately goes a quest to become the next Dragonmaster to defend the world of Lunar against approaching evil and destruction. Working Design's tale of is complete with elaborate character growth, sorrowful hardships, and even love. Working Designs worked hard to restore this game and produced an RPG masterpiece.


"Remade to Perfection"

Pika-Pika!
Pokémon: Special Pikachu Version

           For those of you who feel like having an overdose on Pikachu, Pokémon: Special Pikachu Version, commonly known as Pokémon Yellow, is for you. The game, unlike its red and blue counterparts, has many of the features of the TV show in it including Team Rocket. It also lets you start with a Pikachu while your opponent gets an Eevee. Pikachu tags along with you all the way through the journey to get all the Pokémon. Gotta catch'em all!

Septerra Core

           Many doubted that the level of intrigue and the kind of gameplay that console RPGs have would ever show up on a PC RPG but Septerra Core delivers it and more. This fascinating science-fiction RPG effectively combines seven different worlds, or 'shells' of a planet, and mixes things up in an intriguing war to get to the core of the planet. The game has full vocals and the gameplay is somewhat reminiscent of Chrono Trigger with slightly different battle control.

           It's not a musical masterpiece but the graphics are very nice and include some movies. Basically if you like RPGs, especially Chrono Trigger, and you have a computer, which most likely you do since you are reading this, get this game.

Shadowgate 64

           Kemco brought back the original Shadowgate to the Nintendo 64 in 1999 with an attempt to appease RPGamers. Playing as Del, you must explore Castle Shadowgate and discover the truth behind the dark plot that is unfolding. With poor music, a lot less dying, and no torches as a few of the many disadvantages to the remake, Shadowgate 64 failed to live up to its expectations and beliefs.

Shadow Madness

           Former Squaresoft employees moved to Craveyard Entertainment to make their only RPG: Shadow Madness. Falling short of everything but Music, Shadow Madness tried to offer gamers a world of fun. The story is somewhat generic: A deadly virus is sweeping from town to town and no one knows where it came from or how to stop it. The gamer is sent forth into the world to stop this wind of death from effecting the whole world.


Unlike the pictures, it's not a barrel of fun.

"How come Ann Rice didn't think of this?"
Soul Reaver: Legacy of Kain

           Raziel, one of the six lieutenants of the evil vampire lord Kain, has broken an ancient tradition in which has him expelled from Kain's empire and is being hunted for this. Kain has always evolved before Raziel and the rest of his minions but Raziel upset the balance by growing wings. Within the world of Nosgoth, Raziel will attempt to revive "The Elder" and topple Kain's empire in Crystal Dynamics beautiful tale of vampires.

Star Ocean: The Second Story

           Enix, Tri-Ace, and SCEA combined and produced a masterpiece in mid-July with Star Ocean: The Second Story. Choosing between Claude or Rena, the game focuses on the world of Expel. With a ensemble cast of a variety of races and skills, the group works it's way towards its lead character's goal. Claude's goal is to get back to his spaceship from which he got distanced from while Rena's is to find her origins and true self. Filled with beautiful graphics and a superb soundtrack by Motoi Sakabura, Star Ocean: The Second Story will be a game remembered throughout time.


The Sorcerery Globe Approaches

"Lorelai... Artist or Fighter?"
Suikoden II

           With all the excitement in September over the release of Final Fantasy VIII, many might not have noticed the release of Konami's Suikoden II near the end of the month. The game is the sequel to the cult classic that many call the first good RPG for the Sony Playstation. We at RPGamer, however, were very aware of the game's release and could not wait to get our hands on this incredible sequel. The game delivers with a great story, a solid battle system, and some very entertaining moments. Konami did not stray far from their successful formula with this two-dimensional, turn based role playing game. The headquarters system was expanded to include a bigger castle and a full community containing more than just the 128 characters you can recruit.

           Admittedly, if you have played through the first game, there is a lot more to enjoy, as there are many returning characters. Suikoden 2 is one of a very rare few RPGs that's a direct storyline sequel and even includes an option to recruit the hero from the first game. Some complain that the lack of 3D or even the ability to move in only four directions is too primitive for their tastes, but as an old school RPG fan it's easy to get over. Solid gameplay, a good storyline, and lots of characters to choose from makes this game a nice addition to any RPG library.

Thousand Arms

           Four years in the making, Thousand Arms finally hit our shores in October. Created by Atlus, renowned for their strategy RPGs and other games, and Japan's Red Company, the game is the first of its kind; the first Dating Sim/RPG in the United States. Reactions were mixed when the title was first released. Some people didn't care too much for the idea of dating women to get special attacks and stronger spells. However, Thousand Arms slowly emerged as a great game to those that took the time to play it.

           Beyond its funny, sometimes blatantly silly dialogue, Thousand Arms boasted a strong, engaging storyline that many RPGers have enjoyed and will enjoy for years to come.


Patience is Virtue

Refining the Definition of Strategy RPG.
Vandal Hearts II

           The strategy RPG is a somewhat new concept to United States fans who were denied such games as the Fire Emblem series; however in the last few years, we've received many solid titles. This Konami title is not only a good game, it's inventiveness and appeal keeps the game from being "just another title in the genre." The dual-turn system is incredibly smart and adds a lot of strategy and anticipation to the game. The item system is also an interesting concept and really works well. The maps are big and there are lots of characters to play with. Some argue that the characters themselves do not grow and expand as much as one would hope but the game makes up for it. The lack of random battles is nice but somewhat missed as it adds difficulty; but for the impatient player, you can now have battles only when you want to or when advancing in the game. Overall, this is an excellent game, and strategy RPG fans will not want to miss it.



           1999 proved to be an interesting year of many games and events that shaped the industry and the way us RPGamer journalists lived. With 2000 here and many years to come, expect RPGamer to always be there for you to help with all your RPG needs. Happy New Year and many to come.


Feature by: Mark Jordan
With help from: Dan Calderman, Doug Hill, George Velez, Googleshng, Matthew Prince
With thanks to the rest of the RPGamer Staff.
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