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§ Me and RPGs

I've been having some problems with my laptop lately, with it blue-screening more and more over the past week. Usually I would just slap WinDbg on it and figure out what driver was the culprit so I could upgrade or remove it, but it'd gotten so bad that it didn't even dump a minidump to disk. It even once blue-screened on startup with a memory pool corruption error, which was a bad sign (and shortly ate the system registry soon thereafter).  Well, a several-hour soak with Memtest86 revealed that the 512MB SODIMM had become flaky. Fortunately I have all of my data copied off intact, including my VirtualDub 1.6.5 development tree and Perforce depot, and am in the process of reinstalling XP with the good 256MB.

In the meantime, I'd been playing Namco's Xenosaga, which turns out is a pretty good RPG for the Playstation 2. RPGs -- the video game kind -- are a bit of a soft spot for me, and I've played a lot of them. The recent crop has been somewhat disappointing, what with Final Fantasy X being a departure from earlier games and X-2 being a total twitchfest. I happened to try Xenosaga on a whim and it turned out to be a bit of a hidden gem. Cheap too, considering it's now in Greatest Hits status. It took me about two weeks to finish it; that it has about a 50hr clear time on average and I didn't take any days off from work should tell you something.

Here is a list of the RPGs I have finished to date:

I have the following RPGs in flight at the moment:

You might say I have some experience in evaluating RPGs, at least with Japanese-derived ones....

Xenosaga was a bit of a surprise. The most distinctive aspect is the length and depth of the cutscenes; there are very few FMVs, but a ton of in-engine cutscenes -- one of which is so long that it lasts ~50 minutes and has two save points in the middle of it (!). The game earns a ding for having the average bad dubbed voices and no Japanese voice option, of course. If you're looking for a game with a lot of exploration and side quests, this is not your game as it is rather linear; however, the plot is good if you are willing to watch through it. I don't think I've ever finished an RPG in two weeks before.

Battle mechanics are a bit interesting. The field mode does not have random encounters, and you only battle monsters according to plot or running into them. Battle mode is turn-based and basically the same HP/EP(MP) system we're familiar with. It allows you select multiple attacks and do 1-3 per turn to an enemy with square/tri/circle; it's similar to Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter except there is no movement part. Front row/back row are there except that unlike other RPGs, back row cannot attack or be attacked except by area damage. The neatest part about Xenosaga's battle system is boosting; attacking earns a character boost, and with enough of it, you can force that character to preempt and immediately follow the current actor, friend or foe. This is very cool and gives you the ability to break the normal turn cycle. Overall the battles are tuned a bit to the easy side, except that level differences are very important -- if you are more than a few levels above the monsters they will do squat, and vice versa. I tried to show a friend what happens when you win with only one character up, and I was so high that the enemies couldn't even do one point of damage with a critical!

Other notables about Xenosaga:

I've only played a bit of Xenosaga II, so I haven't seen enough to say much about it yet. There does seem to be a bit of fan service in it, given that they used the clueless male sidekick (Allen) as an excuse to get rid of Shion's glasses and restyle her, and if you finished Xenosaga I you get a swimsuit for KOS-MOS that hides less during battle. Not that there's anything wrong with fan service. *cough* Character stat development seems to have been simplified in exchange for a deeper skill system, and the battle system has changed a bit to be faster and require more attention to attack selection and order. I should note that the makers of the game cheated massively on load time because you sometimes sit at the start of the battle with no music watching the battle characters load in one-by-one for several seconds. The continuation of the story seems good so far though so I'm willing to forgive them.


Comments posted:

A few recommendations of elderly RPGs and RPG-oids not on your lists:

Terranigma (SNES) - apparently never released in the US. Very much worth playing, though.

Earthbound (SNES) - this one is odd. You have not truly lived until you've battled new age retro hippies. The final battle is won in the tackiest way ever, it's great.

Soleil (Genesis) - I think the American title is different, Crusader of Centy or something similar.

Secret of Evermore (SNES)

Story of Thor (Genesis) - another game titled differently in the US, Beyond Oasis in this case. Neither title has anything to do with the game as far as I can tell.

Gharbad the Weak - 02 03 05 - 07:35

Chrono Trigger is definitely an awesome game. But you haven't played ANY computer RPGs? Admittedly, the crop is a bit thinner, but what about
The Elder Scrolls III:Morrowind?

TechMage - 02 03 05 - 19:17

I've played a couple of computer RPGs, but not many. Neverwinter Nights I found mindploddingly slow and boring, and Diablo I/II are not really much of RPGs (although they have many elements of one). I did play through almost all of an old one called The Magic Candle, which was surprisingly long. It took a lot of patience to play, though, because you had to spent a lot of time learning spells and generally preparing your party, and then mapping dungeons. I don't remember why I didn't finish it.

phaeron - 03 03 05 - 03:12

Hmm... you should give the following a try (just IMHO, I liked these games a lot, especially for their stories).

* Xenogears (Part 5 of the Xenowhatever storyline, according to the book)

* Valkyrie Profile (has quite some Jump&Run properties, but a nice story, and nice characters)

* Star Ocean 2 and 3 (the characters are somewhat cliche, but the stories are nice, with a neat story twist in SO3. Lots of sidequests and stuff-to-get, so a 100%-complete takes quite some time)

* Disgaea (from the guys that brought you La Pucelle, only weirder...)

The usual Xenosaga freak - 03 03 05 - 11:05

Bahamut Lagoon (Squaresoft) for the SNES was never released in the US but is a unique RPG that was the precursor (of sorts) to the Final Fantasy Tactics game that used a similar battle system. The main difference being the dragon that is paired with each character and can be built up over the course of the game. 5 out of 5.

venomousmule - 03 03 05 - 16:08

A few more RPGs you should try out:
Grandia (PSX)
Grandia II(DC)
Lunar (PSX and Saturn)
Lunar 2(PSX & Saturn)
Arc the Lad series(PSX)
Wild Arms series (PSX&PS2)(especially since part one is being reworked and released)
Tales of Phantasia
Tales of Destiny(PSX)
Phantasy Star 1-3 (no matter what people say 3's my favorite)(genesis and GBA)
Suikoden 1-4(PSX&PS2)
Baldur's Gate (PC version)
Baldur's Gate II (PC version)
Satr Wars :Knights of the Old Republic 1&2
Lufia 1 & 2 (Snes)

Also in mentioning female characters that do physical damage you forgot or neglected to mention Celes and Terra from FF6.They have the possibility to be the most powerful two characters in the game even if you don have them use magic spells a lot (give them the Genji gloves and two strong swords and you'll see what I mean).

shinrugal - 05 03 05 - 16:41

Whoops... I forgot about Lufia 1/2. I finished those, too. Lufia 2 has some very tricky (and enjoyable) puzzles.

I totally forgot about Terra and Celes! One of my roommates in college had a save file right near the end of FF3US where he had stolen a second Atma Weapon, and I think he equipped Celes with the Genji Glove and Offering... and then used Quick to do 16 x 9999 = 159984 points of damage in one turn. That might be the most damage I've seen in a turn in a Final Fantasy game -- Knights of the Round in FFVII only does 13 x 9999, not 16 x 9999.

Phaeron - 05 03 05 - 17:18

In Final Fantasy series the biggest wave of damage I've seen is a maxed out 'Lionheart' in FF VIII - dealing 34 or 38 blows at 9999, if I remember well. But the fact that it's random might explain why you didn't include it. Same game, female character: Selphie can kill a boss in one blow with 'The End' - but her random slot is annoying. I think Cloud in FF VII deals 16 blows with his final limit, too - I'll check it later.

Mitch 74 - 06 03 05 - 14:43

You're probably right. Final Fantasy VIII isn't my favorite, since I got bored to death playing it the first time due to spending all my time casting Guardian Forces, and because it introduced monsters-level-with-you to the series. (Final Fantasy Tactics had it too, but it's not really part of the mainline.)

I never bothered to get Lionheart, as your chance of getting it decreases as you have more of the other limit breaks, and by that time Squall usually has junctions like Meteor and huge bonuses from Str Up, so nothing short of Omega Weapon will stop him. Besides, lowering him to critical status and hitting Triangle a bunch of times until you hear the crit sound is not the most direct way to call up an attack. Selphie's slots are so unreliable I never bothered. I usually just used Squall or Zell.

It's been a while since I played FFVII, but GameFAQs says that Omnislash is 15x, so it is limited to 149985. I once managed to get 16 attacks/turn consistently in Final Fantasy V using X-Fight + 2-handed + 2 x Twin Lance, but the damage was so low as to be useless.

Phaeron - 06 03 05 - 18:12

Hum... to be more especific, Xenosaga (Ep 1 of Xenowhanever ^^) has the same sistem of battle of Xenogears (that is the ep 5). Far I know, xenogears may hapem 10000 years after xenosaga... (the initial idea of squaresoft of xeno... wasn't do somethyng so far like that)

simplifiing: xenogears has a sistem by turns, were you have a number of atacks to do and each boton have one valor (X is 3, square is 2 tri is 1) in the beggining you have only 3 and in the final you will have 7. The gears sistem it's somethyng like this too

the atacks can be combinated to do combos like this: tri+square (consume 4) when you lern the combo the character will do a especial atack (very cool ^^) Xenogears is the best story of the square.

but why xenosaga is nanco you ask. it's because the guys that make xenogears is now in nanco (that company, monolith, it's then) they did games like Shogo for PC after quit square... (I think the monolith guys had unified with nanco or somethyng like that, I don't know exactly

legend of dragoon it's a excelente RPG, but the battle system isn't random (for exemple: if you fight with a monster that always will have the same level and considering that you will never evolve, an atack of yours against it will always cause the same number of damage, funny humm?)

a good RPG is Lunnar (both 1 and 2 for PSX) they are like a sness game in a psx, but they has a lot of animation in CG (producted by studio Gonzo, the same that produced hellsing, vandread, kiddy grade, chrno crusade and goes on...) Lunar is the first RPG that I see that have some funny acidents with naked girls ^^. I reard that will be released Lunar 3 for ps2 too

Tales of eternia too is a good one. It was probably the first one to include nore than one planet to explore in the same moment in a psx RPG (it have an area betwin than to, very cool) the sistem of battle is like tales of phantasya but a lot more dinamic). It have a lot of great magics and atacks and a lot of the fantastics ones is hiden (you have to know the comand to do in sequence of a especific atack)

Valkyrie Profile is one that make me still in the game for a long time, the sistem of battle is superb, this one you will understand only after see then with your own eyes (on thing about this game, the beggining of that do not permit do the special atacks, they are very bealtfull ^^)

as you can see, I like videogames RPGs too ^^ and sorry about my english, I don't speak it very well enough to write correctly >

_id_ - 08 03 05 - 16:32

I am surprised that you have never tried Neverwinter Nights, you can buy the DVD version at amazon for 38 bucks (it includes the original adventure and two extra full fledged aventures).

mangamuscle (link) - 09 03 05 - 01:08

You are so missing out by not having any of the SEGA stuff there apart from PS2!!!

My favourite RPGs of all time (I've finished them all, of course)
Ultima IX (PC)
Ultima IV (SMS/PC)
(I finished all the Ultimas but IV and IX are my favourite)
Phantasy Star (SMS)
Golden Axe Warrior (SMS)
Miracle Warriors (SMS)
Phantasy Star II/III/IV (MD)
Sword of Vermillion (MD)
Landstalker (MD) - actually, I'm playing through this again at the moment
Grandia II (Dreamcast)
Record of Lodoss War (Dreamcast)
Skies of Arcadia (Dreamcast)

Skies of Arcadia is just one of those _special_ games that sort of changes your life. It was the first time I had that feeling about since as a wee kiddie playing Phantasy Star 1.

You really have to play it some day (as well as Shenmue).

Darkfalz - 10 03 05 - 02:46

The best I've played: Anachronox (PC)

Patman - 13 03 05 - 16:03

Ooooh my my my. Completely forgot: a character having 7777 HP in FFVII will attack 77 times at 7777 damage. That's a whopping 598829 HP damage... The All Lucky 7 annihilation move :D

Mitch 74 - 15 03 05 - 12:31

Since you brought it up, I had to see Rose's attack. You're right, it's... something else.

For those who haven't:

foxyshadis (link) - 20 03 05 - 08:44

lately I was think about the location (Location is the translate process of the game to another language) of some games and I concluded that a great number of games would never be dubbed. A good exemple is Xenosaga. Another one is Tales of Eternia (know as Tales of destiny 2 - for PSO) some of the magics and sumons like Destiny, Rem, Shadow and Sekundes has they voices cut out. when things linke this happens, I prefer that they mantain the sound of the game original and only translate the texts (tales of destiny was make like that and I like it so much that I played 3 times ^^)

I think this preference of mine is becouse I watch to much subbed anime. Well, it can't be helped ^^

id - 26 03 05 - 22:08

Hmm? Xenosaga I and II are dubbed. In some parts I wished they weren't....

Phaeron - 27 03 05 - 18:30

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