Tag Archives: rpg

Zine Incoming! Issue Two of Component Is Now Available

Earlier last year, Chip released a video game zine called Component that featured essays and artwork from talented artists and writers.  The first issue was filled with stories about the contributors’ most cherished games, featuring titles like Mega Man 2, Spyro the Dragon, and Okami.  Now, we are happy to announce that the second issue of Component is available for your reading pleasure!

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Issue Two focuses on role-playing games.  While each player has different tastes and favorites when it comes to this genre, we have all found ourselves caught up in these adventures. RPGs provide strong narratives and complex systems in which we can become immersed and play a character in a totally different world.  At the same time in our own reality, these games help us forge lasting friendships and uncover fascinating truths about our own personalities.

Games highlighted in articles and artwork of Issue Two include Dungeons & Dragons, Super Mario RPG, Fallout 2, Xenogears, Final Fantasy VIII, Legend of Dragoon, Shadow Hearts, Fable II, Skyrim, Dragon’s Dogma, Bravely Default, and Yo-kai Watch.

Just like Issue One, the latest issue of Component is available as a print-on-demand magazine and as an instant PDF through MagCloud .  The editor and contributors of Component thoroughly believe in gaming for good causes, so 100% of the profits from Component will be donated to charity:water to fund clean water projects in the developing world.

Thanks for reading and please be sure to check out Component for all sorts of gaming goodness!

 

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Super Mario RPG – The Dungeon is Full of Monsters

There are game releases that we as players could not have dreamed to ask for; those titles that bring together beloved series, creators, and companies to make a product that is greater than the sum of its parts.  For me, that game is Super Mario RPG.

On paper (or on screen, in this case), Super Mario RPG’s pedigree is mind-blowing.  A Squaresoft developed role-playing game, featuring Nintendo characters, written by Kensuke Tanabe (scenario writer of A Link to the Past and director of Super Mario Bros. 2), and produced by Shigeru Miyamoto.  As the delicious cherry on top of this fantastic digital sundae, the soundtrack was composed by the amazing Yoko Shimomura.

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Super Mario RPG falls between Shimomura’s work at Capcom, where she wrote music for Final Fight and Street Fighter II, and her work at Square Enix, where she would create the soundtracks for games like Parasite Eve, Legend of Mana, and Kingdom Hearts.

For Super Mario RPG, Shimomura incorporated arrangements of beloved themes by Koji Kondo and Nobuo Uematsu, and wrote a variety of original music across 73 tracks.  For the dungeons of this game, Shimomura crafted a particularly ominous theme called The Dungeon is Full of Monsters.

Somewhere between a Super Mario Ghost House and a Final Fantasy cavern, the influence of Koji Kondo and Nobuo Uematsu can definitely be heard in this track.  Shimomura composed several other haunting tracks for Super Mario RPG, which enhance the moods of locations like the Sunken Ship and Bowser’s Castle.

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Unfair Battles in the Ruins of Tokyo

Playing an RPG should involve strategy.  Every foe has a weakness and it’s up to you to collect and develop the tools for exploiting said weakness.  This is especially true in games like Shin Megami Tensei, where you have the option to cultivate an expansive and varied party of helpful demons.  It’s just like my father used to tell me, “Never bring a knife to a gunfight, and always use Pyro Jack against that icy Wendigo.”

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I can generally get behind the idea of role-playing games, where cunning and creative thinking lead to success.  Even in a linear-story-driven world, players have several options to make the journey worthwhile.  There is a tacit understanding between the player and the developer in a title with a bevy of gameplay options: If you are going to provide a gigantic toolbox, you had better make the hammer just as effective as the screwdriver.

If I decide to beef up my main character and have a dedicated team of fire-type elementals, but my wife decides to raise a massive team of cute-yet-dangerous melee warriors, then we should both be able to plan our way to victory.  We might have to tackle certain situations differently, but if our individual strategies are sound, then some kind of victory should be assured.  This all breaks down when you throw an unfair and single-strategy-specific obstacle on the road to glory.

For those of you who have enjoyed Shin Megami Tensei IV, you may know the specific obstacle of which I am speaking.  Outsiders would assume this roadblock must be the final boss, where an appropriate challenge should be expected.  This is not the case.  The particular offender is a major boss during the third act of this great 3DS RPG, King Kenji.

KingKenji

Once a mere human who sought power in a world ruined by demons, Kenji is now a massive digital monstrosity who rules a post-apocalyptic world by force.  On a more technical level, King Kenji is a very difficult boss encounter with practically no weaknesses and a wide variety of attacks.  The worst of the weapons at Kenji’s disposal is Ancient Curse: a party-wide strike that can-and-will inflict all status effects on your team.  This includes sleep and paralysis, which makes your heroes both useless for battle and sitting ducks for future attacks.  Once the first instance of this spell has been cast, a vicious cycle of Curse-Strike-Repeat begins and the battle is lost.

As with most video games, there is a strategy to beat King Kenji, albeit a rather limited one.  There are ways to breed particular members of your party with immunity to certain status effects (in this case, you would want to avoid sleep and paralysis).  But this method of optimal grooming takes quite a bit of time and planning, along with a great deal of foresight.  If you are playing SMTIV without a guide, then you wouldn’t necessarily know to develop fighters for this singularly frustrating attack.

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For players who have not focused their demon-fusing decisions around certain immunities, only the luck of the battle remains.  As I had already sunk over 30 hours of play into SMTIV, the idea of giving up at a frustrating boss gnawed at my obsessive mind.  So over and over I fought this King of Tokyo, my battle count reaching the double digits before the random number generator behind the scenes responded with a battle where the Ancient Curse was not cast.  Without this debilitating spell in play, my fight with Kenji reverted to the usual ebb and flow of offense and defense, attack and heal. Victory was mine, but with the bitter aftertaste of wasted hours.

After years of playing video games, I have come to expect certain frustrating moments as a result of being ill-prepared.  Many of the point-and-click adventure games of my youth featured no-win situations if a certain item was lacking.  But this sort of challenge doesn’t necessarily improve the player’s skills.  It merely creates a scenario where a single convoluted solution is the right one, and no amount of clever planning can circumvent the obstacle.  For a game like Shin Megami Tensei IV, it is a shame to have the wide variety of battle strategies reduced to the options of good breeding or dumb luck.

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A Failed Quest for Dragons

There was a period of time during the 90s that my brother and I enjoyed a ridiculous amount of role playing games.  It was the golden era of the Super Nintendo, and games like Final Fantasy VI and Chrono Trigger were mainstays in the cartridge slot.  We immediately knew and understood each of these games; their battle systems and open worlds made complete sense to us.  But we were not always so saavy when it came to video games.

When my brother and I were much younger, we would look forward to playing every game our father brought home for our Nintendo Entertainment System.  It was a wonderful time for our hobby, since the jump in programming abilities and encouragement for new ideas produced novel and interesting genres to grace the medium.  One of these novel genres was the Japanese RPG, which initially came to our house in the form of Dragon Warrior.

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At first glance, this game looked like another action/adventure title similar to the Legend of Zelda. Dragon Warrior featured an overhead view, a high fantasy art style, and a bad-ass medieval scene on the front cover.  When we started the game up and first opened the menu screen, my brother and I were rather perplexed.  Why couldn’t we swing our sword on the main screen?  What’s with all the talking to villagers?  How do you fight?  Since we did not have the instruction booklet (the lack of which remains a mystery to this day), we mostly guessed at how to play this new genre.  Our plan to beat the dragon that resided on the front cover went as follows:

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“Okay, so, you always start off in this town, right?  And obviously the dragon is somewhere, otherwise why would it be called Dragon Warrior?  So we have to leave town, and run as fast as we can to the next town before we get attacked by enemies.  If it is a slime, we should be fine, because they run away a lot, but if it is one of those bat things, we are definitely gonna die.  Then we gotta start back at the main town, and try again.”

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Needless to say, this experience was not very fun for either of us, and this system of play did not make sense until Zelda II: The Adventure of Link came out, and gently took us by the hand into a softer version of the RPG universe.  I eventually went back and played the remake of Dragon Warrior on the Game Boy Color.  I enjoyed this version of the game immensely, but I couldn’t shake a slight sense of embarrassment the every time I left the main town of Tantegel.  Despite a childhood filled with running around in my underwear and a cape non-stop, I still mark my lack of understanding Dragon Warrior as the major “dumb little kid” moment in my life.

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Praying with Your Whole Heart(in Earthbound)

Before I begin this post, let me say that this article is both spoiler heavy and somewhat personal.  If you have not played Earthbound before, and you are the type of person who hates having things ruined, just skip this article entirely.  But if you don’t mind reading about the ending to a game that has been out for over fifteen years, continue onward faithful reader!

Continuing in a trend of posts about breaking the fourth wall in video games(last one, I promise), let’s discuss one of my favorite games, Earthbound.  It is remarkable that a game with such a massive following has not been re-released by Nintendo yet.  I mean, that’s what Nintendo does, right?  If a game sells, and it can be easily enahnced for a re-release (read: ported) to a new system, they do it.  Save for a temporary ESRB rating for release (which was recanted), there seems to be no hope for a re-release of Earthbound, despite constant requests and petitions for a Vitual Console version.  Makes ya wonder, since other popular titles have been beaten into the ground with remakes (For example: Ocarina of Time has been released for once for Nintendo 64, twice for Gamecube, once for Wii, and now there is an enhanced version on the 3DS).  But I digress.

Earthbound is the story of a young boy named Ness (or whatever you happen to name him) who is tasked with saving the world from destruction at the hands of an alien threat from the past.  But our hero is not alone in his quest.  Ness must journey across the world and seek out the other members of the, “Chosen Four,” who will defeat the evil alien, Giygas.  While the story sounds like your generic sci-fi tale, the setting of this role-playing game stood out against the fantasy epics that flooded the Super Nintendo at this time.  The world of Earthbound more closely resembled an idylic America from the 1950s, as opposed to the steampunk/Tolkien/anime-inspired lands of so many other games (read: Final Fantasy).  Towns in Earthbound were filled with suburbs and skyscrapers, while the enemies were made up of gang members, rabid animals, and inanimate objects come to life (such as evil gas pumps).  The world was interesting and fresh, and the story was filled with novel ideas that stood out as well.  I could take several posts (and much of your time) gushing over all the moments that made Earthbound great, but I want to cover one in particular: the battle with Giygas.

In the final act of the game, our heroes learn that in order to defeat Giygas, they must travel far in the past, where the alien is at its most vulnerable state.  But the Chosen Four will not survive such a jump through time, so their souls are transferred into much stronger robotic bodies and sent back to the past.  Ness and his friends battle their way to a giant machine that currently houses Giygas.  It is revealed that the flood of evil energy that Giygas had consumed in its quest for power was too great, and it has ruined the alien’s mind.  After a short battle with an old friend, the machine that contains Giygas is shut off, and the full force of the alien is unleashed.  Giygas lashes out at the group with attacks that cannot be perceived or blocked, and the alien itself cannot be damaged by normal means.  No weapon or magic can injure the creature, the systems on the robot avatars begin to fail, and all seems lost.

One of the heroes, a young woman named Paula, has a final command to try.  In addition to being able to Attack, Use Items, and cast Psychic Magic, the heroine can also Pray.  Normally, choosing the Pray command will cause a random beneficial effect, such as healing a character or damaging an enemy.  It is generally unused through the course of the game, as other commands have a more direct and discernable effect on the party.  But during the final battle with Giygas, this ability is vital.

Paula begins to pray, and the focus of the game shifts from a tense battle, to a village that Ness had visited earlier in the game.  The tribe of odd creatures known as Mr. Saturns feel a strange sensation come over them, and the entire group begins to pray for the safety of Ness and his friends.  Back in the past, the power of prayer becomes evident, as the defenses protecting Giygas become unstable.  Paula continues to pray, and each time she does, a friend the group had made along the way begins to join in the call.  Each prayer, in turn, massively damages Giygas.  Ness’s own mother is eventually shown, feeling uneasy at her concern for her son, so she prays for deliverance as well.  Finally, Paula’s prayers being to reach outside of the game itself.

The final prayer goes out, and it is merely absorbed by the darkness.  Paula prays again, and her prayer reaches ****, who begins to pray for our heroes.  This mysterious benefactor, now known as **i* continues to pray for Ness and his friends, even though he has never met them before.  The damage to Giygas begins to break into the tens of thousands as *hi* prays more and more for victory.  Giygas is on the ropes, as *hip prays even harder!  The final blow is delivered, as Chip prays for the safety of Ness and his friends.  Giygas is defeated, and the world is saved.

Now, this is not meant to be some story about me praying to beat a final boss in a Super Nintendo game (don’t be silly).  Earlier in Earthbound, a trivial character asks not for the hero’s name, but for the actual player’s name to make a reservation at a restaurant.  This seemingly useless(and super random) question allows the game to catalogue the player’s name, and use it to break the fourth wall in the final battle.  It wasn’t just some faceless character praying for Ness and Company, it was you.  To see a game directly involve the player in not just a random battle in the game, but in the climax of the game itself was a brilliant way to provide immersion in a lasting way.

Also, to see a game make such a strong statement about the power of prayer was a bold step for Nintendo.  Just think: it wasn’t some secret military weapon or a battle-hardened badass who defeated the threat to all mankind.  It was the hopes and prayers of the world that brought down Giygas.  Quite a refreshing change of pace, don’t ya think?

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Pumpkins

Halloween is upon us, the witching hour is at hand! Around this time of year, most video game sites tend to ask people to send in pictures of their video game themed Jack O’ Lanterns. We at the GIMM-GP staff (just us two…) decided instead of showcasing video games ON pumpkins, let’s take a look at pumpkins IN video games!

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We can start with the NES oddity, Monster Party!  In the first level of the game, our hero Mark comes across a pumpkin-headed ghost who spits smaller pumpkins from its mouth.  Please enjoy the pun of pumpkin picking.

SMLPumpkinZoneSuper Mario Land 2 featured good ol’ Mario traveling to six different worlds to retrieve coins which will open a door to the palace where his Princess Daisy is being held.  One of these areas is the Pumpkin Zone, which is filled with spirits, slashers, and a wicked witch as the final boss.

MM7PumpkinEven robot pumpkins exist!  A mid-boss in Mega Man 7, this cyber-pumpkin has three layers which protects a tiny seed-spitting pumpkin robot core.  A fun secret in this level, if you only shoot the eyes on the outside of the pumpkin, he will bust through the floor, allowing Mega Man to face his brother, Proto Man.

OgreBattlePumpkinOgre Battle was an interesting strategy game for the Super Nintendo.  One of the bosses you fought was the witch Deneb, who commanded pumpkin-men to do her bidding.  After defeating her, Deneb would offer to join your party, and could eventually produce pumpkin soldiers who would gladly throw their gourds at your command.

FFIXPumpkinA bit of a tribute to the attack of the pumpkin-men from Ogre Battle, Quina, the blue mage/weird clown maid in Final Fantasy IX, could learn the attack Pumpkin Head.  This attack was rather strong, but very risky, as the damage it would inflict was equal to the difference in your max health versus your current health.

PersonaPumpkinContinuing with the pumpkins in RPGs theme, the developers over at Atlus have featured the character of Pyro Jack in several of their series.  This little spectre has shown up in the Persona and Shin Megami games as an enemy who can be convinced to join your team as a fire-based familiar.  Pyro Jack also starred in his own title…

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Jack Brothers on the now (very) defunct Virtual Boy gaming system!  Pyro Jack (Jack Lantern), along with his brothers Jack Frost and Jack Skelton had to conquer several puzzle based levels on Halloween Night.

SMPumpkinSilhouette Mirage was an obscure Playstation One title from Treasure Games.  In this game, the heroine Shyna has to shoot her way through two equally dangerous races, the Silhouettes and Mirages, with the basic enemy for the Silhouettes being little green pumpkin men.  Cute and fun game all around.

LoMPumpkinThere are several pumpkins to be had in the wonderful Playstation One Action/RPG Legend of Mana!  One of the missions in the game culminates with a battle against an evil little doppleganger witch in an enchanted pumpkin patch.  A victory in this fight unlocks a new piece of produce to cultivate in your garden in the game: the Bumpkin!

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Even Link has faced his share of orange gourds.  The boss, Pumpkin Head, appeared in Oracle of Ages for the Game Boy Color.  Link would have to knock his gourd off and then throw the pumpkin at the dungeon walls to smash this poor creature’s head.

ZeldaPumpkinIt seems Link doesn’t always have to face sinister pumpkins after all!  In Twilight Princess for the Wii, Link collects an Ordon Pumpkin as an ingredient for a very tasty looking pumpkin soup.  Be warned, this soup is prepared by a yeti, so expect some stray hairs in the broth.

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Most of Castlevania’s entries into the world of the third dimension have been… lacking.  Castlevania: Lament of Innocence was forgettable, save for a hidden character that unlocked once you beat the game twice: Little Pumpkin!  An enchanted pumpkin toy who decided to join the fight against Dracula, this hero is seemingly harmless, yet…

LoIGrandPumpkinHe can unleash a super-powerful attack known as the Grand Pumpkin, where giant pumpkin spirits rise from the ground and destroy his enemies with seasonal magic.

LBPPumpkin Little Big Planet is a great reason to own a Playstation 3, as it provides hours of super fun co-op play.  One of Laura and my favorite things to do in this game is dress our little Sack Boy (and Girl!) up in silly costumes.  Sure enough, a Jack O’ Lantern mask was provided for Halloween fun!

BanjoPumpkinMy friend Grant would be sad if I didn’t include the pumpkin transformation from Banjo-Kazooie for the Nintendo 64.  In the Mad Monster Mansion area, our hero Banjo the Bear is shrunk down into a pumpkin in order to sneak through the hedge maze and small corridors.  He even got to keep his little blue backpack, adorable!

Well, there you have it boils and ghouls!  A list of digital jack o’ lanterns to light your way back home this rather chilly Halloween Day.  Have a safe and fun night, and be sure to dress as your favorite video game characters!

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