Archive for the ‘Game Changers’ Category.

Game Changers: Volume 28 – The Witcher

Saying that development for the PC is complicated is a lot like saying someone struck by lightning is feeling under the weather, in that it doesn’t really grasp the problem. Given the various combinations of operating systems, hardware, software that might be borrowing the hardware during play, physical condition of the computer, and simply where that internet browser has been, it’s almost impossible to build a PC game that won’t give somebody trouble. And this is on top the usual things that don’t pan out: weird voice acting, misplaced quest triggers, poor plot handling, and so on. Continue reading ‘Game Changers: Volume 28 – The Witcher’ »

Game Changers: Volume 27 – Kingdom Hearts

Once upon a time, Squaresoft and Disney worked in the same building in Japan. Though they shared a residence, they each had their own projects and worked separately. One day, Shinji Hashimoto had a chance encounter with a Disney executive in the elevator and an idea appeared: a collaborative crossover game featuring Disney and Squaresoft characters.

Continue reading ‘Game Changers: Volume 27 – Kingdom Hearts’ »

Game Changers: Volume 26 – Disgaea: Hour of Darkness

Two hundred and fifty-five; deux cents cinquante-cinq; nihyaku goju go; 255. This number will be familiar to most gamers. It seems to crop up quite a lot. In the original Zelda, it’s the maximum number of Rupees you could carry; it’s the max number for many of your stats in most Final Fantasy games; it’s the highest number of Effort Points in Pokemon. There’s a technical reason for this. You’ve heard of bytes, right? A byte is made up of eight smaller units called bits. The result is that the maximum number of values it can represent with these eight-digit units is 256 (255 numbers plus zero, I assume). Let me quote Wikipedia for a moment: 225 is “the maximum value representable by an eight-digit binary number, and therefore the maximum representable by an unsigned 8-bit byte.” Continue reading ‘Game Changers: Volume 26 – Disgaea: Hour of Darkness’ »

Game Changers: Volume 25 – Super Smash Bros. Melee

Super Smash Bros. Melee is not an RPG in any way, shape, or form. So why, you might ask, is it the subject of this week’s column? The answer can be summed up in one word: Marth. Continue reading ‘Game Changers: Volume 25 – Super Smash Bros. Melee’ »

Game Changers: Volume 24: Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars

I’m sure I’m not the only relic of the NES era, so let’s go down memory lane together for a few moments. Since it was bundled with the NES system (because back then a bundle inlcuding a game and two controllers was the norm — ah how times have changed!), just about everyone got to play Super Mario Bros. And for many of us, it was the game that first lead us down the path of gaming addiction, which in those days meant we all had very sore left thumbs until we grew a nice callus. This was not, however, Mario’s first appearance. In fact he’d been around for a few years prior, first appearing as “Jumpman” in Donkey Kong back in 1981 and then in the 1983 arcade game Mario Bros. as Mario, the American-Italian plumber with his brother Luigi. Super Mario Bros. for the NES is what made him a star, though, and he was soon to ascend to the rank of Nintendo’s mascot. Continue reading ‘Game Changers: Volume 24: Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars’ »

Game Changers: Volume 23 – Final Fantasy Tactics

The RPG world as we know it is composed of several sub-genres, mostly focused on the difference in battle systems: menu-driven or traditional, action, tactical, hack and slash, roguelikes. The first three are, by far the broadest and most common categories with action RPGs being the ones most en vogue at present, and menu-driven RPGs being the oldest. But what about tactical RPGs? Perhaps not everyone knows this, but they do indeed have a long lineage and an impressive pedigree, one dating back to the NES era. Continue reading ‘Game Changers: Volume 23 – Final Fantasy Tactics’ »

Game Changers: Volume 22 – Dragon Quest IX

There are only a few things in life that you can really count on. Mario will always trump Luigi; there is never anything “final” about Final Fantasy; and Dragon Quest will alway be a bastion of tradition in the RPG world. But in December 2006, Square Enix shook the very foundations of our RPG beliefs: they announced that Dragon Quest IX would slough off the shackles of menu-based fighting and embrace modernity by becoming… an action RPG. Continue reading ‘Game Changers: Volume 22 – Dragon Quest IX’ »

Game Changers: Volume 21 – Seiken Densetsu 2 (Secret of Mana)

For many gamers, their first experience of multiplayer gaming came in the form of Super Mario Bros. where one lucky player got to be Mario and whoever lost the coin toss got to be his green and white clone, Luigi. When Mario bit the dust at the hands of a hammer-tossing Hammer Brother or got knocked out by a rogue Koopa shell, player two got his chance to do the same thing while payer one got to watch. Thrilling stuff. Continue reading ‘Game Changers: Volume 21 – Seiken Densetsu 2 (Secret of Mana)’ »

Game Changers: Volume 20 – Mother 3

These days, most people just take it for granted that RPGs will make it to North America roughly six to twelve months after hitting shelves in Japan.  But despite a devoted fanbase and several petitions for its release, one game stands as one of the most-wanted games that we never got.  That game is Mother 3. Continue reading ‘Game Changers: Volume 20 – Mother 3’ »

Game Changers: Volume 19 – Mass Effect

To be a game changer, a game doesn’t necessarily have to introduce a revolutionary change in gameplay, graphics, or interaction. Sometimes, all it takes to make an impact on the development of RPGs is to turn to one of the most basic impulses of human life: sexuality. Mass Effect wasn’t the first game to include sexuality, but it certainly went farther than most had before.
Continue reading ‘Game Changers: Volume 19 – Mass Effect’ »

Game Changers: Volume 18 – Dragon Quest VIII

Those of us who remember the 1980s and the early days of console gaming can probably recall at one point or another being puzzled by the text we saw appearing in white block letters on the screen before us. Zelda II: The Adventure of Link had one of these classic moments. You, the hapless player, send Link into a house to gather information, and the NPC, with perfect aplomb, announces that, “I AM ERROR.” To which most players responded, “I am confused.” If you never got to experience this, one of the high points in the history of gaming localizations, I have procured for you a shiny screenshot. Behold! The fellow’s name would better have been romanized as “Errol.” But you see, the Japanese language doesn’t distinguish between “r” and “l” as we do and you can see for yourself the results of a poor translation. Continue reading ‘Game Changers: Volume 18 – Dragon Quest VIII’ »

Game Changers: Volume 17 – Harvest Moon

These days it’s not altogether uncommon to see strange genre mashups. In 2007 Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords managed to successfully combine RPG elements and puzzle games in what is perhaps the most unusual combination out there. However, it was by no means the first. As early as the SNES era you could find games that defied genre boundaries, with Harvest Moon being not the earliest, but the most successful example. Continue reading ‘Game Changers: Volume 17 – Harvest Moon’ »

Game Changers: Volume 16 – Super Columbine Massacre RPG!

Controversy, while usually reserved for more mainstream titles such as Grand Theft Auto, isn’t completely unknown to the RPG world. Recently Fallout 3 garnered some attention, of the negative sort of course, for in-game drug use, as did Mass Effect for its “sex scene.” However, by far the most controversial RPG out there is one most of us have probably never played, one created not by a big game company for profit but by an aspiring filmmaker using an RPG maker software for the sake of social commentary.

In 2005 an indie game with the controversial (and to many, offensive) title of Super Columbine Massacre RPG! caused a media frenzy. It was condemned by some as a sick joke and money-making scheme, and by others, lauded as a serious attempt to use the video game medium to engange with social issues. It also resurrected the debate about whether violent video games and music can cause real-world violence, a debate which had been at the centre of the aftermath of the Columbine shootings six years earlier. Continue reading ‘Game Changers: Volume 16 – Super Columbine Massacre RPG!’ »

Game Changers: Volume 15 – .hack

Final Fantasy is the biggest-selling RPG franchise so it’s a foregone conclusion that when it branched out into other mediums it would be a huge success, right? Well I think we all remember one of its first attempts, the computer animated movie Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within in 2001. It bombed at the box office, leaving Square (at the time) with a net loss of some 94 million dollars. Yeah… oops. It wasn’t that it was a terrible movie. I wouldn’t say that it was great either, but it wasn’t horrible; however Square failed spectacularly in two ways: a) they didn’t realize the limited appeal of the movie to the general population, and b) they made the movie different enough from the Final Fantasy games that it also had limited appeal to the core audience of the games. It might be fair to say that it tried to be all things to all people and in doing so managed to satisfy none. But what Square failed to do with The Sprits Within, .hack would manage one year later and thus become king of financially viable tie-ins. Continue reading ‘Game Changers: Volume 15 – .hack’ »

Game Changers: Volume 14 – Final Fantasy I

Did you ever have the chance to play Dragon Quest I (aka Dragon Warrior) for the NES? We’re talking back in 1989 for us North Americans. If not, or in case you need a refresher, I’ll give you a little run down of the plot. You are the descendant of the hero Erdrick who, in times past, defeated the Dragon Lord. Now that the Dragon Lord has returned, you must track down  the scattered pieces of Erdrick’s arms and armour and defeat the Dragon Lord anew. That’s it. No really, that’s the whole thing. Well okay, you do rescue a princess along the way and you do have to collect some relics that will allow you to reach the Dragon Lord’s isle, but basically I’ve spoiled the entire plot for you. As you may have noticed, it’s a bit sparse.

Then came Final Fantasy I. Continue reading ‘Game Changers: Volume 14 – Final Fantasy I’ »

Game Changers: Volume 13 – Fallout 3

I’ve heard tell that in the days of the NES and SNES era, when a new Dragon Quest game was coming out in Japan, it would be like a national holiday as people lined up to get their copy. RPGs have never reached such lofty heights of popularity here in North America. Final Fantasy VII managed to popularize the genre certainly. The series and the genre itself have become much more well known since — and seen an increase in sales as well. And while no RPG has had the worldwide acclaim sales, and following that Final Fantasy VII did, Fallout 3 deserves a special mention for its breakthrough performance in the North American market in particular. Continue reading ‘Game Changers: Volume 13 – Fallout 3’ »

Game Changers: Volume 12 – Final Fantasy VII

Final Fantasy VII, the legend, the phenomenon. Classic? Overrated? Whatever you may think of the game now, nearly a dozen years later, its impact on the RPG world is undeniable. More than any other game in the history of the genre, it brought RPGs into the spotlight and gave them a mainstream appeal never before seen (and only occasionally duplicated since).

Continue reading ‘Game Changers: Volume 12 – Final Fantasy VII’ »

Game Changers: Volume 11 – Pokemon Red and Blue

When Pokémon Red and Blue first came over to the States in September of 1998, the popularity explosion came as quite a shock to those unfamiliar with the series. They cried, “What was this game, and why does it keep our children up nights?” Mario never did that — well, not on this scale, anyway.  Continue reading ‘Game Changers: Volume 11 – Pokemon Red and Blue’ »

Game Changers: Volume 10 – Chrono Cross

Sequel. A word both thrilling and terrifying. How many times have you heard someone say about a movie that the sequel wasn’t nearly as good as the original? But unlike the movie business, the video game industry lives on not just sequels and prequels, but franchises. The biggest-selling RPGs these days are nearly all part of established franchises.

But sequels can go wrong. Very very wrong. Case in point: Chrono Cross. Continue reading ‘Game Changers: Volume 10 – Chrono Cross’ »

Game Changers: Volume 9 – The Legend of Zelda

The year is 1987. The Nintendo Entertainment System is quickly becoming a household name. Most players have hopped and warped their way through Super Mario Bros., killed entire flocks of ducks in Duck Hunt, and probably taken more than a few potshots at that infernal dog that had a good laugh at you whenever you missed — man’s best friend indeed! Most NES-playing children were, by this point, pestering parents for new challenges. And for those who’d cut their teeth on the side-scrolling Super Mario, nothing could be more different than The Legend of Zelda. Continue reading ‘Game Changers: Volume 9 – The Legend of Zelda’ »