Monday, August 21, 2006

General RPGs' Villains' Laughs

If you've ever watched a cartoon, sat through a movie, read a comic book, played a game, or experienced any other dozens of forms of entertainment, you're quite familiar with the Villain Laugh. Although obviously not an RPG-only cliche, I have noticed that RPG villains seem to be especially prone to it, just bursting out in raucous bellows of amusement at any given time of day.

Frankly, I think it's fucking stupid.

I do my best to understand villains. You know, get why it is that they're being dicks, and see where they're coming from. This doesn't mean that they're not still dopes for being evil assholes, or anything. But I can at least figure out exactly how and why they're stupid jerks. But that damn laugh I can't get.

I mean, okay, let's think like someone evil who is out to destroy at LEAST the world. Probably more--you know how these villain types are just never satisfied. And it's going well! You're collecting whatever mystical relics of an ancient civilization you need at a good pace, your henchmen have not yet started failing in every single task you assign them (they will soon enough, though, don't doubt it), you've killed some innocents, you've destroyed some property, and you've just finished explaining your ingenius plan to/using mind games to torment the leader of a group of heroes who stupidly tried to stop you while at Level 12. Morons. They'd need at LEAST 40 more levels to stand a chance.

In other words, you've got a good, evil buzz going on. You're walkin' on whatever the evil equivalent of sunshine is, baby. And so, you laugh like a ninnyhammer.

You've got evil plots to follow through, henchmen and accomplices to praise, berate, and/or kill, and each passing moment you spend here heightens the chance that some random person will show up to rescue the heroes you just pummelled in a way that is oh so convenient to the plot. But do you choose to just leave, maintaining your evil dignity and position as superior to these weaklings? No. No, you just throw your head back and scream with laughter as though someone just told you that they enjoy Final Fantasy 10-2 for its exquisite plot and thoughtful characters.

I mean, I can accept this when the game's villain is as loopy as a 4-year-old's self-portrait. Final Fantasy 6's Kefka giggling at mayhem and destruction that he's caused? It helps reinforce the idea that he's off his nut (not that you needed the reinforcement). Luca Blight from Suikoden 2 laughing happily as he personally murders civilians he's taken prisoner? It really works for him, because you just believe that he honestly does feel a sick mirth at such a hateful act.

But in general, the laughter thing just comes off as pointless. Regular, non-demented people, even evil ones, just don't do it every single time something good happens. Think how dull and monotonous (not to mention hoarse) you would be every day if you laughed on cue whenever good things happened.

"I passed my test! BWAHAHAHAHAHAHA!"
"Muhahahahahaha, they have a 2-for-1 special going for AA batteries today! Excellent, hehehehe!"
"My is...GOLDEN BROWN! PERFECT! All is going according to my plan...TO MAKE MYSELF A BLT! YAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!"

What part of this is supposed to be cool? Do game writers really think that this is a fear-inspiring behavior? If some evil twerp tried that routine with me, I'd just watch them guffaw for a minute and then punch their stupid teeth down their throat.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Star Ocean 3's Treasure Chests

Okay, folks, it's been a while since I ranted at you, so you might think I have something semi-important to complain about or praise. Something solid and significant, like a character or plot point of particular note, or something of a more general RPG sense to speak on. Well, if that's the case, then prepare to be disappointed. Because today I'm just going to talk about the treasures in Star Ocean: Till the End of Time (henceforth known as Star Ocean 3).

I've been playing through this game for the last few days, having found it used at GameStop for $5. While SO2 had left me dubious of spending even that much money on a game from that series (I certainly wouldn't recommend anyone acquiring SO2 for $5--hell, I'd say the only fair trade is for a person to be PAID 5 bucks to take it), it's hard for me to resist cheap RPGs regardless of their pedigree. I mean, I spend about 3x as much cash on my lunch every day I'm at work. And Eagles had bugged me a couple times in the past to get it.

So far, it's actually not all that bad. I mean, granted, the improved battle system is only a little better than the piece of shit that is the regular Star Ocean battle system. The characters, though, are certainly pretty okay so far--not very memorable, but not outright dull like SO1's cast, or dull AND dumb as shit like SO2's cast. And the plot seems this time to almost make some sense and have direction. Honestly, the latter 2 facts above make me question whether this even really is a Star Ocean game I'm playing.

There is, however, one small recurring aspect of the game that is pretty dumb.

In Star Ocean 3, there're 3 basic sizes of treasure chests that you encounter: Regular, Biggish, and Fucking Enormous And Overly Ornate. This last type is bright aqua-green, covered in gold, and about 75% the size of your character. This thing looks like the kind of treasure chest you'd expect a king to keep half his own ransom in gold, a legendary sword, and a still-sealed copy of Suikoden 2 inside of--with room to spare. If your typical RPG party were to just lug this around on their adventures, there would be no question of how they could hold an inventory of 99 copies of all varieties of potions and herbs and whatnot. This thing is so huge that if I ever opened one and it turned out to be one of those Mimic-type enemies, I'd just reset my game--there'd be no point in trying to take on something that huge.

Now, the first time I really took notice of one of these enormous chests was in one city's old, abandoned church. As if it didn't grab enough attention by itself, the chest was sitting right in the middle of this holy-looking circle of flowers and greenery, bathed in bright light. If Schala had been hovering above it with angel wings while Aeris picked some flowers growing at a unicorn's hooves nearby, they wouldn't have seemed out of place.

This, my friends, was the ultimate treasure chest. Even if it were early in the game, this was surely the king daddy to end all treasures. Nothing less than the power of God Himself could possibly reside in this treasure chest.

Throwing aside the questions of the morality of stealing valuables from a church even if for the sake of their contributing to galactic peace, I eagerly ran up to the chest, ran against it for a minute or so, pressing X and fumbling with SO3's poorly-conceived need to stand exactly facing treasure chests to open them even though precise directioning is difficult because of slightly clumsy movement control, and finally opened it, and found...

Ripe Berries.

Not money. Not treasures. Not legendary equipment or jewelry or whatever. Nothing. But. Berries. Ripe ones, though.

Try to wrap your mind around this. Try to imagine the circumstances that lead up to this moment. Imagine the generous faithful church-goers pitching in money each service for months and months, so that their trusted priest could make a truly worthy purchase to benefit their little congregation. Then, finally, when the priest finally had months and months' worth of collections, representing a part of so many trusting members' living wages, he went out, and purchased the biggest, craziest, most expensive treasure box he could find. No, he couldn't have even found this. He probably had to specially order it. He probably had to commission several architects to design this thing. Then finally, after weeks of directing them in designing it to be properly beautiful and awe-inspiring, the time had come. The priest brought it before his followers with pride to let them see what all their faithful giving had brought about, set it down in the most heavenly, serene place he could, opened it up, dropped a few raspberries inside it, closed it, and enthusiastically declared their money well-spent.

No wonder that church was abandoned. They probably lynched that crazy bastard.

It's not like this is really an isolated incident, either. People in this game have an obsession with hoarding treasure chests containing berries in their home that borders on lunacy. In any given residence, you can expect to open up a random treasure chest shoved against the wall, thinking that you're looting pricy family heirlooms, and discover that this house's residents apparently value individual Blueberries enough to keep them under lock and key (well, not literally, since no treasure chest is ever actually locked, but you know what I mean). Ruins holding ancient wisdoms and artifacts and such are littered with treasure chests of all sizes which hold all varieties of berries.

I admit that berries ARE good healing items. So it might not SEEM any different than finding random potions and herbs and such in treasure chests in other RPGs. But other RPGs don't stuff them in countless immense, shining treasure boxes that your entire party could fit into. I mean, when you open the big ones, you get trumpet fanfare as the game announces that you've somehow managed to find a single Blackberry in the otherwise empty box. If the game's going to give me a quick blast of parade music, I want to be getting something just a little better than 1/60th of a pie's filling.

Anyway, I don't really have anywhere I'm going with this. It's just something that strikes me as amusingly crazy, and also somewhat annoying since I keep hoping for substantial treasure and just getting fruit-wannabes every time.