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"Well, here we are again, my friends -- the first recap of another game. 'But Jeanne, you already have a hundred billion games to recap!' you may say, possibly in a whiny fashion. First of all: shut up. Second, sometimes I get the urge to start recapping a particular game. Besides, how many of you are suicidal over waiting a bit longer for the next Chrono Cross recap? Yeah, that's what I thought."
     -Jeanne, Eternal Darkness Part 1




Absoludicrous.net
Alterra



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10.24.02 :: Mini-games: A love/hate relationship

The opinions in this letters column aren't necessarily those of Jeanne Rubbo, owner of videogamerecaps.com. Even so, Jeanne owns *us* and has locked us in a dark closet with Tidus and Rinoa until we think of something funny. HELP! In the meantime, send in your comments, queries, whining, flames, spam, opinions, facts, opinions that you think are facts, and general idiocy to mailbag@videogamerecaps.com

Welcome to the Mini-Game Edition of the VGR Mailbag! Now, before we begin, we'd like to give you readers a lengthy and boring tutorial on how to read this mailbag, including frequently asked questions like "What are these lines of letters, spaces and numbers?" and "How do I get started?" We'd also like to let you know that neither your mouse buttons nor your directional keys will work in the same way from this point on. Rather, up=left, down=up, right=down, left=right, and you're no longer allowed to scroll. These are just examples of the many scheme changes we've made! Enjoy!

Seriously, this week we're discussing mini-games in RPGs: the best and worst. From the tone of most of the letters, God help us all if Konami and Square team up for "Super Chinchirorin Chocobo Racing Card Mania!!!" That said, off we go!


Simple mini-games = good
My favorite mini-games would have to be the cooking game in Suikoden II, and the cliff-climbing game. They are both simple, require a bit of thought, and reward you with some fun and humor and some nifty prizes. You don't have to learn any rules or endure a half-hour tutorial to play them.

My next favorite mini-game is Chocobo Hot and Cold. It's a lot more fun to run around digging up treasure with the chocobo than trying to race the damned things!

Chocobo ranching...aieee! I actually spent 20 hours trying to breed the special chocobos that could climb the highest mountains and swim the deepest sea - so that I could get to those secret areas in the game, and never got it, even following the breeding directions in the cheater's guide books. It was a fun mini-game the first five hours. I should have stopped then.

Then again, the Chinchirorin mini-game is a mini-game direct from the mind of Satan! It's like playing roulette at a crooked table. You might win once in a while, but chances are you will lose your shirt every time you play. "I will go first. Oh look, I got a six for the twentieth time in a row. Beat that! - Oh, so sorry, that was a 'Piss' for the eighth toss in a row...." Worse yet, you have to win $5000 from Tai Ho twice in order to recruit him, and once to recruit the gambler in the fishing village. Drat Konami to Heck!!!! I hated ALL the card games in any Final Fantasy game. Pointless, stupid, a waste of time - not worth the time and effort it would take to get good enough to win at the game with any consistency. If I wanted to play cards, I know a half dozen games of solitaire and wouldn't plug in my Playstation... Please take a hint, Square!!!!

Chocobo racing...and just about any car or kart racing game. Oh gee, I've got hand-eye coordination of a flounder, the reflexes of a jar of molasses, and all the rhythm of a road-paving machine. So I've either got to steer, brake and accelerate around a course and do it better than all my AI opponents who are programmed to get around the course perfectly and never make a mistake? Let's not even go to the sloppy controls in most racing games and mini-games. Then there is the type where you have to hit two buttons in time to the music. I will be honest, I suck at that also. It is not fun being reminded that I suck at it by being forced to win a race in the middle of some dratted RPG quest. Mini-games.... most of them seem like quickie add-ons that were stitched into the game... They remind me of bad animation where they have the famous artist do the key drawings and then hire a bunch of quadruple amputees and some alkies from the Gospel Mission to draw all the in-between frames.... I guess they've got to give the apprentice game designers something to do. Either that, or it's some sort of game designer's revenge: "Let's torture the gamers with another pointless mini-game!" I would give them the benefit of the doubt except there is no room for doubt - most mini-games suck! If mini games were good ideas for a game, we'd all be lined up to buy copies of "Yoshi's Button Timed Racing 2002" or "Final Fantasy World Card Tournament" and RPGs would all be gathering dust on the shelves. Perish at the thought!

Goddamn, I don't even know where to begin replying to this. CS, dude, you're kind of all over the place on this one.

Guess I'll start with The Most Evil Mini-Game Ever, Chinchirorin. (I do believe I'm spelling that correctly, not that there's any way to tell, as Konami of America doesn't even know how to spell it.) I am going to scream myself stupid if I start up Suikoden III tomorrow and discover Tai Ho or Yam Koo in some fishing village, waiting to take all my money, my pride and any cute female party members I've picked up at the time. Considering that you're forced to play and win at this game FIVE FUCKING TIMES between Suikoden I and II, I'd think Konami would want to give us all a break from the stupid dice in a cup. Which means they'll probably include five or six Stars of Destiny who require the Hero to win $10,000+ from them to join the army. Which means I will end up wallowing in despair and drowning myself in the bathtub.

On kart games: I hope you're not comparing the godliness that is Super Mario Kart to the abomination that is Chocobo Racing. If you just mean racing mini-games, then I can agree. But most full-on racing games do, in fact, have decent controls. And there's no need to blame your suckiness at racing Chocobos on your own incompetence at such games. Because the controls for that game are such that you have to be blind and dyslexic to make any sense of them. God only knows why they couldn't just say "Maneuver the Chocobo with the analog stick" instead of "Hey, we're going to flip directions around on you and make it so you can't actually steer the thing! Good luck against our flawless and extremely dirty AI competitor!" Bastards.

-LC

CS,

My goodness. I think someone's been into the caffeine again. But I can't argue with the points you make. There's nothing like than taking a quick break in your RPG world to play a little side game that if you're really lucky, won't be tied into the game's storyline at one point or another. If the game is good, then you return to saving the Princess/the World/Humanity, refreshed and ready to take on anything. If it's bad, then suddenly letting the Huge Monster/Terrible Evil/Insane Pedophile Clown do away with the whole damn rat race suddenly seems like a good idea. A race whose epitome of fun is an apparently loaded dice game, or breeding huge chickens to not do what the guide said they would doesn't deserve to have their world saved in the first place.

-AG

He actually bothered to beat it...
Salutations

I just have to say that the best mini-game ever is Chocobo racing. My fondest video game memory is the many hours I spent alone with Tidus and a Chocobo. Now I was speculative at first. You see, while I thought it looked like fun, I thought to myself, "This mini-game can't really be long enough to give me the proper amount of enjoyment, can it?" So I resolved myself to drag it out as long as possible.

Boy was it ever worth it. I remember sighing in relief after I just barely missed getting a perfect score. Now a casual observer may have mistook that for a sigh of agony, but I'm telling you it was relief.

It only got better from there. After a couple hours of straight Chocobo playing I was throwing the controller around the room with glee after every race. My girlfriend looked at me, puzzled, and said not to throw the controller in case I broke it, but I was just too damn happy to not throw that controller at the wall.

As I got closer and closer to beating the mini-game I was having even more fun, if that were possible. Why I remember one time when I finished with a time of 0.2 seconds I was so excited that I happily cried "FUCK YOU TIDUS. FUCK YOU YOU FUCKING CHOCOBO FUCKER," 'cause I was so happy I thought, "Hey, everyone deserves a little free love after that exciting run."

The only sad part was when it was over. After I got my perfect score I was just yelling "I beat it, I finally beat it," wailing in a childlike tantrum. But then I saw how cool the weapon was and how cool Tidus looked holding it and knew it was all worth it. The last thing I said was "That was a stupid fucking waste of time, I'm never playing that lame-ass game again." Except I said it all sarcastic, like I really meant the opposite. Because all in all, I sure do love me some FFX Chocobo racing.

With Love
ElMundo
Squire, sword boy, torch boy

ElMundo,

I don't know if I'd call myself a "torch boy" in mixed society. "Sword boy" might be taken wrong too. There are some sick bastards out there. Stop looking at me like that!

It's nice to see that someone somewhere got loads of "enjoyment" out of that benighted racing game. I think I'd rather have my finger and toenails slowly chewed off by a rabid mongoose, but that's just me. Maybe the thought of Tidus looking cool while holding his "sword" is punishment enough. If it isn't, it damned well should be.

-AG

I had forgotten just how funny the phrase "fucking Chocobo fucker" is. *wipes away a tear* I never knew, though, that ecstatic enjoyment looked so much like near cardiac arrest, dear. I'm glad it was the former. Pacemakers are expensive.

-LC

Square, are you listening?
If you've already put together the mailbag, just ignore me please.

Favorite mini-games:

-FFVIII Triple Triad: Yes, I did the whole Card Queen's Quest; yes, I can beat anyone, anywhere even with the random rule. My impressive skill at this fictional card game has truly enriched my life and made me feel so cool. Except not.
-Suikoden II Cooking Game: The only thing that would make this better is if someone bit into a bell pepper.

Least favorite mini-games:

-The Mini-Game Which Shall Not Be Named: You know which one I'm talking about (hint: dice).
-The Other Mini-Game Which Shall Not Be Named: Yeah, the other one (hint: wanker).

Can't decide whether I love it or hate it:

-Blitzball: It's enjoyable and yet repetitive. I played enough to get all of Wakka's Overdrives, and that's an assload of Blitzball. Wait, that sounds wrong....

Dream mini-games:

-"Hide the sausage": An FFVIII mini-game where Seifer and Squall have to stick the hotdog somewhere so Zell can't find it. Why are you looking at me like that?
-"Kill Tidus": 'nuff said.

Jeanne

It would be ever so cool if "Kill Tidus" involved racing the previously mentioned mal-controlled Chocobos off the edge of the Calm Lands, sending our favorite bleached-blond wank machine down a cliff to his violent, gory, feathery death. That's what I call poetic justice. Or we could play the part of Yuna, who would hold his head under the water just a little too long during their synchronized-swimming "love scene." Better still, there could be a "Whack-a-Tidus" game, where Wakka would smack the bobbing Tidus heads (ew, that came out badly) with his Blitzballs (ew, that was worse).

Or we could have Auron just lop his head off, over and over and over. Damn, this could be bigger than Mario Party!

-LC

Jeanne,

I think I'd pay a fair amount of gil to see a game of "Hide the Sausage." Funny thing is, I don't see poor Zell really being the object of the game, you know? And I could see myself playing endless games of "Kill Tidus," becoming more and more unhinged as I go. Soon, I'll be cackling madly, eagerly pressing the more and more complicated button combos to bring about inventive, gory ends to the Wanker King. (Because this is a mini-game, there WILL be some fucked up button combos, you mark my words.) Damn you, Square! Will you not heed us? I want "Kill Tidus" and I want it now! Now I say!

Hey?where's everyone going? I'm okay, really! *twitch*

-AG

Square, are you listening? - 2
Ahoy there, mateys.

Mini-games. Probably one more staple of RPGs introduced by those wacky folks at Square. (Unless I'm terribly mistaken, it all started with the Millennial Fair.) {Ed note: The Millennial Fair shows up in Crono Trigger. But we're sure all you 1337-hArDc0r3 readers know that already.} It's startling to know that something so heavily associated with the modern era of gaming has been around for so long; if anything, it makes those of Ye Olde Schoole look more like old geezers stuck in the past, "back when things were simpler and better, by crackey!"

Anyway, back on topic; some of my favorite mini-games include:

- FFVIII's Triple Triad. A deceivingly simple card game with cool background music, Triple Triad rewards players for winning cards by way of the CardMod ability. So long as there's no Random Rule, you can't go wrong with that.

- Suikoden II's Iron Chef-esque minigame. Suikoden II tried to give a bit more personality to their Stars by way of little things like Richmond's sleuthing, the Mailbag, and of course, the cooking contests.

- FFIX's Chocobo Hot 'n' Cold. How many hours did I spend on this? And I still came back for more. I blame it on the music; "Vammo alla Flamenco" ROXXORS.

- FFIX's Frog Catching. It's Quina. Hunting frogs. The pure joy of moving everyone's favorite he/she around makes this mini-game. Quina's theme kicks it up a notch.

- FFX's Blitzball. Only on account of all the hours spent. Though so far, the best I've got out of it was the Attack Reels Overdrive, I still believe that as far as mini-games go, this one's quite solid. I still think it would have been better if each half were 3 minutes long, as opposed to 5, though.

Of course, since we're forced to take the bitter with the sweet, there are also some stinkers among the mini-games too. My pick of the worst:

- Suikoden's Chinchirorin. Words fail to express how much I hate that game. I'll just say, to all those reading this who have yet to play a Suiko, Mrs. Rubbo is not exaggerating at all in her recaps about this...thing.

- FFIX's Tetra Master. More complicated than Triple Triad (not necessarily a bad thing), with no instructions other than "Figure it out for yerself" (BAD thing) and forces you to play it in order to advance the plot (BAD, BAD THING!! No biscuit for you!).

With that said, my choice for dream mini-game is... THE COOK-OFF! Think of how great a cooking match would be in a Final Fantasy game: from the cooks themselves (Quina only cooks variations of frog dishes, Wakka cheats by adding illegal substances) to the judges (Tidus gives random numbers because he doesn't "get it", Seymour's ratings are inversely proportional to the cook's age, Squall is too apathetic to give anything a good grade, Zell gives hot dogs an instant 10), the possibilities are endless.

~Quartz Falcon

QF,

It seems that you and Mrs. Rubbo are on the same mental channel again. Have you been using the Mind Reading Ray?? To give credit where credit is due, you've once again hit on a topic to expound upon. How do you do it, boy? I'm of course talking about Tetra Master, the plot-furthering card game from FFIX. The first time I played the game, I skipped the card games in Treno, simply because I was lazy and didn't want to do it. Well 2 hours later when I couldn't trigger the next plot point, I finally gave up and went to a handy walkthrough. What?! You have to play the stupid card game to advance the plot? What the @#$% is this? So, I played the damned card games. And I won. And the story moved on. But I still fumed. I didn't get happy again until I was once again in Chocobo Forest, happily digging up stuff and handing all my gil over to that cutthroat little moogle. That little pink bastard made a mint off of me. Zidane should've mugged him afterwards.

As for your ideas on the Cook-off mini-game, that's a game I'd love to see. I'm sure Seymour would be more than happy to take a taste of Gremio's special stew. Yes, the image is just as dirty as that last sentence sounds.

-AG

Kudos for the mention of catching frogs with Quina. That's one of my favorites, too, just because of the rockin' Quina theme and the scene in my imagination where Quina sat in front of a heap of frog-leg bones and said, "Frog legs like chicken. Chicken yummy-yummy. Frog legs yummy-yummy."

As for Triple Triad: I will admit that I liked this game. In a very complex way. I enjoyed collecting new cards and modding new cards. I enjoyed kicking Quistis fanboy ass. But somewhere along the line, I started to like it too much. I didn't want to mod all my good cards to get good items to get good weapons! I wanted the good items, the good weapons AND the good cards, dammit! I started to get frustrated at the thought of having to win all my good cards back from Ellone, since I got stuck with Same, Plus and Random while trying to win the Laguna card from her (I think). I started to loathe the background music. So my love of Triple Triad blossomed into hatred. Much like my hatred of Tetra Master became my...hatred...of Tetra Master. Whoops.

-LC


Unsurprisingly, it seems the VGR faithful are mostly of the same mind when it comes to these game diversions: Tidus sucks. Dice suck. Cooking is cool. So, as long as a mini-game has A) good music, B) addictivness, C) something to do with food and D) the complete absence of Tidus or Tai Ho, it's got a shot at greatness.

At long last, we are dead sick of talking about mini-games. Thanks to everyone who wrote in for getting it out of our systems. But since we devoted this week to mini-games, we want to hear next week your thoughts on best and worst overall gameplay. Hear us, fanboys? Rant about the junction system in FFVIII! Scream your lungs out concerning the second disk of Xenogears! Praise the old-schoolness of Lunar to the skies! What do you like about RPG gameplay, and what do you hate? What games have had the most creative systems, or have felt the most slapped-together? Random battles or visible enemies? You get the idea. And we'd better hear from you by Tuesday, October 29.

Until next week, allez cuisine!

- AG and Lita-chan

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