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"Speedo, in spite of his smiling avatar, is in a foul mood. Cronabe has done the ultimate evil by choosing not to save Steve. For fuck's sake, I don't see Speedo doing much to help her out either, so where does he get off being such a dickhead? If he's going to be all bitter and bitchy to Cronabe, shouldn't he put on some pants and go find some Hydra Humour? But no, it's easier just to stand there and be an asshat."
     -Jeanne, Chrono Cross Part 5




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01.24.03 :: Replay Value

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

A belated Happy New Year to you, mailbag faithful, and thanks for reading! P?re No?l, once we liquored him up enough, had a great time answering your letters, and we had a great time loafing around. But we're back from the mailbag vacation and ready to reply to your missives once again! This week's topic is RPG replay value. We can assume that everyone has a different idea of what makes a game worth that second, third, fourth or twentieth go, even though we only received two letters. But they're certainly excellent letters, so we're satisfied. On with the mailbag!

Don't sell the bunny slippers
Ah, the elusive Holy Grail of the RPG - Replay Value. A more important, "is the story in this game strong enough that you're willing to endure the so-so graphics and terrible gameplay mechanics to not only finish it the first time but go back and play it again?" but I digress.... I haven't run across many RPGs that have what I would call true replay value. Chrono Trigger had, what, about a dozen alternate endings.... but I didn't like it enough to want to go back and play it 11 more time and see it all. I've replayed parts of FFVII to enjoy the Honey Bee Inn again. I replayed Thousand Arms to try to date the gals I missed the first time through. I replayed Azure Dreams to try to get all ten datable girls (and it turns out the tenth is a guy....shudder). And, believe it or not, I replayed Rhapsody, the Musical Adventure once as an antidote to the Angst filled RPG Epics that were bogging my mind. Bewarned that this game induces tooth decay, it is sooooooo sweet. Marjoly's antics make it all worth while, though.

However, the games at the top of my list for replay value are Suikoden I & II. Unless you cheat and use the player's guide, you won't be able to finish the games the first time through with all 108 stars. Then there are bonuses hidden away, if you can complete the game in under 20 hours, etc. But the kicker is that since there is usually 2-3 years or more between each Suikoden release in the U.S. I'm willing to bet that, like me, you didn't keep your final save around that long, and so to get the extra bonuses by loading your old game save, you had to go back and replay the game before starting the next one.... (Seems like kind of an underhanded way of building in replay value, but, hey, it works). However, unlike most other RPGs, Suikoden is a game that will reward repeated playing. The story is that good. And, I will admit, I liked Suikoden II much better the second time I played it.

Then there are the Harvest Moon games. These would push Suikoden off the top of my list except that the farming can get.... very tedious. But trying to win a different bride each time, or find an alternate method of saving the village is almost addicting.

The list of games that are so bland or bad as to have no play value at all, much less replay value, is endless. Perhaps a better question might be what game should have had the most replay value of all, but doesn't???

The winner in that category would have to be Star Ocean Second Story. The final set of bosses are virtually unbeatable even with a cheater's guide telling you how to do it. The problem is that if you miss getting the vital items like bunny slippers which seemed useless until you get to the final bosses, you gotta go all the way back to the first half of the game to get it. And the game just isn't good enough to make me want to endure starting all over again. It should have been a great game, but somehow, they missed the mark. It's sort of like an odd-numbered Star Trek Movie. All the elements for greatness are there, but somehow, it got botched in execution.

CS, you've got some good points there. There really aren't that many games that inspire you to play them more than once for the alternate endings, the twenty-two million Destiny Sisters or what have you. But then again, sometimes a good game is like your favorite movie. You already know the plot, you know every line and can quote it verbatim. But that's not the important thing. The important thing is that this is your favorite movie. It's what you watch when you've had a shitty day at work, or you're at home sick, or just don't feel good. And so it is with your favorite games. It doesn't matter that you know all the tricks to take down the villain in a minute and a half, that you know just where to go to get that secret stash of goodies, or that you don't even have to be looking at the screen to know what's happening because you can tell by the soundtrack. The games that have such an effect on you should be treasured. Not because they have inherent replay value, but because you want to play them over and over again. That being said, I never bothered playing many of the "multi-ending" games more than once, simply because I just didn't feel like having to pay strict attention to the strategy guide to ensure that I saw a different ending than the one I'd already seen. I'm bloody-minded that way.

-AG

AG summed up my thoughts on replay value pretty well, so I'll leave it at that and go on a different tangent.

Ah, Harvest Moon. (Thought I was gonna jump on the Suikoden mention, didn't you?) I've only had the pleasure of playing HM: Save the Homeland (which I've heard from HM experts is not even close to the best of the series), and though I had a lot of fun with it, I haven't played it since. Maybe it's because I was denied the pleasure of actually marrying the girl I ended with, or maybe it was that it was such a short game that replaying it didn't seem worth the time. Could be that incubating all those chicken eggs was a pain--in--the--ass. In any case, I have a copy of Back to Nature that remains unplayed, and I'm sure that once I get around to it, I'll enjoy marrying a cute anime-style girl and having many-anime style babies.

What's with that kid's hair, anyway? Who wears a rat-tail anymore?

-LC

Mailbag virgin
Ladies,

How're you doing? This is my first time writing into the Mailbag O' Fun, so I don't expect you guys to take it that easy on me. :)

The topic's replay value, eh? I can think of a few (very few, actually) that have it, and a lot that don't.

First of all, the ones that do (in my twisted mind, after all)

Lunar 1 and 2. So sue me. The storyline didn't even change, really. It was the same lines time after time, and then same twists, but goddamn it, the dialogue was funny as hell! I think my favourite was Lemina telling Ronfar to get his hands off his wang after a warning about protecting their valuables in the thieves' forest. Besides, it was an overall cool story. Yes, yes, I know, the main female characters were STILL affected with that mysterious disease known as "submissiveness." Especially Lucia! Grr...! How many battles did I lose because the dumb ho just sat back in the edges of the battle and cast spells when she pleased, and then STILL got knocked out. Maybe I should have leveled up too, though.

Final Fantasy X. I know, it's so cliche. But Square did take steps to make sure the plotline changed at least a little bit. Auron still kicks ass, but if you pay more attention to Rikku than, say, Yuna, you'll find different conversations coming out. Besides...for those of us who are utterly masochistic, you HAVE to reply the fuckin' thing, just to try to dodge lightning, or chase butterflies, or ride a drunk, trippin' chocobo while simultaneously dodging birds and shit. Yes, that's me.

There are also games like Resident Evil, and Fatal Frame, just to name a few. Although the twists thrown in to add to the replay value were minimal. They're not RPGs anyway, though. I digress.

Now the games that don't?

I'm probably going to get flamed all to hell for this, but I HATE HATE HATE FF7. So what? The main character was a blocky dickhead. Sure, there was cross-dressing, but Square heroes are so effeminate anyway, that it doesn't make any difference. Half the time, they look way better than the females anyway. Besides...the plotline was so fucking retarded that I dropped the game about the time that Cloud and Co. ended up at the Gold Saucer. Talk about feeling my IQ drop about ten points.

Legend of Dragoon. Need I say more? The dialogue is inane. The plotline is stupid. Although I do believe Rose would have been a good character to have her OWN game. Maybe we should name her game "Strong Female Lead Kicks Some Ass"?

Summoner 2. Sure. It was cool enough the first time. Sangaril is my favourite character ever. I really liked sneaking around Indubal Prison with her. But I wouldn't play the game through again. It's just not good enough. Same damn story every time. I think about the only things that change are the reactions of Maia's subjects to her queenly duties. You know, "Should we send the Mage's Guild to subdue the Giant Alive Statue, or should we send the Army?"

That's about it that I can think of right now. I haven't played far enough into Suikoden 3 to be able to judge. Hey...I just got my PS2 a few months ago. Don't have that much RPG experience yet.

Hope I don't get roasted too much. :)

Ruby-Doo

"Just give me a threesome with Auron and Wakka, and I can die a happy woman."

Don't be worried about getting roasted...by me, anyway. It's quite amazing, actually, that you have nearly the exact favorite replay RPGs that I do. I would be the first to admit that Lunar and Lunar 2 have as much charm the second time around as, say, watching Dragonball Z reruns. Nevertheless, I've gone into double digits on replays, between the two. There's just something about the complete lack of customization and the rampant innuendo that never gets old.

I'm also on my second playthrough of Final Fantasy X, and though I'll never match AG's undying love for that game, I'm quite enjoying it this time, possibly even more than the first. Though I have to disagree with your reasons for replaying FFX--I have absolutely zero desire to race Chocobos EVER, nor do I really want to play enough Blitzball just so Wakka can get a couple overdrives I'll never use. I won't even go into the mind-numbing horror that comes over me when I consider dodging 200 consecutive bolts of lightning...*shudder*

Anyway, glad you decided to write in, Ruby. Don't be a stranger!

-LC

Ruby, Welcome to that "fun onna bun" known as the VGR Mailbag. We like seeing new blood around the place. It's refreshing, and I'm sure our writing faithful are tired of being torn to pieces on a weekly basis. Then again, maybe not. Some folks are weird that way. They're the kind of people who enjoy the Chinese Water Torture of FFX Chocobo Racing or the Macalania Butterfly Hunt While Fighting Every Ten Fucking Seconds. Personally, I think I'd rather babysit Damien than ever have to do either of those tasks again. As much as I am filled with the Kimahri love, I am not about to go through that dumbass forest chasing down acid-trip butterflies just so he can look cool to the Wanker King. And the Thunder Plains are the most fun place in the whole game, if only to watch Wanky McWankerson Jr. get hit--a lot. Dodging? I'd put that little asshole in a tinfoil helmet if I thought it would attract more lightning his way.

Now then, let's take a look at the rest of your letter, shall we? I've never played the Lunar series myself, but you've made a friend in LC, I see. I agree with you that FFX has replay value, even if nothing changes in the storyline. I'm in the middle of yet another playthrough right now, and I'm finding that I've eschewed the normal weapons/armor purchasing sprees that I had done in the past. Dunno why, I just haven't felt like parting with the cash. So now I've got a buttload of gil, and minimal weaponry.

And for the record, I actually do like Legend of Dragoon, even if it is silly, inane, and badly written. I like it for the camp value, if nothing else. And camp value it has my dear, never ever doubt that. Those recaps practically write themselves, you know. As for every fanboy's wet dream, FFVII, well, I never liked it all that much to be honest. I liked it so little that I too have never actually finished the thing. And I never finished the first Summoner, so Summoner 2 seemed like cruel and unusual punishment. The cover of the game itself screamed "sop for drooling fanboys," so it wasn't exactly first on my priority list.

And finally, a word on your closing quote. A three-way with Wakka and Auron, eh? Well, I suppose I could become fangirlish and threaten to rip out your eyes at the image, but that would hardly be fitting, now would it? I couldn't really see having a romp with The Blitzed One myself. A man who knows how to use his katana is man enough for me.

-AG


Thanks to CS and Ruby for sending in some great letters. We apologize for having somewhat of an irregular mailbag schedule lately, but we're looking to get back on the once-a-week schedule starting right now. But you fine readers (and writers) get one more break from sending in your missives this time; we have something else in mind for next week. Be sure to check in next time for our replies to some slightly...different emails.

Until then!

- AG and Lita-chan

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