Warsong

Warsong

Okay, there is a chance you played it – but I would guess it’s unlikely.  This gem of a game came out for the Sega Genesis (and was called Langrisser overseas).  I am not sure what inspired me to pick it up at the time.  I had heard nothing about this game in any of the magazines I read, none of my friends had played it, but something about it caught my eye when I was mulling what game to purchase next.

Warsong-Sega-Genesis

But something about the back of that box must have sparked my interest, because I took the game home, put it and and began to play.  The define what Warsong is, I would say it was a fantasy strategy/RPG hybrid – maybe the first I had ever played quite like it.

I immediately loved the game’s art style.  The graphics had a colorful, anime feel to them when showing character portraits.  The actual battles that took place were actually pretty active as soldiers kill each other off.  The backdrops and map designs were actually pretty well detailed also.

Warsong-Sega-Genesis

The sound and music get the job done.  There was nothing terribly memorable about it, but this was a game that was more about the tactics.  It would have been nice to have a bit more variety in the music, but I don’t recall it ever particularly bothering me either.

So how did the game play?  Well, there were two aspects to it.  There are the leader characters, and they are the most important.  Hints of Fire Emblem here, as when a leader dies, he or she is gone for good.  I recall saving often to prevent that from happening.  Shades of Dragonforce follow, as each of these main characters had soldiers units they could control.  Each character has a range or aura of influence and if their soldier units fight within that range, they got bonuses to their stats.  Each leader can hire different kinds of soldiers at the start of each level, and there is a sort of rock/paper/scissors mechanic to which soldier units perform best against one another.

Warsong-Sega-Genesis

There are other factors as well, such as terrain and if your leader characters have any gear equipped (at the start of each level, a scenario is given to you and you have a chance to spend your hard earned gold on different kinds and quantities of soldiers, and that is also when you can choose to put a piece of equipment on a leader character).  I recall getting so good at the game that I could go through the first couple of levels or so without buying any soldier units, to conserve money for when I would need it more in subsequent levels.

Warsong-Sega-Genesis

When a leader character dies (the enemy units are made up of these as well), their support soldiers will perish as well.  Some levels also have assorted neutral characters who will go after anyone who gets to o close.  Some missions are designed for certain types of soldiers as well – for example one of your heroes can hire mermen and they are almost essential for water combat – but useless in levels without water to cross.

The game is made up of twenty levels, which may not sound like much, but each stage can take quite some time to get through.  The menu and controls are very simple to navigate and while it is easy to learn – there is are so many different tactics and unit strategies to apply that there is perfectly valid reason to come back and play again once you beat the game.

Warsong-Sega-Genesis
The story itself is nothing new – good guys are put on the run for attacking bad guys.  Good guys regroup after getting smacked around a bit in the first level, and rally a force to defeat not only the known bad guys, but the evil controlling them behind the scenes.  It is all really well presented though, with story pieces between levels and dialog scenes from characters on maps.  While you have no options to change the storyline itself, it was actually one that I found fairly interesting.

The RPG elements come in the form of gold, equipment, experience and levels.  In fact, this game was the inspiration to a leveling system I implimented on my MUD over a decade ago that I called a Tier system.  Your characters start off a specific class, level up to a point, and then choose one of two.  Level up some more, and you can again choose one more new class from a new set of branching options.  Some characters were so similar that their later tiers became the same thing, like Magic Knight, but there were unique ones too.  For example your lead character Garrett can become a King class, and no one else can.  Each tier brings new skills and powerful stat boosts and adds a good deal of replay value to the mix.

Warsong-Sega-Genesis

And replay I did – I can recall beating this game at least three times – maybe more.  And it was a hit among my friends who initially asked: Warsong?  What’s that?

But these were the same friends I had gotten hooked on strategy games on the NES years before too (Nobunaga’s Ambition, Bandit Kings of Ancient China and Romance of the Three Kingdoms to name a few) – so they gave it a shot and not a single one disliked it.  Most of them borrowed it long enough to beat the game once if not twice (and one other friend borrowed my copy for a day and a half.  I was a bit surprised when he handed it back to me and said I could have it back.  I asked if he had not liked it – turned out he simply went out and bought his own copy afterward).

Warsong-Sega-Genesis

To this day, this ranks as one of my favorite all-time video games, and influenced my opinion on what a strategy game could be.  It also had clear effects on my own game design years later for my MUD, Kingdoms of the Lost.  I played it again recently and feel that it holds up pretty well today still.  If I bring it up in conversation with most gamers though, none seem to have ever heard of, let alone played this under-appreciated classic.

[youtube width=”560″ height=”315″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VDcZlC3oZWc[/youtube]

If you are interested in how it plays?  Here is a quick video down below that really shows off a lot of the game as you start off in a scenario where you and your troops are under heavy attack right off of the bat.

Villian Spotlight: Kefka Palazzo

Insanity Kefka Palazzo demotivational poster
Insanity Kefka Palazzo demotivational poster

Kefka Palazzo

Since the dawn of video game culture, there have been a lot of subjects you don’t bring up unless you want some greasy, unhygienic, nerd frothing from the mouth with a rabid induced rage. One of these subjects that is commonly brought up by RPG geeks which ends up in a heated debate is who is the greatest Final Fantasy villain? Normally, the debate is stomped by a wave of Sephiroth loving assholes. For some reason, long white hair, trench coats, and absurdly gigantic katanas are cool. Not just that, this guy’s freaking theme song is an orchestra chiming in death and destruction. The problem a lot of people seem to not realize is that the question asked who is the GREATEST villain in Final Fantasy. People seem to confuse cool with greatness.

I’m unsure if the sway towards Sephiroth is because a lot of people played FF VII as their first real RPG and considered anything before that garbage or mediocre. I do agree that Final Fantasy VII was a fantastic game and that Sephiroth was indeed a cool villain. The thing is, he didn’t accomplish much and his role as a villain was rather one dimensional. His creativity for slaughter was usually left with a sword swing and some fire. His actual development as a character was rather bland and nonexistent.

I know. I know.

Take a deep breath.

It hurts to hear this kind of criticism about the One Winged Angel but I’m about to open your eyes to a true villain. Someone who’s appearance was comical but their lust for destruction was their only drive in life. There wasn’t a waking moment where this monster didn’t think about the end of the world. Many villains feel this way but he isn’t a Cobra Commander or Doctor Claw replica. Where many villains fail and constantly try again, Kefka succeeds. Here’s a look into the devilish antics performed by the supernatural sociopath known as Kefka Palazzo.

As the game begins, Kefka Palazzo is only known as the Emperor’s Court Wizard and doesn’t seem to be more than just some queer looking clown. The Emperor decides to begin a process of infusing Magitek into humans. Kefka decides to volunteer for this process and is able to wield magic. Come to think of it… how was this guy the Court Wizard if he couldn’t control magic to begin with? Anyway, an obvious homage to Captain America occurs and Kefka becomes Captain Magitek and stops the World War that is plaguing the planet and is pronounced the savior of the world.

The End.

Things didn’t work out that way, sadly, for Kefka and he turned into a psychopath who deemed that everything ever in the entire world had to die. He became the Joker with magic. He forces Terra, the main character in the story, to wear a slave crown and attack a town that claims to have an Esper in their mines. Terra manages to escape the enslavement and runs off. Kefka, obviously angered by this decides to burn down an ENTIRE fucking castle just to kill a bitch. Pretty hardcore right? Sephiroth lit up a small secluded town but Kefka razed a whole castle.

Final Fantasy 6 Kefka Palazzo – poison
Final Fantasy 6 Kefka Palazzo – poison

After burning down a castle what else should you do? Grow impatient obviously! The Empire decides to attack the Kingdom of Doma and begins a long and drawn out siege. What does Kefka do to make things move a long faster? Does he impale a girl in the back with a sword? Hell no. Kefka poisons the kingdom’s water supply killing everyone inside, including Cyan’s, one of your party members, wife and his children. I don’t remember any Final Fantasy villains poisoning the innocent because they were consuming too much of their schedule.

When you’ve poisoned an entire kingdom what else can you do at the end of the day? Drink a cold beer and watch some TV? Take a hot shower and go to bed? Or freeze all your enemies in place and order one of them to prove their loyalty and kill their friends? The latter sounds like the best idea for this bad ass motherfucker. Unfortunately, the character he ordered to prove their loyalty stabbed him instead. But guess what? Big whoop. Instead of getting medical treatment he kills his king and draws in the powers of a couple of magical statues to become a God.

Looks like your team fucked up, huh? This guy is God and you know what his first order of business is? He isn’t going to hang a meteor over your most populated city. He reshaped the entire planet pushing it into a post apocalyptic world and then demanded people to worship him. You know what happened to the millions of people who said “Fuck that!” collectively? Independence Day. He burned them down with enough force to carve scars into the planet’s surface.

He became a God and forced people into his worship and still that isn’t good enough. This cum dumpster decides it’s a damn good idea to just end life since that shit is meaningless to him. Sure he’s defeated by the heroes of the story but that’s the point! He didn’t care if he died. In reality, he probably let them win because he was too much of a bad ass to die. He figured he was way to cool for the world of the living anyway. His death was his final “F U” to the world since he already fucked it up and now he’s dead and doesn’t have to bother to clean that shit up.

By now, I’m hoping your frothing has ended and you realize the error of your ways. I know it’s going to be hard to put away your Sephiroth figurines and wall posters but you have finally been educated or rather re-educated in the makings of a true monster and villain. You may subconsciously still blurt out Sephiroth’s name like a slutty wife screaming out her secret lover’s name when the question arises as to who is the greatest Final Fantasy antagonist but you will feel that itching in the back of your mind. You know you’re wrong and some day you can even accept that.

Japan, I Left Your RPGs On The Sidewalk And Changed The Locks. We’re Through!

Chrono Trigger cry
Chrono Trigger cry

Japan, I Left Your RPGs On The Sidewalk And Changed The Locks. We’re Through!

Dear Japan,
My dear and sweet Japan, it breaks my heart to write this message. I hope this tear stained letter lets you know that the way I felt about you… about us was something I will always cherish. While the flickering flame on the candle that represented my love for you has been snuffed, the moments we shared will always be emblazoned into my mind and heart.

Do you remember when we first met, my childhood friend? I was seven years old walking through the SNES rental section of Blockbuster looking for a new game to rent. My little childish sticky hands were all over the Aladdin rental box, a smile stretching from ear to ear as I imagined taking the fight to Jaffar. I skipped down the aisle looking for my mommy so that I could go home with Aladdin and enjoy the adventures of an Arabian night. The other games looked on as I gleefully took flight down towards the register. I was blind to their laminated glare.

Like a rifle’s laser scope, I could feel the pressure of a presence weighing down upon me. This entity’s gaze was fixated on me, reaching out for a friend. Slowly turning to my left, my heart went a flutter. Behind the plastic wrappings of the case was an unknown creature holding a wicked sword. Its white fur and pink nose were innocent yet it held a darkened tormenting blade that screamed out to me like a van with free candy. My grip on Aladdin loosened as he fell to the ground face down and like a handicapped older woman was unable to get up without my help. That is where Aladdin would remain though, living away his last breaths as I stepped closer to examine the enigma in front of me. My fingers raced against the title as I dared to utter the name, your name…
Final Fantasy III.

At the time I was ignorant to your true identity. How could I have known? I was only a child and you offered me the ambrosia of adventure. I brought you into my home and for the first time in my life, I learned from a game. I read, I established connections with a game’s characters, I felt remorse for a fictional struggle, and I…

Well, you know…

I fell in love.

Yes, I said it. I fell in love with you, Japan and your RPGs. I still wanted to take that magic carpet ride but not with Aladdin. You engrossed me into your adventures and made me actually care about story and my characters. I chose characters who statistically sucked but because I felt for their background, I strived to turn them into weapons of perfection so we could see their adventure through to the end. I never thought I would experience anything like this ever again. I thought our love was a once in a life time voyage, a one night stand that left me laying in my motel room bed dripping like a used whore.

I was wrong. You kindled my heart through and through for the years. You invaded my life like a powerful militant country raping and pillaging my childhood for resources. You attempted to take them by force but you didn’t expect one thing, Japan. I welcomed you with open arms.

Like Teth-Adam meeting his Isis, your power and my love for you flourished for years to come. Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy, Breath of Fire, Suikoden, and the others. Month after month, year after year, it seemed like an eternity that our love would last.

Then things changed…

You became predictable. Another story about a hero who has amnesia? Another villain who dresses like David Bowie? What was that? Someone wants to destroy the world for no fucking reason? Wait, what? The hero can’t speak and can only express themselves by exclamation points and question marks? This is what you bring me?

Like a disgruntled woman on her anniversary, discontent with the predictable present of flowers and a dinner at Bennigan’s, my loins yearned for more than what you had to offer. I had seen too many movies on Lifetime. You were the villain in all of this. You were the man who didn’t lust for me and you know what, Japan? I stopped lusting for you. I went back home. I went West. I went to America.
The West showed me something that you couldn’t show me. They showed me how my actions can change the story. They showed me how my hero was capable of the greater good or the most unspeakable horror. America wasn’t one dimensional. They let me choose.

You forced me into this linear adventure with the same old characters. You took away the tragedy that I loved in you. There wasn’t any drama. You filled your games with twelve year old heroes who from the very beginning accepted their role as a savior. You are nothing like America and I’m sorry for that.

I love my complicated and deep storylines. I love my free reign in the events to unfold. I love not playing as a clean shaven emotionally complicated hero. I love The West’s Clint Eastwood attitude. It makes me feel like I’m in control. Not you! Me!

Knights of the Old Republic, Fallout, The Elder Scrolls, Mass Effect, and Dragon Age have yanked me from your grasp. I didn’t secretly leave you. The evidence was there the whole time. They took what your wrought and pushed it to another level… a level that I’m afraid you won’t reach.

Japan, you are the clean shaven boy with flowers who took me to the prom, the one who promised to bring me home before 11pm. America is the boy I want to leave with after 11pm. He has tattoos, he smokes, and his motorcycle is fueled by the blood of kittens. At the end of that night, you hope I give you a kiss but America hopes they can pop all my cherries in one session.

I’m sorry Japan, but for now this is good bye. Your lack of creativity, your undying urge to force me into a position I don’t think I want to be in, your inability to manifest a story that hasn’t already been done, and making me play as a he-she has forced this.

Is this the life that you want to lead? Will you take the road that has been laid out before you or will we meet again somewhere else in our lives?

Good bye Japan…
Your Umi-kins.

Dear Game Industry, Hire Some Real Writers

Dragon Age Origins bitches
Dragon Age Origins bitches

I don’t want to sound bias but do video games lacking story make you want to play the sequel or even finish the game? I think a well-established story can motivate you to playing a game to its full completion. There are so many video games that I have picked up that I just can’t finish because the story and game play are so bad that I don’t even want to bother completing it. Do game companies just think of a good game mechanic and just say “Ya know what? Let’s just build something decent around this engine and hope it sells.” I honestly believe that even a game with a shitty engine could sell well if its story is captivating.

I used to be part the creative team for an online forum text based role-playing game. The game mechanics were simple. Write a 1,000 word role-play depicting what you’re doing that day in your adventure and myself or one of the moderators will come in and grade your writing and let you know how much damage you did if you were fighting, what you would be fighting, or how you should proceed given the options you are left with. Sounds tedious doesn’t it? Writing over 1,000 words just to illustrate what you were doing is a bit obnoxious but we did it this way so we got players to make actual stories and not just “NATHANIEL WALKED INTO DA BAR AND PUNCHED MACARTHUR SO HARD!” and then we’d have to moderate that. Instead we got a short story about the character’s adventure. You may ask yourself why anyone would play this game if it was obviously so tiresome to make a post this long just to advance. Well, compared to other message boards of the same category, we were the largest with around 150-200 active members. What made people keep playing and want to part of this world? It was our story, the world, and the characters within it. It ran for about three years with constant activity until we finally shut it down because we couldn’t handle the work load with our current staff and also come up with more stories since we spent way too much time moderating. The story overtook game play and also made a lot of people much better writers than they were when they first began at the site.

Lets take Final Fantasy for instance. Very few people actually anticipated the sequels to Final Fantasy because they needed their turn-based action. People kept playing Final Fantasy because the story made you want to fulfill the accomplishment of beating the game. You wanted to be that hero with the help of your ragtag group of adventurers, which saved the world. Stories make the game memorable and even make loyal fans keep playing. I still played Final Fantasy 13 even though I thought it was one of the worst stories in any Final Fantasy or RPG ever. I continued to play it because I believed that Square-Enix would turn the story around somewhere and make this an experience that was worth enduring the bland characters and adventure. Alas, ADD addled maniacs wrote it and it ended being a total piece of shit. I did think, though, that the game play was better but not worth the agonizingly retarded story. But you get where I’m going with this? I loved the Final Fantasy franchise because of the story and STILL completed this abomination of a sequel just because I loved previous stories and believed in the game’s track record.

There are games out there with good stories but are horribly paced. Red Dead Redemption has a good story from what I can tell by my six hours of game play that I put into it, however, I’ve had the game for almost 2 months now and I haven’t bothered to keep playing it because it is astoundingly drawn out. I don’t feel I’ve made a dent in the story because of all the “filler” non-sense in between pivotal moments in the game. The initial taste of story you are given doesn’t give you an urgency to want to see what happens next because the game takes so long to introduce you to anything worthwhile and intriguing.

Then, you have games that have a story that is apparently fleshed out but it sounds like a SyFy Channel Original Movie. I know it was a blockbuster game, but Assassin’s Creed’s story was horrible. The game play is atrocious and the story is almost vomit inducing. You know how in the Matrix when they upload the knowledge of Kung Fu into Neo’s head and it only takes a whole 5 seconds for him to be a total badass? Ok, imagine Neo learning Kung Fu but it requires him to deal with some past master’s life over the course of a few hours. That is Assassin’s Creed. The introduction to the sequel had me turning off my 360 almost instantly when they mentioned the word “Templar Masters.” For villains who take place in the modern era, aren’t masters kind of a childish thing to call them? That sounds like something a five year old who couldn’t think of a creative name made up while playing with his action figures. The main character himself looks like a chump and is way too foolish to be a hero, which is what this series is setting him up to be. He has to learn from his French ancestors how to fight better or something but if memory serves me right didn’t he learn how to be awesome in the first game? Apparently not, because he couldn’t even handle security guards who lacked batons or guns on his own. He needed a GIRL to save him. Good job, nerd. A chick had to back you up against rent-a-cops. I lost interest in this game within 30 minutes.

Some games have too much story. Think about Metal Gear Solid 4. Were we playing a game or an interactive movie? From what I recall, I got to sneak around some hallways for 5 minutes before being interrupted by 30 minutes of cinematic and dialog. If you’re going to make a game heavy in story make it interactive so I have something to do while you’re blabbing about your military and science bullshit. You know what I remember about the MGS4 story? Not much at all due to the fact that every single time the game would take control away from me I left the room to make tea or I put a pillow over my face and woke up when I noticed the talking ended. The story became way too encumbering and I only finished it because it was the finale to the series or so it was believed at that time.

If the gaming industry needs someone to look to in order to make games with decent game play but highly engrossing stories there is a little company called Bioware that completely decimates the industry with its captivating stories and player involvement. Dragon Age and Mass Effect are their two hottest franchises right now and it’s hard to argue that either has a monotonous story or boring main character. Commander Shepard is a bad ass and they sway from good or evil but the ends always justify the means regardless of the decision. The nameless Grey Warden leader in Dragon Age does what needs to get done despite the situation he/she is placed under. While I love both franchises, I dislike the villains and I feel they could do more than just have a villain who wants to shit dicks all over the world because they are evil. In Dragon Age, Loghain was a rather interesting character but they didn’t focus much on him. I feel if they did it would’ve been much more difficult to stomp on his dreams and kill him when it came down to it. The game always leaves you thinking that he is possessed by a demon or somehow working for the enemy, but he isn’t. He’s just a man with an opposing view and you aren’t really given a chance to understand his action because you get the option to decapitate him, which any reasonable person will do. Only a total pussy wouldn’t chop off someone’s head if given the option. Do note how I compliment the story so much in these Bioware games but I don’t even mention the game play experience. That would be because it is rather simple and nothing introduced has been revolutionary. It’s the story that kept me playing over and over and over.

So video game industry, this is what I’m demanding from you from now on. There will be no “ifs”, “ands” , or “buts” about this. I want a hero who isn’t a metrosexual and has a beard. Yeah I said it. I want more heroes with beards. I want a villain who has a really good reason to want to do the things they do other than just being a total chode. We need someone we could see siding with if given the appropriate circumstances. I don’t want “The dark forces of” to be part of a story anymore. I’m sick of one-dimensional villains. Why can’t it just be an opposing country or something? Sephiroth wasn’t born evil. He went bat shit when he found out how he was made and wanted to destroy the planet for his mama. See? I can side with that. He loved his mom so much he wanted to make her proud. I’m sick of Ganon being a total dick for no reason. I want likeable party members. I don’t need anymore Wakka’s or Snow’s who think they are hot shit but are incredibly obnoxious. Do the creators even play the games? Do they not notice how annoying these kinds of characters are? Get rid of them. If you want a fun loving side character make him a happy drunk or something. Don’t make the game a movie by leaving us on the sidelines with lack of interactivity. I don’t want to sit through dialog that I have no say in for thirty fucking minutes. If this scene really has to happen make it worth listening to. Don’t get all scientific and shit. I’m playing this game for entertainment, not to learn how to fucking make a clone in real life. This is all I demand from you. In return, I will give you my money if you don’t somehow fuck this up.

Do you guys think that the story matters in a game or are you fine with stories that are as bland as Tetris?