Kenichiro Fukui is a composer that few likely know off the top of their head. He began his career as a member of the Konami Kukeiha Club in 1990 under the moniker "Funiki Fukui". The first game he worked on was Sunset Riders in 1991, but he only did the sound effects for the game. His first full composition job was Konami's light gun arcade game Lethal Enforcers. He worked on a few more arcade games at Konami, including 1992's GI Joe with Tsutomi Ogura and 1993's Violent Storm with Seiichi Fukami.
Continue reading Composer Compendium: Kenichiro Fukui
You know what I love? RPGs. You know what they have? Grinding, most of the time. And there's a lot of it here. The further back you go the more grinding there is! There are many different ways that grinding is implemented. At its heart the main goal is to gain levels, but sometimes this is a secondary goal. Because of the difference in philosophies, even going back to near the dawn of RPG games period, I have thought long and hard on different styles of grinding. I have four to discuss with the class today.
Grinding Style 1: Levels
Call it a level grind, or an experience points (EXP, XP, whatever) grind depending on the way the game handles its leveling system. This is the most common style of grinding, and it dates back to the earliest college mainframe RPG MUDs and earliest PC RPGs. Wizardry is a prime early example of needing levels to get further in the game, usually having an invisible wall where enemies get much stronger and harder, but with better rewards.
This style of game usually gives you more money than experience in terms of need that is, so gear is usually quite easy to obtain in the natural progression of the game. Just moving over the world and grinding in the dungeon should give the player enough money to deck out their party at the next town, maybe with some help from a boss drop or stolen item. Final Fantasy games are a good example of this. If you spend a little bit of time building some levels between towns then the first trip to the next one will be the big weapon and armor buy up, probably with enough left over to restock on healing items.
With some more difficult level based games, like the Shin Megami Tensei and Wizardry series, it puts less emphasis on the new gear your characters can use, and instead focuses on the natural strength of the stats. Getting a new weapon might only lead to a slight damage increase, so good control, strategy, and tactics come into play. Or you could stay with the lower level monsters and work to afford the best gear.
Having great music helps alleviate the pain.
All this talk about money leads me into my next part of the lesson.
Grinding Style 2: Gold
Sometimes a game limits the amount of money that drops from each and every battle. This completely reverses the dynamic I went over above. Dragon Quest is an excellent series in this regard. Experience and money start off fairly evenly, but soon enough experience outpaces money besides certain monsters. This series is more of a hybrid of both styles introduced so far. Even though you get more experience per battle it still takes quite a bit of time to level up as you get stronger and stronger. But, it seems the level grind is always secondary to getting enough money to fully deck out your entire party with the best gear. The level gains just happen while you save up your gold.
There are as many examples of the money grind as the level grind. Phantasy Star is Sega's vision in this philosophy. The first one was recently featured as an RFGeneration Playthrough, so some more people there should understand the way the series starts off. It stays this way through the Genesis games for those that haven't played them. You don't worry about grinding levels, you just get enough money to buy the new equipment when you find some.
Money is necessary in all RPGs though, so even in games centered around any other style of grinding, you may find yourself having to stop and kill monsters for a half hour or so to afford a piece of equipment or two if you've been blasting through the game by being overleveled for some period of time. Eventually you exhaust your resources and have to stop to start it all over again. Grinding is a vicious cycle that some of us just can't stop.
Give me all your gold!
Grinding Style 3: Skill
Some games offer the ability to use skills, and by gaining extra points to learn them or level them up, you create a much more powerful party than any other style of leveling. Final Fantasy IX has skills that you can learn by equipping certain items and gaining AP to learn the skills. You can then use skill points to equip these learned or learning skills to give bonuses, learn spells, gain immunities, and add certain behaviors to your characters. The skill system is quite deep, and the player retains complete control over the entire party to see this skill grinding come to fruition as you level. Final Fantasy VI, VII, and VIII have similar systems with the Esper, Materia, and Guardian Force systems respectively. My least favorite Final Fantasy, Final Fantasy II has a system where you use a spell repeatedly to level it up as well. This is also the backbone of all the games in the Final Fantasy series that feature the Jobs system.
Legend of Dragoon has a skill system that involves using combat combos in order to level up your Additions. Each character gains their Ultimate Addition by leveling all the other ones up to their maximum level. This creates a paradigm while playing through the game of whether you stick with a level 4 addition to finish leveling it, or start with a brand new level 1 addition you just unlocked. I usually stick with the weaker one so I never have to go back to it. You consistently get stronger this way even if you take a temporary dip of damage output.
Many tactical and real time RPGs have a similar system. The Star Ocean series has a system where you can earn skill points when you level up. These are allocated to skills that you want to level up, but this method by itself will fall far behind what can be done with a literal interpretation of skill point grinding. By gathering multiple parties of enemies together in one battle you will gain a green gem to add to the Bonus Board, and end up with extra skill points at the end of each battle.
Even Mario is guilty of this.
Grinding Style 4: Item
Item grinding is essentially the cornerstone of the endgame for every single MMO. When you no longer need experience and money flows like water, and you have maxed out skills, all that is left is to grind for rare items. These can be mini grinds in many other games, such as an item only being dropped by one monster before specific events happen. This happens with some of the runes in Suikoden II, they can only be obtained in short windows.
Item grinding probably leads to the most types of sub-grinds, but these all lead back to actually having the items to fulfill these obligations. MMORPGs commonly feature this idea. You can use items to increase your level of crafting skills, increase your reputation with certain factions, sell for money to just stockpile it or buy very expensive skills or weapons with, get better gear for your character, or help your guild out. There are many possibilities but all center around killing hundreds of monsters for a handful of items.
Farming felcloth made you insane in the membrane.
I am not a panderer, I do not make lists to drum up views, I look to get fans by trying to write strong content and support my opinions with better reasons than 'Its popular.' I do not like generic 'evil-to-be-evil' villains, they are overdone, tired, and rarely executed competently, let alone excellently. So, expect my list to be quite different from others that you have run across over the years.
10. The Turks (Final Fantasy VII)
Calling this group "villains" is a bit of a stretch. Not all of them have truly villainous acts and blood on their hands, but they are also not the ones in power. The Turks are just a special forces type of group whose job is to take orders and execute them. This doesn't excuse any action but it does provide context, which is all important in narrative.
What I like about them is that they are the most human of the antagonists of FF7. You don't always fight them when you run into them, hell you can even run into them in a bar and pretend to drink with them if that's how you like it, and go on a side quest within a side quest. You even start off sharing the same goal, chase down the generic genocidal maniac and get in each other's way.
That means a lot Reno.
9. Joker (Persona 2)
Persona 2 is an odd game, it is separated into two distinct parts. The first part, Persona 2: Innocent Sin was only released outside of Japan for the very first time on the PSP, its original release being on PS1. The second part of the game, Eternal Punishment, was released in North America (sorry Europe) back in the PS1 days.
Innocent Sin Joker
Persona has always dealt with some supernatural phenomenon taking hold in some city in Japan, and in this tale rumors become true. Joker is also the only villain here who has two distinct personalities and methods. Innocent Sin has Joker being a clown of sorts who listens to people's inner most desires over the phone, if they tell him something they get it, no matter what it is. If they do not have a true desire, their energy is sucked out from them and they become invisible to all but the party members.
Eternal Punishment Joker
Eternal Punishment is a different beast though, it takes place in a parallel world where only Tatsuya, the main character from Innocent Sin, remembers the events of IS. Like I said, this game is strange and confusing. EP's version of JOKER has him as a more straightforward serial killer who does a sort of body jumping, consciousness stealing maneuvers with those afflicted by the JOKER Curse.
If only rumors really did come true we'd have all men with footlongs in their pants, incredibly super rich, huge collection of kick ass cars, and a mansion filled with a beautiful harem.
8. Kefka (Final Fantasy VI)
Speaking of clowns here's Kefka. Now, I'm not the biggest Kefka fan, unlike Joker above Kefka is probably video gaming's closest version of Batman's Joker (outside of Batman games of course) and is one of the few villains I can enjoy despite being 'evil-because-evil'. There is a lot of underlying insanity and even some dark comedy in some of his acts. The reason for his insanity though is never once brought up, ever. Kefka is the definition of the super evil nihilistic destroyer, but he's the best at it.
Batshit crazy is not analogous to literary potency.
Despite that, Kefka is not original, at least, some of the obviously evil actions that he is lauded for performing were in fact mostly based on a villain from an even older FF game...
7. Emperor of Palamecia (Final Fantasy II)
I dislike playing FFII quite a bit. I hate the leveling system, combat is pre-ATB turn based combat and not bad, the keywords system is fairly nice and gives deeper conversations and is obviously based on the keyword systems of contemporary Western PC RPGs. But, leveling is so atrocious that it completely ruins the experience for me and many potential fans. This is the definitive NES Final Fantasy story though, I put it up there with Dragon Quest IV for the best RPG story of the system.
The Epic of Gilgamesh is painted on those huge nails.
Most of this is the result of the Emperor of Palamecia. This Emperor is one of the main reasons we see the overdone Evil Empire story in RPGs. Well, him and the Sith Empire. You remember when Kefka poisoned an entire town's water supply? Emperor did it first. Cyclones destroying towns, entire nations slaughtered, princesses kidnapped, and Leon, a close ally is converted to his evil cause *cough* Kain *cough*. The reason why this guy ranks higher than Kefka is because some reason is given behind his sudden insanity, he is basically an avatar of Diablo, Beelzebub, Angra Mainyu, Satan, Astaroth, Hades, whoever your Lord of the Underworld happens to be.
Know now the wrath of the fallen!
6. Mother Brain (Phantasy Star II)
How is it possible that a villain with no personality, no motive, no life, no emotion, happens to be better than most who try and do all of that? Well, the idea of a rogue AI as a great villain is hardly new. Rogue AI's have been prevalent in science fiction in general since the early 20th century. Just go search for 'System Shock' and try to find any mention of the games without somebody mentioning how amazing SHODAN is as a villain. The first System Shock came out 5 years after Phantasy Star II for a bit of context.
The lifegiver, and lifestealer.
Mother Brain is on the flipside of the coin though, it is a system that exists to provide a comfortable ecology to the residents of the Algo star system with green, lush, thriving, easy to live on land, along with fresh, clean, sparkling water. However, the AI had been planning to destroy the people of the Algo system from the onset of her programming once the population is completely dependent on the ecological systems and infrastructure control of Mother Brain, she even halts all space traffic.
At last, the final stage of her plan comes to fruition!
What's strange about Mother Brain is that, in destroying her, the main party of Phantasy Star II kind of fulfilled Mother Brain's wish for destruction, as the Great Collapse that followed killed most of the population, rendered most of the once fertile land useless, and ended the high tech societies of the Algo system.
Four off white walls surround me, a mattress just resting on the floor ghetto style, a television turned on with white noise on the screen. I sit in front of the TV with a Nintendo Entertainment System between us, my small finger pushes the button, and before I know it I'm running and jumping as Mario. I was at my uncle's house, my cousins being much older than me. I was a small child left behind and I discovered this wonder on my own accord.
This is one of my earliest completely vivid memories, and my first experience playing a video game. No surprise, it was Super Mario Bros./Duck Hunt and I was 3 or 4 at the time. I remember the events as they happened, usually not the exact time they happened, my memory has always been that way. Now I would be personally gameless until I was 5, this is one case I remember the exact time as well as the events. Its hard to forget what is perhaps the most important Christmas gift I have ever received and most likely will ever receive. On Christmas of 1994 I unwrapped a Super Nintendo with Super Mario World and Super Mario Kart as the pack in games. My game life wouldn't really spiral out of control until the PS2 was out in force, so for now let's just take a look at the most important games I ran into growing up. But, real quick before we start, I am not saying these games are inherently good or not, they were just important for me, opening a door to a new genre or series. Thanks Crabmaster2000 for mentioning this idea you had done before on the Collectorcast, I'm stealing it.
Number 10: Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island
I was a fairly ignorant young gamer back in the SNES days. I didn't read many magazines or publications to get a really good idea of what the system really had to offer, and still didn't know until years later with easy internet access and a constant barrage of fan reviews, my own adding into that mix. What makes this game special was because it was a major victory against the parents. I knew about this game primarily because I had the first one, and seeing that a sequel was on shelves gave me shivers and pure joy up and down my spine. I begged and begged everytime I went with my parents to the store for anything and there were games there. Finally they bought it brand new back when SNES and Genesis games were $60-70 new most commonly. Yoshi's Island remains one of my favorite games on the Super Nintendo, I was a bit disappointed after playing the DS sequel but that does not take away any amount of importance the first game had on me.
Number 9: Grand Theft Auto 2
Back in my day (the mid-late 1990's) we used to go to stores, not vending machines, that would allow you to rent video games and movies for a few days. This is the game I rented the most, to tell the truth if I could remember exactly how many times I rented GTA2 for PS1 it would probably tell me that it would have made much more sense to buy the damn game. But instead I found myself renting it when nothing new caught my eye on the shelves. This game is just simple, mindless fun. Not only do you have the ability to steal cars, but those bastards in the red shirts would steal YOUR stolen car. The green shirted dicksnots would sneak up behind you and try to rob your ass blind. Don't stand for that shit, kill everyone, but most importantly, Taxi Drivers Must Die.
Number 8: Deus Ex: Invisible War
I have a feeling I know what you're all thinking, "Why is a forgettable sequel to one of the greatest games of all time on this list?" So to answer it I guess I just have to tell the story. I upgraded my family's video card back in the day and this game came with it, without my experience with it I never would have played the first game, nor really cared too much about Human Revolution until I would have probably bought it cheap on Steam and tried it for like a couple hours before forgetting I even own it. All I could think about while playing this game for the first time was, "Its not bad as everybody's making it out to be," and truth be told, its not. Its not a bad game, the mechanics and graphics for its day were quite incredible, this public sentiment is more of a testament to how much better of an experience the first game was than its sequel. This one gets double points for not only introducing me to one of my favorite series, but being one of the gateways to more modern PC gaming in general for me because of that blazingly fast and powerful ATI Radeon 9250 PCI card.
Number 7: Tomba!
Before Tomba!, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, and Klonoa came around there was a severe shortage of 2D platformers on the PS1. A lot of studios were going 3D just prior to and in the wake of Super Mario 64. Out of the three I listed the only one I had as a kid was Tomba! I would not own this game today if it were not for my sister, who bought this game for me as a birthday present. Given its current online price I think she did good spending $40 or less. Tomba! is about as childish of a platformer as you can get, but with its mixed in quest system (called Events), circular world exploration, tight controls and gameplay, and humor it is easy to see this game's current status as an uncommon, in high demand cult classic.
Number 6: Final Fantasy VIII
I really don't want to put this game on this list. I really really don't. As a kid I enjoyed this game, why? It was my first RPG. Ever. Final Fantasy VIII being a first RPG feels like losing your virginity to a toothless, peg legged, one eyed, graying hooker and being really happy you didn't catch anything. As a kid I enjoyed this game, somewhat, most likely because I had never played anything remotely like FF8 and being a young, naive, and ignorant gamer I wasn't able to immediately see the countless ways there are to completely break the game, nor did I understand literary analysis and how much FF8's storyline blows Taco Bell out of its ass.
Next week we'll be counting down 5-1. Stay tuned! While you wait why not check out the previously mentioned RFGeneration Collectorcast on Youtube?