Special: Playing the role of a fictional character is much like being a movie star...except you don't get paid for it.
Last year, PlayStation 2 owners caught a glimpse of the lineup of amazing games the system had to offer. Amongst those were a list of next generation Role-Playing titles that showed the gaming world what fascinating glory has developed and yet to increase in the realm of the future for RPG games. And from Sony's Dark Cloud and Okage: Shadow King, and Squaresoft's latest Final Fantasy, number X, were truly some remarkable experiences, the year 2002 has yet to push to envelope in a number of ways for the system. Below you'll find a descriptive list of this year's -- and branching into next year's -- RPG titles to look out for on the PlayStation 2.
? Xenosaga Episode 1: Der Wille zur Macht
? Publisher: Namco
? Developer: Monolith Soft
? Release: Winter 2002
In the year 1998, Squaresoft went ahead and created possibly the most controversial video game title the world has ever seen. Xenogears involved in it everything an RPG involved, including love, hate, good, evil, and even religion. Because of its relation with the practice of religious controversy, it was shunned away. Despite that, the game garnered a large base of fans, and to this day, is thought to be one of the best RPGs ever.
The next in kin to the mech heavy RPG is actually neither a prequel nor a sequel: it's an entirely new game having nothing to do with Xenogears, even though its similarities to it are bountiful. Xenosaga is set in an advanced technological world like Xenogears was. Within the plot, the game begins in a time where a mysterious and hostile alien race called the Gnosis pursues in attacking human colonies settled in outer space. Advancing in large groups, and in giant sizes, this Gnosis, believe it or not, appears to be made out of people. However, it is not known at all why they exist or who they are. To combat these things, an Anti Gnosis Weapon System (the AGWS) has been formed. It's basically a variety of piloted mechs used for extreme battle situations like with the Gnosis. As for a main character, instead of a male lead like most RPGs have, a female investigator by name of Shion Uzuki is the main focus. Her story is set to intertwine in an epic saga, like Fei's did before her. Her role starts off as she's to find out what happened when it's been reported that the KOS-MOS; the name of an android platoon, and AGWS system, has destroyed an entire planet. But, her tale will eventually lead up to much more than just that.
No concrete evidence as to what Xenosaga's battle system is have been disclosed as of yet. It is expected that in a similar sense, you'll be able to use mechs throughout much of the gameplay. What is known is how much more scaled the visuals in Xenosaga will be. Like Zone of the Enders, Xenosaga will feature a 3D modeled anime extravaganza, which actually is like it's been said -- in 3D. These computer generated anime characters will also have as realistic as anything, lifelike features, like eyes, moving hair, and facial expressions, to go along with the gorgeous space environments to encase it all.
While there was a lot of debate between the first Xenogears game, with some liking it, some loving it, and some loathing it, Xenosaga is proving itself to be an RPG that really anyone can enjoy, whether or not they experienced the first one. In fact, I was displeased to a limit with how Xenogears was over packed with so much dialogue in each of the story's sequences that you could take a vacation around the world, come back home, and find that they're still discussing terms with one another. Despite a few flaws, the game did have amazing anime movies and memorable characters and music to make up for what some might find distasteful for a "different" type of RPG. Hopefully, Xenosaga will improve upon what many found wrong.
? Final Fantasy XI
? Publisher: Squaresoft EA
? Developer: Squaresoft
? Release: February 15, 2003
A lot of firsts for Squaresoft's Final Fantasy franchise started last year when their latest in the series released. It involved for the first time ever a cast of characters with words you could actually hear, and not just read on screen. Now, Square's latest aim is to bring the game online this fall in the upcoming release in the next of chapters, Final Fantasy XI. The stage for Square's latest plot unfolds in the world of Vana'Diel that's surrounded with a symbolic force shining upon it all, which are the Crystals. For the people and creatures that believed in everything that was pure and good, they fought against the demon races that destroyed towns and cities these monsters approached. After a long struggle of pushing these monstrosities away, the land was peaceful again. But as time went on, without notice, the monster race returned after 20 long years of dormancy, and once again, the battle rages on.
Being in an online world, the game's story is rather limitless to what path you may take. You'll be able to choose from an assortment of creature types, consisting of Hume; more or less humans, they have the ability to master different skills, Tarutaru; magical Ewok kind of creatures; Elvaan; human sized elf that's the mightiest type of warrior in the game, Mithra; another elf creature, but is rather opposed to technology and science, meaning they might rely particularly on magic, and Galka; powerful creature that sort of resembles an ape. Other character types have yet to be announced. After starting a new game online, players will first need to select one of the characters listed above. Then, they'll be able to choose a job classification. So far, the jobs available will be a Warrior; used best in hand to hand combat with different types of weaponry, Monk; without use of weapons, monks are known best for their martial arts skills, White Mage; possess the power to use a variety of cure and support spells, Black Mage; is boundless in offensive spells, from many elemental magic's, Red Mage; is capable of using both white and black magic, but can't access the high spells in the game, Thief; a trickster of sorts, can steal items, and has great agility stats, Bard; casts magic through instruments, Beastmaster; controls animal life forms in helping them with battles, Dark Knight; a powerful knight that has access to dark properties, Paladin; as opposed to a Dark Knight, a Paladin has purer attributes, and Ranger; uses arrows for long ranged attacks. Throughout the game, you can, if you wish, change your job classifications within the middle of it. Doing so will give the player the qualities of the new job type, and retain the old properties as well, but will have to deal with a few penalties in the process.
Further through the gameplay, people can travel to a variety of game areas in a vast 3D world, banding up with any player they come across. Sometimes you may stumble across towns with shops that have new weapons, or even areas where you can relax and nurse your character back to full health. Even when not playing the game, you can just sit back, relax, and chat to other players whether it is on screen or in chat rooms using a USB keyboard. With those people, you can also trade in-game items, whether they are rare or not. By conversing with others, eventually people can form immense groups (or gangs if you prefer) to do battle against game enemies or other online groups. These formations can add up to 6 party members at once. If you choose to, though, parties can make an alliance system between the two or three groups, to fend themselves against powerful game monsters. In doing so, up to 18 party members can be on screen at the same time opposing one fiend in a massive attack for the ages.
More and more, Square always impresses the world with its ability to bring the best graphics in any and every game you'll ever see. Final Fantasy XI is undoubtedly shaping up to be the best in the series yet. Massive worlds full of green grasses, smudged dirt, forest areas, flowing streams, clouded skies, rocks, bustling town areas with tons of online characters all interacting at once, lighting and shadow effects, and much more that would stupefy the alert most people, are all paving their way into the game.
Final Fantasy XI will be the first Massive Multiplayer Online RPG for a console. Not even Sega's Phantasy Star Online was as huge as Square's Final Fantasy XI is going to be. Still, it's shocking to find out that the series has been through a long drawn history. Once Final Fantasy was actually going to be Square's last game ever made. Then from Nintendo, the franchise was brought over to Sony's PlayStation exclusively. There was a movie based on the series. Even the mention of two words "Final" and "Fantasy" will call attention to anyone, and they'll know what you're referring to (well, any gamer, at least). Now it's going online for once, which marks the next evolution in Squaresoft's largest and longest running franchise ever.
? Star Ocean 3: Till The End Of Time
? Publisher: Enix
? Developer: Tri-Ace
? Release: Winter 2002
Americans weren't given the opportunity to own and play the first Star Ocean title, which was released for Japan only. We did receive the sequel that came out on the Sony PlayStation in 1997, though. And even then, the game didn't garner enough attention despite the number of fans, including myself, who today still think that the sequel has to be one of developer Tri-Ace's best games ever made, even though it was the first title that they shipped into U.S. shores. So why is Star Ocean such a big deal if fans never had the chance to play the original, or with its small following, the sequel only gained a certain amount of attention? It may come as a surprise to many, but the series does have a potency that needs to be seen throughout, since I think this series is one of the best sleeper RPG franchises you may or may not have never played before.
Not much is known about the game's story other than that the planet that the main characters live on (Said Planet) is attacked by an unknown alien species. From there, the adventure to discover why this sudden hostile act begins. Fate Lingod is the main character. He's a young 19-year-old man, with parents famous for their "genome materialization," and working on a space station that's orbiting the moon, Fate is currently studying magic at one Galaxy Federation. Sofia Esteed is Fate's childhood friend, and is likely to play as the heroine type. Sofia is 17, and is also currently in school within the same vicinity as Fate is. Souffle Rossetti is a young dancer, traveling with the Rossetti Troupe. Souffle is also an alien, but a very beautiful one at that. Cliff Fitter is another alien, whose powers are much more advanced than any humans, and even seen as one of the most powerful of his entire species. His superior abilities allow him to be stronger, faster, and visually more perceptive.
Very similar to its prequel, Star Ocean 3's battle system will be brought in an action, free roaming pattern instead of a turn-based window like in the Final Fantasy games. On screen, you'll be able to switch between any one of the three characters currently in your party (the last game had four). A time gauge for each of the characters counts down until they can use their next attack, ranging from various magic or physical abilities. New to the game is a second meter that at the moment appears to be tied in to the individual character meters. Other than that, nothing much for the gameplay seems to have changed, which of course could be a very good thing, since the last game had an immense amount of depth to it.
Having been through the previous title, Star Ocean 2: The Second Story, it's easy to say that it's not an RPG title that would please everybody. Making up its interior are cute characters, a quality storyline, and an innovative gameplay menu system. With a much better looking exterior, with the game now in full 3D, and more coverage than the last game had, maybe there will arrive a new flock to the series, in addition to those fans who adored the prequel before it.
? Wild Arms 3
? Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
? Developer: Sony Computer Entertainment
? Release: September 15, 2002
In a time when RPGs were scarce on the PlayStation, Sony brought out the big guns when they released Wild Arms for the system in the summer of 1997. Since that time, a following tacked on to the intriguing title that sported anime cut scenes, an amazing music soundtrack, and a new type of gameplay system which blended 3D combat into a 2D world. Same as the previous titles, Wild Arms 3 will begin with a selection of varied characters. This time instead of three, players will have four to control. When each of their prologue -- that's set around a train incident -- is finished with, the official story will commence from there on.
Akin to the last games, the gameplay is all about dungeon exploration and the puzzles to solve within them. Each character has a special set of abilities. While one is able to use magic, another is skilled in weaponry. Using these methods outside of battle and inside the dungeons, you can access far away levers, amongst other moveable objects, to ultimately solve any kind of enigma with whichever best character's abilities pertain to the problem. The battle this time around will be a little different, as before the game used to take place in a turn based standoff. Instead, characters will freely roam around in Grandia fashion through a fully 3D state. Additionally, one other feature to the gameplay is its new ASK (Approach to Selected Keywords) system. In the middle of any character conversation, you can enter a number of keywords that will somehow dig through it to alter the path the direction of the dialogue flows. What this will lead to is uncertain at this point.
Speaking of additions, Wild Arms 3 is the first in the series to be painted over in entirely cell-shaded graphics. The quality of the graphics aren't anything outstanding as far as they can go, but still the same, the appearance is great enough for the satisfaction it delivers. Rest assured, the anime movie sequences in between the game is coming back, for some more great runs of impressive cinema fashion.
With a few changes here and there, Sony is yet again moving forward instead of tracking with the same old paint job for its next in the Wild Arms franchise. Whether or not that's a good thing is yet to be determined, but I have hope that the third title will return somewhat to what made the first title such a classic, and only to further improve on that same feeling players had when they experienced it years ago.
? Summoner 2
? Publisher: THQ
? Developer: Volition, Inc.
? Release: September 25, 2002
Some say that the third time's a charm. That's not the case for THQ's upcoming RPG sequel to one of 2000's most anticipated PlayStation 2 launch games, Summoner. While Summoner didn't please the expectations and impressions it gave people, THQ is ready to apologize its best by making the sequel ten times better, or enough to make anyone who had hope in the first one to buy the second. The story this time focuses on a young girl by the name of Pavakhasija (meaning child of prophecy) or Pava for short, which was born in the Halassar region with the mark of the summoner. Those who wield the mark on their hand have the power to bring forth mythical creatures to do their bidding. The priestess who discovered the child placed her at the lead of an army that conquered the Halassar kingdom. It's now 20 years later, and Pava is 24 years old. The empire of Galdyr, formerly the rulers of Halassar, has been keeping a close eye on Pava's kingdom. Joseph's culture, the Urath, now also fear Pava's destiny to one day become the goddess Laharah. If that isn't enough of a setup for a story, one of Pava's trusted advisors has been murdered, and Pava sets out to seek the answers she needs on an adventure.
In the game Summoner, players would take control of their party in gigantic 3D worlds, able to see the enemies ahead of you, and fall into combat as you reach them. But, the character Joseph could also summon monster creatures that would become an individual member of the party. The case for Summoner 2 now is that Pava will actually become one with a monster she summons. By collecting Rune stones, you'll be able to manipulate Pava throughout the game to morph into these creatures. Ultimately, there will be 12 different stones in all. THQ has made notice that the first game's pressing-of-directional-buttons-to-perform-combo's technique will be altered in a new way for more variety and faster attacks against enemies. Hopefully, that will be true.
Richer than the first title, Summoner 2 will take players to a whole new level of towns exploding in interactive detail and imaginative visualizations. The first game offered wide-open areas with elaborate structuring in all probable locations. The second game will do the same, but better. You'll now get to travel into different kingdoms, including Halassar, Galdyr, and Munari City. Expected, the same type of detailed lighting and shadow effects from all sorts of lightning, ice, fire, and other magic's will be included as in the first game.
In the Summoner series, I can sense a lot of potential. The story of a young child born with a mark of destiny, and feared by many made people believe the first Summoner had a huge chance of great success. Summoner 2 has a similar storyline, and THQ is promising that if not at least a great RPG title, that the sequel will become better than its predecessor was ever able to do.
As you have or haven't read through the entire article, you'd at least notice that there are five separate RPG games discussed that have yet to release for the PlayStation 2, ranging in release from this fall until sometime when the next E3 hits. These five are just a small number of what's to come in the world of its genre for the system. Just to name a few other titles that have been made mention of are The Legend of Dragoon 2, Grandia Xtreme, and even a sequel to Chrono Cross. Overall, this year, and next year, and the year after that seems to be breaking into another excellent run through in the RPG genre, and I can't wait until the next E3 when more of the biggest ones are announced. Until next year then, keeping playing!