12/28/2009: This rant is, of course, no longer relevant given that EGM has long since ceased publishing. Still, here it is--after all, a lot of game reviewers for RPGs make the same stupid errors in judging the genre's offerings, so it's not totally out of date. Also, towards the end, I mention a person named Trippy--he's this annoying little attention-craving fellow I've known for far longer than I like whose opinions on games (and most other things) tend to be the exact opposite of those held by a rational human being. This blog originally started on a site which both he and I frequented.
Electronic Gaming Monthly never ceases to amaze me in their remarkable ability to not know shit about RPGs.
Don't get me wrong. As a game magazine, they're good. They have a good handle on just about all other game genres, and they've got plenty of funny stuff to spice up the usual gaming news, such as the Seanbaby columns and the Hsu and Chan comic. I like EGM plenty as a game magazine. But they are complete and utter idiots when it comes to RPGs.
Besides a general impression I get of this each and every time the subject comes up in their magazines, there are two very glaring examples of this. The first would be in a recent issue, where they stated that Final Fantasy 9 is the most overrated RPG ever.
Now, I'm going to put my personal feelings on FF9 aside for one moment. Forget my actual opinion on this. The simple FACT is that they have no idea what the hell they're talking about. If you ask any large group of FF-playing individuals what games in the series they've played, almost all of them will have played 7, 8, 10, and/or 10-2. A fair number of them will be familiar with Tactics Advance, 11, Crystal Chronicles, 1, 2, and 4, the latter three being largely thanks to Square's re-releasing them recently. But the ones who get the least recognition are going to invariably include 9, and even of those who HAVE given it a chance, a great many don't like it, largely because it's not shallowly trying to pander to their teen interests like 8, 10, 10-2, and to a lesser extent 7.
In short, the game cannot be overrated because it is largely ignored, and often disliked when acknowledged.
That, added to my opinion that it's the best of the FF series, with only Tactics really coming close, adds up to EGM not having the slightest clue of what they're talking about.
But there's an even more recent example that is even more telling of their ignorance. As many people who pay any attention to me will know, I have lately been playing Grandia 3 quite a bit, and being wholly dissatisfied with what is basically a stunningly unimpressive and lackluster compilation of cliches forcing its way into what WAS the greatest RPG series to date. Well, EGM reviewed Grandia 3 lately, and gave it scores of 8.0, 8.5, and 8.0 out of a possible 10. My personal feelings that they're idiots aside, the first reviewers words just made me laugh.
I don't have the magazine before me at the moment, so I can't give you a direct quote, but what he basically did was expound on how it's a great RPG, give it an 8.0, and then hastily add in that plot and characters were terrible.
Now, I know not everyone sees RPGs my way. I know there are people who count graphics, music, voice acting, and gameplay a lot higher in what makes a good RPG than I do. My basic thought of the matter is that the above things don't count for shit, and it's the plot and characters that make an RPG good or bad. FF10-2 might be decently fun to actually play, but it's a shitty RPG, where Okage: Shadow King may be a horrifically tortuous gaming experience at many times, but is in my opinion a beautifully crafted work of gaming art.
And seriously, anyone who enjoys Earthbound despite its boring and repetitive battle system must be able to see where I'm coming from at least a little here.
But even considering that not everyone is in agreement with my thoughts on the matter, I'm willing to assume that most of us accept that plot and characters in RPGs are still very important aspects. I mean, these are RPGs we're talking about. So it REALLY says something to me about EGM's incompetence when not one, but 3 reviewers all give an RPG an 8 score while at the same time all nodding in agreement that its most significant and important characteristics are badly created.
I thankfully don't have to rely on EGM all that much for my RPG-playing, being involved in an RPG website of people whose opinions are trustworthy, besides Trippy's, but it would be NICE to see someone on the staff there who's not a total idiot when it comes to the genre.