Monday, March 14, 2011

General RPGs' AMVs 2

Well, by now you guys have probably figured out that I am quite partial to a truly excellent AMV, given that every time I find one I feel is really great, I do a whole long rant on it. Of course, one does not often find a fantastic RPG AMV whilst browsing the fact, given the number I've found that are so great that I deem them worthy of personally keeping and subsequently ranting about, I'd say, quite seriously, that your chances of finding a great RPG AMV are about 100 to 1. I mean, that really seems to be the ratio I've experienced.*

Still, even if a truly skillful, exceptional AMV is extremely rare, that's not to say that there aren't a good few AMVs out there that are, if not great, at least decent, sometimes even good. I'm sure has hell not going to spend 2 - 4 weeks writing out an analytical rant for each of them,** but hey, just because they're not amazing, that doesn't mean they don't deserve some note for at least being competent, right? Just the ability to rise above flat mediocrity with RPG AMVs is uncommon enough that it ought to have some recognition. Hence, here is a list of 13 RPG AMVs that are at least pretty good, and worth a watch, organized by game. Why 13? Because it's enough to give you a good handful but not enough to overwhelm you, and because superstitions are for wusses.

And hey, by the way, if you watch one of these and like it, be responsible and give it a Thumbs-Up, or even leave a positive comment. It distresses me how few views and feedback quite a few of these AMVs have, considering that there was clearly some decent effort put into quite a few of them.


Chrono Cross: Plastic Blue, by xXOverXStudiosXx:
The music used is Blue, by The Birthday Massacre. Can't say I'm a fan of the music in any capacity, but ah well. The visual nature of this AMV is very impressive, using tints and visual effects up the wazoo to create a music video that nearly perfectly portrays the surreal, turbulent emotions and twists of the music. This is done so well that I was very tempted to keep this AMV in my personal collection as one of the very best ones out there--but in the end, I opted not to, because while Chrono cross's videos work well enough for the song, I feel like you could have taken a great many games' FMVs and gotten an equal result with the same amount of visual effects. In essence, there's not much to this AMV that ties it more strongly to the game it uses than would tie it to any other game whose visuals it could have chosen instead. Nonetheless, a pretty impressive offering.

Chrono Trigger: Chronology Anthology, by Parasite02:
The music used is Book of Days, by Enya. This is a pretty good tribute video, with the music and scenes being well-coordinated. There's a lot of neat visual artistry, too, although there are times when it gets excessive and distracting.

Chrono Trigger: This War is Ours, by Smndo:
The music used is This War is Ours, by Escape the Fate. Lots of visual effects thrown in here, and most are pretty well-used, although there are several times during this video during which I wish things would slow down and be less rapid and confusing. However, putting that (and the, er, less than perfect English used in the video) aside, this is a really neat AMV, using the song to its full extent at several times (particularly at the part starting at 1:15) and including visuals not only from the FMV anime cutscenes, but also from official art, AND the pixellated gameplay itself--and always effectively. I'm often annoyed with the fact that AMVs are as a general rule afraid to include video of actual gameplay for any RPG made before the Playstation 2 era, because if you use it effectively in the right doses, as this AMV does, it enhances your work without being distracting. This is especially handy with a game like CT, whose FMV offerings are distinctly limited to work with.


Dragon Age 1: In Paradisum, by Darkozl:
The music used is Requiem for a Tower, by Clint Mansell. This AMV is an enjoyable tribute to the game, and uses speeches from the game well with the song's prominent build-up. That's all, really, I can't say much more about it--it's just pretty darn good.


Fallout 3: My World, by FalseEmperor13:
The music is My World, by Brand New Sin. You may remember FalseEmperor13 from one of my earlier AMV rants, Fallout 3: If You Tolerate This, Then Your Children will be Next. This AMV isn't excellent like that one, but it's a pretty solid offering, using the heavy, action-oriented tune and lyrics well with the game's visuals to illustrate the idea of a world that's forsaken anyone who wants to live decently in it. The AMV also uses Tenpenny and Dukov from the game to embody the lyrics referring to the one who gets what they want from the world, which is a nicely appropriate connection.


Final Fantasy 9: Bloody Nails and Broken Hearts, by LeviSouthward:
The music used is Bloody Nails and Broken Hearts, by Billy Talent. For a game that is so often paired with calmer, more melodic tunes, this AMV surprises you with how well FF9's impressive visuals can also work with a harsher, faster, more action-oriented song. Several good choices on what clips to match to certain parts and lyrics of the song make it that much better.

Final Fantasy 9: Dragon Boy, by Thistledemon:
The music is Dragon Boy, from the Spirited Away soundtrack. The visual beauty and grandeur of Final Fantasy 9 is a perfect match to the comparable beauty and grandeur of Spirited Away's music, and this song in particular works very nicely to make a tribute to FF9's epic, gorgeous world and adventure. Many good cases of scene selection here, too, that help emphasize the music's qualities. I just wish it didn't end so abruptly, because the AMV winds up feeling incomplete, particularly since the final scenes didn't seem to conclude the video in any particular way.

Final Fantasy 9: She's so High, by Fellow Hoodlum Inc:
The music used is She's so High, by Tal Bachman. This song really works for Dagger as a character, the scene selection to go with the music is usually well-chosen for working with the tune, and how can you not love using Kuja to portray Aphrodite?


The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess: Girlfriend, by Amandamaya123:
The music is Girlfriend, by Avril Lavigne. Honestly, this song is annoying as hell to me, but I must say, the scene selection is at several times damn clever, and fun to watch. The expressions and actions in the scenes used often match up extremely well to the (obnoxious) lyrics of the song, and make for a rather fun watch, even if the idea that Link and Midna have any particular romantic chemistry is...fanciful, to put it mildly.

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess: Hand of Sorrow, by 00peachy00:
The music is Hand of Sorrow, by Within Temptation. This AMV uses the artistic and powerful visuals well to match the strong, epic feeling of the music, and there are also several nice visual effects thrown into it that enhance the AMV but never go overboard (which is a common problem with AMVs that add visual effects). The one major flaw to this AMV is that it's simply over too soon; the song cuts out before it's finished, leaving the feeling that there should have been more.

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess: High School Never Ends, by Amandamaya123:
The music is High School Never Ends, by Bowling for Soup. This one's just clever and amusing overall, using visuals of the game's characters to illustrate the song's lyrics from start to finish. Sometimes the connection's vague, but often it's done very well, and the overall effect is lighthearted and fun.


Parasite Eve 1: Parasite Eve Blinded me with Science, by Fellowhoodlum:
The music is She Blinded me with Science, by Thomas Dolby. It seems strange, but this light-hearted, quirky song winds up working really well with Parasite Eve's disturbing visuals, changing them from creepy and at times gross to entertaining and mad-science-y. But hey, PE1 is a present-day science fiction RPG, so everything really does wind up fitting pretty well with the song, aided by the AMV maker's talent at selecting scenes and transitions that work with the song's tune and lyrics.

Parasite Eve 1: Superstitious Feeling, by ShawnDDude:
The music is Superstitious Feeling, by Harlequin. This tribute is really very good, with the music portraying just the right mixture of mystery, tension, and urgency to match the atmosphere of PE1.

And that's it for now. Hope you found at least a few of these enjoyable. Since I only rarely stumble across a truly amazing AMV, expect to see more 13-pack rants like this one about the decent AMVs I happen across in my searches for greatness. Although even decent AMVs can be uncommon, so even these will only happen once in a while.

* Of course, take out Kingdom Hearts, Final Fantasy 8, and Final Fantasy 7-related AMVs from that mix, and you're probably down to a 50 to 1 chance.

** That really is how long I usually take to get my AMV rants done. Yes, I do, indeed, sometimes suck to a ridiculous degree.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Fallout: New Vegas's Lousy Karma System

Traditionally, Fallout games keep track of a player's actions using Karma. For doing something good, like giving a thirsty beggar some water, asking for no reward for a service rendered, or seeing how many rounds of ammunition one mob boss's head can hold, you get Karma. For doing something bad, like selling your friends to slavers, blackmailing merchants, and setting off a dormant nuclear warhead in the middle of a busy town because a neighboring town leader thinks the place is an eyesore, you get negative Karma. Your Karma score would influence various things, mostly the way that NPCs would react to you, your available options for a few quests, whether bounty hunters or mercenaries will eventually start hunting you down, and most importantly, whether potential party members would join you, and if so, which ones. It's a nice little idea that enhances the game's enjoyment and gives extra emphasis to the idea that your actions in the game have consequences by giving your actions overall some long-term results to accompany whatever immediate effects you've caused.

Fallout: New Vegas introduces an accompanying system in its installment, that of Reputation. There are several groups of influence and power throughout the Mojave Wasteland in Fallout: New Vegas, and what you do for or to them affects how that faction as a whole sees you, which in turn determines how they react to you and what quests and rewards they're willing to give you.

I like the idea in theory. After all, not everyone on one side or the other of Good vs. Evil should have the same values. If you get a bunch of Negative Karma because you can't help stuffing people's pockets with live grenades, it follows that a bunch of chaotic, anarchistic, crazy drug-users might react well to you, but a company of organized slavers probably wouldn't be all that impressed, even if both groups are on the Bad side of Karma. Having individual Reputation scores for each faction provides a chance for more plot relevance for your actions, making things more realistic, and also emphasizing the importance of the different factions to the Mojave Wasteland setting. Good idea!

Bad idea: relegating EVERY major effect traditionally associated with the Karma system to the Reputation system for the factors. They left Karma in the game, but it's almost entirely irrelevant now. First of all, there's barely ANY result of really high or really low Karma. The companions who can join you are dependent on your Reputation; the only one that actually cares about you being a psychotic mass-murderer is Cass, and she can be talked out of leaving you for your baby-eating ways, anyway. NPCs' reactions to you only seem to significantly change from Reputation--whether angels sing in your presence or you kick puppies with lead boots on, all any given NCR official cares about is whether or not you've been helpful to his country previously. Few NPCs have any biases beyond those faction-related. What quests are available to you are the same way--if there's any discrimination going on for whether a quest is offered to you, it's based on what factions you're friendly with, not whether or not you're a trustworthy individual in general. With few exceptions, the Reputation system has made Karma irrelevant.

Second problem: at least half the NPCs in the game belong to a faction, so killing them only affects your Reputation, not your Karma rating. So, hey, if you're not a fan of the New California Republic and want to serve another faction, feel free to open fire on a squad of unsuspecting NCR soldiers sitting down to have lunch. Sure, the NCR won't like you gunning down defenseless peace-keepers...but it won't make you a bad person, apparently! Now the only people you have to worry about killing indiscriminately are independent NPCs (which will give you bad Karma) and gang members (which will give you good karma). So if you actually CARE about what your Karma score is, your options for affecting it the way you want to are much more limited than they used to be. And who you're shooting at isn't the only thing that doesn't work the way it used to regarding Karma--while it was frowned upon in Fallout 2, grave-robbing is apparently A-OK in Fallout: New Vegas. You'd think someone in the town of Goodsprings would care that you're violating their grandmother's corpse on the off-chance that she was buried with a Stimpack hidden in her coffin, but nope.

And y'know, getting back to the idea that faction-specific kills don't influence your reputation, there's one aspect of it that I really have to say is ridiculous. Now, in the example I gave, you're killing a bunch of soldiers for the New California Republic faction in cold blood. Now, that's a pretty immoral act that you'd expect negative Karma for, but I can almost understand why you might not have a Karma penalty applied. I mean, it's hard to argue that the NCR isn't at least partially good, but they're very imperialistic, and even if they're bringing about a far safer, better form of life for the people of the Wasteland, they ARE doing it through fairly standard imperialistic military methods. You could be a good person and still disagree with the NCR's way of doing things, and support another fairly good faction instead. So even if it SHOULD be an evil act to kill such soldiers if they're not attacking you, I guess I can accept that it's associated with the act of opposing a faction that you could object to while still being a good person.

But the same Karma problem is present with members of Caesar's Legion! Kill a Legion recruit, and you'll only be awarded negative Reputation for them, but your Karma won't be affected. Now seriously...why the HELL do you not get good Karma for killing a Legion NPC? Come on. Other factions may have aspects of moral ambiguity, but you can't honestly try to tell me that a morally decent person could support Caesar's Legion. This is a faction that burns, pillages, and murders everything in their path, destroying every male it can't make one of its own, and enslaving every female as a supposedly inferior being. Sure, they exemplify militaristic discipline and abhor the drugs that run rampant throughout the Wasteland...but that discipline is savage brainwashing, and they act on their hatred for chems by crucifying anyone they suspect of using them. In fact, the Legion just crucifies just about anyone it dislikes for any reason--they're big fans of horrible, tortuous public death. And hey, might I again mention, ENSLAVING HALF OF THE HUMAN RACE. Being sexist asswipes convinced of the inferiority of women in all things is bad enough as it is--using that philosophy to enslave all women to serve all their labor needs is amazingly evil. I'd say it's worse than just having normal slavery, but slavery is already the absolute polar end of the moral spectrum in my mind, so I guess it can't actually get worse.

So, essentially, Caesar's Legion is a group that combines the cruelties, barbaric violence, and dogged imperialism of Rome, the brainwashing power of the Third Reicht, the empire-built-off-slaves part of Ancient Egypt or the deep pre-Civil War US South, and the gender philosophies of...well, pick just about any society and go back a little ways to the point where women had absolutely, 100% no rights and were considered inferior in every way. Some cultures won't require you to turn too many pages of history back to find it.

Can someone PLEASE explain to me why feeding a Legion member a bullet breakfast does NOT give me positive Karma? Is there REALLY any moral ambiguity associated with this faction that could reasonably lead a good person to support them?

And when I ask for explanation, I mean a REAL one. Not the lame-ass failure of an excuse that's been going around, claiming that since Caesar's Legion is using all these terrible, evil acts toward the goal of creating, maintaining, and spreading a form of civilization, it falls into a neutral zone for morality to the Fallout universe. No. That is fucking stupid. Maybe if Caesar's Legion had been a faction existing early in the series, like within the first few decades following the world's destruction, that claim could be made, because at that point, there really wasn't anything anywhere resembling civilization that I know of, so perhaps seeing the Legion as the ONLY alternative to chaotic, violent, deranged anarchy would have been able to make it a "neutral" kind of choice. Maybe. But in the setting of Fallout: New Vegas, having the Legion be considered anything but brutal, heinous evil is, and I can't emphasize this enough, fucking stupid. Because by that time, that area of the Fallout wastelands has got the New California Republic as an option for civilization, and Mr. House, the New Vegas families, the surrounding towns, and the various smaller factions ALL present viable opportunities for civilization. You're not choosing between Caesar's idea of civilization or none at all. You're choosing between one legitimate form of civilization (the NCR), another conglomerate of legitimate civilizations (the towns and factions of New Vegas and the surrounding area as they already exist), or a form of civilization that finds honor in brutality, enslaves half its population for a condition they can't change under false claims that it's inferior, and delights in monstrous torment. So saying that Caesar's Legion could be considered a "neutral" moral choice in any way for the setting of New Vegas is so arrogantly short-sighted and reeking of idiocy that I wish I could hit each and every person who makes that claim in the mouth so hard that they'll look like a checkerboard the next time they grin.

Anyway...I think I've gotten a little off-topic. Back to business. There are many good innovations with Fallout: New Vegas, and the Reputation system works very nicely by itself, but they really just dropped the ball completely on properly incorporating the traditional Fallout Karma system for New Vegas. It's so totally insignificant to the game's entirety that it might as well not even be there, and the developers were so obsessed with making the faction Reputations a big deal that they created a separation between Reputation and Karma that at several times, like with the Legion somehow not being considered evil, seems outright stupid.