Monday, July 25, 2011

The Magic of Scheherazade

Today we're going to speak of a game very dear to my heart: The Magic of Scheherazade. This fun little NES RPG is pretty darned obscure; I've found very few other people who've ever heard of it. Hell, I've barely mentioned it in this rant blog thingy of mine at all after, what, 4 years of blabbing? And you know that ain't the norm--usually if I like a game, you'll hear about how awesome it is every other rant I do.* But it's a real damn shame how unknown this game is, and how long it's taken for me to decide to talk about it. Cuz you know what? This game had a lot of creative qualities, and it was pretty ahead of its time in several ways. And because now time is Arpy Time, you're gonna have to hear about them.

Alright, first of all: Time Travel. This game has it. Now, I know time travel was not a new concept by 1987, but as far as RPGs go, I'm willing to bet that this is one of the earliest RPGs to ever incorporate time travel into its plot and setting in a major way. I'd be surprised if it were not THE first to do so, really. And in its humble way, it does it well. It ain't exactly Chrono Trigger, but The Magic of Scheherazade does use its time travel plot elements with purpose and some good sense. I mean, yeah, there are times when it doesn't seem terribly essential--there's a time in Chapter 2, for example, when the reason you have to travel to the past is to pick up a party member who lived way back when, and this instance really doesn't have any narrative aspect that necessitated the time travel besides the game telling us that we had to. I mean, the character could just as easily have existed in the present. But most of the time, the time travel aspect is used well, such as when the protagonist encounters a demon so unstoppably powerful that the only possible way to vanquish it is to travel many, many years into Earth's past to kill the demon just as it's born, since that's the one time it will be vulnerable enough that any physical and magical means will be capable of beating it. TMoS is an RPG that uses time travel long before any other that I know of, and frankly, it manages to use the concept better than several later RPGs ever did.**

Next, how about the cast? TMoS probably has the most diverse RPG cast of its time. Seriously. Your party will eventually consist of a living pumpkin-headed wooden doll, a cat fairy, a flying monkey, a robot archeologist, not one 1 but 2 genies, and...a bottle with arms, legs, and an eye. Among others. That's a pretty different cast. Hell, the TMoS ensemble is STILL one of the weirdest I've seen in RPGs so far. I suppose it's a little excessive at times, as quite often the bizarre form these allies take isn't at all relevant--the bottle, for instance, is relevant to the plot for his magical abilities and knowledge of how to defeat his chapter's demon. No one remarks even once about the fact that it's a fucking talking BOTTLE. So there are some characters who didn't NEED to be so weird. Still, for its time, it was pretty different to have such a creative ensemble of individuals, and I think it's still a part of the game that makes it worth noting.

There's a few different smaller aspects that were also pretty groundbreaking ideas in TMoS, too. For starters, the music, simple though it is, really is very nice, and it sets the mood well, which, honestly, can't be said of all that many NES RPGs. There's also the fact that this game allows your character to switch Job Classes--a concept that Final Fantasy 3 is often praised for supposedly inventing 3 years after TMoS. And how about the battle system? TMoS is the first RPG I've ever heard of to have a mixed battle system--most of the time, it's an Action RPG, with real-time battles with free reign over your character's movement, like The Legend of Zelda or Terranigma. But any time you go to another screen, there's a good chance you'll be attacked by enemies in a random encounter, and THEN you have to fight using a Regular RPG battle interface, using turn-based menus, as with most Final Fantasy games or Chrono Trigger. Having an RPG with 2 separate battle systems constantly at play is uncommon even to this day. I think TMoS might have been the first to try it, and it did it pretty well. And speaking of the battle system, this RPG has combo abilities. Like, if you get into the turn-based combat, and you choose certain allies to fight with you, you can use special abilities that combine the powers of all the party members to do massive damage to the enemy team. Yeah, 8 years before everyone was paying attention to Chrono Trigger's Combo skills and saying what a neat idea they were, The Magic of Scheherazade was pioneering that idea.

And one last little thing about the battle system in this game: you can hire NPC soldiers to help you in combat. The troopers aren't as powerful or hardy as your regular party members, but they're damn helpful as attack support. Why the hell is it that over 20 years later there's practically no RPG since that's been bright enough to do this? I mean, come on, if I'm out to save the world with just a dozen assorted oddballs, no matter how powerful my companions may be, it only makes SENSE that I'd want to have some soldiers around to back us up. It's not like mercenary groups are terribly hard to find in your average RPG. Why the hell don't OTHER protagonists hire on some extra muscle? If you're out to save the world or whatever, isn't it actually really dumb to encounter groups of warriors who assist you for money and not at least CONSIDER buying their services?

There's also the matter of the setting. Now, I'll grant that the NES's ability to visually portray its settings is a bit limited, but I really like the fact that The Magic of Scheherazade is an RPG with an Arabian background. Frankly, the backdrop of Arabian mythology is a really neat one, and it's criminally under-utilized in video games in general, to say nothing of RPGs--this is seriously the only RPG I've ever seen or heard of that uses Arabian themes for a setting. What a damn shame.*** All the more reason this game is so notable, I suppose.

Lastly, I'd just like to say that while the plot is not exactly heavy, there are some parts of the game's story that are really cool. Just the start of it's pretty darned neat--you basically start the game when a cat fairy named Coronya finds you and hauls your amnesiac ass out of a magical other-dimensional limbo place, where you were banished after you failed to defeat the game's evil wizard antagonist Sabaron. It's basically a more magical, somewhat less grim version of the opening to the SNES Shadowrun RPG, or Planescape: Torment--you wake up, no memories, after a disastrous failure. I won't exactly say that TMoS had the idea before Planescape: Torment, because PT's opening has a lot of differences and is much more symbolic, plot-essential, and well-executed, but still, the foundation for the idea is much the same, and it's pretty damned cool. There's also a plot twist near the end of the game that is just really awesome, completely unexpected, and in some ways, pretty touching.

Anyways, that's about it, but as you can see, there's really quite a lot about The Magic of Scheherazade that makes it a really noteworthy RPG, one of those hidden gems of the past. It impressed me as a youngster, it still impresses me now, and I thought it deserved some recognition for its many interesting and fine qualities, several of which were way ahead of its time. You really should give it a try--I don't think it's on the Wii network for download, but emulation's always an option (not that I would EVER suggest such a DASTARDLY avenue! No, never), and there's actually a site where you can play it right in your web browser: http://game-oldies.com/play-online/magic-of-scheherazade-the-nintendo-nes# . Since the game relies on passwords instead of save files, there's no reason you can't use this convenient option for playing it. So try it out some time!












* Hey, guys, just in case you missed it, I like Planescape: Torment and Wild Arms 3.

** See: Star Ocean 1 (if you spend 98% of the game in the past, what was the point of having time travel at all?), Final Fantasy 8 (like everything else in the game, time travel was handled with all the skill and care that one would expect of a vapid 13-year-old fanfiction writer), Robotrek (makes no goddamn sense)

*** I am just waiting for the day the Shin Megami Tensei series makes a game/set of games with its usual excellent religious examination focused on Islamic beliefs. There is just SO MUCH fascinating content they can sink their storytelling teeth into there.

Friday, July 15, 2011

General RPG Lists: Greatest Heroes

Hi, all. Again, it's been a long time since I made my list of the greatest RPG heroes of all, and frankly, a list of just 5 isn't going to cut it any more when there's roughly 160 to choose from now. So here's an updated list of 10. Do enjoy. Ahem...


I did a villain list, so of course I've gotta pick one for the main characters. Of course, determining whether a character is a good hero (for protagonists almost always tend to be heroes) is a lot easier than determining whether they're a good villain--we have a more universally defined vision of what makes a hero good than we do for villains, generally: kindness, morality, determination, leadership...you know, the good stuff. And depth, of course, but with all that I harp on having well-written and insightful characters in these rants, that probably goes without saying for me at this point.

All the same, choosing the greatest 10 (figured that'd be a good number, since I did 10 villains) RPG main characters has its own challenge--it is HARD to choose so few out of so many. Unlike villains, who, sadly, are only rarely noteworthy figures in games (or anything else, really), RPG heroes have a great many excellent characters in their midst. So if you don't see your favorite, it's not necessarily because I think they aren't a good hero--I just didn't have room for any but the very, very best.

Of course, it also doesn't necessarily mean that I DON'T think they aren't a good hero. You could just have lousy taste.

So anyway, here they are: the greatest 10 RPG heroes to date, ascending in greatness. Big spoilers, and all that.


10. Sora (Kingdom Hearts Series)

It's hard to say why exactly Sora is so appealing as a hero, but he really is. He just fits the bill in a simple, nice way. He's focused on his goals, but never to the point that he's not willing to take the time to help others with their problems and defend what's right. He rallies his friends, encouraging them and bringing them together as a force for goodness, and he never gives up on anyone. His simplistic good nature may sometimes seem unrealistic, but overall, he's an enjoyable hero that you can rely on to do the right thing and stand strong for his friends.


9. Shepard (Paragon Version) (Mass Effect Series)

Shepard is the ubermensch. He/She is just the kind of leader you have absolute confidence in, a hero you know can go into any situation, no matter how dire, and pull the best possible victory from it. Strong, skilled, smart, charismatic, courageous, and even caring, Shepard inspires his/her subordinates and peers with respect and awe, demanding the best from his/her team but working hard to make sure they're ready to give it by being a friend and caretaker to them. He/She knows when to be understanding and caring, and when to be demanding and forceful to inspire others to do the right thing. A lot of heroes in RPGs take an approach to their huge problems of refusing to accept any solution but the very best (you know the kind: "Yeah, we could save billions of lives by letting one willing person sacrifice themselves...BUT DAMMIT THAT'S JUST NOT ACCEPTABLE! Let's risk the lives of everyone on the planet in an all-or-none gambit instead! THAT'S the morally superior approach, surely!"), and most of the time, I feel like these heroes just happen to luck into a perfect solution they can accept...but Shepard's the kind of perfect example of heroism that makes me buy that he/she really can find the happy ending to almost any problem.


8. Minato (Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 FES)

If I ever get around to playing the PSP rerelease of SMTP3, doubtless this spot will be shared between Minato and the female protagonist introduced in said remake, but for now, it's just Minato. Minato is a silent protagonist, which doesn't usually lend itself to a great character, but it's been said that actions speak louder than words, and it's never been truer than with him. Minato is the greatest of friends, the kind that can change the life of anyone who knows him for the better. Classmates, teammates, people both old and young...anyone who befriends him and spends time with him will find themselves by the end of it happier, truer to themselves, and able to face their future with a clear heart and strong self-identity. And as he helps others, he grows as a person himself, gaining insight into the truths of human nature and giving himself the power to succeed and protect his world from this greater understanding. And when it comes down to the final battle, an impossible fight against doomsday called by the despair of all those unable to find a reason to exist as Minato has helped others to do, he's willing to make the ultimate sacrifice, to protect humanity from itself and give people more time to find themselves before they bring their doom on themselves in their lesser understanding.


7. Ramza (Final Fantasy Tactics)

You know, it's not that compromised heroes can't be intriguing and excellent with their depth and struggles to overcome their own inner demons. You can get some really excellent characters this way, and I must admit that the top 2 of this list are going to be heroes who struggle with their own convictions and issues. It just tends to produce a better character.

But y'know, sometimes, as totally awesome as he is, you don't feel like Batman and his endless (but totally kickass) issues and considerations. Sometimes, you're tired of Spiderman and his personal problems, even if they do make him easier to relate to. Sometimes, you just want Superman and Captain America: a straightforward, solid, 100% pure hero who's an unshakable icon for justice and heroism, someone whose unwavering sense of duty and morality is by itself a legend.

Ramza, to me, is this RPG hero. He's not a boring character by any means--he questions himself, and he shows quite well his humanity in his joy and grief, hope and despair, and love and anger. But all the same, he is an unrelenting force for justice in his game, giving his moral duties ultimate priority over all else, even his own family. With Ramza, there's never any question or doubt that he'll do the right thing in any situation, no matter what the personal cost. Ramza's heroism is simple, indomitable, pure, and inspiring.


6. Yuri (Shadow Hearts 1 + 2)

While he's decent in Shadow Hearts 1, it's SH2 where Yuri really shines. Yuri's an interesting hero, particularly in SH2, in that his acts of heroism almost seem to go against his personal feelings. While he has an earnest drive to right wrongs that he sees and has a clear grasp of right and wrong, Yuri's heart isn't really in his good deeds and world-saving...he starts off as a punk that really doesn't care about the world around him and the affairs of others, motivated more by impulse than anything deeper. The good influences of his companions, his father's memory, and most of all Alice Elliot all inspire Yuri to begin to care about the world and its people, if not by his own beliefs than at least by proxy. What I mean is, he never quite gives me the feeling in SH1 that he himself really feels the drive to be heroic, to actively seek out what's wrong and fix it, but rather, he seems see that the people who are so important to him care about his world and its residents, that they (particularly Alice) cherish it and want to keep it safe, and thus by effect, Yuri will fight for these things because even if they don't personally seem to matter to him as much, they do matter to the people he loves. It makes him quite interesting. Then in SH2, after the death of Alice, Yuri seems to lose that secondhand heroic fire...he allows himself to be drawn into a quest to save the world, he goes through the motions of heroism that he learned in the previous game, but the entire time, his heart isn't in it, and he's suffering the pain of loosing the person who gave his life meaning. All he has for motivation to live and go on now is to protect the world that Alice loved...yet he doggedly continues until he knows his part is done, for her memory, not because he himself really cares. Yuri's a very deep and interesting character, and even if he isn't by nature a heroic person, he fights that nature and forces himself to heroism for the sake of the ones he loves and loved, which in itself is an inspiring act.


5. Tidus (Final Fantasy 10)

The Final Fantasy series may have an assortment of villains that range from miserably crappy to, at their very best, barely average, but the crappy villain cast is balanced by the series having quite a few really excellent main heroes. As you can see, several of the heroes here are from the FF series, and Final Fantasy 6's Celes, FF6's Terra, and Final Fantasy 7's Cloud all were strong competitors to Sora and Shepard for the end of this list. I had such trouble deciding that I even went, when I first wrote this list back when it was 5 instead of 10 long, and asked for opinions on the dilemma from my good man Donraj, my good lil' buddy Queelez, my good...something...Trippy, and my good friend Jolt. The series knows how to craft a protagonist.

Something like Shepard, Tidus really embodies a leader in his interest and care-taking of his team. Oh, sure, it's not quite to the same extent as Shepard and Final Fantasy 9's Zidane (further down) in the sense that Tidus seems to reach out to some of his team members tentatively rather than assertively, but Tidus nevertheless shows his general concern for each of his teammates many times, and tries (often resulting in awkward failure, but the important thing is the effort) to help each with his or her individual concerns. And, as with Zidane and Final Fantasy Tactics's Ramza (also further down), Tidus pretty steadfastly stands by his morals and beliefs, and inspires those with him to do the same, if not quite as strongly as they do.

But what makes Tidus really great is just how immensely deep and dynamic a character he is by himself. Tidus undergoes dramatic changes to his character, more than most of the other heroes on this list. Over the course of the game, he goes from being a complaining, selfish, and at times abrasive kid that Yuna's group has to more or less babysit, to being a loyal, trustworthy, and willing leader to them all. He goes from being a person with no reverence for the world around him, who resists the idea of sacrificing a person to save it, to a willing and respectful sacrifice himself. While the things he sees and hears on his journey, and his encounters with the remnants of his father's legacy, give Tidus good character development, he changes most drastically thanks to his love for Yuna. These changes are a moving and realistic merging of his personality with that of the person he loves--just as Yuna's love for Tidus leads to her taking on his characteristics of optimism, persistence, and the desire and courage to cast aside the flawed system of old in favor of the hope of a new and better way to accomplish her goals, so does Tidus adopt Yuna's traits of compassion, contemplation, and the selfless choice to sacrifice his own life for the good of another's. He and Yuna compliment each other in their love, two becoming one, and this leads to one of the best heroes I've seen to date--one who is not only a good leader and noble servant of good, but also a fascinatingly complex and human character, as well.


4. Marona (Phantom Brave)

Caring, generous, brave, optimistic, enthusiastic, uncompromisingly moral, encouraging, noble, forgiving, friendly, protective, honest, virtuous, self-sacrificing, polite, and inspiring. I'd have a hard time coming up with a description for a truly good person that doesn't apply to Marona. While not incapable of negative emotions--she's tragically lonely and misunderstood, and no stranger to despair--Marona is from start to finish a touching and inspiring individual, as innocent as any child yet as ready to help and do work as any adult. She's a character with depth, yet is as simple and heroic as Ramza was--more, even.


3. Zidane (Final Fantasy 9)

Final Fantasy 9 would be excellent and have great emotional impact on the player even without him, but Zidane is nonetheless the fun-loving, good-natured heart of this classic. The cast in general is deep and involving, characters who make us think and consider, but Zidane is the one who makes it all real to the audience, grabbing our attention, involving us, entertaining us, and helping us to better appreciate everything else about the game's plot and characters. I think that's a pretty important part of a hero, particularly in an RPG, where you spend so much time directing one around--the hero's ability to involve you not only in his own affairs, but also in those of the world and people around him, helping to translate their issues and ideas to you.

Part of how Zidane does this is another reason why he deserves to be on this list--he genuinely leads his party. That really is, to me, a significant part of a hero--how they behave to the people they lead. Zidane is genuinely concerned, friendly, and encouraging to all his friends, taking on just the right tone for each to be just as supportive a leader as each one needs.

Finally, Zidane is just, in general, a really great character. Call me old-fashioned, but I miss the days when our heroes were, y'know...nice. And Zidane is. He's good-natured, selfless, can't help but help others, and has the heart of gold that a hero should. But he's also dynamic; being a hero who actually lives up to the name doesn't limit his character (contrary to contemporary popular belief, this actually IS quite possible--take note, Marvel Comics). He has his flaws and rough edges, and he develops as a character both evidently (most notably during his visit to Terra, where his personal views and beliefs are tested, confirmed, and strengthened), and subtly (as evidenced by his gradual change over the course of pretty much the entire game from a cheeky womanizer who recklessly hits on any and all attractive women he encounters to a (admittedly equally cheeky) romantic with a touching love for the main girl, Dagger). Zidane's both a great hero and a great character.


2. Virginia (Wild Arms 3)

I did a rant on Virginia previously that can give you a fairly good idea of how well she succeeds as a female character in a male protagonist's role, providing an example to the RPG industry that girl-led RPGs don't have to have their entire focus tailored for the gender of their heroine. This is true, but it's not all I want to say. Virginia's noteworthy for the girl-in-a-boy's-role thing that she does so well, but she's also, regardless of that, a magnificent heroine.

First of all, the leader thing? Virginia does it in spades. She establishes her team through her will alone, managing to be the glue that holds them all together as one force through thick and thin--crazy glue, really, because not one of them seems to take her talk of ideals, hopes, and dreams seriously, at first (and Jet just plain never does). Yet all the same, her enthusiasm and charisma keep them all together, drive them forward, and helps each of her companions along in developing himself as a person and refining his outlook on the world. Yet at the same time, she does more than just inspire them and help them to grow--Virginia also listens to them, and grows as a person herself from their thoughts, opinions, and feedback. Not only does this lead to an ever-developing, dynamic protagonist, but it also makes her even more a leader in my eyes.

What really makes Virginia incredible, though, is the honestly never-ending development as a person she receives. From the beginning of the game to pretty much its end, Virginia is on a journey of self-discovery, battling self-doubt as often as she does any villain to come to a firm understanding of who she is, what she believes in, and what she wants to stand for. If she doesn't exactly change in a revolutionary way, Virginia's character is at least under constant self-revision and scrutiny--there's no single huge moment, or even couple huge moments, of revelation that are the pivotal turning points for her, no one massive catharsis that changes her significantly, as is typically the case in RPG heroes' character development. Instead, the player sees her grow at a near constant rate, with Virginia undergoing many personal, emotional discoveries and changes as she sees and experiences different situations and people...the way real people do. As gripping and touching a regular hero's big scene of change may be in an RPG, all us folks here in real life undergo many, many changes of view and opinion in our lives, and probably have several huge moments of clarification that define us, not just one or two. In this way, Virginia is a fantastic character and a hero that is not only developed with far more care and time than almost any other RPG character, but also one that we can see as a heroic human being better than most.


1. Ryudo (Grandia 2)

And so we come to Ryudo. Here's the deal, folks: the heroes I've listed above? They all more or less start out as good, decent, heroic types (even Tidus, for his initial flaws, has that heroic tendency to save first and ask questions later). Most undergo changes to their personality, big and small, but in the end, the effect is mostly a case of a good person becoming a better, more emotionally complete person. Even Yuri, for his general apathy about the world's affairs, isn't able to let an injustice he sees right in front of him pass. And hey, that's good! As I said early on, a hero ought to be an actually good person.

But that said, Ryudo is different. Ryudo starts off as an ass. Granted, an amazingly hilarious, witty one, but an ass all the same. He's not out to help people, or make the world better, or stop evil, or any of that jazz--he's just a mercenary doing his job and putting up with the crappy, annoying customers all day.

But as the story goes on, he gradually evolves into much, much more. He grows to care about others, to value others' life and freedom enough to fight for them against impossible odds, and to hope, believe in good, and stand up for justice as any hero should.

Now, of course, you're probably thinking, "Gee, I think I've seen this before." Well yes you have, and yet, no, you haven't. No lovable Han Solo-esque scoundrel who turns out to have a heart of gold undergoes the drawn-out, excellently developed change from jerkwad to true hero that Ryudo does. This is no sudden, inexplicable 180 degree change--you're there for the whole time watching each step the guy takes into becoming a champion of life, liberty, and love. This ain't the redemption-less failure that Final Fantasy 8's Squall is; you can understand and appreciate the steps Ryudo takes on his journey, and you like him all the way along. His journey to the person he becomes is inspiring in how huge a change it is, the steps on it are interesting and believable in how realistically they're paced, and the hero he becomes is one whose convictions and past trials make him truly worthy of this top spot.


Honorable Mention: Marche (Final Fantasy Tactics Advance 1)

Marche is definitely an interesting protagonist. As I've mentioned in the past, Marche basically fulfills the role of your standard Final Fantasy villain. He's inexplicably over-powered from the perspective of any average citizen of fantasy Ivalice, his methods for accomplishing his goals will basically wind up destroying the world he's in, and his reasons for doing so are strange, inexplicable, and unacceptable to the fantasy land's inhabitants. Yet at the same time, you can't say he isn't a hero. Marche's motivation is a refusal to hide from the world just because it's not perfect, an unyielding (though not unquestioned) belief in facing reality and coming to terms with one's life's truths, instead of losing one's self in escapist delusions. These are heroic ideals, to be sure, and ones that have more relation to we players than most of the ideals that RPG heroes espouse. Yet it is these ideals that force Marche into the role of a villain, for he is trapped in FFTA1 in a false world of fun adventure, and the only way to return himself and his friends to their true lives, to force them to confront their problems rather than try to wish them away, is to bring about the end of the fantasy world by destroying its magical foundations, just as any given RPG villain might maniacally attack the magical lifeline of their world in an attempt to destroy it. That's why Marche is such a noteworthy protagonist--he takes the role of a (reluctant) villain, but only because his heroic ideals necessitate it.

Monday, July 4, 2011

General RPGs' AMVs 3

Well folks, I said I was gonna occasionally share 13 good RPG AMVs with you intermittently, and dammit, I meant it. So here's another handful of RPG AMVs that, if not amazing, are still solidly good, which is still pretty damn rare in the world of RPG AMVs.

And as before, if you think any of these are decent, by all means, please do give the video a Thumbs Up, or better still, leave a positive comment. A lot of the good RPG AMVs get very little recognition.



FALLOUT

Fallout 3: Droid Love, by ArkanaYragael: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xl1msshbAyg
The music used is Droid Love, by Space Ritual. This is a strong mood-creating AMV, pairing the slow, ethereal, displaced sound of the music to the Capital Wasteland of Fallout 3. The result is very haunting and entrancing. Unfortunately, the second half of the AMV is not nearly as good as the first, with its scene selection simply not fitting the music as well as the first half's did--otherwise, I'd have probably kept this video as a personal favorite. Still, it's worth checking out.

Fallout 3: This is War, by Joylock: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ACEFHN-TmwU
The music used is This is War, by 30 Seconds to Mars. 30 Seconds to Mars is kind of like the new Linkin Park in the world of AMVs--everybody and their grandmother uses their most popular music for making music videos, and almost all of those music videos suck. Really, the only difference between the 2 groups is that Linkin Park actually has some semblance of talent. Joylock, the same skilled AMV-maker who gave us Fallout 3: Land of Confusion (which I did a full-on review of a while back), has beaten incredible odds, however, and actually delivered us the first good 30 Seconds to Mars AMV ever. Although he uses the game editor to set up a lot of situations that wouldn't normally have occurred, the video's thematic from start to finish, and pretty much every part of it relates to the lyrics and tune of the song (which even, somehow, seems less lousy while you watch and listen--amazing what a good AMV can do to one's perceptions). I particularly like the fact that some of the video's relations to the song are subtle and clever--when the song talks of the "victim," Joylock doesn't show us any one individual or group of people like he does for the rest of the roles the song lists off, but rather shows an image of the DC ruins, which is neatly symbolic. Great AMV, this one.


FINAL FANTASY

Final Fantasy 8: Squall's Mind Says "Hello," by MisterEvenro: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1XSGYCc1DIw
The music used is Hello, by Evanescence. The timing on matching events in the video to the song is nice in this AMV, as is the way the video works with the music's tone and its lyrics. The video also often uses actual game footage effectively with the song, which, so long as it's done properly, is always a nice change in a Final Fantasy AMV, since most of them just reuse the exact same 20 minutes of FMV footage in different ways over and over again. It has a very nice, poignant ending, too. All in all, this AMV is a lovely package; really, the only thing keeping it just below deserving a rant all on its own is the fact that there are some parts of the in-game footage that aren't used effectively enough, and seem kind of like filler. But overall, this AMV is very, very good.

Final Fantasy 9: Gravity of Love, by Dreamer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kT3yHrpdIX8
05/27/17 UPDATE: A Youtube user named S (there was seriously no one who had already claimed that!?) has made an updated version of this--it's the same AMV as Dramer's, but with the higher quality visuals from the FF9 PC rerelease. It looks faithful to the original to me, so you might want to check it out instead: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RARvY_gvaAU
The music used is Gravity of Love, by Enigma. I have to admit to really liking this song, so maybe I'm somewhat biased for AMVs that use it, but I do think this game is a great compliment to it. Several lyrics match up to the selected scenes, the heavy, ethereal charm of the tune is a lovely companion to the powerful and magical beauty of FF9, and the scenes act and change in concert with the music. Good stuff!

05/27/17 UPDATE:

Final Fantasy 9: Requiem for a Dream, by Mivmax62260: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=86mW8021m9c
The music used is Requiem for a Tower, by Clint Mansell. This song matches the action-related parts of the game very well to the powerful, building music. There's really not much to say here, other than that the song and the game mesh well, and that the pacing of the scene section is well-done.


GRANDIA

Grandia 1: Passion, by Tamagotschi95: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E3dRaH9uGEI
The music used is the orchestral version of Passion, from the Kingdom Hearts 2 soundtrack. This tribute to Grandia 1 is impressively compiled, using the music's grand feeling to work with the visuals and faithfully portray the atmosphere of epic adventure that Grandia 1 so embodies. Finding ANY Grandia 1 AMV is difficult, given that it was one of those Playstation 1 RPGs that used a significant portion of its limited FMV towards illustration of legends rather than of actual plot events, so finding a solid video like this is a pleasurable rarity.


THE LEGEND OF ZELDA

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess: Mad World, by TheDreamingSongbird: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tiDkIQKfIxc
The music used is Mad World, by Gary Joules. While there are some scenes where the connection between song and video is tenuous, and overall I can't say that the song particularly embodies any overall feeling or theme of the game, the visuals are generally a nice match to the quiet, displaced emotion of this song, and several scenes also coordinate well to the lyrics.


MASS EFFECT

Mass Effect 1 and 2: Geno|3boost's Channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/Genol3oost
This isn't actually a single AMV, but a large collection of semi-AMV tributes to the Mass Effect series. The large majority of them are made quite well. They pretty much always get the emotion and message they intent to convey across effectively, through use of effective mood background music, video selection, and use of the game's voice work.

Mass Effect 2: I'll Stand by You, by Almajademe: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MgOpMLu5CrI
The music used is I'll Stand by You, by Pretenders. Okay, I have no idea how it's possible given that this song is, to me, the prime example of a song of so much overblown, self-important mush that it comes across as funny to me rather than emotional...but this tribute to the character Thane and his potential relationship with Female Shepard is actually pretty good. Thane's personal story seems to work pretty well with the song, somehow, and the clips chosen to accompany the song are usually selected well and are serious enough to work with the tune yet real enough to tone down the song's excessively dramatic qualities. It doesn't always work and some parts just don't hold up, but overall, it's a decent AMV, and that's hard to believe given the song.

Mass Effect 2: Tank!, by Solidfalcon77: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ajVqeUX6MYQ
The music used is Tank!, from the anime Cowboy Bebop. This one is just plain clever, fun, and entertaining, combining the opening song to Cowboy Bebop with scenes from a fellow sci-fi classic that work surprisingly well with the Cowboy Bebop theme. Add in a lot of masterful visual effects to mimic the classic anime's actual opening, and you have a work that is just plain cool.


SHADOW HEARTS

Shadow Hearts Series: E.T., by Zexion678: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ivJ4ssumi-0
The music used is E.T., by Katy Perry. Oh, barf, Katy Perry. Ugh. Just typing the name makes my fingers feel unclean. Buuuut, despite how much I hate that self-important sensationalist slut, this is really a very well-made AMV. The editing and timing of the video's scenes and effects are nigh perfect, and the scenes are very skillfully connected to the feel of the music and its lyrics--showing SH1 + 2's Yuri's and SH3's Shania's demonic forms when the song talks of extraterrestrials, showing SH3's Lady's cursed kiss when the song talks of poison kisses, and so on. This skill put into making the video and music work together in this AMV is top-notch; I'm almost tempted to keep it for my personal collection, in spite of it being a mix of Katy Perry and 50% Shadow Hearts 3 video. The only thing keeping me from that is the fact that this video, for all its merits, doesn't seem to have too strong of a purpose or idea behind it, which is pretty essential for me. Nonetheless, this is really quite excellently created.


SHIN MEGAMI TENSEI

Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4: Aerials, by Lossdinen: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lbnLaDgl8bo
The music used is Aerials, by System of a Down. I should note that this AMV only uses a portion of the whole song, but while this was a problem with a Legend of Zelda AMV in my last rant, here it earns no demerits, because unlike the last time I mentioned this issue, the portion of Aerials used in this AMV has been masterfully edited out, so that the AMV's start and finish feel like whole--if you didn't already know this music was only a part of a bigger song, you could easily believe that this was it in its entirety. Anyway, SMTP4 has very limited FMVs to work with, and many of them are chaotic and confusing, so creating any kind of linear story in an AMV is difficult. One can, however, do well with a more visual, artsy approach, and Lossdinen does this well, using the heavy, darker tone of the song in conjunction with the darker nature of the game well. Some scenes work quite well with the lyrics, too, which is a nice bonus. This AMV is dark, moody, tense, and yet has underlying urgency, which matches both the music and the overall feel of the game's plot very well.


THE WORLD ENDS WITH YOU

The World Ends with You: Left-Handed Lovers, by Coloraoi: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bnU7rt9TB1s
The music used is Please Don't Go, by Barcelona. I wouldn't have thought that this game would garner many AMVs, given its cut scenes' style, but it apparently has quite a few. This one matches the music's tone to the game's videos very well, and pulls the viewer in with its solemn, touching feeling. It has its flaws--notably that it's short, and shorter still when you consider how much of the video's time is taken up with game voice acting instead of actual music video--but overall, I think it's pretty good.