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The Second Time I Play an RPG

October 1, 1998

I recently bought Shining Force III for the Saturn. While it is an excellent game, after dying "too many times" I thought about some of the aspects I don't like about RPGs. First come the number of battles you have to go through in order to advance in the game. They are either too many or too few, depending on whether you want to increase in levels or just want to get to the next event in the plot. I also hate being lost, which happens at least once on every RPG I play, and makes me feel stupid. But what I hate the most on an RPG is when I die. This is especially true on Shining Force III, which keeps track on the amount of times your characters die, to remind you of how incompetent you are. All this gets in the way of my enjoyment of the game.

However, I have also noticed that most of these disadvantages disappear the second time I play an RPG, making the process much more enjoyable than the first time. I found that out almost by accident. Since I believed there were not "enough" RPGs available for the Sega CD and the Saturn, I began to play some of these RPGs again just to satisfy my craving for this type of game. Then I found out that I already was familiar with the mazes and the location of the bosses. Which meant I didn't get lost. It also meant that I could develop some strategies I couldn't or wasn't willing to before. For example, I started to practice "scouting," which is going through the entire maze, getting all the items from the treasure boxes, and then, just before I reach the boss, escaping from the dungeon. Then I rest and save the game. After that I go back to the maze, this time with more experience, and knowing that if I die, I already have all the items in my possession. I also experiment with other techniques and magic spells, which I didn't do before because I wasn't yet familiar with the game's user interface and features.

For example, on Phantasy Star IV I can now do "defense combos," on which the characters don't attack on the first round. They just cast spells that increase their agility, strength, and defenses, making it easy for them to defeat the boss in the long run. In Dragon Force I can play the game again with a different general that I used the first time, and so on.

Another advantage of this approach (and the biggest advantage, on my opinion), is that since I don't have to worry about any of these things anymore, I can concentrate on enjoying the story, which is the main reason I play RPGs anyway. I can laugh again about Rune and Chaz not getting along with each other. I can feel sorry when Luna says good-bye to Alex as he departs on the ship.

To finish, let me share with you what I just did. After I couldn't get in time to the "safe" area of the bridge on Shining Force III, and all my characters were washed away by the water, I said "Enough of this!" I let the game rest for a while, and now I am playing Phantasy Star IV again. I know exactly what to do and where to go. I love it.


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