Roy Tang

Programmer, engineer, scientist, critic, gamer, dreamer, and kid-at-heart.

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(Originally available on the now-defunct NFT Zu website)

(2018 Edit: I found this in my WordPress drafts folder, not sure why it wasn’t published when I first imported it. It’s true it was on my old site, but I can not find a reliable indicator of what date it was published. So I will publish it with an arbitrarily chosen date of March 1, 2002.)

Officially, this rant should be available upon the re-opening¬†of the NFT Zu webpage, version 4.something. As much as I’d like¬†to babble on about anime or fanfiction, several of my associates¬†here at the Zu know a lot more about those than I do. So I’ll¬†stick to something where I can claim some sort of specialized¬†knowledge: video games.

Lately, I’ve been playing Legend of Mana. It’s a little-known¬†Square game for the PSX, the fourth installment in the Seiken¬†Densetsu series of games. It’s a quirky little game, but what¬†will strike you most about the game is the amazing graphics. No,¬†I’m not talking about FFVIII-style FMVs or such. I’m talking¬†about the detailed hand-drawn animations. The characters are¬†portrayed by detailed sprites, the backgrounds are colorful,

hand-drawn landscapes, nothing like the mundane realism of¬†FMV-based games. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not knocking FMV. I¬†certainly appreciate a great CG movie in a game.

But these days practically every game and its mother has FMV,¬†and frankly, I tend to grow tired of it. What’s wrong with good¬†ol’ 2d animation? We see a lot of games pushing the envelope as¬†far as 3d CG FMVs are concerned, but where are the games pushing¬†the envelope of 2d animation? As Legend of Mana and games like¬†Parappa the Rapper show, there are certainly games and stories¬†which are much better told in 2d animation than the mundane 3d¬†videos of today. And for all their technical sophistication, 3d¬†engines are still far more limited than what hand-drawn animation¬†could show us, visions far closer to the artist’s


So where are all the 2d RPGs? Sadly, outside of Square and¬†Capcom, no one seems to be capable of thinking for themselves and¬†differentiating themselves from the pack. In this case the¬†console RPG scene suffers from a common problem: lack of¬†innovation. Aside from a couple of industry leaders, few¬†companies can afford to “try something different” when they have¬†sales to make. It’s far easier to do what everybody else is doing¬†than to try out something which may or may not sell. The 2d RPG¬†seems to be going the way of the handheld, as practically all 2d¬†RPGS these days are being announced for GBA only, with the PS2,¬†XBOX and GC all geared towards powerful 3d apps.

Granted, all of this might be chalked up to the fact that I’m¬†an old-school gamer of sorts, and you could argue that “3d is the¬†wave of the future!” But if you look at Legend of Mana, and its¬†younger SNES brother Secret of Mana, you can’t help but see how¬†2d animation has improved by leaps and bounds over the years,¬†albeit unnoticed compared to the attention 3d animation has been¬†getting. Five years ago, all these 3d games were getting noticed¬†because they were bringing us something new, a greater sense of¬†realism than what 2d animation could bring. Back then 3d WAS the¬†wave of the future. Today, it IS the future, and 3d games are the

norm, and 2d animation offers us something different, something fresh.

What am I saying? I want to see more 2d games, RPGs specifically. I want to see more Saga games, more Mana games, more Breath of Fire. I want to see new sprite-based RPGs. I want to see more fantasy worlds that look fantastic, more anime cut-scenes. Is it all too much to ask?

-Thinking about getting a GBA before a PS2

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