Role-playing gambols



Role-playing games (RPGs) are a dime every 12 dozen. PlayStation 2, this holiday’s powerhouse game machine, doesn’t even manage to pack a punch in a genre dominated by the "Final Fantasy" franchise.

But, oddly, RPGs are the closest link between the video game and film industries. Both are driven by story line, aural style and eye candy; yet unlike movies, there isn’t enough "greatness" in the RPG realm to denote a "Top 100" list — though, maybe a "Top Five." And as the foremost problem, most RPGs attempt to captivate players for 20 hours of gameplay or, sometimes, much longer. Most often, watching a two-hour movie is a better decision.

THQ’s "Summoner" makes the largest impression, mainly because of a unique real-time fighting engine. Unlike the "Final Fantasy" series, "Summoner" provides battle clashes with two types of engagement. First, the village in which the game opens features expanses of housing and terrain, with many foot soldiers placed to create conflict. (Fleeing the scene is improbable in those instances.) Second, when you’re wandering through the "world map" view of the game, charting from location to location, instant battlefields are created at random — like tripping into a pit — though in "Summoner" the pit is filled with gigantic arachnids and sword-slicing skeletons.

Activision’s "Orphen: Scion of Sorcery," on the other hand, is a bit handicapped. Flimsy, dubbed anime cut-scenes are only the beginning of this RPG’s nonimmersive gameplay. Action only erupts in event-based encounters, rather than in the more spontaneous spurts in "Summoner." The box’s summary describes the game best: "As Orphen, the powerful but lazy wizard, you’ve always thought being a hero was too much work." "Powerful" being the PS2’s capacity for magnanimity and "lazy" being "Orphen," a pseudo-adventure to avoid.

But at least classic gamers finally have a crown to wear. Indulge in "RPG Maker" from Agetec, a PlayStation game that allows players to facilitate their own exploits. The graphics may be dated — but imagine the possibilities! Chose from 68 characters, 400 dungeon components and a library of other tools. When flooded in doubt, mold it yourself.

Jon M. Gibson writes about video games for the Metro Times. E-mail

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Detroit Metro Times. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Detroit Metro Times, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Detroit Metro Times Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the Metro Times Press Club for as little as $5 a month.