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ASK OLIVER
Raindrops
September 21, 2008

9/15 - 10:33 PM CST

Last week I talked about Wendy's. This time, I'll tell you a little about Carabba's Grill. If you haven't eaten there, and if you happen to have a sizable amount of extra cash on hand, then go eat there. Posthaste. It is a fantastic restaurant. They serve a loaf of warm white bread with a herb olive oil dip, and that alone makes the experience worthwile. Their calamari is the best on planet earth, and their sirloin steak is among the best you can eat. Anyway. If there is a Carabba's Grill within twenty-five miles of your residence, go there.

Some excellent letters complete with my silly, uneducated responses await you.





The Letters
War of the Fanboys


Riddles!

Oliver

Ethylene!

It has been far too long since Iíve written into this column.

In fact, I believe that I've only done it once, and that was when I first started here.

Oliver

Yes, I remember. It was a sort of pseudo-love letter laced with praises in my name. It was very cute, and I've been anxiously awaiting a letter from you since then. It had been so long, I had begun to wonder if you loved me anymore. But you're here now!

Anyway, Iíve been meaning to write in for a while about a plethora of topics but I was especially inspired when I read your most recent column.

It was an enjoyable read I suppose, but let me tell you the GUFFAWS that escaped from my belly when I read that you believe Sephiroth to be one of the best RPG villains ever conceived. What rubbish!

Oliver

No praises THIS time, I see.

Go ahead, try to convince me that Sephiroth is rubbish. It should be good for a laugh or three.

I will readily admit that Sephiroth LOOKS cooler than practically any RPG villain I've seen.

I will readily admit that Sephiroth has the best THEME SONG of any RPG villain Iíve seen (or heard, I suppose).

But beyond that, Sephiroth is a whiney kid who canít get over his mommy issues. His intentions are as clear as mud because heís just having a temper tantrum the whole game.

Oliver

If that's the Sephiroth you saw, I'd like to know which version of FFVII you played.

Perchance, did you play the unofficial Chinese 2-D remake? I would suggest you seek out the original PlayStation release posthaste.

Bare in mind that I am a fan of Final Fantasy VII, so this criticism doesnít come from hatred of the game.

In fact, I believe the first few hours until you leave Midgar contain some of the greatest moments in gaming.

So don't be fooled by Sephirothís amazing hair and badass sword while One Winged Angel plays triumphantly in the background! He is a miserable villain.

I also think Aeris (Aerith, whatever) was boring and annoying. Good riddance I say.

Oliver

You spelled "bear" wrong. To "bare" means to reveal something. (i.e, "bare your fangs" or "strip bare.")

I was fooled by Sephiroth's amazing hair? Can I ask, then, what about FFIX's Kuja fooled you?

Was it is disturbingly feminine appearance? His absurdly skimpy attire?

Or did you figure he had to be doing SOMETHING worthwhile during the HOURS AND HOURS that Kuja simply wasn't present in FFIX? (Seriously, I've never played a game where the main villain is MIA so much of the time.)

Also, Aeris would kick Dagger's ass.

But since I assume that by this point youíve already responded in seething rants, crying about your dear white haired, thin sworded child I should turn this around and support your love for Prince of Persia. Sands of Time was one of the best games of that generation, and the new one has me more excited than perhaps even Final Fantasy XIII at this point (and Iím pretty darn excited about Lightning and her hotness). Even the concept art for the new PoP are literally some of my favourite works of art and I canít imagine what is going to replace them on my computer desktop.

Oliver

Well, it's somewhat difficult to stay excited about FFXIII 100 percent of the time, considering we know next to nothing about it. Prince of Persia is my most anticipated game of this year. Because of its amazing art style, and because I actually have an idea of what to expect from the game, I am more excited about it than I am about The Last Remnant. (And that's saying a lot, because I'm pretty stoked about that game.)

Well this letter has gone on long enough! I canít imagine what youíve typed in response. I can only assume that you emotionally and wrongfully attacked the far superior Final Fantasy IX and the poetic, twisted, dark romantic villain that is Kuja. Not a perfect villain by any means, but better than Sephicrap. And at least the game makes fun of itself by admitting that Kuja is a girly-looking narcissist, instead of the self-indulgent garble that takes place in VII.

Later!
_ethan

Oliver

I won't go so far as to call Kuja crap, but to even suggest that he is superior to Sephiroth in any way is madness. Pure, unforgivable madness. Kuja is one of the worst villains in FF history. But he manages to avoid being the worst of the PlayStation era, only because FFVIII's Sorceress Ultimecia was that much worse.

Why was Kuja so lame, you might ask?

I shan't tell you today. If you wish to continue this Battle of the Fanboys, write in again.



Oliver = Ollie


Once again a good day to you, Sir Olliver,

Oliver

"Olliver?" Perhaps a simple misspell, but perhaps confusion as to how to spell my name. My full name is "Oliver." One "L." "Ollie," my popular nickname, is spelled with two "L"s. Don't ask me why, but that's how it's always been.

Anyhow, it's nice to see you again Belthasar. What's on your mind today?

For starters I can give you another reason for buying a German copy of CT aside from excessive fanboyism or interest in the culture: It's my mother tongue. And I always wanted to see how they would translate certain jokes and scenes (And No I'm not German, I am Austrian). The English version I'm still getting to see the differences to the original and if they got rid of the (small) instances of censorship (I know you haven't but to those who played the game: Ever wondered what the "Nagaette bromide" really is?).

Oliver

Ah, I see. Well, I figured you had some reason outside of rampant fanboyism.

The GBA ports of FFIV and FFVI nixed some of the censorships present in the original SNES releases, so there's a chance that CTDS will receive similar treatment. But then, I suppose that depends on how objectionable the content in question is... the game has been rated E10+ after all.

Anyhow, I myself tried MMORPGs (Guild Wars and EVE) but I think the have 2 major flaws: 1) You need to invest a huge amount of time, what's more it must be done regularly and 2) if you don't, you fall behind the other player, which is especially annoying if you play with friends. The developers encourage it by adding special material etc. and because of the everlasting feeling to "beat" the game/ get better/ get the special items/ be better than others/ the feeling of triumph you get when overcoming a really strong enemy, it really can bring you to addiction, and I just don't like that (on a sidenote: Sluggy Freelance is having a funny story arc about that right now)

Oliver

Yes. Those are the two "flaws" that MMO fans can overlook, and MMO detractors simply cannot. Also, the fact of the matter is that some people in the world really don't have the time for a game that *requires* such a time commitment to play. Persona 3 requires 100 hours to beat, but not to play. You will not "fall behind" if you are unable to touch Dragon Quest VIII for a week or so. MMOs are like women: they demand tonnes of time and money, and if you don't give it to them - no matter what extenuating circumstances you may be going through - they leave you in the dust.

Square's shift to western market? I appreciate it (although I personally loathe the XBox and the 360) notably because the European Market (Pal-format and non-English speaking) hasn't been treated very well by video game companies concerning the RPG market. Old Squaresoft had been more generous to us but only a little bit, mostly we only got the "action" RPGs like Secret of Mana or the Soulblazer Trilogy (with Illusion of Gaia, Terranigma) from Enix, while other RPGs never came. For example: The first FF we received was VII and the first DQ was VIII (yeah, until 2006 we had to import any Dragon Quest/Warrior with all the problems this brought along). It has gotten better in recent years, but don't expect to ever hear voice acting in any other language than English, and except for the "real big" games the translation is often awful, especially in subtitles for cut scenes. It's comparable to English translations from 10(!) years ago (Shadow Hearts was a much welcomed exception).

Oliver

Oh, my. I had heard that PAL translations were problematic, but you make it sound quite horrific indeed. I think the single most inexcusable story I've heard about PAL releases was the fact that they released Xenosaga Episode II without releasing Episode I, and then they didn't bother releasing III. That's crap.

Why do you hate the Xbox 360? It loves you, and all RPGamers! I love mine so much that I went and bought another one, just so I could play it in 1080P. It has all teh RPGs! You need to drop the hate and get on board!

My humble self too is a fan of the Prince, he who climbs walls like no other, since the very first game. I absolutely loved "Sands of Time" but "The Warrior Within" was an abomination (I can't explain why, but first and foremost it got really boring), thus I let the third game slip by. I hope that the next one can bring me back to the series, although it will take quite some time until I can finally afford a next gen console.

Oliver

Well, Warrior Within may have been a slight step down in quality, but I can't really see how someone who enjoyed the first game couldn't find enjoyment in the sequel. If the atmosphere of WW was that much of a turn-off to you, then you really should check out the third game, The Two Thrones. If you enjoyed The Sands of Time as much as you say, then there is no way you do not enjoy The Two Thrones. Take my word for it.

Ranted too long already, so question-time: Speaking of Prince of Persia, did you had series you really liked but quit because of one or several bad installations? I'm not speaking about well known ones but of gems that maybe not many people played, like the Prince. And what's your most hated translations error and/or censored part ever? (Hey, where's my porn book in FF IV?)

ta ta,
Belthasar2

Oliver

I can't say I've ever given up on a series before. As for censorship, my most hated would have to be the censorships present in the Xenosaga trilogy. All three games had certain things cut out, but the most offensive by far was Episode III. For some reason they refused to show any blood in that game. At a certain point, a little girl is holding her mother's blood in her hands and crying for it to be "put back." In the english version the red stuff is gone and the scene makes zero sense. You have to play the game and actually watch the scene to see how absurd and offensive it really is. It's a serious turning point in the game marred by a needless, ridiculous censorship.

Thanks for the letter Belthasar. Write again soon!



Fridge Largemeat


And a good day to you, Oliver. Or good evening, as the case seems likely to be.

Oliver

Well, at the time of this sentence being written, it is daytime. 1:20 PM CST, to be precise. I have a feeling that when I actually finish responding to your letter it will be eveningtime. I have class in 0.5 hours, so I don't have ample time to finish a letter of this length. After class it will be time for work. Perhaps after work I will return to this column, but I might be too entirely exhausted. Anyway. Moving on!

I've been playing several games lately that I very much doubt you're familiar with, and I thought some thoughts on the experiences of them would be interesting. So let's start it off with one of the more aggravating games I've ever touched in Lunar: Dragon Song. Now, this is a game that I knew would most likely irritate me. But I had to play it, because I've played the other Lunar games. Even the Japan-only Lunar: Magic School, which remained in Japan because it is a repetitive game in so many ways. Well, here's just one sample of Magic School's stupidity. There are no items or equipment in the game whatsoever, and because of this nothing to find in dungeons save their ends. What happens when you mix lengthy dungeons featuring high random encounter rates with no reason whatsoever to explore them? Aggravation, naturally!

Oliver

Sounds like a lot of BULL! I've never played a Lunar game, although I've been told on numerous occasions that I need to. I've heard absolutely horrible things about Lunar: Dragon Song, which makes me wonder what's possessing you to play the game.

Lunar: Dragon Song features visible enemies and actual items to find. But in other ways it is actually worse than Magic School, which at least I could turn off my brain and sort of enjoy the immensely repetitive but not uninvolved combat in. Here's the first Very Bad Thing: combat is randomly targeted. With no way to change it. This means you might as well set it to automatic and grab some light reading, because player input contributes nothing whatsoever to the battle unless you need to heal or multi-target.

Oliver

Whaaat?

Wow... that's honestly one of the most ridiculous things I've ever heard. I don't really understand the reasoning behind that one. Is it supposed to keep things exciting? Is it actually a "feature," or is it just a poor design decision? Color me confused.

The second Very Bad Thing: enemies drop experience OR items, but never money. If enemies are giving up experience, they drop no items. If they drop items, no experience. There are two combat modes that can be switched between to make them give either, but this means you have to fight the same damn enemies over and over if you want a certain item. And how do you get money if enemies don't cough it up? By running odd jobs that require items, items which you depend upon enemies to award you. After wasting several hours trying to get enemies to give me the items I needed to carry out certain jobs and only succeeding after fighting for far too long, I have resolved to just slog through the game without being concerned about cash.

Oliver

Doesn't sound like much fun to me. FFXII required you to sell items to make cash, but there was never a shortage of valuable items being dropped.

The third Very Bad Thing: enemies that can break your equipment. If cash is scarce and you're trying to conserve it, the last thing you'd want is for an enemy to randomly break your weapon, right? Especially when you'll have to tramp back through enemy-infested areas if you want to replace it since there is so far no means of moving around the world that circumvents places you've already fought through.

Oliver

Give it up, man. Give it up.

My last note on the game: Lucia looks remarkably like Serra from Fire Emblem. Same pink hairstyle, same age, though not quite the same attitude. COINCIDENCE? You decide!

Oliver

A desperate attempt to draw an obscure parallel with a much better game?

A far more pleasant experience was Crusader of Centy on the Genesis. Think a Legend of Zelda homage from 1994 and you'll pretty much have it. It's fun to play with good audiovisuals and enough new stuff to make it an homage, not a rip-off of Zelda. Particularly the odd noise the hero makes when he gets hit: it sounds remarkably like the bridge alarm on the starship Enterprise. Not a great game, but fun while it lasts.

Another one on the Genesis I briefly tried is Sorcerian. English versions of it exist, but not this one. FAQs provide a translation of the opening screen, which is definitely reminiscent of 80's computer RPGs. After sorting everything out and creating a party, you get to... have four people moving simultaneously across the screen way too fast with weapons that are way too short. Seriously, the speed on my group made Sonic jealous - and that's bad when I can't control them very well thanks to their speedy movement. Confusing and crazy. I don't know if I'll pick it up again.

One other game I've tried is Blue Breaker. This one originated on the PC-FX, which died pretty quickly (the console was Hudson's successor to the Turbo-Grafx/PC Engine, only not nearly as successful as that system). The game was then ported to Saturn and Playstation, with the PS version apparently having some changes made. This game is... different. It somewhat mixes a dating sim's main objective (make the girls happy) with an RPG, and while I can't claim the results are amazing it at least differentiates itself from anything I've played. Fighting more than about seven battles in a day with any of the girls ticks them off and makes their feelings for Kain, the hero, go down. This means either running from fights a lot or getting creative with how you move. The actual movement is different - every location is a flat plane that you run from left to right in, with enemies randomly popping up in front of you to die. The game is quite nonlinear - I'm wandering around trying to find quests or other girls. Everyone except Kain is voice-acted all the time though, which is nice. And yes, this game is only in Japanese.

Oliver

Interesting group. Blue Breaker sounds like a crappier version of Persona 3, which, as I've stated many times, is an absolute must-play by anyone in the world. A shame that you, being bereft of a PS2, cannot. But then, I suppose it is also a shame that I lack both a Saturn and a fluency in Japanese. I'm working on the Japanese problem, though.

Regarding that fuss people made over your Symphony of the Night take awhile back: wow. I certainly didn't have a similar experience with the game (and I was playing the Japan-only Saturn version) but my brief experiences with Metal Gear Solid have failed to impress me, so I can empathize with your not liking a game that seems to elicit only praise.

Oliver

Heh... I'd nearly forgotten about that. Yes, it was quite shocking, and quite amusing as well. I wish I could have had a better experience with SotN, but I just... didn't. And while I've never played Metal Gear, you're the first person I've ever heard of who hasn't loved the games. To each his own, I suppose.

I've never touched an MMO. My computer is used for many things that are not gaming. Such as music ... let's look at the iTunes library... 24,173 songs. Lots of duplicated I'll have to weed out, but you can see what my computer's hard drive is being used for.

I'm about out of material for today. May good fortune be with you.
JuMeSyn

Oliver

24,000 songs? Good lord, man. I don't think I've even listened to that many songs in my lifetime. But then, I don't listen to much music. Usually videogame OSTs and that's it. Although amusingly enough, I just finished listening to Hold On by Jet. Rarely do I step into the realm of popular music, but it occurs from time to time.

Thanks for the letter, JuMeSyn. I'm sure you'll come up with new material soon enough.

IN CLOSING

There is no gasoline in Tennessee. Being completely oblivous to the events of the world, I really don't even know why. It began about a week ago, and I heard that it had something to do with the hurricane that hit Houston. I thought it had passed, but a few days ago, cars started lining up at gas stations again. Maybe I should turn on CNN every so often in order to stay updated. All I know is that a disturbing number of gas stations in middle TN are completely dry, and those that do have gas are plagued with ungodly long lines. Lucky me, I managed to fill up a few days ago, so I'm set for now. If this shite isn't fixed by next weekend, then I might have to take drastic action.

I'll leave the rest to your imagination. I'll see you all in a week. Write letters. Or don't. I know you're all busy. Lord knows I am.

-Oliver



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