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column; early
 
I'm the Alex, and I'll be your letters man for the week. I'll be updating early in the morning (around 3:00 am EDT), so I hope you all enjoy that. Let's move on to the letters then..
 
Ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-changes

I see a lot of people griping about how the Final Fantasy series has evolved/deevolved, and I just have to ask one question. Hasn't this series always been mainly focussed on magic and saving the world from some crises? Even FFVII focused mainly on magic, you spent most of the game trying to either stop Sephiroth from using the MAGICAL black materia or trying to stop the SPELL he had cast. Yes, the world is now very modern. So? You still have the same Final Fantasy elements. Some people say, 'I don't like the materia system, the old magic system was better.' Which one? No FF game (except the FF1j-3j) had the same magic system, it has always changed. Purchasing spells in FF, earning them automaticly in FF2, job system in FFVj, espers in FFIII, materia in FFVII, and now draw/stock in FFVIII. Some elements change, such as the setting and the magic, others stay the same, like the high class plot and basic battle system. Everything in life changes, including our Final Fantasy games.

PsychoG

Alex:
A lot of people tend to complain about the more recent RPGs. Some people just complain that they're missing something that many 16-bit RPGs had. When it comes to the Final Fantasy series, and more specifically those who have been playing the games for a long time, you find very few people who say that FF7 is better than FF3 (US). I think it's all because we look at older games with more admiration and recent games with more criticism. A majority of us will have to realize that the Final Fantasy series is always changing, and base our opinions of the games on fun rather than if they remain true to their roots or not. There's my rant. ;)

 
Don't forget to junction!

I thought people would send you a lot of Lunar questions so I figured another wouldn't hurt. How do you...

Hah! Hah hah! I trick you. Tee hee! j/k! ;)

My question is regarding Final Fantasy 8. Since I am a complete moron and am incapable of grasping Concepts as Simple as capItalizaTion, i Am ObViously having trouble with Fial Fantasy 8's junction system. Couldja explain it? =)

- pillsbury doleboy

Alex:
The Junction system is pretty simple, once you get a hang of it. There are basically two different types of junctioning, one being essential for the other to work. First of all, you junction Guardian Forces to your character. This enables the character to junction magic to different attributes (Strength, HP, etc.) depending on which you have researched with the Guardian Force. Then, all you have to do is junction magic to your character's attributes and you're done. Essentially, it you collect enough powerful spells, you can have an unimaginabley powerful character.
 
Editorialific

Q&A Guy of the Day (Hey, that rhymes):

Now that Greenhut is gone, who's gonna do the editorials? I'm a long-time reader/fan of RPGamer, and although the editorials section has somewhat of a sketchy reputation, it's one of the things that keep bringing me back to the site. I've noticed it hasn't been updated since early May, and I'm curious as to what it's future is. Will Tidwell be accepting applications for a replacement, or will a member of the current staff be filling in? Or will they just let the Editorials fade into obscurity?

- Nazhuret

Alex:
(This time I'm informed) We've already got someone ready for Editorials, Brad Lohr, who's also working on New Media.
 
A big decision

Hey Alex, welcome back as the substitute Q&A dude,

I have a really big problem here and I must ask your opinion,

Okay, here it goes, I dont know if I want to get Lunar or not, I dont really enjoy old-school RPGs and I am already putting my money on Star Ocean 2, Suikoden 2, and FF8. I will be buying a 4th RPG this summer and I dont know if I should gamble with Lunar or buy Jade Cocoon. Remember, that I prefer innovative games over old-school. So whats your opinion?

Also, I wanted to tell everyone who is looking for copies of Suikoden 1 and Vandal Hearts that they can pick up either at the Wherehouse for just $20 :) Thanks a lot.

-XenoFreak

Alex:
I'll make it clear right now: I haven't played Lunar yet (you can always read Ryan's review). But, I have played Jade Cocoon, and I can give you some facts on that. Overall, most of the game plays like a normal RPG. Battles are simple, with the ability to attack and use items. Where the game innovates is the system of capturing monsters and using them at your own disposal. You can capture almost all of the enemies you encounter. If you choose, you can merge them with other monsters you capture to create a more powerful minion, or spin them into silk and sell them (which is the only way to get money). So, I hope this helps you out.

More purchasing advice, wheee

Okay, Alex, got a question for ya...

I'm slightly new to RPGaming, and...in an effort to keep myself busy this summer, I'm trying to decide between getting Lunar: SSSC or Xenogears, which I don't have yet. I liked FFVII a lot, so should I go for Xenogears, or try the game that everyone hasn't shut up about yet? ^_^ Help...

~Silver~

Alex:
All I can say is that Xenogears is a great and a worthwhile game. Those who I have talked to prefer Xenogears over Lunar. If you prefer the "old school" style of RPGs, go with Lunar. If you enjoy any type of RPG experience, get Xenogears

 
Star Ocean 2 info? Why, yes!
(Long letter, but worthwhile SO2 info)

Hey Aleximinator;

(Ahem, if you see any grammitcal errors, don't mind it, I typed this hastily and only proofread it once)

Man, Star Ocean 2 is going to rock the house, I'm quite positive this game is going to be the RPG of the year (IMHO), and will take many people by surprise by it's greatness, but there just isn't enough hype on it! Seeing how I've played and own the original on the SFC (which STILL beats the snot out of any current RPG to date, except maybe the upcoming sequel ^_^), I'm just dying to for the sequel-- in ENGLISH!

Not enough has been said about it though. People just blab on and on how it's got 86 endings, great graphics, good music, and it DOES NOT SOUND AT ALL LIKE HORRIBLE BEYOND THE BEYOND MUSIC, despite what JD said yesterday. *puts on the battle music* (and it ROCKS too, best battle music in any game) Hm, real sounding instruments, not a cheap sounding synth.

Anyways, the game system hasn't been explained enough. You thought Games like Final Fantasy V, Final Fantasy Tactics, Ogre Battle, Tactics Ogre, the Tales series, Suikoden, etc. had deep/cool/innovative gameplay? If that's so, then you've seen nothing 'till you've played Star Ocean 2. Most of those games only had ONE little system of gameplay, FFV and FFT had Jobs, the Tales series had a cool battle system, Suikoden had lots of replay value from finding all the characters, items, etc. Now Star Ocean 2 has... *LOTS* of deep systems, and more replay value than ANY other GAME to date. Oh, man, will you ever be surprised. This game has many unique features you WON'T find in ANY other RPG. Let me begin with it's *GREAT* combat system:

Battles: Think Tales of Phantasia/Destiny, but on some really, really, REALLY heavy steroids. Instead of a left or right direction you move in, you have a large, 3 dimentional BATTLEFIELD at your disposal, you're characters can run around, jump, attack, use magic, techniques, in 100% TRUE realtime (unlike Final Fantasy), such true realtime that you only control the main character (and a smart AI for your CPU controlled characters, and you can select in the menu how you'd like them to fight). And these battles aren't boring menu-based battles, people, the buttons on your controller ARE your commands, such as the circle will allow the character you are controller to select ("Lock on") the enemy, and the same button will attack it. The only time you'll see menus are when you are selecting items, or if you're using a different character, Magic. Techniques, however, are completely done with the controller, "Lock on" the enemy with O, then hit R1, or L1 to execute the characters' technique. These battles are fun, fast paced, and really get your blood pumping, and unlike ToD/ToP, they DON'T get boring, in fact, you'll find yourself *WANTING* to battle. It's that great of a battle system. I'm very sure people who enjoy Action RPGs will like this battle system a lot. Emotional Points (used to be 'Approval Rating' in Star Ocean 1): This determines how much each character in a party like/dislike each other, it can go as deep as 'loving' each other, or maybe even (not sure) hatred for the other. But it goes much deeper than that. These are CRITICAL as to which of the 86 possible endings you get. These also have do with effects in which happens during battles. Like say, if one character likes another character, and that character happens to die, that person may get something like an "adrenaline rush" and go totally berserk and hit the enemies for 2-3x as much damage than normal. As far as I know, these have actually been upgraded since the first game, with two different sets of emotional points. Depending on what you say and do to a character, can increase their emotional points, or even reduce them, I also believe it has something to do with battles as for increasing/reducing, like say, if a character goes up to do defend another character during the battle, their EP for that other character can rise. But if the character is left die or something, they could go down. It's quite complex. EP is an internal thing; you don't actually get to see the numbers of EP each character has for each other character in the party (it would be too confusing anyways!).

Private Actions: These allow you basically explore the town alone with the hero/ine you chose, and the characters in your party will be spread about the town (You get to ditch them and explore the town yourself! ^_^). You can talk to them, get special items, techniques, info, rumors, etc. Some conversations with party members can lead towards dropped EP or increased EP towards the character you are controlling.

Skill system: Incredibly deep. One simple skill may allow your character to dash, increase the amount of HP/MP you get from items... Learning combinations of skills will then give your character TOKUGI (or ability, I think), which are far more deep than allowing your character to just dash, like say make COUNTERFEIT CASH (awesome, original feature, eh?), send a carrier pigeon out to a shop when in the depths of a dungeon (but it doesn't always come back!). But once you learn a Tokugi, that doesn't mean your characters are going to be Aces with it! You have to bring the skills that allowed you to learn that Tokugi up a few levels, and hopefully learn a "Talent" that is associated with Tokugi, to gain profficiency. Skill points are gained at each level up, and in SO1 (not sure in SO2), you get some SP from learning Talents. Talents simply help your characters be better at the Tokugi(s) it is associated with, but be forewarned-- they can be a bitch to learn. The skill system is *also* associated with the games' item creation system. And do note that "Tokugi" is a Japanese word and will, most likely be translated differently in the english version.

Item creation: Another deep system of Star Ocean games, and it's the deepest Item Creation system you'll find than in any other game. It isn't just about mixing items together. Instead it consistes of many more things, like Item appraisal, blacksmithing, book writing, item mixing, and much, MUCH more. Using this is the only way to gain some of the items in this game, and if I remember correctly, this game (SO2) has somewhere between 800-1000 items total.

Characters and stuff: During the course of the game, you will (of course) have the opportunity to get party members, but in Star Ocean games, depending on what you say and do for characters can cause them to either not join your party or they may join it. It can also have to do with WHO is in your party, some characters may not join simply for the fact another different character is in your party. Also, whoever is in your party can also change certain events, skip events, at least ever so slightly.

Some misc notes: The games' maximum level is NOT, like in other traditional RPGs, level 99. In fact, the game goes to the real max, Level 255. You might think that's a bit crazy and going overboard, but it isn't, really. It would be impossible to master all the skills if you could only go to 99. This game also has some hidden DIFFICULTY SETTINGS, the games starts off as normal, but in fact, once you meet certain requirements, you'll be allowed to play with 2 other different, HARDER settings, one being hard, and the other even HARDER. The first just gives them more power, the other gives them a smarter AI, more power, defense and HP... so how often do you see a great feature like this in an RPG!?

Okay, now that I have cleared up a lot of stuff on the gameplay, I'd just like to note that I've heard MIXED feelings on the actual storyline. So if you think you're only going to play this sincerely only to the plot and none of the great gameplay, you might like, or you might not. The translation for the english release has been determined to be shoddy and altered from the original version, so, if the dialogue sucks, then you know why. I could also be missing a few things to the above, since there is so much to be discovered in SO2.

Mark your calendar... 6/9/99 (SO2 US release date) is almost here!

Was this letter too long? Sorry, it takes a lot to explain the system of Star Ocean ^_^;;

--Tetsuya

Alex:
If any of you were looking for dsome in-depth Star Ocean 2 info, you better have read this letter.

 
These crazy bromide things...

Here's an answer to the LUNAR Bromide question everyone's been wondering about.

There are 13 total bromides.

Xenobia - 1
Royce - 1
Phacia - 1
Luna - 2
Jessica - 4
Mia - 4
There ya go. ^_^

Wandering Prophet

Alex:
Woo, you readers are so resourceful. :D

 
Unfit for Print (!)

Alex, or JD, or whoever answers questions.....

ARE YOU AS PISSED OFF AS I AM THAT SQUARESOFT DECIDED THAT THEIR "BIG PUSH" OF 1998 WAS PARASITE EVE INSTEAD OF XENOGEARS? PARASITE EVE SUCKS! XENOGEARS RULES! SEE PAST THE HYPE! FIGHT THE MACHINE! That is all

-Fat Farrell

Alex:
YES I AM SO TOTALLY ANGRY OH MY GOD AGRGRH! BEYOND THE BEYOND RULE!

 
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Closing thoughts

No Quickies for today. As I said, I only got 12 hours worth of e-mails because I decided to go on this wacky updating schedule. Don't worry, they'll return tommorrow.

I saw The Phantom Menace. I thought it was pretty good. The CG was pretty looking, I can tell you that. :D

The soundtrack to The Rock rules.

-Alex Kimbel
STR!@#

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