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ASK AETHELRED
Clockwork December 15, 2006

Greetings, friendly RPGamer readers, for the second time this week. I'm filling in as your host again today. Surprisingly enough, unlike last time, our letters today aren't filled with nothing but Dragon Quest IX. There is a good bit of discussion on Square Enix's other big announcement this week, the Ivalice Alliance, which will include two new games (Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings and Final Fantasy Tactics 'A2') and an upgraded port of the original Final Fantasy Tactics. And even though genius, visionary designer Yasumi Matsuno, creator of Ivalice, is no longer with the company, I have to confess: I love this news. I love Ivalice, and I love Final Fantasy Tactics, so bring it on.

I mention it briefly in one of my answers below, but this whole past week seems to have been consumed by some of my love for classic Sega RPGs. It all started when I put together a new avatar for myself consisting of some of the breathtakingly creative artwork for Panzer Dragoon Saga. That kinda segued into relistening to the wonderful soundtrack, and before I knew it, I was playing the game again. Then I ended up getting into a discussion with some folks about how awesome Skies of Arcadia was, and lo! I soon found myself replaying that groundbreaking classic. And in the midst of all this, I seem to have dug out my PSP and its Sega Genesis Collection, and here I am playing Phantasy Star IV, too.

Yikes. Help me out here, guys. I'm a Sega addict.

Err, let's move on to the letters, why don't we?




L E T T E R S
I am lion, hear me war


Damnit!

My favorite strategy RPG and in the top 3 for favorite RPGs, ever, is being re-released on the PSP (FFT if anyone didn't know). Now what am I to do? Sure, it's just a remake, but it'll probably have better quality sound, better graphics, two new classes...

Aethel

You're right, Final Fantasy Tactics is being rereleased for the PSP. So far all we know is that the game will have two new classes and some movie sequences woven into the story. I'm a bit doubtful that Square Enix will touch the graphics and sound, though -- the project reminds me mostly of Valkyrie Profile: Lenneth, in how Square Enix is rereleasing a mostly unchanged old game to better tie into a new game or games (in this case, Revenant Wings and FFT A2). Lenneth's graphics and sound were unchanged... as was its translation. Hopefully FFT will get a new one of those, at least.

But, there's no way I'm getting a PSP... Not now, anyway. This is a bit frustrating. Evil Squeenix, releasing things I'll want and making me want to buy them! I'll have to pass, what with a PS3 or a Wii in my future at one point or another.

Aethel

It is a bit frustrating when games you want come out for systems you don't have. I guess you'll just need to take a look at the lists of games for the systems and decide which you want the most. Me? I wouldn't buy a new system just for a game I already own unless there are some new and original games I want as well, so if you've got FFT already, bear in mind that the changes in the port aren't going to be *that* drastic. But if you love FFT enough that you absolutely must have it, then you might need to rearrange your priorities. Or, hey, it is gift-giving season. Maybe you could ask for the PSP and get lucky?

Thankfully I don't have to face this dilemma -- I already have a PSP, and since FFT is one of my favorite games, too, I'll definitely be giving this one a play! As always, owning all systems = win.

On the other hand, this FFTA2 might prove to be interesting. I guess I'll have to see.

Oh, and hi, bye and happy Hanuka.

Zohar Gilboa

Aethel

Despite being let down by Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, I'm still quite optimistic about FFT A2. For one thing, I've heard rumblings (and these are rumors only, mind you) that it'll be a true sequel to FFT and not tied into the world or characters of FFTA. And secondly... well, it just seems like Square Enix has been on a roll lately. There was a period of growing pains after the merger that sorta sullied the good name of the two companies, but recently I think they've really hit their stride. I've been enormously impressed by most of their recent output on the PS2, and couldn't be happier with the games they've been making for the DS (which have far and away been better than what they made for the GBA).



Sticks in the Mud


I've been reading the more recent columns, and it's really struck me how... I don't want to say stagnant the gaming community seems, but rather traditional. I realized there was always a fairly decisive split between so-called old-school and new-school gamers, due to stylistic content, graphical emphasis, battle styles, etc. There will always be differing opinions, as recently evidenced by the split between supporters and detractors of BoF: Dragon Quarter. (I may be on the outside as having loved all of the originals, thinking IV was the best in terms of forming a cohesive storyline between them, while still thinking the innovations and guts of DQ were fantastic).

Aethel

I think that as a whole, RPGamers tend to be very, very prone to nostalgic sentimentality and have a hard time adjusting to changes. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it does lead to lots of instances to elevating cherished first games onto undeserved platforms, or having a hard time accepting when a series does things a bit differently. This isn't a blanket criticism, as I tend to do it myself every now and then. I'll admit that sometimes I have a knee-jerk reaction to a game I play (whether positive or negative), and sometimes I need to give the game a second playthrough to better mull over what I really think about it, or embrace any changes it may have made to an established formula.

But after seeing the beginnings of the "DQ IX aftermath" as its been billed, it started seeming a little ridiculous. What do we actually know about DQ IX? It's on the DS. It will change the battle system to real-time. It has a stellar production staff, judging from previous productions. So like Aethelred said, is there really any cause for alarm at this point? We barely know anything to be alarmed about.

Aethel

I can understand the fears, really -- it's easy to think, and worry, that traditional turn-based RPG battling may be going the way of the dodo. I just don't think we should get too far into the chicken little mentality (if I may be allowed to mix my bird metaphors). It's definitely too early to be concerned about DQIX -- I think everything shown on it has looked wonderful, and the designers have said all the right things (stressing single player gameplay, providing an epic story, and recognizing that because this game has that "IX" attached to it, they need to provide something up to a certain level).

The bottom line is, if you like the work these guys have done before (and how can anyone not?) there shouldn't be any reason to worry. The series is, as it has always been, in good hands. And since Koichi Sugiyama said he's going to keep composing Dragon Quest music until he dies, I don't think they're in any rush to kill the series off!

The biggest pre-release concern for FFXII was the battle system. It was more MMORPG, it was too real-time, it was taking away from the player's interaction. yet ironically, it seems that most of the gaming community has embraced the battle system as one of the game's strongest points beside it's incredible depth and presentation, whereas the story is actually lacking for most.

Aethel

Funny how that worked out, isn't it? I think that what you're saying as true. We really need to try to minimize negatively prejudging games just because they might be a little bit different from what we might expect (sometimes we can end up pleasantly surprised, after all). The one nice thing, though, is that these megaton controversies do help foster some pretty entertaining discussion and debate.

Personally, I think S-E is hit and miss. Major projects like FFXII and DQVIII are some of the strongest of the two series, but minor projects like Children of Mana seem to be slipping through the cracks and not receiving the attention needed to produce a solid game. (I unfortunately don't own a DS, so I can't say from experience). But as far as the specific staff members are concerned, like said before, I can't come up with many instances where I was disappointed. I guess I'm just more excited at the change in presentation because it opens up more room for variation. DQ IX on the PS2 or PS3 would likely play very similarly to DQ VIII. A stupendous game, but wouldn't we all rather play something that has grown, or developed in some facet? DQ VIII in and of itself was a jump for the series, being the first to fully utilize the 3D capabilities of the system.

Aethel

I would not at all have minded or objected to a DQVIII-styled DQIX, and I think we'll still get such a game at some point. And I also like a lot of what they're doing with DQIX. And the thing is, yeah, I know this team, and I know that no matter what direction they take the series in, each game will be fantastic and more likely than not, it'll be a product that I absolutely love.

Maybe I'm a stupid optimist, but I can't imagine we have any actual idea of how DQ IX, or FFXII: Revenant Wings, or other future games so far off, will turn out. I'd rather settle down in my comfy pants and blanket and have a party with the games I have now, because more often than not, they're still worth playing.

Aethel

Oh, geez, don't I know it! My game backlog is a brutal thing to comprehend. I don't know how I'll ever tackle it... and yet I still can't stop getting hyped for new game announcements, and I can't stop myself from being hit with waves of anticipation as these new games near release. And yet... here I am replaying old classics like Phantasy Star IV and Skies of Arcadia instead of whittling down the backlog. What in the world am I supposed to do?

(I'm also incredibly excited at the announcement of the FFT:something-in-Japanese-I-can't-read for the PSP. I echo the sentiments on FFTA being perhaps the biggest letdown ever, but S-E has been doing very well with their remakes post-Sword of Mana).

JDX

Aethel

Here's hoping!



Mac Attack


Dear [Aethiekins],

Is Rogue Galaxy going to be a sleeper hit? Have you been following it at all? I picked up the demo at Gamestop and while it wasn't horrible, it wasn't something that I wanted to rush out and pre-order.

Aethel

I'm not sure about it being a sleeper hit or an instant classic, but I'm expecting a pretty fun romp across the stars. Dark Cloud 2 was an absolute blast to play -- for my money, one of the better action RPGs last gen. It was highly polished, had a smooth, entertaining combat system combined with a fun, adventuresome story. I guess I'd say that's about where my expectations for Rogue Galaxy are. What I played at E3 seemed like an improvement over DC2 as far as combat went. For instance, the combo system and the fluid way you could interact with team members. So I'm hoping the rest of the game is similarly better.

Also, after having finished FFXII (and really enjoying it) I can clearly see that it is not perfect. What changes would you have liked to have seen? What would you like to see in other games? I've had no complaints about the game's story in terms of plot, but it just didn't seem as fleshed out as I would have liked. I really want to see the battle system used in something else of quality.

Aethel

Changes? I'm afraid you've come at a bad time -- I can't tell you what I'd change right now. I'm still in the middle of my pro-XII myth-debunking editorial series, after all! You can't expect me to switch hats too quickly, or I might end up having a debate with myself. And we all know we don't want that to happen.

What's next on the most wanted list? I'm waiting on a US date for Blue Dragon personally.

Do share.

- Macstorm

Aethel

Love to!

You know, Mac, the end of this year has been simply amazing. So many of the games I've long anticipated were released (and very few of them have disappointed)... Final Fantasy XII, Final Fantasy III, Twilight Princess, Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin, Valkyrie Profile 2, and on and on. It's hard to see how 2006 will be topped any time soon as far as RPG quality goes, doesn't it? So where do we go from here? Well, thankfully, 2007 is gearing up for a strong challenge to '06.

For me, it's looking a lot like 2007 will be the years to shine for the DS, the Xbox 360, and the Wii. Since its announcement, Dragon Quest IX has shot up to near the top of my most wanted list, and it's joined there by Blue Dragon and Fire Emblem: Goddess of Dawn. Each system also has a few more games that have me salivating at the prospect of playing them -- Dragon Quest Swords and Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers for Wii, Eternal Sonata for the 360, and FFXII: Revenant Wings and ASH for the DS (amongst many, many others).



The Age Old Question


Ok, Im a Final Fantasy Fan and I want to get a complete set of all the games 1-10. Ok I can get I &II with Final Fantasy Origins, FFiV fron Final Fantasy Chronicles, and FF V & VI from Final Fantasy Anthology and VII-X are easy to get. Where can I get III. Is the super nintendo version the same as the ds version or are they different. I don't really get the whole thing with FF2 bein FF4 in Japan and crap. Also can I get FF II for super nintendo or is it the same as the remake in Origins or is that one the same as IV. Im really confused here. Could I get a list maybe of which ones to buy to get a complete set. I would prefer to stick with Playstion over the Nintendo DS too.

Aethel

I guess twelve years later, we're still being haunted by the numbering snafus on the SNES. Let's see if we can clear up your confusion, shall we? Here's a rundown of the Final Fantasy games:

NES
Final Fantasy I: The first in the series, it was originally released on the NES, and then had upgraded ports released on the PlayStation (as Origins) and GBA (as Dawn of Souls). All three versions were released in the US.
Final Fantasy II: II followed I on the NES. That version never came out in the US, and this is where things began to go awry. II was rereleased with I on Origins and Dawn of Souls, and those two games did see English releases.
Final Fantasy III: The third game on the NES. It never came out in English then, and was the only NES/SNES game in the series to see neither a GBA nor a PSX port. Finally, FFIII got a complete remake for the DS, and just came out in the US last month.

SNES
Final Fantasy IV: The first game since FFI that saw English release on its native platform. Unfortunately, it was called "FFII" when it reached US SNES systems, not "FFIV." It got rereleased on Chronicles and FFIV Advance.
Final Fantasy V: This game never got released on the SNES in the US. It joined FFVI on Anthology, though, and last month came out as FFV Advance.
Final Fantasy VI: We did get VI on the SNES in the US, but it was called "FFIII." It shouldn't be confused with the NES' III. Final Fantasy VI came out again in Anthology, and will see release a third time when FFVI Advance comes out early next year.

I'm afraid you're out of luck on FFIII, if you're set on avoiding the DS. That's the only version of the game to get released in English.

Hope this helps ease your confusion!



Stuff


Hi

I just thought I'd discuss a few of the topics mentioned in recent Q & A columns.

Firstly voice acting...... I noticed a couple of discussions on this general topic and felt I had to add my opinions and a few questions to two of them. Firstly a comment by Vicissitude regarding "British accents" in games asking why they don't use American actors. It's been a while since I played Sudeki so sadly I can't remember the quality of the voice acting (although I do have a niggling feeling it wasn't the best), but I was wondering if this comment was aimed at non-American voice acting in general (such as Dragon Quest VIII and Fable) or just this game's examples. Surely diversity in voice acting is a good thing, as these RPGs are not generally set in the USA (with a few exceptions such as Shadow Hearts 3) so why should American actors be expected to voice act the games? In particular it was the "Hire some American voice actors" part that I had to question, if their British voice actors are poor, why not just use better British voice actors? American voice acting in games is usually awful, as is a lot of voice acting in games (for a British localised non-RPG example Forbidden Siren had atrocious vocie acting). Personally I still prefer games with an option to use the Japanese voice track even though my Japanese skills are basic at the moment. Koudelka was one game I remember being impressed with the voice work when I first played it. What games voice acting has impressed you the most?

Aethel

I think the knock against US voiceacting is several overstated. Yeah, it might've been true a number of years ago, but it's just blown out of proportion now. Having played games like Baten Kaitos Origins, Valkyrie Profile 2, Final Fantasy XII, and Tales of the Abyss, I just don't see the validity of this complaint anymore. Even in games without such stellar voice acting, the talent is still just fine. Tales of Legendia, Tales of Symphonia, Atelier Iris, Disgaea, Suikoden V -- they all sound fine.

It's always seemed to me like many of the people who proclaim the superiority of Japanese voice acting do so, despite not even understanding the language, just because of this general feeling of, you know, anything Japanese is better. And that's not always the case. There are a lot of tendencies in the Japanese voice acting that actually turn me off -- a tint of melodramatic overacting to everything, for example. And I prefer understanding what's being said, except when the reason is because of artistic decisions, which leads us to...

My other voice acting point was the discussion on "created" languages in RPGs rather than using "real" languages. The response of the poster and the host was quite negative to this system but personally I think that if it's done well it can add to atmosphere and it also means every region has the same spoken text (albeit with different subtitles). Good examples were Panzer Dragoon Saga (and the rest of the series) and Jade Empire where I thought the spoken languages assisted the game atmosphere. I find it hard to find a negative point in the good examples of this, what do you think?

Aethel

Fictional languages, when they're tied into a well developed game world that exudes a sense of artistry and style, can considerably aid in conveying the unique feel of that world. And the opening segment of Panzer Dragoon Saga (most of the game is in Japanese rather than Panzerese) is a prime example. The language was developed with the same artistic flair that made up the clothing, the character design, the architecture and general geography of that world, and so it helped to enhance the feel and the immersiveness. The same is true for, even though it's not an RPG, Shadow of the colossus. I'd have to agree that I'm a big fan -- when it's done right.

Secondly Dark Savior, being brief now. I remember the huge jumping puzzle room mentioned by JuMeSyn. I enjoyed Dark Savior, although I have to say the lack of a diagonal made the jumping easier in some cases (but it has been years since I played it). I thought it was an enjoyably different RPG. I played through the first 3 parallels, and managed to die in the last fight on the 4th (no saves) parallel. It's a pity that Climax's subsequent RPGs didn't live up to it. It does seem to be a game few people talk about, is this because people haven't played it or don't consider it worth discussing?

Aethel

Hmm. I'd actually take a different tack on this issue -- you say that it's a shame Climax's subsequent RPGs didn't live up to Dark Savior, but I think Dark Savior was part and parcel of Climax's gradual decline in quality. I didn't think the game was terribly good, which came as a pretty big shock to me when I first played it. This was, after all, the team that made Genesis classics like Shining in the Darkness and Landstalker. Of course, it's true that their RPGs after Dark Savior have generally only gotten worse (see, for instance, the abyssmal Kingdom of Paradise), but one has to look further back than the Saturn to really see these guys at the top of their game.

Thirdly Saturn RPGing. I still hold that the Saturn had a nice collection of strong RPGs (sadly a small collection though) such as Shining Force III, Dragon Force (which I've only dabbled in so far), Dark Savior, Story of Thor 2 (Beyond Oasis in US?), Shining the Holy Ark, and of course Panzer Dragoon Saga. I thought that PDS was a lot better than the competition at the time, and I enjoyed it a lot more than Final Fantasy VII. It had an interesting battle system, excellent atmosphere, and had the bonus of looking technically quite impressive for the time and system. The only real flaw was the game length as it was quite short. I enjoyed the bestiary feature with best grades etc too. Have you played this game or do you have an opinion on it?

Hmm, well I have no wordcount facility on this PC so hopefully this isn't too long, but feel free to edit and chop it into a couple of letters if needs be.

OneVurfedGwrx

Aethel

You said it. While it was a criminally ignored system in the US, and while even today most RPGamers are incredibly unfamiliar with its offerings, the fact remains that the Saturn was and is a truly fantastic system for RPGs. Sure, it couldn't compare to the original PlayStation (what could?), but despite a smaller library, it had some true classics, some genre-defining games, and a whole heckuvalotta quality. Panzer Dragoon Saga is one of the best ever made, and was a really landmark RPG in how it shifted some of the ideas in the genre's development. Then you've got some incredibly high quality games like Shining the Holy Ark, Dragon Force, Legend of Oasis (Beyond Oasis / Story of Thor was the Genesis game), Guardian Heroes (Treasure's magnum opus), and Shining Force III, and some passably fun romps like Albert Odyssey, Shining Wisdom, and Magic Knight Rayearth. Plus, even though they didn't see US releases, the Saturn was the originator of the classic Grandia and the Lunar series remakes.

It's a shame that some of these great Saturn games couldn't make their way to the Wii's Virtual Console, or even the 360's Live Arcade. Or that Sega can't or won't release any Saturn Collections for any console, or even their Sega Ages repackagings. So many people are missing out!



C L O S I N G
IN CONCLUSION:

Well, that about wraps it up for us today, boys and girls. I hope you've enjoyed my stint on Q&A, because you'll have someone entirely different filling in tomorrow -- the fearsome dragon-lady Ailise. You don't want to tick her off, so make sure you send lots of letters. As for me, I'm off to plumb the depths of Arcadia some more.


***Bryan is Dycedarg's elder brother!

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