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June 12, 2007

Matthew Russo - 23:43 EST

Hey everyone. I'm pulling double duty tonight as Sound Test Curator as well as Q&A Host. I planned on having the index read "Ask Matt" but that would just make me a vicious doppleganger, and I don't want that to be your first impression of me.

My life has pretty much been dedicated to Odin Sphere. I had a hard time putting it down to finish my remix.

The weather around here needs to make up its mind. Half the time its raining, the other half the time it's 90+. I thought I was from New York?

I think I've rambled enough, time to answer some questions.

My DS is just a pretty GBA

Dear Abbey (er...Matt),

I'm trying to use the classic "it's my first time writing" thing to catch your attention. Well, it is!


Well "it's my first time answering" so you've caught my attention. I'm not sure how "classic" this response is though.

Anyway, I just had to respond to all the DS-bashing. Right now, the only gaming I have been doing is DS rpg's. Or more specifically, GBA games *on* my DS. I should explain that I am a cheap bastard, and I see no reason to rush out and buy new games when they are going to be just as good, but half price, in a year. Buying used games gives me less guilt about gaming, and they resell for close (or higher, in a few cases) then what I bought them for. See, wife, no money loss!


I tend to agree with this approach although I'm lousy at following my own advice. There are a few times where I'll buy a game because I have the money regardless of whether I have the time to do it or not. I pre-ordered Final Fantasy XII a month before it was released, and didn't start playing it until the end of December. Then there is Xenosaga III, which is still sealed. I've had that for a few months now.

I just beat Fire Emblem, because I love SRPG's and felt the need to discover that series in time for the Wii version. I promptly bought FE: Sacred Stones (GBA) and FE: Path of Radience (GC), but decided to play Yggdra Union (GBA) first, which I hadn't really heard of but am enjoying. The wait at the Sec. of State's office flew by, which I appreciated. Anyway, I've realized since buying my DS lite that there is a HUGE backlog of great GBA games I missed out on, and the fact that they are easier to pick up and put down matches my lifestyle much better now (at 26, I can't play for hours and hours like I did when Chrono Trigger and Secret of Mana, or even FFX, came out). And the upcoming list of DS games has me pretty excited, I have to say. So I guess my point is all those busy and even not-so-busy rpgamers should really look into getting a might end up like me and play even when you're at home sometimes, just because it's easier to play for short bursts. And, yes, sometimes you just get hooked on the game, I'll admit it!

**Snipped Long List of Games**

Anyway, what should I tackle first?

-Liandro (bet I'm the first Liandro to write you, eh?)

You hit the nail right on the head, and I think that's why the DS is so popular all over the world. As the gaming age begins to widen, the older gaming population, who typically have full time jobs, need to be able to play in small bursts. Even console games are starting to employ "save anywhere" tactics unlike the games of the past where save points were as hard to come across as Offerings.

For me, I play portable games during the last hour or so of the night, since that gives me the chance to unwind, something I need at the end of the day, and I can stop whenever.

As for your long list (which I did read) I would suggest finding Mario & Luigi and its sequel, and for crying out loud play Minish Cap! Thanks for writing, and you're the first Liandro to write me, but I do have a Great Uncle on my Mother's side twice removed named Liandro, so don't feel too special!

A Nostalgic Narrative


One of my favorite games (it may very well be my favorite game) of all time is Super Mario Bros. 3. I played that game over and over, first on the NES, then on the Mario All-Stars compilation for the SNES. Most recently, I learned that Nintendo had released Super Mario Advance 4, which is basically SMB3 for the GBA.

"Perfect!" I cried to a not-listening world. "Thus and verily I shall have a portable rendition of the Brothers' Mario's third adventure!"

I plunked down my gold coins and jammed the cartridge into the GBA slot on my DS and begin walking through the first level. Walking, not running. It turns out that the controls are stupid.

The game allocates the "Spin Raccoon Tail/Spit Fireball/Run" functionality to the southern face button (I forget which buttons are called what, so I'm going with cartography here), which is as it should be. However, the Jump button is not, as is logical, the western face button. It is, in fact, the EASTERN face button, and there's no way to change it. This means that, instead of holding down the Run button with the ball of your thumb and tapping down with the tip of your thumb to jump (a precise way of controlling Mario), you must hold down Run with one part of your thumb while either pivoting or rocking your thumb to hit Jump (highly imprecise). Gah.


Super Mario Bros. 3 was one of those games I would pick up and play whenever I wanted to, opting either to use warp whistles or just play thought the whole thing. All-Stars was a welcome addition to my SNES library when it was released, as my NES had seen better days. I didn't hear about this GBA remake, but it sounds like it annoyed you very much. However, I think that you played too much All-Stars for your own good. If I understand you correctly, you're annoyed because the original A and B buttons were mapped to...A and B. In the NES adventure A jumped (A being the higher, and more "eastern" of the two), while B accelerated. Maybe I'm not understanding, and it's late.

Either way I'm glad we both had that trip down memory lane.

In RPG news, Etrian Odyssey continues to be the best RPG for the DS. The Third Stratum is gorgeous, the Ronin class (once you unlock it) interesting, and the challenge remains high. Once you put down Pokemon (to which I shall actually return after finishing Etrian Odyssey), I know you're going to love EO.

And a Wii sequel with DS connectivity would completely make my day, if such a thing were announced. So, here comes my question: what DS game would you like to see a Wii sequel for, and how would the connectivity work? In Etrian Odyssey's case, of course, the DS would be used for map-making and inventory, while the Wii would handle displaying the Labyrinth and the battles. What's your choice? And you can't pick Pokemon, since Battle Revolution has already been announced.

Good luck withstanding the heat. Imagine my suffering further south than you, that'll make you feel better. Every summer I contemplate applying to the University of Anchorage for graduate studies.



It seems everyone is crazy about this game. I never would have heard of it if I didn't read Q&A. I guess I'll have to go see if I can find a copy for my bedside DS.

I'm looking at my DS library, and any game that I have either a) doesn't use the touch screen, or b) is a 3d game that would be better suited to using an analog stick. However, I love Trauma Center: Second Opinion, so I think there are some great DS games that can work effectively on the Wii as a sequel. As for a game that would include connectivity, why Tingle DS of course. But seriously now, I think that a game like Mario Party could have amazing potential if it used some sort of DS/Wii connectivity. I guess that doesn't really answer your question either. I haven't played it yet, but Phoenix Wright sounds like it could work really well on the Wii, similar to the success Trauma Center had. Use the DS for microphone and touch screen stuff. I think this year's E3 will shine a lot of light on this connectivity.

Thanks for writing!

You know what they say about big hands.

Hi Matt

You know I keep trying to fall in love with the DS and PSP portable systems but I keep failing. It must be my age or something but I really don’t find them comfortable to hold for the length of time needed. It is a bit silly to admit especially since I have a really long commute where I could comfortably play games as I do read for the entire trip. I have tried many times to use both systems for the trip but it comes down to me finding the systems not comfortable to hold. It is sad really. The last system that I found nice to hold was the Lynx by Atari but neither the DS nor the PSP is easy. I find the DS fiddly with its stylus and the PSP is too heavy. (Maybe I need to buy a newer DS? I have an original)

For me I find that I keep coming back to RPG’s for the stories. I like the game play aspects of a well done game but the ones that I really remember had stories that generated real emotion in me. Like a good book those games which make you feel an attachment to the characters make them memorable to me. I don’t just include RPG’s in this mix since some of the best story driven games have nothing to do with the actual game style. (Half Life 2 anyone) Just my $0.02.



I've heard this one a lot. The DS lite fits perfectly in my hands, so I can't really say the same for that. The PSP is heavy though. I heard that Pelican released a NERF DS skin or whatever, that makes it cushy with about a half inch of foam on the side. Supposedly it makes the DS easier to hold too. There are some great games out there though, so I hope you can find a way to overcome your pained hands.

I can't remember a game I didn't play for the story. I guess Aladdin for the SNES would be one of them. And some FPS, but other than that adventure, RPG, action, you name it I play it because it has a great story. I can't number how many times I played through FF6 just because I loved watching Kefka throw Gestahl off the floating continent.

Thanks for the change!


Dear Matt

Is the DS a good platform for RPGs? I think you pretty much answered that yourself when you said "The DS is the place to be for RPGamers of all stripes, looking at it from a completely objective point of view," and I'm inclined to agree.


Now you've gone and put words in my mouth. But I think Matt is absolutely right. The DS has something going for it, and that something is versatility. Wi-Fi, Touch Screen, Microphone, Two Screens, and on top of all that a Gameboy Advance slot makes this little guy a force to be reckoned with.

However, it sometimes seems to me that there are only a few games in the DS RPG library that really use DS controls well. It seems like the most popular DS RPGs don't bother using the DS's uniqueness very much at all, and may as well have been developed for another, more powerful platform. Just look at Final Fantasy III, Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow, Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time, Mega Man Battle Network 5, Children of Mana, and Pokemon Diamond/Pearl. Many other DS RPGs really try to incorporate DS controls into the main gameplay, and wind up being terrible. Look at Lunar: Dragon Song, Lost Magic, Deep Labyrinth, Tao's Adventure, Digimon World DS, and Spectrobes.

That's not to say that EVERY DS RPG has to be in one category or the other. Games like Dragon Quest Heroes, Lost in Blue, Chocobo Tales, Puzzle Quest, Lunar Knights, Pokemon Ranger, and Contact are all DS games that use the system's capabilities to some achieve some nifty results. My problem is that these games aren't considered by many to be AAA titles, and some of them can barely even be considered RPGs at all. What I want, and am waiting for, is a AAA RPG for the DS that can truly be identified as a DS-specific game that cannot be done on any other platform. I'm hoping that Zelda: Phantom Hourglass and Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings, with their very heavy use of touch-screen control, can make me a believer.



I think it's great that we have games that use touch and games that don't. I like to think of the Nintendo DS as the GBA's younger brother who happened to get the better education since he was a little younger. Keeping that in mind, the DS is still a Gameboy at heart, and should be treated as such. Some of the games you listed tried to put touch screen in them and they were horribly slow, or completely useless. Children of Mana comes to mind, as all of the menus can be navigated by stylus, but the time it takes to take the stylus out and "double-click" each menu item is not worth the effort.

I do hope that some games start to use the touch control however. I would love to see Tactics A2, or a game in that vein be controlled by the stylus. Other than that, RPGs may not be the genre for touch control. I am glad that the genre is staying alive on the DS even if it doesn't use all of the functionality. It saves me from having to buy a PSP.

I think it's interesting that you cite Phantom Hourglass, and Revenant Wings as your "believer games" while both games have very "un-RPGlike" cores. Zelda is always on debate as to its validity as a RPG, while Revenant Wings is reportedly more RTS than RPG. I am very excited about the latter though! Perhaps that will make me a believer too. Thanks for writing!


Well that was a lot of fun! I hope I get a chance to do this again. I had kinda hoped I would answer a few more letters but it's not as easy as it looks! Be sure you keep writing letters so that Matt has something to respond to tomorrow. Since I can I want to plug The Grand Audition, I think you should tell all your remixing friends, and have them tell all of their friends too.

Just in case you didn't hear Matt last time, he'd like to hear from you about control schemes: Are there any games (RPGs, preferably) out there where you just can't stand the way the controller is set up? Does Radiata Stories' control scheme annoy you as much as it did for me? Write in, and let us know! We'll be glad to hear from you.

Well it was fun, but now I'm going to go unwind with some FFIII. So long everybody.

Send a Letter!

Unanswered Letter Backlog: ?? - I have no idea, sorry!
Matt (Bari) will try to figure that out soon!

Wow, I finally get to play with this!!!

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On my Wishlist:

1. Super Smash Bros. Brawl

2. Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings

3. Heroes of Mana

4. Disgaea DS

5. Zelda Wii

On my Portable Playlist:

1. Children of Mana

2. Final Fantasy III

3. Leaf Green

On my Console Roster:

1. Odin Sphere

2. Trauma Center: Second Opinion

3. Okami or Xenosaga III

Hot Topics:

1. Grand Audition Round 1 Results!

2. What is your favourite RPG class... and why?

3. The DS: Hunk of trash, or rich with greatness?

4. Which games have frustratingly poor control schemes?

5. Which console RPG would you like to see legitimately in handheld form?

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