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July 1, 2007

Matthew Russo - 18:30 EST

Well I never thought I'd be doing this again, yet here I am - Greetings.

The gaming world is at a standstill right now as my 12 year old cousin has been hogging the Wii all weekend playing Wii Sports. I won't complain because she's getting everyone else in the house interested in playing Wii Sports. I must say though, Resident Evil 4 is a fantastic game, I just finished up the Gamecube Version. A+!

I'm not very good at this introduction stuff so let's skip right onto the letters, eh?

Well that was my introduction for the column I meant to have up yesterday, but my computer and internet didn't feel like cooperating with me. So now I'm backing up my computer onto data DVDs so I can send my computer into Apple. Either way, onto the letters!

Before advancing the story, collect 3,000 GP

Hi Matt!

I have developed a horrible habit lately, but it is not my fault. I stop playing games before completing the main quest. This is a terrible sin, harking back to childhood days when I bragged to my younger brother that I always completed games while his attention span was not mature enough to beat the lengthy, 6 hour NES games we played. Not so surprisingly, in young adulthood he is a Madden fanatic while I play RPGs.


I think we all reach a point in our 'Gaming Age' where we just get bored easily, I know I did a few years ago. Either that or the games they're making lately are junk.

This new sin is not my fault because RPGs have the nasty habit of pumping up the volume of the random battles to ear bleeding levels at the end of the game. Games that start with 5 room dungeons and a random encounter every 10 steps end with 60 room dungeons and a random encounter every 3 steps. Unless the battle system is a highlight of the game (I am caressing my copy of SMT:Nocturne while I type that), this random battle craziness ends up changing the gameplay from what made the first 30 hours enjoyable to a different, and often less fun experience. The result: I adored and was addicted to Etrian Odyssey until the last few floors of the main quest, which I forced myself to complete just to pat myself on the back for finishing the game. Valkyrie Profile 2 was amazing, except for the inconsistent, roller coaster difficulty of the random encounters. I did not finish it because the gameplay got tiresome and one of the final bosses stomped my precious valkyrie face so far into the dirt that I knew I would have to level grind to continue. The same exact thing happened with Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin, and I only got about 3/4 of the way through Persona 2 before the suddenly lengthy, unexitable dungeons wore me down (yes, I joined the Persona party 7 years late). I can generally tell within the first few hours if a new game is going to be excellent, unplayable, or average. All the games listed above gave off the "excellent" vibe through the first 2/3 of the game, but now I gag whenever I think of touching them again. If the first half of an RPG consistently features fun, 20 minute dungeons, why change the gameplay to have tedious 120 minute dungeons by the game's end? If 120 minute dungeons fit the gameplay, then use them all game. For me, one of the strong, consistent gameplay aspects of the Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest series is that they both tend to keep dungeon lengths and difficulty consistent throughout a game until the inevitable gigantic tower dungeon where the final boss sleeps.


See above. But seriously, some games become a chore to play. I hear you loud and clear about Portrait of Ruin, I had a hard time finishing that game, especially because it became so tedious. I eventually beat it to 100% just so I would never have to touch the thing again. Children of Mana is another great example of a game that is tedious, especially since the main story has such jumps in difficulty because the developers expect you to do the Dudbear missions in between and level up. This is another one of those "beat it so I can get rid of it" games, especially since I have FFIII waiting for me.

Optional post game quests have gone this route for me too, from "fun" to "leaving a long lasting, bitter taste in my mouth". When I finish a game I want to feel as though I actually completed it. This doesn't necessarily mean that I experienced everything the game has to offer; I just want to feel as though the game has finished with me when I have finished with it. I don't want unexplored 100 floor dungeons or legions of impossible, optional bosses staring at me as I place the game back in the case. I want to be able to give the game a final warm hug as I place it on the bookshelf. I rarely get a "no it's over!" feeling from games because, to be blunt, I think most RPGs are too long even before the unattainable post game goals appear.



I like the idea of having post game quests available to you, especially because if you want to return to a game with a great battle system, you can continue where you left off and enjoy it that way. However, some games have sidequests with useless rewards or stat boosts, especially after beating the main story. All in all though, if a game doesn't include some post-quests or sidequests they'll get canned at the reviews. Developers have to earn a living after all.

Thanks for writing!


Hello Matt

I must say after recently completing Shadow Hearts 3: From the new world I was very dissappointed in it, especially when compared to Shadow Hearts 2: Covenant. What a huge let down on a game we PAL gamers had to wait over a year for. Although it was a good game on in it's on right, just nothing compared to SH2 (Which is one of the best games I've ever played, great gameplay, interesting characters, fantastic story with an ending I never saw coming). Speaking of SH, I recently found a copy of the oridganal in my local Gamestation. What a find! (Considering how rare it is) I delibrately hid it behind some other games as my friend kindly offered to buy it for me. Lets hope she buys it before some other person finds it and gets there first!!


Maybe it's my cynical nature, but a sequel is never satisfying for me. There are very few games that break this trend for me (Chrono Cross and Kingdom Hearts II come to mind), but typically a sequel never really shines above it's predecessor. However, Shadow Hearts 2 was an imporvement over the original, so perhaps my theory is flawed.

I do love finding those hidden gems in game shops. Good for you!

Lets go through some of the hot topics...

1. Have sidequests in RPGs gone a little bit overboard recently? I don't think so in my opinion... as long as it doesn't get too silly. It's what keeps me playing after I've finished a game (unless there's a new game+ at the end which I wasn't aware of, I'm looking at you Shadow Hearts and Okami) and the more the better.

2. Are you an RPG Packrat? (Do you hoard items and then never use them?) YES! I am absolutely terrible for doing this. I don't have a backlog as I don't buy any games untill I've completed the one that I'm currently playing, I don't leave games unfinished but the only thing I do is hoard items. Potions, phoenix downs, anything! I'll have 50 in my possesion, use 5 and then refuse to use anymore because I might "run out" It really doesn't make any sense, haha. It's a bad habit I can't get rid off.


I am the worst RPG packrat, but lately I've been getting better at it. The Rocket Launcher in RE4 was the worst thing. I also have a problem when if I'm buying an item, I must buy it so that I have some multiple of 10.

5. Are Final Fantasy III's job-change-requirements refreshing or annoying? I found it a bit of both, because one half of me wanted to try out different jobs and styles... but the other half was saying that sticking with the same jobs would make me more powerful and would be less hassel. The latter half won and I ended up sticking with the same jobs for most of the game. Also, the "transition phase" also put me off changing jobs too many times, although I never really understood what it did. Do you?

If I could pick a job it would have to be either a Red mage or a Dragoon. You gotta love them!


I still haven't played too much of FFIII, but they didn't bother me too much either. I would definitely pick a ninja, just so I could be ambidextrous. Anyway, thanks for writing!

New Game -

Being an RPG packrat isn't always a bad thing. These days, there are more and more games that let you transfer over some or all of your saved items when you start a new game, which definitely rewards packrats who like to replay games, like myself. Maybe this feature is becoming more common because developers know that there are so many packrats among us?

I think you have a point there, and it's true that there are more and more games with New Game+ modes. However, I do think that developers are packaging in these extras so that they aren't canned at the reviews, and so that they can have the replay value that gaming journalists put too much stock in. Plus, why would they give you a new game+ mode so that you would be a packrat? All you do is get the item again.

Black Mages on your iPod?

Hey-o Matt,

Yeah these AxG letters are probably a large part of your letter "problem". Cause I'm sure to be writing a letter every day now, cause...bonus points! Ahem, moving on....

I like beating games. But also I get sad that I just beat something that was fun and now I really have no reason to keep playing it. I really liked beating both the Kingdom Hearts games. But after finishing #2 I was really bummed about games for a while. It was such a good game it was hard to let it end.


Yeah, It can be dissappointing to finish a really great game. I did the same thing with Kingdom Hearts 2, making sure I got every last extra before finishing the game. However, once you beat it, it's over. Luckily a game like Kingdom Hearts will probably never end, but some games only get one game, and those are the saddest.

Then again I can always play them again, but then I'd be neglecting my massive backlog. not that FFTactics isn't already causing that problem.

Oh and mandatory job changes are all well and good, but I still hate them. It's taking away a bit of my freedom in game play. If I want a party consisting of nothing but Black Mages, that should be my choice. Sure it's not balanced, and I can't cast mini, but why does that matter? I can nuke my way to victory!


Of course! The first time I played Final Fantasy I had a party of 4 Red Mages. I didn't care if they were going to be pretty mediocre at everything, at least they could do everything!

Speaking of Black Mages, I'm listening to said rock group now. Have you ever given them a listen? I was actually pretty surprised to find them on iTunes, since they don't sell many game/anime music soundtracks. Though I guess it's actually a band so maybe they made an exception?

Anyway, must go level my massive party of Archers in Tactics.



The Black Mages are awesome, they really do some great things. I would love to see them in concert. iTunes has been slowly adding more soundtracks to the US iTunes Music Store. Apparently at the Japan iTunes Music Store there are quite a few albums, so perhaps that is good news for the US/PAL territories in the future. Thanks for writing in!


Well the second time was fun, and who knows if I'll be doing this again, but write me a few letters anyway! In fact, I think I'll even request a few topics for question, I'll try not to have them too music-sided.

So until next time, I hope everyone keeps writing in. I'm not sure if I'll fill in again, but count on Q&A for seven days a week from now on. Send in a letter or two about Video Game movies, I'd be interested to hear opinions on that. Thanks again, and have a great week!

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