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ASK MICHAEL
The Pirates! In an Adventure with Cactuars
December 8, 2006

Michael Beckett - 21:35 EST

Well, more like the Q&A readers, in an adventure with Cactuar, singular. Anyway, allow me to introduce myself. I'm Michael "CactuarJoe" Beckett, staff reviewer and temporary omnipotent Q&A host for a day. My favorite games are Valkyrie Profile 2: Silmeria, Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne, and the Pokemon series. I'm currently playing through Grandia 3, which is fun so far, even with a somewhat braindead plot.

Anyway, we have questions! And hopefully answers!




LETTERS
Major Mini-Games!


Ouro,

So I'm trying to finish off Kingdom Hearts 2, but I have a problem. I dig the Gummi ship mode so much that I'm neglecting the story to go through and blast more Nobody ships. It's a fun game in and of itself, much better than gummi ships in the first game.

So my question are there any other great mini-games that distract from the actual game? I know I spent hours snowboarding in FF7 until I got a copy of SSX. The dice game in Suikoden showed me that I should never go gambling as it made me an addict. And cooking in Suikoden 2 had me thinking I was ready to be on Iron Chef.

Help,
Ken

Michael

Hooray for Gummi ships! The Gummi ships in KH2 were indeed far superior to those of KH. Personally, I loved how the stages felt like rollercoaster rides.

As for other minigames, I can vouch for a few good ones. Tales of Destiny 2 had an awesome card game called WHIS, which was like Uno for fantasy geeks. Good minigames are harder to find on PS2 games, it seems, but Shadow Hearts 3: From the New World had sidequests that more or less fit the criteria. Of course, there's also math involved, so be warned. Also, while I haven't had the chance to play it, I've heard good things about the card game in Xenosaga.



Feeling hesitant about some current games?


Hey Ouro,

First of all, shame on you for not having seen Zombie Nightmare. It's one of the greats. It's got Adam West, for crying out loud!

(As an interesting little gaiden to the whole Zombie Nightmare thing, which really probably only JuMeSyn will find interesting, the dude who did all the music and starred as the zombie and directed and probably wrote Zombie Nightmare wrote a jingle or something for some sort of fitness product rather suggestively called The Pump. A cassette with the song on it was sent to my office, and I have it buried in my desk. Thor lives!)

And if I might just nerd out for a minute, any MSTies who don't know about the Digital Archive Project should Google it, go to the site, learn about it, and if they've got the willpower to follow the process, download damn near every single MST episode there is. And thank the DAP for being so awesome. (I've got every single ep, except the public television era, on data disk.)

Next, I'd like to join the ranks of those defending BoFV - Dragon Quarter, that is, for it is awesome.

First of all, the RPG genre is one of the most woefully stagnant there is, and any game that tries to turn the typical RPG game design on its ear deserves SOME degree of praise just for trying. (Note: This, of course, excludes the SaGa series, which has mined the same basic principle - make your RPG as non-linear, uneven, grueling and pointless as possible - for far too many installations now to merit any praise at all.)

This is especially true given how awful the previous two installments of Breath of Fire were. Seriously, of all the games in the series to single out, Breath of Fire III is easily the worst of the bunch. BoFIV improved on it only modestly, mostly by NOT having you trek through a barren, random-encounter filled desert using the stars and faulty information as your guide.

In fact, that in itself might be twisting my perception of BoFV: the simple fact that it was, in no way, BoFIII.

But Dragon Quarter gets even more points for managing to pull off its weird twist - the way it tells its story by having you essentially replay bits of it over and over. It's a very easily exploited system (just use Dragon power on bosses and reap the experience, then start over until you're strong enough to trounce them without it and move on), and it obviously takes you right out of the narrative, reminding you again and again that you're playing a video game - typically not ideal for an RPG. But they sort of resolve the problem by revealing new little bits of story for you as you go through the process of restarting.

It's a really odd way to tell a story, but it also provides a suitable reward for the player who's willing to make the effort to actually work out what's really going on (I finished it a few years ago, and I don't really think I understood it very much at all).

I think there's a soft spot in my heart for Dragon Quarter because it revitalized what was by all rights a dead series, and tried a rather noble experiment in storytelling that managed to not only not break the game, but provide an interesting alternative to the standard method of level-grinding. Not to mention the unique setting, and the interesting status of the Dragon powers as a sort of ticking time bomb, which really hammers home the double-edged sword feel that those powers have supposedly represented since about halfway through the BoF series.

I mean, we were always MEANT to think that Ryu (since that's the guy's default name for every BoF game) was a threat to humanity and himself as a function of his great and terrible dragon powers, but the gameplay never reflected it in previous installations of the series. It was always a great option to use to just kick some ass on the battle screen. Here there's a palpable sense of the potential destruction it could cause; it'll be game over for you if you screw up and use the power too much. It's kind of brilliant, I think.

On the other hand, it's kind of an acquired taste, and I could easily understand someone not getting into the repetition by necessity Dragon Quarter demands.

But it's still not BoFIII.

-TV's Adam

P.S. That guy who hated Xenogears? Totally fired from the band, dude.

Michael

Okay, first off, holy crap. MST3K is one of the most awesome telvision shows ever.

Secondly, I'd say that while RPGs do have a problem with stagnation, there's innovation there if you look for it. The concepts of Breath of Fire V are interesting, but the idea of restarting over and over again as a game mechanic? Yeah, count me out. To me, it feels more like a test of a gamer's resistance to irritation than anything else. Also, given that there hasn't been a new Breath of Fire entry in almost four years, I'm not sure you can say it revitalized the series.

That being said, I do agree with you about innovation in RPGs. Credit where credit is due, Breath of Fire V gets points for trying something unusual, even if I'm not fond of the result.



Questions Galorious


hello random q&a host/ess, how doth life find you this day? i am satan, and i'd like to talk to you about character design.

... okay, i'm not satan, but i do want to talk about character design. i've been playing FFIII, and i'm in love with the character design. (ingus 4eva!) i've been watching some grandia III, and that's not so bad-looking, either. and, as nearly every other person on the planet, i've been playing FFXII. that character design is making me happy as well. 'specially bathier. so my question is this: what's your favorite character design? or maybe your top five, if just one is too too hard.

my other question is more a request for recommendations. i like the weird games. katamari, ico, the cult sort of games. i'm in the middle of ookami, and i'm loving it, and i'll be playing magical starsign here eventually, but i'm hoping there's something else i can look forward to on the "odd" list. what can you suggest to me?

thanks muchly yonder q&a master!

~yatsu

Michael

Hello Satan! I'd be more than happy to talk about character design with the Beast!

My favorite individual character design, eh? That's a tough one. I've got a fondness for pretty much everything Hyung Tae-Kim and Kaneko Kazuma do, but actual individual characters? Hm.I guess if I had to pick one character, it'd be Samus Aran of the Metroid series. Her suit design is awesome, both geometric and strangely feminine, and yet doesn't fall for the usual trap of "OMG, girls must be sexy".

As for recommendations, weirdness is my speciality. ^^ Q, the development team responsible for Lumines, makes some awesomely off the wall games. Most of 'em for the PSP, unfortunately. They did make a game for the DS called Gunpey, which was based on the first game made by the world famous and unfortunately deceased Gunpei Yokoi. Like all Q games, it revolves strongly around music, and what I've heard of the soundtrack is awesome.



Next-Gen Ponderings


"Who are you, and what have you done with Matt? Also, what are your predictions for the future of the three next-gen consoles? Who will be ahead in the immediate future? The further future?" -Ouro

Michael

I've taken Matt hostage. He's part of my clone factory, dedicated to creating a hoarde of Q&A columnists. No army could stand against me!

Of the next-gen consoles, my money's currently on Nintendo. Microsoft's 360 had a huge head start, but they're playing to a very narrow section of gamers. Sony screwed up their launch pretty badly, what with the shortages and things, and I don't see the PS3 having legs until they get the price down and a larger library. The Wii has a pretty small library right now, too, but they're playing to a much, much larger audience than Sony and Microsoft. I think, as long as Nintendo gets some decent 3rd party support and doesn't limit themselves exclusively to party games like Wii Sports, it'll do exceptionally well.



QUICKIES

Do you have any thoughts on when Dragon Quest IX will be released? -Brad Hathaway

Michael
Given the amount of time between VII and VIII, I'm gonna wager somewhere on the order of "a while".

Dear CJ: Wii Zelda or GC Zelda? -Angel

Michael
As much as I'd love to play Twilight Princess on the Wii, it's going to be a while before I can afford it. NGC for me. ^^



IN CLOSING

Well, that was fun. Thanks to everyone who sent letters in, and send Ouro letters in early! The man's got important plans for the evening! Zombified weasels don't raise themselves, after all!



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cactuarjoe@rpgamer.com
Michael fears the zombified weasels.


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