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ASK ANDREW
Well-cut Slacks January 16, 2005

Andrew Long - 17:42 EST

AFTER YEARS OF ARBITRARILY REFERRING TO IT, the management at my work finally handed out the dress code today, and I'm left with a quandary. You see, it allows us to wear "matching tank tops, under a jacket," but not sleeveless shirts. Now, I'm no fashion magnate, but it seems to me that a tank top is a sleeveless shirt, yes?

But this is probably of the greatest unconcern, so let us proceed to more important things, like wrangling over the text of Magic Cards and discussing the finer points of Final Fantasy XI and Final Fantasy XII. It's not much of an intro, granted, but it beats the heck out of the one I came up with earlier while the site was down. Irritation is not my friend!



Ramblebox
All 404 and no site makes Andrew somethingsomething... All 404 and no site makes Andrew somethingsomething...

-AL  


L E T T E R S
OOPS


Hey Andrew, (Or google if he takes this, LOL)

Well, today is 1-14. My Birthday. I'm sending this because A: You need letters, as you've said. B: Well, there really isn't a B, I guess, because you don't even know me. But anyway, as for questions, If today was YOUR Birthday, what games (or anything really) would you ask for? And also, do you think I made the right choice asking for Minish Cap and the Final Fantasy movie for my birthday? (I personally loved the FF movie; sure it could have tied in with one of the games more, but it was very good for what it was) Anyway, even you don't use it, I sent you a letter. Enjoy!

-Joey Janowski.


ANDREW

If today was my birthday, I would ask for Metroid Prime 2 or an NDS, since eventually FFIII will be out for the portable, which I must play. I think if you liked that movie, then you were spot-on asking for it; I personally think it's one of the lousier movies I've ever seen, but hey - different strokes for different folks, and Mr. Belvedere at 8:30! Anyhow, there's no arguing about Minish Cap, cuz from what I've heard it's one of the best Zelda games in quite some time.

So happy birthday, belatedly, and enjoy your game and movie, however hard I might find the prospect of the latter.



"TRENDS"


Hey Andrew

With the whole popular gaming scene turning more towards FPS games these days, do you still think RPG's will be able to compete? I'm sure there will always be faithful RPG players, but do you really think the companies making these games are really making as much effort as they should to recruit new gamers? It's looking more and more as if we're going to need to pull off another FF7 miracle....

-Liquid


ANDREW

I wouldn't say the popular gaming scene is any more FPS-oriented than usual; it just so happens that several of the biggest and best FPS titles in years have come out this year, and several others such as Quake IV have been announced. There isn't really anything big on the horizon for next year, so I would tend to suggest that your fears are a tad overblown. Besides, what Japanese companies have been releasing FPS titles? From what I can see, this year had a fairly standard crop of RPGs at around fifty or so, and if anything, the genre that's been getting overdone there is the Devil May Cry-Action RPG sort of dealie that it seems gamers just can't get enough of.

Stateside, meanwhile, some very prominent MMORPGs have come out, and there are sequels in the works for Fallout and something along the lines of NWN from Bioware. KotOR 2 came out to fairly good reviews, Fable was launched with great fanfare, and generally speaking, the genre continued at roughly the same sluggish pace it always has this side of the Pacific. So I guess what I'm saying is, sorry Pumpkins - I just can't share your bleak world view.



BUT CLASSIFYING PEOPLE AS STUPID OR INSANE IS HALF THE FUN...


Dear Cast,

Don't worry; I get it...the other Andrew is not there anymore, so you don't have to classify me as insane or stupid or what ever you do with irrelevent e-mails.

Now, on to a serious question or two.

First, I own Star Ocean 3, Disagea, Pahntom Brave, La Purelle Tactics, and soon plan on getting Growlanser Generations (since its seems like one of those games that will become a rarity soon like Lunar 2 or1 for that matter). Anyway, even though I have them all, I play them one at a time, not all at once, and I am currently working on Kingdom Hearts:Chain of Memories. So, my question is if you had all your favorites like I have mine, would you play them all at once like each one a few hours a day, or would you play them one game at a time until one is finished?
ANDREW

The fact that I have like seven games on the go is the best evidence that I am in the "few hours a day" school, though in general I'll play each game for a few days before growing bored with it. Hurts for continuity a little, but it never hurts to do things thusly on a short attention span!

Second, I read that letter about the wrestling RPG idea, and the idea is not what really interests me but what he said about how the character travels from one town to another. My question about this is what do you think would be a better way to travel through an RPG? Do you think it would be better to have a hub where you could go to different locations while building up your hub to fit your own style like Disagea maybe, or do you think it would be better to follow a linear path and build yourself up as you go while having the option to travel back to past places to engage in side quests like Xenosaga, or maybe a combination of both like FFX-2?

Well, that's all, so good luck getting people to write in and all that.
Eucerin


ANDREW

Or even better, what about a world map that you can travel over at your leisure and visit places both in a linear fashion AND as you please, as the game dictates? I guess I'm getting too old-fashioned for this...



I'LL SHOW YOU ERRATA...


Dear Andrew,

Don't you keep up on your errata? Mounted Archers doesn't "block creatures with flying," it "may block as though it had flying!"

Five tons of Flax,
Davis

P.S. Bill Rose must be stopped from making another Champions of Kamigawa.


ANDREW

Maybe your suckass Mounted Archers can block as though it had flying, but my mounted archers, from 7th edition, can block creatures with flying, which I would prove to you if only my camera had batteries. It doesn't though, so I guess you'll just have to take my word for it. And what is that word? pwned!



ONE-DIMENSIONAL TWO-DIMENSIONAL THINKING


Hey. I thought that the misery that was Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles was going to be repeased as FF:CC DS. And the misery of FFXI is going to be continued as FFXII seems to just be an offline version of FFXI.
ANDREW

Djes, that unfortunate remake slipped my mind for some reason. I guess I was kind of hoping if I ignored it, it would go away.

Anywho, am I the only one that is dreadfully hoping that the Nintendo DS doesn't kill off the Gameboy Advance anytime soon? Because currently, I am enjoying this Neo SNES-esque era of games such as Metroid Zero Mission, Zelda: Minish Cap and FF: Tactics Advance while 3D console games continue to suck ass (FFX-2, FFXI, BoF V, Suikoden 3, Star Ocean 3, Drakenguard, Unlimited Saga, too many to mention). I even thought it was announced Square Enix was going to make a new, traditional 2D Final Fantasy for the GBA, but I guess this is going to be scrapped in favor of FF3 DS. I remember a few years ago they announced a 2D GBA Final Fantasy RPG based on FF Unlimited anime. This was turned into a cell phone RPG instead, what a lovely decision.

It seems this blissful alternative to 3D console games (I play them on the Gameboy Player anyway) is going to be killed with the advent of Nintendo DS and Sony PSP. So now we'll have crappy 3D console games and crappy 3D handheld games. The second age of SNES-type 2D bliss will be over. Maybe both the DS and PSP will fail miserably and GBA will live on. Probably not, since Nintendo and Sony are both rich and stubborn. Maybe the future of blissful 2D games will continue on cell phones. God I hope not.

- Elranzer


ANDREW

Or, maybe you could just learn to find the 3D games that play like your precious 2D games, or better yet, just accept that 3D games are here to stay. They're not uniformly bad, and enough companies make games that are effectively 2D (Paper Mario, though it contains some 3D elements, really isn't much more than a platformer you could find on, oh, say, the Virtual Boy) that it really doesn't matter. Besides, RPGs are RPGs no matter how many dimensions you cast them in, and inevitably it all comes down to pressing A or X several thousand times on the slow trek to victory.



THE BEARMAN SPEAKETH AGAIN


Cast,

Well, imagine my surprise and delirium, when I pop in to check out the ole' weekend edition of Q&A and I find myself staring at a question I had all but forgotten I had sent you. Fantastic! Well answered, too. One of these days I'm going to finish that game (with lowered standards), but probably not anytime soon.

So, Fullmetal Alchemist. I've watched what they've shown on Cartoon Network, and it's been fairly enjoyable so far. From what little I've read about the game, it sounds like it could fit the show quite nicely as an Action RPG. That being said, how well do you think this will do in the states? Did it sell well in Japan? Didn't they already announce that further installments are in development? I don't remember if you were ever a big Action RPG fan. This game looks like it could hold some fun times, but maybe just as a rental. What do you think?

The Bearman


ANDREW

I haven't been following it that closely, admittedly, but I do recall it doing fairly well during the first few weeks it was on sale. The fact that it's being localized is a good indication of its marketability, at any rate; of course, the fact that the cartoon is also stateside is probably a big factor in both of those things, so who knows what would be happening if the Cartoon Network hadn't decided to pick it up. If you're curious as to how the game plays, might I recommend the following? I hear it's great..the writing, that is. Not so sure what he thought of the game.

As to Action RPGs, to be quite honest, they're pretty much the only RPGs I ever seem to get around to finishing these days, aside from the occasional Final Fantasy. Part of this stems from the fact that they tend to be shorter than traditional RPGs, and part of it stems from the fact that by and large, many action RPGs offer more in the way of entertainment value. Either way, I likey.



I...SEE


Hmmmm, cheese is truly a sweet thing that has saved my life on many occasions. Well then, onto my question.. I have just recently finished FFVII for my second playthrough, with the first time being a span of its release to a restarted game in the year 2000.But when i played it this time around I focused alot more onto what the story of final fanatsy seven was, and i realized quite a few interesting things. What I would like to know is if I am the only person who managed to pick alot of bible allusions and themes or am i just imagining things. The ancients could represent the angels, with Jenova being satan who was casted from heaven and deemed a fallen angel. Later on sephiroth would be created from Jenova, being the anti christ who is destined to destroy the world. Things then focus onto Aeris, who is eventually slain by Sephiroth, one of her own, and thus could represent Jesus . Then when the world is at risk she is reborn from the mako and saves it. And also cloud would easily represent human corruption the struggle to overcome it.

ANDREW

That's one of my favorite things about FFVII; even almost a decade after its release, there are still people coming up with new interpretations of its story. While I personally haven't come across this particular interpretation, I can't help but think that all the angel imagery was in there for a reason, so I can't discount your theory, however much I might not be completely sold on that particular version of events. That's why it always irritates me when people grumble about the lack of a definitive ending to FFVII; part of the awesomeness of the ending we were given is that it leaves things open to interpretation, and to me, that's what all great stories should do: let the reader figure things out rather than hitting them over the head with it.



ARR...


Hey Cast-er of odd and hazy magic,

You're into the Shin Megami games, right? Atleast if memory serves me right you are. Anyways, I know Nocturne has never been much of a topic, but to those that have completed it, what were you're thoughts? (No Spoilers, just impressions.) My ending was cool, but after 80 hours of gameplay (not including those few lost hours of going through a dungeon just to meet my Maker in the worst way) a two or three minute cutscene just didn't seem to suffice as an appropriate "reward".

After venting the frustration and burning down a few houses (the imaginary kind, have you) I was really looking forward to Digital Devil Saga, but now it's slated for March (Gamestop's) or February 15 release (Game Informer's). Either way, are you looking forward to it? Hopefully, your sad plea for letters will be granted with such a response that your inbox's guts will explode from.. excessive... letter....gluttony?

just be good, V Give the world a lift if you've got room cause mine's a two seater.


ANDREW

I must confess, while I have more than a passing interest in several games in the series, I have never gone so far as to purchase one, though I had SMT:N in my grimy paws briefly before I decided on World of Warcraft instead. Unfortunately, as it stands I'm not gonna have money to buy games for a while, so the next thing I pick up will probably be either Dragon Quest VIII or Final Fantasy XII (or, hopefully, a discount bin version of Metroid Prime 2? We can all dream ^^)

At any rate, as you can see from this weekend's delightfully chubby columns, letter flow has increased nicely... I just hope you guys keep it up (and to anyone whose letter didn't get posted this weekend, I promise: I'll get to it next week if it survives to Thursday night.)



HOISTED BY MY OWN PETARD, WHATEVER THAT MEANS


Castomel,

I don't really understand why people are so dissapointed so early about FXII's battle system. I know it is a radical change, but I don't think that will make the game feel like its predecessor, FFXI. I think that if it is done correctly, it may actually be extremely innovative. However, if the enemies have 'aggro' and you have to set your party up accordingly like FFXI, I might be a little worried. A tank taking all the damage, mages timing their spells, spamming of provoke-like skills... I highly doubt that it will be anything like that at all. From what it looks like, the plot is still a focal point in the game. FFXI was built around leveling, and I don't care how similar the battle systems are, MMORPGs and RPGs are completely different breeds of games. The battle engagement doesn't bother me in the slightest. I know and am just about certain there will still be a heavy focus on plot and a MUCH lighter emphasis on battling than FFXI. So what is everyone freaking out about? Even if FFXI and FFXII had identical battle systems, the fact you are controlling all of the characters and not just one makes them completely different. My point is that saying FFXII is going to suck because the battles remind you of FFXI is really quite stupid, and I've already heard that from people this early.

I HIGHLY doubt that FFXII is going to just 'flop', and I bet you will enjoy it, as well as most people. No FF has really done poorly, and has at least done average or beyond by a majority's opinions (I believe). Even with a lot of SE's staff gone, they still had a very solid team work on FFXII, including some people that previously worked with FFVII, FFT (music, character design... yay!) and uhh... well I'd have to do research and that is a pain.

QUESTION: What horrifies you so much about FFXII's battle system exactly?

-Brendan Mesick

P.S. By the way, I'd just like to flatter you in saying that you are my favorite reviewer on this site by far. You should review more games!


ANDREW

There is actually not just one thing that horrifies me; the problem is threefold. Prong the first is that this is Development Division 4, the team that somehow thought the action and pacing in Vagrant Story would equate to endless hours of fun, when in fact all it equated to was endless hours. Prong the second is that FFXI had a badly executed MMORPG battle system, and MMORPG battle systems aren't very engaging at the best of times. Prong the third is, well, quite frankly the fact that I fear such changes to my most beloved series, and I can't help but be worried by ASV's firsthand accounts of the game's battles, which he described as "terrible." I trust Zach, even though he had some strange problem with FFX and a few other games, so I can't help but be disquieted.

Nevertheless, you're absolutely right when you say that saying that FFXII is going to suck is really quite stupid because I haven't played the game and I've excoriated people here for doing exactly that so I apologize for being such a big ugly hypocrite and I promise: you will not hear another word of it here from me. I will reserve judgment on FFXII until I have played it and while what I have heard of the battle system surely gives me cause for concern, I will not continue my griping.

Well... Here, anyway. All bets are off if you catch me on IRC.



UNFIT FOR PRINT


Hello,

I wasn't going to ask this because I'm sure I'm in the minority here, but since you asked for letters, here you go. What is up with that cell shading crap? We left 2D to go 3D and it took me a while to get used to 3D. Now I like it and how much more visually stunning each game is getting. Suddently they throw that cell shading junk at us. To me it seems like a step in the wrong direction. What's next? Are we going back to 8 bit graphics on the PS2? No, ok seriously, the sad thing is that not only did we (the players) accept this kind of lazyness, but a lot of reviews gave games like Zelda Windwaker, Viewtiful Joe? and Breath of Fire V excellent marks for graphics. Yes, I said lazyness because (although not a programmer) it seems that 3D polygons are a whole lot harder to write than crappy "Rugrats" style animation. Am I way off? Well, I hope that trend dies because I was all excited about the latest Breath of Fire but was extremely turned off by the screenshots.

-Jeremy


ANDREW

While you're certainly entitled to your ridiculous opinion, Cel shading is by no means a step backwards. Breath of Fire V has cel-shaded characters, yes, and it also has very detailed backgrounds and character art. It's the contrast between the bright, colourful characters and the dank, awful world they live in that makes the game as beautiful as it is, and I don't think they could have achieved that without the cel shading. Wind Waker, meanwhile, wanted to reflect a certain atmosphere, and hey presto: it worked perfectly! Just because the graphics are cartoonish does not make them low-detail or anything; if you would just get past the simple fact that it's officially "childish", you would see that the game actually has a higher level of artistic detail than Ocarina of Time, and that great care has been taken to balance the colours and generally use the style to its utmost.

It certainly isn't as though Nintendo is lazy in its graphical efforts; Pikmin was pretty impressive, and Metroid Prime looked amazing for its time. Part of the reason I think cel-shading was chosen for Wind Waker was the field of view they chose to go with; rendering that ocean in any sort of detail over that distance would have slowed things down pretty horribly, I would think. At any rate, cel-shading is not a step backwards by any means; it's just a different style of art than the "realism" people clamour for, and if anything, it probably ages better too, because I remember Ocarina of Time seemed pretty realistic back in the day, but if you look at it now, it's more cartoonish than Wind Waker.



C L O S I N G
MINIONS:

Hmm. It occurs to me this template lacks a bottom mailto. Pretend it has one for now, and come Friday, we will discuss all the bottom mailings your heart desires. For now, however, I return you to Google, who as of Thursday wished to talk about..."the games of 2005." That sounds kind of like one of those Homer fantasies to me, like the one with the donuts: "And Miss February is a VISION in pink icing.." Now, picture it with Final Fantasy XII, and send him a letter describing your mental state afterwards! It's a valid psychiatric exercise, you betcha!

castomel@rpgamer.com
Sometimes, an Andrew Long is just a cake.


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