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ASK ANDREW
Everybody's Going Off the Deep End February 25th, 2005

Andrew Long - 1:39 EST

SO, IT SEEMS AS THOUGH HUNTER S. THOMPSON's tragic love affair with guns has finally been sealed in a more or less predictable fashion. While I don't pretend to profess any especial emotion at his, um, untimely passing, I do tip my cap in his direction, since he has had a profound impact on American counterculture lo these many years. He also wrote one of my favorite novels, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and for that I thank him. Without that book, for instance, I would never have known that there are few things more dangerous than a man in the depths of an ether binge, and since many of my fellow staff members undergo regular ether therapy to replenish their "MP", whatever that means, I figure I'm much better prepared for the danger.

Actually, now that I think about it, you're all a lot of ether hopheads, aren't you? Oh, I know how it is.. You need a few more points of magic for that one last Firaga, to "keep you alive", so to speak. THAT'S HOW IT BEGINS! Soon, you're downing the stuff like a madman, dropping vial after vial of sweet ether every time you so much as cast Esuna! Then every last Gil you collect goes into buying more, until you're lying there on the curb with a bunch of broken glass around you, glowing some colour that hasn't appeared in any rainbow, your pupils the size of dartboards, shrieking "LIFE IS SHORT... BURY!" and grabbing onto people's ankles as they try to save the world in your stead.

I want to help you, I really do, and I'm not here to judge you, but the first thing you have to do is admit that there's a problem. Spells like Osmose were designed for people like you, and if you'd only get up out of that gutter and turn around, you'd see that there's a lovely inn with a nice fluffy bed that charges only 1 GP for you to sleep, and sure, there might be thieves that come in the night to steal the rest of your money or worse, tiresome cutscenes to inch through, but is that really any worse than where you're at right now? Surely you can stand the painstaking construction of your lame alterego for a chance to escape the TRAP that you're in!

So in conclusion, you've got a lot of issues to work out, but with a little help, and I will give you that help, you can overcome your addiction to breath mints. NOW BUY MY BOOK! I MUST HAVE ETHER TO HOARD! HOHOHOHO!

In related news, I'm only 35G short of my mount <3



Ramblebox
Yay! No more Cuthbert and Millen! Of course, no more hockey for the time being, but it's a partial victory at least... I think...

-AL  


L E T T E R S
Why no! No I wouldn't!


Would you agree that.....square enix should release star ocean 1, tales of phantasia, and perhaps the romancing saga series from snes to maybe GBA? That would be excellent I think. na dann, judson

ANDREW


Ah, the theoretical release of games that never managed to find their way to North America. I will agree that Square Enix should consider bringing Star Ocean 1 to the GBA, since the series has garnered a fairly strong following based upon the second and third installments, but there are problems with the other two series.

In the case of Romancing SaGa, that series has ever been, and probably always will be, a niche sort of series by reason of its abstract design principles, and such SaGa titles as have been brought to North America have tended to fade rapidly (does anyone even think about Unlimited SaGa anymore?) Indifference isn't necessarily an argument all in itself, but I think that in the case of this series, North Americans have spoken rather loudly, and by and large, it appears that boobies and spiky hair sell better than gameplay and puzzles that might require some sort of intellectual output to complete.

That said, there is still a ray of hope; The Romancing SaGa trilogy was redone for WonderSwan Colour, and Square Enix has certainly shown a willingness to rebrand WSC releases for GBA purposes, so there is potential there, if not any particular likelihood.

Your third choice, however, is much less auspicious; Square Enix's chances of bringing over any Tales titles are approximately nil. While it is generally accepted among most gamers for some reason that all good SNES titles emanated from one of these two companies, in fact Namco is, was, and shall continue to be, for the conceivable future, the creators and publishers of the venerable Tales series.



Oh BOY! This old chestnut again


I've always been a huge fan of legend of dragoon, and its been my fave next to xenogears. And recently, while playing Shadow Hearts (another great game i was thrilled to know was continuing when it was announced) that a whole lot of it reminds me of legend of dragoon. The character movements for one, (such as shrugging and jumping back in surprise) are more than just similar. The animations, though upgraded, also show a bit of resemblance. Even the judgement ring seems similar to the battle system of legend of dragoon in that it allows you to increase your own skill level throughout the game instead of letting statistics take care of it for you. I know that the spiritual prequel to Shadow Hearts was Koudelka, and I have never heard anything about crossovers from the team that made Legend of Dragoon to Aruze, but everytime I play the damn game its all I can think about. Is this what happened?
ANDREW

Beats me...I can see how the two battle systems are similar, but somehow, I doubt that the two games are related in any way. In any event, the only connection a search online reveals is that many people much like yourself have noted this marked similarity and have commented in some way upon it. As to your comment that the animations seem "upgraded," of course they're upgraded! It's a PS2 title you're comparing to a PSX title, so it had better look nicer, cuz if it doesn't the developer has some questions it should be asking itself. At any rate, Koudelka is the true, spiritual, and in all wise actual prequel to Shadow Hearts, so you can put your nagging suspicions to rest.

If so, then we probably won't get to ever see a continuation of LoD, (which by the way, the only information I ever read about was in an interview from this site with the guy who did the music regarding character sketches). I understand that many people didn't like it, but many others did such as myself. I'm not going to complain, I have the Xenosaga series to be content with. However, if I am ever to hope again for the next Legend of Dragoon, is it Aruze that I have to depend upon?


ANDREW

I don't know why you'd ever hope again for LoD, since Shadow Hearts takes everything that was good from that game and wisely leaves out the terrible story, rancid music, and awful pacing that destroyed Sony's attempt at FFVII imitation. I suggest you hope for something more worthwhile, like, oh, say, Shadow Hearts III, because in my mind, a good sequel to Legend of Dragoon is the one that is never, ever made. Seriously, what's the attraction? They botched the plot, the characters were pastiches of other, better characters stolen from other, better games, and even the interface was yucky. Shadow Hearts has everything you could want in a game, so why not just content yourself with the fact that good numbers will probably convince Aruze and Midway to keep churning them out?



Lalala.. I sure will be glad when Xenosaga II is safely in the ground.. If only there weren't four more to come


Is it at all possible that Episode II could be looked down upon as the possibly worst episode in the series due to things such as a general absence of currency, one of the head writers leaving afterwards, loading times, mitten hands, the absence of Yasunori Mitsuda, and possibly, thus the London Philharmonic Orchestra? Also, did Episode II use the same engine as Episode I did? It may explain the longer load times with the expanded environments, and why they had to resort to mitten hands more often than not.. There was hardly an explanation for the appearance of the E. S. Unit Zebulum, was there a legitimate one...? And finally, I have also heard over a year ago, when the game was still in development, that certain features such as paying Hammer a fee, when currency was an obvious decision then, you could find out Enemy Break Zones ahead of time, and also that Anima could be interchangeable between E. S. Units. Are these statements true, and are there any more similar cases that did into make the "final cut"? Thank you.

ANDREW

It is possible, sure. It's also possible that people will overlook these distinctions, since hey, currency's kind of been getting less important in traditional RPGs for a while. Actually, that brings up one of my favorite gripes. Everyone's always complaining about how game companies stagnate, and yet the second they try something new - ie, eliminating currency - people whine and moan and complain and decry the state of modern gaming. Does it really make sense that amorphous blobs of gas would be carrying money? Or scorpions? No. It's just a means of expressing, figuratively, the value to your characters of killing that blob of gas or scorpion, because hey, killing scorpions takes talent (to say nothing of amorphous blobs of gas!)

Removing this from the equation, then, doesn't really change the game all that much. All it does is take the emphasis off bashing in the skulls of scores of innocent little baby scorpions, who want nothing more than to cuddle up in the sand and sting unwary passersby because hey, that's what scorpions do for fun. I would assume that there's still some sort of reward for killing stuff, since that's one of the basic tenets of RPG design, so all it's really doing is trying to find a different way of expressing that (can you tell I like saying "scorpions"?)

As to the soap opera nonsense that has transpired of late, well, stuff like that happens from time to time, and you know what? It usually doesn't have much impact upon things because most people are able to distance their professional life from other, unseemly happenings that personal life tends to inflict upon each of us. The writer left after the fact, so we may reasonably assume that this departure had little impact upon the work, since the story was in the can before the stuff hit the fan.

Next we come to Mitsuda. Big difference, honestly. Xenosaga used so little music that I don't blame him for leaving, since his talents are pretty much wasted when 90% of the game's soundtrack consists of whirring engines. Moreover, that Philharmonic Orchestra you're so fond of can only serve to exacerbate those load times you're not gungho over, so you can't have everything, in the end.

Finally, the rumours. What difference does it make if they were true? Stuff gets hacked out of games all the time, and if developers lived up to their promises, the games we played would probably be a hundred times better. Sometimes things don't work, and they get hacked. I'm not sure if this rumour is true, and I'm really not too concerned with finding out, because ultimately, all it will do is make you enjoy the game less. So stop your worrying and play your game. At least finish it before you start bemoaning its crappiness (or do like me and boycott it altogether!).



Much ado about stuffing.. I mean, films


The video games based on The Chronicles of Narnia are coming. The director of Shrek is filming a big-screen adaptation of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe which will be in the cinema this December 9th. The inevitable video game sub-adaptation will come, though I don't think there is enough material for a RPG to be created. The Lord of the Rings: The Third Age had so much more to draw from and ended up with a one-dimensional slashfest.

Since this is a Question and Answer column, and since I'm not thrilled with the current RPG selection on Gamecube, my question is also movie-based.

I am just assuming that you picked up the new DVD of Nausicaa. Which do you think is the better film: Nausicaa or Laputa?

Herandar


ANDREW

Yeah, I can't really see The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe being enough fodder for a good RPG, unless they did it El Dorado style and hacked it up into episodes covering the entire septet. That said, I have purchased many shares in the film at HSX.com and look forward to its theatrical release, since it was the first novel I ever read (at the tender age of 3, no less, so I definitely have an emotional attachment to it). Regrettably, fake shares in free online trading games are pretty much the only thing I can afford presently, so I haven't been able to pick up Nausicaa yet, though I'm glad Disney has finally deigned to unleash it from its cursed vault. I really don't get why Disney hasn't started distributing Miyazaki's films sooner. Is it some sort of penis envy problem? I mean, are they afraid that people will like Miyazaki's films so much that their own will get lost in the shuffle? It just makes no sense to me that there wouldn't be more aggressive marketing of the films, because their visual beauty alone is enough to move a whole lot of copies. As it is, their efforts are pretty weak, and the only people who have really caught on are those who are familiar with Miyazaki in the first place, regrettably (at least, I don't hear anyone talking about the DVD, which is sad.)

Also sad: I also haven't gotten around to seeing Laputa either, so you may have to wait for Google to answer that one on Monday, assuming he doesn't have a glorious hangover from NonCon.



Had to know this was coming, yes


Dear Googlemel:

ZOMG!! Sakaguchi hAz j0in3d teh DARK SIDE by s1d1ng w1th M$. dAmn n0w teh fInAl fAntAzy 1z g0ing 2 B 4 teh Xbox! Tat suz B cuz teh F1n@L fAntAsy hAs AlwAyz ben f0r teh plAystAtI0n. S0ny roolz. FF7 iz teh b3st B cuz dat joint got mAd grafix, yo. FF7 wuz Als0 my f1rsT rpg j00 kno. n0w I Am g0nnA be Ups3t wile eye watch teh MTV. OOh l00k, c0mmerc1al 4 teh Gr@nd tUrizm0 4. j00 kno, S0ny roolz cuz th3y m@de teh FF7. N0w Bill Gates mAk3z teh FF13. Eye Am sAd. Butt eye Am OK B cuz teh FF7-2 iz 4 teh PSP!!

ANDREW

Get killed.

You knew this was coming. Now that it's out of my system, I wonder why Mistwalker is going to develop for Xbox Next truely since the specs are sorta known for both PlayStation3 and Nintendo Revolution already but not Xbox Nst. At a time where no one knows if it's going to use the Cell, the PowerPC G5, cartidges, DVDs, HD-DVDs or Blu-Ray, Sakaguchi said the Xbox Next will bring his games to life. I wonder if he knows something we don't (other than the dollar amount on the check Microsoft wrote to him).

- Elranzer


ANDREW

I think I can shed some light on why Sakaguchi might have chosen MS above and beyond the giant sacks of money they no doubt threw his way. For starters, Sakaguchi and Nintendo Nintendon't, to get revenge on you for that horrible, horrible paragraph of leetspeek. In the past couple of decades, Nintendo has inflicted merciless censorship on Sakaguchi, gotten into a grudge match over FFVII, and generally done everything in its power to not get along with him. Granted, that officially ended with the advent of FF:CC, but by that time, Sakaguchi was on his way out the door. I think it's altogether likely that particular grudge is still in effect, to say nothing of the fact that Nintendo's userbase is smaller than Microsoft's.

As for Sony, I think Sony's days are numbered. The PSP has certainly taken a chunk of Nintendo's market in the handheld arena, but it lacks any significant titles at this point, and the lion's share of portable games are still heading Nintendo's way. Moreover, Microsoft's online architecture far outstrips Sony's, and Microsoft has lots and lots of resources to make sure that the next-gen Xbox outshines Sony's effort. Beyond that, Sony doesn't seem to attract a lot of truly great games, and as the cock of the walk in terms of installed user base, their philosophy seems geared more towards safety than trying new things. Microsoft, while home to any number of dreadful sports franchises, has to try new things to expand its userbase, and as a developer, that kind of leeway would attract me.

Overall, we're pretty much stuck speculating, though. Sakaguchi's motivations will be obscured by the fact that he undeniably stands to make lots and lots of money off this partnership, but I think, if the man has any creative bones left in his body, which is by no means a guarantee after the unremittant stretch of mediocrity from FFVIII up until his departure from S-E, that creative leeway was probably prominent among his reasons.



Yeesh


They should make a Chronicles of Narnia videogame? How is that a good idea? Seeing as the majority of the books have only one fight scene each, I don't think it would make a good game. We've all seen what happens to books or movies that are made into videogames (they are making the Chronicles of Narnia into movies, so if they do make the game, it'll be based off of the movie(s) most likely). Besides, if they do make into videogames, some of the symobolism, most likely, will be lost. Being some of my favorite books (because they're written so well, especially for a children's series), I would hate to see the symbolism or the charm of the books being destroyed by Square enix or Namco.
ANDREW

Oh, come on now. Even when I was a kid, the similarity between "sacrificing a big, furry Lion for the good of mankind" and "sacrificing Jesus for the good of mankind" was a little too obvious to miss. C. S. Lewis did indeed turn out a great series of children's books, but part of the trouble with symbolism directed at children is you have to be fairly obvious about it. While the Chronicles of Narnia aren't precisely a Biblical allegory down to the last word, they're pretty well there, and so I really don't see how that would be difficult to translate into a videogame; if anything, I think the problem would be getting it past politically correct censors who will no doubt be aghast at their children being exposed to all that awful Christian imagery.

All that said, though, you're right that it would be very easy for some lousy developers to do a hack job, so if someone does it, I hope it's someone who knows what they're doing. Again, I think it would work best as an episodic series, somewhat along the lines of .Hack, because the full series is much richer than just the one novel (and then you'd get to see A Horse and His Boy gamified, which would be, well, super awesome.)

ANYway. Onto the question: I'm thinking of renting Disgaea. Now, my parents are picky of this sort of thing (I'm talking about the story and characters), and might not approve and might not let me even rent it, especially if I don't have much information on it. So, I was wondering if you knew anything about it. Do you know if it gets "weird" (as in: "sacrifice to satan" kind of thing)?

Why I'm renting it is because I've heard very positive things about it, but I'm a bit wary of the story.


ANDREW

Hmm. Well, there is some fairly tame sexual innuendo, but as far as demonic imagery goes, at best the demons in the game are about as nasty as a fuzzy duckling. If your parents are hardcore against any depiction of hell, especially one that paints its denizens as feeling and emotionally complex beings, well, then you're probably screwed (and you probably should avoid Paradise Lost in the bargain). Otherwise, I don't think they'll be too concerned.



Me, being helpful? How very odd


Google, right? During the weekend, its Andrew, but during the week, its Google...
ANDREW

Unless, of course, Google fails to answer your question... Then you're stuck with me after all. Muhahaha!

Anyway, I need help. In Growlanser 2, after purchasing Story 10 in Zaursburg, there was a point where I could go to Central Checkpoint or the Academy immediately afterwards to get Story 11. However, I failed to do exactly that, and now I'm not sure if another opportunity will come up where I can get Story 11. So, my question is is that the only point in the game where I can only find it or will there be another point later on?

Also, in case you have not played this game or have not gotten this far yet in playind the game, could you at least publish this letter so maybe one of your readers could help me?

Either way, if you could help me, I would greatly appreciate it. Thanks.

Velvet


ANDREW

Sadly, that's your only chance. As a friendly neighbourhood FAQ put it, "your window of opportunity is very small." Handily, that neighbourhood FAQ also has the full text of that story, so while you may not be able to use it if in fact giving it to someone enables you to gain superpowers or splendid items with which you can impress all your friends, you can at least take solace in the full text.



More leftovers from the week


Hey there Goog

Hope you have fun at the thingy you're going to

And mark some spoilers I guess
ANDREW

Hey, the man has a speech to give.. He can't be going around marking my spoilers! Speaking of which, Spoilers ahead!

Now a Question: Ok aside from Biggs, Wedge, Bannon, and Leo, who else in the playable cast of FF6 bites the dust? I remember when the death pattern thing was active that you or maybe Cast said that 4 chars not counting Shadow if he didn't make it were killed in the end of FF6, So I was wondering who it was, I would load up my FF6 game and close to Kefka save and see but as I mentioned my PS2 lost it's abilitity to read discs... so yeah just wondering who got killed in mad dash out of the tower
ANDREW

Actually, it's not the tower's collapse that causes that magical fifth fatality.. It's rotten fish! Specifically, the rotten, rotten fish you have the option of murdering Cid with if you get tired of his ugly raincoat. Of course, if you're feeling charitable, you can nurse him back to health on yummy fish, so I guess his death isn't really necessary. Still, that is one ugly raincoat...

Next a comment:

Regarding what someone said yesterday or day before(was to busy wondering wtf the guy jabbering about a fourth tri-force was on to pay attention to the date) that about new people playing SRPGs because of Disgaea, I'd like to say that I was one of those people who learned to enjoy SRPGs thanks to that game

Here's the full story on that, feel free to cut this out if need be ^^;;

Arros Raikou


ANDREW

Don't mind if I do... Thanks for sharing, though, Arros. It was a perfectly lovely story, even if it was rambling and far too long to post.



I sure am a helper monkey!


If anybody can find this for me, it's you.

A good while back, there was an April Fool's Day news item on a gaming site. I thought it might even be this one, but digging through the archives turned up nothing. It might've been from the GIA. It was an announcement for the impending release of Final Fantasy VII for the Atari 2600. With it was a little gif animation of what is widely regarded as the game's defining moment, graphics adjusted for the new medium. It was awesome. I can't find it. Can you help?

-Dahne
"You quit being BANISHED?"

ANDREW

Your wish is my highly belated command. Sorry I let that rot in the inbox for so very long.



And finally, another late reply!


Alright, being as though I'm in the PAL region, I was rather dismayed to hear that Sony had released the slimline PS2s, as it suggested that they would never be releasing the hard drive out here (let alone FFXI).

Thus, what am I missing out on? Anything at all?

Sorry the question was so lame, I'll think of something better next time.


ANDREW

Yeah, I'd say you're pretty much knackered. I wouldn't worry, though; while many of your fellow readers will assure you that FFXI is the greatest thing ever, I would assure you that WoW is a hundred times better, and magically available in a store near you! I highly recommend it. You should also consider that only 2 games in the PS2 library use the thing, so it probably wouldn't be a very sound investment. You can always hope for a PC release of FFXI, though, if you're dead-set on it.





C L O S I N G
IN CONCLUSION:

Okay, so breaking news is always fun. What do the rest of you think of Sakaguchi's newfound deal? Is it the final sign of his washed-upness, or do you think that it spells only good things for gamers, even if those good things do necessitate enriching Microsoft further? Let us discuss, for I would dearly like to have a Saturday column for once!

castomel@rpgamer.com
Andrew Long is going crazy, 1 2 3 4 5 6 switch, crazy going slowly is he, 6 5 4 3 2 1 switch!


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