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ASK ANDREW
The Rain Came Down In Sheets March 18th, 2005

Andrew Long - 04:10 EST

WOW... I CAN'T BELIEVE IT, but I actually just found something useful at Gamespy. Having avoided them like the plague ever since the concentrated devilry that is FilePlanet took over back in the day, I am somewhat surprised to discover that there is still the occasional article devoted to goodness and light that finds its way to the surface there. I refer, of course, to this little number, which I suspect anyone who reads Penny Arcade may have encountered (or at least, had the opportunity to encounter) over the past few days. Well, I may be late, but I will not be derelict in my duty to you lot, and that duty is to demand you read about what appears to be a thoroughly awesome game.

So yeah, it seems last weekend's GDC was a fairly explosive event, with any number of people hyping the wonders of HD gaming, and any number of other people lamenting the direction in which gaming is going. I'm inclined to side with the lamenters, on the whole, but at least there are still some people around to try and spice things up. Perhaps this will make for some sort of topic tomorrow...



Ramblebox
Extra PA-directed reading can be found here

-AL  


L E T T E R S
Not your usual SH question..luckily


For quite some time I've heard of a game on Rpgamer called Shadow Hearts, yes I never heard of it before and only recently got back into RPG's for some reason I find selecting attack and watching my command input happen a billion times is fun again, but anyway's I was wondering which Shadow Hearts is worth playing or more importantly are they both worth getting, Im on an extremely tight budget and can only get one and is it important to play the first in order to understand the second. Thanks for your time and by the way Chrono Cross did blow.

Thanks much
Killswitch Engage was way better with Jesse David


ANDREW


Having played only the second, which is actually the third in the series, technically, I am not in the best position to say which is best; that said, both Koudelka and Shadow Hearts are discount titles at this point, so you should be able to scoop all three at minimal cost to you. As such, I recommend you pick up at least both of Shadow Hearts and Shadow Hearts II.


Secret of what now?


Yo Andrew.

I'd just like to respond to a question yesterday from 'Paine', who asked about the possibility of Secret Of Mana on the DS.. well, i noticed a while back, that many sites were reporting on a new Seiken Densetsu for the DS. Since then, i haven't seen anything, though rumor is that it is a remake of Secret Of Mana. Hey.. it could happen, you never know. We had Sword Of Mana, it'd only be logical to remake Seiken Densetsu 2 next, right?

As for a question.. what games would you like to see remade/re-released on the Nintendo DS, or PSP? And how would you like to see them make use of the technological improvements? (e.g. the touch screen on the DS)


ANDREW

You know what I'd like to see more than remakes? Some freakin' new games! Sequels and rehashes and updates and new takes are all very nice, but when was the last time a new title came along in the RPG world? Seriously, can you remember any, because beyond anime tie-ins, pretty much everything released in the past two years has been treading old ground. I'm getting just a little tired of doing the same thing over again, and it's about time we stopped clamouring for this junk, because until we do they'll just keep forcing it down our throats.



Another exciting tale of VG unknowingness


I know this isn't on topic, but I don't care. I was reading the Q&A's from last week and I remembered a situation dealing with an RPG-ignorant person.

I was sitting in my house playing FF IX, trying to get through a dungeon before my girlfreind arrived. Unfortunately, I didn't finish by the time she got there and she was suitably irratated. After listening to her complain for about 15 minutes while I attemted to wrap it up, I exited the dungeon. Our exchange went like this:

She:"Ok, you're out, right? Turn it off."

Me:"*Sigh*... I can't just turn it off."

She:"Why?!?"

Me:"Well, first I have to blow the whistle and call the Moogle..."

She looked at me like I was fricking crazy.

To fully apreciate this, I think you have to sit back and realize how that sounds to a person who has never played Final fantasy, let alone an RPG. Anyway, she got really pissed because she thought I was making it up and insulting her intelligence, until I actually showed her. A little mortified, she said something like "Yeah, well... that's retarded." She's a lot more game-savy these days, especially since we've been married.

My question is: When is Shadow Hearts 3 coming out?


ANDREW

That's heartwarming, Duncan, but I still have to demand that you die like everyone else who asks that question. As such: die.



A rebuttal, of sorts


Ey Cast

You called Dezo obsessive for retrying when getting a crap level. If it is for a few hp then ok i agree with you, but in other situations I don't.

In Shining Force, you can literally gain nothing from a level. When i was younger i would just keep playing through. When i got to the later part of the game even though my hero was equally leveled to my other people he would get owned. He had no defense or HP so as a melee fighter he had become useless.

Now while playing I just save before a level and reset if my level is horrible, I mean thats not too bad right?

Veserius

P.S. why are you cooler than goog?


ANDREW

Well okay, in some games it's necessary to do some tweaking, but I mean, if a level bonus is a shotgun blast of stat boosts that vary no matter what, it hardly makes sense to roll the dice sixty times for each level just to try and max it out, because if you play like that the game is likely to take years to complete. I'm not saying that I haven't occasionally done this sort of thing, of course; on one playthrough of FFVI I decided to level everyone up to level 40 in the Cave of Espers on the World of Balance, and anytime I forgot to equip a stat-boosting Esper on someone's levelup I reset, but that was about it for me.

Anyhow, in the circumstances you have described, yes, yes it is reasonable to attempt to improve your character's lot in life.

P.S. Because of my flowing, luscious locks of sexy hair, of course. And the hat. With the death of the Expos, its coolness has increased tenfold.



Drinkslinger offers an alternate theory, which I hereby christen the Lone Gunman


Contrary to popular belief, the NES is a console that lasts forever. The confusion about it not working has to do with the fact that it is also the first electronic system to be artificially intelligent. It bonds with its first owner to such an extent that it refuses to work for anyone else after about a year. It also chooses not to play anything but Punchout. It's an elitist little devil.

You've been there. It's you and your two engineer friends from MIT having a couple beverages at someone's house, waiting for them to get back from work. You find a nintendo and plug it into his TV. You get Punchout and put it in. The screen keeps switching colors. The engineers blow on it. They try varying the depth to which they put it in. They open the back and rewire the switches. Nothing works. They jump like the monkeys from 2001 and hit it with bones. This goes on for an hour.

Then the owner comes home, does nothing different, pushes the button and it works.

Nintendos never stop working. They just happen to be very loyal.

-Drinkslinger


ANDREW

Ah. I won't lie; I have encountered this particular breed of Nintendo, and while I won't deny its existence, I will suggest that the reason it is able to exist is because each NES's owner develops a special bond with his or her unit, a cherished relationship based upon the fundamental principle of focused and precise physical abuse, which that owner (and that owner alone) is capable of inflicting in such a uniquely effective manner that the unit, in a sort of Stockholm-syndrome reaction, refuses to respond to any of the other, more commonplace, mistreatment that can be inflicted upon it. As such, I would tend to suggest that this fails to excuse such NES consoles from the legacy of craptasticness so courageously forged by their out-and-out crappy counterparts.



Importer-exporter, anyone?


Hey there Andrew!

To mention some points from yesterday's letters: I myself really liked Chrono Cross 'cause it reminded on Chrono Trigger so much. (mostly the music and the "Silent Protagonist") For me CT was and always will be my favorite, well it was the one which hooked me up on playing RPG's. I still love it and play it from time to time.

Well anyways, new Musashi game, hm? It really looks cool and seems like a pretty good game to have but like the first one, I won't have a chance of playing it, me living in Europe. And since I'm a student without having much money (surprise, surprise) I have to decide real careful what to import. I think I go with XS 2 "Jenseits von Gut und Böse" though.

Okay two questions left for you: Besides XS 2 and maybe SH 2: Covenant what would you recommend to import? (No real preferences here, except for a good story) And second: What was your favorite and most rememberable (is that a word?) quote and/or scene in CT?

Take care,

Manuel "Belthasar2" Leitgeb (Seeing my name you may guess 3 times where I'm from *g*)


ANDREW

First, you might try either of Disgaea or Breath of Fire V, which will forever be my recommendations, it seems, until something better comes along. Secondly, the word you are looking for is "memorable", but good try anyhow. Finally, the most memorable scene in CT for me isn't really a scene, but an area. For some reason, the entire concept of Zeal just blew me away, and for me, it made the game. From the look of the place to the plot developments that occured there, I loved everything about it, and in the end, it was critical to my enjoyment of the game.

Anyhow, you said Europe, so my guess is: Austria. Actually, I cheated. I was going to guess something alpine, but I was thinking perhaps something closer to Spain. Nevertheless, your email addy gave you away, my friend.



Musicos malos


Hey,

I teach university music theory, and one sequence of courses deals with ear-training, sight-singing, etc. A few of my students are RPG nuts (like me), but are unfortunately a bit tone-deaf and lacking in pitch reference. However, they are able to improve in identifying keys, intervals and pitches by relating them to FF soundtracks. I've taken to telling these students to practice ear-training while gaming (hey, whatever works). It's strange how one student can fail piano proficiency classes time after time, but still play all the FF themes and boss songs before every class (Gilgamesh is his favorite). Karaoke. Sure, it has unlimited potential to suck, but done well, is really nice (from my experience of being married to a girl from a certain Karaoke-loving culture in Southeast Asia). By the way, Karoke skills are NOT increased by speaking an intonation-based language like Chinese. I used to live in Taiwan, and the Mandarin-speaking people there are as prone to chalkboard-scratching singing as the rest of us (shudder). Wow, it was really awful. Maybe it had to do with the copious amounts of rice wine everyone would drink at the KTV...hmmmm..

Ke Da-Wei
FORMERLY the Evil Taiwanese Bushiban Teacher, NOW the Evil American Music Theory Professor


ANDREW

Thanks for sharing, Ke Da-Wei. I would note in passing that Asians probably don't have the market cornered in alcohol-related karaoke musical fatalities, since booze plays a rather large part in most people's decisions to take part in the festivities, I would imagine. Actually, when you think about it, booze can tear up your voice amazingly well, so it's little surprise that most people sound something like a cat being strangled by the exhaust intake on a zamboni.



A marketing query


Seeing as how game developers and the like are aware of the Internet and the possible consumers using it, I have a question regarding this. If the aforementioned is really true, then why have some companies such as the American divisions of Square-Enix, Atlus and the like do not make additional publication runs of highly desired, out-of-print, games, that, outside of initial sales, have all of the extra money being spent on preowned copies is not going towards them? Valkyrie Profile and possibly Disgaea may apply to this.

ANDREW

Okay, first of all: grammar is not your friend. Your letter makes my brain bleed, and while I can (hopefully) understand what you mean, if you ever try to pull something like this on me again, I'll delete it faster than you switch verb tenses in midsentence. At any rate, if I take your meaning correctly, you are wondering why the American divisions of game companies, if they so studiously read the internet, do not clue in to the currents of popularity that exist for various and out-of-print games.

You know why? Because the internet is full of idiots, that's why! All it takes to post something online is access to a keyboard and a... I'm going to say third-grade education (though in deference to third graders, many of them have a better grasp of grammar than you), and such postings generally do not come with the benefit of anything particularly factual to back them up. Generally speaking, then, people with such a scanty understanding of the basics of human communication are usually quite out of their league when it comes to grasping the intricacies of marketing and what makes for a profitable sales item.

To clarify: re-releasing a hoary old PSX title that, while generally accepted as one of the finest PSX RPGs, never did manage to sell all that many copies the first time around, is not likely to be a proposition that will make the Japanese overlords who give these Americans their marching orders very happy. Make no mistake: it is the Japanese end of most console development outfits that do most of the business, and their relationships with their American sides are at best tenuous and tinged with a certain disrespectful condescension, at least historically. As such, the prospect of running a new print run of Valkyrie Profile just so a couple of whiny script kiddies can buy a shiny new copy that they won't even pay fifty bucks for on eBay doesn't exactly thrill them, because let's face it: if those people aren't willing to spend fifty bucks on eBay, why would they be willing to give that fifty bucks to the developers? The profitability of such a situation is thus questionable, since while production costs for console media are negligible, creating sufficient advertising to move the number of units needed to make such an enterprise viable is likely to be a slightly more expensive task.

To sum up, then: while we may be whiny, there just aren't enough of us RPGamers to make such a production run profitably enough to be worth doing, especially since a number of us already bought VP the first time around and will thus be uninclined to purchase again. With the market thus already partially saturated, it doesn't really make sense to devote the time and energy to a reissue. We can always hope, though.



Oh come on now >_<


I really liked the painfully short Musashi demo so I broke down and picked up the game today.

So far... I've become well acquainted with the Game Over screen. I'm sure there's some reasonable way to stay alive while figuring out boss fight strategy, but it escapes me at this point.

The voice acting is quite painful, too.

And FFVII called. It wants its plot back. Okay, so Musashi isn't quite recycling the FFVII plot, but the prologue and first chapter make it seem that way.

I just realized I don't have a question yet, so...

I recently finished Arc the Lad: Twilight of the Spirits and was happy to see a follow-up game scheduled for release in a couple of months. However, I'm disappointed to see that it's an action-RPG, not a strategic turn-based deal like TotS.

Do you think that because of the push towards bigger, better, faster, prettier, more-realistic, online-ier, etc. etc. content is going to basically spell the end of the character-party system?

K'Ashton


ANDREW

Umm.. Why would it? One of the fundamental principles of performing gargantuan tasks is ganging up with other people to make them easier, and even MMORPGs generally include both the option and incentive to band together to accomplish goals. And anyway, there hasn't really been a trend in one way or the other; there have been, as always, some games that involve a party and some that involve a single hero.





C L O S I N G
IN CONCLUSION:

So.. What do you think? Read the article in the ramblebox and see what your thoughts are, and we shall discuss them tomorrow if I'm not too loaded from the celebrations I was supposed to be engaging in tonight. Until then,

castomel@rpgamer.com
Andrew Long has left the building.


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