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ASK ANDREW
Woob Woob Woob
April 14th, 2007

Andrew Long - 16:53 EDT

SO ANYWAY, I've been stuck on the Phon Coast theme pretty much all week, cuz I think it's just about the most uber track in an FF in quite some time. Sure, Silence Before the Storm and Bisaido Island and the battle theme from FFX were pretty good, and FFIX's whole soundtrack was concentrated awesome, but IX was released 7 years ago and... well, I just hope Sakimoto gets tapped for FFXIII.

In slightly more sombre news, my favorite author finally ate it on Wednesday, after 60+ years of smoking Pall Malls. For those who don't know what those are, they're unfiltered cigarettes. My friend Matt gave me one once, and believe me, I would have been dead after 60 days of smoking them. Yet, Mr. Vonnegut, his whole family decimated by cancer and suicide, pressed on forever on them, and in the end they didn't even kill him; it was a trip-and-fall injury, making me wonder if my last column title didn't JINX HIM HORRIBLY. As penance for this potential malfeasance, I must therefore exhort the lot of you to go out and read Vonnegut's stuff, cuz you Americans have just lost one of your finest writers.

And so on. To the letters!




LETTERS
The requisite noveletter to start things off


Hey Andrew,

If you want to play Final Fantasy XII again, why not give it a shot using a power leveling FAQ? It makes everything a lot more fun the second time around. At 22 hours in, I've gotten a Zodiac Spear and two Deathbringers, and I have to say, there's something satisfying about having this kind of power this early on. It makes the game rather easy, but if you're a fan of New Game +, then I don't see what's wrong with rewarding yourself for having beaten it already
Andrew

Eh. I find that kind of detracts from the fun of the game, being able to crunch things with ease. As it is, I spent about 20 hours backtracking and leveling in my current (and first) playthrough, and I find my characters are pretty much powerful enough as is (I'm just before Leviathan now, and everyone is pushing level 60.) Though I do regret missing out on things like the Genji Glove and Zodiac Spear (curse you Gilgamesh and your many forms!) I have managed to acquire enough equipment of decent calibre that I'm not really hurting for damage.

So, ethical issue raised: Pokemon Diamond/Pearl are coming up, and in order to unlock many Pokemon you need all the GBA Pokemon games - FireRed, LeafGreen, Ruby, Saphire and Emerald. It would be one thing if we were talking about the starter Pokemon for each game - those kinds of monsters deserve to be exclusive, but I'm talking about brand-new, never before seen Pokemon.

To me, this is an insult added to an injury - the injury being Nintendo's habit of giving away the rarest Pokemon only to gamers in Nintendo-sponsored cities. It began with Pokemon Red/Blue - Japanese players got Mew just by completing their Pokedex, but American players? They had to take a nerd-Mecca trip to the closest Nintendo-approved city to get one, nevermind how far away they live. The same thing happened with Celebi and Deoxys. The problem is not special events promotions, but that the reward is a powerful Pokemon that could affect competition.

My best friend says he's fed up and plans to use a cheating device to get all the missing Pokemon. He says he won't fight online with them, and will ask me for approval before using them (or just use legitimate ones). That's fine by me - I've know him forever and trust him.

But many people online aren't up-front about it - some even give away impossible Pokemon, like "shiny" versions of Mew. The sheer number of people accepting their offers in various online forums makes me wonder how many Pokemon in online/official competitions were obtained through cheating - my guess is many, including some that seem very legitimate.

The funny thing is, I don't like cheating, but I think my friend is being more fair than Nintendo is. I don't mind playing with him because we've been friends forever, but I'd feel differently if it were online. My question to you: is my friend justified as long as he is up-front about his cheating ways? And do you feel Nintendo's marketing practices have trumped its sense of loyalty to its customers, as far as the Pokemon franchise is concerned?

Looking forward to Diamond/Pearl... and SPM,
- Waterfiend33

Andrew

I think that as long as your friend isn't in Japan or a city that ends up being selected for one of the marketing promos you mentioned, then there is something to be said for his planned course of action; it is a little unfair to give players in certain regions an advantage strictly based upon geography. That said, perhaps Nintendo intends for that sort of bonus to be something along the lines of a "local" pokémon. Having not watched the cartoon much, I can't really say for certain whether this sort of thing occurs very much there, but wouldn't it make a certain amount of sense if certain pokémon had habitats? Of course, then you could also say that people are well within their rights to poach...

Either way, I do find it kind of silly, but Nintendo does tend to like spitting in people's faces when they've got a stranglehold on a given market, and that certainly applies here.



My backlog is bigger than your schlong


I always hear about people complaining about their 'huge' backlog of games and yada yada (roughly between 1 and maybe 8 or 9 games). When someone has a backlog as big as I have (try ~195 games), then they can complain.

Do you ever make strict rules for yourself as to how and what you play? For me, since I have so many unfinished/unstarted games, I've made a 'system' as to how I go about playing them. First of all, I separate my games into two lists- one list for games that I haven't even started yet, and another list for games I've begun playing but have put down before finishing. From these lists, I pick 5 games randomly (3 from the 'new game' list, 2 from the 'pre-played') by assigning a number to each game and using a number generator to pick them. I do this because I own some games that are fairly mediocre, but are still worthwhile playing through to the end (eg. Okage Shadow King, Breath of Fire 3, Wild Arms 2, etc) and I also have games that are incredibly awesome or ones that I'm extremely excited to start playing (eg. Twilight Princess, Final Fantasy XII [just started it last week] Dragon Quest VIII [haven't started yet] etc etc). I know that if I didn't pick randomly, I'd always favor the highly-hyped/well-rated games over the ones that are either unknown or aren't as popular, so I want to give all my games a chance. Also, because of the amount of games I have to go through, I limit my play days to a maximum of 7. I don't have to use all 7 days if I get bored with a game or whatever, but if I play a game for all 7 days, I MUST put it down and start the next game (Final Fantasy XII is my latest abandoned game this way, *cries*. My next game to start playing in its stead is Culdcept, which I've never played before but heard good things about).

So naturally what ends up happening is that with this system, I get lots of variety and gaming never becomes a chore (if I get bored, just put it down and pick it up fresh when I randomly pick it again), but there's also downfalls such as the aforementioned huge backlog, forgetting what I'm doing in a game or the story that's happened so far when I pick a game up after 3 years of sitting idle, needing huge numbers of memory cards to hold all the save files, etc. But I'm willing to deal with all these negative aspects because there's nothing worse to me than plodding through a game just to get through it when you don't really want to at the moment. Also, I do all that I can to avoid wasting time (I'm in University, work a night-job and am a pretty active graphic artist with another huge backlog of art projects, on top of being a dedicated gamer), so having this system avoids any time wasted deciding what to play- it's all decided for me. So I guess what I'm asking is if gaming (or hobbies in general) is a pretty haphazard activity to you, or do you have some kind of structure in place for what you do?

P.S. I also have a HUGE vgm library on my computer and I keep adding to it all the time (roughly 50-60% of 64,000 mp3s). I listen to mainly vgm on my iPod while commuting to and from University, and I really like listening to vgm of games I've never played before (I even bought vgm soundtracks from Japan (no bootlegs) from games I've never played before in my life because the music is so good (Ace Combat 4 and 5 just for some examples)). So... yeah. I very rarely put on different music when I play and never when I'm playing RPGs.

Sorry for always writing such long letters,
animetayl

Andrew

So, if I understand you correctly, what you're saying is this: "only I may bitch about RPG backlogs because I have 195 thanks to my batcrap insane system that pretty much guarantees I'll never finish a damned thing. GO ME!"

Forgive me if I have no sympathy for your plight. Beyond the total arrogance of your introductory statement, your system is ridiculous and I would consider abandoning it, because while giving equal playtime to terrible games is all well and good, at the end of the day, you're much better off finishing at least the good ones.



A valid question


Why do you guys do so much coverage of this Play symphony and not talk about Video Games Live?

Andrew

Well, basically it's because the PR guy for Play! is an annoying ass who likes to pester us until we post his publicity. I tried to ban him from our channel once, but apparently that's "bad PR" so it seems you'll just have to suck up the constant barrage of information about crappy concerts for jerks because my boss insists. I guess, though, that you could take solace in the fact that if I had my way, you'd never hear squat about Play!.



So what you're saying is, you want every game to be FFMQ


Hey Matt,

Perhaps it's your Dragon Quest sensibilities at fault here, but I have to take issue with your proclamation that save points before bosses are "just as bad" as retrying a boss battle. Personally, I see no problem whatsoever with immediate retries. Seriously, how is that adding to the fun of a game? By forcing you to go back and do everything you already did all over again? I see no reason at all how this is somehow "adding to difficulty". You're just punishing the player in a way that's mainly useless. I'd love to see a "retry" option added to every battle in every game. It would make it so much more fun, and allow us to experiment with strategies with far more freedom. Even forcing us to retrace our steps from the last save point is a needless waste of time.

--Cidolfas

Andrew

I'm sorry, but I agree with Matt here. While I do think that in longer dungeons you need a save point close to or at least directly after a boss to prevent FF3 final dungeon-esque frustration, retries are just lame. Having played through Mystic Quest three or four times, it just always struck me as a lame copout that you could restart the battle at full health, and as often as not, if I actually managed to die at all, I'd just restart because it felt wrong to take advantage of so cheap an option.

Maybe it's just my roots in NES RPGs talking; getting through the final dungeon of FF1 is a royal pain in the ass and Dragon Warrior's wasn't exactly a spring picnic, but I just don't see why you need to have a save point before every boss, and I certainly wouldn't want to see retries.



I do believe I'm going to stab you in the throat!


Hey Andrew!
...or Matt, I guess, whatever...

Have ya'll played through FFVI advance yet? I mean, like the new dungeon or the upgraded dragons and that soul shrine? Too neat! Finally a way to access as many of every single item in the game as I want without that stupid game genie. You know, my SNES doesn't even work anymore and I'm convinced that the game genie had something to do with it, but oh well.

Have you ever played Faxanadu? It was made by Falcom for the original NES and I think it counts as my first action RPG (had experience, gold, shops, items and a storyline, but used password saving so maybe it doesn't count). I was just playing in the good ol' NES and remembering its megaman-esce soundtrack. It's a shame how some of the newer sound scores can't hold a candle to the "danananana dananana dana dana danananana" of the NES.

Oh, and Andrew, when is Shadow Hearts 4 coming out? -ATG

Andrew

I have played through the first half of FFVIa, so no, I haven't managed to get to any of the goodies yet. I will say, though, that it's no surprise a Game Genie torched your SNES; I seem to recall most of the people I knew who had those ended up with defunct hardware.

Defunct.

As for Faxanadu, I have indeed played it; first at my Nintendo friend's house back in the third grade (I found the level design puzzling, to say the least) and then again at my good friend Dylan's house some years later(level design still baffling). It was an enjoyable enough game but I don't know. I'd like to give it a shot again, but at this point my only option would be an emulator, which you must NEVER EVER use.

Finally, die.





IN CLOSING

Yay for letters! For tomorrow, I'd like to know your thoughts on which game I should pick up: FFF: Chocobomobob, or Puzzle Quest. I expect your answers to be in the form of a question, a la jeopardy, though I may also accept cinquains if they include the word "flower" on one of the Fs. Yes, I know we're not quite at May flowers yet, but quite frankly these April showers are getting on my nerves. I would also like to know whether you're excited about the FFTA2 screens S-E just put up, or if you think the game will just be another humblah like the original was, in my estimation. Finally, I guess you can also brag about having SPM, but know that if you do, it may be your doom.



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castomel@rpgamer.com
Andrew was a turtle by the name of Bert, and Bert the turtle was very alert. When danger threatened him, he never got hurt, 'cuz he knew what to do! Duck, and cover... Duck! And cover.


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