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Writing The Ship July 9, 2005

Andrew Long - 8:09 EST

OH, THE PUNNERY, THE PUNNERY OF IT ALL! Seriously, it's awesome!...Today I have learned two things. One, my memory of crap from the 80s is uncannily good, suggesting that advertisers are an evil blight upon this world. Secondly, I have learned that while you are sick, it is a good idea to continue brushing your teeth, even if you don't feel like getting out of bed. Hmm. Well, I suppose I knew the second one already, but nevertheless, my gums hurt ;_;

I put another little dent in Skies of Arcadia, as well, a game I play sporadically at best when the whimsy strikes me. I must say, I never realized how thoroughgoingly awful the music in that game is. Not since Legend of Dragoon have I known a game to feature a song that mashes hundreds of notes inside in a desperate effort to salvage some hint of musicality, while achieving no measure of success in the bargain. And seriously, who ever heard of an interactive boss theme that consists of a five-note passage repeating six thousand times as soon as one of your characters drops below half health? All that is is a ridiculous incentive to waste healing items, and I most certainly do not like it. Two thumbs down, although the game is reasonably entertaining.


Hey: It really is a shame you guys are down to so few letters for each column lately. I enjoy your quick-witted remarks to the silly questions, or even the serious ones for that matter. What I really got a kick out of was: hoo is better between serra and priscilla?

Anyway. On to the questions ^_~

What made Lionhead Studios decide to pick some pieces off the cutting room floor and paste them back into place for Fable: The Lost Chapters? They should have just left the extra content in the game to begin with, no? Although the game has an extremely linear play to it, I must say I have enjoyed going through the game several times. If nothing else, to take out frustration on the walking dead (which all share the exact same soul and banshee-like cries ~_~) and balvarines. That, and the "vulgar thrust" and "sexy hero pose" expressions have gotten to be quite popular among the jokes my mom and I make while playing multiplayer games with other family members. I would have liked to see the extra stuff up front. The only good news is that I can enjoy everything else for just a mere extra $20.

Hopefully my letter won't be lost among the hundreds of others pouring in between today's and tomorrow's columns. ^_~.


Yes... hundreds... Umm... Yes. Lionhead. The thing about that is, they're a studio trying to make a name for themselves in the console market, so Peter Molyneux or no, the best way to drum up some financing for the next real project is to crank out a crappy add-on to an existing, reasonably successful one. There's also the small fact that 1.4 million copies on the Xbox is no mean feat, so a game with that kind of sales has the potential to crack the coveted million mark on PC. This doesn't change the fact that the Xbox version is pure capitalism; if you sell something there is a demand for, it will be purchased. While I'm certain we'll hear all sorts of lovely things about the creative integrity involved in this cash-cowing, at the end of the day, the only reason to sell something with tacked-on content is money money money (and hey, even the Xbox deserves a Greatest Hits title once in a while). It's much the same as a title like Final Fantasy X International; people already have the game, but getting something with a little extra makes it seem worthwhile.

At any rate, look at the bright side; perhaps they'll add a new sexy hero pose for your family's edification. You should consider yourself lucky, incidentally; the only jokes my mom sends me are disturbing and by mass email.

Skip to my loo

First off, I would like to say that I very much enjoy guest hosts. They are a breath of fresh air, and I for one think that they should be a weekly or bi-weekly occurrance. I think they have done a wonderful job, and the lack of mail is probably due more to Summer jobs and activities than lack of quality. I particularly liked the dual-host edition.

I do apologize if it seemed like I was maligning the quality of guest columns; that's not the case at all. What I find happens with guest hosts, however, is that their appearance can cause confusion if they're just plopped in the way we've had to in the aftermath of Google's hapless roofing crew, which can turn people off writing in. You are correct, however, when you say that summer jobs and junk do put a dent in things; there's usually a dip this time of year in Interaction.

Now, to the actual letter. Over the years I have skipped a few games, the reasons not always being time restraints. For example. I played Xenogears one year, and it blew me away. It is still my favorite game of all time. Later on, I tried Star Ocean 2nd Story and completely blew it off. Xenogears was so good, it dimmed the light of that game. The same happened with Final Fantasy 7. I barely touched Saga Frontier after an high budget game like that.

So, my question is; Has that ever occurred to you? Have you passed up a game due to playing such a great game right before? Have you later went back to one of those games and discovered something awesome? Actually, it could have been skipped for any number of reasons and I'd still be interested in hearing it. I skipped out on Kingdom Hearts until I found out that Nightmare Before Christmas was included, and I ended up likeing that game very much overall.



First, Xenogears wasn't what dimmed Star Ocean 2; S02 was a vastly mediocre title, and it pales in comparison to pretty much anything that the developers spent more than twelve seconds putting the finishing touches on (no, I don't hate it, it just feels unfinished to me, like it was rushed to stores without anyone bothering to refine anything.) Secondly, an high? Where are we, Liverpool? Finally, barely touching SF isn't really a glowing endorsement of FFVII, so don't feel too bad.

As to your question, I don't usually pass up games, good or bad. If you'll look through my list of reviews, you will see that I have played any number of terrible titles, and yes, some of them I even played after playing good games. The only reason I end up laying a game aside is if something more interesting comes along, and in the end I always come crawling back, because I tend to play good games to the exclusion of anything else, while I'm pretty much forced to shuffle through a handful of crappy ones until I get sufficiently far in a crappy bull through it with a minimum of agony.

Ultimeciology, part 1

Dear Andrew, Let's see....Griever and Ultimecia. Well when you scan Griever it says that he is the strongest GF in Squall's mind. It is possible that Squall already knew of his existence and then named his ring after it. Since I believe that he knew who Bahamut was when he fought him, it wouldn't be too far of a jump. I also heard a theory that he is all the sadness and, well, grief inside of Squall's mind being made into a solid form by Ultimecia.

So how about a question......I guess I would be considered a somewhat new school gamer since my first rpg was Final Fantasy VII. But, I've been going back and playing the snes rpgs. One thing I see in them that I don't see in new games is stuff just for the sake of being there. For example, in Chrono Trigger you can win those stuffed dolls and clones for the rooms of all your teammate. They don't really serve a purpose (except for the Crono clone) except to just be there. Do you ever wish that newer games would have stuff like that? Stuff that you can win or buy just because you can.



Score one for the "random coincidence" side. GF hero worship seems as reasonable an explanation as anything, although given the conveniently gappy memory problems they seem to cause, it's a wonder Squall has the sufficient brainpower to know much of anything, much less grieve for something. As to your question, I have 1(well, maybe 2) words for you: 1/35 soldier. They don't do much of anything, now do they? And there are still any number of games that allow you to accumulate trophies just for the heck of it, so don't feel too wistful about the state of gaming.

Megaten Chudaten Gluyaten Buraten.. Gotta love nonsense syllables


You wanted some letters concerning the new MegaTen game just announced, so hereís one. I just recently got into the series by playing Nocturne and Digital Devil Saga. In Nocturne, I found the difficulty to be, not too hard, so much as unbalanced. I mean, Iím cruising through an area facing little to no opposition from the random encounters, and suddenly WHAM! Iím getting my butt handed to me (repeatedly) by a Fiend that requires just the right combination of demons using just the right combination of skills to defeat. DDS, on the other hand, almost went too far in the other direction; allowing every character to learn every skill in the game basically rendered every boss fight in the game into, at worst, a two-shot proposition. Use the first fight to puzzle out which attacks and defenses are most effective, then just equip every party member with those skills for the second fight (if you even need a second shot), rather than spending hours finding, negotiating with, leveling, and fusing the right demons in order to create the right party (ala Nocturne). So my question is this: which system do you think the new Devil Summoner game will adhere more to, or do you think Atlus will strive for a middle ground? And what would you personally prefer?



It depends on how well the game executes it, but I tend to be a sucker for "everyone can do everything", ever since the days of FFVI when I tenderly obliterated Kefka with wave after wave of Ultima. I even had Gau casting it! As for what Atlus does, well... I suppose I could ask them for you, but I don't imagine they'd be terribly forthcoming, seeing as how people don't like to funnel me scoops for some reason. I guess I'm just not a very nice guy. Which is why I won't ask. Or even speculate. HA HA!

(DDS was better received! Easy games rule the universe! Do you really think Nocturne has any chance?)

Let's do the Timewarp again!


Any idea if Phantasy Star Collection has been delayed or cancelled. I've seen posted for it recently and its not listed on eb's website like all other upcoming rpgs like ff12, kh2 etc. I wants it now. You will fix this crisis now. Please :)

Thank you for your precious time,

Mr. Snuggles


The Phantasy Star Collection was released in November 2002. Though I imagine it will be rather difficult to find in stores at this point, you should be able to grab it off eBay... But you weren't really talking about PS Collection, right? Because if you were, I have to kill you, and I don't want to kill you, and besides the boss told me not to threaten anyone else with death this week because he's getting angry letters from creditors or something and I guess they didn't realize that empty threats are my stock in trade, which should set your mind at ease but anyway I'm not allowed to make these threats so I'm going to retract that threat now because I'm like a politician except I have better hair and ANYWAY! Phantasy Star Trilogy, a PS2 compilation of PSI, PSII, and PSIV, is slated for release this quarter, so set your mind at ease... It shall arrive in due time.

I'm not buying what you're selling


It wasn't me that gave you that cold! It was my evil twin, Mojo the helper monkey! He was angry at you because you said your trip to the stars was your own fault. That was my grand plan for payback and you belittled it! "That no good, good for nothin' Cast! I'll show him!" he said.

So, before you take away my banana a day, go for him! I've kept him and his evil deeds hidden for now, but it seems there's an evil monkey on the loose.

So, about that We Love Katamari, you pre-ordering it? I know I am.

Steve the Monkey
Monkey keyboardist
Not Evil Twin

I've seen Mojo, and I'm pretty sure he was eaten by a cranky old man. I'll need further verification before I can take your story at face value. And while I won't be pre-ordering, I will certainly be strongly likely to buy it.

You sound like a chapter from a self-help book...

Unlike most people, apparently, I view the journey to be the reward. I put massive time into RPGs (and I rarely beat them.) For instance, I am near 185 hours for Tales of Symphonia, and I have only gotten to the spoiler-free point where you ask the doctor in Flanoir to perform a house call. I enjoy the battles and exploring nooks and crannies in the world map.

Okay, I will grant that fully exploring areas can be fun sometimes, but seriously, 185 hours? NO game is that entertaining! Your journey > destination drivel is a very nice sentiment, but come on... One of the main purposes of an RPG is to tell a story, and what's the point of playing it for a ridiculous period of time if you can't find out what happens to the characters? What difference would it make to simply beat the game and then go back and waste however many hours you deem necessary parading around the landscape musing about the finer moments in life?

My question is: What is generally considered to be the longest console style RPGs? I hear an awful lot about Xenosaga, but have not played it. Oh, and I am not including TRPGs. I had one random battle in FFT that lasted nearly three hours.

Bonus Question: Have you heard/played the WildTangent PC dungeon crawl titled 'Fate'? It is very deficient in the story department, but it is a really fun and well maintained game, (See, there is a burgeoning mod commnity and the game's creator is very active on the forums...) Any chance that this game would be added to the Games section.?



Three hours... wow. I've had a battle take an hour before, but that was only because all but one of my characters got wasted. Are you just like... slow or something? Because smelling the roses can be sweet, but there's just nothing about FFT that would make me drop the controller, sit there, and gawk for three stinking hours while absolutely nothing happens(and there's just not enough strategery in that game to pass it off as tactical masterminding). Bleh. I'm sorry, I shouldn't be insulting, I shouldn't be insulting. I also shouldn't write columns at this time of day, but that's another thing entirely. Yes, Xenogears and Xenosaga (but not Episode II!) are lengthy black holes of games that are sure to suck you in, but alas! It is not gameplay you will find. No, I fear you will be staring into the maw of a very different beast, a monster that plunks you down and makes you watch interminable videos, usually with atrocious voice acting. Herego, I have two recommendations for you: one, FFX. I have spent more hours on that game than any other offline RPG, and you can drop down like five hundred hours trying to max out the sphere grid. Secondly, Breath of Fire V. The game lends itself to replaying, and although the gameworld is not the largest out there, you can keep unlocking stuff on repeated playthroughs, and so while it is a very short game, I think it might just lend itself to your style of play. Hmm... And in retrospect, a bonus recommendation: Star Ocean II. The item creation system is probably perfectly suited to you, so you can while away all sorts of time cooking up various extraneous bric-a-brac.

And now, for something completely different

Hail Boss,

Give a scene time to grow. Please

Pretty sure I offered that as a solution to a question rather than as a complaint, but yes. Give it time.

My question is pretty straight forward really. We all know that you enjoy your foray into RPG's. What with the fact that you work for RPGamer and all. But I am curious to know what kinds of other games do you enjoy. It's probably been asked about a million other times, But I am just getting into reading this column on a daily basis.

I can get into pretty much any type of game as long as it's well-made. I love FPSs, waste countless hours in RTS titles such as Warcraft and C&C, play the crap out of Smash Brothers, sink tons of time into trying to best my records in racing games like F-Zero, OutRun, and Gran Turismo, and yes, there is also my all-time favorite timesink genre, cave-flying games. If you'd like an example of such, do an online search for "Triplane Turmoil" or "Molez."

Another question, What is your opinion on the hybrid RPG's that seem to be all the rage lately? Action/RPG (Though that one has been around for awhile.) FPS/RPG (Dues Ex... Another old one, But still.) , Star Shooter/Action/RPG (Sigma Star Saga.) and so on. Colour me curious.

My opinion? It gets people out of actually innovating the existing genre, with varying results.

Last thing. Have you played Riveria? That game is pretty fantastic. Probably one of the better RPG's I've played recently. If you have played it, What did you think?

Regrettably no, but I was suitably intrigued at E3, so if I ever have money to buy games again, that one will be high up on the list.

I'm personally very excited for a new MegTen game. Though I'm more anxiously waiting for Phantasy Star Universe. Which RPG are you waiting for with baited breath?

Guess I lied on that last thing part. Apologies. Hope my letter wasn't too long or `Unfit for print` like some... other entries. Thank you, J.L.Jones


The fact that FFXII is being given so much development time makes me a little less uneasy about it, but if I had to peg an RPG as the one I'm waiting for, it would probably be Makai Kingdom in the short term, and Dragon Quest VIII and Shadow Hearts III in the long term.

End column+

dear andrew

off-topic Q-
what's your favorite new game+ feature? I think all games oughta have the "difficulty increase" and your keep-all-your-items just like legend of other games, keeping all items and weapons wih the same difficulty just makes the replay so easy it gets annoying (vagrant story anyone?) however in LOM, even with my "once all mighty" 264 Pwr Flail from my past game, beating Lvl99 Tropicallo is still a Pain and quite the challenge...long live the replay of the Forbidden Tome!...also the "fast forward" feature of chrono cross was a nice idea too


I don't really replay games all that much, so I don't really have much to offer here; however, I do enjoy the ability to get different endings to a game, particularly if the stock ending sucks as badly as the one in Chrono Cross (which still wasn't bad enough to compel me to play through that... thing again).


And now, to go to bed... at 9 AM. Hmm. On second thought, perhaps I'll just stay up and reset myself. Play nice with senor slime, keep up the letters (even if you don't always see more than five, we really do need a steady flow to keep this thing going, particularly on Thursdays, when I always find myself with 2-3 letters for some reason) and may all your mishaps be creamsicle-related.
Andrew Long drinks blood! Bluh!

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