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Tsubushabu Ponzo Shabu Shabu Sauce

Andrew Long - October 23rd, 2004 - 20:43 EDT

...IS MAINLY WHAT DISTRACTED ME LAST NIGHT and resulted in the ultimate derailing of my once-admirable scheduling supertation and has resulted in us convening at such a miserable hour on this, the day of my daughter's wedding. Yes, this wonderful product, when used correctly, can apparently create a taste sensation of some description, aside from being the best marketing tongue-twister going. Not that I would know - we got to the appropriate restaurant too late, and ended up going on a whimsical jaunt through the dark streets of Toronto, returning home just in time for me to collapse and wake up in time for work 3 and a half hours later.

But of course, this doesn't matter to you. You've come for hardcore nudity, or at least hardcore discussion of hardcore issues which might reasonably be expected to pertain to nudity in no way in particular, like Cardcaptors or Pokemon or Yu-Gi-Oh or whatever crap you crazy kids use as currency these days. Also, I think I may have irritated several music majors. On this subject, I will leave it to the commander-in-chief to explain:


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First of all, I'm a little insulted. Your response to Rich's question regarding why music students "hate" Uematsu is a poor generalization and make us sound like elitist snobs.

That was the general idea, yes ^^

Granted I'm not as much of an Uematsu fan anymore, but that is because he's been writing music for the past 12+ Final Fantasy games. His music has not become bad, but become old. It's hard to be writing music for the same series and come up with unique material after 17 years. He's also cranking out a new game once a year/year and a half now. When you're working on projects back to back like that, some of the same ideas bleed over projects. This happens to me when I write music, so I know from experience.

I guess my point is that music students become exposed to all kinds of music. For something to be good, it needs to stand out, be unique, not sound like everything else out there. I love Uematsu's earlier stuff. In fact the only two video game soundtracks I own are both Uematsu's music (Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy VI). I think after One Winged Angel, there was probably some pressure to produce something greater, which sucks for him. The music to FF VIII sounded very similiar to ideas in VII. I don't mean literally the same music, but similiar music, like it could have been something in FF VII. That's where the problem lies.

My beef is with blind support (speaking of the recent election, ha ha ha) for his music (well not just him, but blind support in general). The fans who are like "OMG Uematsu iz teh bst EV-AR <3 <3" On the other hand, music students who are such snobs that they only like stuff that doesn't sound like music (like a lot of atonal crap with out feeling) are being just as blind, which I deal with on a regular basis. I also feel bad for other video game composers who get the shaft (Mitsuda, Shimomura, etc) who write really good stuff and get ignored because of Final Fantasy being such a flagship. I hope I'm making sense without sounding like a snob. O_o


You are indeed, and if you think I seriously meant to paint you with the same brush as those atonal nuts, well, you should read my columns more often. Vague generalizations are my stock in trade, and I am well aware that Uematsu is an overworked, repetitive-getting composer who made the wisest decision he possibly could have when he told the evil brass at S-E to go find another tune monkey. My only issue is the people I've met who immediately dismiss any musical quality to his work simply because they've listened to a selection of Brahms or Eine Kleine Nachtmusic, or feel that the innermost meaning of Night on Bald Mountain is that you're supposed to think of GHOSTS.

Well isn't that darling


I'm a new poster here, so please be indulgent...

My question is simple : Which RPG story did you love the most?

Chrono Trigger. It rubbed me the right way, what can I say?

I have to answer Xenogears! When i started this game, i was already an RPG fan. I played every FF i could, Suikoden, LoD, Chrono Trigger, etc. When i first heard of Xenogears, I wasn't to thrilled because I was a traditional fantasy RPG player. But heck, after reading couple of critiques and previews, i said myself why not give it a try and I did...

After playing 72 hours or so of this game, i was still in awe with its "greatness". I found the story about politics, religion and characters to awesome to grab. Heck, I'm not even sure I got it all after finishing the game. I found the story awesome because of this mix, the questions you have to ask yourself, the thrill of not knowing, etc. To me, this game still holds the top of the RPG story department.

Now, after finding out that it was only the 5th chapter of a serie of 6, I was like "I want more"! Obviously, i played Xenosaga Episode 1 and was as thrilled to play it as I was with Xenogears. Although, the story is not as awesome, quite near though, I found the same feel of story : questions unanswered, politics, religion. Hoped so, after all it was a Xeno serie... Now I'm only waiting for Xenosaga Episode 2!

Mydhrin Emrys

P.S. Did you know that they made an entire book only about the story of Xenogears. Unfortunatly, its only in japaneese, so I can't read it, DARN!

You poor, poor soul. Monochrome Squirrel is making a terrible, terrible sextet, and you're well-advised to cling to the original Xenogears as long as you can, because I don't foresee things improving any time soon. Xenosaga, you see, is not a game. I know this argument was had out about ten years ago over what exactly constitutes an RPG and what makes an interactive movie, but Xenosaga is dead boring because it's like watching a very slowly paced anime, and anime is hardly so inventive in most cases that it instills any great desire in my soul to wait for it to get to the point for any extended period of time.

I had not heard about the book, but upon consideration, since you seem to be so deeply head-over-heels about the whole business, I decided to be a nice and caring and indulgent Q&A host because after all, it doesn't pay to drive away first-time writers (except for the writer of the following letter, because I like forming random and pointless vendettas). Anyhow, because I'm such a swell fellow, I'm going to provide you with a link that appears to be an English version of what you're describing: Xenogears: Perfect Works. Don't never say I did nothing for nobody.

Somebody didn't like being classified as Unfit for Print...

I am sorry for constantly irritating you, I just liked voicing my opinions that are stupid in nature. Outside of not being so longwinded and hung up about localization of RPG's, is there anything else I can do to better myself, and thus, not irritate you? At least somewhat? (I meant Sorcerer, not Summoner, just so that I don't feel stupid for making a stupid mistake)

Well, for starters, you can try making sense...

And also, I in particular, would like some sort of "intervening" that you can do in turn-based RPG's. eg: you use an item on a dangerously wounded Party Member, and the enemy makes an attack towards another party member, thus, greatly damaging them, and you can then change out your previous selection to heal all party members or the one that needs it most. You could predict what would happen, but it might be nice to have this feature nevertheless.

I'm really trying not to be spiteful about this letter, I really am. As such, I will refrain from asking what on earth you're talking about, or why this would be a good idea at all. In fact, I'll even go so far as not to say that I think this is entirely redundant and nonsensical and above all else unnecessary to the overall execution of a turn-based battle system!

And how likely do you think that new voice acting will be recorded for Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories? Seeing as how you will fight new, important characters that may warrant this, such as Axel.. Again, I am truly sorry for irritating you before and most likely now, but I have too much hang-ups and concerns, that I do not know what to properly do with them. Thank you for somehow putting up with me up till now.

Not a problem, you insane maniac, not a problem. I think the chances of voice acting happening on any significant scale on a Game Boy Advance cart is pretty much nil, for two reasons: one, space considerations and two, the terrible quality of sound that issues forth from the handheld's single, awful speaker.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled topic

Hey, Andrew!

My very first video game memory? Hmm, well, waaay back before I entered kindergarden (4 or 5 years old I think), my sister owned a Super Nintendo. She rented games all the time, so it's hard to say what video game I remember first. But she always used to play Castlevania. When I wasn't sucking my thumb, she would give me the second controller. Thinking I was helping her, I would press random buttons as she played the game. Ah yes, for a years I did that with her until she moved off to Arizona and came back with a boyfriend who later became her spouse. But I'll always remember that fateful game that led the way to the gaming world *sniff*.

-The Lizard

Ah, Lizard. I did exactly that same thing to my little sister once upon a time. Though fate has dealt you younger siblings a cruel hand, I take solace now that you thought you were actually doing something, because my sister must have too... right up until she figured it out and threw a pair of garden shears at my head.

Disco Stu is talkin' to you

Hello Andrew of Much Longness, it's me, it's me. It's that D-OOOOOOOOOOOO-Double G, along with Mr A-To-The-Double-Crooked-Letter. Okay, maybe not, but I do have a few things to chime in about...

1)First video game memory? Geez, that would have to be the very early 80s, playing Pitfall, Space Invaders and Pac Man on my dad's Atari 2600. Great games, all of them. Too bad they've all been severely bastardized by "updates".

Ah, yes, the old Atari systems. I remember well such masterpieces as Megalomania and Asteroids and that Star Wars game and Missile Command and Miner 2049er, several of which are reasonably obscure but all of which kicked copious quantities of ass. Sadly, I never did own an Atari, so my memories are chiefly limited to cousins' houses.

2)I have read every one of the Shannara books and I'll agree, the last five books have had something lacking, I'd say First King of Shannara was the last good one. I will disagree with you, though, on the "Tolkien Ripoff" theory. While it's true, the first book seemed more than a little similar to Lord of the Rings, every book since then has been a completely new story, and really good ones at that. (at least until the two latest trilogies) In fact, I'm re-reading Wishsong for the umpteenth time as we speak. The problem is though, I can see why the well is running dry, how many new stories can you come up with in the same land, with the same family, and always come up with something completely fresh? At least he's got something else going on, with the Word & Void series.

Yes, sorry. I should have made that distinction - only the Sword of Shannara is an utter ripoff. My favorite is actually the Elfstones, although I tried to read it recently, and some of the descriptive language made me grimace. I also kind of liked that one where the elven city got turned into a little glowy ball.

3)In response to yesterday, I have to chime in and say that I love FF6 and 7, I thought FF10 was the best (if not my favorite), 9, 4 and 3 were all really good, and the rest I can live without. Don't get me started on Mystic Quest.

You will hopefully have noticed my conscious effort to exclude all non-real Final Fantasy titles. That means you, FFXI!

4)I forget if I asked you this, but have you ever gotten letters that seemed to be written so poorly and were so irritating that it seemed obvious that somebody was trying to get the Unfit For Print letter of the day?

Robust Stu
Gold Reviewer/ Swell Guy/WWF TAG team CHAMpion of the WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOORLD

I would never suspect my readership of doing such a thing, which is probably why a few of these fakes have doubtless escaped my notice.

Oh, it's on

My question is why do you consider BoF V to be a good game? I liked BoF I - IV. I wasn't crazy about them, but I enjoyed them. I rented BoF V, and wow. . . I am so glad I decided to rent that one and not buy it. What absolutely killed the game for me was when I realized that my lazy-ass gamer skillz of barely winning with minimal leveling up were completely worthless for this game. The game actually encourages, then later requires, that you level up by traversing the same damn dungeons more than once. After hours of dungeon crawling, you were treated to a few seconds of cutscene. The snippets of story I did catch hinted at a cool story, but I just couldn't take the drab hours of dungeon crawling.

I couldn't get through BoF V because the battle system was completely not suited to my style. I'm a big fan of the games where the enemies level up along with you. This takes the necessity out of leveling up. I'm a lazy, lazy man when it comes to games. Monster hunting is too much like work. I do plenty of work. When I play an RPG, I want something challenging but not frustratingly difficult.

First game memory = Christmas + NES + 4 years old = Up all night playing Duck Hunt


I don't understand what sort of whimsical dungeons you were expecting in a game that purports to take place entirely underground in a bleak, poisonously mechanical world. I also don't understand what you're talking about when you say you have to repeat dungeons to level up. Granted, the SOL system does force you to play through earlier parts of the game several times, but you can usually manage it on two playthroughs - one in which you flame out and die, the second in which you come back, pick up your stuff where it fell off, and breeze your way through the dungeons till you reach the end. Battles really weren't all that difficult for me the second time through, and I didn't level very much. The key is to actually use the "Wait" feature to advantage, which allows you to stack five or six hits in a row. In a game that allows you increasingly powerful hits for each successive blow landed, this makes a big difference on some of the harder bosses and tougher enemies that might otherwise tempt you to go dragon - and that's another element I loved, the fact that you have this big super summon power of doom, and using it utterly fries you.

Call me crazy, but I grew up in a time when it was considered fun to trudge back and forth in the foothills of Tantagel for an hour just to afford a copper sword which then enables you to do a couple more damage, allowing you to wander back and forth in the foothills of Kol for another hour or two until you get enough money to score a Half-Ax. I don't find a degree of challenge to be anathema, and I really don't think that compared to some of those tedious old games that the leveling required of you in BoF V is even particularly strenuous. If you take the time to learn the system, it's really quite easy to get through the game - and even if the dungeons were a trifle drab, the story, character art, atmosphere, and outstanding work by Mitsuda more than made up for it.

That's why I love BoF V so much - it's not dirt easy, it has the complete package of gameplay, graphics, music, and story, and heck, I like turning into dragons. Can you say the same of Duck Hunt? :)

Bitch, bitch, bitch

Alright, here's the thing..

Everytime I read the Q&A section, it's mostly "FF this! FF that! FF for all! Yaaaaayyy!!"

Don't get me wrong, Final Fantasy is good and all, but a change of pace is needed, so, I'll just talk about Dragon Quest. By the way, there's probably not going to be a question here, but it might start a very long "OMG WHICH DQ IS THE BEST DQ!?" subject similar to the current FF argument.

Anyway, I don't really know how to end this, so how about... yes, DQ7 was unnecessarily long, but somewhat fun. Hopefully DQ8 will be fantastical! Hopefully.

- Shinvega

All right, here's the thing: everytime I sit down to do the Q&A section, the letters are mostly "FF this! FF that! FF for all! YAAAAAAY!" Don't get me wrong, I like FF and all, but even I have my limits, and I do try and direct the discussion in other directions when possible. Sadly, my readers are naughty little monkeys and quite skilled at twisting even the most innocuous topic, such as "discuss why we should care about Dragon Warrior when we've seen exactly one new game from the series in North America since 1991, as opposed to nearly ten (FFIV-XI, X-2), not counting knockoffs, from that other series, not counting re-releases, and why this hugely disproportionate number might create an equally disproportionate interest in FF" into discussions of why they love FF so much.

Finally, even questions like yours end in miserable disaster because, well, they aren't questions. They're random statements about nothing in particular, and unless you want a really awful column where I say " I sure hope it's fun too, RPGmeganauts! Now let's head back over to Googmeister D and his sassy Shadow Hearts remix hour!" you're not going to hear much out of me in return. Except, possibly:

Thanks for sharing, Shinvega.

Whoa. you... Like FFV?

This was kind of set off by the discussion of Final Fantasy games and battle systems from the last column. Especially when you mentioned that FFV was hated by everyone. Maybe I'm just weird, but FFV, in terms of mechanics, is about my favorite of the old FF games. Sure, the job system was basically a rehashing of FFIII, but they made it a lot better. S-E has gotten into customization a lot, but in my opinion they've only gotten it right in a couple of their games. What I liked about the FFV system was that you had the freedom to make any character exactly what you wanted them to be, but you had to work at it. In addition, all characters had to learn their abilities on their own. So, if you wanted your super-buff warrior to become a super-buff warrior-mage, you could do that just long as you were willing to make him a pathetically weak mage for awhile. In FFVII, if you wanted to do the same thing, you just equipped your super-buff warrior with the materia your dedicated mage had been leveling up. That, to me, is lame.

Yeah, I think we can all agree that FFVII was pretty much the extreme in customization, but I don't think that makes it any less enjoyable. Certainly, if character customization is your thing, then I can understand a certain distaste, but I dunno... there was just something great about mashing materia together to see what would happen.

FFX came close with the sphere grid, but it wasn't nearly perfect. Yes, you could take any character any direction you wanted. Unfortunately, the way the sphere grid was laid out, you tended not to be able to change their path much until pretty late in the game. On top of that, it was just a pain in the butt. I just wanted to pick what path my guy was gonna take, and then let him level for awhile, not have to place spheres after every battle.

But but but, the spheres were so pretty, and it was so engrossing! I may in fact just be easily taken in by shiny objects, but I like games where the character building is so involved. It's probably why I was able to enjoy FFVIII.

Anyway, I guess I can see how people would think FFV's plot was lacking. Actually, it completely sucked. But I say big deal...I tend to agree with the guy that said a battle system makes the game. I mean really, I could count the number of RPGs with really amazing plots on...wait, what's something you count to zero on? Sure, some games have perfectly servicable plots. Chrono Trigger was pretty interesting in that respect. FFX did a pretty good job with their plot, even if the whole 'evil church' plot has been done to death both inside and outside of rpgs. But even if a plot's truly awful, I'll play the game if it's fun, and the plot's not too obtrusive. Of course, the worst is when a plot is completely obstrusive *and* terrible. The best example I can think of this is Xenosaga. Combine annoying dungeon design, blah characters, something like only 10 dungeons or so, hour-long cutscenes, and plot that didn't make the slightest bit of sense, and you have the perfect recipe for making me want to gouge my eyes out. I really don't understand why so many people I talked to not only liked that game, they *loved* it. Whatever, to each their own, I guess.

The thing I think with Xenosaga is, pretty much everyone loved Xenogears to bits, and so they naturally expected Xenosaga to be more of the same. When it turned out to be a sterile, lifeless exercise in blowing your budget on FMV and not much else, these people's brains kicked into overdrive, released mass quantities of dopamine to stave off death by boredom, and everyone just naturally assumed it was the game making them feel good. It's also why anyone who likes Xenosaga is mentally imbalanced.

Anyway, that was pretty long-winded. I guess I should probably actually ask a question. Are there any rpgs out there that I've forgotten with actual *good* plots? The kind of plot that wouldn't look amazingly childish if you ran across it in a novel? The only one I thought of while writing this was Lunar:SSS. I don't remember the game all that well, since I haven't played it since I had it on the segacd, but I do seem to remember it having some pretty good twists and turns with some fun characters. Not sure how the plot would hold up to the standards of literature, though. On the other hand, it was probably good enough to pass as a movie's plot, and that's more than I can say for almost every other rpg.

Let's get one thing straight: Lunar:SSSC does not a movieworthy plot make just because Vic Ireland inserted some ca-ca jokes and a few George Bush references. Lunar:SSSC has a conventional RPG plot in a conventional RPG setting that has somehow managed to propel Working Designs through a decade of remakes no worse for the wear. Perhaps that rates a movie, but precious little about the game does.

Someone clearly has stalking on his mind


Seven more days, seven more days! Battle systems are good when the "fun" level is reached. Limit Breaks in FFVII (+ the whole materia setup) made battles exciting. Chrono Cross, Xenogears and Xenosaga are also interesting with the varied strengths of attacks. Strategy plays a bigger role when deciding how to act on your turn. And yet again, FFX-2 is my favorite in terms of a perfect active-time battle system. It's just fast enough where you're not utterly lost, and the movement around the battlefield adds a nice touch. No other stories tonight, cause I'm being forced into slavery. Work, how I love thee. (and I mean it, if anyone's checking) >.> There's no place to hide, blargh! I ask you a question, what kind of exciting things are in store for us this weekend?

That is all!,

O' Shrouded One

Well, I took Paul on the tourist-trap trip around Toronto, so perhaps we shall go to a Raptor's game followed by some totally trendy wandering down Queen St and of course to the requisite stop where I take everyone, my favorite Chinese place. I suppose we should also stop by your potential school so I can mock its horrible architecture.

So you wanna talk about battle systems eh? Alright, then tell me what your top three favorite battle systems are, why they are your favorite, and what the average airspeed of a laden swallow is. You have 10 seconds. Go.....NOW!
"You got whacked 'cause you're weak" - Magus

I'm afraid this column is a holy hand grenade-free zone. As such, I must respectfully request that you fall into line with our redcurrant-only attack policy, because I'm well-stocked with tigers, and yhe great advantage of the tiger in unarmed combat is that he eats not only the fruit-laden foe but also the redcurrants.


Well that took longer than I thought. At any rate, qna@ appears to be back in action, though it is still mysteriously spam-free, which goes in direct defiance of all believable odds, especially given that all other interaction email is being hit up to the tune of like 500 a day - which is ridiculous, considering half of them were only just created. Anyhow, for tomorrow, let us discuss the sorry state in which the internet is, as well as the coming wonder that is WoW. We should probably just stick to WoW, because it's likely to occupy all my attention in the coming weeks.
Andrew Long allegedly finds beauty in simple things. According to a fortune cookie, he should not lose this quality.



En francais: je l'oublis >_<

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