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Peppermint Bark January 3, 2006

Matt Demers - 03:50 EST

I HAVE NOW REACHED a terrible point in my break-between-semesters. I've been home long enough that I'm ready to get back into some kind of routine, but I dread going back to class and work and stress and everything else that lovely school has to offer. Oh sigh... I suppose I should just do my best to enjoy these last fleeting days of January freedom while I can.

A random achievement I'd like to share with you all: I've managed to stop biting my fingernails, cold turkey, with success! I've gone from having a frightfully terrible version of that bad habit... to having a couple of millimetres of visible white on the tip of every nail. I'm sure you're all proud of me.

My intent is not to turn Q&A into my personal blog though, so I'll just get on with it and see what you guys have written for today. Mmk? Tum ta tee~~





L E T T E R S
Another edition of storytime is nigh!


Hey Matt.

A little trivia for yíall from my TV production class senior year. PAL stands for Phase Alternate Line and is one of the three TV formats that exist today, along with SECAM (Sequential Couleur avec Memoire or Sequential Color with Memory, which is slowly being phased out); and our standard, NTSC (National Television System Committee, or as my TV teacher said, Never Twice the Same Color.)

Matt

Wow, thanks Bucket! I suppose I could have looked those acronyms up if I had the motivation to, but I didn't even think to in the first place. I guess I just figured they stood for something or another insignificant. Now we all know! NTSC is the one we have, right? I've never heard of the SECAM one, but it sounds a little bit like Hypotenuse over Adjacent. Yeah yeah... sorry.

Anyways, Iím right now staring at a copy of Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life SE for my baby PS2. I havenít been playing it in the few weeks since I got it (I borrowed DBZ Budokai from my friend, and heís letting me keep it ^^) and all in all it doesnít really grab me. Itís a combination of the load times and the angle of viewing. I prefer the original PSX Harvest Moon and the two GBA titles, so the dilemma remains: Should I try and exchange it (ďI got this for Xmas and I have it already and whoever gave it to me doesnít have the receipt but they said they bought it here and I donít know because they came from Albequer-whatever and I donít know if they have your stores in Albe-freakingwhatever etc. etc. etc.Ē) or should I swallow the cost and trade it in? Another game I regretted buying this year was Legend of Zelda Link to the Past/Four Swords Adventure, because I found out after I threw out the receipt and box that you couldnít PLAY Four Swords by yourself.

Matt

Ohh, you can definitely try trading it in first. This is the perfect time of year to do so, because your excuse will be ten times as good as many others'. Trust me... right before I left for home, I went to EB games to shop for my brother's present, and I stood in line behind a septuagenarian couple for at least ten minutes. Their conversation with the guy behind the counter was something like this:

Clerk: You'd like the Sims: Nightlife?

Gram: Er... yes. [fumbles with purse]

Gramps: What did he shay?

Gram: He asked us if we wanted this here game. This is what William put on his list, now isn't it?

Gramps: [grumbles under his breath] ...damned if I know. Forty bucksh... I thought we had six other kidsh to buy for, too.

Gram: Now, come off it, I'm sure he'll be very happy when he sees it. Now won't he, sir?

Clerk: Uh, yes. You do realize that this is an "Expansion Pack" for Sims 2. You need the original game to play it.

Gram: [frowns] Now what's this?

Clerk: [looking as if he's about to explain this for the two-hundred thousandth time] You need the Sims 2 game in order to use this.

Gram: Oh, yes, see here; [adjusts her bifocals] Sims 2 on the cover, now, right?

Clerk: Ma'am, this is an expansion pack... not the original game. Do you know if the person you're buying this for has the Sims 2?

Gramps: ...Chrisht... [walks off into the mall hallway]

Gram: [frowns again] Do you have that version of the Sims 2 here, then, too? Will he be able to play that on his computer system?

...

Anyway, I'm sure that's not exactly what was said, but it's pretty darn close, and it went on for quite some time. With conversations like that, I guarantee you that some will be trying to unrightfully get refunds and exchanges until well into February. Such silly people!

Anyways, best game of 2005: Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney, hands down. Need I say more?

Bucket


Matt

Nah. Well, perhaps. I don't really know about it much myself. I looked it up after you submitted the special SOCK question a month and a half ago, and read half a review. It seems to be fairly well-acclaimed, and does look like it could be a bit of fun. Besides, there wasn't really a terribly huge number of amazing RPGs released in 2005. Wait...there might have been one or two...



A little quickie from down under


Hi Matt,

Being an Australian, I have always wondered if there's a way to find out release dates for games over here, short of trekking down to EB and asking them directly.

Thanks PAL,

_Mitch


Matt

In the past, when I first started getting questions from our Australian readers about PAL releases there, I spent well over an hour searching for information like that online, and I was unable to come up with much at all. I gave up, and went and ate ice cream instead, in grumbly frustration.

I know this might sound silly and/or stupidly obvious, but get their phone number and call them instead of making the trek. They've been very helpful to me over the phone in the past. Otherwise, I'm not sure. Maybe I'll stumble across something one day.



FIR2 *bwwooooor* 92DMG Terminated


Teenage Mutant Ninja Matt

Okie-doke, here's my question/statement/mummer/complaint:

Is it just me or are there spoiled gamers out there? I mean, I really thought Dragon Quest VIII was pretty good, I'm liking it to be certain...but I keep hearing people complaining about how repetitive it is and how it's the same as all the other DQs. What's wrong with clichť and tradition? I mean, sure, you can get sick of that sort of thing if it's overdone, but really...I've had it up to here with people complaining about not getting something new or complaining about a certain game getting an umpteenth sequel. Why can't people take a game based on its own merits. What's wrong with wandering a map and leveling up? I mean, when was the last time someone played the FIRST Final Fantasy and enjoyed it? With all these entangled plotlines, confounding battle systems, intricate graphics, etc...I feel as though we've lost touch on something important. Am I wrong? What's wrong with old traditional stuff when it's actually good?

~Blade


Matt

Everyone who is an RPGamer is going to have to be able to put up with a little bit of repetitiveness, like it or not. I can't think of a single RPG that isn't repetitive in some way. Can you? People who complain about repetitiveness might just want to try a different genre out. Give Warioware a spin and get back to me.

As for Dragon Quest VIII in particular, I think that one of its biggest strengths is that it's so much like all of its predecessors. What is so amazing about the game, though, is that this old, tried-and-true formula is modernized so wonderfully, with attention to detail in every technical aspect, while the things that attracted me to the series in the first place are completely preserved.

Also, I'm pretty impressed with the story, frankly. From everything I had heard beforehand, I was bracing for a terrible plotline, but I'm sorry; if you play the game through to completion, you won't be disappointed. Yes, there are a few ridiculous fetch quests, but there are many really fun twists and turns to discover, all sorts of really interesting storyline connections, and some of the best post-final-boss bonus stuff ever.

Anyway, your letter definitely wasn't about storyline quality, but I have to cheaply plug my current favourite game every now and then, don't I? In the end, you're certainly right: There's nothing wrong at all with wandering around and gaining levels. The people who think that there is can simply go play something else, as far as I'm concerned. It won't stop you or I or any other huge fans from enjoying it!



A look back, a look now, and a little bit of a look forward


Hey Matt,

For me 2005 was actually a good year for RPGs. I rarely purchase new releases and tend to pick up used games once they drop in price. This year I picked up Dragon Quest VIII, Xenosaga II, X-Men Legends II while they were still new and a used copy of Shadow Hearts II. May not seem like a lot of games but where I live renting is not really a viable option so I try to be conservative with my money.

Matt

Four games is quite a few, actually. As a student myself, I used to be lucky to save up enough to buy two in any given year. Sadly, it's true that money can be used towards many other productive things, such as textbooks, cover charges, and Amaretto Sours.

The best game of the year goes to (surprise, surprise)Dragon Quest. I just had so much fun playing that game. The praises of this game have been sung so much I couldn't possibly hope to add anything new so I will just say I was very happy with this purchase.

This game also came with a demo for Final Fantasy XII which went instantly to my list as biggest disappointments of the year but later I had a change of heart.

Matt

Mmm, mmm. I've clocked just over 100 hours on DQVIII now, which the holidays have helped with greatly. Final Fantasy XII's demo is something that I should maybe go back to and try again myself sometime when I'm feeling up to it. Perhaps a second look is exactly what I need, too.

I made a couple mistakes when I played the demo: 1) I didn't read the manual at all(too macho for that) and 2) I played Active Mode first(I blame machismo again). After my initial taste of the demo I was left feeling lost and uncertain. "What was that game I just played?" I feared all the negative reviews must be right but after all the near flaming posts on the forums I just couldn't find myself agreeing with hardly any of them. "Had I been too hasty?" So I popped the demo back in and chose Wait Mode. Things went much smoother the second time around as the t-rex fell much quicker and Active Mode also went well without losing anyone to the giant wyrm. After playing I watched the extra scenes at the end that somehow I missed the first time around and was left feeling that this game would not be "the game that kills Final Fantasy" after all. While it still has some things working against from my view(I really did not like the FFTA world...at all) I don't think I will pass on this game like I did on 11.

Matt

I can almost assure you that I'll be one of the first people to play it as well. Yeah, I've got issues with the battle system. I, too, am not sure about the Ivalice thing. However, I also know that at the end of the day, I've never despised any Final Fantasy game in history. Even the worst have been at least "pretty good", in my eyes, so I'm more than willing to give this one a hearty chance.

As for the game that I regret getting buying while it was new was Xenosaga II. The day after I bought this, a used version was finally available and almost a week later the prices of both versions dropped $20. I played this game off and on all year it seems and I have not yet finished it. I don't think the game was too hard or too long it just doesn't keep my attention like the other games I got this year. In fact I only really played between completing Shadow Hearts, X-Men and now Dragon Quest. And instead of going back to play more Xenosaga I have replayed DQ twice now and even went back to old DW games(working on my DW3 party trying to recreate the DQ8 party as best I can cause even that's more fun to me). I know I will finish the game, most likely around the time I see Xenosaga III on the used rack. Luckily it has that feature I love while its loading where summarizes what previously happened so its easier to pick back up after long periods of non-play. In fact DQ had similar feature just by talking to your party members, in fact they said some funny shit.

Matt

I did almost the same thing. I paid eighty bucks for Xenosaga II after tax, Canadian funds, of course, and watched in horror as the price dropped (along with my jaw) shortly thereafter. Oh well... Monolith Soft could probably use the few extra bucks anyway.

I really liked Xenosaga's idea to recount the recent story while loading. Dragon Quest VIII could learn a lot from it, not because it's terribly unclear of where to go ever, but because the loading times are occasionally surprisingly annoying. Something to work on for DQIX, Square Enix?

Wow that was long winded wasn't it? Well like I said its been a wonderful year for RPGs as far as I'm concerned and I can't wait to see what 2006 has in store. Did you make any resolutions this year? I never seem to be able to keep any I made in the past so I haven't really thought of anything. I don't drink, don't smoke...what do I do?

Xlash the dwarf berserker


Matt

Bah, I don't usually resolve to do anything much on New Year's. Last year, I made a resolution to go to the gym at least three times a week, but that fell through the cracks midway through the semester when I realized that school hated me. Thus, this year, I haven't come up with anything, because it would probably be a pointless exercise anyway.

Thank you for your thoughts and feelings, Mr. Xlash! Happy 2006 and much good fortune to you.




Time for a Peppermint Bark break


Hello Mat,

Since recent letters have been on the topic of losing saved games, I have a story to tell.

Matt

Excellent. My ears are burning! Well, my eyes are, anyway (no onions in sight).

I was playing Chrono Trigger for the first time on my SNES about seven years ago or so, and I'm pulling an all-nighter, because the game was so great. So anyway, I'm up to one of the side-quests near the end, where you find out Robo's origin, and receive his ultimate weapon.

So what happens? Well, I see a flicker of light out of the lamp, then BOOM, total black-out, where all power went out for no apparent reason in a several block radius. Not only did I lose my ten+ hours that I put into the game, but I was in the basement, with no light, and I'm bumping into furniture, trying to figure out what happened. Then, about five minutes later, the power came back on. Nonetheless, my all-nighter was ruined!

Matt

Boy oh boy... I'll bet that learned ya. All it takes is one horrible, nasty electricity outage, or one horrible, nasty, crazed turning-off-the-power parent to quickly teach you the "SAVE OFTEN" lesson. I've said it before, but I'll say it again... I'm a bit of a paranoid person when it comes to game-saving, and losing minutes or hours of my time pointlessly to video games is one of my most hated things of all time.

Anyway, I wanted to ask you a question that I have debated with with friends in the past. Which game of all time (RPG wise) do you feel is most overrated? Not necessarily poor, but just over-hyped? My pick is Final Fantasy VII. A good game, but not a god-send in my opinion.

Matt

Okay. Hold your breath. Ready? OK. Many of you might be appalled at me, but I have to say that I feel that Chrono Trigger is overrated. It's not a BAD game at all. It's really good, in fact, and there's so much to do in it. It's funny, and I love humourous games. For some inexplicable reason, though, I just don't find it AS enjoyable as so many other people do, and re-playing through it lately has only re-affirmed that for me more than anything. I'm not sure if I find the battle system to be tiresome or what, but there's something that's lacking, and I just can't put my finger on it for you. Does anyone else agree with me, though? I know for sure that I'll get a huge mass of mail messages going "OMG!! HOW CAN YOU SAY THAT?!" and I'm ready for it. Lay it on me!

Interestingly, I came to RPGamer because of Final Fantasy VII. Having been a unreasonably gigantic fan of Final Fantasy III for the SNES, and without a Playstation, I tortured myself by listening to MIDIs and looking at screens before finally deciding to rent the system and game.

And for my second and final question, I'd like to know if you have ever played Phantasy Star (I believe that's what it is called). I hear a re-make is coming out for PS2, and I'd like to know if its worth getting when released. I know its old-school, but I prefer that. I just don't want to shell out $50 and have another Bard's Tale on my hands.

Thanks for your time Mat. Great columns as always, and a very Happy New Year's to you!

-Greg in Philly

P.S. - congrats on beating DQ8! I just restarted playing after having a nasty cold for a week that left me too sick to play. LOL


Matt

I didn't grow up on Sega, so I'm devoid of firsthand knowledge on the subject. However, there seems to be a tight little fanbase, though, and from what I hear, most of the games were pretty good. If the trilogy ever comes to fruition, it reportedly doesn't contain the one that most people agree to be the worst, as well (#3). I'd consider picking up the remakes, too, if they ever made it to stores, but unless my eyes are deceiving me, it's been over a year since RPGamer has heard anything about the remakes, and the release date of Q3 2005 has come and gone quietly. Keep your fingers crossed.



Baten Kaitos: The other side of the coin


The first letter in your previous column was some guy with a story about his lost savegame in Baten Kaitos, but from there it degenerates into a rant about how good that game is. Well here is my rant:

Baten Kaitos is not that great of a game. My gripes: It is too easy. If you put healing items in your deck, it's simple enough to keep your guys at full health, even in a boss battle. Of course I am only 20 hrs into the game. In order to increase the difficulty, one MUST forego level-ups for the most part (In the game, winning battles increases your experience points, but will never cause a level-up).

Voice acting. This was mentioned by the other guy, but until reading your column I didn't know there was an option to turn it off.

IMHO the characters are uninteresting. Kalas (the main character) is just some guy who you are guarding as his guardian spirit. His mission, in the early part of the game, is to get revenge on some guy for killing his family. Not particularly compelling. Xelha is a girl on a mission, and the only one with some real character development. Gibari, Lyude, and Savyna are just people, with no real character development to speak of. Have met Mizuti in my game (but not recruited him), but he seems boring as well.

The story is a Skies of Arcadia-like "Collect the [important] items and defeat the evil empire." It has been done before, but in general it is a good story which is why it gets used over and over.

The game is good in other areas, such as graphics and music, and the battle system is fun to play, even if it is easy. The "field maps" in the game are well laid out and well drawn. Enemy and character designs are also well done.

Overall, I think this game will be quickly forgotten, primarily because the bad outweighs the good. If they fix some of my gripes in BK2 I will consider purchasing.

Flamethrower

Matt

Thanks for your point of view, Flamethrower. Bad voice acting and mediocre character development/plot are things that I can usually let slide, but low difficulty is somewhat more troublesome. As I'm sure you'll know, a good challenge often makes the difference between a "just okay" game, and a satisfying game... at least, for me. Of course, people play RPGs for different reasons. Hopefully, the sequel will try to run with the things that worked best from the first game, while trying to improve the formula. A new series, after all, is often work-in-progress!





C L O S I N G
IN CONCLUSION:

I'm still taking opinions on 2005 from the lot of you, so let me know what you thought was the best and worst of the year. Also, here's a simple one: Tell me what you feel about Chrono Trigger. Am I absolutely insane for the feelings I shared above? Should I be dragged out into the street and flogged until I'm screaming in burning pain? Or are you an understanding and compassionate bunch? I guess I'll see when I check the inbox tomorrow.


Until then, I bid you farewell.

wonderslime@rpgamer.com
***Matt is feeling like it's one day later than it actually is.


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Matt's Top 3 Current Games:

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