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ASK MATT
Archwizards Are Hawt January 11, 2006

Matt Demers - 13:51 EST

A NOTE TO PASS ALONG TO the lot of you: Spare yourself the embarrassment... if you must resort to watching the 40-Year-Old Virgin to try and make your life unböring (thanks, IKEA- it fits), don't do it with your parents. I got to experience the fun of that situation last week. Mmm, mmm, awkward moments? My favourite!

In other news, I am beginning to long for the Canadian election to be over with. All I've seen for the last month on TV are the terrible Conservative attack ads, and today, they were just undercut by pretty much the trashiest Liberal commercials I've ever laid my eyes upon. What a depressing day for my country; thank goodness there are only two weeks to go.

On the other hand, things are going swimmingly around here. What's up your sleeves for today? It is time for me... to check and see.




L E T T E R S
Ahhh... the nostalgic charm of charmlessness


-->Dear Matt:

Firstly, I think you're doing a great job with the Q&A seshs. Keep it up. And keep a stiff upper lip and your chin up (and all that) with school and teaching.

Matt

Ah, never you worry. We frenchmen always have stiff upper lips; all the better to be snooty with, my dear! Now if only I could grow a pencil mustache, I'd be totally prepped to serve champagne in an exorbitantly expensive restaurante.

As for nostalgic games, let me tell you about the 3 games that got me started in console rpgs.

My third favourite game was Vandal Hearts. Even now, I still continue to play this. I suppose it has that "arcady" feel; for a strategy rpg, it is rather fast-paced and fun and how can you not laugh at the geysers of blood that spurt out of your defeated enemies. Ummm... I'm not bloodthirsty - honest. (Gnaws on right index finger). And it's a short game. At 10 hours, it's perfect for me. I just don't have that much time to spare for gaming nowadays.

Matt

Vandal Hearts is one of those games that many people really like, but many MORE people have never even heard of. My ex-roommates used to swear by it, and would slam their fists down to claim that "Final Fantasy Tactics was just a total rip-off of that game". I hate, personally, pointing fingers at who ripped off what, because so many RPGs are so alike in construct, but I didn't even play it in the first place, so what can I say?

The second is the very much maligned Phantasy Star III. Yes, THRE E. The black sheep of the classic series. The reason being it was my very very first RPG I ever played... and played to completion I might add. Being very new to RPGS at the time, I always thought the idea of cultural drift of isolated space travelers was a unique and fun idea (though I later found out, this idea wasn't that unique). And to this day, I find myself humming the overworld and town themes. Do I still play this game? No. While I still have fond memories of PSIII, try as I might, I just can't bring myself to play this game at all. The characters walk torturously slow, the battles are hellishly mindnumbing, the battle music is just plain bad, and the encounter rate is insane.

Matt

It's interesting how games that are pretty bad, or worse, mechanically, can still pull the old heartstrings. Some of my absolute, all-time favourite old games are Solar Jetman (a 1990 Rare game which I LOVED and everyone else despised), and Kid Icarus (terribly short, terribly hard, with the best music ever). Ohhh... the olden days.

*rocks back and forth on the front porch watching the sun set*

The third RPG that solidified my love for RPGs is Final Fantasy VIII. That's Eight not Seven. Introduced by a friend of mine while I still had my Sega Genesis, FFVIII was the main reason for my getting the Playstation. Yes, I was definitely hooked by the graphics. Yes, the idea of junctioning your person to god-like monstrosities made me pee with glee. Yes, the idea of drawing magic from monsters and characters was very cool to me. And out of all FFs, FFVIII's Shiva's character design was the best of the bunch. Not sure though, if I would play this game again. If I remember correctly, I finished the game at 100 hours and with the insane influx of games that I have and that are coming up, I just don't know if I can invest that much time into FFVIII.

Matt

What's wrong with liking Final Fantasy VIII? Sure, it has its flaws, but so does each and every Final Fantasy game in the entire series, and thus, I think that sometimes VIII gets a bad rap. There are a lot of people out there that are huge fans of the game, though, and I happened to really enjoy it too. The graphics WERE unbelievably breathtaking for the time, and the Junctioning system was one of my favourites of the whole series (only bettered by FFVII's materia and equalled by FFX's Sphere grid).

It's true, though, that replaying old games is becoming increasingly difficult in recent times. I guess that's what last summer was supposed to be for... didn't anyone tell you?

If you were to ask me what my next nostalgic RPG would be in 10 years time, I'd have to say Shadow Hearts. How can you not love the Lovecraftian idea of an ancient god-like alien called Meta-God being summoned down from a Nebula to cleanse the Earth of all evil? With a very twitchy head of a fly no less *grin*.

Thanks for le tting me gush, Matt.

See ya later,
The pressed-for time gaymer


Matt

That guy should have been me. *sigh* ... maybe next time.

Thanks for writing in! Your opinions will not be shared by all, but I enjoyed the moment, anyway. I think that ten years from now, I'm going to look back on Disgaea, Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter, and perhaps DQVIII with the most nostalgia. Disgaea for the gameplay, Breath of Fire for the amazingness (and breathtaking music), and DQVIII for its DQness.



Picture perfect


Recently you asked about the best games of 2005 and I figured I'd take a look back (even tho I only recieved most of the 2005 games this christmas). I believe your favorite (aka DQ8) wins handily despite decent competition in the best of catagory. Some of the best include DQ8, Wild ARMs Altercode: F, Atelier Iris eternal mana, the Final Fantasy IV port, and the seldom remembered but well liked Shadow of the Collosus. Now with the exception of Shadow, These games bring up a very odd trend this year. All of these games are either 2D or try to give that impression. This trend makes me wonder a great deal about the type of games the RPG industry is putting out. I personally theorize that the recent spike in RPG nostaglics is whats causing the sudden slew of old school style games (as well as the fact that Japanime is kinda overtaking all aspects of RPGs). While I like animated RPGs alot -- having fallen in love with the idea after playi ng Star Ocean 2, which was an amazing 2D game that was actually really expressive -- this year has made me absolutely long and pine for a hardcore videogame that maybe actually uses the incredible 3D rendering thats already here. Luckily Final Fantasy XII looks promising in this area from the demo I played. *Crosses Fingers* Since A QnA host needs a question I'll put it to you this way: How do you feel about the 2D craze? Do you wish it would keep up or are you ready for another Final Fantasy VII thats a little more hardcore and a little less kiddish?

- Chris P.


Matt

Well well, I'd agree with you on most points there, though I can't judge Shadow of the Colossus, since I'm the last person on the planet, seemingly, that hasn't had the pleasure. Anyway, FFIV seems good, and WA:ACF seems passable, but to me, Atelier Iris: Eternal Mana reeked of badness. That's definitely my biggest disappointment for 2005. After reading some positive reviews, and good things through word-of-mouth, I went and bought it. Then, I slept through it. It wasn't entirely bad, but I just found it to be very... how do you say... "boreenk". Also, I've never experienced such terrible play control in an RPG (since when is that an RPG issue, even?) since, gah, ever. I guess this just goes to show you that people have different opinions (most of which are valid).

Now, about graphical trends, I would tend to agree with you. Other popular games this year were Radiata Stories, which certainly possesses a bit of a cartoony flair to it, though I haven't actually tried playing my copy yet, and certainly, Dragon Quest VIII does the same thing to an even greater extent. On the other hand, though, we have games like Magna Carta, that look realistic, Xenosaga(!?), which is trending towards realistic (which incidentally, is too bad for the series- Episode I's style was irreplacable), and Shadow Hearts, which could be "surrealistic" if you were picky, but realistically-styled nonetheless. With FFXII and Zelda: Twilight Princess on the way, along with more FF remakes, Children of Mana, Disgaea sequels, and much, much more... I'll bet that we'll continue to see a nice blend of the two styles into the distant future.

I don't really care, either- if done right, cartoony graphics can be gorgeous as well, and perhaps even more expressive in some ways than realistic graphics can be. Now, I sound like Shigeru Miyamoto talking about Wind Waker, so I shall promptly move on to the next letter.



No ocean's too deep- oh, wait a sec


Hi,

In response to the Q about region coding.

I think there are 2 main reasons for region coding.

The first is that televisions in different regions of the world broadcast in different formats (PAL, NTSC). And thus, encoding the media in different formats is needed. Though nowadays, most TVs can broadcast in multiple formats.

Matt

I'll take your word on it. The day I understand the innards of a TV is the same day that I stop watching. (That's supposed to be a joke.)

The second reason (and IMO the main reason that region coding still exists) is to prevent people from importing movies/games from other parts of the world. While I don't think that region coding was meant to prevent North Americans from importing games from Japan, there's usually a large gap between (say) the NA release date of a game and the European (or Australian). I guess that the publishers don't want people to import games from region A, and thus hurt their sales in region B. I, for example, would have imported all of my games collection from the US if I could (yeah, I know I could install a mod chip.....). Thus, I would have never had to buy a single game in my country (And believe me, buying PAL products can sometimes be a bitch. Some games take months (FFX, XS2) or years (FFV) to get a PAL release. And some games (XS1, XG, Suikoden 1-4) never got a PAL release....).

Mind you that this is all my assumption (based on things I heard and common logic). There might be some other reasons for region coding which I have failed to see....


Matt

Yes, I think that's a reasonable explanation, and I also think that it's not a bad idea for the companies as well. It's true, though, that if people really want something bad enough, they'll find a way around it. There are a large number of people here that import games, whether they're to be localized or not, after all.

To address your ending stuff, I assume that you're a PAL gamer... and I just want to say that I really feel for the PAL regions of the world, because honestly- you guys must torture yourselves simply by coming to this website. I remember seeing Final Fantasy VII and VIII screenshots and information and all of this stuff way back when online, and I was so saddened by the fact that I didn't have a PSX, and thus no hope of playing the games anytime soon. To not even have your most-wanted games grace your stores would be a much more difficult issue altogether.

It would be a depressing thing for a guy like me, to be quite honest, and I hope for your collective sake that in the future, your accessibility to the not-so-vast-already world of RPGs is improved somewhat, somehow. Until then, hang in there. And keep coming here. We like you.



PSP? DS? Are you torn, too?


Hey Matt,

First off I would have to say #79 a) A Speed Tab and #80 d) Pokémon.

I'm glad to see at least one person got my question right...no really I am. As for your question about what games "got you hooked" I think I already said it in the email when I sent in my Wizardry question. That was in fact my first NES game and even though it was a simple dungeon crawler it was very fun to create my own team of characters and led me to seek out similar games, Final Fantasy, Dragon Warrior and Legend of Zelda. Later games delivered more races, classes and overall storyline that flowed from game to game. And speaking of sequels the other thing I loved was that I got to keep my party of six from games 6-8 with most of my levels and rare equipment intact. All bonuses in my book. But it all started cause of this simple little NES game so many years ago. And yes I still replay that game even today.

Xlash the dwarf berserker


Matt

Hey, and there were plenty more than just one! Both of that day's questions tripped people up. Excellent job, again... the lack of a game title to go along with the question was just the perfect touch.

I think I know exactly what you mean. People like you, myself, and many others that are reading this, are people that have grown up and witnessed the BIRTH and evolution of the RPG over time. I think that gives us a different perspective on a lot of things than people who got on the ride mid-way, you know? I don't think it's a bad or worse perspective, but it's not better, either. Just different... and I can often tell a friend's RPG history just by chatting with them about new RPGs for a bit. "New people" aren't interested in Wizardry or the NES Dragon Warrior, or even the original Final Fantasy anymore, but at the same time, maybe some of us old fogeys spend too much time in the clouds of yesteryear and are missing out on (or ignoring completely) newer games that might be exciting.

Anyway, I'm really rambling now, so I just want to say- despite all of the new "classics" that spring up now and in the future, I like to think that ten years down the road, I'll still be hungry to replay the original Dragon Warrior games, the SNES Final Fantasies, Earthbound, Chrono Trigger, Secret of Mana, Super Mario RPG... like I am today. Will they necessarily get squelched, though, by some future nostalgic desire to replay through the games that are big in today's world? It's a sad thought. I've got to end this A right now, before I go any further. END.



Matt, the skeptic, on display


Hey Matt,

I was deeply surprised by your assertion that Xbox360 "is a cold and sterile place for RPGs." While it certainly isn't an RPG have yet the future looks very bright. Here are a few RPG's you might want to check out.

  • Mass Effect
  • Oblivion
  • Blue Dragon
  • Cry On
  • Lost Odyssey
  • Enchant Arms
  • Nine Dragons
  • FFXI
  • Champions of Atlantis
  • Magna Carta 2
  • Embrace of Time: Chapter 1 The Resurrectio Ocolus
  • Spectral Diario
  • Far East of Eden Ziria
  • DOA: Code Cronus

Then there are other currently untitled projects like Bioware's second, Namco's 360 RPG project, a rumored second Squ are Enix title and sequels to games such as Fable and Knights of the Old Republic. And I don't think we have even heard the significant portion of 360 RPG's. I believe MS is saving them for E3 06. Xbox360 is going to be a very good alternative for RPG gamers me thinks.

Yours Sincerely,
lumzi


Matt

Thanks, Lumzi. Let me explain myself. As of yet, certainly, there are basically no XBox 360 choices. Certainly, you have many titles listed, but here's the thing: Many of those titles have either a) already been pushed back from their original release dates; b) not been confirmed for North American release (which would be silly, considering how poor XBox sales seem to be in Japan); or c) been simply "announced" months ago with little or no information to speak of since.

Surely you'd agree that "Square Enix RPG" is a bit of a nebulous announcement, as well, and while surely there will be some announcements in the future, the land is barren, and to me, the view is stark right now. I honestly think that for XBox 360 owners, a long wait is in store before we see some decent RPGs hit the stores. Then again, I could be wrong.





C L O S I N G
IN CONCLUSION:

Great news, everyone! You may have noticed it out of the corner of your eye, but I finally have a working e-mail address again. If you want to contact me personally through rpgamer, send a letter to slimey@rpgamer.com, which is now MY lovely e-mail address. What does that mean? I'm not sure what it means, but it means that I'm a happy slime, and it also means that I got to make a cute new banner which you'll get to see at the bottom. For now, though, I'll stick up the sock banner so that we can get on with things for today.


Flashay!


Another pair of more-difficult-than average questions was featured yesterday. For a Chrono Trigger question, not very many of you got #79 right. It asked about which item is discoverable on Ozzie VIII's kitchen counter, and indeed, if you haven't found it already in Medina village, you can obtain a sparkly little a) Speed Tab there. 40 points for that'un. As for #80, Arros Raikou points out that Captain Homard in La Pucelle Tactics has the name "Potemkin" which is also the name of a character from b) Guilty Gear X. If you were one of those people that picked that up, you also picked up 30 points. If your nickname is Arros Raikou, 60 points are coming your way.

Question #81:
In the set of all years in which Lufia games saw North American releases, what is the infimum? (45 points)

a) 1993
b) 1995
c) 1998
d) 1999.444...
e) 2003

Question #82:
Ask Rexy!--> Prior to reclaiming her memory in Disgaea, which of the following did Etna think choked Laharl's father, resulting in his death? (35 points)

a) Peanuts
b) A pretzel
c) A cookie
d) Chips
e) Water


Things to work for (the SOCK item shop!):

200 points: Tilde (infinite number remaining!)
700 points: The Final Fantasy 1 "Official" Crazed-Chipmunk-Hold-your-Ears Zipfile Soundtrack (4 remaining!)
1000 points: The Mattie's Mom Cookie Recipe Compilation (5 remaining!)
2000 points: Guest-co-host Opportunity #2 (5 remaining!)


Thanks, Rexy, for the submission! Rexy, Belthasar2, Kanato, and Bucket are nipping at the heels of the top ten! That leaderboard hasn't been shaken up in weeks. Prepare, though, for more inflation in coming days, as MagRowan becomes the fourth guest host sometime early next week! Also, feel free to send stuff to my brand new account. If it doesn't work, then I'm sure the fates are working against me.

To round out the week, I'm still hungry for your feelings on nostalgia. Which games are the ones that you remember most fondly, whether they were "great" or not? Which games of today will be the ones that prompt nostalgia in ten years' time? Also, what are your thoughts about RPGs for XBox 360? Are things really that bleak?

Bye everyone, until next time!


slimey@rpgamer.com
***Matt is debating dinner out tonight.


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