A Tough Pill
January 24, 2006
Matt Demers - 04:46 EST
TODAY IS ONE OF THOSE DAYS that I remember for no good reason at all.
My Grade 5 and 6 teacher, Mr. Young, has his birthday on January 24, and the only reason I took note in the first
place was because it was the same week as my own. Somehow, the memory has haunted me ever since, and I still
remember to this day, twelve-or-so years later. Is that weird?
As you all read this column, I am happy to announce that the Canadian election campaign is finally over with.
No longer can I spend time complaining about horrible advertisements or cheesy promises; the focus can now return
to RPGs, the lot of you readers, and my birthday. Well, actually, you'll probably still hear me complain about
school a lot; it is becoming quite evident that Numerical Analysis is about the most boring class the world
has ever seen.
Let's look at a new batch of letters, ya? (said Wakka-esquely)
La la la LA la la la... arpeggios!
Ok Matt, now for a favorite topic of mine, RPG Soundtracks.
I'll admit that up until Dragon Quest VIII that I had not really been
a fan of the series. *ducks* However, I really enjoyed it, but the
one thing that I really didn't have a love for was the soundtrack.
How does the DQVIII soundtrack compare to the others in the series?
Can you give me any other DQ soundtrack facts? What are some of your
favorite RPG soundtracks and/or composers, if any?
I actually absolutely love the soundtrack! I've had the castle theme going through my head all day, and
I really enjoyed several of the themes in the game. Despite the fact that they are repeated quite often,
the quality of just about every background theme is wonderful, in my opinion (the repetition is the only drawback,
I also think that that's nothing new for a Dragon Quest game. DQ has always had near-top-notch music, but not enough
of it. A more expansive soundtrack would certainly not hurt the games in the series, but at the same time, I'd say
that the music was one of my very favourite parts of Dragon Warriors 2 through 7, and especially the seventh itself,
since it was slightly lacking in its other usual qualities.
The awards for my favourite soundtracks, though, go to a few different games. Final Fantasy IX and X both
had spectacular music, and so did Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter. Other favourites of mine include FFIII through VIII,
Chrono Cross, both Final Fantasy Tactics games, and even Xenosaga II, if the mood strikes me right. (There are some REALLY
great background musics in that game!)
My favourite composer is probably Hitoshi Sakimoto, who did the FFT games as well as BoF: DQ. There are VERY few
of his themes that I don't like, and he really has composed some of my favourites of all time. Can he continue the
greatness? Stay tuned; he's behind the FFXII soundtrack, too.
I play RPGs because of their stories, but getting threads of plot to
unravel can sometimes be a daunting task if the battle system is poorly
constructed. I mean, look at Vagrant Story. I was really excited about
the twist and turns in the plot, but getting the game to advance was
torture! I could only hack and slash so much until I threw the controller
across the room and turned the console off. You don't feel accomplished
at all when all you can hack off an enemy is 3HP a swing. (To this day,
the game remains unfinished.)
With all of the recent letters about the greatness of Vagrant Story, I was waiting for someone to write in
with a complaint or three! I don't like it when battles are inhibitively difficult, and I don't like having
to gain levels in order to proceed through an RPG. Since I tend to like challenging games best, though, there's
really a narrow window of optimal difficulty for me that few titles manage to achieve. It's too bad that Vagrant Story
didn't fall into your window. Take care of your controllers, though... them's can be expensive to replace.
A battle system that I'm truly enjoying is Digital Devil Saga's; the whole
press-turn thing is intreaging, and makes even random encounters highly
variable. One minute I could be fully healed and the next I could be dead
if I don't play my cards right. I really like having to think in battle
instead of mashing the ATTACK button over and over again.
Many people would agree with you, Nichole. Digital Devil Saga has been widely acclaimed for its battle system,
even though many people call it unforgiving, way too hard, or just plain evil. I've heard that Nocturne is even harder,
but yeah... some don't like playing RPGs where battling is always a risky thing. Everyone has their own ideas for
what makes up a good, or great, RPG! I think I like yours, though.
I guess my question is this: "What game have you played that you really
enjoyed the battle system? Or what was one game where you didn't find
leveling your characters a chore beyond horrible?"
Oh, several. I'd say that most of the Final Fantasy series does this extremely well, especially IV, VI, VII, and VIII.
Number nine and number ten get far too easy for my liking, I'm afraid. Of course, Dragon Quest is a favourite battle
system of mine, and while some people might say that the battle system gets boring, I don't often feel that way.
Of course, I rarely "level" my characters, probably because if I fought the same monsters again and again for
three hours without a break, I might become bored with ANY battle system, you know?
Thanks for the letter! May good fortune head your way.
Tenderheart Bainick, now with puns!
Happy Birthday to you, etc etc etc.
I wish I owned Who shot Roger Rabbit, it was one of the few videos i'd hire
out continously when I was young, that and CareBares but we don't talk about
that anymore after that incident!
Oh and don't forget the metric measure's next time, sheesh the only feet I
know about are attached to my legs. Ba Boom Boom Ching!
It's a peculiar thing that Canada, as a nation, officially uses metric measure and Celsius temperature, but there
are still things that have never changed, perhaps as a result of being so close to the United States. Even though
we measure long distances in kilometres and lunch meat in grams, when it comes to people, we still measure height
in feet & inches, and we still measure weight in pounds. I don't know a single person who would answer the questions
of "how tall are you?" or "how much do you weigh?" with a metric answer, but I do know people who might slap me if I
Anyway I didn't mind the button Mechanics in Tales of Symphonia, being able
to pull of insane only in fighting games combo's was great fun, that said
Shadow Hearts 2 put me off ever finishing the game or even starting the
second disc that matter as exact timing like that should only be in Dance
The ring system of the original Shadow Hearts had a fun "interactive" sort of button-pressing action element to it,
and it even involved some risk. It'll be interesting to see how they've updated or improved it when I finally get
to play its sequels. It's too bad that you don't approve! I do agree with you, though, on Tales of Symphonia, and
even Star Ocean, which can be incredibly fun in battle at times, especially upon getting a new technique-of-destruction.
Now if only your AI-controlled allies would be smart enough to use them...
To Help answer some questions for Porkepik about some of his games. Summoner
2 has a decent story, decent voice acting, poor battle system and poor
enemy/ally A.I. Ephemeral fantasia must be played with a FAQ guide right
next to you, otherwise you'll never be able to work out where to go and what
to do, but the story and battle system is great considering it came out at
the PS2's birth. Suikoden 4 should be treated as if it was a game directed
at new RPG players. Not good enough in everything all round for veterans but
for a newbie it is a gental introduction to the RPG world. Arc the Lad's
story is okay but the battle music and the fact that it is hard to explore
the world until the end does make it hard to play. I do highly recommend
Dark Cloud 2, but I am biased to the series as I like being able to design
my own towns.
Well, thanks for the input...maybe you should have co-hosted yesterday. I've never played
Ephemeral Fantasia, so I wouldn't have a clue; the same goes for Suikoden 4 and Arc the Lad. I'm sure that
Porkepik is thankful for your input.
Second Lastly if anyone has the opportunity to play the japanese series
Tales of the Word: Narikiri Dungeon should grasp it by the handle and hold
on. Especially in the third installment as you can have anyone from Tales of
Phantasia to Tales of Symphonia in one of many parties. Sometimes its nice
to have a Japanese friend.
Oh and I'll be guest hosting a cloumn with matt sometime in the near future
(thanks to the kindness of Flamethrower) so please send in some questions
for me. C'mon. I'll be your friend.
Bainick man the action hero of them all!
Well, has anyone played the game Bainick is describing? I've never even heard of it,
so I feel a trifle inept dealing with this question.
Also, yes: Please do send in your best questions for Bainick, as one night soon, he will
join me as the fifth co-host of ASK MATT. He'll do his best, I guarantee... or his money back. Erp,
never mind... there was no "under the table dealings", believe me. *cough*
Hey slime face,
This week's quote at the homepage is from the guy standing under the
waterfall on the way to the huge city on the first floating island of Baten
Kaitos. He's a part of Guzman's family tree, too, IIRC. Also, how is the
..hack//MMORPG coming along? So a Q and an A part for Q&A today, from me,
Good eye! A few people got this week's quote. Apparently, they guy was trying to lose weight or something.
It doesn't sound like one of those diets that would be especially likely to work, though. Exercise is the key, as
As for the great "real-online" entry into one of the most well-known non-line games out there, I don't really know.
When's the last time we heard anything? A VERY long time ago, that's when. I don't think that a date has been
announced for North American gamers yet, unfortunately. Of course, though, as soon as RPGamer hears anything,
we'll let you know!
Also regarding gameplay mechanics and battle avoidance
it really depends, if my characters are godlike and
just a dungeon or two stands between me and the end of
the game I take all attempts to avoid battles because
simply put they won't be worth my time, this is why
one of my FF6 tower teams has mog in it for his charm
so I don't have to bother with beating up helpless
enemies on my way to ultima kefka to death
Aw, I almost had a tear in my eye until I realized your true meaning. "...one of my FF6 tower teams has mog
in it for his charm..." huh? That sounds so nice for such an adorable little ally. Unfortunately, I just KNOW
you're actually talking about his cheapo Moogle Charm, in which case I can only label you as one who values only
material wealth and one who takes advantage of poor little creatures-with-pom-poms by using them for the sole
purpose of avoiding combat.
That said, I still like you, so please, continue.
on the other hand if I'm at a challeging level or i'm
gaining abilities/levels/money/etc then I can't wait
for the next battle... unless the battle system or
some part of it is absolute crap, SO3's allies anyone?
Perhaps, and in general, the battling is what I enjoy most in an RPG. Star Ocean 3's battle system could
have been really fun if it wasn't horribly flawed, but it wasn't a COMPLETE write-off.
Regarding mechanics of gameplay they can easily make
or break a game, some people loved the junction, draw
system from FF8 others loathed it, some liked the new
fangled run arround to avoid stuff thing in FF12's
demo others hated it, much like the story of a game
everyone's opinion varies and as far as timed button
presses go if done correctly they can add a bit of
challenge and fun to a game if done incorrectly it
makes me want to cry and then beat the developers with
a blunt object
Grahaha, I've been thinking more and more that I really have to go back and play Summoner again, because I have
a feeling that Final Fantasy XII's demo feels suspiciously close to it in terms of gameplay, in some ways. It's been
years since I've played the game, but the more I think about it... hmm, I need to shake off this feeling.
Also, when I really think about it, I can't honestly think of a game where timed-button presses have actually hurt.
It seems like there should be many examples, but the ones that come to mind--Shadow Hearts, Mario RPG, and even
Legend of Dragoon--didn't suffer from that aspect, in my opinion (though they may have suffered in other
so yeah my three or four cents on that
as for a question did the BoF3 guy recognise you from
RPGamer? I know I would have then I'd pretend to swoon
and get an autograph, then again if I ever co host
with you I'll feel like an internet celebrity just
minus the dirty stuff
*making wild stabs in the dark since late 2005 and
having delusions of granduer since forever*
Well, Arros, your wild stabs have gotten you into the top ten at the very least! The Breath of Fire III guy did
not recognize me from RPGamer. He recognized the site's name, having been there before, but I'm not sure that he's
a regular reader. Evidently, I'm not that big of a star yet, so trust me... even if you tussled your way past me
to steal my spot, don't expect a brick in your name on any famous walkways for a long time to come.
That said, don't think that there's any way you'll be able to tussle your way past me... I'm six feet tall, after all.
Todays Sock answers:
#93. d) 5'10"
#94. b) Allysin Wonderland
Now for my questions which are all related to FFIX, which is one of my favourite rpgs.
Hey, you wild and crazy guy! Sounds good... sock it to me.
What do you think of the FFIX (and FFTA) skill system, of learning abilities from equipped armour and weapons?
It's always been one of my favourites FF skill systems because with a little effort it allows you to learn all
available skills permanently unlike some of the other FFs, but it seems to be hated by a lot of people for some
reason. Can you shed any light on why that is because I just can't see what the problem is.
I think it's an interesting system, and while it's not my favourite Final Fantasy skill system, it's not my
least-favourite either. My main beef with it is that it's way too simplistic! It takes zero skill at all to find
every last one of poor Vivi's meagre black magics, or those of Garnet/Eiko either, for that matter. I would have
liked to have something a bit deeper, like actually making VERY RARE or very-difficult-to-synth items sporting
extra-cool magical skills or amazing auto-abilities. Really, there wasn't a whole lot of that. Also, the skill system
is somewhat over-limiting in that it's difficult or impossible to gain some new abilities until reaching new places in
the game. I'd complain that it's also expensive not being able to sell anything, but the game gives you too much gil
in the first place, like every Final Fantasy game does.
Anyway, that's what I have to say about that. I guess Final Fantasy Tactics Advance took the idea and manipulated it a
bit, perhaps for the better, but debatably so. It is my opinion that Square, or Square Enix, can do (and has done) better.
Also, I really enjoyed the Chocobo Hot and Cold mini game, I loved the way it opened up the entire world map as a
kind of treasuse hunt but my brother had such bad luck finding the Chocographs that he gave up after a while.
Admittedly it could be frustrating just pecking at the ground and some of the treasure locations were almost
impossible to find, like that one out in the middle of the ocean, but I always felt it was rewarding enough to
be worth it. Did you enjoy it?
YES. Oh, I spent hours and hours with it, too, along with my brother and sister, taking turns to see who could
turn up the most punctuation marks in the fastest time. What was it, "Kweehhh???!?" Anyway, yeah, it was very
addictive, and quite enjoyable; a HUGE improvement over the horrible, horrible, horrible, horrible idea that was
Final Fantasy VIII's chocobo-acquisition "mini-game" (I hesitate to call it THAT...*shudder*). I don't know who
came up with that one, but whoever you are, you should be ashamed of yourself.
Next, what is your opinion of Quina? No matter how many times I play the game it always makes me laugh with it's
single minded focus on food and complete lack of understanding of anything beyond food. Add to that it's great
theme song, funny animations, powerful Frog Drop attack and some surprisingly deep dialogue if you look below
the surface and it has to be one of my favourite FF characters of all time. Yet, like so many other things in
the game, most people seem to hate it! Please tell me you're not in the "hate" camp.
Ah, Quina. The obligatory blue-mage character that seems like s/he could be useful until you realize that s/he
just doesn't naturally fit into any party at all. Well, truth be told, s/he didn't fit into any of MY parties,
but I'd drag his/her poofy butt out from time to time in order to keep his/her level up- don't you remember how I'm an RPG
communist when it comes to that sort of thing?
Character-wise, there are some funny moments, and for Square, s/he isn't a terrible fluff character, as far as
fluff characters go. Gogo and Umaro
were way more random in Final Fantasy VI, and in FFVII, Cait Sith was the most annoying ally ever (though he wasn't
really a fluff character, I guess).
Finally, why, why, why is Steiners quote from the promo pictures of the game "Having sworn fealty, must I spend
my life in servitude"!? If anything that is the exact *opposite* of his character because he loved serving Dagger
to the point of being annoying.... I've never understood that.
Have a great birthweek!
Oh, Dermot- I always thought that the quote referred more to his servitude to Alexandria; obviously the game
raises questions about the Queen's "moral authority to govern" (one last political jab, Canadian readers).
It could make some complicated things swirl in a head like Steiner's about his loyalties to the throne. The fact
that he ends up serving someone who kidnapped the princess is really a bit scandalous when you think about it!
Thanks for the questions, and thanks for the birthday wishes... they are, of course, most appreciated!
You know what would be a really nice thing right now? A nice dip in a hot tub followed by an amazing massage.
I think I'm tense with all this election business, and besides, who doesn't like nice dips in hot tubs followed by
Right. The screen isn't answering me, and certainly it shouldn't, so I'll just move on to that good old
Spectacular Ongoing Contest of Knowledge.
First, let's look at yesterday's questions, as we always do.
For #93, I can easily say HAHA! I have successfully thwarted your efforts to get points this time, because
I think that only one of you guessed my height correctly. I don't honestly think that there was a way
you could have gone and researched it unless you have some connection to the Canadian government, but oh well.
My height is e) 6'. That's right, I'm a bit on the tall side. Andrew is taller, though! Ask him.
65 big points, to the only person who got it right!
#94 was something I had no idea about, even though I've seen the movie a few times. On the restroom wall,
there is graffiti that reads "For a good time, call b) Allyson Wonderland". 45 points for that one,
and 90 to GaijinMonogatari... thanks for the question!
"Where hast everyone gone? Dost thou think it is my breath?" is a quote from a certain RPG.
Where is "everyone", anyway? (75 points)
a) Sucked into a magically-sealed hole leading to the Demon World.
b) Right there; the person who says it is blind.
c) Behind a door locked with a golden key, in an underground town.
d) At the top of a tower, avoiding an impending global flood.
e) 12,600 years in the past.
Things to work for (the SOCK item shop!):
Which of the following characters is not featured anywhere in the art on the casing for Makai Kingdom? (50 points)
400 points: Tilde (infinite number remaining!)
700 points: The Final Fantasy 1 "Official" Crazed-Chipmunk-Hold-your-Ears Zipfile Soundtrack (1 remaining!)
1000 points: The Mattie's Mom Cookie Recipe Compilation (4 remaining!)
2000 points: Guest-co-host Opportunity #2 (5 remaining!)
Chatting about different battle systems and button timing and stuff like that has me geared up now to answer some
more, so for tomorrow, tell me which game, in your opinion, has the BEST battle system out of them all, and
let me know why you feel that way. If that doesn't float your boat, then write to me about a classic oldie: Final Fantasy
IX. It's been years now since its release; what do you think of the game, looking back?
In any case, thanks for reading as always; I hope you enjoyed the column. I'll be back later with more!
***Matt forgot to change this one-liner yesterday.
This one too! Blast it.
Jan. 23 - Matt
Jan. 22 - Cast
Jan. 21 - Cast
Jan. 19 - Matt
About the Host
Matt's Newest Unhealthy Addiction
Another Unhealthy Addiction
Matt's Top 3 Current Games:
1. Dragon Quest VIII
2. Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time
3. Mario Kart DS
Matt's Top 3 RPG Desires:
1. Final Fantasy III
2. Disgaea II
3. Children of Mana
8. Arros Raikou