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Single for a Week February 14, 2006

Matt Demers - 23:51 EST

IF YOU WANT TO BEFUDDLE SOMEBODY with mathematical trickery, this is something that I've found to work remarkably well. Go up to anyone (preferrably someone you know) and ask them to do the following in their head without using a paper and pencil:

Take fifty, and then add ten.
Add a thousand.
Add ten,
and add a thousand;
add another ten,
and add a thousand.
Add ten, and add a thousand again;
finally, add ten.

Now, ask them for the result that they've calculated in their mind. Almost without fail they will guess 5,000, even though the answer is clearly 4,100. It's really kind of freaky... if you don't believe me, try it on a few people. I used to do it all the time when I was younger, and for some reason, I just thought of it over the weekend for the first time in years.

Anyway, I'm all alone in the land of Q&A now, until Tiptail arrives this upcoming weekend. In case you didn't notice, the 100% Canadian-ness of this column will been preserved with her arrival!!! Mwahahaha... may our caribou and beaver sentries rampage through the world branding each and every person with maple leaf tattoos!! Resistance, as the cliché goes, is futile.

In all seriousness, I just want to say here and now that I've read Andrew's Q&A for a very long time. I've always loved his columns, and seeing him depart is very saddening; after all, it's because of his writing that I ever decided to apply for the new position last summer. (It was THAT long ago already?!)

The moral of the story? If you like me, you've got Cast to thank, because without him, there would be no me! If you don't like me, then, well, go away, but come back to support Tiptail in her new endeavour. Either way, hats off, because you'll always be my Q&A King, Mr. Long~

Enough with sappy tributes... I've got to enjoy my time as dictator-supreme of this realm while it lasts, and it won't last long. Let us begin another week!

If you don't want to read Final Fantasy VI spoilers, you had better skip this entire letter.

It's yew!!!!
Guess who??


Let me think about that one for a few seconds...okay, yeah, I'm pretty sure I know who this is.

Wait, let me put on some game music to put me in the right mood. Oooh, FF6 Ending Theme. How fun! Although it's making me want to go play it now. Get ready for the e-mail o'DOOM!


No day is complete without fitting RPG background music. Unfortunately for me, last Wednesday I heard the Game Over theme from Final Fantasy VI, right after I came out of my Numerical midterm o' horror. Oh, sigh...

Now to it: Number one - In ummm.... your column from February 7th - you were asked "how on earth do you remember as much as you do about older games?" And you said a) Because you are God, and b) Because it's your equivalent to pop music. HOWEVER! You failed to mention the fact that you just have a freakishly amazing capacity for memorizing any and all information. Hence, I would imagine, why you are so very smart!


Why, thank you. It's about time that somebody acknowledges these attributes as facts. I hereby promote you to "head underling".

Number 2 - I would like to clarify that the reason I play games all the way until the end is likely semi-subconsciously because I mainly enjoy playing RPGs for the story. Of course all the fighting and customizing is fun too, but I love to just wander around and explore everything and try my best to make sure I don't miss ANYTHING. But then once you get to the end of the game... it's all over with!! I just don't want it to end! Especially if I have really liked the game. But when you get to just before the boss of the game, you know the story isn't going to go anywhere else. You're not going to find any more secrets (well, in the ones where I know so because certain brothers tell me these things before I finish). And sometimes I've even SEEN the end before I've actually finished it... so I just want the MEAT of the story!!!


Poor child. I argue that if you're REALLY into the story that much, you should want to see it through to the end. If your brothers are spoiling the plot for you, scream at them or throw a dense object at their face. If they aren't godly, that should shut them up for a bit; at least, until they've stopped the bleeding and come back for revenge!

But let me think... I still have to finish Mario RPG, Mario & Luigi: SS, FF4, FF5, FF7, FF8, FF9, Earthbound, Chrono Trigger, Tales of Symphonia, Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, and..... probably several others. Some of these I started playing and didn't even get all the way through TO the end, so now I can barely remember where I actually did get to. What advice do you have for people like me to rectify this so-called "serious problem"?


Enh, when I have that problem, and months or even years pass, I generally start the game over from the beginning. I have to do the same thing with Shadow Hearts, Zelda: Majora's Mask, and several other games myself, because I won't have a clue what to do when I go back to them, if and when that ever happens, of course. If you don't have time to start them over, then too bad for you! You should have been more "committed" the first time around, you silly girl.

Now, while I grew up watching certain people play through many different games, FF6 stands out the most (I had no confidence in my own gameplay abilities back then, but have since played through it and many others). It will always be one of my favourites, and the music brings out the nostalgic feelings like it's nobody's business!! It reminds me of the days of sitting with a blank tape in my sister's boom box right next to the TV so I could record allllll of the different music while certain people played through it. We would hold our breath so it wouldn't be heard on the recording, but every once in a while: "TURN IT DOWN!!!!" bellowed Mom from the next room. Or convincing certain people to purposely screw up during the opera scene so I could write down all the words (lyrics?). Do you happen to have memories similar to these by any chance?


They are hazy, but yes... yeeeeesss... the mists are clearing! Somehow, I remember doing the same! Mysterious, that... but I also remember playing little RPGs that I would throw together for my brother, making them up on the fly (we used to call them "throw-together-games"). For a couple of them, I tried to use these recordings for background music, which worked with very limited success.

Ah, my stupid formative days when I didn't realize that there existed things called soundtracks...

So, while we're in the nostalgic FF6 spirit, here is a.... BARRAGE O'FF6 QUESTIONS:

What is your favourite music? As cheap as this might sound, I love the Ending theme.


Ohhh my...THAT is a hard question. For effect, I really really love both of the world of ruin's overworld themes. The first one is so dark and terrible, the effect is absolutely incredible, in my opinion. Finally, the overworld/airship music for the world of ruin later on is one of the greatest "destiny" musics ever; I often have it running through my head. Wouldn't you agree? Of course, there are so many amazing pieces of music in that game... the "catastrophe" theme (I'm not sure of the actual name of the track) is also fantastic.

What is your favourite scene? Favourite part or whatever... one of mine is the exchange between Sabin, Cyan, and Gau when you first get the wild boy in your party.


Definitely, DEFINITELY, the scene where you face Kefka and Gestahl at the top of the floating continent. Oh, MAN, that scene is a wonderful mix of terrifying, horrifying, shocking, and hilarious. If you haven't played, you won't understand.

What is your favourite place (this can include anything - town, cave, land mass, tower, research facility, etc.)? I liked the Esper Town... although I always wished you could do more there.


Yeah, it was a shame that you couldn't do more there, but alas; no game is perfect. My favourite place is probably the Magitek Research Facility or the Floating Continent, probably half because of the music, and half because of the monumental-ness of each in the storyline. They're so exciting!

Who is your favourite character (ASIDE from Kefka... since we all know this already!)? I always loved Sabin, I think for his cheater-esque battle qualities. Personality-wise, hmm... that's a toughy. Perhaps Edgar?


Ugh, you speak of his cheapo 0 MP blitzes, do you? Sabin is definitely not my favourite character, but let me think... DO I have a favourite character? Personality-wise, I've always liked Celes, for whatever reason... though Edgar is a great character too, as are Strago/Relm. It would be difficult to narrow things down from there, honestly. Battlewise, I love Cyan, because armed with a Genji Glove, Black Belt, Tempest katana, and other powerful katana, he is one killer dude. Relm, with her ungodlily powerful spells, is also rather fun.

Which is your favourite storyline? I was always intrigued by the mystery of Shadow's past. Was he Relm's father??


My favourite storyline? Hmm... definitely the central one, to be honest. Locke's is sad, sure; Terra's is decent, too, until she "loses her will to fight," which is kind of stupid. Edgar and Sabin's is really good, and more believable; the same goes for Setzer. As for the question of whether Shadow was Relm's father, there IS no question. One of the biggest pieces of evidence, in my opinion, is that they can both equip the special Memento Ring relic. Why, also, would Interceptor like Relm as much as he does...? There are too many coincidences for it NOT to be true.

Now finally, what is the geekiest RPG-related thing that you have ever done? For example... screwing up in the opera just to have time to write down all of the words to it.


That's more geeky than tape recording all of the music? You need to redefine your geekiness-levels, my dear. I'm pretty sure that my geekiest RPG-related thing was accomplished when I was about 14 or 15, when I wrote out every single monster from every single Dragon Warrior game for the NES along with where you could find them, how much HP they had, and what techniques they knew. Why? I dunno. I must have had a lot of time on my hands in my youth...

Okay. I am finished.

This should keep you busy for a while. Too bad I'll likely be in transit tomorrow afternoon, so I won't be able to proof this!


HA, and why would you be responsible for that? You may be head underling, or whatever I made you, but don't let it go to your head.

Keep up the WONDERFUL work, and I'm so glad that you are the one who won the Q&A Guy (Person?) position!!

From a long-time reader,
Insert Name Here

P.S. Roar. Christine Cushing is currently disgracing my TV screen. Die too-cool woman!


She is quite annoying sometimes, mostly because she doesn't realize how annoying she is. Some of her stuff does look yummy, though...

Thanks for writing in, mystery writer-inner. Please, do so again one day if you feel like spouting about FFVI, or any other game, some more.

I am not a crook!

Hiya Matt

It's been a while since I actually wrote something, did you miss me? Yeah, I bet you did. Or didn't, see if I care (*siff* *runs off to blow nose*)


Of course I did! You were haunting my every waking moment, and even some of my subconscious moments, too. It's pretty bad when I'm dreaming about my writers-in, isn't it? Don't run off though; here's a virtual Kleenex for you~

Ok, I'm better know. Anyway, you've probably heard enough of this kind of thing, but here's my piece. Dragon Quest 8 is a game that the rpg world has been needing for quite some time. For me, anyway, rpg playing before that has been for a while has been a little dry. But I acquired DQ8 for christmas, and I have been having some good times. And boy is it long! So far i'm at the point soon after what I thought was the final battle, or something close to it, and have accumulated about 75 hours of play time! This has got to be the longest game I have ever played (except possible Breath of Fire three, cause I remember it being long, but it's been years since I've played it). Besides that must have been Final Fantasy 10, which took me about 60 or so, and FF6 took me about 45. On average, though, games that I've played rarely ever take me more that 40, and I've played a substantial amount of games. Anyway, DQ8 is a wonderful game and a worthy purchase (whoops, I mean gift).


Yeah, it's definitely a game that I've invested a LOT of my free time into. Trying to beat all of the special extras has even gotten me levelling up and skill seed-hunting, with some limited success. My clock is getting closer and closer to 150 hours, though... in Dragon Warrior VII, I had 180 registered before I had enough. DQ/DW and me... well, it's something close to an addiction.

I tend to rack up a lot of hours playing games, since I'm pretty thorough about finding treasures in dungeons, etc, and I also have a tendency to leave the game on while eating or going out with friends. My clock on FFX was around 75-80 hours by the time I finished it off, for example, even though I really didn't discover much of the special extra stuff that there was to find.

I have an entry for the worst rpg ever. How about Ephemeral Phantasia. That was the only game I returned to the game store for measly store credit three days after I bought it. The story has something to do with a thief disquised as a bard who gets invited to an island kingdom to play his guitar for the royal family at some ceramony. His guitar, which you can play much like those arcade guitar playing games, also houses his sword . . . which talks. Anyway something happens at this ceramony where this evil dude sets a spell that freezes the entire island in time, but only you, the silent hero (the bigmouthed sword does all the talking for you) is saved from this catasrophe and sent back three days before the party when you first arrived on the island. Sounds like a rip off of majora's mask doesn't it. Anyway the musics bad, the battles are worse, the game is awful.


Perhaps. One could easily argue that there is a LOT of ripping-off done in the RPG world; how many different well-known RPG stereotypes are there, anyway? It's too bad it wasn't done well, but at the same time, in order to have better-than-average games, you need worse-than-average games too, from a statistics standpoint. It's just unfortunate that you happened to go for that one in particular.

Now for a major question that's been bothering me for a long time. I always here, and it's been mentioned many times in your column, that there are North Americans who have played such games as FF3 or DQ 5&6. Those games, any rpgamer would know, have never been released on this side of the Pacific. Even you have mentioned before (unless I read falsely) that you have played these games. How? Can you read Japanese, cause you've never mention being able to before to my knowledge. Also, you have many times before voiced your dislike of emulators so you probably didn't play them that way, unless I'm wrong. Anyway, It just confuses me everytime you talk about the music, battle/job system or story, of FF3 when it has never been released in North America. Am I missing something? Can you explain this to me?


So, you caught me. I'm not going to lie to you or anyone else; I did indeed use emulators for a time. I discovered them in high school, when a friend of mine sent me one, and that's how I rediscovered Dragon Warrior III once again, years after the terrible renting incident that I've mentioned a couple of times on here. I had no idea that emulation was a legally delicate issue at all, so I went on a rampage for awhile getting games from the guy and playing; somewhere in there, I played the Japanese Dragon Quests V and VI, as well as Final Fantasy III. It was in more recent years that I realized that what I was doing was illegal, after I finally went to try and search for my own. Naive, was I? Perhaps.

So, you might be saying "Why are you preaching something and practicing something else?" Good question. Well, I haven't played emulated games for a long time, now, so I'd argue that I'm an ex-addict. One main reason that I feel so strongly against emulation now is because there appears to be other options on the horizon. Even though we haven't heard much out of Nintendo lately, they have promised that the Revolution will allow players to actually download and play all sorts of games from the earlier days of Nintendo, and legally at that. It's always good to play on the legal side of things, anyway.

Anyway, I hope this response doesn't get me in TOO much trouble, but you asked a valid question. Certainly, there are many people here that can muck through the Japanese to play imported games, and many others import without understanding the language at all. I could never do that, though; understanding the game, to me, is somewhat important to being able to fully enjoy it. Maybe I'm just weird...

Oh, dilemmas.


What are your thoughts on Granda III? It might have good ratings, but the length seems too short for me. I just finished DW8 with over 100 hours of play, so I want a solid game.

Should I just wait for Suikoden 5?



My friend, not all games are created equal. Just because a game isn't 100 hours long doesn't mean it won't be good. From the sounds of it, Grandia III has a lot going for it, including great eye candy and a stunning battle system. If I had the time and money, I'd give it a try myself, especially since I've never played a Grandia game before. Of course, Suikoden V isn't far away if you can wait that long; perhaps give Grandia a rental in the meantime to see if it's worth it. Or, if you go "No-Late-Fees" style from Blockbuster, and use the extra few days, you might be able to beat the game all at once, anyway.

It's time for the latest in Star Ocean letters

Hey Matt/whomever else this may be,

I was just wondering about your general opinion on the game Star Ocean 3. I know a lot of people hate it due to its incorporation of MP death, somewhat awkward battle system, and really strange plot twist. But I was wondering if there was anything else. I don't know why, but I just loved the game. I remember writing here a couple of months ago asking whether I should play SO3 or Tales of Symphonia due to limited time and the person answering the questions said that ToS was definitely the better choice. But I don't know... I think I had an equal amount of fun with both of them. ToS's battle system was better, of course. And the AI was by far better (hey, my characters actually run away from the enemy when casting spells, imagine that!), but I guess Star Ocean has always had that sci-fi charm to it. I'm one of the few people whose played through all three, and I can say that it's a pretty good series. Especially when y ou realize the insane amount of backstory it has, and how what you did in every SO game has some significance in later games.


My general opinion on Star Ocean: Till the End of Time is that it was a game that failed to live up to its potential in nearly every non-technical department. While the graphics and sound were very well presented, everything else failed to satisfy in some way.

I actually really enjoyed the MP-death system a lot, mostly because it's an idea that I had had in my OWN RPG-Making mind for years. Also, having to budget both HP and MP for different types of attacks was a different twist on the typical, shaking things up a bit. My biggest problem in the battle, as any regular reader would know, is that my other allies failed to act in any rational way whatsoever... for whatever reason, the AI of my characters was absolutely miserable, and downright misery-inducing. In Star Ocean 2, computer-controlled allies were fairly responsive with healing and support spells, but I found that in SO3, they were more likely to quite often just a) stand still, or b) hop around mindlessly throughout battle. It got really, really frustrating at times, especially when fighting obscenely powerful enemies later on.

If it wasn't for that issue, I would really, really enjoy it, so it's pretty unfortunate. I thought that battles were fast-paced and action-packed; if you could get on top of things in battle, there was nothing more satisfying than connecting one of Fayt or Cliff's attacks with an enemy.

The backstory of SO3 was spectacular, as it was in SO2. I actually REALLY enjoyed the plot twist, and nearly predicted it beforehand in conversation with my brother, who beat the game before I did. I just felt that the game FROM the plot twist onward felt really rushed. They could have done so much with it, and instead, they chose to end the game really prematurely, in my mind. I figured that Fayt would "have to learn to control his powers" by the end... at least, that's what the game foreshadowed earlier. Of course, it never really happens in the plot, and thus I felt that the ending felt really rushed, and very abrupt, especially in comparison to the long-winded rest of the game.

Speaking of long-winded, that's about enough of that; there were a few other minor issues, but that covers the main ones for me. You may now continue.

But one thing that I guess I really liked about the game is that it allowed you to naturally progress into the 5-digit HP and damage totals. And using Fayt's strongest move to deliver 15 hits for 25,000 damage each was totally ridiculous. And it didn't matter because all healing was based on percentages instead of a fixed amount — one thing I think the Tales and Star Ocean series (I know they're sort of related in terms of development teams) really have over Final Fantasy games, in my opinion. Final Fantasy X just got too awkward for me when you got Ultimate Weapons and had to have that stupid "Break Damage Barrier" and then get the "Break HP Barrier" ability in order to fight the extra bosses and Monster Arena bosses. It just seemed overly cumbersome and it annoyed me that your Mega Potions only gave you 2000 HP and that it was s o hard to find the necessary items to make the abilities that allowed you to break the damage/hp/mp barriers. I think that could've been incorporated a lot better.


Agreed! I just ranted on this last week... sure, putting limits on numbers keeps a player's party's strength in check, but I think that it makes the game seem really artificial at the same time. I was really happy that SO3 left it open in that way, especially since it was so easy to reach 9999 HP early in SO2, if I remember correctly.

I will admit, though, that SO3's big plot twist was... strange. Some say it ruined the whole series, but I wouldn't go quite that far... I actually thought it was rather satirical and kind of amusing. I saw it as sort of making fun of our perception of reality (like how people say, "Wow, I wish I could be like that guy in that movie"). And honestly, what's so bad about another game where you get to kill God? I think the people that just label it as a "Matrix rip-off" are simplifying it too much and just looking for something to compare it to.

Anyhow, thanks for reading my long letter ^_^

P.S. Do you think there's any chance of there being a Star Ocean 4?



No problem! It was my pleasure...thanks for sending it in. I already mentioned, of course, what I think of the plot, up above. I think that the twist was an ambitious and interesting idea; I just think that it could have been executed better in the end. All in all, it was just one of a few factors that prevented me from really being able to put the game in my top-favourite games of all time. While it isn't my least favourite, I think that the development teams could have done better.

The game is still popular enough, though, that I certainly wouldn't rule out another sequel. I wouldn't rule out playing it, either, despite the faults of #3. I'm big on second chances, after all.

Move over, Star Ocean!

Who do you think are the hottest RPG ladies?

- Macstorm


Silly human. I don't generally look at the ladies, but I will say that I thought that it was a crying shame that Irvine and Zell didn't end up hooking up by the end of Final Fantasy VIII. How's THAT for a shocking storyline twist?


I bought a butterflied pork chop for my dinner tonight, and while it was very tasty, pork, for some reason, has the peculiar tendency to get caught between my lower right canine and the tooth behind it... is that a bicuspid? Whatever it is, I had to go on a quest to find floss in order to alleviate the annoyance, and I just returned now, so I thought I'd tell the lot of you. Yeah, my life isn't that exciting. Oh, speaking of which, having received a grade of 55% on my Numerical midterm, I will likely be dropping the course, because a mark like that is simply unacceptable for someone with possible doctorate intentions in mind. Perhaps, then, I'll seem less stressed out from hereon in? We can all hope.


Before wrapping this column up, it's time to examine the great SOCK questions of yesterday.

#113 was Ourobolus' question about which boss we're both stuck on. The game in question, of course, is Dragon Quest VIII, and the boss is e) Darksteel Dragon. With the ability to always go three times per turn and with strength that causes 270+ damage per attack, there isn't much hope outside of sheer levelling at this point. 110 points to everyone who guessed correctly!

#114 was submitted by Xlash. A loooot of people attempted this question, and some of you got it right. At the very beginning, the clocks read 7:53, but as Marty finds out a few minutes later, they are actually 25 minutes slow; thus, the time at the beginning of the movie was d) 8:18 for 90 points, and 180 for Xlash. Thanks for submitting!

A big day on the scoreboards; Xlash has overtaken Ouro, bumping him from the top position for the first time in what seems like forever. Also, the floor is now open to both Xlash and Flamethrower... will they choose to co-host with me sometime soon? I guess you'll have to stay tuned to find out!

Also, honourable mention must go out to a few individuals: Alan Tse, first of all, crossed the magical 400 barrier last week, along with Erika Wolfraven and Final Delerium, as of today! Erika is currently sitting in 13th position with 575 points, Alan Tse is in 18th with 405 points, and Final Delerium is in 19th with 404. A tilde goes out to each of you right here and now:

~ ~ ~

And with that, the price for special mention has increased to 800 points! Yes, times are troubling, and inflation is underway; with many more hosts next week, the prices will go up yet again. Keep sending in your answers to stay on top of the game!

Question #115:
Of the following five characters, whose last name can be altered by only one letter to obtain a tasty french treat? (105 points)

a) Barret
b) Quistis
c) Zidane
d) Celes
e) Locke

Question #116:
Ask Rexy!-->One of the presents in "We Love Katamari" allows the player to carry a small buddy around with them. But, which cousin's buddy is NOT a miniature version of itself? (85 points)

a) The Prince
b) Ichigo
c) Velvet
d) June
e) Ace

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

800 points: Tilde (infinite number remaining!)
2,000 points: Guest-co-host Opportunity #2 (4 remaining!)
5,000 points: Guest-co-host Opportunity #3 (5 remaining!)

Anyway, that's all for today! I hope you had fun reading. If you want to send in a question, please feel free. Are you excited about Grandia III or Suikoden V and want to share? Or, how about the news on Final Fantasy: Advent Children? Whatever you want to contribute, I'm all ears, or eyes, such as the case may be!
***Matt lost at his most recent game of Numerical.

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Someone shall pay for my terrible failure! That person will probably be me.


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About the Host

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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

SOCK standings:

1. Xlash
2,135 pts

2. Ourobolus
2,093 pts

3. Flamethrower
2,010 pts

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1,805 pts

6. Bainick
1,556 pts

7. MagRowan
1,536 pts

8. Arros Raikou
1,373 pts

9. Belthasar2
1,213 pts

10. Dermot
1,108 pts

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