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The Mouse Takes the Cheese February 15, 2006

Matt Demers - 01:44 EST

A FUN THING TO DO if you're deep-frying something is to wait until the oil is at super-high temperatures (350 degrees or so); then take a single drop of water and let it fall in. The oil will pop REALLY loudly, and it's kinda scary; I wouldn't recommend it, because I'm sure there's some risk involving kitchen fires (assuming you do this in the kitchen).

How would I know this? Well, let's just say that it's best to create confections by yourself without inviting curious friends along to spectate. That is all.

We shall speak no more about my kitchen misadventures; let's now turn to the trusty mailbag.

Emus... and now in the non-bird style

The World of Emulation

I came to my surprise about your aggressive nature toward the emulation scene. I find it disconcerting how you categorize the emulation seen as some type of maverick Pirate Warez group. I believe we need to discuss about the facts concerning the emulation scene.


Uh oh... what have I started!!? More importantly, how do I stop it...? I wouldn't really say that I'm "aggressive" in nature towards emulation, though I definitely don't advocate it. Go ahead and take your best shot, though; I'm open to opposing views.

Its illegality is based on the downloader and not of those who supply the digital copy. It has been officially stated by Nintendo that digital backup copies of originals are allowed. The method to attain a digital back-up copy has never been detailed thus it is completely LEGAL to download a digital copy of Tales of Phantasia, as long as you have purchased the Japanese cart. What the translation groups do to the digital copy is of course within the grey area. How much control do you have over a product that is purchased for personal use? If we believe that the translators have no legal rights to manipulate code, then it would also mean that flashes containing Nintendo characters or music videos spotlighting anime scenes would be considered illegal. They of course are not. Anyone who argues against this point clearly does not have working knowledge of our copyright laws.


Yes, but let's be honest here; how many people actually use emulators and ROMs as backup copies? I don't have statistics in front of my face, but the huge majority of emulated-gamers absolutely do not own the original copies in any way, shape, or form. Clearly, if everyone only downloaded things they owned, emulation would be a non-issue from the get-go, so I think your back-up point is pretty moot.

There exists absolutely no control over the products you purchase. You can take a game apart, manipulate all the code you want, or stick it in hot oil, if that's what tickles your fancy. The illegal part is in actually distributing a product to others with copyrighted "parts," as it were. While that in and of itself isn't necessarily the most terrible thing, the manipulation/distribution becomes more questionable when games like DQV or VI, FFV or III still have marketable potential. With the number of remakes coming out these days, one could easily argue that a free copy of DQVI online might take a bite out of the potential sales of a remake.

Of course, you could look at it in a completely opposite way, which ironically enough, is what happened to me; it's BECAUSE I played Final Fantasy III, for instance, that I'm so likely to purchase the remake once it does come out.

I guess there are always two sides to an argument, and while I can see both sides, I feel like it's a good idea to err on the side of legality, so to speak.

This community of RPG fanatics grew up with American released RPGs, but if you notice most peopleís top ten list, always contains a SNES Japanese import. Are we to assume that the majority of these people played them in their original Cart in Japanese? Maybe, just maybe, they used translated roms. People always use the excuse that they were in high school, and that they didnít know it was illegal; Iím not just referring to Matt, many people use this excuse. It seems odd to that everyone would never notice a huge legal agreement contract put on almost every single emulator/rom site. How can you not know that itís illegal to download a copy of a non-purchased product? Just because you were a freshman doesnít mean you donít have the intelligence to know what is legal and not legal to do. Itís a weak excuse, simple as that.


If you're implying that I'm lying, then I'm sorry to inform you that you're simply incorrect; my friend Ken used to be my emulated-game-supplier, and I didn't even touch a ROM website for quite a long time after I first discovered emulation, mostly on account of the fact that our "trusty" dial-up connection of yore was even more unimaginably slow than it is today. Sure, I probably should have had a few question marks in my head at first, but my Dragon Warrior III reunion just put my head in the clouds, I guess.

We have to be truthful to ourselves and to others, and simply agree that the emulation scene is what created the huge boom of RPG popularity that we see nowadays. People talk about how they played such and such domestic release, but it is those translated ROMs that really brought old school RPGs to the hands of the younger generation. I donít know if 13 year olds still play around with emulators, but their impact has been felt. If it werenít for the huge popularity of SNES emulation that occurred in the late 90s and early 2000ís, Nintendo may have never thought if re-releasing those games through the Nintendo Revolution.


I disagree almost entirely with the first things you said, yet I totally agree with your last statement.

Firstly, I know that there has been a surge in RPG popularity over the past ten years in comparison with years prior; however, this is definitely a result of high-profile releases such as the obvious Final Fantasy VII, though perhaps Chrono Trigger, Super Mario RPG, and of course, Pokťmon helped out too.

The evidence for this is clear to me... while people like you and I might be longtime RPGamers, there are just too many PSX-generation FF fanpeople out there. I've said it before and I'll say it again; a very large number of people simply refuse to try playing anything pre-FFVII for some inexplicable reason, and those people certainly wouldn't be interested in playing old-school emulated games with their sub-amazing graphics. I'm not saying that emulation has had absolutely no effect on RPG popularity, but I would suggest that the opposite is much more likely to be true; emulation has been made MORE popular by those fans of new-age RPGs that actually do want to see where the games came from (i.e. those not in the group described above).

If I haven't lost you yet, I would agree with you 100%, though, that Nintendo's "revolutionary" plans are being implemented to help combat the practice of illegal emulation. If these plans actually do end up coming to fruition, then I think this would provide at least old-school Nintendo gamers with a really great opportunity, and one that isn't treading on legally thin ice.

People spout about how Nintendo Revolution will do this or that, but at the moment its pure marketing fluff, and what exactly are their plans for the American market is still to be heard. I know people seem to be adamant over Nintendoís future plans, but they arenít set in stone and can easily change. I hope we get to see some good old school SNES RPGs be released through the Revolution here in the States, but Iím not holding my breath. Console after console has thought me not to trust marketing hype.


Fair enough, though I think it would be suicidal for Nintendo to disappoint at this point. Their showing at E3 last year wasn't taken too well, all in all, thanks to the general lack of Revolution details. It is, of course, widely suspected that out of the next-gen consoles, the Revolution will be the inferior one as far as sheer power is concerned. If this is true, and if Nintendo were to claw back its earlier promises on top of that, there really wouldn't be a whole lot going for it besides its weird controller, the success of which is certainly already up for debate.

I'm with you though; promises from console-producing companies have disappointed many times in the past. If Nintendo doesn't deliver, you'll be hearing utter rage from me in this column, that's for sure.

Anyway I can understand peopleís adverse reaction toward emulation, but it is thanks to those hard working people that we got play such great games. Emulation isnít something to demonize. It has viable legal reasons to exist. What other way can I play my old beatup copy of Super Mario Bros 3. I have full legal rights to play a digital back up copy of Super Mario Bros. 3. It is not illegal to own or create an emulator. It is illegal to own a digital copy of a un-purchased product. This means I can buy a SNES Tale of Phantasia cart, download a digital back up copy, apply a translation patch, play it using an emulator, and this will all be considered legal. This is exactly what I did during my high school years. I do the same thing with PSX emulation. I have full legal rights to make a back-up copy of my old psx rpgs, and play them on my computer. I must confess that SNES games that I can not get a hold of I have downloaded them. I have to confess that I have a huge library of PC- Engine roms and Neo Geo Roms. Yet you tell me how I can get a hold of most of those games. If there was a legal way to download them I would do it.


It's a tough situation, for sure, though the "honour system" will never work. People are too greedy to only emulate for backup purposes; I know that as well as you do.

Also, there are other ways to obtain old games, though they are sometimes expensive; eBay is usually great for such things, if you're into that sort of thing.

Unfortunately, that's not always adequate either. In a lot of ways, I can understand why pro-emulation-people would be upset that they can't download games that aren't even being produced or sold anymore in any form. Perhaps some laws could stand to change, you know? Perhaps, say, when a video game producer goes out of business, some legal strings could be loosened; perhaps at some point, a company could release permission to distribute ROMs of games that they never plan on making money off of again.

I don't know enough to know all of the options, but I think that there is a possible middleground that hasn't really been explored yet. Is that reasonable? I really can't say for sure.

Now, donít get me wrong; I donít support downloading domestic or import games of this generation or the last. Those games can be attained legally and easily. I would love to be able to buy old SNES RPGs and have them digitally distributed. If Nintendo actually follows through with their plans I will be the first one in line to buy and download their games. Until then, Iíll stick with my emulation.


I really hope they do follow through; as I say, I can't imagine that they wouldn't in some form, though I worry from time to time that there may be strings attached, somehow. Will the entire NES library be up for grabs, for instance? Or, will only games produced by Nintendo be available? The latter, unfortunately, seems like it could be likely...

Some people may think that emulation is just plain wrong. I canít change your minds if you think that way. Do you people really think that for every fighting game I download for my Neo Geo emulator, SNK (or Playmore) will lose a sell of king of fighters 96. BTW, I own the console ports of many SNK games, I even own an Arcade cabinet of KOF í96. Yet, how many people can actually go buy a now defunct arcade cabinet of a 10 year old arcade game. SNK makes no profit from the sales of those arcade cabinets that you see in Ebay, so who exactly am I cheating money out of.


Yes yes... growing sleepy. You have made your point. I don't think that emulation-fans are spawns of the devil or have murderous tendencies or anything like that; I just have the same view towards it as I do towards, say, downloading movies on the internet. A lot of people do it, but it doesn't make it right.

Take this train of thought. Imagine 10 years from now. Sony decided not to do any backwards capability on any of their new consoles. Youíre 13 years old and youíve never played FFVII. Sony doesnít sell the game anymore and they donít sell the consoles that play the game anymore either. As a consumer do you think you are allowed to get yourself a downloaded copy of FF7 and play it on a psx emulator? Do you think itís wrong to go down that path? This is the exact situation that is occurring now with Neo geo, turbo-grafix, and SNES. Now if sony decided to re-release ff7 on their new console, we as law-abiding consumers are obligated to purchase this now legal and officially distributed version. Luckily for Sony, they decided to keep backwards capability. Their reason to do so have more to do with cutting down illegal distribution of their products than with baiting consumers with the idea that they arenít losing their money by switching to a new console.


I'd say that your example isn't the best one, considering that FFVII is one of the best selling games in the history of video-gaming (forget RPGaming) while the Neo-Geo and Turbo Grafx 16 were mere blips on the radar. Man, I remember playing my Grade 4 Teacher's TG16, though... Mrs. Brown brought it in randomly so that we could sign up and play during recess if we wanted to. The games, unfortunately, were all quite ungood.

*end random memory*

I know you can come back with the point that it doesnít matter, itís still illegal. Well youíre right. If you want to be anal about, then sure it is illegal. Try explaining that to a 13 year old kid wanting to play Star Ocean for the SNES. Are you going to tell him, no sonny, you canít download that digital copy of Star Ocean, until Nintendo getís off their ass and re-releases it for the new console? What if Nintendo doesnít, then what? People seem to think that they can look down at emulation, since Nintendo has expressed their plans for re-releasing old SNES games. Well, that wasnít case back in the late 90s. Nintendo had no plans of doing such a thing. Anybody who looks down at emulation needs to reflect back what emulation did for the RPG community. Think back really hard, and then re-evaluate your thoughts. It may have been illegal, but it taught console companies that gamers still love their old games and that they truly want a legal and easy way to play them.

Sorry for my ranting.



Come now, play fair; just because Nintendo had no plans for releasing old games TEN YEARS ago doesn't mean that they can't change. Did Microsoft have plans to release a video game system ten years ago? Doubtful. Did Sony plan on releasing a portable game system to compete head-to-head against the Nintendo monopoly ten years ago? Ha! The past actions of a company by no means condemn them to a set path forevermore.

In any case, I'm glad you took the enormous amount of time to write in, because you obviously have a very passionate opinion on the subject. Certainly, I understand your frustration, and I can't say that I'm entirely unfrustrated myself. All I can say is that I am optimistic for the future; whether or not it will turn out the way we want it to is out of our hands.

My nerd, your nerd.

You have sparked the nerd in me. Dammit, man. I try to keep that in the closet, next to the skeletons and mental images of people I'd enjoy eating.


And who, might I ask, do you think looks most nutritious? Say, between a few random individuals: If you had to eat one of Meredith Vieira, Anderson Cooper, Paula Abdul, or Montel Williams, who would you choose?

*blink blink*

This tangent is way too weird and disturbing to continue along, so let's move back to your letter before Mothers Against Cannibalism members begin writing in with fervour.

Anyway, in reference to your Star Ocean dilemma, your special-ed AI, and I don't mean that in any derogatory sense, but in the sense that what they need is a little bit of special education. Doesn't take a retard to figure it out, but I'm a nice guy, so I'll give you the run down. First, let me ask if you ever tried playing as any of the other characters? So of them were really fun, and by that, I mean so so cheap. I was a killing machine in that game; Albel was a good one (MP kills like it's nothing to it), the blonde dude (sure, I could look their names up, but so could you...f*** it), the girl knight is a rabid beast...I could go on...perhaps I will someday...this little reminiscence has made me want to go back and beat it, since I quit when the end got spoiled...that really is a shitty way to end a game...shame on them for that.


But but, but but, BUT I did! I have communistic tendencies while playing any RPG, and SO3 was absolutely no exception. Every single character was fairly powerful by the end of the game, and they WERE killing machines, as long as I was the one controlling them. For some reason, Fayt would refuse to use anything but really weak, stupid spells while being controlled by AI, no matter which tactic I set him on. On the other hand, he was destructOR extraordinaire if I was doing the controlling myself.

But the battle system deserves to be intensely enjoyed. There is a system, just takes figuring out. Anyway, I digress. What you need to do is play as the other characters, and get them a move set that chains easily. Fool around with them until they kick ass, basically. Not all characters are equal, as I'm sure you know, and some do, to be blunt, suck. Once you do that, just fight as them for a bit. It seems that you can train the AI and tune it to your play style by using the different characters in battle. Be sure to switch if you're main character starts to take a lot of damage... he does seem to get dumb sometimes... but once you are back to controlling him and have a team that can actually fend for themselves... that's when the real fun starts...


Belieeeeve me, pleeeease...! I did everything you said; I swear on my guinea pig's grave... and I loved my poor little Moe. The day she died, I was heartbroken.

Seems like I might need to catch up on that Battle System a little, and try to use my words better next time.


I'm still not sure I approached it correctly, somehow... it would be interesting to play it through again one day, perhaps distributing SP differently. That day isn't coming anytime soon, though.

Anyway, a question... speaking of Battle Systems... what do you think some of the better ones are?

For active battles I like:

Star Ocean 2, 3. With this series as well as Grandia, I've enjoyed how the respective systems have evolved thru each itteration of the series. They keep managing to be fun and engaging experiences, while giving something new and fresh.

Grandia 1 and 2, and really looking forward to 3. Today's the day. I'm feeling kind of excited. My nerd is exposed and twitching.

Zelda OOT and WindWaker, assuming we've resolved that those are, in fact, RPGs


I'm not usually a big fan of active systems; I guess my favourites would have to be those found in Secret of Mana or Secret of Evermore. I just find that they are more chaotic and less strategic than their turn-based counterparts. SO2's wasn't too bad, I suppose.

I liked Chrono Trigger (turn-based) because of the Double and Triple Techs and also because there were no random battles. Same with Secret of Mana. I enjoyed the magic systems in both of those games as well, even if they were very linear...

Ok... I think I could go on, but one more for now. Skies of Arcadia... I absolutely loved the airship battles, and even tho the turn-based group battles were slow and happened so often, I still remember enjoying most every fight. Plus, it never got too easy, and I do appreciate a good challenge...

So, that's about it... and please don't censor my email unless you absolutely have to,

My Nerd Named Streezus


I almost never censor e-mails, and I don't even know circumstances that I'd have to, unless someone happened to write in with an R-rated word or two. Er, what!? You actually used one in the first paragraph, O Cheeky One. *edits*

Anyway, as far as turn-based RPGs go, I've always loved the strategic simplicity of Dragon Quest, and the ATB era of Final Fantasy. One of my favourite turn-based battle systems, though, is one that isn't often mentioned: Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter had a wonderful turn-based battle system that blurred the line between tactical RPGs and, well, "everyday" RPGs, I guess you could say. I thought it was well done, anyway, and there was certainly no lack of challenge or strategy involved!

Thanks, Streezus! Your letter is most appreciated.

Pork: The other right wing

Hey Matt,

Political commentary in DQ VIII? of the first monsters I recruited to fight for me was a leaping, axe-weilding moron named Bush W.(but I suppose that could have stood for bushwhacker).


Oh yeaaaah, I definitely forgot to mention that, didn't I? Indeed, I found Mr. Bush W., and the fact that it stands for bushwhacker doesn't take anything away from the choice of arrangement of letters. It's clearly obvious that they chose "Bush W." purposefully, since it's not as if "Bushwhacker" would have been too long to fit in the window or anything like that. Given that there are other political jokes in a couple of other places, I'd bet my bottom dollar that your headhunting "axe-wielding moron" was named with a certain American president in mind. Good eye. :)

Worst RPG ever? This one is hard since there are so many truly awful games out there. Arc the Lad 3 and Twilight of the Spirits come to mind right away as does FFX-2, but there are many others.


Huh, I've never heard of the middle one, I have to admit. Final Fantasy X-2, though? Really? Sure, it was a hideous bastardization of the FFX name, but the game was strong nonetheless in many ways, with great visuals, decent music, and a killer battle system. So, I'd disagree with you cheerfully there.

Anyway. Someone in some letter mentioned Soul Blazer and I was reminded of how I beat the last boss. Before I fought the boss, I exploited the cheapest leveling tactic in any rpg ever in the final dungeon. I can't remember the specifics but I know it had something to do with an object that kept respawning after I destroyed it. I also remember that this game had a really high limit on how strong it let you become. Eventually I discovered that I was easily 10 times stronger than the second form of the final boss (I defeated the first boss in personal record time of 1.8 sec). My question is: Does anyone else have game that sticks out in the mind because of an easy final boss or an easily exploitable game mechanic?



Good question! I guess it depends on what you want to include; where does "you being strong" turn into "exploiting game mechanics"? This is especially true for RPGs, I think; for a prime example, think of using Mime materia with the strongest summon we all know in a certain popular game. It's cheap, sure, and technically, it's exploiting a game mechanic. I don't think that counts, though.

The first "cheapo" thing I can think of occurs in Dragon Warrior 2, where the item shop owners can randomly give you a lottery ticket if you buy enough items. After obtaining a very large sum of money, and without anything left to do with it, I would go to the local shop and buy as many herbs as I could carry, just to obtain Lottery Tickets, since I think you could win MP-restoring Wizard's Rings by playing the lottery.

Can anyone think of any better examples? Oh, WAIT! There's one VERY obvious one that Square really overlooked: In Final Fantasy VIII, if your HP is low, then there is a chance of getting a limit break, as most of you know. The fact that you can just keep pressing the "pass your turn" button until the limit break option appears is, in my opinion, something that Square shouldn't have allowed... it's really kind of stupid and artificial if you think about it. THAT is a much better example.

Thanks for the great question, Cap! Do write in again.

Must be nice, getting PRESENTS for V-Day...

Yeah, I know Grandia III is shipping, but I really just want to know one thing. What's wrong with my Growlanser Generations discs? My PS2 works fine with every other game I own, but it freezes everything Growlanser 2 or 3 loads. One of you must have broken it, but who? Who did it???

I was really looking forward to playing this...oh well. I just hope my wife bought me Grandia III.

- Macstorm


Bah... yet another example of Sony crapmanship, if you ask me. That said, if all of your other games work, maybe it is just the disc. Is it free from scratches, cracks, fingerprints, and dust? Is it fully intact? I'm guessing so, but you never know.

Also, I've found that there are a few "unstable" games out there. Star Ocean: Till the End of Time behaved very badly while I was playing it; it froze up on a few occasions, and so did Atelier Iris: Eternal Mana when I played it last fall. I guess these are mechanical issues that SHOULD be addressed before a game's release; it seems like stupid marketing to release something that glitchy.

Hopefully you find a way to play your game somehow! If not, at least you can enjoy your new one. :)

Fire? Arrows?

hi please could u tell me where i get fire arrows form on zelda ocarins of time


Ocarins of time? I'm unfamiliar. If, though, you're referring to the N64 hit "The Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time", then I'm afraid you've wasted your finger-juice by typing me that e-mail. This is a place for debatable debatables, not easy-to-look-up RPG specifics. Heck, some would debate the RPGness of Zelda in the first place! Next time, write in about the social implications of Fire Arrows or something.

Good luck on your quest in the meantime.

Kanato: Keeping me in check, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Question #73 was:

In the upcoming movie, Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children, the English voice actor for Sephiroth also was once part of a well known band. The name of the band, roughly translated, means what?

The answer for 30 points was "c - in harmony and in time," but it turns out Sephiroth is being played by George Newbern not Lance Bass, witch makes the correct answer was "e - none of the above." I'm not suggesting you start taking SOCK points away from people, I just though I'd point it out.



Mannn... you caught me in my own web of disaster! Firstly, that was somebody else's submitted question, so it's actually their fault. I don't remember who it was, and maybe I should, but I point the finger at them!

I noticed it when the voice cast went up in a recent news update, so I was a bit worried one of you would catch it. I'd give everyone who guessed it wrong 30 extra points if they felt that passionately about it, but it's not like your answers from two months ago still exist in my mailbox. All I can do now is beg for your forgiveness...


Lately, I've been grimacing when I look up and right from my computer screen to the wall behind it. That is where my Albert Einstein picture hangs; you know, the one with his tongue sticking out? I feel like whenever I face a misfortune, he's poking fun of me from the great beyond, wherever that might be. I'll get you, Albert Einstein.


Sock time!

#115 was a cute question that most of you got right; the confectionlike character is b) Quistis, since by altering her last name, Trepe, by a single letter, you can obtain the delicious crepe, which is especially good with peaches and whipped cream. 105 points for Áa.

#116 was a question posed by Rexy; for those of you Katamari fans, a) The Prince's buddy is not a miniature version of himself, so those of you that guessed correctly got 85 points while Rexy scored 170.

Question #117:
What is the first name of the person whose letter was featured first in yesterday's column? (95 points)

a) Judith
b) Danielle
c) Annette
d) Diane
e) Matt

Question #118:
Ask KnightTrain!-->At one point during Lunar: Silver Star Story, Jessica makes a necklace out of clay. What does Kyle claim the necklace looks like? (80 points)

a) an intrauterine device
b) a donut
c) animal feces
d) a sausage link
e) his unmentionables

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!)

Are you willing to add to this giant conversation about the merits of emulation? Can you think of any "cheapo" ways to exploit RPG mechanics that I may have missed? Do you have a philosophical perspective to share about the merits of fire arrows? Failing any of those... how about those Mother 3 screens? Is the sequel finally taking shape? SO many questions! I'd love to try and answer them all, but to do that, you need to write in!

Until next time...
***Matt set a new crunch-record today!

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A set of sixty followed by a set of fifty-five. Now that's some ab-burnage! Yow!


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