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ASK BIGWOOK & MATT
Hung Up
January 18, 2007

BigWook - 20:25 EST

COOL, I GET TO DO the first co-host of the year! I started my intro, and suddenly realized that I had gotten far too serious and long winded. The moral of the story: Never write your intro while Marlon Brando is giving a speech.

Of course, if this is the first co-hosting of the year, am I supposed to dress up as the new year baby? I don't think anybody wants to see me in a diaper and a sash.

Then again, maybe the long-winded intro was a better idea...




LETTERS
Next-gen consoles, handheld remakes


Matt,

Chris

Well, at least one of the other letters refers to me by name.

I have no excuse for not writing, except laziness. No WoW for me in over a year now and no plans of starting again. I sort of understand how drug addicts feel now.

Chris

No WoW for me period. I'm not an online gamer at all, really, so even though I loved Warcraft I and II, I never got hooked.

The next-gen console era is just now beginning. I know that the 360 has been out for a year now, but it needed the PS3 and Wii to join it before it could really begin.

So far, the PS3 has a pathetic showing, but then again, so did the PS2 when it first hit. Give it time to boil and drop in price and then things might look a bit better. Especially when FFXIII and company hit. Oh and don't forget White Knight Story.

The 360 is sitting on a Blue Dragon. I really want to play Blue Dragon. All of the impressions of the Japanese version just reek of something that I would enjoy. Trusty Bell looks interesting, but I've not heard enough about it to say.

Now the Wii is really a great system for gamers and non-gamers alike. I just would like to see an RPG on it that a non-gamer could enjoy. Zelda is fun and my wife has helped me through a few dungeons when I was over thinking things, but she would never play it.

I'm happy with my Wii and hope to be happy with my 360 by summer at least. I can easily wait on the PS3, but I'll try to win one any chance I get.

Chris

I'm badly torn. The PS3 really hasn't impressed so far, and the Wii has a firm grasp on my interest. At the same time, I've been playing Final Fantasy through the whole series, and the thought of not following it to its next system hurts. There's no way I'm shelling out that kind of money for a PS3, though.

The major point that I want to get off my chest is about the recent announcement by Square Enix that they will be re-releasing Final Fantasy I & II ports of GBA games onto the PSP. I say GBA ports, because at least FFI has all the Dawn of Souls content, but looks prettier. Talk about underwhelming. I can understand the Final Fantasy Tactics PSP port, but FFI & II. Haven't we played them on about every system in existence? It still looks the same. I don't know, but I just can't be excited about that. I just hope that maybe this is a small bit of info to throw us off.

Chris

At this point, are you truly surprised by Square Enix moving each of their games out to every system possible (moving being the family friendly way of putting it)? I've mentioned in the past that I'm not a handheld gamer, so it's not something I'm going to take personally, but I see your point. It certainly undermines Sony's intended goal of being a higher end handheld if the port looks the same, though.

Oh well, back to Zelda and Final Fantasy III. Maybe I can finish one of them soon.

- Macstorm

Chris

Mmm, Zelda. A kind friend of mine got it for me as a Christmas gift, and it is next in my queue after FFXII.



A Final Fantasy XII review, Part II. Beware; SPOILERS ARE HEAVY THROUGHOUT.


...Which brings me, sort of, to a contradiction I've been experiencing for months now: I loved playing this game. I loved very nearly every second of it. The gambits are ingenious and precisely as simple or complex as the individual wants them to be (I prefer the former, as I like to be more hands-on with my characters.) The license board, though it's a blatant gimmick, is surprisingly not a cookie-cutter for characters, as some are naturally inclined to certain areas - Fran and Penelo are good magic users, Basch is a tank, Vaan and Ashe are your well-rounded ones; Balthier is...not much use in battle, actually. There's always one of those, I guess.

Matt

I liked the License Board's older brother, the Sphere Grid, better. It was so much bigger and somehow more interesting. The License Board is a neat idea, but you burn through it way, way too quickly, especially when you can simply buy LP-doubling accessories at the corner store. I liked the idea of the Licenses, but I think that the board could have been so much more than it was. There should have been items, for instance, to unlock brand new sections. Given that the shape of the board is so irregular, I almost thought that would be the case anyway, but it seems like that's not true.

Gambits are good, too, and much better than I had hoped beforehand. Again, though, I kind of wish that there were a wider variety of them. Through the entire damn game, I was just waiting for a "Party Average HP < 50%" gambit, but of course, it never came. There are a smattering of other ideas that should have been there, but didn't make the cut. "Enemy: Item Not Stolen", anyone?

Despite my qualms, the battle system IS a lot of fun, especially during bosses, in Active Mode. I feel like Wait Mode wouldn't be nearly as chaotic or panic-inducing, which, to me, was the big challenge of the game: Staying calm during unfortunate states of affairs in boss battles. Getting through some of those bosses truly feels like an achievement.

I loved the quick and frenzied combat, and how it felt like those MMORPGs I'll never get to play because making people pay for their games over and over again is evil on general principle. I loved how important status spells and stat buffs became, whereas for years upon years they sat, useless, in my list of spells. I loved the clan (though I wish it had some substantial story significance and didn't feel quite as tacked on) and I loved the hunts, and the feeling of accomplishment I got each time I took a new monster down. I loved the in-depth bestiary and how you could unlock new information. I loved how, even with just my simple gambit setup, I felt confident that my party could handle almost any situation. I LOVED the sky pirate's den, a meaningless little trophy room, but really the only extra part of the game I wished I could have completed. I loved the abundant references to older FF titles. I loved the loooooong cutscenes (why weren't there MORE of those?!) The gameplay was damn near perfect, and it wouldn't surprise me even a little if it set a new standard in how RPGs are designed.

Matt

Agreed. There was so much extra stuff. In addition to all that you've said, I loved the fact that almost every dungeon had a crazy amount more to discover than first met the eye. I loved the geography, too, though it might be a little bit geeky... finding out which exits to certain areas led to unexpected entrances in other areas you've already been to made my spine tingle.

There is so much that's excellent about Final Fantasy XII. As far as gameplay goes, it's the best thing to happen to Final Fantasy since FF7, and it trumps even that by a country mile.

But all I could think about the whole time I played it was how it could've been the best RPG...the best GAME...I'd ever played in my life, if only they had bothered to have all this awesomeness sandwiching a good, well-written, interesting story, told through the eyes of characters that you identify with, that you root for (or against)...that you actually give a crap about. They gave me all these new reasons to love Final Fantasy, and subtracted what made me love it in the first place. I've been wrestling with the results the entire time, and I'm STILL not sure how I weigh in on the game.

If I were to review it (which I was planning to do for work, before three months had passed and it seemed pointless), it would still get a very high score; the game's achievements are truly undeniable. But if I had to rank it overall among other FFs, it would be seated behind FFX, certainly behind FF6, and maybe even one or two others.

Maybe that's my problem right there: From all that I heard, I expected an unrivaled masterpiece, and all I got was a damn good video game.

-TV's Adam

P.S. Square, I'm begging you. Just once...just ONCE in an FF title, can we have a final boss that does NOT morph three times, with the final form having some sort of wings on it? Do you think we don't notice you've done this for practically every title since FF6?

Matt

Thanks so much for your mega-take on the biggest RPG release of 2006! I really appreciate the time you put into it, but I think that your thoughts and feelings on it really speak for a lot of us. By and large, you take the words right from my mouth.

If anybody has anything more to share on the game, please feel free to write and tell me about them. This two-part letter has been TV's Adam's opinion, but there's no reason that yours cannot appear too!



Wow, these are some meaty letters today!


I usually write Ouro (cuz I'm a sucker for the board games :^D), but I'm answering the call for letters like a faithful little RPGamer (who absolutely refuses to play WoW). I really ought to give it a chance, but I decided long ago while beta-testing Shadowbane, Earth and Beyond, and Guild Wars never to spend money playing MMORPGs again. I find them to be totally unsatisfying games. They're glorified chatrooms as far as I'm concerned. And if all you really want to do is hang out with some friends or meet new people, why not do just that? Why give Blizzard your hard-earned cash to do what you could do on your own? That's my two cents anyway.

Chris

My biggest problem with MMORPGs is a personal one: I'm a story and character driven gamer. So, I find online games a bit lacking. Nothing personal, WoW addicts (like you're on the site right now, anyway).

I'll do a quick hit on your topic prompts cuz I'm a huge fan of these, as my mind is usually blank when I go to write these letters. Of course, my mind is always blank...:^D

I'm still holding out on the next-gen consoles. I like to wait at least a year until all major systems in a generation are released, so bugs can be sorted out. Ususally, by then there are some better games to play, and the price may even drop for some of the systems. So far, PS3 is looking like the system for me. I really can't call myself a Sony fanboy anymore cuz I own PS2, Gamecube, and Xbox. I feel like PS3 will emerge as the RPG king based on past generations, Sony's unrivaled third-party dealings, and the current prospectus. FFXIII, White Knight, and Jade Empire 2 are all easy sells for me. I also want to pick up Oblivion on for a next-gen system. Since that's coming out for PS3 as well now, I see no real point in looking at a 360 until Halo 3 comes out. Then again, that's one of those games everyone has and is most fun multiplayer anyway, so I may not even bother with a 360 for Master Chief's sake. I've heard murmurs about Wii potentially being the RPG king, so I wanted to hear your take, if you don't mind. Which system will reign supreme in RPGdom?

Chris

I think Sony will continue to be strong in the RPG field, although Nintendo has the chance to make a run at them if they get some good third parties involved. 360 isn't doing much more than the original in Japan, which means that they are going to have trouble attracting RPGs (and their predominantly Japanese developers). I think Sony will have an RPG lead for the first two years or so, but after that Nintendo could be the leader if they keep up the momentum they have right now.

For Christmas, I got Okami and Liberty City Stories. No RPGs cuz I couldn't wait till Christmas to pick up FFXII or VP:Silmeria. Pretty close to beating Okami, and I absolutely love it! I heard Clover Studios closed; say it ain't so!

I think FFXII is pretty overrated. The characters are bland, the story's weak, and the world feels decidedly hollow. Here's hopin' for FFXIII. As far as underrated games...That's a toughie. Keeping it in the last year or so, I'd say Wild Arms 4 was a bit underrated. I came into the game with very low expectations, and the game really surprised me. I think Wild Arms 3 is a better game, but WA4 held its own while extending the series in some interesting ways.

Chris

I'm enjoying FFXII, but you're right, the story is a bit weak. I think I'm around halfway, and there just hasn't been that much story. It had potential early, but it's just plodding along. I don't mind the characters, and am actually enjoying them for the most part (Vaan's voice acting is getting on my nerves). Incidentally, does anyone know what real-world accent it is that Fran has? It's driving me insane that I can't figure it out.

No real comments on FFXIII. I don't like to comment too much on a game until I get my hands on at least a demo.

I own the original FFT (dubious translation and all) and absolutely love it. I've played it through more times than I can count. Awesome game, and hands down the finest TRPG ever crafted. That said, FFTA was pathetisad. I don't think TRPGs work on handhelds. Then again, I don't really enjoy handhelds in general, so take these comments with a grain of salt to be sure. So...no, FFT on PSP doesn't interest me. Release it for PS2, and yeah I'd pick it up. Balthier? Sure, why not? FFT has all those random side characters anyway. Replace Mustadio with Balthier, and you could only improve the game :^D.

Well, to be honest, KH2 and WA4 are both sitting near the top of my backlog pile. I'm sure my interest in WA5 will skyrocket once I polish off its predecessor. I'm still curious about WA: Alter Code F. I've heard some good things. Any comments on that? Why would I need to play KH2 again? Good game, but no, I most likely won't be spending more money to pick up another version. As for Rogue Galaxy...I find Level 5's offerings to be thoroughly tempting but always disappointing. I think I'll wait till I catch up on my backlog before I take a closer look.

Chris

I never got around to picking up KH2, so I'll probably wait for the new package so I can pick up the extra game. However, that's not a pressing need, considering my new backlog. I've never played any of the Wild Arms games, but I've heard good, if mixed, things about them. Rogue Galaxy looks interesting, but if I'm going to pick up a Star Wars game, right now it would be Lego Star Wars 2. It looks hilarious. I found myself laughing at the commercials, which is the first time I've done that for a videogame.

Suikoden VI. Now, dammit. I'll drop whatever I'm playing at the time to play that. Same goes for Baldur's Gate III and Fallout III, but those aren't really distinct possibilities like S6 is. Planescape: Torment 2, anyone? Hells yeah... Bethesda picked up Fallout rights, so that's good news. But, seriously, Black Isle just needs to cast resurrection on itself and get back into the fray. Only Interplay could have exlcusive publishing rights to the studio that dominated the RPG of the Year awards as well as sales during the late 90s and still go bankrupt. Bioware has pushed on in both good and bad ways. Neverwinter Nights is an absolutely pointless series. KOTOR has its moments. Jade Empire was great. Mass Effect looks promising. Anyway, Baldur's Gate III and Torment 2...NOW!!! Do you know who holds the rights to those series?

Chris

I took a quick peek around, and it appears that there's a lot of rumors about Atari having their paws on Baldur's Gate III, although nothing concrete or recent. Torment 2, I've got nothing. Quick search, nothing good, although anyone searching for the same should be careful, Google brought up a remarkable number of porn links under "Torment 2." Shocking to such an innocent minded person such as myself. Beyond that, my lack of an Xbox kind of limits my knowledge of the other games. I've heard great things about KOTOR and Jade Empire, so at least you don't seem to be alone.

Hope to get in early with the next SOCK, so be sure to give us all some warning before it starts :^D!

Here's hopin' the letter deluge begins!
Vicissitude

Chris

Something tells me there will be a well-planned, astonishingly impressive announcement for Sock 2.0, the likes of which we've never seen nor imagined. Not to put any pressure on Matt or anything...

Matt

*unbuttons collar* ^^;;

In reality, plans are coming along, albeit slowly. If I get my Master's wrapped up soundly this semester, and I assume I will, the chances of seeing such a SOCK sequel start sometime this spring will certainly skyrocket. Sss!



Where's the beef? Er, the sequels?


Let me say, firstly, I have never played Final Fantasy VII, even though I would enjoy to do so. I consider myself a fan of the role-playing genre, yet someone I met this summer said I was not, just because I had not played said game. I say he's a little loony, you?

Matt

I agree. Final Fantasy VII may have been a landmark release, but it isn't the only game out there. You can easily be considered an RPGamer without having experienced the game, as far as I'm concerned. That said, I think that you owe it to yourself to give it a try one day. It is so popular for a reason.

I have another problem though, which is the fact that Fire Emblem: Goddess of Dawn isn't out yet. I may not have ever thought they would make a sequel to Path of Radiance (even though the ending practically screamed for a Fire Emblem 10), but now that I know about it, I want it. If they can improve on the battle animations in Path of Radiance (I found watching the same thing over and over a little repetitive after a while), add a pinch more cut scenes, give some good uses for the Wiimote, and keep the wonderful stories that Fire Emblem is known for, the game will be amazing.

Matt

I'm playing through Path of Radiance right now, and there are a few things about it that bother me. It feels unpolished, in a way. I really miss many aspects from the GBA Fire Emblem games, such as unique musical themes for the Player and Enemy phases, and being able to see Hit%/Dmg/Crit% when an enemy launches an attack. Some of the animations aren't spectacular either, as you say, and the game, overall, seems a little bit drab. A few other added elements, such as the biorhythm, overcomplicate what I thought was a beautiful and simple system. And back to the music, I really find that the musical quality is nowhere near as high as it is in the GBA games. That might sound weird, but the music carried such fantastic mood in the GBA games, while it just sounds kinda like elevator music in Path of Radiance. That's bothersome to me. All that being said, I am still enjoying the game; it's just a bit disappointing in a few ways.

A series I want to see in the limelight again is Golden Sun. The Lost Age is another game which just says "make a sequel", and yet, no sequel. The DS and Wii are great platforms for a new addition to the Golden Sun family, so my question is what are they waiting for? I miss hearing the word "alchemy" used in a sentence that does not include the words "Full Metal Alchemist".

Matt

I totally agree. The end of The Lost Age almost implied that a sequel would be forthcoming, I thought, but here we are years later with nothing in sight. I really don't know why this is, either, because man, those were some really great games in many different ways, and they were substantially popular, as far as I remember. They weren't perfect, but I was hopeful that Golden Sun would turn into a fantastic new major franchise.

I probably had several great opportunities to mention this earlier, but as the proud owner of a DS which I got this Christmas with New Super Mario Brothers (the hardest game I have ever played, including all the Fire Emblems, which is a pathetic statement) and Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow (I need Portrait of Ruin, NOW), and a PSP, I can say that I'm enjoying the news of many new RPs for each system. However, games for the DS seem much more fun to play, and PSP games seem only pretty on the outside.

Matt

Do you really think that The New Super Mario Brothers is the hardest game you've ever played? I don't mean to sound cocky or anything, but my biggest letdown for me about that game was the lack of difficulty, especially in comparison to games like Mario World and Super Mario 3. There were just... so many 1-Ups, everywhere, that the occasional tough stage proved not to be much of a "Game Over" threat. I loved the game, but yeah, I thought it was quite easy indeed.

As for DS versus PSP, I can't really say for myself, because I only own a DS. I've played with a few PSP games of all varieties, and I've never been too entranced by them. There are a couple of attractive titles out for it, but when I look at my DS collection of 14 games in less than a year and a half, and look ahead to see SO many other games on the way, I know that I made the best decision. I don't even know 14 games for the PSP, let alone games I'd be interested in that are in the English language.

That's why I would rather go out and buy Lunar Knights and Tales of the Tempest than Crisis Core, The Lions' War, and Jeanne d'Arc (all games I want when the time comes, mind). I've loved all the games I've played for my DS, but I can't say the same for the PSP. I guess you could say I should give them more of a chance, but I find playing games on a PSP dull after playing the DS.

Well, good luck with the letter situation, and I hope to send you more letters soon (as in, once my break kicks in)!

-Laura

Matt

Thanks very much, Laura! I appreciate the letter. As long as you're enjoying the games that you're playing, then you're in good shape, whether you're doing it on a DS, a PSP, or a Nokia N-Gage. Eee.



Something tells me there are going to be people unhappy with my Final Fantasy opinions...


Dear Matt & BigWook,

Sorry I haven't written in a while, but work's been crazy, & I'm pooped when I get home.

Just got done reading the first half of the FFXII review. The point about the unrewarding sidequests is how I felt about FFX. I want to have motivation to do these things (DQVIII certainly made me want to keep exploring). I don't think there's been a really great FF since the PS1 era. FFXIII, although precious little is known yet, looks like maybe they'll change things up & be more interesting - I'm certainly hoping.

Chris

It's funny, I really enjoyed FFX, more than I did any of the PS1 Final Fantasies. I couldn't stand the translation of FFVII, and thought it was better before you left Midgar than after, although it had its moments. VIII was uneven, and while the junction system was interesting, it was really ponderous trying to draw all the spells I wanted. IX was a solid game, it just felt uninspired to me. Not that any of them were bad games, just not my favorites.

After 3 long years, the Evil Santa came through & got me Tales of Legendia for Christmas! Over the weekend I finished Phantasy Star III (yes, I'm still playing the Sega Genesis Collection - best $20 I've ever spent). So I decided before I started PSIV, I'd give the Tales a spin. I know I'm not good with action titles, but started it in normal mode. My mistake (oh, why did I have to get brains instead of coordination!!). I'm stuck at a boss & now realize that I'm going to have to restart the game in easy mode - irks me to no end because I'm already very interested in the storyline. I'm also very intrigued by the idea that once you finish the main story, you can go through each character's story. Do you know if I'll be shafted on the ending/character's story by going the easy route?

Chris

Yeah, I got the Sega Genesis Collection myself with my Christmas gift card. I had two concerns, though: I've now got an eight game backlog (counting the three Phantasy Star games), and I don't know where I'm going to find PS1. I don't know how they could leave it out of the collection, but it leaves me frustrated.

Speaking of the above mentioned collection, I definitely would love to see Phantasy Star V - a return to completely offline, turn based gameplay.

Let's see, as to some of your other topic questions. Next-gen consoles - right now, the PS3 I want is Persona 3. Also looking forward to Wild Arms V - I'm sad they've said it'll be the end. I just recently upgraded my cable to digital. I now get the Anime Network, & they've been airing Wild Arms Twilight Venom (I didn't even know that WA had a TV show!) - it's pretty good.

No handhelds for me. Can't play while I drive or at work so the only place I'd be playing is home, & if I'm going to play at home might as well play on the TV that I can see easily rather than squinting at a little, bitty screen.

Chris

Frightenly enough, there are no doubt people out there who would disagree about playing while you drive to work. I'm pretty sure some of them are out here in Arizona, swerving around during my commute.

Wishing everybody a stupendous 2007!

Jbumi

Matt

Thanks, Jbumi! Thanks for contributing to my cause and writing in, though believe me... I know what you mean when you say you're feeling pooped. It might seem contradictory, but real life just seems to suck the life out of you.



QUICKIES

A friend of mine who shall remain nameless actually called me several hours after I called him last week. Why? Because when I called him, for the fourth time in a row, he'd been playing WoW and thus his speech was rather zombie-like. He's vowed to stay off the new expansion, but I haven't talked to him about it since the release....

JuMeSyn

Matt
I'm telling you! The game sucks the very soul out of your corporeal self. Stay away... far away!!!

QUICKIES

Is S-E still planning to release a Final Fantasy Tactics for the DS? I've heard news on the PSP release, but nothing new on the DS version.

Matt
As far as I'm aware, a Final Fantasy Tactics Advance II was announced back when Square Enix revealed the whole "Ivalice Alliance" project not long ago. There haven't been any details revealed so far, but RPGamer will be on it as soon as there are any to report. Stay tuned!


MOGNET MAIL

If you'd like to send me some Mogmail, too, and you have Final Fantasy III DS, my code is 515 480 192 117. Send me your number, and I'll add you to my list! Then you can send all the letters you like!

Whoeverhadtheideatoputthespaceonadifferent pagethanthelettersshouldbedefenestrated fromafairlyhighwindow.

<3 Carabbit

Matt
Ha ha ha, I know. It's a rather large and embarrassing oversight, I think, and it's not really that fun to type out longer messages at all. I'm probably going to abandon the poor Moogles in a few weeks in favour of Wii-Mail, which I've heard is much easier. What do you think?



IN CLOSING

Thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone who answered my pathetic plea for letters yesterday. I don't usually get that desperate, but I wanted to make sure that, you know, people were still reading the column, at least. Thanks to all of you, I now have a substantial backlog of a LOT of unanswered e-mails, all received in just a day's time! If I take a little while to get around to you, I apologize, but I hope I don't miss anybody.

In any case, I'm going to make a couple of minor changes. First of all, I'm going to post possible letter-inspiration "hot topics" in the sidebar every day. Also, I'm going to actually let you all know generally how big my letter-backlog is everyday, so you know when I need help the most. That's going to take the place of the "Inbox Status" half-for-kicks line, down below. It is the job of a Q&A person to be interesting enough to get people to write, so when I'm not getting letters, I feel like I'm partially to blame. Hopefully, these steps I'm taking will help to reverse the trend of eeeevil.

That's all for me, anyway. Thanks, BigWook, for doing a splendid job as resident co-host for the day! I'll try and get big bad Boojum in here over the next week or two to help me out next. For tomorrow, though, it's just me to end the week. May you all have a great day!



Send a Letter!

Unanswered Letter Backlog: 20 - very safe



slimey@rpgamer.com
Matt is hopeful for the future!


Warioware Wii is simply stupidly awesome.

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