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February 1, 2007

Matt Demers - 19:40 EST

YESTERDAY WAS A better day than the one before. I'm almost excited, if you can believe that, to get thesis-writing, and I might even be ahead-enough of the game to play my way through the third dungeon in Zelda sometime this weekend! It's a little funny, because five years ago, if someone had told me that I'd get a few hours to game per week, I wouldn't have rejoiced; I would have been devastated. Times change, I guess. And the future shines brightly with hope.

Sock2.0 preparations are underway in a big way. I'm really starting to nail down some final ideas, and if this thesis comes together as planned, I hope to begin the big competition sometime in the middle of May or so. I'm so excited, I can barely contain myself! To anyone who is interested: You'll have start participating soon after it begins, because I'm leaning towards the idea that the contest will be closed to newcomers after the first month is over. This is for a variety of reasons, including sanity preservation, because as you all know, I'm plenty insane enough. BIZAZIAN!

Let's start with the letters!




LETTERS
Bad Ads.


Hello,

I certainly understand the need for RPGamer to fund its own bandwith, and maybe even a few of you are paid a modest fee for your services. Lord knows you deserve something. That being said, these insert ads are insufferable! For one thing, they make it impossible to use "view in new tab" in Firefox. Both tabs end up showing the ad.

Please, please just stick to in-page ads. Add more of them if you have to. Insert ads are so annoying I will literally stop visiting this site if they don't stop.

Thanks,
Tommy Moo

Matt

RPGamer is an expensive site to upkeep, so some ads are unfortunately necessary for our page. The problem is, we're always trying to figure out the best, least-intrusive way to display them, because if we didn't have those inserts, we'd have a big huge extra one splatted on our front page or something, forcing the site itself to look something awful. I'm not the guy who deals with that stuff directly, obviously, but I've reported your comments to higher powers. I can't promise that anything will be done, though, I'm afraid, but believe me when I say that we're doing the best that we can.

And, I totally wish that I got a few bones, but alas, I'm absolutely no financially better off for working here. I'm doing totally out of the goodness of my heart. Really.



This one fell into one of those cracks I was talking about yesterday...


Hey Matt,

Welcome back! I hope your holiday went well. I had stopped checking the site daily during the Q&A hiatus, so am just now getting caught back up. I skipped most of yesteday's column to avoid spoilers, but I did notice that you were low on letters, so here's a grab bag of recent topics.

Matt

Yeah, and this letter has now been kicking around for nearly two weeks. I'm a BAD Q&A host! *bursts into tears*

On Christmas games: The only game I wound up getting this year for Christmas is Monkey Ball DS, which obviously isn't an RPG. The main game is only so-so due to the control scheme not adapting that comfortably to the stylus. Like Mario 64, it's a victim of trying to play a precision-based 3D game without an analog stick. However, the new Monkey Air-hockey minigame is oddly addictive. My big Christmas gift is still pending, unfortunately. My wife has promised to get us a Wii as soon as they're in stock again, but no luck so far.

Matt

That's too bad, but sadly common. There are still lineups in stores around these parts whenever a new shipment is supposed to arrive.

Also, yeah, those 3-D games lose a little something when you're trying to treat a D-pad as if it were something else. And as much as I love the touch screen, it doesn't really make a good substitute for that purpose either.

On the potential for Wii RPGs: All the speculation on this so far has hinged on whether and how the unique controller could improve RPGs, but I think this is only one facet of the whole picture. There will certainly be RPGs that make use of the controller in minigames, or as a pointer, or in other ways that we haven't thought of yet, but not every game design could really benefit from the new controls, and that's fine. I think that, as with the DS's touch screen, we'll see an adjustment period where everyone is cramming in motion controls everywhere, but it won't be permanent. Just as with the DS, we're now seeing excellent games like Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin and Final Fantasy III that use touch control in an optional capacity, if at all, we'll see the motion controls used only where they really fit, and standard controls elsewhere. Where they do fit, I think that the unique controller will provide a definite advantage over the other consoles (pointer controls in a grid-based TRPG? Yes please.), but they don't need to be shoehorned into every single release.

The other aspect to the Wii's RPG potential is where it's positioned itself in the market: as a low-cost alternative system that emphasizes gameplay over graphics. We've all heard about the massive development resources that are being required to make next-gen games. For smaller developers that can't afford those resources, and are sticking with more humble production values, the Wii might be a very appealing alternative. Quality games without spectacular graphics (the Nippon Ichi titles come to mind) might fit in more easily on the Wii than on one of the HD behemoths, where they'll be in direct competition with bleeding-edge graphics.

Matt

Good points. Why develop for a console that will be twice as expensive and three times as difficult to program for, when a cheaper and easier-to-develop for system is sitting over there with three times the units sold? On a basic level, controls aside, you're absolutely right, and I hadn't really thought of that much before.

As for that pointer controls in a grid-based TRPG idea? Well, Fire Emblem: Goddess of Dawn is well into development... I'm all a-quiver with need.

Another potential plus is the virtual console, particularly if more publishers get involved. The SNES is the #1 RPG system in many gamers' eyes, and having a big chunk of that catalogue available would be a huge boost for the Wii. Not to mention the other systems on offer (I never owned a Genesis, but I've heard enough great things about the Phantasy Star and Shining Force series that I'd love to try them).

Matt

One of the greatest things about it (the VC) so far, is that my worries have been proven wrong. I was wondering if it was going to consist of mostly first-party titles, but so far, the majority has been made up of third-party games, which provides much hope and glee for RPGamers like you, and I, and William, out there reading this column somewhere. (Yes, you, William!)

Moreover, the cheapness of digital distribution could make releases that were initially passed over for translation look a lot more attractive to publishers. When manufacturing physical copies of a game and shipping it to stores all over the country, you need to sell quite a few copies to be economically viable. If all you're paying for is the translation, however, the game can be profitable with much lower total sales. Quite a few franchises that saw installments on the Super Famicom have had later sequels cross the Pacific, giving them an established fan base over here, and thus a built-in audience for translations of the early games. Don't you think that Western fans of Star Ocean, Tales, Shin Megami Tensei, Fire Emblem (please, please!), Dragon Quest etc. would jump at the chance to play a bargain-priced look at the early days of their favorite series? Not to mention the killing Square Enix could make by bringing over "Secret of Mana 2", or by marketing the likes of Bahamut's Lagoon, Treasure Hunter G, and Rudra no Hihou as "lost classics from the makers of Final Fantasy VI". Unfortunately, this is all pure speculation at this point, as no-one has announced any plans to translate portions of their back catalogue for release, but there's really no reason it couldn't happen.

Matt

Indeed so. There have been a few rumblings, in fact, here and there on the good ol' internet, about a new channel being adopted for old, previously unreleased games. It's all speculation at this point, as far as I can see, but wouldn't it be super-exciting?

Anyway, I hope and think that the combination of motion/pointer control, low-tech economic advantages, and retro appeal could build a pretty solid RPG fanbase for the Wii, and entice publishers to feed those fans with new releases. Obviously, they won't be able to compete in terms of scale and spectacle with the likes of Mass Effect or White Knight, but there's no reason to think that classical RPGs can't succeed on the system.

Well, that went on for quite a bit longer than I expected, so I'll save the rest of my ramblings for another time. Um, I just noticed that I also didn't include a question. I would ask what your thoughts on the viability of Wii RPGs are, but I suspect you already pretty much answered that before you got to this part of the letter. So how about something a bit more specific: What as-yet-untranslated game would you most like to see on Virtual Console?

-Boojum

Matt

I appreciate your insight! No worries about the length, either, because everyone has been a bit verbose as of late.

If I had to pick any one game to be translated for the first time and put onto the Virtual Console, you know that my choice would have to be Dragon Quest VI. I think I would die if that happened, or I'd at least just disappear from the column for awhile so that I could free up a few extra hours per week to invest in that wonderful, wonderful, wonderful game.

Thanks, Boojum. To everyone else, including William: Watch out for Boojum's next co-host, a week from Tuesday!



Oh, those storyline barriers o' artificiality.


Hi,

I have been looking all over the internet trying to figure out an answer.

I am playing Dragon Quest VIII, I am in the town of Argonia. I have found all the items to find in the town and thought I have done most everything required to enter the castle, but when I reach the gates to the castle, there are two guards there, and they won't let me inside til Prince Charmles is located. Do you know where to locate him or how I get into the castle in Argonia?

All help is appreicated.

Sandi

Matt

I've got a simple answer for you: You're not supposed to be there yet. Take a trip up to the far north, visit the town of Baccarat, get through a few more storyline-related events, and return later. Then you'll get to deal with the prince.

Good luck!



PSU: The perfect "filler" game.


Had to write in after seeing Witecat's letter - I was really wary about buying PSU after seeing it get trashed so roundly, but in the end I was glad I did. I'll get the bitching out of the way first - no offline multiplayer makes me hate the developer with a passion :P, the weapon creation system makes me angry - weapons breaking? stuff that :) There are lots of little things that are wrong with this game, but they aren't game breaking, for me anyway.

Aaaaand now the good stuff - it seems that if you're only playing single player offline you can pretty much ignore weapon creation and still survive. The planets are beautiful - The early Neudaiz missions are really gorgeous, in a Japanese temple kind of way, the music is decent as well, and I really like the way your skills level so that you can transfer them between same type weapons. The characters are nicely animated and pretty to look at without being too in your face - apart from Maya and her omgwtf busoms...seriously, it looks like the poor lass has footballs strapped to her chest!

Matt

Honestly, aren't 90% of weapon creation systems godawful? The only one I've enjoyed in a long time is the "Forge" option that's available in Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance, which I'm playing right now. Seriously, such systems always seem to be intimidating, overcomplicated and of little use in the end anyway. I couldn't stand, for example, Star Ocean: Till the End of Time's horrible horrible assembly line thing. Not only was it seriously underexplained, it was stupidly expensive and nearly useless, as far as I was concerned, considering I got through to the final boss without too much trouble anyway. Nyah, Tri-Ace. NYAH!

Anyway, back to PSU. It sounds like you've stumbled upon a game that a few people might really like. Of course, the bad stuff might be more than enough to distract a lot of gamers, and those issues are probably why it got rated the way it did by so many websites. But, for what it's worth, I'm glad it was okay for you in the end.

I didn't find the voice acting that bad, at least until the emotional stuff started up. The storyline is a hell of a lot better than I was expecting, and there were a couple of teary eyed moments *sniff*

So yes - I've really enjoyed it, and I'd definitely recommend a pick up for anyone who needs some filler gaming, or was thinking about buying it anyway but was stopped by the bad hype.

And no, I haven't touched the online mode, and am not likely to either.
Tatty bye,

Sarah.

Matt

Enh, I'm not much of an online guy myself, so I can't very well say I wouldn't do the same. And honestly, there are an enormous number of games out there with absolutely hideous voice acting. It would be quite hard to trump games like, say, Star Ocean: The Second Story in that department. (What is this, insult Star Ocean day? In all fairness, I actually like both of those games... they just happened to be the first examples that came to mind here. Oh well.)



Happy Belated birthday, me.


Happy Birthday Matt! Hope you have a good one!

Matt

Why thank you. I had a splendid 58-hour romp home, where I overindulged in delicious things and spent a good fraction of the time marking papers. It was all right. Or "aight" as everyone seems to be saying now. *shudder*

Also, it must be my code addled mind (still going full steam), but "It's your soul, man. You can smash it against the pearly gates with a rubber spatula for all I care." I almost fell out of my chair at work, and they think I'm strange enough as it is.

Happy Birthday (again)!
Maggie ^_^

Matt

Heh, yes, I remember saying that. I think that I had just finished playing Warioware. Or maybe I was doing the dishes. Either way, it sounds like I was a little drunk. Ah well, weird as I may be, I have fun doing what I'm doing. Thanks Maggie, for the birthday wishes. Next time, I'll have been kicking around for a friggin' quarter of a century. Disgusting, eh?



Nothing eats up more time than having three thousand links to html-ize and check!


So that last one was 'typical' of anime, eh? Try this one: http://gh.ffshrine.org/song/5759/3 I should note I've never seen Evangelion, though I've been tempted. As to the song, you've probably heard it in some form before. That's called a 'classic.'

Matt

Well, of course I've heard this song before, though this one sounds kind of like the kind of song that would have the voices taken out and put on the sound system for a fancy restaurant or something. It's got the fancy shuffle thing going, you know?

Alright Matt, your little Saturn list deserves commentary. First: if you're not gonna import, why did you list the Saturn version of Symphony of the Night? True, it's hardly a game you'll have trouble figuring out - and the additional content for Saturn is pretty swanky. Like this piece: http://gh.ffshrine.org/song/1344/2 ONLY on Saturn. PS players can NEVER hear it, and they can NEVER see the Cursed Prison. Nya.

Matt

Oh, I dunno. All I really did was pull up the list of Saturn games from Wikipedia and choose a bunch that I'd be interested in. I might have misread or something, but I thought it was listed as having been released in N.A. Given the two versions, I'd obviously spring for the PS1 version anyway, seeing as that's a console I already have.

And one piece? Come now. There are about five thousand themes that Saturn-only customers would never get to hear in return, so I'm guessing that you've got the shorter end of the rope, my friend. :(

Yep, I rave about Dragon Force when I remember. Not having played FFT (original) I can't compare, but some rank Dragon Force above it. After all, completing Dragon Force requires finishing it 8 times. What other tactical titles offer that much replay (other than Dragon Force II, which you won't play)? Here's a track from when fighting in the desert for ya: http://gh.ffshrine.org/song/2987/16

A Panzer Dragoon Saga mention gives me excuse to send you another track: http://gh.ffshrine.org/song/570/28 Paet is a fellow who likes to tinker with machines, and I shan't say any more.

Matt

Well, I do love good Tactical RPGs, so I figure that if I had the chance, I'd check it out. There aren't enough of those guys out there, and the ones that are are underrated. More people need to give games like Fire Emblem and Disgaea a real chance.

Did you forget about Albert Odyssey, Matt? It's not stellar, but it IS gifted with a hilarious translation courtesy of Working Designs and a unique score. Here's a sample: http://gh.ffshrine.org/song/1012/41 , from the infiltration of the floating castle.

Matt

Yeah, I suppose I did forget about that one, JMS. It does by all accounts look like it'd be right up my alley, what with me being the old Cranky Kong-like old-style-game-lover that I am. With Working Designs in charge of the translation, I'm sure that it'd be an interesting thing to play. The most enjoyable part of Lunar: SSSC, when I played it last year, was definitely what Working Designs did to it.

How you would feel about Dark Savior is hard to judge, but ignore Aethelred's dislike and try it for yourself. Here's another music sample, from the first area (the completion time of which determines the story path for the rest of the game): http://gh.ffshrine.org/song/3410/1
Matt

Welll... I have to admit that Aethelred and I have pretty similar likes and dislikes in the RPG world. While he and I might banter over whether this game or that is better, we pretty much agree on the games that are "good" at the very least. The only difference between the two of us? He's a genius when it comes to the world of game development, while I'm just an average joe. Weep. Anyway, if he doesn't like it, I likely wouldn't either, though it would take some firsthand experience to cement that possibility into place.

Magic Knight Rayearth isn't great, but it is cute and entertaining. Might wanna keep it on your list. Also has a nice Working Designs soundtrack. Oh, and Guardian Heroes is different from anything else you've ever played. I guarantee it. Here's the music from the second fighting area: http://gh.ffshrine.org/song/1414/6
Matt

Sounds oogly-boogly. Incidentally, I miss olden-day video game music. The recent "ooh, atmospheric is cooool" push is fine and dandy, but you couldn't play it on the piano if your life depended on it. Hum. :(

I think you would dig Shining the Holy Ark, Matt. The battles are pretty fun and the first-person perspective is refreshing. I can't give a music sample, unfortunately: its soundtrack is only available in heavily remixed format. It's a Sakuraba work though, and a few themes pop up in Shining Force III.

Matt

Oh, I've read some things on the game and I suspect that I would too. Too bad that the opportunity was lost years and years ago...

Incidentally, do you also remember Golden Sun's soundtrack when hearing more Sakuraba? He did that score too....

Matt

Occasionally, though I find that Golden Sun's soundtrack is quite a bit different from a lot of his other work. I really, really, really love the music from that game, if I haven't mentioned it before. It's one of the best things about the Golden Sun games, though dungeon design is up there too.

Now for a game I haven't given you music from before: Phantasy Star IV. http://gh.ffshrine.org/song/712/9 There's a track from melancholy moments.

I'll chat more about PSIV another day; just know that I haven't sent music before thanks to a mixup that left my track titles out of order and misnamed. You aren't able to find the proper names for PSIV's music, are you?

Matt

How would I know? I don't know what the "proper names" are for many very popular soundtracks, such as those for the Final Fantasy series. The Fierce Battle? Only a Plank between One and Perdition? No, no. I'm far more likely to say "the big boss music from FFVI!!" or "the one that plays while you're escaping the prison in FFVIII!"

A hopeful sign for Roman numeral inclusion in RPG's of the future: a certain sporting event soon happening in the US that will be ignored elsewhere (and by me). If that event has reached XLI, FFXIII seems positively tiny. Particularly when the clientele for RPG's seems a touch more sophisticated than the clientele of the sporting event.

Matt

Heh, it's a good point. It's hard to believe, though, that any gaming series would ever get that high. I remember back while playing Final Fantasy VII, I totally thought that there was no way Square (back then, just "Square") would ever be calling Final Fantasy games by their numbers ten years down the road. Well, here we are! I'm looking forward to FFXIX, aren't you? Watch for it, in Spring '21.

As you can play GC titles now, Matt, you absolutely MUST acquire Skies of Arcadia. You don't have to play it immediately, but you won't regret it once you do. Here's a track from early airship use, and it's just so cheer-inducing: http://gh.ffshrine.org/song/393/8 It changes a bit later on to reflect flying over Nasrad, Ixa'taka, and Valua, different regions of the world.

Matt

*whimpers*

But backlog... already so big...

I know, though. Now that I have the chance, I really should, because the whole world has told me to play it since I started hosting this darn column. But time. TIME, man! Who is going to write my damn thesis!? GROWR.

Remember our little Grandia battle theme talk? Turns out the battle music changes on disc 2, to this: http://gh.ffshrine.org/song/213/37 About 2/3 through it becomes more urgent; that's what you'll hear if taken by surprise this time. Along with battle music, a number of in-battle vocal clips change at disc change also. But when completing the first disc took me about 40 hours, it made good sense.

Matt

Indeed it would. Changes in battle music are fun. That aspect alone helped to make the original Breath of Fire games into things that were slightly more fun. Isn't it spine-tingly when you get into a battle after a dramatic event and the battle is accompanied with a surprising new theme? Oh yes, it is.

Eggbert is a funny name, but the man is not to be taken lightly in Langrisser 2. So here's his theme: http://gh.ffshrine.org/song/6453/11 And a bonus piece, involving the Dark Princess (who is related to another character in a fairly obvious way): http://gh.ffshrine.org/song/6453/15 I thought it was a guitar piece, not keyboards.... Big music day. Better keep that up at the end. http://gh.ffshrine.org/song/6311/1 I haven't watched any Slayers (BIG series to a newbie) but the music is awesome.

JuMeSyn

Matt

Very interesting pieces, sir. I appreciate your business. Come again soon!



QUICKIES

As for PS1 and the VC, as far as I know, Nintendo and Sega don't have any plans for SMS games to be on the VC, but as they say, never say never. It's too bad that the PS2 remake went awry, I was looking forward to playing it again that way.

-TBB

Matt
We ARE very early into the life of the next systems. It'd surprise me not at all if another console were added to the roster of the Wii's Virtual Console one day, especially if the VC becomes a really big hit.

Well I might have mentioned it but I know have the complete collection of Baulders Gate for the PC. This makes my Baulders Gate 2 plus Expansion Pack obsolete so I wonder if you want it for Sock V@. I might also be able to get Lufia 2 PAL version too (as i'm not giving mine away sorry).

Nick with the Bai before hand, just because its cool!

Matt
Your offer is appreciated, Bainick, but please, I feel bad taking donations for my competition from anyone! I hope I'll get some kick-A prizes in here, but nothing is ironed out yet, and I don't even know what the grand prize will be yet. You could sell those games online or at a video store and put some money in your wallet! If not... then, we'll see. Thanks again!

Matt,

Quick question for you. What do I do with all of my License Points? I am in Balfonheim. Every character has mastered all 3 quickenings, 1 armor class, at least one weapon class, all of the accessories and augments, white magic, and all of the other magic that I care about. Should I just start spending them frivolously? Or should I just let them start building up?

Draconn

Matt
Nope. Here's where you just start getting random things, until everyone starts bleeding together into six copies of the same person. 'Tis unfortunate, but that's the way the metaphorical cookie crumbleth. Have fun!


MOGNET MAIL

No new mail today, kupo! If you have Final Fantasy III DS, my code is 515 480 192 117. Mail me your number, and I'll add you to my list! Then you can send all the letters you like! I'll continue this section until at least the end of February, and we'll see how it goes after that.



IN CLOSING

Curses to all Guelph bus drivers! May you rot in your stinking machines forevermore. I will never understand why I have to wait for twenty minutes in the cold, only for TWO empty buses to roll by. Irritating.

Anyway, a Friday column is all that sets us apart from the weekend at this point. And the weekend means gaming-time in my world, which makes me as happy as a clam (a clam that is not on a clam farm, or wherever they raise clams for human consumption).

I'm adding a new topic to the Hot ones, because JuMeSyn's letter got me thinking: What IS your opinion on video game music these days? Was it better way back when, or are the less tune-y themes of today far preferable? I'm interested to know, so tell me how you feel!

I'd like to remind you to help control the pet population; have your pets spayed or- oh, wait, that's not my line. Goodbye, everyone!



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What I Want to Play:

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