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ASK MATT
Life's Finest Moments
February 6, 2007

Matt Demers - 17:39 EST

BOY, AM I STUPID. Augh! Here's the story: As many of you know, I've spent the bulk of this month getting together my Master's Thesis, tweaking a C++ program for it all the way, and complaining about having to do both pretty much non-stop. All during January, applying for a Ph.D. program in the fall was burning at the back of my mind, but I figured that the applications weren't due until later on, so I just kept churning forward. Yesterday, I finally went and checked the university websites for their due dates, only to find that for the fall semester, applications were due on February 1, which, if you've forgotten, was last Wednesday. Damn.

There's no reason that I shouldn't have checked this before, other than the fact that I'm evidently not the brightest bulb in the drawer, or however that saying goes, so I'm just going to be all sulky and start my column. I hope everything turns out all right, or I might just go craaaaazy.




LETTERS
Why yes! Meet Malboro, Malboro King, Wild Malboro, Malboro Overking, Vivian, Carrot, Cassie, and Kris. They'd love to breathe all over you.


Hey Matt,

Is it my imagination or is Final Fantasy XII guilty of abusing pallet swapping? It seems like I have seen every character model there is to see within the first 5 hours of the game. Considering I have put in 160 hours plus and still going its very disapointing.

I do not recall 7,8,9.10 and 10-2 having this problem. I could have sworm I was seeing new creature models up till the finale of those games. 12 is taking me back to Nes and Super nintendo in a sense. Granted 12 has a much larger world than the previous games but it really feels like Square dropped the ball in character design to get the game done.

Matt

You are not imagining things at all! And really, Final Fantasy XII is way, way guiltier of this than its NES and SNES brethren ever were; there were never more than three or four different palette swaps of any particular monster in the old days, after all. Now, I have argued in the past that I actually really enjoy having a few palette-swapped monsters in the game, because they let the player know kind of what they're getting into before the battle, even when it's with a monster never met before, allowing the player to use some actually brainpower to deduce what to watch out for rather than the typical brashly-move-forward technique that so many gamers embrace.

However, sometimes, the palette-swapping gets a little bit ridiculous. In Final Fantasy XII, where every new area means fighting a new kind of Malboro, a new type of Wolf/Hyena, a new type of overcute running-around vegetable, and a new type of skeleton, it can get more than a little tiresome. I figure that the reasoning is because a lot of work was evidently put into each monster's appearance and animation, but if that is so, then the GAMEPLAY vs. GRAPHICS battle has scored one for the right side, yet again. I'd rather have a greater number of "pretty good" looking enemies than a fewer number of amazing-looking ones, wouldn't you?

While everybody is excited ove Blue Dragon, I am more intrigued by Eternal Sonata(Trusty Bell). Blue dragon looks good but really familiar, but the idea of an Rpg based around Chopin seems really our there and fresh.Anything that tries to break convention in the rpg world always gets my attention. Its too bad its on the 360, I am reluctant to fork over any money to MS after how lame the original Xbox was in the RPG department. There were a few gems on it however. I guess I will wait till the 360 falls into the 100-150 dollar range in 3-4 years. I can't justify 400 bucks for it at this point.

Thanks as always for your time,
Nick

Matt

Ah, but by then, you'll be eyeing Nintendo's next handheld, feeling the urge to drop $150 there, and hey, the PS3 might be the price of a normal console by then, too. The unfortunate reality is that with three major companies in the market, the RPGamer with finite cash must pick and choose his or her consoles. And it wasn't like that until Microsoft barged in and started bellowing. Not that they can't or shouldn't do that; it's the business world, after all.



Phantastic!


Hello Matt!

I couldn't help but notice so many people experiencing the Phantasy Star series for the first time because of this Sega Genesis Collection game. I experienced it not too long ago myself, 2003 I believe with the GBA Phantasy Star Collection. Though this game lacked Phantasy Star IV (I had to play that one by...other means *cough*), I still love that cart! I bought it with the hopes that it'll clear up a few things about Phantasy Star Online for the GCN. Though the games themselves gave not much of anything, it still opened the door for me to do one of my favorite pastimes; read up and come up with theories about how they could possibly connect. ;) After all, why would all four PS games be connected, but PSO be unrelated? There's just too many connections between both "series" to say "oh PSO takes place in a different world and just makes references to past games. Besides, its more fun to overanalyze things. ;)

Matt

Yes, of course! In a genre where stories or storyline events are often left open to interpretation, the creative minds that play the games tend to enjoy thinking of potential connections and such. I'm convinced that RPGamers are more-creative-minded than the average joe, though it's unclear whether RPGs influenced that or that creative people are just more inclined to pick up an RPG in the first place.

Hmm hmm. So, go on about your Phantasy.

In any case, while Phantasy Star IV remains my most favorite of the original series (call me crazy, but I still like PSO more than them, though that's probably for introducing me to Action RPGs, I thought they were all great. Oh PSIII is lowest ranked perhaps, but even I liked it a little. I remember first playing Phantasy Star I, virtually unchanged from the original Sega Master System version. The graphics though simple were very detailed and had their own charm. The battles are also surprisingly fun. Though only one kind of monster appears at a time and even with giant group, you'd only see one monster on screen (I assume they were standing behind each other in a perfect line to make themselves look like one monster XD). There is even an actual background that shows wherever the party if currently traveling in, unlike say MOTHER 1 which is just uninteresting black. What is a little annoying is the fact that you can't choose which enemy to target. It seems that every time you weaken a monster enough, rather than finishing it off, everyone aims for the other monsters. >.> The story, though pretty generic (young girl takes on her brother's quest to overthrow a king gone evil), it's fairly good considering it's age.

Matt

You're missing a parenthesis!

I've seen screenshots of the original Phantasy Star games, and I take delight in how old-styled they look. The lack of variety of monsters in any battle is a bit disappointing-sounding, but I'm totally used to not being able to target specific monsters. At least in Dragon Warrior III and beyond, they used some sort of AI-sequence to determine which monster would be the "smartest" one for your characters to hit. Anyway, most old games have really generic plotlines, so I'm unbothered by that. It's funny; the games that didn't have generic stories back in the day (say: the original Final Fantasy) had stories that were almost unintelligible. "Garland's plan is to go to the future and send the fiends back in time, who will send him forward again after he is sent back by the fiends to complete the TIME LOOP"? It went something like that, and while I have to hand it to Square for going out there, the original translation left me more than a bit baffled. You know, though, that hasn't really changed much over time, though, so maybe it isn't just an old-school thing; who really understood the intricacies of the whole time kompression thing, anyway?

In any event, my point is that if Phantasy Star has an unweird storyline, it irks me not.

Oh I enjoyed Phantasy Star II more than I with it's more developed story and somewhat more developed characters (they don't really get much personality until IV though). III is alright as well, but it definitely could use some improvement.

Er, in any case, what I want to get at is that I'm glad to see other people are enjoying this classic series. It still remains one of my most favorite RPG series even though it's a bit on the obscure side (but hey, I'm a Mother fan too so it doesn't really matter XD). I personally can't wait to get PS IV legitimately on the Wii's Virtual Console and hope to see more people get into the series. Sadly though, I don't think the original will be on the VC since I don't believe Nintendo has announced any plans to release Sega Master System games on it. They could add them eventually, but for the moment it doesn't seem likely. I'd say if you want to check out PSI handheld, there's still the GBA collection. I think the sound isn't as good as the originals, and PSI has a very annoying bug in which the game crashes when you save something (the cause of much yelling, hair pulling and throwing of GBAs >.>). It's easy to find use (or at least it is in my area) and a great bargain I think. ^^

Matt

It's not really that obscure when you think about it. Sega people had that and Shining Force; those were the bread-and-butter of RPGs back in the day. There are a lot of games that were released for, say, the SNES that managed to fall through the cracks into the abyss of unknownness.

Well that's all I wanted to say for now. There are a few other things I'd like to ask/discuss, but I think I'll try to stick to one or two topics per letter so I can send more to you often. Thanks again for listening, Matt!

-Strawberry Eggs

Matt

Not a bad idea, Ms. Eggs! Plus, you wouldn't want to get chopped for going over Q&A's 1000-word limit! I hate chopping, unless you're a vegetable. Or chicken. (Don't the words "chopped chicken" just go together marvelously? Chopped chicken chopped chicken chopped chicken!)



I forget what country they were from... probably the US.


Hey Matt,

First time writer, love the column. Anyways, doing my usual browse through circuit city every few weeks, I found myself purchasing Wild Arms 3 and Xenosaga Episode One for a combined $22. Not like I have the time to play them, but I've heard good things about both series. Not only that, when I went to pay for them, I noticed in all plasma tv glory, Advent Children being played on all the display televisions. Now I thought the movie was decent, not great, but was frankly surprised at it being played on all the televisions. A movie only known and watched by a very precise group of people I would think, no?

Matt

Yes. Actually, I had something similar happen to me at a nearby HMV. I went in to buy Advent Children a week or so after it was released, and it was playing silently on their pair of plasma TVs hanging from the ceiling, to my surprise. It's a more specialized store than Circuit City, though, so it's not quite as shocking, but it was neat nonetheless.

Similarly, as I was dozing off reading countless chapters of my psychology textbooks in the student commons, when I perked up to someone playing Dancing Mad on the piano. I probably got a weird excited look on my face and hopefully no one noticed. He played for over an hour and I missed my class because I stayed to listen to him play more. Anyways, have you had any, I guess you could say, "public" encounters with rpgs?

Matt

I love playing video game music on the piano. I miss my piano! :(

I always try and spy on people's iPods on the bus every day to see if they happen to be listening to video game music, but I've never once found anyone, disappointingly. I feel like it's a bit creepy to do that, but I'm not really conspicuous about it or anything (maybe that's creepier, even).

There WAS that Olympics thing back in... 2004, was it? A pair of synchronized swimmer women did their Olympic routine to the background music of the opening movie of Final Fantasy VIII. I was drying dishes at the time, and my family was watching it on TV, when I flew into a complete tizzy because of what the team's background music was. It was really exciting. And I'd say that the Olympics is pretty public, too!

Along with several others, it looks like I may have to finally buy a DS. I've been holding off for a while, but with the line up coming up, I'm extremely excited eventhough I was disappointed with the dismal Mana game reviews; I may have to get it nonetheless. Also, I'm dying to play Final Fantasy VI Advance. I've been dying for a replay but have held off many times for this, as I know many other people have as well. I don't just play the Final Fantasies, in fact, any good game I'll give a whirl, but this one is my favorite game of any genre. I'm not sure how pathetic this is, but I found myself bored in class, going through each event in the game in my head. Its sad that I could remember almost everything but cant remember organic chemistry formulas.

Matt

That's true for just about everyone reading this column, so don't get too down on yourself. I'm doing a damn Master's Thesis, and I'm way, way more familiar with finding my way through Dragon Warrior games from twenty years ago than I am with the material that I work on every single day. Sad, but true.

Game remakes? I'm with you for a dragon quest iv remake. That game was huge and I still cant believe I had the chance to play it. I was always worried my game would be erased somehow on the not so trusty nes. That, or even the third one of the series. Both games were a blast.

Matt

Yay! I'd be so happy. And yeah, I was always worried about the reliability of the save feature, too. I remember being completely paranoid about the "holding RESET" thing: Dis it mean that I'd have to hold it in, press Power, then release Power, THEN release Reset? Or should I press them both at the same time, release the Power first, and then the Reset? Or press Reset, hold it, Press Power, hold it, and then release Reset before releasing Power?

I guarantee you I tried all possible permutations at one point or another, but I never once lost my save games. Maybe the function was more reliable than I gave it credit for.

Quick note about the Wii virtual console. Have you heard anything to do with Square-enix's involvement with it? I would love to have Secret of Mana to play on a nice tv with two friends. Any rare games or rpg's that you'd want on there? I really hope Secret of Mana and the Lufia games end up on it, or at least are remade or released on a handheld. I would probably buy a Wii (if I could get one) solely for the purpose of Mana and Lufia. Your thoughts?

Keep up the good work! By the way, House is one of the best shows on television.

Matt

Last week, I read an article in which a representative from Square Enix claimed that Chrono Trigger had a "50/50 shot" of making it to the Virtual Console. That's a pretty safe claim to make, if you ask me.

I really hope that Square Enix releases some games for the Virtual Console eventually, but we all know how fond the company is of remaking its past games. Or, at least, Final Fantasy I&II... they really like those.

House is spectacular, I agree. It's on tonight, too, now that you mention it.



A startling discovery!


Hey Matt,

The likely reason that the previous incarnation was rated T and the GBA port is E10+ is not that it's been censored, but rather that the E10+ rating didn't exist until within the past couple of years.

Matt

Aha! Now that would be a good reason.

Basically, they recently created E10+ to be a "shade of grey" in between the outright kiddie stuff that usually gets an E and the fairly intense content that gets a T. My understanding is that mildly suggestive content and low-key violence (fantasy or cartoon-looking rather than realistic and bloody) will get an E10+ while anything beyond that gets a T.

Hope that helps clear it up for the guy that was worried about content being removed.

-Boojum.

Matt

It seems odd, though, that FFVI would get an E10+, because FFV got a just plain "E" ... and there's partial nudity at times! Or, a time. It's not like you see anything when you're fighting that she-devil boss, but she's quite evidently alllll naked. Plus, there's an entire town whose only claim to fame is their alcohol! Hmm. I don't know if the ESRB knows what they're talking about, but that's the way it goes.

The pointer has been most helpful, Boojum! Get ready to answer a slew of stuff a week from today for your eighty-seventh co-hosting, because I'm gonna rain it on you hard! (If you call three or four questions hard, anyway.)



Business 101


Hi Matt!

Well, the big news is (drumroll, trumpet flourish) I finally beat Final Fantasy III! Now I can play a different DS game: Magical Starsign and Animal Crossing are on the list. I'd already started playing Animal Crossing when FFIII came along...my town is now so full of weeds that everyone has moved away. I hated them anyway.

Matt

Whoo! Felicitations, as the french would say. Isn't it an amazing feeling when you finally beat the last boss? On the other side of the same coin, isn't it a HORRIBLE feeling when you've spent four hours in the last dungeon, knowing that an unlucky Back Attack could put an end to everything, any second? UGH! Thankfully, they changed it from the original, because I think that in the original game, you didn't get healed to full after every boss. Not at all. I could be mistaken, though. Even so, that last stretch has to be one of the scariest RPG experiences I've had in recent times.

Sadly, I've yet to beat Final Fantasy V, and it doesn't look like I will in the near future, because a different GBA cartridge is sitting in my DS's GBA slot. Hint: the cartridge is blue...

That's right! It's Pokemon Sapphire! W00t!

Matt

Double-you zero zero tee indeed!

That actually is extra-exciting. Have you ever played a Pokémon game before? If not, you've picked pretty much a perfect game to start with. In my opinion, anyway.

Since I've been playing through both Final Fantasy V and XII, it kind of got me to thinking...what if they merged some of the plot elements? I mean, who doesn't want to see Balthier as a girl? (That might have been a spoiler for some people...oops)

Matt

Whatever- Final Fantasy V is something like sixteen years old now, and besides, if gamers didn't already "know" before they started playing, they'd figure it out within the first hour of playtime. No biggie. Plus, Balthier looks well-groomed enough... but he's a bit tall. Larsa, though? I thought he was a girl for the first two hours after I first met him, so maybe there are some similarities between the two games in that respect!

You should play FFII if you haven't already. I find that even though the games are decades apart, FFII would have been quite similar if it had been produced using the same technology, because the plot is so familiarly straightforward, with a few other striking similarities to its much younger sibling.

Okay, so I have two questions for you, sirrah. First, which version of the upcoming Pokemon DS titles do you plan to purchase? Or are you planning on getting both?

Matt

I have to talk it over with my brother, because we're each going to get one of them. I'm inclined to get Pearl, because it's the least popular of the two over in Japan by a rather strangely significant margin, according to Magicbox, but we'll have to see. Getting both, though? I might like Pokémon, but I'm not enough of a Nintendo whore to buy the same game tw-- er, just quietly forget the fact that I've blown money on Super Mario Brothers and Super Mario World on the Virtual Console. Eheheh...

My second question will take a bit of explanation. Having heard much goodness about Disgaea, and having loved the manga, and being generally fond of anything strategy related (be it Command and Conquer or Advance Wars), I decided to stroll down to my friendly local video game retailer to see if they had a used copy. They did, at the jaw-dropping price of $39.99. For a used game that's over three years old. I thought there must be some mistake, but the price was correct. I was so furious at how they were trying to screw me over (you KNOW they only paid five or ten bucks to the kid who traded that in), that I left without buying anything. I stormed straight home, called one of my friends (who doesn't play video games and thus has no idea why I'm so worked up) and ranted about it. Then to further vent, I wrote an entire entry in my RPG LiveJournal about the incident, and (to top it all off), I expanded on the topic and submitted an editorial to this website.

Matt

It's a tough call. There are a lot of games out there that are really, really hard to find, and others that sit on the shelves. Stupid RandomCelebrity Baseball '01 will almost certainly be discoverable for $4.99 on a discount shelf because Stupid RandomCelebrity Baseball '02, '03, and '04 will have rendered it obsolete many times over. On the other hand, a classic game like Disgaea is, in my opinion, worth the bucks. There are worse, too: When I was in Montréal over the summer, I went into an old video game store and found Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete and Lunar: Eternal Blue (both PS1 games), both in their original boxes for sale... for $220 and $260 respectively (and SSSC was only... "all right"). It's a good thing I have friends in high places! ;)

On the other hand, I can definitely see your point. Why should we have to pay stores for games that they probably bought off some stupid kid for $3 once upon a time? It bugs me too.

So the obvious question is: why? Related questions include: should I wait for the price to drop at the store, or should I order online? How much SHOULD gamers pay for used games on previous-gen systems? Yes, I know the PS2 is greater than sex (well, not really, but almost), but I bought my PS2 when I was in HIGH SCHOOL. It's no longer current-gen. I'm not paying current-gen prices for used games.

Thoughts, oh great one?

-Jeffrey

Matt

I dunno about sex, but I think that $40 isn't completely unreasonable, considering my story above, and considering that you can drop by eBay to find some SNES cartridges selling for upwards of $100 easily. See, games become like antiques, which go up in price as the years go by. Imagine how rare and exciting it would be to stumble upon the original cartridge of your favourite PS1 RPG - one you never owned - while you're rooting through some floating-in-the-sky shop in 2023. They'll be expensive BECAUSE it would be exciting to find them: You're not the only one looking for old games, unfortunately, and as supply goes down and demand goes up, well, a Grade 10 business class will tell you that the price is going nowhere but up as well.

That's the way it is! I'll sulk besides you, and then go download games online for five bucks instead. Thanks for writing in, and best of luck locating a cheaper copy of Disgaea.



QUICKIES

Heh, quarter of a century disgusting? I'll have you know that I've been a quarter of a century for the past half a year, and do not find the status all that disgusting nor disturbing.

The trick is to never act your age, and since you are a gamer, your one step towards that adage.

Laters,
Maggie ^_^

Matt
Ah, I didn't mean to insult anybody, but there's no doubt that 25 or... *shudder* ... 26 will be psychologically disturbing. I remember when I was 10 or 11 when I figured that since no "old" people play video games, I'll have long-forgotten gaming by then. Boy, was I wrong.


MOGNET MAIL

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.

Your Moogle was a little lonely, so I thought I'd send one. Dropping everything to play FF6? I am. :)

Mags

Matt
I only wish. I've been trying to get through FFXII this weekend, and I just beat Yoshi's Island DS to make room, but the way things are looking, the evil ACADEMICKA is a villain that needs some serious thrashing at the moment. *sigh*



IN CLOSING

I'm more beat than a drum, so it's time to finish today's column off. As your weekday host, though, I'll be back tomorrow, Thursday, and Friday for more, so make sure to write in with your best questions, answers, comments, or ramblings, and I'll do my very best to get around to you with haste! ("Slow" status is gone... my backlog is now officially small.)

Stay warm, everybody! It's friggin' cold here.



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