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Living Dead
February 9, 2007

Matt Demers - 19:36 EST

SOMEBODY, please give me a "Z" to place after my name, Final Fantasy IV-style. I got no sleep last night, because my brain is stupid and acts only to make life as difficult as possible for me when I have a billion things to do. I'd stab it if I could, though if I did, I might regret doing so. Grr.

The papers are marked, applications are sent. I'll finish all this, because I'm hell bent
On getting it done, so that I can play, my long list of games; I've been waiting for day..s.

Pretty sad piece of poetry, to be honest. Where's Donovan when you need him?


Hey Matt,

Good luck on your PhD application situation. Don't give up too easily - I've had a couple of times where I missed a deadline by a few days, but got in touch with the people in charge and was able to get permission to turn it in late.


I'm glad to report that it's all out of my hands. I mailed away the applications today, and that's all I have to say about that! Until, that is, I find out in a couple of weeks that I forgot some crucial piece of paperwork. Yech.

In general, I do prefer the old-school game music that emphasizes a memorable melody over the current vogue for atmospheric but forgettable pieces. Some of that due to the composition style, but I think that a good chunk of it is also because of the instrumentation. Pre-CD games have music tailored to the sound chip of the system they are made for, and the types of sound heard are very distinctive. Most modern games, on the other hand, utilize real musicians or orchestras, or at least synthesizers that provide a fairly accurate imitation thereof. While this is "higher-quality" sound, it is also closer to what would be heard at a mainstream concert or as a movie soundtrack, and thus does not feel as distinctive. Because of the limitations of older hardware, composers had to be very creative in putting their very limited resources to use, and the "instruments" used have a noticeably different feel to them that makes them instantly recognizable as game music. In particular, the SNES struck a great balance of having multiple channels to be filled with varied instruments while still keeping that uniqueness to their sound. As a result, I find several SNES soundtracks to be more evocative than anything that has come before or since. While I might chalk this up to nostalgia for the games they are from, I have also had the same reaction to games that I played for the first time recently.


I almost have to agree with you! I have to say that even the step between SNES and PS1 was a little bit of a loss, in a way. As an example that a lot of people might be able to relate to, while Final Fantasy VII had some amazing music, I honestly find that the SNES quality of FFVI is better in some ways. And yeah, while later games in that series and others have become more big and orchestrated, I'm always a little sad at the end of the day when I sit down to my piano or keyboard and can't play anything for the life of me, just because they don't have much of a central tune.

I hate always using Final Fantasy games as examples, but I have another thing to chew on: When I think of character themes, I honestly couldn't tell you what Wakka's, Penelo's, or any PS2 FF character's themes are. However, I can instantly recall just about anyone's from before then. Why is that? I'm not sure.

As an example, yesterday I finished Rudra no Hihou (or "Treasure of the Rudras", as the fan translation is titled), and was struck by several of the pieces, which are attached. "City of the Merfolk" is my overall favorite piece from the game, and features a beautiful interplay between the "brassy" instrument and the "flute". "Whistle Down the Wind" is just so adventurous that I smile every time I hear it, and "Strange Encounter" is an intricate and energetic battle theme. I just don't feel like they would have quite the same charm if they were to be re-recorded with real instruments.


Surely. And you know, when I'm hunting for my favourite SNES or NES music online, or looking for soundtracks, I often shy away from the big bad "Symphonic Suite" versions for that exact reason. I find that they often don't carry the same feeling that the original game tracks possessed.

Speaking of Rudra no Hihou, for anyone who appreciates 2D RPGs, I can't recommend the game highly enough. It was one of the last games Square released for the Super Famicom before switching over to the Playstation, and really demonstrates their experience and mastery of the system. Unfortunately, it was never released here - if it had been, I really think we'd all be talking about it in the same breath as FFVI and Chrono Trigger. I'd love to write a review for the site, but the "original hardware only" rule makes that impossible, so here are my thoughts.


Please share! A few others have spoken very highly of the game; it's one that isn't exactly widely known on this side of the big ocean.

Visually, comparisons to FFVI are inevitable, as both in and out of battle, it looks like a slightly more polished version of that classic. The biggest improvement is shown in battle, where enemies are no longer static, but are nicely-animated sprite chains. Aurally, the sound and music are both excellent, although they do fall just a hair short of the best soundtracks on the system.

The characters are likable, with vivid personalities and distinct speech patterns leading to amusing party conversations, although they don't have a huge amount of depth or backstory to them. The mythological background of the world, however, is fascinating and well-thought-out. The premise is that the world operates on a great cycle, where every 4,000 years the dominant race is wiped out and a new one is created to take their place (each race has a "Rudra", a godlike being who facilitates this process by clearing out the preceding race). As the story opens, the age of humanity has exactly 16 days left in it. As you progress, time advances only when progress is made in the story, so although you don't have to worry about running out of time, it effectively communicates a sense of foreboding and impending cataclysm throughout the game. Of course, nothing is as simple as it first appears, and peeling back the layers to find out more about the Great Cycle and the beings involved in it is very rewarding. This is one of the few games that I've played where I was really motivated to progress just to find out how all the pieces fit together, and the payoff at the very end was well worth it.


Wow- that is pretty dramatic and different, a change from the tried and true fetch-quest based storylines that dot the landscape of RPGs (of both today and yesterday).

In a unique touch, the storyline can be best described as multilinear - there are three leads, each of which accumulate their own parties and play through separate, but interlinked scenarios as the 16 days pass. You can switch between scenarios at any time, so I played through a couple of days at a time with each before letting the others catch up. Their goals each provide a different perspective on the events, consisting of a warrior dedicated to hunting down and destroying the cult of the Rudra, a researcher delving into the past to uncover the truth about the Great Cycle, and the Chosen who has to purify the world from the pollution that blankets it. The stories are well-interleaved, as the groups cross one another's paths throughout the story, or see the results of each other's actions (such as purification of the air or other changes to the shape of the world).


Now THAT is funky. Ideas like that have shown up in a couple of other games before (was there a Shining Force, or a Suikoden, or something?), but I don't know of any that allow you to switch midway if you so desire. You want an RPG with replay value? "Honh-HONH," as a french chef would bellow in affirmation.

Perhaps the best element of the game, however, is the magic system. At any point outside of battle, you can "enscribe" a mantra, which basically means entering any word of up to 12 letters, which the game will interpret as a magical effect. These can be combined in any number of ways. For example, IG is a basic fire attack, while NA adds an area effect, so IGNA hits all targets with fire. New mantras and components can be learned by speaking to people throughout the world, watching monsters use them against you, or just experimenting on your own (many words will have logical effects when entered, so putting in POWER will increase your character's strength, for example). Learning the ins and outs of this system and figuring out how to put it to best use was one of the most engrossing activities I've ever done in an RPG. Naturally, to get the most out of the system, you need to either take notes or have an incredible memory, and even more than most games, this is susceptible to being ruined if you cheat and look it up in a FAQ.


A lot of people believe that this word-based system is one of the reasons that the game never got translated to English. It's a fantastic idea, though, and not something that has been closely mirrored by many (if any) other games. The customization is vaguely reminiscent of Final Fantasy VII, except for the customization seems to be much more "on the fly". Really neat. And yeah, I can see why FAQs would be ruinous to one's enjoyment. Learn the ultimate combination, and the game could potentially turn into a wasted breeze!

Anyway, I'm sure I'm pushing 1,000 words, so I'll stop here rather than mention the few quibbles I have with the game. Sorry for taking up so much space talking about a game that probably nobody else has played, but hopefully a few will be motivated to check it out. Ideally, I'd love to see SE translate and release it on Virtual Console for all to enjoy, but who knows what the chances of that are. In the meantime, the fan translation is done by Aeon Genesis, and can be easily located online. As much as I hate to advocate emulation, when there's no legitimate way to pay the company for their work, there's no real alternative.



What a fantastic glimpse into a game we never saw, Boojum! Thanks for sharing. I honestly doubt we'll ever see it on Virtual Console, sadly. Face it: Even if the game is fabulous, there might be what, a thousand people that know (or care) about its existence on this side of the world? It's really sad, to be honest. You just helped to boost that number by at least a few hundred! Here's hoping.

Anyway, I've put the musical pieces you included with your message right here for all to hear, if desired. Enjoy!

City of the Merfolk
Strange Encounter
Whistle Down the Wind

My Kingdom for a Heart

I've been searching (I don't surf) the 'net looking for Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix information. The only unofficial information I can find in regards to a North American release indicates sometime later this year...


Yeah, that's all I've heard too. The dastardly Square Enix people have been rather tight-lipped on the details of their three hundred million projects in development right now. I don't think they'd lie about KHII:FM, though. With the PS2 running out of momentum, slowly but surely, they'll want to get that out as soon as possible, and really, it's not a completely new game, is it? We might hear something soon, and if we do, RPGamer will be sure to let you know!

As for the future of Kingdom Hearts, I cannot wait for Kingdom Hearts III to come out! It appears that the press release indicates multiple "projects", so we'll probably have a filler game for the DS or PSP first, ala Chain of Memories....


Possibly, as they work on a killer sequel for an as-of-now unannounced console. How would you feel about that, anyway? Did you like Chain of Memories, or was it like eating spinach mixed with liver as far as gameplay goes? It seems like a lot of people really didn't like that part of the poor game...

I have a feeling that the next major installment of the series will have a co-op option with Roxas and Sora... What are your feelings on that?

Thanks for reading and answering!

King Peekaboo


New games in series always have the potential to innovate in order to keep things fresh. Square Enix is pretty good at that, too, as we know, even though it seems like really, there wasn't a whole lot that was different, stylistically, between KHI & II. It's hard to know, really, but hopefully if they twist the gameplay somehow, they do it right. Square Enix does most things right, I'd say, so I'll bet that we're in pretty good hands.

You know you're watching too much TV whennnn...

Dear Matt

1. Got Rogue Galaxy?

Sadly no. Partly it's becaue I have little time for a new game, but then there's also that announcement that Japan is getting a re-release of the game. It makes me wonder, will that re-release contain all the same additions made to the North American version or different ones? Will it have the same amount, or even more, or possibly even less? Will it, like the Kingdom Hearts re-releases, actually include English voice-acting? I'd like to know these things before deciding to just buy the North American version or import. I guess I'll just have to wait for the answers.


You lucky people with the ability to import. I mean, I could import if I wanted to, but I'd get nothing out of playing the darn games. ENGLISH RPGs take me long enough to get through, without wading through incomprehensible text. Man, I wish I had gone to a university with a Japanese program. :(

2. FFVI's re-translation: Good thing, or sacrilegious?

Translation is a really funny thing, and so is nostalgia. Every Japanese phrase has SEVERAL viable English translations. It all has to do with how the translators would like gamers of their region to perceive the game and its characters (and yes, censorship can have a hand in this). And when a beloved game is translated one way, and remembered that way by its fans, they somehow get "attached" to that original translation, regardless of how "right" is may or not be. Don't get me wrong, because I totally understand this feeling. I'm holding on to my SNES copy of FFIII (as it is titled) for this reason. Then again, now that I'm able to actually read Japanese and original scripts, I'm starting to think that MAYBE all this ruckess that we North Americans raise about which translation is better or more "pure" may actually be superficial, and that simple line changes ("Son of a submariner!") causing us to quibble so much may just be plain silly, when you take into account that not much was changed in the Japanese script at all. It's hard to explain in words, but that is what I've been feeling lately.


No, I understand you perfectly. It's not any big secret that many creative liberties were taken with FFVI's original translation, so I'm really happy to see what the pure unmangled version was like, after all this time. Don't get me wrong, I loved the mangling, and FFVI had a fantastic localization back in the day, as far as I'm concerned. But... I'm interested to see. To all naysayers: If you have a problem, go play the original, simple as that.

3. Super Paper Mario in April! But is it an RPG?

Well, if it has stuff like RPG battles, level ups, equipment managment, and other RPG traditions like the previous games had, then yes. It can have all the 2D platforming it wants, but as long as it has those "RPG elements," I'd say it is.


I don't think it has RPG battles, to be honest. Based on the screens that my eyes have feasted on, it looks like you play the game like a sidescrolling Mario, except that when you jump on an enemy, a little HP-loss-star pops out. It's like the Action RPG of Mario. Very odd. Very cool. And coming soon to a store near you!

I'll save the other topics for later, lest this letter get too long.

Here's my question about Pokemon. Has watching the anime actually ever influenced you about how you would like to play the games? It has for me. For instance, seeing how Ash caught the starter pokemon Bulbasaur first, that was what I picked in my first time playing the game. The same goes for when he caught Chikorita. Seeing how much Hitmonlee rocked in the anime made me want to pick it over Hitmonchan in my game. When I get in a gym battle, I often like to use ONLY the pokemon that the characters used in the anime, just for the novelty's sake. Seeing how May picked Torchic as her first pokemon, that influenced me to pick the same one when I played my Sapphire version. And after watching this clip, I can pretty confidently say that I'll be picking Pochama as my first pokemon when I play the Pearl version. Am I crazy this way? Yeah, and I don't care ;)



That's a funny way to play it! I'll bet you'll never be able to defeat an enemy by repeatedly using "Agility" though. Ugh, that bothered me quite much.

I find that when I play Pokémon, I set my sights on a Pokémon that has potential but isn't likely to be a super-popular choice among other players. I like to create scary versions of unsuspecting critters, and I can't wait to have a hand at doing it Pearl/Diamond style. The game looks absolutely wicked, and is one of my most wanted games of 2007 without a doubt! Maybe, with some luck, we'll be able to play each other on Nintendo Wi-Fi one day...

Dollarrific consoles, and a game that let this poor guy down.

Hi Matt!

This is the first time i've ever wrote in, but i've been reading since before the guy who was before the guy who was before you.

2 Topics. Firstly, XBox360 = 400 (500 for the better system), 2 years of Xbox Live (just about everyone gets this) 100 dollars. Total cost? 500(600) Dollars. PS3 + 2 years of Sonys online service? 500(600) dollars. THEY"RE THE SAME PRICE. GAH. Every time i say they want to get a 360 because its cheaper i faceplant my desk


Ew, is Xbox Live really that pricey? That's kind of disgusting, really.

And yes, you did e-mail me a bit later to correct your Xbox price by $100, but if you're online, that $100 is made up in just two years' time anyway. Yikes.

In any event, it's true that neither of those systems are particularly cheap. Even Nintendo's console comes with a lot of hidden costs: By the time you've spent money on four remotes, a classic controller, and an extra nunchuk, you've blown almost another Wii's worth of money, let alone having to change the remote batteries once a month (yuck). It's as my dad always says: "If you wanna play, you gotta pay."

Second. Am i the only one living who found FF12 a bit of a let down? Let me explain: Story is relativly dry, this has been run into the ground. For some reason the last few dungeon areas, decided to put all writing in cryptic riddle-text. I stopped finding that amusing after about the 2nd ancient inscription. Battle System - I sat my controller down and watched the last boss fight roll out. All enemies in game can be defeated via Berserk + Bravery + Haste + Bubble and some kind of high damage melee weapon. It was just far too easy. I beat one of the marks way before i probably should have because the AI would never go after my healer, and i just casted Raise and told the newly raised guy to go attack once and then die... Granted it took about 90 minutes of doing that, but it shouldn't have been possible. License board is neat for awhile.. then everyone maxxes out whatever tree you set them on (pretty fast really) and everyone knows the exact same moves. Apparently you can only have a reasonable chance of getting the best shield if you dont open a conpletely unmarked randomly spawned chest at like 6 different occasions. There is nothing whatsoever in game to tell you this is a bad idea. The rare chests dont even have worthwhile loot. Bringing me to my next topic, Random chests. What was the point of this. Really. The FF12 team borrowed far too much from FF11. They took basically the battle system, many of the mob models, tons of item names (not talking about the historics, talking about all the loot you could find, pulled verbatum from ff11 drops). I could probably find more to hate on but i think at this point i've done enough.

FF12 wasn't all bad though. They did a better job than any other RPG of making it seem like you were actually in a city. Most RPGs have some sort of capital city with 3 houses in it and a shop. ff12 made you really feel like you were in a big city. The music was well done, SOME of the VA's were really good (Vaan and Penelo i wasn't fond of). Balthier gets every form of win. He should get his own game. And TV series. And probably some action figures.


You know, no game is perfect; even Final Fantasy games. However, what Final Fantasy XII does well, it does fantastically so, and the game feels extremely well-polished despite its flaws.

You hit the nail on the head, and missed your thumb completely, with the city-thing. After the frankly lazy effort that was put forth with FFX (was Luca truly the only real city that was somewhat fleshed out?) it was incredible; I was almost overwhelmed by the size of Rabanastre when I first began playing. The world as a whole is amazing too, and quite realistic, given that it's a fictional realm. Little details like changing weather really help to IMMERSE you (that's the buzzword for this kind of compliment, and I hate always using it, but it's true).

Yes, the battle system gets repetitive, and yeah, the storyline is a bit on the blah side, but in the end, I have to say that I've found this game to be way more addictive than Final Fantasy X or its spawn ever were.

Perhaps i shall write in again :)

-Nick AKA Nastharl (theres a short uninteresting story about that, but it has one neat point)


Nasty Laharl? Are you a Disgaea fan? Or am I totally off the mark? (I nearly hit one of my roommates in the side of the face back when we had a dartboard, so that wouldn't really surprise me.)

Good to hear from you, Nick!

My DS Library, publicized!

Hey Matt.

Here's a list of handheld RPG's I want to pass, what do you suggest I finish first?

Harvest Moon DS (At least until I get a kid), Children of Amana, Pokemon Ranger, Pokemon Mystery Dungeon, Lunar Genesis?


Oh Bainick! I didn't know you were expecting a child. Congratulations. <3 Hee hee, just kidding.

I don't know what to say, really. They all kind of suck, or so I've heard. Harvest Moon is something you can keep playing forever, so start with that, and keep playing it continuously as you try and put down each of the others in order.

Actually, I am interested to see what you have to say about at least Children of Mana. Pokémon Mystery Dungeon is supposed to be loathesomely disrespectfully bad to the Pokémon name, and Pokémon Ranger looked mindless and stupid. Lunar Genesis? You'll have to tell me more.

Oh and how many DS games do you own/bought so far? I have 15 (16 if you count M&L PIT). Thats nearly at the same amount of Gamecube games we own!


I'm a couple shy of you, I think. Let me count.

Random racing game I've never opened that I got for free when I bought the system, Warioware Touched, Mario 64 DS, Mario Kart DS, Golden Nugget Casino (random Christmas present), Metroid Prime Hunters, Tetris DS, Super Princess Peach, New Super Mario Brothers, Final Fantasy III, Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime, Yoshi's Island DS. That's twelve, unless I'm missing something. Oh, I am; Mario and Luigi: Partners in Time. Thirteen it is.

Bainick would of sent Bainick has a name suggestion to KOEI if he had known anything about it!


So you haven't seen ZYXENFRYX yet in Disgaea 2? I guarantee you he's there, because I've had many confirmed reports, and I've seen him myself a couple of times! Keep up the search, and one day you'll find my little influence. <3

Stupid, stupid, stupid game stores. GRR.

Matt -

I've been avoiding the letters about FF XII so far to avoid spoilers so I don't know if this has been mentioned yet, but I finally finished Twillight Princess and fired up the copy of FF XII I got for christmas the other day, and it is freaking awesome that you can pause the cut scenes. I mean, seriously in my group of friends, as far as videogames go, I'm the square, (heh, heh, Square), geek, nerd, whatever. They just don't understand how I could possibly care about the plot of a videogame, since in the FPS's the plot is mostly a thinly contrived deal to get you from one place with people/things to shoot and another (not that shooting things isn't fun), and in sports games it doesn't exist at all (sports are fun too), and so feel no guilt about jabbering at me during cut scenes (although they wouldn't dare walk in front of the screen until the play was over in Madden). So I was very pleasantly surprised when my roomate started complaining about some class after I had just started the game (that's what you get, schoolboy, for trying to edumacate yourself, school's for fools) and I winced and pressed start hoping it would work and not just skip the scene like it always does. But it worked. Every RPG should do this, I love this game for that alone.


Yeah, though it's pretty sad when a "Pause" feature has to be classified as a fancy and underused technology. It's true, though... how many people here have sat through stretches of video from a game when, really, you just have to go to the bathroom? Don't be shy now.

Interestingly enough, the topic of old games being expensive and collectible came up on the golf course today. One of the guys I was playing with told me he had bought his gamecube in the bundle that had the first Zelda, Adventure of Link, Ocarina of Time, and Majora's Mask all on one disk. I had done the same thing and asked him if he had sold it back. He told me yes and I had to proceed to tell him what a mistake that was. I had bought the same bundle (and thankfully still have the game although my brother is borrowing it right now) and a little over a year ago spotted it at the EB Games I frequent on the used game shelf. I grabbed it and went to point it out to the clerk, who I knew was into the Zelda's but hadn't played all of them because we had discussed it when I pre-ordered Twillight Princess (longest pre-order ever, I had it on reserve for over a year and had to switch it over to the Wii version before it came out) as a great option to play the original when I noticed it was priced at 50 or 60 bucks (I'm not quite sure now, this was a year ago). I of course proceeded to tell him how messed up the company he worked for was, since this was a FREE game. I bet whoever sold it back probably got like 5 bucks credit for it too, under the justification that it was free.

Gotta love capitalism (because they teach you to in school),



Heh heh, I never even thought of that! But hey, as long as game stores are willing to screw customers on used games, I don't really care if they mess up at all. Ugh, I can't stand the assault whenever I go to buy a new game. Do I want a used copy for a $7 discount? No. Do I want insurance for $3? No. Do I want the game guide for some ridiculous price that I would -never- pay? Absolutely not, leave me alone!!

Oh well. Capitalism rulezors indeed.

You can see her WHAT now?!?!!!!

So, yeah, I was thinking on that bit that you and Boojun were discussing the E10 rating on FFVI. It might be rated that since there are some storyline occurrances like the destruction of the world and the copious loss of life, particularly adult in the one town's case, that might have prompted the slightly higher rating.

There is also the potential of a storyline arc with attempted suicide, which a lot of censors would be tetchy about. Or even the psychotic villain that kills many people outright and with no remorse, enjoying it even.


True. Death is a lot more prevalent in Final Fantasy VI than it is in V, since in V it's usually implied, with one rather grand exception. In Final Fantasy VI, on the other hand, we have cliffs that break apart and smash NPCs into people-pancakes seemingly at will. Remember that?

I can buy that, I guess.

It's not that rather naked bosses, as appearing in FFV, are more suitable for kids, but that they might worry that the kids will have a hard time processing some of the characters' story lines. Or, heaven forbid, they might want to emulate them.

MagRowan ^_^


True. It's just that oftentimes, the western censors tend to go absolutely crazy over anything with sexual content while allowing violence through their filters in copious amounts. CSI was on while I did some marking last night, and there was some... really, really, REALLY grisly stuff on the screen, that I never would have expected to see on TV even a few years ago. Yet, when Janet Jackson flashes a nipple (a nipple that WAS obscured by something sparkly!) the world starts spinning and the puffed-up politicians get all red-faced and flustered. Give me a break!

Anyway, that's a bit off topic, but I guess there are some valid reasons why FFVI should get the bit-higher rating after all. Merci beaucoup for your input, Miss MagRowan!


That one's from Disgaea II, which reminds me, I need to find time to finish that game someday. By the way, how'd you choose which characters to use in that game? There are just. Too. Many. Josh

HAHA! I did get it right today. You were only one of two people who mentioned Miss Yukimaru; Witecat was the other. I'd give you SOCK points if I could, but I can't, so you'll just have to take an injection of pride as a consolation prize.

Hey Matt!

Just a fun fact. I'm as old as Final Fntasy! Too bad we don't share thew same birthday.


Fun fact from over here: I'm as old as a cow named Moore that I met on a field trip once when I was in Grade 2 or 3. And we DO share the same birthday! Hopefully poor old Moore hasn't wound up on someone's dinner plate by now.


No Mogmail yet again today, kupo! But, 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 the end of February, so get your kicks in while you can!


Well, it's been a busy and chaotic week, but hopefully this column ended things on an upnote! You guys have been sending in all sorts of mail, though, so I apologize that I wasn't able to get around to everyone. That's what next week is for, fortunately, and what better way to start it off than to have our familiar Boojum at the helm alongside myself? Write him a letter, if you please, and you might just leap the queue and find your mail in Tuesday's column.

Thanks everybody! Have a safe, restful, and gamingish weekend.

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