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ASK BOOJUM & MATT
Gauntlet of Awful Doom
February 13, 2007

Matt Demers - 20:31 EST

ANOTHER WEEKEND HAS come and gone, and here we all are once again. I hope you were all able to get some quality gaming time in over the weekend. After about 8 months of on-and-off play, I finally buckled down to finish Final Fantasy IX (yes IX, I know I'm living in the Stone Age). My feelings toward it are mixed - it's certainly my favorite of the three PS1 installments, due to the return to the 4-person party, well-differentiated characters, and lack of angst. At the same time, the excessive load times before and after every battle really broke up the pacing, and the way that time passes during animations was just ridiculous - with Auto-regen, it seemed like by the time the enemy finished their attack animation, the characters had already healed more damage than the attack did. Oh well.

Being cursed by the typical ailment of starting lots of games and not finishing them, I'm now making a concerted effort to complete some of them before I let myself start any more. Now that FFIX and Rudra no Hihou have been knocked off, I've lowered my currently-in-progress list to: FFXII, Dragon Quest VIII, Phantom Brave, Tales of Symphonia, Mario & Luigi, and Dragon Quest Heroes, plus a couple of non-RPGs like Viewtiful Joe and God of War. Intimidating, but not impossible. Anyway, today we have another monster letter from JuMeSyn, as well as discussions of game music, hardware failures, and real-life RPG experiences. Let's get started!




LETTERS
Simplicity seeds sweet sounds.


Hey Matt!

After having disappeared for a bit (darn real life stuff eating up my time), I decided to weigh in on one of your recent topics: video game music. I've noticed recently that while the sound quality of music nowadays is better, I just don't find a lot of the music as memorable as I used to. I've come to the conclusion that more advanced systems actually have the potential to create less memorable music.

Boojum

My sentiments exactly - say on!

In the olden days (NES, SNES, Genesis), the sound chips were pretty limited. So, composers had to come up with notable themes to overcome the weakness of the sound chips. Think about how many memorable themes there were in older games, and how much you love them despite realizing the limitations of the systems they played on. That's why older game music is the subject of so many remixes by people.

Boojum

Yep, when you don't have the resources to do much beyond a central tune, you'd better make sure that central tune is memorable. That said, there was plenty of bad music in older games too, it's just that the good ones are what we remember.

Nowadays, there are a lot more options for composers. However, I think too many composers (with some exceptions, obviously) are settling for involved, but vaguely ambient music. While I recognize music each time I enter an area in FFXII, there's nothing that sticks in my mind when I shut off the game. However, at random times, pieces from FFIV, FFVI, Lunar, etc. might get stuck in my head. The music was simple, straightforward, yet somehow more memorable.

Boojum

Exactly - the current style for ambient music has seemed to largely take over from the simpler and more memorable melodies. We seem to think alike - your points go right along with the last letter I sent in.

Anyway, having throw in my two cents on that, I had a random thought this weekend. I haven't heard the same level of problems with the PS3 that you heard with the old Playstations (or the XBox 360). I'm not sure if it's just from the fact that a lot fewer people bought it, leading to fewer complaints, or maybe that Sony actually managed to put out a system that worked from the beginning. Have you heard any feedback about the system? It's not like I'm planning on dropping $600 on a game system anytime soon, but I'm curious nonetheless.

Boojum

You're right, we haven't heard about much in the way of catastrophic failures yet. I do remember some reports of less serious issues, like the system locking up or the wireless controller losing its connection with the system during gameplay. While these can be fixed with a reset, they're nonetheless annoying.

Thanks!

BigWook

Boojum

Thanks for weighing in, Bigwook!



Stereotyping, marketing, and more.


Hey, Mattissimo,

I'm glad you asked about Nintendo's goal to reach boomers & females. I have two opinions. From a business perspective I can see their point, but I don't think it will work in the long run for the Wii. People around my age, who aren't into gaming, may see something like Wii Sports; think it's a lot of fun; buy the Wii & the game, but then will get bored over time & probably not buy anything else. So Nintendo does make the initial money, but that's it. I base this on the fact that I bought a number of friends of mine PS1s years ago to try to get them at least somewhat interested in gaming to no avail. They intially have fun, but then get bored & go back to their usual hobbies (which, for most of my friends, is reading). I can see why the DS has worked in this regard - simply because it's a handheld. Many of my codger friends spend a good chunk of time in doctors' waiting rooms, & this gives them something better to do than read the god-awful magazines (is there a law that doctors' offices have to have such crappy magazines?!) while also taking their minds off why they're there to begin with. Also it's lighter than lugging books around.

Matt

I think it's a law to have Spring 2003 issues of Better Homes and Gardens available for your reading pleasure at just about every doctor's (or dentist's) office.

My initial opinion to what you say is that the Wii has a lot more potential to be a "fun-for-all-ages" gaming machine than the PS1 ever did. Then, I remembered that Nintendo's issue isn't just with that age group; it doesn't matter who you are, you're going to get bored when only one decent game is released for the damn console. Where on earth are all of the other games that were announced for "launch" back during last May? I'm starting to tap my foot, Nintendo.

Anyway, I think that as you say, handhelds like the DS have made strong headway as a viable pastime among all ages over the past couple of years. I think it's exactly because they're generally easier to use, they're cheaper, and they don't take up space. They also, as of late, have a way, way better game selection, which could have something to do with it.

My other opinion is strictly personal. I am offended by such targeting. It's as if they're saying us older women can't mentally handle anything more challenging than something like Wii Sports. "Here, little old lady, now swing the controller as if you were going to roll the bowling ball down the alley - ooh, watch you don't put your hip out! Do you need a shot of Geritol to keep you going?" Just like I get incensed about Lifetime television touting itself as "Television for women" as if all of us want to watch dreadful fare about incest, rape, spousal abuse, etc. I just find this kind of marketing condesending.

Matt

See, I thought you might, which is why I asked you the question in the first place. Playing up on stereotypes tends to offend the people that they don't need to target. In other words, you're already a gamer, so the marketing isn't really meant for your eyes, if you know what I mean. It's kind of like watching Will & Grace if you're gay. Straight people find that show way, way funnier than gay people do - at least in the case of my friends and I, we think it's over the top.

Anyway, don't take the campaign personally. Truth be told, the system has wooed over a lot of the boomer generation; I'd be surprised if my parents didn't go and buy one themselves over the next year or two, because they're always begging my brother and I to bring ours home whenever we visit. Whether it stays interesting or not is totally incumbent on Nintendo itself.

I'll get off my soapbox & ask you a question. What's happening with Persona 3? Haven't heard anything about it in quite some time. I think it's already out in Japan & is my most anticipated title for this year. Please gaze into your crystal ball & see if you can find anything out.

I think when you become a professor we should all chip in & buy you one of those jackets with the elbow patches & a pipe!!

Have a wonderful weekend.

Jbumi

Matt

Ack! But I'm going to try to be one of those "cool, hip, non-snooty" professors! What do cool, hip, non-snooty people wear? It's all about stereotypes, isn't it? Heh heh.

As for Persona 3, I haven't heard much personally, though a few websites have posted release dates, making it seem that June is the month to look forward to. A lot of people have been waiting for a long time for this game, so hopefully the wait is well worth it! Or rather, hopefully the game is well worth the wait. English = too hard.

Thanks for your letter, as always!



Teh forever letter.


Hi there Boojum.

Boojum

Hi yourself, JuMeSyn!

Lately I've been tossing out anime themes as introductory motifs, so here's one: http://gh.ffshrine.org/song/6321/1 Again, I haven't watched any Slayers, but the music is just so nice to listen to. What say you?

Boojum

Hmm, seems reasonably pleasant, but that song is pretty much carried by the vocals, so it's a bit hard to get into without understanding them.

You've thrown out Lewis Carroll references in the past, so Napple Tale ought to be right up your alley. My review is probably posted by now, but on the off chance it isn't just know that the game seemingly takes its entire inspiration from Alice in Wonderland. Not having read the book (shush, I've got a lot of classic literature to read) I can't speak to its accuracy but the concept is mightily intriguing. Investigate if your interest is piqued. What the hell, here's a sample of Yoko Kanno's intriguing soundtrack for Napple Tale. http://gh.ffshrine.org/song/2535/19 This is when you're going down into a well to speak with a dragon hoarding lots of money. The dragon is a bureaucrat writing stuff all the time.

Boojum

I have indeed read the review, and agree with you on the oddity of a game based on English literature never being released in English. If a translation were available, I'd happily check it out, but going through the hassle of finding a copy only to have no idea what's going on and being unable to understand the literary references just doesn't sound that appealing, especially with the rest of my backlog waiting in the queue. That's a pretty neat song - it has a nice underground/sneaky feel that kind of reminds me of Grieg's "In the Hall of the Mountain King". The vocal part got kind of distracting, though.

Speaking of literature... could the Divine Comedy be made into an RPG? Good ol' Dante, that stuff still reads well even 750 years later.

Boojum

Hmm, it's been a few years since I read the Inferno, so it's kind of muddled in my mind with all of the other depictions of hell in various media. That said, I think there's a lot of material to mine from, although some substantial liberties would have to be taken to make room for battles, particularly in heaven. Maybe a game with multiple main characters, each making their way through a different portion of the afterlife.

I ask this of everybody, and it's now your turn. Speak to me of your Sega experience! Yes, all of it! RPG or not, doesn't matter. Throw it all out there.

Boojum

Fairly limited, I'm afraid, as my family only had one system per generation while I was growing up, and we stuck with Nintendo. I played some Sonic and Golden Axe at a friend's house a few times, but that's about it for my experience with Sega during their heyday. More recently, I did acquire a Dreamcast after they had already shut down production and were clearing out their stock at $50 apiece. My only RPG was the excellent Skies of Arcadia, but other highlights were Soul Calibur, Powerstone, and Crazy Taxi.

Aaaand - what's your take on Sakura Wars? Don't tell me you're completely ignorant, I'll be so disappointed with my efforts at promoting it! If nothing else, go read my reviews (conveniently on RPGamer) to learn more!

Boojum

My only information on them comes from you, but they honestly don't look like something I'd be interested in at all, for several reasons. While I love TRPGs, there needs to be a decent challenge to maintain interest, and by your description the tactical segments are extremely easy. Not being into anime, the strong anime style and dating focus don't really do anything for me. Finally, trying to play a dialogue-heavy game in a language I don't understand just seems like an exercise in frustration.

While you're (possibly) reading stuff I've written, I implore you to read my trio of Shining Force III reviews. I wrote them with the intent that they would join together as one whole, so elements that would normally be found in a single review are not found in each individual part of it. That's the last reading request I'll make of you, and I did my very best to keep that review comprehensible, so please go and read!

Boojum

Way ahead of you - I generally read through the Points of View update each week, so I've already read all the reviews you're pushing. Based on those, I am somewhat interested in trying SFIII, and if Sega were to translate them and compile all three scenarios on, say, PS2, I'd happily snatch it up. However, tracking down a console to be only able to play 1/3 of the game before being left in the lurch on the rest of the story? No thanks. Plus which, my only experience with the series so far was adequate, but didn't leave me chomping at the bit to play the rest. I played through Shining Force: Resurrection of the Dark Dragon on GBA, and while it was decently enjoyable, it felt like a lightweight in terms of challenge and tactical depth after playing Tactics Ogre and Fire Emblem.

Huh - I guess I'll mention the console wars. My take: I don't really care. I look upon it all with an academic interest, nothing more. After all, I have PLENTY of games to play as it stands, and even if I concentrated on nothing but RPG playing I wouldn't be done by the end of 2007 (maybe even 2008). Someday I'll be able to pick up a 360, PS3, or Wii for under $100 plus a game or two on eBay. And before that day arrives, I won't concern myself much.

Boojum

I also have an overflowing backlog, so I'm fine with slowly making my way through it. I tend to also take a wait-and-see attitude with new hardware launches, although not to the extent that you do. I'll see what things are looking like a ways down the road, when prices have dropped, hardware has had the bugs worked out, and there's a library of good games. I am making an exception for the Wii, however. It's enough less expensive that I don't mind taking the plunge earlier, and the controller even has my wife interested, which I want to encourage. As for the other two, as strange as it is to say, I'm kind of rooting for Microsoft. Ideally, I'd like to only need to buy one or the other to get the games I really want, and at the moment I'm leaning toward the 360 because of the lower price and because of the drool-worthy Mass Effect. Plus which, Sony's attitude lately has been chock-full of hubris, and while that doesn't directly impact the quality of the product, it does put a bad taste in my mouth at the idea of supporting them. But there's no point in getting either until I manage to get an HDTV somewhere down the line.

I'd think that at this point, you'd be ready to start thinking about the no-longer-current generation. You've mentioned that you prefer to wait until all the games you might want are out for a system so you can pick them up in one fell swoop. Well, that point should be by the end of 2007 for the PS2, and it came last year for the Xbox and just recently with the release of Zelda for the Gamecube. The Gamecube in particular can be found used for $60-70, and the library of must-have games is substantial but not quite as overwhelming as it could be. In terms of RPGs, you could pick up Gladius, Fire Emblem, Paper Mario, Baten Kaitos, and Tales of Symphonia, all for fairly cheap.

I did finally get a DS thanks to my GBA-SP crapping out a few months back. As of right now I have exactly two DS games (Elite Beat Agents and Phoenix Wright), with a few other GBA titles I want to grab before enlarging that library much.

Boojum

Good, good. My DS gets plenty of playtime when I'm out and about, and much of that is from GBA games. I skipped the GBA-SP because of the lack of a headphone jack and the tiny size which didn't fit well in my giant hands, so going from an original GBA to a DS made a huge improvement in my enjoyment of the games, as I could actually see them without needing to find the perfect light source. I don't have either of the games you mentioned yet, but they're both on my list to pick up at some point.

Aside from Sakura Wars 3 and 4, plus Napple Tale, is there anything I might want to import on Dreamcast? Do you know?

Boojum

Have you checked out Black/Matrix AD? That looks like an intriguing dark-themed TRPG, though I haven't played it myself.

Speaking of imports, what's your skill level here? Gimme a wrap-up.

Boojum

Pretty much nil. So many good games that I want to play do get released here that I can occupy myself pretty much indefinitely with them. Given that, the idea of paying extra for a game that I can't even understand just doesn't appeal to me. That said, I have tried out fan-translations of some of the games that never saw release in the US, such as Seiken Densetsu 3, Shin Megami Tensei, and the stellar Rudra no Hihou, but again, being able to play them in English is critical.

Here's something just for fun: http://www.play-nintendo.com/playnintendo/content.php?content_id=587

Boojum

Hehe, that's a pretty funny collection. I think my favorites are Navi and Toad.

Somewhat less fun but nonetheless tantalizing: http://www.destructoid.com/playstation-3-kiosks-freezing-up-on-purpose--28860.phtml

Boojum

That's pretty bizarre. It almost seems like Sony is going out of its way to generate bad publicity for itself lately.

The Economist came out with an editorial denouncing the move toward banning games perceived to be too violent that's currently sweeping Europe. I mention that as a rare moment when the Economist deals with gaming, and because it mentioned that Hillary Clinton recently stopped espousing game bans (because someone gave her a Nintendo Wii?).

Boojum

Hmm, I must have missed that article - I try to keep up with the Economist for real-world news but there's just too much to get through every week. Sounds like good news, and hopefully other politicians will also start to back away from game bans (the combination of every ban so far being struck down in court and gamers actually organizing advocacy groups to try to inform politicians may be having an impact).

Hm. I suppose I'll ask you now what title you really enjoy never got much attention. It can be an RPG or not, doesn't matter to me. Just write a praising piece of prose in aid of something deserving.

Boojum

Well, Ogre Battle is one of my favorites, but the problem there wasn't lack of attention, just lack of supply. On the other hand, Gladius didn't get anywhere near the attention it deserved, likely due to a minimal marketing budget combined with a prejudice against western TRPGs. I think I've talked about why I love this game in a previous column, but since you asked so nicely, I'll recap. The golf-game-esque swing meters keep your attention focused throughout each battle, and help to avoid that rhythm of giving an order and then sitting back passively to watch it carried out that can disconnect players from some TRPGs. The movement, turn order, crowd, magic, action-point, class, and experience systems are all well-designed and give the game a lot of flexibility, as well as feeling noticeably distinct from the genre standards. In particular, the way the units "engage" in melee with one another requires creative tactics to get rear or flanking attacks, and avoids the common "dance" where units take turns walking around behind each other to attack. The gladiatorial arena game layout means that you can pick and choose which battles to go for at any given time and can approach the game however you want. Finally, the difficulty balancing is very precise - I had quite a few hard-fought battles come down to one combatant on each side, keeping the suspense until the final blow. With everyone's attention focused on the new consoles it's hard to get excited about a game that's several years old, but since used copies of Gladius for any of the current-gen systems can be found for $10 or so, I'll again recommend that you all go buy it right now. Finally, I went on at length about Rudra no Hihou last week, but I'll plug it again now.

Diarrhea is like a storm raging inside you.
(And if you get this reference, awesome. If not, oh well.)
JuMeSyn

Boojum

No clue there - sorry to disappoint you. Thanks for writing in, JuMeSyn, and sorry if I came off as a bit negative toward your favorite series.



It's time to come out of the video game music-loving closet.


Just thought I would comment on the music issue. It's similar to lots of other music choices people have in that there's some pretty good stuff, and some crap.

Matt

Of course. The better-than-average can't exist without the worse-than-average; it's the law of statistics.

Game music seems to have a stigma attached to it that might be breaking down a bit; similar to the way more people are increasingly more accepting of games as a legitimate form of entertainment, and in some cases, art. Anyway, I rock out to plenty of stuff by Mitsuda and plenty of others (although erau qssi dlro wym), and I mean ROCK. I'm no bragger, nor am I a 'look at me' type of person, but I've got a couple of 12" woofers and other junk I've thrown in my vehicle, and stuff like 'love will grow' and 'chrono cross (dics 2&3)' aren't any strangers to getting blasted. A little left of the topic, but plenty of anime tunes and jpop gets airtime too. Sadly, I live in a bubble. Nobody I know personally digs it, but few have ever become pioneers by going down the same road as everyone else.

</foolingoneself>

cheers
nash

Matt

Well, you know ME, and I dig it. I don't have a vehicle to blast music in, but as soon as I'm alone in this little hole of a basement apartment, my mp3 playlists get a whole lot louder, especially if I'm trying hard to get my mind around something. There's nothing quite like studying with boss music from your favourite game going; it must boost adrenaline or something, because I always feel like I can work harder with it playing.

I don't know about it being more accepted, overall. Maybe slightly. But I know that whenever a new friend asks me what kind of music I listen to, I still respond with "Ah, I like just about everything, just not country." Hmm, hmm, what do you know? I'm a closeted video-game-music-listener!



Ring-a-ling-a-ling!


Hey Matt

Heh i saw the other day someone brought up real life rpg experiances.. I've had many. one of them is the guy who works at Gamestop in the mall around here.. This guy i sware every time i see him has a new FF song as his cell ringtone.. First time I noticed it was the crystal theme. Than he had a monophonic of another world. Yesterday while i was stocking up for my backlog someone called him and he had Tina/terra's theme, which i won't lie made me happy, of all the music that's one of my favorites. I mean anyone that's heard the vocal music collection got a treat with it.

Boojum

Ringtones make a great way of subtly connecting with other gamers - for anyone who hasn't played the game, they sound like any other ringtone, but those who have get a kick out of them. One of the guys at my work uses "Melodies of Life" from FFIX. I tend to want something that's upbeat and loud enough to make sure I hear it when the phone goes off, so my phone currently has the original Zelda overworld theme, the original FF victory fanfare, and "Together we Ride", the theme from Fire Emblem that plays when someone joins your party. You'll get no argument from me about Terra's theme - it, along with Cyan's theme, is quite possibly my all-time favorite game music piece.

As for my backlog all the games you mentioned when i asked for gaming ideas for adults who don't want to be talked down to are in my pile.. Sadly this is a occupational hazard for me. I write a gaming and anime review column for a local small time newsletter. So I tend to play enough of a game to get a feel for it but don't have time to murder most rpg's cause theres just not enough hours in the day.. And if i tried i'd never have time to write the column. And i've now added rogue galaxy ar tonelico and FFVI to that pile. Working on finishing Disgaea 2 now.. great game, real funny and i'm probably one of the only people to murder etna when she appeared in chapter 4 that i know of. Welp got to go work now so this is Otaku Nick signing off.

Boojum

Blech, my backlog has reached an absurd level, and I don't even have your excuse of needing to review them. I think I'm up to about a half-dozen games currently in progress with plenty more waiting to be tackled - I want to finish Phantom Brave before I start even the original Disgaea, before I even think about getting the sequel. As good as Rogue Galaxy looks, it'll have to wait until some more room can be cleared out. Can we just get the day extended to 26 hours or so? Anyway, thanks for writing in, Otaku Nick



QUICKIES

please send response. need this info. it becomes immune to everything once bar is low and it whips my butt!!

Matt
Like just about all of the other marks in the game, you just need to be in a high enough level. You have no chance if your HP isn't too high, so keep Bubble status on your allies, and have someone outfitted with a "Ally HP < 70%: Curaja" Gambit. Don't forget to revive fallen reserve allies by hitting R1 when you get the chance! Good luck... it's quite the pecker.


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 the end of February, so get your kicks in while you can!

Howdy Slimey! Loving this game and you are my first faraway friend. Most likely my last too.
TTFN

Xlash

Matt
Hey, if you need some other friends to exchange codes with, there are a few dozen reading this right now who might be looking for some long-distance love too, especially since I think you need a lot of friends to open up some secrets. Anybody want to bite?

Hi Matt,
Typing like this sucks!

~~Sean~

Matt
It wouldn't have been half bad if they had put the darn spacebar on the same page as the letters. I guess there are morons everywhere, and Square Enix is no exception.



IN CLOSING

That's all for now, so let us give a standing something for Boojum! He has two more cohosts and a full-host ahead of him, so you'll get the chance to hear his point of view again in the future. Anyway, there will be more Q&A as the week goes by, though, so keep tuning into RPGamer and Q&A for more letters, more responses, and more of me!

Au revoir.



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slimey@rpgamer.com
Matt forgot something VERY important!!


VERY, VERY important. Ugh. So, so much to do.

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