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ASK MATT
Empty Head Syndrome
March 21, 2007

Matt - 16:31 EST

IF THERE'S ONE thing that has been sacrificed with Final Fantasy VI on the Game Boy Advance, it's the sound effects. Don't get me wrong; the new blue magic sound is incredibly fun, and a few other things are changed neatly, but others are just awful. The sprinkly sound effects of Cure spells? Yeah, they've been replaced by terrible high-pitched screeches. I don't think I'd have to be undead receive damage from one of those, let's just be clear.

Eh. What a boring day. First day of spring, officially, I think, but the cloudy, dull, cold weather would never make that obvious. How depressing. OK, let's answer some letters before I just fall apart.




LETTERS
Random battles... and their benefits!


Hi Matt,

About random battles, I'm with you 100% on this. I don't think they're bad at all. I'de even say it has some advantages to non-random where you see the monster on the map.

1) didn't you notice, in games with no random encounter, like Grandia for example, even though you see the monster on the map and you could technically walk around it or take it by surprise, it rarely happen... It seems that they're always placed in a way that you will have to fight it no matter what you do.

Matt

Yeah. What's totally stressful is when you are just sick of battling monsters, and you think you could squeak around a certain foe in particular without getting into a fight... but then, yep, not only do they catch you, but because you were trying to be sneaky, they also get you from behind, getting the chance (in some games) to attack first. SO depressing when that happens, and it only happens here, in non-random-battle-land.

2) At the end of the dungeon, you know you have fought exactly X monster and if you go back, you'll be fighting the same number everytime.

Matt

Eh, I don't care too much about that- but knowing that you'll always have to battle all the same fights in exactly the same places every time you go through does get to be rather dull, especially in those games that make you backtrack everywhere.

3) Once you got rid of them , it's done, over, finito. If you want to gain level, you need to either find another place or reenter the dungeon. When it's a dungeon with a dead-end, that often mean you can to do the way back with no fighting, unless monster respawn once you leave the room. If so, it's back to 1) .

Matt

Ironic, isn't it? By being able to avoid monsters, you avoid gaining experience, and thus you end up having to mind-numbingly grind before half the bosses, simply because you were too lazy to fight all the way there. I've experienced this before, sure, and I know that all sorts of others out there have too. With random battles, you're forced to get stronger, so that problem doesn't crop up as often, I've found. I've almost never had to gain levels in a Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest game... well, except for the first from each series, but those are grand exceptions.

4) You'll always prepared for what's up ahead. Using random encounter, you need to watch for your health everytime cos if you get surprised it's over. With non-random, if your health is low, you can sometime backtrack to the last saving point, which may heal you completly... I remember the chilled I get when I'm low of HP and MP and just hope that I will not encounter something big that will wipe out my party. That won't happen with non-random encounter.

Matt

Now, this is something that isn't attractive to everybody. *I* love that awful fear and risk, personally, which is the reason I love games like Earthbound and Dragon Quest. I find, though, that this has less to do with random encounters and more to do with the ability to buy and store revival/restoration items cheaply. Thus, I think this can actually happen with non-random encounters. Have you played the original Xenosaga? I seem to recall some of that feeling there...

The only real problem I got with Random Encounter is where they just happen too often. You make 3-4 steps, poof, a monster. Another 3-4 step, poof, another one. The only example I got of that is Shin Megami Tensei Nocturne, but the game is so great that it didn't bother me at all. Games like DQ8 have an ok encounter rate so I don't even know why people are bitching about.

Matt

I don't know about you, but I felt like Final Fantasy IX and X were pretty terrible offenders in that area, and remember that one room in Final Fantasy VIII going down towards the Ultima Weapon? Holy crap. Too bad they defeated their own difficulty by making the Enc-None ability rather absurdly easy to obtain. But yeah, there are some older games that were quite dense with the random fights too; the original Lufia, and early Dragon Warrior and Final Fantasy games would provide good examples. At least in Dragon Warrior, you could Repel or Fairy Water them away if you wanted.

I kinda like the way Earthbound handle the encounter. It's not random because you see the monster before, but the apparition of monster of the field is random, so it's never the same experience you'll get if you go back to a dungeon. Another interesting one is 7Th Saga. I'de called that semi-random encounter, where you can avoid some monster but you'll never be able to avoid all of them.

So to conclude, I say Random Battle(or Matt) 1 : Non-Random(Almost everyone else) 0

Matt

I don't know. I feel that regardless of my thoughts on the subject, we're on the losing side of the battle, no pun intended. RPGamers and RPG reviewers alike just love to hate the big bad random battle in this day and age, and thus they are slowly disappearing from this world... quite sadly, might I add.



My Perfect Boss


Mathais de Slimington,

You hath requested mail about boss battles, and I shall answer your challange with, well, and answer. Seems appropriate.

Matt

Mr. Thou is THAT one over THERE!

Anywho, what do I look for in a boss fight, eh? Well, obviously it's got to be challanging but not impossible, worth it but not overly rewarding, and fun but not too easy.

I've always felt that the key to a good boss battle was the excitement you personally feel as you tackle a boss.

Remember when you beat Yunalesca in FFX? Remember how good that felt? Heck, any time you threw your all into a boss battle, rationed your MP and items, applied your strategy, and come out on top, you felt amazing! You feel on top of the world.

Matt

Yes! Oh, man, is that true. The absolute best boss battles for me are the ones where you really do have to sacrifice something. You actually have to dig into that Megalixir pile that you never let yourself dig into. It's when you're down to your last few MP or your last few revival items, and your mage people are using physical attacks to try and save energy and one of THEM gets in the hit that causes the death sequence that you exclaim, get a huge smile on your face, and rush onto MSN Messenger to see if any gamer-friends are online so you can tell them all about it. That's so "me."

A good boss battle, at its core, should be a no brainer. After all, they are designed to beat, but at the same time, a good boss battle should give you a tiny bit of doubt/hopelessness/urgency that jut drives you to kick boss butt and take names.

I know that there has been many a time where I've defeated a worthy nemesis, and just sat back and enjoyed it for a minute. That's what make a good boss battle for me.

-Frammy

P/S - Anxiously awaiting SOCK II!

|= |=

Matt

I'm on the same page as you. But here's the thing: I often get into fights with some people because others seem to prefer being able to waltz cleanly through a game without having any trouble at all. For whatever reason, they get their highs off of being able to -destroy- a boss utterly and without any trouble at all. I say "boooooring."



Dragon Quarter, and yeah, you guessed it: More random battle-talk.


Hey Matt,

First off, interested in SOCK 2.0? HELLS YES!!! Ha-Ha! This one looks like a lot more involvement is necessary, but that's okay cause I'll be out of school by the time it starts. Yah! Oh, and classes? Yes, I love any job system. I'm gonna have to go with my favorite class and pick the Black Mage.

Matt

More involvement? Nah. Instead of just guessing answers, now you'll also have the option of taking an action as well. Sure, you'll have to keep track of what abilities you've obtained, but on the other hand, it'll be easier, because you'll be able to submit your responses using a convenient online form: Check it out.

Happy zapping.

A recommendation you made yesterday about Breath of Fire- Dragon Quarter has me intrigued. Though I wanted to know if it's as bad as some people say it is. I mean having to replay the same scenario over and over again could be tiresome. Unless I got the whole concept wrong. It just seems like it would get tedious and redundant. And having never played a BoF game, is it a good one to start with?

Matt

See, it could be. And a lot of people do hate it for that reason. When I played it, it took me two start-overs to get past the game. With every time that you start over, you retain what is known as Party Experience, which you can distribute among your characters at any time to power them up. Also, any items or equipment can be stored in lockers that you can actually grab from early on during the next time through. Basically, every time you restart, not only do you get to see a few extra scenes to give you a better picture of what's going on... you also become quite more powerful. Besides, it's a pretty short game; if you were to just play from beginning to end, it wouldn't take you any longer than 10 to 15 hours.

It's challenging, but it's different and fresh, and I appreciate that. You might not like it, but I think it's worth a shot if you're looking for something to play, especially since the price of the game is pretty low ($19.99 in Canada, at last check).

Random Battles? I shunth thee who does not enjoy random battle! I was soooo happy to play FF IIIDS after playing FFXII. And now with 6 on the GBA, how could someone not love random battles. The best part for me is the anticipation when you're low on hp and no more potions or mp and you're desperately trying to escape the dungeon, and BAM, the screen swirls or shatters or whatever. It really gets the adrenaline flowing. Granted the FFXII style was a nice break...

Matt

Always come prepared! Hey, it's good to know that there are more people who enjoy a good random battle system other than myself. Granted, I can see some of the points that the other side makes, but I think that there's a big upside to our side, too.

I better get back to work now, I spent about two hours today looking at this site instead of doing actual work. It's okay, it was my "coffee break"...

The Dark Chevalier

Matt

Hey- I spend a couple of hours on this site every single day during my "breaktimes." Oh, if only my professor actually knew how much of my life I spent writing this column instead of my thesis...



Suikoden 3 spoiler alerts!


Howdy,

Well I finally beat Suikoden 3. It only took me 5 years. I have to say that it was one of the best rpgs that I have played in a long time. Despite the translation issues it was awesome. Not only that "Spoiler" when you beat the game with all 108 stars you get to play key scenes thru the eyes of the main antagonist, that rocked. Now on that I am done with that its time to try and beat Suiko 4 with all 108, then Tactics and finally Suiko 5. I kick myself for selling my copies of 1 and 2 years ago because to get them now :( Sorry to ramble on about Suikoden so much but I become a little obsessed. Any news on rerelease of remakes of 1 and 2 or news about Suiko 6?

Matt

That's okay! I ramble on about stuff that few people care about with sometimes alarming frequency, so I wouldn't feel too bad. That being said, I think that the ability to ramble is actually a key feature in most effective Q&A hosts, assuming that I'm actually effective, of course.

Anyway, Suikoden VI: No word on it yet. I suspect that Konami, like most other companies, is stewing around to wait and see if the PS3 gains any momentum or if it spirals into oblivion instead. Could we see a sixth game for the Xbox 360? A "Swiikoden"? Who knows? But I guarantee you that RPGamer will have the news as soon as we hear anything!

On a different note what games are you most looking forward too this year. I still only have a PS2, so Persona is the only thing I still have to look forward to. That and finishing Rogue Galaxy :D

Arkadysmile "Still waiting on that tax refund so he can buy a DS"

Matt

Oh, but there's more for the PS2, too! Wild Arms: The Vth Vanguard, or whatever they've named it, is supposedly on the way. I hear that some more .hack//G.U. is in the works too. Don't give up on the little PS2 yet; it seems at times that it shows more promise for the future than its younger brother.



A bit of venting.


Hello.

Concerning that IGN article with Chris Hecker... wow, stuff like that pisses me off. What a pretentious, ignorant, prideful fool. I'm sorry, but that's what he is. He promotes games as an art form, but his definition of art is nothing more than raw graphical power. That is so far from the truth that it hurts. The Wii, as we all know, does not have the graphical power of the 360 or the PS3, but that most certainly does not, or should not, hinder the artisic quality of the graphics. Twilight Princess, like most Zelda games before it, is a beautiful example of artwork despite the fact that the environments don't pack as many polygons as a PS3 game.

Are graphics the only aspect of a game that can be considered "art"? It takes more than artsy graphics to make a game. Is there nothing artistic in a good plot, good voice acting, innovative and solid gameplay mechanics, and all the other components of the game? These are important aspects of a game that are not limited by how powerful the system is, and I consider them to contribute to a game's artistic value more than the graphics do. But I guess they just don't matter anymore; it's all about producing disgustingly lifelike images onscreen and praising them for their artistic value.

Since when is the artistic value of a game's visuals determined by how lifelike they are? Take a look at all the PS3 games out there; sure, they all look real, but how many of them actually display a compelling art or visual style? I'm not saying that PS3 games don't display good artwork in some cases, I'm just trying to make a point: artistic value and technical value are two different categories. There are games with excellent artwork dating back to the NES for God's sake.

Matt

I keep wanting to butt in and respond, but I hate to interrupt you when you're on a roll!

You can tell that this letter has been kicking around my inbox for awhile; I apologize that it's been so long, first.

Secondly, yes; What an insult! Since when are games meant chiefly as an art form and secondarily as, you know, something to play and have fun playing? I must have missed that news update, because man, I could have sworn that I bought my SNES because I had a blast playing Super Mario Kart at my friend's place. I could have sworn that I wanted a Playstation because Final Fantasy VII just blew my mind and showed me an incredible time when I played it. Sure, video games can be an art form... but they don't have to be, and indeed, if that's the primary way that all games are going in the future, I'd frankly rather spend my time going to a snooty museum or watching some relatively-unknown film instead. Bye, industry!

Then he insults Nintendo for wanting to make fun games. Well, damn....as a gamer, I want to PLAY fun games! And I think I speak for most gamers when I say this! So in my case at least, my tastes and Nintendo's goals go hand-in-hand! Because in the end, why do you play any game, be it a video game, a board game, a card game, or what-have you? To have fun. Am I right? Of course I'm right. All the aspects of a game are supposed to contribute to the factor of fun. The gameplay should be fun, the story should be fun to follow, even the graphics should be fun to look at.

Matt

But he's a bit of a hypocrite when he says that, because come on: How many game developers are working for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation consoles that just want to make fun games, too? Disgaea was a PS2 RPG that was certainly built for nothing but fun-factor. Jiggly-boobs volleyball and that Playboy mansion game for the Xbox and PS2 aren't exactly what I'd call artforms, either. There are several companies that are striving to create fun games outside Nintendo, too, and his comments kind of snub those companies, in my mind... invalidating their aim, in a way.

I'm glad Nintendo has placed the aim on fun, though, as you say. The focus has been drifting in recent years towards graphics, graphics, nothing-but-graphics, and it's about time that a shift occurs. Now, Nintendo is going to have to realize that while Wii Sports and Wii Play might be fun, they won't be fun until the end of time. Here's hoping that Super Paper Mario, to be released in a couple of weeks, is phenomenal!

Sigh. Okay, I'm done with my rant. I'm not a fanboy on either side. It's just that I really do consider games as a potential art form, and it really just grinds my gears when some idiot comes and shouts about the all-importance of a game's graphics.

Matt

There there. I'm passionate about it too.

In other news, I totally beat Tales of the Abyss, and I have to totally recommend it to anyone. It was a great game, and a lengthy one too, I clocked about 60 hours and didn't do most of the sidequests. Unlike past Tales games, this one had an excellent story; in fact, it might have been the best thing about it. Oh, and the voice acting was superb. Not on par with FFXII perhaps, but still excellent. A good thing too, because the game was packed with dialogue. There are a few problems, such as a battle system that does tend to become repetetive, but not so much so that it becomes a burden. It's a fun, fast-paced system, and anyone who's played a Tales game will be familiar with it. The musical score, to my surprise, was shockingly lackluster-there's very few memorable songs to speak of, and it manages to be atmospheric at most. The biggest problems with the game, however, were probably technical. Load times are frequent, and they are disgustingly long. The character models in the cutscenes are pretty good looking, but they don't move very smoothly. Anyways, I loved the game, and it sickens me to consider that the next Tales game will most likely be on the PS3.

Matt

Well, we'll see about that. And I don't have a problem with it being on the PS3, as long as some significant changes occur to the way the system is being handled... and quickly. Okay, so maybe I do have a bit of a problem with it after all. I'm just saying that I'm open-minded.

I'm happy to hear the Abyss report, and that the game was not "abyss"mal... HA HA.

Tales of the Abyss is, I'm afraid, one of the games that not nearly enough people have played of the past year. Unfortunately, I'm as guilty as the next guy of this, though I'm hoping to get my paws on my brother's copy sooner or later.

I have been listening to Xenosaga III's beautiful soundtrack recently. What did you think the music in comparison to the other two? For me, Episode III wins hands-down, I absolutely love it.

Matt

Hands down. I thought I loved the music of Episode II, despite everybody's shocked replies. However, Episode III is absolutely incredible. It has such a wonderful range of music, from exciting and pulse-racing to quiet and emotional. Fantastic.

Do you recommend Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance for the 'Cube? I loved the Sacred Stones, and I've been thinking about picking up Radiance, but it's such a hard decision among all the other choices out there. I hear tell that you own it, so what do you think?

Well, I'll write you later.

Oliver.

Matt

I personally don't enjoy the Gamecube version as much as the Game Boy Advance Fire Emblems, though others on the RPGamer staff would loudly disagree with me. Perhaps they have good reason; the battle system is more complex, and it seems like there might be a bit more to the game overall. But, I don't like the storyline as much, and as far as I'm concerned, the music doesn't hold a candle to the brooding melodies of the GBA games. That's my story, and I'm sticking with it no matter how some people might protest.

Thanks, Oliver!



The big game.


Hey Matt,

SOCK 2 sounds like fun, so sign me up. Just a quick question - I didn't play SOCK 1 at all, so is there anything I need to know ahead of time or will all that be explained before the game starts? Just curious. Oh - and for my starting class, I'd like to give Fighter a try.

Scott K.

Matt

Nah, there's not much you need to know.

The basic format is the same: Trivia ranging in difficulty and usually pertaining to RPGs will be posted every day. Answer them right, gain points. Attempt to answer them, and gain consolation points. In this game, however, you might also gain money in the form of Gold, and Experience. Gold lets you buy new items to use in the competition, and Experience lets you cast spells and level up. Of course, spells and abilities are completely determined by the classes you choose, but they can give you bonuses, extra points, or cause others to lose points. On top of that, competitors will always be faced with monsters to fight. By attacking, you reduce their HP, and if you manage to KO a monster, you'll gain a hefty amount of bonus experience.

The grand prize winner is the first person to fulfill the winning conditions which are, in fact, a secret from the start. I'm hoping to get a free game or two to the one who comes out on top!

It sounds like a lot to remember, but as anyone who played the first game can tell you, it's easy to pick up, and it's a lot of fun.

I wish you the best of luck. It starts in... about a month and a half!



QUICKIES

Hello Matt,

I read that you beat Dragon Quest Hero's: Rocket Slime. How hard is it, and was it fun? Also, has there been any news of any new Harvest Moon coming out that I might of missed?

Thank you,

Rpg Gamer

Matt
It was a blast! An elasto-blast, to be exact. It was really easy, I have to admit, but I still enjoyed every last minute of it. As for Harvest Moon, there's one out for the DS which is apparently just okay; I think there's one in development for the Wii, too, but I'm not sure of that.

IN CLOSING

That's all! I'm slowly working through the letter backlog; if it's been a week since you've sent something, I'm really sorry! I want to give everyone a chance in the spotlight, of course.

Hmm. I guess I don't have much else to say here except that I'll see you back here tomorrow. Do take care!



Send a Letter!

Unanswered Letter Backlog: 14 - good



slimey@rpgamer.com
Matt has to do mooooore marking tonight. Oh sigh.


Oh, the arduousness. Oh, the despair. Oh, the melodrama.

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