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ASK MATT
Creamy Squash April 7, 2006

Matt - 17:43 EST

I HAVE ARRIVED BACK HOME in the land where having an Internet connection still means necessarily losing phone privileges. Yes, it's the Demers Household (for dial-up Internet you can trust since 1996!) and I'm none too pleased about it. That said, it's nice to be able to crack open a fridge full of free goodies. I guess seeing the family is a nice benefit on the side, too.

Shall we get started on this, the last of the week? I vote "Yes".




L E T T E R S
Long, long, long, long, long letter to start!!


Heya one more time Matt,

About the employment search-related query I directed to you last time; would you rather I think of you as such a spastic headcase that nothing serious can be asked? Enjoy the perception of responsibility!

Matt

Whoo-hoo! I feel special, mind you, I can grow to be a spastic headcase from time to time, largely depending on variables such as time, location, sleep obtained, homework assigned, or hallucinogens ingested. Now, let's get to your letter.

Its longtime absence from the shelves makes me realize how few things would please me more than a Streets of Rage RPG. Certainly beating the crap out of each and every person to cross one's path is not the best idea in an RPG, but SOR 3 showed an effort at a story taking place. Since SOR is all about an adrenaline attack the story fell somewhat flat - but the concept is still good! Failing Streets of Rage, which after all has gone 12 years without another installment, a TMNT RPG would be good. What can I say... I spent far too many days at the arcade years ago....

Matt

Heroes in a half-shell! Hey, why not? The seeds for a basic class or weapons-system are already in place, what with their four specializations of fighting-style. The evil villain even has sidekicks, and other RPGs (Earthbound, specifically) have already made Pizza into a perfectly valid recovery item. The foundations have already been laid for this to happen, I'm telling you!

Serious, genuine question here. What genre would Actraiser be classified under? I can't find any mention of it on RPGamer, which leads me to one inference - although of course many older games don't have much material amassed on RPGamer. Gamefaqs seems to classify it as an action-RPG, which I suppose fits, but your take would be appreciated.

Matt

Well, going to Wikipedia, it defines it as an "Action Simulation" game, due to the unique blend of elements the game encompasses. Actraiser, an Enix oldie (dating back fifteen years or more, by this point!), is a game that I never actually played at all, myself. Thus, I can't really give you a personal spin on it; my apologies for that.

Another query: is there anything online to provide a comprehensive Q&A of Dragon Force 2? Having just begun to play the game I recognize how much is altered from 1, yet the FAQs I have located mostly give me information regarding troop types and endgame scenarios - making the dubious assumption that I will be able to figure everything out until the endgame on my own. A nice little synopsis of the stor(ies)y would be handy too, but I know such a pipe dream will have to wait.

Matt

Perhaps so; I can't really find anything either. I spent a whole ten minutes waiting for a single site to load, only to find that it was an utterly useless one. I'd be far more effective at this sort of thing back on home turf, I swear!! ^^;;

...stupid real-life status ailments...*grumbles*

Risky random writing response requested: price points persuant to perpetuating console wars. I'll make a guess here of ~$250 for the Revolution and ~$500 for PS3. Your own suppositions?

Matt

Your alliterative ways rock very much, and I'd be happy to provide you with a guesstimate. I've found the excited whispers online to be a little bit amusing; some people are going on about how expensive the PS3 is going to be, and I think that they might be getting carried away with things. The Revolution is going to be relatively inexpensive in comparison, and I think that's going to be an intentional move on Nintendo's part, not to mention a good idea: Why not take advantage of the fact that Nintendo isn't emphasizing BETTER THAN REALITY graphics to lower the price of their hardware, especially if they can afford to?

If I had to make a realistic guess, I'd bet that the PS3 will sell for no more than $399 at launch- which is damn expensive enough- and that the Revolution will go for $199. I wouldn't rule out $149 for the Revolution, considering that I think that might have been what the Gamecube launched at, though I can't really remember and I'm not patient enough to go look it up. In any case, dollar-for-dollar, I'm betting that Nintendo will offer the best fun/value ratio.

Since the music scene has been quite the topic lately, I'll weigh in with a few cents' worth. Music while I'm playing a game is indeed of high importance to me, and 95% of the time I'll listen to all of it. The few titles to occasion a retreat from this practice generally impressed me with their sheer lack of listenability. Vay comes to mind here - not for the music especially (although there were but two dungeon themes I recall - one of them being used ONCE in the second-to-last dungeon and the other being used in EVERY OTHER DUNGEON) but for the sound effects. After repeated calls from the other room to 'turn it down!', my choice was taken away. Not that I can really blame the others in the household - imagine the most nondescript 'THUD'-esque sound possible and have it played every time you strike an enemy. Since Vay featured frequent random battles and rather difficult bosses (one took about 20 minutes to beat unless one spent many hours fighting only to have it take 18 minutes instead - blech!) this meant very annoying repetition of said sound effect.

Matt

Repetitiveness is certainly one reason that one might have an unsatisfactory sound experience when it comes to games, whether talking about music OR sound effects, and largely, this has come a long way over time. There are, of course, exceptions; the most recent one for me would probably have been Wild Arms: Alter Code F, whose music was just as average as the rest of the game, and whose two-dungeon-themes-on-rotation were just annoying to me more than anything. Certainly, sound quality in itself is another big issue, and that's why games such as Xenosaga and Dragon Quest have wonderful sound despite the fact that there might not be a whole lot of variation throughout the game. Repetitiveness isn't necessarily bad if the music is pleasant to listen to in the first place.

Of course, you were talking more about sound effects than music, there, and it's true that there aren't many more reaaally irritating things than reaaally irritating repeated sounds. This would be one major reason that Action RPGs bug me sometimes; hearing Chisato's weird shrieks over and over again as she attacked in Star Ocean 2 made me want to make some weird shrieking noises myself. As much as I love Link, listening to him grunt and groan and yell in the same three-step way with every sword-slashing motion he makes gets old quickly as well, in any newer Zelda game.

Barring an incident akin to Vay however, I always listen to the game's music. Yuzo Koshiro is my top composer who has not worked on any RPGs (Shenmue doesn't count and Actraiser doesn't really fit the profile). Nobuo Uematsu, of course I enjoy greatly (FFVI being his high). Noriyuki Iwadare is great also. So is Yoko Shimomura, now that I think of it. Yasunori Shiono did the music for Lufia 2, which became some of my favorite material. By virtue of composing the music for Shining Force III Motoi Sakuraba is currently unassailable at the peak of greatness for me, and that is without my playing many of his more recent works with the exception of the Golden Suns. Naoki Kodaka I'd like to give an honorable mention to, as the composer for Albert Odyssey on the Saturn which had real musicians! And yes, I remember all those names off the top of my head because I refuse to learn anything that could help me get and/or keep a job.

Matt

Boy, you really were a Saturn junkie, weren't you? It's so otherworldly to me; not only did I not have one myself, but I didn't know a single other person with a Sega Saturn, either. Perhaps it's a shame, since I know that there are plenty of loyalist fans out there.

Anyway, I'm actually quite bad at remembering composer names, apparently because it's not a top priority for my slowly-vegetating brain. Thanks to a decent musical background, though, I can often pick out games composed by the same person just based on how they sound. After a single night of playing Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter, I knew that "that Final Fantasy Tactics guy" had to be involved.

As for the job, just keep plugging away; perseverance is the key! So is that resumé... how is it coming along?

Optimism is a funny thing. While I like to think of myself as a professional cynic, hardened to expecting and seeing the best, sometimes it all breaks down. I think the Naruto filler will end with episode 183 for example, when many are speculating it will continue until September or so (apologies if you don't follow Naruto - 183 will air in about a month). I hope strongly that the current bill to make Canadians need passports to enter the US will not be put into law. I think X-men 3 will still be good even with the change in directors from Bryan Singer to Brett Ratner (if I'm wrong at least I won't have paid for the ticket!) Sega had its chance with Shining Force III back in 1998 though. When Sega of America decided to give everyone a gigantic dead zone with no releases whatsoever until the Dreamcast came out, they showed what the corporate objective was. Camelot was rightfully angered at their callousness! Sega shall never be forgiven! Never!! Even if they eradicate world hunger and usher in economic equality for the third world!!! DAMN YOU ALL TO HELL!!!!

Mike

Matt

Indeed. That's quite the rant, Mike; one on a level we haven't seen in many weeks. You're a rambling fiend!

In other news, it seems that there's a lot of pent-up hostility towards Sega in this world. I hope Nintendo hasn't made a grievous error by getting into bed with them...

P.S. The last line above is intended as a reference to Planet of the Apes, which I had thought was somewhat ubiquitous now. And by the way, "there was no monster. Frank Douglas was rescued alive, well, and of normal size some 8,000 miles away."


Matt

Oh, OK then. Well, in any case, I thank you for taking the two hours that it must have taken for you to write your letter. Please have a good day, and come back soon~



Two letters, and two mentions of Shining Force III! What is this world coming to?!?


I notice that RPGamer reviews all console games. Why not PC titles? I'd personally love to see a review of Maple Story :-). Granted, MS is a life sucking evil empire that has snared my wife and left me wanting dinner to no avail, but it is still kind of fun. Also, any news on if Sega is going to make a Shining Force Collection like the Phantasy Star Collection? I'd love to see SFIII come over here with all three episodes. Thanks and stay slimey!

Pretzel


Matt

I'm afraid not to this point, but it doesn't mean that there's no hope in the matter. It was just recently revealed that several old Sega titles will be made available through Nintendo's proposed download-and-play service on the Revolution. If you're really lucky, you might just find the games you know and love there.

Also, RPGamer definitely reviews non-console games as well; it's just that there are some games here and there, both for consoles and for PC, that no one has gotten around to reviewing. We certainly encourage you, though, and anyone else interested, to write a Reader Review of your own and submit it, for this game or any others that you feel like reviewing! If so, then one day your perspective could be presented in RPGamer's Points-of-View section; your review could become a piece of the site forevermore.

Thanks for the letter, Pretzel!



Getting our X's and Y's crossed


I'd like to begin by saying that I mean no offense in any of the rant your about to read and I'm sure that someone will undoubtedly misinterpret my views on other issues. Anyways...with that said: I was reading the QnA column and I figured I'd throw my 2 cents into the discussion about females. Keep in mind this is coming from a male perspective. Being a male when I look for RPG's I generaly try to find RPG's with interesting leads that I can successfully relate to (and hopefully carry on the illusion that I am that person) seeing how these are ROLE PLAYING games. Your supposed to put yourself in that persons shoes, pretend to be them. Now as much as I'd definitely love to see more RPG's with strong female leads, warrior type or otherwise, I doubt I'd ever play them. Seeing how I'm a male I just simply can't role play as a female seriously. I struggled to play through FFX-2 even though I'm positive that it was a great game. I think Rikku was the only one keeping me playing because I simply thought she was intriguing and I loved her character(...among other things). To this day I think I would have enjoyed the story more had I watched in in movie form the entire time. The point is I just can't role play a game through the shoes of a female. While I can relate to alot of girls in real life (I have a nice amount of lady friends) I just can't role play seriously as one at all. Not even MMORPG's. So my real question is this: Do you think that the lack of strong female leads or characters in general is due to a lack of female gamers? I mean I know that the amount of you gamer girls are growing but I've personaly only ever met one. Sure...I'm only 19 but I figure in 19 years meeting just one is kinda sad. At that rate I might meet 4 of you girls by the time I die. I know that there are males that can successfuly role play as females but I just can't do it and judging by alot of friends that I know I'm not the only one. I have a friend that absolutely loved FFX but refuses to play FFX-2 because he can't seem to get through playing as girls. I know that sounds bad but he's not sexist or anything. He rathered simply watch the game get played then said he enjoyed the story!! So we can only hope that as our number of gamer girls grows so will our variety of female characters, strong or otherwise, in our RPG's. Thanks for your time. ^_^.

Xiro


Matt

Phew, and thank YOU for taking the time to write in. Looking at the points people have submitted over the last week, I'd have to say that the most major influences have to be that a) the major demographic is indeed the young male, and b) the trickle-down effect of a male-dominated Japanese society into the gaming world.

It's all right if you feel the way you do; you certainly don't have to apologize for it, because some people like yourself may well relate much more easily to male characters than female characters. That being said, I think that you face the risk of missing out on some great games unless you actually give them a try first. Honestly, I don't really think that Final Fantasy X-2 provides a terribly good example of characters that anyone, male or female, can truly relate to. "Poopies," you might say.



Finally! A supporter!


Hay Matt,

I'm one of the few people who enjoyed the dungeon/battle music of Xenosaga Episode II. I understand that most people aren't like me, perhaps because it's strikingly different than the music in the rest of the game (and from Episode I), but it's not THAT bad, is it? Shinji Hosoe is relatively little known on this side of the Pacific, but he IS an experienced composer, doing video game music back before some of the BIG names. It's true, though, he mostly does space-shooter music, so some of the BGM in Episode II did feel a bit off. But if you've gotten to the final battle, you gotta admit that was one nice piece of epic battle BGM. Ah well. It's unlikely he'll be back for Episode III. While he's better known in Japan, Episode II really wasn't some of his best work, it's a shame. I gotta wonder now though, it seems that Kajiura will be doing the cutscene music again, so will they get someone else to do the dungeon/battle BGM again, or will they leave it with a scant collection like Episode I had? I personally prefer SOME kind of BGM in the backgound, over pure silence. But that's just me. Guess we won't know till it comes out in July (in Japan, I figure we'll get it about this time next year, mark your calender)

Matt

I definitely like at least a little background music as well, thought the occasional well-placed silence can be very effective. When it's MOST of the game, though? I'm not so hot on that idea.

I'm really interested to see how Episode III's soundtrack turns out in the end! I'm really not worried at all about how well-known a composer might be; surely, there are thousands of artists the world over who are absolutely amazing yet relatively unknown on the world front. As far as I'm concerned, whoever the composer turns out to be, they will have quite a bit to live up to!

I see that Xenosaga gets a lot of fanart submissions on RPGamer, though I'm kind of sad to see it's always either Jr/Albedo, KOS-MOS, or chaos. Ziggy's always been my favorite character in the series, a rather underappreciated one, but far more interesting than he gets credit for. Particularly with the 'revelations' in Episode II, and the plot from the cellphone game Pied Piper. I'd like to see him get more attention than he does. But it seems people tend to gravitiate towards the pretty girls... or the pretty boys.

Matt

Yeah, Ziggy is definitely the character that could stand to be developed a whole lot more. Sure, he gets the occasional minute or two in the spotlight, but he mostly just stands around watching other people talk, before going into combat and acting as resident battletank. Albedo, Jr. and chaos just get fan-art-ed so much because they're the cutest of the bunch. KOS-MOS, because, well, she's just awesome.

Anyways. Like myself, I see that you're a big fan of the Dragon Quest series. I loved Dragon Quest 8 to death, and while I admit it had its faults I think it was a great game to let the series break into the North American market once again. Back in the 8-bit day the first game was actually pretty popular (if only because Nintendo Power had this promotional campaign which gave away free copies with a subscription), and I'm glad to see they kept a 'classic' feel to the game, in the midst of all the other changes. I kind of wish they didn't remove the battle sound effects from the Japanese version, though. They're as traditional as anything else in the game. But if that was the trade-off for the orchestrated remixed soundtrack, I guess it's worth it. What do you think? Would those sound effects have added to the game, or detracted from it?

Matt

It really IS worth it; I had the (dis)pleasure of listening to some music from the original Japanese version over the past few days, and I have to admit that I'm absolutely in awe of how much different they sound. The sound quality of the original DQVIII was so poor, in fact, that I'd say it was well below average. The background themes were all extremely synthesized, choppy, and empty-feeling; I can almost guarantee you that the game would not have been reviewed nearly as highly here in North America if it wasn't for that single issue.

As for the traditional sound effects, though, I don't really mind that they're gone. How do I put this...? While it might hurt traditional fans of the DQ series to lose the familiar spell sound effects and attack "chirps", including those sounds could very well have hurt potential fans to a far greater degree. Reviewers, and game websites, and reviewers at game websites, get put off by "awful" sound effects, even if they're just inserted for the sake of nostalgia. And, there's the whole subset of the population who would just say "this game sux" upon hearing them for the first time.

In the end, yeah, I guess I'm glad they took them out, if only to save a great game from some idiotic criticism.

I kind of wish they didn't break the 'trilogy' format the series used to follow. The first three games were the Erdick/Loto trilogy, 4-6 was the Zenithia trilogy. I was expecting 8 to relate to 7 in some way, to be finished off in 9, but it appears they dropped that idea in 6. Unless they're very, VERY, obscurely connected. Speaking of 9, when they inevitiably make it, do you figure it'll be on the PS2, or 3? (or equivalent nextgen console?)

Anyway, that's enough ramblin' out of me. Keep on tranglin',

SpoonyBard


Matt

If I had to place a bet, I'd guess that Dragon Quest IX will be released for the PS3, because there's no way that Square Enix will release it for the XBox 360, considering that no one in Japan HAS one, and the Revolution, well, it might just be too different. There's only a year, tops, left in the PS2's lifespan, and there's no way that Square Enix is going to have another DQ title ready in that little time, considering that each of the last three titles have taken four or five years to develop. Yeah, I'd wager that we'll see DQIX sometime in the middle of the PS3's life. Good good? Thank you, sir SpoonyBard!





C L O S I N G
IN CONCLUSION:

So it's my first day at home, and my parents both decided to flee. My mom and dad are helping my grandma move back home after her accident a few months ago, and they'll be gone for a good while. Obviously, they love her more than they love me. WAHAHAHAHAAAAAAAAH...

On an unrelated note, orange bell peppers are apparently more abundant in some important health-boosting micronutrients than other shades. Who knew? Eat your peppers! (They're great raw...!)

Flashay!


Two more answers and two more questions will round out this week in Q&A! Let's see...

Our great Macstorm contributed a doozy of a fun question for #168 last time; "Cower in fear as I demonstrate my true power!" was spoken by Ghaleon from Lunar, who was voiced by d) John Truitt, for 200 points.

#169 was Bainick's question to round out his part in the day's column. According to he, "Foaly" was a d) centaur, for another 200 points. Congrats on those of you who were successful in the day's trivia!

Now, for today's trivia:

Question #170:
Which of these games has the stupidest experience curve of all time? (185 points)

a) Secret of Evermore
b) Legend of Dragoon
c) Dragon Quest VIII
d) Breath of Fire
e) Wild Arms: Alter Code F


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*********************************************************


I hope it's been a fun week here in Q&A-land! Unfortunately, since updating this column took me SIX HOURS on dial-up, I'm going to take a break from doing the SOCK next week. I really don't want to resort to that, but I really can't spend so long in front of the computer while I'm supposed to be home with my family. I'm sure you all understand!

I will, of course, be back to do Q&A as normal, though, come next Tuesday. In the meantime, you'll have to suffer through happily read Josh's columns over the weekend. Speaking of which, I hope your weekend is a good one!

slimey@rpgamer.com
***Matt is the name of today's Q&A host


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