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ASK MATT
Uvular, Dude April 14, 2006

Matt - 13:48 EST

Sorry; I know, I missed a day this week, but I hope you'll all cut me some slack on the matter! I've been a busy boy with Wild Arms: Alter Code F, and I've been spending precious quality time with the family; tonight's game-of-choice was Mario Kart: Double Dash!!, followed by a Scrabble match in which I was barely bested by my brother, the little bastard, for the second time in a week.

You might have heard this or that about my WA:ACF dramas, by the way; it was freezing up halfway through the game back in Guelph, so I finally gave up and tried it here at home on my brother's Playstation 2. It worked perfectly, so I played another fifteen hours until it suddenly crashed again. This time it was at a movie sequence, during which it slowly ground to a halt; it would generally skip more and more before stopping completely somewhere in the middle. Well, this was last night, and I got so fed up after it froze the third time that I snatched up the DVD from the disc carriage, took my shirt, and buffed the underside of the disc with far more vigour than I'd ever consider using on a precious game. I even dug my fingernails in (through the shirt, mind you) to get rid of some of the more pronounced scuff-marks, and in the end, after fifteen minutes, it at least looked brand new. I popped it in the PS2 this morning to see if there was any improvement, and I was absolutely aghast to discover that the movie sequence progressed without as much as a single hiccup. Note: I am NOT responsible for damage/destruction of your own DVDs if you ever try this method, so if you send a lawsuit my way one day, I shall laugh at you in response.

Pardon my long intro paragraph; I just thought I'd keep you updated on the situation. I'm almost through the game, but now it's time to try getting through today's column.




L E T T E R S
People always think they sound "crazy" when they mail in... it's so cute.


Matt-

Greetings from a long time reader/first time writer. Honestly, this seems like a lot better place to vent my RPG musings than some forum, and I think you are doing a great job with it. Props to ya!

Matt

Bah, it is only my pleasure to do the very best I can. It's good for me anyway... I figure that I end up learning more about the RPG-world by doing Q&A than the lot of you do, since half of you know more than me in the first place. But, that's the fun part about this little nook in RPGamer: it's the perfect place to rant, ramble, blab, comment, complain, discuss, debate, argue, or whatever else you feel like calling it, and it's an educational experience for everyone at the very same time.

Now for the prerequesite questions/musings.

1. In terms of challenge in RPGs, IMHO I think you were spot on with some parts, while left out some very key points. The main one that comes to my mind is the reference to games with the "Hard to Figure Out" tag line. Maybe it's the fact that I've only played Golden Sun: The Lost Age out of all of the games you mentioned, but I truly think that that game could and would (if you're someone who plays games the way I do) be enjoyed if an FAQ/Guide were employed. Now granted, I *think* you said that you don't play games using guides, but if I am stuck, I will, and it certainly helps me enjoy a game that I might not have enjoyed otherwise. Therefore, my first point in this letter is that not all gamers play games the same way, so games cannot be catorgorized totally in the way you pointed out. And this does not mean I'm am calling you out for anything; you don't seem like the kind of guy to state your opinion as the be all end all of point of view (neither am I for that matter).

Matt

I can certainly see your reasoning, and my trip through Wild Arms: ACF has really hammered this home. Why? Because there's a point at which searching for some random place to go next in the world loses its interesting aspect and becomes dreadfully chorelike. Having that knowledge at your fingertips in a guide would be useful to keep that from happening, for sure. But, I really do think that a game should be playable, and hopefully enjoyable, without having to invest an extra $20 in a strategy guide. Sure, I don't use them, generally, so you might say "it's easy for you to say!" I think, though, that a game that manages to be fun and challenging whether a strategy guide is owned or not has an advantage, so to speak, over a game that is fun only with such a guide in hand. Make sense?

2. Have you heard of the game Devil Summoner for PS2? If it comes out in the US, I think it would be right up your alley. Heck, I think any Shin Megami Tensei game would be worth your while. I have Digital Devil Saga, and it's not easy by any means, but it is absolutely beatable and takes strategy for every battle. Actually, I think it would be fair to compare it to DQ8, which I also own. But back to Devil Summoner. This is what I know: A. It's real time. B. It's hard. C. It takes strategy. D. It's Shin Megami Tensei. I know I'm plugging SMT games, but I truly think they are worth the while of an RPGamer looking for a challenge, like you seem to be.

Matt

Yeah, and between you, my brother, and about six others, it's high time I forged into that series, isn't it? It's funny you mention them, though; as my brother, Chris, read the list of difficulties in Q&A yesterday afternoon, he was pained that I didn't include Nocturne and Digital Devil Saga under the "Easy to Die in" category. He loves them too, he'd like to say right about here, despite their challenge level.

Thanks for putting up with my ramblings; if they don't make sense, I'm sorry.

Headbangerjazz


Matt

Heh heh, of course your ramblings do! I think that at least 75% of new writers mention something about "I hope this makes sense" in their letters, and I find it humourous, because they always DO make sense, without fail. Think of me; I have to respond to everybody's messages and post the replies online for thousands to see, every single day; I'm in so much more trouble if I'm not completely coherent than you're in if you're not, right? (I hope that makes sense.)

In any case, I hope to hear from you again sometime! Thanks very much for writing in. :)



Mountain Dew in the US has caffeine?!?


Hey Matt!

Great subject idea: weird associations between videogames and something else. I have one particular one that lives on to this day. Every time I hear the song Crazy by Seal, I remember reading the instruction booklet to Chrono Trigger. I remember reading through it in the car, and that song coming on. It has been over ten years since that moment, and the song is in my running mix for my mp3 player, and hearing it still makes me remember reading through the booklet. That is a really weird memory.

Matt

Stuff like that really makes one wonder how exactly the human brain is wired. I'm not a neurological genius by any stretch of the imagination, but I still find the association game crazily interesting. For instance, I find it interesting that I can remember most of the first night I ever played Final Fantasy IV. I borrowed it from my friend, Ken during the day at school; I was probably in Grade 6 or so, so I was probably about 10 years old. Mom was gone to Grandma's house, so once I got off the bus, since I didn't have any homework, I played it in the family room with my sister and brother looking on. Dad came in from the shed and decided to make Shake and Bake pork chops for dinner, which was upsetting only because pork chops are so boring for little kids (and that's half of everything dad ever made). I saved at the end of my very first night just outside of Mysidia, after spending a ridiculously long 6 hours (and 11 minutes, I think) to get there. That was a whole lot of SNES for a school night!

I also have a very vivid non-video game memory as well. Whenever I hear the Cure, I remember playing pen and paper RPGs with friends of mine back when I was in junior high school. I had a friend who was an absolute Cure junkie, and would always have the music playing. If one of their songs come on (or I play the one of the couple CDs of theirs that I have), I can still remember us sitting around until the wee hours of the morning (and sometimes the early hours of the afternoon; ahhh, the power of Mountain Dew).

Thanks for the topic, nothing like a moment of nostalgia.

BigWook



Matt

Hee hee, that's very intriguing and random. I think it's a fun topic, too, because we get to hear lots of different, interesting, and potentially bizarre stories, which are great to read when you're bored.

Also, Mountain Dew? Andrew told me awhile back that American Mountain Dew contained caffeine, and you've just confirmed it, assuming that that's what you're referring to. It's very strange; I'm almost sure that the Canadian version contains none at all. Then again, Mountain Dew never really was my thing, because in the rare instance that I have a craving for a non-cola carbonated beverage, I typically choose Canada Dry (ginger ale) or Sprite. Mountain Dew is just so... yellow.



Dissent! And rightfully so, maybe?


Hey Matt,

Yeah, saying that Barret is the only black character in an RPG because you haven't played any others that have any doesn't mean there couldn't be more characters who are.

Tactics Ogre Let Us Cling Together has a character from Lodis who is black. He's a slave who was given the rights to be a general of Lodis and work as a Dark Knight under Lans Tartare and his allies. Another would be Brigandine, which Zemeckis while white in the original, was colored black in Brigandine: Grand Edition. Not only thpse, but Romancing SaGa 3 has a main character, Earthbound has a NPC, and Breath of Fire 2 has one of the shamans as a black character.

Matt

Well, then, thanks much for the extra examples! My intention was not to construct a comprehensive list, though; I certainly didn't claim that Barret was the only black character in an RPG! Regardless of how many games I've actually played, though, my point was simply that they are very uncommon, proportionally-speaking, especially when you consider that it'd be far easier to come up with a much longer list of green or blue-haired characters, the likes of which are certainly not a common phenomenon in reality at all.

Also, I'd like to say Arc the Lad 2, from your comment, doesn't suck, as infact it's one of the best RPG's created, although it pales near Tactics Ogre(but what doesn't.) Arc the Lad 3 isn't as good as the second, but it far from sucks, because it's also a great game. However, Arc the Lad Twilight of Spirits and Arc the Lad End of Darkness, both on the PS2 do infact suck quite a bit, and the original Arc the Lad isn't really that great either. So If I were you, I'd pick up Arc the Lad Collection, play through it, and eat your words, because the game usually recieves nothing but praise, unless of course the people don't like tactical RPGs.

-andrew- -kupomogli-


Matt

Well, what can I say? You're absolutely right; I haven't played the game myself, so perhaps it isn't fair for me to make assumptions based on a couple of bad reviews, and maybe if I did, I'd indeed eat my words. If I couldn't make assumptions, though, it would be impossible to talk about different games, you see, since with only 24 hours in every day, I really don't have the time to play through every last RPG on the face of the Earth, sadly but truly.

So, I go with what I think "the average Joe" thinks, if I don't have any first-hand experience to go on. If you really enjoyed the game, then surely there the potential of goodness exists within for others as well. Of course, a good lesson for everyone to take from this would be to make sure that no matter what I might say about a game or series, don't hold back from exploring the games that you feel look interesting to you. Even IF any game in particular is reviewed terribly by many sources, I guarantee you that it will still bring happiness to someone out there.

Thanks, kupomogli, for your concerns.



Take a hint, Square Enix...


Matt....

Your encyclopedia of RPG difficulties was dead-on in my opinion, right down to the examples of games. As for the "complex to learn" category, FFVIII's junction system took me at least 8-10 hours before I got the hang of it. However, it wasn't exactly a bad thing once I learned it; in fact, I thought it was somewhat fun. (Perhaps I am alone in this.)

Matt

You're absolutely not alone there! Final Fantasy VIII's Junction system is one of my very favourites of the series; it was really disappointing for me to play IX and find that the system was so simplistic in comparison, to be honest. I absolutely loved the fact that while I felt completely lost at first, it wasn't long before I found the whole thing absolutely exciting. I'm hoping that Final Fantasy XII's system does the series justice!

The "Challenging in Battle" is always good, and yes, FF and DQ defintely have an edge here. I dislike games that require you to hold down the X button throughout every battle, including bosses. In fact, that is probably the worst thing about FFVIII. I have not died ONCE in all the times I played that game. Magic spells are all but useless, and junctioning correctly can make your characters inflict massive physical damage-thus making it necessary to merely attack again and again.

Matt

Yeah, that's for sure; FFVIII, while having a good underlying system, puts most of the strategy into that part of the game and certainly not into battling. I never used magic either, because the game effectively penalizes you for doing so, and besides, your physical attacks are absolutely ridiculously powerful anyway.

"Hard to figure out" is ALWAYS BAD! There is nothing, absolutely nothing I despise more than wandering around aimlessly in some huge world, wondering what the hell is going on. This is why I cannot get near FF1, and the original LOZ and Metroid. There is a huge difference between non-linearity, and needless stumbling around.

Matt

See, the only way I said "generally bad" for that type instead of "always bad" is because I often enjoy exploring an open world and stumbling upon what to do next. Dragon Warrior III is my prime example for this, where you obtain a ship, and the world is yours. It isn't nearly as difficult to figure out possible things that you can do in that game, though. On the other hand, yesterday in WA:ACF, I wandered the entire world trying to figure out where to go with a certain ID card, only to give up after talking to everyone in EVERY single town without a hint. I cheated and went online to look up the answer, but I'm not ashamed of it, because dammit, I tried for over three hours to figure it out on my own. Anyway, that's the difference, to me.

An E3 wishlist is an awesome idea. Here's mine:

Another movie sequel to one of the FF games. (I hope for either VI or VIII personally.) Considering how successful Advent Children was, what do you think the likelihood is of another movie?

Release dates for Baten Kaitos 2, TLOZ: Twilight Princess, FFXII, And FFVII: Dirge of Cerberus. My most anticipated games of the year. Are you looking forward to Dirge yourself? Just wondering.

Matt

Mmm, I'm neutral on the subject. I'm looking forward to hearing more about it, I guess, because right now, it's not really a "must-play" for me. I'm sure we'll hear more at E3.

As for your others, Baten Kaitos 2 has already been released in Japan, as far as I know; of course, the longer we go now without hearing an announcement, the less likely a translation will be. Keep your fingers crossed! I'd say the probability of that appearing at E3 would be about 20%, though, honestly.

There is, in contrast, a 100% chance that The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess will be featured at E3 this year, and I say that only because it's the SINGLE game that Nintendo cares about for its poor deserted console. I'm sure that it will sell big once it is finally finished, but if it's 2033 by the time that happens, I don't know how many people will really care.

Final Fantasy XII will be the centre of attention for Square Enix, I'm sure. With an impending release later this year, they'll be wanting to pump that for all it's worth when they have the opportunity to do so in May.

A confirmation of a U.S release for Tales of the Abyss, and Tales of the Tempest. I love the Tales series. BTW, if your PS2 is indeed dying, the first game you should check out is Tales of Symphonia for the GameCube. (You do have a gamecube, do you not?) Anyway, Tales of Legendia made it to the U.S shores thankfully, but Tales of Rebirth did not; and I'm afraid that Tales of the Abyss might not either.

Matt

I don't actually have a Gamecube of my own, but I've played many games while at home, on my brother's. That would be another reason that I'd like to get my hands on a Revolution; if it's useful for nothing else, it'll still give me the opportunity to play the Gamecube games I didn't get the chance to play before.

A lot of people are hoping for a North American release of Tales of the Abyss! You're right, though; if we're going to hear an announcement about a translation, we'd better hear about it soon. On the side, Namco really does seem to make the choice arbitrarily regarding which games are translated and which are not. Ah well, I'll cross my fingers for you.

Square Enix should also just go ahead and confirm the fact that they will remake FFVII for the PS3. Heck, maybe it'll even be playable...after all, the PS3 has been confirmed to be playable at the show.

Matt

While it's not out of the question, I somehow doubt that Square Enix will do it, if only because doing so would attract a lot of the spotlight away from their front-and-centre Final Fantasy XII, which would be less than optimal for them. I'd put the probability at 10% or so.

Another thing...I'm not a PSP owner, so I don't really care, but wouldn't Sony sell a couple PSP's if Square Enix brought ports of FFVII, VIII and IX to the system in miniaturized form? So far, the majority of the PSP's library is made up of ports of mediocre PS2 games. If they must port, why not something quality? What do you think the likelihood of that is?

Matt

It might appear to make smart business, sense, perhaps, but I think that it's getting to be too late. If Square Enix had made such an announcement at the release of the PSP, an almost entirely new group could have invested in the handheld, but at this point, the PSP has lost the interest of so many RPG players that it might be more advantageous and profitable for the company to release them for the DS one day, if at all possible.

I dunno. I like the idea, honestly, but I think that the chances are slim by now.

One last thing, and this one is non-RPG related, but I want to know where the Prince of Persia series is going. You don't have to respond, since I know that you haven't played it, but I just wanted to be heard.

Matt

*responds anyway*

Well, I'm not sure, but it seems like a bit of a finnicky sort of irregularly-updated series, looking at it from the outside. I might not expect another for a little while, though the one released most recently made a few waves, which could influence the direction and likelihood slightly.

Well, that be my list. I'm sure I could come up with more if I had the time, but a certain research paper calls my name. (Shut up, shut up!) I am the master of procrastination, but I have a bad feeling that I'm going to pay for it this time.

Keep up the good work, and I'll keep on reading. (And writing.)
Oliver.


Matt

Bah, you'd better get to work!! Don't worry, though; I have to get back to work, soon, too. My little vacation at home is drawing to a close, slowly. I get to invigilate an exam and then mark 350 papers all Monday evening/night, as a matter of fact! Joy!

Thanks for the letter, and good luck getting your stuff done.



You mean you can actually BEAT games?


Hmmm.. odd childhood memories related to video games. I always figured I was the only one.

Matt

You're rarely "the only one," and besides, I bet there are thousands of people out there with strange memories of video-gaming.

The first day that I played Nintendo was when we rented one from the video store along with Megaman 2 and Metroid. I can remember sitting there all day playing with my one friend and my brother and that my mother kept bringing us wierd almost pizza buns(they were buns covered with tomato sause, cut up hot dogs and cheese)

Matt

Poor man's pepperoni! I've had a lot of that in my day. Megaman 2, by the way, was the very first Megaman game that I ever played; my friend Kristin had it, and we'd have each other over every single weekend back when I was... gosh, nine or ten years old. Cute, no?

Another memory like that is one that works the other way around. Dragon Warrior had horrible music. So I would put in CDs instead of listening to the actual game music. And since my Mom was a hardcore christian back then all the music we had in the house was christian stuff. So now anytime I hear the song "Awesom God" I remember hunting for gold golems.

Matt

Hahahaha... that's wonderful! I do remember those grinds to gain gold, though; Dragon Warrior was definitely a game that required a lot of patience. I have to defend the music, though! It wasn't "horrible"... I prefer the term "tinnily nostalgic." Alongside a lot of other 1980s NES titles, too, it's actually not too bad.

And for your difficulty coment another section titled "Load Time" should be added. A perfect example of load time making a game really hard is Vagrant Story. The weapon system in that game is designed for the player to be constantly swapping weapons to fight specific enemies but when it takes 5 seconds for the menu to open and at least another 5 for it to close again most people get fed up and just pick one weapon and use it. Which leads into the question. Have there been any games that you have played that were just too hard and you gave up on them? or have you beat every game you put your mind to?


Matt

Oh yes, load time. How could I forget? Another completely mechanical, completely unacceptable reason for annoyance, load times create difficulty where patience is concerned. The worst offender I can think of is Summoner, which could take a good thirty seconds to load from area to area, if I remember correctly. Ah, Summoner... was there anything GOOD about that game?

Now, your question for me tickles my funny bone, because it reminds me of my first video game mindset. See, when I was a wee gaffer, I had to go to friends' or relatives' houses to play the NESes of others. I'd play games just for the sake of playing them; until I actually owned a system of my own, it never really occurred to me that you could "beat" a game. Back to your question, though, there are at least a few games that I've given up on due to difficulty; 7th Saga is one of them, though it was just boring anyway. Xenogears was one of them, too, but that's because of a combination of reasons. One of those reasons was that exploring the first forested area was an excruciating exercise for me; I remember accidentally jumping off of the treetops and being set back more than once in that blasted woodsy place. Yeah, no one said I was particularly GOOD at gaming.





C L O S I N G
IN CONCLUSION:

Well, well, I just realized that Wednesday's edition of Q&A was my 100th official column at RPGamer, which would make this the 101st. I only hope that the next hundred are just as enjoyable as the last!

And that is all for this week! For those of you who are celebrating it, have a Happy Easter. I shall return come next Tuesday, and SOCK will as well for those of you who have been panicking. I guarantee you that if I come back from E3 with free stuff, it's going up for sale in the SOCK shop, so get ready to do some serious question answering!

Make sure to send our weekend host lots of mail this week, and I'll see you all very soon.


slimey@rpgamer.com
***Matt doesn't wanna go home...!


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Hmm, it just occurred to me that my text here yesterday sounded like a quote from The Land Before Time. How about 'dat?

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