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All Marked Out April 18, 2006

Matt - 19:37 EST

WILD ARMS: ALTER CODE F took a lot of effort to plug through, but I can now say very proudly that I've finished the game off, making it the fourth new game and second RPG of 2006 to be completed by yours truly, the first being Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time, of course.

Next up? A dual tech of Radiata Stories and Riviera: The Promised Land, which was sent to me most generously by a Q&A reader (thanks, again, seriously). I'm expecting great things, since my brother has been spouting about it for weeks, now.

Also soaking up some extra time? Marking, which will conclude shortly, is one thing; research and homework for my reading course on Fractals is another place I should invest some effort; RPGamer and Q&A is the third, and that is what I shall begin with now.

Who'dve thunk it?

Just a little tip for up after reading how you got WA: ACF to work.

Sometimes with DVD and game discs something as little as a fingerprint mark will screw it up. Dunno how on earth THAT works since discs can survive insanse amounts of scratching. At any rate, glad you fot it to work again.



Yeah, and I can't even believe that my brutish effort turned out so well in the end. To be quite honest with you, I was nearly convinced that I had rubbed and scrubbed hard enough to really damage the disc. I figured, though, that I didn't have much to lose; what good is a disc if it won't run in the first place?

It didn't even hesitate during a single movie sequence for the entire rest of the game (about another 10-15 hours), which was quite amazing. It'd be interesting, now, to see if it will run on my own personal PS2 after all.

DVDs are good for a lot of things, but I guess their sensitivity, as evidenced through this example, is one of their downfalls. In any event, I don't have to worry about ACF any more, and for that, I am absolutely pleased. ^_^

Go to the bathroom before you read this one, or you may have to leave mid-letter, which would definitely not be fun for all.

Once again salutations are offered unto you Matt,

The job search, you inquire about? It was put on brief hiatus thanks to a project my grandparents enlisted me for which involved organizing family photos into something more easily viewed than 'cobweb-ridden boxes lurking in the back of the closet'. Some of this was boring - the sheer amount of tape I had to excise from the backs of some pictures infuriated me immensely! Some of it was eye-opening. I uncovered a picture of my great-great-grandfather from 1905 and one of my great-great-grandmother with her high school class in 1896. And I earned a bit of compensation for my efforts. The job search may now truly resume, so check back in for thrilling information about the few jobs available which do not involve the thrilling taskwork accompanying constant burger flipping!


The burger-flipping is supposed to be great for your character, though! Do it for long enough, and you might even get upgraded to Chief Beef, or whatever the managerial position of burger-flippers might be entitled as at the greasy-spoon of your choosing.

Odd jobs are fun and lucrative diversions, surely; my last one involved a math professor only a week ago, who paid me $50 under the table to do his first-year calculus class' final exam and look it over for mistakes, typos, length, fairness, difficulty, and the like. That should cover my costs for The New Super Mario Bros, when it arrives in stores a couple of weeks from now. Whoo-hoo!

A small followup to the ever-ongoing discussion regarding music: about six years ago I was possessed to purchase off eBay the Dragon Ball Z RPG for Super Famicom. Looking back I wonder how I got so deeply engrossed with the DB phenomenon... but the merits of Dragon Ball (Z) could and have formed many internet postings, which I really have no desire at this time to add onto. The game's music stands out in my mind for its extraordinary laziness in having exactly one battle theme. Fighting a boss? Doesn't matter, the same battle music will be used. The final battle against Freeza is astonishing for actually featuring a DIFFERENT piece of battle music, but if the player is able to unlock the true final battle after Freeza is dead, the same battle music one has heard hundreds of times prior will once more be foisted upon the player. The game itself is pretty basic, with about 95% of one's playtime being spent on combat.


Yeah, that's really disappointing. I can't really think of any other games that follow that, except for the original Final Fantasy and Megaman 2. It works more for the latter than the former; the final boss of FF just seemed a bit anti-climactic, especially if you couple the lack of musical variety with the fact that he was defeatable in two turns or so. I only hope that they changed him slightly for the re-releases/remakes of the game we've seen in recent years!

Another fascinating subject for the RPG treatment: Sonic the Hedgehog. Sega's been branching out with his games in recent years, but I suppose putting him into an RPG would first require some method of making sure that every battle isn't a complete breeze (what challenge is there if every attack is easily escapable?) Certainly enough characters have been introduced in that universe with varying abilities to make for a good party - the only area that would need to be fleshed out is probably the villain area (beating up endless Robotnik-piloted bosses might get old in an RPG format). Archie's comic series came up with a few good ones though.


Sonic in RPG-format, huh? I'll bet my booties that it wouldn't be a turn-based game. I just got the funniest mental image of a FFX or Megaman X: CM-style battle system, where in the turn-order chart, you see nothing but Sonic's visage for the next ten consecutive turns. It's an idea.

I appreciate your attempted effort on my behalf with regard to Dragon Force 2. I'm slowly figuring some things out, but of course the story is by and large beyond my comprehension. I must note however how absolutely atrocious your dial-up speed is - is this a 56k modem or something smaller? Even when I have a Bittorrent download going via dial-up, it does not take 10 minutes for a site to load! Ah well, had Sega translated the game for US audiences I probably would have had some horrendous voice acting to listen to.


Yeah, the connection speed at home is absolutely unacceptably slow, and the resulting wasted time makes me want to scream continuously until things are corrected. It's not as if we live in an unpopulated caveman zone; there's no reason why high speed access should be unavailable. At any rate, it's good to be back in the civilized land of Guelph, all aflow with much faster goodness.

Exhibit A for the prosecution: Shining Force III Scenario 1's voice acting. Another game idea suddenly comes to me, courtesy of the fleeting flights of inspiration that make my everyday life so distracting. With the sheer variety of music-based games in existence, why so few that actually revolve around a single band? Well, the solution here is to make a game about a band with so much in its past that one game would be hard-pressed to contain it all: the Rolling Stones. This wouldn't necessarily be an RPG game, as Mick and Keith haven't really gotten that much stronger through the years. Then again, considering all they've done to themselves in the past 43 years, their constitutions have to be much stronger than the average human's! The drugs Keith Richards has pumped through his system would doubtless kill an entire city of ordinary people! And the game would be guaranteed an awesome soundtrack! Although it would probably cost more than most games....


That has to be one of the most bizarre ideas I've ever heard, to be quite frank. Imagine them all spending hours in the studio recording voice soundbites for ingame use, and then laugh hard when you think of what a Star Ocean-like battle would sound like. I enjoy the idea highly; my mom, at least, would certainly buy it, even if no one else did.

One other opinion on potent portable pricing predictions. The PSP, as the news reported recently, isn't doing very well at making Sony's investment in UMD production worthwhile. I can relate: if I DID own a PSP (no reason to at this point), watching a movie on it would quickly induce eye strain sufficient to prompt a massive expulsion of profanity to be admired by sailors worldwide. If the UMD fails, would such an event be adequate to make a price reduction by Sony warranted (assuming such is not already warranted?). And how long will the DS remain above $100 (I would check Canadian prices but I trust you would know more than I anyway)?


Yeah, I'm not big on the idea of watching movies portably in the first place. I could never concentrate on them in a public place, but since that's the only time I'd ever really consider watching them anyway, the purpose is, well, instantly defeated, in a way.

As for the DS, I doubt the price will fall that low anytime soon. I believe that the Canadian price is currently around $150 or so, but I don't see any reason for the price to go down much in the short-term. Firstly, Nintendo isn't coming out with any new handhelds anytime soon. Secondly, the DS' price is already vastly lower than its main competitor's. Thirdly, they're coming out with that new "streamlined" version of the DS shortly, which could give Nintendo another excuse to keep prices level for at least awhile. I think it's worth the current pricetag, anyway, though that's a matter of personal opinion, I s'pose.

The female lead situation in RPGs is something I take moderate issue with. I enjoy picking the female characters whenever I can, just for variety's sake. I'll bring up a real oldie for an example: Phantasy Star I. I didn't quite finish it due to the sheer enormity of the final dungeon but having Alis be the central protagonist in 1986 was quite startling for a Japanese-developed RPG. Not that it became a trend of course.... Seiken Densetsu 3 is another one, although that game just screams 'replay value' for getting to see everything. I suppose if a Metroid RPG is ever developed it would would serve excellently as an example of the strong female protagonist - but Samus is such a solitary fighter working an RPG's party design into her world would be very difficult.


It's not like single-person battle systems haven't ever existed in the RPG world; look at the original Dragon Warrior! Of course, battle depth decreases rather significantly as party size is reduced, so yeah, it's probably not the best idea. As far as I'm concerned, Samus should stick to her action-based origins, methinks.

Over the weekend it seems the topic of weapons wielded by one's wild world wanderer came up. Since a lengthy analysis of this is a good way to deter me from doing any real work, why don't I step up?


Enh, why not? I'm going to go grab a can of something with caffeine while you blab.

*wanders off humming*

Swords, of course, are the most popular choice for the protagonist. The sheer variety of weapons that can be classified as 'swords' helps to explain it. Katanas, rapiers, claymores, sabres, scimitars, and the dozens of other variants I can't enumerate without entirely too much research make for a variety hard to deal with by any other weapon type. It must be said that I have no problem whatsoever with a good sword-wielding combatant.

Then we have the weapon Fire Emblem asserts is the scissors to the sword's paper: lances. Indeed, Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones had in Ephraim a genuine lance-wielding hero. But the lance is a harder fit for many other protagonists. Lancers are usually associated with being horsemen, and unless a sudden rush of mounted protagonists appears in RPGs the lance's use is necessarily limited. Even with a horse, if a lance misses the user is quite vulnerable for a time.

Caffeinated Matt


Oh, you're still going on? Mmk... swords, sure; lances, yep. OK, cool. Go on.

There is also Fire Emblem's rock to the lance's scissors: the axe. Hector proved to everyone who played Fire Emblem 7 that an axe-wielder can make for quite the protagonist. Indeed, the only limitation I can place upon the use of an axe as a protagonist's primary weapon is an aesthetic one: many of the heroes in RPGs would look completely ridiculous with an axe as a weapon. Provided the artist behind the character design of a game can come up with a hero who would realistically be able to wield an axe without spending 10 minutes pulling it out of whatever it became buried in (no men-who-look-like-women need apply), the weapon should have an assured future.

Caffeinated Matt

Sure, they're a little less streamlined, but axes have this wonderful horribly-powerful look to them. They're slightly more evil and perhaps more brutish in appearance, which is why it seems that they're so much more often used by villainous RPG personalities. Axes are fun, though, and underused, yes.

Plenty of other close-up weapons exist, too. Since the TMNT is still on my mind I'll throw their weapons into the mix: sai would be the weapon of choice for a protagonist who likes to get really close to the antagonist. Nunchaku are rather versatile, although not every protagonist would be a party animal like Michaelangelo. The bo is a good keep-away weapon. Beyond the Turtles, whips were mentioned over the weekend. Another good keep-away choice, although most whips were designed to inflict pain rather than kill. I suppose a strangulation could be used.... Another good option for close fighting would be Wolverine-style claws. Certainly a lethal option if a good hit can be landed. Bare fists most likely would require an older protagonist than is usually seen in RPGs, for the same reason axes aren't likely for younger protagonists. Pikes - would a pike count as a form of lance? Its historical use was quite different from the lance however, and a 10-foot pike makes for a different kind of fight.

Wide-Eyed Matt

...too much caffeine ingested... system failure imminent...

Bleah, strangulation?? Ah well, a little bit of gore might please a certain subset of RPGamers out there.

On another note... soooooo tired; are you done yet? ^_^

Then the subject of distance weapons comes up, and the reality must be addressed that it is VERY seldom seen in an RPG protagonist. Bow & arrows is an obvious choice, and one of the few that cen be employed without bringing more technology into most stories. Cecil in FFIV had to use a bow & arrows during that irritating jaunt through the stupid dark elf's cave - but by and large they are seldom employed. As a change of pace they would be quite fascinating. Beyond bow & arrows there might be knives or shuriken employed, perhaps throwing spears or boomerangs. But without introducing gunpowder into the mix the reservoir of distance weapons isn't very long. With gunpowder of course it changes drastically. And as a big change of pace the protagonist could specialize in throwing self-made bombs. Or would governments around the world crack down on such a thing?

Growing Wearier Matt

I'm sure that the government would much prefer non-suggestive things such as potato-launching bazookas!! Silly, considering their affinity for dropping bombs in past years themselves, but, that's life.

Other unique weapon ideas:

-Giant Lollipops (Isn't tasty death more fun?)
-Bagpipes (Oh, they hurt the ears in close-range!)
-French Onion Soup bowls (Wait, Garnet already had those, pretty much.)
-Houses (Hey, it's not that far-fetched! Look at the size of some people's weapons already!)
-3-ringed binders (I've received a hell of a lot more HP in damage from those than any "typical" weapon, I'll tell you that much.)

It seems to have become a habit of mine to rant as the end approaches - here goes. My vitriol is not directed so much at Sega of Japan, which after all produced many of the games I am so aggravated at being denied in a form I understand. Sega of America however... their atonement is all-but-impossible. Redemption is a quality I shall deny from them and, depending upon how little effort they make to achieve it, their descendants! But Sega of America shall not be alone in this neverending purgatory I create - for its absence on the North American scene in the mid-90's Enix must also be included! Nya, ha, ha! Square is far from blameless either - faithless fools for abandoning the SNES in its hour of greatest need at 95-96 because you fecklessly figured on frequent flights of gamers to the post-16 bit consoles! Your reckoning will not be forever denied! I WILL NOT ALLOW IT! Bwa ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!

That felt good. And just so you know - I never drink coffee. So advising me to hold out caffeine from the coffee won't help much.

Growing Wearier Matt

No, but I definitely needed some more to get through your letter o' monstrous length. This has got to go down as one of the kings of all time, really.


Sock # 171: d. I finally got one! Since I'm actually making a stab at the SOCK question this time around, I'd better come up with a good nickname. JuMeSyn suits me just right.

P.S. If that last quote made no sense, neither will this one: "Creeper, creeper, creeper - you give ME the creeps!" It's related to an answer to a SOCK question a few weeks ago that dealt with a horrible movie.

Collapsed Matt

JuMeSyn, huh? Sounds good to me. Thanks for your exceptionally long-winded letter about every topic under the sun! It must have taken you just about forever to write it; as much as I love receiving mail, make sure you don't forget about the rest of your wonderful life. Write back soon, if you can muster the strength to write a word more!

Multitaskers 'R' Us

Okay Matt Is 4 RPG's (namely Final Fantasy Tactics Adveance, Suikoden Tactics, Magnacarta, and Dragon Quest) too many to play at the same time, in your opinion. For me it gives me a break between games (so I don't get bored with them, and allows me in the case of FFTA to play whilst typing this letter (Damn Melboro's). If you add in Mario Kart, and the odd Dynasty free for all, that's 6 games at once. Gee maybe the real question is how have I got the time to spend playing 6 different games with work and sporting commitments and all of the other activities that swarm a 20 somethings life?

Bainick has clocked 24 hours in Final Fantasy Tactics in 3 days!


I usually try to keep my RPG "currently playing" list to one or two at any given time, just because I like to be able to concentrate my attention in order to better enjoy the games. Luckily, I have a sufficiently long attention span that I have quite a bit of patience with games, mediocre or not; if you're more, uh, "ADHD-ish" (no offense to those afflicted with ADHD, of course), perhaps more games might be necessary for maximum pleasure. 24 hours of FFTA, though, in three days?! That's altogether too much! I just didn't find that game quite that addictive, I'm afraid.

Thus, if I were you, I'd pick a couple of favourites and focus on them until you've happily (hopefully) finished them. Then, rinse and repeat with the next game on your list, a list often referred to around here as the great "backlog".


To whomever may read this letter and do something about it:


Looks like I'm your man.

Hi there...about black characters in RPGs...ok Barret and that fella Gruga, but isn't Kiros from FF8 also black? And about girl power in RPGs, dismissing the horrible FFX-2, FF6 showed a lot of that as it has been stated but Suikoden V shows it even more by having a Queendom instead of a kingdom and plenty of warriors being females too, even the Queen's bodyguards...and FFX had women sacrificed to stop Sin...wait...that's a bad example...:P ... over and out.


Kiros, huh? What a random character; Kiros and Ward both could have used some serious character development in that game, because by the end, we really don't know much about them at all. FFVIII-2 could have been an interesting idea, following Laguna and his cohorts on that quest, except that it'll never happen, ever.

Anyway, Kiros has a slightly darker skin tone, and while I don't think he'd be best described as "white", I don't really think that he'd be best described by "black" either. Of course, one doesn't have to be restricted to those classifications alone, but I'd still say that Barret is Final Fantasy's only truly black character.

As for girl power, there are a couple of good examples out there. But, the fact of the matter is, it's impossible to just single out a few "boy-power RPGs" in the same manner because there are altogether too many of them. This is where the stark contrast lies!

Crash 'n' burn

I must know, which Nippon Ichi games were you referring to when you said likely to crash? I have La Pucelle, Disgaea, Phantom Brave and Makai Kingdom and have over 100 hours of play for each one (over 450 for Disgaea) without incident. I agree with your Star Ocean assessment though.

My favourite type is the complex to learn. I like to know all the ins and outs of a system and apply them mercilessly to obliterate my enemies.

As for E3 whishes, the gaming lords have already granted my request for Disgaea 2 in the last year and I'm sure that will last me until the PS3 launch. Though I would be delighted to see another quality tactical RPG perhaps another FFT.



Ah, well, if I remember correctly, I was thinking of Phantom Brave, which I've heard from others has resulted in some scary black screens-of-no-return, though admittedly, I haven't experienced it myself. I also experienced some not-so-fun freeze-ups while playing through Atelier Iris: Eternal Mana, which was published by NIS America, though perhaps the blame should fall more squarely upon the shoulders of Gust, the company that developed the game. Those freeze-ups were not uncommon, either; a large number of players had the game freeze right after beating the game, which is truly a kick-in-the-face present for beating the final boss, if you ask me.

And yes, I think that most RPG fans are RPG fans just because they like a more thoughtful approach to video games, and those interesting and complex strategies are perfectly fun to tackle. I agree with you all the way!

I'm looking forward to Disgaea 2 as well; hopefully it represents a step in the right direction for NI, which seems to have done a lot of slacking off during the past few years, releasing "just okay" games left and right. From what I've seen and heard, it looks very promising, at the very least!

In any case, thanks very much for writing in, and I hope to hear more from you sometime again!

A mini-pointer to close

To follow up some recent QnA conversations:

Radiata Stories has a recruitable gay character, black character and whip wielding character.

Charlie, Butch and Iris


Excellent pointers, thanks! Having just started Radiata Stories, I haven't come across any of those yet. Now, all we need to find is a black, gay, and whip-wielding character, all in one tight package!


Tetris DS: Purchased! Metroid Prime: Hunters: Purchased! Thanks, mom, for the birthday giftcard. Now, I have THREE things I can play with people online. Fun times potentially ahead, for anyone interested!


Back to SOCK-land, after a week off! It always feels good to get back on track, and with a couple of guest hosts slated for the next couple of weeks, as well as free stuff from E3 (hopefully) on the way to the shelves of the SOCK shop, there's lots to look forward to.

Question #170 was a bit silly, but pretty obvious if you've played all of the games in question. b) Legend of Dragoon has the most unbelievably bad experience curve of any RPG I've personally ever played; I think that at some times during that game, I required 10,000 Experience to get to the next level, but got only 20-50 per battle. At that rate, it would only take me 500 battles to level up! YUCK. That answer was good for 185 points.

#171 was Dermot's question, which left about ten of you singing to me virtually in e-mails galore. Yes, d) was the correct answer. FFVI's opera is a moment of RPGaming that should never be forgotten. The people that guessed correctly gained 175 SOCK points. Thanks very much, Dermot, for the step back into the greatest game of 1994.

Of course, those of you who have APGs gained 64 points for writing in letters, and those who attempted to guess, but got the questions wrong also received 64, just for putting forth the effort!

Question #172:
Which of the following sounds most like the name of a certain wind mouse? (180 points)

a) a shade of beige
b) a southwestern U.S. gull
c) the name of a computer programming language
d) a shrimp dish with a garlicky butter sauce
e) a gaudy, flamboyant french dance

Question #173:
Ask FinalDelerium!--> What are the enemy's last words in the mission 'Yellow Powerz'? (200 points)

a) I can't believe... you beat me
b) Alright I'll give it back
c) You'll…never take me
d) I can still…fight…*collapse*
e) You've got to be kidding

SOCK's Award List

*You may obtain these items upon reaching the listed point benchmarks!*

500 points: Your choice of Point Doubler (1 left) or Quick Spell (1 left)
1,000 points: Your choice of Fire Spell (2 left) or Mithril Armor (2 left)
2,000 points: Your choice of Warp Stone (1 left) or Fire Spell (1 left)
3,500 points: Your choice of Fire 2 Spell (2 left) or Wait Mode (1 left)
5,000 points: Your choice of Mithril Armor (2 left) or Drain Spell (2 left)
7,000 points: Your choice of Point Doubler (1 left) or Quick Spell (1 left)

Click Here For Item Descriptions!

SOCK's Prize Shop

*You may SPEND points here in order to obtain any of the following prizes- new ones may appear at any time*

1,000 points: Matt's Mom's Cookie Compilation- 6 fantastic recipes right out of Matt's mom's amazing kitchen! Yours, upon request. (5 left)

2,000 points: Intro Paragraph Cameo- If you feel like having a piece of Q&A all to yourself for a day, but you're not up for answering a bunch of questions, this option might be just for you! Say the word, and the Intro Paragraph is yours to do whatever you want with for a day. (5 left)

5,000 points: Cohost Opportunity #3- The goal of many a SOCK competitor is to rule the column alongside me for a day. Say the word, and it's yours, if you have the points to spend. (2 left)

10,000 points: Cohost Opportunity #3.5- Ah, why not? Cohost days are fun, so here are a couple of extra chances for you to snag, if you're so inclined. (3 left)

20,000 points: Cohost Opportunity #4- It might sound like a lot, but it'll be here before you know it. Your next chance to reign over Q&A with yours truly. (5 left)

25,000 points: Full Host Opportunity #1- This is it. Write your own Q&A section, without having me interrupt, break in, or steal your sunshine. Be RPGamer's new idol for a day! (1 left)

30,000 points: Your choice of Megaman X4, X5, or X6 for the PSX. If you're into the Megaman series as much as I am, and you don't own any of these, I don't need them any more, now that I have purchased the collection. You can take your pick, and I'll send it to you in the mail with a handwritten note of congratulations from myself. They aren't RPGs, for sure, but I'm working on it for the future. (Sorry, NTSC-format only) (1 left)


For those of you awaiting to co-host with me, your wait is nearly over! I hope to have Erika by my side later this week, followed by BigWook and KnightTrain sometime thereafter. For everyone else, stay tuned! Co-host columns are always a blast.

Until tomorrow, though, keep the letters coming. I shall be back then to continue the Q&A Saga!
***Matt loves warm spring days...

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Matt's Top 3 Current Games:

1. Mariokart DS

2. Radiata Stories

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Matt's Top 3 RPG Desires:

1. Final Fantasy III

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SOCK standings:

1. Belthasar2
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20. Gaijin
875 pts

21. BigWook
849 pts

22. Knighttrain
789 pts

23. Bucket
750 pts

24. Jbumi
703 pts

25. DDX
523 pts

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