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Welcome to Bubonia April 19, 2006

Matt - 17:16 EST

HAVE YOU EVER gone through a day with a fair amount of vim and a spring in your step only to completely crumble by the day's end? I had such a day today; I got up, went to the mall, bought Tetris and Metroid Prime: Hunters with my birthday Gift Card from EB Games, came home, and then went to the grocery store to make dinner, MADE dinner, ate dinner, only to watch TV thereafter. While sitting and watching, I just totally collapsed into a state of ultra-dull quasiconsciousness, which is the sort of state I'm in now, though maybe not quite as bad. Cold water dumped on head needed/requested!

Down, but not out at all!

Dear Matt,

What's up, my QnA guru? I thought I'd write in and give my nostalgia. My mother had just bought me Chrono Trigger, but I had to go to a writing competition the next day, so I had to go to bed. I went to the competition and won, so I think of Chrono Trigger as my real reward...forget the medal.

You touched on the subject of having a character with a physical impairment in an RPG in a previous letter. I'm all for it. I personally think I'd make a great RPG character. I walk with crutches, study Karate, *and* write stuff! Shoe-in! Joking aside, I'd really love to see a physically challenged character in an RPG. What do you think? Looking forward to your prospective, as always.



And, as always, I look forward to having the chance to lend you my perspective! I had an inkling that you might write in after that letter the other day.

I'm sure that you'd make a very gifted disabled Karate man! I do think, though, that while the occasional side character might have a disability, 80% of the time, they can't speak for some reason that causes you to go on a fetch quest, and 19.9% of the time, they're blind. Usually, on top of this lack of variety, they are useless to you practically; I certainly don't know of any RPG in which you control anyone like this yourself in battle. But, I say, why not? It would be an excellent way to build a unique personality with a perspective that hasn't often been explored in the stories of RPGs of the past. I definitely think that a great potential is there, anyway. :)

I overlooked one obvioSILENT HILLus type of difficulty

What I would add to the list would be challenge caused by bad game design: like poor play control, or a really bad camera. This is fresh in my mind because I'm playing Musashi Samurai Legend, and died maybe 15 times two nights ago trying to beat a boss I had figured out HOW to beat, but kept getting tripped up by the sluggish controls and the awful, awful camera that's always maybe 10 inches behind Musashi at all times. Infuriating.


GOOD, GOOD point!! Man, that's one that I really shouldn't have missed, because it bothers me more than most other things. That will definitely go into the books as a prime entry, and yeah, go on with what you were going to say, so I can keep talking excitedly.

This kind of challenge is ALMOST always bad. The only times it should be accepted is when this aspect of the game design is arguably deliberate. For example, when I played through Shadow of the Colossus (a work of art in game form if ever there was one), the controls drove me crazy, and the camera was terrible. But I started thinking that these flaws were there intentionally: to create a sense of struggle in the player that made them identify more strongly with the protagonist and the seeming futility of his task.


Yeah! I love it when bad status causes your controls to become more difficult, because it almost makes you experience first-hand the "pain" of the bad status. Do you remember the final boss of Donkey Kong Country 2? K.Rool shot clouds at you that would reverse your controller or cause you to move in slow motion. THOSE were really cool.

However, if the game feels as if you have a status effect on in the first place when you know it shouldn't feel that way, then the challenge is definitely unwelcome. This problem is present in a few games: Makai Kingdom, and reportedly, Phantom Brave, are terrible in this respect in a weird way, in that positioning your characters can become so completely awkward that it's easy for them to fall off of a map altogether accidentally, creating a massive headache. Atelier Iris: Eternal Mana had really archaic-feeling controls, due partially to the way that the graphics represented the geography of areas, and due partially because of... I don't really know how to put it. You know how in some games, it can feel like your controller is covered in maple syrup, with nary a pancake in sight? It felt like *that* sometimes, and problems like that help to make playing the game a chorelike experience.

And not to bring this up YET again, but the need to WRESTLE with Silent Hill's controls add a handicap to your character that makes a weird kind of sense; they're not ninjas, after all, just regular people sucked into the story.

Hey, you know what I love? Silent Hill.


There, there, we all have our guilty pleasures. You should make it a goal of yours to include some small mention of Silent Hill somewhere in every single letter you submit!

Where was I? I keep getting distracted because I do this at work.

Oh right. Memories associated with games. This is a good one.

The best one is Earthbound, because right when I was playing the opening sequence of Earthbound for the first time, my dad brought our Rottweiler home for the first time. He was a puppy, and my dad had him in a little box, and he told me to stop playing for a bit because he had a "surprise."


Awww! That's cute! Also, somewhat funny, since in the opening sequence of Earthbound, you're accompanied by your canine companion (I named mine Zack the first time I played the game, back when he was just a little puppy~ :( )

The second best one is flat-out weird. But while I was playing Dragon Warrior IV, I think in the Aktemto (sp?) mines, a hot-air balloon landed in my neighborhood, quite by accident. And my mom kept telling me to come up and see the balloon, and apparently the whole bleeding development showed up to look at this poor bastard who crash-landed on somebody's lawn.


That IS weird, and doubly weird, since again, it relates to the RPG at hand... think of the final method of transportation in that game! You... you bring your games to life!

*hopes you haven't played Final Fantasy VI and/or Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter*

Apocalypse is coming quickly enough, I'm sure, without you accelerating it artificially! I think it's time to build me a good strong shelter.

Inexplicably, I decided to stay downstairs and play DW4, and missed what is almost certainly the most surreal thing that ever has happened or will happen in that particular neighborhood.


It's certainly not your everyday front-page headline, that's for sure. The closest thing that's happened to me was back when I lost a helium balloon in one of the trees in our backyard apple tree. I had to leave it, and overnight, it had deflated and had fallen to the ground. It doesn't seem to be nearly as climactic, though, and I don't remember it causing any death, destruction, or loss of blood. ;)

Honestly, if I were to actually list all the ones I can think of, it would go on forever. I've spent so much of my life playing games that it's hard to remember a time that I CAN'T associate with one game or another.

Chrono Trigger reminds me of a day when a guy was painting our kitchen, as well as of an old friend of mine who I met online ten years ago, or around the time CT came out, anyway. I remember being completely amazed at the whole "online" phenomenon, and how when we had finally gotten it at our house, how excited I was. I met this girl in a chat room around, I think, the same time I was playing CT for the first time. We never met in person once in the past ten years, but we still talk (though nowhere near as frequently anymore), and CT always makes me think of her.

FF6 makes me think of me and my dad driving around all over the place, looking for a copy of FF6, because they were somehow sold out or just absent, all over the place. We finally found it in some tucked-away little toy store, and plunked out $80 ($80?! And STILL worth every penny!) for it. I still can't believe he was willing to do all that, only to nurture his son's no-doubt worrisome game obsession.

-Lufia 2: my ex girlfriend yelling at me on the phone.
-Super Mario 64: Was playing it in our living room right before we left to go to a nearby commercial farm to pick pumpkins for Halloween. The smell of hay, which we also took from the farm to seat a scarecrow on our front steps. 311, which I was listening to on my Discman on the way over to the farm.

I'm actually going to stop here, because I could go on forever.


Wow... those are some nifty details. It's really strange, but some people just have the knack for associating things like these with other memories, and since for a lot of us here, games make up many of those memories, voila, as they say.

Some of the memories are more trivial than others, and some are far more profound. I remember playing Breath of Fire II when my parents called from the hospital telling me that my Mémère (paternal grandmother) had just died; in fact, I was in the middle of battling two of those empty-armour things in a thief's dungeon of some sort (I can't remember exactly), and similarly, Dragon Warrior VII reminds me greatly of my Pépère's death. I was playing Maniac Mansion when my dog PJ died back when I was ten years old or so.

I guess that generating concrete memories like these is somewhat akin to the fact that we all remember things on climactic days in our lives; everyone remembers what they were doing the day of the 9/11 attacks, or the great blackout that occurred a couple of years ago, for those of us living in this section of the continent.

I used to be bothered by that; the fact that I can associate so much of my life with games. Now, having come to terms with my own dork status, I think there's kind of a sweetness to it; there aren't any BAD memories that I can recall that get triggered by games. Except maybe that one about getting yelled at, but even that's not so bad. It's like pieces of your life become accessible by way of replaying these games, that will be around forever, and stay the same, even if you do neither.

-TV's Adam


Well said, Adam. Thanks very much for your memories, and thanks for the opportunity to share some of my own.

My secret gaming double!

Funny you should mention both Radiata Stories and Riviera, I picked them both up along with Atelier Iris during a "Buy 2, get one free" used game sale not long ago at Gamestop. Cost me $50 for the bundle, which ain't too shabby at all.


I should say so! Nice job! I wish the local video game store would have a sale from time to time, but it seems to be against their policies or something, because I sure haven't had the chance to take advantage of one...

I got halfway through Riveria before being distracted; I really want to finish it but for some reason it couldn't hold my attention. It's most likely due to the fact that there are so many things that you only get one chance at, and it gets a little frustrating when you know you missed something and can't go back. It's clearly a game meant to be played multiple times to see everything. I'll get back to it, though, I promise, because it is rather charming. Mentioning female heroes, though, every character in your party, excepting the main, is a female, each with fully developed personalities. I don't think it's breaking any trends, though, because as I once heard someone put it, "It's part text adventure, part RPG, and part dating sim." Not to mention, if you play your cards right, you can recieve bath scenes of the girls to later view at your command. It's quite possibly the raciest thing on the GBA.


Exciting! Yeah, I should be starting soon, though with my new NDS purchases, I'll be kept busy with distractions. It's funny that you talk about the things you do, because my brother, who has finished the game, was just telling my sister, Diane, before I left, that "She would SOOO hate this game!!!" Why? She's one of those people that obsesses over finding every little thing in any game she's playing; it's so bad that she will reset the game if she's certain she missed a treasure chest in any given area.

In any event, the game does sound promising, and it's been praised by a lot of different people, so I'm looking forward to forging ahead in the coming days.

Atelier Iris was decent. I was making fun of it for a while at the beginning though. I haven't played all the RPG's out there, but this was the most cliched RPG story I've seen, and it seems to know it. It takes for granted that you already know that the pretty-boy, light-haired katana user has a dark past and hidden agenda, as evidenced by the fact that main character Klein asks him, "Why are you helping me?" in a tone insinuating that such an action would be heavily out of character for Arlin, despite the fact that it was only Arlin's second scene and his character had not yet been established at all. Beyond that, pretty standard stuff, though your "save the world" mindset doesn't come until fairly late.


"Making fun of it in the beginning" is exactly the way I felt about it; it's a game that almost begs to be made fun of, if not for the horrendous lack of solid characters and sleepy storyline, then for the fact that the character "sprites" look like boogly-eyed Bambi-people on the map screen; add that to the voice of MeowmeowGirl, and you've got a game that's almost embarrassing to play in front of certain friends. Sure, you get used to the art after a short while, and most of the voice acting is actually pretty good (when it doesn't cut out randomly), but the gameplay never really gets too exciting, and I found myself literally falling asleep on many occasions while playing, though that might be because I tend to not get adequate sleep. Hmmm.

I did find a saving grace in Veola, by far the most interesting and developed character in the game; an NPC who wasn't even voice acted. I enjoyed the game at the end, and finished the bonus content, which is unlocked by saving the game after defeating the end boss, which I had to do twice, because as you discussed yesterday (or the day before) the game really likes to freeze during the end sequence before you get the chance to save. GameFAQ's recommended you need to go into the options menus and turn the sound all the way down. Worked for me.


Oh gee, why didn't *I* think of that? It's too bad that you have to resort to such things to increase your probability of being able to see the credits. Miraculously, it didn't freeze for me during the final sequence, but I was pretty glad to be done, and I didn't get into the bonus material at all. You're right, though, some of the merchant stories were fun, though Veola was the only one that got really in-depth. It would have been nice to see something similar with a few other shopkeepers the world over.

Now, if you've put up with my rambling so far (and I know you have) get ready for a little more.

I am loving Radiata stories. I've put in 24 hours and I still feel like I'm at the beginning of the game, but I don't care. You are Jack Russell. You live your life, taking jobs, going shopping, meeting people. It's refreshing in that you're not on a "save the world" mindset at all. I don't even know if there's a bad guy yet! For some reason, I find that very refreshing. My younger brother (about 10 or 11, don't remember) compared to Animal Crossing in a way, which at first I dismissed, but now looking closer I do agree with. I can't wait to get further into it.


Mmhmm! I was pleasantly surprised by it, too. I'm not usually a huge fan of battle systems like the one RS sports, but it's fun and decent. The game isn't made for the battles, largely, or at least it isn't to the point I'm at; the game is made for the interaction, exploration, wandering streets, and meeting people. I find the gameplay to be more akin to The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask, honestly, and ever since I began playing RS, I've been craving to begin LoZ:MM again a whole lot. The graphical style is wonderful and beautiful, the music is okay, the voice acting is close to top-notch, and the humour is mostly sharp and witty. Thumbs up, so far!

At this point I would like to get into weapons, but other business calls, and I'm sure you've heard enough from me today. Let me close by saying that I'm looking forward to a Red-haired axe wielding female hero.

And let me just guess E and E for SOCK.



Alexander M. DeMichiei


That's okay; you've contributed a nice bit anyway, so perhaps next time! Have a great day. Oh, and by the way, isn't that assassin girl from Final Fantasy IX a red-haired axe-wielding female? If not, she's gotta be close. Maybe she was just red-armoured.

Evasive tactics

Wow, what it feels like to finally be actually writing a letter into Q & A instead of just reading it day in and day out. First off lets get those pesky SOCKs out of the way. Let's see 172:D and 173: hmm E?


It's good to have you write in, so thanks very much. Of course, if you're one of the many people that read every day but don't have the courage or motivation to e-mail me about your burning questions, this would be a great opportunity to! If you write something stupid, I definitely don't bite as hard as, say, Andrew used to. Of course, that's why half of his readers read in the first place. No one slaps someone silly in a textual fashion like our dear old Q&A guy of yesteryear.

Now lets see questions and comments, first of all what's your opinion on downloading music. I'm pretty sure you've mentioned in the past that you're dead against downloading ROMs and movies like Advent Children, but does your morality stop there or does it continue on to music. I ask because I like you get aggravated someone goes ahead and downloads movies and games, yet I download music constantly and see no moral dilemma. Perhaps this is just because I busted my moral compass years ago.


OK, understand that my job is, in a way, the "face of RPGamer". I don't think I have the option of saying "Yeee-haww! Go download all of the illegal games and music you want!" You're certainly free to make your own decisions, and from a personal standpoint, I really don't care so much, but from a legal one, I simply can't condone the downloading of games, since it IS illegal, unless you're downloading them after paying for them, which is probably not what you're talking about. If that is the case, then well, by all means! ^_^

I pretty much agree with your list a week or so ago on RPG Difficulty, but you missed the category involving games that are difficult because of the puzzles they present, like Alundra, I won't tell you how many times I tried a particular Ice puzzle in that games before I threw my controller in frustration.


True enough! Puzzles are an important part of many RPGs; Lufia, Wild Arms, and Legend of Zelda, if you count it, are all chock-full of them. The idea entered my mind while I was compiling the list, but I decided to lump it in with the "Hard to figure out" variety. If puzzles are introduced well, and puzzle elements are explained adequately, they are usually a pleasure to crack, and present a good version of that type of difficulty. If, on the other hand, you don't really know what you're supposed to be doing in the puzzle in the first place, and then you go online in frustration to look up the solution and magically discover that "yes, one of your old items from twenty hours ago in the game could be used for this new purpose" when it wasn't alluded to at all in the game, it gets to be annoying. Perhaps puzzles do deserve their own brand of difficulty.

Random I know, but lastly, if you're thinking of trying Suikoden V do so, it is a phenomenal game, long, chock full o' story, and a decent battle system. The battle however are on the easy side which is frustrating to some of us gamers, but overall an excellent game.



Cool, I shall keep that in mind, and log it away with the eight-or-so other opinions of the game I've managed to collect so far! I'm certainly happy that you're enjoying it, at any rate; from the sounds of it, most people agree that it's a nice step up from IV, and that definitely can't be bad news.

A teaser!

Hi Matt,

This is the first time I’ve actually written in though not the first time I have had the urge to do so. I don’t know how many gaming magazines you read, skim, or otherwise look at, but in the last issue of Game Informer, there was a small reference stating that someone from SquareEnix confirmed that FFVII is in development for PS3. It is on page 25 of the May 2006 issue. I for one am still really hesitant to believe such a thing especially as your own exalted website here has not had any news on the matter. While I would not mind a remake, I would prefer to hear more about a FFXIII before more FFVII spinoffs/remakes. I am more curious than hopeful if you have heard any rumors or news on this subject that has actually been printed in legitimate form. Of course, I probably just raised the hopes of thousands of gamers across the country....sorry! Thanks for your time and all your wonderful insight in your columns!



Ooh, the intrigue! As far as I know, at last check, there were some ultra-flashy "scenes" from Final Fantasy VII showing what the game would look like if it were to be displayed in the glamour of the PS3's graphical glory. Those scenes were presented at some shows last year, but beyond that, I don't think anything has been confirmed. Could this magazine have been referring to one of the many FFVII spinoffs that are currently in development, or the oft-spake-of Advent Children?

Perhaps we'll learn more at E3 in a few weeks' time.

A mini-pointer to close

Hey Matt!

Everyone's favorite aria continues with D) "Love goes away, like night into day."

So, to go with the SOCK, what musical styles do you think are underrepresented in video games? I mean, the majority of tunes are either faux-classical, or electronic-something. Aside from the above, I can't really think of a good operatic piece in an RPG. What's your opinion here?


All in all, I'm pretty happy with the styles that are represented in many RPGs; the traditional epic, dramatic themes and the upbeat battle musics almost define a genre of their own, though, because in many ways, there's nothing else like them. Sure, you could argue that some are classical-ish in the way they sound, and many more "evil" themes have this wonderful, romantic-era style that seeps with drama. I guess, then, that several styles are left underrepresented, to use your choice of words. I can't recall any RPGs containing early-1900s-style flapper-music, or 1970s pop, for that matter. Really, though, I'm fine with that.

I really appreciate the occasional "technological"-sounding theme. I was blown away the first time I ever heard "The Man with the Machine Gun" because it was so wildly different and just plain cool.

And in answer to your call for more black characters, I've got not one, but two for you, both from the same series no less!

Harid, from Romancing SaGa 3 :


Mythe, from Unlimited Saga :

I know I've seen more, but can't really recall where. Most darker-skinned characters in video games look more Arabic or Hispanic to me, though.

Well, talk at you later.


Thanks, GM, for pointing those out! I'd argue that they don't really look truly "black", though, but more, as you say, of another race altogether. I guess, rather than trying to label and count different characters based on the colours of the skin, it'd be nice just to see a wider variety of cultures represented, other than your everyday white 18-year-old with blue hair.


Even when it's seventy degrees outside, it's excruciatingly chilly in this basement apartment. My desire to be wrapped up in my bed blankets is always far higher than it should be.

Crazy thing, too: Three weeks from today, I'm going to be in Los Angeles with some other RPGamer identities for the great E3! It doesn't really feel like it at this point, but that week is coming up very soon, and I'm a little bit antsy about the whole thing. As you might guess, by "a little bit", I actually mean "incredibly". I'm looking forward to being able to tell you all about it!


Shall we look at yesterday's questions before we progress? I dare say we shall.

Question #172 was obvious to some; Ourobolus, who used to get EVERYTHING right SOCK-wise in Q&A every single day, back before he stopped participating, got it immediately and gave me a ":P" in response. A lot of you stumbled, though. The wind mouse was certainly Hanpan, from Wild Arms; and while FORTRAN, a programming language, does sound similar, it's not as similar as e) a gaudy, flamboyant french dance, the Can Can. 180 points to those who guessed correctly!

#173 was submitted by FinalDelerium, and referred to Final Fantasy Tactics Advance. In the mission 'Yellow Powerz', the last words the enemy speaks are those in option d), for 200 points, according to he. Thanks for the submission!

Question #174:
In Atelier Iris: Eternal Mana, how is the hero's name pronounced? (190 points)

a) like "Kline"
b) like "Kleen"
c) like "Klinn"
d) like "Klane"
e) like "Klenn"

Question #175:
Ask Gaijin!--> In the classic B-movie "THEM", which animals grow to gigantic proportions? (175 points)

a) Spiders
b) Snakes
c) Butterflies
d) Ants
e) Grasshoppers

SOCK's Award List

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

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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)

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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)


All right, that does it for today's edition of Q&A. Erika will be joining me as a co-host for tomorrow's column, so please stay tuned for that! Until next time, I wish you all a fantastic Wednesday night, because we all know how fantastic Wednesday nights can be.
***Matt has to work on making his concluding-remark exit-strategies a bit more graceful...

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