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ASK MATT
Blue Skies, Wandering Clouds, La la la~ May 3, 2006

Matt - 15:19 EST

AHHH... There's nothing like Southern Ontario during this time of year. With flowers everywhere, sun shining brightly, and temperatures in the low 20s (fine, low 70s F for the rest of you) life could not seem more perfect during a walk around the block.

Thus, of course I'd be sitting inside watching the blue skies from within my shadowy cave, here! That must mean that I love the lot of you a whole lot, too. With that in mind, let us start with the letters of the day.




L E T T E R S
Another lengthy letter from my favourite JuMe


Lo and behold Matt, I have written once again!

This long-running discussion over the minimal presence of black people as major characters in RPGs is interesting, but easily explained: Japan is an incredibly homogenous country. While that does not account for the prevalence of white people in Japanese-developed RPGs, I suggest the defeat of Japan by the US might be a factor here. Moreover until good non-PC RPGs are consistently developed outside of Japan, we can look forward to a continuing paltry presence of blacks in RPGs. Japan's population has begun to dip, which in the rest of the heavily industrialized nations of the world has been met with immigration. The Japanese frown upon immigration, and are actually focusing on the development of robots to accomplish manpower-heavy tasks rather than let immigrants come in to do it. The nation currently has something like 127 million people, and about 1% are non-Japanese. Unless Japan changes its attitudes (unlikely) or is forced by some catastrophe to allow more immigrants to enter the nation (9.9 earthquake in the Sea of Japan...?) the nation will stay homogenous for a very long time. Now for another thought - are there actually more Native Americans than blacks in Japanese-developed games? Odd.

Matt

Odd indeed. To deal with that part for a second, and to ensure that no Japanese readers will take offense to your statements, I'm going to be sneaky and say that every single country in the world is bound to have some sorts of policies, foreign or domestic, that are a bit on the questionable side. Of course, we all hope that Japan will have a long and happy future, because without Japan, we lose just about ALL of our good games, and sushi, which would be absolutely tragic.

I would like to give a giant shout to Nintendo right now, urging them in no uncertain terminology to localize and distribute widely Mother 3! Thanks to Mother 2 being on SNES I have actually played through it twice and am eager for more. I eschew conventionality in favor of the bizarre cornucopia making up the Mother world!

Matt

ANOTHER VOTE, NINTENDO!!! Didja hear??!? MOTHER THREEEEEE!!! Don't forget about your poor little Game Boy Advance, which caused you ALL SORTS of success, just because you have some fancy new handheld and a retardedly-named console on the way! GRR.

Speaking of GBA-related items: aside from the (completely hidden thus far) ports of FFV and FFVI, is there anything left in the system's future? I have a great liking for the little system, which I originally purchased to get me through a horrible schedule at junior college wherein I had 2 and 3 hour gaps between classes and no desire to travel 30 minutes each way back home....

Matt

Evidently not. Nintendo has a habit of saying "Oh no no, there's lots of life left in our previous-gen system, so don't you worry about a thing." Then, they deposit it without a single thought, with only third-party releases with winning titles as "Ultra Football '07" and "Super Racer DX G" that no actual gamer would ever think of caring about. Of course, the system tanks shortly thereafter. I'm glad that Square Enix is pushing through and releasing FFV and VI after all; I was starting to worry that they wouldn't make the cut.

Thoughts on system launches: if you were Nintendo, would getting some sort of jump on the PS3 or waiting for the aftermath of Sony's publicity barrage be smarter? And PS3 availability - just how many systems can Sony hope to manufacture in time for a worldwide launch this November?

Matt

Hah, probably 400,000 or so, in order to "increase the hype". It seems to be all the rage these days to vastly underproduce in order to make sure that some little Bobbies and Sues wake up very disappointed children on Christmas morning, so that mommy and daddy go out and buy it and more upon its availability at last, out of guilt. Crooks.

If I were Nintendo, I'd be getting my ASS in gear and releasing it quickly, because they honestly have zero console support right now. Is there a single game coming out for Gamecube that anyone cares (heck, or even knows) about? Unlikely. I'm sure they'll piddle around until Sony grabs most of the attention, because you know that once the PS3 is launched, that's the only system anyone in the media will pay any attention to. Oh, the cynicism is boiling rapidly today!

I thought of a potential category in RPG difficulty not yet covered: poor translation. I think of Breath of Fire II when measuring bad translations, merely because I doubt I ever could have made my way through the thing without resorting to Gamefaqs. This was the option of last resort, mind you: and then Capcom kept the translation when porting it to GBA! Laziness such as this illustrates either that Capcom's localization staff was (perhaps still is) puny, or that they just didn't care.

Matt

Probably closer to the latter; I think that a lot of companies look at portable systems as a way of squeezing extra dollars out of games that might not deserve a re-release without some work done. It is certainly true that BoFII is a horribly-translated game, so I'm with you all the way here. The funny thing is, you can almost tell right from the start that it's going to be a bad game in that respect, just because the font-of-choice is so big, "stupid", and all-around bad. Don't I have a point here? It seems like all well-translated games have nice fonts, while terribly translated games just do not. Anyway, this is so tangential that I should just get back to your letter.

Lately I've been thinking of acquiring another console. For me, console acquisition comes with a catch: unless I break my own policy the console must be completely dead. On that note, I thought in passing of reaching out to that temptress known as eBay and seeking a Turbo-Grafx 16. Commentary is welcomed, particularly with regard to dead systems (I own a Genesis, Sega CD, Dreamcast, SNES, and the oft-referenced Saturn).

Matt

Bah, forego. I had some fun times with a Turbo-Grafx 16, mind you; my Grade 4 teacher, Mrs. Brown, had a nephew that worked for the company or something like that, and thus she brought in one of those systems so that people could play on rotation during recess and lunch hour. There was a weird platformer that was alluring to my nine-year-old self, and a pinball game that was cool. But, don't bother with buying the system, because it's been announced that the Wii will have TG16 games available for download, and wouldn't that be fun for all? Don't waste your money, because that system would probably be an expensive one to acquire at this point.

Since everyone seems to be sharing early RPG memories, I'll put an entry here. The mention of FFIV lo those many years ago has already been committed to the records, so I'll delve into my reintroduction to the genre in the year 2000. For whatever reasons, I didn't play much of anything in the late 90's (though this doubtless accounts for my somehow grabbing a 4.0 grade average junior year in high school). Then eBay beckoned and I acquired a SNES, and all was good. For a time. The knawing began in my psyche, compelling me to attempt what had heretofore gone untried by me: the realms lying beyond the action area. Super Mario RPG was the transition from action to RPG for me, and it was good.

Two things stand out about playing SMRPG the first time. One found me somehow unable to coordinate my actions with the Snifit trying to open the door into Booster's and Peach's wedding, and a friend kindly directing me to Gamefaqs for the very first time. The other found me hung up somewhere around Nimbus Land all night, when I had a speech to write and give the very next morning. That resolved itself via my giving one of the shortest speeches heard in the class after typing for perhaps 45 minutes in the morning. No, I did not succeed in attaining a sterling grade from that class - but I hated it anyway.

Matt

There, there... we all have those moments. Like me, where I couldn't sleep the night before my Algebraic Structures exam, so I played Game Boy until about six in the morning, when I went to bed for an hour and a half, woke up, and wrote pretty much the best exam of my third year. Kinda surprising, really.

Also, Super Mario RPG was a complete surprise for me, because I didn't really go online to find out about games by that point, nor did I get Nintendo Power. When I saw it on the Blockbuster shelf, my first reaction was "What the heck does 'RPG' stand for?" Yeah, I was already a massive RPG fan; I just didn't realize what the genre was actually called. Silly kiddies. The first night I rented it, I was so delightfully surprised that I got my mom to go and buy it for me as a belated Grade 8 graduation present.

I suppose the original Legend of Zelda could be classified as an RPG experience predating SMRPG, but since I played it on someone else's NES while I was dragged along to Oregon the experience sometimes slips the mind. Speaking of games no one ever mentions? Here's a good one; Sailor Moon: Another Story. I'm not about to claim it's superior to everything else, but as a reasonable game based on an anime (which in Japan is the equivalent of being movie or TV based) its success on any level is cause for celebration. But discussion of 11-year old Super Famicom games inculcates a pretty limited audience....

Matt

Enh, you've got me inculcated, at least. What does inculcate mean, anyway?

Speaking of music again? Allow me to throw the boss music of Earthbound into the mix! Too bad it only warranted a play at 'Your Sanctuary' battles, and not all of them either! On another system entirely Skies of Arcadia possesses some beautiful music that frequently sounds as if it was played on real instruments, which is always a plus for me (comes of having lots of musicians in the family, probably). And if you like Golden Sun's music, track down Shining Force III by any means necessary - it may be the 5 times I've played through all three scenarios talking, but some of the themes in there I place at the pinnacle of Motoi Sakuraba's work. Especially the battle music once your fighters become Apostles of Light near the end of Scenario 3 - it's just that great.

Matt

Ohh... come on! Earthbound didn't have the most incredible music throughout the entire game, but there were a few outstanding tracks that weren't in Sanctuary battles. Notably, uh, notably, uh, um... Winters! Musically, Winters was good, and so was Scaraba, as was the swampy Deep Darkness. Every time you people bring Earthbound up, I get a surge of wistful wanting, you bunch of meanies.

Also, I've always wondered about other games that Golden Sun's composer has done, because that guy (assuming he's a guy) is incredibly skilled at what he does. If there's any other game with the same sort of music, I'm all for tracking it down. Shining Force III, though? Wasn't that out on one of those awkward, non-Nintendo systems that I'm not as familiar with? Maybe I'll get lucky and it'll be available on the Wii download utility.

*crosses fingers*

Looks like I'm taking too much time again, so I'll end it thusly: having graduated UCLA and wandered about much of the greater metropolitan area, LA is quite capable of warping one's sensibilities forever. Even though I know this, I'll probably end up returning there once I have enough money to ensure that my credit card won't be maxed acquiring an apartment, because Eureka has all the negatives of small cities and none of the positives. Lengthy diatribe on Shining Force III's incomplete translation postponed, in favor of my quick statement that I wouldn't get to exercised over a game I didn't enjoy so thoroughly.

JuMeSyn

P.S. MST3K can take apart any crappy movie. Any. Movies with budgets were uncommon on the show but far from unseen. And the fact that Michael Bay movies aren't funny on their own is also no detriment - with the editing the show would provide combined with their commentary, even his most horrendous offerings could be made hilarious!


Matt

Indeedily. Well, Ju, thanks for your own commentary yet again. My only hope is that I come back from California without being too terribly scathed; from what I've heard, the air may be thick and oddly-coloured, but it should be fun nonetheless. Besides, from a sensibilities standpoint, I'm pretty much gone already anyway.



Get ready... for another random list of destiny!


Hi there Matt

I've got a rather odd question for you

What are your top 5 limited use only characters, you know those characters in RPGs that join your group just for one dungeon or one fight and are never under your control at the end of it all?

Just curious because I usually like characters like Laguna or General Leo and their paltry one ability and unchangable equipment just as much if not more so than the main cast

Arros Raikou


Matt

An interesting question, surely. I would have included a couple from Final Fantasy IV, but since that seems to not be the case anymore (and Tellah certainly wouldn't have made the cut anyway) I'll have to search elsewhere.

1. Edea from FFVIII! Why didn't they just let her come with the party for longer? That would have been a neat little shuffle, but nooooo, they made her leave after like twenty minutes of playtime. What a tease! Seifer's up there too.

2. Canaan from Xenosaga: Episode II! Again, it'd be cool to be able to control him in more than just that old memory, but it looks like that might be a possibility for Episode III. I can only hope!

3. Peach, from both Paper Marios. Do you KNOW how cool it would be to *surprise* suddenly have the ability to have control of her in some battles during her scenarios in each game? That alone would have made these great titles into even better ones, I'll tell you that much.

4. Kiefer, from Dragon Warrior VII. Why did they make him leave? More accurately, why did they replace him SO quickly after he left? It makes the game seem so "artificial" in progression; the DQ series could do very well to reinstate the wagon-based party-structure from the good old days.

5. Bosch, from Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter. It's neat to control him for the first little bit of the game, as I'm sure any of you who have played the game already would agree. It makes it all the more fun later on.

And that's about it! Thanks for the letter!



Ahh, more about Final Fantasy XII.


Q & A Host,

I admit it, I had beef with the FFXII demo at first, and I didn't really pick it up and play it again until 2 weeks later after I'd recieved it with DQVIII...However, when I did I found it to be a lot more enjoyable and I was actually excited to have this battle system implemented into a new Final Fantasy.

Matt

I think that my timeframe was somewhat similar; I played through the demo a couple of weeks after buying DQVIII, and when I played it, my first impression was largely negative. There are still some things that irritate me, but I'm looking at it very optimistically now.

I haven't played any MMO's that have a similar battle system to FFXII so I don't really get that complaint...I think even if I did though, it's not ACTUALLY an MMO. You're not going to have to wait for a party or leave when they feel like quitting or spend hours and hours trying to hoard a small amount of gold. Most importantly, you're not going to have to GRIND and GRIND for 3 days to gain...2 levels. I don't really compare FFXII to an MMO at all but if I did, I'd say FFXII probably has a majority of the fun aspects of an MMO and not the time-hoarding aspects that get you to pay to play.

Matt

Fair enough, and having not actually PLAYED an MMORPG, I can't really fairly judge it as I have. It's... how do I say it? "It felt like what I would have envisioned an MMORPG to feel like, even though I haven't played one." There.

My second playthrough of the demo though made me feel like the battle system was more fluid and made a lot of more sense than simply pressing the X button every time to just attack. I was in and out of battles quickly but not exactly easily either, I had to really watch what I was doing and change commands when appropriate. I actually enjoy watching my character doing the work for me until I decide to change his/her course of action and I can see how this type of system could potentially be more exciting once we get to keep our levels and progression in the North American version.

I rarely see any positive spins on the FFXII demo so I just thought I'd share...It IS just a demo though, I remember not being too enthralled about DQVIII due to the demo, and a majority of gamers will agree that it's a pretty good game.

Matt

Oh, I think you might be looking in the wrong place, just because there is a widely held optimism about this title. Most people were slightly taken aback by the demo, but since then, I think that most have warmed up to the new system a lot, and after hearing that the Japanese version is allegedly as good as it is, the majority of gamers are licking their lips when it comes to this game o' games.

My only hope is that it isn't overhyped by the time it gets here! Nothing is worse than being let down in the end, as I'm sure many of you will agree.

In any event, thanks much for writing in.



Wii are the champions!


So what's in a name anyway? A quick recap of what I have heard from other sites:

Why does Nintendo have to explain the name / Why did they pick a name they have to explain? / What names were knocked down so that Wii could stand?

Why, in the explanation, is there extremely "Fluffy" language? We're talking extreme fluff here.
This is a coverage ploy / Nintendo is trying to get attention.
Nintendo will / will not / will have to / will at E3 change the name.
Wiii means different things in different languages. For example, in French it means yes (Oui).
Let me hear the best Wii jokes you've heard. "We're going to play Wii (Wee) after school today!"

I didn't think product names were very important, but this proves me wrong. GameCube was not sooo bad (GameRectangularPrism, anyone), but Wii is just terrible. I wouldn't be surprised if: They change the name (E3 anyone?), or their sales are hurt (compared to the GCN release numbers).

Matt

Nah, I doubt that they'll change the name at this point, because they seem to like stirring the pot these days. If they change the name yet again, they risk looking like idiots or a company susceptible to public bullying; but you're right that if they don't, they could stand to lose a few sales. A few people have already told me that "They certainly wouldn't have something named a Wii in THEIR living room!" Well, as idiotic as that might sound, Nintendo should be aware of such sentiments.

Revolution would have been a good name, but I suspect that within a year or so, wii will be very used to the new name.

Also of note: Someone on the net pointed out that for console game systems, Nintendo has sold less units with each successive generation, starting with the SNES. What this guy didn't point out is that each successive generation has carried a higher price than the one before. The observation makes sense from a supply and demand point of view (higher price, less units). Also starting with this generation, there are more competitors, which tends to reduce sales for all players.

Matt

While it's true that Nintendo sales have declined over time, I wouldn't say that it's a pricing issue. I think that outside of a spike in the price of the N64, the Nintendo systems have always been introduced at about $200, if I remember correctly. Thus, taking into account inflation, the price has actually fallen somewhat over the years.

Number of competitors? Maybe, maybe not. More effective competition? Ah, there we go: There always have been several competitors, but it was only with the success of the Playstation that things started to crumble for Nintendo's non-handheld market share.

And while I'm talking about Nintendo: Why-oh-Why don't the display units at Best Buy have an actually good game on their Nintendo DS display units. I bought a GameBoy Advance because I had a good time playing SMB2 on a demo unit they had in the store. I have not had any such luck with the DS display units. The only games I have seen running are WarioWare Touched and Metroid Prime Hunters. WarioWare doesn't look like a fun game (I didn't even play it, it doesn't look fun). I did play Metroid, and had a bad experience. Basically they tried to shoehorn a first person shooter into a handheld and I don't think it worked too well. To be fair, there are four control schemes in the game and I only tried one. Why can't they demo a game that is actually good?

Flamethrower


Matt

Hmm, I was actually a bit surprised (in a good way) with the play control for Metroid Prime Hunters. You're right, though, I've always been disappointed with the games they have up and running; they should put up Super Princess Peach and, oh, with the New Super Mario Brothers coming out in a couple of weeks, they need to get that up and running too. There's nothing like an appeal to the old-school feel to spur some serious sales!





C L O S I N G
IN CONCLUSION:

Okay, I'm definitely ready to go outside for a lovely, long walk after I'm finished writing this thing, because the sunshine is just calling my name. Besides, I need to save some letters for Knighttrain, who will be stepping up to assist me in tomorrow's column!

Flashay!


Yesterday's questions weren't too bad! Well, that's not true; the first one was pretty easy, while the second was quite a bit more difficult. Specifically, or spifically, as Yangus might say, #186 referred to Earthbound, in which Sunstroke could be obtained by walking around too long in the desert. Out of the options available, the correct method of curing it would be to a) Use a Wet Towel, for 225 points.

Gaijin's question, #187, asked which monster corresponds to Theta in the Eternal Corridor. According to he, the answer would be c) Gigas, for another 200, but 400 for Gaijin himself, because he was such a dear and sent in the question. Thanks!

Question #188:
More Spices!-->Which of the following spices is closest to the name of a remarkably slow-in-the-head white mage who is reportedly the brains of his hometown? (260 points)

a) Pepper
b) Marjoram
c) Cumin
d) Basil
e) Cloves

Question #189:
Ask TalonX13!--> In Robotrek, what's interesting about one of the main antagonists? (175 points)

a) They have a Jack-o-lantern for a head
b) They are a pepper on a skewer
c) They have a rotten tomato for an attack
d) They have a pea brain
e) They have corn kernel teeth


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


Freedom! Sweet freedom! OK, tomorrow will be a column featuring myself and the interesting train of knights, Knighttrain, in order to wrap up the last of the 5,000-level co-hosts! I do hope that you have a remarkable life until next time you read this column.

Current topics to write in about before I go? Well, Final Fantasy XII has been a popular subject in recent days. What are your thoughts about it? Is it going to kick some ass, or does it deserve to be kicked in the ass? Also, here's one: does the change in the battle system mean that yes, FFXII is indeed better classed as an "Action RPG"? Please, discuss!

slimey@rpgamer.com
***Matt is craving Vitamin-D production.


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