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ASK KNIGHTTRAIN & MATT
Null Set, My Behind May 4, 2006

KnightTrain - 15:28 EST

GREETINGS FELLOW RPGAMERS. Today, I, Sir KnightTrain, shall be assisting our good friend Matt with his question and answering duties. I am honored to be entrusted with this task, and hope that I will not soil the goodness that Matt has worked to bring to this wonderful column.

On a random note, tomorow I will be going in to a summer job orientation to be a game tester at Nintendo of America in Redmond, Washington. They are looking for over 500 avid gamers to hire for a particular project. What that project is I hoped to find out tomorow. I have a sneaking suspicion that it will be to test games for the upcoming Wii (heehee, what a funny name). All I know is that I'll be charged with one game to play 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. And I'll get paid for it! Let's hope it's not a boring game.

Anywho, let's stop talking and start answering!!!





L E T T E R S
Isn't it fun when they address you personally?


Good day Matt....and Knighttrain to I guess,

KnightTrain

Well I guess it's me then. Hey, how ya doin.

You brought up an interesting note about Riviera, comparing it to Shadowgate. That prompted a memory of my wee childhood. The first time I rented and played Shadowgate, I was VERY discouraged when I got into the 2nd room from the beginning and was promptly barricaded by a locked door...with no key to be found. And since I rented it I had no instruction manual to fall back on. I was very frustrated for the next two days as I aimlessly wandered back and forth between the two rooms hoplessly searching for a key. When I returned it I was very displeased and $3 poorer, which at this time in my life might as well have been $1000. I didn't find out until a few months later, when I saw a Nintendo Power review, that the secret key was in the darn skull over the front door. I looked back on that and had a good laugh.

KnightTrain

Well though I have never played said game, I do have a somewhat similar story. Years ago during MY wee childhood my neighbor (who told me about the game tester position I'm hoping to get) borrowed Earthbound from his rpg junkie grandma, and every other day or so I would go to his house to play it. I was going through it without too much difficulty, but when I got to Moonside, I ran into some serious trouble. For SIX months we could not figure out how to get out of that trippy pseudo-metropolis. Yes we had the players guide, but for some reason I could not decipher the instructions. I finally figured out after six months that there was one npc that I kept neglecting to talk to. (Hehe, that reminds me of that one "neglectful" delivery service in that same game that neglected to deliver you the yogurt maker, or something like that. What an awesome game that was. Mother 3, Nintendo! Don't let me down...again).

Also, I brought up a topic but neglected to expand on it further. With Wild Arms 3, I voiced my displeasure with the ending. What, if any, games have you played that you thought hit on all cylinders...but their engine blew up in the last corner of the last lap? (No...it's not obvious that I live in Indy and it's the month of May...500 time Woo Hoo) Another one I feel this way about is Shadow Madness. However, I'm not sure that one really ever hit on all cylinders.

KnightTrain

Yes. Just some months ago I brought up that same topic with the rather bland ending of Radiata Stories. I would say that that is definitely a game that fits into your analogy. Awesome game, but the ending combusted. However I think I heard that the game has multiple endings, so I really should give it another chance to see if it redeems itself ending-wise. Another game I thought had a dissapointing ending was LoZ: Majora's Mask. It never explained who Link was searching for. I know someone said that the instruction booklet said it was Navi, so I guess a better question is: Why? One of those "decide for yourself" endings I guess.

(Possible Spoiler below...but if it is you're missing out on one of the best Dragon Warriors ever)

On the topic of game music...I love the opening trumpet fanfares from ALL Dragon Warriors, it lets me know that only great things are set to come, and the finale themes for Dragon Warriors 3 and 4, and the battle music against Zoma in 3 was pretty dern good too. I also love all Mega Man music, however the best in my opinion is the final battle with Dr. Wily in Mega Man 4.

(End Possible Spoiler)

KnightTrain

Ah, music. It doesn't really break a game if it's bad, but it sure as hell can make one if it's good. I also agree with you on the adventurous sound that is the Dragon Warrior/Quest fanfare. I for one am a huge fan of Uematsu. Now that guy nows how to make music like nobody's business.

Matt

Agreed. It's too bad that Uematsu is choosing to step out of Square Enix in the future, though who can blame him? He's bound to be a very successful man (well, he already is). He and Koichi Sugiyama, the composer of that melodious Dragon Quest music, are definitely two of my favourite RPG composers; is there any coincidence that these two series in particular are so highly acclaimed? Maybe it is just a coincidence...or, perhaps not.

Anyway, that's all I've got today...I hope my call for people writing in helped get you some new good e-mailers.

TalonX13
(Secretly plotting more SOCK questions)


Matt

There are always new people writing in, and it's encouraging to see more and more people come forward with what's stirring in their minds. Thanks very much for your letter, Talon, and I hope to hear from you again soon!



Uh...


Hey there Q&A host!

Besides coming from Japan, what do you thing makes a RPG (or really a game of any other genre) Japanese?

Thanks,
Spagnutty


Matt

What an odd question. Overabundant presence of sushi? Big white flags with red dots showing up every here and there? Being able to equip a kimono or katana?

In all seriousness, though, most of us know what you're exactly what you're talking about; some games just FEEL more Japanese than others do. A prime example of a difference, to me, is apparent between Episodes I and II of Xenosaga. II was just a hell of a lot more "Japanese-feeling" than I, in my opinion. Why? It had something to do with the character styles; Jin isn't exactly dressed in typical western garb (and heck, he carried that katana), and some of the music in the game is distinctly Japanese-sounding. There's not as much of that feel in Episode I, for some reason. Does anyone agree with me?

So, I think it really comes down to presentation. A game can feel more Japanese depending on the music, the graphical style, and the characters in it. I think I could come up with a few more examples of games if I thought hard enough, and indeed, one comes to mind immediately. Breath of Fire IV, hands down. Compare that game to others in the series, and it just feels completely different, with a much more Japanese flair of sorts. Then, just listen to the soundtrack, look at some of the character designs (Scias and Ursula, anyone?) and it becomes very clear.

An odd question, Spagnutty, but an interesting one once you peel down a couple of layers!



Even MORE about Final Fantasy XII


For this round, I wish to use my Point Tripler that I got last Thursday.
I want to activate it... now!

Question #186: a) Use a Wet Towel
Question #187: c) Gigas

Okay, I hope that'll do, and thanks! Now, onto my letter.

Dear Matt

Well, I haven't played the FFXII demo (due to my lack of DQVIII, which is something that I need to change soon), but I have seen some gameplay movies on Gametrailers.com. It kind of looks like a compromise between a true turn-based system with a more-in-demand action system. This doesn't bother me much, but I have to, HAVE to know two very important things if I'm to play this game well:

KnightTrain

Well I have played the demo, so let's see if I can help.

1. Is it still possible to move while you are waiting for your turn? I know that you can't attack, but is your character at least able to move around to avoid enemy attacks while you wait? Think of how, in turn-based RPGs, people sometimes complain about how your characters just seem to stand there and let themselves get hit without moving. Well, since this game is action-based, it would be beneficial if you could move away from enemies if you see them advancing or attacking.

KnightTrain

Your character is able to move, yes. But I don't think it's very beneficial. From what I remember from the demo, me moving my character around didn't stop me from getting hit. Your other party members kinda move around too, but like I said it doesn't seem to matter much. So it's pretty much like any Final Fantasy battle system where you input commands, except that it's more like any other action rpg where your allies do stuff on their own. But it's not a button mashing game by any means. Of course, things might be different in the final release; we shall see.

2. Also, can your character block with a shield, or at least parry with a weapon, via command through a button press? Is blocking possible in the game's controls? This is something that is almost never seen in turn-based RPGs (Mario RPG being my only known exception), but is absolutely CRUCIAL in an action RPG. What turned me off to Dynasty Warriors games is how you can be surrounded by enemies, and without a block command at all, this really sucks, and I would hate to find myself in that situation in a Final Fantasy game.

KnightTrain

Not that I saw in the demo. But like I said above, It really doesn't matter much since it's pretty much still a turnbased system with the added ability of being able to move the main character around the battlefield. I guess it's kinda hard for me to explain, really. I'd suggest trying out the demo for yourself. Yes, you'll have to buy Dragon Quest VIII to do so, but that in itself is definitely in no way a bad purchase. I'm sure Matt would agree.

Matt

Oh, I agree.

Basically, these questions boil down to, "Since Square-Enix is making this an action game, are they going to take advantage of the fact that it is action-based and introduce new action-specific systems that improve battle? Or are they just going to stick to their turn-based system in an action environment, and potentially kill the game by making it way too hard and even unrealistic to play?" I don't think that it's too much to ask for your characters to be able to move and block in an action RPG, so I really hope that the answer "yes" of these two questions.

Matt

Trust me, it's not the difficulty I'm worried about; it's the lack of it, since Final Fantasy has tended down that path in recent installments...

KnightTrain

Yeah, I understand your concerns. I was pretty taken aback by the new system, but it wasn't too hard to get used to. All and all, I've decided that it probably won't be that bad in the end. We've all experienced different battle systemes in the past, and this just happens to be yet another new one. Hopefully it won't be too dissapointing when all of us English speakers get to finally try it out.

And about the name Wii, I'm with you in doubting it'll change anything. Upon learning the new name, those who have already decided that they will love the console will keep on loving it, and those who already decided to hate it will keep on hating it. Don't you just love that fanboyish nature of loving/hating something well before you know much of anything about it?
-_-

Alan


KnightTrain

Ah yes, the unfortunate illness fanboyites that plagues too many gamers these days. Symptomes include:

- Hating any Final Fantasy before or after VII simply because "it's not FF7"

- Using phrases such as, "OMG FF7 IS TEH SH** FF12 = STUPID!!!"

- Excessive use of circular reasoning when promoting their love of

certain games. "Why do I love FF7. Duh . . . because it's FF7.

- Excessive use of a particular game as the standard for every other game in existence. "It is not/will never be as good as FF7"

Really I could go on, but I won't.

Anyway, as far as Wii is concerned, I'm not too bothered by the name change. I do think it was an extremely odd move to change it to something so simple and unintelligent. Maybe it's a trend these days. Want to know what my home state of Washington's new motto is? "Say WA"!!! It's like that thing you say to someone when you didn't understand what they just said. The first time I heard that was the state motto, I was like, "say wha...!?" That's what it is, all right. No joke. I mean, come ON! Could they not think of anything better? Oh well, I liked the name "Revolution" a whole lot better. But that's ok, I'm still going to get one eventually, despite the odd name.



Time for some button-pushing!


Ok Matt,

I'm still really excited about Final Fantasy XII, but I'm really tired of the whole Action RPG debate. It is NOT, I repeat NOT an Action RPG. Action RPGs are games like Zelda, Alundra and Kingdom Hearts. Battles are not only in real-time as FFXII is, but they require some sort of button mashing for attacking. Even in Active Mode, FFXII is NOT that. Action RPGs require timing and precise positioning for combat, FFXII does NOT. Yes, it is very different than anything we've seen in the past and it closer to an MMORPG in terms of combat, but it's still NOT an Action RPG. NOT. NEVER. NO WAY.

Sorry, this is one thing that I'm quite passionate about.

- Macstorm


Matt

I can definitely see why someone would be tempted to call it a turn-based RPG. Certainly, there is a necessary wait between each command, so effectively, everyone has to "take their turn". However, I still assert that it's at the very least an interesting blend of the two, and that it has certain screaming-out action-RPG elements. Sure, you have to wait between turns, but you have the added tasks of moving around allies/positioning, camera-swiveling, and there's not actually any turns being taken on the battlefield when a monster can run up and lash at you in the middle of one of your own attacks on another monster, at the very same time that one of your allies is launching a Blizzara spell at another enemy altogether.

If you're still not convinced, look at it this way: In Secret of Mana, the "canonical" action RPG, you also had to wait between attacks to place any attacks effectively. Sure, you COULD attack between turns, but you'd do only nominal damage if you did. Remember the percent-meter that builds up after every attack? Final Fantasy XII's system is largely similar to that! You could argue on the same level, then, that Secret of Mana is a turn-based RPG. Clearly, though, it's not.

Mwee, hee, hee... I only hope that I've managed to instill a little bit of doubt into your passion, Mac! Of course, the key here is that it doesn't really matter at the end of the day; Final Fantasy XII is Final Fantasy XII, Secret of Mana is Secret of Mana, and labels are largely artificial ways of grouping games.



Time for some button-pushing!


Hey Matt; guess what. I don't have a question for you this time around. I'm just here to rant and rave about how incredibly awesome Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children is!

KnightTrain

Well maybe that's why Matt gave me this one to answer. Haha, just kidding. Fire away with the rantings.

Tuesday the 25th came, and I received a call from GameCrazy. They gave me the delightful news that my DVD had arrived. I rushed into town that very afternoon, and after picking up a few things from wal-mart, (and noting with slight uneasiness that they did not have the movie in their DVD section), I went to GameCrazy.

I looked around and did not see it on the shelves. I had it reserved, so I wasn't worried, but I wondered what the deal was. I went and asked the dude behind the counter for my movie, and he reached into a small stack of Advent Children DVD's and gave me one. He informed me that they only got in as many copies as they had pre-orders for, and on top of that, they were one of the four retailers selling it in TN. (Circuit City, Radio Shack and Toys-are-us were the other three.) Somewhat strange, don't you think? But oh well. Good on me for reserving my copy.

KnightTrain

I suppose it is strange, especially since they were selling it at Borders in my state. (Borders is a Book/Music/Movie store, but you probably know that.) I actually stopped by Borders last Friday to see if they had the movie since I had a gift card. They didn't. The lady told my that they, and other places in the area, sold out the first day. 'Course I wasn't disappointed since I have already seen in on my sister's imported Japanese copy. But I'll get one eventually.

That night, I watched it; along with all of the special features. The movie itself I've seen, (albeit in Japanese), and of course, it was excellent. Perhaps somewhat unnappealing to people outside of the FF7 fanbase, but any FF7 fan will love this movie, I guarantee it. It sports some of the best CGI seen anywhere, ever. It has some of the most best-looking, over-the-top action sequences I've ever seen. The voicework, for the most part, captures the characters perfectly and is excellently done, for both the English and Japanese tracks. And the story, while it is rather small, is a wonderful addition to what we saw in FF7. All in all, it retains the spirit of the game, and I don't think we can ask for much more.

The DVD also sports some extras. While they are rather slim, they are quite entertaining. The Reminiscense of Final Fantasy VII is basically a refresher course for people who may not have played the game in 7, 8 years. It goes over the key moments of the game and runs roughly 20-30 minutes. It's quite a good addition, and it made me want to play the game again. Why they had to show the Japanese version of the game is beyond me, though. (Just put on the subtitles.) A making-of featurette, trailers for upcoming FF7 games, deleted scenes, and some other stuff round out the extras.

On the subject of the trailers, they included a trailer for the PSP game, Crisis Core. Apparently it tells the story of Zack and Cloud during the time they spent together in the Shinra military. The burning of Nibelheim seems to be a key moment of the game as well. The trailer showed no gameplay, just an anime video, but it looked AMAZING. I'm sold, and I want to know if this is coming to the U.S. Any news? Please, if it doesn't get here, I may have to learn Japanese, and I had a hard enough time with Spanish.

KnightTrain

Japanese definitely is a hard language to learn, but it is fun. I took three years of it in highschool and one refresher quarter in college, but I'm nowhere near fluent. It's been a while since these classes (seems like it anyway). I can still read hiragana and katakana pretty well though, but only a few kanji symbols can I still remember. Both hiragana and katakana are the two Japanese styles of expressing their different syllables, and kanji is the artistic symbols that they have about 3 to 5 thousand of. Anyway, let's hope that you won't have to learn the entire language in order to play a game. That would be some dedication, though.

Okay, I guess that was a question. Sorry. But while we're on the subject of questions...I just read that Yoshitaka Amano has confirmed he's working on FF13. I know that he's only done concept art since FF7, but what would you think of him doing the character designs again? After all, if Mr. Nomura is busy directing it, (which he confirmed some time ago,) then maybe it could happen. Who's character designs do you prefer? Personally, I somewhat prefer Nomura's, but I'm beginning to miss Amanos', and wouldn't mind seeing them again.

KnightTrain

Amono has done a good job so far, so I don't see any problem with him doing the concept art again. I pretty sure though that he's done art for Final Fantasy well before the 7th game. I remember seeing his art in the Nintendo Powers covering FFIV and VI. Pretty wild style he has sometimes.

Whose character designs do I prefer? Well I've never really thought about it much. Toriyama has done a great job with the Dragon Quest series all right. I especially liked the designs in DQVIII. Other than that, I really can't say.

See ya later, and please, buy Advent Children. You'll be doing yourself a favor.

-Oliver.


KnightTrain

According to an earlier column, it seems that Matt already did. And I do plan on buying it sometime soon.

Matt

Indeed, Ollie, and thanks for writing in about it! While Advent Children wasn't the best movie of all time by any means, it was definitely interesting and exciting to finally see the aftermath of the original plot. My favourite parts were getting to see familiar characters, of course; Cid's portrayal deviated most from what I had in my mind's eye, I think. The music was a real treat, too!





C L O S I N G
IN CONCLUSION:

And of course, before I progress, we must all turn to KnightTrain and thank him for a very good job on today's column! The opportunity to participate comes along every so often for anyone wanting to get involved in the competition, and it's easy to do. So, if you ever feel like taking the chair besides me for a day and doing this yourself, just get involved; it's really easy! Simply send answers in on any day along with your nickname, and if you want, include a letter along with your guesses, too. You get points even if you get answers wrong, so you can't really lose, and if co-hosting doesn't inspire you, maybe some of the free stuff will; I get back from E3 in just over a week, and there's much promise of free goodies in store!

Flashay!


Yes, yes; some of you have caught me red-handed. Of course, while playing through Radiata Stories, I've definitely been inspired to come up with some related SOCK-material. I promise I'll take a break from those questions soon. But, #188 was definitely from Radiata Stories, and the white mage in question was Clive, whose name is definitely closest to e) Cloves, good for 260 points.

#189 was TalonX13's first question, and asked about Robotrek. According to him, one of the main antagonists a) has a Jack-o-lantern for a head. Getting that one right yielded 175 points, and 350 for Talon, who submitted the question. Thanks!

Question #190:
Ask Alexander!-->What old computer game does Puffy reference to if you call her "Murphy"? (250 points)

a) Zork
b) Wizardry
c) Ultima
d) King's Quest
e) The Bard's Tale

Question #191:
Ask KnightTrain!-->According to the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, what must one do in order to fly? (220 points)

a) turn into a pigeon
b) throw yourself at the ground and miss
c) wrap your trusty towel around your neck like a cape
d) think like a 747
e) rope a couple of bald eagles and hang on


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


One last column separates me from Los Angeles. If you have any last requests for, uh, anything, before I go, please let them be known now, or forever hold your peace!

Never worry, too, for Josh has taken Tiptail's place as the semi-permanent replacement Weekend Q&A host! Hopefully, then, you all like him; I guarantee that as malicious or evil as he'd like to seem, he's just full of love and niceness in reality. <3

So, what do you want to talk about for tomorrow? I've got unanswered mail about a score of different subjects in my inbox, so feel free to add to it, writing in about anything that might be on your mind. Your thoughts on the Mother series, Action RPGs, ESRB ratings, and just about anything else are certainly especially welcome!

Until tomorrow, I shall now depart. Thanks for reading. ;)

slimey@rpgamer.com
***Matt is getting butterflies about his flight!


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