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Fasten Your Seat Belts, Please. May 5, 2006

Matt - 15:05 EST

SO, THIS IS IT! I've talked about it since last fall, and miraculously, the day has come. Even more miraculously, I'm still going strong at RPGamer, and still more miraculously, they want me along with them to some electronics show (I don't even know what it is, really) across the continent. I hate to inform you all, but it would definitely be an unlikely prospect for me to update much at all next week, since I'll be busy with other things, as I hope you'll understand. I'll be sure to tell you all about it upon my return, though! Not only will I hopefully be better informed about upcoming games and systems, but I'll also be able to answer you such other tantalizing details as "Who is the best-dressed RPGamer staff member?" and "What's it like to share a hotel room with ____?" Oh yes, the answers to these perplexing puzzles are not far away now!!

Everyone sing all at once: "Happy birrrrth-day to you! Happy birrrrth-day to YOU! Happy bir-thday-dear-BIG WOOOOOOOOOOK.... Happy birrrrrth-day toooooo youuuuuuuu!" But, don't do it for a month.

Hey Matt!

I'm giving an open call to you and all of your readers. I have a birthday coming up next month, and I'm looking for game ideas to suggest as presents (and potentially use my regular gift card on). Paper Mario just went on discount, so that's a pretty sure thing for me. The new Shadow Hearts is another likely one. But, after that, I'm pretty open minded.

I tend to like my games heavy on story and characters, although I certainly don't mind good gameplay. I've got a PS2 and a GameCube, so those would be the most effective systems to suggest games for.


Well, that's no problem, really, since there aren't really any games for any other systems anyway. You're not going to get any recommendations outside of those two in the first place, with a rather strong emphasis on the "Sony" part. Ah, I suppose there are the portables, but there are like three RPGs of varying mediocrity for the DS thus far, as well as a few craptacular ones for the PSP.

I've got a couple ideas in my head, but I'd kind of like to see what the input from everyone else is, in case something has slipped through the cracks (in my mind). Keep in mind, a lower price is a very good thing, so don't be afraid to dig back a bit in those two systems. This will probably be the majority of my buying until Christmas, so cost-effectiveness is important. I'm buying a condo (wow, I'm buying something that requires use of the hundred thousands place in the price), and won't be doing a lot of random buying any time soon.

Thanks everyone!



To start: If you like "heavy-on-the-story" games and haven't yet tried Xenosaga, this might be the perfect chance to. It certainly isn't for everyone, but the people that like it tend to like it a lot. I think you can snag at least the first episode for a smallish price by this point, and perhaps the second episode as well.

As for other suggestions, I leave the floor to you, my readers! Tell this Wook what to play!

My HP Photowhatever is burning with desire!

Hey Matt,

First off I would have to say #190 b) Wizardry (Murphy's Ghost baby!) and #191 b) throw yourself at the ground and miss.

The big day is coming. Flying isn't nearly as confusing as you fear it may be. Hope you have tons of fun and take tons of pictures. Live the dream!

Xlash the dwarf berserker


Truly, E3 is a great opportunity that not many people get, and I'm absolutely aghast that I'm heading there. One year ago, I was quite literally just as much of an outsider-looking-in as most of you probably are; I was excitedly turning to RPGamer day after day to tell me about Dragon Quest VIII and the Nintendo Revolution, among other things. Little did I suspect at that point that I'd be in on the action by now!

Lesson to learn, though? If you think you're never going to get to go, be optimistic. You never know what things life might throw at you during the next year.

My fears are minor, really; I'm mostly afraid that my luggage will get lost or that some other nightmarish thing like that will happen. Unless I get held up at customs early Monday morning at the Detroit border for some ridiculous reason, I should be in good shape.

Oh, no one asked me about MY E3 wishlist... until now!

Dear Matt,
What are you most looking forward to seeing at E3 this year?

Is it PS3? Wii? or that gem of a game you weren't expecting that always seems to debut at E3? something specific you like, DQ perhaps?



Actually, Dragon Quest isn't at the top of my list of hopes, for a few reasons. The Dragon Quest Heroes game looks... bizarre, anyway, like it might not even be an RPG in the first place. I don't even understand the screenshots, so I have no hope at being able to judge at this point. Dragon Quest Yangus is looking less likely to appear at the show, and I'm "meh" on that subject anyway. Dragon Quest IX, of course, is least likely of all to be presented, mostly because I'm sure that Square Enix wouldn't want to take the limelight off of their star of the show, Final Fantasy XII. If it were to be exhibited, though, I'd be elated to nigh-incomprehensible levels, for sure.

My dream for the show would definitely be to hear about an official localization for Mother 3, but I'm really not expecting much on that front, as most of you probably gathered through my rantings and ravings all week long. Hearing the news about the tired, bitter creator of the series in THIS DEPRESSING NEWS BIT is a huge letdown, too. HUGE. Such a great series. *sigh*

An unlikely surprise that I'd personally love to see would be a follow-up to Capcom's semi-deserted Breath of Fire series, of which the last game was absolutely fantastic and remarkably unique. To see a sixth would be a delightful surprise, though admittedly unlikely.

From the other side of Kingdom Hearts II, reporting!

Hey Matt,

Iím not gonna try to convince you personally to play Kingdom Hearts 2 (I can very well understand that itís not a game that would appeal to everyone), but I have to argue with a couple of things that were said about it by the ďotherĒ Matt, if only to give another point of view for everyone thinking about playing the game.


Aw, come on! You can try your darnedest to convince me; think of how hard I try to convince everyone to play the games I like to play! You might not be successful in your endeavour, sure, but I like hearing points of view that contrast with my own, and by no means should Q&A be a one-sided mass of homogeneity ruled dictatorially by myself. Hmmm, actually, that sounds kinda nice. Let me rethink that...


First of all, I find the game to be significantly more challenging than the first one because of what I call the ďconditional battlesĒóthe ones where you have to defeat the monsters in a certain amount of time or before someone/something sustains a certain amount of damage. Iíve failed several times before achieving success in many of them. And several of the boss battles require you to stay on your toes (all the fans out there know what I mean when I say ĎDemyx.í)



Sure, an occasional boss or challenge is one thing, but I guess that what I'm trying to say is that it's a general "level of challenge" thing, to me. The overall simplistic and generally repetitive (from what I've heard!) battle system is unattractive. Even if a boss or two are difficult, how much do you actually change your strategy to tackle them, outside of "just being more on the ball with healing" and such? I know that when my brother played through the original, it seemed as if every battle was approached in exactly the same manner. That, to me, indicates that a different sort of challenge level is low, which isn't necessarily a bad thing; indeed, it could be a good thing for many people, and obviously is, since so many people do, of course, love the games. Now look! You made me write a sentence with eight commas and a semi-colon...good job!


Second, I LOVE the addition of Organization XIII as a villain. I think itís what the first game is lacking, and I think itís the main reason I liked Chain of Memories as much as I did. In fact, I think that playing Chain of Memories is necessary for understanding what makes the members such great villains: theyíre mainly concerned with looking out for themselves and donít care how their actions affect others. They even go so far as to betray their fellow members. If anything is lacking in them, itís the story behind the groupís formation and how its later members were recruited (which I think would make a great story for those other KH games that Nomura mentioned creating.)



Absolutely. The storyline is reportedly its very strongest virtue, and even the original was at least good in that regard as well. I think that that specifically is what manages to snag so many gamers into playing the games, and definitely, it's what made people await the second so eagerly, and the day that the third is announced, I'm sure that the same will be true again. A strong plot is definitely an important part of RPGs.

Donít get me wrong, the game has many faults: itís too linear, the worlds do lack the vastness and challenge of exploration that many of us enjoyed in the first game, Aerithís voice actor...but if anything is holding the game back, itís (Iím sorry to say) the Disney worlds. As in the first game, theyíre rehashes of what happens in the movies, and Iím at the point where if I have to fight Genie Jafar one more time, I donít think Iíll be able to watch Aladdin (my favorite Disney movie) for the rest of my life. On a positive note though, the Disney worlds only take a few hours to complete, so you can breeze through them.


Well, that's too bad, I guess. Let me just insert here that linearity is not necessarily a terrible thing in RPGs; while nonlinearity is currently a little bit of a popular idea, and is seen quite often in a variety of games, many games, old and new, have been very successful at delivering a linear experience with grace. Examples? Riviera, which I'm playing through now, is fantastic. Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter, (which I always seem to not talk about for a week or two, but then all of a sudden about four times in one column)... and how about Final Fantasy X, anyone?

Linear worlds, however, are a different issue altogether, and I suspect that that might be something you're referring to when you say they aren't as complex. It's been a very common complaint among many fans, even big ones, of the game, so you're not alone there.

Also, I think the music has improved, except for the reuse of the Hollow Bastion, Olympus, and Agrabah themes. Iím definitely getting sick of those.

Finally, if anyone out there is thinking about playing KH2 but hasnít played Chain of Memories, go play CoM first if you want the whole story. Donít listen to those people that tell you that you donít need to play it. And donít be discouraged by the reviews that said it was way too difficult. If I got through all those rough Organization battles, I know it canít be THAT hard. In fact, Matt, did you play this one? The card battles were an interesting change of pace and maybe youíd like it.

Anyway, I think thatís about it.



Well, I must admit that the complete change of pace was surprising to me. Largely, the game went unliked by a large part of the Kingdom Hearts community, in part because it was so different, and in part because it was rather difficult, if I have my facts straight. (Given the quality of my memory, though, they're probably about as straight as I am.)

No, I haven't played the game, so I'm sorry to disappoint you. I'd almost go as far as to say, however, that IF I did play a single Kingdom Hearts game, that would be the one that I'd try, mostly because it's different and I'd like to be able to form a concrete opinion on it. That's something I can't do, really, because I've never even "met" the game first-hand.

At any rate, Laurie, thanks much for reading the column, and please enjoy your game. Kingdom Hearts II has been a fantastic sequel for a lot of people out there; remember, too, that every game has its flaws (even my precious DQ, I'd be the first to admit!)

What is in a music file?

I was just wondering about this page:

FFVII is an old game, and you guys are posting the music for free downloading, what is the state of the copyright on this music? I'm just asking because I'd like to use it, but I could not find any info on your page.



This is the difference between MIDI music and MP3 music, you see. MIDI music is made up of themes that are not directly from the game, but are approximations of in game music composed by fans or other interested parties. I'm pretty sure that there isn't any threat of copyright issues in MIDI music. On the other hand, MP3 files might, since they're almost certainly taken right from a soundtrack somewhere; of course, MP3 files are far more detailed and fun to listen to, since they're accurate and generally much higher in quality. I like to think that MIDI files are fun to listen to in advance of receiving a new soundtrack of your own. I personally listened to all sorts of Final Fantasy VII MIDIs after I rented it for the first time, falling in love with it enough again to give it another rental some months later. Anyway, take that information and run with it!

Ask a silly question...

Two Ts enquires "Is there a single game coming out for Gamecube that anyone cares (heck, or even knows) about?"

So, you're not buying into those Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess reports then? Yes, I suppose they could still drop the GC support and go with just the Wii, but it doesn't sound a very sensible thing to do.


Ah, I thought that the going rumour was that Twilight Princess was to be released alongside the Wii, now, and that it will use the new controller too. Maybe I was dreaming, though. The game has, after all, been rather miragelike, with us slowly plodding towards it, only to be met with more images that we can't touch, etc.

Oh, and personally I would also care to see "Baten Kaitos 2" get a release. (I liked the original enough to over look its flaws.) Otherwise I can only think of some multi-platform games (like "Super Monkey Ball Adventure"), but those probably don't count (and none of them would be RPGs either!).


Okay, sure; that might be nice, I'll admit. Hopefully we'll hear more details soon, because it's been a good four months since we've had much news on that prospective title.

I guess that would also lead to the question of: What PS2 releases are you looking forward to, in the run up to the PS3? (Obviously FFXII, but what else will you make time for?)


Disgaea II and Xenosaga: Episode III would be the current frontrunners for me, in this department. Admittedly, while the upcoming releases list is long for the PS2, there aren't very many titles that "sing" to me at this time. Maybe there will be soon, though, I dunno.

As for no one mentioning "Sailor Moon: Another Story". It probably is safe to say that most Japanese-only RPGs won't receive much attention from many people. (Unless of course, there is some chance of them doing an English release.) When you read the Japandemonium column, you have to wonder how many of those games you will ever hear from again!

(Sorry. I would have said something about the actual game itself, but my memory of it seemed like a jigsaw with pieces missing by the end!)


Yes, indeed; it makes me wish that the Japanese/North American barrier wasn't so insurmountable. If an ocean wasn't enough, the language certainly is, and I'm not about to start importing games that look attractive but are incomprehensible in my mother (and father?) tongue. Oh well, such is the curse that we've all come to live with as devoted RPGamers. Thanks for writing in!

The bird flu is coming! It might be infectious, too...

What's interesting to me about FFXII is how little I care. I'm treating it like an inevitability: I know it's coming, I know I'll get it when it does, but until then I'm just going to hang out over here and have a sandwich or something. In short, I'm treating it like bird flu.

I know little bits and pieces about it, and I saw a very pretty unplayable demo of it at Gamestop or something once. But that's about it. It's pretty much set in stone that any FF game that comes out that does not require monthly fees will be purchased and played by me.


That's the mindset of most of us, for sure. I can bitch and complain all I want about some elements of the new Final Fantasy, but until Square Enix actually produces a terrible game, I'll quite probably keep buying them, unless I'm completely bankrupt, which would be sad.

I don't know what it is; maybe because it's been so long since a new FF game (FFX-2 continues to not count) that I just can't work up the enthusiasm. Or maybe because it's been in development for so long that I almost don't believe it exists. I'm so used to it NOT being around, that I'm having trouble picturing it actually BEING around.

I mean, Xenosaga III? Totally psyched. Shadow Hearts 3? Itching to play it; it's all but burning a hole in my game-storage thing, where it sits as I finally wind down this stupid Musashi sequel - the worst kind of sequel, too: the one that only makes you wish you were playing the original. Silent Hill 5 (Hey, you know what I love?) would be a no-brainer.

FFXII?'ll come when it comes. And I'll get it. And I'll probably rather like it. maybe it's not like bird flu.


There are some interesting parallels though, aren't there? Final Fantasy XII started in Japan, and guess where the bird flu originated? Eastern Asia!! Umm... yeah, both might be "infectious". OK, this is lame, and I don't have any other real parallels, so I give up on this comparison. Sorry, guys, I have failed you again.

Oh, and because I loved this idea, my top 5 limited use characters, no particular order:

1. Orin, from DW4. I mean, come on. Playing as just Nara and Mara in that game was a brutal chore until Orin came along, with his powerful attacks and lock-breaking abilities. I always favor the warriors over the magic users (physical attacks are infinite, whereas MP needs to be restored. Also, breakable weapons are TO SUCK), and Orin was a breath of fresh air in that chapter.

2. Biggs and Wedge from assorted FFs. Although really, I should say Vicks and Wedge, because they're only playable in FF6. I like them. I like the implicit Star Wars reference. I liked their Magitek armor (and they were the first glimpse we got of it!). I liked their faceless storm-trooper quality. And I was sad to see them obliterated in the magical wake of Terra's contact with her first Esper.

Farewell, Vicks and Wedge. You were enjoyed.

3. Sephiroth, FF7. I shouldn't even really count him, but the hell with it. Sure, you don't control him. But the beauty of watching him carve into those giant monsters, and the loving little touch of having Cloud's character be even weaker than he was when you started the game (suggesting not only his limited experience at the time, but also the genetic enhancements he would soon undergo) makes that brief flashback one of my favorite moments in the game. Plus, it's always nice to remember the guy before he went crazy.

4. General Leo from FF6. Oh my god, I'd plain forgotten his name. I had to look it up. I was thinking "General Lee," but I KNEW that was wrong. In any case, I loved Leo. I loved his tortured, Colin Powell-y stance, where you just KNEW he was a pretty good guy who had unfortunately ended up working on the side of pure evil.

Plus: shock = ROCK.


Ah, General Leo has got to be the "Number One Answer" among RPGamers here, because he's often touted as the coolest character in the entire game, even though you don't really see that much of him in FFVI. Yeah, it'd be neat to be able to control him too, but who knows what bizarre twists the remake could bring into play! Watch for FFVI for the GBA later this year.

Sephiroth was really cool. I remember the first time I played the game, I was in awe of his coolness during the few battles that I got to fight during the flashback. Ah, Final Fantasy VII... will we hear of a remake soon?

Vicks and Wedge? Enh, they're characters of little substance, wherever they appear. No big deal, there, for me.

Orin, on the other hand, is so cool, because he totally changes the dynamics of battles after he joins your party. Your best attacker, Nara, gets turned into a powerful support role almost automatically, while Mara suddenly learns some useful new spells of her own around the same time that you get him. That cave was hard, though...stupid Magemonjas.

5. Me (or you), from Earthbound. OK, now I'm TOTALLY cheating. But I think that the addition of having the player input their name midway through the game, in a totally random moment, and then suddenly having them appear to defeat the final boss, was one of the most ingenious devices in game history. Like Sephiroth, you do not "use" yourself. You're not in control as a player. But in a way you are, in that you determined long ago who it would be who would defeat the boss, inexplicably enough when you put your own name in at the request of an NPC. Even though you don't control what happens, it's an odd sort of immersion that, to my knowledge, has never been repeated or even imitated in any game since. (And if it has, let me know where, because I want to play that game!)

Christ, that's excellent. I'm totally firing up Earthbound when I get home tonight. And Mother 3 better make it to the States.

-TV's Adam


You're not cheating!! Sure, it's not really a controllable character, but it's really freaky, especially if it's been a long time since you've played the game since your last save, and you get to the end totally without remembering that you've inputted your name at one point. It makes it seem like Earthbound is reading your mind!

It's a crying shame that the series may be over with.


The crunch begins! I've got to be out of here in three hours to head home, and I'll be darned if I haven't started packing yet. Thus, onward and upward, as a certain someone once said. ;)


Yesterday's questions were an interesting couple, none of which were from me. Alexander M.D. submitted a neat question #190 to me for the column, and it asked "What old computer game Puffy references if you call her Murphy?" The game is b) Wizardry, according to Alexander, and the Puffy in particular is someone you can find in one of Star Ocean: Till the End of Time's bonus dungeons. 250 points to those who guessed correctly, and 500 to Alexander! Thanks for the submission.

#191 was KnightTrain's own addition to the competition, and asked about the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. In order to fly, one must b) throw yourself at the ground and miss, for another 220 points.

Question #192:
What vegetable was the most detestable of all to a certain character named Billy, and would quickly deplete his life meter if consumed? (300 points)

a) Horseradish
b) Rotten meat
c) Mad Carrot
d) Eggplant
e) Prickly Pear

Question #193:
Ask Arros Raikou!-->Which skill from Dragon Quest VIII is also the name of a company from what other game? (250 points)

a) Xenosaga
b) Trauma Center: Under the Knife
c) Sim City 4
d) Pokťmon Ruby & Sapphire
e) None of the above

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And that's about it! Wish me well, for I'm off to survey what the future of RPGs for the next year may or may not hold. I'll miss you all in the meantime, but I'll have lots to talk about upon my return. Take care!
***Matt has a billion things still to do in the next hour or two!!

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