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Delicious Quicksand June 20, 2006

Matthew Demers - 19:11 EST

THANKS IN PART TO THE coaxings of Bryan (you might know him better as Aethelred) on this website, I bought Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones a few weeks ago. The game has grown on me to the point where it's nearly an addiction. When I'm not playing it, I'm thinking of playing it. Specifically, I always have a stirring, wonderful feeling whenever I think about the class system, and I've had the music going through my mind pretty much nonstop. It's turning into a small obsession, and I can't say that that's happened to me in a long time. To anyone who likes good, challenging games, especially in the realm of Tactical RPGs, I'd highly recommend this game, as it's one of the most addictive I've played in the past few years.

Let's get this week off to a good start, shall we?

Is "overrated" an overrated word?

Hello, Matt.

I never really write into Q&A, but I'm a pretty regular reader. So er...though it's incredibly late, congratulations on winning RPGamer Idol. ^_~ And thank you for writing such an enjoyable column every week.


Well, thanks very much! I can't even believe that it was almost a whole year ago that I filled out my RPGamer application. It feels like... well, not yesterday, but not that long ago either. In any case, I'm glad that you think that these columns are somewhat enjoyable, because if they weren't, I'd probably get fired sooner or later, and that would be a shame.

I have a few things to say on the issue of 'overrated' games. Firstly, I just wholeheartedly detest the word 'overrated'. It's a buzz word that has no purpose other than to elevate your own opinions seemingly higher than those of the masses. Half the time when people say that something popular is 'overrated' what they really mean is, "A bunch of people like it, I didn't. But I'm right and they're all wrong". There's a certain arrogance in the word: a sort of hidden implication that your own opinion is better than that of those who allegedly 'overrate' something. And it irritates me to no end.


For sure. I know of a lot of people who parade around trying to spew their concocted reasons why certain games shouldn't be as popular as they are, and it seems like many of them do it just to get a little bit of attention. However, the opposite end of the spectrum is just as irritating, right? That is, people who blindly hold opinions about the greatness of some games without even considering the reasons why that opinion is held. I tend to think that blindness like that is why a few people were offended by the relatively low ratings that Kingdom Hearts II received at some websites-- not to make a special example of KHII or anything, because there are lots of other games that I could have used.

It's bad enough if people actually dislike the games in question. But half the time the people who decry things as overrated actually liked them to begin with. Taking Final Fantasy VII as an example, as it is one of the most popular targets for such claims, I've heard a whole bunch of people say, "I used to like it. But now it's really overrated. All the fanboys ruined it for me". might that have happened? Does what other people think really hold that much sway over you? Are you really that obsessed with being 'alternative'? Perhaps the game has somehow magically changed since you first played it? Or are you just so despicably arrogant that you can't even accept the fact that maybe some other people enjoyed something that you did, because *nobody* appreciates Final Fantasy VII like you do?


It's true. Final Fantasy VII has really descended in popularity in a certain way over the past few years, and this "FFVII wasn't that great" idea is now a much more popular opinion than it used to be. Disliking a game solely based on "fanboys" or "fangirls" (more terms that I dislike) seems a little bit juvenile to me. There's nothing wrong with liking a game if other people do; isn't widespread popularity a pretty good indication of a game's quality, most of the time?

It's a trend that is prevalent in all types of media. A desire to hold certain opinions simply because they're edgy and controversial, and they'll make you look 'cooler' than your peers ('cool' is of course a relative term here, since we're talking about a pretty nerdy subset of what is already a pretty nerdy hobby). And it's just so depressing that it makes me want to cry. Especially when you consider the fact that most people who adhere to the 'reverse fanboy' trend actually look *down* on those who jump on the popular bandwagon, despite the fact that they're basically just doing the exact same thing, albeit in the opposite direction.


Oh, trust me. Even more disturbing is the dreadful movie elitist, and a few of those are my friends. I'll come back from seeing a movie (usually a pretty mainstream/popular one), and I'll mention it to someone only to be met with scoffs and "ugh, you poor thing"s and other disgusted responses. Why can't people just enjoy movies for what they are without worrying about the depth of this character, the historical accuracy of this one scene, and the lighting during that one? Why can't a movie be good just because I like it? The same thing applies to games, more or less.

It might sound silly in this day and age, where any internet savvy person will probably have read countless reviews of something before buying it, but I think everything ought to be judged on its own merits. If you liked or disliked a game when you first played it, then that's okay. If you go back and revisit it later and find that maybe your opinion of it has changed, then that's fine too. But if a lot of other people agree with your opinion on it, that doesn't mean that you have to change your opinion. In fact, if you let the opinions of others influence you that much, then I'd go as far as to say that your opinion is worth next to nothing. Since it's not really going to be what you think, but rather just a series of reactions to those around you. And, if a lot of people don't agree with you, that doesn't mean that something is overrated or even underrated. It just means that your opinion happens to differ to what is standard.

Anyway, sorry about that gargantuan wall of text. It's just a topic that really gets to me. So I felt that I wanted to say a few words on it. Since this is Q&A, though, I suppose I should at least ask a question as well. So, referring back to what Aurelius said, are there any games that you have played with your expectations set unreasonably high, only to find that said games met or even surpassed what you expected from them?


Hmmm. I don't even remember any games that I went into with my expectations set unreasonably high. Even Dragon Quest VIII of last fall I went into kinda "iffily", since there were a couple of things about the demo that I wasn't terribly fond of. Generally, I don't have huge expectations for most of the new games I play, because then I'm more likely to be delightfully surprised. Thus, I'd have to say that Dragon Warrior II-IV and Final Fantasy IV and VI would have to be my answer to that question. I remember starting out those first DW games as an eleven-year old expecting HUGE things after absolutely loving the original, and I absolutely fell in love with them. With FFIV and VI, I had big expectations after my friend Ken built the games up, and I was definitely not disappointed- if it's any indication, I've replayed those two games more than any other title.

If I had to give a more recent example, I just thought of one, though: I know that a lot of people will disagree with me, but after playing the original Paper Mario, I was lusting for a sequel, so I was really, really anxious for The Thousand Year Door when it came out. For me, the game did surpass my expectations, just because it felt so wonderfully satisfying. Sure, it didn't have the most involving storyline of all time, but it was evident that the developers cut no corners; the package was fantastic, with surprisingly fun battles, great humour, and shockingly decent music. Whenever I think about the game, I desire to return to it and play it again, so that's a pretty good indication that my expectations were indeed surpassed.

The reason being that I played Ocarina of Time, probably one of the most hyped games *ever*, for the very first time recently. Though I've played most of the games in the series at some point or another, I'm not really the biggest Zelda fan. In fact, the only game in the series that I ever really enjoyed was Link's Awakening on the Gameboy. That being said, while I certainly wouldn't rank OoT among my favourite games ever, I thought it had aged really well. And I ended up really enjoying it. I can certainly see what all the fuss was about back at its time of release, and I sort of rue the fact that I never got the chance to play it then. ^_^

Sorry again for the length of this letter. I've never really written into Q&A before, and I am woefully inept at getting to the point.



I really enjoyed Ocarina of Time, but I enjoyed A Link to the Past more, to be honest. There was definitely a wonderful, finished, glowing feel to OoT, and that made it fantastic to play. However, its predecessor was just better. Zelda dungeons are more fun to figure out in two dimensions, and that's just the heart of the matter, as far as I'm concerned.

Also, never you worry. I'm going to kick or squeeze-to-death the next person who apologizes about their letter-lengths!! I'm only glad that you took the time to put together your message, and I hope I responded at least adequately! I also hope you'll write in again sometime soon.

Reader Awards of Ancient Times

Hi Matt,

Here's a question: What the hell happened to the 2005 RPGamer Game of The Year Awards?! It's been months, sheesh!


#230: a
#231: c



The 2005 Reader Awards? The ultimate place to discover the greatest games of years past?

It usually takes a little while to tabulate the results and put things together, and I'll tell you that results have been tabulated. I just hope, along with all of you, that we'll see them soon, as we should, since it is halfway through 2006 by this point. I'm not the one in charge, I'll admit, but I'm at least hopeful that we'll see them soon.

If we don't, then I vote Dragon Quest VIII as the default winner of everything. The End. Sorry, though, that I can't be of greater help in answering this question, Cap!

"Matt" just isn't the same, sans -san.

Ohayou, Matto-san!

My thoughts on FFXII? Well... funny story here...

It goes back to when I got FFX in Japanese. I'd had my Japanese PS2 for a few months, and I thought, I should buy another game with lots of voice acting, but not too complicated, so I could work on my (frankly pathetic) listening ability in Japanese. I'd already played through most of the game in English, so I figured no worries.

I get the game, let it load, and I hit a snag. The balance of voice acting to background music, volumewise, was so off that I usually could not here ANY of the VA unless there was a sudden lull in the music. I'd never had this problem before. Romancing SaGa was an absolute gem for the Japanese VA, the Atelier games never made a fuss -- I even have a copy of Akerenbou Princess (on sale, 400 yen!) that was the source of much hilarity and repeated listening sessions.


Oh my... that's really too bad. I must admit, though, that I've never really heard of that issue before; are you sure that there wasn't a way to adjust the volumes of music/voices somewhere in the Configuration menu? I can't remember if there was or not in the North American version, to be honest, but it seems to be a usual inclusion.

But FFX... well, I was spared the experience of knowing whether the Japanese VA for Tidus was as annoying as the English one. Unfortunately, all that I was left with gamewise was the actual game, and after 3 months of working through the intricacies of Romancing SaGa's battle system, the simple "slash-slash-blitzball the flying turkey-slash-slash" of FFX could not hold me for very long. I only made it as far as I did in that game because I couldn't have supported my short-lived Blitzball addiction without some source of in-game cash.


Interesting, interesting. And too bad, really, because there are lots of things to enjoy about the game. You and everybody else knows well my opinions on certain elements in Final Fantasy X, but there are many things to love about it. If you ever get the chance, you should play through an English version sometime.

Getting back to FFXII, I would rather not repeat the above experience and ruin what might actually be an entertaining game. So, I shall be waiting till I go home next Christmas season, and play it on my brother's American PS2.


Aha! See, I figured that you had jumped on the bandwagon, buckled, and bought FFXII already, being in Japan. This way, though, you can get all excited at the same tempo as the rest of us!

Dirge of Cerberus, on the other hand, I CAN talk about...


Ooh. Please do; the crowds need some reassuring after what turned into a less-than-great showing at the big E3 a month and a half ago.

First, I would like it to be on the record that the last shooter games I played for any decent length of time, first- or third-person, were Wolfenstein 3D and Blake Stone, both on my father's 486 computer. That said, I have absolutely no idea what the current FPS market is like, beyond playing a demo of Devil May Cry 2 some time ago. But when I saw a non-online-capable copy at the local store at 75% off, I figured, why not?


Hey, you're talking to a guy who got so "pwned" playing Goldeneye in first-year that I almost felt like I didn't fit into some of the social circles I had helped to forge. Somehow, it seems like the general population is just better at shooting things than I am. Maybe that's a good thing? My only good FPS-experiences have been great ones, and those experiences have been with Metroid Prime and Metroid Prime Hunters. Yes, they are FPSes, so don't give me that, you, that person who is scoffing at me right now whose name I don't know.

I really am enjoying it though (on Easy mode at the moment). It's not a straight "shoot anything that moves" game, since quite often you have mission objectives that include protecting non-coms or allies. There are simple puzzles from time to time, esp. when playing as Cait Sith (and ain't that a trip and a half!). And with VA that can be HEARD ABOVE THE BACKGROUND MUSIC, along with optional subtitles, I have a decent idea what's going on in the story.


Why, that's a plus!

And it's a fairly well-done story, too. Not too complicated as yet (only a quarter-way into the game), but it dovetails rather well with the few scraps of Vincent's story that we get from the parent game. The various characters, both old and new, have good VAs in Japanese (no guarantees on the English, of course). I really like Reeve, both in person and through his alter-ego, lol.


Very nice to hear. Perhaps a strong storyline will convince many people to give the game a shot (no pun intended) after all. Most of the gripes, to be honest, were all with the game mechanics anyway. Apparently you can't run while shooting? I just know that almost all of the staffers that gave the game a try at E3 got pissed off quickly and stopped playing, so pardon my pessimistic air towards this title.

Wow, I think this has to be the longest letter I've written to Q&A in a long time. I'm sorry I couldn't answer your burning FFXII questions, but I hope someone out there likes my impression of DoC.

Any lack of coherence in this or subsequent emails from this address are most likely attributable to a summer-induced insomnia. Mata ne.

--Gaijin Monogatari


Ugh, damn. I tried finding a decent web-based translation service to respond wittily by saying "I don't understand Japanese!!" in Japanese. When I searched, though, the only ones I found put it all into kana or kanji instead, which when cut and pasted into my text file, displayed one "?" for each symbol instead of anything meaningful at all. How dastardly. My life is ruined!

Thanks, in any case, Gaijin, for your perspectives! May you have a fantastic day.

Now I'll make you all disappear! And then, I'll make you disappear EVEN MORE!

Here's a simple one for the start of your RPGamer work week, you may have already covered it, but who knows. What are your feelings on the Vanish Doom "Trick" in Final Fantasy 6. If you're not aware if you cast vanish on a boss, nine times out of ten you can then cast Doom and finish them off quickly.

Now for Sock:
Super Secret Question: B)11



What do I think of it? I think it's one of the many glitches in that game that maybe should have been caught during some testing that evidently wasn't done very thoroughly. The subject of Final Fantasy VI's glitchiness has been brought up in the recent past; with the Blindness bug, the Evasion glitch, and the issues surrounding Relm's poor Sketch ability, there are definitely more problems in that game than any of the others in the series. The Vanish/Doom trick is something that I doubt was intentional, even if it might have made many gamers secretly quite happy. I guess we'll know better if it was indeed really meant to be there once the GBA port comes out in a few months' time, won't we?

Supporting my addiction, all the way!

Hi Matt,

Dr.Ts letter today got me thinking about Fire Emblem, which is a favourite series of mine, and the whole issue of characters dying permanently in battle. I agree it would be fun to play the game with no resets so if someone dies, they're dead for good, but you could end making the game impossible to complete if you lost too many good characters along the way. I think only the most hardcore players would take on that kind of challenge! When I'm playing I always make sure to keep every single party member alive and I absolutely have to reset if I miss recruiting anyone new, or if anyone dies during the battle. I drive myself mad doing it sometimes, especially if someone I could easily replace dies on the boss of a very long level, and I decide to the reset the thing anyway. There is one exception to this, and it's something you might like to consider doing too, that if one of my characters dies during the battle with the final boss of any of the Fire Emblem games, that's it, I let them stay dead!


Oh, I know. Keeping everyone alive is so stressful, and the terrible thing is that I suspect that I've already (accidentally) missed out on recruiting one or two enemy characters along the way, just because I couldn't figure out who to talk to them with.

I think it makes those final battles far more exciting and dramatic because it means anyone who is killed, really is going to stay dead after being safe for the entire game, and to me it makes the final boss so much more powerful and evil, because they are the only ones who have the power to permanently kill one of my characters. It makes the character's death feel more like a noble sacrifice than a meaningless death like it might have if they died on a random enemy in an earlier level. I've lost one character to the final bosses of both Path of Radiance and the first GBA Fire Emblem and the moments when they died have become two of my most memorable gaming moments. I know you still may not want to do it this way, but it adds a lot of fun to the game for me.


See, my first plan of attack is to try and get through the game without suffering any casualties at all. It would be so neat, though, to try playing through again sometime in the future, but make myself accept ALL deaths as part of the "reality" of the game. The fact that they're gone forever makes you face up to the truth and accept the consequences for your actions/lack of planning/preparation/carefulness, etc. Fire Emblem appears to be a series with enormous replay value because of this and because of the branching class system. Oh, how I love it so...

Something else I love about the Fire Emblem games is the support conversations. I don't know if you would have seen any yet but they add so much depth to the characters and bring a real sense of camaraderie to the group. I like how they can be serious, funny or romantic conversations and you never know which until you pair two characters up and see how they react to each other. I've always love rpgs which give you plenty of interaction between the characters and make you feel like they are getting to know each other as they travel together. Sometimes the characters in games can seem so disconnected from each other and barely talk to each other once they join the party so little touches like the support conversations Fire Emblem or chatting to the party by pressing start in Dragon Quest can make all the difference.


Definitely. I've seen a few of them by this point, "this point" being Chapter 11. I have no idea how long the game will be, since I've never experienced one before, but that's besides the point. The support conversations really do help to flesh out the story and develop the characters, and I've become really attached to the axe-wielding pair that joins your group early on in the game. Ross... and I can't remember the older guy's name, but I'll slap myself later when I think of it.

Speaking of Dragon Quest, I'm 82 hours in and still absolutely in love with it so I'd like to echo IceTiger and say thanks for recommending it so strongly in your column, you're probably responsible for introducing quite a few lucky people to that game! That's all from me, I hope you keep on enjoying Fire Emblem and continue letting us know how you're getting on with it.



No problem at all! There's a reason why I've loved the series since its roots, and the fact that Dragon Quest VIII gets back to some of those roots so well provides even more reason for me to gush. I'm sure that Square Enix is greatly appreciative of my rosy unsolicited advertising, though I suppose it's really just counterbalancing the wishy-washiness that I've approached FFXII with, so far.

It is nice to know, though, that I've influenced people like yourself to give a great, potentially unfamiliar series a try. Dragon Quest is the father of modern console RPGaming, and continues to lead the pack, if I have anything to say about it. Surprisingly few people know that it carved the path originally, though. I've even been to message boards featuring people accusing it of ripping off Final Fantasy, a claim so wild that I involuntarily closed the window, shaking with pain.

Anyway, I'm spinning off-topic, slowly, Dermot, but thanks very much for writing in and contributing to the column!

A possible explanation? I don't know...

A question:

Has it ever occurred to you that no one might've been playing the FFXII demo at E3 because everyone already owns the demo disk?



You know, that seems like a very obvious point to make, and I can certainly see why someone might think that that is a decent explanation. BUT, I have to say that I don't think it's a good enough one. The demo version that came with Dragon Quest VIII was a good look into how things would work, but we were treated to only two areas, and we were restricted from seeing many of the elements of the game that were included in the E3 demos. Those demos, by the way, were all entirely different from the one that came with DQVIII, and I've heard tell that you could even fiddle around with the gambits and such, though I didn't have the time to figure them out while on the floor.

In any case, there were either four or eight stations to play FFXII at, and while most of them had lines that were a couple of people deep during the first day, there weren't any afterwards. I didn't really find the demo that engaging, as most of you know, but hopefully that doesn't say anything about the final product when we finally see it later this year!

It could be, though, that you are right. Maybe, because a lot of people had seen demos beforehand, they wanted to see other, brand new things. Then again, Final Fantasy XII is, all in all, a rather major title; I would have expected those stations to be busier anyway.

Thanks for your question!


I just got back from a haircut, which is great, except that now, my back is itchy like crazy, because little hairs have fallen down my shirt and are irritating my nerve endings. Yes, I'm too lazy to change and/or have a shower.


***Answers to June 16th's Questions***

#230. e) Derf - 350 points/700 for Xlash (Thanks for the submission!)

#231. b) Dragon Quest VIII - 350 points (This was Arros' Guest-hosting question, and was QUITE something. Here's the logic: Arros is a variation on Arroz, which is Spanish for Rice, Gohan is Japanese for Rice, and Gohan is Arros' favorite character from DBZ which was created by Akira Toriyama, who did character designs for DQ8 and the rest of the DQ games. Interestingly, most of you got this right)

Bonus: b) 11 - 1 Star (Some of you forgot to count the Warp Zone pipe at the end of the level, but most of you got this one right!)

***Today's New Questions***

#232: Consider the following sound bite: Live with the 250kB filesize or don't play

Which of the following words is associated with that sound bite?
(405 points)

a) Lemonte
b) Kabuki
c) Firesmite
d) Sagat
e) Derf

Reader-Submitted #233: My first is in the Aquamouse Pokemon but not in an Italian plumber.
My second is in Link's fairy friend but not in a hero from Ivalice.
My third is in Suikoden's "Blue Lightning" but not in Zapp Branningan's downtrodden assistant.
My fourth is in Cloud's surname but not in Squall's rival.
My fifth is in the creature which leaves rings behind for Mario to swim through but not in Lani's fellow bounty hunter.
My whole is a creature from which series of games?
(375 points)

a) Suikoden
b) Final Fantasy
c) Super Mario Brothers
d) Pokémon
e) The Legend of Zelda

Congratulations, Dermot, for winning the side contest and Ourobolus' 2,094 points! A special bonus: Every star that everyone has collected over the last two weeks will translate into a bonus 100 points, so no one's efforts will go to waste! Thanks, everyone, for participating in this, uh, SICK (Spectacular Interim Contest of Knowledge). Oh yeah, you know you like that acronym!

STRAGGLERS: (people who need to check their e-mail or somehow get in touch with me because they have unclaimed items- if you fall off the list, it's TOO LATE FOR YOU! Check your spam/trash folders for my messages if you're not getting them, and I'll check mine, too!)
  • none to speak of!

SOCK's Item List

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

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19,000 points: Your choice of Rename Card (2 left) or Vanish Spell (2 left)

Click Here For Item Descriptions and Contest Rules!

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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*

2,000 points: Matt's Mom's Cookie Compilation- 6 fantastic recipes right out of Matt's mom's amazing kitchen! Yours, upon request. (5 left)

4,000 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)

15,000 points: Nintendo Wii Canvas Carrying Bag- It's simple and white, with blue print, and two drawstrings; I picked this up while waiting in the nigh-infinitely long line to play Nintendo's new console at E3 2006. If you'd like it, I'll mail it to you free of charge! (1 left)

15,000 points: Pokémon 10th Anniversary game case- Not as special as it sounds, but useful for carrying up to 4 DS games or 2 DS games and 2 Game Boy Advance games. Translucent plastic with a silver Pikachu and print on the front. (1 left)

15,000 points: Bonus Cohost Opportunity- I like giving these out because I don't have to pay for shipping. (3 left)

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

22,000 points: Slime Keychain Dangler- Fresh from the Square Enix booth at E3 2006, this cute little guy can be yours. (1 left)

22,000 points: Slime Snail Keychain Dangler- Anyone remember Slime Snails from Dragon Warrior III? I managed to snag one of these, too. Strut with Dragon Quest pride!! (1 left)

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

30,000 points: Nintendo DS Lite Carrying Case- This won't quite fit old-model DS handhelds, but it's lightweight and flashy. White and black with an extra zippered pocket for carrying games, and a hook to attach to clothes, backpacks, or whatnot. I received this at Nintendo's Pre-E3 Media Briefing. (1 left)

30,000 points: Your choice of Megaman X4, X5, or X6 for the PSX. If you're into the Megaman series as much as I am, and you don't own any of these, I don't need them any more, now that I have purchased the collection. You can take your pick, and I'll send it to you in the mail with a handwritten note of congratulations from myself. They aren't RPGs, for sure, but I'm working on it for the future. (Sorry, NTSC-format only) (3 left)

50,000 points: Suikoden for the PSX. Play the game that started off the entire series! Josh was generous enough to donate this exciting prize, so it would be cool to send this to a good and loving home. (Sorry, NTSC-format only) (1 left)

100,000 points: Arc the Lad Collection, for the PSX. Donated by ~Sean~~, so thank him! This collection contains four RPGs from an often-overlooked series. If you can get to 100,000 first, you can call this your own. (Sorry, NTSC-format only) (1 left) *********************************************************

And that's all for this Tuesday! I only hope that I don't forget to take out the trash as I did last week, for Wednesday morning is our pick-up time, and a week of extra garbage around the house is a wonderful way to attract hideo-organisms. Come back for more tomorrow, won't you all?
***Matt hasn't killed a spider today yet, though!

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