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ASK MATT
Pressure Points
April 18, 2007

Matt - 22:20 EST

I'M STILL ALIVE. I might not be in a week. I guess that's true no matter who you are or what you're up to, but the heat is on, and I may just pop quite like a kernel of corn when exposed to hot, hot air. I doubt I'd be able to survive in an inside-out form for terribly long, so I just thought I'd warn you all, just in case.

Do not, under any circumstances, try to hunt me down in order to butter me and subsequently sprinkle salt on and eat me. I don't want my final rest to consist of passing through somebody's digestive tract and mixing with whatever the hell else you ate.

OK, before I diverge any further from topics of relevance, I'll give myself a good shake and head over to the mailbag.




LETTERS
From one staffer to another~


Matt:

Hi! And now for something completely different than what's been discussed in Q&A recently. I'm playing Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga (well, I guess it kind of has something to do with the person who wrote in about SPM getting a 5, but not much), and I've got to say, it's incredibly fun. I now randomly tell my friends and family, "I am the mustard of your DOOM." I'm still playing Rocket Slime occasionally, but you know how these things go. Puzzle Quest rules my life, basically.

Matt

Mario and Luigi: Superstar Saga is one of my absolute favourite GBA games without question. It is sopping with creativity and bursting with novel ideas, quite like a kernel of heated corn bursts when exposed to hot, hot air. (How many times can I use this bad metaphor in a single day? Watch and see.) There were so many awesome moments in that game; the people that designed both it and its sequel, as well as the Paper Mario games... have some of the best senses of humour in the industry, period.

So with progress going so slowly on all these games, my backlog continues to gain strength. And with less than two weeks to go to Pokemon-time, that's not a good thing.

Matt

We're two peas in a pod.

Here's my question: how often do you replay games? Despite the numerous games I've yet to play, I am sorely tempted to pop Final Fantasy III into my DS, or slip Kingdom Hearts into my PS2. Ever experience anything like that, where you know you should be playing through something else, and you just want to replay an old favorite?

Matt

I thrive on old games, Jeffrey. I replay multiple Dragon Quests every year, just because I get the "craving" to every now and then, and I get the same thing with the SNES Final Fantasy games periodically. I'm not sure why.

The thing is, I don't feel that way towards newer games (almost as a rule). I'm not sure if it's because they don't hit me the same way, or if it's just because I don't really have the time to replay everything that I finish anymore, but it's a fact of life. It's more likely the latter. The great thing about remakes is that they give me an excuse to play an old game, even if it's wrapped in things like a shiny new translation... not that I'm a huge fan of remakes by any means, just sayin'.

Speaking of replaying...I don't think I'll be replaying Final Fantasy XII anytime soon. In fact, after finishing it I meant to go back and get all the espers, marks, etc. But it hasn't seen the inside of my PS2 since I took down the final boss. These days I'm much more likely to use my PS2 as a distraction for my friends to keep them away from my DS and PSP. That is, until I succumb to the temptation that is KH. Then I just won't answer the phone when friends call

Matt

I have difficulties seeing myself playing the game again soon either, especially when I consider the fact that I have a long list of new games that are just glowing with desire to finally burst out of their wrappers, much like a kernel of popcorn bursts upon prolonged exposure to hot, hot air. I really want to play them, too... that's the sad part. I love new games, and it's damn saddening that my game-time is so limited these days. RESPONSIBILITY SUCKS, DROP OUT OF SCHOOL (oops).

Well, thanks for reading the prose of a very sleepy gamer. I'll just put in one more round of Puzzle Quest, and then bed. Who am I kidding? I'll be up late playing PQ, yet again.

-Jeffrey

Matt

Alack. Don't get outbejeweled by a stray ogre, young Jeffrey. Good luck!



Weird, man, weird.


Hi host of the day,

First of all my apologies to Roku.

A few days ago he answered my letter and wasn't too happy with the 'Hey Matt'-introduction... From now on the introduction will be a bit more vague so everyone can be happy!

Matt

Oh, don't worry about it, he'll live. Our good friend Roku puts up with a lot of crap, and he hasn't exploded from the pressure yet, quite like a... ahahaha... popcorn kernel that has been heated to extreme temperatures.

If you don't mind, I would like to share my opinion on world maps... (You don't, do you...?)

In my opinion, it's a real shame that so many developers decided to abandon this feature in recent RPG's (why Suikoden, why?). Therefore I was very pleased with games like Wild Arms 3 (loved the sensor system!) and Tales of Symphonia (give me more skits!) that still use the 'ancient' world map AND put it to good use.

There are however a few notable exceptions. Highly cinematic (space)opera's like Xenosaga shouldn't include world maps because their backgrounds and events are so versatile. There are so many different locations on faraway places that a world map couldn't be included in the same rewarding way as in 'normal' RPG's that take place on one (or a few) big locations (planets). Another exception would be a game like Final Fantasy XII where the in-game locations are so vast that these locations could be seen as part of the world map theirselves.

Matt

I suppose, but a few things were a little bit suspect. I found it very odd that a (presumably) tropical jungle gives way almost immediately to a blizzardy mountain pass, personally. The areas felt, to me, a little bit disjoint, even if they were enormous in themselves. Plus, at the end of the day, you still had to select your destination while flying from a list!

Now, of course you don't want a world map for games that don't take place in the world. It would be kind of odd if you did, really.

For me, the finest use of a world map can be seen in Dragon Quest VIII, where the transition between the world map and specific locations was nearly inexistent. This is of course only possible when the scope of the game is limited. If you have to cross the galaxy, the proper use of a classic world map is impossible...

You see, I think the necessity of a world map depends on the kind of RPG you're playing. I nevertheless hope that we may see a lot of RPG's in the future that do support such a beloved old-skool function... Old men like me really depend on such retro thrills!

Matt

I know I get my biggest kicks from a good old pixelated top-down view complete with a glorious sixteen colours.

And yes, the world map of Dragon Quest VIII is absurdly awesome. It alone lost me in the demo, and when I got to play through the whole game, you almost take it for granted by the end. It's certainly one of a kind in that respect.

By the way, I feel like I'm getting a little weird lately. Normally I do like game music but generally I consider it to be the least important factor in rating and enjoying a video game. I restarted Final Fantasy VI (on my DS) and unfortunately I am not able to get very far... Every time I enter the world map (world of balance) the most thrilling videogame song of all time begins to play... And I just put my DS down, close my eyes and start listening/whistling... Every time I have to enter a town/dungeon, it gives me such a heartache... Having to leave that thrilling song behind...

Matt

Wait, wait, wait. That doesn't make sense to me!

If music isn't that important, then why does it capture you the way it does? It's so funny you mentioned this, because the first time I heard the overworld music on FFVI Advance, I dug out my headphones, hooked 'em up, and listened to the entire track once through. So amazing, it is, and the game wouldn't be the same without it, really and truthfully. So, I dunno what the kaboobula you're talking about!

Oh, I feel so weird...
The last time I had a similar feeling (although less extreme) was with the theme song of Wild Arms 3 (advanced wind). I was able to start the game just to hear the theme song...

Matt

You're feeling pretty weird today, from the sounds of it. Welcome to my world.

Again, I don't understand, though. Clearly you love video game music, so admit it: It really is that important! :P

Ah, and one last question: Am I the only one who thinks Gallows from Wild Arms 3 is one of the finest gamecharacters ever created? He may not have the Cloud/Squall/Sephiroth-depth but he was so lazy and sluggish... A bit like me, I suppose?

I think I mentioned Wild Arms 3 a few too many times, not?

Nice chatting with you all and till the next time!

Sven

Matt

Nah, you didn't mention it too often, especially when you consider how many times Final Fantasy comes up day after day after day. Another game needs a turn in the spotlight, right? Those poor games, alone in the cold, back from the limelight...

Thanks, Sven! I was just talking to a friend the other day about the name "Sven" and I mentioned that it's a slick name. I'd almost expect you to be a fashion designer or model or something, with a great name like that. (Look what I'm stuck with.)



Those horrible pleasures...


It isn't so much ONE game, but an entire genre. I am of course speaking of the "Nethack" style games. They are so-called because of a game entitled, surprisingly enough, "Nethack," which supposedly was first in the genre. The original was for Linux, but versions of this classic are now available for all PC platforms: OSX, Windows, and Linux. The game is a randomly generated dungeon-crawler where the player moves and then all enemies move. The most recent example of the genre is Izuna: Legend of the Unemployed Ninja. These games are always terribly reviewed because gameplay is rather simple. Anyway, here are the ones I liked:

Taloon's Great Adventure for PSX
Azure Dreams for PSX
ADOM: Ancient Domains of Mystery for MS-DOS

It is very tough to "Win" these games. In the first two, every time you enter the dungeon your level is reduced to one.

In the last, once you begin a game, gameplay continues until you die or win the game (I never have). You can save, but your game is deleted when you load, eliminating the classic save/load cheat.

Matt

Yuck! Nothing beats awful like randomly generated dungeons. I just mentioned it last week, but Lufia: The Legend Returns is a good example of one of these firmly rooted in the RPG genre, and another is the newly-released Pokémon Mystery Dungeon, which I played last year at E3 but didn't really understand. Yeah, not my favourite type of game either, but eh, to each his own.

So what terrible games besides FF:MQ do you like?

Flamethrower

Matt

Ha. "Terrible" is a bit subjective. I personally like Secret of Evermore, but I know that many other people really don't like the game at all. You know this, but that debate is a bit of a seasonal one that comes up from time to time. I love talking about it, because so many people do agree that SoE isn't so bad in the scheme of things.

I also love Dragon Warrior II, which many people utterly despise, and when I say "love," I mean "LUH-HUH-HUVE," because I play through it quite often. I don't know why, but I just can't help myself. The gameplay rocks, and while the challenge level is high, it's not, say, "7th Saga high." Anyway, that's what I've got to say. What do you have to say, all you?

Thanks, Flamethrower!



Original Final Fantasy VI spoilers ahead... for anyone who hasn't actually played it yet.


Hey Matt!

So during choir the other day, our director (who's a young guy with a sense of humor) was talking and joking about something, and he yelled out "STELLAAAA." This was obviously a reference to something which I didn't know about. What did come to mind though, is when Butz's mom dies in FFV, and Drogan realizes this. My question: are there ever other times when you hear something in the real world that reminds you of a moment in a game, but it's a private thing that only you can enjoy?

Matt

All the time!! Well, not all the time, but now and then, anyway. What usually happens is that I'm sitting and watching TV when something happens to remind me of a quote, or a musical track, or SOMETHING... and then I get excited about it and start babbling to my TV-watching partner (usually Tom, the bee-eff). My enthusiasm quickly diminishes, though, when I realize that he has pretty much zero interest or understanding in what I'm talking about. So, as you say, it's a bit of an empty pleasure. I guess that's what I have this column for.

Second. Did anyone play Illusion of Gaia? (I played a French version (because I'm French) and it was called "Illusion of Time" instead, but that's besides the point) I was thinking about it the other day and I find that I really, really like that game because for me a lot of elements worked. I was remembering the ending specifically, when Will (Paul in the French version) tells Kara (Flora): "I will search you out. No matter how long it takes. Hundreds of years... Thousands of years... I will come to you." Now that I think about it, I think that was my first idea of true love! Does anybody else have experiences like these coming from games?

Take it easy,

-Leviathan

Matt

Awwww, how sweet. Of course people played Illusion of Gaia! I just wasn't one of them, most unfortunately, since it's an older-styled game that I would almost certainly enjoy. Blast my holey past.

And of course. I think that RPGs are designed, almost, with the intent of invoking real emotions. This is especially true in games from the SNES-era onward, when story became a primary focus. I remember playing Final Fantasy VII and getting genuine chills down my spine when I saw Sephiroth's polygonal self walk through the flames in that one FMV... I felt genuine fear for the first time ever in an RPG. In Final Fantasy VI, I felt genuine HATE for the first time when Kefka goes on his Thamasan rampage, betraying Leo and the Espers. Oops, I guess that's a spoiler. Hasn't everyone played FFVI already, anyway? Emotions extend far beyond Final Fantasy, though. Become entangled in the plotline of Xenosaga, and you will feel all of Shion's pain by the end of the last game, I guarantee you. So awesome.

In any case, thanks for the great letter, Leviathan! May all your days be merry, or something more Aprily.



QUICKIES

Heya,

Way back in the day I've played and thoroughly enjoyed a little gem called Lufia 2: Rise of the Sinistrals. Since that game, I don't think I've seen an RPG with such satisfying puzzle elements (various Zelda games come close though, but aren't RPGs). Any recommendations on similar games?

Thanks!

Alex

Matt
I put this question to people on staff, and CactuarJoe immediately replied with Golden Sun, for the GBA. He's absolutely right, too. That game is packed with impeccably-designed dungeons and some wicked puzzles, even if the gameplay falls short occasionally. That game had a sequel, too...

Hey Matt.

I think the reason that think that you've heard those pieces from ToP is that Motoi Sakuraba is the composer for the game. I'm guessing you're thinking about Star Ocean: The Second Story when you listen to them, since some of the pieces sound alike.

LufiaLvr

Matt
Ah, those ones from JMS's letter last week? It's true. Sakaruba has an incredibly distinct flavour to his music (kinda like chicken), and so it's very possible.

Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest?

Matt
Can I say "both"? It's hard to imagine life without either...

IN CLOSING

Another late night. One day, things will improve, but until then, I shall do my very best. Until then, I'm always accepting letters! Today's new topic: Flamethrower's awesome idea. What terrible games do you secretly love to play? Careful: If you tell me, they won't be a secret any longer! Oh ho ho.

'Night, everybody!



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Matt only got the metaphor in, like, four times.


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