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In the Thick of it
May 25, 2007

Arpijy - 21:21 EST

SO, BACK HERE AGAIN... looks like things haven't changed all that much. Nice to know something hasn't.

Anyway, my name is Arpijy, and I'll be your mild form of entertainment this evening. Last time I was here I mentioned I was from South Jersey, fresh out of college, and trying to figure out what I'm doing with my life. Now, about nine months later, I'm planning to move to Central Jersey (which is really a different state altogether), I only claim to be fresh out of college as an excuse for why my room looks like the stereotypical college kid's, and I've found work as a game tester. A casino game tester to make sure they're following the rules, but a game tester nonetheless. Yes, I'm living the dream. Sorta.

But I didn't come here to give you my life story, I came here to try and talk about RPGs and to be witty and sarcastic at the same time. How about we get straight to business now?

Odin Sphere, and multiMatts!



I guess everyone gets confused for Matt around here, huh?

I purchased Odin Sphere on day one. Everyone knows how great it looks, but I was interested to see if it was backed up with great gameplay.Well, it is backed up with addictive and unique gameplay, that is very challenging and strategic. There is repetition involved with the way the "stages" are set up, but it is engineered in such a way to where you can repeat levels to get better ranks and hone your skills.

I found myself getting destroyed by mini-bosses and the end boss of the level. The game doesn't allow you to button mash, or play lazily. You do need to be smart about every move you make. Very fun!



Wait...a Matt trying to send a letter to a Matt? Slimey, you didn't send yourself mail to try and build up your own column size, did you?


*gasp* Never! Better yet, there used to be one guy around here who had my first AND last names. I wonder if he's still reading...

Seriously, though...I haven't played Odin Sphere yet and had actually kind of ignored it until I read your letter...which in turn inspired me to check out some reviews, and it does look like an interesting game. I don't like how everyone's saying that you'll revisit the same areas multiple times, but the fact that you're doing so as different characters could make things interesting, assuming they don't play too similarly. Looks like a game I'll add to the "maybe" list. Sheesh, my backlog of games to play is growing higher...

More Odin Sphere, and feisty musical personalities too.

Hey Matt,

Odin Sphere: have you played it? I'm loving it - well, watching it; my friend has a copy but what I've seen impresses me. I still can't figure out one thing though: in the review Mikel Tidwell wrote, did he mean 50 hours for one character's story, or for all five of the characters' stories?

Matt not 100% sure, to be honest. Reading it, I'd guess that the 50 hours refers to the entire game- that is, all of the stories. I could ask, but ehhh, that would be way too easy.

Really I loved Romancing Saga: Minstrel Song, but I got through five playthroughs before my friends were telling me to get my old life back... I'm sure you understand, since you're going through the same thing with Pokemon right now...


Yeahhh... I'm resolving this weekend, though, to play something ELSE. Super Paper Mario and Zelda have been whining for my attention, and they deserve it. Poor things.

On a related note, I don't buying games I don't have time to play. I just can't spend money based on fear; it seems silly to me, and eBay makes that conviction easier to follow every day. I used to worry about not having bought Okami. Even as the sun sets every day, it also rises: there will be more RPG's tomorrow... Gosh that reminds of that guy from Skies of Arcadia who said, "Women are like sunsets: they're beautiful, but tomorrow there will be another one." Remember him? Yeah he was cool... I think good games are like that...


It's true. Realistically, it's utterly impossible to play absolutely everything, especially if you're one of those people with, you know, a real life, along with real-life responsibilities. Sure, I might wish that I didn't from time to time, but what kind of escape would video games give me if I didn't have a real life to escape from?

On a non-RPG note: have you heard of Feist? She's the coolest singer ever and I would have her babies if I were straight... maybe... If you haven't you should check her out on YouTube - "Inside and Out," "Mushaboom" and "One Evening" are good. She just came out with a new album too... I'm guessing you've heard of her since she's sort of Canadian. If you haven't, better get on that!

SOCK on,
- Waterfiend33


Feist, as in "feisty"? Yes, Leslie Feist... I just found her with a good old-fashioned Google search. Honestly, I've never heard of her, but really, I'm not on the kind of guy to be on top of that sort of thing. If you're really contemplating defying the laws of nature, though, because she's just that awesome, perhaps I should look into it after all.

Thanks, sir Waterfiend... hope to hear from you soon!

.hacking, platforming,'s some answering.

Good morning, day and evening,

I find it odd that with ".Hack//GU Vol.2" so recently released that no one seems to be talking very much about it. And here I was so happy that I had a new game to talk about for once. Sure I know the .hack games aren't as big a title as say, a Final Fantasy title, but these unique RPGs are some of the most fun that I have had in awhile. Yes, the games do have some faults (the biggest in my opinion is the wait between chapters) but the story, characters and overall feeling make up for them. I just finished Vol.2 yesterday and hope that the release date on Vol.3 is correct. So I guess my question is this... is anyone else out there interested in this flawed, but wonderful series of games? Heck I have become so interested in the series I ordered one of the animes to watch.


Well, unfortunately, I'm not one of the people who is. I didn't really like the sound of it when the first .hack games came out and haven't really heard enough to make me change my mind. However, yes, I'm pretty sure it's got its fair share of fans simply on the grounds that its name has come up in this column several times, and I recall it getting above average reviews. You can probably find people to talk to about it if you hunt for them enough.

I finally got my DS and boy do I love that little machine. Right now I am play "Mario and Luigi: Superstar Saga" and having a great time. I can't wait to afford more for it. What are some good games out for it now?


Unfortunately, I don't know this from experience, as I ended up using the money I thought I would use for a DS to instead get a Wii. However, from what my friends tell me, I can also recommend Lost Magic, the new Pokemon games, and on a non-RPG front, New Super Mario Bros. If you're into that Mario and Luigi game, there's one on the DS, Partners in Time, that you'd probably also get a kick out of.

Guess that's it. I have "World"s to save and princesses voices to get back. So good bye for now.

Arkadysmile "I HAVE FURY"

P.S. Remakes are a great and horrible thing, but if you could have one game remade... what would it be and for what system? Mine is Suikoden 1 or 2 for any system... released where I could get it without importing.


I'm saving my fury for another day.

But in any case, Suikoden games would probably be close to the top of my list too, I think I mentioned Seiken Densetsu 3 elsewhere in this column, and even though it's probably too soon for a remake, I think the original Shadow Hearts could use a makeover to make it slightly more refined like the other games in the series.

Oh Dragon Quest... my love for thee transcends words.

Hey there, Matt or Andrew or whomever (Or whatever, I don't discriminate) answers this letter.



*hack* Here's some water.

Anyway, long time reader, first time writer. Ha ha! Cliché. Bad. Okay, diving right into the topic at hand, what would I change about a game to make it better?

DQVIII - I would have made it slightly less good. Seriously. It is, in my opinion, the best Japanese console RPG ever ever (it loses out on best RPG period to Baldur's Gate II very slightly, mostly 'cos BGII can be modded.) So why would I want it slightly less good? Because it has ruined my enjoyment of all other RPG's I've played since. My expectations are now far too high. FFXII? Meh! Meh, I say! DQ was so well balanced in its pacing and difficulty (Random battles I have to think about! Boss battles that are challenging without being cheap! A super boss that is beatable without requiring me to be either cheating or level 312 and in possession of equipment I'd actually have to beat him normally to get!) It also has the best world map ever and some of my favourite characters in RPG's. The plot may be simple, but people often don't realize that sometimes a simple story told well can be as interesting and compelling as an overly-convoluted, twist-laden mess where you kill God at the end.


Indeed. There are a few RPGs out there that have been really great, but have plots that are almost too overambitious. The result is that the player is sometimes left wondering what in blazes the whole thing was actually about in the end. Better yet, you can be thrown into a final boss with something that you don't even understand- all you know is that you have to kill it, whatever the heck it is. (How many times has that happened to you? Honestly?)

In conclusion, I love Dragon Quest VIII! I hate Dragon Quest VIII! I don't enjoy my games as much anymore! I want to play it again but I lent it to my friend along with Suikoden V 'cos I'm an idiot!


No no, you're simply spreading the word. I thnk that Dragon Quest VIII was such a great way to prove to many RPGamers out there that yes, there are other games out there besides the Final Fantasy series that deserve your attention. It might not be for absolutely everyone, but I think there's no denying that it's one of the best games and strongest RPGs that has been released here over the past few years.

Ahem. Let's move on to Pokemon, shall we?

The new game doesn't get released here in Australia till June something, and I've been arguing with myself whether to get it or not. I've played pretty much every Pokemon released thus far (Though I only ever bothered to get 150 in the first Red/Blue. Ah, good times. Remember the Missing No. glitch?) I know that should I get the game I will enjoy it immensely and forget to shower for a month, but whether I have the time to play through it or not is an issue (Who, when you get down to it, really NEEDS a tertiary education? Or showers?) Ah, decisions. My flash-card possessing friend is already playing it. ILLEGALLY. What a cad.


Ugh! He deserves a good bzzting. BZZT!!

Really and truly, if you've played the series through to this point, you owe it to yourself to give this game a try. It's a lot of fun, and there are a lot of exciting things in it for people who have been loyal followers through the series. Plus, you could end up battling with ME one day! Isn't that exciting?

I think I've blathered on enough about nothing by now. See you some other time.

The Doomhammer.


Hey Doomhammer! It's been fun. Write again sometime soon, and make a Q&A host happy.

New game coming up...want a side of needless frustration with that?

Howdy Matt,


See? I should just learn to start responding to that name...

Final Battles... You suggested that the Super Paper Mario battle was a bit peasy. I haven't got the game yet, but I will pick it up and play it, and enjoy it. Even with its relatively easy boss battle at the end. Why?

Because I have a stack of games on my shelf that I play, and play, and play, and yet still get totally thwomped (look, Mario in-joke!) at the final battle. I put Final Fantasy X away for 6 months after I got to that irritating 'flying alongside Sin' battle, because it just annoyed me - because after playing for a good 40 hours or so, I just couldn't go any further. And I just couldn't bear to go and level up a bit more.

It must be my (extreme) age now; I love following the stories in the games, but get really frustrated when you can't get to the next plot event because some developer thinks it's a really good idea to suddenly throw a large number of beasties at you 'just to make it a bit more of a challenge'. Borx to that, I want to be challenged, but I don't want to get myself kicked in the teeth for not spending 35 hours chasing round 1XP bunny rabbits just to be able to continue enjoying the game.


I hear you on that part, actually. Usually I'm going back and forth between two or three RPGs at a time, and I have stopped playing one of them for weeks at a time simply because I haven't figured out a way to get past a specific point. And I hate to power level unless I can't think of any other way to get past it, so a lot of the time it just sits there until I've realized I can't come up with a good strategy. But then again, I guess there is the other extreme, where a game becomes so easy that I don't have to put much effort into it, and honestly, I'd rather have what I described first.

Before I become overbearing with this, I remember playing Final Fantasy II (Yes, that's IV for you translation purists) back in 1992/3ish, and getting stuck at the Evil Wall bit (before Kain stabs you in the back.) Now, back then I didn't know other people even knew about FF (got to remember, this was the UK, and we don't like RP games here, so Nintendo never released them) so I had to go back to it day after day, until I finally managed to get past it. Yes, the sense of relief was overwhelming - and I went on to enjoy the game all the way through to getting thrashed by Zeromus, when I had to backtrack and level my people there.


It's one of the best feelings when playing a game, isn't it? One of those moments that you just can't help but stand up, put your arms up, and scream out "Yeah!" at the top of your lungs, possibly and inadvertantly waking up your parents, roommates, or whoever you live with in the process? Awesomeness.

There were no big FAQs, no RPGamer (stop weeping, kids) so i just had to work through it - and yeah, it was good. But now, in the twilight of my... Okay, I'm 31, but hell, I've got a job that takes up my daytime, a partner that takes up my nighttime... I just want to be able to play for a few hours to enjoy myself rather than being made to cry over my deficiencies

Anyway, I've rambled on, but I guess the point I'm trying to make is:

- Easy ain't always Bad
- Plot is all
- Don't burn the casual gamer. Give him love.


---EM Elendrik


It's I've caught myself saying to coworkers a lot recently, "real life catches up to all of us at some point." But on that note, having recently started a full-time job that's a considerable distance from where I live, I don't get as much time to game as I'd like...when I put in my hour or two of gaming for the night, I want to actually accomplish something. Even if it's just trying to figure out what doesn't work on whichever boss(es) I'm stuck on tonight.

Thanks for the feedback, though, it was an interesting read!

Someone should keep track of how many times Square Enix re-releases the same game.)

Dear Wonderslime and/or Arpijy,


Wow, someone here actually does recognize me! *gives Sundoulos a high five*

Sorry for the long laspe in letter writing. I've been embroiled in a cruel, cruel world of decoding software bugs, which were causing some errors in the calucation of covariance matrice...Choleski Decomposition of said matrices to be precise. I've long forgotten any of that stuff and had to do some reviewing. Sigh. Every once in a while, you actually do have to use some of that knowlege that you did [or didn't] learn in school.


Now I don't feel so bad about slacking off in some of my other hobbies. I have no idea what Choleski Decomposition is, but it sounds...uh, needlessly complicated?

Recently I have been wondering what Square Enix will do when the Final Fantasy remake gravy train is finally exhausted. I've held on to a dim hope that they might update the either the old Dragon Quest games, or maybe some other game, such as Chrono Trigger. Except for the original DQ I and IV, I missed all of the NES (and Gameboy Color) Dragon Quests as a kid.


I think more than anything, they've asked the question, "How many remakes of Final Fantasy 1 do we really need?" I mean, it's obviously working out financially for them, but yeah, I'd rather see them come up with something new, or at least something we haven't seen as often. I'm hoping for the remake/translation of Secret of Mana 2 (or Seiken Densetsu 3 if you wanna get technical) myself.

Interestingly enough, I read a short blurb on IGN recently about the potential of Dragon Quest remakes. According to the article, at a Square Enix financial meeting recently held in Tokyo, CEO Yoichi Wada was asked about the release plans for Dragon Quest IX. Wada replied, " This summer, we'll release Battle Road in arcades and Sword for the Wii. Following that, we're thinking of a release for 9 once we've released remake versions and so forth. "

For the Japanese gaming market, I suppose that this is a no-brainer for Squeenix. Of course, I have to assume that Wada is speaking of releasing Dragon Quest games in Japan, but I found it odd that he implied that the remakes would come before DQ IX. I can't imagine Square releasing Dragon Quest remakes before Dragon Quest IX in North America. I'm trying not to read too much into it, but this statement gives me a very tentative hope that one day Square Enix will finally bring the older Dragon Quests into a format that I actually own. I'm also keeping my fingers crossed for official, legal translations of Dragon Quest V and VI.


What you just said I think makes it slightly more likely that it's going to happen, combined with the fact that we now actually did get a legitimate release of Final Fantasy 3...I think it's not really a matter of if, but when. I do think that remaking and releasing the games that they've already released here are a little more likely, simply because they've already got translations of them and everything and therefore wouldn't have to put forth as much effort, but I'd be happy to be proven wrong here too. Especially because I've played both games in ROM form and, though I didn't care much for 6, I thought 5 was one of the better games in the series.

In other news, I suppose that the game I'm most excited about right now is not an RPG at all. After nearly 10 years, Blizzard has finally announced that a sequel to Starcraft, one of my favorite games of all time. I'm excited because it looks like the game is well underway; I'm also relieved that Blizzard decided to make it a sequel to the original RTS rather than an MMO spin-off (ala World of Warcraft), as some rumors indicated. I'm also relieved that they appear to be leaving out the RPG-lite elements of Warcraft III.


I did hear about that recently too, and though I'm not a Warcraft or Starcraft fan, I too think it's good that they didn't make an MMO spinoff simply on the grounds that me and another friend have known enough people getting sucked into World of Warcraft and ignoring their social lives that we're claiming to be a support group dealing with the loss of friends from it. (Warcraft Absorbs Friends' Lives, or WAFL for short, for the curious. Also, we have no idea how to actually run a support group.)

Also, I only heard recently that Final Fantasy XII: Revenent Wings was a Strategic RPG with some RTS elements. How did I miss this? I'm now very interested in this game.

Anyway, I've got to sign off for now. Have a great weekend!



I too haven't really done much research into the game, but that's for a different reason: I only picked up Final Fantasy 12 about a month and a half ago, and I'm still trying to avoid spoilers. Still looks interesting, though. Thanks for the letter, Sundoulos, and I'll see you over at SOCK 2!


I'm also interested in hearing what people have to say about Odin Sphere. I love the artwork, but the staff review indicated that the game was repetitive. Is it worth the purchase?

It might be a little bit repetitive, but to be brutally honest, so was Final Fantasy XII, and it was awesome. Not only that, but the staff review scored it as 4.5/5, which is pretty darn good. I think it's a good buy.


Thanks, everybody, for stepping up and writing in when I needed it most. It's a tough thing, being a Q&A host, because while you rely on letters to make columns up, poking people for them is no fun at all. It's my job to inspire you guys to write, so dammit, I'm going to have to try my hardest to instill that in you.

Hmm, what else? Oh, thanks to Arpijy for a job well done! As for a new topic: It's a little bit selfish, but it's hot and sizzling. Somebody mentioned it above, but Square Enix has indeed hinted at the idea of Dragon Quest remakes! A North American remake of Dragon Quest IV, V, or VI would make me simply die and go to heaven. What do you think? Is it going to happen? If so, which games do you want to see, and for which system? DS all the way? Or do you have something else in mind?

That's all from me! Have a safe and fun weekend, and I'll be back for more next Tuesday.

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Unanswered Letter Backlog: 14 - yay! I <3 Extras!
Matt loves his catnaps... even more than cats, he's pretty sure.

Yeah, I got Etrian Odyssey today. SHH, don't tell anybody. (I really do have a problem.)

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On my Wishlist:

1. Dragon Quest IX

2. Fire Emblem: Goddess of Dawn

3. Super Smash Bros. Brawl

4. Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker

5. Metroid Prime 3

On my Portable Playlist:

1. Pokémon Diamond

2. Lunar Knights/Final Fantasy VI

3. Mega Man ZX

On my Console Roster:

1. Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess/Super Paper Mario

2. Valkyrie Profile 2: Silmeria

3. Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance

Hot Topics:

1. Playing Odin Sphere? Tell me about it!

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4. Etrian Odyssey: Excited about a new dungeon-crawler?

5. Don't you hate it when you're addicted to buying games you can't play?

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