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ASK MATT
Enter the Blastinator
June 7, 2007

Matt Demers - 20:24 EST

WAS IT SOMETHING I SAID? All of a sudden, I have letters coming out of all orifices, including the ones you don't want to know about. Why? I don't know. Why do you think? No, really... I'd love to know. This feels like the old days.

Haste makes waste, but at the same time, there's no time like the present to begin, and... dammit, I can't think of a third cliché to round out the sentence. Eff that ess.

Enjoy!




LETTERS
That's also the smell of some old apartment buildings...


Alright, I'll let that FPS thing go. Sorry, but I have this suppressed elitist fan boy in me that I have to beat down sometimes. I'm in my objective mind right now, but no less insane. It's funny, though. I only get that way when reading your columns, Matt. So it must be your fault.

Matt

I guess that just points to my inherent lack of leetness. No, don't worry, it's true. I've dealt with it ever since my formative years, when people made fun of me for liking games like Tetrisphere and Final Fantasy. I just bring out the bad in everybody; perhaps I should use this power to my advantage. Hmm.

Anyway, if by some grace of God there is a Fry's Electronics anywhere near you, you should go there now. That place is like Geek Mecca. The one in Arlington, TX near where I am is this huge warehouse of electronics. I've tried to look around, but 1. It would be too tiring. 2. I don't make it past the video game section. This place has rare gems in abundance. I saw multiple copies of La Pucelle and Makai Kingdom. Also sought after non-RPGs like this Gitaroo Man game I've heard so much about can be easily found. They had like 3 copies. The list of games you can't find anywhere else is countless. They're no fools when it comes to price, however. They had a boatload of Front Mission 4 for $10 bucks. But Gitaroo Man (which came in 2002 I believe) still runs for $40. Oh and somebody must be buying Steambot Chronicles. It's still $50.

Matt

Nope. No Fry's in sight... it must be an American thing. It's not that the U.S. is all that far away, though, so if I were ever hungry enough for something rare, a fun roadtrip wouldn't be out of the question.

One has to wonder though, how this place manages to hoard all of these hard-to-find titles. Like, do they get everybody else's overstock and then stash them away to bring out three years later, rubbing their hands together all the while? What an interesting business that would be.

If you want to get anything rare around here, you have to venture into the hole-in-the-wall pawn shops, where the fragrance of soggy-cigarette-scented-carpets hangs in the air. I always feel like I'm not really supposed to be in those places, or better yet, I feel like some cop could come in at any time and handcuff the guy at the cash while I'm there poking through seven copies of Cobra Triangle trying to look for games that are actually worth playing. Ahh...

I'm willing to bet that most gamers who aren't used to the slowdown inherent in graphics intensive 2D games won't like Odin Sphere. But hell, sometimes the slowdown is a good thing. You've got so much crap flying at you that it's hard to react. Just pretend you're using Viewtiful Joe's Slo-mo. I just wish the PS3 had some sort of procedure that could alleviate that. A patch perhaps, Sony?

Jonezy

Oh yeah, since everyone else seems to be finishing FFXII, I went ahead and knocked that out earlier today. Screw those hunts.

Matt

Hey, it would make the game more nostalgic. It'd feel like NES Mega Man, except without eight nasty robots to fight and with stupendous LAST-GEN graphics. (Ugh, last-gen... it's so last-gen.)

Thanks, Jonezykins. Write again soon!



I found one!


Matt:

You need someone who isn't enjoying Odin Sphere? That'd be me. The game held me for the first few hours (much like Rogue Galaxy did...and you know how I hate that game), but I haven't played it since. I've not even progressed past the first character.

The main problem I have is simply this: even on the easy setting, Odin Sphere is way too hard. The story seems like it would be amazing, and of course the visuals are top-notch. But (and this may stem from my distaste for all non-KH-action-RPGs) it's just not worth it to battle your way through hordes of enemies (often multiple times in order to level up) to get to the story.

If I had a friend who was into RPGs that lived nearby, I'd make him or her finish the game, then go back and watch all the scenes (you have the option of viewing all the scenes you've completed) just to get the great story. With so many other games keeping me busy, I doubt I'll get back to Odin Sphere.

In other words, stay strong.

-Jeffrey

Matt

This, coming from a guy whose current favourite game is the notoriously-challenging Etrian Odyssey? Fascinating. See, Jeffrey, I'm not sure what I think about that. A game with a solid difficulty is more likely to pique my interest, so the sadistic side of me is actually more interested in the game than it was five minutes ago. The rational side of me is, of course, saying "ZELDA, Matt, ZEELLLLLDA. And then VALKYRIE PROFILE, remember that one? And then Fire Emblem!! Matt, what are you doing?!" And then I remember that to stay out of the loonie bin, it would probably be best to just listen to those voices in my head rather than argue with them. Don't worry, I'm not getting Odin Sphere anytime soon.

Thanks, my darling Jeffrey. I shall be awaiting your next letter!



The ugly side of TP.


Hey Matt,

Currently in the middle of Twilight Princess, and being a Zelda fan, I have to say I'm quite "whelmed". I'm a little past my third time as a wolf and am about to go into the underwater dungeon for the first time. So far the game is not quite as much fun as LttP, OoT, MM, and WW. Discovering new uses for old items is nice, though (Iron Boots anyone?).

Matt

Those ARE fun. I like the fact that not only are there new uses for them, but there are multiple uses for them in the same game. Nice idea, Ninty.

On the other hand, I have two minor quasi-problems with the game, again so far. The first, as others have said, is that every other console Zelda game has had something innovative to it. LttP had the dual worlds, OoT had both the new 3D format and going back and forth in time, MM had the Groundhog Day approach and the masks which changed your form with different abilities, and WW had the treasure hunting, stealing, OMG Link has changed his class to Thief theme to it, but also with a number of tools that hadn't been used before.

One may argue that Link hasn't turned into a wolf before, but that is my second problem--that the wolf seems very boring to me. I'm considering having "Hungry Like A Wolf" play in the background just to get more enthused about the theme of it, but right now it just seems like all it does is charges, senses, jumps well, and does that multiattack thing. The Deku, Goron, and Zora forms from MM were all a lot more interesting and multi-layered AND had the freedom to change back to Link once the first mildly-annoying-but-much-shorter Deku-part was done (I should've thought to play "No Scrubs"). Every time I go into the darkness, I have to tell myself "OK, let me just get through this part". Every time I see a boulder while in wolf form I go "OK, I guess I'll just have to blow that up LATER."

Matt

Yeahhhh... no, you're right, and I've had that feeling at times, too. Keep playing and some of your annoyances will be resolved, I think. The first "Link as a wolf" scene was really gripping and exciting, but it quickly dawned on me that really, there's not much you can DO in your wolf form, as far as I can see. The fighting becomes even less involving (A, A, A, instead of shake, shake, shake) which I'm not a big fan of... and the play control becomes a little looser and wavery. Losing access to your items is irritating too.

The defeating the bugs and collecting the lights (similar to MM) and the similar-to-DW7 theme of saving each part of the world is fine in itself, but the wolf form just seems very stifling. At least it's not the bunny form from LttP, though (although in this way TP does provide an odd segment of a chain between OoT and LttP).

Matt

True, but the bunny form wasn't meant to be an actual, viable form to be in: It was meant to be irritatingly stifling. The wolf isn't supposed to be that way. The fact that there are so many limitations to running around in canine form makes it feel like there's a cost associated with being in a special form which really provides little benefit. Of course, I'm talking from about two weeks in your future (or one week, or three months, depending on how fast you play) when you have the option of changing back and forth. But yeah, I have to admit that as much as I like Twilight Princess, I like it for Link and his strong, manly self; not his cute li'l puppy version.

Anyway, these quibbles aren't enough for me to stop playing Twilight Princess, but they do take some of the fun out of it. If later on the wolf learns some more skills or if there's freedom to switch between the two forms (the latter of which I have a feeling will happen) the game might be more fun for me. 'Til then, I'll continue to be whelmed.

Joel

Matt

Well, I guess I let the cat out of the bag. Honestly, I'm not that much further than you are, so we'll have to see how this unfolds together, like two peas in a pot, simmering away on the stove to be served on a dinner plate besides a slice of roast beef and some mashed potatoes for good measure.

Let me know how it goes, and I'll countertell! It's a promise.



Sphered


Hi, Matt,

Sorry it's been so long since last I wrote. One of the people at work has been out on medical leave so I've been doing their job as well as my own. Which means less free time which means choosing where that time will be spent which for me means playing games. Which for you means I now have something to yap about.

Matt

No need to be sorry, and no need for excuses! People have busy lives. I'm one of them. I understand! Now, what will your yapping pertain to?

I started Odin Sphere this past weekend. Haven't gotten too far yet (thanks to the power going out here Sat. morning & not coming back on until Sat. night), but while it's not the worst game I've ever played, I can already tell it's not going to be one of my all time favorites either. I judge a game by its gameplay. No matter how good a game's story might be, it won't matter to me if I'm not enjoying the gameplay. The two big things that have irked me with Odin Sphere thus far: you can only equip one item, boss battles yield you NOTHING (all the stages you go through leading to the boss yield you treasure chests upon completion; when you finish a boss battle it goes directly into the next branch of the story). The latter really gets under my skin because I feel you should get some reward for all that hard work (especially in this game - I die a mess of times before beating these bosses). I'm not disgusted enough yet to quit on it, but it doesn't give me that addicted, "Oh, I'll just play a little more"......10 hours later & still going feeling. So I'd recommend a rent before you buy to anyone curious about the game.

Matt

Hmm, I see. I'm not sure that non-rewarding boss battles is a super-annoying issue for me, but it is a bit senseless. I mean, we should be used to this: How many Final Fantasy games are there that refuse to give you anything beyond a small pile of non-experience "whateverP" upon a boss defeat? It's so irritating. To me, bosses should be the things that give you far and away a ton of experience. Isn't bringing down the biggest enemies one of the things that should make heroes more heroic? Shouldn't heroes develop the best skills by overcoming the strongest foes? 6 AP... go to hell, I say.

The rewards grant you motivation. I'm not just singling out Final Fantasy (or Odin Sphere) here, but think of Chrono Cross. One of the things I HATED about that game was the fact that you just couldn't power up outside of certain fights, past a very limited range. It was depressing. Why should I take time out and battle things if I'm going to get dick-all for doing so? The worst offender in recent times, however, is clearly Dawn of Mana. Uh, Square Enix? What in the world were you thinking? People are not going to be very impressed if you reset their stats to their beginning levels with every new stage, darlings! What a waste.

OK, rant warning. Let's move along.

There are a bunch of other things rolling around my old noodle, but I'm pooped (I'll be doing this 2 persons job thing until Sept.), so I'll save more ramblings for another letter.

Have a great week.

Jbumi

Matt

Thanks, you too. Ramble to me soon, if you can!



And now, some technical specs on that awful, horrible DS system.


Hey-o Matt,

I'm just gonna run down the list of hot topics.

So I have also purchased Odin Sphere, it's good, but I'm not gonna talk about it anymore.

Matt

Fair enough. That game has received its fair share of airtime these days, and then some.

I would love to see some Dragon Quest Remakes. I've only ever played #1 and #8 and have never beaten those. Now the reason I never beat #1 was because I played it on the NES and I never could get games to maintain their saves for long enough to finish them. I haven't finished #8 because....well I don't have a good reason. But I would love the opportunity to play #1. I liked what was there, though having to tell the character to walk up and down stairs was rather tedious. Update the interface a little, stick on the DS with a quick save and I'm sold.

Matt

Oh, I totally agree. And you know, the version that we got was even user-friendlier than the one Japan got! In the original-original-original, there were passwords to input -- no saves -- and your character always faced in the same direction. Okay, the second issue is purely graphical, but come on, that's pretty bad.

It would be an awesome experience to have Dragon Quest, the original, completely remade in gorgeous awe-inspiring graphics. I know I'm not generally a graphicky guy, but I just think it would be incredibly cool to wander an incredibly-great looking vast world by yourself, over hills and plains, fighting monsters. To see the world that I grew up with more than fifteen years ago come to life in that way would be unbelievable. I can dream forever, though, because come on... if something like that ever happened, it wouldn't make its way to this side of the Pacific ever, ever.

Speaking of the DS, anyone who says it's a hunk of trash is hating for the sake of hating. The DS does have some problems. Mostly with how it handles online gaming. It really shouldn't be so hard to get this right, but apparently Nintendo is stuck on this issue. I have a wireless router in my place, but in order to trade Pokemon I have to shut down it's security. This is because I use WPA instead of WEP(I have no idea what either means, I just know it makes a difference.) But other than that, given that I almost have no reason to take it online anyway, I love my DS. Oh and my DS Lite that I bought to replace it. The games are just rolling in on that little handheld and it's been great for gaming growth. Just check the sales records.

Matt

Yeah, I have no idea what the hell is up with the online stuff. I don't understand why I shouldn't be able to just say "connect to wireless connection" and have it go "OK!" followed by a reassuring ding. I guess that would be a way-too-ahead-of-its-time idea, but I went and bought a USB Adaptor thingie just because I don't have patience to figure out bizarre acronyms that only nerr-sayers could hope to understand.

What keeps drawing me back into a game? Well it must not be graphics, cause my Wii's Virtual Console is stuffed with games that many consider ugly. I'm currently replaying Final Fantasy Tactics, which while not ugly is not the prettiest game I could be playing. So really I think for me playing a game comes down to the other two aspects. Being pretty doesn't hurt, but is not required. Good game play and story are much more likely to draw me back in an day.

Matt

I agree. Not everyone will... graphics are very important to some gamers, to the point that some people just WON'T consider playing an RPG if it has below-average visuals. Fair enough, I guess, though I'd argue that these people could easily miss out on some amazing experiences.

Now last one, the only thing I see limiting games from being moved onto handhelds is that many times they are just tossed over without thought about how the game is on a handheld. Key to any portable game is that it's easy to pick up and put down at anytime. So certain games do better with that. But really I don't care too much as long as it's good.

Matt

At least I think that it's safe to say that we're moving OUT of that era. Yes, there are still some remakes coming out on portable systems, but many of them aren't just ports; just look at FFIII. But, we're also seeing a lot of fresh, new material too, as developers realize more and more that from a business point of view, not only are these systems cheaper to make games for, there's more cash potential there with much huger userbases installed. New games are coming out all over the place for the PSP and especially for the DS, so I think that that argument is fading out of relevance (happily).

I guess that's it. Now I need to go kill some Death Corp members and proceed with my conquering of Ivalice. The real Ivalice anyway. But I do have a parting question. What is your favorite Job Class? You need not limit yourself to Tactics. Personally I'm a fan of Dragoons.

Matt

What a wonderful question! You'll make hot topics with questions like that. Ah, I really like taking off-the-beaten-path jobs, though I definitely prefer magic-style jobs to physical ones. For instance, I love Bard, Dancer, Time Mage, and Mediator in the Final Fantasy Tactics world, just because they're creative and different... not necessarily because they're all that useful.

Overall, though, I love the concept of a Scholar, but I think that so much more could be done with them. They should be SO much more useful than having the ability to scan monsters. I'll tell you something: If *I* made a game, I'd be sure to include a Scholar class that could do some REALLY FUN things... you can bet on that. ;)

Thanks much!



Delicious treats and time/money/ALLsinks


Well, I've got Odin Sphere pretty much in the "finished" pile right now. I don't want to get into too much more detail in case you get it, but it was a satisfying experience all in all. You definitely need some time to get into the groove - I really only managed to really exploit some stuff and learn some strategies by the third character. And the story isn't afraid to be kind of a downer at times! I think that's something I appreciate.

Matt

Oh, I KNOW! That's another fantastic topic. Darn you people and your good ideas.

Why IS it that so many games are afraid to kill off characters or have devastating things happen? You never hate a villain as much as when they slay someone you love. This is a huge reason why FFIV, V, VI, and VII are better than the rest, by the way.

But a thread on the GameFAQs page about Odin Sphere got me thinking - this might be one of the best of the last PS2 RPGs. This thought depresses me, because soon I'll have to look out for another system. The PS3 is doing poorly in sales and retaining its key titles, the XBox is all about action games and sports, and the Wii... well, it just doesn't strike me as the kind of platform that will attract good RPGs (at least none that don't involve swinging a little plastic thingie around like you were Michelangelo from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles). The DS has some good stuff, but it's obviously going to have less power and space than a non-handheld, as you said in response to my last letter. All in all, I feel lost and confused, RPG-wise. I have no idea where to go. My only redeeming thought is that it'll take a while for ANY system to emerge as being RPG-friendly, so at least I have some time, but still, it was just plain EASIER when the PS2 was king; I KNEW I'd have a lot of RPGs at my disposal.

Uncertainty sux.

Matt

Yeah. I think that it's really easy to get caught up in all the new technology before realizing one thing: There is no invisible back wall, like in those constantly-progressing Mario levels with lifts, that will force you to buy a system anytime soon. It's not hard to forget that fact, especially when everyone around you blabs about which is better, Nintendo or Sony or Microsoft, and so on and so forth. You hvae nothing to worry about. If there are no games coming out for any of these systems, don't sweat it. Wait a year, and see if things are different then. Nothing is stopping you from buying Super Paper Mario a year from now if you decide on a Wii, and nothing will stop you from picking up a copy of Final Fantasy XIII, if and when it comes out, a year after its release, if you finally get a PS3 in 2009.

(Editorial: I have my doubts as to whether 2009 will really be a year after the release of FFXIII, but we'll see.)

Never worry, Leaper! And hey, Q&A is here for all your ranting needs, in case you feel more despair and confusion.



QUICKIES

Given that the Smash Bros. Dojo site http://www.smashbros.com/en_us/music/music01.html teased us early last week with the names and game credits of several prominent composers that are contributing to the game, what are the chances that we might see far more third party characters in SSBM than we originally expected? Who would you like to see included in the game?

- Sundoulos

Matt
Ah, Brawl... it's the game that pretty much everybody is waited with bated breath for. I think that just because the hype has been SO huge for it, that Nintendo would be making a rather large mistake by not including more third-party characters. An expectation has been building ever since Nintendo made that surprise announcement (Snake) at E3. Myself? I would DIE AND GO TO HEAVEN if Paper Mario were playable.

IN CLOSING

And the winner is... best class! What's your favourite class? It doesn't have to be a Final Fantasy class, but it could be! I want to hear from you (and yes Leaper, I know your answer will be Blue Mage). But also, I want to know why! What inspires your love for this class of yours?

Send me a letter, and I'll do my best to get it answered. Until next time, though, I must say goodbye. Goodbye!



Send a Letter!

Unanswered Letter Backlog: 18 - Only a few of those are APG people, too...



slimey@rpgamer.com
Matt is pleasantly surprised!


Ohoho, maybe it's my addiction that has caused the lack of response lately... must stop playing Pokémon...

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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

3. Mega Man ZX



On my Console Roster:

1. Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess

2. Valkyrie Profile 2: Silmeria

3. Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance



Hot Topics:

1. Is there anybody out there who DOESN'T like Odin Sphere?

2. What is your favourite RPG class... and why?

3. The DS: Hunk of trash, or rich with greatness?

4. What is it about an RPG that keeps you coming back for more? Graphics? Story? Gameplay?

5. Which console RPG would you like to see legitimately in handheld form?



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