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ASK MATT
Orderly Conduct
June 13, 2007

Matt Demers - 21:21 EST

I MIGHT HAVE FORGOTTEN to mention it last week, but yeah, I was planning on being away yesterday. Why? Because, as all good students must, I attended my Master's convocation yesterday, which involved a really loooong, hooooot two hours in Guelph's Gryphon Dome, followed by some family game-playing and a nice dinner out. All in all, it was a fun day, and I'm officially a "master" of what I do, according to this piece of paper.

A big thanks to Bari yesterday for filling in for me! If you want more of that guy, head on over to Sound Test, updated weekly. There's a fun contest going on, and I know he'd want you to get involved, so do.

First, though, I present you with today's selection of questions and answers.




LETTERS
Choosers shouldn't be beggars...


Hey, Wonderslime,

I usually don't get mad reading letters or message boards, but I couldn't help being a little annoyed with the reader who wrote in yesterday, knocking Square Enix's decision to develop DQ IX and FFF III for the DS. When initially asked about the decision to bring DQIX to the DS, Square-Enix president Yoichi Wada replied, "We ended up bringing it to DS under the consideration that we want to deliver to as many people as possible a Dragon Quest that offers a new experience."

This is consistent with Square's marketing history; they've typically migrated to the console medium that provided access to the largest amount of creative freedom or the largest potential audience.

After all, they ended a 10-year relationship with Nintendo to develop Final Fantasy VII on the Playstation. Square had already been experiencing development difficulties with the hardware limitations of the Super Famicon/SNES, and Nintendo's decision to stick with a cartridge-based storage system for the N64 was the apparently the straw the broke the camel's back. If Square hadn't made such an intelligent business decision, the 1000 lb. gorilla of RPG developers might look completely different today, or they might just have gone out of business. We might not be enjoying the current wave of RPG popularity in the west if not for the Final Fantasy Playstation years.

Considering this alone, our rather rude friend should realize that all gamers benefit when software companies have choices to develop on different platforms. We also benefit because the said choices prevent a hardware distributor, such as Nintendo or Sony, from exerting too much control over third party games.

Matt

Very much agreed. Basic consumer theory from my Grade 10 Business class tells us greater variety and more competition benefits consumers greatly, and just look where we stand today. We're faced with two portable systems, each with a wide variety of different games. We're just sinking into a brand new generation of games, and all three new systems look to have their own benefits and drawbacks.

"But why should we have to buy multiple systems to play the games we want to play?"

You shouldn't, if you can't afford to. Pick the system you like most and play other games at a friend's house. Or, start saving up for a change.

Sundoulos, you're right: The only time that only one platform existed was essentially in the NES years, when Nintendo tramped around with 95% of the market share, beating the crap out of developers who essentially had no choice but to create games for the system (or else face bankruptcy). Obviously, this is not ideal, since the industry DEPENDS on those very developers. Read up about it: Nintendo was more than a bit underhanded. Last generation, we saw perhaps the most one-way-tilted market share we've ever seen SINCE the days of Nintendo's near-monopoly, with Sony gobbling up 70% of the share. It's a relief, then, in a way, to see the race open up again, and key game franchises spreading their wings to new platforms.

For an interesting perspective on the factors leading up to the Squaresoft/Nintendo split in the 90s, go to the following website right here. Here's one such example he cited:

In December 1991, Squaresoft had to delay the release of Romancing SaGa (not released in the US)

into January 1992 because of bugs, but found it impossible to fix the bugs due to a lack of cartridge

memory. Squaresoft requested Nintendo to allow them to use the new 12M cartridge but was denied.

Nintendo was reserving the cartridge for the release of Enix's Dragon Quest V.

Squaresoft was left with no choice but to take out parts of the game, including a final boss scenario.

Granted, my response focused on Nintendo's hubris of the 90s, Sony has been showing similar signs in recent years.

At any rate, the last two decades have shown that it's not good for a company to have too much dominance over the market share.

I'll let this go before it gets too long. Thanks!

- Sundoulos

Matt

Not at all, Sundoulos... thank you for your letter! It's a really interesting topic, and you should consider writing an editorial and submitting it to the Eds section, if you find yourself a bit bored sometime.

It might seem inconvenient to have three big systems + two handhelds to choose from in this day and age, but the fact that we HAVE such a choice is a great indicator of just how healthy the industry is.



Developer hmming and hawing.


Hmm... I don't think yesterday's DS-hater is alone, but the fact that his three systems all have a "ps" in them kinda makes me think that he's just a Sony fanboy and should be dismissed as such.

However, his problem(not the fanboyism, the inability to play the game he wants to play) may be more common this gen. It used to be that just about any RPG worth owning was on PS2. It was the dominant console and handheld wasn't what it is today. All the major 3rd party RPG franchises were on it. But so far this gen, no console's dominating. Plus, handhelds have gone from a small niche market to major players. While Dragon Quest may go back to playstation eventually, I would not be surprised at all if more series jumped platforms or even jumped to handhelds. And while it's understandable it does suck for the people who bought one platform expecting to play certain games and later finding out that it's getting put on another platform.

Matt

And Dragon Quest is a huge player. Perhaps not as huge as Final Fantasy, but just look at the current plan: The ONLY Final Fantasy game announced for the PS3 is Final Fantasy XIII and its brother, Versus. The DS, PSP, and Wii will each have a piece of the Final Fantasy pie within the next year. Xbox 360? Well... I'm not sure why Square Enix seems to hate it so much besides the fact that the Japanese abhor it. Oh, maybe that's the reason.

Personally, I'm still waiting to find out where Suikoden's going. I have trouble seeing myself not getting Suikoden VI. I'm hoping it goes to PS3 since it doesn't look like FF13 is budging. No, I don't own a PS3, but I'm leaning toward it over the other two.

Have you heard anything on Suikoden VI? Anything?

Matt

No, I haven't. Now, Square Enix is a rich company; I suspect that they can afford to take the odd gamble here and there, publishing games for different systems to capitalize on the successes of them all. I'm not sure that other companies are necessarily ready to take that plunge yet.

A lot of video game producers will be looking to which console will a) most easily facilitate the next game in a series; and b) will be most profitable, with a wide enough user base to generate some decent sales. Both of these criteria must be fulfilled: You can't make a game on a system that can't handle it, yet you can't make a game if nobody's going to buy it. I really think that many companies are sitting on their best franchises until a clear leader in the new-gen consoles is established; thus far, Nintendo might be the early leader, but the race is by no means over with, and the installed base of each platform remains pretty small in the scheme of things.

Of course, you can bet that the minute we hear anything about a Suikoden VI, we'll report on it. The series is pretty popular, and it's hard to imagine that Konami would drop it for any reason, so stay optimistic!



Wild Arms letdowns... and Lufia.


Matt,

I feel bad for forgetting about the Mega Man games on the PSX when taking into account fully 2D games last time, especially since I'm a fan of them myself. I guess maybe when the X series started derailing, I put it out of mind?

Matt

To be honest, I almost forgot about them too. The series really did tank with Mega Man X7, and very few people gave X8 a chance when it came out. For the record, X8 was actually a load better than its ugly brother, even if it was terribly short. Whatever happened to those pairs of wonderful multi-level final castles of the NES era?

Anyway, I really agree that the DS is the place to go for RPGs right now. There are so many good titles out there at the moment, and so many on the way, that it just seems almost foolish for a fan of Role playing games not to have one. I know the PSP has its share of RPGs, but they also come with something that has plagued most disc based systems... loading times! If anything killed my ambition to play through the re-release of Chrono Trigger on the PSX, it was the fact that I had to suffer through loading times for every battle that I got into. This is covered up nicely on the Final Fantasy games, by putting in a nice swirly graphic effect as the battle loads... but Chrono Trigger's battles popped up out of nowhere, and thus, I would hear the start of battle sound, the music would start playing, and lo and behold, I got to watch the screen frozen in place while I waited for the battle window to open. Utterly horrible! I suppose it's more forgivable in 3D titles, but if I'm playing a game on a handheld, I don't want to waste most of my time waiting for things to load.

Matt

And one could argue that IF the horrid loading times are the price of admission for 3-D graphics, then it isn't worth it. I've heard that the PSP's loading times are really bad, but there are a few other issues that make it a difficult system to recommend above the DS. Most notably, the battery life is supposedly just AWFUL (only a couple of hours, depending on the game). The DS' battery life is nothing too special either, but it isn't that bad. I don't want to have the darn thing burn out on me halfway through a long train ride!

Perhaps if these current rumours about a PSP redesign are true, some of these issues will be resolved. We'll just have to wait and see.

Switching gears somewhat, have you every really anticipated the release of an RPG, only to be completely disappointed by it when you finally got to play it? For me, that game was Wild ARMs 4. I'm a big fan of the WA series, because to me, it's as close as we're going to get to a new Lufia-style game as far as puzzles and dungeons go. I remember keeping close watch on how the game was coming, and being interested about how the shifted focus on platforming would work, as well as being interested by the new combat system. However, when I finally got to play the game myself, the lack of Filgaia exploration, the horribly watered-down "kids vs adults" storyline, and the lack of much depth to the characters completely killed any enjoyment that the HEX battle system added in. My ray of hope exists though, as the storyline for Wild ARMs 5 was penned by an actual writer, and the world map seems to be back as well.

Matt

It's interesting you mention it, because I haven't run into many people who have played WA4. Those people that I have heard from have generally said that the game is very good, so your opinion is neatly different to me.

From what I hear, yes, the Western theme is back in earnest with 5. Also, the world map does indeed return along with an "improved" Hex battle system. What exactly "improved" refers to is something that remains a secret, but with the game due out fairly soon, we don't have long to wait.

Have I really been looking forward to an RPG, only to be really disappointed? I can't say that I have, to be honest. There have been little annoyances with some games, here and there, but overall, there aren't many that I've REALLY wanted and been unsatisfied with. The closest recent example would be Mario and Luigi: Partners in Time, and it wasn't really that bad. It was just really short, not very hard, relatively uncreative in terms of puzzle design, and overall, just not as satisfying as the first. It was still a decent game, though.

And going back to your comment, wouldn't it be great if a real Lufia game were to be somehow announced... by somebody... out of the blue? Yeah, right, we can dream.

Anyway, that's all for now, I think. Time to go back to whatever it is I do all day. (Which is most definitely NOT plotting on how to rule the world.)

~FoxKelfonne

Matt

It's kind of hard to believe that when you're reporting from your thousand-foot-tall booby-trapped tower. If you ever reach demigod-status, don't fry me- consider me a willing servant instead.

But, keep writing letters one way or the other. It'd be boring to just sit and be all final-boss-like all day, until a random hero shows up here or there.



That and this.


Greetings Matt!

First, I'm sorry that I let you down when you were in dire need for letters, please forgive me.

Matt

I wouldn't worry too much. The dry stretch has, well, moistened quite a bit recently, as people write in in droves. Oh, I'm not complaining at all.

So what are the newest news to talk about?

The DS: Although I don't own one I think it's a great piece of technology with a very good pack of features and a promising game library. I wouldn't mind winning the one in Sock 2, but for that I really have to put more effort into the game.

Matt

I know! I'm so excited about the chance to give one away to somebody. I've never given away a prize this big before, especially when so many other prizes are up for grabs. Games, schwag, and more. I'm pumped!

Odin Sphere? *sigh* Another great game I want (and ultimately will get) but won't have time for playing it in quite some time. I aquired three rpgs yesterday on E-Bay, (among them Shadow Hearts: Covenant for roughly 7 dollar), as if my backlog pile isn't big enough. (I know, I know, preaching to the chor)

Matt

Wow.. good for you! Shadow Hearts: Covenant is becoming more difficult to find by the day. Given that it's reportedly a great game, the days of $7 used copies may be numbered. Just think: Before the release of Valkyrie Profile: Lenneth, one reader discovered that copies of the original VP were fetching something like $200 on eBay! You might have a classic in the making, too.

And I'm still sucked up in Oblivion, you wanted to know about it? I just say this: The main quest required me to venture to a city to do something, which would have taken about half an hour. When I arrived there the gaming clock displayed 70 hours !!! why? There were so many other quest I could take and so many places to explore ... With the right player mods this game becomes really addictive. It's a good mixture of its predecessors Morrwind and Daggerfall (from 1996). What Morrowind lacked in gameplay since Daggerfall, they put back in. Oh great, now I have the urge to play Daggerfall again, why, THANK YOU Matt.

Matt

Heh, don't look at me... you talked yourself into it!

PC gaming is one of those things that I just didn't get into. One day, if I find the time, I should just bite the bullet and give something a try. Maybe if I buy a new computer over the next few years, I'll use that as an opportunity.

My advise: Get the game, look up and download the mods most fitting to you, and reserve roughly 150 hours of your life.

Matt

This is precisely why I can't afford to yet. Er, never mind that "167" showing on my version of Pokémon Diamond... it isn't really there.

By the way did you ever had a chance to play Space Channel 5 part 1 or 2 on the Dreamcast? These games are totally weird, have a simple gameplay, are colourful till they hurt your eyes, and are fun as hell! (especially on Japanese)

What other games did you play, which looked completely weird/crazy, and seemed to have a boring gameplay, but in the end were sooo much fun?

Matt

Hah, WARIOWARE. I have a small obsession with it, though I tend to play it in short bursts. The gameplay looks so repetitive and random, and at first glance, I really didn't think that it was worth it. However, it's just insanely fun to try and top your own (and other people's) records. My brother and I got into an absurdly competitive stretch a little while back, where we kept trying to beat each other's records on Mona's games in Warioware: Touched. It's just addictive and wonderful.

Oh, and of course when I finally wind up in the land of the Rising Sun I'll gladly send you a copy of Dragon Quest V (if Gaijin Monogatari doesn't beat me to it). At the time it arrives please just tell me your exact feelings when you know you have a perfectly good working copy of one of your most wanted games at home but don't have the means (lack of technology and/or Japanese language skills) to play it. Uwaha Uwaha Uwahahahahaha (Kefka laugh)

Matt

Yeah, I'd have to wait for a good North American localization. You know, Dragon Quest remakes have been rumoured, based on some vague comments from people at Square Enix. I wouldn't put a portable remake of DQV out of the question, and that is just exciting. Will North America finally be able to experience these games, fifteen years after the fact? There are not words for my excitement.

You know what really caught me off guard last time I went to a electronics store? It seems like Europe finally gets roughly almost all the good Rpgs that hit the US. Because I saw Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga 1+2 and many other ones I imported (or will import) and never expected to wind up here. (Part of them translated to German no less). It took us a long way, but finally I think the pal gamers will get the credit they deserve, too. Opinions of any other Pal gamers about that?

Matt

You heard 'em. And yeah, PAL gamers are too often snubbed. I don't really know why, either. What needs to happen is for more PAL-based video companies to arise, so that PAL people aren't so dependent on Japanese or North American games to get their fix. I can't imagine how annoying it must be.

Well, enough jabbering from me, but one last question: If you could have three games for free you wish for, but for that had to give up three other games, you also want badly, forever(!), which ones would you eliminate?

Matt

Heh heh, it depends on how badly "badly" is. I think that an English Dragon Quest V and VI are worth the price of, say, Dragon Quest VII and VIII. "What?!" you say, "Is he MAD?" Yes, Dragon Quest VIII was fantastic, but I just can't imagine my life without the original four. My third choice would be Mother 3, because I really would have liked to play this game and I think it's tragic that we've been stood up. What would I give up? Well, as much as I loved the Xenosaga series, there's no way I'm ever going to play it again. So, perhaps I'd give up one of the episodes (and if the sacrifice were sufficient, I'd choose to give up the other two episodes over DQVII and VIII from before, come to think of it).

Ahh, gotta love completely unrealistic yet silly-fun hypothetical questions.

Oh and remember your days as a student as you longed for a caring, friendly teacher. Now that you have the power, do the right thing:

Abuse it, show them who's boss and scare the living .... out of 'em.
"Oderint, dum metuant"
"Let them hate me, as long as they fear me"
(Lucius Accius; Slogan of emperor Caligula)

Have a nice day and take care
Belthasar2

P.S: I'll get to you, FF XII! some day ...

Matt

Wow, Caligula... there's a role model whose footsteps are worth following. Thanks for writing in! I hope to hear from you again soon.



Ugh, it's true.


Dawn of Mana resets levels?!? Glad I didn't pick it up like I was thinking. But that was only because I'd heard of bad reviews all over, not just here on RPGamer.

Matt

Yeah, it's true. It's a little hard to imagine an RPG that doesn't reward you for all of your time and effort, but that's exactly what this seems to be. What incentive is there to get into the game, look for secrets, and fight powerful enemies? There IS none! What an absolutely stupid idea.

There are just some battle systems I can't get into. I can usually dive right into most eventually, but some things I just can't like. My major example is FF2. Sure, it's innovative and lends itself to interesting decisions, but I just couldn't bring myself to play past the first couple of hours. It was just too... I don't know... weird for me? Maybe weird isn't the right word, but it just didn't feel like a system I was willing to get into. I think there's a reason why FF3 went right back to the original XP system...

Matt

Indeed. It's a bit flawed, but it shows something neat: Final Fantasy has always been a "highly experimental" series, with every single game testing some new foothold and tweaking the gameplay (often significantly). So many people got upset because of the "huge" changes in gameplay between FFVII and VIII, but these were the people who had never played any other games in the series. Final Fantasy has always been about implementing new ideas, and VIII was no exception, even if some of those ideas fell a bit short. Neither was FFII, for that matter.

I personally don't mind it much, though I make a point of playing the game like an idiot to make things more balanced. Good fighters just end up SO absurdly overpowered in that game, and urgh, I just can't stand it.

Anyhow, I thank you for your letter!



Favourite classes, in and out of RPGs.


Hey there Matt, what's kickin'?

So a question was asked about what class is my favourite. With me, it's a draw. First, I've always been a fan of the thief. Picking pockets? I'm there. Besides, why wait until a monster is dead before you take all its stuff?

Matt

Truly. Then again, I find it interesting that in many (perhaps most) RPGs, thief classes don't really specialize in stealing money, but items instead. It seems a bit backwards, when you think about it.

I Probably like thief as a class because it's one of those things I'd never do in real life. I'm just too nice of a guy, but RPG's are a good outlet for all my rogue-ish ways.

Matt

Hah! Take that, Jack T. RPGs are preventing the good boys and girls from becoming bandits upon maturity, and UFJ, your letter is undeniable proof of this.

Thieves have never been my top pick, though I often go a bit overboard whenever I have someone of the Thief class in my party. I'll go out of my way to have them act their role, attempting to steal whenever possible. Really, it would probably be annoying for an onlooker to watch me control Locke in FFVI.

Second favourite class, and the one I would love to have in real life, is Time Mage. Just imagine the things you could do.

Oh no! I'm going to be late for the bus! Haste!

Oh no! Mr. Boss is waiting for me to get that report to him... Stop!

Those two spells alone spell out endless amounts of use (and entertainment).

Matt

Unfortunately, as we alllll know, you can't ever cast Stop on a boss. They're always immune!

Heh heh. Really, I like Time Mages too, and their character design in Final Fantasy games is just awesome. I LOVE the different colours and pointy caps.

Well anyways, that's my two coins on the matter. Talk to you later.

-UFJ

P.S

It would be amazing if either of those classes were in SOCK II.

Matt

You never knooooow... keep playing, and you'll find out one way or another!



QUICKIES

I would love it if Super Mario RPG was released for a handheld (or Virtual Console or something so I can play it again). And I also want Mother 1+2 and 3 to come to North America, like yesterday.

Matt
Mother, I wish Mother were on its way too, but chances are very, very slim, I fear. Super Mario RPG, though? It's just a matter of time, I'd wager.

Hi Matt,

I'm looking forward to Dragon Quest Swords, even more so after the recent screenshots. I was wondering if you've heard whether it's more of a traditional RPG with action elements (like Super Mario RPG, except using the full action of the Wiimote), or a true action RPG like Kingdom Hearts.

Thanks,

Vyselocke

Matt
Neither one, actually. In fact, it was recently revealed to me that it's going to be a "rail-shooter" of sorts, which makes the game slightly less attractive. If they do it right, it might end up good, but I'd really rather have a true action RPG.

IN CLOSING

Phew, that was pretty long, but I'm trying to get through as many letters as I can. I apologize if yours is still waiting for a response, but it might take a solid week to get around to anything you submit with the wonderful letter-backlog the way it is. Keep the letters flowing, and I'll keep Q&A going!

Next hot topic: How much do loading times detract from gameplay for you? Is it a really major issue that NEEDS to be resolved in games, or is it just a minor annoyance? Let me know.

I'll be back tomorrow, so I hope you will be too. Adios!



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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. Which games have frustratingly poor control schemes?

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



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