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ASK MATT
The Terrible Twenty-Fours
June 20, 2007

Matt Demers - 17:23 EST

HAS ANYBODY HEARD OF THIS new cucumber-flavoured Pepsi in Japan? I don't even have words to describe my feelings to this. My first kneejerk feeling was "Oh, that's disgusting!" Then, my culinarily creative side went "Hmm. Well, you never know. It could be a 'different' experience." And THEN, I read that the flavour is completely artificial and felt repulsed once again. Since I don't live in Japan, I guess I'll never know. Gaijin, are you reading? Anybody else over in Japan? You've GOT to tell me what the real deal on this bizarre drink is, or I might just lose sleep over it!

Anyway, I'd like to take this opportunity to invite ALL readers to please consider writing an editorial or a review. RPGamer prides itself on being a place that truly belongs to its readers, and so we're always looking for new material, new and different opinions, and fresh points of view. You can be a big part of this site, and we would appreciate it much! If it pleases you, pay a visit to either our editorials section or Points of View. Make your voice heard... make yourself a piece of RPGamer!

Of course, I'm always happy to get your letters as well, and your contributions to Q&A mean just as much. Speaking of which, I do believe it's time to sit down and answer some questions.




LETTERS
Games that pack a punch in presentation.


I'd been avoiding stepping into to the whole handheld versus console debate, but I think I can finally find the right words to say my piece. I have a dilemma. I love my DS, but I have very few games, and when I'm game-shopping, I tend to gravitate toward the consoles.

I'm by no means a graphics whore (I have plenty of old school games and VC downloads to prove it), but I will say that I'm an audio/visual whore. The aural experience of console games really grabs my attention. Obviously, the story and gameplay must be intact, but I guess I need to explain. The perks of home theater really add to the experience for me, and I'm not trying to be snobbish. My equipment would be considered far below entry level compared to what's available.

Matt

No, I think I know what you're saying. A game can really send chills down your spine if you have a nice set of speakers and surround sound. That is, if the people you live with allow you to play with the volume turned up. Of course, I wouldn't complain either if someone dropped a high-definition TV and the requisite electronic gadgetry in my lap. Nice presentation is a very important part of video games, and that's a fact. For RPGamers, though, I think that the presentation aspect is usually superseded by other elements. It is for me, and it sounds like you'd agree.

Ok, before I start rambling, I'll try be blunt. There is a reason DQVIII is the only DQ game I've finished. It's the only one that truly matches the hardware it's on, and I'm now spoiled. Viewing the beautiful landscapes in widescreen (trust me, the regular square picture just feels cramped), surrounded by an orchestrated soundtrack, and having voiced dialog was just the icing I needed to eat this 100+ hour cake. Poor DQVII just collects dust, it's feeble pleas to be finished ignored. All DQ games have their charm, but I can only go so long before I just have to put a game down. I'm sure DQIX will be great, and I will buy it, but after tasting VIII's sweet nectar (It's so simple, yet FEELS EPIC) , I just don't know what will happen.

It's not just DQ, however. There are older games that just feel better playing with some decent equipment. The entire Panzer Dragoon series on the Saturn is a good example of an experience changing considering the setup. The DS or any handheld for that matter just can't do that for me. Believe me, I know how to accept a game for what it is. I'm also an avid reader, and I can be totally immersed in a book. I also know that I'm getting nothing more than words on a page. With games, however, the immersiveness factor can go so much more beyond the game world. I've even tried rigging my DS up to my stereo, but the soundchip is just too tinny.

Matt

Interesting. Perhaps you've been spoiled, in a sense, by the electronics you have. I don't mean that offensively at all, either; perhaps I'd feel differently if I actually owned a widescreen TV and had experienced games on them. You've transcended into another realm of A/V delights, one that I couldn't hope to understand any more than JuMeSyn's excessive knowledge of useless trivia.

For the 90% of the population who doesn't have access to a widescreen TV or other similar technological advances, what are your feelings on the subject? For me, I have to say that as my favourite RPGs existed on the SNES, I'd be perfectly satisfied to have similar-quality games from a technical standpoint in return for a fantastic storyline, awesome battle system, etc etc. It's not to say that I couldn't appreciate or be swept away by the bigger and the better; it's just that I don't feel I'd need either bigger or better.

Of course the business of companies is to keep development cost down, and handhelds are the perfect place to release great games on a cheaper budget. Not to mention the audience is definitely there. But whenever they decide to drop an expensive production that's also worth playing (Gears of War is so overrated), I'll be right there. I'll keep handheld gaming in bite-sized chunks. But for me, it has no choice but to play second-fiddle to consoles.

Jonezy

Matt

Fair enough. I have no choice but to wonder, though, how you'll feel (and how I'll feel!) ten or fifteen years down the road. It's kind of exciting to wonder what gaming will be like then, and if I had to wager money, I'd guess that portable gaming will have become the "dominant form" of video games. By then, who knows? Perhaps the power of a PS3 will be able to be easily packed into a pocket-sized handheld. Maybe there won't even be stand-alone consoles to play on. Maybe there will be flying cars and thought police, too... time will tell.

Thanks, Jonezy! It's good to hear from you.



Oh, if only it were that easy...


Greetings Matt or alternate answering person.

I look upon the oft-celebrated Odin Sphere with both interest and a fair measure of resigned despair of ever seeing it here in Australia. Atlus have been somewhat more generous to us PAL gamers of late, with about six different Megami Tensei titles turning up out of nowhere all of a sudden and just as quickly bought up or hidden behind copies of 'Demolition Girl' by penniless students who want to prevent them being bought up (i.e. me), but the doubt remains. That is the pain of the PAL Rpgamer though, to see many great titles come out and wonder if we'll ever get to see it. Oh, woe. (It definitely is better these days though and, well, we'll always have Terranigma.)

Matt

Don't rule it out, though. Maybe you'll find yourself pleasantly surprised. That said, I know from my twenty-one months of doing this job the plight of PAL gamers, and I can't imagine what it would be like. Solution? Move here. Or better yet, start your own development company and make non-PAL gamers salivate over your games for a change. Terranigma doesn't have to be an isolated case!

Anyway, the DS is 100 gallons of awesome in a... well, in a little plastic rectangle with electronics and stuff in it. Etrian Odyssey looks to be a good game though its distinct lack of story will be a problem for me if I do decide to get it. Plenty of good games coming out as well (DRAAAAAGON QUUUEST), not to mention the entire GBA library of awesomeness. And its region free! You can't screw me out of good games now you faceless corporations! (On that note my Cad, Flash-card possessing friend broke down and bought the American version of Pokemon Pearl from the local Shin Tokyo. Admittedly though, he only did it so he could play online.)

Matt

Those darn corporations, always working left and right to screw faceless people. Er, I didn't get that quite right, and now that I've made the typo, the thought of screwing a faceless person is nearly nauseating... the stuff of horror films. Let's move on. Agreed, the DS rocks and hooray.

Also on the handheld front, I'd love to see a remake of Terranigma on the DS. My favourite SNES game, the only reason my SNES is still connected, and one of the two Action-RPG's I really like with the other being Alundra (never could get into Zelda for some reason.)

Actually, put Alundra on there as well. The DS could take it. The DS, it is strong. Too bad it will never ever happen. You here that world? It won't happen. No siree. Not gonna happen. NOT EVER.

EVER.

..... Dammit, that usually works.

Matt

Yeah, that kind of reminds me of the strategy I used to take back when I was religious and wanted an easy way out of losing weight as a fat ugly 13-year-old. "I'll look away... for 30 seconds... and when I look back...this is your one chance to prove to me you CARE!" I hate the word "emo," but that's pretty emo. Anyway, keep announcing your rage, and perhaps your RPG entity will come and feel bad for you after all.

Seriously, though, I think that titles like these DO have a fighting chance on the Wii's Virtual Console. Not the best chance, but I don't think they're out of the question. Keep your fingers crossed.

That is enough for now, I think. I shall write again. Perhaps next time I shall actually include a question.

HA!

Regards,
He who spits into the face of Death! The Doomhammer.

Matt

Ah, and with a name like DOOMHAMMER, what entity wouldn't listen to you? Best of luck with that wish fulfillment!



PSP and DS: The opinion of an Andrew.


Hey Matt,

First off, about the guy ranting about Squaresoft bringing FF3 to a system other than the DS(or NES,) then he shouldn't have to worry because in my opinion, the game really isn't good. I know people would probably have a different opinion because it's Final Fantasy, but out of every FF game(even FF2) I think it's the worst(FF2 actually had a good storyline and depending on your magic you could very well make the game far easier than you think.) It just has so many flaws in my opinion regardless of whether it's the NES game or the DS game. How many dungeons must there be forcing you to turn Mini, Frog, or later on use a Dark Knight. It's not fun, it's just monotonous and boring. The fact that no class is useful for very long lowers the playability even more and some classes aren't even useful throughout the entire game.

Matt

Oh no no! See, those are the exact things that make Final Fantasy III more endearing to me! For once, there's an actual use to spells outside of battle; it's pretty cool, and it's something that is carried out more automatically in FFIV. You know- those times when Palom uses Fire to clear the Ice blocking the path, etc, etc. It's neat to be FORCED to play as certain classes now and then, because it provides you with a reason to do more than just create a party of tank-like soldiers that bulldoze the world. The whole idea of job-switching becomes pretty pointless, I think, if there's no reason to ever switch jobs anyway, and I personally think that the resulting variety makes the game much more interesting than it could have been. Anybody agree with me?

As for the story? Yeah, it's not fantastic, but it had a cool backstory. Heroes of Darkness that saved the world from Light long ago? How utterly FUN! It almost makes me wish that there was a Final Fantasy III-2 covering that backstory...

Now that that's out of the way. Time to talk about the PSP. I just recently bought a PSP, but have had a DS since it's came out. There actually aren't many good DS games and I've played quite a few(some are rated so highly but are some of the most boring monotonous games I've ever played -- Nintendogs, Super Princess Peach, and Animal Crossing come to mind.) However, the DS does have more games that are good than the PSP does, yet if it's good on the DS, it's not like it's jaw dropping or amazing unless it's a rare few. Advance Wars DS, Feel the Magic, Resident Evil(I'm a fan, and I love the rerelease,) Castlevania Portrait of Ruin, Castlevania Dawn of Sorrow, Jump Ultimate Stars(import,) Luminous Arc(import but is being releasd by ATLUS,) and of course Pokemon(first Pokemon I have played since Red/Blue and I've loved every minute of it.) Those are the games that I think are honestly that good. I have played many more like Trauma Center, Lost in Blue, etc etc etc, but some of these games are okay for a bit, yet the ingenuity just wears out very quickly for the "unique" ones or I just didn't find them enjoyable at all.

Matt

I'll agree with you: It's true that the DS has a lot of not-that-great games, but I think that you could come up with a list of crappy games for just about any system that has ever existed. All in all, the little portable isn't doing too badly, and there's a lot of promise yet.

As for the PSP. I haven't bought many games at all and a few are a certainty they'll be good. Gundam Battle Royale(import,) Gundam Battle Tactics(import,) Mega Man Powered Up, and Mega Man Maverick Hunter X are the ones I have bought and are all amazing games. Castlevania Dracula X Chronicles is obviously going to be a great game, featuring Rondo of Blood, a remake of Rondo of Blood, and an upgraded Symphony of the Night. Then there's Tales of the World for PSP with the battle system featured in Tales of the Abyss and a create a character system. Final Fantasy Tactics is one I wouldn't name for the reason that I've heard there's slowdown in battles meaning Squaresoft should have just put some extra money to make the game better. In my opinion it's probably Squaresoft reinvisioning Final Fantasy 4 Advance(do any of you remember the lag and menu lag in that game -- I sure do -- and it's a possibility that's what we'll see.)

Matt

Indeed, that FFIV remake came with a few of its own ugly side effects, though I still think that overall, it was really good. Tales of the World DOES look interesting, though Tales games are so hit and miss based solely on review scores. (Yes, I STILL haven't played any Tales games... yeah, yeah, I know.) The PSP is, I believe, one of Sony's strongest assets on the video game front, and the titles you've mentioned are part of that reason. I do still think that the DS is stronger yet, but who knows? I might just bite my tongue and end up springing for a PSP myself someday...

There are a few games the PSP has that the DS also doesn't have that are better, but they're just multiconsole releases. Test Drive Unlimited for example. Great game(one of the most fun racing games I've ever played) but can it be counted when you can just play it on your PS2 or 360? Games like the 90 millionth rerelease of Madden or NBA Live are obviously going to be better on the PSP.

Matt

Enh, those are the games that I couldn't care less about. The only sports or racing games I've ever owned begin with the words "Mario" or "Diddy." Well, that's not quite true... but it's pretty close.

Another thing about the PSP is the battery life and the loading times. Despite what many people say about the battery life, it isn't that much worse than the DS. The DS usually gets around 8 hours for me while my PSP gets from 6-7. Yeah it's not as good as the DS, but it's not terrible either. There's a battery plus charger that can be purchased at Gamestop for cheap that gives 2-3 hours extra battery life to the PSP, making it 8-10 hours. The loading times for every game I've bought on the PSP haven't been very long(especially Mega Man Powered Up which actually seems to load in a couple seconds.) I can't say how long the loading times are for other games, but I know for sure that every game I've bought and played for the PSP have been very low. I think the DS users who don't own a PSP or people who really don't like Playstation in general are the reason you hear about PSP's so called low battery life or long load times. PSP users who don't own a DS bash the opposite system as well so it's pretty much the same thing.

Matt

It's true that people tend to bash what they don't know invalidly, but loading times and battery life have been noted weaknesses of the PSP for a long time. The battery life I know depends on the game you're playing, which I think is true for both the DS and the PSP, but so does the loading time in the case of the PSP. Some games have excruciating load times, from the sounds of it. Really, though, 94% of us are PS2 owners, so we should be used to being a little patient. "Good things come to those who wait" or somesuch. Have you had your cliché today?

Possibly my favorite part about the PSP however is also concerning my video game collection as well as emulation. I despise emulation, but with the PSP, I pretty much am a hypocrite in that respect, as I use the PSP to emulate every game I own from the NES to the recent GBA and the systems I own inbetween(although Genesis, which I don't own, I emulate a few games from as well.) Not only the early console emulation, but as many people here have probably heard, you can rip PSX titles and change them to files to play on the system. I've ripped many of my games, bought a 4gb card(which they are very cheap now days,) added strategy guides to them as the document files incase someone who hasn't beaten them 100+ times in a row needs help, and then added a background and PSP icon for each game. Because I can play pretty much every older game I own as well as 15 -20 PSX games I own at a time(less if I have either FF7, 8, or 9,) the PSP is a true "Playstation" Portable and the best handheld I own. I still play my DS as I can't play Pokemon Diamond/Pearl, Castlevania Dawn of Sorrow, Castlevania Portrait of Ruin, Jump Ultimate Stars, Feel the Magic, Luminous Arc, and Advance Wars DS any other way(I can play the original Resident Evil on my PSP as well,) so the system is still played by me, but the PSP outweighs the system as it's got almost as many PSP games that are that good, and then what it can do outside of those PSP games.

-andrew- -kupomogli-

Matt

Well well well, I guess you've said more than I could on the subject, seeing as I am still PSP-less. Perhaps that will change as the months go by. To Square Enix: All it would take is a single Dragon Quest announcement, and I'm there. It's pretty sad how dependent I am, but that's the reality of the situation.

Thanks, Andrew/Kupomogli!



When you just can't decide...


Have you ever been playing a game, an then become overwhelmed by newly opened options or choices and then just... stop playing? And you weren't doing badly or hate the game, but just didn't know what you should do? I haven't stopped playing Etrian Odyssey since I got it - except for the last three days. I opened the restricted classes, and now I don't know if I should stick with my current party, which is doing really well, or replace one and train a Hexer. I mean, if they didn't let you have the class until this far into the game, does that mean you need one to continue or that they're stronger than other classes? I had a similar problem with Ogre Battle. I couldn't decide what to do with Deneb, and put off the desicion indefinitely. I don't know how long ago that was...

--

Alexander M. DeMichiei

Matt

Yes, Alex, this has happened to me before. You know that little game known as Chrono Cross? That RPG was a thorn in my side once it got super-non-linear. It's been ages, so I don't really remember, but with a boat and a billion (or a handful of) new places to search to try and progress the storyline, I got fed up and put the game aside completely for a good long while. I know that's not exactly what you were going for, but it's pretty close. Usually, when I open up new options or classes, I get overly excited, especially when they're unexpected. I suppose that Final Fantasy X-2 did that to me in a way as well; with every new chapter came a long roster of places to go. Who knows if there's anything to do in any of them? That is, unless you go and explore each one. The choices made me slog through the game at a snail's pace.

But that's really still not what you're talking about, I feel. And that leads me to only one conclusion: You're a hopeless case, and you're probably one of those people that takes half an hour to decide what you want to eat at a restaurant. (Heh heh heh, I'm just kidding... I always tell the waiter to give me "just a few more minutes" too. Repeatedly.) Can anybody else sympathize with this poor lost soul?

Thanks, Alex, for putting your indecisiveness right in the public eye. Your honesty is admirable.



A few randomnesses.


Hey-o Matt,

So I've been replaying my Final Fantasy Tactics. This has led many of my friends down the same path. Not surprising as Tactics is a good game. How often do you and your little group of friends all end up playing the same game as a snowball effect? It seems whenever Tactics gets brought out that my friends all end up playing, no matter who starts the trend.

Matt

Truth be told, not very often. Why? Because my "group of friends" as far as RPGs are concerned consists of myself, my brother, my sister, and sorta my friend Steve. It's pretty small, and most of my RPGaming cohorts exist online only, which is pretty sad, because I'd love an RPG-fanatic-buddy that lives in the vicinity to get excited about stuff.

Load times bother me only so far as how long I have to stare at a load screen. Partly because back in the cartridge days there were no load times. So with the advent of disc media we have to upload more data for our pretty graphics and sound. In Tactics load times aren't so bad. I like the music that plays and really they don't last too long.

Matt

It's kinda like the elevator music that plays while you're on the phone, put on hold. Sometimes, it's just better than it is at others, and it makes the wait a little dancier and tolerable. The same thing must be said about Pokémon Diamond's Wi-Fi connection music. The music is on about a ten-second loop, but damn, I love it. That music is going to bring back memories one day!

Chrono Trigger on PS1 however has atrocious load times. Mostly because I remember playing it when it had none. Walking between screens in an area should not require referencing the disk. I think that everyone agrees that if there must be load times let them be at the beginning of an area/zone and then none in the middle.

Matt

Indeed. I think it's also generally agreed upon that the PS1 remakes that Square chugged out back in the day were hastily and carelessly done, with the sole purpose of making a quick buck. What a waste of energy.

Only other topic I have to comment on is controls. Mostly this doesn't matter to RPGs as much since they tend to be stop and think. In action games however controls need to be mapped out in a way that makes sense. The button closest to the thumb should be set as the button most used in a game. So jump for platformers, shoot for shooters or select for RPGs. Also what's up with crappy uses for shoulder buttons? It seems that most games use them for nothing important, or camera control(why when most controls have a second analog stick to map that to?).

Matt

While I agree that control schemes are MORE vital to action games, I think that they should be chosen so that they're "automatically intuitive" in a way. Do you know what I mean? Some games just feel so natural within no time at all, while others have you scrambling for the instruction manual every time you forget how to do some random thing. That intuition is important in getting good with controls, which might only influence enjoyment-factor in turn-based RPGs, but definitely influences more than that in Action-based games.

I love shoulder buttons when they're used the way they should be. I also HATE it when menus don't allow you to switch between characters in the status/equip/whatever menu screen using them. It's so irritating- the most recent example of this is Lunar Knights. While it's a great game, that menu is one f***ed-up piece of work, and it will take me forever to figure it out properly, I do believe.

Then again I like one handed control use. Suikoden was nice cause I could be eating my pizza and not have to worry about getting grease on the controller.

Ken

Matt

Ah, so you must be a Wii fan, then. One-handed control with a two-handed controller, though? It sounds more to me like "boring-battle-system syndrome." You know, the kind that you can simply get away with pressing X X X X X X X X, X X, and be finished with ease 99% of the time? Sigh.

Anyway, Ken, it's good to hear from your end. Write back soon!



Prettay, prettay cool.


Hey Matt, it's me again, Neo Turbo! =D (Please just call me Turbo though, it just sounds better to me <_<)

Matt

OK, Turbo.

Anyway, I finally started working at that game store I told you about a couple days ago. I'm just doing basic stuff right now, pretty much just the stuff the boss doesn't have time to do (testing traded in controllers and systems, organising EVERY NES game in the stockroom in alphabetical order....). But I am still in training so whatever, I don't really mind.

Matt

Ouch... alphabetizing NES games doesn't exactly sound like a brain-busting task. Mind-numbing, though? Oh yes.

Still, even though I just started I was still able immediately take advantage of one othe perks working there. And that would be getting games before your paycheck. Or to be clearer, getting a game, and getting the price deducted from your paycheck. Positives: Being able to grab a game you've been looking for regardless of wether you have the money at the time or not. Useful for getting games that your sure won't be there the next time you get back. Negatives: Less money on your paycheck T__T. Though I believe if limit myself to doing that at once per paycheck I should be alright.

Matt

Hopefully these people are letting you take at least a small discount from these games- that'd be even better. I mean, some restaurants let you employees eat for half-price or something. And clearly, your place of employment is a restaurant filled with delicious video gaming goodness.

Anyhoo, what game did I use this employee advantage of mine on? Why none other than the hard to find DS game of Pheonis Wright Ace Attorney! I cannot say in mere words how amazing I find this game. I haven't been caught this much in a game since, well, .hack//G.U. vol 2 (which actually wasn'y that long ago XP). Though the feeling of fufillmrnt in that game in so much better. I swear, this game makes me want to yell OBJECTION!!! for all the world to hear. But I won't because people would probably start throwing stuff at me.

Matt

I know! I keep telling my brother to find Phoenix Wright, seeing as he's going to inevitably end up as a lawyer some day, and he'd love the game too. Also, I was gonna say... didn't the second G.U. just come out a couple of weeks ago? If so, dost thou have the attention span of a hyperactive chinchilla? Don't be insulted... I ask my mom similar things regularly.

Oh, I forgot to mention I have an Xbox 360 now, so if you have one would it be too much to ask you for your Gamertag? You can just email it if you want.

Matt

Cool! You'll have to update me on the RPG status of that system; consider yourself a Microsoft correspondent. No, I don't have one yet, and I'm not sure I'll get one. I might, but it depends on the games that end up being released for the system... and really, the PS3 as well. Actually, I almost got one as my graduation present, based on what I've heard from home, but in the end, I got an awesome shiny new DVD player instead... one that won't conk out on me in less than a year, like Sony's ultra-reliable PS2s (my new Slim PS2 that I bought last summer had its first DVD Disc Read Error two weeks ago, for the record...I'll be disgusted if this console follows the same path as the original PS2 I had.)

Well I think I ranted enough, and hey! I managed to mention an RPG game in there, so this letter counts. ^__^ Anyway, later Matt.

Neo Turbo.

Matt

Oh, of course. It takes a lot not to be published here, really, so unless you start bombarding me with f-bombs or something like that, you'll probably find your letter in a column sooner or later. I appreciate the message, Neo Turbo! Er, Turbo.



QUICKIES

I am REALLY into the Kingdom Hearts games. Could you give me some suggestions of games that I can play to get me through the summer?

Matt
Sure! Kingdom Hearts games. Besides those, I'm not sure. Give Super Paper Mario a try, if you're a Wii-owner. If not, then my vote is for Tales of the Abyss (for the PS2). I dunno, I just get the feeling you'd like it.

IN CLOSING

Well, you heard it from them, but do you agree with them? I'm wondering whether you believe that today's games are "good" rather than great in general. I'm wondering whether you think that Final Fantasy III is annoying because it encourages frequent class changes. I want to hear your thoughts on the matter, so please write in!

If you don't find the time, then at least come back and read tomorrow, when another issue of Ask Matt will be published! Until then, I bid you all a fond farewell.



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On my Wishlist:

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