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June 26, 2007

Matt Demers - 16:51 EST

WELL, THE CASTING CALL is up, and for the first time since my installation, RPGamer is having a contest to see who can fit the bill as "Weekend Q&A Host Extraordinaire." It's a time consuming but fun job, and best of all, you'll be able to work alongside ME if you win! If you're at all interested, I urge you to apply. Don't let the warnings about html or the questions about "Do you know Perl or Java" throw you off. Before I started, I knew -nothing- at all, but I learned what I needed to as I went, and it wasn't too hard.

This is where you need to look in the case that you are interested. In the case that you are not, I direct you below, where Ask Matt begins as always.

Have you had your dose of A/V today?

I wrote a letter last week explaining my stance on handhelds vs consoles. It has yet to post due to your tremendous backlog, but hey, peruse this for your own kicks whether you post it or not.


I'm lovin' the cascade of letters, but this is the awful side effect. It might take awhile to actually get 'em posted, because no longer am I scrambling in desperation to find enough material to make a column out of! Imagine that.

I'm well aware that in my haste to make a point, I ended up comparing two console games; DQVIII and DQVII. Let's face it, however, DQVII hardly took advantage of the hardware it was on. I've come up with what I believe is a better example.


Oh no, that was definitely a good example. The PS1 game definitely didn't rely on its graphics to make an impression, but the presentation for DQVIII was all-around incredible- not just graphically, but musically, and voice-actorly as well. A lot of care was pumped into that game.

Castlevania: Symphony of the Night was a very pleasant surprise that took full advantage of the PS1's supposedly meager 2D skills and had an awesome soundtrack to boot. I've played and loved it's spiritual successors Aria of Sorrow and Dawn of Sorrow for the GBA and DS respectively. As much as I like those games, technical limitations (especially in the sound department) make them still feel inferior to Symphony. The handheld games had cleaner interfaces and the voice acting in Symphony was atrocious, but it was still bigger and better in my honest opinion. Kingdom Hearts is another good example, but the change in style of the GBA game helped ease the loss of fidelity.


Hey, a lot of people would agree with you. Symphony of the Night is the crux of the series in the eyes of many people who have played the game. While the DS games are also decent (I've played Dawn of Sorrow and quite enjoyed it), perhaps it's true that they don't quite stack up as high.

Hi, my name is Jonezy and I am an A/V whore...and I have no qualms with that. I'm sure you disagree, but that's just my two cents. When handheld games can make me feel like I'm in the game like my home theater can, then my opinion may change. I'm actually a little disappointed that handhelds seem to be the place where a lot of major RPG releases are going. I'm sure Revenant Wings will be good, but I still think the epic grandeur of FFXII will be lost.


Nah, you're entitled to your own opinion. I think that presentation is important too, but I still think that for me, personally, a great battle system, a great storyline, and a hearty challenge are of more primary focus. Since I'm not a god and you, no, you aren't my underling, it isn't necessary that you share that view. You'd get along well with my friend Dave, since we debate about this very topic with some frequency.

What am I saying? I've got Wild Arms, Persona, Blue Dragon, and Eternal Sonata to look forward too. I guess I'm okay. I've got a huge multi-genre backlog to play anyway that is entirely too long to list. Thanks for hearing me out.



And not only that; Final Fantasy XII just came out a bit ago, and its sequel will be here before you know it. Handhelds might be a lush tropical forest of RPGs lately, but that doesn't mean that consoles represent a completely barren, desolate wasteland.

Thanks, Jonezy! Keep on playin'.

A few more obscure games.

So Matt, thought I'd send a proper letter in as I have news in my world of RPG's.

Recently I bought a white PSP (Yes I've betrayed my DS fanboyism) and managed to snare Valkyrie Profile and Tales of Eternia. On top of that I also bought Atelier Iris: Eternal Mana (Number 6 in the series i'm led to believe). Have you had any expeirience with these games?


Yes and no. Valkyrie Profile sits on my shelf, waiting patiently for my Pokémon obsession to pass so that I can move on with life. Atelier Iris: Eternal Mana is a game that I played about a year and a half ago. It's nothing special, but it wasn't really a bad game at all. THAT is a game, though, that could have used some graphical help. The game was charming and all, but the poor, poor, graphics made maneuvering some locations especially irritating.

On Virtual Console business I'd love to see Terranigma on it, or Soul blazer and Illusion of Gaia/Time. There not the sort of games you'd see SE rereleasing mainstream.

Anywho I have online RP'ing to get onto, so until next time

Bainick is a nicer Kotarou Fuma, HI YAH


For westerners like me and 90% of the people who are reading this, it would be great if Terranigma were released online. We've never even had the opportunity to play the game, unless of course you're into the shadowy world of emulation. This is one of my greatest hopes though: That this renewed emphasis on retro-gaming will let some of these more obscure titles see new light and new popularity.

May the underdogs rise up!

Put on your toque like a good Canadian!

Hey Matt!

I did not mind being forced to switch my classes. Actually, I know there were like a bazillion dungeons where you "had" to play as a dark knight and I honestly never did. For some reason, up until the final dungeon, the combination of dragoon, archer, the lower tier summoner, and geomancer worked extremely well for me and I never felt a pressing need to switch.


I think that this "urge" would have been much more pronounced if you were playing the original. The battles in the original game weren't limited to two or three monsters at a time, in which case you'd just have to be able to dispatch things as efficiently as possible (or face a grisly death and subsequent hot date with the Game Over screen).

Which leads me to my favorite class ever: the Geomancer! I LOVE THIS CLASS SO MUCH which is kind of strange because, to my knowledge, it wasn't actually a useful class in any games prior to the FF3DS and I never used it; back then, my love was for the concept. The geomancer certainly sucked in FFTactics (which made me infinitely sad.) However, it was a brilliant class in FF3DS and absolutely darling costumes to boot. They fight with *bells* - how awesome is that?

Carabbit <3 is playing Okami.


Not ONLY do they fight with bells, but the sounds that those bells make during an attack are absolutely delicious. "GHONG-GHONG-GHONG-GHONG-GHONG! GHONG-GHONG-GHONG---GHONG!" How fun would it be to repeatedly whack an evil monster over the noggin nine times repeatedly with an oversized bell? Very, methinks.

Geomancer is an interesting class, because it does depend on the game. They were utterly useless, I agree, in Final Fantasy Tactics. However, Final Fantasy V Geomancers were pretty cool. Unpredictable but powerful attack on enemies for the cost of 0 MP? Um, yes, I'll take it. With the cuteness factor wrapped up into the picture as well, how could you not love 'em?

I can also proudly say that being a Canadian, I know a few people who actually dress like that in the dead of January. Not me, though; I'm too "cool" and would rather freeze my extremities off.

Thanks for the letter, Carabbit! Write again soon.

Sony: Making quality pieces of sh** for twelve years~

Hello Matt,

On the little debate of late about the handheld war, my vote would have to be for the DS seeing as the little guy works like a charm and my PSP works only after sacrificing a small goat on the local Sony altar. I've actually run across a similar problem with all my Playstaions, both my PSX's only run music CDs and my PS2 only plays half the games I feed it, while my 64, my Gamecube are still able to run miles without slowing down. Has this type of thing happened to anyone else, or am I just a bad console-sitter?


No, you're not alone, and not by a long shot. Sony has a reputation of building things that break, plain and simple. I have heard so, so many stories of PS2s becoming expensive bricks over time. Mine did; I bought a new PS2 slim last year after my old one stopped reading game discs altogether. It stopped reading movie DVDs within the first year that I owned it, too; so much for the "all-in-one entertainment system" that my parents got me in the hopes that I wouldn't need three different electronic devices to lug around at university.

And now, just a couple of weeks ago, I got my first Disc Read Error on the NEW one that's less than a year old. I swear that if the system is already spiraling its way towards uselessness, I will flip like a pancake whose one side is finished.

But yeah, anyway.

A few months ago I was hit with an urge to play Suikoden (wonderful, simple and just a grand old time.). Just to reminice, I guess. In doing so, I decided I need to get my hands on and play Suikoden II (Probably my favorite thus far of them all). Leading subsequently to III (still fun, the antagonist chapter made me smile on the inside) and then, not finishing it but an hour ago, IV (A little slow, slightly dull, not all that cohesive, but easier on the eyes). I've made plans to go out and hunt down a copy of V (because I'm slow and still don't have one), but then a little thought slips into my mind. "What if 5 is it?". I think it'd just be terrible to have that whole world die out when we haven't even seen all 27 true runes, or gotten more than a glimpse into Holy Harmonia and its intentions. I've checked around, and I don't really hear anything about Konami working on a VI, and really, why would they? Sales on the games have decreased, from IV's over 300,000 to V's less than 200,000. It's terrible for all that story potential to go to waste.


The reasoning could be a sort of sequel-effect, though. A lot of people bought Final Fantasy VIII just because FFVII was really popular and well-liked. However, not nearly as many purchased FFIX, and that could well be that a lot of gamers were not as big on VIII.

One way or the other, let's keep things in perspective: 200,000 copies of a game is a LOT of copies! Very remarkably few games ever sell a million, and I think that this series is nowhere near "done." I think that Konami is just sitting on the current console war so that they don't end up producing a game for a losing platform (because that would really hurt sales. Stay optimistic!

So basically, within all this ranting, I was wondering on your feelings to the situation, and maybe, through your magic ways found some information on the horizon of a sequel.



Well, I don't have the magic you're looking for, sadly, but I think it's way too early to give up hope. Keep in mind what I said above, and be patient. It might take a year for an announcement to be made, but I think that there's more Suikoden to come and that the odds are well in your favour.

A Class Act

Hello Matt,

It's been awhile since I've wrote a letter here, so I figured I'd chime in on a few issues.

First off, let me say I've done something bad. Really bad. I did something I vowed I'd new do. I bought Oblivion. It's my first PC game, and first Western RPG. I'll have to say that it's different. I'm not about to say it's the greatest, but it is a refreshing break from the other games I've been playing. It's as linear or open as you want it to be. It's the most believable world I've seen so far, even more so than FFXII, though FFXII had more people. I just hope that I can get it done and move on before it's too late. Already I've taken far too much time hunting deer or saving random townsfolk from danger instead of saving the world from some evil force.


You make it sound like there's a time bomb in the game that's bound to blow at any moment. These little touches are in the game exactly so that you'll take the time to enjoy them. The fact that you see the world as being so believable is probably due to this. What's the rush, really?

Making a comment on the issue of graphics in games, I'll have to say that my view is very similar to my view of architecture. You shouldn't try to repeat the styles of the previous game/generation/civilization/whatever. In an every changing era/world/game it seems to be better to create a new style rather than copy someone else's formula. Even if someone else comes up with a formula that works, isn't a part of development trying to make one that's better than the other guy's? For me, I LOVE the snes and psx era games, but I also like the newer games that push the bounds of video gaming. I guess I look for innovation in games, which seems backwards since RPG's tend to be more traditional than other genres. To me the best games (and architecture) are the ones that take the best elements from the old systems and enhances them or puts a new spin on something familiar.


Here's the thing: RPGs don't have to be traditional. Game like Kingdom Hearts and Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter are definite proof that there is a lot of untapped creative potential in the industry. Actually, screw that- there are a ton of DS RPGs that are incredibly different and very original. Try Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime, Lunar Knights, and Contact on for size!

Perhaps this is why the DS has become so successful: It has innovated and carved out its own interesting and unique niche, and (most) people like it. Great graphics can be very cool, but simply shoving more polygons into every character model in an effort to make things look as realistic as possible? Well, I don't know. Why are we making our video game worlds more and more realistic, when we (or at least I) typically use those worlds to escape reality?

I'm such a huge fan of the cel-shaded style. Look at screenshots for the Wii's upcoming No More Heroes, and you'll see what the term "good graphics" means to a guy like me. You don't need polygons... you need creative developers with a fresh perspective and drive.

Random question. Do you think FFXII: Revenant Wings is gonna be that good of a game for he DS? Everyone keeps talking about how that and DQIX are huge titles for the DS, but Revenant Wings just doesn't seem to hold my interest. I loved FFXII, but I just don't see the epic scale and detail and battle system being pulled off on the DS. I hope I'm proved wrong though.


I'm not sure! To be truthful, I've never been terribly fond of any of Square's direct-sequel games. Deep inside, there's a part of me that's hoping that this game will buck that trend, because simply put, I think that the game looks neat. It looks strangely similar to Final Fantasy XII, but with a more tactical packaging and the kyoot-est spritework of any game since Lufia II: Rise of the Sinistrals.

We'll see how it turns out, but I'm very hopeful!

Job class system that forces you to change classes? I do not remember this being a huge issue with me in FFIII. I always feel that it's better when you change a class that some impression is left from the previous one. I hate it when you change a class and everything you've learned is completely forgotten as if that part of the character's memory was erased. That makes no sense to me. Then it takes time to level that character up to usefulness again. If your character is a hybrid of the classes that they've been though out the game in it leaves more room for customization (which I'm a sucker for). I love class systems and any game that you can combine my two favorites (archer and thief) makes me happy.


Now that is something that I can agree with. The problem with Final Fantasy III is that there is an impression left; it's just not anything terribly visible. If you stick with a fighting class for a long time, your strength and HP will end up slightly higher as you gain levels. If you stick with a magey class for a long time, eventually your Wisdom and Intelligence will creep upward slightly faster than normal. Of course, these changes aren't as apparent as, say, retaining an old move somehow, which makes Final Fantasy V's job system seem better in the end (though really, the ability to use ONE and only one past ability is kind of lame too.)

I guess that's enough for me for now. Hopefully I'll get back to writing more often, that is if I can get away from Oblivion (curse you Best Buy for allowing me to purchase that game!!!).

The Dark Chevalier


Darn them to heck. I appreciate the letter, The Dark Chevalier. May I call you TDC? It sounds like an investment group more than a name, really.

Old school charm... is Dragon Warrior VII really that charming?

Hey Matt,

Surprised you responded to my first letter so fast! I'm guessing it just must be that rare to see a fan of Dragon Warrior 7?

Anyway my FF3 friend code: 1933-5777-3715


Nintendo would probably kill me for publishing your super-secure friend code without your explicit permission, but I was a Final Fantasy III player too; I know that you're in need of friends to unlock the tangy and tear-jerking Onion Knight.

I can certainly understand why DW7 might be hard for a lot of people to get into, but to me it had all sorts of old-school charm (the characters look like they're straight out of a SNES game) I found the combat to be very entertaining, more so than DQ8, and overall I just love the flow of the story so far, going back in time and experiencing different stories each time. To me it just all adds up to one very excellent package, but then again maybe I'm just weird.


Oh, I agree. The game is filled with old-school charm, and that's precisely what some people don't like about it. Another common knock is the fact that the game is unbelievably long: Completing the game in 100 hours would be a challenging feat.

I think that the game shines for its little stories. Some of them are so well told, others are downright scary, and a few are really spectacularly creative. It's a unique way of storytelling that only falls flat because of the fact that you have to get through about three thousand of them to finish the first half of the game.

On to the discussion of classes in RPGs, for me nothing can top the various mage classes (mainly mages in the Final Fantasy series), especially black mages. There's just something undeniably awesome about raining all sorts of magical destruction down on your enemies. Time mages can equally be fun, if somewhat limited, changing around the flow of battle. However the one type of mage I've never been a fan of is the white mage, if only because of the presence of Red Mages. I could never stand wasting a spot in my party on a class that usually has little to know offensive capability, when something like a Red Mage is available that can heal almost as well, and can pack a little bit of punch too. Granted Red Mages aren't perfect, but to me they're much better choice than White Mages. Blue Mages are also pretty interesting, but I always felt like you have to work too hard to be able to get cool abilities for them, and they never really live up to their potential. Is there anything like them in any other game series?


Like a blue mage? The ability to learn enemy skills is scattered throughout many different games. In Breath of Fire IV, I think you could actually learn some 'mainstream' spells from your enemies if you defended at just the right moment, for example. In a few Dragon Quest games, you can change your class to a monster class that allows you to learn techniques that typically only monsters can use. When I had the misfortune of playing Wild Arms: ACF early last year, I was introduced to one of the new characters who could use all sorts of enemy skills for positively unfair MP costs. So yes, there are lots of other games out there to have Blue Magey ideas, and while these classes often do require a fair bit of work, that work can pay off bigtime.

White Mages are more fun when they have secondary abilities. That's why I love Rosa's awesome bow-wielding abilities in Final Fantasy IV, and that's also why I love Eiko/Garnet's summon/white magic combo in FFIX. It would have been nice if Eiko and Garnet had been better balanced though; who really uses Garnet once her superpowered six-year-old counterpart steps up to the plate? (I really don't like saying "Dagger" for some reason. It just bugs me.)

My final question of the day: Have you ever played Hoshigami: Ruined Blue Earth before? The remix for the DS looks like a very interesting SRPG for the DS, but I've never really head much about it.

Anyway, Expect my next letter ( a short one) from Mognet!

-Mike A.


Yes, it will be very short, because there isn't much space on the DS screen for more than a line or two. And no, I haven't played Hoshigami. Unfortunately, I've heard that the original was kind of crappy, and that the remix isn't much better. If you're still interested, you should give it a whirl, and then whirl on over to Q&A and report back your findings to home base, home base being me.

Thanks much!

Popularity contest!

MEver noticed how the Red, Gold, Ruby, FireRed, and Diamond versions of Pokemon always sell better than their respective counterparts, despite being nearly identical? Is it ONLY because of Nintendo's marketing naming these games before the other version? It makes me wonder if Nintendo had called them "Pokemon Pearl and Diamond," then maybe the Pearl version would be selling better?



I've totally noticed the same thing, and it drives me absolutely nuts. I originally thought that it was because "Red is more popular than Blue" and "Gold is 'better' than Silver" and "More idiots know what a Ruby is than a Sapphire" and so forth, but I'm beginning to wonder if it has more to do with how the names have been arranged, like you say.

If a mom is going shopping for little Bobby, then if she's anything like my mom, then she'll feign stupidity and act as if she doesn't know what she's talking about, for some inexplicable reason. The result? This:


Mom: *calls Gamestop* Um, hello. Do you have anything called "Pokémon... Diamond or something like that?"

Completely ignorant to the fact that they are in fact two different games, she'd ask for the first, thinking that she was getting exactly what little Bobby wants (since he's a good boy and ate his vegetables).

Of course, maybe I'm shifting too much blame to the ignorant moms; perhaps some of it is lazy gamers. It's a lot easier just to say "Pokemon Diamond," and it sounds more natural just because "Diamond" has always been listed first in the pair.

Or, maybe I know nothing. But with something like a 10% difference in sales, there is some reason. What do you think it is?

On the topic of Sidequests...

First time writer! Glad to meet you, whoever you are.


It's me, as always. Good to meet you too, Mr. Person.

About sidequests.

I've been playing RPGs since I was a little kid, back to the NES. The first RPG I played, in fact, was the Legend of Zelda. What an open ended non-linear game that was for it's time! I can remember the one "sidequest" to bring the old woman the letter, man those were the days. I think that the "non linear, tons of sidequests" is a new monster inside of itself. Look at games like say, Elder Scrolls IV. That game, there is no real end, you play until you don't feel like playing anymore. I think this is catching a lot of attention, and needs to stay where it's meant to. I've beaten Final Fantasy XII, and guess what, I did no hunts, except the first one Thextra. As soon as I looked through my guide book and saw most of the rewards were not really needed, or at that, not even real upgrades, I decided not to bother. I think they are too often used as a gimmick in games now adays to attract a more borad range of players. I'd say, do em if you want to, but for me, I'll only bother if they are more on the secretive side of things with large special upgrades. I think Final Fantasy VII is a good example, with the secret unlockable characters. The game only gives small hints if any toward them, and most are totally optional. But if you take the time to find them, and figure out how to obtain them, they can be great addons to your party.


I think that's a given: If you don't want to do something in a game, no one's forcing you to. In FFXII, I did hunts until I finally came to grips with the fact that I was condemned to getting little bits of gold and outdated pieces of equipment forevermore, and I stopped.

Just about every game these days has its extras, and while they're bound to appeal to some, they won't appeal to everybody. People should enjoy the things they want to enjoy without feeling guilty that they aren't 'playing the whole game' or some nonsense like this. And so ends one of the most mundane and "Captain Obvious" response boxes of recent Q&A history.

But what is considered a side quest now adays anyway? You come across a little girl, and she asks you to take a loaf of bread to her mother in the next part of town for a feast she is preparing. Upon delivery, you are rewarded a small portion of what she is preparing, and you get +10 Max HP. Is that a side quest? Or is that just, nothing? A secret perhaps? What do you call it? Are XBOX360 Achievements worthless sidequests?

My opinion, keep sidequests where there are meant to be, and how they are meant to be. Don't ruin a good thing.


Oh, those are sidequests. I would call any part of an RPG that is not directly linked to progressing the plotline a "sidequest." That encompasses a lot, for sure, and in fact, using that definition, some MMORPGs are made up entirely of sidequests. One more reason never to get into 'em.

As long as the central plot contains at least as much interesting detail, I don't mind sidequests. The problem is when they become the centre of attention and subject of constant focus. If you're playing one hour of story for every five hours of sidequesting, then well, should they really be called "sidequests" in the first place?

Thanks for the letter, person of namelessness!


What's your favorite playable character in FFXII? Favorite non- playable character (this includes party guests)? My vote is Balthier and Larsa; he'll be playable in the International version, so if we're basing off that, it'd be Larsa and Montblanc.


I do really love Larsa, because he's the rational and human face of Archades; he's the General Leo of FFXII, in a sense. Non-playable character? That's tough. I choose the wandering Viera that you always stumble over in Rabanastre. I don't remember her name, but it was probably something vowel-less, like Ktjn or Jtkjrkntrjb.

Triangle = Menu needs to be a standard in all RPGs. I'm playing SMT:Nocturne, and keep opening the map. Meh.

- thinkfreemind

Imagine if someone came out with a console built exclusively for RPGs. You could have a controller with a button actually labeled "menu," solving all of our problems...


It's been a subject of some debate this week, but what are your thoughts on it? Are graphics and great presentation an important feature of RPGs? If so, are they the most important aspect? There are a wide variety of opinions out there, and I'll be happy to hear from people of all stripes. Write in right now, and let me respond to your thoughts! That's what my job is, here in Q&A.

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Matt is looking forward to Canada Day weekend!

I'm making my mango salad for the family get-together that we're having. I hope it turns out okay, as I've only made it one time before. Eek!

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