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ASK MATT
Dual Holiday Attack! July 4, 2006

Matthew Demers - 17:34 EST

HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAY to all Americans reading today, and Happy (belated) Canada Day to all Canadians! My long weekend was fantastic but hectic, and I'm really quite tired, but I'm back in Guelph and ready to get back to my everyday routine. That routine, coincidentally, includes Q&A, and we've got a great couple of weeks ahead of us. As people approach some of the bigger prize levels in the great ongoing contest, we have a couple of guest-cohostings that will be happening. In fact, Alexander will be stepping up to have his turn in the spotlight tomorrow, so stay tuned for that!

For now, it's my turn, so let's get started!




L E T T E R S
Revisiting an old topic... oh, this brings back memories!


Hi Matt,

I meant to write in about this ages ago, when it was a much hotter topic, but never got around it. Since there has been a lot of talk of differing opinions in the column lately and I have a little time on my hands, it seems like a good time for it. I'm basically writing in to raise my hand as one of the few people who *shock horror* actually liked Suikoden IV!

Matt

Nooooooooooo!

Er, that's fine! Why do you feel that people need to give it another chance?

First of all, I am well aware of the many flaws in the game and I can see why they have caused so many people to dislike it. I completely agree that it is the worst game in the series. The sailing is too slow and marred by invisible walls near islands, the battles are too simplistic and the plot leaves a lot to be desired compared to previous instalments. Even though I noticed all of these things, and I was disappointed by them, I was able to overlook them as I played the game because I found there was a lot that I did enjoy and ultimately I had a great time playing it despite it's failings.

Matt

Well, at least you're not looking at things through rose-coloured glasses, then! There are some people out there that can blubber on and on about their favourite games or series in complete denial of any shortcomings those games or series might possess. They should all be knocked on the head with a mallet or something similarly blunt.

For a start, though the battles may have been on the simplistic side they were also quite fast moving and as a consequence I still enjoyed them without getting frustrated by them. They were helped immensely by a great battle theme that I still hum to myself to this day. I would have liked to be able to have six characters on the party but as it stands, it was far from the worst battle system I've ever come across, it was just a little too ordinary for its own good. The other kinds of battles in the game, duels and ship-to-ship battles, were also quite good, especially the ship battles, which I wasn't expecting much from at all but now I would say they were one of my favourite parts of the game.

One thing I really enjoyed about the game, and this has always been one of the main draws of the Suikoden series for me, is recruiting the Stars of Destiny and watching them bring your home base to life. Sure, a ship isn't the same as a castle and all you had to do to recruit most of the stars was talk to them, but for a perfectionist like me the experience was still hugely enjoyable. Finding every last Star was still a challenge and a few of them did have inventive ways of recruiting them. I really loved that ship! It was helped by the wonderful music but as I progressed I really felt like it was being transformed from a dark, dank ship to a lively home and shelter for your little army.

As for the plot, it was a bit too short and simple and removed the series too far from the timeline the previous three games had established but it still had a couple of nice connections to previous games, like Scholtenheim Reinbach III (a brilliant running joke throughout the entire series) and kept me reasonably entertained as I played the game. I would say the plot is the most disappointing aspect, especially when compared to that of Suikoden II. Though in a way, I felt that the simplification of the plot and battle systems somewhat suited a game which went back to a time long before it's predecessors. I know it sounds like I'm trying to make a lame justification for the lack of effort on the developers but that's honestly how I felt as I played the game, as if it was a throwback to simpler times and the gameplay reflected that.

Matt

It's the little things that can make longtime fans happy, you know? I can say that while I haven't played much in the way of Suikoden, your experience feels very familiar in a way. While most people heavily criticized the game, I have to admit that I did enjoy Dragon Warrior VII. I do agree that it's the worst in the series, and I'm fully aware of the many faults that the game has, but I still got a lot of joy out of it despite the disappointments. It was the monsters, the music, the battle system, and all of the little details that drew me into the game, and while not everyone could appreciate those things, I certainly did.

So, I think I can understand how you feel about this game. AH, but there's more! Go on.

Part of it may be that I was grateful to get to play the game in the first place, since Suikoden III was never released in Europe I was sure that was the end of the series over here. I was such a fan of the first two games and I was so afraid I'd never get to play a new game in the series again so I think the relief of actually getting it made me far more willing to go easy on the game. Incidentally I managed to play through an import copy of Suikoden III and I absolutely love it. Whatever about IV, I really can't understand why people don't seem to like III but again I count myself lucky that I got to play it at all instead of taking it for granted.

So those are my thoughts on Suikoden IV, I know everyone won't agree but that doesn't matter to me because I'll always have good memories of it. Suikoden Tactics is sitting in my backlog at the moment and even though I doubt it will be a masterpiece I still think I'll enjoy it for what it is too. Suikoden V also has me incredibly excited, considering I liked the last few games anyway, a "return to form" for the series sounds like it's going to be incredible. Roll on September 1st I say!

Dermot


Matt

Oho, even more striking similarities! Part of my reason for being so excited about Dragon Warrior VII was that DQV and VI were never released outside of Japan, so a big piece of my enjoyment came from simply appreciating the nod to this side of the Pacific Ocean. Funny thing; same story, different series.

Suikoden IV is one of those games that just doesn't seem to "make the cut" for most people. Perhaps your words will get some to re-evaluate their stance on the title. Perhaps not. Either way, I appreciate your letter, Dermot, and hopefully I'll hear from you again soon!



Arros, co-host no more, but ambitious nonetheless


Hi there Matt, you eat some chicken for me and i'll set off fireworks for you on the 4th, I hope by the time you get this next week that your life is back in regular time, and more importantly have fun ^^''

Matt

Oh, I did. We had our annual Demers-side family reunion on Sunday, and it was full of Kentucky Fried Chicken, potato salad, Pepper-playing, and bonfires. Pepper, by the by, is like Euchre on steroids, and I highly recommend it, though from what I've been able to discern, I can't find an accurate description of the way we play anywhere online.

And Hi there mystery guest host, who may or may not be coconut flavored, who may or may not answer this weird ass letter

Matt

Ah, I guess Mac didn't get this one. Oh well! I'll do my best.

Also 96 games good lord The Dark Chevalier is the undisputed King of Backlogs, I'm at the very least the Count of Backlogs(*laughs in a Mid-Boss/Sesame Street Count style*) though, in regards to games with weird architecture, there's always Baten Kaitos, I love the game to peices but there are towns made of clouds, cardboard and candy so uh yeah must be his/her nightmare to play that one

Matt

Ooh, my favourite type of towns: ones where even non-homeless people live in a cardboard box! Ahahaha, I KILL myself. OK, now it's time to get to the point.

Also I uh just guessed at both of those honestly so um uh yeah ^^;;;

It was really odd seeing my name twice in the collumn that wasn't in letters I wrote ^^;;, Great Raikou is taking the internet by storm bwahahahaha

Matt

Isn't it, though? Try doing this every day, and then you get to Google-search your own name and find hundreds of hits! Unfortunately, last time I checked, I wasn't the first hit that came up; evidently, there are others who are maliciously running around with my name attempting to steal the sunshine that is mine! *yowls*

Now, do you have a question or not? Gettez-vous to the point.

Anyway now I bring a question to the special host, the QnA collumn and possibly you as well Matt

Does anyone know the name of the song that plays in Wild ARMS 2's second discs anime cutscene thingy? I want to track this song down but have no idea what it's name is -.-;;

I think every RPG should come with a complete soundtrack or at the very least a sound test >.<

Arros Raikou
*loves coconut flavored anything*


Matt

Ah yes. After doing some not-so-egotistical searching online, I've managed to discover some possibilities. Could it be one called "Resistance Line"? That's listed as the "Disc Two opening" over at RPGFan, whatever that means. The ending cutscene is entitled "Zephyrs'". I hope that's a little bit of help; if not, feel free to knock me on the head with one of those coconuts you keep talking about.



A classy question


Greetings, thing of slime (or self-eating snake, whoever sees this first):

Matt

Greetings, one-who-leaps.

I was just musing over a few RPG related issues that I feel quite strongly about, and thought I'd toss out a few:

* My favorite job/character class/whatever you call it has to be the Blue Mage, when rightly implemented. There's something that's really appealing to me about being able to cast enemy spells ("oh, Mr. High and Mighty Dragon Zombie, you like to cast Pandora's Box, do you? How about a Box RIGHT IN THE FREAKING FACE?!? Bwahahahahaha!"), and I will always play any such character presented to me in a console RPG, and try to fill up his/her spell list to the max. I think every RPG could use a character like a Blue Mage. Of course, there's also the completist in me who loves it for that reason too.

Any fave classes on your end?

Matt

You're right; Blue Mage-style characters are really exciting when well done, and that does NOT include Quistis and her boring limit breaks in Final Fantasy VIII. In the FF series, though, I always enjoyed the fact that both that class and the Red Mage class mixed all sorts of this and that into their magic bag and still possessed the ability to wield a sword with ease. You might have guessed it, but Red Mages are also a secret favourite of mine, even if they tend to become less useful as games progress. I tend to enjoy less physical/more magical classes more often than not, but when the two are blended together, it makes me stir! Hence, I also really like DWVII's Rangers, FFV's Sorcerers, and other similar "weird-hybrid" classes.

* With the success of DQ8, do you think this might mean something good re: the "traditional" console RPG in a PS3 world? Might the basics be sound enough that the genre can at least survive in this universe of snazzy graphics and MMO games?

Matt

Ah, but you see? Dragon Quest VIII is the game that proved that old school can be one of those snazzy-graphicked games, no ifs, ands, or buts about it. I really can't wait to see what will be in the works for DQIX, if and when it comes out. MMO games are here to stay, but I don't think they'll interfere too much with non-MMORPGs. Why? Because there is a huge market out there for offline games, too, and I think there will be for a long, long time to come.

* A topic brought up a while back about renaming characters. I happen to agree with those who like the option; it somehow feels closer to "actual" tabletop RPGs, where you fashion your own character. Stuff like deep customization and dialogue options (even minor ones, like in Suikoden V) also contribute to this feeling. Heck, I was irritated when FF8 had obvious dialogue pauses when you first meet PCs where there was obviously SUPPOSED to be a rename opportunity, but the option was obviously cut.

And that's all that was on my chest today.

- Leaper

PS: is it just me, or is Radiata Stories basically Suikoden Lite?


Matt

Enh, I don't really mind, and to be honest with you, I usually keep the default names on all of my characters the first time I play any new RPG; I've done that since I was young, and I'm not about to quit now! On the other hand, I know more than a few people that truly believe that having the ability to name your own character is crucial to an RPG's enjoyment. See: My sister, my friend Lesley, and more. I can understand that it's a way to personalize your characters, but at the same time, what's in a name? What's that saying again? "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet." (I think I've used that phrase about three times in Q&A now, for one reason or another by this point.)

Also, to answer your postscript, yes, the two games are quite alike, though in Radiata Stories, there are even more than 108 characters to unlock and you can actually choose to control ANY of them in battle. Of course, you never actually control anyone except for Jack himself; now that is a bit of a disappointment!

Thanks, Leaper!



More dangerous gaming addictions!


Hey Matt!

While I've broken the habit now, I used to have a game that I was not only addicted to, my dad was as well. Simcity 2000 was liquid crack to the two of us. We would battle over the computer to see who would have playing time, with my mom having to mediate between the two of us. There's nothing like having to wait for dinner as my mom told my 50+ year old, product of the 50's dad to shut off the game and come eat. We unlocked pretty much every secret, and created dozens of towns. Both of us even left profitable towns to run overnight with disasters turned off to create ridiculous amounts of money. We'd strip the city bare, and start with scratch with about $30mil (a huge amount of money in SimCity). To this day I still have some ridiculous cities that I masterplanned from the start, from the landform to the roads to the buildings.

This addiction continued on with SimCity 3000, although not quite as strongly. SimCity 4 finally burned me out, it just got to complicated and stopped being fun. Still, I've put more hours into SC2k than any other game, I couldn't tell you how many hundreds. That was a great addiction.

Thanks!

BigWook


Matt

That bug hit your family, too? My mom and I played SimCity 2000 until we were red-eyed, and while I never acquired quite THAT much money, I probably invested twice that amount in arcologies (any fan of the game will know what those are. My city, Rubidia, had close to 8 million people when I stopped playing. Ah, the memories...

SimCity 4 was highly enjoyable for me, just because it was so wonderfully difficult to balance the books every month. It could be done, because I did it, but there have to be little sacrifices in order to pull it off, especially in the early going, which I think is a little more realistic!

Yep, Maxis addictions are especially infectious entities, and while I've managed to escape the bug, my sisters and mother still play The Sims 2 almost every day. Thus, I'm still acutely aware of the dependency that Maxis games come packaged with. Just wait until Spore comes along...



An anagram for Monogatari is "I am no gator". Open wide, and read.


Matto-san! Konbanwa! Hisashiburi desu ne?

(Hey Matt! Good Evening! Long time no see, huh?)

Yup, just doing my part to improve your Japanese,

Matt

Excellent! First step, konbanwal; next step, Canada's ambassador to Japan! Hey, it could happen.

Well, I'd like to apologize for not writing for a while, but fate conspired to make me a very busy person this week. There was work, there was a girlfriend who required my attention, and, oh yes, I think I've logged in 30 hours on Magical Vacation 2 (Magical Starsign) since its release on the 22nd.

Matt

Never worry! One is not ever obliged to write in here at Q & A. Sure, I like getting mail, but I'm just glad you're reading.

So, I have to say this, GET THIS GAME AS SOON AS IT HITS THE NORTH AMERICAN CONTINENT!

Matt

Magical Vacation for Nintendo's wonder-handheld? Yet another exciting-looking RPG for the system? We were promised the original, but that never ended up happening. Why should we give Brownie Brown another chance, Mr. Gaijin?

*ahem* Sorry, been feeling really enthusiastic about it. Here's my mini-blurb as to why I just made myself sound like an utter fanboy:

First, any worries about the stylus-centric control setup? Forget that. The game handles very well with just the touchpen, and making use of the d-pad controls (exclusively for movement) actually detracts from gameplay a bit. You can control your characters very well with just the pen, and actually vary the speed they walk, depending on how far it is from their sprites on-screen.

Matt

The touch screen, and touch-screen-based movement really turned me off at first, because I worried that the control wouldn't feel natural at all. While some games do it better than others, I've gotten used to the idea and more people should. Zelda: Phantom Hourglass is another prospective game that will be heavy on the touch, but more and more, I think it's a good thing, or at least a "neutral" thing. Skeptics should get over themselves and give these games a try.

Second, beautiful graphics in the sprite style, great background music, and the few spots of FMV are actually quite nice (better than several PSX games, in my opinion).

Matt

Well, that's no surprise. There are many games on the DS already that look quite surprisingly incredible. Play Metroid Prime Hunters, for example, and you'll be greeted with some shockingly powerful movie sequences as well. It's a pretty powerful little system, and while it might not be quite up to the level of the PSP in terms of graphics, it really isn't THAT far behind.

Third, this game has the best story of any DS title I've played to date, and I have the majority of original RPGs for it at the moment, with the exception of Tao's Adventure. I seemed to have dodged THAT bullet, at least. I understand that yeah, it's in Japanese, and yeah, I probably don't understand all of it, but what I DO make out of it, is that it is good and increasingly complicated as it progresses. At hour 30, I'm just outside the final boss area, I think. Can't be sure, because the game's already thrown me for a loop two or three times when I thought things were almost wrapped up.

The nicest thing about the story is that it involves a lot more people than just the six classmates that form your battle party. There are a lot of NPCs and interesting locales, and you end up visiting every planet multiple times in the course of the story, and visiting new spots each time.

Matt

Story-RPGamers, take note! Things like these help to create games more "meaty" or multi-dimensional, to me. If you're enjoying the plot SO much even if you can only understand parts of it, it's likely pretty good!

The game mechanics, specifically the magic, are a bit of a step down from the original game at times, but I knew that from the start. I mean, Magical Starsign has seven possible magical attributes, while the original had, what, fifteen? On the other hand, the planetary setup for special bonuses in-battle is well done, especially once the game gives you a spell capable of altering orbital speed...

Basically, you have 5 planets, and five sectors of sky. Whenever a planet is in its proper sector, the corresponding magical element gets a massive power boost. Light and Dark magic work on a day/night cycle. It's possible to time your approach to bosses so that you have complete elemental advantage, or use the above-mentioned spell to speed up a planet along its course, to move it into or out of its sector. Which is sometimes really necessary, since there are bosses you do NOT want to fight in power-up mode.

Matt

I guess that North Americans won't really end up knowing the difference anyway, since we never saw the original. Having no expectations about the system, I doubt as many people will end up being disappointed over here. It's hard to say, though what you've described is pretty funky and really original-sounding.

Well, that's my take on Magical Vacation 2: When the 5 Stars Are Aligned, or Magical Starsign to the rest of the English-speaking world. Remember, check it out!

Mata ne,
Gaijin Monogatari


Matt

Thanks very much for the latest report in Japanese gaming and a taste of things to come! I feel like I have correspondents across the globe, now...





C L O S I N G
IN CONCLUSION:

Over the weekend, between Aunt Erin-visiting time and stories from my cousin Michael, I managed to squeeeeze in a fair amount of gaming time for the first time in a good week and a half. I'm definitely sorry that I missed picking up the first Fire Emblem title for the GBA; I don't know why I missed it, but now I'm on the hunt. Unfortunately, the local EB Games doesn't seem to have a copy even on their used games shelf, but I shan't give up!

Flashay!


Alan Tse puts the competition into Wait Mode!

Thus, there will be no new questions for today, though the contest will resume tomorrow. Scores will be updated then and everything will be normal; it's just as if everything that would have happened today will be put off until Wednesday instead. No problem? This might seem like an annoyance, but it's also an opportunity for those of you who haven't yet gotten around to answering the (rather valuable) questions from last Wednesday's column! Now's your chance; you've got an extra 24 hours to submit 'em.

*********************************************************


Otherwise, I'm done for today, but as promised above, Alexander will be stepping up to help out tomorrow! Please welcome him to the party with your best questions about class systems, handhelds, addictions, Suikoden IV, or any other subjects you can think of, and we'll keep this Q&A thing going. Bye, everyone!


slimey@rpgamer.com
***Matt isn't so hurried anymore.


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