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ASK MATT
Brown Paper Packages July 27, 2006

Matt Demers - 21:38 EST

OH YES! It is my half-birthday today. Indeed, I'm another six months older on this day, and while I don't have any cake to celebrate it with, I did get a notice-of-delivery from Purolator, presumably because my copy of Fire Emblem has finally arrived. Whoo-hoo! Otherwise, I'm just one step closer to being "old". Twenty-three and a half? Where has the time gone? And do I get twenty-three and a half spankings from someone? (I wonder how one would perform half a spanking upon another...)




LETTERS
Here we go again!


Good to see you once more, old sport. Cheerio and all that! Is it high tea time yet, Mr. Demers? Best play a smashing cricket match! (No offense intended towards anyone who actually does fulfill this most stereotypical of upper class English speech patterns – I write this on low sleep).

Matt

I actually managed to get a fair bit of sleep last night, thanks! This is the only day of the week that I don't have the math conference o' evil hanging over my head, and I took advantage of it by sleeping in until 10:30.

I've never seen a cricket match! The sport just isn't that popular around these parts, unfortunately. There is, however, a cricket chirping loudly at the moment in my closet that deserves a smashing of a different type. Grrrr...

Ticks remain my number one dislike among the fauna of the world, but they’ve found a number of companions on the sheet. I don’t have a problem with spiders but I keep them alive to do a job – not to let all these irritating wasps and mosquitoes and flies, etcetera alive! And why did these lunatic swallows have to build a nest right in the fireplace? From sunrise to sunset these things make hysteria-inducing amounts of noise, generally when I don’t want to hear it! I can’t sleep over these damned things and when the sun rises at a little before 6 that’s a bad thing.

Matt the hick

Smoke 'em out, andja might get'churself dinner at the same tahm! They got more meat on 'em than ye maht think!

While out here in hot territory far away from any internet access I’ve played a bit more Tales of Phantasia. I gave it up for a little bit when I started wandering around lost, but it seems reasonably interesting. Has no one else writing in to RPGamer played it? I’m just trying to keep throwing less-seen titles into the mix.

Matt

No, it really hasn't caught fire conversation-wise. I know that Rob, the new (and old) Japandemonium guy, bought it and was disappointed by it. Besides him, I don't know too many that have. I played with the idea of purchasing it myself earlier this year, but there were just so many choices to make at the time that Peach's pinkness just won me over.

Every now and then I learn interesting things from EGM – such as the speculation that Microsoft will throw its hat into the handheld market next year. I could talk about this but I throw the topic to you, Matt.

Matt

It sounds like Microsoft is trying to develop something more iPod-like instead, honestly. Besides, it seems that Microsoft's new strategy is to almost align itself with Nintendo in order to take on the big, bad Sony, especially after hearing recent comments from various Bigwigs. The first was a spiel by some powerful Microsoft guy (it might have been Gates himself, I don't remember) about how admirable Nintendo's creativity was and how their innovation is incredible, etc etc, and the second was about how "Wii + 360 < PS3" in terms of pricing. I think that introducing a handheld gaming system to bite into both Nintendo and Sony's share of the market would be a bit of a run backwards.

Panzer Dragoon Saga is impossible to evaluate in the fashion we would other titles precisely because it is so scarce. But I stand by its being a unique and memorable experience and fully believe it would stand alongside any other title had it received proper manufacturing and distribution 8 years ago. As long as I’m dwelling in an alternate universe for a little while, this presaged Mother 3 being released on the N64 and leading to at least Mother 4 on the GBA with more Mother in development.

Matt

Yeah, it's too bad that never happened. However, I read something somewhat suspicious only a few days ago; I'm not sure if it was on Nintendo's website or elsewhere. There were some comments made in the article that led me to believe that even though the creator stated that he was no longer doing any Mother games, the possibility still existed for future installments without that guy being around. I could have been dreaming or delirious, but I don't think I was. I really don't understand why they wouldn't choose to translate Mother 3, because I'm pretty certain that it would sell spectacularly, and it would be a good way to promote the "Ness" character we've seen in the past two Super Smash Brotherseses. It saddened me last time I played with some friends; a couple of them randomly asked "Who IS that Ness guy, anyway?" Not acceptable!

Another development in the Dragon Force 2 logs! I have come at last to the final ruler, Adelvah. And I note with surprise that for some reason he has an officer I have never seen before, who uses the heretofore enemy-only troop class of Doguru, which somewhere I read means goblins. These things are quite nasty to fight against without cavalry – the only class that wipes the floor with them. Oh, and Adelvah’s music for the world map somehow reminds me of World 6 in Super Mario 3 – not a blatant rip-off or anything so smacking of copyright-infringement, just a more-than-subtle connection I can’t quite pin down.

Matt

Good luck with the goblins. World 6's music was creepy, but I loved the world just because it was so unbelievably huge. 6-10? Awesome.

Mentioning DF2 again brings me to an aspect of RPGs that English-language releases don’t have to deal with; names. There’s a very basic reason for this, and it has to do with the nonexistence in Japanese of any sound for ‘v’ and ‘l’. I don’t have Gaijin’s expertise on the subject, never having learned anything I can converse with a person in Japanese via – unless you count admonitions such as “Prepare to die” on regular conversation level ‘Adelvah’ is merely the best name I could come up with out of ‘Aderubeha’. That brings me to a genuine question here; I’m going to ask you to pick out of the possibilities for the names of a few characters. ‘Leni’ or ‘Reni’? ‘Orbo,’ ‘Olbo,’ ‘Olvo,’ or ‘Orvo’? ‘Neala’ or ‘Neara’?

Matt

Heh heh heh, I love it. I'd have to go with Leni (though that one is tough), Orbo without question, Orvo without question as well, and Neala for sure. The first one is the only one that I'm not strongly opinionated on. It's funny, isn't it, how some names just inherently sound better?

Since I’m already on the naming subject, here’s the story behind mine. ‘Mike’ comes from my great-grandfather – his actual first name was LaVerne but he never used it. Don’t really remember him much as he died when I was 7 but my grandfather has told me a story illustrating how he didn’t talk much:

My great-grandfather, talking about a trip he and my great-grandmother took to India:

“We saw a big house.”
My great-grandmother, calling from the other room: “It was the Taj Mahal!”
My great-grandfather: “They did a good job.”
My middle name comes from my maternal grandfather, and he’s a very nice guy. Can’t say I ever cared for the name William on myself, but he goes by Bill most of the time anyway.

And my last name – well, I’ll just throw it out there and we can have a little survey to see how many RPGamers can pronounce it correctly. Moehnke has been pronounced in multiple ways in my hearing, so give it your best shot everyone!

Matt

Hmmm. Whenever I see your name in my inbox, I've always thought "Moe-enk-eh" in my mind, but I'm sure that I'm way, way off. I have a pretty good idea how to pronounce your first name, at least. It's too bad your great-grandmother wasn't named Shirley, because that would have been a laugh (and a half).

I've always wanted to visit that big house, too, ever since I learned about it in my Grade 10 Art History class. It's purdy-like.

A sympathetic villain is something I’d like to see. Kefka went completely insane, Zemus was a power-hungry megalomaniac, Lavos is pretty much an animal, Saturos and Menardi then Karst and Agatio seemed to be trying to accomplish their goal in quite the wrong way, the Sinistrals were power-hungry semi-deities, the Profound Darkness was really quite vague in its presentation, the drift of this line of thought is clear. A few games I’ve played had somewhat understandable villains such as in Skies of Arcadia, but I don’t think the effort has yet been made to give a villain the player can actually think "That could be me..." about. What about someone who wants to restrict the freedoms of people in the name of security? Definitely a topical issue, and one that seems set to stay that way for awhile. I know people who would choose security over freedom without much thought, and you probably do also.

Matt

Are you telling me you can't relate to villains like Kefka and Dhoulmagus? If I had a Light of Judgment, I'd probably fry the world just for fun, too. From, uh, atop the CN tower.

You do raise a good point, though. My favourite type of villain motivation is the kind that makes some sort of logical sense, but in a really sick and twisted way. Necrosaro and Kuja are two of my favourite villains for that reason; neither of them just run around arbitrarily nuking things, and they both have reasons for taking the actions they do. Necrosaro just acts out of justified anger, while Kuja is just totally immature.

Time for a link everyone should try out! Remixed music is to be found here, and some of it is quite good. I highly recommend you wait to click on the link until a bit of time to sample the music is available, as I found this site a year ago and still have things to try out.

Matt

Urp- either my e-mail ate the link, or you just forgot to post it. Oh well, maybe next time.

Rampant speculation time! I predict that this November will find Sony unable to meet demand for PS3 and a situation reminiscent of 2000 will occur with PS3’s going for thousands of dollars on eBay thanks to those business-savvy persons who will buy up multiples of the thing to earn massive money this fall. At least Saddam Hussein can’t be blamed for buying up some of them this time around – Kim Jong Il will probably get the blame instead. Why am I so pessimistic about this? Because Sony keeps running into production delays and hasn’t even delivered a Blu-Ray player to any store in the world and won’t until the PS3 is released. Not a good sign. Always assuming that with these production delays the system can still be released on time.

Matt

That doesn't seem like that unreasonable of a prediction, to be honest with you. I personally think that Sony might not see many PS3s fly off the shelves after the initial rush is over with, though, due to the shockingly high price. I It'll be so interesting to see what happens.

A Wii question now, relating to the Virtual Console aspect. Do we know whether the Turbo-Grafx 16 downloads also include Turbo CD games? The first published RPG titles by Working Designs after all were released for the Turbo CD, and I’d like to play them.

Matt

No, we don't really know many details at all, to be honest. Nintendo needs to hurry the heck up, too, because it's getting awfully close to launch time and we still don't know details such as pricing and an exact launch date! If they want any hope of gaining ground on their opponents, they've got to get that console out as soon as they can. I'm talking late September or early October.

And now an Xbox 360 question to round it out. Since its games cost $10 US more than everything else, yet seem to be selling quite well, does this short-circuit the working game costs models or are we waiting on Sony’s prices to determine it?

Matt

Well, it might give Sony the ability to stand up and start selling games for $70 or $80, claiming that "it's only a ten dollar difference, and you're getting a brand new media experience". Microsoft's game and console costs have provided Sony with a bit of a stepstool to justify what I consider to be wacko prices. (Yes, that's the technical terminology.)

One more Xbox 360 line of questioning: how’s Blue Dragon looking to you? Clearly you don’t own the system but if you did, is it something that might have appeal beyond the general line of titles on Microsoft’s system?

Matt

We don't really know that much about it, besides the fact that it's one of the allegedly amazing Mistwalker projects and that it features some really funky shadows. It seems to be taking a ridiculous amount of time to develop, though, and it didn't even appear at E3 this year, more than a full year after being announced. I can't really have an opinion on the game until we hear more details. Of course, if it looked like a promising RPG, I'd be a massive supporter if I were an Xbox 360 owner. As it stands, though, I am not, and that's exactly because there are very, very few games that appeal to me on Microsoft's console.

I do believe Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete is rather better than the original Lunar on Sega CD. Naturally the version I have played is the Sega CD one, which was a lot of fun but can’t compare to Lunar: Eternal Blue on Sega CD. As you haven’t progressed very far it’s difficult for me to say how different the two versions of Lunar are, but I can say Luna stayed on the island and didn’t enter player control again on Sega CD.

Matt

I've heard that the Sega CD versions of that and Silver Star Story were far superior to their later incarnations. It's really too bad, considering I don't even know a single soul who ever owned Sega CD.

What the hey, I seem to be running down Working Designs games anyway. This’ll serve as my version of an epitaph for a fine translation company. Popful Mail on Sega CD: I don’t know how I beat this a few years ago because last fall I somehow kept getting killed by some annoying boss. Anyway, it’s an action-RPG that originated on SNES and got some video sequences added for the Sega CD. For 1993 the video sequences were pretty good too. Fun game, although it could be blown through in an afternoon if the player was on a roll.

Then Vay on Sega CD. I actually sold this one off on eBay after playing through it, and while I could see myself playing it again if I actually remember the experience I’ll think better. Maybe it was that boss fight that lasted 20 minutes in the middle and required something to the effect of 50 healing items on hand…. And of course the music I actually liked was almost never played, with the incredibly repetitive and boring cave theme being replayed ad nauseum.

Lunar: Eternal Blue is great. I’ve played it through 4 times I think. Then Working Designs moved on to Saturn with Iron Storm, which as previously mentioned I have to give proper time to just so I can try conquering the world with the Japanese. Shining Wisdom is unfortunately the black sheep of the Shining series, and I couldn’t get into it. Dragon Force 1 is a pinnacle of playability in the Tactical RPG realm. I may have spent even more time with it than I have been with DF2 – being in witty English will help there. And I’ve completed it except for one horrible asterisk – last fall I played the final monarch’s story and got all the way to the final battle – when the power went out! Upon getting electricity back I made the horrible discovery that my data in that save file went weird in ways I’d never seen before. So sad...

Only two other Working Designs games I experienced before they moved on to Sony. Albert Odyssey I’ve already remarked upon. Nothing outstanding save for its humorous translation, it still elicited a replay from me. And Magic Knight Rayearth gained the notoriety of being delayed so long that it arrived as the last English-language title for the Saturn. It’s cute and fun and short enough to be devoured in a couple of days between grander titles. I only wish something grander could have been the last gasp of the Saturn for English-speakers.

Matt

Rest in peace, Working Designs. You will be fondly remembered by thousands of fans~

Interestingly enough, you have played one the rarest English-language Sega Saturn game! According to Wikipedia, only 3,000 copies of Magic Knight Rayearth were ever released for North American gamers. That's not very many.

More music and other interesting stuff. While I’m not certain it’s 100% legal, just about everything the site has never got a release in the English-speaking world. And the site admonishes visitors to spread it, so here’s a little something for everyone who wanted some RPG music (along with a LOT of other music) but couldn’t find any way to get it.

Matt

What what what? Is this mystery-link day? I'm pretty sure that e-mail demons (maybe that scary MAILER DAEMON guy) is eating up your hyperlinks. Next time you send, just copy the whole shortcut instead, so that I can make sure that uh, I don't have to write things like this right here anymore.

Okay – back for awhile to systems people actually own. I started Tactics Ogre: Knights of Lodis on GBA four years ago, played for awhile, and then put it aside. I haven’t picked it up again. Should I resume, with the caveat that I was only a few hours in and already feeling swamped by detail?

Matt

Sure! Isn't a lot of detail better than none at all? Besides, with letters like these, one would think that your patience/tolerance level must be through the roof. I heard that it was a decently decent game, anyway, though I haven't played it myself.

After giving it another listen, I feel Mozart’s symphony #40 is perfect for many moments. As is pretty much anything by Mozart, actually. Or the Polovtsian Dances. Someday we will reach a point when the maker of an RPG feels like pulling a Stanley Kubrick and using extant music instead of creating new stuff – or did I fall off the rocker again?

Matt

I don't know about you, but I fell off MINE about three hours ago. And I'm still typing away!

Also, the day that RPGs stop possessing original music will be the day I stop playing them. No, seriously.

And with that, I come to movies that can be adapted into RPGs! Most of these fall into the sci-fi or fantasy or historical drama areas, just because Maid in Manhattan or The Way We Were would make pathetically bad games. Enemy Mine though – could be a better RPG than it was a movie. Alien Nation too. How about Omega Man? The concept behind Planet of the Apes? Braveheart – why not? Willow – which I haven’t seen in a good 15 years. Dune?

Matt

Kill Bill! War of the Worlds! Ghostbusters! Bringing Down the House! Errr...

Yeah. I want to keep my movies and games from colliding, because every time they do, bad things happen. Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within? No thanks. Overpopular Matrix-inspired games? Hahahaha, go away. The Little Mermaid, for the NES? I played that one once, at the age of nine... let's not talk about that.

This brings to mind your lack of Star Wars experience. I encourage you to start from what George Lucas considers the beginning and make up your own mind with regard to the quality of the newer films. Despite the seeming consensus regarding their appeal, you may diverge from the popular mindset. And Star Trek! Such a series deserves better than the at-best-mediocre material the gaming realm has offered. Has there been a Star Trek RPG? Not to my memory, and if so it was probably on PC.

Matt

Yeah, not really. There have been strategy/war-style games to do with Star Trek, but no real RPGs.

As for Star Wars, I actually don't mind Episode II, unlike what seems to be the rest of the world, though I haven't yet seen Episode III. Episode I, however, was kinda brutal to watch, and not because of Jar Jar's voice. I found little Anakin to be wayyyyy more annoying. There have to be about 92384250 better child actors out there somewhere. The scripting also seemed to be nothing short of terrible.

Yaaaar, it be seemin’ as if ye’ve not heard the lore o’ the Fire Emblem story! I’ll be feedin’ it to yer eyes now. ‘Twas a long past time people call the 80’s, an’ in Japan a game for the NES were made. ‘Twas called Fire Emblem, an’ the players liked it much. But a burned Nintendo thought to themselves on how money had gone flyin’ away when the North American players liked the Dragon Warriors not enough. An’ the game did nae make it here. Then came a game called Fire Emblem 2, which the players o’er in Japan thought quite odd, seein’ as it offered such a change in play, ‘most equal to Zelda 2 from Zelda 1. ‘Round ‘bout this time the SNES were released, an’ the fine folks made for it a Fire Emblem 3 which partly remade 1 with s’more content. F’r the int’rest o’ the people, ‘twere FE 1 and 3 which had a fella by the name of Marth. A few years went by and then FE4 came to be, an’ such is the most pop’lar title f’r the ones who play the things wi’out the cartridge, if’n ye know what I be sayin’. S’more years passed on by, and the SNES entered its old age. The very last title to be r’leased by Nintendo in Japan, why ‘twould be FE5 in 1999. An’ what a challenge the players o’ it say the thing packs – imagin’ if’n ye will c’nfuse an’ sleep staffs as far as the eyes c’n see. ‘Bout this time ol’ Nintendo had plans f’r a new handheld, an’ with it came FE6 – which ye’ll find to feature the char’cters o’ FE7 when they’ve all gotten a mite older.

Arrrgh – let this be a lesson to never try and write in dialect again. It was supposed to be pirate speech but kind of morphed into some generic old-timer speech. I think. Was it still intelligible? I hope? I’ll never do it again!

Matt

An' that's a brief hist'ry of Fire Emblem, e'eryone. I'm hopin' ye can all read that crazy talk above.

I'm a bit appalled at myself still for being so ignorant of the series up until recent times. Sure, most of them weren't released in North America until a few years back, but it doesn't seem to be a very good excuse. Oh well.

Anyway, the only Fire Emblem aside from those already released in English people actually had hopes might be released here was FE6, which does feature the characters of FE 7 (aka the first English Fire Emblem) 20 years later. Nintendo apparently thought better of it, for certain technical things that showed up in Fire Emblem and The Sacred Stones were not present in the game that Roy starred in. I saw a roommate play a bit of it once and the oddest thing is that no one blinks in the conversation screens. Oh, and thieves cannot promote. Too bad.

Matt

That is too bad. Colm was one of my favourite characters in The Sacred Stones! Thieves are awesome, and indispensable, with their ultra-useful abilities and dashing speed.

Back to The Sacred Stones for a moment: the interesting fact here is that the game really does not have a purely bad character. Innes I didn’t use just because he’s the only character who has no close-range attack, but when I did use him he efficiently blew most things I had him attack away. On the other hand I like swordmasters and assassins because they tend to have high agility and I like double attacks. Maybe the random number generator hated you, my Marisa and Joshua had no trouble surviving an attack or two – but they dodged far more often than they had to take the hit. What about airborne? Did you have a large airborne force or stick to one in particular, say Tana? And Knoll – did you try using him despite the enormous luck surfeit?

Matt

I would often send out both Tana and Vanessa to do special "quests" on their own, usually involving city-visiting and rescuing, while my main forces would march slowly forward. Innes is absolutely spectacular, as far as I'm concerned; his attack power is absolutely insane. Knoll was the dark magey guy, right? If so, I didn't use him much, because my Ewan quickly turned into a much more powerful Shaman than he. While my Swordmasters/Assassins/Myrmidons were fantastic at killing things, it was usually too dangerous to stick them in the midst of combat. The problem with being an efficient killing machine in Fire Emblem is that you free up a space in which NEW enemies can come and attack, every time you kill something! Not good, especially for characters with such pitiful defense.

As for international shipping, I know things do cost more thanks to extensive experience. It stinks. Once I got bilked on shipping when I sold an item on eBay to someone in Alberta and the US postal service managed to shock me at the rate hike for an international package. EB’s rates seem excessive even for that, however. Did FE come yet?

Matt

I'm about to go pick it up from Canada Post, if you'd wrap it up already! Jeesh! ;)

By the by, what about Brian Mulroney made him so hated? 9 years in office seems plenty of time for him to be thrown out if he was hated at the time – is it mostly later consequences? As to my random political knowledge – it’s to be expected, I have that kind of mind. I read the Economist.

Matt

Well, he introduced GST, a 7% sales tax on most goods and services, which was highly unpopular. He helped to implement NAFTA, which is regarded by some in Canada to be not a good thing. There were some other issues as well, regarding Quebec separatism, some irresponsible spending, and more. His approval rating was through the floor by the time he resigned at the end of his term, and then later, he turned around and sued the Government of Canada over the Airbus affair, which I'm not going to get into here. This IS, after all, an RPG website!

Last question, this one is spawned by looking at my inbox. How much spam does RPGamer get?

Matt

TOO MUCH! On a typical day, I get about thirty "real" e-mails from readers like yourself, and about two hundred pieces of spam mail that quickly gets tossed in the trash. The Spam filter manages to catch an additional few, but it also catches the occasional good piece of mail too, so it's pretty much useless.

I think I just might have exceeded my own limits for length ... again. Don’t feel too tired yet – 9 years ago for no particular reason in a high school English class I wrote a 60 page paper. I wouldn’t do it again – but the precedent was established!

JuMeSyn


Matt

*whimpers*

Well, I got through it all, but man, I'm not surprised. Your teachers must have wanted to smack you! My brother went nuts like that when he wrote a fantasy story for his Grade 8 class a few years back. His teacher just gave him a perfect grade, but I seriously doubt he read the whole thing, because like yours, it was about sixty pages in length.

It IS possible for you to write a letter of reasonable length, isn't it? Or is it? In any case, feel free to write back, whether you're feeling long-winded or not so long-winded. I do thank you for taking the time to send your latest thoughts in, JuMeSyn. For anyone who managed to make it this far with me, congratulations!



Gaming, and gamers, in the UK!


Greetings and Salutations, Mattster.

Long time reader, First time mailer. I am the Afro Pete. Haven't sent in a letter since the Googinator used to guard these ferocious bags of e-mails. You do a great job chief.

Matt

It's fantastic to meet you, Mr. Afro Pete, and I'm glad you think I'm doing all right around here! I guard the e-mail like a sentinel, now that he's gone, but I'm easily lured from my post by oversized slices of chocolate cake. Have any?

OK, Afro Pete in a nutshell. I'm a UK resident, who got sick of not being able to play the nutty RPGs that came out for firstly the ps1, and lately the ps2, and therefore branched into the seedy and forbidden world of Importing. After much searching and a great deal of getting ripped off (£60 for Xenosaga ... Good grief LOL) I found a couple of places that sell games at a reasonable price and with respectable shipping times.

Since then, I've been Captain Happy sailing the good ship Importo down the many varied adventures made available by my NTSC (American ... Due to my efforts to learn Japanese falling flat on its ass) PS2.

Matt

Indeed, learning Japanese is a bit of a daunting task, and I can't say I blame you for giving up on that one. Sure, Gaijin can try all he wants to teach me bit by bit, but really, I think there's no hope for me either.

I've never understood why countries outside of Japan and North America seem to get totally ripped off when it comes to gaming. It's simply not fair. Then again, when I went to England a few years back, I was rather shocked at how expensive EVERYTHING was, so perhaps it shouldn't surprise me.

My questions for you sir, are thusly:

1) Why does import gaming in the UK receive such a distasteful reputation with the average gamer? I mean, I told a couple of my friends I'd imported Suikoden V recently, and they looked at me like I'd walked in on Christmas day and urinated on their kids.

Matt

I'm not sure I could answer that question as well as you could, Pete. I have a few UK gamer friends that I talk to now and then, and there are more than a few readers, but I'm not sure. Perhaps it just has to do with an anti-US attitude in general? Those seem to be all the rage these days, unfortunately.

2) Which of the following would you buy with a limited budget: Final Fantasy XII, Xenosaga 3, Neverwinter Nights 2, Disgaea 2.

I know none of those games are released yet, but money is going to be tight for a while ... You know how things can be :D. I can buy one, maybe two... Not very likely maybe. I'm leaning toward FF XII, but I'm pretty sure I'm going to love all four games. Your opinion would be most appreciated.

Matt

If I had to go with ONE of those options only, I'd have no choice but to go with Xenosaga: Episode III. There's no way I could not catch the end of that series, and I'm so excited to see how it concludes! If I had to pick a second game, it would be Disgaea 2, mostly because I'll bet it won't be on store shelves for as long as Final Fantasy XII will be. I waited on the original Disgaea a few years back, and then it disappeared on me! It wasn't until late 2004 that I finally got to play it.

3) I am going to start playing SOCK! Any advice for a newbie? :D

Matt

Sure! It's great to have you on board.

First of all, 50,000 or 100,000 points is not as much as it seems, and if you answer regularly and use items strategically, it is not hard at all to ascend onto the Top 35 Scoreboard and up towards the top. The game is designed to make it easy for newcomers to catch up quickly!

Most importantly, remember that it IS a game, and there are bound to be misfortunes that happen along the way. Try not to get discouraged! Every time you lose points in the SOCK, it simply provides you a chance to gain extra items and rise back up even more powerfully than before, so just keep working, and it might just pay off one day!

And for everybody, I've totally redesigned the official rules, which you can find here:

YE OFFICIAL RULE GUIDE

It's all fancy now, and no longer is it confined to the ugly world of text. If anyone has any more questions to ask me, please don't hesitate to do so!

SOCK answers:

268: b)

269: ooh. Errm ... d)

Thank you for your time, and have a very pleasant day.

Afro Pete


Matt

Thanks yourself, for writing in! I hope to hear from you again sometime soon.



It's that horrible syndrome again! What did I name it before? I'm sure I gave it some lame name at one point, but I can't remember what it was for the life of me... damn it. *sigh* What are you looking at? Read the letter, not my "randomblings", as dear old Andrew would have said.


Here's a question for you: I've got Suikoden V still on my shelves. I've played it up to the final dungeon, and I've loved it, enough so that I wouldn't mind playing a New Game + for all 108 stars. However, I stopped playing for a while, mostly because my character advancement wasn't very spread out, and considering what you have to do in the final dungeon, I sort of dreaded having to use underdeveloped characters. It's been months now, and I still haven't gone back to it, as much as I want to.

I've had similar problems with Kingdom Hearts and Dragon Warrior VII, among others, under much the same circumstances for much the same reason. Ever had that problem? What do you think it'd take to get me back to finish it up?


Matt

You need to just be bored one day, and randomly pick it up! It pains me to see that you slogged all the way through the draggy Dragon Warrior VII only to not power it through the end, too. That final boss is kick-ass cool, but lacks a truly unique battle music, which is unforgivable as far as I'm concerned. Thank goodness Dragon Quest VIII came to the rescue.

There is just this minority of people out there that have difficulty making that final step for some reason. My sister is one of them, as is my friend Lesley. I don't really know why it is, but one day, you've just got to realize that you don't have anything better to do. Then you can go "AHA! I remember what Matt told me in Q&A! I have to go and polish this game off NOW, before this fall comes and I won't have the chance to!"

Good luck!



Austria, the ultimate winner at Earth, the game! (Now find "Earth: The Home Game", in department stores near you)


Hi Matt!

About the guy with running man: If my memory serves me correctly he refers to the scene where Arni (Ben) works as a prisoner in a steel works. I think he is right, the music sounds quite similar to the Makou reactor theme. Go, watch that movie it's great, really.

Matt

Very interesting! I hate to think that the reactor theme isn't original though, because it's one of my favourites from the entire game.

Now for Sock:

#270: b)
#271: e)

And just you wait: In a few years Arnold will be the president of the US, Belinda Stronach will be prime minister of Canada, another Austrian politician will be head of the Europian Union (maybe our current chancellor), and since an Austrain (Waldheim) already was Secretary General of the UN well ...

Austrians will once again rule over the major parts of earth!
Mwa ha ha ha ha ha HA

Till then ...
Belthasar2

Matt

What is it with you people and politics today?

I guess I don't really have any problems with a worldwide takeover from Austria, as long as it's done with love and peace. I won't have to go and learn a brand new anthem or anything, will I?



PS2 and NDS: The new odd couple.


Hey Matt, writting again after some time. =)

I can't help but to share the excitement with everyone who owns a DS. The list of great games to come is very pretty. August and september will be nice months indeed! There's also a funny story about convincing a friend to buy a DS Lite and making her (PSP lover) boyfriend and her mother (who'll have to pay for the hardware) almost get pissed at me, but I'll save that for another time.

Matt

My family could barely help but go NDS-crazy, since I've been gushing about it at every opportunity and showing it off to them whenever I get the chance. My mom is now addicted to Brain Age, and my brother can't wait for the RPG-heavy fall either.

There has been some stir in the old MMORPGs and traditional RPGs discussion. Well, having played both types of games in my life and completely dropping the online genre I guess it all comes down to have better stuff to do. If you have a game with better plot, gameplay, characters, etc, etc, why will you play something that makes you click with your mouse in repetitive gameplay, no real development and NO END? Maybe it's just me, but things must come to an end. For me there's no real sense of satisfaction or accomplishment in an online game. When you get to a level, you automatically want to get to the next. And it goes on, mindlessly, since you never have a true objective to pursue beyond "making you character stronger".

Matt

Exactly. There's an important part of the game that just seems to be missing. I think one of the most unattractive things, for me, is the lack of pre-defined characters. Sure, you can "develop them yourself" all you want, but it's the skillfully crafted depth of characters and plot that caused me to fall in love with Final Fantasy, for example, in the first place. I feel like that element can't possibly be there to as great an extent in FFXI.

I could go on forever. Just sharing a bit of my point of view. Maybe I'm a little bitter about the subject, but every experience I had with online games ended drastically. I guess there's a lot of people out there that can find the good parts about MMORPGs (my cousin and some of my friends, for instance). Me? I tried, just to discover I don't have this ability. So yes, I'll stick with my PS2 and NDS and the marvellous games they provide me!

Matt

Moi aussi. World of Warcraft destroyed the relationship between my old roommates and I. I refuse to turn into one of the online zombies they became!

Well, on to another subject. I recently finished the first Shadow Hearts and it was very pleasurable in many ways. You really should play it until the end sometime. So, I immediately picked SH: Covenant to play. I was overwhelmed by the new stuff: combos between characters, equipping magic crests, fun and different ways to upgrade every character skills, ring customization... It had so much new, improved and GREAT stuff I almost cried with joy! Also, the strange and funny quirks and characters are present. It's one of the most adorable things about Shadow Hearts: it's dark, bizarre and absurdly funny all at the same time. And I don't know if you'll consider this a spoiler since he's in your party very early in the game, but what other games puts people as GEPPETTO as a playable character?! Amazing.

Matt

Dear me, that sounds more like it would fit in with, say, another game with "Hearts" in its title. Heh heh heh.

Truly, I've heard a whole lot of good about Shadow Hearts 2, though I've also heard that Shadow Hearts: From the New World represents a bit of a step down in quality. What do you guys think? Has anyone played it? If so, let me know what your opinion is!

So my question is: which games you really loved and the sequel got to surprise you in a way that "I loved that one but, wowies, this is just so much better"?

See ya!

-Franklin


Matt

Definitely, and with my most favourite series, too! I absolutely adored the original Dragon Warrior, you see. You must understand that I was head-over-heels for the game, and pretty much obsessed with it. However, I eventually decided to rent Dragon Warrior IV to see what it was like. Holy CRAP. I was so blown away with the game, I remember exactly how I felt inside as I played... almost sick with excitement. You could get allies, there were huge parties of enemies, and so many bizarre new spells, I was positively awash with inspiration and awe. I brought it back to the video store after getting almost to the end of Chapter 1, and they evidently sold it soon afterwards to clear the way for more SNES games. It wasn't until much later that I finally obtained a copy of my own, but in the meantime, I started renting Dragon Warrior III from another video store, and became absolutely obsessed with it. I've told that story before, though...



Yep, I'm now the owner of the first English Fire Emblem!


Hi Matt,

I thought I'd chime in regarding thinkfreemind's RPG fatigue. I think it's a normal to play less after an exceptional game, especially when the game is everything you've been looking for. I like the exploration factor in RPG, and I remember how shocked I was when FF7 truly started on the world map with its rivers, forests, and mountains. Here was a whole world to explore, and even though you were corralled in a particular direction, it seemed like actual exploration to visit this town here, go run along this beach there, etc. I didn't care for FFX's change, needless to say, and I don't like handholding and built-in you-can't-skip-this-so-go-make-a-pot-of-tea tutorials, which seem more prevalent in RPGs today. Whatever happen to figuring out stuff as you go, and what's the stupid instruction booklet for? (Although, I admittedly don't read instruction booklets.) I'd rather lose a battle a few times than be told how to win it from the start.

Matt

I do agree with you; tutorials should definitely be optional. However, they're very welcome, especially if a complicated spell or skill system is involved. I really liked Final Fantasy's older solution to the problem: The classroom. Maybe we'll see it again one day... who knows?

And yes, exploration is absolutely essential to me, and despite the expansiveness of Final Fantasy X's areas, I still felt that it lacked in that department somehow. Exploring the world is what attracted me to the genre in the first place, and while it's still found here and there, it is definitely an element that isn't found very often anymore.

Anyway, DQVIII is a great game, but it kinda ruins RPGs for a while. The only thing I can say is wait for something else to come along or try a different genre for a while, because you shouldn't force yourself through a point-to-point RPG if you don't like that style. I recently finished Steambot Chronciles, another exploration RPG, and I'm working through it again and picking up everything I missed the first time. There's a general direction you have to go for the plot, but you're free to spend your time any way you'd like. My only qualm with the game is the songs and instrument samples are rather average (or, in Fennel's case, downright awful) for being so ingrained in the game. Well, I also don't like the trotmobiles being stuck on rails in town, but I'd imagine it was done because people like me would go through and pull up every pole and traffic light.

Megan


Matt

Aw, Megan. Don't fret too much. If Final Fantasy XII doesn't reignite your love this fall, maybe one of the many, many other games due for release will. I agree that RPGamers shouldn't force themselves to play non-explorative games, but at the same time, it's never a good idea to close your mind to them altogether! You might end up missing a real gem along the way.

I have to say that you're bang-on when it comes to the music department. It's so important in an RPG, and not all developers seem to "get" that, yet. On the other hand, I think that the sound in today's RPGs is, on average, worlds better than it used to be.

Thanks for writing in, Megan!!





THE NEXUS

The Sean guy that I mentioned yesterday has generously offered some games for the SOCK shop! It's not the same Sean as the Sean we've all come to know and love dearly, but he's a good Sean nonetheless, and he has a whole lot of used games to sell to RPGamers of all kinds for a variety of different systems. For a list of his games, click here. To get in touch with Sean, give him a shout at BuddyWingnut@yahoo.com, and he'll tell you more.

Also, the column has obviously gone through a bit of a graphical/format change. My main reason was to make the end of the column seem less cluttered, so hopefully this represents an improvement. Let me know if I have succeeded!



THE SPECTACULAR ONGOING CONTEST OF KNOWLEDGE


For complete contest rules, click here!


Answers to July 26th's Questions

#270. b) Dizzy - 420 points/840 for Purelunatic
I was worried that this question was a little too vague, but a fair number of you recognized the Digital Devil Saga 2 reference anyway. Thanks for the submission!

#271. a) Peco - 475 points
Most of you caught this tricksy one, but those of you who didn't had no idea what it even meant. Peco is the right answer because he's the only plant of the group... the rest of them all belong to the Animalia kingdom.



Today's New Questions

Reader-Submitted #272:
The Zeptic Village normally is protected from demons by a precious item, but the item was stolen by the time you arrive. What was the item composed of? (400 points)

a) Gold
b) Silver
c) Copper
d) Bronze
e) None of the above


#273:
I discovered Dragon Warrior III at a young age and rented it repeatedly. Where was the last place that I saved my game before it stopped working, leaving me one *sad* kid? (450 points)

a) Aliahan
b) Romaly
c) Portoga
d) Samanao
e) Tantegel




SOCK's Item List

Obtain these items upon reaching the listed point benchmarks!

2,000 points: Mythril Sword (1 left) or Point Doubler (2 left)
3,500 points: Sneak Glove (2 left) or Rename Card (1 left)
5,000 points: Venom Spell (2 left) or Thundara Spell (2 left)
7,000 points: Blizzaga Spell (2 left) or Damage Deflector (3 left)
10,000 points: Merton Spell (2 left) or Confuga Spell (1 left)
14,000 points: Point Tripler (2 left) or Killer Sword (2 left)
19,000 points: Economizer (1 left) or Staff of Aid (1 left)
25,000 points: Demiga Spell (1 left) or Nightmare Staff (2 left)
32,000 points: Point Quadrupler (2 left) or Hastega Spell (2 left)

STRAGGLERS:
(people who I love, but who still need to check their e-mail or somehow get in touch with me because they have unclaimed items- if you fall off the list after a week, it's TOO LATE FOR YOU! Check your spam/trash folders for my messages if you're not getting them, and I'll check mine, too!)

  • none to speak of!


SOCK's Prize Shop

Obtain enough points, and you may buy merchandise or guest-hosting positions.

Click here for the current list of potential prizes!


IN CLOSING

That's all I have to say for tonight. I may or may not be able to produce another column for tomorrow, but if I do, it will be up earlier and it will be without the SOCK. During the next few weeks, I have a trip to Montreal scheduled and a weeklong trip home as well, so I'll be walking on eggshells as far as my schedule goes. Is that the right expression for me to use? Who cares. I'll do my very best to get as many of your questions answered as I can!


slimey@rpgamer.com
***Matt has had enough of this week.


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I can't wait until next winter comes. I hope that I have a lot more time there to care about things. I'll do my best until then!

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