Matt Demers - 17:41 EST
WELL, IT WAS JUST about as hot as they said it would get, but I lived with it and I'm stronger because of it. I got a bit of a sunburn when I ventured out to go on a quest to [the bank in the west], but I lived to tell the tale.
Tomorrow, I leave on a much bigger quest! So you'd better enjoy this column while it lasts.
An all-encompassing, all-around great letter!
Greetings, Matt. Oliver checking in once again. I wish I could muster up the inspiration for a weekly letter, but sometimes I just go through a dry spell. Today, however, I think I have more than enough to justify a write-in.
Good to hear!
For the record, so many people are always writing in, apologizing for not writing in all the time and fretting that they should be contributing more. Don't! Absolutely not. I have plenty of mail, and besides... people write better letters when they actually feel like they want to write in. You have nothing to feel sorry about! Now, go run along, son. OH! Wait, you're not finished yet...
Most pressing subject first. What are your thoughts on this recently announced downsizing of the E3 convention? (If you haven't heard about it, head to GameSpot). From what I can gather, this is gonna be one hell of an overhaul; the intent is to make it less of a "circus", if you will, and more about the industry and industry representatives. They're making it more intimate, more compact, and easier for developers to get their messages across. Personally, I think that this could be good for the industry. I would say that E3 has, in previous years, moved a little too much towards the gimmicky side in a lot of areas. More about appearance and style, and less about game developers displaying their latest work. If anyone disagrees with me, I have two words for them: Booth babes. (Appealing to the lowest common denominator in mankind.) So I, for one, am glad about the downsizing. Besides, it seems to me that the game developers themselves are pushing for this. So what do you think Matt? You're a lot more knowledgable on E3 than I am, considering you've had the privelege of attending the show.
Indeed. This news has spread shockingly and suddenly, though apparently the idea of scaling it down has been in the works for awhile. My jaw certainly dropped when I read Xlash's letter, though, and went hunting for the low-down myself.
Having given it some thought, I can hardly blame them for making this decision. Perhaps the glitz and the glamour has defeated the original purpose of the show, which is to showcase games. Is it fair that a big, bad company with lots of money should be able to pump out an enormous display, detracting attention away from the fledgling, start-out companies with potentially superior games but little in the way of extra money? And, when companies are losing money on the show in the first place, this just doesn't make much sense to me- the show may essentially act as a way to cause major extra hype for the big games that don't really need the boost as much as the lesser-known titles made by lesser-known companies.
Of course, this doesn't all mean that this downsizing isn't very disappointing to me. E3 was exciting and fantastic last year, and it pains me to think that I may not ever get the opportunity to travel to L.A. again for something like it. What am I going to give away in the SOCK shop now!?
Okay, here's some RPG talk. Wanna know the most aggravating problem I have with most RPG's? Unequal levelling. Characters who are forced out of your party for long amounts of time, and gain no experience in the meantime. Final Fantasy IX is a huge offender in this area, especially early in the game. Another thing that has always bugged me is the fact that if a character dies in battle, he receives no XP whatsoever. However, characters who weren't even in the party at the time are still awarded at least 50 percent, if not 100. How much sense does that make? Jeeze....
I absolutely agree with you on your last point! Characters that DIE during combat should receive experience... for heaven's sakes, look what they went through! A much more painful experience than anyone else in the fray, that's for sure. It's funny you mention it, because Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete is one of the few RPGs I've played that does indeed award characters that fall in battle.
I don't, however, agree with your point on level-equalization! I think it's really FUN and cool when people become uneven in levels. Perhaps it's my math-minded self, but I find it mesmerizing to watch a group of unevenly-levelled party members gradually become more even over time, due to experience curvage. Also, if a party member doesn't participate in any battles, it doesn't make sense to me that they'd automatically level up to exactly the level of your characters; Final Fantasy VI is a big offender there. Does anyone agree with me, or am I just a weird crazy guy?
I guess I brought that up because I'm currently playing FFIX for the first time. (Yes, yes, I know. Give me a break; I've only been a fan of the series for three or four years now.) I'm on disc 3, and for the most part I am loving it so far. The difficulty in battles has definitely been increased since number eight, for which I am glad, but the complexity of the skill system has been dramatically reduced, which I am not too happy about. I am really enjoying the story, even though the fantasy setting is quite a break from the norm. So, Matt; give me one of your trademarked mini-reviews. (Just don't spoil anything past the second visit to the Black Mage Village).
Bah, I won't spoil anything storyline-specific, and partly because a lot of the specifics I don't remember 100% clearly. It's been years since I've played the game myself!
Final Fantasy IX was a mixed bag for me. Overall, I thought it was an excellent game, but I think that it was a step down from previous entries in the series.
Unlike many people, I think that the strong points of the game lie in its storyline, and in many of the villains. The plot reeks of traditional Final Fantasy in that while everything starts out like an everyday RPG, "weird" things creep into the storyline very quickly, and unexpected developments put an exotic twist on the plot, keeping things really interesting.
SOME of the combat has improved in difficulty, but largely, I found that the gameplay fell short of Final Fantasy VI and VII. I still think that the game is really too easy, especially once a few cheap skills are opened up later on. The skill system is disappointingly simple for a Final Fantasy game, too, and when I played through it, I was distressed that largely, there wasn't much to look for with regards to "most powerful spells" for Vivi or Garnet. I also found that battles got "old" quickly, because in most areas, there seemed to be a grand total of two or three possible "random" battles to get into. Character-wise, I wasn't terribly wowed. It would have been nice to have characters like Freya and Amarant developed further. I've always wondered, for instance, why Amarant even joins your team. Having watched the scene where you first meet him multiple times now, I still don't understand it, but that's probably half-due to what is a translation of often poor quality. It could, of course, be due to my lack of understanding of the english language, which rears its ugly head every now and again, but I don't think it is.
Don't get me wrong. There are many things about FFIX that are very lovable, and the quality of the game is still marvelous. It's just not my favourite Final Fantasy game of the bunch, that's all.
Oh, by the way, your positive rantings on Fire Emblem convinced me to pick up the sacred stones. Good stuff, I have to say. It's the first tactical RPG I've ever seriously played. (I've goofed around with some of Nippon Ichi's stuff in the past, but never owned any of it.) I'm enjoying it, though. I'm on chapter five and have yet to restart a chapter....but I'm mortally afraid of losing someone.
Great! Yeah, I was petrified too, that I'd lose someone, but having arrived at the end, I'm a bit dejected to discover that I must have missed someone along the way. Or so it seems. I'm not sure... but if I play it again, I'm going to play right through, and if someone dies, they die. The war would seem so much more tragic that way!
Something interesting I've noticed is that me and my two younger brothers always end up using the exact same party in RPG's. Just to satisfy my curiosity, what party members did you stick with for FFVI-IX? To make it clearer, which party did you take to the final boss? Here's mine:
FFVI: Edgar, Terra, Celes, Cyan
FFVII: Cloud, Tifa, Vincent
FFVIII: Squall, Rinoa, Irvine
FFIX (so far) Zidane, Vivi, Dagger, Steiner
Throughout any RPGs, I have the communist tendency to almost always take along the characters who are in the lowest levels at the time, if I have the option to choose. In the end, I usually have an extremely well-balanced party, but no really outstanding members. I don't know many people who play like I do, though.
Let's see if I can remember, though... Who did I take to final bosses?
FFVI: Celes, Cyan, Relm, Setzer
FFVII: Cloud, Tifa, Cid
FFVIII: Squall, Rinoa, Zell
FFIX: Zidane, Steiner, Eiko, Amarant
Your choices all seem sound with one exception. Vincent? Whyhow? There are others who say he rocks hardcore, but I could never understand how you could use him for major battles because of his Berserker-style limit break. If Final Fantasy VII's hypothetical remake included one change, it would be that one would possess the ability to attack normally even while the limit gauge is full!
Interesting subject, but seriously, I have no idea why FFX didn't spark a revolution with the ability to switch members in and out with the tap of a button. I mean, come on...such a simple feature, yet so incredibly useful. And yet, RPG developers haven't taken the hint.
Well, that's not entirely true! Dragon Quest did that LONG, LONG ago on the NES with Dragon Quest IV, and then again in Dragon Quests V and VI, which we never saw in North America. I believe that Wild Arms Alter Code: F did the same thing. And did Atelier Iris: Eternal Mana? It's fuzzy to me right now.
In any case, Final Fantasy X was the first "popular" game to feature a system like that, but it was by no means the first period! I agree that it made the battles fast-paced and fun, but then again, it always bugged me that Game Over occurred as soon as the front three members kicked the bucket. If it's that easy for characters to simply step in, shouldn't they be able to do so at the sight of a fallen comrade?
Hey, go to GameBrink to read a great review for Xenosaga Episode III. Very positive. Also, GameFAQS has a few. One brings up an interesting subject. It says that in order to make a T rating in North America, it will definitely have to be censored. What are your thoughts on censorship? I'd buy it if it was M-rated, personally.
That's interesting... and intriguing! What could be so disturbing in Xenosaga: Episode III to warrant potentially offensive material? I'm excited.
It's a bit disturbing to hear that some of the content will have to be adjusted to make a T-rating, although I imagine that the core of the Xenosaga audience is over the age of 18 anyway. I don't like the idea of adjusting things or taking other things out just for the sake of appeasing censors who, in the western world, are often overly sensitive, in my opinion.
People see violence every day in real life and on TV. Cursing and swearing is a part of everyday life. While I agree that some form of censorship is a good idea, I think that in its current state, it is a bit over-the-top. Dragon Quest VIII got slapped with a T-rating partly because there is GAMBLING in the game, for example. How many RPGs don't have some sort of gambling in them in some form? Sure, it might offend a few religious groups, but come on... if it's that offensive, don't buy it in the first place.
Oh, and while you're at GameFAQS, check out the poll they have going. They've had that Best Series Ever competion going on for a while, and it's finally come down to The Legend of Zelda Vs. Final Fantasy. Wow, that's one heck of a fight. Hard for me to decide, but I think if I had to, I'd cast my vote for Zelda.
That is a really difficult decision to make for me. Of course, I'd cast my vote for Dragon Quest if I had the chance, but out of those two, Final Fantasy is just nearer and dearer to my heart. Zelda games are good, but it's been eight years since I've played one that truly gripped me. Eight years, already! Where has the time gone...?
Hmmm.....I've never taken the plunge into SOCK. I have a hard time retaining knowledge, and most of the questions go way over my head. But with all those attractive prizes....jeeze, it's starting to get tempting. What say I did play, an amassed enough points for a co-host spot? How would that work? You see, I have dial-up, and if I was required to upload anything huge, or do anything that would require a fast connection, I'd be sunk. *curses his dial-up connection*
Not to worry, Oliver! You don't have to know a lot to play. Heck, *I* don't even know a lot of the things that I ask until I go hunting myself, and I couldn't answer most of the reader-submitted questions that I get in. That's exactly why there is the minimum promise of 200 points every single time you guess a day's questions; I'm just glad that people choose to participate! Once you rack up enough points, the items totally change the game. By that point, trivia is only a small part; strategic item use becomes far more important!
Also, co-hosting is extremely simple, for you and anyone else wondering about it. All that happens when people co-host is... I forward them e-mail from my inbox, and they co-host just sends their responses back to me within a day! Thus, even if you're on dial-up, it's totally simple; all you need is e-mail capabilities, and you're perfectly qualified. If you have the points, of course.
Thanks for your time.
P.S, happy half-birthday.
Thank you for the great letter, Oliver! And thanks for the half-birthday wishes. I never did get a cake, but I ate a whole lot of crap over the weekend anyway; my mom is otherworldly in the kitchen, so I always return to Guelph about five pounds heavier!
I wonder how many RPGs I really HAVE played in my life to this point...
Looking back through all of the RPGs that you've ever played, are
there any that you truly regret playing? I can look back at games
that I bought and regretted buying them, Beyond the Beyond is the most
vivid for me, but I got rid of it pretty quickly. Also, are there any
games that you wanted to buy, but put off and never could find them or
find them affordably again?
No, I think. I don't really regret playing any of the games I've ever played, because even the ones that have been unpleasant have increased my knowledge of the RPG world a little bit. It takes bad games to really appreciate great games, and besides, "better than average" wouldn't even exist, statistically, if there were no games worse than average!
I think that by and large, most games, no matter how bad, have provided at least some small inspiring thing to me as a take-home treat; perhaps some unique gameplay element that caught my eye, or a plot detail that happened to be interesting. I don't believe I've ever played a game where there hasn't been something positive to say about at least one thing.
To answer your second question, not really, no. I got really lucky when it came to Dragon Warrior IV; I finally received it on my birthday in 1995 after my mom discovered it on sale at a video store for far less than it should have been worth. It was worth the world to me at the time, and it still is.
I almost missed the boat on Disgaea; my mom had to order it specially online somehow well after it was released, since she got it for me as a Christmas present two years after its initial release, long after the title first disappeared off store shelves, yet before its reappearance soon thereafter. Other than that, I can't really think of anything. Most of the titles I WANT to own, I own, and others, like Earthbound, I'll hopefully get the chance to play cheaply through Nintendo's Virtual Console in the near future. I'm so excited about that Wii feature... I really hope it doesn't disappoint when it actually sees the light of day.
Thanks for the letter!
What RPG could have been great if they included/excluded that certain
something that makes/breaks a game.
Bainick must HURRY
Recently? Wild Arms Alter Code: F. It was done in by its horrifying and amateurish translation, as far as I'm concerned. The game might have felt at least average, and perhaps better, if it hadn't been bogged down by it. When I played it, though, I felt that I could hardly take the characters seriously; Jack was stupidly and unreasonably brash, Cecilia was overly and irritatingly emotional all the time, and Rudy- one third of the cast, for all intents and purposes- was a mute. Not a good plan. The villains ended up feeling just silly, simply put, with lines like "Muahahaha they will never escape this prison! And even if they do escape their going to get taken care of by the guard. The plan is foolproof!" Spelling mistakes everywhere, and idiotic scripting make for a rather unpolished experience, and while that wasn't the only shortcoming of ACF, it was the dealbreaker, at least for me.
Thanks for writing in again, Bainick!
Working Designs, Part II?
Some cool news I read over at
Apparantly, Victor Ireland is creating a new videogame
company called Gaijinworks! In case you don't
remember, he's the director of the demised Working
Designs. I tell you, however much I love FFs, I cared
more for them closing down than if it were Squeenix.
That company really knew how to treat gamers (with the
exception of release dates, but that was OK
considering what we got in return).
I loved both Lunar games and Vanguard Bandits was
pretty cool too. And come on, adding a punching puppet
to preorders? That was just too cool.
They're saying they won't be limited to just Sony
consoles now (is anyone these days?), but they're
still going to bring Japanese games to English format.
These days we get even pretty eccentric RPGs (for
example, Nippon Ichi stuff), so do we still need such
a company? I think so. Not only the more RPGs the
merrier, they really did an exceptional job with their
games. What are your thoughts?
Zohar, this is really heartening news for the lot of us who have been hurt by the loss of Working Designs! I think that we should remain cautiously optimistic until we start seeing some announcements from the company on projects, but perhaps they'll come soon. It'll be interesting to see if Gaijinworks again keeps the emphasis in the same place, leather-bound instruction manuals and all! Hopefully, this guy will take his experiences of the past and the knowledge he's gained to create a successful successor to the great Working Designs! For now, we can only wait.
Thanks for sending in the link. Many people will be very happy to hear this!
In one of the letter titles in yesterday's column, you mentioned Dairy Queen. Now, I take a brief trip to Canada every year, since I have relatives who live up there. I've also visited various Dairy Queens while in Canada, and I've got to ask: what's going on with the gravy thing? If I order a chicken strip basket, they want to give me a container of gravy as well, despite the fact that gravy is disgusting. At first I thought, "well, maybe people like gravy on their chicken or something, I dunno." But it didn't take me long to realize that it wasn't the chicken... it was the french fries that came with the chicken. Seems that basically every fast-food restaurant on Canada has decided that french fries have to be served with gravy, which makes no sense to me, because as I stated previously, gravy is disgusting. Not to mention that I'm fairly certainputting gravy on french fries violates several international regulations. So come clean... is the gravy issue just a legacy holdover of bad british tastes, or is it part of The Top Secret Canadian Conspiracy To Like, Totally Take Over The World, Eh? Just wondering.
Ohoho, yes. Gravy is our ultimate plan of attack! In fact, we have gravy missiles with mid-range capabilities, and while we haven't launched any to this point, you never know what will push us to the edge! Beware.
In reality, YES, gravy is a popular choice to top fries here with as an alternative to ketchup or vinegar. I know other people from other countries that find the idea offensive too, but I often wonder why. People put gravy on other forms of potatoes... why not french fries? And yeah, often times, the fast-food "gravy" is highly suspicious... I usually order it only if I'm at a sit-down restaurant and I'm feeling... gravirrific.
Besides, I could argue the same about every time I've ever gone south of the border! Americans seem to be really big on slathering biscuits with gravy. Yes, these random biscuits pop up everywhere, even in fast food places! How odd. They're not bad, though, to be honest with you; at least the ones I've had.
Any RPG Packrats around here?
I have no idea what the current rules are, but I have a vague memory about Sony's original licensing for the Playstation. Wasn't it something like for every game sold, the company would pay Sony $10 in licensing fees? I have no idea what companies paid in placement at stores, shipping, etc., but back then, at $40 a pop, there was a lot of potential profit in games. Of course, that would have to create enough cash flow to cover the negligible cost of putting the game on CD, and the larger cost of creating the game itself. I have no idea what the margins would end up being, but I could see $10 a game profit being quite possible, and it might be much higher for the more successful games (they would recoup their development costs much faster).
Interesting. It's a more difficult-to-research thing than I thought it would be, so you might be right, but I couldn't find any info on it after a few minutes of buzzing around.
That said, as much as I would have loved to go, it sounds like E3 had gotten a bit out of control. It doesn't sound like it's going to completely disappear, so perhaps you may still be able to visit in the future!
I really hope so. I've heard, though, that in the future it will be invitation-only, so I feel that perhaps my chances are slim. I'm only lucky that I came to RPGamer when I did, or I may never have had the great opportunity.
One thing is for sure: I'm damn glad I took that all-expenses-paid trip to E3 off of the prize list of SOCK! That might not have worked out so well...
Anyway, thank you for taking the time tto send me another letter!
A DS dilemma! And it's MATT to the rescue!
Man o' man is it hot here in the Northeast of the US!
100 degrees F, definitely not what I'm used to! Gonna
hunker down in the A/Ced apartment tonight and just
play Advance Wars:Dual Strike! Anyway yesterdays
letter about saving items got me thinking about my RPG
habits. I am obsessive with saving items, as you said
in Final Fantasy games I am loaded with Elixirs and
the lot. I'm also very bad about saving stat boosting
items. I get a power apple or whatever and I think, I
could use this on Sam now, but what if I get a cooler
character later and I flush Sam down the proverbial
toilet, why it's proverbial I don't know.
Here's a simple question, next week I get to go away
to Colorado for training, any suggestions as to a good
DS game to keep me occupied during down times.
274)hmm A) fighter
and 275)B)la la laaaaaaa!
That, my friend, depends on where your interests lie! First of all, if you haven't purchased Mario Kart DS, that should be your number one pick; it is, in my opinion, the best Mario Kart yet. The New Super Mario Brothers or Super Princess Peach are fun but generally pretty easy, if you're into old-school, light-hearted, and/or side-scrolling games. If you're hunting for an RPG, the pickings are as of yet pretty slim. You could try out Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time, but it's not the best game out there. You could instead buy Lost Magic and report back to me what you think of it! Or, you could play Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow, since I've heard it's pretty good too. Other possibilities for you? Animal Crossing or Nintendogs, if you like that sort of thing, or Metroid Prime Hunters, if you're into FPSes. It's too bad you weren't heading down in a few months, Gilgamesh! There would be a lot MORE to choose from!
Nevertheless, have a good time in Colorado with your mysterious training! Hopefully you'll get the chance to come back and read from time to time. :)
Down the 401
From Guelph straight to Montréal
It's time for some fun
Yeah, it was weak. What can I say? I'm a math major, sue me. And oh my... a random thunderstorm just opened up overhead this afternoon, knocked out the power, and then HAILED all over the place for about thirty seconds. I later turned on the Weather Network to discover that not only were Tornado Warnings up, but a funnel cloud approached the ground over the city of Guelph! Jeebus. I guess there's one good thing about living in a basement apartment.
Again, let me remind you of Sean's list of games that are up for sale! Sean has generously donated prizes to the SOCK and THONG competitions, so if you're at all interested, help the guy out and take a look. He has quite a few games spanning many consoles (PS1, PS2, Gamecube, Super Nintendo) up for sale. If you're looking for something that's hard to find, Sean might be your guy, so get in touch with him at BuddyWingnut@yahoo.com. He'll tell you more.
For complete contest rules, click here!
Answers to August 1st's Questions
#274. d) White Mage - 370 points/740 for Bainick
If anybody hasn't ever stopped by Nuklear Power's 8-Bit Theater web comic, I highly suggest that you take a look sometime soon!! Thanks, Bainick, for your submission.
#275. b) La, la, la! - 470 points
This was from Disgaea. In truth, I think that as a few of you pointed out, the text appears as "Lalala!" but the way he sings it, commas are almost implied. Besides, the answer was still clear. Congrats to all of you who guessed correctly!
Which of these Robot Masters did NOT appear in the anime intro movie to
Mega Man 8?
a) Flash Man
b) Centaur Man
c) Pharaoh Man
d) Freeze Man
e) Gyro Man
Which of the following words is part of a clock puzzle in a certain RPG? (450 points)
The reign of terror continues, making things very, very difficult for many people to make much headway at all. The effects of DARK have been making things especially challenging for new competitors to break through into the Top 35! To competitors like Arpijy (41st), Prismatic (40th), and Afro Pete (38th): Keep trying your hardest! You're dealing with some pretty tough weaponry, but it will be over sooner or later. Otherwise, if you'd like to know if you have armour that has shattered or is under severe damage, or if you'd like to deflect part of the damage done to you with a Damage Deflector, just e-mail me and ask. I'll let you know what is in your inventory. Best of luck, everyone...
Obtain these items upon reaching the listed point benchmarks!
2,000 points: Hastera Spell (2 left) or Point Doubler (2 left)
3,500 points: Sneak Glove (1 left) or Rename Card (1 left)
5,000 points: Venom Spell (2 left) or Thundara Spell (1 left)
7,000 points: Blizzaga Spell (2 left) or Damage Deflector (1 left)
10,000 points: Merton Spell (2 left) or Hyper Beam (2 left)
14,000 points: Slowga Spell (2 left) or Killer Sword (2 left)
19,000 points: Economizer (1 left) or Gold Armor (2 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)
(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!)
Obtain enough points, and you may buy merchandise or guest-hosting positions.
Click here for the current list of potential prizes!
And with that, I'm done! I apologize for the shortened week if you were looking forward to me, but you'll get lots more of me next week, so don't despair!
Instead, look forward, because Josh will be around to fill my shoes, as will Macstorm! Please send them lots of mail, so that they have a lot in their inbox to look forward to. There are all sorts of topics to talk about, after all. How do you feel about E3's downsizing? Is it a good thing for gaming and for gamers?
Thanks for reading, everyone! Take care.
***Matt is pumped and ready to go!
"Zoom, zoom, zoom!" said the Mazda commercial. In reality, Matt and his friends were taking Tom's navy blue Dodge Caravan all the way. Who knows if it would hold up for the journey?
Aug. 1: Matt
July 31: Josh
July 29: Josh
July 28: Matt
About the Host
What am I playing?
1. Lunar: SSSC
2. Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones
3. Radiata Stories
What do I want to play?
1. Final Fantasy III
2. Xenosaga: Episode III
3. Disgaea II
SOCK's Top 35:
5. Alan Tse
14. TV's Adam
15. Arros Raikou