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Land Ho! August 9, 2006

Matt Demers - 18:24 EST

THE END IS NEAR! The end of what, you ask? Yesterday, I managed to read to the end of the second and last chapter of my summer reading course, taking me one step closer to the end of my Master's Degree. It's funny, isn't it? When I started working here, I had barely begun it, and now I'm talking about finishing it up, writing my thesis, defending it, and calling it a day. What am I going to do afterwards? Good jebus, don't make me think about that yet!

I promise that today's Q&A episode won't be as unearthly long as yesterday's. Don't get me wrong; I really like long letters, and I appreciate the time that some of you take to write in to me! It means a lot to see such interest, and I love being able to respond. That doesn't mean, though, that I don't like nice, short, and sweet ones too, and I know that there are lots of readers out there that enjoy 'em as well. Today, we'll have a few from column A and a few from column B, and we shall begin right here.

Left-handedness, game mechanics-annoyingness, the mediocrity of Wild Arms AC:F, and RPG remakes... all in one!

In response to JuMeSyn's obscenely long letter, I have this to say: Kain in FF4 was left-handed. Sure, he spent half the time betraying you, but still. Left handed. There it is.


Indeed! And don't forget Palom, that mischievous little guy. Link is left-handed at least some of the time in the Zelda series, too, is he not?

So I capped off Suikoden V at 57 and a half hours, my longest time with an RPG since, I think, Dragon Warrior 7, which stole about 90 hours of my life from me and gave me nothing in return. And I realized something pleasant as I was grinding away at the fishing minigame to raise up enough money to outfit 18 CHARACTERS for the final dungeon...

(But before I get to that:

Dear game developers,

Stop doing things like that. Don't make it so we have to drag a bunch of underdeveloped, poorly outfitted characters into dangerous situations, especially right at the end of the game. Though I'm very grateful for the opportunity to recruit 108 characters, that doesn't mean I want to use all of them equally.

I had a perfectly balanced team of six I managed to get through most of the game with, and consequently didn't bother with anyone else at all until you forced me to grind in order to pay for weapons, armor, and runes for 12 other people, so I could take three parties into the final dungeon. And then fight the final boss with my normal awesome party.

That = lame. At least in FF6 you could just teach everyone Ultima.

Just stop it!)


Hahahahaha... awww. That's too bad! I guess this is one game where my habitual character-leveling-up-communism strategy would actually pay off then, wouldn't it? It's funny, because I don't really know many people besides myself that play games through in that style. It's a dangerous thing for games like Pokémon or Disgaea, as you might be able to imagine.

Anyway. As I was grinding away at that fishing minigame, I realized that I didn't really want the game to end. In fact, I was sort of stalling for time; hanging around the castle, fishing a bit more than I had to (I actually enjoyed the fishing game, which is good, because I had to do it about 200 times)...just sort of puttering around before I hit the final dungeon.

I can't even remember the last time I'd reached a game's end and wasn't thinking "OK, good, I can finally put this one away and move on to the next one." Even for games I really liked, like Shadow Hearts: From the New World, I got to the near-end and was ready to put it aside. Suikoden V had me trying to put that moment off.


Isn't that a fantastic feeling? You know that a game has you wrapped around around its metaphorical little finger when you feel that way. I remember when I finally choked down the lump in my throat to go fight the final boss of Dragon Quest VIII. I didn't really want it to be over with at all... but luckily for me, there ended up being a fantastic amount of bonus material anyway. Good for them!

It was always the same thing with the SNES Final Fantasy games and the NES Dragon Warriors. If you beat them, they'll be over with, and it's a sad thing, if you've "fallen in love", as it were, with a game.

But I did it, got the typically underwhelming ending, the sweet new game + feature (something every last RPG there is should have), and moved on. To Wild Arms: Alter Code F.

Talk about a step down the ladder.


Eep. Yeah, I'd be inclined to agree with you, and I haven't even played Suikoden V. What are your reasons?

Not that Alter Code is bad; I don't actively dislike it, after about 7 hours or so. It's just so...deformed. The graphics are all prettied up, the sound is improved, but the music loses its luster, the towns are all severely truncated, the equipment system is apparently nonexistent...this is not the Wild Arms I loved so well eight years ago. It's not even the Wild Arms I loved eight months ago, when I replayed the first and the second just because, in preparation for WA4 and this remake.


And just you wait...

As you go on, many of the glitches will make themselves known, and you'll probably find yourself gawking at what can be an excruciating translation. The game honestly felt like a half-assed attempt at creating something pretty, but it fell short in so many other ways. I can't blame you for feeling the way you do!

By contrast, I purchased Final Fantasy I + II for the GBA/DS, and am enjoying it considerably. It's the difference between remaking something and IMPROVING on the original, rather than just ALTERING (see what I did there?) the original. Alter Code F seems to be like the remake of "Psycho." All the parts are there, and it's all trumped up with pretty new visuals, but sometimes it's just better when it's obvious the blood in the shower is chocolate sauce, if you take my meaning.


Nice analogy! There was a lot of bonus content added to both remakes, to be fair. From what I've heard, though, and what I experienced with ACF, you're probably right that FFI + II: Dawn of Souls is more of an upgrade.

Which got me thinking, incidentally. I was thinking about submitting this as a potential SOCK question, but realized I wasn't sure about the answer: what was the first RPG remake to reach American shores? I don't mean ports, I don't mean really similar sequels; I mean intentional remakes.

The earliest ones I can think of are the SNES versions of the first three Dragon Warriors (the last of which I would give my left foot to play...though I might consider renting it back once I'd given it up, for aesthetic purposes), but those were only in Japan. The first to reach America, I think, might actually be Final Fantasy Origins, which is basically Dawn of Souls, only with load times.


...and no bonus dungeons. I enjoyed FF Origins, and I appreciated the fact that it didn't dumb down FF1's magic system the way that Dawn of Souls did.

I know that there are earlier examples, though. FF Origins was released in 2003, and there are several other games that I can think of that saw North American remakes before then. Dragon Warrior III had a fantastic Game Boy Color remake that was released in 2001, and Dragon Warrior I+II also had a GBC remake that saw a North American release in 2000. The Breath of Fire games also had GBC remakes that came out at about the same time, if I recall correctly.

However, Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete was a remake of 1993's Lunar: Silver Star Story. The remake saw its first release for the Saturn in 1996, and THAT is the earliest remake that I can think of, though there could very well be earlier ones that I'm missing. Good question, by the way.

Which just goes to show you, no matter how you look at it, no matter how it gets remade, no matter what system it's on...FF2 is still utter, utter crap.

-TV's Adam


Heh heh. You're not the only one who holds that viewpoint, good sir! I honestly don't mind the game, though I'll be the first to admit that it's far from being the high point in the series. Along with FFIII, however, it did set the stage for the incredible future of the series, and for that, I think that some credit is deserved!

Thanks for writing in, Adam! It's always a pleasure to hear from you.


Kick me in my non-infected and unbruised shin if I’m wrong, but Reno’s a lefty (as seen in FF7:AC).

#278 is B and #279 is C and I swear to God I am not pulling these out of my ass (has fingers crossed behind her back while saying this.)

Bucket NezuMi


There are a few people who have noticed this, I see. I actually turned up 24 results on "Reno is left-handed", in a Google search, even when in quotes! Then, for fun, I tried out "Reno is right-handed", and wouldn't you know it... I got ZERO hits! I guess you must be right.

So there we go! A more recent example of left-handedness in RPGs. Can anyone point out any others?

Mother, May I?

Hey, I read your comments on character leveling in the last Q&A column. and it got me thinking about my gaming habits. I've gotten into the habit of not even using my lower level characters unless I have to. I'll get a new character in my party and never use them because they're lower level than the characters I'm using so I don't bother with them.


See? This is exactly what I'm talking about. I hate to do that, and I do my best to include lower-leveled characters, because who knows? If I don't help them out and make them strong, I might miss some ultra-cool ability or magical technique that he or she learns at a very high level. It's almost a "completionist" thing, in a way, but not exactly.

Normally in the beginning of a game when you pick up your second or third party member their level is close to what yours should be. But the other day I started playing the predecessor of one of my favorite SNES games (which I'll not mention the name due to the legality of which I was playing the unreleased yet translated game). Every time I acquired a new recruit to the team they started at level one. Which made it quite hard to keep them alive so they could level up, but I guess that makes sense being that they're all kids with no combat training. Oddly enough while leveling up before the final showdown with my alien great uncle my three characters were all within a level of each other. It's funny how that works out.


Heh heh, I think I might know what game you're talking about, but that's neither here nor there.

It's not "funny" as much as it is mathematical (yay math)! Exponential experience curves tend to cause that leveling-out process to happen quite naturally. I'm trying to do something similar with SOCK point inflation over time, too, for similar reasons.

which brings me to my last topic up for discussion. Earthbound 2 or Mother 3 however you want to look at it. The game looks great. I've been playing a Japanese copy of it, which is a little tricky, but thanks to a walkthrough and translation guide I have some clue as to what's going on. The battle system is fun because you can do some crazy combos by tapping A in rhythm to the battle music. I truly hope they release it over here or I think I'm going to have to become fluent in Japanese just so I can play the game without having to check a walkthrough to see what I need to do next. I read somewhere online that it's going to be released in Europe in December so hopefully it will make it over here too.



Well, SuperKyle... I hate to say this, but don't get your hopes up. For some reason, I had my own hopes up awhile back that Mother 3 would be released in North America, but it feels like Nintendo is pretending that the game doesn't exist for all of us desperately Mother-hungry North Americans, presumably because they'd rather spend their time promoting their shinier DS. As much as I love the DS, this is unacceptable, since other developers are still working on what look to be quite successful GBA games! I've heard so many great things about Mother 3, and I'm sure it would sell well if it were released here. That's not just based on my own love of Earthbound; it's based on what I've seen and heard from other sites, as well as my own mailbag, which has been a pretty good cross-section of the non-PC-RPGaming community historically, I think.

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


hi - I saw your website. I was wondering if you had access to a free walkthrough for [Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow]. I am stuck at the end. I have defeted all of the bosses thus far. I have no idea what the "paranoia soul" is. can you offer any advice?

thanks - joe


Hey, Joe, and thanks for visiting. I'm afraid that if you can't find it here, you might have to look elsewhere. I'd suggest! If that's not your thing, for whatever reason, typing "Castlevania Dawn of Souls Walkthrough" into Google should get you somewhere. Not having played the game myself, I'm not sure what the term refers to, but I wish you the best of luck in finding out!


I think Xenosaga: Episode 1 had the same issue of being censored before being released in America. There was supposedly a sex scene between Albedo and Shion...I think I've mentioned this on here before, but how the hell would that come about?!


I really have no idea. Imagine what the baby would be like, though! I envision some sort of white-haired maniacal version of Shion, which is a scary thought, to be sure. The worst part is, with Albedo's super-regeneration-genes flowing about, Shion would really have no hope of aborting such a pregnancy either, would she?

...and the dark humour has hit an all-new low. Sorry if that rubs anyone the wrong way; I just couldn't resist, even if it might have been in poor taste.


Squarehard? It doesn't have quite the same ring to it...

Welcome back, Matt

Have you read the interview with Wada that hinted that Square-Enix might be making hardware to play games? He said that they were working on something with Taito, talking about how they produce physical hardware. Well, I highly doubt the speculations that Square-Enix is making a next generation game console. Since it's Taito that they're working with, at best, they might be making arcade games. Or it could be another toy device like Kenshin Dragon Quest that works like a standalone game. What's your input?



Wouldn't THAT be a twist?

To spare the whole console wars issue, Square Enix jumps ship on all three and comes up with their own! No one would have seen that one coming. I agree with you though; I doubt it's anything like that, but it might be something like a piece of game-specific equipment. Perhaps an interesting version of a Wii controller, since those seem to be all the rage these days? Or maybe some sort of mini-system to work in tandem with one or more of the next-generation consoles and handhelds? It's an interesting announcement, but so few details were revealed, I hesitate to speculate on what might be up their sleeves!

Thanks, Alan!

Way, way beyond Beyond the Beyond...

G'day Matt,

I am writing about one specific letter from this past letter section, the one that was praising Beyond the Beyond. I would like to know what that person was smoking, and if I could get some, because that must be some potent stuff. Mind you, I am not attacking the person who wrote it, but rather the game itself. I can see where he's coming from in regards to difficulty, but when a game substitutes a ridiculous amount of random encounters for skill-based difficulty, it just shows lazyness on the part of the developer.. That was the first rpg I bought for the Playstation, way back when, and I just remember getting so dicsouraged playing it, I was close to giving up on RPGs in general. Luckily, the original Wild Arms came out soon after, and I was sated till the release of Final Fantasy 7. Everyone remembers the awesome rpgs throughout the playstation's lifetime, but those early days were pretty barren and depressing if you were an rpg fan. I don't remember too many specifics about Beyond the Beyond, just feeling like it was a chore playing through the game. There was one specific tower part, where every floor was a puzzle that required backtracking to different floors over and over, that broke me completely and left me sobbing in a corner. Usually, I like the challenge of puzzles in rpgs, but not when every few steps resulted in a battle! Bah, sorry, just ranting now.


You raise a good point; is a game really "difficult" if it's artificially made to be just by cranking up the encounter rate? Then again, think about it: Final Fantasy IX and X are both regarded to be very good games, but the encounter rates in both of those games are considerably higher than average! Surely, there has got to be more to the story. Something made Final Fantasy IX and X more engaging. Was it the fact that there weren't needlessly long towers with random puzzles scattered throughout? Perhaps battles were just more fun. One thing that is certain is that I didn't play Beyond the Beyond, so I can't really fairly make the judgment call!

Anywho, good to hear you had fun at Montreal. And you're right, 3 days is not nearly enough time. I remember taking a trip there with my college roommates a year or two back to Canada, and having a blast. Though the first night we were there, it was Canadian Thanksgiving, meaning everything was closed. That took us completely by surprise, and the first night was spent cursing Canada. Luckily, the next couple days made it worthwhile. Enough reminiscing. Later tater.

- Nino


Well, I'm glad you had a good time! There are all sorts of fun things to do in Montréal. What's cool about the city is that it has to be one of the most bilingual in the world; almost anyone you meet there is fully fluent in both french and english. I wish I had that ability!

Thanks, Nino, for writing in!


Hmmm. Having little to say today, I think I'm going to have to turn to haiku yet again. AHEM!

Peaceful afternoon
A breeze licking through my hair
Cleansing mind and soul

Again, look at Sean's list of games he has for sale! He has generously donated prizes to the SOCK and THONG competitions, so please support him! Take a look at the used games, including some rarer titles, all to be sold for $40 or less. Some of them come with bonus art books, strategy guides, or more. So, if you're looking for something that's hard to find, Sean might be the one to talk to! Get in touch with him at, and he'll be sure to tell you more. Thanks!


For complete contest rules, click here!

Answers to August 8th's Questions

#278. d) Death - 475 points/950 for Maggie
According to Maggie, this question refers to Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver. After watching her sister play, she came up with this goodie. Thanks for the submission!

#279. a) b) and c) - 450 points
"Compliments to the Scheffer Stroke" was the name of the column, which was featured about two months ago. The questions on that day even featured a question from Alexander, who remains a strong competitor even to this very day! Congrats to everyone who researched this one so well.

Today's New Questions

Reader-Submitted #280:
The Sword of Diamonds is called which of the following? (470 points)

a) Nothung
b) Hrathnir
c) Gungnir
d) Balmung
e) Hrist

Which of the following Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones characters shares his/her hair colour with the colour of "Counter" Materia from Final Fantasy VII? (480 points)

a) Vanessa
b) Eirika
c) Lute
d) Joshua
e) Natasha

Finally, it has worn off! The recovery can now begin, and just in time. There are lots of neat items to shoot for in the SOCK shop, and there are big changes in store for the competition. Just wait until I get back from my vacation next week; the competition is about to undergo its next evolution!

SOCK's Item List

Obtain these items upon reaching the listed point benchmarks!

2,000 points: Hastera Spell (1 left) or Drain Spell (3 left)
3,500 points: Mithril Armor (3 left) or Rename Card (1 left)
5,000 points: Venom Spell (1 left) or Confuse Spell (2 left)
7,000 points: Blizzaga Spell (2 left) or Damage Deflector (1 left)
10,000 points: Merton Spell (1 left) or Hyper Beam (2 left)
14,000 points: Slowga Spell (2 left) or Killer Sword (2 left)
19,000 points: Point Tripler (3 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!)

  • 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!


Tomorrow, Macstorm will be taking a seat besides me to help answer your toughest answers and questions (and perhaps your easiest ones, too). CW will sneak in and steal the intro from me on Friday, too. Please, join us and enjoy the show!
***Matt finished reading his chapter!

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