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ASK MATT
Angry Hamburger Man September 5, 2006

Matthew Demers - 21:22 EST

I HAVE FOUR BITES on my arm. I assume that I got them the other night while I was sleeping, and they're itchier than anything I've ever scratched in recent memory. If it was a spider, I vow to you all right here and now that I will find it and destroy it. Actually, it doesn't really matter what it was; having your skin pierced by alien jaws during your sleep is more than a slightly disturbing idea.

Other than that, I'm doing just fine. I played almost twenty hours of Disgaea over the last three days, and I'm quite absorbed by the game, as I tend to get with most tactical RPGs released by Nippon Ichi.

Overall, though, it was a pretty depressing weekend. I don't remember a Labour Day weekend as dreary, windy and cold as this one in recent history; it barely made it above 15 degrees (60-ish, F) as the remnants of Ernesto rained down on us relentlessly. A little bit of sun got through yesterday, but it's cloudy again today, and the weather tends to affect my mood profoundly.

It won't stop Q&A from being its good old Q&A self, though! I hope you all had a great weekend with Ouro, but now, you must suffer with ME.




LETTERS
Hook, line, and sinker!


Hey there Matt

So here's a question: what is it about certain games that really pull you in? And I mean not just the games you've enjoyed or found memorable, but the ones that got your playing in a really obsessive manner. Some games really seem to lend themselves to short spurts of gaming more than marathon sessions (though this varies from person to person), but I've found that there's one of two things that can grab me and turn me into a game addict-- for a short while anyway. The first is a story that hooks me much like a novel would and makes me want to play through at a frantic pace because I need to know what will happen next. Several of the Final Fantasy games have done this for me as did Xenogears. A more recent example would be Radiata Stories; once I got to the point of the game where you get to choose your path I blazed through it just to find out how the human/non-human conflict would be resolved and what would befall Jack and Ridley.

The other thing that can make me play a game obsessively is a certain kind of gameplay, especially a kind that involves leveling up to get new job classes or abilities. That was one thing I really liked about Dragon Warrior VII. I know a lot of the abilities were useless, but I got a kick out of trying to get some of the special classes that required a combination of other classes. Disgaea's gameplay, with its job classes, near-infinite levelling, and weapon customization, also prompted me to put in a lot of extra hours outside of the main story. It's one of those rare games where I had fun level grinding.

Matt

Yeah... Dragon Warrior VII was weird that way. The concept of level grinding was some strange version of monotony that you wanted to suffer through because it was cool to see what skills you'd learn and which new classes would open up. I remember the wide-eyed excitement that washed over me when I discovered the unexpected "Summoner" class. Then, there were all of the monster classes and monster hybrid classes, too; literally, DOZENS of possible jobs to follow were available, though mastering them all would easily take in the thousands of hours, as you well know. Ugh and yay!

There in another thing that gets me playing a game obsessively: necessity.

That might seem odd, but it's true. I played the original Paper Mario as well as Quest 64 (yes, that awful thing) during 3-day Blockbuster rentals, and I finished both of them. I zoomed through Lunar and Radiata Stories more recently only because I had time to before the onslaught of the fall. I'm not saying "I didn't like them," but if I had a choice, I'd have played at a more leisurely pace.

Generally, the same is true for me as it is for you, Erika, though a game with fantastic gameplay tends to keep me more enraptured than one with an interesting, well-told story.

Oddly enough, I'm having troubling thinking of a game that made me play obsessively for both these reasons. I'm sure there are some more recent ones, but FFVII is the one that first comes to mind. I was desperate to finish the story when I first played it (nearly a decade ago!), but I also loved levelling up the materia as well. Do you perchance have any more recent examples?

Best,
Erika


Matt

Definitely! Final Fantasy X kept me going for both, though I have to admit that I did like the Sphere Grid a lot more than I liked the plot in the end. Believe it or not, I was more interested in the storyline than in the gameplay for a time while I was playing the great Dragon Quest VIII. Fire Emblem games have relatively simple stories, but I'm always wondering what's going to happen next, and the awesome battles definitely help to keep me coming back for more. As you say, Final Fantasy VII definitely kept me wanting more on both fronts as well, as did VI, and even V, to an extent!

It's true, though, that games often come with a very lopsided balance between engaging plot and engaging gameplay, so I can't blame you if you're hard-pressed to find examples. Of course, this is a highly personal question as well; some people just like bashing enemies over and over again with a Keyblade!

Thanks, Erika!



I wannnnnt to seeeeee it...


#300: c) Flood, Neptune
#301: d) Death (It's a noun, the others are verbs)

And now, back to Disgaea 2 so I can search item world after item world for the mythical "Zyxenfryx."

-MrMSTy


Matt

I've been wanting to see it too, but I haven't yet, even after two trips to the Item World and 20 hours of playing! I've recognized a few of the other contest entries though, so the names are definitely in there somewhere.

It's nice to know I'm not the only one playing Disgaea II, by the by. It seems that just about everybody who is anybody opted to buy Xenosaga's third instead.



...like this guy!


First, Xenosaga III: I just picked it up, and I'm enjoying it so far. It's the first in the series where there's one straight "attack" command instead of the potential for multiple attack commands (that's been moved to the mecha) - I think I sorta like that better. I'm not far into it, but I've been enjoying it, even though there's a long exposition sequence after the first dungeon, and there's a LOT to read!

Matt

I've heard that battles are much, much quicker, and that the loading time is virtually nil when it comes to going into a combat; a big, big step in the right direction after we all waited patiently (or impatiently) for fights to load character by character in Episode II. My brother is still upset that the "Boost" feature has been changed significantly, but enh, you can't please 'em all.

One thing I noticed, though: the events in between II and III, as described, are long and complex enough to have been a game on its own! Considering what I've heard about the original plans for this title (SIX games, I believe), I don't find it hard to believe that there WAS, at one point, a fourth game, where you play through the described events between II and III. What I'm not sure about, though, is how much better or worse that would've made the series. Would it have extended the "middle child syndrome" that so many multi-part series suffer from? Would it have enhanced the experience of those knowledgeable about, and loyal to, the franchise, or would it have just made things worse for those who had a hard time remembering what happened in the previous games? I'm not sure yet; I'll have to play some more, I think, and then look back on the whole gestalt. :)


Matt

You're right. The series was origianlly planned to span six titles, which is why people were stunned when Episode III was said to be the end. Of course, developers can be delightfully fickle, and now it appears that additional Xenogames could be a possibility after all! We'll have to wait and see.

Since I don't really know how the series was supposed to go, it could very well have been that the Shion 'n' friends saga was supposed to last for the first four games. Definitely not five, though; by all accounts, Xenosaga Episode V is Xenogears, the love-it-or-hate-it late-nineties classic for the PSX, which definitely did not feature Shion!

Indeed though, continue playing, and reporting, and we'll see what you have to say in the days and weeks to come!

Thanks, Leaper!



There's "hard," and then there's "stupid hard."


G'day Mr. Slime! I'm one of those long-time reader first-time writer people -- seems you're just bringing us all out of the woodwork here. This means you have done good things, my friend, good things. There is no other way most of us would have left our comfortable, introverted, lurker-ish ways otherwise.

Matt

Aw, gee... I don't know what to say!

What are we going to do when we're all out of long-time readers/first-time writers, though? Not that that will likely happen anytime soon, of course. At any rate, I appreciate any introverted lurkers even if they're just introvertedly lurking. If you're reading regularly, I very much appreciate it. Any reader gives me purpose!

I've been a gamer since back in the 'old days', my parents were busy people and decided that Link and Zelda would do a better job raising me than they themselves could. Although I had to maintain good grades, aside from that I could spend as much free time as I wanted gaming (though actually GETTING new games was always a challenge, I mean how long can a kid be expected to repeatedly run through the original Super Mario Bros. and feel satisfied?) Having this unrestrained gaming freedom during my impressionable youth left me with lifelong habits, and sealed my fate as an RPGamer.

Matt

Ah, the old days. I remember them well! After spending a good half-hour just trying to get your game-of-choice working, I'd get to actually play for another half-hour or so before mom would yell "BEDTIME!" from the other room while she and dad were watching boring grown-up shows.

Just as a point of interest, the game that led me to the realm of RPGs was actually not Zelda, Final Fantasy, OR Dragon Warrior. Yes, I did play all of those with love and reverence once I was 'on the path', but the one that opened my mind to playing beyond platformers was, of all things, Castlevania 2: Simon's Quest. Many claim that Castlevania: Symphony of the Night was the first time the series really expanded beyond a platformer, but in actuality it was the second NES game that started this trend. Sure, the RPG elements were a little sparse, but they definately were there. You had a quest, exploration in an 'open-ended' sidescrolling world, there were various towns you stopped in and chatted with the residents (except if it was night...then you killed those residents. You killed them good.), you could purchase items from merchants, there were puzzles, your weapons could be upgraded, and your own character could level up as well, resulting in a longer lifebar.

Matt

Absolutely! Though my mom is technically the owner of my copy of Simon's Quest, I played the heck out of that game. It was an interesting and huge platformer-world that was interesting and engaging to explore. Do you remember how exciting it was to find new areas, new towns, or new mansions? I remember when I finally figured out how to "pray" in order to get across the mountains, and WOW, was I ever excited!!

I recognized Castlevania 2's RPG mechanics at an early age. For an early NES game, I think that it really shone through, with the possible complaint that the final boss was almost trivially easy, as long as you had found the right weapon to use.

By any chance, did anyone find the damn Graveyard Duck? Those reading this who have played the game KNOW what I am talking about.

Matt

Hmmmm.

I have to admit that I present a flaw to your last sentence's argument. You see, I played that game a lot, and I don't really know what you're talking about, unless it was something random that someone talked about in one of the towns. Townspeople said a lot of weird things in that game.

So, there's a little about me. Now we're not strangers anymore, so if your mom told you to never talk to strangers, you don't have to worry about me driving up to you in a creepy van and offering you candy.

Matt

Mmm, candy! I think that my affinity for sugary things and over-friendly nature would prevent me from listening to any advice like that in the first place. Boy, do I have some interesting stories about strangers...

In keeping with the main purpose of the column, I actually DO have some questions to throw out to you all now! First off, I have been noticing a very disturbing trend for a few years now. Game developers (especially RPG developers) seem to be in the habit of going beyond challenge and throwing just plain crazy instances into games in an attempt to force you into buying the accompanying strategy guides. Now, the internet with places such as Gamefaqs.com have seriously hindered 'the plan', but it is still happening just the same. I like puzzling over a good game. I like levelling up and working hard and strategizing to earn my 'best weapon' or bonus goods. However, I do NOT like senseless-insane-you'd-only-get-this-on-your-own-by-a-fluke programming. Standing on the grassy knoll at midnight holding 4 flares while chanting Kumbaya on the second month of the fourth year causing a treasure box to appear is not a great way to get in-game goods, if you know what I mean. I don't really like it when there is an extremely small timeframe that you have to do something so irregular and obscure that no one would ever think of doing it on their own unless they read the accompanying strategy guide that warned them to do so in advance. It just seems really shady to me, and a pretty transparent ploy to get someone to spend an extra $15-$20 on a book after they've already blown $50 on the game itself. Any thoughts on this? Am I the only one who feels this way?

Matt

I personally feel that there should be some way to figure everything out based completely on in-game information. Of course, it's fun to be able to stumble across something completely unexpected now and then, but sometimes, things just aren't stumbleable-across, if that makes any sense. Does anybody remember Final Fantasy VIII? Does anyone recall exactly how to obtain the lovely Doomtrain GF? Why yes, of course! You have to find and use Solomon's Ring, but only if you just happen to be holding six Malboro Tentacles, six Steel Pipes, and six Remedy+ potions. Duh, obviously.

No matter what, I'll never be big on pumping out $15 or more on strategy guides. On the other hand, many people find that having a guide at their side makes a game more enjoyable, even if the game isn't ripe with obscurely hidden treasures. I don't quite think there's a conspiracy going on, myself, between guide-writers and game-makers, so I think that if people want to use 'em, they should go ahead and do so. I won't, personally, though I get them regularly for Christmas; I do think it's neat to read through one after I've finished a game off.

On a more lighthearted note, what is the most ridiculous name of an RPG town/building/area you have ever come across? I have been playing Tales of Phantasia on the GBA, and in the desert village there is an inn called 'Hamburger'. That's right, just 'Hamburger'. Who in their right mind would name an Inn Hamburger??

- Badbear

P.S. -- Within the last month, I purchased the two GBA Fire Emblem titles (managed to get the original in mint condition with instructions and box, but it sure was costly) and the Gamecube FE: Path of Radiance all due to the hype I found here in this column. It made me poor, but very happy, so thanks to all of you who discussed it here!


Matt

To keep in tune with Ouro's Crystalis question, yesterday, the first town in that game is called "Leaf." Sure, it's no hamburger, but it's still pretty silly-sounding!

Though it isn't really a place name, in Fire Emblem, Lyn's "legendary" weapon sounds like the name of a popular and cheesy italian dish. I nearly died when I saw the name "Mani Katti"! That said, I hope you're enjoying the game a lot. I think that the Fire Emblems that I've played are really, really great.

Thanks for the letter, Badbear. Be good.



JuMeSyn, Part II


Iím now going to go through a quick list of the GBA titles that I havenít played and am wondering about giving further attention to. The potential is high that some of these you have in fact experienced in some way, shape or form Matt: so advice is welcomed. Failing your own experience Iím certain Q&A readers who can be coerced into reading the entirety of this letter just might have some thoughts of their own:

Sword of Mana. This looked really interesting to me, and I frequently came close to purchasing it, but never quite took the plunge. I heard that there were some moderate control issues, which in a Mana titles is just unforgivable.

Matt

Oh, Sword of Mana wasn't so bad. It wasn't so great, but I didn't really notice any control issues, as you say. I think that the game was quite passable, though unimpressive, but it came at a Mana-starved time in video game history. Thus, for me, it was still welcome.

Sigma Star Saga. Intriguing at a glance to me, as I like classic shooters without being any good at them. There appears to be a wide-ranging school of thought on the title. Shall this be condensed or made further disparate?

Matt

It will be un-added to by me, that's for sure. Sorry, haven't played it.

Advance Wars. Iím not really sure if these count as RPGs but Iím throwing them in anyway. I made it through maybe the first third of the first title, then set it aside and never came back to it. Shall I give it another go?

Matt

Advance Wars! I would have purchased Dual Strike if I were smarter, but now it's too late, and I'm going to run out of money anyway, so grrr. They aren't really RPGs, even though they play very similarly to some tactical RPGs. I enjoyed very much what I played of the original, too.

Super Robot Taisen: Original Generation. I actually intend to purchase both this and its sequel soon. Shall a Q&A reader seek to dissuade me from my planned course of action?

Matt

Go ahead. I couldn't tell you if it was good or bad anyway, I'm afraid.

Boktai and its sequel. I was curious about these titles and would gladly play them if no money was to exchange hands, but am leery of spending my own still-scarce cash upon the titles. Plus getting into the sun always makes me wonder whether to put on sunglasses and not see the screen, or leave them off and not see the screen Ė ick.

Matt

Yeah. The GBA was a nifty little system with a lot of great games, but jeez, the screen was unbelievably hard to see. It's quite amazing how long we put up with that...

I haven't heard of any Boktai-owners, but if I do, I'll be sure to throw them your way.

The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap. Josh already gave me the signal of approval for this, so unless someone screams bloody murder Iíll probably get it.

Matt

Dittoed. I've heard nothing but good things about it. I'm afraid that it was a Zelda game that kinda flew under the radar, though, compared to other games in the rather popular series. I don't think that a whole lot of people paid attention to it, despite its quality.

Those Dragon Ball Z: Legend of Goku titles. My DB/Z affliction has eased off markedly in recent years but I still could perhaps track them down if someone says theyíre better than the mediocre Iíve heard. AnybodyÖ? ĎChirping crickets.í

Matt

Bah, you're talking to the wrong guy here. Chirping crickets here too, I'm afraid.

The Mega Man: Battle Network series. I enjoy the Mega Man action titles quite a bit but have no idea if this line of Mega Man titles is any good.

Matt

Mega Man Battle Network is, shall we say, different. The people who like it seem to really like it, but it seems that not many people care about it in the first place. I dunno.

Onimusha Tactics. I heard decidedly middling things about this Tactical-type one, and not much except from GameFAQs loons praising it extravagantly.

Matt

Those GameFAQs loons... we tried to capture as many as we could on our dollar-coins up here, but we evidently missed a bunch. And, I haven't played Onimusha either. You make me look bad!

The GBA title based on The Return of the King. I played some of the title based on The Two Towers, and it eventually bored me. Shall anyone impress upon me the vast improvements made with its successor?

Matt

Blah blah blah. Games based on movies I will never play, unless very, very, VERY special circumstances dictate otherwise, and I'm not even sure what circumstances those could be. If they were any good, more people would talk about them. The way I see it? They're only released on box office opening day as half-assed throw-togethers that are designed to capitalize on attention-deficit-disorder-afflicted fanatics who say "that movie was AWEsome" so they buy the game and forget about it due to mediocrity just in time for the next "AWEsome" movie to come out, whereupon the cycle repeats itself. Grr.

The two Demi Kids titles. Canít say Iíve actually investigated these two much but the potential is there for them to impress me.

Matt

I'm gonna go get a drink of water.

CIMA: The Enemy. I had intended to buy this a few years back, but it proved scarcer than anticipated and reviews werenít enthusiastic. Whatís the word?

Shining Soul 1 and 2. To a Shining devotee like me these two with their Diablo-style hack & slash werenít worthy of a second look, but after seeing what Sega has thrown around under the Shining name more recently I might be willing to reconsider. Roku said theyíre pretty average Ė any further comments?

Matt

*wanders back*

Oh. I haven't played this CIMA game of yours, and I haven't even heard of it; sorry.

Also, I really wanted to take a look at those Shining Soul games when they came out, and I gave myself one chance to play them, putting them down on my Christmas list of two (or was it three?) years ago. Alas, Santa did not deliver, and I did not play. Like you, I've heard decidedly "meh" things about them anyway, so perhaps it was best that I didn't waste my time on them in the end.

Iíve probably forgotten a few titles (note that games I have actually played are not listed Ė no reminding me about Golden Sun) but that should be quite sufficient. The GBA is only five years old but already facing retirement, which saddens me. Hereís hoping Mother 3 is given a translation in the systemís Golden Year.

Matt

Oh, I only hope so, but I doubt it by this point. I've heard a couple of weird and awe-inspiring rumours that a Mother 1+2+3 might be in the works for the future for english DS-owners, but those are definitely, definitely just rumours at this point!

The GBA is almost done, and what a five-year-run it had! I guess that we live in a world, now, where we're just obligated, for whatever reason, to abandon things after just a few years, moving on to "the next generation" as a means of exciting gamers and attracting a potential new wave of business. I dunno about you, but if some hypothetical developer decided "Hell, I'm going to make an epic Super Nintendo RPG!" and released it, I'd buy it, just "because." If, of course, I could find it anywhere, that is.

Ah yes, there is a new title (to me) on the way for the venerable GBA: Final Fantasy V. I actually havenít played it, lacking the Sony hardware as everyone hopefully remembers. While I could have played it via the magic of emulation, for some reason I never got around to it. So the experience will be a beautifully new one for me. I understand there is much to anticipate, right Matt?

Matt

Absolutely! Final Fantasy V is often called the black sheep of the series and many hardcore FF fans really don't like the game. I personally do think that it's the hardest game of the entire series, but I enjoy a lot of the ideas presented in the plot, and the job system is exciting and fun. It's not the best of 'em all, but FFV is lovable to me nonetheless, and I can't wait to grab my own copy in November!

Iíll now spout off briefly about the greatness that is Lunar: Eternal Blue. Since youíve played Silver Star Story you owe it to yourself to experience the sequel, Matt. That sequel on Sega CD is almost definitely the strongest RPG title for the system, and considering the competition maybe the top title out of all contenders for it (Sonic CD and Snatcher putting up the best claims to greatness). Lunar 2 is great not only because it takes place in the same world as Lunar 1, leading to the playerís visiting many of the same locations only an eon later, but for possessing a great story, a perfectly workable and at the time somewhat innovative battle and magic system, and some of the most memorable characters in the games Iíve played. There is also that Working Designs translation to give it a special something. It is probable that Working Designs changed the Bill Clinton joke from the Sega CD version of Lunar 2 however, which as of 1995 went something like "Lady, if you paid me money for doing nothing, Iíd be President and youíd call me Clinton." What a difference 5 years makes for the PS remake and 11 years makes for judging Presidential leadership qualities, eh?

Matt

Heh heh...

No comment.

Of note is the fact that Working Designs introduced lower-case letters for the Playstation Lunar titles. On Sega CD everything was upper-case all the time. I do not know why this was done.

Matt

REALLY? THAT WOULD DRIVE ME ABSOLUTELY BONKERS! THE NINETIES WERE HARDLY THE DARK AGES, AFTER ALL, AND BESIDES, I'M FAIRLY CONFIDENT THAT LOWERCASE EXISTED BACK THEN, TOO. DIDN'T UPPERCASE GET INVENTED AT THE SAME TIME AS LOWERCASE? ALAS, I'M NOT UP ON MY HISTORY OF, UH, BLAHBLAHGRAPHY. WHAT'S THE -GRAPHY THAT REFERS TO WRITING AGAIN? WHAT A DORK.

Nya ha ha Ė time to put another music link up! Here we find the battle music of the previously mentioned Adelvah in Dragon Force 2, so itís not as long as other DF2 compositions can be. http://gh.ffshrine.org/soundtracks/1130/41

Matt

Epic. Exciting.

An article in Wired the other day inspired me to read it, and Iíll relate my findings. Seems Sony is taking in the neighborhood of a $2 billion US loss on PS3 manufacturing this fall. Also, the PS2 was barely out the door when Sony technical teams were starting to create the PS3. The difficulty here is that Sony is still going by the working methods it began with when it was created just after World War II ended. Those methods involved multiple technical teams competing fiercely with each other for the ability to launch the newest technology. These teams compete so fiercely that little or no inter-departmental cooperation takes place, much to the chagrin of public relations personages who have to make these things palatable to the potential audience. Sony has a lot of capital riding on the success of PS3, because in recent years it has been incurring higher amounts of debt with only one year earning a net profit in the past 5. Also, an article on Gamespot the other day revealed that PS3 manufacturing has not yet begun, pending agreements with Sonyís factories in other nations. This seems an inauspicious opening to a console launch worldwide that is supposed to feature 2 million units.

Matt

Indeed. There's what, about two months left? We're down to the wire. On the other hand, at least we know when they're planning on releasing THEIR system. Nintendo has yet to detail that little specific, as well as the cost. I'm starting to wonder if Nintendo is planning on announcing the Wii at some eye-poppingly low price and then saying "and... it's being released on FRIDAY! Whee!" so that while still in the initial crazed excitement, everyone and their first cousin rushes out and grabs one.

Sony is clawing at victory in the next-generation media race with the PS3. This Blu-Ray versus HD-DVD battle is going to be such a headache, I'll be more than happy to just stick with my good old DVDs for a long time to come. There's no need for a new form of media yet, as far as I'm concerned. Video tapes were around for what, twenty years? Does anyone really want to have to go out and buy some new player again already, out of necessity? Negative.

Flipping through an older issue of the Economist brought my attention to a wrap-up of video games. The details wonít interest many RPGamers but the ending certainly stuck with me. In a brief discussion regarding the supposedly dubious merits of video games, the following was related: that every new technology is regarded with suspicion by persons who did not grow up with it. Speaking personally, my grandfather told me of how my great-grandmother refused to touch audio cassettes thanks to her never being familiar with them. Back to the article: it closes by suggesting that when the young of today are old, and the old are dead, some new technology will have come along that the currently unborn will think is the greatest thing ever and we will be befuddled about. In perhaps 30 years the vast majority of people who lived a significant portion of their lives prior to video gamesí introduction will be dead. What then do you, Matt, think will have taken the place of video games as the bogeyman of panicking people in the future?

Matt

Definitely the Cerebox, due to be invented in about 2043. Just slap the eleven electrodes onto your bare scalp (there will evolve several new hairstyles to accomodate for top-head play within two years of its release) and go to sleep to play in a virtual dream state. You don't want to know what some of the M-for-Mature games will be like then.

Keeping up the constant stream of bewilderingly technical stuff seems to be the business of game magazines. Sony and Microsoft both babble on about the ability of their new consoles to play games through these fancy new HDTV specs. Honestly, I donít care about HDTV and its 780p, 1080i, or 1080p specifications. My little TV has a smaller monitor than my laptop, and I donít mind. The only way I would buy an HDTV is if they came down in price below $50 US, and I donít see that happening for over a decade Ė plus I have no room for an HDTV in my extremely cluttered audiovisual area. Where I represent the very thrifty RPGamer though, someone is bound to represent the incredibly ornate setup to render things into the best possible picture and sound. Will someone step up to the plate with the reasons we should all invest in an HDTV today?

Matt

Indeed, most of us don't have these weird specifications on our old TVs. Every avid video gamer I know does not have the money for a ridiculously expensive new TV; I guarantee you that the only people that are going nuts about these new abilities are outliers to the majority of people who play video games. My TV works just fine, thanks, so like you, I'm not going to be buying a new one until someone forces me to.

Continuing with technology I donít really care about; the Gizmondo and N-Gage. Did worthwhile titles come out for either of these? Maybe theyíre still selling somewhere, but I think theyíve already been deemed failures.

Matt

Agreed. I haven't even heard of the Gizmondo, though. Am I a loser?

I saw some N-Gage stuff at the local EB Games for awhile, but I know of absolutely no one that ever owned or played any of the games. Interestingly, there was an N-Gage booth set up at E3 with a number of games. I'm guilty, though, of paying not much attention to it.

Oh, that hair debate Ė I just canít let it go. How much preparation time is required to get that spiky hair just so in the morning? And where is all the facial hair one would expect to crop up while adventures take so much time away from any potential razors? Let alone Ė gasp! Ė heroes who choose to have facial hair and can actually achieve it instead of wallowing in adolescent angst thanks to the need to cover up acne!

Matt

Easy! The spikes aren't out of careful prep time and much in the way of product; it's a constant bedhead. Heroes don't have time to do much besides adventure while adventuring; that's why you never see showers or even bathrooms at the local inns most of the time.

Yes, hair is goofy in real life. Iíve seen a guy who wears a multicolored Mohawk at the bus stop. He supplements the hair with leather and chains. This type of outfit always makes me wonder how the wearer deals with security in this day and age. I saw a kid in the library the other day with a very pointy Mohawk (not multicolored). How does one deal with a Mohawk at night without puncturing oneís pillow repeatedly?

Matt

Yeah, I've never understood it either. I'd never be able to sport a look like that, in the worries that people would give me too many strange/frightened/wow-he's-on-drugs looks in return. That pillow issue would be important to consider, too.

This line of thought brings me to something we probably donít want to dwell on too much; cosplay. Iíll just state that my disinclination to spend much time on my attire inculcates an avowed reluctance to cosplay thanks to the excessive amount of time required.

Matt

Oh, it'd be fun, and if I wasn't so lazy, I'd more seriously think about it. Like you, though, I don't have much time, though I know that many people have a lot of fun with it.

Hereís a quick question for Gaijin, whenever he feels like writing another letter: a goblin in Princess Crown declared to me, in the slowly-appearing text indicative of something important, ďye-me-go-ko-chiĒ. Any idea what this means? I was buying something juicy from the goblin that made me sick, incidentally.

Matt

I have no clue. Sorry.

Now for a question of quite general application. I tend to be willing to fight prior to a boss until the point when 10 battles will not give a level to anyone else in my party. Any higher than 10 battles per a level for someone in the party vexes me. Whatís your stance, Matt?

Matt

That's an interesting policy, but it doesn't work for games that keep people "together" in levels. There are some games, I've found, where all people in your party tend to level up at once. I'm not big on gaining levels without needing to, but if I do need to, I don't find it too tiresome. Generally speaking, if I fight a boss that I deem to be too hard for a second attempt, I'll go, increase everybody's level by one, and then come back to try again. I don't think that's unreasonable.

If you had the option, Matt, would it be a dub or subtitles youíd prefer to hear in your voice acting? Or perhaps merely having the option at all would be enough.

Matt

Oh, it depends. For games, I'd rather have a dub. For movies, I definitely prefer subtitles. I don't know why there's a difference between the two, but there certainly is one, and I think that many people would agree with me. Of course, for quality control in either direction, having the option would be ideal!

Speaking of voice acting, what are some particularly good or bad instances of it in your experience? I thought the voice acting in Grandia 2 was alright, though Cameron Clarke as the voice of Ryudo was distracting at times (ĎIíll save you Elena! Let go of her, Shredder! Master Splinter, what should we do?í). On the bad sideÖ Shining Force III Scenario 1 had a quality translation except for the voice acting by inmates from the asylum let out for an afternoon. Out of context itís actually rather funny, so hereís a non-musical link for everyone to try out. http://www.audioatrocities.com/games/shiningforce3/clip3.mp3 The sad thing is that Noon the mage is quite a useful character Ė get used to hearing this clip a LOT.

Matt

For a popular RPG, I thought that some of the voice acting in Final Fantasy X was horrendous. Tidus had an stomach-turning voice, as far as I'm concerned. Sorry, if Tidus' voice actor just happens to be reading this, but I'm sure you sound much better in person.

The worst voice acting job that I can think of off the top of my head was Star Ocean: The Second Story's, though. I'm sure there are worse examples out there, but the quality was terrible, and many Rs and Ls were mixed up. "CRAUDE!!" Yuck!

I'd say that Dragon Quest VIII has to have some of the best voice acting I've ever experienced in a game. There aren't many games that I can say this about, but I genuinely enjoyed the speech of just about every character in the entire game, with the possible exception of High, Priest, Rolo.

What the hey, hereís another one. http://www.audioatrocities.com/games/shiningforce3/clip4.mp3 Spiriel is fairly powerful for this point in the game and can kill Synbios (the hero) if the player is inattentive, which makes her saying this prior to attacking all the more insulting.

Matt

Wow. Such emotion. I think that they forgot to give the actor her morning coffee before she started the day.

While Iím still on the topic of voice acting, do you prefer anonymous voices or celebrity ones?

Matt

Oh, it doesn't really matter. As long as they're expressive and believable, I don't pay much attention to that sort of thing.

I know your enthusiasm for the Dragon Quest series quite well. I would ask of your knowledge regarding the many ancillary installments such as Dragon Quest: Monsters however. I have been fleetingly intrigued but never far enough to warrant a concrete investigation.

Matt

Dragon Quest Monsters was just okay. It was neat to be able to breed different monsters from the series, and it was always cool to stumble upon a familiar face from an old game in the series, being a Dragon Quest fan. The random dungeons of the first one were just very un-fun, though, and the non-random dungeons in the second game were so boring that they might as well have been randomly generated anyway. Highly mediocre, I say, though they're not completely worthless games.

Final Fantasy is working on its XIII installment, while Dragon Quest is only beginning to make ready for IX. Why should this be? Dragon Quest actually outpaced Final Fantasy in the days of the NES, and kept even thanks to its early lead on SNES. It was only with the advent of CD-based games that Dragon Quest lost its neck-and-neck position with Final Fantasy, and now appears to have given up even trying to keep pace.

Matt

I'm not sure why it is, to be honest with you. After the first four were released for the NES, it took a long time for V to be released in Japan for the Super Famicom, and it started a trend that has not yet been broken. Four more years for VI. Four more years for VII. Five more years for VIII. I'm sure that we'll hear an announcement soon, though, since we first heard information about DQVIII back in 2000, and the series isn't going to end anytime soon.

Hereís an idea: what about having a film composer write the music for an RPG? John Williams is great and his music is already in dozens of games thanks to the movies heís composed for. Danny Elfman could do a very interesting job, I feel. I throw the topic over to you, Matt!

Matt

To be honest with you, I'd rather throw the topic back to someone else. I'm really not up on film composers, though I'm sure that many could do a fine job. Who, exactly? I'll be in the other room playing Disgaea. While there are some movies with neat soundtracks, I've never been interested enough to care about who was responsible for them, so I've lived in delicious, wonderful ignorance. My apologies.

Now for a question that I hope to get answers from by everyone reading this far into the letter (eye strain canít have set in yet Ė I hope). When defeating a human opponent, do you prefer to have the vanquished live or die? This is generally beyond the playerís choice but I find the gameís decision interesting. Skies of Arcadia never had anyone die by the direct actions of the characters, Grandia 2ís infrequent fights with human opponents resulted in death. In Shining Force III every person the player defeats in battle dies eventually, while in Camelotís later Golden Sun titles no human is killed by the partyís actions. I tend to be more vengeful than merciful so I donít mind when the opponent dies.

Matt

Well, that depends on the person, doesn't it? If an evil, horrible enemy who has done many a malicious act bites the dust, it can be quite satisfying. On the other hand, I prefer "taking the high road." That is, if I'm ever given the choice, I'll let them live, even though that decision may come back to haunt me in the future.

Iíll make Shining Force III citations an ongoing part of letters henceforth, starting now with some musical ones. Link 1: Here we find a track played during only two battles in the game, sadly. It represents a faster-paced version of fighting with the servants of Bulzome, eventually revealed to be the true enemy of the story. Link 2: Here we find a track I always associate with the first battle it is played during, wherein Medionís force is advancing along a dock with a cannon offshore occasionally blasting pieces of the dock away to bar access along most paths. Link 3: And this ought to remind some people subtly of Wagner, which is appropriate considering it is the theme of something Sega translated as Walcuray but could just as easily be translated Valkyrie. Link 4: ĎSorrowí is the name of this piece, which it succeeds in evoking. Iíll make a neat little quintet this time out: Link 5: I want everyone to listen to this track if nothing else, and judge what it best evokes for themselves.

For reference I will happily accept others putting musical links to unheard gems one would like others to partake of. In return I expect everyone to at least try listening to the tracks I just put up. Please? Motoi Sakuraba did a fantastic job on Shining Force IIIís soundtrack and I want it to receive more exposure!

Matt

Thanks for sharing.

If you really like the last link that much, I think that you'd really enjoy a lot of music from Star Ocean: The Second Story. A lot of it has the same sort of sound, I find. Search about for it, if you're ever curious.

As long as I seem to be on a massive Shining bent, hereís a link to be experienced by all lovers of the series: http://www.shiningforcecentral.com/ Unfortunately Moogie, the site administrator, seems pretty busy recently and thus updates are sparse. But her site is impeccable for Shining game content. And her favorite Shining title appears to be Shining Force 2, so it wonít be loaded with too much Saturn content for all the Saturn-phobic out there.

Yaaay Ė I won Gunstar Heroes for Genesis! I got it for under $20 and complete! I canít believe how its price has gone down since I tried to get it four years ago!

Matt

*thumbs up*

That is rather atypical, so congratulations. I only hope that it's in decent condition! Not to rain on your not-so-mini parade, but perhaps there's a reason that you found it so cheap. Ebay is wonderful but simultaneously suspicious place to find lost treasures.

And now for a random semi-political issue! Do you believe Stephen Harper should have pushed harder against the new rule requiring passports for travel between Canada and the US?

Matt

Surely, though as far as I can see, the struggle is still continuing. It's bound to hurt travellers, and both US and Canada are bound to suf- wait a second, what does this have to do with gaming? Stay on topic, especially if you're going to create letters of tragic length!

All my bantering about villains has made me realize that RPGamers are probably not aware of the greatest unused villain in modern history. Behold the dastardly deeds this malevolent miscreant has perpetrated publicly here: http://www.bertisevil.tv/index2.htm Do beware, this fiendís actions in their totality make it inconceivable that the awareness of law enforcement has not been achieved.

Matt

Wow. I don't know how you people find sites like this. Do you key "evil Sesame Street characters" into Google searches just for fun, or what?

Truly Matt, you have never had to write an essay of the length I commonly achieve? Your roots in mathematical education are showing here, Iím afraid. 3 and a half years ago I had to write a 15 page paper for a history class, which I made on the topic of American intervention in the Russian Civil War (one very good reason the Soviets never trusted the West Ė the West tried to kill them before they took over the country). Just last year I wrote a 15 page paper on the German buildup prior to the Munich agreement regarding the Sudetenland. Lest this be misinterpreted; these were the required page amounts. Iím still surprised you never had to write anything longer back before you got into your chosen discipline though.

Matt

Now now, just because I haven't written long essays does not mean that I haven't been required to produce some lengthy writeups for labs and assignments in the past. While I haven't had to write fifteen-page papers, I had a Numerical Methods class in my second year of university where I produced a twenty-page assignment every other week. No joke. It was highly unfun.

Oh dearie, it looks like Iíve exceeded my own length standards once again. And I still had things to talk about I havenít gotten to yet!

Iím not sorry.
JuMeSyn


Matt

That you have, JuMeSyn. If you want people to read about the things you have to say, you need to ditch the "redonkulously" long letters!! Even though I may be a mighty Q&A host, I'm also only human, and as I dismayingly don't have the power to distort time or space, I won't be able to spend hours responding to your letters in the months to come, what with class beginning and TA-responsibilities rearing their ugly head(s?). Besides, there's a "fun" reason, too. If you write in many short letters instead of single obscenely long ones, you'd get more points if you just happened to have an APG in the contest.

That said, I'm glad you took so much time to write in and share what's been on your mind! Thanks very much. To everyone else: See why I broke his letter in two? Yikes.





THE NEXUS

Oh, the bites are still itching, so I'm going to do some more bitching. Ooh, a rhyme!

Also, I'm sure that as everyone is aware, the famed Crocodile Hunter died by means of stingray over the weekend. I understand that it's a tragic affair, but does it not seem like there has been altogether too much coverage on the story? It seems wrong that when you look at CNN's website and see a top story of "Steve Irwin dies tragically in stingray attack" followed by public reaction and polls and forums or whatever, while a few links down is just another story entitled "Terrorists kill 11 Iraqis in car bombing," almost certainly without any care as to who any of the victims might have been. I just don't know. That's why I concentrate on RPGs here.


Caption


For complete contest rules, click here!


Answers to September 1st's Questions

#300. c) Flood, Neptune - 1,000 points
This one should have been immediately obvious to almost anyone who played through a Golden Sun game. Every option except for c) was the name of a Djinn, followed by its type, and Neptune is not even the name of a Djinn-type! Many of you spotted this one, though several of you responded by saying Hail, Mercury, which might seem a bit strange to the casual observer.

#301. d) Death - 1,250 points
I really didn't intend for this question to be so obscure, but there is a single best answer, and that one is definitely d) Death. A large number of you (six or eight of you?) said that it was because it was the only noun out of the bunch, but that really wasn't what the point was of the question. The reason that "Death" is the right answer here is because all of the others were the name of instant death spells from the Lufia series! I guess fewer of you have played Lufia than I thought. I should have gone with "Defeat" instead, for option d. Oh well. Extra congrats to the two people who spotted the truth behind this question!



Today's New Questions

Reader-Submitted #302:
Jessie IS TO a sorceress who met her end frozen in a large chunk of ice AS Ash Ketchum IS TO...? (530 points)

a) a powerful magician suspended in a large crystal
b) a young archer who died at sea
c) the incredibly hard final boss of an incredibly hard dungeon
d) a kid in a fishing village who fell in love with a mermaid
e) warrior who watched many friends die, but never died herself


#303:
Which of the following was not a geo effect in the original Disgaea? (525 points)

a) Warp
b) No Lifting
c) Mana + 50%
d) No Entry
e) Clone


Cacnea is no longer, I'm afraid, but it was up there for a good little while as SOCK's first summon. Of course, this means that all Leech Seed effects have been relieved from everyone who was afflicted. Which summon will we see next?



SOCK's Item List

Obtain these items upon reaching the listed point benchmarks!

2,000 points: Fire Spell (2 left), Quick Spell (1 left), or Sneak Glove(2 left)
3,500 points: Mythril Sword (1 left), Mythril Armor (2 left), or Point Tripler (2 left)
5,000 points: Slowra Spell (1 left), Dark Sword (1 left), or Blizzara Spell (1 left)
7,000 points: Watera Spell(1 left), Hastera Spell (2 left), or Blind Spell (2 left)
10,000 points: Merton Spell (1 left), Hyper Beam (1 left), or Staff of Aid (1 left)
14,000 points: Red Gem (1 left), Warp Stone (1 left), or Killer Sword (1 left)
19,000 points: Esuna Spell (3 left), Point Tripler (2 left), or Drainra Spell (2 left)
25,000 points: Summon Encyclopedia (1 left), Apocalypse Spell(1 left), or Nightmare Staff (1 left)
32,000 points: Point Quadrupler (2 left), Diamond Armor (2 left), or Hastega Spell (2 left)
40,000 points: Flare Spell (2 left), Sean's Dictionary of Doom (2 left), or Blizzaja Spell (2 left)
50,000 points: Regega Spell (2 left), Rebirth Stone (2 left), or Hyper Sneak Glove (1 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!)

  • JokingChimer


SOCK's Prize Shop

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

Click here for the current list of potential prizes!


IN CLOSING

That's all for today. But please come back tomorrow, and I promise to deliver you another column, full of talk about RPGs, video games, and probably more complaints about bug bites. Also, Xlash should be joining me as a cohost later this week, which should be an interesting twist. If you have anything to ask him, now would be the best time to do so. Otherwise, adios, everyone!


slimey@rpgamer.com
***Matt wants to scratch vigourously!


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Oh, I should have realized that yes, there would be a time where I might want Afterbite. Always listen to your mother!

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Quote Archives

Matt's Top 5 Most Wanted Games:

1. Final Fantasy III

2. Xenosaga: Episode III

3. Final Fantasy XII

4. Final Fantasy V

5. Children of Mana

Top 5 Games Matt's Playing Right Now:

1. Disgaea II

2. Fire Emblem GBA

3. Grandia III

SOCK's Top 35:

1. Erika
39,396 pts

2. Aurelius
34,340 pts

3. JokingChimer
30,625 pts

4. Kanato
29,190 pts

5. DMJewelle
27,611 pts

6. Alan Tse
25,120 pts

7. Alexander
20,998 pts

8. Leaper
19,898 pts

9. LufiaLvr
19,855 pts

10. Purelunatic
18,285 pts

11. CW
17,146 pts

12. BigWook
16,983 pts

13. Belthasar2
16,868 pts

14. Cap
16,801 pts

15. Tabor
15,275 pts

16. Arros Raikou
15,022 pts

17. Draconn
14,535 pts

18. Boojum
12,729 pts

19. JuMeSyn
12,249 pts

20. Dermot
12,196 pts

21. TV's Adam
11,651 pts

22. BLG
11,363 pts

23. DDX
11,309 pts

24. Ourobolus
11,248 pts

25. Macstorm
10,735 pts

26. Hunter B
9,201 pts

27. Colabottle
9,175 pts

28. Xlash
9,147 pts

29. MrMSty
9,090 pts

30. Bainick
8,978 pts

31. MagRowan
8,463 pts

31. Megan
8,197 pts

33. Erunion
8,137 pts

34. Gaijin
7,428 pts

35. Thinkfreemind
6,500 pts

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