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ASK MATT
Titles Suck September 7, 2006

Matthew Demers - 21:59 EST

I'VE BEGUN FOLLOWING a nice little system of scheduling lately that has resulted in me having enough time to juggle a little bit of gaming, some school-related work, and this column, all at the same time.

I get asked "how in teh WORLD do u have the time to do all this?!?" every so often, so here is my general schedule for you all to feast your eyes on:

The morning stretch (10:00 - 11:30ish am): Wake up, lay in bed, think about getting up, finally stumble out and into the shower, brush teeth, eat breakfast, check my websites for shocking news that never appears.

RPGamer, Part I (11:30 - 12:30 pm): Check my mail, read it while smiling, start writing intro paragraphs/answering first letters like I am right now.

Lunchtime already? (12:30 - 1:00 pm): Eat lunch. Mmmmm lunch.

Busy busy busy (1:00 - 3:30 or so pm): Do stuff I need to do. Go to campus if necessary, get some writing done for my thesis; if nothing "needs to be done", this turns into an extra session of console gaming.

RPGamer, Part II (3:30 - 6:30 pm): Write the bulk of the day's Q&A column and get it posted onto the website if it's an "early week" (i.e. if I've been posting at around 5 versus around 9-- keen readers might have noticed that there are early weeks and there are not-so-early weeks)

Pre-dinner, Dinner and, uh, Recapitulation? (6:30 - 8:30ish pm): Go for a jog, make dinner/eat dinner, or occasionally, go OUT for dinner; I'm finished this stage at 8 if there aren't any good TV shows on, and 9 if House or other especially engaging programs grace the television screen.

RPGamer, Part III (8:30 - 9:30 pm): If I haven't already put the column up for the day, this is when I tabulate everybody's SOCK scores, update the scoreboard, and send out thirty e-mails asking people what items they want. Then I put up the column and all is well.

Console Gaming (9:30 - 12:30 am): This is my time to play console games; currently, Disgaea II! If need be, part of this could be taken up by doing more "stuff I need to do", and this will probably at least partly turn into "Homework time" in a week or two. Phooey.

Handheld Gaming (12:30 - 2:00 am): Playing a chapter of Fire Emblem before bed is such a good way to end the day. Hee hee hee.

Sleepytime (2:00 - 10:00 am): Guess what this is?

And there you go! This is my ideal schedule, that I try to stick to. The problem is, it's too easy to stay up too late, too often, and it totally throws everything out of whack, including my own personal chemistry. MUST ADHERE TO SCHEDULE!

Okay, I've bantered on for long enough. It's time to get to something actually interesting, like today's letters.




LETTERS
Need more instant gratification...NOW!!!


Okay Matt, or whoever else is taking over for him...where the heck is the Question-Answerer Schedule rotation docket anyway?

Matt

Oh, pshaw. It's not that hard to remember! Ouro puts his columns up Saturday, Sunday, and Monday evenings; I have the rest of the week. Maybe it's easier to remember when you're on the writing end, I don't know.

It's 6:30 a.m. I can't sleep so I decided to write to you AGAIN. I've been very disillusioned of late with regards to the more recent RPG offerings. 'More of the Same', 'RPGs that aren't RPGs', what the heck is going on lately?

Matt

Hmmm. I'm glad you decided to write again, but you sound stressed out. Pull up a chair, relax, and I'll make you some hot cocoa. "Virtual hot cocoa", that is.

I mean, when was the last time I got to play an RPG that didn't seem mundane, or that didn't seem like it borrowed elements from other RPGs, or didn't seem like a big hassle just to go through and play and enjoy. When was the last time you played an RPG that was so endearing to you, you nearly cried as a result? When was the last time a game got you 'right there!'

I know for me it's been ages. I think the last game that really got my attention was Shadow of the Colossus, and that wasn't even an RPG! Mostly I've been watching game companies churn out mini-quests or standard fare stuff that's worked in the past...but the really new stuff, the really cutting-edge stuff that's so cutting-edge I need Neosporin? Where is it?

Matt

Now I have to disagree with you there!

See...to me, games don't have to be brand new and totally innovative in order for them to be endearing. While it certainly is different from player to player, everyone will have certain things that touch them about their favourite games in different ways. For me, Dragon Quest VIII was the last game that almost made me cry! Seeing a series that I've been loyal to from the beginning "come of age" was absolutely amazing. The dungeons, the music, the huge world to explore, and so many moments in the storyline just gripped me in a way that no other game has in recent memory - and none of those are really shockingly brand new ideas, are they? I don't think that I'm the only one, either, and despite the fact that I AM admittedly a hardcore Dragon Quest fan, I'd have to say "mmm... about last November" to answer your question.

Tactical RPGs like Disgaea? No, Disgaea itself was and the sequel is a Clock-Eater (by that I mean you're basically playing it and investing big hours into beating strong bosses and fighting is pretty much all there is to the game). For me, RPGs are more than just levelling up and improving skills...actually to be more precise I'm sick of learning skills, I'm sick of games where you have to invest loads of money for the best weapon, loads of AP for the best attack, or some other nonsense.

Matt

Definitely. Disgaea isn't a gripping game. It's a silly addiction. I think it's funny, and I do like building my little armies, because there aren't many games where you get to micromanage so many little things and influence the growth of each and every character in such simple but intricate ways. In yesterday's column, I definitely mentioned that Disgaea isn't a game that everyone will enjoy, and I meant it. That's because it ISN'T epic, and it IS a clock-eater that only a certain set of people will be able to appreciate.

To be honest, I don't have as much time as I used to to play RPGs, immersive? Yes. Long-winded, Very. What I've always enjoyed about RPGs in general was the way you felt like you were doing something important, something relative to the story, or that you just didn't know what you were doing and did it anyway. That pick-up-and-go element should be found in more RPGs than it is...and by that I mean not just in Handheld games. Just the idea that I can do a quick session of slashing up monsters or playing around or wandering to someplace should have an impact. Not all gamers have the time to complete these long-as-heck games.

Matt

Perhaps you just aren't playing the right RPGs for your style. Some very recent games seem to be built for people like you. A large amount of Radiata Stories is completely open-ended and mission based. The storyline happens without your direct help, but in the meantime, you accomplish missions; missions you can quickly accomplish without much in the way of preamble. There is some story to sit through in the introduction, so it isn't completely "pick-up-and-go", but it's a thought.

I find that Fire Emblem is turning out to be a fantastic game for playing in digestible bite-size chunks. Each chapter of every game has a couple of minutes of background storyline that is really quite good, followed by a battle. Each battle can take between half an hour to an hour to complete, you get another little dose of story, and then boom, you're finished the chapter.

I think, though, that patience is just a part of the whole RPG genre. Patience will be a part of most RPGs, and it has been from the very beginnings of the genre. I would personally be really disappointed if some of my favourite games were shortened or changed at all from a slower-paced style. It might seem strange, but the "long-windedness" of some games can be really important, to me, since the RPG is pretty much the only genre left where things usually aren't a nervalicious blast of instant gratification.

Seriously, when was the last time a game like Legend of Zelda showed up? It didn't matter what items you needed, you could go find them in a few minutes if you knew where to look. It didn't matter how strong an enemy was, there was always some way around them or to beating them. You didn't have to level up and you didn't have to worry about talking to such n' such to get anywhere for very long. Is Zelda the only game out there like that? Ys maybe...but I don't think of Ys as being Zelda-esque.

Matt

Now now, let's think about this. Zelda doesn't have levels, for sure, but if you don't find enough heart tanks, you're screwed. If you don't find the weapons and items you need, you don't have a hope. For many gamers, myself included, I won't just "know where to look" either, since I'm not that big into FAQs, walkthroughs, or strategy guides.

To be fair, too, I don't even remember the last time I really had to "level up" in an RPG. I haven't even had to while playing through Disgaea 2 yet, and I didn't have to in Radiata Stories, Wild Arms AC:F, Dragon Quest VIII, or any game in recent history.

In fact, I have found Zelda games to be more frustrating than the average RPG when it comes to "having to talk to such 'n' such to make this thing happen". That's all Majora's Mask was, wasn't it?

Don't get me wrong, because I totally see your point; I just think that you might be overgeneralizing a bit.

I'm not looking for a quick RPG though...I'm looking for an RPG that's quick in its execution of actually being fun. Ever notice how some of the more classic videogames, such as Pac-Man, Mario, Donkey-Kong, Gradius had this thing where, you could insert a Coin and instantly have a blast of fun or a challenge to overcome? Where's that instant gratification? Where did it go? Most RPGs nowadays give you the runaround for whatever it might be to do something...you gotta travel, you gotta talk to some guy who's far away, you gotta fight so many random battles, you gotta make sure some monster drops such n such. It takes too long if you ask me. It takes too long to get to the fun parts, the parts that make a game a fun game. Puzzles are fun when in the right contex, fighting is fun in the right context, quests are fun in the right context....but what about the context itself...that should be something left up to the gamer to decide. I want to go where I want and do what I want when I want to do. And I shouldn't have to travel far just to enjoy myself. Zelda 64 had minigames and a Day/Night Cycle, so there was always something going on, or you always had something to do, even if it was mindless fun. I don't see much of that in most RPGs nowadays as it seems pretty static to me, and the idea that I have this feeling that nothing like that is going to happen any time soon disheartens me.

Matt

Every game, though, has a period of acceleration, Zelda included. Why, in Ocarina of Time, it probably took me over an hour to be able to enter the first dungeon, as you have to hunt around for your sword and gain enough money to buy a shield as well. There's a lot of "runaround" to be found in that game, too, I found! Additionally, in all honesty, I feel like I have to travel further and for longer periods of time in most Zelda games than I do in other RPGs, where instant teleportation spells are often learned early in the game to reduce travel time to a minimum. I'm not saying it's a bad game by any means; I just think that you're overlooking some aspects.

Besides, I think that the vast majority of RPGs have more "instant blasts of fun" than they used to. Most RPGs do in fact have mini-games in them, and some RPGs have many. Look at Final Fantasy X, for instance, or even its spinoff. Now, FFX isn't my favourite game of all time, but there are at least as many instantly fun things to do in those games as there are in Zelda games. Sure, you can't do them right from the start, but you can't in Zelda either. You have to get there first! On the other hand, RPGs, to me, aren't all about the little diversions, and Zelda isn't about mini-games. If you're playing RPGs to play the fun little games within them, you might be missing the point.

That said, I can understand why you might want more in the way of fast-paced and fun games. I think that your criticisms reflect many things that a lot of people have to say about RPGs, and represent the barriers that prevent many RPGs from becoming more popular than they are.

So you gotta ask the question...what is it you want in an RPG? Mindless hours of micromanaging your party such as leveling up and skill learning like Disgaea and Disgaea 2? Going on a quest to defeat hordes of monsters or tons of enemies like an action game such as Chaos Legion or Devil May Cry? Defeating gigantic bosses while traveling to beautiful locales like Shadow of the Colossus? Solving epic puzzles or cracking complex dungeons like Legend of Zelda? Going somewhere and not caring where you go like Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time?

Matt

For me, it depends. I like the idea of all of those things from time to time, though I would definitely say that micromanaging my party in Disgaea 2 is not a "mindless" activity, because I put a lot of thought and care into playing the game in the way I do! I'm definitely not in the mood to sit through three hours of story all the time, and sometimes, I do just like to take it easy with a simple sidescroller like Mega Man or Mario. I think that's true for just about all of us.

When was the last time an RPG had ample amounts of fun and ample amounts of challenge that didn't seem like a hassle as opposed to a challenge? I think you have some idea by now what I'm referring to...the quintessential RPG that everyone will play and enjoy...the one that most people find to be both fun in fast spurts or large quantities of hours.

That's the sort of thing I'm looking for. Anyways, looking forward to a response or maybe even someone to argue with about this. See ya, Mr. Question-Answerer!

~Blade


Matt

I'm glad you took the time to splay your feelings out for us. I'm worried that you might get more than a few rebuttals, but that is what this place is for.

I don't know if such an RPG will ever exist, though, Blade. I think that one person's RPG treasure might be another person's yard-sale material, and even the MOST popular RPGs of all time- Zelda, Final Fantasy VII, and more- have been met with opposition in some form. I thought that Dragon Quest VIII was a wonderful game with a perfect level of challenge that was very rarely if ever "a hassle", but I know for a fact that many gamers out there would heartily disagree with me. People are too different to all be looking for the same things in any game, and thus, I don't think that a universally-loved RPG will ever exist. Somehow, I think that that's a good thing, too. The world would be a boring place if we all liked the same things, wouldn't it? We wouldn't be able to have great discussions like this if we all had the same feelings, could we?

Thanks, Blade, for sending me your letter! I hope your writing and this response give you a way to reflect on your feelings a bit. Write back sometime soon.



For those interested in the Disgaea anime, read this!


Hi, Matt,

Someone asked the other day about the release date of the Disgaea anime, and where it can be pre-ordered.

I can't answer the latter (Amazon doesn't seem to have it on their site, nor does Best Buy), but I know that if you head over to animeondvd.com, click Site Search, and search for Disgaea, a little clicking around will reveal that Volume 1 is set for release on December 19.

--Andrea


Matt

Ah, Andrea!

I couldn't find too many details during my ten-minute Googlefest yesterday afternoon, but you've come through as the hero of the day.

Thanks very much for the information! I'm sure many people will appreciate it!



Another atypically and pleasantly poetic piece of mail.


~Magic Emperor Matt~

You said in response to my previous letter that you've "never received anything quite like this before..." To be honest, that was my intention. I puposely wrote a bizarre letter, having never sent anything in to Q&A before. I'm writing this one partially to ask some real questions, and partially to show that I'm not as... strange... as my first letter implied.

Matt

Oh, not to worry, Jopin! Different is good. When I said I'd never seen anything like it before, I meant it in a "smiley" kind of way, if that makes any sense at all. So feel free to be as crazy or strange as you want! A general rule, though, might be to at least stick to english (though I've had a few Japanese lessons in my day, bien sűr).

By the way, I wasn't talking about the literacy test/boss when I asked your opinion of the beginning of FFVI. I merely meant the impression that you got from the dark, mysterious atmosphere of Narshe, with the successfully solemn music that accompanied it. To me, this has added nostalgia when you picture your Magitek Armor-clad character standing in the middle of it.

Matt

Ah. Definitely. Narshe sets the stage perfectly, and you're totally right that the "cool" music playing in the background is what ties the introduction in a neat little bow. The music in just about all Final Fantasy games does that, though, actually, and from what I've heard of it already, I'm really REALLY looking forward to hearing what musical masterpieces number twelve will have to offer us!

Like Final Fantasy VII though, you're right that the beginning of FFVI starts the game off by throwing the player into a situation and making that player feel a certain "intensity" of the game from the get-go, as opposed to slowly easing the player into it, like, say, FFVIII or even IX did. The nostalgia-factor gets enhanced too, as you say, which is, for some reason, really important to a gamer like myself.

Anyway, I have a lot to cover, being new to Q&A, so I should start asking questions...

I'm on a search for good RPGs. Though you could call me an RPG fan, I've played a surprisingly small number of them, and I want to remedy that situation, and quickly. Get ready for a barrage of questions!

*Jopin casts Rain of Curiosity!*

Matt

Sorry, I couldn't resist changing your last line into a link. It BEGGED for it. Forgive me. Get ready for more though...

Question x5 appeared!

*Question 1 casts Ask!*

I've heard a lot of good things about Shadow Hearts: Covenant. I was thinking of getting it, until I found that a USED copy of it at Gamestop was $39.99! Mostly, I've heard comments like "Great, in-depth story!", "Sweet, original battle system!", and the like, with a pinch of "This tiny little detail is slightly historically innacurate." If you've played it, do you think it's worth $40?

Matt

I've heard fantastic things about it, and I wanted to get it for the longest time, but it seems like a doubtful prospect at this point, thanks to a few forces that are most unfortunately out of my control.

Absolutely, though. In comparison to both its predecessor and successor, SH: Covenant is very widely acclaimed. In fact, I don't believe that I've heard anything truly negative about it in the past. So, you definitely have my recommendation on that one, especially since in my experience, it's a title that's already not very easy to get your hands on.

Question 1 defeated!

*Question 2 casts Inquire!*

I know you like the Dragon Quest and the Disgaea series. What makes them so great?

Matt

Dragon Quest games, for me, are three parts gameplay, one part nostalgia. The worlds in most of the games are enormous and usually open for you, just waiting to be explored. While the storylines are generally fairly simple, especially in the early games, there is no RPG out there with a better-balanced battle system, where gaining a level makes you feel like you're actually accomplishing something. The nostalgia is there in such big doses because Dragon Warrior is the game that started me off in the world of RPGs, fifteen or sixteen years ago now. I can't believe how long it has been, but seeing old monsters come to life in games like Dragon Warrior VII and Dragon Quest VIII with funny and wonderful animations makes me want to reach out and hug the people responsible.

Disgaea is enjoyable just because the game presents you with such a vast number of things you can potentially do. Tired of the story? Go bring up some items for debate at the Dark Assembly! Create some new characters to build. Create new worlds to open up as side quests! Lobby for more expensive items at the shops. Go get hurt purposely so that you can win prizes from the hospital! I know I'm not the biggest fan of randomly-generated dungeons, but the Item World, for whatever reason, is still an interesting diversion for me, and it can lose players for hours.

Question 2 defeated!

*Question 3 attacks!*

Both the Xenosaga and the Tales series are enormously famous. Why is this so?

Matt

Hmmm. Because Namco-Bandai is enormously good at what they do?

Negatory. It took Monolith Soft three tries to get Xenosaga on the right track, and apparently they did so with their newest entry. Xenosaga, as you've probably heard, is a popular game among those people who like a story-heavy game. There are literally hours of movie sequences that you get to/have to watch (depending on how you feel about it; take your pick) and the many-layered storyline is touted by many as being one of the richest in the history of RPGs. Others commonly complain that "if I wanted to watch a movie, I'd watch a movie!" The battles in Xenosaga games have always been of slightly above-average difficulty, I've found, though I think that's seen a bit of a reversal in Episode III, from what I've heard. I think that behind Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest, and Pokémon, Xenosaga is one of the more popular and well-known series out there.

Tales games are generally known for their interestingly unique 2-Dish action-RPG-style fights, though they've had a hit-or-miss success rate in recent times. While Tales of Symphonia was certainly one of the Gamecube's strongest games, the more recent Tales of Legendia for the PS2 was widely regarded as a disappointment. With Tales of the Abyss coming out soon, you might be able to get a taste of it yourself, and then you could come back and tell us all about it!

Question 3 defeated!

*Question 4 flees!*

Matt

Damn! I couldn't find a sound effect for running away! Sigh...

Oh, I know a good way around this!

*...but was blocked in front!*

;)

*Question 5 is charging power...*

I figure you're a fairly seasoned RPG veteran, so I'd like to supply you with a list of them that I've especially enjoyed, and maybe you can recommend a few you didn't mention while answering my other questions. (I have a PS2, a Gamecube, and a sorely neglected GBA SP. My brother has an X-box, so don't rule that out completely.)

*Question 5 releases power!*

Final Fantasy VI, IX, X, and X-2. (I want to play VII, but I've been unsuccessful in my search for it so far.)
Secret of Mana
The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Link's Awakening, and Ocarina of Time. (Apparently, Zelda is cemented in the "RPG" catagory.)
Castlevania: Symphony of the Night
Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door
(Grandia II was pretty good.)

Matt

That's a fairly good list, to start!

I think that in addition to the ones we mentioned above, you should play a tactical RPG other than Disgaea, too, since Disgaea is almost in a league of its own! Since you have a Gamecube, find Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance, since I've heard that it's pure gold, and it might be a great way to get into that sub-genre.

I honestly... don't really know any great RPGs for the Xbox. Some people would tell you to give Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic a try, even if you aren't a Star Wars fan, because it's that good. That said, it's one of the ONLY RPGs that was released for the system, other than Fable, of course, which I've heard isn't really worth your time.

What else can I recommend? A lot of the other games I'd point you towards are inaccessible to you at the moment, since you don't have a portable system, but Golden Sun, Mario & Luigi, and Pokémon games might all be neat things to try playing if you ever got the chance to.

BUT, I think that all of that gives you a nice starting point. You still have a number of Final Fantasy games to tackle on top of all of that (plus FFXII, which comes out in just a few weeks!) and it would be great if you could find a way to play Dragon Quest VIII, since I can't really help but try to attract more and more people to my favourite series.

Question 5 defeated!

All Questions defeated!
You are victorious!

EXP + 4800

Magic Emperor Matt gained a level!

Matt

Strength increased by 5!

Agility increased by 4!

Vitality increased by 4!

Luck increased by 1!

Intelligence increased by 4!

Maximum HP increased by 9!

Maximum MP increased by 11!

Magic Emperor Matt learned the spell of KILLEVERYTHING! (now that is not an instant death spell from a Lufia game, all ye SOCK players...)

Received 8000 gold.

Matt

Sweet. Where is this gold, and what is the current exchange rate? Don't give me some Prince Peasley answer, either!

(Sorry, that was a reference from Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga. In that game, you get a reward for doing something that I can't remember, which is given to you in... ah, wait a minute. This is too good of a SOCK question to pass up. You'll see what I mean tomorrow.)

One more thing. I downloaded a free 30-day trial of RPG Maker XP, and on the off-chance that anyone reading has tried a Playstation version of the series and it didn't hold your interest, XP is much better. To start, there is the vast improvement of navigating layers of windows with a mouse, not a gamepad. Then, the game. No cheesy, 2-D-wannabe-ball-people made up of way too few polygons with terribly simple, mechanical animations. It's just genuine, down-to-earth FFVI-style 2-D graphics, with an actual battle system where those precious numbers really bounce in front of the target when damage is dealt! No FFL style running commentary, though it still has the first-person view, with enemies looking straight at the screen. Both the music and the graphics are better than I anticipated, being actually impressive, not just nostalgic, and the battle backgrounds are actually great pieces of art.

Matt

Ah yes. I used to be really big into RPG Making before I started at RPGamer, but I haven't had the time to since. I had even gone as far as to create some of my own original music MIDIs to serve as background themes. Maybe I'll try to dig them up to show you all for tomorrow's nexus!

Indeed, though, RPG Maker is just not as good on a console, especially if you don't have a keyboard to accompany it. Putting some of my ideas into an actual game and having others experience them in "real" RPG form is my biggest nigh-unfulfillable wish. While my dream job would be to RPG-Make for a living, it seems like a hopelessly unrealistic goal. SIGH.

I'm getting off-topic and a little selfish here, so I'm glad to see you're enjoying what you've played of RPG Maker XP. If you like it a lot, you should buy it. RPG Makers are very heavily-pirated pieces of software these days, it seems...

Anyway, Matt, this is probably not the best time to bring this up, since I believe you said you would be busy for a while in the near future, and this game eats up hours just about as efficiently as a Zone Eater engulfs four armor-adorned heroes. Only, the heroes survive being eaten. The hours don't.

I'd also like to say that you always make this part of RPGamer enjoyable. I would find it very difficult to keep this column running every weekday at all, let alone as well as you do.

Keep it up!

~Jopin~

P.S. My next letter will be even more normal, unless you specifically ask for me to stick to my ridiculous habit of making everything humorous and exaggerated.


Matt

Thanks, Jopin, for your kind words.

Trust me when I say that I enjoy reading every letter I get, and writing this column is a highlight of my day no matter how busy I might complain about being or how many other things I need to do. I'm just glad you're reading, that you decided to come to me with the questions you have, and my only hope is that you'll come back for more someday soon!



I love it when my namesakes write in. It's like I'm talking to myself, though it's not really like that at all.


Matt,

I've never written in before today, but the question of "Which game got you started in the world of RPGs?" forced me to write in about my favorite game: Wild Arms. There are definately mixed reactions about the game, not the least of which being "Wild Arms? What kind of game is that?" However, personally, I loved Wild Arms for the PS1. Yes, I will agree that in battle graphics were horrendous compared to that of Final Fantasy VII or any other other games from back then, but that isn't what kept me going. The story, the music, and the characters were some of the best I've seen.

While many would see the story as being nothing special, back then it was very solid. There was a good amount of humor involved as well. The music was great, Michiko Naruke is an excellent composer and the music always felt right. And really, can anyone hate a cool little windmouse like Hanpan? (Who could totally kick Pooka's butt from WA2).

Matt

Wild Arms is one of those games that is loved by some, hated by others, and unknown by many more. I personally had my first crack at the series when I played through Alter Code F earlier in the year. It just wasn't my thing, due to several factors that I don't believe were present in the original (the ORIGINAL original). It would be neat to go back and experience what the "real" first one was like someday, but it seems unlikely at this point. Obviously, it must have some redeeming qualities if it possesses such a devoted fanbase! Graphics aren't everything, and to me, the fact that FFVII looked better at the time shouldn't even be a point worth bringing up. Oh well.

Anyway, I digress. There you have it, my intro into the realm of RPGs. Yes, I've planned many an RPG since then, Final Fantasy VII, VIII, & X (IX was just bad), Star Ocean III, Chrono Trigger, Golden Sun, and the list keeps growing.

As a side note, I will say that the series has gone downhill with each number that has been made. 2 was decent, 3 alright, 4 just grated on my nerves. Here's to hoping that Vth Vanguard and Wild Arms XF for the PSP take Wild Arms back to its roots (as well as finding their way to this side of the Pacific).

Matt

That's interesting. I've spoken to several people who thought that WA4's interesting hexabattlesystem supreme was a unique and refreshing twist, so it's good to have your input. We haven't heard much about Vth Vanguard yet, but rest assured that when we do, you'll hear about it!

Because, I don't want to write a letter without a question for the Q&A, I'll throw this out there for you. Do you enjoy the trend that many RPGs are going for their battles, or would you prefer a return to turn-based action of the past? For me, I would love to get my hands on a newer RPG that focused just as much on the actual story as they do on 'innovating' the battle system.

From someone with as cool a name as you,
Matt


Matt

Well Matt, that's a bit of a loaded question! I think that I like the fact that we have the variety that we have right now. Even though my roots are with Dragon Quest in turn-based land, I'm just not always in the mood for it. I like to play newer games with innovative ideas as much as the next gamer, so the fact that I can bounce back and forth between new-age and tried-and-true makes me a happy man. Now, if only I had more time to devote to both, I'd be even happier!

Story-wise, I think that RPGs have gone nowhere but forward. Look to the past, and you'll see that plot standards for RPGs have increased dramatically over the last fifteen years. Today's games with "poor stories" have way, way more complex plots than anyone would have imagined back on the NES!

Anyway, Mattykins (sorry, I had to), I'm glad you decided to write in. I hope you decide to do so again, sometime in the not-so-distant future!



SNUBBED. Bigtime. Again.


G'day Matt

Wow Sony backdoors PAL again. Though it is only Europe and Oceania (What does Africa, the Middle East and South America use?) I smell a failure in the air. Actually the PS3 will now be a whole year behind the XBOX 360, which will probably decrease its price before the PS3 is released just to make it that much harder for Sony, and its even going to be released after the Wii (noting that the PS2 was released quite a bit before the Gamecube).

Matt

First of all, take a look at this most-interesting Wikipedia link. That awesome map explains it way better than I ever could, and there's a complete history of the formats if you decide to read the article!

I think that many people are smelling the same thing you are, and it's not the fragrance of fresh-cut roses. Sony is going to have to own up to thousands of disappointed fans in Europe, Australia, and elsewhere. To me, this sends a clear message across that Sony is just not as interested in the PAL market as it is in North America. The fact that they're only releasing 100,000 units in Japan at launch is utterly shocking. With Nintendo on fire there right now, it almost seems that they're asking for a significant loss of market share.

Anyway 10 days before the Pokemon Competition (oohh the excitment), and it seems I might have even convinced a friend to go down with me, though it still doesn't kill the feeling that I could be the oldest one there, except for the Game magazines reviewers of course!

Yeah. Bainick caught a Latias! Pi pikcachu!


Matt

Bah! Age has nothing to do with the fun. One of my most-anticipated games of next year is Pokémon Diamond/Pearl. Imagine, Bainick! Through Nintendo Wi-Fi, we might be able to trade and battle. That's right, you and me! I'm so excited. Despite its wicked popularity, Pokémon remains by far one of the most underrated games among older gamers. It has a surprising amount of depth, and it's terribly addictive, even if there isn't much of a storyline to speak of.

Also, to everyone else out there, Bainick has sent me an e-brochure-of-sorts containing some information on this Australian competition; the prize is apparently a Black DS Lite along with a bunch of other goodies. Anyone who is interested should contact me, and I'll send it your way!

I wish you much in the way of good luck at the contest! May you win something nice!



A few notes. Do, re, mi...


Just wanted to weigh in with a couple of quick notes responding to your previous column and my many thoughts on Xenosaga.

-XS3 does indeed seem to have information in its database on six months' worth of stuff that happens between XS2 and 3. The funny thing is that it doesn't seem like it'd be that long of a game; perhaps 10 hours or so. Ah well. They do a decent enough job of working it into the real game's story, the important information anyway.

Matt

Hmm. Maybe it would be a good excuse to go back and make a "Xenosaga II-and-a-half" someday for the DS, just in case the people at Monolith Soft decide not to throw in the towel after all.

-I'm about 5 hours into said game and I'm loving it (although I'm a bit disappointed that they took a page from KH2 and made it *take* 5 hours before giving you your first real dungeon). So I can't comment about the gameplay as a whole, but I am extremely happy about the interface and extras. Basically they took all the awful things that made XS2 bad and booted them, reinstated the good stuff from XS1, and tweaked it all to a fine gleam. To whit:

--All my favorite voice actors are here; they kept chaos and Jin from XS2, everyone besides MOMO from XS1 (KOS-MOS and Shion are back!), and gave MOMO an entirely new actress who wipes the floor with the other two. It's some of the best acting I've yet seen, especially since even in the first five hours they're giving some previously maligned characters a lot of depth and introducing a couple of smashing new ones.

Matt

Good to hear. I was SO unimpressed with the voice actress for KOS-MOS in Episode II, I probably made a horribly embarrassing expression upon hearing her voice for the first time. I hope no stalkers were watching me then for that reason, though I was probably in my boxers at the time, too, which would be doubly embarrassing.

--The database is back and is now the way it should be, with categories and "NEW/UPDATED" indicators.

Matt

So I've heard!

--Character, machine, monster and event viewers!

Matt

Oohh... and ahhh. Both of them.

--The elimination of the horrible "event slots" in battle. Boost whenever you like.

Matt

*gasps*

No, no, no. You were doing so well, too!! I liked the strategy behind the slots, and the fact that you could boost only if your turn wasn't coming up already added another layer of something. I never did get exactly what determined which characters appeared on the "turn coming up soon-o-meter", but I liked it nonetheless. I've also heard that boosting generally serves an entirely different purpose now than it used to, and I'm not sure I like that idea very much, because it was a really fun and unique element of the battle system, as far as I'm concerned.

--Several cameo characters you get to use in battle...sweet!

Matt

Ah yes! I wish that more RPGs would follow Xenosaga's lead. It's so, so utterly cool to be able to control unexpected people in battle. *AHEM* Any developers should be taking notes here...

--Loading times have easily been cut in half. It's such an amazing difference it's almost laughable.

Matt

Indeed! My brother was quite shocked at how quickly battles begin in the game. They must have put a lot of work into that this time. Definitely a great thing.

--Music that a) actually exists, unlike XS1, and b) doesn't want you to shoot the screen in annoyance after five minutes, unlike XS2.

Matt

Oh, come ON! Xenosaga II's music was not that bad!!! Yes, I know that the Second Miltia big city's music was grating, but other than that, I loved the techy feel to many of the tracks, and additionally, I thought that many other atmospheric ones such as those experienced during the dive into MOMO's little noggin (and many others) were absolutely beautiful.

I want others to stand up and give me a hand here. So many people complain about Xenosaga II's music, but I can't be the ONLY fan. Help me, here!!

From what I've heard, though, the music is really well done in Episode III. I have heard from a couple of people that the boss music is quite disappointing, though.

So... yeah, I'd treat XS2 as an experiment that failed badly and should be forgotten as soon as possible. This is the game that *should* have been made.

I do seem to recall the idea that each "game" in the Perfect Works timeline takes place around 5,000 years after the previous, which lends credence to the idea that all three Xenosagas are part of Episode I.

Matt

Interesting! If we ever see any more games to fill up the holes in the story of Xenosaga, perhaps our questions will be answered.

FF Tactics did indeed have an Ice 4, and in Japan it was indeed known as Blizzaja (similarly with Firaja, Thundaja and Curaja). So props.

--Cidolfas


Matt

It's always reassuring to know that you're not completely nuts, but it has been quite some time since I played Final Fantasy Tactics, to be honest. In that case, Firaja, Blizzaja, Thundaja, and Waterja it is!

Thanks for your stance on Xenosaga III! I'm excited to give it a first-hand whirl sometime soon.



A ferret?


Hello Magic Emperor Matt!

Or should I say, Werner Klemperer Matt!

Matt

OK, OK, OK. Add German to the list of acceptable languages too. Jeez. Er, I assume that that was German, anyway... heh heh heh.

I finally polished off Growlanser III (Woohoo, just in time for Xenosaga 3!), and got one of what is apparently multiple endings. However, I felt the same feeling I did when I finished off Growlanser II: I was a bit underwhelmed. It seems that, very often, when a game offers multiple endings, none of them are that special. Particularly if they are completely seperate endings, rather than variations on similar endings. Admittedly, most of the branching games I've played have been SRPGs that Working Designs brought over (the Growlansers, Vanguard Bandits), so maybe it's something peculiar to them. But, it seems that with five or six different endings, there are certain limits to how much they can do in each one. It would be especially bad if they use some sort of FMV cut scene, rather than the in-game engine.

Matt

I wonder why that is? What's the point of boasting about multiple endings if none of them are as satisfying as the ending to a game with just one? While the idea of multiple endings is really cool, I recently had a very similar experience with that in Radiata Stories. After a game that painted a world so rich with details and characters, I was absolutely appalled that the ending lasted all of about a minute or two before the credits started to roll. Preposterous!

I think the best example of making multiple endings work would be Chrono Trigger, which is probably everyone's best example. It has a strong main ending, with assorted variations on it (including my personal favorite, the Chrono's still dead version). Plus, there are random bonus endings you can get, although those hold true to my example in the first paragraph. None of them are too involved, although they are all pretty original.

Matt

Indeed. If the time and work is put into creating an enjoyable variety, then I think it's totally worth it, and provides a neat sort of non-linearity. Considering the degree of non-linearity that was present in travelling back and forth and back and forth between different eras in Chrono Trigger, the idea of having multiple conclusions to the game was both necessary and well-done!

Actually, now that I think about it, Koudelka and the Shadow Hearts games did a good job with the seperate endings, although there were only two main endings in each one. Nothing like finding an example to refute my own point. Although I still want to see a game with about six distinct, fully fleshed out endings.

Geez, I used the word ending eleven times in that thing. I've really got to pull out my thesaurus...

300) C. Flood, Neptune
301) D. Death (I dunno, I'm going to keep going with the Golden Sun bit, and death is the only word that is used in a skill)

Hmmm, sounds like a ferret climbing up my shirt...

Thanks!

BigWook


Matt

Careful! Ferrets bite. I don't know about metaphorical ferrets, though.

Thanks, BigWook, as always!



It's a Dragon Quest kind of day, isn't it?


Have you heard the news about composer Koichi Sugiyama slipping out that Dragon Quest IX is being worked on?

Matt

Get OUT! No, I actually haven't. I'm not really surprised, but isn't it freaky to know that someone out there already knows what the storyline is going to be, what the villains and the heroes will be, and... ahhhh!! So exciting!

But then, there's the big question: will it be for the Wii or the PS3? Depending on the announcement, it can really shake up things for both systems in Japan.

Personally, I think it would be great to have it on Wii. The graphics of DQVIII were already good enough to me anyway, with Toriyama's designs coming to life in such a vividly way. And who knows what Yuuji Horii could come up with the wii-mote, after testing it out with Dragon Quest Swords? There are many issues to take in consideration (like an article pointed out, SE may or not want to split their main series fans into different systems), but as a Dragon Quest fan, what are your thoughts on this matter?

Matt

I really think that Square Enix is going to sit on this until a clear frontrunner has been determined. It's VERY unclear right now as to exactly how well the PS3 and the Wii will do. I think I'm going to tilt my speculation towards Nintendo right now, and I'll tell you why: Right now, Nintendo is dynamite in Japan. The DS is doing shockingly well, cleaning house every single week on the Top 10 Sales Charts, and this Nintendo-mania is going to translate into big Wii sales inevitably. Sony just announced that only 100,000 PS3s would be available at launch in Japan, so the probability of even GETTING a console in Japan seems pretty unlikely, at least for a little while, and that could be enough time for Nintendo to grip the nation with Wii-frenzy. What if the Wii ends up destroying the competition in Japan as a result? It's not out of the question, and the ramifications are both good and bad. It's also wholly possible that the public could sneer at the Wii and run to the PS3 and Xbox 360. It's entirely impossible to know, for now.

However, because Dragon Quest is so unearthly huge in Japan, whichever system "wins" there will almost certainly be the system they release DQIX for. I bet we'll hear an official announcement next summer or fall, and then we'll know for sure... but it all depends on what happens in the interim. It's such an exciting story to follow, isn't it?

And since we're talking about DQ, I must say I can't wait to get my hands on Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime!

Matt

Me neither, Franklin!! Dragon Quest Heroes looks like a crazy amount of fun. Actually, Blade, if you're reading this now, this game might be your answer to instant fun without much blah. Everyone who played the E3 demo just couldn't stop grinning as they told me about the game; I heard absolutely nothing negative about it. Of course, it was just a demo.

Also, you think there's any chance we'll see Dragon Quest Yangus in english someday?

Seeya!

-Franklin


Matt

I don't know, Franklin. Dragon Quest Yangus has all but fallen off the map in recent history though, and I think it's because Nintendo's DS is doing so incredibly well. As soon as it took off, we suddenly heard big announcements about Dragon Quest Heroes and Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker, both of which seem to be well into development for the DS. Rather than produce another PS2 title, perhaps this is the route Square Enix has decided to take. Maybe we'll hear more about Dragon Quest: Yangus in awhile. In english? That remains to be seen. I'm not so sure.

In any event, though, North American Dragon Quest fans have a whole lot to look forward to in the next little while. I haven't even mentioned Dragon Quest Swords, which is reportedly going to be a game available at launch for the Wii. I never would have believed six or seven years ago that my favourite series would eventually rebound to the point where it's an anticipated launch title!!



Some haiku, and some less-popular games.


Matt!

Howdy. SOCK first:

#304: (c)
#305 (d)
Hey Matt! What do you think about this Ar Torelico (I know I spelled it wrong) game that's coming out? It makes me think of Lunar. I'm kinda curious on the battle system, as I've heard that the singers can do nothing *but* sing. I hope it's good. And what about Jeanne d'Arc? I'm intested in it as well...mostly because I kinda know the story of Joan of Arc and I wanna see how they make it an RPG. One more. I wanna play Phantasy Star Universe too. I haven't touch a Phantasy Star game since four. Ah the memories that flood back. What's your take on some of the lesser discussed games, Matt?

Donovan waits now
For Matt's unquestionably
Wise answer to come


Matt

There's nothing like a Donovan haiku! This place wouldn't be the same without 'em.

Ar Tonelico is being developed by the same people that did Atelier Iris, and it shows. While the in-game graphics look very much improved over Eternal Mana, which I played almost a full year ago now, so many aspects look startlingly familiar- everything from character styles to the battle system (which is really only slightly similar to Lunar, though this game might end up being different). Because I didn't really enjoy Atelier Iris that much, I can't say that this game is at the top of my most-wanted list. At the same time, though, there's no way I can just disregard it, because all in all, not a lot of information has been released about the details of the game. Some of the concepts do admittedly look pretty cool, such as the "ability to build your character's personality", and the bit of backstory we've heard about is fairly promising. We'll likely learn more in the not-so-distant future, and then I'll be able to give you a much better answer!

Jeanne d'Arc is one of the more unexpected and interesting ideas to arise in recent history; one that is perhaps a bit more palatable than the bizarre Chopin game that was announced for the Xbox 360 not too long ago. The fact that Level 5 is behind this game makes me a bit happy, but the other fact that I don't plan on owning a PSP anytime soon does not. Tactical RPGs are at a minimum at this time, though, and it's nice to see some new ideas take shape for a change. One can only take so many sequels and remakes, after all! Hopefully we'll hear more about Jeanne d'Arc soon (and a North American release to boot) because PSP owners deserve games too. Or, at least, I like to think so.

Thanks so much, Donovan!





THE NEXUS

Phew! That was a lot of letters, but you guys are busy writing, and I'd hate to pass any of your letters up.

As I mentioned above, I'm going to root around to see if I can find some of the MIDI files I came up with back when I was busy thinking about RPG Making myself. I've passed up the opportunity to work here instead, but it'd be fun to share some of the music I came up with. Stay tuned!


Caption


For complete contest rules, click here!


Answers to September 6th's Questions

#304. a) 36 to the north, and.. 32 to the west - 600 points
Yep, it was option A. If you didn't get lost in that mountainous maze, you'd find that all of the other options give you coordinates that land you on traversable land, while 36 to the north, 32 to the west would put you directly on top of a craggy mountain. The quote came from Gwaelin's Love. What kind of rescue-the-princess gift is a compass!? Sheesh.

#305. b) 13/2 - 525 points
Oh, quit your whining. I know it's a math question, but my life's quest is to find ways to make math applicable to everyday life. I hate it when people say learning math is pointless, so here you are: You need to know fractional exponents so that you can win free copies of video games! NYAH! Plus, you could have just tried inputting each option into a calculator until you got 1/8192, of course. Oh well, most of you got this one right anyway. Good job!



Today's New Questions

#306:
According to Prince Peasley, 99,999,999,999 Mushroom Coins equal to how many Beanbean Coins "at today's exchange rate"? (520 points)

a) 1
b) 9
c) 10
d) 99
e) 1,010


#307:
If you combined the first name of one of the main characters of Super Robot Taisen: Original Generation with the last name of the other main character, you would get the full name of a character from which of the following anime series? (550 points)

a) Zatch Bell
b) Samurai Deeper Kyo
c) Betterman
d) Soul Taker
e) s-CRY-ed


Hmmm. Not too much extra to report today, so I'll leave it at that!



SOCK's Item List

Obtain these items upon reaching the listed point benchmarks!

2,000 points: Fire Spell (2 left) or Sneak Glove(2 left)
3,500 points: A.P.G. (2 left), Mythril Armor (2 left), or Point Tripler (2 left)
5,000 points: Item Hog (2 left), Point Doubler (2 left), or Firaga Spell (2 left)
7,000 points: Watera Spell(1 left), Hastera Spell (1 left), or Blind Spell (1 left)
10,000 points: Vanish Spell (2 left), Blizzaga Spell (2 left), or Light Converter (1 left)
14,000 points: Red Gem (1 left), White Gem (2 left), or Killer Sword (1 left)
19,000 points: Esuna Spell (2 left), Rename Card (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), Mythril Sword (2 left), or Hastega Spell (2 left)
40,000 points: Flare Spell (2 left), Sean's Dictionary of Doom (1 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!)

  • Bucket


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IN CLOSING

That's all I have to say today! Now, it's your turn. We've talked a whole lot about Dragon Quest today, so hopefully that hasn't turned anybody off. Let me know where YOU would like to see Dragon Quest IX and why. Or, if you prefer, tell me all about the series that are near and dear to your own heart. Final Fantasy? Other? It doesn't matter! Come back tomorrow, and we'll continue this discussion where we left off, I promise!


slimey@rpgamer.com
***Matt has a "Mini-TA Day" orientation to go to in the morning...


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Matt's Top 5 Most Wanted Games:

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--Wailmer--
HP: 3,500
----------
1. Aurelius
37,278 pts

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29,716 pts

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26,740 pts

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25,520 pts

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22,295 pts

8. LufiaLvr
20,804 pts

9. Alexander
21,042 pts

10. Purelunatic
20,263 pts

11. BigWook
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15,556 pts

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12,376 pts

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12,196 pts

23. Macstorm
12,185 pts

24. BLG
11,963 pts

25. DDX
11,203 pts

26. Bainick
11,060 pts

27. MrMSty
10,670 pts

28. Hunter B
10,357 pts

29. MagRowan
10,043 pts

30. Megan
9,863 pts

31. Gaijin
9,178 pts

31. Colabottle
9,175 pts

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8,635 pts

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