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ASK MATT
Landlords Suck More September 8, 2006

Matthew Demers - 21:41 EST

OK. *THIS* is not cool. As has been happening often lately, I had a sleepless start to my night last night. Having to be up early in the morning to help put on a graduate student orientation day for the University of Guelph's Math & Stats department, I was none too pleased to see that my insultingly incessant insomnia insisted on interrupting my sleep once again.

Well, I finally drifted off somewhere in the neighbourhood of 3:30 in the morning, and woke up four hours later to the woesome nagging of my alarm clock. After groggily and zombifically scuffling to the bathroom, I turned on the shower to discover that there was no hot water. None. Not a drop. All cold. What a FANTASTIC way to start the day!

Since then, I've discovered that my lovely troll of a landlord has decided not to pay for our gas, which has been subsequently and rightfully turned off. He's a thief, plain and simple. How can you take somebody's rent money, used to cover essential expenses, and just decide not to pay them? If the gas isn't on within a few days, Tom and I are picking up and finding a new place to live.

...and welcome to Q&A, my personal blog! I don't really expect that many of you have a vested interest in the mundanity of my personal life, but I need to vent before I start, lest I explode instead. Exploding is never good, and besides, I just vacuumed.




LETTERS
So there are a few cheeky folks at Level 5...


What's the most pleasant surprise you've ever gotten from an RPG? I'm talking about anything you didn't expect, whether it's related to plot, gameplay, art, music, or general quality. The reason this question comes to mind is a specific bit of humor from Dragon Quest VIII; you know those four individual enemies that form one large enemy (one for head, one for body, and one for each of the arms)? I'm thinking of the Monster Book description of the final, and most difficult, palette swap for those enemies. Maybe it was a little too breaking the fourth wall, but I found it VERY amusing, especially in a series with such a generally serious reputation. There are probably "bigger" ones I'm not thinking of right now; I'll have to muse.


Matt

Oh, my. I totally know what you mean! Anyone who hasn't played past the end of Dragon Quest VIII is missing out on a rather humourous bit of fun. If you don't want to know... I'll declare a spoiler warning, because it IS that good of a surprise.

The monsters "Body Politic", "Head of State", "Left Wing", and "Right Wing" may all form a massive enemy called the great "Democrobot", one of the strongest monsters of the entire game, and, I believe, the only monster in Dragon Quest history to be capable of casting Lightning/Thordain/Kazap (it's called different things in different games). Well, their description in the records is a blatant jab at the current American administration worded in a very funny way. My mom just happened to be watching when I first discovered that little gem, and her jaw dropped almost twice as far as mine did. She also suddenly took interest in the game, too... hmmm...

As for my favourite surprise of all time? It's really hard to say. My absolute favourite surprises have to be when I think I'm getting close to the end of the game when all of a sudden there is some huge twist that indicates to me that there is much more game to play. That doesn't really happen very often. OR, it happens in games that are bad enough that I don't really care- I just want them to be over with, so the extra twist makes me roll my eyes and go "UGH, there's more?!"

I still haven't answered your question. So, I'm going to say a bunch of things in condensed form. Prepare!

Baramos isn't the last boss!?
Super... Bowser Brothers??!!!
This whole universe is just a simulation!?!?
Did that boss just slash up the victory screen in order to keep fighting!??!??
Sigma isn't the final villain!? WHAT!?
*Heal* "You can move now!"

That's a good bunch to start with! Now, which games do they belong to? That's a good question...

In any event, thanks for writing in!



Apparently, there are even MORE Matts that read this thing than I previously thought. EGAD!


Hey Matt,

Well first off, letís get the formalities out of the way first: Iím a Matt Ė myself Ė although for the sake of different pen names Iím going to leave you with a different name to refer to me by once I reach the end of this letter Ė hopefully by then Iíll have come up with something interesting! Iím a long-time reader (and so the list of us continues on) Ė since 2000, honestly, but never a letter contributor for a number of reasons Ė one chiefly being the fact that I never really had a whole lot of questions about the RPGs I played. But youíve come along and changed Q and A to a ranting and opinion sort of hybrid forum, where one can post their thoughts and opinions freely with direct feed back from you and to an extent from other readers. I like this change, and as such am going to try and become a member of the RPG Q&A community. Everybody start dancing! And there was much rejoicement Ė yay.

Matt

Anything for you, Matt. If you're happy about the way this place has transformed, it means that Josh and I must be at least somewhat on the right track. We'll do our best to keep it up!

Before I start my letter I have a question for you! What is/are the game(s) you must play annually? At this point in my young adult college life Iím up to three Ė Final Fantasy IV, Zelda Ocarina of Time, and the original Disgaea.

Matt

For me, it's roughly two Dragon Warrior games, and roughly two Final Fantasy games. Any of either series will do. I've even replayed Dragon Warrior VII and Final Fantasy II, the most universally loath-ed of both series. That's how much I love 'em! By this point, I've probably played through games like DWIII and FFIV upwards of ten times, and I still find myself noticing new things, getting excited about other things, and rediscovering the awesomeness of those games of old(e).

To reply to your previous closing question, honestly Ė being a long time Nintendo fan, I would love to see the newest Dragon Quest to be on the Nintendo Wii. Not only would it mean I donít have to donate a kidney on the black market to afford a PS3, but it means we could potentially have an entirely new style of playing a Dragon Quest game. Not to mention the insane Japanese sales would only boost Nintendoís market share even more than it is Ė which in these days is most needed.

Matt

Well... needed for Nintendo, that is, to stay a viable competitor! And keep in mind, too, that by the time Dragon Quest IX actually rolls out onto shelves (maybe 2009ish?), I'll bet the PS3 will have already undergone several price drops, so cost won't be as much of an issue. Who knows? Perhaps there will already be rumblings about the next next-gen systems! You'd think that somewhere along the road, generations have got to last more than just a few years, you know? I know, I know, that thought was a bit tangential and maybe a bit old-man-crotchety.

The series I hold near and dear to my heart is Ėafter a lot of thought Ė not the Final Fantasy series, but The Legend of Zelda series, actually; although I must admit Super Mario Bros. and even Mega Man came into a close second and third. Iím not too crazy about the original series Mega Man (although 2 is still the best Ė I could listen to Wilyís first level forever) but the X series really kicked it up a notch. Although I want to rant about Zelda and not Mega Man; perhaps in another letter, heh.

Matt

Ah, I'll take either or! I guess Zelda might fit in here a bit better, seeing as it's at least arguably an RPG. Then again, you could argue with equal merit that Mega Man is the only franchise out of the two to contain a "traditional" RPG. How bizarre does that sound? Anyway, go on.

Ever since I played A Link to the Past on the SNES, I was immeasurably hooked. I opened that sucker up on Christmas 1992 (and given the insane cost of cartridges back then Ė I believe it was like eighty bucks Canadian) I was absolutely ecstatic. Upon the gameís intro, seeing your uncle walking out the house and you eventually finding him dying in a dank sewer leading into the castle, I knew I was in for a hell of a ride. Iíll never forget the first time I beat the game and listened to the bittersweet ending musicÖ itís so sad and reflective that you just have to wonder.

And itís only gotten better: Ocarina of Time is for many the best game ever created and itís one Iíve even gone to the extent of memorizing. Heart Pieces, Gold Skulltulas, all the upgrades, everything. And you know what? Iím proud of it. Wind Waker, although fun and surprisingly deep for such a Ďcartoonishí game, suffered a bit from the endless sailing, although once you grab the Warp Song youíre all good. Iím just saddened about the fact that Nintendo had to cut out two dungeons to make the release date Ė the Ice Island and the Volcano respectively. I cannot wait for November to roll around! I may even have to skip a couple of days just to net some quality Twilight Princess time. The game looks phenomenal, and with Nintendo going so far as to say it wants to top Ocarina of Time, and I just couldnít be more impatient to nab this one.

Matt

Twilight Princess looks like a beautiful and potentially enormous game. It really doesn't feel like it, but it's very likely only a handful of weeks away! Whether you're planning on buying a Wii or not, you'll be able to sample what had better be a masterpiece. After so much extra development time, it had better be something to write home about! I'm glad, though, that Nintendo is honouring those who waited patiently with a Gamecube by releasing a Gamecube version. It tells me that even though they've chosen to move on, they aren't just deciding to snub a large part of their fanbase.

It is the hope of you, myself, and many others that this will be only the next exceptional title in one of the most widely-acclaimed series in the history of video games. Keep your eyes peeled for it soon!

Iíve been reading a lot about your praise for the Dragon Quest series, and seeing as how I had gone and beaten the eighth game in the series not too long ago, Iíve got some Qís to ask you. Iíve not done anything extra really: I pretty much just forced my way through the game and stopped only to gain some levels once I required higher power or more cash for the expensive equipment in the game. As such, Iíve not seen too much extra Ė really, I only took the time to see what Medea would say every once in a while at that fountain. Iíve even heard that if you do a certain something the ending changes a little somewhat.

Matt

Indeed. It's important to remember that unlike many other games, it is highly unnecessary to fully upgrade every character at every town with every new available piece of weaponry and armour. If you find yourself strapped for cash, just forget about it. The next town you get to will probably have something better, and trust me when I say that you'll make it there just fine, in part thanks to the perfect difficulty curve.

But Iíve been thinking a little about the points you accumulate upon levelling up- and how you can upgrade your skill levels with them. Seeing as how it takes ages to even level up once, is it possible to reach the maximum level and have all the skill levels maxed out with a hundred points? I must admit I went and filled out Jessicaís sex appeal as fast as possible Ė some of those attacks are pure comic relief and hilarious. Iíve also been looking over some pictures on the net, and I see that the ĎHero'sí look changes when he enters Super High Tension Ė to the point of looking Super Saiyan. Iíve never managed to exceed fifty points for TensionÖ how does this happen? I would assume with enough skill points on a certain skill?

Matt

In fact, no. I couldn't figure it out either, but I think it might be past a certain level that you can go nuts, and the same is true for all of your allies. I was probably halfway through the game when I first discovered that I could make a final boost, but beware- that last one will only about 50% of the time, so often, it's a big risk to try and go "all the way".

And, to answer your question about skill points, no. There is no reasonable way to max everybody out, since you'll also find that past Level 40 or so, your characters will only receive 1 or 2 every level. It might change wayyyy later on, but I ended in Level 63 or so, and I still wasn't getting very many skill points by then. There ARE monsters that randomly drop them later on, but only very rarely. If you have someone with the ability to steal items, you might have a small advantage there, though the steal abilities work very infrequently.

I don't mind, though! The fact is, I don't know what half of the abilities in the game are to this very day, and so I have an excuse to play the game again sometime in the future!

Iím a huge fan of Nippon Ichi titles Ė Iíve got them all. While I havenít received Disgaea 2 (I ordered it over Amazon.ca, and that takes ages) Iíve decided to go and beat Makai Kingdom, since I never really finished it. I never liked the rushed sense I got from the game Ė it just doesnít seem to have as much depth as the original Disgaea did, and neither did Phantom Brave for that matter. Although many are saying Disgaea 2 is like the original, and I have to laugh because they say it as though itís a bad thing. Regardless, Iím digressing a bit hereÖ Iím on the third level of Chapter Eight, and Iíve got quite a peculiar way of going through these games.

I am in the favor of making a one man walking army. My warrior is at level ninety nine and has been reincarnated twice, while everyone else is averaging sixty and have never been reincarnated once. The way I progress is through the fact that if my one man armada cannot clear a level on his own Ė then itís time to head back a couple of previous levels and level grind until he can. The case was the same with the original Disgaea Ė my warrior is hitting level 326 and Iíve graduated into the special areas. Sadly, such a high level is practically nothing in there. It is such a hellish place. * shudders *

Matt

That's awesome! In all of my Disgaea playing in the history of me, I've never had a character over Level 80, but I've had such a broad array of characters that I can last pretty much forever in the Item World, even if I resort to scampering quickly to the next gate as quickly as possible once I get in over my head.

So I guess you and I are polar opposites when it comes to Mippon Ichi-ware. It illustrates the variety of different ways you can approach the games, and it's kinda cool that both of them can work beautifully!

On a final note, Iíve restarted playing through Final Fantasy VII, since the last time I gave it a play through; I was around the age of 15 Ė some seven years ago. On the final disc I had grown weary of the formula, and so had not gotten all the side quests, mastered all the Materia, gotten all the Ultimate Weapons and so on, although I did get a Gold Chocobo Ė Knights of the Round is just too awesome to pass up. Well, Iíve decided to get a full 100% this time regardless of my patience, and so Iím currently at Junon Town with everyone hitting their level 3 Limit Breaks. It really doesnít take that long if youíve got a Bolt 2 Ė All junctioned together and start blasting those five to six man groups of enemies with reckless abandon. Iíve a question about the Limit Breaks for Cait Sith and Vincent however as itís been so long since Iíve played Ė Vincent seems to have half the Limit Breaks of everyone else right? Seeing as how theyíre transformations and whatnotÖ and Cait Sith has just one, doesnít he? Iíve never understood these characters and their odd formulas.

Matt

As far as I can remember, you've got that right. A couple of characters were oddballs, so I don't think you're missing anything. Of course, it has been years, literally, since I've played Final Fantasy VII. I've been wanting to go back recently, though...

Anyway, I think Iíll leave you with that for now, as itís long enough on my Word document, and Iíll wish you a great day! Hopefully, we meet again.

Cheers,

The Irish Plumber


Matt

Thanks, Mr. Plumber! I hope to hear from you again someday!



So many long letters lately, I have no choice but to pay homage to my Earthbound lovin' brethren!


Hey Matt,

I just had to let you know, it makes me happy so see Mother listed as one of your favorite serie's rpgs. Some of my friends claim to be fans of rpg's but have never played the game. What gives!?!?! Anywho, figured I'd just drop you a line, rpgamer.com rules!

Tim


Matt

Thanks, Tim!! It's good to hear from you!

Mother is, simply put, a classic. Too few people have played it, and too few people ever will unless someone at Nintendo wakes up and realizes how much we want to see more over in English-land.

In the meantime we can all hope. And pray. ;)



Tools of the trade.


Hey Matt,

Just like the other people, I agree that Monolith Soft has done well on Xenosaga 3. I was one of those people who was so disgusted at the second one that I never thought the third would be even remotely as good as the first was (basing this all on storyline, level design, and secrets.)

Xenosaga 3 outdoes the first on the gameplay aspect. It brings back the grid from the original, but this time, abilities are actually useful(magic takes off just as much or more than a tech attack this time, status abilities are actually useful, etc.) The characters while similar, are also very different no matter which route you decide to go through(which you'll probably get to the last dungeon before you master it,) where some may be more attack based, while others may be more magic based or even more break based. I love the customization aspect of the game.

There are two battle systems on Xenosaga 3 just like the second(although the E.S. battles are so boring this time around.) The regular battle system adds alot to the game, changing it altogether actually making it far better than the other two. Techs and magic are there, but there's a new addition to the game which all enemies and characters have; the break bar. If a character or enemy is attacked, the bar fills, and once it's all the way filled, the character or enemy will become stunned. So you have normal attacks, tech attacks that take off alot of damage, or tech attacks that fill the break bar, so it really adds a bit of strategy towards each battle. This makes boss battles alot more fun.

Anyways, like was said before, the Database is back. It's far better than the first however, as it groups everything in order by type rather than a huge alphabetical list(although the alphabetical list is there too.) You get everything in the database from the third game, but collecting the database items hidden throughout the game, you'll open up information of everyone and everything in the Xenosaga universe.

They also added a minigame once again. The one on Xenosaga 3 is called HaX0rz...err... HaKox. It's a puzzle game that can be frusturating at times, but it's also very fun. There are 60 stages, the first few are tutorial stages though, but even if you finish the 60 stages, there's limitless potential because you can create your own. Though it's not as good as the XenoCard game, it's still good.

Matt

What a great overview, kupomogli! You'll see a few other opinions below. Xenosaga has turned into a fairly hot topic, as I predicted, and there are people on both sides of the fence.

I'm really happy that ether techniques are finally, finally worth it. I was always appalled at the amount of EP I'd have to pump into a certain new technique, only to find out that the damage it causes is less than a single normal attack! The Double skills were even more atrocious in Episode II; for the amount of fiddling and planning ahead you had to do to pull those off successfully, they did appallingly little in the way of damage.

I didn't get much into the card game of Episode I, but I know that a lot of people got a little bit obsessed with it. As I recall, I played a game and won, but didn't really understand why, and then I didn't really play again. But, it's nice that something more solid than the smattering of half-assed mini-games of Ep.II are present in this game.

You should probably bug your brother to hurry and finish Xenosaga 3 so you can play it.
--

Matt

All in good time! I'll have my hands on it before you know it.

Anyways, about the series that are near and dear to me. I'd have to say that the Wild ARMs series is one of my favorites and I can't believe the person would say they were getting worse(although Alter Code F, the one that you've played, is pure crap in my opinion.) I think the first Wild ARMs is amazing, but in my opinion they've been getting better with each release up to the third(which is my fourth favorite game of all time,) and the fourth one is amazing but it's not as good as the other three(which doesn't mean it's subpar at all, it rules, it's just not better than the others.)

Matt

What do you think about the not-so-recently announced Vth Vanguard?

It does seem like I managed to pick the bad egg out of the carton, I'm afraid. I bought my brother (he comes up often these days...) WAIII for Christmas last year, and he actually found it fairly enjoyable. I've heard the same from other people too, so it must be true. Mustn't it?

Oh, you're not finished yet! Continue.

Other than Wild ARMs, Final Fantasy, Breath of Fire, and Castlevania(not an RPG) are also my favorite series, but even so, I don't feel like talking about those. The Ogre Battle series on the other hand, which I love just as much, is a series I feel doesn't get as much respect as it deserves. Tactics Ogre Let Us Cling Together is my favorite game of all time, having hands down the best storyline and best gameplay I've ever played to date. The games customization by far exceeds anything ever released even in this day in age, and it has some of the best secrets out there; multiple hidden characters, multiple special weapons, armor, spells, and the amazing Hell's Gate which has all those listed and then some.

Not as good as Tactics Ogre Let Us Cling Together, there is Knight of Lodis which also has a vast amount of customizability and secrets with a great storyline as well. Ogre Battle March of the Black Queen has a smaller storyline but there are so many plot variations depending on what choices you make to which characters in the game and sometimes even depending on what characters you got to join you earlier before or even what time of day it is when you fight a certain boss. Ogre Battle Person of Lordly Calibur expands on it with a huge storyline(actually being a sequel to March of the Black Queen, the prequel to Let Us Cling Together, and happening at the exact same time as Knight of Lodis) that is even bigger than the orignal.

Anyways. I love the Ogre Battle series so much because it's by far one of the more original games I've ever played, every games storyline is intertwined with one another almost flawlessly, the gameplay is just so amazing, and the customization is by far some of the best in any series.

-andrew- -kupomogli-


Matt

Now there's a neat series that few people talk about anymore. Ogre Battle!

As a few regular readers might remember, my sole experience with Ogre Battle has been on the N64, when I was absolutely starved for new RPGs while drooling over the dozens that PS fans were receiving. I really liked what I played, though I didn't get more than a couple of nights to experience it. Ah, Blockbuster; I had a love-hate relationship with that place!

I would personally be thrilled if another Ogre Battle were somehow announced in the future. While there are a few of them out there, tactical RPGs are still a tiny minority, and tactical RPG players are still a small minority of RPGamers as well! I love the strategy involved in them, and unlike Nippon Ichi's brand, Ogre Battle very evidently has a story to be taken seriously.

Thanks for your time, and have a great weekend!



Tools of the trade.


Hm, not RPG, but for the guy who segued onto the Doom 3 flashlight annoyance, I believe there's a mod out there labeled "Duct Tape" (or something like that) that attaches your flashlight to your rifle. After all, what kind of scientific research center would be lacking in such a basic commodity such as duct tape?


Matt

Well, NASA's probably fresh out, considering how shoddy, old, and patched up some of those space shuttles likely are by this point. I thought that they were supposed to introduce some new technology sometime soon? If so, then where is it?

I'm sure he'll appreciate the hint, Gaijin! Perhaps, though, you're a couple of years too late. I have to admit that as much as I dislike PC gaming, they come with that mod-upside that you really can't find as easily anywhere else!



And now to end, and with a pair of passionate Xenosaga fans!


About the loading times for XS3, I actually wasn't talking about battles at all, but the time it takes to get from one screen to another. In XS1 and 2 this could easily reach seven or eight seconds, which drove me nuts; here, it's three or four, max.

And I'm afraid I have to vehemently disagree with you about the other two points. First, XS2's music. Yes, it WAS that awful. Perhaps there were a few tracks that were okay (very few were actually *good*), but due to the ridiculous GS quests, you spent most of your time on Second Miltia, the Foundation, the Elsa, or in a "GS dungeon" (fishing, waterway, electric plant). Every single one of these places had tunes which made me want to throw my TV across the room. The okay/good tracks weren't played anywhere near as *much* as the horrible ones.

As for the event slots, it was a sloppy method of making battles harder that relied too much on randomness. I'm not even talking about the "random" slot, but the fact that you spend several turns building up your strategy to end on the Skill Point slot, and the enemy can mess up the entire thing by either blocking your first attack, or boosting somewhere in the middle. It makes battles hard without being challenging.

XS3 does *not* change the basic nature of Boost, other than making it possible for everyone to Combo Boost (it always annoyed me that just because a character happened to be visible on the "next" gauge you couldn't boost him/her, especially since that stupid gauge was different lengths at different times and characters often changed their order). The only difference is that now Boost is more of a flexible resource, since besides using it for its regular use, you can also use up a couple of Boost levels to do a special attack; finishing off an enemy with one of those nets you 15% more SP, gold, and EXP. I find that to make much more sense in terms of managing resources than skipping turns and boosting in a vague hope that you'll manage to get the right event slot.

--Cidolfas


Matt

...versus...

Hi Matt,

I've been reading some of the takes on the third Xenosaga installment, and also your opinions (and others) on the music of Xenosaga II. So first, I'd like to give my support to your position on the music. Xenosaga II's music is well-done, and there are some areas that wouldn't be as good as they are (the last two dungeons, the introductory area with chaos and company) if the music weren't there. To me, often times, the music was lacking in the cutscenes - there were certainly some good tracks to listen to, but they weren't that memorable. It was definitely a good part of the game.

The music in Xenosaga I, while it was not very present, was incredibly performed by our friends in London. I don't know, I might be the only person who enjoyed hearing the Song of Nephilim and the Proto Merkabah music continually, as well as the Ormus track on Pleroma, as short as the tracks might've been. I also thought that the battle music served well as both a regular and boss battle music, so while it might've been disappointing to some people, I always thought that hearing the "introductory" part of the music could actually prove to be very dramatic.

But now we come to Xenosaga III... the music in THIS game is truly does not exist. The battle musics and the boss musics are very poor; the only decent boss music SHOULD have been the regular battle music, but it appears that the composer for the game's music, Yuki Kajiura, is unable to make a music that is fast, dramatic, and suited for battling. Note that this is the same composer that did the cutscene musics in the second of the three games, too. The music that plays while walking around does not seem to change depending on location, but on situation. It makes it difficult to really enjoy much of the music, and besides, the footsteps are so loud that it drowns out the music that you can hardly hear. At this point, someone might say, "at least this game HAD music!", but the silence of Xenosaga I far outdoes many of the out-of-place tracks that the recent installment presents. This leaves only Xenosaga II to be the "music leader" of the three games.

As for playing Xenosaga III, so far, it has its ups and downs. I'm currently on the second disc, and the story is being handled admirably, drawing from both the first Xenosaga (particularly, the area that always seemed to be overlooked when the game actually referenced itself) and the second as well (though thankfully Jr. seems to have been pushed out of the spotlight). Both new and old characters are being given fresh new looks and, in some cases, stories. (although the attitude shift in a partcular mystery-boy are a bit unfortunate) The areas are well-designed as they tend to be in these games, and the puzzles are still none too challenging, but actually seem to make sense for the dungeons that they are placed in. The skill system is better than Xenosaga II's, but not as unique as Xenosaga I's, and the equipment and money returning back is more than welcome. Everything that has been said about the game is true... except...

It's the battle system that is in serious debate here. This is the worst part of the game so far, in my opinion. The battle system has now been so simplified that we might as well just call it a Final Fantasy 10 game where it costs you your turn to switch your characters. Gone are the turn slots... the strategy of the battle. No longer must you decide that, hm, maybe you should boost here so that the enemy won't be as likely to get critical hits, or that maybe you should boost here instead because with all your built up energy, the number of attacks you can deal will earn you a lot of boost power! No... it's all gone. Next, the Boost system has been tragically altered as well, destroying the creativity of the Xenosaga series' battles. Boosting is rarely done for the sake of getting in more attacks - you can't prevent monsters from going at an unwanted time, and you can't chain your attacks together, so this might be natural, I'm not sure. Even the basic attacks your characters have make them seem far less unique. To make your characters use attacks which previously gave them some 'personality', you now have to use special, ether-consuming attacks. And, as mentioned before, the music is unacceptably bad. Some people might say that the speed of the battles has improved, but this really isn't the case. Battles feel like they did in Xenosaga II -- possibly tedious because of the repetition, and harder enemies means that they have more HP and a bit more attack power -- except when you do the equivalent of "Breaking" and "Air/Down"-ing the enemy... the damage rarely increases. Battles seem long and drawn out, and really aren't that much fun to get into.

So as a result, I'm not sure where I stand on this Xenosaga so far overall. The story is superb, but the battles are not. Since this is a question and answer, I guess I'll ask something related to what I talked about... would you prefer a game that has a really great battle system (and battles) but very little else to offer, or a game that offers you a wonderful story, but with a terrible battle system (and battles)? And choose one, don't just weigh both options and then say it needs a balance of both. I'm glad I could come to help your position on Xenosaga II's music!

-Kharamain

Matt

And there you have it! And thank you, Kharamain, for coming through! It's nice to know that I'm not the only person who quite enjoyed the music that Xenosaga II had to offer. I will absolutely not argue against the fact that there was an abundant overuse of certain annoying themes, and the "oooh, happy, but it's a puzzle!" background that played during the minigames did get to be an annoyance after awhile, though I don't think that it was anywhere NEAR as terrible as the elevator music that played during certain "funny" cutscenes of Episode I. Remember, too, that I generally don't spend a lot of time mini-gaming or side-questing; I think that the vast majority of my game time was spent playing through the main story, and so perhaps I got a slightly different impression. I am completely unmoved in my opinion that other themes, including just about every battle background and many area backgrounds in the game, were nothing short of wonderful. I agree with you, Kharamain, that the cutscene music isn't really very memorable at all, but I tend not to pay much attention to cutscene/movie sequence music from just about every RPG. I really can't think of a single piece of cutscene music from any game that I'd find myself humming in my head at the end of the day; that's not to say it's BAD, necessarily, of course.

I guess this contrast just goes to show you that no matter what you decide to include in or take out of a battle system to spice it up or make it better, some people are going to be unhappy with the result. Some gamers might like the extra difficulty, though I'm sure (at least I hope) that Kharamain would agree with you, Cidolfas, that the fact that Ether skills are powered up is a very welcome change. It's really difficult for me to say from the outside which I'd like better, especially since I've heard so many different things about the almighty Boost; I think I'd have to play myself to be able to judge fairly. But, I always did kind of enjoy the fact that it was a bit of an unpredictable "treat" to get experience or skill point bonuses at the end of battle. Having guaranteed ways to get those bonuses just... I don't know, it doesn't seem like it would be as exciting or fun when it does happen. Does that make sense? I'm just speculating!

Hey, if everybody agreed about everything, there wouldn't be much point to having this column, would there?

Thanks to both of you for taking the time to contribute your thoughts on the matter!





THE NEXUS

Yeah, I promised 'em, didn't I?

They're MIDI-quality, written note-by-note on some shareware MIDI-editor, so don't expect any terrific symphony-orchestra-style scoregasms. I'm just one little man.

Now, where do I start? My game took place, as many RPGs do, in a time of apparent peace and tranquility. The ultra-happy town music reflects this. I think it's a bit overboard, but hey, it's gotta be better than Breath of Fire 2's town theme.

Don't take too many steps outside, though, despite the peace, or you might get into a battle! I always thought this was kinda catchy, but then again, I like Xenosaga II's music. *shrugs*

If you're headed into a cave, you might hear this. It's a bit reminiscent of Final Fantasy IV's cave theme, in retrospect, but it's definitely got its own twists.

Uh-oh! Somebody's conspiring! Like many other RPGs, a meddling villain is waiting behind the scenes to snatch centre stage one day. He will, by the way, a few tracks later.

So, of course we have to head into the nearest forest in order to figure out what the heck is going on! Enh, boring, isn't it? Move on.

Oh, no! It's a boss! The first boss was intended to be a mysterious and confused magical woman enshrouded in faint light. A pushover, as most first bosses tend to be.

Alas, though; no one said the adventure would be easy, and thus you might find yourself in a dungeon, attempting to navigate through the mazes and puzzles that make old-school RPGs old-school. I kinda like how this one builds on the villain theme, but not as much as the...

...Cataclysmic Event theme! Yes, this was to be played when the evil evil villains decide to show off their evilness in all their evil glory. I'm kinda fond of this one, actually, since it manages to tie a couple of different themes together. Tee-hee.

And then there's the Big Boss theme. I really wish I had had time to go back over this one and redo it, because I think it's boring and repetitive, even if it sounds busy. Blah.

Plus, look. That big meanie just killed one of the main characters!! Every RPG needs its sad and emotional theme, no matter how lighthearted or silly it might be. It's Law #21352 of RPGaming, didn't you know?

And that's all I came up with! Thank goodness we got through that whole mess. We deserve a victory dance now!

Or maybe just some quality SOCK time.


Caption


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Answers to September 7th's Questions

#306. d) 99 - 520 points
Yeah, yeah. You know things are getting bad when I'm getting flack from readers who think the questions are too easy. Well, you asked for it!

#307. d) Soul Taker - 550 points/1,100 for Arros
I never would have known this question myself unless I had done some vigourous research first, but most of you seemed to be up to the task. Give yourselves a pat on the back and a nod towards Arros, who generously provided this question. Thanks for submitting! I think I forgot to indicate yesterday that this WAS, in fact, a submitted question. Forgive me.



Today's New Questions

Erunion casts Blind! The questions were obscured!

#308:
Ir 67U bOu%ht a cur-eTT p[Ckzge of ..-ginal AsS0rted n&M CAneies buT th#- SHocj1n6-y dI5D0vR$d tHq- .a-h c-NFY w.s in fact a Pie@. .. ...eria TAHT f7st -ookef eXAC%ll l*ke am M&<, WHic. o9 teh f0Llo4in- -ou-. ..u KjoW you c(lld no% .Oss-ss/ (600 points)

a) kJa..
b) @-ITen
c) c0Mer
d) SteAK qt!ack
e) prE_E,tive


Reader Submitted #309:
MARIp;s 0r8gnA. name is A-so tEH .... .f a GAME DuvelOq7D BY !!IC! C!mp.n.? (525 points)

a) swUare
b) RnIX
c) EoYx
d) Br..erbuN!
e) NaeCO


Excellent... we haven't had one of those in awhile. Scream at Erunion, not me!



SOCK's Item List

Obtain these items upon reaching the listed point benchmarks!

2,000 points: Fire Spell (2 left) or Sneak Glove(1 left)
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5,000 points: Item Hog (1 left), Point Doubler (2 left), or Firaga Spell (2 left)
7,000 points: Watera Spell(1 left), Venom Spell (2 left), or Blind Spell (1 left)
10,000 points: Vanish Spell (2 left), Blizzaga Spell (2 left), or Scan Spell (3 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 Thundaga Spell (2 left)
25,000 points: Summon Encyclopedia (1 left), Apocalypse Spell(1 left), or Nightmare Staff (1 left)
32,000 points: Point Quadrupler (1 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!)

  • Hunter B


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IN CLOSING

What a way to finish off an extremely busy week! There's SO much more mail in the inbox, I'm really sorry that I couldn't get it all up. I do what I can, but it's never as much as you guys deserve! "But WAIT!" as they say in the infomercials; tomorrow we'll have our number one weekend host, Ourobolus, return to the helm to shower you with more questions, more answers, and his great THONG, so never fear.

Have a good weekend, everybody, and I hope I'll see you all again on Tuesday next!


slimey@rpgamer.com
***Matt wishes for hot water!


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Matt's Top 5 Most Wanted Games:

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SOCK's Top 35:

--Wailmer--
HP: 3,250
----------
1. Aurelius
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28,356 pts

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26,590 pts

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24,126 pts

9. Leaper
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21,318 pts

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17,161 pts

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14,541 pts

20. Macstorm
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13,699 pts

22. TV's Adam
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23. Dermot
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24. BLG
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25. Bainick
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26. DDX
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27. MagRowan
11,113 pts

28. MrMSty
10,670 pts

29. Hunter B
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30. Megan
9,863 pts

31. Erunion
9,812 pts

31. Gaijin
9,378 pts

33. Colabottle
9,175 pts

34. Xlash
9,094 pts

35. Vigilante
8,650 pts

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