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Send a Question I Send to Me Specifically I Old Stuff I Ancient Stuff
ASK MATT
To Close Out Year One September 29, 2006

Matt Demers - 22:45 EST

I'VE DONE IT! I've lasted for an entire year as an official RPGamer Q&A host, and what a ride it has been. After winning that little competition, I wasn't too sure that I'd be cut out for the job, but as it turns out, I guess things have gone all right!

Let's look at how this column has changed over the past year, shall we? When I walked in here, I decided to introduce a few personal touches. Some of the ideas were decent, and others were, well, kind of stupid. Does anybody remember the random nonsensical cookie recipes I used to have in the right-hand sidebar? Coming up with those became such a chore, and a bore, that I decided to axe them altogether.

SOCK, of course, also turns one year old next Tuesday. Yes, I've been running this competition, frighteningly, for more than 4% of my entire lifespan-to-date now, but it's been a lot of fun! It was so cute in the beginning, though, wasn't it? Questions were worth as little as 5 points, and the consolation points were a measly 2! Almost all of the questions at the beginning were completely arbitrary as well; can you imagine me asking you guys "What is my middle name?" now? What a joke. Prizes were obtained at point benchmarks instead of items, and you didn't have to spend points to obtain them; they only consisted of cookie recipes and co-hostings, generally. Oh, there WAS that horribly embarrassing chipmunk-sped-up Final Fantasy soundtrack that I recorded, if anybody remembers that. What in the hell was I thinking?

In any case, the contest has grown and evolved with the rest of the column, which I've been able to keep up pretty well, despite my ability to keep up some sort of social life, academic woes, and trips to nameless video game expositions. This column has really grown on me in the last year, and it's hard to imagine not being in charge of my half. It gives me a chance to escape from the grips of reality for a few hours every day in order to be excited about one area that I'm really passionate about: RPGs. And my belief is that there hasn't really been a more exciting time than the present.

Here's to another year!!




LETTERS
I really can't think of any great titles to plop here...


Howdy Matt,

I'm very excited about Contact for the DS. I don't quite get the same vibe as I did from Earthbound, but trailers for the game highlight its quirkiness. So,while it won't be the EXACT same, I'm hoping we'll see the start of a great new series! Plus, if it does become a series, I think we'll see developers creatively adapt modern pop culture into the games. I guess we'll have to see! What do you think: new classic or Earthbound clone - or both?

Matt

I'm certainly not hoping for an Earthbound clone, but I'd say that I'm expecting something unique and refreshing, kind of like when Fruitopia comes out with a new flavour and you just have to taste it.

And, it is turning into a full-fledged series, because word on the street is that they are already working on a Contact 2. I think. Or maybe I whacked my head on that low-hanging tree branch while on my way home...

Some other games that I'm looking forward to playing are VP: Silmeria and Okami. Silmeria has received pretty good reviews so far (especially here at RPGamer.com); the only complaints I have heard are that dungeons are flat and two-dimensional at times, treasure chests can be hard to find without the mini-map, and some of the characters' voices are recycled. That's pretty minimal.

Matt

Uh- isn't the flat, two-dimensional thing supposed to be the whole point of the game? Gah, I'll never understand people. Or baboons, for that matter.

I've heard good things about both games, too, so if you were really looking forward to them, I wouldn't let a few whiny whiners get in your way.

I plan to use plot-only characters anyway, so I'm not worried. I think it should be fun; what do you think?

Matt

Sure!

I tend to want to use plot-only characters more than side characters myself, but I feel oddly obligated to use everybody equally, so that no one gets left behind. Yeah, we all know I'm a communist in that way by now, but the thing IS that one part of my brain is just curious to see if maybe UselessCharacter X learns some ridiculously cool skills once powered up a bit. You have to give the fragile little seedling some love for it to bloom into a wonderful flower! (Aww.)

Okami is also pretty, and I can vouch for that since I saw my friend playing it. Transition to and from battle mode is seemless; thank goodness, since graphically-taxing games usually have higher load times to match. Battles are also fast-paced and enjoyable. The gameplay itself is a LOT like the Zelda series on Nintendo 64 - run around, fight bad guys, help people, enjoy their unique personalities and do side quests - and enjoy the lovely hand-drawn scenery. The "magic brush" is well-implemented; they really did come up with clever ways to help the heroine get through the game.

I won't ruin what I've seen, but Okami is DEFINITELY worth a rent.

SOCK!:
#330: E (IceBolt)
#331: C ("The Rainbow Connection")

Toodles,
- waterfiend

Matt

It sounds like a neat little game, that Okami, and I know for a fact that some other readers have glowing things to say about it too. Of course, I think your description of Zelda could pretty well fit just about any non-sports, non-racing, non-puzzle, non-cooking mama games out there.

Anyhow, fiend of water... thanks for your lovin'. I hope to hear from you again soon!



Bow before my sheen and gaudily-coloured crown!


Hi King Slime Matt,

First I would like to start my letter by giving kudos to all people who are trying to get the 'old generation' RPG. It seem that more and more 'New RPGamer' are trying to play the old ones (not necessrally the remakes one but the original too) without giving a though about the outdated graphics. As an old-school RPGamer, I am delighted to hear this. I for myself, remember the excitement when I finally got to beat the Dragonlord in DW1, (on the NES plz), and I was exited when my generic fighter (who had only a 4-letter name) turned into a knight in the original FF. Heck, I was even scared when I first took a look at Ganon. Does that mean that we, old-school, are finally adknowledged as the 'Original RPGamer'?

Matt

Nah. Because then, in some other pen-and-paper website, the Q&A host there will scoff and start talking excitedly about how they start playing RPGs "way before" us old-timers fooled around with Dragon Warrior and Wizardry.

RPGs are older than consoles, and it's a good thing to keep that in mind. They've evolved incredibly over the years, sometimes beyond recognition. I think it's great to be able to appreciate the entire history of 'em, though, because despite the fact that they only became really popular in the last decade, there are a lot of great games that came out before that. I'm glad that people are going back, too!

What do you think of the outrageous number of RPGs that were release the last years? It seems to me that I had to make a choice between two or even three great games because they would all be release the same day!. I remember last year when DQ VIII came out on November 17, there was something around 5 or 6 that were release the same day and most of them were from long-running series, or the month Xenosaga II came out, there were so many game I busted my budget on that. Yet I usually want them all...

Matt

Life's all about decisions, isn't it? Unless you're rich and famous, or just rich, actually, you're probably not going to be able to spend thousands of dollars per year on video games.

It might seem overwhelming, but I think that it's a very good thing that RPGs are becoming more numerous, because as they do, they're also growing more diverse and more appealing to a wider range of gamers out there. The great part is, despite this fact, there are still a lot of games being released that maintain a good old-fashioned nostalgic feel.

One of the series I remembered playing some game was the Mario RPG ones. I remember trying to figure out why I played them and found no answer on that... The story is usually simple and really linear, the games are most likely the easiest ones and have little or no customization at all, yet, for some reason, they were so enjoyable that I would just keep on playing for hours. Do you think they put drugs on the boxes?

Matt

Yeah, um, those mushrooms all over the box? They weren't just any ordinary fungi...

Mario RPGs are near and dear to my heart, too. I remember that the idea of a role-playing game starring Nintendo's biggest mascot first seemed ridiculous (and almost tragic), but wow. Nintendo came through with a great formula and a wickedly unique style that I personally find to be highly entertaining.

Another serie I love is the Shin Megami Tensei. If you didn't try any of the game, now's the time to do so. The atmosphere in those game is so creepy it gave me the chill when I played Nocture. Got any though on that one?

Matt

Not really, no. I try and numb my brain to these suggestions, since I barely have enough free time these days to play the games I already have, let alone pine for others. Mmmm, numbness.

To finish, let me give you the names of some old RPG that people ough to try. Robotrek (one of the early RPG that had robots), Star Tropic (a NES adventure RPG with a quirky sense of humor), all the original Dragon Warrior (the remixes are pretty good but nothing beats the original feeling of the game), especially DW4. If you're not too reticent to useQ&A emulation, I recommend DQ5 and 6 and the original Star Ocean. Just to mention a few.

Keep on answering...

The guy only known as D.


Matt

OK, Mr. D: You definitely don't have to tell me to play the original Dragon Warrior games. They're absolute classics and I've played them more times than I could count; in fact, I've even been replaying Dragon Warrior II lately!

On the other hand, Robotrek and StarTropics are games that I unfortunately never got the opportunity to play, but there are so many older games out there (the original Zelda, Crystalis, Wizards and Warriors, Maniac Mansion, Shadowgate, just to name a few) in the adventure or RPG realms that it would be difficult to be familiar with them all! To the few people out there who sneer at the idea of looking into the past for entertainment: It's possible that you're missing out on some fantastic things, and that's my honest opinion!

Thanks D! I'm a D too, kinda. That used to be my nickname in highschool, in fact.



Oops... I mis-labelled one of Leaper's response boxes yesterday. Ack!


Mr(s?). Lazzie got me thinking, as I am oft to do, on the "definition" of an RPG. Any game that has a sweeping epic story, or well developed characters, or "equip" options or experience points has people wondering, "Should this be considered an [whatever]/Rpg?" And then I wonder... these are things all games have nowadays... maybe the term "RPG" was just in the right place at the right time?

Let me explain. When I first played Super Mario 64, walked up to a pink Bob-omb and talked to it, I was amazed. "This is just like an RPG," I thought, because up until then only RPG's had you talking to other characters like that. Now every game does it. Every game also has developed characters and sweeping epic storylines. Even Dead Rising has experience points! In that way, the RPG is the ancestor of all modern games, is it not? That makes all games children of the genre. So yes, Advance Wars DS is an RPG; Halo is an RPG; Grand Theft Auto is an RPG; in the same way that I was not born in Italy yet I can be considered Italian, and German and French and Welsh and what have you. The RPG was just the first genre to create and combine all these now essential game concepts that have been passed down and spread throught the blood of all games.

--

Alexander M. DeMichiei

Matt

That's a very interesting point to bring up, Alex!

I first noticed it myself a long time ago. The year was 1996, and my favourite puzzle game of all time was released that summer: Tetris Attack. (For those of you that are puzzle-game fans that haven't played this... well, you're not a puzzle-game fan. To everyone else save my brother, I could kick your behind so hard in that game, I could send you into Mercury's orbit.) I got to the last level of single-player mode, and found myself competing against an evil Bowser, complete with a life gauge labelled "Bowser's HP" in a silly font. I was like: "Score one for RPGs!!" That was well before Final Fantasy VII ever hit the stores, too!

Nowadays, it isn't uncommon to find RPG elements present in all sorts of other games, and not just in full, fleshed out, deeper storylines. Gaining experience or money in sports or racing games in order to better your capabilities is nothing new at this point. Customizing characters, exploring vast worlds and using greater strategy in battles that might take place are another elements found all over the world of video gaming now, even though the seeds were sown in games like the original Final Fantasy almost twenty years ago. In a way, you're right: RPGs are ancestral to a wide variety of today's video games.

Clearly, though, that doesn't make a skateboarding game into an RPG. I think that the definition needs to be narrowed a bit if we're going to have any hope of classifying things. Of course, the question comes to mind: "Why bother classifying? Why can't a game just be a game?" But then we've come full circle, because that's been a topic that's resurfaced time and time again over the past couple of weeks!

In any event, Alex, I appreciate the letter! To everyone else, what IS the definition of an RPG in today's standards, anyway? I vocalized my opinion a couple of weeks ago, but does it line up with your viewpoint?



Meet Shion, the elephant.


Hi Matt (and Leaper)!

The only problem with Xenosaga Episode 3's music is that it's not loud enough. Someone decided that the annoying sound of Episode 1's footsteps were much more important and hiked the volume to maximum while the music was only at 30% or less. Whoever that person is needs to be SHOT. I do not need (or want) to hear Shion's heels clip-clopping like a horse on the stone floorboards of a church, dammit! It's a shame, because some of the boss battles on disc 2 have some great music, and you can't hear it because it's muffled by the overly loud sound effects. If Episode 2's town music suffered from this problem instead, Second Miltia would have been a lot more tolerable.

Matt

That's really unfortunate, especially since so many games these days come with this thing called a "Config Menu" where you can adjust sound effects and music volume in a few easy button-presses. It doesn't sound like it wrecked the entire game though, and I think that despite the clipping, clopping, clomping, and stomping, the awesome conclusion to the trilogy is worth it, for those hungry to see the end of Shion 'n' friends' story arc. I sure am.

What do I want to see on the new consoles? Vagrant Story 2. They can put out all the Final Fantasies and sockless men (the hero of FF Versus XIII has no socks) or Zeldas they want, but there will be no joy until a Vagrant Story game is announced.

#328: (a)
#329: (e)

DMJewelle


Matt

Oh, maybe you just can't see the socks because the "in" thing right now for guys are those stupid socks that only go up to the bottoms of your heels. I dunno, but I like my socks like I like my Dragon Quests: Old school! I don't roll them up, or anything, but I think those mini-socks look retarded. :P

Anyway, the other possibility, as you say, is that no socks are being worn at all. But considering the amount of running around that is apt to be performed by the hero of any Final Fantasy game, I sure hope he has some Febreze stuffed into his item bag.

Merci beaucoup, and come again!



Damn! I doubled the "amazing youth" title yesterday too! I'm what, completely inept?


How would you fill in the following variables: "I feel a little cheated if I take fewer than X hours to complete an RPG. I feel like it's dragging too much if I take more than Y hours." For me, X would be about 40, and Y would start to set in over 60, I think (although Dragon Warrior VII didn't have that problem for me, for some reason I can't figure out). Of course, that has a lot to do with how I'm spending that time. If it's fun, the shorter time will be more forgivable, only kicking in when I finish and look at my clock time.

Matt

That's a really tough one, because it can vary greatly from game to game. Generally, I'd say that my X would be 30 on average, whereas Y would be somewhere in the neighbourhood of 70. There ARE games, of course, that start to drag after a mere five hours, while others easily remain engaging after playing well past 100! Generally, I really like longer games, and not just because I see it as "more bang for my buck." Rather, I feel that the longer you spend with more games, the more they can grow on you. There are also gameplay reasons, though: I totally felt that with such a huge roster of interesting status effects and battle skills, Xenosaga Episode I and Episode II failed to live up to their respective potentials, combatwise. There are so many games where I'll think to myself "Oh, it would have been SO much cooler if they had taken the time to put [insert something fun]."

Do you remember the (very anti-)climactic part of Final Fantasy IX where you have to go fight the four fiends for the first time since FFIV? I was absolutely APPALLED that Square only had me fight one; I felt that it was a purely lazy decision designed by burnt-out programmers who must have just wanted to get the game over and done with. A similar thing happened with the more recent Star Ocean: Till the End of Time. Even though it was a pretty long game, I was really disappointed that it ended as abruptly as it did. An extra ten or fifteen hours of game-time could have made a big difference, in my opinion.

I guess in the end, though, length doesn't really matter as much as the quality of the game in general. A really fun game that's pretty short might gain bonus points because perhaps you'll feel like replaying it one day.

Also, seeing Grandia III on your list leads me to want to warn you: it's a good game, but it's distinctly lacking in subquests, which is an area I personally enjoy. But if you don't mind just having the main story, for the most part, it should be okay. Do you?

Matt

Ah, I'm not too worried about that. Mini-games and sidequests aren't really a big focus of mine, anyway, outside of pretty exceptional circumstances. The first couple of hours have been pretty neat, too, so I'm looking forward to playing some more, you know, next year when I have a second or three.

SOCK:

330: (e)

I'm a little worried now that no one will get my question right! Oh, well, that's what Haste/Quick is for, I guess.


Matt

Actually, it seems that a fair number of people have seen through your piece of trivia. I'm pretty impressed!! Your Scroll is going to be widely contested; that's for sure!

Thanks, Leaper! And thanks again for the great job, yesterday!



How to improve upon perfection...


Hey there, Matt!

Is there one thing you wish the Dragon Quest series could do better?
-CW

Matt

To be honest with you? There aren't many things that come to mind! Dragon Quest VIII proved that a DQ game can indeed possess the entire package: An interesting but old-styled battle system, an enormous world to explore, an elegant plot, gorgeous visuals and music, and even a decent amount of challenge.

That said, my pet series is not perfect. I think that in the future, Dragon Quest has to rely less on fetch quests and more on situational plot-devices in order to extend gameplay. The first half of the game is pretty ripe with running back and forth to grab this and that, and fetch-questing doesn't hold as much charm as it did in the completely non-linear Dragon Warrior 1.

I'd like to see a return of the wagon and a greater variety of characters. Dragon Warrior IV had a fantastic, almost FFX-like battle system where you could switch characters in and out of battle in an instant to allow injured allies to recover or to have more powerful allies leap up to launch their unique spells against especially tough foes. I think that it's a bit boring when you get four characters within the first twenty hours, only to stick with them for the next sixty with only a few very minor changes.

Finally, I'd like to see a return to the more unforgiving difficulty found in the final bosses of Dragon Warrior VII and prior. After so much buildup, the final battle in DQVIII was almost insultingly easy, and that's definitely not the Dragon Quest way. The Dragon Quest way is when you get into a fight where you realize very quickly that you're in way over your head. I love having to sweat a bit, and so I was pretty disappointed, quite honestly, by the last battle of the game. A perfect example of a GREAT DQ challenge would be the battle against a certain foe fought in the Dark Ruins of DQVIII or the fight against Baramos in DWIII; those are more like how Dragon Quest bosses should be.

And there you have it! There are several things that I'd love to see introduced or re-introduced to the series. We'll see what direction Square Enix takes, if and when DQIX is announced (as if there's any question of that happening).

Thanks, CW!





THE NEXUS

One year ago today, we had just found out that the controller for Nintendo's new system would be radically different than anything ever seen before, and we still thought that the PS3 would come with controllers shaped more like sex toys. We were still calling Wii "Revolution", and big-name games like Suikoden V, Dragon Quest VIII, and Kingdom Hearts II weren't released yet. No one had played a Final Fantasy XII demo, and rumours were aplenty that Final Fantasy VII would be a launch title for the PS3! What a difference 365 days can make, eh?


Caption


For complete contest rules, click here!


Answers to September 28th's Questions

#330. e) IceBolt - 700 points
The game was Dragon Warrior III, and the enemy was the dreaded Merzoncian. They weren't really that scary, but they weirdly used the fairly weak spell of IceBolt to attack. Odd, that. Most of you actually got this wrong, I'm afraid to report.

#331. b) Sad Animal Shelter Duty - 700 points
If you haven't figured out that Leaper is obsessed with Blue Magic, you haven't paid much attention. The other four items on the list referred to various Final Fantasy enemy skills such as GrandTrain, Frog Song, Twister, and Mortar. Euthanasia, on the other hand, was what option b) referred to; that's an enemy skill from Shadow Hearts: Covenant, and thus was the odd one out. Nice job to everyone who got this one right!



Today's New Questions

#332:
G, A, E, D, C, D, C, D
E, C, G, C, D, A, B, C
... ?
(800 points)

a) A, B, C, D, G, C, D, E
b) E, F, A, C, B, G, E, B
c) B, C, D, G, C, B, A, G
d) A, A, G, F, C, D, E, G
e) F, G, A, C, E, D, C, G


Reader-Submitted #333:
Which of the following is NOT a change from Dragon Force to Dragon Force 2?
(550 points)

a) Two troop types can be used simultaneously in battle
b) Troops commanded to 'Stay' will move around when enemies get close instead of standing still
c) Spells for healing a commander in battle exist
d) Voice acting is omnipresent instead of all-but nonexistent
e) HP are gained much faster for commanders


I'm surprised that I haven't received any e-mails inquiring about a certain oddity about this part of the column as of yet. I was sure that someone would notice immediately and ask me a question about it, but as it stands, I haven't heard anything. Now, to be even more cryptic, I'll tell you that it's not really anything to do with the competition itself as much as it is a gauge of a certain aspect of the contest. Keep your eyes peeled; the first person who can spot the weirdness and guess correctly, more or less, as to what it means, will score themselves a sweet Summon Encyclopedia.



SOCK's Item List

Obtain these items upon reaching the listed point benchmarks!

3,500 points: Point Doubler (3 left), Mythril Armor (2 left), or A.P.G. (1 left)
5,000 points: Any Gem (1 left), Mythril Shield (1 left), or Firaga Spell (2 left)
7,000 points: Slowga Spell (2 left), Annoying Curse (2 left), or Confuse Spell (1 left)
10,000 points: Gold Armor (2 left), Point Tripler (1 left), or Item Magnet (1 left)
14,000 points: Any Gem (1 left), Ultra Sneak Glove (1 left), or Merton Spell(2 left)
19,000 points: Esuna Spell (1 left), Blizzaga Spell(2 left), or Wait Mode (1 left)
25,000 points: Call Bead (3 left), Demi Spell(2 left), or Light Converter (1 left)
32,000 points: Mythril Shield (1 left), Warp Stone (1 left), or Point Tripler (2 left)
40,000 points: Item Bomb(1 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)
61,000 points: Dark Converter (2 left), Drainga Spell (2 left), or Apocalypse Spell (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!)

  • Erunion
  • Hunter B.


SOCK's Prize Shop

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

Click here for the current list of potential prizes!


IN CLOSING

And that's it for me. Next Tuesday, we'll selfishly continue my first anniversary celebration with a high-scoring day of SOCK and a load of questions and answers! Until then, though, Q&A isn't going anywhere: Ourobolus will be taking over for the weekend as always, so fill up his inboxes with love and mail! I hope you've had a great week, everybody, and I hope to see you next time.


slimey@rpgamer.com
***Matt is ready to become Marking Ninja Matt!


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Sept.28: Leaper & Matt

Sept.27: Matt

Sept.26: Matt

Sept.25: Josh

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Matt's Top 5 Most Wanted Games:

1. Final Fantasy III

2. Final Fantasy XII

3. Xenosaga: Episode III

4. Fire Emblem: Goddess of Dawn

5. Final Fantasy V

Top 3 Games Matt's Playing Right Now:

1. Disgaea II

2. Fire Emblem GBA

3. Grandia III

SOCK's Top 35:

--Boreas--
HP: 11,000
----------
1. Aurelius
45,349 pts

2. BigWook
41,954 pts

3. JokingChimer
38,893 pts

4. Kanato
35,846 pts

5. Draconn
35,603 pts

6. DMJewelle
35,200 pts

7. Alexander
33,048 pts

8. LufiaLvr
31,149 pts

9. Boojum
30,706 pts

10. Alan Tse
27,847 pts

11. Bainick
26,229 pts

12. JuMeSyn
25,749 pts

13. Belthasar2
24,208 pts

14. Erika
23,621 pts

15. MagRowan
22,056 pts

16. Arros Raikou
21,076 pts

17. Purelunatic
19,339 pts

18. TV's Adam
17,721 pts

19. Thinkfreemind
17,486 pts

20. Cap
16,888 pts

21. MrMSty
16,570 pts

22. BLG
15,762 pts

23. Dermot
15,336 pts

24. Hunter B
15,321 pts

25. Arpijy
14,945 pts

26. Erunion
14,435 pts

27. Vigilante
12,990 pts

28. Kharamain
12,715 pts

29. Leaper
12,515 pts

30. Prismatic
12,455 pts

31. Bucket
12,401 pts

32. Ourobolus
11,970 pts

33. DDX
11,098 pts

34. Gaijin
9,338 pts

35. William T.
9,090 pts

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