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ASK MATT
Colorful Sparkly Blasts of Light
July 4, 2007

Matt Demers - 22:21 EST

FIRST OF ALL, I must wish all American readers a very happy Independence Day! Enjoy your barbeques, firework shows, baseball games, and whatever else you may be up to.

Second of all, I have to talk about my past weekend. It was laced with some Pokémon, and the end result put some distaste in my mouth for my beloved Nintendo. See, back in the day, my brother bought Pokémon Stadium. After playing it a bit, I quickly passed it off as a quick moneymaker on Nintendo's part, and I still think that that's exactly what it was. Now, wooed by the promise of some hard-to-find items, I broke down and got the Wii's Battle Collosseum.

It's pretty awful.

The battles do NOT look terribly pretty, firstly, and though the game is touted as being the first to feature DS-Wii connectivity, it fails terribly at doing so. The only way to battle directly using your DS critters is to use the ones that are in your party at the time you shut off your game- you can't go into your boxes and change your team without backing out, shutting down your DS, turning it back on, changing your current lineup manually, shutting it BACK off, and then restarting/connecting to the Wii. VERY, very kludgy, and totally not worth it. The rest of the game looks like a bore, too, so in the end, I feel like I wasted a ton of money for nothing. Grr.

My second issue of the weekend isn't RPG-based, but it's really, really embarrassing, I feel. My sister, brother, Tom and I were playing Mario Party 8 yesterday, and about three quarters through our game, we played a minigame where you have to shoot five targets, marked with numbers, as they fall from above in order to collect the most points. My brother, the sneaky bastard, waited until the rest of us were finished to even begin shooting. However, the targets "ran out" a few seconds later, and ceased to fall from above... before he had shot the five that he needed. The game, however, kept waiting for Chris to shoot his fifth one despite this, and so we ended up staring at the screen forevermore. With no way to pause or quit the game early, we quickly realized that we had stumbled upon a very idiotic glitch that wasn't caught during any bugtesting phase. Quite bad, I have to say.

If Nintendo wants to keep riding the wave they're on, they simply can't afford to shovel out substance-free games or ones that don't even work the way they're evidently supposed to. A trademark that has been built on the name of product quality is bound to deteriorate if that foundation is shaken.

Now, critic-Matt will be deftly replaced by Q&A Matt! Welcome to my domain. Here are your questions:




LETTERS
Sacrilege!


Did someone just mention Odin Sphere and Dawn of Mana in the shame breath? For shame! It's fine to not like the game, but let's not go too far here.

But, do you want to know something even worse? News simutaneously so shocking, disgusting, and depressing that it will cause you to abandon faith in all of mankind and join a crazy Moon-cult? I saw Fire Emblem: Sacred Stones at a local Wal*Mart for $14.95. Not too bad, you say? It was shrink-wrapped with another game... and that game was - let me lower the axe here: Marble Madness!

Despair mortals! An absolute gem of a game, double-packed and bargain-binned like so much Saturday-morning offal. I think all readers will agree that they just died a little reading this.
--

Alexander M. DeMichiei

Matt

That is positively tragic! That's the equivalent of going to a yard sale, looking into a box, and seeing somebody's old copy of, say, the original copy of Lunar: SSS on sale for $5.

This is only proof that to those outside of the gaming world, a video game is just a video game. Poor Fire Emblem...



Saving things for later...


Hey Matt,

Ah! I completely forgot about Steiner. It's been so long since I last played it and it doesn't help that I didn't use him much. I now have this urge to replay it as well as 7 and Tactics with all that talk going around... *sigh* I really would if I didn't feel guilty enough about dropping Odin Sphere after only 40 hours just to go back to Pokemon Pearl... I just broke the 300 hour point a day or so ago by the way, so... yay me, I suppose... =\

Matt

WHOA! I thought that 200 hours was bad, but that game, it's like an evil virus that penetrates your brain and starts attacking neurons that control your urges. Really, Pokémon is a nasty, nasty game that, while pretty good, is life-consuming if it gets to you in the right way. Happy are those who are immune to its wiles.

And moving on... I'm an RPG packrat, too. I'm even a real life packrat. I can't stand throwing things away or using up "rare" items, reasoning that "it might come in handy later" or "it would be a waste to just use it now". And so I end up finishing a game with a pile of now useless items. This gets especially bad with items like permanent stat boosting items. Sure, if I use it now, it could be a big help in the long run, but... I can't make sense of it, but for the most part they end up rotting away and useless as well. Though not as bad, I tend not to sell old equipment for no reason at all even if they are obsolete.

Matt

I'm not quite as bad with the stat-boosters. I used to be, but I quit this habit "cold-turkey" around the same time that I played Final Fantasy VII. The only risk with using perma-stat-ups is if someone in your party leaves, but then I realized that a) Hardly anyone leaves the party anymore these days, and b) Who cares anyway? I'm the one who always runs around saying how I like my games hot, spicy, and challenging, am I not? I'm enough of a packrat when it comes to Elixirs and such, though... almost embarrassingly so.

It's funny, too, because despite this, I'm NOT a packrat in real life. I crave moving from time to time, because it represents a perfect opportunity to go through my mounds of accumulated crap and dump it into giant green garbage bags. Crap is not good, especially when you're cramped in an undersized apartment.

This usually isn't a problem except when there's a limited inventory of some sort (Breath of Fire V and Etrian Odyssey come to mind right now) or something like FF12... As far as the loot items were concerned, my packrat ways were detrimental. I ended up saving all of the seemingly rare drops and at least a good portion of the more common drops "just in case" for at least half the game. At least I've gotten a bit better over the years. I still hoard things but I'm not as strict about not using elixirs and such.

Matt

Oh my gosh, I forgot ALL about the drop items in FFXII. HAHAHA, yeah, I was totally convinced through most of the game that someone would send me on some random "collect-this-stupid-garbage" sidequest, requiring me to submit to them a variety of different drop-goods. I made it a strict policy to keep at least 4 of everything, and thus had a list of considerable length by the end. Of course, such a quest did not materialize, and I quickly realized that my actions had not paid off whatsoever. (How the six of them managed to tote around all this junk is absolutely beyond me... it's not like Fran had much extra room in that, er, outfit.)

On a similar note, in regard to Gaijin Monogatari's "do not use" item/spell question, I like the idea, but it's a shame you can save and just try it out with no consequence. It would be so fun to get pushed into a corner at the final boss fight (though that doesn't happen as often as I would like) and whip out that mysterious desperation item just to see the game over screen laughing at you. =) Either way though, it would probably just end up useless and forgotten at the bottom of my pack, but oh well.

Until next time,
- Tasukete

Matt

Well, to be honest, that reply was a little bit cheeky on my part. It would highly depend on the save system, wouldn't it? I don't think you could pull that off with much ease in Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter, for instance. Stupid saves... always ruining everything and making risks less risky. Risk is exactly the element that adds excitement to RPG! It makes pulses race, even in the face of a slow-paced game.

Anyway, thanks for the letter, Tasukete! I shall await this next time with anticipation.



Thick lensed, illusion-generating eyewear.


Hey Matt!

While I can't say that graphics are the most important part of a game, I have to say that they are something important. As much as I love older RPGs, there is a certain sense of amazement that newer games can bring out in me. Probably the first instance of this is FFVII: Would the death of Aeris in FFVII have quite the same impact without being able to see Sephiroth drop down behind her and stab her, or the burial in the lake afterward? Nowadays, different games can awe me with different aspects, whether it is holding my breath as I hang on the edge of a cliff in Zelda, staring into the distance in FFXII, or various other things.

Matt

It's true. For me, the game that took my breath away the most was probably Final Fantasy VIII, which to me is clearly the game of the FF series that represents the biggest jump in FMV quality. That opening movie was so shockingly amazing that I really wanted to see more.

I agree that graphics can be a very important part of certain games, and "good graphics" don't necessarily have to mean "super-realistic". Games like Disgaea, to me, have nifty graphics simply because they're so fitting. Fantastically-drawn anime-styled characters are exactly what is needed to convey the right attitude in that game. Of course, games like Final Fantasy XII and Dragon Quest VIII wouldn't convey the freedom and big-open-world-ness that they do if the graphical bar wasn't placed as high. So yes, I can appreciate a nice-looking game, or nice-looking elements of a game.

The hardest part is being able to still appreciate the older games as the bar for graphics moves. Newer consoles mean the potential for more amazing moments, but we run the risk of forgetting what used to amaze us. A lot of it is in the presentation. I replayed FFVIII last fall, and I was still impressed by many of the movies, even though it is now going on two generations old. But, great graphics aren't everything, you still have to have a good story and characters to draw me in.

Thanks!

BigWook

Matt

It's interesting, because I find that while I haven't lost any love for the old games that I have played, it's harder for me to get into older games that I haven't. When I finally sat down and played Xenogears for the first time (2004ish), I was taken aback by how crappy it looked. Now, the graphics aren't the reason that I stopped playing the game, but it was a noticeable thing that took me some time to adjust to. Perhaps the things that impressed us in the past just aren't that impressive anymore, but, through the rose-coloured glasses of our memories, those of us who HAVE experienced big moments in old games still look back at them with longing and love, or something like that. Those glasses... they're pretty powerful.



Opinion wars! Take your stations.


Ok I was going to wait to write my next letter, but dang it you had to go and insult on of my favorite games of all time!

Matt

Uh-oh, what'd I do? *goes into Defense Mode*

People always seem to bash on the game for being too linear, and if you were looking for a game were you could wonder about freely, I could see your disappointment, but the whole point of the game was to be THAT linear so that it could take you along on a rollercoaster ride of a story, which has not been done before in a FF game. Not only that but the story is probably one of the most unique in the series, with some cool twists and turns and the great way of the first 2/3 of the game or so being a flashback. The battle system and "leveling" system were both fresh and well done, and while some of the voice acting could be annoying, at the end of the day it was better than probably 90% of the games I've played (Resident Evil anyone?). Anyway I look at it, Final Fantasy X was a stunning achievement, and I hope its remembered as such.

-Mike

Matt

Heh heh. The fun thing is that I'm mostly in agreement with you on all of these points. By no means do I think that FFX is a "bad" game; it's just one of my least favourites. One of the major reasons for this is because I nearly walked through the game. It might have a fresh and funky battle system, but the game is just too easy. How cheap is it to just bring in Yuna's big ol' summons (no MP cost!) and blast away for 50000+ damage on a whim? Pretty cheap, I feel. These overpowered summons completely wreck the balance of the game in my mind, and that's an important thing to me. The voice acting isn't really something I feel is terribly important, but the story, while interesting at times, wasn't all that special. Seymour was a weak villain that I never really cared about all that much, and after chasing him for the whole game, he doesn't end up doing anything besides fight you inside Sin for reasons that are fairly unclear. I don't know, but for me, the linearity didn't make the storyline anything more exciting than previous entries, and I still think that the stories of VI, VII, and IX were superior (and just as roller-coastery).

The game does stuff well. The graphics and music are stellar, and the Sphere Grid is something that I love. However, the linearity is a drag, the story isn't all that great, and the battles are way too easy in general, wrecking "what could have been" as far as I'm concerned. I've felt this way ever since the game's release, and while I haven't played it since, I don't know that they'd change if I did.

Does anyone else feel the same way? Have I got things all wrong here, or do you strongly disagree? Write in and share your opinions!

One way or another, Mike, I appreciate your contribution, and hopefully you can see where I'm coming from. There's no question that it's a good game; I'm just saying that I prefer others in the series.



Those evil parents!


Dear Matt,

Two things come to mind when I think of what I associate my games with.

The first isn't an RPG game, but still is always present in my mind when playing it. I was exploring Rusty Bucket Bay in Banjo-Kazooie one day when my mother suddenly came in the room and told me, "Hey Jack. Shari Lewis died." I use to watch Lamb Chop's Playalong until my eye sockets bled, so it doesn't really surprise me as to why I remember that.

Matt

Now that was a sad day! I think I read that piece of news in a ctv article online. I loved her...

The more notable event would be the time my brother an I were playing Secret of Mana in our basement. We were having fun and then had a tiny quarrel that lasted for a few minutes. A minute later, I heard the pounding of my father's feet running down the stairs and him scream, "I'm so SICK of you CHILDREN ARGUING!!!!" and the next thing I knew he grabbed the cartridge straight out of the system and tore it in half. My favorite RPG of all time, and he broke it. A few days later, he produced the game back only mended with hot-melt glue. Oddly enough, it works perfectly fine even to this day.

Matt

Wow, I didn't realize that they were so fragile! I have this vision in my mind of the Incredible Hulk or something bounding down the staircase to the horror of the two of you.

Fathers are often clueless about games. My dad once got upset when I didn't come to the table immediately. I had been playing Dragon Warrior III, which I rented about six times before. My characters were in Level 30 or so, and when I yelled "I just need to save my game!" my dad walked through the room, hit POWER carelessly, and told me to come. I was in shock, because of course, being an NES game, you have to hold RESET while turning the system off. I was absolutely furious with him, but luckily, my data was okay.

My parents never understood the "Save Point" excuse until my mom started playing The Sims. Now, it's always "I just want to get to the end of this day..." NOW they know what pain it would be to have the cord simply and ruthlessly pulled from the wall!

Hope I gave you some entertainment for the day

Have a good one.

Jacki Jinx

Matt

Thanks for the letter, JJ!



Choices, Choices!


Hi Matt,

I think it's hard to decide upon one job class to favour over all others. Most tend to have parts of them that I like, and this often varies between games too - I don't really think white mages are that cool in games like Final Fantasy V, but I liked in FFX-2 how they were unable to attack at all (I think, anyway), for example. I don't like cheap classes either for the most part (Sabin, basically a Monk, can use blitzes way too easily). There were some interesting classes in the Final Fantasy Tactics games, though, like Bard and Dancer with their interesting support/effect techniques that I really thought were neat.

Matt

Yes, and this is one of the things that I really didn't like in Final Fantasy V Advance. The new jobs looked cool, but jeez, the Gladiators were absolutely cheap. Their special ability? Just choose to use it (for no MP) and score an automatic 9999 damage on the foe, most of the time. Not cool. NOT cool at all. Raw power isn't that special when it is obtained so cheaply... and in this case, the ability just feels like the carelessly-tacked-on extra that it is.

I tend to agree, though; Sabin's blitzes do far too much damage, as do Edgar's tools for the first half of the game, especially when you stack them up against Strago's Blue Magics, which are almost always less powerful AND cost considerable amounts of MP. Those Figaro brothers really know how to do things to the extreme...

Of course, there aren't just FF games to consider. Dragon Warrior/Quest VI and VII had some good ideas, too. The ability of the Sage to slowly reduce MP cost, or seeing how spells were distributed in classes like Ranger or Superstar (or whatever they were called) always gave me something to look forward to.

Matt

Yeah! I do love how the job systems in DQVI and VII unfold, even if they seem a bit simple. Sometimes, though, simplicity is golden. My only gripe with those games is the sheer number of useless abilities that you learn. If you're looking for three different ways to do uselessly minimal damage to foes, two different ways of building up your power, and a method of summoning stampedes of sheep OR crazed merchants to battle, you'll find them (eventually).

I like Disgaea's Scouts, too, for some reason. As you can see, I really can't make up my mind here. So maybe I'll go with Snipers and Bishops from Fire Emblem (the Sacred Stones and... um, the one that stars Lyn and Co.). Their poses and critical hits make me so happy, too! Love live Rebecca the archer-girl! But since this is question and answer, what's your favourite class from Fire Emblem games only?

-Kharamain

Matt

Ah yes, those are fun. My favourite class from Fire Emblem is probably the Druid, because it's always fun to command the "Dark" magic that enemies always seem to get exclusive rights to. In Fire Emblem, too, not only are Druids hard-hitting, but they're able to do a little bit of healing as well; it's too bad they're so darn slow.

Thanks, Mr. Kharamain!



QUICKIES

How do i get more tiles and a bigger map so i place the stuff I want and not be limited with certain tiles and a big enough map for my idea i'd like to have my map like Final Fantasy 3 but like 3/4 the size of it, help me out!

Matt

What in blazes are you talking about? It sounds like you're making RPGs, but I'll be darned if I'm a mindreader. Open your instruction manual!

Are graphics important to an RPG? Absolutely not. My favorite RPGs are almost exclusively those with 16-bit graphics. Chrono Trigger, FF6, Secret of Mana... I wish someone would make an original RPG with only slightly more-updated sprites than these (SPRITES, not 3D models).

-Adam

Matt

There are some Sprite-based games out there! Consider games such as Disgaea, Atelier Iris, a load of handheld RPGs, and more. I know, I know, "they're not the same..."



IN CLOSING

I must be off for now, but I shall return tomorrow for some more. Keep writing, and I'll keep replying, I promise!

For next time, I'd like to hear what your thoughts are on Final Fantasy X, one of the first great PS2 RPGs. Opinions are varied, and I have mine (stated above), but what do you have to say?

Have a great holiday, everybody.



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Unanswered Letter Backlog: 62 - Plenty



slimey@rpgamer.com
Matt is having post-holiday withdrawal...


I hate letdowns in games, especially after spending a fortune. GRR.

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On my Wishlist:

1. Dragon Quest IX

2. Metroid Prime 3

3. Fire Emblem: Goddess of Dawn

4. Super Smash Bros. Brawl

5. Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker



On my Portable Playlist:

1. Pokémon Diamond

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On my Console Roster:

1. Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess

2. Valkyrie Profile 2: Silmeria

3. Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance



Hot Topics:

1. Final Fantasy X: Your thoughts?

2. Are you an RPG Packrat? (Do you hoard items and then never use them?)

3. How important are graphics and presentation in RPGs?

4. Does game-completion make you happy? Sad? Or something else?

5. Do you associate any early memories with RPGs?



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