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August 9, 2007

Matt Demers - 21:06 EST

OH MY GOD, 7:00 am and me do not mix. That's about all I have to say. Oh, except that CW will be cohosting tomorrow, so send him stuff- or wish you had after the fact.

Details, details, details.

I'll agree with the Jonezy's opinion that we've grown a bit jaded and used to the typical epic storylines of RPGs. Sometimes, I've really struggled with that been-there, done-that feeling when I try new games within a series.

To go along with Jonezy's discussion of perspective, I'll mention a pet peeve of mine. I've always been annoyed by games that allowed you to travel the whole world too quickly within the game. In games like Xenosaga, or Rogue Galaxy, it can make sense, because the technology makes sense in the context of the game world. Even in fantasy games like DQVIII, I liked the methods of world travel because it made sense within the context of that game; I also feel that it wasn't overused. As a side note, one of the things I've always appreciated about DQ was that when I was able to travel to a new town on foot, I felt I had "earned" the right to use the teleportation spell to take me there.


Part of the reason that I love RPGs is because I love exploring. For example, in Final Fantasy X-2, the world is not only one that is familiar to you, but one where you can go basically anywhere right from the start. It just doesn't do it for me, somehow, you know? I love the feeling of being able to hesitantly explore into a new uncharted realm, hoping to survive the new, unfamiliar monsters and terrain. It's like I'm being Champlain or [insert your favourite explorer] except with experience levels, hit points, and fire spells.

It's not that I'm against airships or instant transportation, but I think that sometimes they make things a little too easy or seem too small. Most recently, in my play through Tales of the Abyss, I was annoyed by the constant backtracking and fetch quests between towns you've already visited. "Oh, remember the scientist you met 5 hours ago? Go to this town, talk to him, go to the castle and talk to the king, and then see old George in this town to progress the plot...blah, blah, blah." It was used way too often in that game, and the use of the airship, while convenient, just really made the world seem that much smaller. It just grates on me when you can travel across a gaming world within a couple of minutes multiple times within the cheaply.


Ah, the time-extending fetch quests. I guess having the airship is a bit of a double-edged sword, in a sense. Imagine what the IGN, etc reviewers would DO to the game if those fetch quests were present without an airship! I can see it now: "It takes excruciating amounts of time to go back and forth, since I have the attention span of a hamster on speed. 3 out of 10! Now let me review something non-RPGish."

I'm dating myself here, but one of my favorite series in the 90s was Quest For Glory. Because of the limitations of the PCs back then, the individual games weren't really that large, but it still seemed like you were a part of a larger world as a whole. Each game featured a new realm with unique characters, history, mythos, and architectures. There was no around-the-world travel in each game, but I felt completely immersed in the experience.


Oh, it's the same with me and King's Quest. The worlds weren't that big at all; they just seemed enormously vast because of the nature of the game and the sheer number of things to do and find, integrated all throughout and ready for you to discover. I always wanted to play Quest for Glory- I'd see ads for it in Sierra's magazine- but I don't think that my family's Tandy 1000 had the juice.

I suppose that this is a complaint of mine because I'm most drawn to games that have a large sense of history and culture. My favorite RPGs have always been those that seem to have a vast sweeping history, one that seems to be a lot larger than the game itself. I suppose this is why I've always liked novels like the Lord of the Rings trilogy as well. It's fun to theorize or write about other events that might have happened in that world that you might never see in a game or a book.



Yes, these are the games where decent fanfics are born. These theoretical historical events in imaginary worlds you speak of- these are the things that can make a game feel really immersive. Take the Xenosaga series- there is SO much care put into the historical entries in the database, it can completely swallow you for massive amounts of time. I lost many hours just reading the entries in XSIII's database, reading about past events that aren't in the game, historical-figure-characters that never appear in the game, and so on. It's fascinating. This back/extrastory is actually one of the things Star Ocean 3 did really well too. I found it to be really funky to sift through that game's version of a database, reading about this race and that, these planets and those, and so on. Things like those make RPG settings more realistic, but they also show that the people behind the game really love what they do.

I wish I was one of those people...

Anyway, thanks much Sundoulos!

Today's FFXII rant!

All right Matt I see what you mean by the plot. I've sort of bulldozed my way through the game and am now facing down the end. The entire reason for this is that I have not bothered to do any sidequests or, rather, anything extra (not even hunts, really) because FFXII has starved me for character interaction. Every time I pick up the controller, I have a choice: go fight something and get some random lines out of an NPC or go through the plot and get some actually interesting dialogue from the characters.


Yeah. I have to say, too, that while the translation is absolutely remarkable, lending great credibility to the setting, it gets a bit draining to read through NPC dialogue after awhile. More or less, I found that most people "sound the same" in a certain respect, and really, I can only take the quaint, hippity-hoppity conversation in small doses. Do you know what I mean?

Also, I felt a little bit stupid, but some of the flowery language during the cutscenes made me feel really confused as to what was actually happening at a few times. Where, exactly, I don't remember- but I found that my mind just tuned out the language every so often, the cutscene would end, and I'd be like "okayyyy, so, what just happened again?"

That said, most of the character dialogue was really great, and the voice acting is about forty-six times better than that of Final Fantasy X. I kind of liked how some characters (Vaan and Penelo, for example) would be playing in the background during more serious conversations- that sort of thing would have helped Final Fantasy X's cutscenes immensely, rinsing them of their artificial smell.

I mean, I like the cast of FFXII. It's not like FFX at all where I just wanted to stab them all in the face (except for Auron.) Penelo and Vaan are way cute (although some of their more entertaining interactions are pushed into the background so I have to tune out whomever happens to be speaking in the foreground.) Basch is great, but he practically disappears for half the game. If he wasn't constantly in my battle party I would have forgotten he was there. Balthier is a gem of a personality who doesn't get enough lines (okay, the whole cast doesn't get enough lines.) I like Ashe's character a lot, I just don't like the fact that half of her dialogue is gasps. Fran, like Basch, sort of went by the wayside except she would actually pop into the plot to provide some bizarre piece of information. Not enough Larsa. Not *nearly* enough Dr. Cid.


Not enough villain on the whole, Cara. Seriously, for most of the game, there are these 'bad guys' who are sort of doing their thing, but really not influencing anything you're doing. You do your own thing, collecting this and that, until finally, you meet up with a bad guy who cares during the last couple of areas. It's completely opposite from FFX, where Seymour was always in your face and Sin was always a threat. It's different from FFIX, where Kuja is a scary, enigmatic figure with a sort of personal vendetta against you. It's different from FFVI and VII, where Kefka and Sephiroth, respectively, are the primary focus of much of the game(s)! I miss a good villain. Perhaps FFXIII will give us one.

I am hoping beyond hope that the li'l DS sequel will fix some of this.


Oh, me too. It looks like a load of fun, though I've heard there are a few control issues. Let's hope they're paved out before we see a North American release.

You have got to tell me if there are actually any sidequests/extra stuff that actually adds to the plot/characters.



Not a one, I'm afraid. At least, there were none that I found. And when I say none, I mean none. I'm pretty sure that what you see is what you get in this game, and that's one other place where many different people have issues with FFXII.

One way or another, you'll have to tell me what you think, as you get to the end!

RPGs... they just aren't what they used to be.

Dear Matt,

With Persona 3 merely days away from release, I thought I'd ask you this question: What RPGs do you consider the most thought-provoking? P3 has really gotten me into the habit of examining and contemplating the soul, as well as morality, and whither or not there is such a thing as fate. I can't remember a game in recent years that has caused me to ponder such broad subjects. What say you? And why do I have this feeling of Deja-vu...?



I seem to remember Chrono Cross trying its darnedest to make me ponder reality, but I just didn't care enough. Honestly, I don't know how many games have managed to pull this off with me. My first instinct is to say "Xenosaga" but that's not really true- just because a game has a little bit of philosophy and I liked it doesn't mean that it has affected me in such a way.

I think that the PS1 Final Fantasy games, actually, are the most recent games to make me think about things. The whole of FFVII really inspired me in so many different ways. I felt like I could identify with Cloud, strangely, since he spent the game wrestling with the fact that he was living his life based on a lie. I remember the scene near the end of the game, where he looks back into the past with Tifa and remembers the other kids who teased him and excluded him. When I played FFVII for the first time, I was a closeted gay guy who spent his life being pushed around and teased at high school by people who I called "my friends" simply because I didn't really have anybody else. In some ways, I had a lot in common with Cloud. Final Fantasy VII was also inspiring in other ways- the doom and gloom towards the end of the game really made me think about what I'd do- or what humanity would do- if our world was truly about to end. That day might come. It's fascinating, and a bit scary, to think about.

Final Fantasy VIII and IX dug into me in other ways, but mostly because of the ending movie sequences of each. I'll spare you the long, drawn out stories, but VIII made me think a lot about friendships and loneliness, while FFIX made me think a lot about life in general- and how we should enjoy it while it lasts. Vivi's letter at the end is just so... something.

It seems that these themes are what is missing from new FF games, though. Can I really look back on FFX or XII and say that they really impacted me emotionally? Honestly, I can't. Even though I had so many issues with FFIX (and to a lesser extent VIII and VII), the games hit me on really a different level than any FF game since. Am I alone here?

Thanks, Donovan! This might be hot-topic-worthy.

A not quite impossi-question.

I was very amused to read about the Dragon Quest announcement, knowing your probable reaction. :)

But there's a thought that struck me: if it weren't for the enhanced graphics, we might've been able to get all six NES games onto the one DS chip. Would that have been worth it, you think? I believe it might've been - after all, who has access to the old GBC remakes, compared to the potential audience who'd want to see a bit of the past? Not that I'm saying that better graphics and such doesn't have an advantage, especially since this is the first time two of the games will ever be played in the U.S., but it does make me think.

Which would you rather have: all the games, or better bells and whistles?


Ah- first of all, the originals were actually split between the NES and the SNES (or Super Famicom, to be more precise); DQV and VI were originally for the SFC.

Regardless, they could have probably all fit anyway, so how do I feel? It's hard to ssay. I'm elated by the fact that I might get to play official translations of V and VI at long last, but to see them get the royal treatment, remade graphics, better-quality music... yeah, this is a dream. I'd be happy to get them in their original forms, but I'm so pumped to see what they'll do with the remakes that I think I'm even more excited this way.

I really, really hope that they do well here. I'll get chills if I see a TV commercial, I swear.

Too scared to taste...

Hi Matt

I will admit that I am afraid to try Fire Emblem. From what I gather, the series is a combo RPG/RTS/Strategy, and I play all these genres. Im pretty close to picking one up which one should I start with (I have the hardware to play them all)?



Ah, man. I was exactly you about fourteen months ago. I really love tactical RPGs, yet for some reason, because of the screenshots I'd seen and the rumours I'd heard, I'd never given the games a chance.

So, if you're interested, I suggest to you what I did: Start with The Sacred Stones. If you don't like it, then oh well... you tried! If you DO like it, then the other Game Boy Advance one will seem even better by the time you get to play it. The Gamecube one is a bit different, but many people think it's the best of the three.

The games are delightful, and delightfully unique, so I hope that you can find an appreciation for them! I gave them a chance last year, finally, and discovered a series that is now one of my very favourite.


I just now got up to the part of Rocket Slime that has the Dragon Quest VIII influence, which I'm guess is what you were hinting at :).



No no- I was talking about the Tank Battles, mostly. They're just awesome, and right when you think they're going to get boring, they get even funner. At least I found that, anyway.


Sooo sleepy! I had a nap in there, which means this column will be going up a little bit later than I wanted it to. Grr.

Okay, well, I spilled my guts above, and now it's my turn to ask you: Which RPGs have turned you into a philosophical basketcase? Which games have you played that have inspired you to reach into your very soul and ask questions about yourself, your feelings, or the world around you?

One more will round out this week. Thanks for tuning in!

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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

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2. Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance

3. Tales of Symphonia

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1. Have there been any "epic" RPGs lately? Is FFXII epic? Why or why not?

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5. Which games have really touched you inappropriately emotionally?

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