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September 5, 2007

Matthew Demers - 21:49 EST

SOMETIMES, I WAKE UP and it feels a lot like I have an eyelash stuck in one eye, even though after an hour of searching and peering in the mirror like an idiot, it's evident that there isn't anything there. Dry eyes, I guess, but today's episode is driving me crazy.

I'm helping to run "Math Survivor" as a Frosh activity at the school today. It should be... interesting. Before then, I hope to answer some of your letters, so let's get started.




LETTERS
The Prodigal Reader


Matt,

My apologies for having slacked off so long about writing in. Since last we spoke, I finished grad school and got a teaching job in History, so fear not. There is a light at the end of the tunnel.

Matt

You're kidding! Right now, it feels like I'm in one of those awful RPG caves featuring infinite loops- you know, where you go through one door and wind up back at the beginning of the room? I once cycled foolishly through one of those four times before I figured out what was going on (in Dragon Warrior III? Not sure). I think I was sleepy.

I guess the best way for me to keep my thoughts from meandering would be to take on the latest questions, so here goes.

RPG-loss stories: Well, one major story comes to mind. The first goes back a few years, when I was playing the first Lufia on. . less-than-legal means that I've since forsaken. At any rate, I didn't have class that day, so I'd devoted some significant time to the game, saving along the way. The problem came when a power blink reset everything in the computer lab. Much to my dismay, I found not only that my game was reset, but also the saves that I had made that day were all wiped out. Ouch.

Matt

Oh damn... why on school computers? A lot of the machines at the U of Guelph are like that- with some idiotic auto-delete function that occurs whenever the computer is rebooted. You know, I could have understood it back in 1995 when computers had 100 MB of hard drive space in total, but today? Really? Get a life. Grr!

Sorry to hear. What a good game, though... I should play it sometime again soon.

Games I'm looking forward to: Given the fact that I only have a PS2, this list isn't all that long. I'll probably avail myself of Rogue Galaxy and Wild Arms 5 eventually, but not until they hop onto the bargain rack.

Matt

And they will, given enough time... once the PS3 finally starts having some games released for it, the PS2 games will start filtering down to cheaper shelves in no time. Give it six or twelve months.

"Hi, I'm Yiazmat, and I have 50 million HP!": I guess this is a more general statement of my policy towards elite-level challenges in games. I'm in favor of them if they're not ridiculous. Yiazmat (FFXII) and the Abyss dungeons in WA3 and ACF are examples of ridiculous challenges. Not only are they prohibitively long and demanding, but they provide relatively little or no reward for the investment (although the Sheriff Star does offer some benefit if you can make it through another poor translation of ACF). The Nebilim battles in the recent Tales games, however, offer the prospect of powerful weaponry if you succeed.

Matt

Yeah... I guess there's that super-old-school idea of "you do it just so that you can say 'I did it,'" but that doesn't really justify me putting in an extra billion hours of leveling up. Some of the other normal marks in the game would have made great extra challenges if they had given any sort of decent reward at all. Way too many times did I come back all excited for defeating something big, only to be offered 1700 Gil and a shitty piece of armor that I've had, unequipped, in my inventory already for the past fifteen hours of gametime. *snarl*

You're right, anyway; some games just give you a better experience than others when it comes to bonus material. I often find it very challenging to get up the energy to bring myself to check out that extra material, though, these days. Again, I could gripe about limited time and the awful life of a programming slave/graduate student, but you've heard it all from me about seventy-six times already.

Game glitches: The story on this one relates to one of the games on your list: Valkyrie Profile 2. As I played through the game, I found myself put off by a number of factors, but a major glitch made the game nearly unbearable. When I hit the middle and later stages of the game, cutscenes immediately following major boss battles refused to play. I could skip past them to resume game movement, but it did leave out major plot points that were difficult to divine through dialogue.

Matt

Ew, really?? That's not right- you must have had a faulty disc, somehow. I know, I'm having difficulty staying with the game too, though now that I understand the battle system (no thanks to the not-that-helpful tutorial), I'm looking forward to giving it a better shot. I can't believe I left my memory card at home- arghhhhh.

Best endings: A few come to mind. I've always enjoyed the ending to FFVI, but the fact that it's my favorite Final Fantasy probably biases that somewhat. Xenosaga III offered a poignant ending that still left the door wide open enough for fans to hope for more in the future. I also enjoyed Dragon Quest's (first) ending, if for no other reason than it was not the end!

Matt

How could you not like any of those endings? Final Fantasy VI's is so epic-feeling, and really nicely artistic for an SNES game, both artistically and musically. I still think that my favourite Final Fantasy ending, however, is either that of FFVIII or IX, even though they aren't my favourite games of the series. I found both to be rather emotional, strangely. I'm not really that sappy of a guy, to be honest, but there were moments in FFVIII's where I just felt as lonely and afraid as Squall... and moments in FFIX's ending where I couldn't help but smile.

*looks over the letter* Sheesh, looks like I've made up for lost time here. Well, I hope I can write in more regularly, and if that does happen, I'll try to tone them down in the future.

Sincerely,
Eric McLendon

Matt

Not to worry, Eric- it's just good to hear from you again. Thanks for the letter, of course!



Gambit systems other than that of FFXII and suicidal summoning: Yes, it's Persona 3!


I heard quite a few people complaining about the Allied AI in Persona 3; something about characters making stupid decisions. The great thing about the game is the further you go into it, the less you can blame the AI. There's a system in place that allows you to suggest moves for your partners. Let's call this system "The Gambit System". I just made that up.

Matt

Right! I just heard about this the other day- I hadn't realized that you only control your main character. It took me by surprise, but not necessarily in a negative way. One of my favourite RPGs of all time is Dragon Warrior IV, and you never touch any character besides the hero for most of the game. Anyway, continue.

On the main character's turn, you can set a "gambit" for each of the other characters. Then, when their turn comes around, they will follow the gambit you have set. At first, your choices are simple: Attack, Heal/Support, Wait. But, as you defeat bosses, more options are given to you. You can have them conserve SP (Magic Points), or have them attack the same enemy you do, or, my personal favorite, have them focus on knocking enemies down. And if your gambit no longer applies (Say, the enemy you targeted just died), they will instead do their normal attack, rather than flailing wildly at the air. I'm approaching the halfway point of the game, and there are very few times my comrades make stupid moves.. And when they do, it's generally my fault. I should have told them to do something different.

Matt

That's definitely an original idea. It sounds like it could work well, though I immediately worry that there would be times where you toil away to defeat a boss and obtain a "gambit" that would have been very, very useful three fights ago. One of the main reasons that I thought FFXII's gambit system was flawed was because the options weren't automatically available for you from the beginning (and that they were way too confining). This is slightly different, of course, since each gambit obviously covers a range of different possible moves. It could work (and it sounds like it does).

The best parts of the game, though, are all the different Personas. It's got a real "Gotta catch em all" feel to it; except instead of cute, fuzzy little pets, you're collecting mythical beasts and beings from religions around the world. And, instead of tossing a ball to summon your friends, you shoot yourself in the head. Well, pretend to. Either way, it's definitely more dramatic.

Matt

Ohhhho, so the name "Persona" actually has something to do with the game? Wacky. Yeah, the shooting in the head thing was a little intense for poor me. Hahaha, I think that the demo-guy at E3 2006 must have thought that I was a complete wuss when my eyes widened in shock upon witnessing the means of summoning. Weak stomach.

It's certainly the best new game I've played so far this year. We'll have to see how the last third of the year plays out. Right now, the only games that seem to have a chance to surpass it are Phantom Hourglass (of course) and Soul Nomad & the World Eaters (NIS does Ogre Battle, please oh please oh please oh please be good).

-MrMSTy

Matt

It sounds good. A lot of people have waited a long, long time for this game, too, so I'm glad that it's delivering! It might be good Christmas list material; can you believe it's almost that time of year?

As for your other upcoming games, I've heard that Zelda: Phantom Hourglass is the best thing ever. I don't know how this can possibly be, given the sheer number of Zeldas that have been released by this point, but I'm still optimistic. As for NIS's new game? I'm not quite as optimistic as you are, and I hate to trounce your hopes... but don't you feel like every single NIS tactical RPG has felt more or less identical to the one before it? I have difficulties believing that this one will shake up the formula, but you never know.

Merci, Monsieur.



This paragraph makes my eyes cross.


HmmmI haven't written in for over a year so thought i'd give it a go. About sexuality in videogames i really think sony is really dropping the ball on this one. One reason final fantasy was not so eager to stick with nintendo was censor-ship. Also one of the selling points of their console is the more mature games. And how two of their flagship series GoW and GTA have sex mini-games. Factor in how the new Manhunt game [which is now mature] has some scenes which are far more hard-core then anything ever released in way of violence. But on the flip-side I'm highly worried if this does become true in which nudity is in Rpgs, maybe it would get more pigeonholed. Such as shun more mainstream gamers to rpg games. To many it is still a hard for core gamers to pick up an rpg, and if many start to feature this sorta material it might be a sliding slope to the J-dating sims. Basically it would be nice to not have them remove scenes ala Xenosaga 1 but not get into the explict games out in the market. Actually about Xenosaga it is rumoured that Kos-mos might be playable in some other games, becuase they have a great pre-made world, a core-base and throw in some hack and slash action - rpg. You might have a great game, hell she was playable in Soul Caliber 4. Any other character who would be good in a non-rpg format to draw gamers into its series? You also brought up madkatz controllers do you even reccomend them for a very casual gamer for the gamecube?

Matt

Granted, Nintendo was a crazy-crazy censoring machine for awhile- nothing like Sony today. Let's not forget, also, that it isn't just Sony that is choosing to keep out the AO-rated games; it's all three of the big consoles, so they aren't out in left field on this issue by any means. It is, however, a little annoying when we can't play games as they were originally intended to be played, like in the Xenosaga example that you gave me. Those scenes were there for a purpose. Sure, they could be shocking or "high-impact" on some emotional level, but that's the whole idea. If Albedo does something disturbing, that gives the player a reason to not like the guy besides the fact that he laughs maniacally. When the game is tailored to ensure that it's nice and devoid of all the badness, the game suffers.

With regards to nudity and slippery slopes leading to the pit of dubious dating games, I don't think we have to worry about that anytime in the near future. Nudity is so uncommon in RPGs as it is, and I don't think that the western world would lap up those dating sims at all; at least not at this stage of the game.

There are lots of rumours about Xenosaga and such, but right now, nothing is official, confirmed, or anything close to it. KOS-MOS, though, being a wickedly cool character, deserves to be in another game, somehow. All in all, though, I'm not a HUGE fan of the crossover games, even though a 2-D platformer starring someone like Laharl would probably be hilariously funny.

Oh, and just say no to Madkatz controllers. "Save $20, with a 50% chance of shortening your system's lifespan!" Yes, that would be a good motto for them. I've told this story before, but I had a Madkatz controller once when I was really young. That year, however, NES games became almost unplayable, as snow obscured the screen incredibly. I had waited for YEARS to play Dragon Warrior IV, and I found myself unable to do so. One day, however, I tried to correct the issue without success. In complete frustration, I yelled something like "this useless damn thing!" and ripped the controllers out of their sockets, only to have the screen blink on, all crystal clear and perfect. I discovered with shock that it had been the non-Nintendo controller that had been the culprit all along.

Moral of the story? Don't trust 'em. It isn't worth it.

I absolutely loved that bio idea be kinda cool if more people adopted once to get to know some peoples taste abit more.

Matt

Yeah, it was fun. It's somehow amusing to think of everyone beginning their letters with:

Matthew Demers

Age: 24
Height: 6'0
Hair Color: Brown
Favourite Series: Dragon Quest
Preferred Pasta Type: Farfalle
...

Cet humour, I'd say at home (it's the Demers dialect).

One last question which is your most wanted game on the 360? wii? ps3? Ds? And lastly Psp?

Cheers Daniel.

Matt

Oh man. The 360? It was Blue Dragon, until I heard that it was rather unfantastic in the end. I'd say Eternal Sonata. For the Wii, I'm dying to play the new Fire Emblem, which apparently won't be called Goddess of Dawn in North America after all. The ONLY game that I really want to play for the PS3 is Final Fantasy XIII, though that's based purely upon the one trailer that we've become familiar with over the past eighteen months. For the DS, the answer is Dragon Quest IX, pure and simple, though there are several other games that I'm anticipating with excitement. And for the PSP, I've heard good things about Brave Story, but at the same time, those new screens for Crisis Core display a surprisingly exciting Zack. Hmm, hmm. I almost want one of the little handhelds, dammit.

Thanks for writing in, Daniel!



A letter from my weekend confrere.


Hi Matt,

I think I forgot to say that full actions in DDS games use half turns whenever they are available, but if it were to hit a weakness, you would turn a second turn into a half turn (so you can have 3 half turns if you do it right).

Matt

Yes, that sounds right. I've had a few little clarification-style letters about this now.

About the sex thing... The new Conan game has sexual buffs. In other words, by getting laid you get stronger for a set period of time. I can't imagine how many pre-teens and teens will jump all over this aspect of the game. I swear—The more mature the game, the less mature the players.

Matt

Heh, it's true. We were all that immature at one point, though- who among us haven't said or at least thought "HAHAHAHA! ...He said 'penis'!" back in our grade school years, at some point or another? It's a coming-of-age thing.

My definition of hard: Not only do the bosses kill you, but so can regular encounters. Even if prepared. Games are "unfair" if the boss has a randomly used attack that can pretty much wipe the party out in one hit (think Big Bang from FFIV, unless you leveled like mad), or just a party-hitting instant death attack. Games that are hard to pick up are "unplayable", "infuriating", "stupid" or "annoying". "Unenjoyable" also works. I am not a challenge seeker like Matt, but I do like knowing there is a little bit of a risk involved. As good as Brave Story is, it is on the "easy" side.

Matt

That's not a bad definition, actually, though it fails to cover many of today's games- when is the last time that you played a game where you were really, truly threatened by regular encounters? I think that other than this completely-off-in-left-field Etrian Odyssey that I'm playing right now, I don't think I've played a single one in the past year. (OK, there were a very few tough "regular" battles in Xenosaga III, but, I don't count that.)

It's a rare and dying breed, I'm afraid.

I agree, though, games that are difficult are of a very different breed than games that are inherently tough to stay interested in.

I did the same thing as you with Dragon Warrior III. I rented it like 15 times as a kid. I got like 90% of the way through the game and then had to bring it back because we were going away for a weekend. I returned to the store the next chance I had... and my game was gone. Replaced by a party of dead level 1s with names like: "Dude", "****", "You" and "Haha". I was pissed. I begged the store to just sell me the game (no other place had it at all), and they refused. I never did get back into it until the GBC version was released.

Matt

The most hilarious thing is that the store almost certainly would have made a ton more money from selling it to you than they made by continuing to rent the game out. Imbeciles!

What I can't stand about video game rental places lately is the shocking price. Video games, as most people know, are a lot cheaper now than they used to be ten or fifteen years ago. Why, then, does it now cost three times as much to rent them? I refuse, Blockbuster, to give you $10 to rent a game that I could buy for $40. Sorry, no business from me, bye bye.

Sorry about the tangent, I just have to vent my steam every now and then, like a intensely pressurized kettle, except without the ear-piercing whistle.

I don't have anything constructive to say in response to your hot topics, so I will just wrap it all up here. Have a great day, Matt! May you be primed for a third Metroid soon!

Regards,

Sean

Matt

Primed I am! I've played the first little bit, but I'm not sure that I like the new setup... the camera is more than a little bit dizzymaking than it used to be, and I wound up with a headache after playing for just a couple of hours. (It could have been a headache due to something else, but it made playing the game highly unpleasant.)

Thanks Sean... May people send you a ton of letters for the weekend!



A bug-lover's dream.


Matt, glitches generally don't affect your game unless they're "Crash" glitches, which of course will end your game whether you like it or not. I think glitches are fun. I enjoyed watching the FF6 (FF3 US) speed run on speeddemosarchive.com. The guy uses basically every glitch in the game to win in the fastest time possible.

Matt

Oh, I'm aware of that now, but as a young and naive thirteen-year-old, it was a bit of a different story!

It's funny how glitchy Final Fantasy VI is in general- there are several places online that you can find exhaustive lists of FFVI's bugs, and if you haven't seen one before, let me warn you: Those lists are very, very long. I think that the game attempted to include a ton of new and complex ideas, especially with regards to the battle system. In doing so, though, a lot of things went overlooked.

There is a glitch in South Figaro - When the story splits into the 3 scenarios, during Locke's scenario, you can go right and up from the starting point (When the guard's back is turned). When he's about to turn around, enter the menu. When you exit the menu, you will be past the guard. You can complete the scenario without recruiting Celes. (Applies to SNES version only). She gets replaced with one of the moogles from Locke's scenario. Check out this Youtube video for an example of it.

Matt

Now THAT's a glitch that I've never heard of! Wow. How funny... and almost embarrassing. But the link you gave me is, I think, one of the Psycho Cyan one that you're about to describe to me. I'm sure it's somewhere on Youtube, though... I've got to try this one day.

I like the "Vanish/Doom" glitch. For readers not familiar, Vanish is a spell that makes the target vulnerable to magic, but immune to physical attacks. If you use Vanish on someone, any spell targeting them will always hit. Doom is the FF6 instant death spell. Needless to say, it's an extremely deadly combination, and works on most bosses.

Matt

Yeah, it's true. Sadly. I'm not a fan of that one, and I've never taken advantage of it. They apparently removed it from the GBA remake, though, so it definitely wasn't meant to be there in the first place.

Another not-so-well known glitch is the "Psycho Cyan" glitch. See this Youtube video for details. Under certain circumstances, Cyan will begin attacking the enemies endlessly. He won't stop until all are defeated. How they ever figured this out is beyond me.

Hope you enjoyed that bit of nostalgia.
Flamethrower

Matt

Heh heh- absolutely, Flamethrower! As I mentioned, there are -plenty- of things that are messed up with that game, but despite them all, it remains a masterpiece. Thanks for the links and the letter!



QUICKIES

Hey Matt!

With any luck, Persona 3, and Generation of Chaos, and FFXII: RW should get me through to 2008. This is, of course, assuming I *have* any spare time this semester.

Carabbit

Matt

Sounds like a decent selection. And, I hear ya. I find it useful to reserve a certain block of time per day for gaming, myself- that's the strategy I used last fall, anyway.

Have you ever played Breath of Fire II? Is it worth a VC download?

- Sundoulos

Matt

Yep! And for 800 Wii Points, why not? It's so chock-full of RPG stereotypes, the least of which is a terrible, terrible translation. However, there's something slightly charming about the package, and the game is strangely epic, in a way. Let me know what happens!



IN CLOSING

Okay- I'm off to do Math Survivor. I really have no idea what is involved, and it is likely that approximately four students will show up in total. Hum, hum.

I'm suddenly having difficulties coming up with a new hot topic. What should we focus our attention towards now? I don't even know if I want a serious or a light-hearted topic. Grr. So I'm going to ask this: What are your favourite types of topics to talk about in Q&A? Serious, light-hearted, or a mix? I try to change gears every now and then, but I have never really asked for reader input before. So, here's your chance! What do you want this column to focus on?

I'll be back tomorrow as usual!



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Matt hopes that no one asks him to act like Jeff Probst...


Then, when I return, I shall finish the day in Sock 2, do some programming, and then play a GAME!

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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/VC Playlist:

1. Etrian Odyssey

2. Shining Force

3. The Legend of Zelda (NES)



On my Console Roster:

1. Metroid Prime 3

2. Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance/Valkyrie Profile 2(?)

3. Tales of Symphonia



Hot Topics:

1. Have any blackout/fire/flood-related RPG-loss stories to share?

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4. How badly do game glitches affect the RPGs you've played?

5. Which RPGs have the best endings?



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