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September 18, 2007

Gareth Hughes - 21:02 EST

HELLO TO EVERYONE out there in Q&A Land! I'm back, and flying solo for the first (and probably last) time. This weekend, I finally wrapped up the main quest of Etrian Odyssey. What a unique experience in today's gaming landscape. If you like challenge, you can't go wrong with this game, as it takes the template of the old Wizardry games and modernizes it, meaning difficult, thought-provoking combat, satisfying dungeon exploration and mapping, lots of freedom in party creation, and careful resource management through long expeditions into the dungeon. It has quickly become my favorite DS game so far. Don't listen to Matt's "good-bad game" judgment -- this is a "good-good" game that does everything it sets out to do with a relentlessly old-school approach. The only people that should avoid it are those with short attention spans or who prize characters/story over gameplay (although even there, the story is understated but enjoyable, with a really cool twist later on). Go buy it so they make a sequel. Anyway, enough proselytizing -- on to the letters!

Letter Number One

Yo, Boo.


Yo, nameless person.

Do you know of any good PS2 RPGs upcoming? I'm going through .hack right now, which is the last one I knew of offhand - from my (admittedly somewhat limited) knowledge, it feels like the book is closing. I've mentioned this in this column before, but I find it kind of sad - end of an era and all that, especially since I have one of the earlier PS2s, and picked it up with FF7. I have a DS, so I'm not going to be completely out of the RPG loop, but no other platform has really established itself as the "place to go" as the PS2 did, which makes me nervous (as, again, I've mentioned in letters here before). Although since I dunno when I can afford a new platform, maybe that's good for me.


The last two PS2 games on my radar are Growlanser: Heritage of War and Soul Nomad & The World Eaters. They're both on the tactical end of the RPG spectrum, if your tastes extend in that direction, and Soul Nomad looks deliciously reminiscent of Ogre Battle. The PS2 has had a hell of a "twilight" year following the release of its successor (Rogue Galaxy, Odin Sphere, Grim Grimoire, Persona 3, Wild Arms 5, and probably some others I'm forgetting), but it does seem to be drawing to a close, and there's really nothing exciting after those last two games, which should be out within a week. None of the new systems have managed to stake out a dominant position, and I kind of expect that to continue -- this generation looks like it's going to be much less lopsided than the last two were. The 360 has come the closest so far, with Eternal Sonata getting positive early reviews and Mass Effect looking amazing, but there's definitely no need to rush out and buy any of them. For now, portables are the place to be, and if you're going to be limited to one system for a while, the DS is probably the best choice.

But I seem to remember reading somewhere that PS2s were actually still outselling at least one of the NEW platforms (PS3?), so mebbe there's hope...


Heck, for a while, the PS3 was outsold by the GBA. You're right, though, that the PS2 is still selling quite a bit more than its sibling (202K vs. 130K in August). I would take that as more of an indication that the PS3 is still struggling until it has better games, though, and also that people are buying replacement or extra PS2s. As much as I wish that companies would continue to take advantage of that huge install-base and keep releasing good games, the deafening silence on the release calendar after this month speaks for itself. Anything announced now wouldn't be out until the middle of next year, and I just don't see it happening.

His last hurrah...

The word is that you're back for another go-round, Boojum. Is it true?


It is indeed. This will be it for the time being, though.

First up: I would type a whole lot more regarding the Super Robot Taisen: Original Generation titles for you, but I sent a second letter mostly on that subject to Matt and don't wanna regurgitate the information unless it's absolutely necessary. Besides, you said that they're on your list (if not top priority). Rest assured that those games will keep you going for a very long while.


Once I finish Fire Emblem: Sacred Stones, it'll be a tossup whether I move on to those, or to Yggdra Union for my next TRPG. There are just too many more games than I have time for!

Quick response to a hot topic: currently I have a bit more time to play games than I did during the Back to School rush.. I suspect this will change shortly since already Santa junk is arriving at the store.


Now that I'm out of school and in the working world, my gaming time is equally lacking no matter what time of year it is. Yay for adulthood!

CW took notice at my lack of musical inclusion for his co-hosting, so I'd better not disappoint you! This is a track I've been saving for awhile, and that means I want both yours and Matt's verdicts: What is it for? The 12 leaders of the Ankoku Kyodan in Tengai Makyou IV, and one awesome boss piece. Just picture Hollywood Tycoon Ron Terry using the Silver Screen to guard himself, or Madame Appetit (a pig-woman) eating what appears to be a pork roast and proclaiming Happy Hour (it increases her attack), or Dr. M somehow turning into a robot with a Cadillac as his lower body for the battle, or TV Man using the Telebeam out of his face to attack. I remember all this and more, for the antagonists of that game are quite memorable in their lunacy.


That's a pretty cool kind of electro-gothic hybrid -- reminds me a bit of Castlevania music.

So I just played through Vandal Hearts. Decent enough game, with a number of annoying issues that I just can't easily forgive. Such as this: how the hell do enemy archers get ranges that allow them to pelt me from beyond any reply? A height advantage works in annoying ways here, and they don't benefit me as much as the enemy. Also, when the direction a character is facing matters for defense purposes, being unable to turn after taking an action other than moving is MOST inconvenient. Decent, as I said, but hardly superlative.


Oh, I hate when the rules aren't consistent between you and the opponents. I'm all for challenge, but it should come because of strong, smart, or numerous enemies, not game rules that are slanted against you. Pretty much everything I've heard about Vandal Hearts is that it was a decent enough, 7/10-ish game for its time, but nothing worth tracking down later.

The Tengai Makyou Zero music wasn't working last time, as I recall. Let's try again: is for big boss battles. I stand by Toshiyuki Sasagawa turning in a quite good effort for this game.


That's the same link as the first one in this letter, just going to the Twelve Apostles music. Apparently the fates don't want me listening to this piece.

Currently I've got Elemental Gimmick Gear going. This isn't a game to receive much notice, even when it was new. It's an action-RPG for Dreamcast in the Zelda mold (gain new abilities to access new areas), though considerably less proficient than any given Zelda in its control. See, the main attack method is to punch enemies. Getting the timing correct is quite difficult however, and the punch's range frequently inadequate. Result: lots of hits taken by enemies even when the correct method to defeat them is known. I've seen the Game Over screen at least 40 times and I'm not done. The game does allow continuing on the screen where death occurred, which ameliorates its unpleasantly high kill ratio a bit - unless the same enemy takes you down again. Look forward to a proper review in the near future.


Isn't that the game where some promotional materials just sold for a ridiculous amount?

After some research, no, it's not -- I was thinking of Elemental Gearbolt, which is confusingly similarly-titled -- are they part of the same series?: Link


So what makes this game worth struggling through the imbalanced difficulty? Frustrating controls would drive me away pretty quickly unless the rest of the game had some great redeeming features.

I'm gonna toss out a piece of music from a game I haven't referenced in awhile: Napple Tale isn't without its faults, but Yoko Kanno put quite an interesting score together. That piece is from a fight with a squid which was quite incensed at Arsia calling it a taco (octopus). Dig that Latin rhythm.


Very distinct from the typical style of game soundtracks. Sounds like something you'd hear while sitting by a pool in Mexico.

Another note from Black/Matrix (remember me mentioning it?): in order to lose you must be totally beaten. I only saw Game Over a couple of times, and both times every single character of mine on the field was down. Not necessarily dead (and aside from the core story characters if someone is killed on the field s/he is permanently dead) but down. That required nasty enemy power. Also, the characters who are involved in the story are, for some reason, the ONLY people available for the final battles. I found that odd.


Strange decision (and rather annoying if you've spent a lot of time building up other characters). I remember having that problem in Final Fantasy Tactics Advance -- almost all of the battles let you use whoever you want, but there were a couple where you're limited to your main character. Since the jobs I had developed him with weren't the best-suited for those battles, they were drastically more difficult than the rest of the game.

I was going to make a note on the Tenchi Muyo tactical title, but something tells me the limit is about to be breached. Have fun with this and y'all come back real soon!



Ah, who knows, I haven't been keeping track of the wordcount. Anyway, Tenchi Muyo and Tengai Makyou have similar enough names that keeping them out of the same column is probably for the best. Thanks for writing, but I probably won't be back for a while, now that my stock of hosting positions has been depleted at last.

A bucket o' laughs

What got me into the genre: If you count action RPGs, when I was the tender age of 5, I went over to my boyfriend's house (Yes, I had a boyfriend then. He was 6.) and we played Zelda II together. Later I played Legend of Zelda and StarTropics (actually a pretty good game, and Michael made cross dressing trendy before Cloud ever did.) If you DON'T count the action RPGs, I bought Final Fantasy for $14.99 when I was in 7th or 8th grade while visiting my grandparents on the Gulf Coast for Thanksgiving.


Sure, action-RPGs count. And Zelda II probably has the best claim to RPG-dom out of the series, since it has hit points and levels. StarTropics, along with Crystalis and a few other games on NES, has been forgotten more than it deserves, but I remember it being pretty enjoyable.

What I am looking for: Phoenix Wright: Trials and Tribulations. Godot, you gorgeous, gorgeous hunk of lawyer, I'll be the cream in your coffee. RPG-wise, I'm waiting for Phantom Hourglass, and probably Harvest Moon DS Cute (although that's not coming out until next year...If at all.)


Phantom Hourglass is getting universal acclaim, and it's probably on the most-wanted list of just about everyone visiting this site. The first Phoenix Wright game is still sitting in my backlog -- I really need to get around to that series soon. Looking at upcoming releases is kind of depressing, since there are so many intriguing-looking ones, when there are still games from years ago waiting to be played. Also, the games that are highest on my list require spending more money (Mass Effect requires buying a 360 and Hellgate: London requires substantial computer upgrades).

Longest I've played an RPG in one sitting: I played Lunar Legend an awful lot during the 18 hour flight from Detroit to Osaka. Well, it certainly SEEMED like a long time, and I was certainly sitting. It was the first, and one of the last, times that I would play Lunar Legend. I am not sure how far I got in the game as I've completely blocked it out of my memory due to my irrational fear of magic emperors.



Just remember, magic emperors are more afraid of you than you are of them. Long plane trips are great for gaming. I blew through one of the GBA Castlevanias on my flight to Germany, and on the way back I tried Fire Emblem for the first time and promptly got addicted to it. I think 18 hours edges out my longest gaming marathon -- I had a friend over and we played Secret of Mana co-op from beginning to end, starting around 5 p.m. on Friday and finishing at 10 the next morning. Thanks for writing in, Bucket!

Oh Boojum- you have the honour of greeting a first-timer!

Hello Mr QnA host,

After years of reading the column, i've finally decided to take the plunge.....writing from Scotland, don't know how many RPGfans you get from there, but i feel unique all the same!


Hello yourself, AntonyJ. I can honestly say that as far as I know, this is the first letter from Scotland that I've ever answered. I don't know whether Matt can say the same, but you're unique in my book!

Well, just want to chip in about a few topics of recent times -


Great, chip away!

As far as a gateway into the world of RPGs goes, although i dabbled with Sword of Vermilion and Shining Force as a youngster, i wasn't completely sold on the genre 'til about 95...When i got hold of Suikoden. My Brother and i rented it after long deliberations, and very little knowledge of RPGs, but hell, it took us one hour and we were absolutely besotted with that game. I even rang my brother to fill him in on story points when he was playing at a soccer tournament, it was something of revelation! Everything about that game was new to me (almost) and the soundtrack is spellbinding, so much so that i paid over the odds for a copy......i've beated it at least 10 times, with all of the stars of course. The game had so many original aspects.........oh i love it.


Now that's an unusual gateway RPG. Most people that got started in the PS1 era were sucked in by the media blitz of FF7. Kudos for being different. Suikoden is a series that I've consistently heard good things about, but have never tried myself.

Are there any RPGs you'd pay over the odds for? I was lucky to purchase this game at a market (i had already paid for resident evil directors cut and i had to BEG the stall owner to trade! he declined originally, so i had to look extra worked!) Unfortuantely i lost this copy..........damn that smarts! Now you're looking at at least 60 for it over here. Luckily my copy of the wonderful sequel is intact. As much as the sequel improves on the first, there is always a special place for the orignal. The subsequent sequels, while enjoyable just couldn't rise to the standards of the original two games. Although V came very close.


Ouch, losing a game that you went to so much trouble to get is painful. I don't really think that there are any games that I would pay all that much for. I'm not a collector, and if I want to play an old game, it's probably because I have good memories of it, which probably means that I already have a copy. Honestly, rather than pay a ridiculous amount for old games, I would sooner just emulate them, since the game makers don't get any profit either way, and I feel no obligation to support the secondhand market. I did pay $45 for Disgaea a year or two ago because of its rarity, but I don't think I've ever paid more than the original retail value for a game.

The floodgates truly opened after that and now i have a huge collection of RPGs, even buying an old SNES and getting hold of some old classics, like Chrono Trigger and FFVI.....let me tell you, that was NOT cheap. So just saying that i made that 'entry point' before FFVII.....although that was another revolution in the head for me!


Great! I always look at the SNES as a golden age of RPGs. Good for you for going back and discovering those classics.

Don't you feel kind of stupid for lapping up all of Squares Final Fantasy spino-offs? come on! This will be the 3rd version of FFIV i own when the DS version comes out! But i can't help it........FFIV is one of the shining stars of the series.


My ridiculous backlog actually came to my rescue here. I had been planning to grab FFIV once I had played through a few other RPGs on GBA, but by the time I got around to it, they had announced the enhanced DS version, so I decided to just wait.

see the HARDCORE FFVII fanboys are still calling for that sequel too. The 'hardcore' types are too much for me. I've been trawling the FFVII forums, and i know these people are passionate, but they take things far too far, arguing about minute details, and generally being idiots.. Now, i love FFVII as much as the next man, but can't we just get along? Stop taking life so seriously? I mean, there was a screaming match after someone mentioned that they were going to change the inconsistencies from that pointless anime thing, 'Last Order FFVII' back to the 'real version' depicted in FFVII (ya know, in the original Cloud throws Sephiroth in the Mako pit blah blah, in LO Sephiroth jumps in of his own free will........*cue outrage*) While i prefer the original depiction, the animosity created over which version was the 'real version' is just pathetic.....passionate is good, but OTT game-humping is OTT.......these people thing they're some divine voice over a game because they've cherieshed it for 10 years? well i bought FFVII back in 97, and i think anyone who has played and beaten it, regardless of age and WHEN they beat it, whether it be 1997 or 2007, has the right to a feasible opinion, without being bashed by these idiots who think they're the last word on the topic.


The Internet being full of angry fanboys with an obsession for a particular topic is pretty much a truism of modern life. Life is too short to fixate on the minutiae of one particular game. Just leave them to their forums and ignore them. Fortunately, there are places where a reasonable level of politeness and rational discourse hold sway (like this Q&A column).

That brings to me to my final question - What are your views on said topic?

Thank you,


Oops, jumped the gun there with my response. Thanks for writing in, AntonyJ, and hope to see you in the column in the future.

A little rant...

Just wanted to rant today about the complexity of getting a final weapon, item, skill, or piece of armor in rpgs these days. (all of the following scenarios, and names are made up or mixed up with each other) I believe a straight forward common sense approach to giving the gamer final accessories would be like "Hey, heres this boss, he is friggin strong, you will need to tank your characters before you can beat him but you will get the best stuff from it. Leave it alone for now, and train your butt off." In a way some games do this and is straight forward, but other games take the approach where you literally have to follow hours of steps on gamefaqs to find out to get these items. I personally dont like gamefaqs or walkthroughs because i feel like im cheating or not trying hard enough, but thats not the case because even if you searched around forever you more then likely wont find them on your own. Plus since im a perfectionist in making a perfect file i am virtually forced to use the gamefaq. The following is an example of a more common way to get the final accessories. "First you need to take this feather that you only find from frogs in this forest in the night time, you then bring that feather to the old crone in sumthingville and she gives you a rock, then you go talk to the innkeeper, item shop owner, and weapons guy respectively and a troll will appear on the outer edge of town, who you will give the rock to and he in turn gives you a pile of slime, you take that pile of slime to the dungeon.......etc." which is crazy bull. it does not require strategy or tactics, it requires my patience. thanks for listening to my rant, i hope you found it enjoyable.



No argument here. Any objective in a game should be realistically attainable using clues in the game itself. Hardcore challenges to achieve the best equipment or ending are great, but forcing players to get information from external sources just breaks the logic of the game world and always feels like cheating to me. In these situations, I usually just resign myself to missing out on the absolute best stuff. However, I don't really have any objection to processes that are more involved than just beating a big boss. I'd like some sort of quest/puzzle/interesting challenge to go along with a tough fight. Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne did a neat variant on this where you had to face older bosses and defeat them in a strictly limited number of turns. The convoluted example you gave would be fine with me if there was an in-game justification for it and a reasonable way to discover the necessary clues in the game.

I feel the same way about games that force you to make character development decisions based on incomplete or misleading information. Maybe it's just my roots in pen-and-paper roleplaying, but I always want to have at least a basic understanding of the rules of the game so I can make informed decisions. Thanks for sharing, Phire-Hazard.



And thus ends my reign of terror of (co-)hosting positions accrued from SOCK 1. I hope I've amused you at least a bit. I'll miss doing this every couple of months, but I'm left with a real appreciation of the dedication and time commitment it takes to do it on a daily basis (and I don't even have to do SOCK stuff). I totally understand why Matt is stepping down, and am actually amazed that he's kept it up for two years. Anyway, happy gaming, and may all your hits be crits!

Send a Letter!

Unanswered Letter Backlog: 47 - Do I need to keep track of this number anymore?
Matt is not the host today...

Thanks for the kind words, Boojum. It's been fun having you on-board!

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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/Metroid Original

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. Which "dead" series would you love to see revived?

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4. What announcements are on your wishlist from the Tokyo Game Show?

5. Do you have more or less time to play video games in the fall?

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