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September 25, 2007

Matt Demers - 24:19 EST

AHAHA! This is the day! The day that the Halo 3 buzz crests and starts to slowly fade away! Across the continent, thousands of fanboys have hooked themselves up to Mountain Dew IVs in order to blow through the game in the shortest time possible. I say let 'em.

The weekend was interesting for me. I didn't do much in the way of RPGaming, but I did play a lot of Metroid Prime 3, which is turning out to be a very great game... though in the same grain as the other MP games, it's a little too linear for Metroid. Eh, can't win 'em all.

Also, I came within a hair's breadth of impulse-buying a PSP or an Xbox 360. Why? I don't know. There are a few games that I really want to try. Then, I reminded myself that I have about a dozen games left that I need to play through still, and the feeling subsided. When will I break down? When will a new console controller be in my hands?

Eh, if it happens before I'm done here, I'm sure you'll know about it. For now, let's start off a brand new week with these specially-selected letters!

First letter of the week! That's worth a brand new- oops, I'm not Sean.

Hey Matt, it's Arpijy. My usual email address seems to be broken or something, so until someone can figure out what's wrong with it, you can send all the SOCK stuff you need to send me to this email address that completely gives away my real name. Bet you feel like you know me a little better now, don't you?


Like the back of my hand, Arpijy! Though, I'd guess you're less veiny.

Alright, actual question. I just finished Yggdra Union a few days ago, which I might add is an awesome game, one that I'd recommend to anyone that can actually find it. My experience with the game as far as the challenge goes was...well, a bit varied. Sometimes I got through multiple battlefields at a time with no trouble whatsoever, but there were some segments where I was stuck on for weeks at a time. Does that ever bother you, when the level of challenge is so inconsistent like that? And furthermore...the end of the game I really had no trouble, and the final boss, while not exactly a pushover, wasn't especially hard either. Don't you think you should really have to push to actually finish the game like that?


Yes. Well, being a challenge-lover myself, I really appreciate when a game curves smoothly from being simple at the start to being truly tough by the end. Few games achieve this, but I find that tactical RPGs are most prone to the "problems" like the ones you describe. When I played Final Fantasy Tactics for the first time, I found that it went from frustratingly difficult to not-too-bad from level to level. Of course, once you get to Orlandu, all bets are off and the game becomes brokenly easy. So, it's the same sort of thing. Nippon Ichi tRPGs are even worse here- the battles are either a) impossible or b) so trivial that you blast over your enemies like so many bowling pins. There are very few in-the-middle challenges, I find.

But yes, I'm straying from your question. I like the difficult final challenges, and I really like it when games make small leaps in difficulty at places in the storyline where it makes sense to (like before big bosses or final battles).

I'll contribute to a few of your hot topics too. I never really did the whole marathon gaming session thing much...I'd play for an hour or two, take a break to check on other things, then maybe come back, especially if I got something new and really liked it. I did, however, challenge myself to finish all of Lost Kingdoms in one sitting (anyone remember that one?), but granted, it's only about 6 to 8 hours to begin with.


That was that card-battle Gamecube game that a few people loved but most other people gave a profound, collective "meh" to, right? I never played it, but back near the beginning of my Q&A stretch, I got a few questions on the game. Too bad, though- six to eight hours is way too short for any game, much less an RPG.

On the plus side, I do have more time to play games in the fall, though it has nothing to do with the season; instead, it's because I moved, and instead of living about an hour from work, I live 15 minutes away instead. Guess where I'm spending the time I save on my commute?


Wow, you bet. That's an hour and a half per day! Seven and a half hours per week! Seven and a half hours... times... fifty two... per year! Yeah, I'm a math major, but that doesn't make me a calculator.

Think I'll stop here for tonight. Take it easy! -- Arpijy, or whatever you guys want to call me


Hehe, we'll keep it at "Arpijy" for now. Thanks for the letter, Tom. Oops. Arpijy. ;)

Sag-a Frontier

Hey Matt!

Does mistaking Saga Frontier for a potentially interesting game count as a misconception? I swear, I couldn't drag myself through any of the stories in that game. I've got it on my shelf to remind me not to complain about any other game, because it could be worse. A reminder that I ignore regularly, recently on Shadow Hearts: From the New World. But in the back of my head I remember: It could be worse...




Yikes, that bad? Another game that I've never played, but definitely one that made more a "plip" than a "splash" in the industry. It's interesting how we all have our own unique (almost unique, anyway) least-favourite games. I have this one where...

Actually, what a fantastic hot topic that I can't believe I've never asked before. Thanks for inspiring me. I'll tell my story tomorrow, perhaps.

Another Persona 3 Report

Konbanwa, Matt-san!

I'd like to apologize for my long absence in writing, but as usual, things are busy! But since one of my major distractions happens to be a game mentioned frequently on the Q&A, I might as well share my thoughts.


Blah, don't apologize. You've been a regular since the start, and I'm just glad that after all this time, you're still putting up with me and my ways.

So, Persona 3. I could list out the various elements included in the game, but that really doesn't add up to the whole picture. Synergy is the name of the game's presentation, in many ways. To do a quick sum-up:

Music: Great score, lots of jazz and techno influence, and I can recognize a lot of snippets from earlier Persona and Devil Summoner games. The vocals don't get in the way at all, at least for me.


Par for the course! According to my brother, at least, the other SMT games have great music too. He's sent me some things, too, and I agree.

Voice-acting: Um, for reasons which should be pretty obvious, I am not in position to comment on the English voice acting ^_^


Kanarazuya, waga mafin odorokubeki nicchuukan.

Yeah, I probably said something substantially wrong or nonsensical there.

Casting: The characters, playable and NPC, make up one of the best ensemble casts I have ever seen. The Social Link setup provides a huge amount of (largely unnecessary) character-building, but keeps you interested in what happens next to each person you meet.


Sounds nifty.

Pacing: P3 has an interesting situation when it comes to pacing. Its main dungeon is essentially a randomized dungeon crawler, which in many games can lead to storming as many levels as possible as fast as you can, but it's tied to a strict calendar of events with space to do a certain amount of stuff a day. So we have built-in limitations and challenges to make sure parties can't advance up the tower faster than can fit in the story. There are literally a score of benchmark bosses every 10 to 15 levels, and there are breaks where you cannot go farther until the monthly main scenario has played out. At the same time, there's a gal who offers quests to encourage you to scour each available area and make sure your levels are high enough to survive the monthly scenarios.


Oh- what now? This was unexpected. I didn't really think about it much, but I'm a little bit surprised at this aspect that makes the game sound way more dungeon-crawlery than I'd have thought. I don't know if it's a bad thing, necessarily, though I generally am not a fan of the randomly-generated dungeon schemes.

A.I.: I remember you talking about Dragon Quest IV one time, which had a similar play concept, and about how one character kept trying to use a death spell on the final boss. Things are much improved in this game. For this, I should give an example.

I was up against one of the benchmark bosses about mid-way up Tartaros, the main level, and like all the boss fights, the scanning option doesn't reveal strengths or weaknesses. As it turned out, it absorbed fire, countered all slash attacks, and was immune to death spells. For one of my current characters, that was all he had. I watched as he tried every single attack skill he tried.... once, and once only. I could see the cogs turning as the character marked each skill off the list, eventually settling into defending every turn, and occasionally tossing healing items at other members.


Now, that is funky, I have to admit. It makes them seem like they have little brains of their own. It's kind of creepy, in a way, but very cool. I understand that you do have the ability to change your characters and/or strategies though, correct? AI isn't a terrible thing if you still manage to have a little bit of influence over things.

In short, as soon as a defense or weakness is ID'ed for an enemy, your party members will alter their attack strategies to take advantage if at all possible, unless you specifically tell them to attack full-out. You still have to give them a specific command to get them to knock down multiple enemies instead of following through for the kill, but that's not too annoying.

Well, anyhoo, need to get out of her soon. Write at ya later!

Your man in Japan,
Gaijin Monogatari


Sounds like a funky game, really. The PS2 might be an aging console, but this hasn't stopped 2007 from being a great year for PS2 RPGs. Thanks for your report, Gaijin! After the great build-up to the release of this game, I hope it's been worth the money and the wait.

Bonus dungeons, challenge, save systems, and sick kitties!

Good for you for watching the debate. Would that more of us here in the States (including, admittedly, me) were more interested!


Agreed. Some people say that ignorance is bliss, but I generally feel that ignorance is irritating. The Ontarians who respond to my politicospeak with the wonderful "There's an election soon?" are people that I feel like backhanding.

Anyway, it's funny that one of your letters mentions the 100 floor dungeon... .hack volume 3 has one too! I'm not sure I particularly mind, as long as there's sufficient reward (it seems that's a major thing for the letter writer too). But one can argue it's not just padding, but challenge; lengthening the dungeon just makes it harder without tossing a bunch of level 999 monsters at you. There's strategy in rationing items and such. Hmm.

PS: KITTY!!!!!


See, I don't feel great about it though, because the "challenge" is principally there because you have to go for excessively long times without seeing a save point, in all likelihood. This is exactly what turned me off of the big deep dungeon in Final Fantasy X-2's bonus material: I was doing fine and spent a good two hours to get down to about Floor 35 or 36. I was okay, and my people seemed powerful enough, but then I fought a boss- a "dark" elemental of some kind, that opened the battle by doing 9999 damage to everyone. Because of the terribly unforgiving game mechanics, -ALL- the progress that I had made was for nothing. This very thing is, incidentally, why I loved playing through Dragon Quest VIII's bonus material. You could take the chance and explore and try to go further, because you knew that even if you died, you'd maintain the experience and items that you had worked so hard to find!

Neanderthal save systems suck. And I guess I've twisted your question around a bit, but that's where I'm leaving it.

Oh yes, and kitty is doing okay- she's been rather sick over the past few days, which has been both sad and very expensive.

If you can't hear, then this is question belongs to you!

Hi Matt.

This isn't a question to you but rather to the readers of the column, specifically the hearing-impaired ones (is it PC to say "deaf"? Though it isn't as general). I'm wondering how you feel about RPGs. Do you care about the graphics in a game? Do you think your game experience is different from a hearing gamer who'd just put the TV on mute? Do you feel the industry in considerate when designing the games, in terms of subtitles or excluding audio-only puzzles and and such?

Zohar Gilboa


Hahaha, I shouldn't get into my feelings on politically correctness. I feel very strongly that if I had "hearing issues" that I'd be frank with people about it, and deaf is the word that everybody knows. It's the same thing with saying "differently abled" and "financially challenged" and so on; if you're disabled or poor, that's just the way it is. There's nothing wrong with having words for it. I mean, I'm gay, I used to be fat, I have the tendency to be antisocial, and I've always been an enormous geek. Euphemisms won't change these things.

Anyway, though, that's a discussion for a different column, but it's an interesting question, Zohar. I don't know if we have any deaf readers, but I'd be interested to meet you! Write in and send a response, if you don't feel like I've insulted you enough already. ;) (Just kidding. Though you know, this issue of PC-ness is one that's a bit sensitive, so please, take my comments with a grain of salt. Then, go jump off a cliff. Just kidding, again. *spins tires* *ends parenthetical remark*)


Hey Matt,

What's your favorite news out of TGS so far?



Well, I'm not as wound up as everyone else seems to be over this Infinite Undiscovery thing. I'm surprised though, because the game that has got me most interested by far has suddenly become The Last Remnant. Yeah, imagine that.

DUDE! How awesome is the new White Knight media from Level 5?

<3 Carabbit


You mean the most recent movie where little boy transforms into BIG CRAZY, walks into an invisible wall for ten seconds, and then has the camera obscured by leaves for another fifteen before engaging in a shallow-looking one-on-one battle? Last Remnant's trailer was soooo way awesomer. Actually, yesterday's movie was a lot cooler, though all-FMV.

Ha! You´ve been busted, Matt! I found out all the secrets behind SOCK! Here it is: - Alael


43 22 13 29 31 13 3 12 3 49 7 5 62 22 ... OK, I'm bored. Yeah, you bet your boots: There is no other sockmaster like yours truly!


Yeah, the new hot topic is that wonderful thing: What's your LEAST favourite RPG? Everyone has their own experiences here. You know the story: A game looks neat, so you pick it up and give it a try, only to find that it is absolutely horribly awful.

I want to hear what you have to say on this and anything else you might be interested. Perhaps we'll see your letter published in an upcoming Q&A.

Until next time!

Send a Letter!

Unanswered Letter Backlog: 37 - a small mountain
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The Scholar class holds the true source of knowledge, but if you aren't scholarly, don't despair. The power lies in the first emboldened words of each day.

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On my Wishlist:

1. Dragon Quest IX

2. Fire Emblem: Goddess of Dawn

3. Super Smash Bros. Brawl

4. Dragon Quest IV DS

5. Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass

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?

2. Did you have any strange misconceptions of what certain games were like, back in your youth?

3. What is your most HATED RPG?

4. What's the most exciting piece of news to come from TGS '07?

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

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