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Like a Big Wet Smelly Dog October 13, 2005

Matt Demers - 01:08 EST

THE SHOES came out this morning, as the clouds and rain refused to subside, drenching the day in a gloomy, lustreless, unhappy feeling that you'd never find on a postcard. Really, this is the sort of day that you'd never want to get married on. Sure, I'm not superstitious, but it's worse than just "rain" outside... it's like the meteorological equivalent of clinical depression. Also, who gets married on a Wednesday anyway? Only people without friends.

I'm happy to see lots of mail in the inbox again! Many many many of you were very keen on contributing what you had to say on yesterday's suggested conversation topics, so I apologize for not being able to put them all up! Maybe if he's nice, Cast will reply to some more in the next few days.

So yeah, why don't we start now? If you want to read the longest heartfelt letter ever, scroll to the bottom. It's actually pretty good, but make sure you have the stamina to get through it! Who'd have thought that a single mention of Megaman would get such a huge response? Why are Megaman fans all closeted? It's so sad...

Now I'm REALLY starting:




L E T T E R S
Promise made...


Matt AKA ignorer of letters,

So you ignored my letter, that's fine, whatever, doesn't matter...

Matt

Aha, but doesn't the very fact that this is in my column indicate that I don't ignore ALL letters? It seems that I have proven you wrong in a single sentence, my friend!

So seriously though, what's your orgasmic love interest with Dragonquest VIII? I personally have only played two DQ games. Those would be Dragon Warriors I and II for the NES and I never beat either. I saw some people playing VII but they didn't like it all that much...

For DQVIII, I don't know, but i'm not very gripped by the character design...they just aren't that awful "cool looking". I mean, you have to at least enjoy the look of a character to enjoy playing as the character...and of course gotta like their personality and such, but since I havne't played the game I can only by look.

"Shrug" What is it that makes you plug the game every other sentence? I mean, I'm not trying to knock the game, I have very little input about it other than screen shots. Are you simply a DQ groupie or did the demo really blow your skirt up? And if so, what was so good about it? I MUST KNOW!

The Man, the Myth, the Legend,
Gryphon

Matt

Why?

If anything, your letter certainly gives me yet another chance to plug the game, so I'll take the opportunity to. Let me get into exactly why, though. Oh, and it's more like once every other LETTER or so, so it's really that bad. I don't like to irritate people, after all.

Anyway, here's my spiel:

I will proudly say that Dragon Warrior is my favourite series overall. It's like "home" to me. Generally, the games have just the right combination of linearity and non-linearity, just the right challenge for me, a non-contrived, simple battle system featuring monsters with "more character" than the average game, an exploration/adventure element that just isn't paralleled in most other RPGs, and soooo much more.

The game isn't completely swamped with stupid mini-games and pointless subquests, but there are enough of such diversions to keep things adequately spicy. The old-school feeling rings true from start to end of each game in the series. There is so much to love about it.

I know, however, that Dragon Warrior/Quest isn't without its faults: The previous game in the series had terrible graphics and dragged quite a bit in the middle. Also, there doesn't exist a Dragon Quest game with an incredibly awe-inspiringly dramatic story, either (though the games are certainly not completely devoid of plot). Of course, if you start playing the game expecting Xenosaga in cute cartoony graphics, you're not going to be impressed. But you don't play a Dragon Quest game for that reason... you play a Dragon Quest game to get lost in the huge world, to explore places that you haven't explored before, and generally, to save the world from evil along the way.

There's also a nostalgic element in it for me... the first Dragon Quest is the first RPG I ever played, and this is a series I grew up on. I'm most excited because with such a graceful conversion to a full 3-D world, Dragon Quest VIII now has the chance to re-affirm/fine-tune what the true definition of "traditional RPG" really is, and I think it could make many more "modern" gamers even sit up to take notice.

So, that's that! I can't tell you for sure that it'll be the best game ever. All I know is that I'd say there's an extremely high probability that this could be the "most liked" Dragon Quest game in North America since the original, based on everything I've seen, heard, and played. Hopefully, this has given you and others insight! Also, this is the last time I talk about this game until the end of the column, I swear!



Promise Kept!


Matt

I just want to say congratulations for becoming the new Q&A host. You were definitely my favorite contender, what with your love of old school SNES gaming especially Dragon Quest/Warrior. Those games are all awesome and I wish as many people espoused them as did Final Fantasy. But weíll see how Dragon Quest VIII turns out, wonít we? I know I already have it preordered.

Matt

Well, thanks. Maybe we'll see the whole series inch up in popularity after the rel-ooooh, forget it!

*I chide myself for having made my above promise!!

What can I say now, for GRACIOUSNESS' sakes? Well, at least the rest of your letter moves off the topic, so let's hop to it:

The other thing I wanted to mention is a comment on what a reader said maybe a week ago about George R. R. Martin being the best author ever. I can confirm that this is the case, with the exception of Tolkien of course. I think the reader was referring to G.R.R Martinís Song of Ice and Fire book series, which if you havenít read I seriously think you should. Speaking of which, I know many people have hand-held systems to pass the time on trips and things but for me books were always an awesome way to spend a few hours in the car or 5 minutes killing time. I always have a book with me. Still, thereís never as much time as I would like for reading or for gaming, huh?

Matt

I used to spend my car-time reading, and then later train-time, until this one day, when I was on my way home to mom 'n' pop's place in Chatham-Kent. I was reading Microserfs, by Douglas Coupland, I believe, when something lurched (either the train, my stomach, or both) and I suddenly felt the urge to unleash the fury of my recently-consumed dinner upon the world. Believe me, the VIArail bathrooms on the train were NOT built for things like that, either.

One thing I wanted to ask about is with your roots firmly in the old school, as I are mine, I canít understand why you hate remakes so much. Its been my experience that remakes generally serve to make games better (even if they occasionally add pointless extra features just so they can hype the game more) In my mind a remake is never a bad thing as long as they do not tamper with the original story. I like the enhanced graphics and music, but sometimes wish they wouldnít change the battle systems (and sometimes its better that they do ďhello auto re-target.Ē) I canít see how you would ever think that having more accessibility to these gems could be a bad thing? Given that the games themselves are completed, resources for a port or remake should be relatively minimal.

Matt

Grrr...

Remakes are only bad when they become the most important thing to a video game company. When I see new releases, I really want to see new releases. I've played the old games already, and while I love them dearly, I'd like to see some new stuff too. The issue, I guess, really only concerns Square Enix for me right now... with soooo much emphasis lately on producing 10+ year-old games and direct sequels to existing games, I can't help but wonder how much faster we'd see/we'd have seen Final Fantasy XII in the flesh if some of that invested time/money/effort had gone to that game instead. Of course, if Final Fantasy XII turns out to be a horrible experience, I don't know what I'll think. *sigh*

This has been yet another rant, brought to you by me.

I will say that I think the FF series has been remade enough recently that some delay might be appropriate. Iím still forever waiting on FFIII to get remade, and for that reason alone I will be purchasing a DS. But the remakes Iím most excited for are the games that never made it out of Japan to begin with. To that end I suppose we agree that efforts should be focused on bringing those games that have not been seen here or impossible to find. Specifically of interest is the SEGA AGES collection, namely Shining Force III. I canít understand what goes through producerís heads sometimes. The Shining Franchise is successful because of the Force games and yet they make games that deviate far from this. Iím all about trying new gaming experiences but come on we need good Shining Force game (Please God, donít let Shining Force Neo suck!) Also Iím excited about Phantasy Star Trilogy, another reason why remakes are great because I never had a chance to play these games back in the day and look forward to enjoying these games freshly, while for others it will be reliving fond memories in a new way, as remakes are supposed to do.

It kind of seems like a person can view remakes in that positive light, or in a negative light in that they are merely just ways for greedy and lazy companies to cash in on yester yearís successes. But I for one have a good hope for these remakes and say donít be so callous to game remix that can provide joy to many people and no matter what, game on.

Matt (yeah my name is Matt too)

Matt

Whoa, there was more! Lots more. At least Final Fantasy III looks like it's on track, since I was getting worried for awhile. The fact that it hasn't seen the light of day yet on this continent is inexcusable; it's been sixteen years, or thereabouts... that's three-quarters of my time on this earth!

They could do a lot with that game, and it looks like they're at least doing it graphically, though the screens we've been treated to are so different than any form of Final Fantasy we've ever seen: At first glance, it looks remarkably like Golden Sun. It sounds, though, from news updates a couple months back, that they've tweaked the battle system somewhat, so I'm the slightest bit suspicious at the moment. However, I'm optimistic, so yes, play on. Or rather, game on, as you said.

On the side: There are enough Matts hovering around this site to form our own sect. Anyone interested?



I take it back!


Hi Matt

To start off with, I'd like to point out that Wild ARMs and Wild ARMs 3 both got a European release. Where WA2 went, I'll never know, but having played it on my US playstation, I can safely say Europe wasn't missing too much. So whilst a release date for Alter Code F in Europe would be great news, it wouldn't be huge news really.

Matt

My bad! My knowledge was only second-hand, but in the case that you are indeed correct, someone ought to update those titles under the "Games" section, since no European release dates are listed there. Oh well.



What makes a game an RPG? Well, a mix of things really. The battles, having more than one type of enemy, collectable items, upgradable items, being able to improve your character/s stats, the ability to have groups of characters avaliable, weapons, magic, engrossing (and sometimes very long) storyline, etcetc. Whilst all of these can be found in other genres, the RPG really tries to use all of these in a single game. I wouldn't think there was one defining thing that you could say made an RPG what it is, unfortunately.

Also, if Zelda is not an RPG at all, then why is Alundra (very similar to Zelda gameplaywise) classed as one? Something to think about.

Flame Foxfyre (first time emailing)

Matt

Good points, Flame. I don't think that it's "unfortunate", though, that there are no single defining things about RPGs... maybe that in itself is part of the definition. I think that some of those things, however, aren't ALWAYS there-- storylines are present in all games, and while they're an important part of many RPGs, they aren't as important in others. Megaman X: Command Mission, which everyone brought up yesterday, is almost as completely lacking in any coherent story as the "main" platformer Megaman games, yet it's unarguably an RPG. Weapons aren't a part of Pokťmon games. Magic may be common in RPGs, but I don't think it's necessary either.

Also, the question "Is Zelda an RPG?" is pretty tough to come to an agreement on. I personally think it's "barely" one, though it's really part of a hybridized genre of the adventure/action, RPG, and puzzle varieties... including your Alundra, probably, and also things like StarTropics (or so I've heard).

What I can't stand is when Nintendo carries on about its "stunning" RPG line-up in its magazine every now and then. Sorry guys, but Animal Crossing is NOT an RPG, and neither is "The Sims: Random Subtitle". Everyone knows it, toom so stop trying to pretend and make us another Paper Mario game, dammit.



Two more...I'm on my way to being an octopus!


Dear Matty,

The only thing that seems to determine an RPG these days is some kind of focus on development in some kind, whether it be in your weapons and magic (Secret of Mana), gradual stat growth through levels or other methods, or story. How heavy the game focuses on this development is the relative factor that makes opinions differ. I hate to say it, but Zelda isn't really much of an RPG. Why it exists on this site is because of raging fans. It will always be an Action game. Development in battle is particularly important. Experience is always there, visible or not. FFII had experience towards weapons. Your weapons leveled up, and each of your stats leveled up independently. Zelda has no real 'experience' system. You just obtain new toys to play with. There are many games that have RPG elements in them that are still considered primarily games of a different genre.

Matt

Yes yes... but check out Zelda II, one of those good home-grown classics of yesteryear. Sure, it doesn't quite follow the tried-and-true formula of the other Zelda titles, but it DOES indeed feature a form of expendable experience, as far as my memory serves. Wouldn't it be VEIRDE if Nintendo made another one in a similar style? My point is, Zelda transcends definition on the whole as a series, even if most of them are indeed adventure/action games.

You can take any game and think of the focus. Metal Gear Solid, Zelda, etc. are action and strategy focused. FFT focuses on strategy and development, thus Strategy RPG. Zelda is Action, plain and simple. Kingdom Hearts is Action RPG, utilizing action elements with a leveling experience design. There is always room for controversy, but I find this generally to be true. Warcraft/Starcraft is an interesting debate. You could say it has RPG elements, but I'm inclined to say the reason it's not considered so is because of its focus on strategy.

Question, question... aah, got it. What do you think of my 'definition'? "Sorry, please try again"? "Congratulations, you are an instant winner!"?

<3<3

Benny

Matt

Oh, I'll give you your congratulations, since you gave me two hearts this time around. Do I get three next letter?? Hey, why don't the rest of you give me hearts?



13375P34|< 101


Hi Matt

I wasnít rooting for you before but you have been turning out some really excellent columns. Congrats.

Pardon me but what the heck is 1337?

Matt

Considering that the word "puh-leaze" made the Canadian Oxford Dictionary two years back, I wouldn't be surprised if 1337 made it, though it really might not have a section to go in. Type 1337 into Google or something and I'm sure you'll find out what it means, because I don't REALLY know anything except that it is (at least used to be) an overused adjective describing coolness in a computer nerdy kind of way, pronounced "Leet". Oh, wait, does it have something to do with "Elite"? Whatever; it's dumb either way, but now you know!

What is an rpg? I personally think that anything which features a story told competently could be classed as an rpg. By competently I mean in such a way as having you really care for what happens to the characters and the world in which that story is told.

Just my two cents worth.

On to a question. I wonder about what you think about this new Shining Force game out soon. I realize that the battle system has changed greatly, it is no longer a strategy game, but being a fan of the Diablo type games I am interested in your thoughts.

Of your questions I would bet that the lowest mark was 0 (choice a) and the best comment would be ďI hope youíre not majoring in thisĒ or (e).

Have a great day

Angus Creighton

Matt

Blah, but there are soooo many games that tell stories competently that aren't RPGs... lots of first-person shooters, and even adorable-styled adventure games do that occasionally. My conclusion: Inadequate criteria!

Shining Force Neo is something I'm looking forward to giving a whirl. I've only played the old-old ones, and I never actually got through an entire game at all. But, it would be nice to see what the series is going to transform into, though I have a feeling it's not going to feel much like it felt before. It's on my Christmas list with Radiata Stories, anyway, since I'm not confident enough to spend my own money to obtain it. You could buy it for me if you wanted to, though.



Grey Matter... and Grey Matter in Suspicious Milkshakes


Hi there!

Just a few thoughts towards the "RPGness" of a given title. I think one line in your answers yesterday was pretty intriguing and perhaps why hammering a one word label on a game isn't always an easy thing. "Non-real-time fighting? Please.. -maybe 10 years ago-"

We've come a long way in the last 10 years. I don't know exactly how many companies out there make RPGs, but I'm willing to bet it's a lot higher than 10 years ago. This increases the number of titles being produced. There are clones out there but generally each one brings at least a little something different than other games available. So, with the sheer number of games out there it's natural for some of them to have RPG staple A but doesn't have B. I guess I'm just trying to say the more you have of something, the harder it is catagorize it into yes/no piles, especially when these things vary as much as RPGs do.

Really, the same kind of thing happens in other mediums too. How many bands out there get lazilly (sp?) slapped with the 'rock' label. Rock bands don't all have the same characteristics. Comedy movies? Depending on who you ask, that's anything from slapstick to a romantic comedy. Do all movies with humor get the 'comedy' label?

Matt

See, you hit it right on the head! In this world filled with labels, you can't always shove everything into neatly-sorted bins... especially when gun-RPGs loom on the horizon. You're right with the movies, too, though I think TV is equally "guilty" (how can reality TV really include people who have to choke down ground-up-earthworm milkshakes?) There will always be grey areas, but thankfully none of them have appeared in my hair as of yet.

Well I'm starting to get a little less focused here, so I guess I should ask a question and be on my way. When games offer you bonus dungeons and bosses, do you put the time in to complete these? Or do you just forget it and move on to something else? Many games out there give you incentive to keep playing after you've won - Disgaea, Chrono Trigger and Fire Emblem are just a couple examples. How thoroughly do you 'complete' your games?

Thanks!
Jeremy

Matt

It depends on the game, Jeremy. Star Ocean 3 was chock-full of extra surprises and bonus stuff, but I didn't experience any of it first hand, because I had already had about 300 near-aneurysms of frustration going through the real game, thanks to the intolerably bad AI. I couldn't take it anymore!

On the other hand, Disgaea was a pleasant play, and I enjoyed unlocking what I could. I guess it's a no-brainer answer overall: If it's a good game, and there's the option to continue the goodness, I will; but if it's a game that makes me unhappy, why would I continue to put myself through pain? You could ask the question "Why bother finishing it in the first place?"... but I don't have anything witty to respond to that with without sounding sheepish.

Baaaa



Remember how I said "Longest Letter Ever" a couple of days ago? This wins


(This is a long letter, so you don't have to print all of it, or any of it; however, at least give it a read)

Dear Matt,

This something that I've been holding in for years, but reading eldidito's letter from yesterday made me feel like I just got to express it, so here goes. I LOVE the Megaman Legends games! I think that the Megaman Legends games are THE most underrated games of all time. And, if you ask me, they contain enough exploration, narrative, and status building to truly warrant the title of a true blue (heh, I made a pun) action RPG. Both games even had an affection building system where people will like you more or less depending on what you do or say. They also tell a wonderful story and have an addictive combat system and battles. I will confidently say that any RPGamer who loves RPG's can very easily enjoy the MML games.

And no, they are not just the common Megaman games only in 3D. MML games are actually overworld-exploring and dungeon-crawling games. In the first game, you're stuck on this island and you need to explore ancient ruins to find artifacts and stuff to fix up your plane, and you also uncover ancient mysteries. I admit that the ruins were pretty simplistic, but the game also had tons of sidequests that reward you with money and upgrades, and some of these sidequests and minigames were incredibly fun and rewarding on their own. MML was pretty weak on story, but that changed with MML2. In fact, I would say that MML2 had such an amazing story that it rivals those of typical RPG's. Themes like remembering your lost past from amnesia, challenging your destiny, and discovering the creation of life definitely remind me of my favorite RPG's. And instead of exploring an island, you are exploring entire continents and even another planet. The dungeon designs also increased tenfold in terms of awesomeness. MML2's dungeons are all have varied themes (like the typical fire dungeon, forest setting, underwater maze, in space, etc.) multilayered, huge, filled with lots of cool enemies and humongous bosses, and are extremely challenging. Finally, it has even more sidequests and minigames as the first, and these are all top notch.

The battle system actually feels much like a third person shooter, complete with targeting and strafing movement (at least in MML2) that work really well with a dual shock. You can customize your main gun in much the same way as equipping stuff in an RPG. You also have a vast array of secondary weapons that you can also upgrade and customize. Your own status can also be upgraded with armor, shoes, helmets, and buying HP increases, energy tanks, and protections and immunities. Yes, you BUY your status and weapon increases rather than level up with exp. points. But once you play these, you'll agree that fighting and collecting money to build up your abilities and weapons and talking to NPC's to receive quests feel eerily similar to an RPG. In fact, many aspects of MML, like the character customization and exploration, all feel very much like an RPG. And the games reward skill over grinding and unloading your guns on enemies. Bosses have immunities, follow certain patterns, and have weakness that you need to observe, some of which are quite brilliant. Some are even multi-tiered fights that require you to perform multiple tasks at once, like protecting something or pulling a lever when the time is right. I'll even go as far as to say that MML can be even more fun than the best RPG. Though the games were rather short, they can be much longer if you tackle all the sidequests, uncover all the secrets and weapons, build yourself up to max, replay the game as a good or evil character, and they're plain fun enough to play multiple times.

Ok, before this becomes a mini-review I'll leave you with this. I may have played MML about 9 times and MML2 over 13 times (if I haven't lost count) and had a blast each time, and there aren't many games that make me want to play them this many times. The one thing about MML that broke my heart is how MML2 ends with a cliffhanger. For the past seven years, it tormented me to no end that a MML3 isn't being made, and I may never find out what happened to Megaman in the end. I thought this was all because the games didn't sell well enough, and Capcom has abandoned the series. But then I found hope. First, the Megaman from the MML universe made a guest appearance in the PS2 title Namco x Capcom. Not only that, but both MML games have been ported to the PSP in Japan. This means that Capcom hasn't forgotten about the series after all, and if sales of the PSP games are high enough, it may finally, finally convince them to make MML3! Seeing the healthy sales of the games in Japandemonium gives me hope. In conclusion, I strongly recommend MML to all fans of action and RPG games, as the series just isn't getting the popularity that it so deserves.

Alan

Matt

*dies*





C L O S I N G
IN CONCLUSION:

And thus ends another week of me; I hope you all enjoyed it somewhat. I'd like to point out that by being such wonderful readers, you've entitled yourselves to sets of fashionable luggage! It's too bad I don't actually have any to give you, but you're entitled nonetheless.

It's time to go to Grandpa Castomel's house, now, and all grandpas like talking without end, so send him lots of stuff to talk about. You don't want to see him when he babbles on his own, so spare us all. As for the SOCK thing, almost everyone guessed correctly for the first question. It was in the hidden text a couple of days ago for those that didn't get it, and the answer was b) 2.5/40. Percentagewise, that remarkable achievement is worth 6 big ones (and a bit). What truly studious little brats I have to deal with... *sigh*.

Too many people took delight in my last question, and many of you will be pleased to learn that indeed, I wrote d) "Pythagoras would be appalled" on someone's paper. Come on-- EVERYONE learns the Pythagorean theorem by Grade 8, so why on earth would you screw something so simple up when there are so many complicated things to worry about? Shall I pose a question or two for next Monday's column? Let me reach into my bag of tricks and pull out...something tricksy.

Question #13: What is Pythagoras' theorem? (20 points)

a) a squared + b squared = c squared, if a and b are two sides of an isosceles triangle and c is the third.
b) a squared + b squared = c squared, if c is the hypotenuse of a right-angled triangle and a & b are the other two sides.
c) a squared + b squared = c squared, if a, b, and c are the three sides of any scalene triangle.
d) Pythagoras didn't come up with the theorem himself; it was actually Euclid.
e) Pythagoras didn't come up with the theorem himself; it was actually Descartes.

Question #14: What is the capital of Nicaragua? (10 points)

a) Guatemala
b) Guava
c) Quinoa
d) Guanoville
e) Managua



2 points if you send and get everything dead wrong! If you mail in a reply and get things right, many congratulations and points will be showered upon thee!

Things to work for (the SOCK item shop!):

100 points: Tilde
500 points: Guest-host Opportunity

As you can see, the item shop is full of yummy prizes, so work at it! Maybe I should create some real cookies one day and ship them out to someone who gets to a high number of points... wait, that would require dollars and motivation. We'll see. I haven't worked out the whole E3 thing yet, at any rate--I hate to break it to you all, but that's not going to be listed in the item shop for a long while.

Have fun without me! You probably need a break after this trio of columns, anyway... small doses of almost any Matt is a smart idea.

Happy weekend everyone! Be nice to Andrew.

wonderslime@rpgamer.com
***Matt needs to do his laundry in a most terrible way.

Send a Question

You know how I was talking about biting my nails too far down earlier on? Well, it's worse than that... I actually made one bleed today (you know how when you bite too far, you can accidentally pull the hangnail down with the chewed-off part? Very unpleasant. Oh wait, I took the part about nail-biting out of the intro, so forget it. Dammit, my memory is sinking quickly too!

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Matt's Next Unhealthy Addiction

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Matt's Top 3 Current Games:

1. Makai Kingdom
2. Atelier Iris: Eternal Mana
3. Warioware: Twisted!

Matt's Top 3 RPG Desires:

1. Dragon Quest VIII
2. Mario & Luigi: PiT
3. Final Fantasy III

Cookie o' the Update:

Mattie's Depressed October Days Cookies

-1 bag of President's Choice "The Decadent" chocolate chip cookies

Open bag. Consume all. Feel miserable, but in a tasty way.

SOCK standings:

1. Nwash
110 pts

2. Jbumi
95 pts

3. kupomogli
92 pts

4. Yugiohfan1986
59 pts

5. darkcecil13
57 pts

6. Angel0886
52 pts

7. Jeremy
37 pts

8. Arros Raikou
29 pts

9. Another Matt
25 pts

9. ATG
25 pts

9. Binser
25 pts

9. Benny
25 pts

9. DDX
25 pts

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