Faster Than the Speed of Dark
October 11, 2006
Matt Demers - 20:55 EST
NO INTERESTING STORIES about fast food breakfasts today. I had my good old bowl of cereal, after a much-needed trip to the grocery store yesterday in the afternoon.
Apparently, there's a chance that we'll see the first snowflakes of the year over the next day or two, since a rather unseasonably cold air mass is sweeping down to invade the Great Lakes a couple months too early. How unfun. My dad still has crews picking bell peppers in our fields at this time of year!
And thus... concludes your weather report. To the inbox we go!
What makes a good game "good"?
I just wanted to comment about Lazzie's surprise over Tales of Symphonia's popularity.
I'm one of those people that really enjoyed it and could hardly put it down until I was finished. Looking back, I'm not sure exactly what it was that made me like it so much, but I'm sure it wasn't because I had no other games to play at the time.
Anyway, TOS was the first and only Tales game I've played so I didn't have much to compare it to as far as gameplay goes, and therefore it was something of a breath of fresh air to me.
Let me just make a few points about it.
Surely! Say what you will.
The cliche factor: sometimes cliche is good. It can mean an easy-to-follow plot when there's so much other stuff going on in your life and you don't have the mental energy to expend on some convoluted, complicated storyline. Besides, it's not always just the "what happens" that makes a good story, it's also the "how it happens" that's crucial. In other words, if TOS was cliche, I would have thought it did an interesting job being so.
Of course. I really enjoy a fresh and original, innovative storyline, but I'd be kidding myself if I said that cliché was worthless in RPGs. I'm a Dragon Quest fan, after all, though Final Fantasy is certainly no stranger to the tried and true. You mean Zidane's brother was one of the major villains!? *gasp*
Even if the storyline isn't quite as strong as some other RPGs in some ways, it can still be an enjoyable thing to play, certainly.
The music factor: I actually found quite a few of the tracks to be likeable and memorable.
The character factor: I thought they were well-rounded. Nothing earth-shattering, but I liked watching them develop and interact.
The battle system factor: like I said, it was my first Tales game so it was like a breath of fresh air.
Umm...what else am I leaving out?
Anyway, as I'm analyzing all this, I'm starting to realize something. Nothing about TOS may have been extrodinary, but I found all of its gameplay aspects to be at least "solid," so maybe:
lots of good things >= one or two great things?
Absolutely, depending on what your priorities are, right? If you're the kind of plot-lusting RPGamer who sees no good in any games without the scope of storyline of, say, Xenosaga, you aren't likely to enjoy ToS. There's nothing wrong with that, it's just that people play different games for different reasons. I agree with you, Laurie; at the end of the day, it's the whole package that makes a game enjoyable to me (though of course a nice challenge and a neat skill system might bump my opinion a bit). ;)
But overall, I just found the game to have a certain "atmosphere" to it that was refreshing and fun. And yes, I believe that a great game can be great for such a simple (and perhaps even vague) reason.
So there's some insight from a fan.
And since we're on the topic, are there any games you can think of that you like just because, well...you just connected with them somehow and you can't really explain why? My best example would be Secret of Evermore. Pretty much everyone loathes the game, but I secretly adore it. Why exactly? I don't know. There's just something about it that I like that has something to do with its dark- and-creepiness. And who cares if the bulter did it... it's got a hedgemaze, and a giant chessboard with pieces that move by themselves, a freak show, and devil puppets that recite bizarre things. (*whispers*: I really love the soundtrack for this game, too). Do you know what I'm talking about? Is there anyone out there who does?
Thanks, and have a great day!
If a game is able to weave everything perfectly in order to create a really thick atmosphere, something for a gamer to really dig into... well, it says something. Games that are able to do this effectively are able to create a sort of unique "identity" for themselves, and not all games can achieve this. It's not just a matter of doing things in unique ways (though that might have something to do with it), but I'm having difficulty putting my finger on what exactly it is. I think it's something that comes with the whole package, especially considering graphical style, in-game dialogue, music, and more. Final Fantasy games, Xenosaga, and the most recent Dragon Quest do this incredibly, whereas I find that some other games I've played just don't. The first Breath of Fire games are to me an example of games that lack that thick atmosphere; that soul. The games just felt flimsy and insipid to me. More recently, I got much of the same from Wild Arms: ACF. The game looked and sounded... well, fine. But it lacked a binding atmosphere that made it truly likable to me.
I agree with you on Secret of Evermore. Yes, there are a few things that might prevent the game from being an all-time classic, but no matter what you think of the game, it's difficult to argue that the background music wasn't of really high quality for its time. That and a few other things paint the land of Evermore into a richer place than I think most people give it credit for. I've talked a few times before on how I think that SoE takes a bit too much pain from the online world. It's nice to hear from someone who feels the same way.
A Xenosaga III mini-review
Well, with a giant push this weekend, I've finally finished Xenosaga III. One really, long push. It's one of the better efforts I've put into a game in a long time, I just don't usually have the free time to do it. But, it was worth it.
You finished...and I started! The universe is safely at an equilibrium. Phew.
I've run into a bit of a problem, though. You know that feeling you get the day after you beat a long game? You're thrilled to have beaten it, but there's a certain emptiness inside that you don't have any new story to cover. Multiply it by three games. Add in the gaps between games. Then throw in the anticipation of the series ever coming out in the first place, with as much as I loved Xenogears. Heck, it's been 3 1/2 years since I started the first one, and I was still in college when I found out they were doing the series, period. And now I know that there are no plans for any more Xeno. That's one heck of a withdrawal.
It's true, and it's even sadder when you know that it's the end of a series that was originally supposed to span six titles. You're a bigger fan than I am, for sure, and my heart fell when I read the news that the series was going to be cut short at three.
Of course, with all of the positive reception of Episode III, I have a feeling that we haven't seen the end of Monolith Soft or Xenostuff. Not by a long shot. I sure will miss Shion and friends, though, if a new story arc is born. :(
Game withdrawal is universal, my friend, among RPGamers. We hear your pain.
There's a part of me that wants to go back and replay all the movie scenes (there's a nifty viewer when you beat the game). I probably will at some point. How long do I wait before starting my next game? Am I actually motivated to play another game yet? Can you feel like you've jilted the last game by moving on to the next one too fast? Ratchet and Clank 3 is next on my backlog; will I enjoy it remotely as much?
I often find it difficult to jump right out of one RPG and into another, but it's a tactic I've had to resort to a dreadful lot these days, I'm afraid. Time is precious, and doddling is a dangerous thing to do.
Ratchet and Clank should give you a welcome change of pace, though. You'll be totally psyched to play, say, Final Fantasy III or XII in a few weeks, if you happen to be looking forward to those!
So, I've decided to inflict a personal review on everyone. As much as I love the series, I'm able to see it's faults, and how oddly they've evolved over the course of the series.
The story wraps up nicely, although certain subplots seem a bit rushed when they resolve. It's a bit of an odd story, a significant change from the other two games, much like how Two was a significant change in the story flow from one. While they all resolve into the same plot, they are very distinct games. However, it keeps a very good pace, managing to both move forward and explain the backstory at the same time. There is one whopper of an ending, I clocked an hour and a half from the last save point, with a final battle and the ending.
In the five hours I've invested so far, I can say without a doubt that this one is the most story-heavy of the three so far. It has been at least two hours since I've fought a battle. The interesting part is, though, that I don't really mind too much. I'm really still awash in amazement over how awesome the characters look in this game and how much of an improvement the voice acting is. Shion... how I missed you.
The gameplay is much improved over part II. The system is streamlined without being simplistic, and moves a lot faster. I didn't dread battles the way I did in part Two. Most battles can be wrapped up in a minute or less, rather than closer to five. Boss battles are huge, although you do repeat a lot of the same tactics throughout the battle. The break system is much better, and boosts can be used for special attacks, which can also be used for kills that generate extra experience and gold. I used most of my boosts for these rather than the extra turns. They system is abusable, but not too much so. I would have liked to see more variety in the skill trees. While everyone's is different, once you fill one branch up and move on to others, everyone still ends up with a lot of the same skills. I'd love to have seen more individuality.
I've really enjoyed the battling I've done, though I really haven't done very much, as I mentioned above. They are really fast in comparison to the last game, and, uh, crisp, in a way. If I had one really nit-picky gripe, it's that ends-of-battles seem really abrupt. With a one-second-or-so victory hooray-leap and no victory music, something seems slightly unpolished, especially since the battle music just cuts out quickly instead of a gradual fade-out. I'm sure I'll get over it.
The graphics are nicely done, the best in the series. The graphics feel the most natural of all the games, and there are some nicely done cut scenes. There is some interesting cinematography, although there is occasional stuttering and some awkward scene cuts. The characters are still good, although Shion's clothes seem to have shrunk again, and are out of character for her in this game (I liked the relaxed look in part II, in this she's borderline tacky).
Yes! Wow, I'm so impressed with the graphical style of this game. The character styles are so suiting, and they present such an advance over the robotic-looking Episode II. A lot of care was put into making faces really expressive, I find, in a way that is vividly different from the previous game. As for Shion... well, I don't know. It seems to be the curse of half of all female video game characters, doesn't it? Oh well.
The voices were my favorite in the series as well. Those that had changed were the best choices in the series, and they kept the ones that I had previously enjoyed. The one exception to this is Jr.: While it was the same actor, I found him to be more grating than I remember from the other two episodes. In many parts, he felt terribly overemoted, even by videogame standards. Each actor had the occasional bad inflection, almost as if they didn't understand the full context of their line in the text, and didn't know which words needed to be emphasized. One change I wish could have been made would have been having to manually advance the text (and voices) in many spots. While the movie sections moved at their own pace, any scene with in-game engine characters had to have each line advanced by itself. With spoken words, this made it seem very choppy, it would have been much better to have the scenes move at their own pace in all instances.
I actually really enjoy the fact that the voice acting is heavy even outside of movie-sequences, and I really love the new style of presenting dialogue on the screen. The way that "old" dialogue is kept on screen during a conversation is neat, and the changing character portraits are so sexy that they give me goosebumps. I think that despite the shortcomings of this format, it's designed to allow gamers to progress at their own pace- and also to save space. We'd need seven DVDs if all of the spoken parts happened in movie format, and besides, if they had movie-sequence-ized any more, they'd just receive more criticism from reviewers across the net. I think that they struck a decent balance here, in the end.
Overally, this is my favorite game in the series. It packed in a ton of plot, filled out the backstories of a lot of characters (without becoming the only purpose of the game like in Episode II), and wrapped up the series nicely. While I'm strongly of the opinion that I and II could have been condensed into one game, this game easily stands on its own. While it never quite meets the standards of the original Xenogears, it has many similarities. The main one: An epic game with many great qualities, but at the same time having significant flaws. They're just smaller flaws than the previous two.
However, I doubt that my opinion is going to affect your decision to buy this specific game. If you're played the first two, you're almost certain to play this one. If you haven't played the first two, I doubt you will play this one without playing the other two first. I would strongly recommend against just playing this one without the other two. All in all, it's a long series, but a remarkable series, and if you have the patience, it's definitely worth it.
It's so true. It's also true, though, that almost NO one has much bad to say about Episode III, in contrast to Episode II. That might be enough to entice a few people to give the series a whirl. I do feel, however, after the first few hours, that the game would be more than a little difficult to understand if it was your first experience with the series. At the very least, this game gives the loyal fans of the series more than enough reason to celebrate.
Ahhhhh, it feels good to have that off my chest...
340) D. 101 (the exit listing I found for this highway sucked, took me forever to sort through it...)
341) D. 3.84 million
Thank you, BigWook! I'm glad you decided to share.
Kingdom Hearts II: Not as easy as it sounds?
Is it just me or does Kingdom Hearts 2 suddenly get much harder once you
reach the second half? Especially ...
...when you fight the Organization guy the second run
through Beast's castle, Micky came to rescue me "3" times. Hades was
easier (I didn't need rescuing for him) but not by too much. Its not nice
to put a sizable difficulty drop midway through a game, though it was
pretty cool using Jump though! Oh and does anyone else think that Micky
was influenced by Yoda?
I couldn't tell you, Bainick!
After hearing so much about how EASY, how EASY, how EASY the game is, even in comparison to its predecessor, it's reassuring to know that there is at least a bit of challenge present in the game. I hope you're finding it to be enjoyable!
Anyway for a random question what company, in your opinion, has the most
respect when it comes to releasing quality RPG's?
That's a really tough question to answer, Bainick.
I really think I have to hand it to Square Enix this time, because as much as we all whine about them from time to time, there's no denying that their games are of unusual quality most of the time. Just about all of the games that I anticipate most come from Square Enix in some way, shape, or form, and I haven't been disappointed by the company very many times in the past in terms of game quality. So, I have to take my hat off to them for those reasons.
Bainick was going to have a whole heap of blank lines as his letter but
thought that it wiold just make you cry.
Oh and don't forget to send me letters for my Guest Spot readers of the Q&A.
(Must be like my 7th or 8th by now, must be a sucker for it!)
Indeed! Bainick will be joining us as the next co-host this Friday. Keep your eyes open, and write him a letter or two!
Thanks, Bainick!! And we'll be sure to hear from you again very soon.
Ugh. JuMeSyn is not an impressionable newbie, yet I forgot to change the headline for letter #4 yesterday. What a dingus I is!
So I went to hear a lecture by Neil Gaiman yesterday, that was pretty cool. He has a very distinct sense of humor - he speaks very slowly in without much intonation until his cynicism is understood. It was mostly funny. Have you ever been to conventions with esteemed guests? Maybe it's just Israel but the audience was way too ecstatic, to the point of a girl screaming "I'm not worthy" in the middle of the theatre. A bit embarrassing. Anyway, tomorrow he's reading which is supposed to be good, and Friday I'll got to a book signing (an hour early). I'll have him sign Endless Nights (9 Sandman-related stories) and another thing, not sure if 1602 or Stardust.
He worked with Douglas Adams, who wrote a couple of games, so I guess it kinda fits in this column in some way...
Ah, whatever. You know me by now. Anything goes in here.
That does sound rather embarrassing though. Are you sure free alcoholic beverages weren't being distributed?
I actually started playing RPGs somewhere between the death of the SNES and the rise of the PSX. The first RPG I played on a console was FFVII. The other FFs I played on an emulator (before FFVII). My first was FFVI, then I went on to the rest. So that means I wasn't astonished by FFIV as other people were and I have no nostalgia factor for it. I found it to be a pretty bad game. The story is bad and incredible cliched, the characters predictable, the battle system was pretty standard. In fact, FFIV is my least favorite FF, though I haven't played much of II and haven't finished III. FFV, on the other hand, had a decent plot, at least better than IV, the characters were a lot more interesting, to me, and the battle system was pretty cool.
I think that it felt "cleaner" in the end, too, than Final Fantasy IV did. I think a large part of that came from the fact that we received a pretty eye-wideningly bad translation over here, originally. It's the sort of thing that I never really noticed at the age of ten, but now... wow.
In my opinion, FFIV deserves respect as being groundbreaking, but in light of modern games, or even its own era, it doesn't hold up. I think most people like it because it was the first FF they played, or the first on the SNES, anyway.
You're probably right about that. There's a reason that I get this warm loving feeling whenever I hear just about ANY music from that game, and that reason is pure, unadulterated nostalgia. I don't think, though, that there is reason to completely discredit the game. Despite its faults, I think that it has many merits, and it is nonetheless a defining RPG for its time.
I finished XSIII a couple of days ago. It was really cool. I'm left with a similar feeling as in Xenogears where things fall into place but I still don't get everything. The story was good, music seemed OK (haven't listened to it out of game yet), visuals were awesome, the battle system was pretty great too, although a bit on the easy side.
Good to hear. I'm looking forward to ploughing ahead a little more in the coming days, if I get some seconds to spare.
So far, the thing that I was worried most about- the music- has turned out to be quite enjoyable indeed. It still retains the techy spacey feel of Episode II that I loved, without being in-your-face about it (and you know what I mean). As for the storyline... well, I spent the last hour or more of gametime lost in the incredibly detailed database. Wow!
So now I started Valkyrie Profile: Silmeria. It's funny, Tri-Ace games have a lot in common with each other - voice acting during battles, sounds that are played, intricate skill systems. It makes the game seem familiar even when it's new. I was extremely surprised at the visual quality. I didn't believe the PS2 was capable of such prowess. It's fun but I hope it's not too short or I'm missing too much stuff. I'm told there's no A-ending as in the first VP, so I'm not too worried about it. Have you had a chance to play? Do you get my "nostalgic feeling" with Tri-Ace games?
Absolutely, I know exactly what you mean! This format is one of the defining aspects of Tri-Ace games, and I'm not surprised that VP2 comes off that way. The only Silmeria I've played so far is the fifteen minutes I played at E3, and of course, that isn't really terribly reflective of the actual gameplay, and no voice acting was audible above the roar of the crowd. Maybe soon. I'm not counting on it, but I should theoretically be receiving a copy sometime shortly. Whether that will happen or not is, well, another story.
The PS2 is indeed capable of amazing things graphically, even if it outclassed by the newfangled next gen AND its same-generational brethren. When I see gorgeous games, it makes me feel like an old man for a little bit, because the first thing that comes to mind is "Why are we moving forward to the next consoles already again?"
Ah well. Thanks for your letter, Zohar! May your VP2ing be most enjoyable.
Baa Baa, FFV, have you any wool?
I can't say that Final Fantasy IV is the black sheep of the SNES day
by any means, but back in the day when it was known as Final Fantasy
II, it was overlooked in favor of FFIV (FFIII at the time). It was
the real game that got me into RPGs. Yeah, I had played FF and DW,
but they didn't draw me in like FFIV did. Cecil, Kain, Rydia... how
can you go wrong? I love this game with all my heart. If any of the
SNES games could use a "-2" sequel, it's this one. I'll even help
with the plot. Come on SE, just call me.
It's true. With that flowing-hair Kain scene at the very end, you just know there would be room for another story, full of self-discovery and such. The characters were all simple but truly lovable. In that way, the game was primitive, but simultaneously remarkable.
FFV is clearly the black sheep. It was overlooked in the initial US
SNES releases and don't have the deepest story of the three. It's a
great title though. The job system was fantastic and will be even
nicer in the upcoming GBA version with four new jobs. I look forward
to playing it again in portable format.
It's unfortunate, but hopefully this translation will finally give FFV the treatment it deserves. No shoddy CDs with intolerable load times, a refurbished translation, and a few extras. I just can't wait!
FFVI is great, no denying that in my eyes. I don't enjoy it as much
as I do FFIV, because the second half of the game just really drops
off story wise. Yeah, you can explore more and that will be nice to
see portable, but I like story. I think that this will be one of the
top selling GBA games. I'm really interested to see what additional
content gets added. It would be easy to add new dungeons in the
second half. I don't know who they'd add, but extra playable
characters would be fun.
I find it very interesting that they haven't announced much more on this. I really, truly think that FFVI's future will depend heavily on sales of FFV come November. Maybe we'll end up seeing a DS remake instead of a GBA one... I have a sneaking suspicion that this is a possibility, though it's purely speculation on my part.
FFVI is one of the most fantastic RPGs of all time. Sure, there are a few random things about, like odd evil octopi that can survive on land just fine, but it's just part of the charm, isn't it?
I'm so happy to see these remade on the GBA. If only the PS1 FF games
could get the same treatment on the PSP. I don't want to see FFVII on
the PS3 in bright, shiny colors; I want it in portable format. That's
*I* don't want to see it on the PSP!! Ack!! If it were, then I'd have to consider buying one, which is pretty much the last thing that I want, given my increasingly limited budget and current general happiness with "just being a DS owner."
Of course, your words don't shake the feeling that we've just GOT to hear about a large-scale FFVII remake one day soon, but time will tell, won't it?
Oooooooooooooogha! I'm attempting to remain human by uncommonly consuming a Coke. It's actually early in the afternoon as I write this, but the worst thing I could possibly do would be to take a nap right now. My sleep schedule will not be moved by my evil marking schedule, I will vow here and now!
Also, one thing that I forgot to mention: While I began Xenosaga: Episode III this past weekend, I also managed to finish off the main quest of Fire Emblem. WOW. If The Sacred Stones was your first Fire Emblem experience, this one is so, so much more difficult near the end.
Disgaea 2? I'm working on it.
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Answers to October 10th's Questions
#340. d) 101 - 850 points
#341. c) 7680000 - 700 points/1,400 points for Draconn
A Madpony drops 15 Gil in the original Final Fantasy. Contrary to what Wikipedia might say, County Road 15 connects to Highway 401 at Exit 101. I know because I've only seen it about a hundred times! Congrats to everybody who got that one correct.
I've never played Lego Star Wars before, but this is what Draconn has to say about the matter: A blue stud in Lego Star Wars is 1000 studs. There are multipliers for x2, x4, x6, x8, and x10. You can also stand in a double score zone. All together - 1000 * 2 * 4 * 6 * 10 * 2 = 7680000 studs! Wow. The sad thing is... there is absolutely nothing to buy that needs that many studs. What a silly game! Thanks, Draconn, for submitting the question to me!
In Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete, what horrible scheme does more than one NPC fret about after the kidnapping of a prominent playable character takes place? (700 points)
a) the coming of a gigantic she-robot
b) the birth of a demonic baby
c) the rising to power of the "Evil Rockettes"
d) the rising to power of an evil chef
e) the potential of an "Abba" revival
Which of the following games used both "squall" and "cloud" in a single sentence in a fairly obvious reference to Final Fantasy heroes past?
a) Final Fantasy IX
b) Final Fantasy X
c) Final Fantasy X-2
d) Final Fantasy Tactics Advance
e) Final Fantasy IV Advance
If you are despairing because of your Frozen state, never fear; I will let you know in e-mail exactly when that status effect (or any) runs out. Take deep breaths, and you'll be okay.
Obtain these items upon reaching the listed point benchmarks!
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Poison Needle (1 left)
Slowga Spell (2 left),
Float Spell (2 left),
Damage Deflector (2 left)
Gold Armor (1 left),
Any Gem (5 left),
Biora Spell (2 left)
Shuriken (2 left),
Rename Card (1 left),
Scan Spell (2 left)
Mythril Armor (3 left),
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Dark Converter (2 left),
Drainga Spell (2 left),
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Rare Candy (2 left),
Cloak of Evasion (2 left),
Point Tripler (2 left)
(people who I love, but who still need to check their e-mail or somehow get in touch with me because they have unclaimed items- if you fall off the list after a week, it's TOO LATE FOR YOU! Check your spam/trash folders for my messages if you're not getting them, and I'll check mine, too!)
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Hey there, Matt!
How do you come up with so many interesting items and spells for the SOCK competition? I recognize a lot of the names from Final Fantasy, but how do you decide what to include, and how they'll be represented in the competition?
Trial and error, mostly! Many of the items I've introduced have changed slightly over time, and I'm sure several others will change in the future. I don't really know what would work best, but it's an interesting game we've got going, and everyone has their own strategy, so I think it's working "all right", at least! The actual items? I mostly brainstorm as I walk to campus or at the gym or as I drift off to sleep at night. You're forgetting the fact, too, that there are over ONE HUNDRED summons nobody knows about yet... and all sorts of secret items only accessible through the Rare Candy and through other sneaky means.
OK, this isn't really a quickie anymore. Sue me.
Seems like your time at home was a good one,
well, holiday with family and games must always be
a good on, or not?
P.S: Hmmmm, Schnitzel ...
Thanksgiving is more of a tease than anything, to be honest. It's nice to see everyone, but it's so fleeting, since it boils down to just an extra day off. Oh, and I saw the movie "Hoodwinked" over the weekend. That might explain yesterday's title.
So, I asked and I received! Indeed, there are a few more opinions floating around in my inbox on everybody's favourite SNES Final Fantasy that was not released in North America originally! Tomorrow, you might see a few more of them. No matter what your opinion might be, since so many people already have a Game Boy Advance, will you be buying FFV Advance when it is released just a few weeks from now? Why or why not? Will it just be another stinky remake, or will it be cause for celebration? I want to hear what's on your minds!
Inbox Status: -Quite healthy-
Matt managed to play a bit of Xenosaga today, after all!
I am really, really liking the game so far. Oh, my profs will understand if I take the rest of the week off, won't they...?
Oct. 10: Matt
Oct. 9: Josh
Oct. 8: Josh
Oct. 6: Mac
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About the Host
What I Want to Play:
1. Final Fantasy III
2. Final Fantasy XII
3. Fire Emblem: Goddess of Dawn
4. Final Fantasy V
5. Pokémon Diamond/Pearl
What I'm Playing:
1. Disgaea II
2. Fire Emblem GBA
3. Xenosaga: Episode III
Summon in Play:
12. Alan Tse
19. TV's Adam
20. Arros Raikou
25. Hunter B
35. William T.