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October Wonderland
October 12, 2006

Matt Demers - 23:06 EST

ONE QUESTION HAS BEEN burning through my mind, lately. It reared its head a couple of weeks ago on my way home and it's had me thinking ever since.

Here's the situation: The city bus stops at the University Centre and a huge crowd gathers. The bus is absolutely packed with people when I get on, and I take the only seat available, next to a fine looking young man. Other people continue to get on, though they have to stand.

Now, the first big stop is the one in front of the mall. A huge fraction (perhaps two-thirds) of everybody gets off, and then there is ample space and many completely free seats. Here, a dilemma occurs.

See, in our macho-guy and entrenchedly homophobic society, things get complicated here. Do I get up and move to a free seat, just because "guys don't sit besides other guys"? If I do that, though, does that send a message like "Wow buddy, you stink so much I can't stand to be near you"? I perhaps felt more discomfort than I should have, but I remained put, even as the bus got emptier and emptier. It seemed weird, but I had no choice in the matter.

Anyway, it'd be nice to hear your responses on this stressful matter, lest it happens again. Silly me. And now that I've finished my daily rant, it's time to look at some letters.




LETTERS
What makes a good game "good"?


A few SOCK guesses first:
342: A
343: A
I've been meaning to write in for a while, and I finally managed to seize a bit of initiatize which, when combined with procrastination on my many papers, inspired me to finally write in again. I'm PS2- less until Thanksgiving, tragically, so I won't be able to play FF 12 for a while. I will, however, pick up the FF5 remake, as it is indeed underrated and quite fun, though not as good as its other SNES FF bretheron. I still think FF6 is the best of the three, and although FF4 is good, there are some things keeping it from being awesome, especially the difficulty jump at the very, very end which has left me stuck in the moon cavern leveling from 50 to 60+, and I STILL can't take Zeromus. The one thing I regret about FF6 is buying and reading a guide when it came out, managing to spoiling the entire game for myself, and waltzing through the entire WoR with the vanish/doom trick.

Matt

Oh, those darn guides. I'm telling you, they're the root of all evil!

Usually, when I discover something like that, I'll pretend I didn't even read it. Vanish/Doom might be an interesting glitch, but it sucks all of the challenge out of the game. For a guy like me who finds that fun is a function of challenge, well, utilizing such a strategy all the time would pretty much spoil the game.

FF5 though, is IMHO not as good story-wise as the other 2. Particularly grating, to me, is how often NPCs s acrifice themselves to bail you out of trouble. One character gets killed off, then a few hours later appears again with no explanation to save you before dying AGAIN.

Matt

I just find that there are a lot of very over-the-top coincidences in the game. There's one point where an earthquake occurs, and you just happen to be standing over the only hole that appears, taking you to some crazy significant place you need to go. Surely, there are weird coincidences in other Final Fantasy games, though; I'm still working on the fact that shallows only exist where they NEED to exist on FFIV's map for you to get from place to place by means of hovercraft, and nowhere else. Or the fact that absolutely everyone survived an extremely huge crash in FFVI at the end of the world. Or so many other things.

The job system is without a doubt the saving grace of that game, and oh so fun to play with. Other games I've beaten/played recently (er... a month ago before my PS2 and I were seperated, at least): Dragon Quest 8, which I beat sometime in August, was indeed excellent. I especially liked the way they tied the after-ending alternate dungeon into the main story. It's good that they did, because I was really annoyed when I thought they weren't going to explain any of it. The one big twist regarding the hero's father, though, I did manage to guess the instant I talked to the king of Argonia. I went to the magic spring quite frequently as well, and they dropped a few more hints there, too.

Matt

I didn't go to the spring much, but I really liked how DQVIII tied up all of the loose ends, and with great elegance too. I'd go as far as to say that the bonus material of DQVIII is some of the best I've ever experienced in an RPG (or any game, for that matter).

Other game would be Disgaea 2, which is fantastic. Sure it's more of the same, but "the same" is fantastic, and I'm glad they ma de twe eks to differentiate the classes, make the Dark Senate more interesting, and wrote a great story (so far, I'm only about halfway through it) with plenty of nods and continuity with the first game. Way more interesting than the usual RPG sequels that always take place far in the future when the original heros are long gone, if it mentions them at all. (Lunar 2 does this, but does it well enough that the continuity feels much more "right" and a few of the immortal characters are still around anyway). The only pet peeve I have about D2 is that they didn't improve a few more of the interfaces, especially the entry to the item world. I would have appreciated a central "bank" to store specialists in rather than having them scattered over a couple dozen items, but it's admittedly such a minor thing and really doesn't keep me from enjoying the game at all.

Matt

Indeed. Nippon Ichi TRPGs have always been a bit awkward as far as interface is concerned, but in all honesty, there aren't many TRPGs that have an easy-to-use interface at ALL, mostly because micromanaging armies of dozens of characters takes a bit more organization than just a party of three or four.

I never really got into dealing with specialists much, and I use the Item World primarily to level up my people rather than the item. The fact that the item does get more powerful is a nice side bonus, though, of course.

When I get home in November I'll wrap that up, then I've got Shadow Hearts Covenant to beat and FF12 to buy, as well as the two VP gam es to look into. At this rate I'll never need a next gen system!

Matt

Exactly! I think that this is becoming more people's strategy these days, now that it's becoming apparent that PS3s will not be easy to find anytime soon, and Wiis might be nearly as precious. The PS2 has a lot of life left in it, so I'm with you. Let's enjoy the present for now.

Oh, and I need to ask, what's the procedure for submitting our own SOCK questions?

Eakin3


Matt

I'm glad you asked! Just make absolutely sure that your question is accurate, and just stick it in a letter to me along with five options a, b, c, d, and e, just as you see every day. Easy, hmm? If I select your question, you'll receive double the value that I assign to it on the day I reveal the answer to it. The more creative you are, the longer it has been since your LAST submitted question, and the further away from first place you are, the more likely it will be that I'll choose your question. If it doesn't get chosen, don't despair; try again!

Thanks for your letter, Eakin! Take care.



Final Fantasies, reborn!


Hey Matt,

Just wanted to get your views on the quickly approaching remake of FFV!

Matt

Go right ahead, good sir.

In my own opinion, FFV was the best out of the 3 SNES Final Fantasies - IV was a bit too basic for me. The story line was seemed very flung together at the end ("Let's bring back all the characters that made important sacrifices (except the old guy!) and make their apparent "deaths" completely pointless!") and some of the characters seemed really underdeveloped compared to others which made me forget about them completely when they went from the party (Palom, Porom, FuSoYa and even Rosa come to mind).

Matt

It's true. Palom and Porom's sacrifice kind of loses the twinge of pain when you find out that they're okay after all. As for Tellah, well... who needs that uesless old fart anyway?

As for VI - again, character development seemed poor (although considering the huge amount of playable characters in it, that isn't too much of a surprise anyway) and after the first world things just fell flat on their face - the rest of the game just felt like "Let's go do in Kefka and do some side quests to get back all the other party members!", which (in my opinion!) completely killed off any real storyline. The graphics were the best in the series, although I can't help but wonder if Square traded in looks for story...

Matt

See, here I disagree with you a bit. I thought that the character development was absolutely remarkable for many characters. Certainly, Gogo and Umaro and Mog didn't have a lot of background, but the "core" of the party was, I thought, fantastic. Every single character had their own little piece of individualized story in the World of Ruin, and some of the tales were quite well spun. Locke's past will always bring a tear to my *sniff* eye.

You're right, though; the main storyline was effectively finished by the end of the first half of the game. The characters make the rest of the game what it is, and I have to admit that I really enjoyed the flavour, which is definitely unique among all Final Fantasy games.

V really was the gem of the SNES titles - the re-invention of the job system made the game really fresh and fun, and even though there were only 5 characters in the game, if you tried different jobs every time you played, the characters would never be the same if you replayed it, which gave it a lot of replayability. The character development might not have been so great as some of the other characters in the other games (IV's Cecil, VI's Shadow etc.) but there was still enough there to keep me interested. The different advantages and disadvantages of each job made taking on each boss fun, trying different combinations until everything went well or got so annoying you had to take a break before trying again (Omega, for example!). There was loads that made it a great game. Sure, it's not perfect, but it's still one of the best 2D RPG's of all time to me.

Matt

Sure! I think that's a fair description of the game. I think that the storyline is neat and definitely original. And while the character development isn't perfect, it's not nonexistent, and it's better, I think, than the character development in FFIV. It's also almost twice as long, which is a good thing, because as much as I love the game, FFIV is borderline-unacceptably short.

And after all this time we're finally getting it on the portable GBA, and in a decent translation! (sorry if people disagree with me here, but the PSX translation was AWFUL!) Although after IV there are some things that worry me a little...

IV on the GBA seemed really badly rushed - the most noticable flaw was the battle system, which made it impossible to plan battles. Just when you think you've planned your next move, the game skips the next characters turn and moves onto someone else! That made some of the battles a lot more annoying. Not that much more difficult though, although it was aggravating after a while. The extra dungeon was alright, but after spending all the time completing the game to get there I wasn't exactly happy to find that most of the new monsters were just color changed versions of old ones, and the new boss at the end really didn't feel like it was worth all the effort getting there to have a go at beating him - he was easily beaten and it felt like no effort was put in to make it difficult.

Matt

You BET. That translation was disrespectful, and clearly a cash-grab. I'm really glad that Square Enix has shaped up and is now putting some quality and effort into its remakes. Even though FFIV Advance has a flawed battle system, it's pretty neat that it had a fully redone translation, better music, and touched-up graphics. I only hope that V provides more of the same (of the good, of course).

I really hope V doesn't turn out the same way, or it'll kill off a lot of interest I had in it... I'm also starting to wonder if the release of VI depends on the success of V - I mean, it's supposed to be being released in Japan at the end of next month, but we've still had no info on it at all really. If V ends up like IV did (and i'm hoping it doesn't!), then it probably won't get great feedback, which might mean VI won't be released? Either way, I hope they don't make a mess of V - it's a great game and it deserves a lot of work on it to make it great on the GBA. What do you think?

Cya,
Dracus


Matt

I'm worried, too, because the GBA really shows its age these days. The GBA section of the local EBGames is awfully small now, definitely not located centrally, and covered mostly with the most recent Pokťmon titles. I'll bet that the sales figures for V will indeed tell the tale of FFVI's fate. Perhaps a DS remake would be better for everybody anyway. How do you feel about that idea?

Thanks for the letter!



SMT: Changed forever?


Hey Matt,

It's finally here and I thought I would share my initial impressions of SMT: Devil Summoner.

Matt

Excellent! That'll be a refreshing change from all the FF-talk recently.

I went and picked up my Devil Summoner pre-order today and I started playing it a little bit (I'll dive into it tomorrow). The combat is kind of hectic, but it all makes sense. The controls are good and it kind of feels like Devil May Cry 3 meets SMT. You can give specific commands to your demons, but they are kind of automated from then on. With a push of the L1 button though, you can freeze the combat and change demons or give them new commands at any time.

Matt

I see. The way you describe it, it actually sounds something like Wait mode in Final Fantasy XII, if the demo was any indication.

The sword feels pretty natural and the controls for that are simple and straight-forward. As for the gun... It is easy to waste ammo doing a bullet combo with them, but so far it only seems to take one bullet for the effect to take place (so kind of keep that in mind). The overall button layout seems to have been well thought out.

The graphics look pretty spiffy and I am very impressed as it is just another example of what can really be done with the PS2. The character models look good and so do the backdrops. The dialogue is really good too with some pretty cool slang thrown in. I'll be sure to write more tomorrow once I really get to spend some time with the game. I look forward to reading the thoughts of other people who are playing this game also.

#342: E
#343: A
-thinkfreemind

Matt

It's good to hear your opinion on the game. I haven't heard much from anyone else yet, and the reviews have pointed to a "just a bit better than average" game that strays from its roots in perhaps a few negative ways. I'm glad that you're enjoying it nonetheless! You'll have to get back to me soon to tell me more as your quest unfolds!



No GBA? NO GBA!? How can this be?


Ooooh, yes, I would pick up FFV immediately, if it weren't for the minor fact that I have no GBA. But between it, Tactics, and the old-school style Mega Man games, I've strongly considered it! Still, having played the original remake on the PSX will alleviate the yearnings for a while, until I can get my financial situation under control.

Matt

Yes, yes, but THAT one sucked! This one will be great, in contrast. Won't it? Won't it?

And you really need to invest in a DS. What are you going to do when Final Fantasy III comes out? And Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker? And... and...

Speaking of money, I have to ask this, because I'm wondering this for myself: what is the best thing to do with your old games, or the ones you've played already and don't project doing any more with? I used to trade in to GameStop, but it's not as good a deal as it could be. eBay probably makes more money, but it's time-consuming and uncertain. I'm not sure what to do with them anymore. Donate to SOCK so we can get some replacement top prizes? I dunno...


Matt

Heh heh. A few people actually have donated to the competition in the past, as you know. It just goes to show you how generous some people around here are. I'm excited to see the day that someone wins one of them, finally!

I almost never get rid of my old games, just because I'm such a retro-gamer that I just know that one day down the road, I'll really regret it. I'll never, ever succumb to selling them back to EBGames or Gamestop, especially for an enjoyable game. If it's a worthy game, I just don't like the idea of having someone else buying a previously bought game and thus not contributing to the profit or sales figures of the company that released it. So I'm weird.

So, eBay it is. Or, if you have any RPGaming acquaintances that might be interested, sell it to them for half price. At least then you know your game has a good home!



Decisions, decisions.


Iíve been kicking around the idea of picking up an old copy of Radiata Knights, the Gamecube version of Fire Emblem, or even an old copy of Dragon Warrior VII that I found. I canít justify getting all three, right now, though. Do you have any recommendations? I might have missed your conclusions on Radiata Knights, but it seems that youíve been enjoying Fire Emblem, at least based on your remarks in a previous column. As for Dragon Warrior VII, to be honest, the comments Iíve read about DW VII have scared me away from it, simply because Iíve never been a real fan of level grinding. Still, I wonder if Iíll regret never giving myself the chance to play it, especially since Iíve found someone selling it at a semi-reasonable price.

Matt

Radiata Stories, you mean?

Out of those three, I have to very, very strongly recommend Fire Emblem, even though I haven't even played the darn game. I've heard nothing but greatness about it, and if you like Fire Emblem, well, it's a no-brainer. If you haven't played a Fire Emblem game before, the decision is a bit more difficult. If you don't mind a challenge, and you're okay with the idea of permanently losing characters if you're not careful, then you'll be okay. It's a TRPG series with a fantastic amount of strategy, and I'd say it's almost certainly my very favourite series out of the whole sub-genre.

Iíve had a funny relationship with the Dragon Quest series. I finished the first game handily, and enjoyed certain elements about it, but I eventually gravitated to series that had seemed more advanced (at the time). What can I say? I was lucky to get one or two games in a year, and it wasnít easy to rent an RPG and make any significant progress since the games were saved directly to the cartridges. Anyway, since the gameplay and graphics seemed relatively archaic in subsequent installments, I never really gave II, III or IV a chance, which I think is a crying shame. Even though Iíve never played the majority of the series, as Iíve grown older, Iíve become more interested getting acquainted with the older games; especially after playing, and falling in love with, Dragon Quest VIII. Itís my hope that Square Enix will decide to release some of the old Dragon Warrior games on the Virtual Console. Iíd still be left wanting; Iíd love to find a way to get copies of V and VI, especially V.

Matt

Actually, I don't think that your relationship is all that "funny". I think it's pretty typical. A lot of people played the first one, because it was actually fairly popular at the time, and was the subject of much talk. Not only was it original for the time, it was distributed in a Nintendo Power magazine promotion, too. It's a shame that the series fell off the map afterwards, but things have improved since then.

I remember how absolutely excited I was when I heard that DWVII was coming to North America. I almost convinced myself that it wasn't actually going to happen. After playing the game, and seeing the "meh" reviews, I was a bit worried that we'd never see the light of another Dragon Quest game again, and the worry cemented itself when DQIV's remake was cancelled a bit later. DQVIII, though, has put the game back on the map in North America in a really big way, and you're a perfect example of that. For fun, you should hunt out a copy of Dragon Warrior III or IV, if that's a possibility, and catch a bit of what you missed. There's no question that the games were some of the most epic RPGs for the NES, way, way back when.

Now, I love anything associated with the series. I even loved the brief run of the Dragon Warrior anime on TV back in the early 90s (and dearly wished they had completed the story in the U.S.); I wish I could find a way to watch these again. As an aside, when I saw Dragon Ball Z on Cartoon Network years later, I thought some of the character designs looked familiar. J When I finally discovered the Symphonic Suites a few years ago, I did my best to obtain CD versions of each. To this day, Iím only missing Dragon Quest IV and Dragon Quest String Quartet! If anyone visiting this site hasnít actually taken the time to listen to them yet, I highly recommend that you find them and give them a try. Itís amazing how complex and wonderful the arrangements actually are when you hear them played through proper instrumentation.

Take care.

Sundoulos


Matt

I totally agree! In a completely ironic twist, I have Dragon Quest IV's Original Sound version (from the PS1 remake) playing in the background even as we speak. I have so much DQ music on my computer, it would probably make most people's head spin.

On the side, it's a bit of an awkward thing when I have a friend over that wants to see what music I have on my computer. I know it's more than a bit geeky that 95% of my music is from video games, but hey- it's what I like. Why can't I be proud of it rather than embarrassed?

Thanks very much! And take care yourself.





THE NEXUS

So the snow really did start falling today, unbelievably. And not only were there a few flakes. It was snowing REALLY hard at times; hard enough for it to stick on the ground, which was thankfully warm enough for it to melt quickly away. I was absolutely covered by it, though, during my walk from the gym to the University Centre this afternoon. It was also unnaturally windy, making it feel much colder than it already was. I know this is Canada and all, but for heaven's sakes!


Caption


For complete contest rules, click here!


Answers to October 11th's Questions

#342. e) the potential of an "Abba" revival - 700 points
Yep. This is the Working Designs Factor that you've all heard about. Most hilarious.

#343. a) Final Fantasy IX - 700 points
"No Cloud, no Squall shall hinder us!" was the quote. I'm surprised that some of you didn't get this one, but most of you did okay with it.



Today's New Questions

#344:
On the Epoch's time-setter-dial, how big is the angle between each option of era? (800 points)

a) 30 degrees
b) 36 degrees
c) 45 degrees
d) 60 degrees
e) 90 degrees


#345:
How many stories tall is the first apartment building on the left when you first arrive in Fourside? (900 points)

a) 2
b) 3
c) 4
d) 5
e) 6


Again, Freeze is holding fast for many of you. Best of luck shaking the effect before something BAD happens!



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Obtain these items upon reaching the listed point benchmarks!

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10,000 points:
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14,000 points:
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19,000 points:
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50,000 points:
Rare Candy (2 left), Rebirth Stone (1 left), or Hyper Sneak Glove (1 left)

61,000 points:
Dark Converter (2 left), Drainga Spell (2 left), or Apocalypse Spell (1 left)

73,000 points:
Rare Candy (2 left), Cloak of Evasion (2 left), or Point Tripler (2 left)

STRAGGLERS:
(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!)

  • Josh (2 days left!)
  • Bainick


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QUICKIES

The problem mentioned regarding Xenosaga: Episode 3 (about having to advance the text line by line) can easily be solved. Just press the Select button during a cutscene. Then, it all flows nicely (without you having to advance it line by line). It makes the voice acting seem MUCH more continuous. I don't think they tell you this in the Instruction Booklet. I figured it out while doing the "soft" reset before turning off the system.

So yes, push select and the cinema scenes become MUCH more enjoyable.

An RPGfan

Matt
Ooh! Flashy! Thanks for the tip!

NO WORDS TODAY. And let me say how glad I am I evaded the freeze beam, or whatever it was. Though now I just probably jinxed myself.

-TV's

Matt
You never know. That nefarious Boreas has lasted a pretty long time atop the ol' scoreboard!! You never know what the summoner might have up his or her sleeve...



IN CLOSING

It's been a talkative week, but don't stop now! Bainick joins us tomorrow for much more, so make sure you tune in to see what we have in store. Until then, I bid you all farewell, as I do every day.



Send a Letter!

Inbox Status: Fantastic. Thanks, guys!!



slimey@rpgamer.com
Matt had really, really, REALLY spicy ribs for dinner.


Anyone looking for a collagen injection to make their lips swell? Trust me, you don't need it. Just go to Shakespeare Arms, a pub in Guelph. They make awesome ribs, but jebus, their Louisiana flavouring is so ridiculously spicy, my lips were swollen for awhile afterwards...

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Oct. 11: Matt

Oct. 10: Matt

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What I Want to Play:

1. Final Fantasy III

2. Final Fantasy XII

3. Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance

4. Fire Emblem: Goddess of Dawn

5. Pokťmon Diamond/Pearl



What I'm Playing:

1. Disgaea II

2. Fire Emblem GBA

3. Xenosaga: Episode III



SOCK's Scoreboard

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