Drat, Drat, Drat!
November 3, 2006
Matt Demers - 21:13 EST
THIS COLUMN SHALL hereby close out this week. I received quite a bit of
e-mail after I requested suggestions yesterday, and for that, I must thank you all for your input. As a result, I'm going to do the following:
- I'm afraid that I'm going to have to put an e-mail word limit into effect. I've thought about this before, and since at least two people had things to say about the length of some letters (not just JuMeSyn's, either- I'm not trying to target anyone specific, and nobody, including JuMeSyn, should take offense to this ^^) there will now be a word limit imposed on all mail of 1000 words. That still allows you to rant on fairly lengthily if you feel like it, but if you go beyond that, I will edit your message. I hope that you all understand why this is a necessary thing; Josh is very likely to put a similar limit into effect sometime soon.
- On the upside, I got zero complaints about the contest, and thus, SOCK II will likely happen sometime early next year (either January or April, depending on how I'm feeling). Some people have complained that the trivia in the competition is too obscure, but SOCK is set to expand in some ways so that the question-answering is less central (though still very important!) Unfortunately, if questions aren't relatively obscure from time to time, everyone would get everything correct. But, I can work on finding some interesting ones, anyway. As promised, I'll deliver more specific information one week from today.
- I will continue to feature co-hosts, averaging about one per week. Next Tuesday, in fact, Boojum will join us. You might want to ask him how on earth he achieved the impossible, though it's up to you!
And, of course, I'm always up for any suggestions or ideas that anyone has to contribute. Communicating with me is key to the success of this column, and if you haven't figured it out already, I'm a pretty approachable person.
Anyway, let's answer a few more e-mails to finish off the week!
Panic Room! Anybody see that random movie of a few years back?
Yes its time to panic. Why? I'll tell you why. When I bought Disgaea 2, I became entranced and addicted by its many customizable systems, but Valkyrie Profile 2 followed soon after. I switched to VP2 because I hadn't played a side scroller rpg in many, many years and wanted to test the waters. The waters were cool and refreshing, and I had an absolute ball button mashing enemies into pulp. Then, Tales of the Abyss was released.. I switched to Tales' because I desperately wanted the series to redeem itself after the whole 'Legendia' debaucle but didn't plan on playing for very long before switching back to VP2. Well, the game won me over with a great battle system, and I wanted to keep playing until the main character stopped being a complete d-bag. I endured 15 hours of spoiled brattitude before finally being able to stand the character. Then FFXII was released...
FFXII proves one thing to me: Demos are for suckers
I've switched to FFXII because, quite simply, it just rocks too damn hard. I've tried to put down the controller, but I think it may now be a permanent feature of my hand. The battle system, the story, the presentation, the graphics, the music...eveything is a polished example of true game-design excellence. Square-Enix has done the impossible and topped themselves...AGAIN!
I CAN'T WAIT TO GET BACK TO IT! Argh, listening to everyone else talk about how great it is makes me feisty and envious, bordering on jealousy. I worked on my assignment ALL DAY today and all night last night, so if I can get through the assignment that I have to *mark*, I hope I have some time to play it over the weekend. Grrrr, world!!
It certainly sounds like you have a few things on the go, though. Don't forget about them all! Or, do what I'm planning on doing with XSIII and FFXII: Alternate every night between the two! You'll end up having something new to look forward to each day. Of course, you don't have to take that advice; it's just a suggestion.
Anyway, back to the panic. The panic part is I've yet to play Xenosaga III; I've yet to buy a DS; I've yet to play Okami; Phantasy Star Universe just came out; and in two weeks I've got pre-orders for the Wii and Twilight Princess coming to me. How the hell am I going to find time to play all the completely awesome games I already have before I get flooded with a new stack of awesomeness?! Keep in mind Rogue Galaxy is going to be released at the end of January. This situation is my greatest dream and worst nightmare rolled into one. What am I supposed to do? NOT play Zelda? NOT finish FFXII? NOT climb into a giant mecha and wax philosophical?! None of those is even a remote option. It's hopeless... God, bless us, everyone!
Easy. Just play sick for awhile so that you have some unearned time off, and go rob a bank (or a wealthy-looking old lady, if you prefer) in order to fund your awful gaming habit. If you don't get caught and/or you can ever forgive yourself, that sounds like a great plan of action! In all seriousness, though, Christmas is coming, and that usually opens up a little bit of extra time to play with. You could drink some Red Bull and Jolt mixed together in order to pull some less-than-healthy all-nighters to try and get through a few of those games once you do get a few days to work with. Otherwise, I'm all out of ideas, I'm afraid.
Best of luck! Remember: This is a problem that we -all- have to deal with these days, so you're definitely not alone...
I tell ya, Matt. I normally am very passionate about political elections, but, I have to tell you Iím so absolutely SICK of political ads, I simply cannot wait for the U.S. congressional and state elections to be over. Yuck, yuck, yuck. No matter how I vote, for the most part, it seems that I have to vote for what I think is the lesser of two evils; I find myself not voting for my party, but voting against the opposition. I avoid specifics because this isnít a political forum. :)
Enh, we have the same problem here. Politics, these days, is a depressing subject for a caring and libertarian-minded guy like myself, so yes, let's concentrate on the gaming.
Just a warning to everyone, but this letter is ripe with a few very minor Final Fantasy XII Spoilers. Don't say I didn't warn you.
So, for the next week, aside from voting, Iím avoiding the news outlets and slipping into the political intrigues of Final Fantasy XII. Ah, sweet, sweet escapism, how I love thee. I have to wonder if one of the reasons that myth and stories
How are you enjoying the initial hours of Final Fantasy XII? I was actually able to get a couple of quality gaming hours in at once, which I havenít really been able to do very much since I got married, and I loved every minute of it. My wife was even a little interested in the CGI scenes, which is also rare, and it only speaks of how interesting the initial story setup is. I really enjoyed sharing what little I know about the characterís backgrounds with her.
I have the feeling that your first thought there was left unfinished, accidentally. Oh well. Anyway, I'm quite enjoying the setup of the story, though I have to remind myself from time to time that yes, it's a Final Fantasy game. The background seems so much "normal" than usual for a Final Fantasy game, and I think it's pretty clear what I mean by that. We haven't really seen a story start like this since... well, Final Fantasy II, really. Actually, FFII starts out QUITE similarly, if you think about it. Not identical, but similar. I can't wait to see how things unfold, though!
I must, with some embarrassment, admit that I got a little too zealous for a fight in the first few outings from Rabanastre and had my butt handed back to me by the Saurus and one of the Marks. The combat system is initially a little dull, but get a little livelier when you can open up new licenses and abilities; I think it will really grow on me by the time I can get into full gaming stride. I am also finding that Iím making purchases very carefully, but I wonder if this will change as my charactersí abilities grow.
Yeah, and combat isn't USUALLY exciting in most games at the beginning. Of course you're not going to have the special spells and the coolest summons and everything from the start. Dragon Quest games all have a downright boring battle system at the beginning, but it gradually grows in complexity throughout the game as you progress. Just because battles have been simple for me thus far in FFXII isn't discouraging, as far as I'm concerned.
I'm also finding that funds are unusually short for a Final Fantasy game, which is almost welcome; I can't remember the last time that I played a FF where I couldn't just stock up fifty potions really early in the game. Hmm, hmm.
As I mentioned to Ouro the other day, Iíve never liked character leveling systems that were generic, where each character basically evolves from the same generic template; I prefer games where characters have innate traits, skill sets, and growth paths. In the former game type, I typically fall into the trap of developing my characters with similar abilities; this time, I want to purposefully make each character unique...in a way that seems to fit their characterization. I hope the license board adds enough variation for this.
Thatís all for now.
Me too. I'm all about creating the illusion of classes even if none exist, because I like creating specialists out of characters. I've even deliberately avoided all of the available white magick so far for my main character, though I suspect that my tune will change on that eventually out of necessity. We shall see, shan't we? So far, I'm liking the License Board; it's like a blind Sphere Grid, which is kind of cool. I can't wait to accidentally discover something really cool!
Anyway, thanks for writing in!
RPGamer: Helping schools every day.
What a fantastic website.
Please could you advise who I would need to contact if I want to gain permission to use a piece of artwork (from E3).
Its a wonderful picture of snow white. I am a resources technician and our school is doing snow white as part of the xmas pantomime and that picture is beautiful.
I will await your reply.
I'm glad that you've discovered us. Enjoy your stay!
The pictures on this site have copyright protection, but since this is for a school function, and isn't for profit, then by all means, go ahead! If it's a piece of fanmade art, on the other hand, you might want to e-mail a message along to the artist to get an official "okay". You might even be able to tell them directly how much you like their work at the same time, too!
Thanks for contacting me, and good luck putting this event together!
Gah. I can't stay away.
Now that I've secured my copy, and need not worry about them running out of stock, I wanted to share with anyone who hasn't grabbed FFXII yet that Circuit City seems to be selling it online for about 25% off. It looks as though it's online only, but with free shipping you still end up getting it about $10 cheaper.
Given that I've almost NEVER seen video games go on sale, this seems to be a pretty big damn deal. I ordered mine last night, after a search throughout multiple stores for a reduced price, because hey, I'm cheap.
It's true; video games never go on sale, and I think it's because generally, electronics stores don't make a lot of money off of selling at the Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price as it is, which in turn is why they're over-the-top when it comes to promoting used games and insurance and other fluffish things.
That said, I think that FFXII is being sold "on sale" here, too. Best Buy lists FFXII as having a "regular price" of $59.99, for instance, but is currently selling the non-Collector's Edition copies for ten dollars less than that.
And my SOCK points are meaningless at this point, so anyone who's got that damn hateful dictionary that screwed me over twice in a row can feel free to use it against me. In fact, here:
FINAL FANTASY XII!
FINAL FANTASY XII!
FINAL FANTASY XII!
And I hope you feel real good about taking points away from a guy who's just trying to help you save money on your purchase of FINAL FANTASY XII!
Wouldn't you know it, but you aren't affected today. Mwah!
One item that WON'T be returning will be that Dictionary of Doom. Sorry, Sean, but it's really something that acts to penalize people from writing in, which kind of defeats the purpose. Ah well... you live, and you learn.
What was I saying?
I didn't even notice this happened, but Neverwinter Nights 2 came out. I'm sort of surprised this didn't make that big of a splash, though I guess when you're releasing an RPG at the same time as FINAL FANTASY XII(!) you're bound to sort of sneak in under the radar.
I got the first Neverwinter Nights. I got both expansions. I think I played it for about five hours. I have a real problem sticking with PC games, especially RPGs. I have an even bigger problem BUYING PC games even though I know I'm probably not going to finish them. Like how I got Oblivion and haven't played it in two months, or bought Fable: The Lost Chapters before my computer could even support it, and excitedly played it on my new one for about one day before bailing on it.
It's not even that I don't like them; it's just that they don't really count in my eyes. Console games always take priority over PC ones, for whatever reason. It's why you can count the number of PC RPGs I've finished on one hand, but I've slogged through probably well over a hundred on various consoles.
You're right; not many people have talked about it at all. In fact, I don't know if I've received more than a single e-mail on the subject in the past month or two, which is perhaps part of that "in the shadow of FFXII" phenomenon, as you say. Also, I'm still think that my theory holds pretty solidly here: PC RPGamers are underrepresented by the people who visit this site, something I've claimed since the beginning.
DO try sticking with it, though. Think of all the money you're wasting if you spend all of five hours playing any given game. Ouch! Also, I should eat my own words, since I bought Grandia III and played it for about two hours before going ga-ga over Disgaea II and Xenosaga III. Ho-hum.
Speaking of, even though I've secured my copy of FINAL FANTASY XII, which I plan to review at work (probably, and infuriatingly, before I've finished the whole thing), I'm glad I'm having it shipped because it gives me time to finish Paper Mario 2 before it gets here.
Uh-oh! Another minus zero points for you~
Now a good 20 hours in, I can safely say that I love Paper Mario 2. Despite only minor alterations, it is actually a much, much better game than its predecessor, which was already a very good game itself.
Maybe it's because I was watching Star Wars on my girlfriend's laptop while playing last night, but as I wandered around Keelhaul Key in search of my fifth of seven crystal stars, I realized that the game was good for a lot of the same reasons that Star Wars was good, before George Lucas sold his soul and sucked all the inherent joy right out of the series amid shameless marketing blitzes and needless digital "improvements" to the originals.
Mario's universe, like the Star Wars universe, is fundamentally silly, simplistic, and child-like in nature. Every one of its inhabitants is colossally stupid, but in an endearing way that is actually necessary in order for the story being told to function. Villains and heroes are in stark black and white; there are never any shades of grey (except maybe when Bowser joins you in Super Mario RPG, but even then he's still clearly a pretty bad guy). It's a world created for a child, but it's familiar, friendly and charming enough to be enticing to full-grown people...such as they are, anyway.
And, also like Star Wars, Paper Mario is enhanced by its very familiarity. What made Star Wars work had precious little to do with Lucas as a filmmaker, since he is a terrible director, a worse screenwriter, and apparently has either little understanding or no concern about what it actually is that people loved about his earlier work. Star Wars, the original trilogy anyway, worked because it was a story that resonated with mankind dating back since when mankind first told stories that could resonate. (Joseph frigging Campbell worked on the screenplay with him, for crying out loud!)
Star Wars took mythological archetypes that dated back literally thousands of years and put them in a strange and unique universe. Sure, these people were from outer space, and some of them were just weird puppets, but you knew those characters before you knew them. And even Vader being Luke's father, maybe a surprise on one level, certainly made sense within the context of ancient-myth-told-in-space that Star Wars essentially was.
In turn, Paper Mario is as good as it is because of how familiar it is, with the subtle adjustments made to it to tell an old, old story in a unique way. Of course the Princess is abducted. Of course Mario has to collect stuff to save her. Of course Bowser is trying to get in Mario's way. And of course Mario is going to win in the end. There isn't a single plot twist that isn't blatantly obvious to anyone who has ever played a game before (to the point where the game has a disguised villain actually shouting at "you in front of the TV" not to reveal his true identity to Mario, literally acknowledging that you've known for a long time who he really is behind that not-very-good disguise).
Paper Mario 2 is inherently comforting, because we've been there before, and yet we haven't. It would be great fun for young gamers to get into; kids who would be just as unimpressed with the original Super Mario Bros. as people from my generation would be with Pong, or maybe those electric football games where the players just vibrate and move around on the board, knocking into each other.
But really, it was obviously made for those of us who remember when Mario was a guy in a brown shirt and red overalls, had a mustache the exact same color as his hat, and infuriatingly had to keep rescuing little mushroom people who told him his princess was in another castle, but wouldn't draw the poor bastard a map, or even give him so much as a pogo stick to speed up his travels. It's for those of us who are intimately familiar with Mario and the ridiculously silly universe he inhabits.
Wow. I've never seen such a heartfelt, almost philosophical take on a game like Paper Mario. The fact is that the Mario Universe is great because it's still the same as it ever was. Sure, a few new characters show up from time to time, and Bowser's plots change slightly in construct from episode to episode, but there will always be mushroom-people running around, there will always be the same familiar theme musics to remind us where we are, and the light-hearted sense of humour that the series has evolved into isn't about to go anywhere.
Every Mario game, now, is a testament to those that came before it, and an old-school gamer like myself wouldn't have it any other way!
It looks like my Star Wars analogy is wearing a bit thin at this point. Maybe it is. But the point is that Mario is the origin of console video gaming, and Paper Mario touches on that origin, knowingly, and with a wink and a smile. Star Wars, which NEVER took itself even a little bit seriously in the original trilogy, told us a story using the elements that make up the very origin of story...again, knowingly, and with a wink and a smile.
It's why watching the original trilogy can make me feel like a little kid again, while watching the new trilogy makes me feel like I'm being shouted down at by a guy on a pedestal. And it's why Paper Mario 2 is great in a way far beyond it being a well-made game and a surprisingly well-designed RPG: It acknowledges, then simultaneously embraces and pokes fun at the origins of modern video games; reminds us why we love them, why we BEGAN to love them, and shows us that its makers still love them too.
Or, if you want the short version: PAPER MARIO 2 BE'S FUN!
Yes, that's a good way of putting it too. And despite the simplistic look and feel to the game, it doesn't take very long to discover the surprising depth of the game. Any Gamecube owner who hasn't played it yet prides themselves on being an RPGamer owes it to themselves to at least give the game a try.
Seriously...all that over a frigging Mario title? I'm completely ashamed of myself. Still, tune in next week as I explore the literary value of Fraggle Rock, and the philosophical implications of the use of inhuman, inanimate objects to express human ideas and emotions. In particular, the Doozers' determination to continue building various structures even as the Fraggles continued to mercilessly consume their building materials, and its connection to the ancient tale of Sisyphus, condemned eternally to the futile task of pushing a rock up a mountain, only for it to roll back down again.
...FINAL FANTASY XII!
Minus zero points!
Fraggle Rock!? I didn't know that other people watched that show... wow! Now this is exciting.
Thanks, Mr. TV's Adam, for your spiel, and I hope to hear from you sometime soon again!
To the person that asking about more tactical RPGs to try, I'll strongly second your recommendation for any and all Fire Emblem games. I have to disagree with you on FFTA, however. In my experience of playing through it, the painfully easy battles, combined with the horribly uninformative interface and the insipid plot are more than enough to make it hard to stay interested past the first few hours. It's not a complete waste, but with far superior choices like Tactics Ogre: The Knight of Lodis or Shining Force: Resurrection of the Dark Dragon on the GBA, it should be pretty far down the list. Sorry if this comes off as excessively negative, but I hate to see deserving games overlooked in favor of the Final Fantasy brand.
I think I agree with you on most counts. Now, I haven't played either of those last recommendations of yours, but Final Fantasy Tactics Advance was far from perfect. I have to admit that I had some fun playing it, though. It was neat to see FFIX's magic system morphed into a somewhat interesting Tactical RPG system, and the classes/races element and music were both lots of fun. It's true that the game was a cakewalk, and some other things, like the story, fell well short of what I expected. However, for someone who is just getting into the TRPG genre, I don't think it's a terrible choice.
If you have a PC, I would recommend Fallout Tactics. It's a few years old now, so pretty much any computer can run it, but it's still quite enjoyable. The post-apocalyptic setting is a great change of pace (you get to play with mutants and shotguns rather than the standard fantasy tools), and is very atmospheric, and the gameplay is very tense and intricate.
Another suggestion that I'd like to make is Gladius. Being one of very few TRPGs from a western publisher, it tends to get overlooked. However, out of all the RPGs that I've played this console generation, it's the one that I had the most fun with. The feature that it got the most press for was the incorporation of swing meters for all attacks that required you to enter specific series of buttons or time your presses right to get the best effect from your attacks. This works really well to keep you fully active and engaged throughout the fight, rather than becoming a spectator once the orders are given. However, the other gameplay mechanics are remarkably successful as well, from the rock-paper-scissors of light, medium, and heavy gladiators to the way that you automatically turn to face an attacker unless you're already "engaged" with another combatant, forcing you to use actual tactics to set up flank and back attacks. Morover, the character advancement system does an excellent job of giving defined strengths to each class while still allowing quite a bit of room for customization. Finally, the difficulty is extraordinarily well balanced. I can't tell you the number of battles that came down to tense duels between the last remaining fighter on each side. It took me over 120 hours before I finally finished everything, and not only did that time never drag, but I would force myself out of bed earlier than I had to in order to get in an hour or two of play before going to work.
Nice to know. Gladius is one of those games that I've always been aware of, but simultaneously one that I know very little about, which is certainly at least partly to blame on the fact that people don't generally talk about it much. You sound like you know what you're talking about, so hey, I don't have much else to say here. Listen to the Boojum.
Argh! Now you made me want to go back and replay Gladius. I'm still desperately trying to finish FF IX before XII arrives (yeah, I'm a bit behind), so I don't need any more distractions.
Anyway, congratulations on your 200th column, and good luck with the next 200!
Thanks for the well-wishes! And good luck. If it's taken you this long to get past FFIX... well, let's just say that I hope you're finished with FFXII by the time 2012 rolls around! By then, we might be talking about FFXV, after all. Who knows?
I have relatively little to say here right now, so uh, let's be moving on, shall we?
For complete contest rules, click here!
Answers to November 2nd's Questions
#362. b) Iron Blade - 1,500 points
Bah, this was a really easy question to anyone who likes Fire Emblem. I wanted to make the question more vague, but there could be six other games including all of those weapon choices. Or even seventeen.
#363. d) A Melodic Minor Scale - 1,500 points
Yes. Definitely not a harmonic minor scale, which a few of you guessed. Play a-minor on the keyboard, and it will be not sound quite right. Raise the sixth note, though, to make it melodic, and then you're talking!
If you take the path to Dracula's Castle that features a stage that has a background theme called "Dead Beat", which of the following background themes must you also hear on that path?
In which of the following locations can you take on a more "retro look" in Super Mario RPG?
a) Yo'sters Isle
b) Mushroom Kingdom
c) Booster's Tower
d) Sunken Ship
e) Land's End
Obtain these items upon reaching the listed point benchmarks!
A.P.G. (1 left),
Mythril Armor (2 left),
Regen Spell (1 left)
Any 1st-Level Elemental Spell (1 left),
Rare Candy (3 left),
Rename Card (1 left)
Slowga Spell (2 left),
Float Spell (1 left),
Blind Spell (2 left)
Sneak Glove (1 left),
Any Gem (1 left),
Biora Spell (1 left)
Ultra Sneak Glove (2 left),
Nightmare Staff (1 left),
Scan Spell (2 left)
Mythril Armor (2 left),
Rare Candy (4 left),
Wait Mode (1 left)
Vanish Spell (1 left),
Item Bomb (4 left),
Flare Spell (2 left)
Mythril Shield (1 left),
Staff of Aid (2 left),
A.P.G. (1 left)
Toxic Waste (1 left),
Rare Candy (4 left),
Super Sneak Glove (1 left)
Regega Spell (3 left),
Rebirth Stone (1 left),
Item Destroyer (2 left)
Flare Spell (1 left),
Rare Candy (3 left),
Item Destroyer (2 left)
Rare Candy (1 left),
Cloak of Evasion (2 left),
Regera Spell (3 left)
Meteor Spell (2 left),
Item Bomb (1 left),
Rare Candy(2 left)
Rare Candy (2 left),
Diamond Armor (2 left),
Meteor Spell (1 left)
Obtain enough points, and you may buy items, merchandise, or guest-hosting positions.
Click here for the current list of potential prizes!
Is this how greetings work in Australia? I'll have to warn my friend Tyler before he heads down on student exchange!
Hey, no fair! Santa Claus is not an elf!
I beg your pardon! Let me cite a passage from "A Visit from St. Nicholas", perhaps better known as "The Night Before Christmas":
"...He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf, ..."
...and there you have it!
And that's all I've got to say! Until Tuesday, please take care, and make sure to shower Ouro with as many letters as you can muster. Remember: Boojum is joining us on Tuesday for his first of many Q&A appearances, so make sure you write a few to him, too!
Thanks everybody, and have a fantastic weekend!
Inbox Status: Sad face :(
Matt hopes to squeeze a few hours of gaming out of this weekend!
Why does it have to be so wintry cold already? I wish summer hadn't left us so quickly...
Nov. 2: Matt
Nov. 1: Matt
Oct. 31: Matt
Oct. 30: Josh
SOCK's Rule Guide
SOCK's Prize Shop
About the Host
What I Want to Play:
1. Final Fantasy III
2. Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance
3. Fire Emblem: Goddess of Dawn
4. The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess
5. Pokťmon Diamond/Pearl
What I'm Playing:
1. Final Fantasy XII
2. Xenosaga: Episode III
3. Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow
Dueling Glove Holder:
Summon in Play:
14. TV's Adam
27. Hunter B
29. Arros Raikou