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ASK MATT
Time is Running Short
December 6, 2006

Matt Demers - 18:08 EST

PANIC TIME is upon me. Yeah, I only have two days left to finish my final exam. Yeah, I'm only about half-finished. So why in the heck am I sitting down to do Q&A right now instead? Because procrastination is the spice of life for the student population. I'll get around to it tonight. I just wish that I didn't have to worry about it at all, as impossible as that may seem. I can always hope that a fluke meteor might smack the earth sometime tomorrow morning. Hmmm, humanity endangered versus finishing exam? That's more difficult to weigh than you might believe...




LETTERS
Details of design.


Hello Matt,

Ah, I can't wait for finals to be done. So close, then all the RPGgaming I can handle! So many games so little time. Hmmm, in a post-apocalyptic world nothing could stop me from playing all the games I wanted.

Matt

Assuming that in this post-apocalyptic world, there is still electricity, and that you won't have to spend 18 hours per day scavenging for food scraps, then yes, I can't wait. I'll be right there with you!

Right now I'm working my through FFXII, hopefully I can get done before Christmas break, otherwise I could spend too many hours customizing and doing side quests. I found that usually which ever game I start out Christmas break on I finish with. I don't know if it's cause I have more time on my hands and therefore spend more time doing the little things instead of just trying to get it done. That's why I want to start Disgaea before Christmas.

Matt

I know! Ahhh! I still have to get through Disgaea 2 myself, too, darn it. I got almost all the way through the game, and then the Xenosaga/Final Fantasy combo threw me completely off track. We've got a lot of work to do...

I figured out last night what aspect I liked so much out of FFXII; the low level stats and the fact that a new weapon or spell makes a difference. Too many times in games leveling up doesn't really do much for stats, nor does getting a more powerful weapon. But in FFXII it seems that every time my characters level up or attain a new technik I see a direct result in fighting. Maybe it's just me, or I haven't played enough games yet. I do remember vaguely some topic similar to his a long time ago, but which game it was about I don't remember.

Matt

Dragon Warrior, without a doubt. I've argued the same thing about the Dragon Warrior/Quest series since the beginning of time, so that must've been it. As for Final Fantasy XII, I really find that the biggest differences come with new equipment; much moreso than when you gain a level. Unfortunately, it's really easy to get "lost," so to speak, in the buffs, spells, and techniques on the license board; I find that it's easy to accidentally forget about unlocking weapons and armour, even though those are at least as important!

In any case, good call.

Since people started talking about evil villains in other FF games I realized that there really isn't an evil presence in FFXII. Granted there's an "evil" empire, but are they really that evil. There's no tyrannical dictator that's trying to eradicate a species or race. Most of the people get along just fine with the empire. Maybe a little pushing around, but that's not that bad. I need a villain!

Matt

Yeah... a clear villain hasn't really emerged. There are a couple of villainous personalities out there, but at the point I'm at, I don't really know enough about them to really get all emotional about my hatred for them. We'll see as we play more!

I think in my first letter I made a reference to architecture in games and how it, like the soundtrack, can make or break a good game for me. Let's just say that it definitely helps in FFXII's case. I've always loved medieval lifestyle and FFXII is the first that I've played that was truly medieval, not some half ass futuristic setting with medieval elements. After FFX, FFXII is far superior.

Matt

Oh, there's no doubt that Square Enix spent far more time and effort designing the locations for this game than they did for FFX. I was severely disappointed by the almost "lazy" design of most of the towns and cities in FFX; some of them were a couple of screens only, and one of the cities, Bevelle, you couldn't even go into at all, even at the end of the game when... well, why couldn't you?

On the other hand, the cities and towns in FFXII are enormous and richly detailed. This is probably one of the most impressive things for me in the game so far. And yes, some of the architecture is quite inspiring indeed.

Wow, that was more than I wanted to talk about FFXII for. I probably should put a question in here. So, I need a game with strong story elements. All my previous titles have been more about gameplay or customization. I was eyeing Valkyrie Profile 2: Silmeria, but wasn't sure if I need to play VP1 first. Also, I was thinking about Xenosaga, but wasn't sure if it was too much to take on. Three long games seem like a lot to try to tackle with my current schedule.

Thanks,

The Dark Chevalier
*Can't find a Wii but wants one SO bad*

Matt

Well, I wouldn't really call them long, per se. The creators like to boast something like 80 hours of gameplay on the back of every box, but they're lying to you; you can beat each one of them in 40 without trying too hard; I'd say they're average length, for RPGs. If you have some extra time, you really should think about giving them a try. They're original and challenging; you might like them, but you might not. Let me know if you DO decide to take them on!



Achoo achoo *cough cough*


Hey! As I sit here with a nasty cold, unable to sleep, I figure I may as well send a Q and A letter. I hope it's not contagious (!!). Anywho, my thoughts on recent topics:

Matt

I'll keep your text at a distance, just in case.

(1) Living in RPG-land. As someone pointed out, if you're living in RPG-land, someone is probably plotting to destroy/take over the world. Which rather lowers the property values, I should think. But I'd stump for some real estate in the gingerbread village in Baten Kaitos. I'd be just up the block from the trippy storybook village, too, which would be a nice place to raise the kids after their teeth fall out.

Matt

You mean there's a gingerbread village in a game!? Wow, I might have to change my choice from the Earthbound's sun-soaked city, Summers. Both have their dangers, though; I could die of skin cancer by spending too much time on Summers' beach, but on the other hand, I'd probably face early heart disease if I were tempted by baked goods every single day for the rest of my life. Choices, choices.

(2) As for tattoos, I already have the only tat I'm in the market for. But I suppose if I had to get an RPG-themed tat I'd get Frog (from Chrono Trigger, duh), with sword drawn.

Matt

Maybe you can get the tattoo parlour person to whistle his theme music while you're getting it done! Probably not, though.

(3) As for plot in FF 12, I wouldn't necessarily agree that the game has substantially less plot than other FF installments. It just feels that way, I think, because the game has so many tangential side-quests you can participate in right from the get-go. And once you've taken a 5 hour detour hunting marks -- or exploring huge new areas, or filling out your clan primer -- the plot can seem rather distant. But my sense is that this will always be an issue when you have a non-linear RPG, because (by definition) you aren't being shepherded along a single plotline.

[MILD SPOILER] For example, people love the complete freedom you get to explore and undertake sidequests at the end of FF 6. But by that point in the game, the main plot points are already complete, so it doesn't really affect your sense of the pacing of the plot. [end MILD SPOILER]

I think FF 12, in contrast, gives you a lot more freedom thoughout the game. So you have the option either of stickly closely to the plot or meandering off on tangents. (After I complete my slooooow meandering trip through the game -- I'm 80 hours in at this point -- I'll try a no-sidequests/no-wandering-around runthrough and see how I feel about the plot then.)

Matt

That's a good point, but in all honesty, I haven't done THAT much hunting, and yet if I think back in the storyline, I feel like the plot has advanced "around the characters" rather than advance WITH the characters. I don't feel as if my people have done anything terribly significant so far. Eventually they will, I'm sure, but so far, not so much. It's okay, though. Radiata Stories was a decent game where the storyline had nothing at all to do with the "hero" for 80% of the game.

Of course, I think that playing the game without doing any hunts whatsoever would be incredibly challenging. The hunts give you an excuse to take time out, do extra fighting, and level up. Without those extra levels and license points, the game would be even harder than it already is. And it's hard.

(4) The Wii's market share. The 12/4 *The New Yorker* contains an article ("In Praise of Third Place," p. 44) discussing the new-console war, and makes the insightful point that higher market share does not necessarily mean higher profitability. To the contrary, the article asserts, Nintendo has actually been much more profitable than either MS or Sony, precisely becuase it has declined to compete head-on with those companies for market share and has focused instead on developing its own market niche. That fact may make it less attractive to third-party developers. But given Nintendo's financial success following this strategy (its stock has risen 65% in the past year), it seems unlikely to change.

Matt

You've got that right. Nintendo is, far and away, making the most money, when compared to the gaming facets of Microsoft and Sony. Nintendo is set to have a profit in excess of one billion dollars for this fiscal year, based on an article I just read. That's... a lot, a lot, a lot of money. Sony and Microsoft? They're in the red. Who is more successful, then? You be the judge.

Okay. That was long, and I feel awful. But I'd be glad for any Esuna cast in my direction. :)

Laters, Foolicus

Matt

Ah, it wasn't too long at all. I'm glad you wrote to Q&A again, sir Foolicus, and I hope you decide to do so again soon!



Warning: Some Final Fantasy XII spoilers within.


Matt attack! What's up my good q-n-a (er)! Long time reader, occasional writer here. Just dropping a line to ask a few, and give a few.

Matt

Excellent! I appreciate your patronage. What's up?

So when FFXII first came out I played it out. Busted out 80 hours in the first two weeks, and now I have stopped. This usually happens with all FF's I play, and I think it's because I like to savor the last few bits of it. I'm in the Ridorana Cataract, the final level of that dungeon which is second to last I believe. I'm a little bit bugged though. In most games of that beloved series, you often come across the best weapons in the game througout the final dungeon, which greatly help you defeat your final foe. But here you have to do tons and tons of hunts to get great armor, and by the time you're done with your hunts, your level is so astronomical that the point of having these weapons is rather nil. But other than that, I think that the game is the most brilliant in the series, and my props to Yasumi Matsuno for another masterpiece.

Matt

Before I begin, let me remind you that there are a whooooole lot of people out there who haven't gotten that far in the game yet! To everyone: Be very careful about spoilers, for my sake at least (I have to read all of your mail, so now, sadly, I'll know that when I reach that place, the game will be almost over). Next time, try not to include names of places, if at all possible.

Anyway, back to adventure... I agree! There is definitely "masterpiece quality" oozing from the atmosphere of the game, and to be honest with you, there had better be! They worked on it for six years, for heaven's sakes! But yes, it does prove that the Final Fantasy series is most popular for a good reason. Sure, there are a few minor flaws here and there, but when the mechanics of each game change so dramatically from sequel to sequel, getting everything 100% perfectly would be no small task. Maybe the game will undergo some extra balancing tweaks when it's remade in 2015 for Nintendo's sixth-generation handheld.

I hear he's doing a title for the Wii now, which makes me super happy. It will be a sad day on Earth when such an Artist passes. In my opinion I don't think there is a greater Artist alive today.

Matt

He is the master behind all sorts of great games, that's for sure: Final Fantasy Tactics and Vagrant Story are major titles that can be attributed to his name. If he's working on a Wii title, we'll be watching very closely, awaiting to report the first details when they are released!

So, I'm really upset with Sony. I think that they have caused a lot of distress in the gaming community, causing people to be shot and killed by civilians and even police officers. They have created such a demand for their new system that is causing a lot of evil deeds. If they would have had more of a supply, there would be less casualties I believe. I think everyone should boycott that system until there is more available, or the price point is lowered. Cheers to Nintendo for offering new, innovative gameplay, while keeping it affordable for the average gamer and middle class. Sony has given their new to the rich, i.e. Paris Hilton and Pharrell. Why? Sony...why?

Matt

Wellll... I wouldn't say that it's Sony that is directly responsible for those crimes. However, I do think that it's a bit indicative that some people take gaming way, WAY too seriously. I almost laughed when I read the articles about the PS3 shootings for the first time; did these idiots think they'd have any chance of playing BEHIND BARS? I thought not. It looks great on them. However, it does not look great on the gaming community as a whole, giving video game critics extra ammunition for their endless crusade against our favourite pastime. *sigh*

Anyway, I'm holding a "boycott" out of necessity only. Even if there were a bunch of games that I wanted to play (and there aren't, as of now) for the PS3, I couldn't buy it because $750 in Canadian funds is two months' rent. What good is buying a console if I don't have a home to play it in?

So what do you think is the better game, FFIII or FFV? I'd have to say that V is definately a better game. I do so enjoy FFIII but it seems to me that the original version had a lot more glory. I love the 8-bit sound, and only a handful of colors. Yes I know I'm evil, I played the DeJap NES rom of III but it was like a smoker without nicotine trying not to download it. And to all who have played through the DS version, you should definately check out the original as it has much more flavor. And that's all I have for you Matt. I good you bid evening.

Guitar Hero Ian

Matt

There's no doubt in my mind that Final Fantasy V is the more polished game of the two, but you have to be able to appreciate both of them for what they are. FFIII represents a huge leap forward in the FF series; it's more lighthearted than the previous two games, setting the stage for the fun moments of the 16-bit era, but mechanics-wise, it was giant as well. So many of the traditional jobs were more or less "invented" in FFIII, and abilities such as Scan, Jump, Steal, Terrain, and Summon, among many others, made their very first appearance. In that sense, FFIII really deserves a "most improved" award for really raising the bar and setting a new standard for the series (and all other RPG series, too). Of course, we're so used to Final Fantasy being the bar-raiser by this point, perhaps that should go without saying.

And hey, I can't exactly endorse hunting down illegal translations of the game online, but it would be very cool to compare the original to the flashy DS update. So, if you do it, don't tell me about it, and don't be surprised if tall guys in dark glasses come knocking at the door someday soon.

Thanks, Ian! Take care.



PSP: From one angle.


Hey Matt,

I gotta say that I'm surprised at your FF party. Irvine for eye candy!? Seriously, if you're going to pick someone from FFVIII for eye candy, Zell is a much better choice. Way hotter. And besides, Selphie's already got dibs on Irvine; Zell's free.

Matt

Funny you mention it! When I first played the game, I thought that Zell was so awesome in every way. I still do, but I came to find that he's a little bit immature in some respects. Of course, on the other hand, it's pretty evident for anyone who has played the game that despite his charm, Irvine has "performance issues," which could certainly be disappointing. So, perhaps you're right; maybe Zell is the better choice...

As the owner of both a PSP and a DS Lite, I felt obligated to answer your PSP questions. Both portables gain equal shares of my time. In fact, I have 9 games for my PSP (4 RPGs) and 8 games for the DS (3 RPGs, 4 if you count Castlevania which I don't). As for the future, I'm only looking forward to one DS game (Heroes of Mana) versus 3 for the PSP (Crisis Core: FFVII, Gurumin, & Wild Arms Crossfire). I will honestly say I'm enjoying the PSP more, as there's only one game in my collection that disappoints me, as opposed to 3 for the DS.

Matt

Fair enough. It's no secret that both the PSP and the DS are ripe with mediocre titles, but there isn't much on the PSP's roster of games that I find terribly attractive, besides the Mega Man games (which are just remakes anyway). But hey, you're entitled to your opinion, and it's good to hear that you're getting a lot out of your little system.

As for PSP games I would like released, probably Devil Summoner and Suikoden I&II. The Shin Megami Tensei series always has so much depth and I'd love to play one of the earlier games in the series. Suikoden I&II I'd buy just for Suikoden II, same reason I bought Valkyrie Profile: Lenneth. Both original games are extremely rare and very good. I'd rather pay $40 for a portable version than more than $100 for something not guaranteed to work. Plus, it'd be nice to see a retranslation of Suikoden II, the only game with a translation bad enough to rival Final Fantasy Tactics!

Matt

Heh, no kidding. It's really unfortunate, but I think I've heard rumours that SCEA has actually blocked attempts to have those games released in North America, for reasons I can't begin to understand. Is it something to do with their graphical prowess? If so, shame on them.

Devil Summoner was recently released for the PS2, and I don't think that it's slated for the PSP at all, anymore. I could be wrong, but I don't think you'll be seeing that one in PSP-format anytime soon, if at all.

I'm not going to delude myself into thinking the PSP will trounce the DS, it's not. But it's most certainly not on it's way out either. Unless Sony won't settle for anything less than being the portable market leader, I think it is entirely possible to see a sequel to the PSP in 4 years or so. The system appeals to a different market than the DS does. Gaming doesn't have to be innovative to be interesting. I like how I can just boot up my PSP for a "traditional RPG" instead of something gimmicky.

Finding he gotta run before he's on the wrong end of Freya's Divine Assault,
venus577

Matt

You're probably right. Final Fantasy III was a first for the DS, because even though you can play the entire thing with a stylus, it manages to escape a gimmicky feel by reeking of old-school gameplay. The DS could definitely use a few more games like it, though hey- the nice part about the DS is that it will also play all of the great RPGs that were/will be released for the GBA, too.

Hopefully, both systems have a healthy future!



...and from the other side.


Hi Matt

I actually bought one of those PSP thingies at launch. Ha, what a mistake. The dang thing has sat unused for most of the past year. I have only played one game, Daxter, on it for any significant amount of time and even then we are talking about less than 20 hours total. I find that it is not very comfortable to hold and while the screen is gorgeous keeping that same screen clean is next thing to impossible. Overall, if you are looking for a portable game platform stick to Nintendo. Personally I get more time in with my DS than any other portable I have owned since the original gameboy.

So that is my two cents.

A

Matt

In all fairness, it's really easy to get crud on your two DS screens, too; I often find that I'm scratching little stains off the touchscreen with the stylus as new areas, etc, are loading while playing Final Fantasy III. It's a problem that poor handhelds will never escape, I'm afraid.

I'm sorry that your investment hasn't gone so well. While there are a few games that I'd like to try, there are far more that I just can't wait for on the DS, with Zelda, Pokémon, Yoshi's Island, Final Fantasy XII's sequel, and more on the way; I'd rather put my $250 towards DS games instead of investing in a system that doesn't show quite as much promise, in my eyes.

But hey, that's the way I see it. There are, after all, millions of happy PSP owners out there, and there are many games (and a few RPGs) on the way, too. It'll be interesting once we get towards the end of next year, to see if the portables have the momentum that they're carrying right now.

Thanks, Angus, for your letter!



QUICKIES

Hey Mattius.

Glad that CW is happy for Pokemon Yellow, it just didn't seem like it would ever be played by me again since I already have Blue and Red! I don't think, however that I deleted the old data so if you see anything thats a little oh I don't know, wrong, I do apologise!
Oh and Mew is safely on my Silver game, it was damn hard enough to get him in '96 as it is!

Other then that I have minimal other news to report on!

Bainick is in the middle of the first war in Utopia at the moment!

Matt
Lucky duck! My brother would have done anything, back in the day, to snatch up a Mew!

no quickys? maybe u should bring sock back just a thought

willx

Matt
See, in my little world, I like to think that people read the column for the column, and not for the game. It is my hope that SOCK will be back someday, but hey, I'm only one guy, and this guy needs a bit of a breather for awhile!!


MOGNET MAIL

Mo new mail today, kupo! If you'd like to send me some, and you have Final Fantasy III DS, my code is 515 480 192 117. Send me your number, and I'll add you to my list! Then you can send all the mail you like!



IN CLOSING

Truckin' truckin' truckin'...

Hey, there's less than three weeks until Christmas, unbelievably! If you celebrate the holiday, what's on your Christmas list this year? Do you have any other gaming-related plans for the holidays? If so, give me a shout! Otherwise, wish me luck in getting this horrible exam out of my hair. I'll see you all tomorrow!



Send a Letter!

Inbox Status: Not too bad.



slimey@rpgamer.com
Matt has a gym-related kink in his upper back!


These little aches and pains are the worst! I need a comfy chair for Christmas...

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1. Final Fantasy XII

2. Final Fantasy III DS

3. Final Fantasy V Advance



Uhhh...

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