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ASK ROKU
Elusive August 17th, 2006

Roku - 19:10 PST

Hello again everybody! I finally went through and unlocked/finished World 7 in the New Super Mario Bros. game. It was short, but pretty fun I guess. I probably won't go for coin completion, seeing as how I have nearly two hundred more than I know what to do with, though. A friend of mine also recently got me interested in a Japanese novel series called The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi, but I haven't been able to track it down, and it's probably too advanced for me anyway. Perhaps another year or two of classes will remedy that. Anyway, questions!




L E T T E R S
Name Origins!

Roku,

Hello, fellow RPGer. I have always wanted to write you a letter, and now I get my shot. First I must ask...why Roku? Do you just like the number six?

Roku

Roku is the name of a main character of an RPG I'm working on. He is the one that is most similar to me, were I an RPG character, so I chose to carry his name around with me. When I started using the internet like a decade ago, I went with Roku as my username for a lot of stuff. It's not the only name I've used, but it's become my favorite, and it fits well into an RPG site. The kanji I use is the way you would write his name. I know there are much cooler kanji for Roku, but his naming is based on the kanji, not the other way around. It's for story reasons.

Secondly, I'm holding high hopes for Xenosaga III, after being let down by part II. How do you feel about it?

Roku

I wasn't a big fan of Xenosaga II myself. I enjoyed the storyline, but I found the gameplay to be a bit lacking. Nevertheless, I'm still curious as to how it will all "end," so I'll be playing it up anyway.

Third, I had a thought, and I'd like your opinion on it.
What if developers started using voice recognition technology to allow gamers to actually chant spells that the characters can cast? Like...when the character lears the spell, it unlocks the chant, and to cast the spell in the game, you have to chant it. Now I'n not talkin' five paragraphs of text here...but I think it'd be a good concept (but then, I chant spells from anime in Japanese all the time, to help me learn the word conjugations). The Wii-mote could very well have the capability for this. What say you?

Thank you, Roku, for taking the time to answer some letters, and I hope to have this chance again someday soon.
The poem writing Monk,
~Donovan


Roku

Eh...I have mixed thoughts about that given the accuracy of the mic in the DS. It would be cool for shortcuts and stuff, but it shouldn't be the only method of issuing commands. I think it'd be a lot more fun to have voice over WiFi games, but I'm not sure how plausible that is.


Budget Advice

Hello Roku,

So I was looking at the list of all the RPGs coming out between now and the end of the year, and I am seriously overwhelmed. Here is a list (for perspective sake):

Deep Labyrinth, Disgaea 2, Enchanted Arms, FFVII:DoC, SRT:OG, Xenosaga Ep.3, Baten Katos 2, Contact, DQ Heroes:RS, FFIII, Harvest Moon DS, Pokemon:BRT, Pokemon:RRT, Valkyrie Profile:Silmeria, .hack//G.U. Vol.1, Ar tonelico, Children of Mana, FFXII, Magical Starsign, Phantasy Star Universe, Rogue Galaxy, SMT:DS, Spectral Souls, Summon Night:SC 2, Super Paper Mario, Tales of the Abyss, Yggdra Union, FFVA, SRT:OG 2 and Zelda: TP.

That is a total of 30 RPGs coming in the next few months of which 20 (the ones in bold) I plan to buy eventually. Assuming that a normal console game is $50 and a handheld game is $30, it will cost me about $800 for all of those games. That isn't even counting the $200-250 it will cost for the Wii (that I will also be buying) to play Zelda:TP (and other games too). It is all just too much and too close together.

I have been through this every year around the months leading up to the holidays, but this year has got to be the worst ever. It is as if the game companies are not only selling their games around the holidays (like usual), but they are also trying to squeeze in as many games as they can for the current generation of consoles (mainly PS2) as well. Which is really stupid considering how dry these summer months have been for new games this year.

Thing is... I have about $400 left over after paying bills every month. Out of that comes gas and food (and countless other little things) leaving me with about $200 (or less) in disposable income. How can a RPGamer be expected to buy all of these games under such circumstances (or worse)? When will these game companies ever learn?

Now utterly depressed from thinking about such things,
-thinkfreemind


Roku

I have about a $200 budget for video games per year, so I can feel your pain. I can also share some (hopefully) good advice. First, a lot of those games will likely undergo significant price drops as time passes. Unless you have enough free time to play through ALL of those games right now, just get the ones that are less likely to drop in price now, such as Atlus titles, and pick up games like Final Fantasy XII later. Yeah, I can hear a lot of people saying that they don't want to put off FFs etc. The good news is, big names like that will likely be available for rent. You can beat the game now, save your game on your memory card, then get the game brand new for a lot cheaper later. Hey, you might not even like the game enough to buy it and end up saving almost the full amount. If you celebrate any holidays, maybe you'll get some games too. Anyway, you could save even more money if you're willing to resort to used games too. I hope you find these tips useful ^^.


20-Something Parter

Hiya Roku (again),

My grasp of Japanese is incredibly paltry, but I do believe Roku means 'six'. You are aware of this, yes?

Roku

It does, and yes ^^.

Waaah! Arros had comments about all those incredibly obscure games I brought up that were eaten by the server! That means I might have to bring them up again! Would you like to field everything I brought up recently with Josh, or should I find a good way of regurgitating it for the near future?

Roku

Everything o_O? I'll gladly field some of it, but I don't think I could handle all of that, unfortunately ^^;;;;

Lately I've been writing a fair amount of Working Designs-related stuff. This brings me to a genuine question: what RPG on a Sony machine possesses the best translation? Keep in mind here the ONLY RPG I played on a Sony console was FFIX, courtesy of a co-worker two years ago who was working two jobs and had no time whatsoever to use his PS.

Roku

That's difficult since I suppose I'd have to have played the originals too to check accuracy. The only PS1 game I've played significantly in both languages is Breath of Fire III, and my skills aren't good enough to tell you one way or another. It's not FFT though, I guarantee it.

Okay. The Virtual Console is a great notion, but the actual information on it from Nintendo has been pretty pathetic. What do we firmly know at this point in time, what do we suspect, and what has the proverbial snowball's chance in hell of happening?

Roku

I think this should give you a pretty good idea. I don't know how much it's going to cost yet, but it will certainly have quite a few classics.

Review-related question now. What is the absolute longest a review might conceivably be? This is not a habit I plan to institute, but Shining Force III prompts me to wax rhapsodic - and since I'll have to cover all three Scenarios along with a little Premium Disc info in some detail I expect this to be a big one. This is also why I asked about putting more than two screenshots in as a one-shot; nothing but text in the lower part of the review gets drab to the eyes.

Roku

We don't enforce the maximum word count strictly at all, but please try to keep it under 2000.

Hm. I seem to be the odd man out (again) in that I read an awful lot of nonfiction news-related stuff. Anybody else on the RPGamer staff follow this avidly political take on literacy?

Roku

Your best bet is probably Ailise, one of our news heads. She's into real news too, not just RPG-related.

As for sci-fi, I submit that the original book form of Starship Troopers would make for a good RPG. MAYBE the movie, but that was typical Paul Verhoeven blood-gushing so it would have to either get an M rating (yay for censorship!) or be edited heavily. Come to that, the Postman might also be good RPG material. Again; not the movie, which was already long enough to be a game. Agree or...?

Roku

I only saw one of those movies, and that was a long time ago. I haven't read either book either =/

Bainick would (maybe) know the answer to this question, which is tangential to something I asked Matt. Are any RPGs developed in Australia? What about New Zealand? And perhaps you, Lord Roku, have a clue about RPGs developed in Europe. I'm trying to get a clue about just how varied RPG production is, and whether it even exists outside of the Japanese and North American developer arenas.

Roku

Yup, there are. I'm not sure what level of professionality some of the games made in those places have, (ie. indie games) but they're definitely out there. The only one I'm fairly certain of is a place in North England that apparently works on Japanese games too, as odd as that may sound.

What comic book characters (for my extremely loose purposes, manga counts as comic books - or graphic novels if the slightly less textually consuming term irritates anyone) could be given a worthwhile RPG based on their exploits? This is a Challenge Question, so a reasonably thorough poring over of the candidates is what I'm hoping for. Just declaring Superman to be too powerful to make a good game and ending it would be a cop-out.

Roku

Superman *is* too powerful. There are actually a lot that already are RPGs though. Manga-wise anyway. Actually, the X-Men and stuff have their own RPGs too. I don't follow most US comics, aside from webcomics, but I wouldn't mind seeing a few of those turned into RPGs, especially the ones that parody existing RPGs. Stuff like RPG World or Adventures! would be interesting to see.

Apparently the Sakura Taisen series is branching into the MMORPG world.... Is there any chance this series might finally cross the Pacific upon entering a format that might be easier to sell? It always struck me as odd that just about all the anime of Sakura Taisen, and now its manga, have been translated while the series all of that is based on stays Japan-only.

Roku

It's possible, but I wouldn't count on it. It seems they're finally catching on that releasing 100 MMORPGs at once isn't a good market plan.

Many American-developed titles nowadays seem very prone to blasting modern pop music into the player's face. Not owning any of the current consoles I have been spared this trend. Does any RPG title out now come with this affliction? Not to completely dismiss the use of unoriginal music in RPGs, but I think it should be more of a player's choice instead of the developer's.

Roku

FFX-2 had some, if you're talking about what I think you are.

This new Paper Mario for Gamecube seems less of an RPG than the previous Mario RPGs. Is that a fair assessment, or have my quick and skimming reads of the information available given me a false impression?

Roku

From what I've seen, yeah, it certainly appears that way. I'd still like to play it since Mario platformers have not been very common this last decade, and those that are part RPG get bonus points.

Will we ever see a new Shining Force title in the style of the older, grander titles? Or are they all doomed to following this (reportedly) Diablo-style hack 'n slash format?

Roku

Looks like we're doomed. Despite the fact that most people I've talked to find them average or lower, they just keep popping them out.

Come to that, not owning the platform on which most of these new Shining titles have shown up, what is their actual quality? Or have you not played them either?

Roku

I've played most of them. They range from Shining Tears, which is tied for the worst game I've ever played, to Shining Soul II, which I thought was pretty average.

What are the chances of any earlier Fire Emblems being translated for the English-speaking world? In particular FE 6 which features none other than Roy and is on GBA which is hurting for titles lately.

Roku

I'd say it probably depends on just how much effort they put into the virtual console.

On a related tangent: all my mentions of obscure RPGs lately got me poking around on eBay and I'm currently watching Fire Emblems 3 and 4 for Super Famicom. Should I add to my large Super Famicom backlog or just let them slide on by?

Roku

I'd play them if I were you and had the time.

I don't see any mention of Dark Savior on RPGamer's database. While I haven't sunk much playtime into it yet, it's a Saturn piece that supposedly features fighting-game style battles and branching paths. I've heard the control is a factor in its lack of acclaim. Anybody heard of it - such as you, Duke Roku? If I like it enough to complete I'll be willing to write a review.

Roku

I've head of it, but I haven't played it. Also, I'm just a regular guy, not a Duke. You're thinking of Otterland.

How exactly is the translation of Grandia for the PS? Someday I will own a Sony piece of hardware (gonna be a looooooong way in the future at this rate though) and knowing that Grandia is translated stays my hand from grabbing the Saturn version. Unless; is Sony's version notably inferior to the Saturn's?

Roku

I do own it, but it's like item #25 of my RPG todo list @_@

I could name (and have in Q&A multiple times) titles that never attained a wide audience but should have. Your turn, Baron Roku. What title(s) do you find it most aggravating to be unable to share in the joys of with a wider audience?

Roku

Radiata Stories never seemed to spread out a whole lot, but I haven't watched its sales much. I thought that was a pretty interesting game, mainly for the world and how everyone has lives. It's not just a bunch of random NPCs.

Phantasy Star seems set on staying in the Online/Universe mode, eh? There's no chance of a proper followup to Phantasy Star IV?
Roku

I was hoping the Phantasy Star Trilogy would signal the start of something, but that project seems to have died off...

Whee - I do believe that'll do it for now. This isn't quite a proper letter from me, but you're no doubt glad I didn't feel up to composing a gigantic one this session. But I figured as long as you're ready to partake of the experience I might as well pump you for information. If I spun off too lengthy a letter for the normal timeslot (as Q&A readers know I tend to do), reflect upon it as Calvin's dad does - character building. JuMeSyn


Roku

Phew...long letter ^^;;


Evil Pokemon Timeline

Hello Roku ^^

It's been some time since I sent in a letter to RPGamer. I figured it's been long enough, especially since summer is coming to a close and my RPGaming will be slowing down some.

With this talk about demons and religion, I can only think of one RPG franchise that has caused a little bit of stir: the Pokemon games. Aside from the whole comparison to cock-fighting, there were some people claiming that Pokemon was promoting the theory of evolution instead of creationism. While I'm not getting into that discussion, what these people should realize is that Pokemon evolution is nothing more than a different way to say metamorphosis. If that weren't enough, certain Pokemon were pointed out to look demonic, like Houndoom.

Really though, that's the only instance I can come up with. Other than that I don't know of any other series. Then again RPGs still appeal to a smaller group than the Pokemon franchise in general. There are more chances for some religious individuals to see these elements in the kid's game and call them out on it.

I'd also like to ask this: When it comes to RPG series, do you prefer games that are actually part of a timeline or games like Final Fantasy and Tales where most of the games are unconnected plot or world-wise? As for me, I've really only played a few games like the latter: so far one Final Fantasy game, (Crystal Chronicles, believe it or not), one Tales game (Symphonia, and that one seems to have a strong connection to Phantasia), and one Fire Emblem game (Path of Radiance, though with FE it seems two to three games take place in the same "universe" until it moves to a different one). Thus I've had more experience with games that have stories that connect or are just one-hit wonders.

Still though, I much like games within a timeline, especially those that have plot-holes that can/have to be filled with theories that players come up with. Not to long ago I was playing Phantasy Star Online: Episodes I & II with a friend who asked about the game's last boss. Before I knew it, I went into a long and detailed explanation that involved the original Phantasy Star series and Online, citing evidence from the games, fan theories and my own personal ones. She was surprised at first but then told me she does the same with Kingdom Hearts. It can be frustrating, but fun to try to figure out how pieces of a plot connects, even if the creators will never say if you're right or not. It's just to easy to say "oh well, they're all in different worlds". While the individual games can have their own mysteries, it just not the same.

Well, that's all I have to say for now. Kind of random I suppose, but that's how I tend to be, heh. Thanks for reading!

--Strawberry Eggs


Roku

I suppose it varies. Timeline games are always nice for the reasons you mentioned, but sometimes they're stretched out so far that it's easy to forget important plot points, such as in Xeno, or shoved so close together that the gameplay doesn't evolve at all, such as in .hack. As far as games that are stand-alone or mostly stand-alone, it makes it a lot easier to get into without being totally confused due to all the stuff you missed that was present in previous titles. Of course, the storyline and worlds are sometimes not nearly as evolved as in timeline games. Each type has its own ups and downs, and there are plenty of good and bad games in each.


Conspiracy?

YoRoku,

We all know that this fall/winter looks to be quite heavy in the gaming world, especially in the RPG department. What RPGs are on your "must have" list? What non-RPGs are? Anything that you are still waiting to see more about before you jump into it head first? How do you go about buying RPGs? Do you just buy every new title you want as it is released, or do you wait until you have a little less of a backlog?

Roku

I actually don't keep a huge list in advance. We reviewers divide up the games that are coming out based on how much time we have and what we think might be interesting. I don't have a whole lot of money, so I mostly play the games I get for free plus whatever seems interesting at the end of each quarter. As far as backlog goes...I have way too many ^^;;

- Macstorm
PS: What is the origin of your name?


Roku

Again....? Are you guys doing this on purpose ^^?


Quickie

Dear Roku,

Do I dare? Holy crap, I dare.


Roku

Hey, no fair, you answered your own question! Good to hear from you Rage ^^.




C L O S I N G
IN CONCLUSION:

Wheee, another column is done ^^. What's with the sudden random interest in my name? I've been here for years and done Q&A several times before, yet everyone asks all at once? Clearly this is a case for the SOS Brigade! Er, sorry, got carried away. Um...oh yeah! I'm here tomorrow too, so send me some letters to answer please ^^.



roku@rpgamer.com
Roku goes back to trying to read...


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