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ASK SEAN
Column 3: Unbearable pain
August 22nd, 2007

Sean - 12:07pm EDT

The title refers to my dentist trip, not to the column writing, so don't dispair! So, I went to the dentist this morning and it turns out my teeth were ultra clean which has never happened before, but I have holes in a good 10 teeth. That is four trips to have them filled. Kill me now. I had 2 filled today and it took a good dozen needles to freeze the area so I can't feel anything. And it still unfroze during the second filling. And now it is slowly unfreezing...

I skipped the movies last night and instead spent time watching reruns of game shows with my siblings while eating frozen pizza and playing Brave Story. The evening was capped off with a short session of Persona. I am still not a big fan of the game.

After the dentist I went to the local EB Games to see if they got anything decent. My copy of Jeanne d'Arc is in their hands, but still boxed and the guy refused to get it for me. I was pissed, but left the store without saying anything about it. Maybe I will pick it up this afternoon when I go to pick up my girlfriend. I also took a look at Bioshock... and decided that I had better uses for $60 today. Maybe I will pick it up when it drops to $30 or I get through my backlog (as if that will happen in my lifetime).

Just so you all know, I will be out of town until Saturday. Bari will be covering for Matt the rest of the week, so please send him some letters. JuMeSyn--sic him!

Anyways, on to the letters!




LETTERS
An opinion on why people stick with Final Fantasy


Iím writing this in your question in regards to the almost exclusive appeal of Final Fantasy fans. I think, and Iím sure you will hear this a lot, this goes back to Final Fantasy 7, or as I like to call it "the first cool RPG." RPGs were never that popular in North America, at least in the mainstream. And RPGs received the label as being for "nerds," D&D players, or Momís Basement Dwellers. For many fans, this was their first foray into the RPG world. Drawn in by its massive marketing and flashy visuals many fans went into the experience either not knowing this was an RPG, or even for that matter what a console RPG was. This was 1997 remember. While the internet was around, game sites and even magazines were not reaching many outside of the "hardcore" gamer market. Thus, many people who normally would not have even thought about it tried FF7 and enjoyed it. For some this lead to trying other FF games, old and new. Some even branched out into other RPGs that were beginning to hit the market based on FF7s success. For others they found an RPG whose brand was "safe" in that it was a popular brand. This lead to either Final Fantasy or Squaresoft exclusivity for these people. I realize I am definitely typecasting here and that there are individuals that donít fall into any of the three categories mentioned above (FF fans Pre FF7; FF7 players who branched out to other series; and FF7 players who remained with the series or Square based on popular approval). So this explains a lot of the recent love relationship with FF (in addition obviously to those that experienced it long before FF7). Now I will discuss the possibilities of why some gamers stick to FF exclusively.

Sean

The first FMV in games was FFVII's initial drawing point. Please go on.

I see two reasons behind this off the top of my head. First, is that the gamers who were initially drawn in to FF7 by its "cool" factor still think RPGs are for the most part for "nerds" or "geeks." However, the fact that Final Fantasy gained such a big following after 7 allows these individuals to feel safe and secure in their own self image in playing this RPG as opposed to others, because its brand is "cool." A corollary to this is another popular RPG, Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (ES4). I have several friends who never touched an RPG and their only involvement would be watching me play or listening to me discuss them with other friends. However, ES4 with its open-ended and sandbox like game play drew many of my non RPG friends to play it. Will these friends try even a Final Fantasy? No. Would they try other, similar RPGs, like the upcoming Two Worlds? Probably not? Fable 2? Maybe but that is again due to branding. However, the next ES game will surely be picked up by them on day 1. So this brand popularity allows these individuals to feel secure in engaging in a genre that still has some "nerd" stereotypes without fear of being labeled as such due to its mainstream appeal.

Sean

I agree with you on a lot you said. The Final Fantasy series is the bridge between normal gamers and RPGs, much the same way as Super Smash Brothers is for fighters and people like Matt. Since it is extremely popular, it is cool to play, even if it is not the genres they would normally spend their time playing. Other games aren't normally as flashy as the FFs, so they can't be cool. I've seen similar things with the Elder Scrolls and Xenosaga series.

The second reason, in my opinion, is that a lot of these people who were indoctrinated with FF7 have grown up, and when you grow up, free time shrinks. Iíll use myself as an example. FF7 was not my first RPG, but it came out when I was 15, the beginning of my junior year in high school. I had time then to play countless hours of games while still being able to go to school, work, and maintain an active social life. This allowed me to play many other RPG series, which I did ad nauseam. I had this same luxury in college (some people do not) since my job allowed me to make my own hours. Thus, I had plenty of time to study, go to class, work, game, and have an outside life. As I got to law school and my study and work load got tighter I had less and less time to play long in depth games. Case in point Star Ocean 3. I loved SO2 and was eagerly looking forward to SO 3. However, I could only play it 1-2 hours at a time, and then only once or twice per week at most. This not only prevented me from playing other games, but also made it difficult to keep up with the story since there would be so many hours between sessions. This also prevented me from branching out and discovering new RPG series, as I had hardly any time for the ones I loved. Now, working full time, with a wife, two dogs, and my own home to upkeep, I still have little time for games, esp in depth, character driven games, like most good RPGs. So if I want to play an RPG I want to be sure I will like it and not waste my time. Therefore I stick to series I know will deliver, such as FF. And every FF, even FF8, whose magic and leveling system I found tedious and easily exploited respectively, has always been worth at least the effort of an initial playthrough to me. So when FF12 came around, I knew I would make the time for it because I knew it would be worth it. Now I, nor other gamers like me, arenít stick in the mud types. I will branch out, but only after either trying the game at a friends house or through renting, ES4 being a terrific example, but in general, series like FF, Chrono, Wild Arms, and even Star Ocean, will always get played by me because I know theyíre worth spending the little free time I have on. Will I miss out on great series? Sure, but thatís the chance I take. So the second reason for FF exclusivity by fans I would posit is that the generation that grew up with FF, either with FF7 or before, has grown up and has less time for games and wants to ensure that what little time they have for an RPG is spent on a series or game that they know will deliver.

Ben

Sean

Thanks for writing in Ben. I agree a lot with you on this. I could never not try out the new stuff. I am starting to develop the same free time issues that you mentioned having. But I see myself with the opposite problem. Existing series are the ones that need to prove themselves to me with each new entry. Remember--no one likes playing the same thing over and over again! I played so many Mana games, but none ever live up to the first one. It is to the point where I don't bother picking them up anymore (except I broke down and still bought Dawn of Mana). I won't buy Heroes of Mana unless I am desperate and completely out of portable games.

I am sure if you want to explore some new series, you could do well with the Shin Megami Tensei games. I am not having too much fun with Persona 1 right now, but I can definitely recommend the Digital Devil Saga games. Let us ask the readers - does annyone have any suggestions for Ben?

Oh - MacStorm would likely love an editorial on this subject!



A blast from the not so distant past


Hi Matt,

I am definitely an RPG packrat, and I am fairly sure that Rebecca in Fire Emblem (the one that stars Lyn and Co.) died because of it. If only I'd used those HP + 7 items like everyone in the game itself tells you to, maybe she could've defended herself against the big, bad boss. I do think it's funny how they catch people on being packrats, though. "Use it, or you never will!" ... and I never did.

Sean

I guess you lost her for good? I heard them Fire Emblems are unforgiving. I tend to save those things too - I have like a dozen in Brave Story at the moment and no intention of using them anytime soon.

Similarly, I found that near the end of the Digital Devil Saga games, using my Datas (permanent stat-up items) helped me turn my favourite character into even more of an insanely powerful person that he already was. But I still never used them until I was demolished by a boss and was impatient to level up. But they do help.

Sean

I used them when I needed a full heal. ^_^

So when do you use your items? When you're stuck? Or after they build up for a while? The only games I find myself using stat-up items right away are in the Dragon Warrior/Quest series. Just pick a favourite character (never the hero!!! ugh I hate main characters) and boost away! So, it depends on the game for me... I can't think of any more examples, but perhaps I will later! Farewell!

-Kharamain

Sean

I will only use them under two conditions: the character that gets them must be available at the end of the game, and I must be having problems. They are like free levels ups. Or they must be taking up precious inventory space (that makes them instantly used). Oh Valkyrie Profile 2, where did you go wrong?

Thanks for writing in Kharamain!



A letter from a fellow FFXIer


Do you feel that the PC gaming industry is more and more the victim of companies who release shoddy hardware/software with the expectation of hundreds of patches to repair the errors that will eventually show up?

What will be the result of this; do you believe the PC gaming market will suffer, or possibly dry up?

Thaht's my question.

Lusipurr

Sean

Well these aren't easy questions to answer. Yes, I do believe that PC developers are too quick to release games to market. But, it isn't their fault really. You just have to look at it from this point: A PC is a dynamic machine. There are literally a billion permutations to it. People hack their machines in all kinds of ways. No two machines are really the same. This means that PC games are coded for billions of machines and not just a single console (even if they have more than one version, it is still the same). It is literally impossible to fully test all billion machines, as it is to test for the PS2. So they rely on patches. That and they need to fix exploits and cheats and stuff.

As for hardware, I have heard more about faulty Wiimotes and 360s in recent years than I have about faulty PC hardware. *shrugs*

The PC gaming market is definitely suffering. Just to equal a 360 you need like two Geforce 8800s, and it still might not equate the power. These dedicated graphic machines have surpassed the PC's capabilities, and are much cheaper than a gaming rig. I don't see how the market will "dry up," but I can easily see it shrink to the point of it just having MMOs on it. Just imagine spending enough money on video cards that equate to a PS3, 360 and a Wii combined, just to play a single game.

Thanks for writing in, Lusipurr!



Finally some Spellforce info!


Yay! Spellforce got mentioned at QnA! I would definitely recommend this game to you. I am not so much into PC gaming, but I love PC RTS's. Spellforce is the best RST/RPG hybrid I have ever played. Most RTS games have very separate levels that with the Victory! screen at the end of each one. Spellforce is a series of maps interconnected with portals that your main character can enter at any time. This means that you can return to old maps, often eith the benefit of new monsters having shown up, and sometimes advance to others without actually finishing your objectives. The story is very exciting, especially if you get the Platinum edition. I think Platinum is only available from the UK, but it is completely compatible with American computers.

Sean

It kinda sounds like that one RPG campaign from Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne. That was a lot of fun.

Unless said Platinum edition is hard coded to look for the EU. *stares at his copy of Baldur's Gate* Of course, it could be easily fixed by making your PC think it is elsewhere...

I looked in EB and Best Buy today. Spellforce 1 and 2 are both out of print. I could only find it in French. Unplayable.

The game is played with Runes, as your character is a rune warrior. You can get runes for the six playable races, with stronger runes allowing you to summon stronger (statistically) units. To get additional types of units, you need to find blueprints that produce different buildings. There are also runes for heroes, which can be swapped out as you get stronger ones, and equipped with equipment just like your main hero.

The number of sidequests is dazzling, but they are all totally optional. I like to play them for the additional storylines.

Anyway, I apologize that this turned into a mini-review, but I really wanted to try to convince you to play this game. My experience with the new Spellforce 2 is very limited, but I understand that it plays quite a bit differently than the first. Good luck with either!

Draconn

Sean

Thanks for the review, Draconn. It does sound interesting. I need to start looking for the Spellforce collection. I refuse to spend $12 shipping for a $10 game on ebay... Anyone have info on the second or Silverfall? Or Two Worlds for that matter?

Anyone played Dragonshard? What did you think of it?



A quickie and a half - at most


Its been along time sence i have written, but dont worry im not gonna hurt your eyes with an extremly long letter. my letter nice and short maybe not even a quicky worth.. but here goes nothing. i have been looking foward to .Hack// G.U. Vol 3 excited really, im a big fan of .Hack and i guess my questions to you is what do you think of the series so far.. if you played it? and will Haseo ever stop being so grumpy and abusing Atoli? sure she needs it but common! one more thing before i end this letter so you can move on to a more intresting one XD i noticed the Hot Topics and i have something to confess about number 5 Which games have really touched you emotionally? well i would say that the Opera (Maria & Draco) from Final Fantasy 6 (PSX) always brings a tear to my eye... ; ; well there ya have it.

-Tonberryking

Sean

.hack is a series that I played but didn't get into. I've seen the original anime and played the first .hack series (all 4 volumes), but the rest interest me not at all. I like my MMOs online with real players, thank you very much. I don't know who you are talking about, so I will let our readers take a stab at the Haseo comment... ^^;

I love that opera scene. The one that touched me the most? The concert from FFX-2. Man I loved that scene. 1000 Words was like my favorite song for a month after I saw it!

Thanks for writing in Mr. Tonberryking!



Will I never rid myself of my Team Psynergy partners?


Sup Sean!

Grats on the position buddy, you deserved it. You never gave up even though our team kept having problems...even when my computer decided to just die on me! My only regret is that our final column never saw the light of day. I put a lot of effort into that one! ;)

Sean

I know, Seb. I still have your answers here. Who knows... I might just post them for people to point and laugh at.

Or just post them when I feel lazy and need to buy time. Whichever need comes first!

So you're gonna be an uncle and that makes you feel old? That's kinda weird....I mean, my niece is 1 year old already and in no way does her existence make me feel old. I guess a grandchild could have that effect though, but I'm nowhere near that milestone yet. o.O

Sean

My YOUNGER sister. I feel like an adult all of a sudden. Well much more of one then I usually do.

And holy cow! I bet that single Suikoden V vote is mine! Well, guess I should dish out an explanation as to why. First of all, I believe you've told me that you've played the others, correct? That's one reason: you've played all the others, time to complete the series! Which reminds me...have you played Suikoden Tactics? While not the best TRPG out there, it certainly stands on its own two feet and is quite enjoyable. But anyway, back to Suikoden V. It features probably the most epic and well illustrated story since the second game in the series, involving conspiracies, betrayals and actual character development, unlike some other ones...I'm lookin' at YOU Suikoden IV... Add to that a nifty celshaded visual style with good voice-acting, the return of 6 member parties and a really well implemented major battle (the wars!) system, and you get a truly solid and enjoyable game, especially if you liked the others in the series.

Sean

Does it split your party into pairs? I hated that about 3. Does it stick you on a boat? I hated that about 4. I have been hesitant to try it out after being let down by 3 and 4. I finished 4 without knowing I was fighting the final battle...

I am not a big strategy RPGer. Suikoden Tactics never interested me enough to break my "research heavily" rule that came into affect after Hoshigami. Oh and Kartia.

I would say 2 was my favorite. I wish I still had it. Even my RPG-hating brother loves that game!

On another note: are you stoked about Wild Arms 5 coming out next week? I know I am! It's weird though, 'cause although I enjoy the Wild Arms series, I've never anticipated one as much as I do now. Must be Rebecca's character design... <.<

That's it from me for now, I'll see you around and keep up the good work!

Seb

Sean

I have yet to play Wild Arms 4, so my thoughts on the fifth entry are pretty much on hold until I do. I will probably wait until it hits the bargain bin in any case.

I really liked 3 though, I just thought it was too long. I loved Virginia and that spell that let her hit for huge amounts of damage (her max health - her current health = bonus to damage). Made the little girl pack a bigger punch!

Thanks for the letter Seb. Please write more! Oh and I just noticed that we share a birthday! That makes like 10 people that do...



QUICKIES

Hi Sean! If you're the new weekend guy, why are you doing columns during weekdays?
Carabbit

Sean
That is an easy one to answer. Weekend Q&A is Saturday to Monday. This week is special - Matt is away so I simply took Tuesday and Wednesday as well. Someone else will take tomorrow, I hope.

So Sean,
What was your first RPG gaming experience?
Bainick da Aussy.

Sean
My first experience was one for the books. I went to Zellers (a Canadian chain - an expensive Walmart) with enough cash and the desire to buy TMNT2: The Arcade Game. I think I was nine or something. Needless to say, they had no TMNT2, so with cash burning a hole in my pocket, I picked up the coolest looking box and bought it. It was Dragon Warrior. I hated it.
The store would not let me return it. I kept it. I grew to love it. Then I worshipped it. The rest is history, as they say.



IN CLOSING

Well, my teeth hurt so I need to lie down. I am going to the US tomorrow to do some shopping. I hope to find lots of Atlus gems on that trip. As stated, I will see you all again on Saturday. Bari will take care of the column for the next two days.

I received a couple queries about why I think Brave Story rocks as hard as it does. I will quickly list some of my reasons here.

1. It is turned-based and reminds me of Dragon Quest.
2. It has unique and memorable characters.
3. The world seems alive. Characters come and go. I might need to read the novel now.
4. Pissing off monsters to get better loot rocks.
5. The game is easy, but there are lots of tactics involved. Pissing off the wrong monster(s) at the wrong time can get you killed very quickly.

In any case, I bid you all adieu until next week. I hope you all have a nice end of week!



Send a Letter!

Unanswered Letter Backlog: 12 actual letters. May include quickies.



gorne@rpgamer.com
Sean officially despises all dentists.


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