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ASK SEAN
Column 12: Sick Day
September 10th, 2007

Sean - 11:31pm EDT

I did go and finally see Stardust. I enjoyed it immensely. I like Michelle Pfeiffer as a bad guy--she did a good job of it. And the scene with DeNiro was hilarious. I might need to read some of Gaiman's books now. Any suggestions?

I started playing Dragoneer's Aria and I don't find it to be too bad as of yet. I don't think it is as bad as others are leading me to believe. I do have some problems with it though. First, the battles are too slow--it takes too long for them to start and end. I don't how they chose to start it, that's all. I also think that there are some animation issues that just make me wonder. The dragons I have seen have made me laugh on a few occassions. Otherwise, I am having some fun with it. Oh, the nasty enemies that ambush you have killed me a few times, but its all in good fun. So far, at least. Another thing that annoys me is how there is a level differential thing going on. I've noticed that at level five some enemies would just hand me my ass on a platter, and for simply leveling once I can do the same to them. I don't need new equipment or anything--I just need to use regular thwacks of my sword. It kind of reminded me of Valhalla Knights, but you needed to really work for the +1 Attack Skills in that game (you would get that at like level 15-25 depending on the job). This game doesn't do it so well, so I will likely need to grind a few times.

Tomorrow sees my return to LOTRO, if I can get my champion-friend to actually play for a change. He is just too busy. I understand, yet I still want to play. I need to get away from level 21 once and for all. Tomorrow morning I will also be choosing a new novel to pack away in my backpack. I believe I will be choosing... volume one of the Last Mythal. It seems like a good series to read to return to the Forgotten Realms.

Let's get to the letters!




LETTERS
Some names I simply cannot comprehend


Wepa, Matt

Man, are you psyched about Soul Nomad? After watching the movies posted on the main page, it reminds me a lot of the Ogre Battle series. And was that Walnut from Phantom Brave doing a Psy-Burgundy?

Sean

I am not interested in it at all. Both Ogre Battle and tRPGs in general are just so... meh. What kind of a name is Walnut, anyways?

For the Hot topics

I remember when Final Fantasy 6 first came out there was a hurricane headed for home and I was playing it while my mom and my brother were boarding up the windows. I had just passed Locke's scenario and was about to save when the lights went out in preparation for the hurricane. The sad part was that I had only saved once, after leaving a sinking Figaro with Edgar, Terra and Locke.

Sean

That sucks. For me it is usually my dad shutting power down to do some work, and hitting the wrong breaker.

Is it dumb when monsters have millions of HP? Heck no and when Im just capable of doing 999 damage per character, its even more fun. But really, the amount of Hp and damage that can be dealt has to be balanced. I dont mind having monsters with high HP as long as Im capable of dealing an amount of damage that can actually do something.

Sean

The fight with Yiazmat in FFXII taught me something. I guess the many fights with Kirin in FFXI would say the same thing. Fighting monsters that takes hours of grinding to kill are just not fun.

Right now, Im itching to play Wild Arms 5, because it looks like they took the best parts of WA3 and mixed it with the battle system from WA4 (I just hope I dont see a goblin party every 2 battles), and Soul Nomad simply because its from NIS.

Alright, time to get back to work, man I miss those college days of playing till 4 in the morning.

'ta la proxima

-Lost Boricua

Sean

I want to play Wild Arms 5 too. But, first it needs to be found. It bothers me that I can't get my grubby hands on it. Thanks for writing in!



Landsknecht... why not just a warrior?


Hey Matt,

I too was disappointed by the Blue Dragon reviews. I might have ignored them and rented and/or bought it anyway, but... The demo they provided on the marketplace pretty much confirmed the reviews for me. Maybe I'll try it when it goes on the cheap, but for now, I'm still really looking forward to Eternal Sonata. The demo for that blew me away, seems like a truly original RPG. That one's already bought & paid for when it ships in a week and a half.

Sean

I see. I had a similar experience with Lair. I was looking forward to it, but while bored at work I read some reviews. And man... I cancelled my preorder faster than I have ever before. It is supposed to be all kinds of painful. I understand the Blue Dragon demo had the same effect...

I'm also playing through Etrian Odyssey, currently on the first floor of the second stratum. I'm curious as to what your party is. Mine is Dark Hunter, Protector, Lan... Land... um, WARRIOR, Alchemist, and Healer. So far I haven't seen a reason to create more than 5 characters, other than that series of quests that wants you to have certain levels of certain classes (I've been lucky with that so far). Maybe that will change if/when I unlock one of the extra classes.

Sean

My party is currently a Protector, a Landsknecht, a Media, an Alchemist and a fledgling Ronin. I traded in my Survivalist for the Ronin and I miss her. Yes, you will need to level up the two advanced classes. For the record, I am on the second floor of the third stratum.

As far as DS action goes (sweet, sweet DS action...) I've been alternating between that and Picross. Since you're into math-type stuff (so am I), I thought I'd mention it to you as a neat little grid-based puzzler. You can check out what the puzzles are like on the Nonogram wikipedia page (Nonogram is the Japanese puzzle Picross is based off of). Best of all, it's only $20!

Sean

I don't much like non-Puzzle Quest puzzle games. I just see no point to them.

Lastly, what is this Math Survivor business? It sounds delicious.

Take care.

-Straadin

Sean

I would assume it was like Survivor the "tv show" with a Math twist. People being voted out of the contest and such stuff.

Thanks for writing in, Straadin!



Two more stores checked... no Wild Arms 5


Sean! Hi! How's it going buddy? ^.^

Sorry to hear that your classes are off to a rocky start, that must be tough. Hopefully everything is gonna clear itself out after a little while, so hang in there!

Sean

Will do. Thanks for the vote of confidence!

First off, I'd just like to clear something up: in the last column, Daniel spoke of Shadow Hearts 2's Karin and you thought it was a "little girl with a book". Actually, Karin is the hotty with a short skirt and big breasts that uses a fencing type sword. In SH1, you have Alice who bashes enemies with a book. She's not a little girl however; she and Yuri develop a romantic relationship. In SH2, though, you have Gepetto who has a marionette as his weapon that looks like a little girl. Shadow Hearts is one of my favorite RPG series...can you tell? ;)

Sean

I played the first one and it bothered me. I have a problem remembering names from old games... can you tell? Is Karin the one on the cover of Covenant? I don't understand why some games have really weird weapons... and even worse is that every town sells them! Remember Okage's parasol woman? That was plain weird.

So, let's hit up some of your hot topics, shall we?

Have I ever been confused by a character joining my party? Yes, often...play the Suikoden series and you have a couple characters like that for each game. Like in Suikoden III for example: one of the characters, a Winger (from the Winged Horde you see in Suikoden II's Two River City) joins your party out of absolutely frikkin' nowhere when you enter a battle with an empty slot in a forest (I forget the name, ugh...). Imagine my reaction the first time this happened... Besides that, I'm sure it happened other times as well in other series/games, but I just can't seem to recall any particular characters or events. All's I know is I'm currently playing Wild Arms 5 (I started a second playthrough, I'm so hooked!), and each character has a well-defined reason for joining and sticking to your group.

Sean

Good for you, Seb. Wild Arms 5 sounds like fun... I guess there are just too many characters in Suikoden to make sure they all have a reason to join. Some just come to offer a service after all.

Mmm...main character that shouldn't have had the role? Oh GOD I love this one. Be forewarned, the following might contain spoilers: the absolute worst main character EVER in my opinion who served mostly as wallpaper as far as I'm concerned, is Vaan from FFXII. I mean, come on, seriously. Besides the beginning where you learn of his aspirations to become a pirate and such, he does absolutely nothing to move the story forward. As soon as you get Ashe, all of the focus shifts to her and in most of the cutscenes, you see her talking to either Basch or Balthier while Vaan and Penelo are fooling around in the background like two little kids. Add to this his absolutely ridiculous look (too-small jacket with no shirt underneath and a feminine face...ew) and his annoying "from-the-nose" type voice acting, and you get my most hated RPG main character of all time. Seriously. And no other one even comes close...anyway, my personal feelings aside, he didn't deserve to be the main character. A main character is the driving force of the story, he/she is the one who incites change and makes the decisions. Vaan accomplished none of these. Therefore he is pure suck. XD

Sean

As far as I was able to tell, he was the main character as he pushed the entire venture off to its start. If he wasn't sneaking around the palace, nothing would have come together. He was the first step, and then afterwards... useless.

I took a look at your contest...seems fun! I always find games with medals, trophies and accomplishment type things more interesting than others (at least, as far as being a completionist goes), so it's a good angle to take for a contest I think.

Well, that's it for me, see you next time!

Seb

Sean

Thank you, I hope you enjoy it. And remember, I am always willing to give prizes for copies of Wild Arms 5 or SOCK 2 level up stars!

Thanks for writing in, Seb. I hope your unmentioned job hunt works out for you! I hope you EA interview goes well!



Why is using both Thunder and Thundershock at the same time a bad thing?


Hello,

I can't remember, have I written in before? If I have, it must have been a long time ago...Anyway, on to the "first RPG ever" question. I think my first RPG was either Paper Mario or Pokemon Yellow. Which one of those was released first anyway? I'll go look....Ok. It was Pokemon Yellow. There was no one teaching me how to play so my Pikachu's move list was rather illogical. I don't remember what else it had but I know that Thundershock and Thunder were both there at the same time. I wouldn't call myself an expert now, but at least I know better than that.

Sean

I wouldn't. I don't like Pokemon as much as I should and I have never taken a plunge. I once asked Matt to lend me some high level Pokemon so I could have an easier entry into the series. I believe he denied me.

It doesn't matter if you wrote in before or not. Just make it a habit from now on, ok?

Pokemon and Paper Mario aside, my first major game with a serious storyline was Final Fantasy X. I know that some people don't like the sphere grid, but it was my first Final Fantasy game so I didn't think anything of it. FFX was what really sent me in the direction of RPGs. I really like RPGs because of the storylines. I also like to read fantasy and sci-fi books (though I don't do much anymore because there are to many games on my "To be played" list) so a convincing storyline is important for me. I also like being able to play a game that doesn't require constant button mashing. I don't mean that in the usual sense (rapid, mindless pushing of buttons) I mean that I don't like anything that requires a quick and complicated reaction. In school, my brain has good ideas but it processes slowly. So with videogames, I don't react quickly enough to make a fighting game fun. I tend to stay away from most games without a turn or menu based battle system (FF6 style stuff is fine). Ironically, I loved Twilight Princess, so there are exceptions. This long rambling of mine brings me to a question: What makes RPGs fun for you? (Versus other genres like racing, fighting, puzzle, etc.)

Sean

After seeing that you don't read because you have lots of games to play, it got me thinking. I haven't seen a game recently that captures the story of a good book. I need to see something that gets me thinking and involved as the last book I read. And what draws me to RPGs? I tend to not like overly realistic violence in my games (the reason why I dislike GTA), and like you my reflexes are a bit slow. I can play som FPSs as well as some fighters, but I get overly frustrated when I fail. I just can't hit targets or recognize incoming combos fast enough. I can beat an AI opponent on medium difficulty, but never on the harder ones. Or at least consistently.

Barring a few exceptions, RPGs tend to get me more involved through the plot. Games like God of War and Shadow of the Colossus do it by pure adrenaline (the former is a button masher though).

Lets' see, what else....oh yeah, soundtracks! I also love game music, though not all game music is my cup of tea. I don't know about which one is the best, because A. that's hard to say because it's all different styles, and B. I haven't played nearly enough games to have heard a good chunk of the music. However, I will tell you what I like. I have to start by telling a story though. I was bored one day, so I decided to buy an RPG on impulse. I went online and saw that Atelier Iris was coming out and that it came with a free soundtrack. I bought it. I still have not finished Atelier Iris (I like the game but I keep getting distracted by other games). However, I have purchased Atelier Iris 2 and 3. Why? Free soundtracks. I pre-ordered both, without caring at all what the games were like, though I assumed they would be at least passable because I liked Atelier Iris 1. I also bought Ar Tonelico after visiting the Japanese website for the game (note that I am not fluent in Japanese). Once again: free soundtrack. I actually don't know much about the game at all. I played to the first save point once but other than that, I've hardly touched it. Again, I have rambled on long enough to come to another question: In your opinion, should I play Ar Tonelico, or just be content with the music? Before I leave the topic of music, I want to reccomend the Ar Tonelico Hymmnos CDs. I only have one of the two but I would assume the other is just as good. If you don't like to hear people singing though, don't buy it. Vocal music is at least half of it.

Sean

The vocal tracks is what would sell it to me. I can't play new games to the first save point. If I don't play further at that point, I likely will not return to it for a long time, if ever. I tend to finish what I start. The exception is of course Persona. Ugh.

I have never purchased a non-vocal soundtrack for a game. They aren't my cup of tea. The Rhapsody soundtrack was pretty entertaining though.

I think I've probably been blabbering for way too long, so I'll come back to letter writing later. Thanks for making the effort to get from one end of this letter to the other.

Sincerely,

Annalou

Sean

It was my pleasure Annalou. I hope to hear from you again. And I think Matt would too, of course.



The hype machine as a death sentence...


You know, I hate it when a game is heralded as a "Final Fantasy Killer" or "Halo Killer" etc.

You might as well just put a big stamp on the box that says "You will be disappointed by this game".

Sean

I agree. They shouldn't aim to kill the games, but just offer to be as good. Those two particular series are at the pinacle of their genre, or so we are to believe. As such, games should strive to equal them, not beat them. The fans should decide that when the game is in their hands.

Blue Dragon is a perfect example. I haven't played it, and likely won't (unless the money fairies visit), but regardless of if it is good or not, by labelling it a "Final Fantasy Killer", you basically consign it to mediocrity. Regardless of what you think about Final Fantasy games, calling it a "Final Fantasy Killer" is basically the equivalent of saying "This is the best RPG ever". It implies that Final Fantasy is the top of the pile, and this game beats it. That means that when you play the game and it is not the "Best Game Ever", you will be disappointed. Even if it is a pretty damn good game.

Again, I am not intending to imply that Blue Dragon is either good or bad, or that Final Fantasy is either good or bad, only that this comparison is unfair to any game, regardless of quality. They should just say something like "An extensive RPG in the vein of Final Fantasy", or "Fans of Final Fantasy should enjoy this". That leaves more room for the players to judge for themselves the quality of the game, and reduces the amount of hype.

Sean

I don't like these labels as much as you. I am trying to find an example to prove this, but my brain is too tired. And sick. I guess I forgot to say something about that, didn't I?

I remember back in the Xbox days, when there was a drought of RPGs, every time an RPG was scheduled for release on Xbox, someone would point to it and say "Yeah there may not be much out right now, but when ____ comes out, it is going to be fantastic". Of course each and every one of those games came out, and none of them lived up to the Hype (Fable, Sudeki, etc). There was even an article in Xbox Nation that pointed to the 6 great Xbox Rpgs, three of them were not out (on of which got cancelled, and the other two were over hyped), the remaining three were all American RPGs and although they were considered pretty good, they were also available on other platforms.

Sean

I liked the KOTORs and Jade Empire. I wish I had just gotten them on PC instead of wasting my money on an Xbox.

So basically what I am saying is "Hype is stupid". Can't we just judge a game for what it is, rather than what we (or some marketing dorks) want it to be.

Sean

It is very hard to do so. The game publishers need the buzz to make sure that their game sells. The initial release is all important. They need people to want the game before it is available. A lot of games don't get demos anymore. Those that do have them release after the retail product. Why? So there are more initial sales. After that period, they don't care if the buyers enjoy the game or not. Well, they do if they want to build a brand or an IP. Sometimes all they need to say is: "There is always next time..." What do you all think of the evil hype machine? Evil, good, necessary, useless? Send me your thoughts! Thanks for the letter!



QUICKIES

So, I picked up Sword of the New World after all and it is exactly what I wanted. Not the best game in the world that's going to suck away all my time like EQ2 or LOTR, just something I can play for an hour or 2 when I have the time to waste. The rpgamer review hit it pretty dead on: beautiful graphics, fast and furious combat, decent character optimization, the chat ui is rather lackluster but I'm okay with that. All in all, not a bad $20 spent.
Koala Bob

Sean
Thats good to hear. Let me know how it is after you've had more time with it. I find it easy to fall for MMOs that just get plain boring or trashy after some time. I am looking at you Vanguard.

Happy memories of Star Ocean: 'Til the End of Time. :) I don't agree with folks who say that the twist made the other games not matter.
[SPOILER] The entire POINT of the plot is that despite being "AIs," they were alive in all the ways that mattered, and that putting them down as just data or irrelevant was a dehumanization they didn't deserve.
Anyway, what do you think of stuff like the Battle Trophies, which require insane amounts of experimentation (or FAQ research), patience, and will? I think it's kind of neat, especially since I can just stop when I get the stuff I really want, but I'm a completist by heart.

Sean
Yeah, that twist came from left field. Battle Trophies? I found most of them to be too random. It is probably why I used the term in my contest. And no, I did not even try for some of them, I just didn't have the interest to go through the bonus dungeons either. I remembered Star Ocean 2 being a lot more interesting in the end.



IN CLOSING

Ah yes, the sickness. I woke up this morning with a pounding headache that stuck around until... now. There were other symptoms, but I won't go into them. The day sucked eggs. Why do I only get sick on days off of work? I never get sick during the week. Anyways, I hope for a nice day off due to sickness tomorrow--I really don't want to go.

Everyone, please have a nice week. I will get better, go to my classes and try to do something constructive with my time. Make sure you all do too! The contest page will be updated in the next couple of days--JuMeSyn, I need to hear from you.

Peace out!



Send a Letter!

Unanswered Letter Backlog: Alot, but they are all from one person. You know who you are.



gorne@rpgamer.com
Sean wishes he had horse-strength painkillers


Guess my favorite pizza toppings. Well, can you?

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