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ASK SEAN
Column 17: The Winding Corridors of Etria
September 22nd, 2007

Sean - 10:37pm EDT

Today saw the start of me actually doing homework this semester. I read two papers and three classes worth of readings. I felt dirty. With an exam in two weeks I figured I needed to start sometime. I need to do the rest of the readings eventually and tomorrow is as good a day as any. I do have a second class, you know.

I played another two dungeons in Wild Arms 5 and gave up when I returned to the overworld in a new area. I didn't feel like searching another area for treasure. I did spend a few hours playing Etrian Odyssey and I managed to find a new key. I used it on all the doors I could find and it eventually brought me to a place with lots of damage tiles. I had to warp out due to lack of healing items. At least I unlocked a shortcut in there.

My first review is now officially up. I hope someone will read it! And discuss it here, of course. Should I write some more? I was thinking of hitting up a bunch of un-reviewed PC games from the past. It might just be fun!

Let's get to the letters!




LETTERS
Power outtages... I hate thee.


Hey there again Sean. At least your power company told you an outage was coming - yesterday I got up and did some stuff, then noticed the power was off. It did come back on after about half an hour but really irritated me. PG&E, you have a terrible record.

Sean

Well, it was for routine maintenance, so they had plenty of time to let us know that it was coming up. Our power was only gone for all of 15 minutes, but it was still a hassle. I expected it to be gone for even longer. Even worse was that they had told us that if it didn't occur on Friday they would just choose a random time on Sunday evening--which usually means right during the season premier of a show I am long awaiting. It has happened three years in a row for Smallville!

Wow. I'd read about Grave of the Fireflies before, of course. But actually watching it probably counts as the saddest movie I've ever seen. I recommend you see it - just be prepared.

Sean

I've seen it before. Yes, it is a really sad movie.

If Grave of the Fireflies had a vocal theme it would be very somber. Instead I'll see what you think of Kare Kano's opening: http://gh.ffshrine.org/song/3093/2 I quite like it. This is another show I haven't watched yet, incidentally.

Sean

I was forced to sit through a big portion of this show. "His and Her Circumstances" is what it is called in the English tongue. The song is cute. I could add it to my list... if it weren't already there. The good thing is that we broke up before I had to watch any more of this show...

My thoughts run in a random direction today (not unusual). This particular tangent is prompted by a midnight encounter between a dog and a skunk that still permeates the environs. Odor adds quite a bit to our perceptions of reality in front of us, and I ponder the possibility of incorporating smell into sight and sound for a video gaming experience. Think it could be done? Nay, if someone wanted to badly enough it COULD be done - put those memories of Smell-O-Rama from the 50's away. Would you be in favor of such a thing, and what are the technical barriers to its effective implementation?

Sean

Not at all. I don't want to smell my games as well! I don't need to experience what "Rancid Gas" attacks smell like, thank you very much. I would stop playing games unless it could be turned off. Wouldn't one need to replenish the smell-pack at some point?

I don't think you tried Elemental Gimmick Gear out for the Dreamcast... it's hardly a classic you should run to play immediately. Neither does it suck so much as to prompt utter and complete loathing. Think a 2D Zelda game and you've got the archetype. One irritating boss fight's description ought to clue in. Boss fights employ a 3D overhead camera - actually, 'overhead' is something of a misnomer when the camera moves about so much. The whole problem with this boss fight is due to the camera. Close-range attacks don't work because the boss moves away whenever E.G.G. gets close, so the player must employ the long-range grapple fist. What makes this a pain is two-fold: (1) the grapple fist requires a second to charge, requiring the player to remain immobile and (2) because the camera gets spastic if the player and the enemy are not in close proximity, properly ascertaining the direction to fire it in can be aggravating. The boss's attacks aren't hard to dodge and don't do much damage, but to make it even more annoying halfway through the battle the boss has a clone pop up to take no damage from attacks but launch its own irritating shots. It becomes a test of endurance for the most part, and many of the hits taken are because the stupid camera decided to zoom in for a close-up instead of providing a constant view of what the boss is doing.

Sean

I always wanted that game, but could never justify the expense. This was during my undergrad days when I was usually broke. It was hard to find, and was priced at a game-and-a-half when I did find it. I passed it up and from what you just said, I am happy to have done so.

I did have fun moments with the game, though it may not sound that way. The Dreamcast did a lot better though. The translation made sense but had odd spelling and punctuation errors constantly, which did not endear me.

Ah, more backlog enumeration. Today we'll spell out the SNES's library of madness. Kirby Superstar, Demon's Crest, Pocky & Rocky 1 & 2, Star Trek: TNG, Buster Busts Loose, Castlevania IV, Ninja Gaiden Trilogy that I have in English and will play through: in Japanese we have Albert Odyssey 1 and 2, Romancing Saga 1 2 and 3, Live A Live, Dark Half, Dragon Quest 5 and 6, Front Mission, Front Mission Gun Hazard, Star Ocean, Fire Emblem 3 and 4, Majin Tensei, Shin Megami Tensei If..., Aretha 1 and 2, Wonder Project J, Farland Story, Bahamut Lagoon, Burning Heroes, Record of Lodoss War, Madara 2, and Ranma 1/2 Akanekodan. For further English purchases I envision Robotrek, E.V.O. and perhaps Paladin's Quest and/or Young Merlin: further Japanese purchases would be a lengthy list you would recognize not a scrap of such as Last Bible 3.

JuMeSyn

Sean

I have fond memories of that Buster game. It is a decent game, as is Castlevania IV. The majority of them I do not know. Robotrek was a decent game. Both EVO and Paladin's Quest were excellent. One line in the latter still sticks with me today: "Where's your MP? We don't have MP! Unlike those losers in other games we use our HP to cast spells!" Thanks for writing in JuMeSyn!



On Suikoden.


Hey Sean, just wondering if you are into the suikoden seires at all. I just finished suikoden tactics, and while it's not as great as say, ff tactics or tactics ogre, I feel it still had a very interesting story, with a very unexpected twist at the end. It also made the chore of trudging through suikoden iv a little bit more satisfying since tactics takes place in the same world and uses many of the same characters and places. Any thoughts?

Mr. Snuggles

Sean

I am not unfamilliar with the Suikoden series. In fact, I love it very much despite the travesty that is IV. I do happen to refuse to try out Suikoden Tactics, but that is mostly because I am not a fan of tRPGs and from what I have heard it is nothing special. Tactics and IV are not the only two that share common ties--the whole series takes place in the same world. They just don't take place in the same regions all the time. In fact, many characters are available in multiple games. I just haven't gotten around to playing V yet.

Thanks for writing in!



Been there, done that.


Hi Matt,

The character hotness topic turned out quite funny I must say :). I donít have much of an opinion on it myself, but it was fun to read. On to some other recent topics then:

Sean

It was both fun and... creepy. I never really gave it much thought.

What was the RPG that got you into the genre to begin with?

My first rpg-related games were Zelda: A Link to the Past and Secret of Mana and on the original Game Boy Final Fantasy Adventure (which in Germany actually was called Mystic Quest). I loved those three games more than any of my other games at the time and they lasted longer as well. So in late 1994 I read a review in a gaming mag about Final Fantasy VI (I refuse to call it III) and it looked so great and the review praised it like no other, so I just had to get it. Problem was, I needed an ntsc converter to play it on my PAL console plus the additional import costs, so in the end the game cost as much as two regular games, which at the time was a very serious money investment for me. But oh was it worth it! I didnít play anything else for many weeks, instantly replaying it after having finished it for the first time. I mean, Zelda and Secret of Mana were absolutely great as well, but with FFVI I realized that I love turn-based, menu-heavy RPGs much more than action oriented RPGs. Also the mid-game plot twist leading to the World of Ruin was the best I had ever experienced. So from then on I feverishly searched for more games like that, I was hooked so to speak. And as a beneficial side effect, these imported games helped me to quickly learn the English language, so who says video games canít be educational :).

Sean

When I lived in Germany, I had a fun time with my SNES. I had an NTSC converter for it and it made me happy. On a return trip to Canada I picked up a good twenty RPGs for it. I had Chrono Trigger (it had just come out) and a whole bunch more. The problem was that I couldn't play my FFVI on it, so I needed to mod the system. It had a nice NTSC/PAL switch on the front of it. The machine still refused to play Super Mario RPG. And yes, I also had Terranigma!

On another note, I had found a store that sold US games and they weren't too costly. I think my new copy of Earthbound cost me 60DM.

On the recent subject of RPG data loss due to power outage or parents tripping over controller wires, I very rarely had something like that, but I have a similar story. When I imported FFVII the day it was out in 1997 I shockingly had to realize that my TV apparently wasnít compatible with the playstation ntsc signal and only displayed the game in black and white and I absolutely couldnít afford a new TV. But I so desperatly wanted to play the game that I bared with it. After a few days of pretty much non-stop playing the TV screen occasionally showed signs of electrical interference until finally one afternoon it gave out a very loud, continuous screaching noise. I was very alarmed and immediately turned the TV off in fear that it might implode. And really, after inspecting the backside of the TV I saw smoke coming out of it and it smelled very burnt, so I had to turn of the console without being able to save. Luckily I didnít loose too much progress in the game. From then on I had to move to my motherís place (parents were seperated) to play the game, and finally in colour, until a week later my parents showed mercy and bought me a new compatible TV.

Sean

Hehe, been there. I bought a PS1 (the same one available in my contest) just to play FFVII. I turned on the machine and it was black and white. I couldn't believe it, so I returned the game. Later I got a copy from England (one of my dad's coworkers picked it up for me while he was there on business). I did end up playing a bunch of NTSC games on it in black and white (Breath of Fire 3--until I got to a color puzzle, SaGa Frontier, FFT, Wild Arms to name a few). A few years later I bought a compatible tv like you did and I was home free. Then I moved back here two months later.

What's the longest you've ever played an RPG in one sitting?

That would also be FFVII, though after the above mentioned incident. The longest I played this game in one sitting was 17 hours, after that comes DQVIII with 14 hours, and 10-12 hours I have spent on a great many RPGs in one sitting. At the age of 12 I was very impressed with me completing Zelda III in one 10 hour sitting (not my first playthrough, mind), that must have been my first "heavy" gaming session and afterwards I had a headache :).. But it was very fun.

A friend of mine once completed Lunar:SSSC in one sitting, without saving once even to add some challenge, I think it took him around 18-20 hours.

Very interesting topic, Iím very curious to see what other peopleís longest sessions were.

Sean

Scroll back a few columns. Maybe two weeks worth. You'll see some interesting responses.

And since I have mentioned FFVI+VII so much now, on the recent subject of why so many people only seem to like/play Final fantasy RPGs. Iím in no way a FF fan-boy, I like and have played many other RPGs. But I think that from FFIV-IX (and even I-III in the NES era) each game respectively was among the very best RPGs of itís time. They all had great story and narrative, great graphics and music, unequalled FMVs during the PSOne era, great battle systems and many inovations with each following game. Itís this consistency of all-around quality that makes the FF franchise so extremely popular, and rightly so in my mind. If I had to recommend an RPG to someone who never played one, Iíd recommend one of the FFs because I think it would have the highest chance to impress him and offer a great enjoyable game. But I agree that it is very narrow minded to only play FFs as far as RPGs are concerned, so many other RPGs are at least just as good and in some aspects even better.

Best regards, and it will be sad to see you leave RPGamer soon, but thanks for all the devotion you put into this column (and Iím not even into SOCK2...).

Tycho

Sean

Yeah, I agree with you there. The Final Fantasy games might not be the best ones out there, but on average they rank above almost everything else. Square just puts in so much effort to make them shine. I admire that about the series. Thanks for writing in!



A discussion on backlogs


Heylo again there Sean.

Well I thought I'd apologize for the befuddling comment I made about strategy guides.

Well I was noticing that one of your recent hot topics is "Backlog" and a lot of people have been piping in with there collections and the like. I guess my backlog of video games is rather large.

Well counting my PC games the last time I added up my games was in between 700 and 750. Not sure how many more since the last time I counted so I'll say under 800 but well yeah. The actual number of games I've beaten is roughly 100 - 150. Most of them are RPGs which to take a chunk of time to play. I do have a about 50 - 75 none RPG's/strategy games for various systems.

Sean

Ouch. Ok, I am going to shut up and not complain about the backlog. I realize mine is pretty tame now.

The problem with my backlog is a combination of different factors.

Factor 1) Buying. Often times I pick up games before I finish old ones so I'm constantly having to play catch up with myself to get a game finished. This week alone I plan to pick up the new Growlanser game and two weeks ago I picked up Wild Arms Vanguard (WA5). I remember one time last year I sat down with my games and a friend of mine and we came up with a plan that I would at least start every game and make a save file that way I can eventually come back to it.

Sean

I do the same thing. I buy too much. I would never condone the idea of playing a game a bit and then continuing later. It is just too hard to remember the start later that it'ss just not worth it. I usually plan to finish a game when I start it. Unless it stinks, of course.

Factor 2) Sleep. As mentioned in a previous letter I have a sleeping disorder (hypersomnia/narcolepsy). So some games will just put me right to sleep (FFX) or keep me entertained enough to keep going once I wake up(Tales of Symphonia). So there have been many games I have simply fallen asleep, gotten up saved, and put in something else to play.

Sean

I see. Only portable games and long sessions with MMOs put me to sleep. The latter is because I can't get up to sleep--I am that addicted.

Factor 3) Frustration. I don't usually end up with the 6 hours of game play lost due to dieing frustration. Mine is more the 18th time on said boss fight dying. And always the right near the end where I've breezed through most of the game, kicked a lot of butt, and have managed to destroy everything that got in my way. The two most memorable ones were the final boss es of legend of Dragoon on my first play through and then the next to final boss of Xenogears. Another frustration point is when you just have no clue where to go. This happened to me in Wild Arms 2nd Ignition (WA2) right near the very end of the game. So when I get frustrated with a game I usually put it down for a bit so I don't start throwing controllers or what not and give the game a break, now if only I could learn to pick it up again later more easily.

Sean

I don't like to die on a boss either. I get easily frustrated. I do employ a common strategy though. Try it once to learn what it can do. Try it a second time when I know what it can do. If I lose a second time, I assess the situation: Can I beat it with a little adjustment in strategy, or is it a lost cause? If it is a lost cause, I will simply turn the machine off and come back to it later after buffing up my party a little. This strategy served me well during my DDS days.

Factor 4) Completion. I'm not an UBER completionest but there are several games where I like to do EVERYTHING that you can possibly do in them. Sadly game like FF9 where it was near impossible to do, especially with one particular weapon where you had to get to a particular spot in the game in under X hours or so was freaking stupid. Although I did enjoy FF9 enough to play it multiple times unlike 8 which I have still yet to beat

Sean

The Excalibur II, if I recall. Reach the end of the game in less than 14 hours. I heard it was only possible with cheating, or skipping all the FMVs. Talk about frustrating. What about the Zodiak Spear in FFXII? A friend of mine actually got it, and it was worth not opening a single chest for the entire game...

Factor 5) Never Ending. Harvest Moon is the perfect example of where, if you do well enough, the game never ends and you can keep on farming to hearts little content forever. It never REALLY ends.

Sean

I hate Harvest Moon. I just can't see the point to it. I guess a little part of me qualifies the series as "for girls". I bet there is someone who just stood up and got angry when I said that. Prove me wrong. I dare you.

As for my reaction to Brave Story. Itís a fun quirky little title. I've been playing mostly at nights when I am on my way to sleep just to pass a few minutes before falling asleep. And its perfect for doing just that its light hearted, entertaining enough to not put me to sleep.

Well my shift here at the office is over so I better head out.

The Anime Man

Sean

That was exactly when I played that game. It was easy to pick up and put down. I love games like that. The PSP is really good for them. I guess the DS is too, but I never really utilized that feature. Thanks for writing in!



Sean, actually. Nice to meet you!


Hey there, Sean? Matt? I'm not sure who's actually going to get this letter. I used to visit RPGamer and occasionally write in back when the original androgynous slime Googleshng was around about seven years ago. I recently started visiting RPGamer again in the last few days, because I need info on FFT: tWofL, and Square Enix won't give it to me.

Sean

Heh. I hope you stay now. We need more readers.

Anyway, I looked at the preview and saw more of the newly translated text and am reminded once again how much frustration I am feeling waiting for this game to come out. Why? To find out how much they are going to ruin my gameplay experience with the new translation of the game. Am I the only one who is dreading all of the changes? Seriously, almost every change that I have seen is bad or terrible. Calculator -> Arithmetician? If you must change it, change it to Mathematician. Who gets a Ph.D in Arithmetic? That's not high-level math...If i'm going to kill 4 people, two wildbos, and a red chocobo in one fell swoop, that better requires some high level math! Sigh...

Oracle->Mystic? (passable)
Mediator->Orator(OK)
Sean

I am not psyched for this game yet. I might be as time goes by, but I will probably pass by a store and see it in the window and just add it to my backlog. Being a remake, I might need to sit on it a while and let it age a bit. Those names suck.

See, anything that reminds of the translation of FF XII is basically a MAJOR TURNOFF for me. I think I just finished the Ridorana Cataract before leaving the country, and I literally don't care about anything in the game or any character in the game (except for Al Cid's schoolgirl counterpart). I don't know if I am close to the end. I don't care why the characters do what they do. I only play because I want to finish. In fact, I might look up the ending on YouTube after I write this letter so that I can sell the game as soon as I get back to the States rather than wasting more time on it. The style of English that they use is supposed to sound more European, but it just sounds artificial, like they simply changed some spellings to make the words seem different. And the pronounciations that they used...Reddas? Marquis?...I used to say Mar-Kwis like they do in the game. After I turned about 8, I found out that the word is Mar-Kee, and have pronounced it correctly since then. As Old Biff said to Young Biff in Back to the Future II "You sound like a damn fool when you say it wrong!"

Sean

Oh my God! Don't remind me. I hated the Markwis stuff in that game. It hurt my ears every time I heard it.

Considered that I am paying about $250 for this game (I purchased a PSP and memory stick just for it) even though I still own the original FFT (the game I got a PSX for) and have the data, the fact that I am already hoping to be to disable voice in the cutscenes (likely) and unlock the original translation (no chance in h....Hong Kong) is distressing, to say the least. I can only hope that SE doesn't use their "magicks" to make the translation much worse than I already fear it will be.

AG

Oh, if it matters, the first FF game I ever played was either FF Legend 2, or FF 1. Favorites are 4, 6, 10.

Sean

Truth be told, I was never really bothered by old translations. I thought they added to the charm. I am sure you will be fine.

You forgot IX in your list. It must have been an oversight. Thanks for writing in!



QUICKIES

Square Enix can show that same old FFXIII FMV again and again, but it's not going to make the game any better. We get it, Lightning has realistic hair.
--
Matt, the moderately-evil Q&A host

Sean
Nothing really shouted out for my attention during TGS. It would have been nice to learn of more stuff, a few surprise announcements and such stuff. Of course, you do win a prize. Why? 25th posted quickie... Let me know what you want!

I care. Draconn

Sean
Thanks, man. I know you do.

Hey Sean,
Just out of curiosity, how do you feel about Sega and Capcom's announcement to delay PS3 titles until they see the sales figures of Halo 3? Personally, sounds like they are looking for a scapegoat on a decision they have already made.
Kolphyre

Sean
I don't understand the logic, unless they wanted to see how many Haloes get sold in Japan. If it pushes systems, they might have a valid point. I don't think they care much about what happens in the rest of the world.

Sean,
I sort of recall you saying a few weeks ago that you didn't consider Folklore to be an RPG. But now RPGamer is covering it, and you even have it on your Most Wanted list. Did everyone change their minds at once? Was TGS that influential?
FirstAid

Sean
Not really--I didn't notice any coverage on Folklore. I just played the demo and it spoke to my soul. That, and my PS3 needs some love.

Hello,
I'm a big fan of old school rpgs. But usually when I want my fix, I have to go to the GBA, or SNES, or maybe Playstation, Genesis, Saturn, etc. What are some the best ones on the PS2, or the Gamecube if it has any? To start, I can think of YS 6 and Wizardry: Tales of the Forsaken Land.

Sean
On the PS2, try Dragon Quest VIII, Final Fantasy X, X-2and XII, Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter, Wild Arms 3-5, Suikoden 5, Digital Devil Saga, Persona 3 and Xenosaga 1-3. In other words, there are a ton of really good ones. On the GC, I would try Tales of Symphonia, Paper Mario, or maybe the Zeldas. There are less RPGs here.

HI sean. first time i've written to you though others have heard from OTAKU NICK!!! in the past :D but anyway hmm as for a topic.. i'm surprized noone when talking about glitches has brought up the one from FFIV. you could in theory indeffinantly replicate swords and other such weapons.. this came in handy during the final boss fight because by than you could have had 99 excaliber's and 99 crystal swords.. have edge just constantly tossing them.. zeromus dies in like 3 minutes. it was just an evil glitch that i spamed to death. same glitch existed in the original wild arms aswell. you could if you know what you were doing replicate items. but anyway that's all i have to say for now
later days

Sean
Ok, so this a long quickie. I remember that bug well. I never did use it though--even as a kid it felt like cheating and we all know what Mr. Maki would say... "Cheating is wroooooong."



IN CLOSING

I found more than enough letters to day in the communal bin. It made me happy! Tomorrow is the season opener for Animation Domination on FOX and I couldn't be happier. My girlfriend will be coming over to watch it too, so we're sure to have a lot of fun! Everyone should watch it!

I need to come up with a hot topic before I go today... How about... What was the worst premise for a game that you have ever played? And more importantly, what prompted you to finish it? And that is it for today!

Peace out!



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