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ASK WHEELS
That's the Power of Kupo
January 20th, 2012

01/20- 12:00PM EST

Welcome to another edition of Q&A. Finally someone guessed my top five Zelda games! I was getting worried it wasn't going to happen. This week we've got a number of great letters including more Shin Megami Tensei history and another edition of the lightning round where I answer your shorter questions rapid-fire.

Without further delay, on to the letters and tweets!





The Letters
Zelda: Ocarina of Winning

Well, Link certainly wouldn't back away from a fight, so I am going to keep on guessing your top 5 until I, or someone else, has it right.
And I don't even care about the prize any more. This has me frustrated!
 
1 Ocarina of Time
2 Wind Waker
3 Link's Awakening (that was an easy hint haha)
4 Twilight Princess
5 Link to the Past


Wheels

Well your frustration has ended, that is the correct answer! Though Skyward Sword will likely be the new top dog and bump Link to the Past off the list, those are my five favorites. I thought  I had stated in previous Q&As my distaste for Majora's Mask, but I guess people forgot because they kept including it in guesses! Anyway, thanks everyone for the entries, I think next contest I may have you all guessing my top five favorite Final Fantasies. That will be fun!

Okay, so I have yet another question for you. With the release of the PS Vita drawing ever closer, the PSP is about to become old school, and therefore something I am willing to play. >_<


Wheels

You know what, the PSP was really kind of old school from the start. It got ports of a bunch of classic RPGs, and for the most part the new content for the system had a decidedly old-school feel to it as compared to the DS, since it didn't have new touch screen controls to mess around with. Look at the lineup of RPGs on the system some time. Though there are plenty of duds (I'm looking at you Lord of Arcana), they are far outweighed by the volume of quality content. Heck, Europe even got two classic ports, Breath of Fire III and Tales of Eternia, that never came out in the US. The PSP is cheap now, as are its games, so go for it!

So I am scouting around for a cheap second hand PSP and was wondering if there are any (relatively obscure) RPGs out there that I should know of. I am already planning on getting Final Fantasy Tactics, and that one store I told you about had a special edition set of Tactics Ogre lying about, so I might pick that one up as well, but aside from that I haven't really been paying much attention to the PSP RPG scene. I am not looking for any of that mainstream nonsense. I am done with Final Fantasy, except for Tactics that is, so... If you have any suggestions, that would be great. Is Growlanser any good? I saw there's a new one to be released soon.
 
Looking forward to your enlightening answers, oh great Master Gyrator.
Dan Dan Revolution
(aka Daniel B.)


Wheels

I would say start with Knights in the Nightmare. I know that also has a DS version, but I think the game may actually be easier to control on PSP, and has better visual as well. It's truly an original experience. Next up give Gladiator Begins a try. Not sure if it is directly available in Europe, but it's a gladiator RPG where you create your character and then participate in various events on your road to freedom. Being so combat focused it can get repetitive at times, but the package overall is great. Persona 3 Portable is a brilliant port, possible even better than the original. Trails in the Sky is an absolute must for anyone who loves Japanese RPGs. Make that your first purchase! Monster Hunter is of course worth trying as there is something to Japan's love of the series. An oddball recommendation would be Mimana Iyar Chronicle. It isn't the best RPG out there, but the localization by Aksys is just great. Sadly I can't comment on Growlanser. I've yet to play anything in that series!

Last but not least, buy all the Ys games. That is an order!

Looking forward to hearing from you again sir!

VG Music Love

Hey!

This is much longer than I intended.

I missed the most recent Chrono talk, and my conscience is making me opine. I agree (unnecessarily) that the soundtrack is beyond sick. As a trained musician, I can only think of a handful of games that have the breadth, depth and sincerity of the game. It never shies away from being EPICALLY SERIOUS when appropriate, or from being light and fun when called for.


Wheels

You know I don't think I really appreciated it back in my youth, but the soundtrack truly is quite amazing. My only gripe remains the battle theme which I think they needed to switch up later in the game. Still, I like that it occasionally calls back to Chrono Trigger, but for the most part it does its own thing, and really that's true of the game as a whole.

So for my time-space capsule of Chrono Cross music, my top 5 list (sorry, I'm verbose) would be:

(5) Leaving the Body (it actually feels like your best friend is departing the mortal coil in front of your eyes. And then it ditches the pizzacato and it gets worse/better)
(4) Chronomantique (not the most powerful, but it perfectly captures the essence of the original with the spirit of the sequel, i.e. archipelago = calypso. Excellent cover)
(3) Dream of the Shore Bordering Another World (epic name + epic strings + slight minor key = awesomesauce)
(2) Garden of the Gods (given that the benevolent Dragon Gods are actually eeeeeeevil, this is pretty spot on for wonder/magic/awe/mortality)
(1) Frozen Flame (So emotive, at such a critical scene. Made even more poignant in that it only plays once in the game, which is an extremely rare and underused technique, arguably most recently/effectively since Forever Rachel, although I think that played twice if you stop at Kohlingen before going to Zozo.)


Wheels

Oh man Forever Rachel, that is a classic tune right there. Anyway, all fantastic choices from the Chrono Cross soundtrack. This game is really kind of unappreciated when you think about it. I wonder if a nice update that fixes the story a bit would finally get many to realize the quality of it. Especially the soundtrack, one of the absolute best ever.

Notable mention to the fun (The Splendidly Grand Magic Troupe), the peacefully ambient (Jellyfish Sea), the mysteriously ambient (Island of the Earth Dragon) and one of the best ending songs ever (Radical Dreamers). I'm just more epic and minor than fun and major. Incidentally, I have a sleepy-time video game playlist (*cough* I'm a dork) and a ton of Chrono is on it.


Wheels

The variety in the soundtrack is amazing, and all the tunes do a great job of fitting with the location or event that they match up with. I think there are many instances where the music can be so good that it makes everything in the game better, and this has to be one such case.

Valkyrie Profile (the combination of guitar shreds and epic Norse Godly songs is so well played. And seriously, the names? Behave Irrationally? Dreamscar? Eternal Hydrogen Anxieties?? What were these people smoking??)
Final Fantasy VIII (by far doesn't have the most memorable of FF songs, but also one of the most consistent soundtracks. Almost every track is spot on for the gaming situation. From FLWV's impending witch doom to Drifting's.... drifting.... to Julia's piano lounge chic. The Salt Flats has 1718 plays on my iTunes, mostly on my sleep-time playlist)
Legend of Mana (almost a tie with Secret of Mana, and I'm sure I'm in the minority. But this is the rare soundtrack that makes me want to play a game even when I know I don't actually enjoy playing said game)
Lufia II (simple and perfect for its environment. It catches the sense of adventure which has been mostly lost with the melodrama in today's games. They based an entire series around the 'big' secret that Lufia is Erim and Erim isn't really evil, yet still made me care)
Xenogears (NEARLY as excellent as Chrono Cross, if not for some useless background filler. But when it's key songs are on, they're unstoppable! E.g. The Valley Where Wind is Born, Ship of Regret and Sleep, and Shevat [1667 plays, 3348 with the Zohar002 piano arrangement, go to YouTube now if you don't know it]. June Mermaid, Shattering of the Dream Egg and Lost... Shards are overrated as far as I'm concerned)


Wheels

More nice choices. I have yet to truly play Valkyrie Profile, but I will get to partake in those tunes soon. Final Fantasy VIII I think is a little underrated. Some songs are a bit too similar to themes from Final Fantasy VII, but when it hits a high point, it REALLY hits it out of the ballpark. I mean that opening theme for instance is just amazing. I have a real soft spot for FFVIII, which I hated as a kid and then really enjoyed when I gave it a second chance. I even love Eyes on Me (I'm terrible I know)!

Legend of Mana you know I'm a huge fan of given the team that made it. The audio-visual qualities of that game are just through the roof, and it has aged splendidly. I'd still give the edge to Secret of Mana, but it is very close.

Lufia II is another I've never played. I'll have to look up some tracks!

I was never much of a fan of Xenogears, but that had absolutely nothing to do with the soundtrack.

But you still take questions, right? I have a slew of quickies.

1) If you could play only one game for the rest of your life ad infinitum, which would it be? Mine is either Valkyrie Profile or Shadow Hearts: Covenant.


Wheels

I'd have to go with either Dark Souls or Resonance of Fate. Both are fantastic and include new game plus modes that keep increasing in difficulty (Dark Souls keeps increasing for at least eight playthroughs I believe). That would probably keep me busy and happy for quite a long time!

2) Which game makes you angry because it was so close to being amazing for you, but just dropped the ball? Mine is either Legend of Mana or Terranigma.


Wheels

Wait what? Legend of Mana is amazing! I'd have to say Unlimited Saga. It came so close to being a cool computerized version of table top RPGs but got so bogged down by horrible interface and design decisions that it just went completely off the track.

3) What's your favorite almost-RPG-but-not-quite? No Zeldas, I'm not interested in that debate here. Mine is Soul Blazer. That may not count though, so Alundra. That may also not count.


Wheels

I'd have to go with Infamous. Very nearly an RPG, and it's a fantastic open-world super hero game with a city designed around the hero's powers. One of the best games of that type I've played in quite some time.

4) Can you tell me what your LEAST favorite Zelda is, no cd-i? Mine is the Oracles, they bored and annoyed me, you should never have to buy two games to get one.


Wheels

I'm not sure what you mean buy two games to get one, since those games are two completely different and (for me) fun Zelda games. The only thing you get for playing both is  a bonus boss fight. My least favorite Zelda would have to be Zelda II. It is just so stupidly unbalanced and annoying at times that I usually don't find it to be much fun.

5) Have you played 7th Saga? Thoughts?


Wheels

I have not, I've read about it however and it sounds like quite the oddball game. Is it worth playing?

6) I love the entire Breath of Fire series. IV just missed my short list for OSTs. And I love that they form a continuous timeline chronicling the death of their Gods, the deterioration of the world and races, and what happens when 'humanity' fights back over centuries of deity abuse. It mostly ends badly, and Deis is annoyed with all the idiots. Have you played and loved?


Wheels

I've dabbled a bit in all of the games except for few, which I bought a physical copy of I think like a week before they released it on PSN. Good series, never really loved any of them except Dragon Quarter, which we'll get to in a minute. The games felt pretty average as far as JRPGs go for me, but at least had a slightly different style to them. Wish the series hadn't ended abruptly.

7a) What game storyline left you burning for more? Mine are Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter (even though I think it was very well done at the end) and Eternal Sonata, which felt like it abandoned the entire freaking plotline for a deus ex machina.


Wheels

I'm going to go with Dragon Quarter as well as Resonance of Fate. Both provide very interesting post-apocalyptic worlds that I think could be expanded upon much more. Of course they also share in common being absolute classics that no one seems to have purchased. Still, both could use some kind of continuation.

7b) What game was completely satisfying, even if not a happy ending? Shadow Hearts: Covenant (completely atypical romantic conclusion, kind of Freudian messed up but awesome), Final Fantasy X (before the sequel 'fixed' it), and Valkyrie Profile: Silmeria come to mind (I think you're playing it so I won't comment, but it's quite well done if you have the 'bonus' ending. One of the rare sequels to make legitimate headway in bettering the predecessor's story and characters. Baten Kaitos: Origins also comes to mind, which is even more severely ignored and underrated)


Wheels

I really have to go with Final Fantasy X. It really was such a heart-breaking ending that it deserves commendation. More games need endings like this, after all, when saving the world you'd think that more heroes would die along the way. I guess not everyone can be Suikoden?

8) Did you ever play Threads of Fate? It's silly, short, super fun, and completely overshadowed by the rest of Square's work at the time.


Wheels

I haven't but it is sitting on my PSP waiting to be played. I'll let you know my thoughts soon!

9) Do you have any games you played as a kid that you can play now and think of how much you didn't catch the first time? E.g. 7th Saga has time travel? Cloud and Tifa get it on on a hilltop? The sprite in Secret of Mana was a boy? Square games have really, really blatant naming stereotypes (Kain, hello? Ozzie, Flea and Slash?)

Have a great week!

JDX


Wheels

Cloud and Tifa what now? I think I still may be missing that one. I hear you on the Secret of Mana point, I gave that poor sprite girls' names so many times its not even funny! I can't really think of anything else other than that at the moment, I shall see if memory serves me better the next time you write in. Look forward to hearing from you again!

History Summoner

Hey Wheels!
 
As promised, here is the next part of my Japan-only Megami Tensei overview. While North America got the two Devil Summoner: Raidou Kuzunoha games, these two games never made it over here. Oddly, the first Devil Summoner game was re-released on the PSP as a slightly enhanced port back in December 22, 2005, but this was never brought over to North America. Considering how Atlus has been adamant about bringing over almost every game in the Megami Tensei franchise since Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne, it's strange they never released the original Devil Summoner. I have heard that allegedly, Atlus USA was interested in localizing the game, but couldn't because Sony America thought it wasn't different enough from the original game. I've heard of Sony doing this before, but I have no idea how true this is, in regards to this game or others.


Wheels

Yeah I'm not sure I get why Sony does, or did things like that. Isn't that the reason Working Designs eventually sited as for why they went under? Its a shame, as given the popularity the series has gained here I think they would have done just fine.

But anyway, perhaps I should get to the actual game. Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner, originally released for the Sega Saturn back in 1995, takes place in modern Japan and stars the ever popular nameless protagonist, a college student. He and his girlfriend are attacked by demons, which have started roaming the country. They are saved in the nick of time by a demon hunter named Kyouji. However, he is unexpectedly killed under mysterious circumstances shortly after saving you, and then your character is trapped in a warehouse and killed by one of the game's antagonists, a man named Sid Devious. I guess there's only so much bad luck a guy can run into, because then your souls ends up going into Kyouji's body and comes back to life. Kyouji's spirit isn't too happy about it, but there isn't much he can do for the time being. Regardless, with a new body, your character must discover the reason for the demon invasion, save his girlfriend, and find a way to get the souls back in their own bodies. The gameplay is a fair bit different from the other MegaTen games at the time. The dungeons are full screen and very detailed, although the movement is apparently choppy in the Saturn version. The battle system isn't much different, although there is a front and back row, with front row characters only being able to use physical moves on front row opponents. Demon negotiations are a bit more complex, but they've added a demon loyalty system. Basically, you have to keep your demons happy or else they may ignore your commands or even leave you. I can't find the specifics as to how to keep them happy, but it apparently makes the game more aggravating than it should be. Even so, the game sounds pretty interesting and was apparently popular enough in Japan to be reissued under the "Sega Collection" label. The PSP version of Devil Summoner comes down on the difficulty and has some other minor conveniences (one of which, perhaps, is making the loyalty system less annoying). This is another one I can't find much info on.


Wheels

Interesting, sounds like the Devil Summoner games we actually got are quite a bit different, huh?

Devil Summoner: Soul Hackers drops the Shin Megami Tensei mega title. It was released for the Sega Saturn in 1997 and for the PSX in 1999. There doesn't seem to be any direct connection between this game and the first Devil Summoner, but apparently some characters make an appearance.  Soul Hackers takes place in the near future, where people play games in vast virtual worlds connected by what I assume to be a super futuristic version of the Internet. Your character likes to play an MMO called Paradigm X until he starts getting strange anonymous messages saying someone will steal his soul. Sure enough, his soul is nearly taken before a guy named Redman saves him. As it turns out the mysterious Phantom Soceity is using the Paradigm X game to steal souls for some nefarious purpose. It also turns out that your character contains the souls of many people, mostly Devil Hunters and throughout the game you live through the final moments of their lives to find out what's going on in the world and try to stop the Phantom Society with the help of a group of hackers called the Spookies (really?). Despite running on the same engine as the first Devil Summoner, Soul Hackers is apparently a more polished game and many consider it the more enjoyable of the two. The Demon Loyalty system returns, but is less annoying, the graphics are overall better, and you can install in-game software on this game's version of the COMP, the GUMP (gun-COMP, if you didn't guess) to be able to save anywhere and have an onscreen map, among other things. The battles are supposedly as slow as the first game. The story and characters, though, are where this game shines, silly names aside. It seems that Atlus USA also wanted to bring over the PSX version of Soul Hackers, but Sony shot them down. Assuming that's true, it's a crying shame since this sounds like a good game.


Wheels

That is really a shame. Even more a shame they didn't bring over the Saturn version! I wonder what stopped this one from coming over. Its not like it was a port of an SNES game or something, it just seems very strange. Maybe some day it will make it over in the form of a remake!

And those are the first two Devil Summoner Games. Near as I can tell, they have little, if any connection to the later Devil Summoner: Raidou Kuzunoha games. Even so, they appear to be an interesting pair of games, and it's a shame that these never made it over here, esepcially if it's true that there were attempts to localize them. On a random note, the character art for the demons in both games is similar, if not identical to that of many demons in Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey. I thought it was a neat thing to point out since I've been playing SJ lately. Next time I will discuss a very obscure MegaTen sub-series  the Last Bible games.

-Strawberry Eggs


Wheels

Interesting, I wonder then why they chose to reuse the Devil Summoner name instead of calling them a new sub-series? Regardless this deepens the pull of cool SMT games that I really wish we had gotten. I look forward to hearing about the next sub-series! Thanks again for these histories, they really are quite fascinating!


Lightning Round
 
How awesome is Reckoning going to be?  Soooo awesome, right?

-Ocelot


Wheels

As someone who likes the Elder Scrolls games but thinks their combat is boring, I sure hope so. I liked what I played of the demo, but will need more of the game to form a full opinion. Still, with a coll graphic design and everything else going for it, I am very hopeful for Reckoning. I'll probably have to wait a bit though, since February is full of game releases!

Dear Wheels, why come RPGs don't turn-base any mores?

-BongoBill


Wheels

Well in this modern age turn-based games have become somewhat antiquated, and simply aren't as popular as they used to be. There are exceptions of course, such as Dragon Quest and the like. However with Japan going crazy over Monster Hunter it seems even that market is moving away from turn-based games. I don't think we're going to see it go away completely, but I'm certain we'll see more games that are a hybrid of turn-based and real-time, such as Resonance of Fate.

Why isn't QFG more recognized for how great it is? It was doing what every game is doing now 20 years ago.

-Falselogic


Wheels

No idea, it really was well beyond its time. If you play the VGA version it even is quite a fine looking game. The mixing of RPG and adventure genres was a match made in heaven, and I'd really like to see someone expand upon it even more. Quest For Glory is just an all time classic. Shame that even after five entries, this series seems to get little love. Would you want to see Telltale tackle this series after they take on King's Quest?

Continuing last week's theme, I would like to hear some RPG characters as desserts :D
-@severinmira


Wheels

I'd have to say that all RPG characters are like soufflés. When cooked properly and served without delay from the oven to your plate, they will rise to the occasion and be quite delicious. More often than not however, they simply fall flat.

did nobuo uematsu’s Final Fantasy 3 music and the terminator music have anything to do with each other besides they sound very familiar?

-Dex


Wheels

I don't really think they sound similar, but as far as I can tell there's nothing really to that. Terminator 2 had of course been out for awhile prior to the release of Final Fantasy III (VI), so you never know!
IN CLOSING

That's it for this week, I'm back to playing some more Mega Man games.

See you next week!

-Wheels


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