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ASK WHEELS
Friday the Baconteenth
April 13th, 2012

04/13- 12:00PM EST

Welcome to another episode of Q&A! This will be a short column, and then I will be away next week. Be sure to send some questions to Michael "Gaijin" Baker, who will be doing Q&A next week. You can e-mail him at gaijinmonogatari@mail.rpgamer.com.

Now then, on to the questions!





The Letters
Dungeon Crawling

Wheels, what the hell is a dungeon crawl? Which games personify it best? And why should I care? Oh, which ones are need to plays?
-Falselogic


Wheels

I would define a dungeon crawl as an RPG focusing on digging through one large dungeon, or several large dungeons, rather than an expansive world. Gameplay can vary greatly between them, but that's the major thing that really unites them all.  I'd say as far as classic games go, the ones that personify it best would be Etrian Odyssey, Diablo, and Eye of the Beholder. You should care because these games are often challenging and deep, with fun mechanics to experiment with. They don't tend to focus on story, and thus they avoid many of the pitfalls of many modern RPGs that do. As far as what games to try, I would start with Etrian Odyssey. It is quite challenging, but it avoids the many interface and game system issues I've seen with Wizardry clones. You will have trouble advancing in the game, but it won't be because you get lost or had no idea what stats to set to gain access to certain classes. Next up, I'd give Eye of the Beholder a go. It uses real-time combat, which can be tough, but it has a solid implementation of the Second Edition Dungeons and Dragons ruleset. The dungeon is lengthy and full of secrets to find. Finally, give Dungeon Siege 3 a try. It changes up various action RPG conventions that we've been stuck with,  making the combat fresh and engaging. You could also play some roguelikes, but those are certainly not for everyone!

Arch-Duke of Content (Part 2 of Part 2)

Haven't given a Shining Force III story in awhile... hm.  A nifty fight in Scenario 3 comes when a golem appears.  There are two bridges leading to it, and on each turn the golem will move to one of them and toss a boulder down, which is naturally rather painful to anyone in transit.  Since you've only got at max two flying characters, though, you're gonna need to suck up the pain and charge that sucker. 


Wheels

That sounds like a pretty tough battle. It sort of reminds me of that battle from Screnario 1 where you have to make your way across a narrow bridge with some kinds of cannons firing at you. Or am I thinking of something from Shining Force 1 or Shining Force 2? Regardless, the series is known for coming up with these interesting scenarios. I really need to get on playing through Scenario 2 and Scenario 3.

Not long after that is a battle which threw me the first time I played the game.  There's a bridge that has been raised, and you've gotta enter a sub-battlefield in order to lower the thing.  That might be enough for some games, but in this one there's a lighthouse that alternately lights your force or obscures it in shadow, so you can try to sneak along and take the enemy on only when you feel like it. 


Wheels

That sounds insanely difficult.  I guess, with this being the final Shining Force game from Camelot, the company went all out. I'm certainly looking forward to playing that battle. It's a shame this game will likely never be resurrected on another platform.

Huh. There's this thing called Shining Force Neo. Somehow I found out that things like this and definitely this without even coming close to forgetting this can be found within. Please, tell me how accurately these represent the game itself, won't you?


Wheels

Very accurately. I'm not sure if you've actually played it or not, but the voice acting is incredibly awful. The worst part is, during combat, the characters constantly shout out in their terrible voices. Not that it really matters, since the game itself is quite terrible. It's sad, especially considering it came from a reputable developer (of Lufia fame). I still can't believe they actually made a sequel of it in the same style.

Actually, this voice acting thing is fun. Grandia Xtreme comes to mind. Leaving the game itself aside (though it was definitely the least of the series by a long shot for me), something like this speech by the final boss illustrates how wrong the process went. Does that sound like a being you feel threatened by? Or this important declaration about the destiny of the protagonist - boy, you can feel the weight of those words, can't you?


Wheels

Oh my, what the heck happened to the voice acting in that game? I just picked that up not that long ago as well (for cheap). That has to be the weakest sounding final boss I've ever heard. Please tell me there's some way to turn off the voices! That makes Arc Rise Fantasia sound amazing...

What do you know about the two Dark Cloud games?  I gather the second in particular is pretty popular, but is there a reason I might want to play them soon?


Wheels

I only know about the first Dark Cloud game, which I didn't care too much for. It features bland dungeons which you have to slug through to find the citizens of the corresponding town. The big feature is that you can then place the citizens and their houses around the town as you wish, but I found this quite boring. It seemed to have its fans, so maybe its just me. I've heard the sequel is much better, but I could never play it.

Y'know, after asking that War in the North question last time, I thought back and could remember only one LotR game I've played: The Two Towers on GBA.  I played it for a little while and got bored of its extremely bland action RPG self, then never played it again.  I understand the Fellowship of the Ring GBA title even had a bug that made it literally unfinishable.  That leaves... The Third Age as the best LotR RPG?  Isn't that kind of sad?


Wheels

It's not that sad. Think of the other properties that have had nothing but awful to mediocre games, such as Harry Potter. The Third Age isn't that terrible. Lord of the Rings deserves a much better game, but it could be a lot worse!

How's the Valkyrie Profile play going?  Getting into the enjoyably morbid fascination of seeing what these people did to become dead yet?


Wheels

It's going slowly, but moving along. I haven't quite gotten that morbid fascination just yet, but I do find it to be a pretty unique way of getting party members. I know this is a relatively lengthy game, and I plan on taking it pretty slowly. Any hints or tips you can offer?

Remember Magical Vacation being hinted for localization back when the GBA was new, then nothing coming of it?  By the time you get this column up I'll have posted the review that makes clear how I think, so I'm curious if the game ever appeared on your radar.


Wheels

I remember it being on my radar, but I'm not certain when. I think I got curious about it after finding out that Brownie Brown consisted of former Square Enix employees. The graphic style seems to take from the Mana series, so I was always curious about it. After Magical Starsign didn't do much for me, I lost interest. Based on your review, it wasn't a huge loss to not get to play it.

I ended up having to give you Cary Grant pointers.  Don't let my new task of putting Bette Davis into an RPG turn out the same way!


Wheels

Well that one is easy. Its an RPG set in the 1960s or so, where our hero hears the song "Bette Davis Eyes" and then goes on a quest to find out who she is. Along the way he teams up with Cary Grant.

Oh yeah, fusing the space shooter with an RPG.  I'll cover this quickly.
Armada on Dreamcast was originally going to be a multiplayer title with a heavy online component.  It got gutted.  The single player portion I played involves flying into space, zooming through a huge astonomic cloud with aliens shooting at you, and carrying out a variety of missions that are all pretty boring.  The easy ones involve delivering things to space stations, the nasty ones require you to fight a lot in order to get stronger so your stupid ship doesn't get blown apart before killing the boss.  The controls have some momentum that builds up, which is pretty odd out in space.  Three lives, and once you lose all of them you're zapped back to the starting planet to get another go, so it never ends unless you foolishly try saving - which somehow requires you to have a VMU instead of any other save method.  I use one of those 4-slot memory cards for the much improved space, and it literally wouldn't save for me, just froze. 


Wheels

That does not sound very fun. This game sounds pretty awful, considering there's so many fun things you could do with space exploration in an RPG like that. Have you ever played any of the Escape Velocity games from Ambrosia Software? I think you would find these much more to your liking. Also, I think this is the only Dreamcast game I've heard of that couldn't use other kinds of memory cards. Glad I never played it!

Sigma Star Saga on GBA is a better bet, but still not great.  The shooter sections feel like a real 2D space shooter, it's true.  The action RPG overhead exploration segments are okay too, but nothing revelatory.  The problem comes from the random battles that zap you into a ship to shoot a set number of enemies before being zapped back where you were.  These things get distracting real fast, since the enemy shooting portions are really repetitive.


Wheels

Yeah, I was curious about this game not too long ago, and the way its mechanics worked just sounded really poorly thought out. Also, going from exploration to randomly being in a ship and shooting down enemies looked quite strange. Sounds like a case of good idea, awful execution. Hopefully, someone can take this basic idea and make something better.

Then there's Revengers of Vengeance back on Sega CD, which is actually an attempt to make a fighting game RPG but has three shooter segments too.  Yes, that's exactly three, and because they're the best means of getting cash and experience you'll be using them a lot.  As for the main game - well, what do you think happens when you make a fighting game with sluggish control where the final bosses are only challenging because they're hard to hit due to blocking when you're so strong that their attacks do almost nothing?  Still, it's unique.


Wheels

Wow, a mix of RPG, fighting game, and shooter? Can't say I've heard of anything quite like that. Sounds like a boring and repetitive experience and no reason to dust off a Sega CD. I'm still trying to puzzle out how they got a shooter in there...

Now talk about Shadowrun.  You have to know something about it, I'm betting.
Could this be enough content?  We shall see!
JuMeSyn


Wheels

I have actually had more experience with the Shadowrun table top RPG than the video games. It has been quite some time though. The most I can say is that I really enjoyed the mix of Sci-Fi and Fantasy. It's a shame more games don't do this. Anyone, I'm looking forward to the new game started by the kickstarter!

As usual, thank you very much for the great questions.
IN CLOSING

That's it for this week.

See you all in two weeks!

Make sure to send Gaijin some questions...

-Wheels


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