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ASK WHEELS
Tales of Disney
April 27th, 2012

04/27- 12:00PM EST

Welcome to another episode of Q&A! I hope you all enjoyed the Gaijin's column last week. I was on vacation in Orlando, taking in some Disney World. Of course, while away my favorite sports teams seemed to fail miserably:
  • The Canucks lost their round 1 series to a team with a goalie from my home state. This was my entertainment on the drive home...
  • The Red Sox went 1 and 5 while I was away, ouch.
Not that any of you care too much about my random sports leanings. I also started diving into the Disgaea 3 post-game on Vita while away, which has been fun, and also picked up Unit 13. I've also been playing The Witcher 2, which is quite awesome. Of course, going to Disney has me in the mood for some Kingdom Hearts so Birth by Sleep has been getting a lot of my time. Finally, I continue to work on playing Lunar on Sega CD, in which I finally got past the boss I was stuck on.

Anyway, on to the letters!





The Letters
Battle of the Q&A Hosts

Dear Sir,

I heard you need questions. Here are a few:

1) Why are you sitting in my chair?


Wheels

Oh my, its the former Q&A host himself, Lusipurr. I remember you. I think you may have responded rudely to a letter I sent intended for either Sean or Matt (in a hilarious manner at least). Are you talking about the chair with your name engraved on it? I'm afraid I had it reduced to kindling upon taking the job. You see I prefer something a bit more uncomfortable:
IronThrone

Still, I hardly think that anyone ever OWNS Q&A, it is after all the people's chair, and it won't last, for they are the knights of summer and winter is coming!


2) Can I have my job back?


Wheels

I'll let Michael Scott field that question...


3) Why not?

Thank you in advance,

~S. P. 'Lusipurr' Cooper
President & Editor-in-Chief
Lusipurr.com


Wheels

Go play every last Kawazu directed game and write me a 2500 word essay on why he's a genius and maybe we'll talk! (Then again why don't you just run your own Q&A on your site? With blackjack? and hookers?)

Futurama

Legends of Not Playing Enough Heroes

Dear Wheels,
 
It has been a while. I would have liked to say it's because I have been fully immersed in Legend of Heroes, but alas, such is not the case.

It didn't really help that I started playing the game while I was feeling very, very sick, but I couldn't really get into it on my first run. I may have to try again sometime in the near future.


Wheels

Oh good, a more tame letter (I mean this in a good way)!

I think you should give Legend of Heroes another shot. Keep in mind the game moves at an especially slow pace early on, and a lot of the game is intended to give the world and characters lots of depth. Just take it at its own pace, explore the world, and I think you'll get into it!

Then again, I have also been very, very busy with real life and such but also my tabletop RPG I talked about a couple of times.
If you still want to check it out, here you can find the finally released rules:
http://chroniclesgame.wordpress.com/


Wheels

Wow, impressive sir! I will have to take the time to print out the rules and dig in. Completing the ruleset, even though I'm sure you'll want to tweak it and such, must be an incredible accomplishment. As someone who gets distracted from projects easily, I can understand how hard it is to stay focused and finish something.

See if you like the rules. I think it will appeal to console RPG loving people who always wanted to give tabletop roleplaying a go but couldn't get past the huge wall of most RPG products and are looking for something lighter.


Wheels

I can tell just by the length of the rulebook that this will likely be so much easier to pickup and play. People may think creating something lighter is easier, but it really isn't. You have to strike a good balance between making things easy to understand, but also leaving enough complexity so that the rules still allow for lots of fun. In this, just skimming the book, I think you have done an impressive job. Hopefully I can find a group to give it a try!

Now, you posed a hot topic. 3. What Western game would you like to see get a JRPG makeover?
Ultima 7


Wheels

Interesting choose. I have never played Ultima 7, but I should probably get on that given that I liked the earlier games. Speaking of Ultima, can you please bring that series back EA? I mean, hand it off to BioWare already. How has this not already happened?

t would be interesting to see what a company like Square Enix or something would do to a game like Ultima 7. The basic story is light years away from most JRPG save the entire world type things, even if it is ultimately sort of the same, but the whole pacing and the whole exploration thing would make it very different.
 
I would suspect the game to be something more akin to a Monster Hunter or perhaps Shadow of the Colossus type thing with its emphasis on exploration and just walking around enjoying the scenery, with a lot of secrets thrown in, but I think it would make an interesting gaming experience. With the current trend of creating your own avatars on Wii and X-Box and whatnot, I would expect them to implement that in one way or another as well, considering the storyline. Plus, Iolo already sounds like the Japanese would create an awesome character out of him. I'd expect that redhead (forgot his name) to look more like Sephiroth though, and I'd expect the final battle to be waaaaaaaay more intense and cinematic, but besides that, it would be very interesting, and probably be pretty darn fun.


Wheels

What about something like say, Romancing SaGa? It has vaguely been compared to games like Ultima, so it could provide for a good structure for a JRPG Ultima. Certainly, a focus on exploration would be important, and a player created character would be a must. I think this could provide for a pretty interesting game, maybe even throwing in some dungeons in the style of the obscure Ultima: Runes of Virtue gameboy games. Did you ever play those? They had a great sense of humor. Anyway, I'm all for this idea.

So what Western game would YOU like to see get a JRPG makeover, dear Wheels? And another question, which RPG, past or present, J or W, would you most like to see get a sequel? And how would that sequel play out in your perfect world?
 
Cheers,
Daniel


Wheels

Well, for your first question, the Western game I would most like to see get a JRPG makeover would have to be Dragon Age or Knights of the Old Republic. I know, you're saying "huh?" but I think BioWare could really learn a lot by looking at the interface used in Final Fantasy XII, which obviously plays a lot like both of those games. Final Fantasy XII makes it incredibly easy to pause and issue commands to characters, and also makes inventory management a breeze. Both of these things are by far the worst elements of Dragon Age and Knights of the Old Republicin my opinion. I think if you combine BioWare's great story telling, with some better console focused control and combat expertise of a company like Square Enix, the result would be something amazing. This, in my opinion, is what WRPGs need to look at JRPGs for. Too often WRPGs stick to traditional PC type controls and combat, which don't always play well on consoles. I know that isn't exactly the kind of answer you're looking for, but there you are! I'd also love a Baldur's Gate II remake with classic Final Fantasy combat.

I would most like to see a sequel to Resonance of Fate probably more than anything else at the moment. In a perfect world it would feature the cast of the original in some new adventure, and even allow you to import your progress from the first game and play the new game at a harder difficulty from the start. Unlikely to happen I know, but a man can dream!

As always, good to hear from you, looking forward to your next letter!

Tales of Second Chances

Hey Wheels

Good to see that your work is featured in the new GameSpite Journal! It is you, right? There can't possibly be two of you, that would be against the laws of physics. Unfortunately I will have to wait a week or two before I can order my copy, as I have recently picked up Pandora's Tower, The Witcher 2 and a pre owned copy of Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops


Wheels

It is me! Though there are actually others with my exact name out there, I'm pretty sure I'm the only one doing any writing about video games. Anyway, it's a venture I jumped into with the hope of getting to write about some non-RPGs, but instead I somehow ended up writing about a near-RPG and a classic PS1 RPG. Whoops! Anyway, please let me know how Pandora's Tower is. Also, how are you enjoying The Witcher 2?

There are a couple of games that I have not necessarily hated in the past, but not fully understood. I do intend to revisit these one day.  They are: Resonance of Fate and Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter.  With BoF: DQ, I feel that the PAL version (and also it's manual) doesn't really do a good job of explaining the difference between resetting and restoring, and I never fully got my head around when to use which.  With Resonance of Fate, I did the tutorial and things seemed fairly manageable for a few hours, then suddenly the difficulty ramped up and I was left floundering.


Wheels

As I'm sure you know, I highly reccomend you give both of these games a second chance. I don't think it was just the PAL manual that didn't explain Dragon Quarter all that well. Certainly the game itself could have done a better job, but it's really something best learned by doing, and getting a better feel for the game. Dragon Quarter can be a tough game, but you should stick with it and try to get the hang of things, because it is one of, if not the, best RPGs on the PS2. As for Resonance of Fate, I think the tutorial does a good job explaining how the various mechanics work, but an awful job explaining what to do with them, and which ones are important. It spends way too much time on getting enemies airborn and slamming them down and such, when it should be explaining that you need to learn to use your hero actions effectively so that you are constantly refilling your bezels and never running out. This is especially hard to do early on in the game, when you only have a few. The tutorials never really impress this importance on the player. To get the hang of Resonance of Fate, you need to learn to startegize around constantly refilling bezells, even if that means ignoring the tougher enemies early on and having to survive some strong attacks. In fact, I rarely used some of the things the tutorial went to great lengths to explain. So that's the issue there. The tutorial explains way too much that isn't required. Try the game again, and instead of worrying about all that, instead strategize in battles around taking out enemies or parts of enemies to keep your bezels up, and see if you have a better time with the game. You may still dislike the game, its not for everyone, but give it a try!

I do have deep feelings of regret at not being able to appreciate these games in the way they obviously deserve to be.  Maybe it's finally time to dig out a decent FAQ or YouTube walkthrough, work out how they should be played and join all the many other gamers who have been entralled by them?

Until next time!
Wibblefish


Wheels

Well if my above statements don't convince you, or help you, those resources may help as well. I think I used gamefaqs a few times to get me going in both games. So yes, if you think those resources will hep, go for it, and don't feel ashamed at having to do so. These games both do share the issue of not being able to describe their features welll enough. I encourage you to above all else, explore their mechanics on your own and experiment with them. This is especially true for Resonance of Fate, where using all three kinds of weapons and various bullets and grendade types is essential for succeeding. Also try switching weapons between characters frequently, as this will help level your characters quickly. Be sure to let me know how those second chances are going, and I'd be happy to offer more help if needed!

Looking forward to hearing about any progress you make.

History Final

Dear Wheels,
 
So you want to hear about the Virtual Boy Megami Tensei game? I wasn't going to cover it since this game was released in North America, but I guess I could. I imagine that this game is pretty obscure, so why not?


Wheels

I'd like to hear about it, as I don't actually know much about it. I hear it mentioned and joked about it a lot, but I always pictured it being some clone of the original Mario Bros. which I'm guessing it is not. Also, the Virtual Boy is always fun to discuss.

Jack Bros. is a most curious game in many ways. The most obvious one is that it's for the Virtual Boy, and is apparently one of the most sough-after VB games. It's not only the very first title of the Megami Tensei Franchise to be released in North America, it's one of the few that can be considered a spin-off. Jack Bros. is an action game starring Atlus's mascot, Jack Frost, alongside two of its "siblings," Pyro Jack and Jack Ripper (guess who he's based on?). These demons travel from the Fairy World (Makai?) to the human world during Halloween, but must return there before midnight or they can never go back again. The game is played in an overhead style and is composed of six stages, which are timed. The 3D in the game is very limited, used only to create a scaling effect when jumping down levels. There's not much else to say, though  I will note that for whatever reason, Japanese copies seems to be more common on eBay than English ones.


Wheels

Sounds like a pretty unremarkable action game. I think it would be fun if they remade it on the 3DS! It is somewhat sad that this is the first Megami Tensei game to make it to the US. Not sure why it's a collectible, people sure do like to collect strange things...

The next game is a PC-only title called Giten Megami Tensei: Tokyo Mokushiroku, which apparently translates to "Pseudepigrapha Reincarnation of the Goddess: Tokyo Apocalypse," first released in 1997. Published by ASCII rather than Atlus, it is midquel between Shin Megami Tensei and SMT II. It stars a young man named Fumito Katsuragi, who lives in an underground shelter. He joins the Devil Buster's Special Forces, and I suppose demons start doing bad stuff (I can't find much after that, truth be told). Characters and enemies are visible on screen at all times and it's battle system is a sort of mix between real-time and turn-based mechanics. The artwork and music are very reminiscent of the Super Famicom games. This is perhaps one of the most obscure titles in the franchise, so it should come as no surprise that I can't find very much info on it.


Wheels

Try to say that name ten times fast! Why the heck was it published by ASCII (who published Kings Field in the US)? That's so strange. What makes this strange is the fact that its a PC game, which is a platform a bit lacking in games in Japan unless you're a Falcom fan. There's got to be an interesting story behind this game, shame there isn't more info on it. I'm surprised no one has tried a fan translation of this, given that PC games seem easier to hack. Anyway, not sure how good it is, but I think we would need to get the first two Shin Megami Tensei games before this one would make much sense. Then again, we do have fan translations of those two, so maybe someone will jump on this one...

The last one I will discuss is another platform oddity, Shin  Megami Tensei NINE for the original Xbox(!). This game was intended to be an MMORPG, but a non-online version was released first. Since the game bombed, mostly due to the system it was on, this online version never came to be. The "NINE" in the title refers to the number of alignments in most MegaTen games (Light-Law, Chaos-Neutral, etc). This game takes place during the events of the first SMT, though not staring that game's hero (he's off in Makai). Rather it stars Kei Azuma. Despite having a set name, this person can be male or female. Kei becomes a "Debugger" for a great digital simulation called Idea Space, which re-creates 1990s Tokyo ,which was destroyed in  the apocalypse half-way through SMT. Kei must fight glitches called "Noise," which appear as familiar MegaTen demons. The battle system is an automatic real-time affair, tactics for the characters and demons being set through AI settings. The player character is able to issue commands as well. There is also a simple RTS minigame during hacking segments. While the premise sounds interesting, NINE is apparently not a worthwhile game, with somewhat weak visuals, spongy controls, and a not terribly exciting battle system. Here's another MegaTen game we should perhaps not be upset was never localized.


Wheels

I have heard of this one as well, namely that it was not very good. Its a shame, given the interesting premise, but I wonder if they didn't spend a whole lot of resources to make it given that the Xbox wasn't huge in Japan, and clearly never would be. Add another to the list of unlocalized titles that we shouldn't care about. I wonder if this is what eventually lead to the Shin Megami Tensei MMO?

There's probably dozens upon dozens of cell phone games, browser-based games, and other titles in this long and storied franchise that I won't cover or don't know about, but for now, I am finally done. This was a fascinating journey for me, and I imagine it was for you, Wheels, and I hope a few other readers of the site. It's odd how much I've come to like the franchise despite my lack of first-hand experience with its games (now up to three/four title with Devil Survivor 2 done!). It's amazing how much was done with the basic idea of having creature and characters from mythology at your beck-and-call (though even a few games are exceptions to this). it's a great way to learn about myths and religions from around the world, too. I will continue to play other Megami Tensei games, and I do hope Atlus will see fit to re-release several of the titles I spoke about at some point.
 
-Strawberry Eggs


Wheels

Thank you very much for the history lessons! I've found them quite enjoyable, and I think many others have as well. What's good about all this is that it is now clear that we have gotten the very best of the series, and there aren't too many amazing titles that we missed. With Innocent Sin now available in English, and a remake of Soul Hackers for 3DS opening the possibility of that making it to the US, we could soon be close to having all the great SMT games. Hopefully this series will continue to grow and delite more gamers (a HD Persona game on 360/PS3 would help).
IN CLOSING

That's it for this week!

See you all next week.

-Wheels


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