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DWN. 081 Q&A Man
  May 28th, 2013

05/28- 7:00PM EST

Welcome to another edition of Q&A! The content entries have started to roll in, so I will be posting many of them in the coming weeks. I've decided for these to forgo the usual Q&A style, and instead to post the essays in full and save my comments for the end. Lots of good entries so far. Keep them coming!

On to those essays (and more from JuMeSyn)...





The Letters
Friendship!

Professor Wheels!  I have an essay for you!
 
My essay focuses on the theme of friendship and how it compares in the two games Persona 2: Innocent Sin and Lunar: The Silver Star Story.  Both games have very different tones, and I intend to explore what makes each one unique while also examining the elements of camaraderie and love that exist in both games.
 
Let’s first look at the two protagonists separately and see how their personalities leave impressions on those around them.  Tatsuya Suou of Innocent Sin  is pictured as aloof and distant, cold even.  He is well-liked by many of his peers, but is  shunned and viewed as unapproachable by many others.  This doesn’t really seem to bother him that much, in my opinion.  He has a “lone wolf” mentality. Alex of Burg from Lunar is an outgoing, ambitious youth.  He dreams of being a great hero like his idol Dyne.  He grew up in a small town and is loved by everyone there.  He is cheerful and optimistic and is never in doubt about how great he will become, or about the friends he makes.   His biggest charm, and maybe his biggest flaw, is his naiveté. 
 
Next, we’ll take a look at how each group of player characters interact and affect one another.  In Innocent Sin’s group, we have Tatsuya, Lisa, Michel, Maya, and Yukki who is later replaced by Jun.  In the beginning, this group seems like it would be totally dysfunctional.  You have three high schoolers (excluding Jun for now) in Tatsuya, Lisa, and Michel, and two young adults in Maya and Yukki.  Lisa loves Tatsuya, but it seems to be inferred that this love is intended to be unrequited (though the player can change this perception through minor in-game choices). Then you have Tatsuya and Michel’s rivalry that stems from being in neighboring and competitive schools,  a relationship that again seems one-sided due to Tatsuya’s general apathy towards school life.  Lisa and Michel fight like two kids who secretly like each other but try to hide it for the sake of their own pride.  Maya and Yukki enter as a reporter and her photographer respectively, but thanks to Maya’s feeling of Deja-vu regarding Tatsuya, their relationship soon starts becoming more than acquaintances, to Lisa’s chagrin, and Yukki becomes the protective “big sister” of them all.  Later in the game, when Jun replaces Yukki as a new member of the group, we find out that the five were childhood friends that, due to a traumatic past, had repressed memories of one another.  It is heart-wrenching and touching to see five  young people try to hold on to their friendship and love for one another through so much pain, even when their world literally falls apart, and fate itself works to divide them permanently.
 
Conversely, we see Lunar’s group of Alex, Luna, Nash, Mia, Kyle, Jessica, and Nall (and a few supporting characters along the way).  Alex, Luna and Nall, their friend/pet,  grew up in the same household due to Alex’s parents adopting Luna (and Nall) when she was a baby.  Alex and Luna share an innocent, pure love for one another that is constant throughout the story.  Alex meets the rest of the major players in the tale through his adventures.  There is no past between him and the other three people in the group when they first meet, though Nash and Mia and Kyle and Jessica share histories together as couples (and Mia and Jessica are childhood friends).  It’s Alex’s (or maybe moreso Luna’s…?) that draws the group together.  This is a stark juxtaposistion to Innocent Sin’s tale of loss.
 
While Innocent Sin’s group dynamic is much more complex and more mature and downright dark, I believe that it and Lunar’s heroic group share some similarities.  Both deal with loss of something very precious.  Alex loses Luna, the most important person he has ever had in his life.  The Innocent Sin friends lose their memories of each other.  Which is more devastating?  I can’t tell you because loss of either magnitude is catastrophic to me.  Both groups also learn that life never stays simple.  We all have to grow up, and lose some of the carefree joys and luxuries of our youth.  Alex learns that not all heroes are always heroes, and that dreams often come to fruition with a heavy cost.  Tatsuya learns that even though a person can have the best intentions, wrongs can still happen, and things beyond your personal view can affect you in very intimate ways.  But above all, both groups learn that in the end, sometimes hope is all you have, and that, as much as memories or dreams, can be the thread that holds friendships together.
 
I hope you enjoy reading my essay Wheels!  Sorry if it ran on too long!
 
Valim


Wheels

Wow, that was a fantastic read and I don't think there's even a single line in there that I disagree with. Superb job! You wouldn't think the two groups are comparable, but as you've shown they are when you dig into it. Obviously Innocent Sin is a more a mature view of things, but I don't think Lunar is necessarily far off. Anyway, fantastic job. A+ (just a reminder the grade doesn't actually give you a better chance to win, everyone who enters has an equal shot).

Norse Mythology

Contained below is my entry into the Class of Heroes Essay competition. I hope you will enjoy reading it.
Sincerely,
Guy "darklancer" Noyes

Valkyrie Profile and Odin Sphere sound similar. Both are inspired by Norse mythology, are sidescrolling action/rpgs, and have a crafting system. However, their differences in each element affects the initial playthrough and the replay value. This paper argues that Odin Sphere is geared to the initial playthrough, whereas Valkyrie Profile has more replay value.

The treatment of Norse mythology in the story in these two games differs significantly. Odin Sphere is linear, with a complex storyline, based on Wagner’s operas, and accounting for each character’s actions. Valkyrie Profile’s story is presented in a looser fashion, consisting of vignettes of each character who becomes an einherjar. Odin Sphere’s format is engrossing on the first play, as the story is exciting and well-written. Little changes on playing the game again, so Odin Sphere is won’t attract sustained interest. Valkyrie Profile allows the player much more flexibility in how they play each segment of the game, with options in whom the player sends to Valhalla changing the story. This increases the long term appeal of Valkyrie Profile.

The balance of action versus strategy in the systems of these two games also bears on how each fairs initially and over a longer period of time. Odin Sphere is primarily a beat-em-up, with a strong action element and only basic rpg mechanics. Learning the attack patterns of bosses is tricky. This tends to make the game exciting on its first play, as victories will frequently be close. With each boss’s actions memorized, the thrill tends to die down a bit. Valkyrie Profile’s combat offers more strategy. Some action is required in timing button presses to maximize the combination of characters’ attacks. Later in the game numerous enemies require strategic weighing of options to defeat. This greater intellectual challenge helps Valkyrie Profile to sustain excitement.

The item crafting systems in Valkyrie Profile and Odin Sphere are quite different. In Odin Sphere, a player gains alchemy recipes over the course of the game. Valkyrie Profile allows the player to convert an item into a different item, which changes depending on some of the accessories the main character equips. The 26 recipes in Odin Sphere boil down to perhaps eight or nine useful items, with the rest being unessential and frequently amusing at best. Once the player has figured out which items work best, there is little need to experiment, but at the same time the simplicity makes it easy to breeze through the game the first time. The crafting in Valkyrie Profile is much more in-depth, which can make it intimidating at first. Many of the transmutations are important, and some mutually exclusive, which encourages experimentation over multiple playthroughs.

While both games were great, their design significantly affects their ability to keep the player’s attention. Odin Sphere easily keeps players enthralled through the first play of the game, but its appeal wanes after that. Valkyrie Profile is a little less engrossing at first, but the depth of the systems make it a stronger game for replay.


Wheels

Interesting comparison. Not one I would have dug into beyond the obvious comparison of their uses of Norse mythology. At the end of the day, though both are good games, I much prefer Valkyrie Profile's method. Slow starts can be annoying to players, but if the end result is a more engrossing and re-playable game then I think its worth it. That's not to say there's no value to a game that's a thrill through one play-through. Great comparison, a solid A!

Part the Second

You haven't done that connection challenge yet... I think that means you need another one, so connect Babies for Sale with Gal Act Heroism!


Wheels

Nooooooooooo!

I totally completed that other challenge too. Just look at last week! *runs away*

Gal Act Heroism was developed and published by Microcabin -> Microcabin was aquired by AQ Interactive -> AQ Interactive became Marvelous AQL after a merger -> Marvelous AQL owns XSEED -> XSEED published The Wizard of Oz: Beyond the Yellow Brick Road -> MGM was behind The Wizard of Oz film based on the same source material -> MGM and Columbia are owned by Sony -> Columbia distributed Babies for Sale.

Okay, I've been playing Legend of Legaia recently.  On balance I kinda like it, but certain issues drag it down somewhat.  Foremost, the pacing.  I respect that in 1999 the PS1 was plagued with load times, and disguising them by having characters stand around after doing something in battle is preferable to a big loading screen for several seconds.  When even wimpy enemies I can handle with ease take a whole minute to kill because of the sluggish action rate, though, I kinda dislike the result.

Also, when the characters get so much time in the spotlight, it forces me to observe how they kinda resemble Virtua Fighter models from the early years of that series.  Which is odd when I never really played those games, but it happens anyway.  Blocky PS1 polygons have NOT aged well.


Wheels

PS1 load issues make me think Nintendo was really on to something when they stayed on carts for the N64 and used those mini-discs on the GameCube. As our attention spans dwindle it has made going back to some old games a real chore. I wonder how much the PS1 classics on PSN address this? I've never tried to a comparison. Also PS1 polygons have aged about as well as a carton of milk does when left out in the sun. I never played much Legend of Legaia back in the day but I did observe my brother playing it so I know what you're talking about.

One thing I do like is the ability to wander wherever I please (within the reachable areas) and not be forced to complete everything in a certain order.  The story is certainly there but it doesn't require me to act in a rigid order every time, and that's kind of nice to see nowadays.


Wheels

Yeah, non-linearity is always a plus, and often in some older RPGs they had a way to do that was still somewhat rigid, so there was never any real downtime trying to figure out what to do next. I don't mind linear RPGs, but sometimes it's good to be able to explore.

Defend the indefensible!  Knights of the Old Republic 3 was shut down before it could see release, and the series has been left untouched.  Why should that happen?


Wheels

How on earth could I defend that? I suppose since Knights of the Old Republic 2 was rushed out before it was fully finished, you could say this saved a sequel from suffering a similar fate. Perhaps with some time now passed, and BioWare and the Star Wars games series all under EA's roof, it might allow a proper sequel. Then again it is EA...

Convince me to go back and try The Two Towers and/or The Return of the King on GBA.  They are in fact RPGs, hack & slash affairs killing huge numbers of orcs and such, so they're RPGs.  The Third Age on GBA is also a completely different creature than its console brethren, and I can't seem to find a consensus (not that there's much information at all) on whether it's worth trying.  What say you?


Wheels

I say that I've never played them, and I've  got a gut feeling it is for the best. You know how licensed games often turn out! So I say run away as fast as you can!

You find me a Game Gear, I'll go buy Shining Force: Final Conflict and play it and review it for the site.  Whaddaya say?  It's gotta be better than Shining Soul!


Wheels

I can guarantee you that it is far better than Shining Soul. The game bridges Shining Force I & II and features some returning characters. It plays just like the previous two Game Gear games, with no exploration, but is a fair bit more enjoyable regardless. There is a fan translation out there as well.

Put Sidney Poitier into an RPG, why don't you?


Wheels

Finally, an actor I recognize for one of these challenges! Let's make an RPG based on the movie The Jackal where you play Sidney Poitier's character, the deputy director of the FBI. You'll also play the primary character from the film played by Richard Gere, I forget exactly what his deal was. The game would diverge from the movie a bit to provide more combat, but it would still focus on hunting down the Jackal and trying to figure out who his target is.

So I played Rhapsody recently.  That spawned many thoughts, not least in the review thread where people confessed that they genuinely liked it.  I'm hard pressed to say they didn't, but I really don't know why.  Let's go into my reasoning.

People like the plot.  Fair enough, the tale of a girl who falls in love with a prince and has to save him from a not-terribly-competent witch who can't undo his petrification is cute.  Here's the thing, though: wouldn't that story work a lot better in something non-interactive?  Like a movie, maybe from Disney or any number of Japanese studios?  That's my thought, because even with the game being so short (you can finish under 12 hours with ease), the story meanders and wastes time a lot.


Wheels

I only played the DS game for a little bit, just enough to convince me the boring combat wasn't for me.

Then we come to the game play.  Which sucks.  I don't mind easy games, but when they're super boring....  Okay.  Here's how every dungeon works.  There's a map on the DS screen that shows a lot of little boxes and the lines which mark where those boxes (they're rooms in truth, but they really feel like boxes) connect to other boxes.  You move through the dungeon from box to box.  These boxes take 3-4 seconds to cross.  So every 2-3 screens, 4 if you're lucky, it's time for a random battle.  Kill the enemies (even if they do hurt you a bit, healing supplies are plentiful and your mana gets refilled with every level, which also come frequently) and move on.  Repeat.  These dungeons are BORING.  Really, really boring.  I stopped playing several times because I started to think about what a nice thing it would be to take a nap.


Wheels

Wow, that sounds terrible! I've heard the original PS1 game has more interesting tactical combat. However, if the dungeons are just like the DS version then that's not much solace.

Then there's what NISA did.  The game in Japan had a couple of extra chapters taken from the other Marl Kingdom titles, which never came out in English.  Apparently translating new stuff was too much work in too little time, because that was cut for North America.  Thanks a lot!


Wheels

I recall early NISA having some issues like this. Ever heard of the awful glitch in Ar Tonelico 2? Not a great move by them leaving that extra content out.

Then there's a small scenario that apparently activated the tear ducts of at least one person, involving a frog princess and her forbidden lover who got killed by the king in front of her.  That's really about all there is to say, since these characters weren't important enough to warrant unique portraits.  It's the same damn scenario as in countless pieces of fiction and real life, of the lovers who can't be together and are forced apart.  Wanna make me care about such a thing?  Give it more than THREE MINUTES of time, why don't you?  No, I didn't cry at that, it barely registered because I've seen such things done MUCH MUCH BETTER. 

Woo.  Got a little exercised there. 


Wheels

That's OK, games we dislike can get us going just as well as games that we love. Just ask me about Mugen Souls some time!

Did I mention all those Dragon Ball Z RPGs I played last year?  If I didn't, please talk about whatever you know on that series.  Or else I'll address it at great length in my next letter.  Mwa ha ha ha.

Have you got enough content for quite some time?  You'd better!
JuMeSyn


Wheels

Well, I really know nothing of Dragon Ball Z, so I guess I'm in for some schooling next week!
IN CLOSING

That's it for this week, keep the essays coming!

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