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ASK WHEELS
This Week, Things Aren't as Ysy
August 11th, 2010

08/11 - 12:00AM EST

  Hello, and welcome to yet another edition of Ask Wheels. First, we begin with a correction from last week. Apparently when naming the Tales games we've missed since the last one came out over here, I neglected to mention Tales of Hearts. I think this probably wouldn't have been the best of the three DS Tales to localize, given its 2D battle system and two different versions, but it is a "mothership" title so I should have included it. 
    Anyway, this week we have some quick questions which will require some lengthy answers. This is what we do here in Q&A though! So let us continue on. We'll have a more positive talk about Tales this week as well. Anyway, let's get this show on the road!

Also, as another note, you can now send questions via the new twitter account AskWheels!





The Letters
Dear Wheels, write a history book?

Dear Wheels: Write the history of Falcom. See you in three years.

-Hito

Wheels

Oh, you're serious. Wow, that is just too insanely large  for this column, so instead I will throw you for a leap and present you the brief history of Falcom games released in America. We'll split it into three eras: late 80s/90s, mid to late 90s, and 2000s. As you'll find out, this first section will be the longest, but oh well, let's get this thing rolling. You may find you've played a Falcom game without even knowing it.

Late 80s/Early 90s- We should start with the Falcom games localized by Broderbund and Infocom, as some of these were released on the PC, and PC games were originally Falcom's focus. Release dates for some of these older games are difficult to find, so they will be in no particular order. Tombs and Treasures, which seems to be somewhat of an obscure title, was changed to be more story focused and brought over by Infocom for the NES. It appears to be some kind of adventure game with some RPG elements added in, including combat. Actually called Asteka 2 in Japan, it involved heavy Mayan themes and locales. Next up we have of course Ancient Land of Ys, the first title in the Ys series. Released for both DOS and the Apple IIgs by Broderbund, the game apparently had terrible audio, which is a huge negative for a series known for its music. Japanese PCs at the time had better audio out it seems. Next in this list we have Sorcerion, a side scrolling action RPG brought over to DOS in the US by Broderbund. Sorcerion is in fact Dragon Slayer V, a series that we've actually gotten a decent number of games from without realizing it. In fact (I'm clearly going out of order here) Broderbund released a game called Legacy of the Wizard for NES a year prior to Sorcerion. Legacy of the Wizard was another side scrolling RPG type game where you selected one from a number of different characters. Each of these characters had different abilities and could access things others could not. Well, Legacy of the Wizard is actually Dragon Slayer IV! So much for the Dragon Slayer series ever getting brand identity outside of the US....

OK, now that we've finished with Broderbund and the one random Infocom release, we'll move on to the console only games. First we begin with an odd one: Faxanadu. Released on NES in the US by Nintendo, this game is a side story of the Japanese only release of Xanadu. What is this Xanadu you ask? Why, it is in fact Dragon Slayer II. I hope you're following me so far. Another side scrolling RPG type, the name is actually a combination of the names Famicom and Xanadu, and appears to be the original Dragon Slayer game released in the US without the name Dragon Slayer. Either Falcom doesn't understand brand identity, or they just didn't care about US releases. Anyway, Faxanadu, though involving lots of platforming and adventure elements, included many things typical of RPGs including NPC interaction, leveling, buying equipment, etc. and can easily be called an RPG. Moving ever onward, next on our list is Ancient Ys Vanished Omens. Released for the Sega Master System by Sega itself, it's another sub-par port of the original game in the Ys series. I'm not sure why it has a different title as the Broderbund version, but it is essentially the same game.

Continuing from there we have Ys Book I&II for the Turbo CD, released in the US by NEC Home Entertainment. This is actually the first, and until the DS release of Ys I&II, the only version of Ys II to make it to the US. We've never received Ys II on its own, and give that the upcoming PSP release of I&II is one package, that trend will continue. Anyway, regarded by man as the best version of Ys I&II, it contained improved graphics from the previous games, as well as fantastic audio (finally). This is actually the first release of Ys I&II I really sunk my teeth into, though years later after being released on the Virtual Console. It still holds up very well today, despite the dated visuals/gameplay, thanks to the great audio and the fact that it actually included some voice acting and animated cut scenes. Fairly rare for a game back then. Ys III : Wanderers from Ys followed this release on three different platforms, from three different publishers. It was released by American Sammy for the SNES, Turbo Technologies for the Turbo CD, and Renovation Productions for the Genesis. I really hope they didn't translate the thing 3 times! Anyway, Wanderers from Ys pulled a Zelda II and turned into a side scrolling action RPG that doesn't seem to have been received all that well by fans. Regardless, it would be the last Ys game we would see for some time.

Next up we have some other random games from this era. Dragon Slayer: The Legend of Heroes was released for the Turbo CD by Turbo Technologies. The sixth Dragon Slayer game, it was the first to bear that name in the US, though Legend of Heroes went on to become its own series. Legend of Heroes is a traditional style Japanese RPG similar to those of that era. Next up we have a somewhat oddball title called Brandish, released by Koei in the US. A dungeon crawler, it was was strange in that whenever you turned your character left or right, the whole game world instead rotated. It did find some fans though. Our final title in this era is probably a little more known, as it was released by Working Designs. Popful Mail was a side-scrolling action RPG for the Sega CD. It would be the only Falcom game Working Designs would localize however.

Late 90s: The Dark Ages- No, literally the Dark Ages. Near as I can tell, there would be no more Falcom games released outside of Japan until the 2000s. Granted I think we mostly missed a lot of re-releases and remakes and such, but still, we missed out on Ys IV, Ys IV, and Ys V which are no small losses. No I did not make a mistake there, two completely different versions of Ys IV exist, but that's a story for another day. Why none of these came over is unclear, but we shall instead move on to happier times.

The 2000s: Good times Ahead- Though we didn't really start to get every Falcom release in the 2000s or anything, things would slowly start coming over again. The strangest release appears to be a version of Xanadu for the N-gage of all things , called Xanadu Next which didn't fare too well (like the system it resided on). The release of the PSP however led to the opportunity for some Falcom goodness to come over. Legend of Heroes III, IV, and V  made their way over thanks to Bandai (then Namco Bandai when they merged). However, they released them out of order, releasing IV as Legend of Heroes, then III as Legend of Heroes II, and finally V as Legend of Heroes III. The localizations were also terrible, which took a lot of charm out of the games, which are otherwise mostly generic JRPGs. Despite releasing them out of order, they did still keep the importing of saves into the newer titles to unlock bonuses (I believe this involved moving the unlockable stuff from IV to III since they released those out of order) so they aren't totally horrible efforts, and given the lack of RPGs on the PSP they probably found an audience. The next games in the series, a trilogy of Legend of Heroes VI games, would be released by XSEED next year.

The Ys series made its return as well. Konami released Ys VI as Ys: The Ark of Napishtim for both PS2 and PSP. We also received a mobile port of Ys I at some point during this era, though I was unable to find exactly when. In addition, Atlus released DS ports of Legacy of Ys Books I&II for the DS. Though not the best versions, Atlus did a good job localizing them and given it's only the second release of Ys II in the US it was probably a welcome purchase for many an Ys fan. Then of course, we have the upcoming release of Ys Seven for PSP from XSEED, who will also be bringing over the PSP releases of Ys Oath in Felghana (a remake of Ys III), and Ys I&II Chronicles, another remake of the first two games. In addition, the original Turbo CD release of Ys I&II was brought to the Virtual Console by Hudson.

Last but not least, we have the charming little PSP action RPG, Gurumin: A Monstrous Adventure, released by Mastiff games. OK, I think that about covers everything. If you readers notice anything I missed, please let me know! Thanks for the question Hito! Maybe something that requires a shorter response next time?

(Thanks to Wikipedia and Hardcore Gaming 101 for a lot of this info)



Yay! Questions not asking for a lengthy history!


Hey Wheels.

Two Questions, first does Xenoblade have anything to do with Xenogears?  And do you think it will be released here?

Wheels

Xenoblade does not have anything to do with Xenogears at all. I think they decided to name it that so the Xenosaga and Xenogears fans would know it's from the same developers. Though I'm not personally a fan of any of the Xeno games, they certainly have a good amount of credibility, and Xenoblade does look really good. I was hoping another Japanese developer would do a Final Fantasy XII type game, and this is looking like it will fill that bill.

As for its chances of coming out here, I think they're pretty good. It's published by Nintendo in Japan, and I think they have a good idea (I certainly hope anyway) that this kind of more open-world RPG does well here in the US. We'll just have to wait and see on this one for the moment, but I really do have confidence that Nintendo will give it a chance over here. Perhaps even just in time for the holiday season Nintendo?


What is your current favorite RPG for the Wii?

Sincerely,

Nodal

Wheels

This is a pretty tough question for me. Though I've enjoyed a lot of what I've played of Monster Hunter Tri, I got burnt out of the game pretty quickly, and it really does require a pretty large time investment to get anywhere in the online component. The single player is a lot of fun as well, but nothing can compare to the blast that online play can be when playing with a group of friends. I played a good amount of it, but never got past the one star quests due to the fact that I could never find a good group of people to do the urgent quest with me (tried it as a duo with someone, but that didn't end well). Maybe when I give it another shot it will move up there, but for now I can't call it my favorite.

Phantom Brave is another possibility, but considering it's mostly the same game as the PS2 version (even though I didn't play that version) I don't think I want to call it my favorite Wii RPG. Phantom Brave is absolutely fantastic though, so I don't want it to sound like I'm down on it!

I think I'm going to call a tie between two RPGs on the system, both of which can be played with the Wii remote alone. Those would be Super Paper Mario and Shiren the Wanderer. Super Paper Mario is a great change of pace for the Paper Mario series, and I had a lot of fun with it. Though the story is kind of the typical Mario quest involving collecting 7 things (it was 7 right?) it was goofy as usual and the localization job was quite fantastic.

Shiren the Wanderer for Wii is not something I ever thought would be localized. The DS game in the series did not do well for Sega, and generally roguelikes outside of the Pokemon ones haven't exactly gathered a huge audience (google roguelike if you're confused by what I just said). Anyway, this one is a lot of fun, has a great look to it, easy controls, and spices things up by letting you have a party of up to three characters dungeon crawling at once. I almost wish the eventual PSP release came over instead, as roguelikes seem to work well in portable format, but any release of it at all is great. Once I finally finish Tales of Symphonia and fire up its sequel on Wii though, there may be a new champion!

Anyway, thanks for the letter Nodal, please write in again!


More Slimes in our Future?

Dear Wheels,

Do you think there's a chance Dragon Quest IX, if successful, could influence future RPG localizations in the industry?

-Eusis
Wheels

This is a really good question, that sadly I don't think there's a really good answer to. I really hope Dragon Quest IX does quite well in the US for starters. It really is an amazing game, and I think the open nature of it is something that a Western audience should be able to appreciate.  I haven't seen any sales numbers, but we can only hope Nintendo's ad campaign did some good! I never really got why the Dragon Quest series hasn't really caught on here. I mean I know why it didn't back in the NES dates (released too late in the NES' life over here), but I thought it would have gotten more of a hardcore fanbase by now. Dragon Quest VIII apparently shipped something like 430,000 copies in the US, which is quite impressive for the series here I think. If Dragon Quest IX matches or exceeds that I think that would be a very good sign that we'll keep getting Dragon Quest games, hopefully including Dragon Quest Monsters: Jokers 2 which includes the tank from Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime.

As for whether this could influence future RPG localizations? I would say absolutely, if it sells really well. Companies will want to find the "next big Dragon Quest" out of Japan (maybe). Maybe that would mean someone would finally realize 7th Dragon has an audience here? That would nice. The question would be, how good does it need to do for companies to want to jump on localizing something Dragon Questy? It'd probably have to be at least a few million, which would be awesome to see a Dragon Quest game sell that much outside of Japan. I think a nice several hundred thousands in sales is a more realistic possibility, however, you never know. I don't think anyone ever thought the Professor Layton games would be so big here. I really hope RPG fans support this one though, as Dragon Quest IX has a lot of neat multi-player features, and it'd be nice if there were more people to share them with!

Anyway, thanks for the question Eusis, keep them coming!
Rocket Slime



Tales of Spreadsheets

Dear Wheels,

How is one to figure out the differences between all of the Tales games? Bonus points for making a spreadsheet.

-Adam

Wheels
OK I'll give you you're spreadsheet in a minute (kind of) but there's one easy distinction to make between the Tales games. There are those with 2D battles, meaning you only move left and right, and there are those with a full 3D battlefield in battles. I'm only going to cover the games available in English here, as in some of the Japan games there's actually a "third" type, which honestly isn't very good. There's also "mothership" and "escort" titles, basically meaning main series or not. "Escort" usually refers to the spin-off and fan type games, but a few full Tales games are considered "escort" titles as well, either because of quality (Tales of the Tempest) or being that much different from the main series (Tales of Symphonia's sequel). Anyway, here's your madness:

Game

Battle System

Consoles

Main series?

Random Battles

Developer

Tales of Phantasia

2D Style Battle System

Playstation(Fan Translation) Gameboy Advance

Yes, first title in the series

Yes

Wolf Team, this set of developers went on to form Tri-Ace

Tales of Destiny

2D Style Battle System

Playstation

Yes

Yes

Tales Studio (still Wolf team at the time, but since the original staff was gone, we'll call them by their current name)

Tales of Eternia

2D Style Battle System

Playstation (as Tales of Destiny 2 in the US) PSP(Europe only)

Yes, though despite the confusion of the original US title, not a sequel of Destiny. There is a Japan only Destiny 2.

Yes

Tales Studio

Tales of Symphonia

3D Style Battle System, though unlike those to come, you can't freely move in 3D. You can only move left or right based on what target you have selected, which will allow for a level of 3D movement.

Gamecube, PS2(Japan only)

Yes

No, for the first time in the series enemies appear on screen as you move around, though they are mostly indistinct blobs/skulls etc.

Tales Studio

Tales of Legendia

2D Style Battle System

PS2

Yes

Yes (which is odd after Symphonia)

Namco/Project Melfes

Tales of the Abyss

3D Battle System, for the first time allowing you to move freely around the battlefield in 3D

PS2

Yes

No, and the monsters appear as more than just indistinct blobs and such

Tales Studio

Tales of the World Radiant Mythology

3D Battle System

PSP

no

no

Alfa System

Tales of Innocence

3D Battle System

DS (Fan translation)

Yes

no

Alfa System

Tales of Vesperia

3D Battle System

Xbox360, PS3(Japan Only)

Yes

no

Tales Studio

Tales of Symphonia Dawn of the New World

3D Battle System

Wii

no

no

Tales Studio


IN CLOSING

Well, that's all for this week. I know this was kind of an oddball week, but hey, they're oddball questions! I'm playing a lot of Ys right now to get ready for Ys Seven, and of course will be playing the demo for Valkyria Chronicles II as well. We've got a lot more great RPGs to come this year, including Fallout New Vegas. What games are you guys excited for? Drop me a line!

P.S. Both Ys Seven and Valkyria Chronicles II are nearly upon us! Is this a good month for PSP RPGs or what?
Also I'll be having some kind of contest in the near future. Stay tuned!

-Wheels



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