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ASK WHEELS
This Week, A Winner is You
September 1st, 2010

09/01 - 12:00PM EST

  Yes I'm still here, with more great questions! These week we talk Disgaea, old school SNES RPGs, and more! Also I'll be announcing the winner of the contest! We'll talk some more Ys Seven as well, now that I've played a good amount of the game. Valkyria Chronicles 2 will also be out by the time you read this, though now questions about this game yet. Alright, on to the letters!





The Letters
This Week, We Get....Disturbing?

Dear Wheels

It's dark.


Wheels

Right, I have no idea where this is going, Demon's Souls is dark! Please be talking about Demon's Souls...

I'm sitting here at my computer, my mind locked on a single train of thought.  I have to send a letter to Wheels.  I need to.  He must know of me.  I can ignore it no longer.  The rhythmic pounding in my head demands it.  The low roar of the creatures just beyond the edge of my sanity command it.  The guttural groans of the earth beneath my feet beg for it.  I don't understand it, I simply obey.


Wheels

You know this reminds me of Inception. You know that thing about an idea being a virus that consumes you? That would actually make a great game I think. Going into other people's minds and what not. Like Alundra, only in modern times and darker. So yeah, I think you watched Inception too many times.

There's a gnat, buzzing around in front of my laptop in this dark cave I call my home.  He loops in circles around my letters at they appear onscreen, communicating to me in the only language he knows.  He is a wretched sinner, as am I.  But he has nothing on you wheels.  Nobody has anything on you.

The question, the maddening question pounds inside my head like a hammer on an anvil.  I must know.  I have nowhere else to turn.


Wheels

You know bug type things can actually be the most annoying enemies in games. There's some gnat type things in Ys VI that have been driving me nuts. Plus there's some bug enemies in Monster Hunter Tri that can poison you and what not, and really mess you up during a big battle. Plus to farm some component you have to kill some bugs only with poison, no by bashing them to bits.

I open my mouth and the raw, disgusting request for information flows out like water.


Wheels

Please don't let it be about Criminal Girls, please! I mean, I think almost any topic would be better. Unless of course if it were about Drakengard.

"Do you think that the industry would benefit from more games taking hints from Nier and going the extra mile with localization to make the game more appropriate and approachable to western audiences?"

I fall limp to the hard earth.  It's done.  Now the end may come.

-Beat.



Wheels

What? That's all this was? A Nier question? Well that's just fine then. Yes I'm quite certain that more games could use the extra effort to make the game more approachable to western audiences. It certainly seems to have worked for Nier, as I've heard it sold pretty well, though it's hard to tell if that's due to the localization. Nier kind of has the whole dark setting and action element going for, which worked for Demon's Souls. is a much stranger game though, and both of those elements did not help  Drakengard.

Localization is a complicated process, especially for something strange like Nier's story. Some of the more generic Japanese RPGs that come out, such as Arc Rise Fantasia  could certainly use some more character. This seems to be par for the course for Square Enix though, as most of their localizations are much better. So to make a long answer short, yes absolutely more games could use this kind of localization. Remember, it's not just translating a game, you have to get it to make sense to the new audience which is a difficult process. You'll often see this in a lot of fan translation projects. It will get the job done sure, but will just be missing a lot of character. More companies going the extra mile would be great, as long as it makes sense for the game and companies aren't going beyond their means. I wonder if Nier was not expected to sell well and they just decided to give the localizers a lot of freedom. It would certainly be an interesting case study.

Thanks for the.....whatever this was Beat and write in again......maybe!


Old School Time


Wheels!  Man, read your bio!  It's good to have a decent host once again.  And might I say I believe that is the longest absence of a Q&A host I have ever witnessed, and I dare say, I was starting to lose hope that it would ever come back, I was thinking about putting in an app myself!  Nice bio man! 


Wheels

Thanks man, I really do appreciate comments like this. Q&A was always one of my favorite things on RPGamer and it's an honor to be doing it. Thanks for the bio complement, I'm guessing you enjoyed my gaming history?


So I just have to say though, the bio is good, Final Fantasy VI, Chrono Trigger at the top of your list.  Chrono Trigger is my favorite all time game above anything else, followed by Final Fantasy Tactics.  But you made a comment in your last column about one of your only non-rpg forays is pretty much just Halo.  DUDE!?!?!  Seriously?  HALO?  Hmmmm....  Yeah, it's got good multiplayer, but that only gets you so far.  And the Halo community is, well, a Halo community.  As far as an FPS goes, there are much better games out there, most notable is Metroid Prime, which to me, on the Wii, is the greatest and most engrossing FPS of all time.  Tron 2.0 was also pretty stellar on the PC.  But what about games like Resident Evil, Metal Gear Solid, Viewtiful Joe, No More Heroes, Killer 7?  There are beautiful, insanely fun works of action art that you are missing out on man!  Break your Halo and grow some devil horns! 


Wheels

There's something special about multi-player in Halo, coming from the long tradition of Marathon Multi-player, it's essentially the modern update to Marathon that we never got. You have to understand being a Mac guy, that Bungie's games have always hit the sweet spot for me, be it their FPS games or others. The vast number of different multi-player variants you can play is simply staggering. I enjoy the campaigns as well, though I usually only play them once through.

For single player non-RPG gaming I actually play a lot of different things, from Metroid Prime (which I would actually classify as something slightly different than an FPS), to Bioshock, Assassin's Creed, and Mario games of course. Halo just happens to be my multi-player game of choice. By the way, I can't stand the Metal Gear Solid franchise past the first game, but that's a story for another time!

As for Final Fantasy VI and Chrono Trigger, these games are the ones I've gone back to the most, and I was pretty much obsessed with them for a large part of my childhood. I would go on to use character names from both as nick names for years. Though the Final Fantasy Legend games were what got me hooked on RPGs, these two games will most likely top my favorite games lists for years to come.

So I have the FFL cartridge still, but admittedly, I play the game in all in it's dot matrix glory on my PC.  There is just something so fascinating about playing an 8 bit black and white game on a 46" LCD screen, ya know?  But every time I start the game that beginning theme song just makes something inside of me melt.  What a song!  You should post a link to it somewhere in this column!  But my favorite SaGa, and don't castrate me here, still has to be Saga Frontier 2.  The story of that game and the graphical style is just fantastic to me, plus another great opening theme song!  The PlayStation was just the perfect blend of 2D and 3D coming together, and that time period of Squaresoft games was, in my opinion the sequel to it's golden era on the SNES.  I mean, you had Xenogears, Front Mission 3(the first ever FM to make it over here), Vagrant Story, Legend of Mana, Rings of Fate, Saga Frontier, Final Fantasy Tactics, Brave Fencer Musashi.  It was such a huge explosion of great new games from Square, rather than the same old Final Fantasy offering ever 3 or 4 years.  Are you a Front Mission fan?  And what about Matsuno, are you a fan?  And what is he doing nowadays, any info on that guy? 


Wheels

Final Fantasy Legend is an absolute classic. On the webpage for the DS version of SaGa 2 you can hear an absolutely brilliant version of that song. The SaGa series, especially the gameboy games, are just something special that most people either don't know, or don't care about. Which is a shame. I haven't actually played SaGa Frontier 2 yet, I've been saving it for a rainy day, that being when it finally sinks in that SaGa 2 DS is not going to come out over here.

The PS1 era really was a special Time for Square Enix (well then Squaresoft obviously) that I will never forget. I missed out on Front Mission 3 though, the idea of a tactical mech game didn't really interest me. Final Fantasy Tactics has to be the best of the games of that era, and is probably the PS1 game I sunk the most hours into, even more than Legend of Mana.

If you mean Matsuo, one of the composers, he worked on Ogre Battle 64, Shenmue I&II, Final Fantasy XII, and Nights for the Wii (not as composer on any of these titles).

OK so since I've mentioned the golden era.  Tales of Phantasia.  First Tales made, best Tales made.  Symphonia was just too, well, childish to me.  Tales of Destiny was a great follow-up, but still didn't rub me down as well as Phantasia did.  Maybe it was because most of the team that made Star Ocean had something to do with it, I don't know.  But the JPOP, the time the game was localized, how it was localized, how it was played.  Yeah Phantasia all the way, and I still don't think there is a tales game out there that will measure up, call me old school, but long live 2D FOREVER!!  I think it's sad that a lot of people back in the day(and even today) were anti Secret of Evermore.  That game was so absolutely radical and revolutionary for it's time, it's terrible that people didn't give a chance because they were looking for the same old thing in a Secret of Mana sequel.  The alchemy system in that game was amazing, and hunting for new spells whilst having your dog sniff out ingredients for you never gets old.  And the music in that game was absolutely amazing, the debut of Jeremy Soule, one of the greatest and most underrated composers in videogame history!  So my question is to you, what ever happened to Quintet?  Are you a Quintet fan?  Are they still out there somewhere, and have any plans of doing something other than making small obscure icons for certain games?  I heart Quintet and would love to see a solid 3D entry by them!  I think it would be awesome to see some golden games like Illusion of Gaia, or Secret of Mana, remade into 3D!  What do you think?  I also still hold out hopes for a War of the Magi prequel to Final Fantasy VI.  I have dreams of Magitek armor armies rushing forth against hordes and hordes of Espers.  Ahhhh, maybe someday. 

Well, it's been a pleasure man, keep up the good work, and welcome to Q&A from a long time reader, long time writer. 

Ian B 


Wheels

We've agreed on a lot of things, but sadly here is where we will split. Tales of Phantasia is my least favorite in the series. The combat is horribly slow, and the 2D plane doesn't allow for much strategy, and the story is rips off from just about every awesome 16-bit RPG out there. I really am not a fan of the 2D battle system in Tales games (Tales of Eternia I've found the combat still quite boring despite being faster paced). A 3D battle field makes a world of difference in keeping things interesting, and it's with Tales of the Abyss that I really fell in love with the series. The creators of Tales of the Phantasia, as you likely know, went on to form Tri-Ace. I can tell you that I do not like most of their work, and Phantasia shows where a lot of their worst ideas started from. The Tales series is in much better hands now. I'm a huge fan of 2D RPGs, but Tales of Phantasia should not be your standard bearer!

Secret of Evermore is an absolute classic. Though it's not technically a sequel to Secret of Mana, the developers at Squaresoft USA obviously used the same engine to create it. SoE was so unique and fresh and I really wish more people had found a way to enjoy it, instead of complaining that it wasn't Secret of Mana 2.

Quintet seems to be in an unknown state currently. Their webpage is gone, and they haven't officially released a game in ages. Apparently their staff are showing up in the credits for other games, and Quintet itself is credited for item creation in the Atelier Iris series, which is no small part to those games. I guess they're surviving by renting out staff members to other company's projects, but at this point who knows if they'll ever actually release anything new. I played and loved both of the action RPG classics Illusion of Gaia and Soul Blazer and would love to have more.

Final Fantasy VI remake for 3DS. I want it. You want it. Keep the dream alive (and yes a prequel would be awesome too)

Please write in again!


Calm Down, Atlus is Fine

Dear Wheels,

What are your thoughts on the Atlus merger? I've been seeing some
doomsaying about it, but Index's actions are usually those of a
company that is expecting strong gains from the subsidiary and wants
to keep said gains to itself. But perhaps they do business differently
in Japan.

- Cait
Wheels

I thought it'd be important to move up my response to this one a week, given that people are likely freaking out. If you are freaking out, stop it. Atlus is going to be fine, this is just corporate nonsense. Remember, there are plenty of companies that still exist as divisions of bigger companies, as in, non-independent units, and they're still fine. It's just a distinction. I wish that had been worded better in the release. You likely won't notice any changes from this, except maybe hearing about more cellphone games using Atlus properties in Japan. I'm not sure if they do business that differently in Japan, but all signs still point to this not being a huge deal.

Thanks for sending this in!

DONTPANIC


The People Demand Shiny 3D

Hey Wheels,

nice to see I'm the first to ever ask a question by Twitter! And of course thanks for the recommendations on the Shining-series! They never got much love here in Europe, which is a shame. Anyway, I thought it would be nice to tackle one of the hot topics...

Wheels

No Shining Force love in Europe? That's a shame. I wonder how well the games even sold here in the US. Anyway, let's see what hot topic you've picked!

Will Disgaea 4 retain 2D Sprites or go for visual flair?

This is a pretty interesting question. NIS didn't do so well lately. I have no idea how the portable Disgaea-games fare but I can imagine they won't sell that great either. Now, Disgaea 3 was a lot of fun, but could have been easily a PS2 game. Not a problem in my book, I never have been impressed by HD-graphics and all. However, there are a lot of people who are and probably didn't buy the game just because of the visual look of the game. If Trinity Universe is an indication, I think they will really change the look of the series on the consoles, going the 3D-route, and maybe release a few spin-offs on handhelds with more old school-kinda 2D sprites. I can't wait to see what they come up with, but as long as the games keep their humor and over-the-top battles with ridiculous amounts of damage it's OK by me! 
What is your opinion on Disgaea 4? Should it be more of the same gameplay-wise and only get a visual overhaul, or should NIS really change the core of the game (like character creating or the item world) together with the visual look?

Till next time!
7threst

Wheels

For starters I think the Disgaea handheld games sold fine, I think mainly where they've been hurting in the sales department are the titles they publish by other developers. They don't seem to have too many issues selling their internally developed titles, though I don't think Prinny or Phantom Brave Wii sold well here. Anyway on to the main topic.

I agree with you completely, despite probably selling pretty well I'm sure many people were turned off by the visuals of Disgaea 3. Despite this it absolutely was still the right platform, as the additional memory and downloadable content made the game so much better. Just some basic, great looking 3D, maybe cell-shaded, I think will be the best way for them to go, and as you said they can keep doing 2D type games on portable. I know NIS doesn't exactly have the biggest budget when they make their games, but if they create a solid 3D engine they can then reuse that on future Disgaea titles and probably other similar titles as well. Given the lower development costs, releasing on the PS3 probably gives them a chance to make a lot more money, given they can sell at a higher cost, so they should stick there. I look forward to seeing what kind of art direction they go for with Disgaea 4, but I expect the usual amount of humor that fans have come to love.

Now as for the actual gameplay, I don't think they should changes things too drastically, especially at a time when they are hurting financially. Scaring off fans is the last thing they would want to do. They can still advance the series though, just continue the gradual evolution of the gameplay. I also hope they focus a lot on level design like they did in Disgaea 3. There were so many great levels in that game that were more puzzles than actual battles. Hopefully Disgaea 4 will get NIS back on track.

Thanks for the great letter, and write in again!


Reviewing a Review

So what do you think of Ys Seven so far?  Are you a huge Falcom fan or
what?  I want to know if you accept my review as fact or if we're
going to have one of these kinds of relationships.

- Macstorm

Wheels

In the past few months since first playing Ys I&II I've become a huge Falcom fan, or at least a fan of the Ys series. I mean I just ordered Ys Origins, in Chinese! What does that tell you. I really love Ys Seven so far despite the fact that it can be a bit chatty at times. Even so, I think it's got a classic style story to it, something I would equate to RPG junk food. It gets the job done, and I don't think it really distracts from the action.

Let's talk about the action. Boy is it amazing! The boss encounters are incredibly well constructed, especially the third boss where you've got to take out all its legs just to be able to damage the thing. Even the less interesting bosses tend to be very tense encounters, requiring good dodging and careful use of healing items to make it through. I also like the fact that there's a max number of healing items you can carry, which decreases based on what difficulty you play on. The game would be way too easy if you could just buy a horde of healing items.

The party mechanic also adds a lot of depth to the standard Ys formula, as not only do the different characters have different types of attacks, which work better against some enemies than others, but each character has their own set of skills which you can learn from weapons as you progress. I don't think I'd find much disagreement if I called it the best Ys game yet.

As for your review? I thought it was fantastic, and really hit on all the best parts of the game, and the gripes that are there. I would have rated it higher, but then, as you know, I'm a bigger fan of the overall series. Generally I do like your reviews though, I just didn't care for you're opinion of Crystal Bearers! We won't be having one of those kinds of relationships, don't worry.

More letters please!
IN CLOSING

Well, that's it for this week. Keep the questions coming! The twitter has been quiet, send me some questions and I'll try to get one of them in each week! Not to mention I throw in some random other updates as well. Anyway, I'm going to be playing tons of Valkyria Chronicles 2 this week, and with Etrian Odyssey 3 around the corner, the parade of insanely long RPGs continues. Again, I save all your e-mails and tweets, so if you don't see it the week you send it to me, fear not! It's been added to the log. Now on to the winner:

The winner of the contest, is Cait! I'll be contacting you via e-mail about claiming your prize. Keep reading as I'll have another contest coming soon. See you guys next week, where I'll be answering some great questions from another columnist and more!

P.S. The answer to the trivia was Sega, but since my Falcom history messed people up, I accepted all entries. Next contest all that will be required is you send in a letter or tweet.

-Wheels



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What I can't wait for:

1. Ys: Oath in Felghana for PSP

2. Etrian Odyssey 3

3. Fallout: New Vegas

4. Halo: Reach

5. Last Dragon Age Origins Add-On


On my Playlist:

1. Ys Seven Soundtrack

2. Mozart

3. Final Fantasy XIII Soundtrack



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1. Alpha Protocol got hammered by bad reviews, but has gained a lot of fans, were reviewers too harsh?

2. A new SaGa game is coming, will it be a continuation of one of the existing SaGa series, or something new?

3. If Sega makes a Valkyria Chronicles 3, what platform should it be on?

4. Demon's Souls was a big success for From Software, what should be in a potential sequel?

5. Eternal Sonata was certainly a unique idea for a game, if you were to make a game with the same concept, what musical artist would you choose and what would the game be like?


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