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ASK WHEELS
This Week, Reach For It!
September 15th, 2010

09/15 - 12:00PM EST

  Normally I mostly play RPGs, but this week is all about Halo: Reach. Being a huge fan of Bungie  since their Mac days, it's a bit bittersweet to see them make their final Halo game, especially having no idea what they'll be working on next other than the fact it's an action game for Activision. We shall see! I'm hoping they'll still be slightly involved in future Halo games in some way. Anyway I've talked about this for way too long! Let's get to another week of crazy RPG questions!





The Letters
Beat of Madness

Hey Wheels!  I haven't had a chance to write you in awhile, and I'm kind of afraid I might not get to again for some time!  I just had a few quick questions here.


Wheels

Oh hey, this is much less crazy then your last e-mail, let's see what kind of questions you've got!

1.) Have you ever played Skies of Arcadia?  If so, what did you think of the protagonist Vyse?  Do you prefer can-do heroes like him, or moody heroes like Cloud or Squall?


Wheels

I haven't played Skies of Arcadia yet, I've been saving it for a rainy day when I need a good classic RPG. I should probably play it some time soon I think. I do have the Gamecube version laying around though, so I'll get to it!

As for your question, I prefer heroes who are nothing like Cloud or Squall. I don't think in an RPG the main hero necessarily needs to be likable, they just need to be interesting, well written characters. Neither Squall nor Cloud were, and I like both of their games! I never understood why Squall was such a sulky character, there wasn't enough background for it!

2.) Why is it so dark in these woods?  I thought it was a full moon just a few minutes ago.


Wheels

I agree, the woods in some games are just way too dark, and I'm sure some of them even show a full moon before you go in! I can't think of any good examples offhand though. I get it's supposed to be dark, but it's a game and it's nice to be able to see what you're doing!

3.) Did you play Mass Effect 2?  What did you think of its take on combining RPG and action elements?

Wheels

I love the combination of RPG and action elements, and my playthrough of Mass Effect 2 only increased this love. It just adds so much depth to your typical action game, and I'd love to see it much more often, especially in shooters. To that end, I wish more companies making Action RPGs would focus on getting the action part right before worrying about the depth of their RPG mechanics. Too often I've played Action RPGs with cool systems in theory, but they just get the action part so very wrong. The action in Mass Effect 1 had so many issues, that were only made up for by good story and cool set piece encounters. In the hands of a lesser developer, ME1 would have been awful. Ys Seven, Ys: The Oath in Felghana, and Mass Effect 2 are all great examples of how to do an Action RPG well.

4.) Have you ever seen a, uh... hairless bear before?  At least I think that's what it was.  It was moving awfully fast.  I only got a glimpse of it.


Wheels

I seem to remember some kind of weird hairless bear in a Resident Evil game or something. I can't remember exactly what game though, maybe it was actually Parasite Eve or something? Maybe it wasn't even hairless, but I remember some kind of weird Bear creature. So, uh, does that answer your question?

5.) Is it possible for RPGs to be scary?  The majority of the ones I've played have relied on fighting the same monsters again and again, yet the people at TVTropes are more than willing to fill the "Nightmare fuel" pages with examples from them.  Are they just being wimps?


Wheels

Probably for the most part, but Demon's Souls absolutely proves RPGs can be scary, to the point that I sometimes call it the Survival Horror RPG. For example it's got one great prison stage that is so quiet save for the occasional creepy sound, and it's guarded by these mind-flayer like creatures that carry around some kind of bell that is your only warning to their presence. It has a really creepy atmosphere that is pulled off extremely well. Granted all the areas in the game aren't like this, but I think the game pulls off scary pretty well. RPGs like these need to be real time though, because in no way would a turn based encounter with scary monsters creep me out.

6.) Have you ever been on black river trail before?  I don't think this is the way I came.  Why is it so quiet?  What happened to all the birds?  I don't thinkkkkkkkkkqiwqoewi......

WHEELS ITS REAL.  THE BEAST IS REAL

DON'T COME.  I CAN'T ESCAPE

IT SEES ME

IT SEES EVERYTHING

OH GODJDIOSFISDJIJISDJIFJSD

-Beat (added by Wheels because he obviously was otherwise occupied to sign off his letter properly)


Wheels

This reminds me of Monty Python and the Quest for the Holy Grail. I think that would make a great RPG don't you....OK you probably can't answer but yeah, that would be cool. The last boss could be an unwinable battle where you get arrest by the police afterward. It would be great! Anyway, please write in again Beat....if you survived the monster attack that is.


Welcome to the Venting Hour


I’m completely new to this site and just happened to stumble upon  it. I’ve read through a few of the Q&A’S and I feel this is a good place to vent/get some info.

Wheels

It is such a place, so vent and I shall answer your questions and try and cool your anger if needed!


What is the deal with Japanese developers trying to stray away from what a JRPG is and trying to “westernize” it? More and more it seems that JRPG’s are suffering from identity crisis. This gaming gen I have yet to find a JRPG that is either genre defining, “DragonQuest VIII”, revitalizing “Final Fantasy VII”, though some will argue against that, or a game that we will talk about in 10 years “Chrono Trigger”. My favorite JRPG this gen is still “Lost Odyssey”. It was what a JRPG should be, epic story, great cast of characters, great locations, and in my opinion a damn fine battle system.  Which leads to my next question, why does it seem that everyone is trying to distance themselves from turn based battles? Now most games seem to have more of a “Real Time Action” battle system, I can understand it can come of as old and last gen “Blue Dragon” or weird when not done right “Last Remnant”, but in good hands, or with the right twist it is still enjoyable “Lost Odyssey, Final Fantasy XIII”. Are sales that bad now? The PSX and PS2 era were ripe with great JRPG’s turn based or not, in your opinion what needs to be done to get back on track? Are fans too jaded now? Is the reliance on what is now referred to as RPG “clichés” hurt more than help? Or is it just a generational issue where the JRPG is now a thing of the past?


Wheels

Alright that is a lot of frustration to take in at once, but I will try and answer it the best I can. The problem is two-fold. Problem number one, you are looking in the wrong place for classic style JRPGs! Portables are what are big in Japan right now, and it's there that you will find some new classics, which include things like Dragon Quest IX, 7th Dragon, and Valkyria Chronicles II. Overall though, Japanese RPGs are much more diversified than they used to be, so you'll find everything from First Person Dungeon crawls, to heavily Action focused RPGs like the Ys series. This is not a bad thing. Classic turn based games are great, but they've pretty much been over done at this point. You'll still find some amazing turn based games, like Dragon Quest IX, and of course Persona 3 and Persona 4. Even these games are different from some of the classics in other ways, such as the life-sim aspect of the Persona games, and the multi-player aspects of Dragon Quest IX.

I don't think the variety of styles means that JRPGs lack an identity though, what it means simply is that there are more developers than before, and better technology allows for many more kinds of RPGs.  A lot of things, such as Final Fantasy XIII's fantastic battle system simply could not have been done on older hardware. If you look back at the SNES era, there were not as many developers, and a lack of technology to do a lot of different styles. So what defines a JRPG then? Well, simply put, it is an outdated term, and somewhat meaningless. We should be talking about what types of RPG each of these games coming out of Japan is instead of simply lumping them all together. If anything, we can now lump western RPGs together in the same way that we used to do it with JRPGs. Western RPGs are essentially either Bioware/Bethesda style games or Diablo style games. I'm getting off the track here though. What I would suggest is to take a harder look at these real time games and give them more of a chance. If you play Final Fantasy XII, for example, you can play battles in essentially a turn-based fashion.

Now, this doesn't completely answer why there are fewer turn-based RPGs, but I can give you a good answer right now, straight from an interview of Kawazu in a recent Nintendo power, asking about the lack of turn based RPGs:

"[Turn-based] projects are not being green-lit because of the assessment that turn-based RPGs are not received well overseas."

That pretty much tells you all you need to know as far as turn-based RPGs on non-portable systems. I wish it weren't so, but I think sales of the few turn-based RPGs released on HD consoles here pretty much proves this out. Honestly though, it's for the better. For the most part, turn-based games are a relic of old hardware, and going real-time provides many more interesting options that can help move the genre forward. Sometimes melding the two even provides some interesting battle systems, just look at Valkyria Chronicles. So my best advise to you is not to thing of JRPGs as a turn-based thing, and accept the new.

OK now that I've vented some quick questions, any idea what the holdup is with a new Suikoden or Breath of Fire.


Wheels

Suikoden there is no holdup, we just got the DS game, which seemed to be their attempt to make the series appeal to a wider audience. I don't think it worked, so hopefully they'll try again with something more along the lines of the main series, and accept that it is a niche RPG series. I would expect the next game in the series to be a portable game though, as that would be the best way to keep it profitable.

I hate to say it, but the Breath of Fire series is dead. At least it went out in a bang though, as different as it was Dragon Quarter is an absolute bold classic. It takes a lot of guts to change a series like that and make something so fresh and different. They succeeded in making a brilliant game. They failed at getting it to sell though, and I think it was a big enough failure that it has put an end to the series, at least for now. There have been some re-releases of the older games (3 on PSP, 1&2 on Gameboy advance), but that doesn't mean anything as far as new games go. Keep holding out more hope for new Suikoden though!

Lastly let's see if you can connect Ninja Gaiden to Ar Tonelico.

Thank you,

Francisco


Wheels

Not as hard as you think sir! Ninja Gaiden is published by Tecmo -> Tecmo is part of Tecmo Koei -> Koei and Namco worked together on Dynasty Warriors: Gundam -> Namco owns Banpresto -> Banpresto published Ar Tonelico in Japan.

Anyway, thanks for the questions, write in again and we'll talk more turn-based RPGs!


Six Degrees of RPGs

Dear Wheels,

What in your opinion is the hardest RPG ever and what is the easiest (that was an actual game)

Wheels

I'm going to have to go ahead and say that Etrian Odyssey is the hardest RPG ever, slightly edging out Demon's Souls due to some of it's boss encounters being pretty easy. Etrian Odyssey can almost just be a cruel game as you delve into the depths of the dungeon. Stay too long, or go up against an enemy you aren't prepared for and you will be destroyed. It works for the games benefit though. Nothing about the difficulty is unfair, and it only serves to make you want explore deeper into the dungeon and conquer the thing. This is how a first person dungeon crawl should be, and Atlus got it right. Not only is the dungeon hard though, but putting together a good party is difficult as well, though mitigating in that you don't have to start the game over to change your party. You will very likely lose in this game, and often, but it will often feel like you need to just be more prepared instead of aggravating, and that my friend is how to make a difficult game fun.

As for easiest, I would have to go with (this required more thought than hardest) every version of Final Fantasy IV except the DS one. Maybe it's just because I've played it so much, but it just doesn't challenge me anymore. Thankfully, the DS one does and that's the one I'll likely come back to. This isn't to say I don't like doing a Final Fantasy IV playthrough, I do, but just that it's not something I really do for challenge. As for a game that probably is way too easy, and not just because I've played it a bunch of times, I would say Final Fantasy Mystic Quest. I mean you can kill the last boss by healing him a few times, so there you go.

 Also connect Secret of Evermore to Toy Pop

-KLitke

Wheels

This one is actually going to be a lot easier than you'd expect. Secret of Evermore was a Squaresoft game -> Squaresoft merged with Enix to become Square-Enix -> Namco got the license from Square-Enix to publish a game based on the Soul Eater manga-> Namco published Toy Pop.

Anyway, keep sending me these challenges!


Lots of Final Questions

Wheels, as your handler I have to test you from time to time.  Now
we've reached the part where I ask about your feelings on Final
Fantasy.

Please give me a reviewt of each of the main Final Fantasy games.  A
reviewt is a one line summary review of a game.

"Example: Alpha Protocol Reviewt: Fun spy game, but you'd better use
stealth or you'll be a whiny baby when you can't shoot things."

This is a test, pass and you'll receive your next mission.

- Macstorm

Wheels

OK reviewt time! As a note, I'm subbing in Final Fantasy Tactics for Final Fantasy XI because I'm not really an mmo guy.

Final Fantasy 1- The original classic that makes the basis for the fantastic job systems in the future, but is way too slow paced in it's original form, and generally too simple and linear an RPG.

Final Fantasy 2- An oddball game that formed the basis for the SaGa series, and moved story telling in the series forward, but was way too broken in some respects.

Final Fantasy 3- A great use of the job system, often requiring the players to do some clever things like casting frog on the party in order to advance, but suffered from some balancing issues.

Final Fantasy 4- A great first 16 bit entry for the series, with an entertaining story, but is way too linear both in exploration and character advancement.

Final Fantasy 5- A truly great revision of the job system makes this game an absolute classic, even if its story is a bit lackluster.

Final Fantasy 6- Masterpiece.

Final Fantasy 7- A flawed game that did a great job moving story telling in RPGs forward, but was a step back in battle and character mechanics from previous entries.

Final Fantasy 8- A totally oddball game (somehow not done by Kawazu) that somehow manages to still be very entertaining, with some interesting story telling and very different game systems, that can be broken if you know what you're doing.

Final Fantasy 9- The classic 16-bit Final Fantasies distilled in the finest main series game since the 16-bit era, complete with a classic and fun battle system, and not spectacular but entertaining story.

Final Fantasy 10- A classic in story and gameplay terms, despite the occasional voice acting issues, this game successfully melded good story and gameplay despite it's linearity.

Playing the part of Final Fantasy 11 today, Final Fantasy Tactics- So good that it basically spawned a genre, I don't think any more needs to be said.

Final Fantasy 12- A great mix of Final Fantasy and western RPG design, this brilliant game was hampered only by a slightly lacking story.

Final Fantasy 13- The first HD Final Fantasy, the game has the best battle system wrapped up in a beautiful world and a flawed story, which is mitigated by fantastic voice acting and the best cast of characters the series has seen since the sixth installment.

There you go, in case you couldn't tell from this, yes I do like every game in the series. I'm sure I'm going to get some backlash from some of these reviewts though!
IN CLOSING

That's it for this week. I hope I'm not scaring people off with these crazy Beat letters (sorry Beat)! Anyway, I've been trying to split my PSP time between finishing Ys Seven, Valkyria Chronicles II, and Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep, which means I'm not getting very far in any of them, but hey also means I can talk about all of them with you! I've also dusted off my SNES, so send me some letters about your favorite games from that era! Anyway, that's all for this week.

As a note, due to extra TGS work, the column next week will probably be a short one, or come later in the week. So don't worry if nothing shows up next Wednesday!

Till next time,

-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 DLC

5. 4 Warriors of Light


On my Playlist:

1. JDK Band

2. Green Day

3. Random 80s Rock



Hot Topics:

1. Duke Nukem Forever is actually going to come out, does this mean we still have a chance at getting Mother 3? and 7th Dragon? and Secret of Mana 2?

2. SaGa 3 remake, will it be handled by Kawazu, so he can Kawazu it up?

3. If someone were to make a Halo RPG, who would you want to make it, and what should it be like?

4. If you had to choice for Atlus to release Persona 2 (both parts) on PSP or Persona 4 on PSP (Persona 3 Portable style), which would you choose?

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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