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Q&A Abridged
October 14th, 2011

10/14- 12:00PM EST

Hey All! It has been a crazy week for me, so this week's Q&A will be a short one. I'm also working on a review of the Guardian Heroes re-release, so keep an eye out for that.

On to the questions...

The Letters
Shining Ys

Wheels, I would like to answer some of your burning queries (or "hot topics" if you will):

2. How do you think XSEED was able to succeed with Falcom games where others failed?

I think the quality of the games XSEED released, the time in which they released them, and the platform they released them on worked to their advantage more than other Falcom games released in the past. By 2010, what RPGs (action or otherwise) were really coming out for the PSP? I mean you had the excellent Persona 3 Portable in July, but as far as I can remember the platform was hurting for quality games period. Both Ys Seven and Ys: Oath in Felghana were very good action RPGs that worked well on the PSP, and they reviewed well and got a decent amount of pickup in the press (props to XSEED for that one - there were localization blogs and lots of interviews with XSEED employees, and the games were talked about on various podcasts around the time of release as well). Yes, Ys Seven could be pretty chatty at times, but what was there was localized well, which always helps. Ys I&II Chronicles is (from what I've read anyway, I've only played this version) probably the best version of the first two games in existence yet. And Oath in Felghana is excellent from top to bottom.


This is a great point, there wasn't that much to be excited about for the PSP other than a few Atlus and Square Enix releases, and then XSEED came along and changed all that. Of course the quality of the titles absolutely had to do with their success. I wonder if perhaps the small, but loyal group of Falcom fans out there also played some part in helping spread the word about these games. They certainly made me interested in anything Falcom produces from now on. It seems like even Falcom is pleased with the partnership, so I expect even more Falcom goodness in the future from XSEED. I just wish people had the chance to play Oath in Felghana on PC, as I think it plays even better than the PC version. As for Ys Seven, who cares if it's chatty? The combat is amazing.

But all of this is magnified when compared to Falcom releases in the past. The first two Ys games were released on the Turbografx/PC-Engine, which sold awfully in America. The third game was on SNES and Genesis, but wasn't much like the other Ys games (and wasn't very good, either, in my opinion). Then the next several games were published (and in the case of Ys IV, developed) by many different people for a variety of systems, but most were never released in America, so the brand languished for another bunch of years until Ys VI came out in 2005, which seemed a bit late to release a PS2 game at the time. Personally, I had no idea there even was an Ys PS2 game until I got into the Felghana on PSP, so I'm inclined to think none of these games were marketed very well.


Another fair point, the Falcom releases in the past have been pretty spotty, and were often lackluster ports of Falcom's originals to other platforms. I think the fact that we're finally getting the actual Falcom versions for once also plays a big part. Did you know the three different versions of Ys III that were released in the US were all developed by different companies, and play differently (and are all terrible)? I think it's safe to say Falcom's original versions are usually the best, and now we're getting that. I think it's safe to say Ys VI wasn't marketed all that well, but it also had a questionable localization which probably turned some people off. Let's not even get into the awful load times of the PSP version...

As for the rest of their games in the 90s, they were released on platforms with very small install bases, such as the Sega CD (Popful Mail), N-Gage (Xanadu Next), or were only released in Japan. So by 2010, who had heard of Nihon Falcom? No one but the hardest of hardcore. But I really do think the state of the PSP market in 2009 and 2010 worked to XSEEDs advantage, because PSP owners such as myself were starving for some quality content, and then Ys showed up.


That's a fair point, but the Lunar games also first appeared on Sega CD, and seemed to be legendary enough that the eventual PS1 ports sold quite well (apparently they could have been made "greatest hits" titles, but Working Designs refused). Anyway, finer points aside, it absolutely was the perfect time for XSEED to release these games, and I'm glad it has worked out for them. I think now instead of being starved for PSP content, we're starved for more Falcom content!

3. What long dormant RPG series do you want to see make a return?

SHINING FORCE. No, not the dumb recent releases like EXA or Shining Tears or whatever. The classic Genesis/Sega CD/Saturn strategy games where you moved a party of ~12 people around on a battlefield much like Fire Emblem or Advance Wars. I always thought they were great "strategy-lite" (meaning not stupidly difficult or grindy like Tactics Ogre or yes, even Final Fantasy Tactics) titles where you don't have to worry about stupid things like battlefield height or which way characters are facing. It's like this: your archer guy can attack either 2 or 3 squares away depending on his weapon, your sword guy can attack right next to him, they all can move X, Y, or Z spaces from their current spot, and your goal is to destroy all the enemies or the boss. The games would throw different challenges at you though, such as zombies appearing halfway through the battle, pieces of the map grid falling into a giant pit, or enemies who can attack in any cardinal direction from where they sit across the whole map (the Prism Flowers are very memorable to those of us who played through Shining Force II). The stories were barebones anime cliches, but that was fine because you played the game really to level up your guys and find your own way to beat the battles.


I couldn't agree with this more, as I'm sure you can tell with how often I take the opportunity to talk about Shining Force. The games were so easy to play, but also required a good amount of critical thinking, especially on tougher difficulties. I think this is why SRPGs are such a niche genre these days. Your average gamer isn't interesting in playing something so complex. The problem is, outside of the Valkyria Chronicles team, I'm not sure I trust anyone at Sega to make another good Shining Force SRPG.

I guess what I'm saying is I really like the core gameplay of strategy RPGs, but cannot stand the micromanaging that seems to exist in so many of them. The Shining Force series really struck a great balance of gameplay and micromanagement.

I hope my answers to your fiery subjects were sufficient. Keep up the good work!



Well I do love that micromanaging, but I'd gladly pass it up for more Shining Force! Here's hope the series will come back some day.

Anyway, thanks for the great questions...err answers!

Know Your Role

Dear Wheels,

With all due respect, I must at this point disagree with a statement you responded to on your last "ask wheels" segment. The letter writer matter-of-factly stated that "the term RPG is a misnomer".
No, the term is NOT a misnomer. The term is a direct, relevant link to the genre which the RPG started from- something you, as a staff member of RPGamer, should already be aware of. Games like Dungeons and Dragons, for instance- the pen-and-paper "role playing game". These games formed the foundation for how we view RPGs today. Indeed, D+D's system of experience, random battles, turn based combat... these things are the DIRECT predecessor to today's RPG systems, no matter how gussied up. The Final Fantasies, the Dragon Warriors, the Chrono Triggers- everything you see today on console or PC owes its very existence to these early multiplayer-driven experiences.


This is a fair point, I shouldn't have let the argument just go past without much comment. Whatever the literal meaning of "role-playing", the term RPG in video terms refers to very specific types of games. I apologize for not making this exact point.

To say "every game is an RPG" just because you "play a role" is as grossly inaccurate as calling Quake a platformer just because there are platforms you jump on from time to time.
You can't simply take a single line and make an across the board declaration of a genre based upon that. The RPG isn't just a game where you "play a role", it is a genre with its own checkered history, its own gameplay design accomplishments... its own roots.
THAT is where the name comes from- the name comes from the genre's ROOTS, and gamers new and old would do well to remember those roots.



This is absolutely correct. This would be like saying every game is a platformer because they all contain some kind of "platform" or something like this. The literal meaning of these terms may not mach up with exactly what the games are, but they are the terms that have become common place to describe very specific genres of games. Again, I apologize for letting the point slide past last week! Thanks for correcting me.

That's it for this episode!

See you all next week, where someone has answered my challenge to combine Eastern and Western RPG franchises.


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Hot Topics:

1. Will Dark Souls continue to raise FROM Software's profile, or will they fade back to niche status?

2. How do you think XSEED was able to succeed with Falcom games where others failed?

3. What long dormant RPG series do you want to see make a return?

4. What PS2 RPGs do you want to see get an HD update?

5. Borderlands somehow merged Diablo and first person shooters to make an incredible game, what can the sequel do to improve on the first?

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