|This Week, Are You
Sick of Me Talking About Tales Yet?
|October 20th, 2010
10/20 - 12:00PM EST
Alright I'm skipping my usual start because you're probably sick
of me welcoming you. Unless this is the first episode you're reading,
in which case, welcome! Anyway, this week we've got some questions
about, well you'll see it's the first letter. We'll also be talking
Square-Enix, Tales, and Kawazu! Some of my favorite topics. I also just
got Fallout: New Vegas which
is cool so far. Still plenty of great RPGs to come this year, including
Oath in Felghana!
This e-mail is to inform you that management has completed your annual
performance review. We realize that this can be a stressful time
of year and we thank you for your cooperation.
Well yeah of course it's a stressful time, I mean it's my first
performance review! Wait a second...... who is this?
We are happy to report that overall you scored adequately as our new
answerer of questions. That said, there are a few issues we would
like to bring to your attention so that you might improve your
Alright this is starting off on a good note, let's see where this is
going. I do like the idea of changing my official title to "Answerer of
Questions". Has a certain ring to it.
First of all is the issue of favoritism. You seem to have a sort
of hero-worship complex with this "Kawazu" fellow. While we do
not discourage your enjoyment of this obscure developer, perhaps you
could give your thoughts on other decidedly "different" game designers
as well, such as Gochi Suda, or Peter Molyneux?
While Suda is certainly a crazy developer, is Peter Molyneux honestly a
"different" developer? Certainly he knows how to talk the talk, making
all kinds of crazy statements about what his games will be. However, I
don't think any of his games have exactly delivered on these promises.
Certainly they've all been fantastic games, I love both Fable and Black and White, but by and large,
they do not break all that far from the mold of western game design.
I'd be happy to talk more Fable though!
We also regret to note that you do not often cover games with billions
of screaming fangirls. we realize that you may find screaming
fangirls amazingly annoying, but they represent a large portion of our
annual revenues. Bearing this in mind, perhaps you could appease
that demographic by bringing up the game with the most screaming
fangirls, Kingdom Hearts?
You know, I planned on responding to this by saying of course I've
talked about Kingdom Hearts,
but the more I think about it, I really haven't. I enjoy the series,
despite how convoluted the mythos is getting, the series has
really delivered several fantastic Action RPGs. Maybe I'll get some
letters after this, possibly from screaming girls?
Finally, we have noticed that you have a tendency to run letters by
unsavory characters, namely someone going by the alias "Beat". It
is management's policy to allow you to pick your own letters, but the
contents of his correspondence seems upsettingly focused on mudslinging
political campaigns, getting mauled to death by the monster of black
river trail, and amazingly bad poetry. We hope that you will show
more digression in the future.
Thank you very much for your time,
Benjamin Edwards Addison-Taivs.
Partner, Q&A reviews LTD.
You don't want me to answer your letters anymore Beat? I'm afraid I
can't do that. It's too much fun!
Q&A has had so many different hosts... How many have there been? I
don't even remember who was doing it last time I wrote it. Either way,
kudos. You're doing a fine job Wheels.
Now I shall tackle every hot topic! Y'know... The questions. Not the
1. Squeenix/Mana - I didn't
really play a lot of the Mana
the couple that I did play (Secret
and Legend I think) were
and I think it'd be beneficial to see the series come back on the PS3
or 360 (no love for the Wii). Though, given the history of all
Square-Enix owned properties, I think they would be better off focusing
on a third Chrono
installment. Perhaps a direct sequel to the first?
Surely I'm not the only one that would like to travel through time on
Yes, there certainly have been a
ton of hosts! However that's neither here nor there.
Well you're already in my good graces
because you enjoyed the Kawazu Mana
game! Anyway, I think the series could still have some sway if they
could just make a good co-op Action RPG that reminds people of Secret of Mana. Dawn of Mana showed what the series
could look like with higher-res graphics, but it certainly did not
deliver in the gameplay department. Perhaps rather than spending a ton
on development though, maybe they could make a downloadable game that
plays similar to the old games as a way to test if there's still some
interest in the series. Then again, perhaps that's what they're doing
with the iPhone version of Secret of
Mana. We shall see!
I agree that there are certainly many who
want to see a new Chrono game,
at this point I don't know if a direct sequel would be the best
route. Regardless, a new time traveling RPG would certainly get
people's attention, and as we can see with the success of Chrono Trigger on the DS, there is
some interest. I can assure you that you and I are not the only ones
who want some time traveling times on our 360/PS3 etc.
2. SaGa - Lately it seems
Square-Enix can't make a decent RPG unless
they're remaking it... Even then it can sometimes be a little awkward
(like the lack of changes in the Chrono
Trigger "remake"). Granted I've
never played the Romancing SaGa
titles, but just taking into account
the stuff Squeenix has been doing lately makes me think they should
stick to remakes until they get a new game plan (pun intended with
severity). That said, are there any non-FF titles you'd like to see
I disagree with you here, I think many of their new RPGs have been
quite fantastic, and aped many of their old games. I'd take Final Fantasy XII and Final Fantasy XIII over just about
any classic Final Fantasy game,
maybe V or VI. The problem, as I see it, is
that this gen, like more of Japan, a lot of their efforts have gone
into portable games, where you will find many fantastic and original
titles from them. Most of their bad High-Def RPGs are in fact Tri-Ace
games. Last Remnant is the
exception of course, but if you play the PC version, which is not
marred by technical issues, you'll find a damn fine RPG. We're
going to disagree widely on Final
Fantasy XIII, but I'll save comments on that for the next
section. I'd like to see some new stuff from the SaGa series, but the DS remakes
certainly give more people in Japan a chance to check out the series.
It's a huge shame we'll probably not get either. I think continuing
along the process of remaking the Final
series, portable or otherwise is a good
and gives fans plenty of different takes on the series. However, other
than Secret of Mana, I'd
really rather see Square-Enix do more quirky titles that are kind of
"faux" 8 and 16 bit rpgs with modern graphics like 4 Heroes of Light. I really can't
recommend it to people enough (to those that love the 8-bit Final Fantasies anyway).
As far as Chrono Trigger DS,
did they advertise it as a remake? I think most people just wanted the
original game in some form. Chances are they wanted to be careful and
see if the series could still sell as well. I think most fans are happy
with the DS version regardless.
3. FFXIII - I absolutely
hated everything about the thirteenth Final
Fantasy and it looks like the fourteenth is going to be just as
not worse. The gameplay, story, characters, battle system, and
especially the music was dreadful to me. If I were Square I would've
abandoned the Fabula Nova Crystallis
project as soon as XIII was
playable. It was like they looked at a tunnel and said "let's make that
our story, and the only fun along the way will be a bunch of optional
bosses near the end". I don't know what's happened to Squeenix lately,
but I have given up on them as a company. Back in the 90's you could
play a non-Square game (or Enix) and feel like you weren't playing the
best... Playing through FFXIII
I just felt bad because I knew there
were better games that deserved my attention. Does that make any sense?
You ever feel that way?
Well I couldn't disagree with you more. I thought the battle system was
the finest the series has seen. It was no more linear than many games
in the series, and I thought the characters were great. It has to have
the best localization I've ever seen. The music isn't as memorable in
many instances, and more atmospheric, but they don't have Uematsu
anymore, so you're just going to have to deal with some growing pains
trying to find out who's going to compose the series from now on. I'm
not going to say more, because we aren't going to agree. I'd say don't
ignore the other FFXIII games
though, as I'm going to bet you'll find something to enjoy there, be it
or Versus. As far as FFXIV though, what does that have
to do with anything? It's done by MMO people, who aren't going to work
on the single player series, and it being bad doesn't mean anything
about future FF games
developed by completely different teams. This is the Final Fantasy series, every
changing and morphing, and there's no way fans
are going to love every game in the series. Ignore XIV and wait for news on XV.
I have felt that way in the past by the way, playing Cross Edge, which I wanted to try
and enjoy because I wasted money on the thing!
4. Persona - I can't comment
on the Persona series. Not my
5. Tales - You know what
would be amazing for the Tales
established a number of really different battle systems in their games
and for the most part they are all enjoyable... I've always wanted to
see an rpg with the ability to change it's battle system based on what
the player prefers. If you want more of a real-time action kinda game
(like an MMO or even to go so far as something more akin to Zelda), or
something more traditional like Tales
Phantasia/Symphonia/FF/etc... The Tales
games would be perfect to make that innovation because their
traditional battles are very action-oriented... Perhaps I want too
much, but it always seems to me like you can't please everyone unless
you give them options and that is one option no one has ever given the
player... How would you like your battles to play in this game?
4. Play Persona!
5. I think this would be a really cool idea for the Tales series, I'm just not sure how
feasible it would be. I agree though, that would be a great idea for
the Tales series or any RPG
really. I'd love to see a developer experimenting with the idea of
allowing you to play its battles in multiple ways. The closest I think
I've seen to this is in some Final
Fantasy games, and Chrono
Trigger, where you could choice to have battle continue in real
time while you choose your actions, or have it pause. That's mostly a
minor thing though, and I'd love to see a developer take it to a new
level. Imagine a Tales game where you could switch between a 3D Battles
System, 2D Tales of Hearts
style system, and some kind of turn-based system similar to Arc Rise Fantasia. That would be a
very interesting experiment.
Now for my question. What's new with the Suikoden series? Is there any
hope for Suikoden 6 or should
I stop eagerly awaiting the next
installment after being blown away by 1,
4, 5, (and even Tactics)?
(spelling?), was it worth picking up?
Keep on rockin' in Midgar,
Always keep the hope for a Suikoden
VI! I mean, they made 7 games now (that came out here anyway),
so people must be buying them. I think the DS game was an attempt to
make the series reach a wider audience. I don't think it can though,
and I hope they find away to make some low budget (don't take that term
in the wrong way, I just mean it isn't realistic to do an HD Suikoden, maybe one on Wii, or
3DS?). I recommend the DS game though, it's not really a true Suikoden game (no duels or army to
army battle), but as a Suikoden themed
it does just fine.
Anyway, write in again!
You really think that the Tales
series is in decline? Well, if you're
talking about in the North American and European markets, where a Tales
game hasn't been released in more than 2 years now, then I see your
point. As for the Japanese market however, it seems to be going really
strong still. So I pondered about why that is so, and what I would do
if I were in charge of Namco, as per hot topic #5.
Well I don't think the Tales series
has ever been big enough in the West to actually have a decline, so no,
I did mean Japan. If you look at the sales numbers for some of the
recent games, it's interesting to see that the main series DS titles
each sold under 200k, which is not great for mothership titles,
especially considering they probably spent a ton of money making two
different versions of Tales of Hearts.
Graces obviously didn't sell that well, likely due to word of
mouth about all the bugs. Tales of
Vesperia on PS3 sold great though, and Radiant Mythology 2 made "the best"
line, so I guess I was too quick to judge the series as "in decline".
Saying it's in a bit of a rut would likely be more accurate.
Not surprisingly, the answer I first came to was "Localize more of the
games!" But of course it couldn't be that simple, or else they would
have been doing it. When I look at the Tales series' media in Japan, it
seems to me to be very fan-oriented. In particular, the voice actors
and the characters whom they portray are always given chances to shine
for and entertain the fans, even outside of the games. Go on YouTube
and try searches for topics like "Viva Tales of," "Tales drama DVD,"
"Tales seiyuu chat," or "Tales Festival," and watch some of the videos
that come up (well, you don't HAVE to do this right now, but I was
hoping that you could post this letter and encourage others to do so).
I would also add that the characters of the Tales games in particular
are easy to fall in love with, especially with the skits in the games
where you almost constantly see the characters interact and show off
their respective personalities. It's little wonder that the fans fall
in love with them easily, and Namco knows that, which is why these fun
little DVDs are released and even entire fan festivals arranged for the
fans to enjoy the characters from different games converse with each
other. I even think that's the biggest reason why the Radiant Mythology
games are so popular in Japan: they give players the change to REALLY
play with all the characters from their favorite games, and watch them
all meet each other, interacting with each other while staying true to
their own personalities, which makes a lot of fan-wanted meetings and
conversations happen. I think this love for the characters is part of
what keeps the series' popularity alive and well, in Japan at least.
I think you've really hit on one of
the reasons people really like this series, even over here. The
characters are always good, even when the main story in some of the
games isn't a drawing point. You can see it in the small Tales
community in the west, lots of character discussion, fan art, etc.
Based on the success of things like Dissidia:
Fantasy, and the success of NIS America's cross over
releases like Cross Edge and Trinity Universe, I think there's a
niche audience for these types of games. So if there ever comes a time
where the Tales series is really popular here, I think these kinds of
things will become more popular here. It's too bad the only fan game in
the series we got is the awful Radiant
Mythology, because its sequel is much better.
So once again, I wonder why this isn't true here in North America and
Europe too. You don't see North Americans and Europeans enjoying these
DVDs or attending Tales-centric festivals and conventions (I personally
would SO go to one, if we had them that is). Now if I were in charge of
Namco, I would probably try to GET Americans and Europeans to see just
how lovable this series is. Maybe I would release these DVDs here too
with copies of the games as pre-order bonuses, which is how a lot of
them were moved in Japan. In addition, I would want to introduce the
other Tales media out there.
Yes, Tales is not JUST a
game series in
Japan; there are loads of Tales
manga, drama CD sequels to the games,
and even some anime. I would try localizing more of those too, even
keeping the voice actors consistent for the characters across the
different media, which is extra-pleasing to fans. The way I see it, if
you can't seem to build a Tales audience with the games alone, try
reaching the fans of other media, like those who enjoy manga and anime.
I think you're on to something here.
If you look at the popularity of things like Bleach and Naruto, the games appear to sell
quite well regardless of whether they're good or not. Though there
obviously aren't anime series for every game in the Tales series, if they can get one
or more of the existing ones to be popular here, I think that will
help with the sales of the games themselves.
Whew, I guess that was a pretty long-winded explanation of what is
actually a simple idea. I apologize for that, but I guess I just get
too passionate when it comes to Tales.
It's alright! I love questions like
this because I love talking about this series. I may often be negative
about the chances of the series here, but I want to see it successful.
I don't think it was too long-winded though, lot's of good points on
At least I do have a question of sorts. Given the topic, what do you
think are the chances that Namco will localize the 3DS version of Tales
of the Abyss? I recall that when they announced the localization
of the Phantasia OVA,
they also announced the localization of the GBA game
too, and we got both shortly afterward. Now they recently announced
that they will bring over the Abyss anime
AND Abyss gets
announced for the 3DS a bit later. How possible do you think we will
get both this time too? Again, if I were in charge of Namco, I would
think that it would be a perfect cross-media opportunity to release
both of these here at the same time and spark interest in the series,
especially if they do it early in the 3DS's life where everyone would
be talking about it, with Tales of
the Abyss being the system's launch
RPG. What do you think about that?
I think you're on to something and I
really hope that you're correct. I'm not sure thinking about it that
the timing would be right. The anime is already being dubbed as we
speak, and I'm not sure the 3DS version of Abyss will be ready by the time
the anime is ready, unless they hold it back, or unless they're
releasing it in several volumes over time. However, it certainly could
work, and I don't think there's any reason for them not to give Abyss 3DS a try over here when the
localization is done, there probably won't be anything extra to
translate, and there likely won't be many RPGs early on for the system.
Seems like a great opportunity for them, and I hope it happens. At the
very least, it will be great to have the Abyss anime. I wonder if they'll
get the cast from the game?
Anyway, it's been too long FirstAid! Keep writing in! I thought for
awhile I scared you off after our discussion about Japanese voice
Oh the Times, they are a Kawazuing
You're very vocal about your love of all things Kawazu, and some might
call you Kawazy. I've played a lot of his games but I cannot say that
I've ever actually -enjoyed- any of them (excluding Final Fantasy
Legend 2). You see, I refuse to believe that he's a bad game
in the same way that I refuse to believe that Suda51 is a bad game
designer--because they continually perpetuate the same 'mistakes' over
and over again. What I've gathered about him as a developer is that
he's got some really interesting, and unorthodox ideas, but when it
comes down to implementation and execution they are severely lacking in
polish and accessibility. Game systems are overly obtuse, oftentimes
opaque, and they often don't "work" alongside each other very well.
While his games have been met with modest success in Japan, he has a
hard time reaching global success.
They certainly aren't what you would call blockbusters, even though the
gameboy games did just fine in both Japan and the US. That's fine
though, it's clear Kawazu's games are budgeted with this in mind, often
with more artistic and less technical engines driving the gameplay. In
more recent days, most of his work has been showing up on the DS. So in
short, you're right, they probably will always have a hard time
reaching global success, but then they're designed with modest success
in mind. I think SaGa 2 DS
could have been a good hit in the US though, given the nice 3D look.
Having said that, do you feel that the ingredients missing in Kawazu
games are polish and accessibility? Do you think that Japan more
of a tolerance for this approach to design? Or do you feel like it's
sort of a trademark of his, and that it's what makes his game's so
I would mostly agree with these assessments to an extent. Often his
game systems are not fully explained, and the player needs to figure
out a lot of things on their own. Just look at the original SaGa games,
there's a bunch of abilities your mutants get that don't appear to do
anything. I don't think this is necessarily a bad thing though. While I
can't blame anyone for being annoyed that a game doesn't tell them
exactly how to play it, especially considering how games are made
today, but I think it really is part of the charm. The SaGa series is all about figuring
out things on your own, how to unlock new abilities, what weapons work
best, where to go next, etc. I'd say many Kawazu games are more akin to
old PC RPGs than they are to newer console ones. Many of these classic
RPGs forced the player to explore the world and figure out what they
need to do on their own. I think there's a place for both hand-holding
games and more hands off games, and people are way too hard on this
aspect of many Kawazu games. Besides, his more action oriented games
are anything but inaccessible.
As far as unpolished? I don't know how much I can agree with that.
Certainly many of the early SaGa
games were rough around the edges, but that was common for the time.
I'd say the impression of some of his games being "unpolished" is more
regarding the graphics, and not the actual gameplay mechanics. I think
it's clear he doesn't always get the biggest budget to work with, and
that suits his quirky titles just fine.
The sum of it is I don't blame anyone for not like his games, given the
learning curve, but I don't like it when they're called bead because of
that. The crazy and out of the box systems are what make Kawazu games
Thanks for writing in, look forward to hearing from you again!
That's all for this week. Remember you've got until 12:00 a.m. Eastern
Time to get a letter or tweet in to get into the contest. I'll be
naming the winner next Wednesday. Also, old Wheels will be taking some
time off in the coming holiday season, but rather than not run a column
those weeks, I decided that you, the readers will basically get to
write the column! So, send me in an answer for one of these special
columns, and be sure to mark it as such so I don't go responding to it
in the column. You can use whatever you want for the question,
something from the forums, one of my hot topics, something off the top
of your head, anything! I'll be using the best of these for these
special columns. Anyway, see you next time!
September 22nd: Wheels
September 29th: Wheels
October 6th: Wheels
October 13th: Wheels
About the Host
What I can't wait for:
1. Ys: Oath in Felghana for PSP
2. Tales of Graces F
3. SaGa 3 DS
4. Disgaea 4
On my Playlist:
1. Oath in Felghana Soundtrack
2. Final Fantasy XIII Soundtrack
3. Etrian Odyssey 3 Arranged Soundtrack
1. Should Square-Enix take another shot at reviving
the Mana series?
2. The Final Fantasy series is ever changing and evovling, but do you
think it's time for another main series game like Final Fantasy IX,
that pays homage to the past?
3. If a Final Fantasy XIII-2 is made, what changes to the battle system
should be made?
4. Guys Square-Enix isn't in decline, and their newer games aren't bad.
You need to seperate your dislike of the newer gmaes and objectively
realize that most of them are quite good. You're giving Wheels a
headache. Dragon Quest IX is amazing. SaGa 2 DS is amazing. There's
plenty of good stuff to come from the company! OK I just defended you
Square-Enix, now get FFXIV into shape!
5. A trend I've been seeing in a lot of the RPGs I've been enjoying of
late is not using MP, though it still has it's place in many games, not
having to manage it can be quite enjoyable. Do you think this should
show up in more RPGs, or should it only be used when the game is
carefully designed not to use MP?