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ASK WHEELS
Dawn of Q&A
October 28th, 2011

10/28- 12:00PM EST

Welcome to another edition of Q&A! This week I finally finished off Persona 3 Portable, which was quite the haul (because I stupidly played it on hard). Didn't care much for the ending, but there's no doubt this game is fantastic. Looking forward to playing Persona 4!

On to the letters!





The Letters
Secret of Mana Part Deux

Wheels,

Long time reader, first time writer. I'm not sure if I really have any questions rather than comments. I'm a long time rpg fan. Ironically enough, my grandmother had an eclectic collection of NES games and one of them was dragon warrior. I played it as a kid and was intrigued. I never knew its significance till later in life though. Anyway, my first memorable rpg experience was FF3 (or FF6 if it fancies you). After that I was hooked. I essentially played any rpg I could get my hands on. I have a very respectable collection of Super NES and PS1 rpgs (as well as later generation rpgs) that I am proud of. I mean I was 13 when FF7 came out. If was fantastic at that age and time. I could go on and on about rpgs but I'd like to get to my favorites and get your opinion on them (and if you think there's a remote chance of sequels/remakes).


Wheels

Welcome! Always glad to see new people write in.

I had a similar start with Dragon Warrior (many of us did), but I really got hooked with Gameboy RPGs like Final Fantasy Legend, and earlier SNES games like Final Fantasy IV. Though FFVI was huge for me, and is still one of my favorite games of all time. Sounds like we had a very similar route into console RPGs. Anyway let's hear your favorites!

If I had to list my 5 favorite RPGs they would be in this order:

1.) Secret of Mana
2.) Lunar: Silver Star Story
3.) Lunar: Eternal Blue
4.) FFIX
5.) Chrono Trigger/Xenogears



Wheels

Interesting, I did not expect Final Fantasy IX to be the only representative of the series in your list (no FFVI?), but I can't really argue with Secret of Mana. Such a classic game, and one I can always go back to. We'll get back to that though. I've always admired the Lunar games, but for some reason have had a hard time getting into them. I don't know why that is! Chrono Trigger we all know about, but Xenogears? Not a huge fan. Still, really good list.

Now I know you have discussed Chrono Trigger and Xenogears in depth so I'm going to stay away from those. Well, except to say that they are awesome but I'm more of a mid-evil kind of rpg fan. That's why they are lower on my list. With that said lets get to my all-time favorite game: Secret of Mana.


Wheels

Yes, let's! Secret of Mana is an odd game. Its a very slow-paced action RPG, almost to the point of being semi-turn-based, which sounds like a recipe for disaster. It worked though, and the multi-player and brilliant music helped make an incredibly memorable experience. I'd be curious to see if people enjoy it as much if they hadn't played it back in the day.

I have played and beat that game at least 10 times. My brother and I play it at least once every year. We've beat it on my Super and on the Wii. I haven't played it on the iPhone though. Anyway, it is everything I've ever wanted in an rpg. You get to be some nobody who gets placed into an extraordinary situation with a couple of friends and get to save the world. You get all sorts of magic, you can level up as much or as little as you want and the gameplay is perfect. You get to play with at least one of your friends and the multiplayer works great (minus the item/magic wheels). The game doesn't take itself too seriously but it is fun and exciting to play. Plus the music in the game is pretty much insane and awesome. So I guess my question to you is do you think that one, will we ever get a remake; two, will we ever get secret of mana 2 (or the Japanese name I have never been able to pronounce 3) in the US on a virtual console; or three, will we ever get a new mana game that is actually a Mana game that resembles the excellence of Secret of Mana???


Wheels

As great as the game was, there's one thing it never seemed to be that good at: selling. I don't think it was a huge hit in Japan or the US, and obviously the latter games didn't exactly revive the series in that regard. However, they obviously took the time to port it to the iPhone, so re-releases of the game must be selling well enough. I'm not sure a remake is going to happen, but if the iPhone release sells a ton we may finally see an official release of its sequel outside of Japan. That would be a much less risky move for them than trying to do new games like they did with the whole World of Mana disaster. I wouldn't count on it, but you never know! In that regard don't expect any new Mana games in the foreseeable future.

And after that brings me to the Lunar series. I love it. It is arguably the perfect rpg (for me at least). I love the mid-evil feel. There are two things I want to play a rpg for: the story and the next bad-ass sword I get at the next town. That's it. I could really care less about graphics, customization, seeing that my character is wearing whatever I've equipped during a random cutscene. Don't get me wrong, that is cool, but it doesn't really make or break the game for me. I love a linear story where I get to know the outcomes of the characters I have taken control of. I make enough decisions in reality that I don't need a game to make me make a decision so I can second guess it later; I do that enough day to day. Tell me a story with a game and let me play it out like a novel. That's why I love the lunar series. It's got dragons, swords, villains and heroes that you can love and in some cases connect with. It even has comic relief. It is the perfect rpg. So I ask once again, what as the chances of a sequel? I know it's ultra slim to none, but there has to be a market for it. Or at least I would hope so. It would make an old school rpg fan happy. I'm tired of all this open world BS.


Wheels

As popular as open world and customization heavy RPGs like Diablo and Oblivion are, I think there is still a large fanbase for games like Lunar, that are just good fun fantasy. The Lunar games were quite popular in their own right, despite being from the niche publisher Working Designs, and sold well enough to  have been re-released as greatest hits titles had Working Designs wanted to. The problem? Titles similar to this, such as the fantastic Trails in the Sky, are on the wrong platforms to succeed in the US. People like linear fun stories, just look at the success of Call of Duty, so I absolutely think there is a market out there for this kind of RPG. Since such games are likely limited to Japanese developers, they're our only chance for this kind of game.

As far as a sequel to the Lunar series goes, I have no idea why it hasn't happened yet. People are sick of them remaking the original two already, and I think there's still a huge fanbase for a sequel. If they make a PS3 sequel with a modest budget, they could have a decent hit worldwide. What is Game Arts even working on these days?

And for fun, try and connect Secret of Mana to Brad Paisley.
Thanks for your time. Hope I didn't bore the crap out of you!!!

Dave A.


Wheels

You'll be shocked how easy this is! Brad Paisley is signed to Arista Nashville -> Sony owns Arista Nashville -> Sony subsidiary Columbia Pictures distributed Final Fantasy Spirits Within -> Square-Enix owns the Final Fantasy franchise -> Square-Enix published (as Squaresoft obviously) Secret of Mana.

Thanks for the letter, you did quite the opposite of boring me!

Awful

Dear Wheels,

I read your most recent column and was absolutely disgusted when I saw what you had to say about the Star Wars prequels. Awful? AWFUL????? Sir, those prequels were not awful! No, the word awful simply does not do justice to how bad those movies were. Do better next time!


Wheels

Ha! I mean, I enjoyed the films to some extent, they had good action, but that's about it. The concept is good, but it was poorly developed, and Anakin never becomes a likeable character. I wonder if Lucas is too focused on the special effects. I have this strange feeling that if he used the same limited technology as in the original trilogy things would have been much different. Regardless, if the original movies weren't so amazing we'd probably have a softer opinion on the prequels.

Also if you have your SNES hooked up still I'm fairly sure I still have Lufia 1, just borrow my copy.

Print this.

- Kyle


Wheels

Alright, alright, I'll play your Lufia! This better be good. You've been talking up Lufia for years, a decade even!

The Challenge

Hey Poppa Wheelie!

Sorry to take so long getting back to you.  Life's been crazy lately.  You know how it is.  It was nice to see FriendOfAgnes take on our personal challenge, though.


Wheels

It was! I can say his idea was quite fresh, I certainly didn't expect a paring of indie RPGs. Anyway, no worries, since I've been so terrible about getting you questions for your column, I can't complain!

I have to admit, I've been struggling with it, though. I'm stubborn in that I try to stick with my first choices in the matter. When you asked for a East-meets-West mashup, my first thought for a Western style RPG was Diablo. Unfortunately, my first thought for a Japanese RPG was, for some bizarre reason, Community Pom. For a couple of weeks now I've been worrying at this match-up in my head, trying to find some way of reconciling the bloody mayhem of Diablo with ComPom's near-carcinogenic levels of saccharine cuteness. There was a demon lord breaking into ComPom in order to steal a powerful source of magic and corrupt the Poms into Mooms, only to find that the magic was also the source of that game world's unrelenting cuteness. About the time I envisioned a cute and chibified Diablo was the time I decided I needed to have a lie-down.


Wheels

Hey you could just make a super cute Diablo style game, where the cute characters rip each other to shreds! That might be a bit disturbing though. I mean, at least you didn't think of mixing Diablo and Rocket Slime. That would be a strange combo. Actually I kind of want to play that...

Atelier Totori has had a solid hold on my time for the last two weeks though. So how about a World of Warcraft expansion developed by Gust? I think it would work fairly well. Young alchemists would be taking quests to find rare and unusual reagents for high-ranking members of the Academy, or making simpler items for the common folk. Exploration would be a major focus, providing lots of nooks and crannies to search for ingredients. And then there are the bombs... oh the bombs... This could be fun.


Wheels

That would actually be fantastic, and I think the colorful styles of the two games would mix together quite well. It would almost serve as an extension to people playing other parts of the game, sending requests to those playing the Gust expansion, creating a dynamic quest system. I could see this not being completely out of the realm of possibility(though I doubt Gust would be involved). If Gust is ever involved in an MMO they should do something like this! It could provide endless Atelier fun.

Anyhoo, it's getting late and I need to get some sleep. Sorry it took so long to write this in.

Your fellow columnist,
Gaijinmonogatari


Wheels

No worries, always glad to hear your interesting ideas!


So many Daniels

Well, you asked for it. Other Daniel X – The Movie

Considering the history of games turned into movies, you will not be surprised the soundtrack is going to suck a little as well. But hey... You asked for it.

We will start with Other Daniel waking up to
Blink 182 – All the Small Things


Wheels

Fantastic choice. That is like the essential example of late 90s/early 2000s pop-punk. Personally I would have gone for "What's My Age Again?" but that's just me. I guess you're a child of the 90s as well?

The first battle will feature the song
The Monstars' Anthem – Hit 'em High

But it is not yet the end. A final showdown between the two will come at a later time.
Perhaps a dream sequence with
The Real McCoy – Another Night

A later battle with some mid boss will be accompanied by
Snap – Exterminate

Haunted by his ordeal, Other Daniel refuses help from his close friends, and as you see the look on their faces as Other Daniel walks away, which then fades into a scene of him looking over the river from the docks, we hear
Alice Deejay – Better off Alone

But as he finds out he needs friends to survive, we see a triumphant return with
K's Choice – Believe

Before the end battle between the two Daniels, Daniel is hiding from Other Daniel and we hear
The Fugees – Ready or Not

The final showdown between the two Daniels will be fought while we listen to
Foo Fighters – Everlong

In a surprising twist nearing the end, Daniel and Other Daniel join forces to fight something even greater than them, and we have
Scooter – Friends

This fight will be accompanied by
2Unlimited – Twilight Zone

And will end in slow motion with
Robert Miles – Children

As they brush off their wounds from this terrible battle, we hear
Pearl Jam – Alive

And as they walk away from defeating the nightmare, we hear
Dune – Hand in Hand and
Scooter – Friends
(possibly a mix version of the two songs)


Wheels

Lots of interesting choices here, some of which I've never even heard of! Perfect choice for your Foo Fighters selection. That would be the perfect song for an epic battle. I'm actually surprised that it hasn't been used in a lot of movies, its just such a great song. A bit of a stereotypical Pearl Jam pick, but its a great song, so who cares? What I like most about this list is that it avoids a lot of the overplayed bands and songs from the 90s such as Nirvana (great band but can't use their music every time someone suggests a 90s themed playlist!), certain early 90s one-hit wonders, and best of all you didn't use Kriss Kross. I'm sure you want to make us jump, but backwards clothes are so two decades ago. Alright I'm starting to babble now, that's some ice, ice baby. My only complaint is that you didn't somehow work some Green Day in there. Come on! For your old buddy Wheels!

There... A list of songs from some of my favourite 90s groups, and some songs that just seemed to fit the theme really well. I tried to put Spice Girls in there somewhere, but I didn't want to make it TOO happy (the happy hardcore did that for us already... which on second thought I included far too little of).

If I had more time it would've been awesomer (with more happy hardcore), but you will have to do with this for now.


Wheels

Man I'm not going to let you off that easy. When you do have the time I demand this fabled awesomer list. I'll do the same at some point for The Wheels SaGa - STOP...90s Time. You'll probably hate my list though. I have strange tastes in music sometimes. By the way, what the heck is Dune? Found that song on YouTube and it was...strange.

You wanted to hear more about that tabletop game, right? Well, you were right about Warhammer, for starters, and it may come as now surprise that I am a Warhammer player, so a lot of inspiration (and models used) comes from there. But Warhammer is a game of massed warfare, not small groups of adventurers, and Chronicles will be closer to D&D in that respect.

But the basic premise behind my game has shifted a lot of times (I blame ADD) so it started as an old school dungeon crawl game (think Shining in the Darkness), went on to a really quick (and dead-end) D&D lite type of deal to finally end up being somewhat of a Tactics game on the Table, like Final Fantasy Tactics or Shining Force.


Wheels

Sounds like you're aiming for some kind of cross between D&D and Warhammer. I always wanted to play Warhammer, but it was a bit cost prohibitive. A tactics game like this could be a lot more budget friendly, maybe have one "DM" and each player only needing to buy one model for their character. It would focus on battles and ignore all that boring exploring stuff. Is that about right?

This has mostly to do with the focus on the combative situation in terms of game mechanics. There are no “Charisma” or “Bluff” checks here. Story elements, while possible to “role play”, are much more a deal of “cut scenes”. I can hear the tabletop role players going “Nooo!! Railroading!! You will kill player immersion! They will have no impact on the story!” but that is not entirely true when you just look at player immersion from a different perspective. If we take Tactics Ogre for example, the only thing you could do with your own character was name him. His face, his beliefs, his manner of speech, they were all pretty much pre-determined. However, the game gave you choices at crucial moments. Story altering choices. That is where I am focusing my game on, on those choices. I mean, if player immersion means rolling to see if you can convince the guard to let you through, and ending up beating him unconcious because you failed your check, then I pass. If you give them a choice to go left or right in a dungeon and their choice merely affects whether that encounter you prepared is to be found left or right, then I will pass. Do we not feel immersed when playing Final Fantasy Tactics? Do we not feel immersed when playing Suikoden? Or any other RPG that has tons of cut scenes and the only choice you make is what equipment to wear?


Wheels

Of course we feel immersed, not sure what these players would be complaining about. Fun is the most important thing, and making something more straightforward doesn't detract from that. Plus, not everyone has time to sit through long campaigns that can often leave several players bored as the party splits up and each interacts with different NPCs and what not. What's wrong with having a game that focuses on what we usually have the most fun with, combat? I think this is what must have gone through the minds of those who created games like Shining Force and Fire Emblem. I mean, we don't have to please everyone with every game, so who cares if some tabletop players complain?

I know this sounds very black and white, and I am not dissing other game systems, it's just those already exist, so why re-invent the wheel, right? And I don't think my approach has been done yet, and may just be what console gamers looking for a tabletop game might need. Maybe not, time will tell, but I will continue working on it. I will be sure to send you a notification when I have a playable version done.

Until then, enjoy my list of 90s hits!

-Other Daniel X


Wheels

I think there absolutely is a need for such a thing. I don't know how well Warhammer does these days, but there has to be a huge barrier of entry. This is a shame, because I think there's a ton of people that want to play tabletop games such as that. I think you'd find a willing audience for your game idea, and you're absolutely spot on, why do what's already out there? Keep me updated on the progress of this, I'd love to give it a try!

Also, more 90s lists please!
IN CLOSING

That's it for this episode next week we'llOHBACON I forgot the connection challenges I postponed from last week. I am just the worst sort of person. Look for those next week!

See you all next week!

-Wheels


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