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ASK WHEELS
Tales of Paper
November 16th, 2012

11/16- 12:00PM EST

Welcome! I've been playing lots of Halo 4, Ragnarok Odyssey, and Paper Mario this week, which turns out to be a fun combination of gameplay. Looks like only Persona 4 Vita remains of the big RPG releases of 2012. It has been an interesting year for our favorite genre. Now for a bit of Q&A business. I'll be doing a brief Q&A next week even though it's a holiday week here in the states, then one the final week of November before handing off Q&A to Alex Fuller aka SeverinMira for the first few weeks of December. Why you ask? Well, I don't usually go into my personal life but my wife and I have a baby on the way due December 8th (yes you may call him Training Wheels)! So obviously I'll have more pressing things for a bit. I'll have contact info for Alex as we get closer to December so stay tuned!

Now let's get this show on the road...





The Letters
Tales of Tales

‏Have you heard any news of more tales games for the 3DS like Tales of Abyss? Maybe something that wasn't released in the US like the Destiny remakes?

-Bluegemini


Wheels

I haven't heard anything, the only new portable entry announced recently was an updated port of Tales of Hearts for the Vita. Given that the first Vita port, Tales of Innocence R, didn't make its way over here I think our chances for it are limited but there's still a chance. Tales of Hearts is by far the best portable main entry in the Tales series so it would be huge if that got localized. Going back to 3DS, with that market increasing in Japan and the Vita market seemingly not doing so well, I would be absolutely shocked if we didn't see another Tales game on the 3DS. Now the question is, will it be another port? Perhaps an entry not previously brought to the US, such as Destiny, which may lead the way to it being released here? Who knows. It's probably just as likely that they would make a brand new entry on the 3DS, or they might just port these Vita remakes. As always with the Tales series we'll just have to keep hoping and for now just focus on the coming release of Xillia. Come on Namco, gives us Tales of Hearts for the Vita!

Tales of 3D

‏Dear Wheels,

My 3DS has been collecting a fair amount of dust lately. Which Nintendo DS or Nintendo 3DS RPGs would you recommend me playing to get the most out of it?

You're friend from the Great North,

Trent Seely 



Wheels

Well I'm not sure what you already have so I'm just going to cover as much as possible. Now, the 3DS isn't overflowing with RPGs but there are still a bunch of them that should not be missed. I would start with Tales of the Abyss 3D. It remains my favorite entry in the Tales series and it actually plays even better on the 3DS than it did on PS2 thanks to reduced loading times. Devil Survivor would be my favorite RPG on the system, but it is little more than an enhanced port of the original DS game. Still, if you haven't already played the original this version is much preferred.

Maybe you prefer new RPGs though, not ports? In that case I say try Kingdom Hearts 3D. Not containing the issues many of the past portable side entries have contained, this one is a blast to play and feels much closer to a main entry in the series. Playing with the circle pad pro it will even feel like you're playing it on a console. The story is nuts, but that's par for the course with this series.

So far Paper Mario on the 3DS has been a blast, though I've heard some troubling things from those farther on in the game. Still, if you enjoy that particular series I'm sure it'll be worth a look. Staying with Mario for a second, Mario 3D Land is an absolute must play even if it's not an RPG. Don't miss it! New Super Mario Bros. 2 is also a good time, just don't go into it expecting anything new or revolutionary.

Both Harvest Moon: A Tale of Two Towns and Harvest Moon: A New Beginning are great relaxing games on the go if you're looking for nice combat-free RPGs. You'd probably want to try A New Beginning first because it's newer and has some cool new features, but Tale of Two Towns served quite well as my introduction to the series after jumping from Rune Factory.

Heroes of Ruin is a decent little dungeon crawling RPG as you can see from my review. It has some issues but is far from bad. There is full online multiplayer, various interesting classes, and plenty of loot to collect. It suffers from some repetition but it actually has a pretty decent story which isn't usually the case for these kinds of games.

Finally, Code of Princess is a fun little brawler with RPG elements from many of the same developers that brought us Guardian Heroes. Not lengthy or anything but it also has full online play and lots of different ways to replay levels as different characters. Worth a look!

That's about it, I could name some other non-RPGs but I will spend some time on that another time if you want some recommendations in that area. I hope this helps!

Tales of Paper

‏Hi, Mr. Wheels! 

Has your week been treating you well? (There's only Thanksgiving week and then 2 weeks of classes left, as far as this semester is concerned. I can't wait for it to end!)


Wheels

It has been a pretty good week! Got some new games in this week and I've been enjoying quite a lot of Ragnarok Odyssey and Halo 4 multiplayer. Thankfully I'm done with school but I understand the joy of a semester nearing its end!

I saw that you had picked up Paper Mario Sticker Star and that you were enjoying it. So, it seemed like a pretty good reason/excuse to present some Paper Mario questions to you for this week's Ask Wheels! (And, a certain somebody told me it would be a good idea to ask Paper Mario questions... That somebody may or may not have been you, but you didn't hear that from me... or you?)


Wheels

Who could have prodded you for such questions? I'm always up for talking the Mario RPG games. I've been a fan of them since Super Mario RPG.

Personally, I find Paper Mario really intriguing as a series. Whereas the Mario and Luigi series has consistent and strong role-playing mechanics while changing its gameflow to create variety, it would appear that Paper Mario values its aesthetic as the strong point and (well, factoring in what I know of Super and Sticker Star) aims to create variety through substantial changes in gamestyle. Err, do you know what I'm trying to say?


Wheels

I know exactly what you're saying. The Paper Mario series really takes that whole paper aesthetic to heart and often uses it to add to the gameplay in lots of interesting ways. While the first two you could say had mostly traditional turn-based combat, they still had twists that kept a platforming feel and brought "paper" elements to the combat. That's not even getting into the great paper-related humor.

Well... hmm... maybe you can help me work through this? I know some RPG fans who really loved the way Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Crane evolved, well, EVERYTHING that the original Paper Mario put forth, but were then disappointed by what Super Paper Mario changed (again, EVERYTHING ^^;) regarding how it played. And, after what they've heard from both Nintendo and previewers, they're really apprehensive about what Sticker Star seems to be bringing to the table.

...I'm gonna have to try and form individual questions for this to work, aren't I?


Wheels

I understand the issues people had with Super Paper Mario despite loving it myself. That said, I think they're way too hard on it. It did something different, but there's nothing wrong with that. I know it wasn't as good as Thousand Year Door but that game is really hard to top. It still had the great humor the series is known for, some interesting paper-based gameplay ideas, and even the traditional optional 100 floor dungeon. Different isn't always bad people! I feel like some people never even gave it a chance. Now moving onto Sticker Star, it plays like the earlier Paper Mario games even though you don't have extra party members this time. So even if Sticker Star does turn out to have some issues I think fans of the first two Paper Marios will enjoy it.

(Here goes!) It might be bad of me to presume... but, you *have* played the earlier Paper Marios, yes? Well, what are some of your favorite things about them?


Wheels

I have played all the Paper Mario games though I have not completed the first one. I loved the goofiness of the games, and the way the paperiness of everything works into the humor. Thousand Year Door found ways to keep classic turn-based combat quick and fun with few dull moments. I loved the way Super Paper Mario applied elements of the first two games to a classic platformer. The flipping to 3D could be annoying at times but it was still enjoyable. Mostly I just love how the games took everything that makes Mario games fun and applied them to my favorite genre. Unlike Super Mario RPG, which at times could feel like a game from a completely different series, the Paper Mario games are truly Mario titles morphed into RPGs, even if they don't even all play the same. Sticker Star does this in a few new ways, but we'll get to that in a bit.

OK, also in this train of thought, what are some of your favorite things about Sticker Star so far?


Wheels

I love how quick and fun combat is even when it's very easy. It has those classic timing elements which vary based on the sticker attacks you're using and the attacks enemies are using against you. I'm only through World One and I already find the variety of sticker attacks to be staggering. The game does a good job providing you with new stickers as you explore so you never feel like you're running low (except perhaps against some tough bosses).

So, one of the concerns I've heard is that there's a lot less customization and/or sense of power progression in Sticker Star. How would you say character progression is handled in Sticker Star?


Wheels

Character progression is mostly absent. You gain health updates but that's about it. Progression happens in the way you gain access to more powerful stickers as the game progresses, both through expansion to the store in town and the ones you find in locations. There's no customization to be found. It's just not that kind of game. There are rare and shiny stickers to find of course, so completionists will have fun finding every last sticker in the game.

In turn, how does this streamlining affect gameplay (in and out of combat, if applicable)? Do you have any examples (of classic games?) that might paint a clearer picture (in the form of comparison, I mean) of this type of character progression and/or gameplay challenge?


Wheels

I think the best comparison would be to Mario & Luigi Partners in Time. In that game all your special attacks were handled by using various items that corresponded to coordinated attacks between the brothers. The attacks in this game are much simpler but it has that same kind of feel, using simpler sticker attacks on random enemies when possible and saving the best ones for bosses. The combat is mostly easy, and challenge comes from bosses, solving puzzles, figuring out where to go next, and of course managing stickers as not to run out.

Another concern, Paper Mario/TTYC had SOOOO much loveability (yes, like "likeability" but BETTER) in the stories/personalities of Mario's companion characters, whereas Super Paper Mario only had developed story/personality for Tippi (basically). How does Sticker Star fit into this equation? (There's not really an equation... ^^;)


Wheels

Mario just has the one companion again in this one, so you'll find a similar level of character development as Super Paper Mario (unless he meets new companions later on that I'm not aware of). In this one, the enemies and toads in towns seem to have a lot more personality. This means despite there not being as much individual characterization, it is still there. Hopefully this aspect continues as I progress further.

Alternatively, I've heard that Sticker Star ups the ante on exploration in the world by (in what may be considered backwards by RPG lovers) separating it into stages (non-contiguous world) AND by including multiple ways to exit/clear the stages, producing new paths on the world map (a la Super Mario World). How do you feel this benefits / takes away from the game?


Wheels

I feel like this successfully captures the feel of classic Mario games while at the same time making traveling in the game extremely easy. You'll never be too far from the world map so if you get stuck in a bind and need to go back to town or just remember a place where you can use a special sticker it's very easy to do so. While it may seem like it makes the game more linear and less of an RPG, based on a quick glance at the world map this turns out to not be the case at all. There are secret exits as you say, along with what appears to be secret areas in some levels (I keep seeing tantalizing doors drawn on walls I can't do anything to yet) that I can't access yet. Make no doubt about it, this isn't the linear progression that they used in Super Paper Mario. You do have to do a lot of exploring to figure out how to progress and I have heard worrying things about how difficult and frustrating this may get for some later in the game. Sounds like something I'll actually enjoy but we'll have to see.

Putting these things together... What things in Sticker Star do you think that lovers of the older entries will continue to love? And, if they keep an open mind, what are some of the new things you think will find their way into their hearts?


Wheels

I think if lovers of the older entries can get over the fact that you have no companions and all attacks are stickers, they will absolutely adore the combat in this one. It really is a lot of fun even against easy enemies! The game even copies EarthBound a bit and easier enemies will be instantly killed on the map when you jump on or hammer them as you progress. If they keep their minds open, I think the way the game resembles an adventure game in its exploration will be something fans really enjoy.

...And, as a personal question, if you've played enough to be able to answer it... One of my favorite things in Super Mario World is being able to make it to Bowser's Castle in, what is it, 21 stages (23 stages?). So, even though Sticker Star has its roots in RPGs (which are generally linear / fraught with flagged events), how greatly can secret exits in stages affect gameflow? I mean, like... could I legitimately devise AWESOME challenge runs of the game, or does it seem linear enough that you can't sequence/path break too much?


Wheels

I was actually pondering if sequence breaking was possible quite recently. The game actually lets you got to 1-1, 2-1, 3-1, and 4-1 right from the start. I tried going to 2-1 and you need a bunch of stickers to open an initial door but you can get all the ones you need before completing World One. Perhaps my faithful sticker companion would just tell me "no Mario, not yet" but who knows. I may have to go back and try this out. More details on this coming soon when I figure it out!

.........Wow. Well, thank you for taking the time each week to do this Q&A! Although I've only found out about it fairly recently, I'm under the impression that you've been doing it long enough that you and your long-running fans might find it a natural part of the week? As such, I'd like to point out that interaction between people is always something unique, always worth the time, and (in contrast) that time is always a limited resource! So, again, thank you for taking the time to do this Q&A. :)

I hope the next week treats you well, Mr. Wheels!

See you on Twitter,
wwreyes


Wheels

No problem! I've been doing Q&A for two years now so writing this has become a regular part of my week, and I hope reading it has become a regular part of yours and many others' weeks! I have a blast doing this. Thank you for the great questions!

P.S. Yes! I did in fact figure out the true back story of the second Paper Mario! You see, the (generally) titular Thousand Year Door was in fact built by a thousand year old crane! And, as it turns out, the 100-floor challenge dungeon is actually the culmination of the construction skills that the Thousand Year Crane has developed in the past thousand years! A true final challenge for Mario if there could be one in the game. *mm-hmm* ...Err...uhh...yeah... So, now you know! And, knowing is half the battle?


Wheels

Oh cool, I was wondering what that crane reference was all about. That's cool! Now I really have the urge to go back and play Thousand Year Door...

Knowing is half the
                                            battle

Tales of Races

Spooky Scary Spiderguy askks: RPGs come up with weird fantasy races pretty often, did any of these ever strike you as particularly unique in culture, design, or other aspects? I feel like a lot of them usually end up as humans but better/worse depending on how douchebaggey the writer decides to depict the whole of the human race.


Wheels

Yeah most of them just seem to end up being various elements of humanity. There are some that I did find striking in some regard. I always enjoyed the Goblins in World of Warcraft, for example, for their absolute craziness and ridiculous gadgets, even though they aren't exactly original. There was just a goofiness about them and the similar Gnomes that I always enjoyed. I mean come on, you can get a rocket as a flying mount! As for more serious races there are a few that grabbed me. I always liked the Geth in Mass Effect. Not those affected by the Reapers, but the actual collective. Imagining a race with one united conscious, trying to figure out its own existence is a classic sci-fi thing but done very well here. Mass Effect 3 especially has some touching moments involving the race and their creators. Finally I'll go with Amalor's Elf-like race as I found the whole storyteller element of their culture to be interesting and unique. I mean they still had the typical elements for Elf-like races but the way their culture worked made them unique.
IN CLOSING

See you all next week!

-Wheels


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