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ASK WHEELS
Q&A 4 Golden
November 30th, 2012

11/30- 12:00PM EST

Welcome! I'll be taking a few weeks off after this Q&A to begin Fatherhood Quest, which of course means that one Mike Moehnke had to get in at least one more epic letter before the holidays. I should be back in 3 weeks or so (likely somewhat tired). While awaiting the baby, I'm going to continue cracking away at Elminage but given its status as a classic dungeon crawler it will likely take me into the new year to finish it. Anyway, Alex Fuller a.k.a. SeverinMira will be running Q&A in the mean time. You can e-mail him at severinmira@rpgamer.com and tweet him at @severinmira.

Now then, on to the letters!





The Letters
Final Fantasy Awesome

Hey Wheels,
 
Why is Final Fantasy VI your favorite RPG?
 
Your buddy from the great north,
Trent Seely



Wheels

Well, that is a fantastic question that I thankfully have some good answers for. For me Final Fantasy VI is so great because it's the complete package. The music is by far one of, if not the best soundtrack produced by Nobuo Uematsu. It has a bit of everything! There's fantastic battle themes from the regular theme to the final boss theme. It has some brilliant somber pieces. Heck, it even has a nice silly piece in the moogle theme. Then there's the sprites. The sprites in Final Fantasy VI just have so many different animations that give them an amazing amount of character. Using the same sprites in and out of battle gives the game a very consistent look. The story is also incredible, and gives us one of video gaming's best villains in Kefka. His laugh is instantly recognizable to anyone who's played the game. The cast of characters is large and memorable, and each has their own use in combat. There's also the great pacing, brilliant second half of the game where you explore the destroyed world while reuniting the party, and the epic ending that gives each character a bit of closure. There's little to not like about this game. Will something ever top it on my list? Maybe, but I doubt I will ever get sick of replaying Final Fantasy VI.

Paper Persona

Hey Wheels! 
Sorry I took a bit longer to write than I thought I would.  I’m studying Web Page Design right now in college (Going back after a 10 year hiatus!) and time tends to get away from me, you know?


Wheels

No worries! I know how time consuming classes can be having just finished up a master's degree not too long ago. Good to hear you're back in school. Keep at it!

You asked me last time to chime in with my thoughts on Paper Mario: Sticker Star once I’d gotten it and played some of it.  Well, I confess that I’m not very far in the game yet, but overall I do like it.  It’s fun and quirky, and that’s always a plus, as I like my games to be unique.  Stickers are a nice twist, even though the inventory management is driving me nuts.  I miss the RPG elements that they took out badly.  I love my equipment, stats, and XP! At first I was quite skeptical, almost to the point of regretting buying the game, but I’m letting it grow on me and I’m really starting to appreciate it for what it is: a fun, whimsical, nonsensical romp through the Mushroom Kingdom


Wheels

Yeah, for the RPG lovers like us Sticker Star can be a bit off-putting at first. With gameplay very similar to the first two games it can be a bit shocking to find out about the lack of equipment, levels, and other typical RPG features. If you stick with it though, you realize it is just a good classic Paper Mario, with newer and more powerful stickers being available replacing level gains and what not. Sure, it focuses more on the adventure elements of the series, but the turn based combat is still a blast, if occasionally frustrating when you can't figure out where to go (like when I couldn't figure out how to get to a location due to not realizing there were invisible blocks to hit). It's all good, goofy fun in the end despite some issues. Maybe not technically an RPG, but if you get too caught up in that you kind of miss the forest for the trees. I love the sticker mechanic and haven't had the inventory management issues other people seem to have. My advice is to not worry about it and ignore most stickers in locations unless you're running low. It gets much, much frustrating when you have more pages to store them.

I’ve also picked up my Persona 4 Golden.  Man.  That game looks great on the Vita.  I’m diggin’ the nostalgia vibe.  I never get tired of Inaba.  One of the new social links you can form though...I don’t really get why you can.  Do you know which one I mean? (Hint: it’s not a resident of the room). I don’t want to spoil anything but I just wanna talk about it more with somebody because it confuses me!  Argh frustration!


Wheels

I've been enjoying that as well! Quite a lot in fact as I've already put in over twenty hours in a week. The additions are great, making a brilliant RPG that much better. I'm going to go ahead and say that I honestly wish Atlus had done this on PS3/Xbox 360. Not because I don't want this amazing, one of the best of all time RPGs on the go, but because I want as many people as possible to play this game and that's just not going to happen on the Vita. Oh well, maybe they'll at least port it to PS3 at some point so other folks can enjoy it? Anyway I'm getting sidetracked. I'm guessing you're talking about the "Joker" S-Link? If so I've actually only just started that so I'm not sure where it's going. I was just as shocked that this was one of the new ones. Anyway, hit me up via e-mail or twitter and we can have a spoiler-filled discussion when I get further along!

It’s always a pleasure to write to you Wheels!  I have to go now, as finals are fast approaching and I have some coding to finish up.  Maybe a little more time at Junes wouldn’t hurt though...Nah gotta study.  Later, my friend!
 
Valim (Who’s knowledge just increased!)


Wheels

Haha, good luck trying to stay away from Persona 4 Golden! This game is insanely addictive Anyway, please write back in after your finals! I would love to discuss Persona 4 some more. Good luck on those finals!

Game of the Year

P4G GOTY 2012 Y/Y????????

-fbm


Wheels

There is no doubt that Persona 4 Golden is my game of the year! I can't get enough of this game. I hope after this next year gives us news of Persona 5. It's been four years and after seeing how great this entry can be I am very excited to see what Atlus does next.

The Goggles They Do Nothing

Mr. Brass Wheels, is it? 

I know you're just dying to have some content, and I'll oblige!


Wheels

I AM BENDER, PLEASE INSERT GIRDER

Bender

Have you been playing Code of Princess at all?  As a fellow Guardian Heroes veteran, I know it had to spark at least some interest in you!  I can't claim its dialogue has the same goofy charm as Sega's silly translation back in 1996, but it pretty much delivers in terms of combat.


Wheels

I have played it! I pre-ordered it as soon as I found out that it shared some developers with Guardian Heroes. Granted the game isn't perfect (and you're right it isn't quite as silly), but the combat is an absolute blast and it is filled to the brim with extra content to enjoy. It even has full online play which is a nice touch. It's not quite as deep as I was hoping it would be, but all that matters is that it's a fun game. I hope they get to make more games like this.

Sidebar: did you play Advance Guardian Heroes at all?  Despite not thinking it was all that great, and that its sound quality provided one of the worst cases of the GBA mangling audio, I still played through it perhaps a dozen times.  I can't really explain why except that its method of gaining new characters through the points not used to beef up your current one addicted me for quite some time.


Wheels

I did actually pick that up at some point (and even have a sealed copy I found somewhere for insanely cheap) and I did not care for it much. I remember there was some point early on in the game I kept getting stuck at. I could never really get into it and the audio did not help! Maybe I'll give it another try at some point.

Tales of the Abyss still baffles me with its completely unnecessary and artificial length extension.  Honestly, I thought it was going to do a little epilogue for awhile (remember Lunar: Eternal Blue's?  Boy, that was rare even now) and instead got saddled with the villains magically reviving so that I had to kill them all over again. On the other hand, I must be a Motoi Sakuraba fan, because his score for that game held my interest all the way through.


Wheels

Yes, this was Abyss' greatest failing. I don't know what the developers were thinking when they decided to artificially lengthen the game when it felt like it should be at the end. Still, it speaks to how much I liked the characters and gameplay that I stuck with it until the end. We RPGamers love long RPGs but not when that length isn't justified. The soundtrack is quite fantastic; some fresh Motoi Sakuraba tunes helped with the final bits of the game.

Oh, one more thing: did you get a FFIX flashback when Luke does something pretty much identical to what Dagger did?


Wheels

I did (note: I never left her name as Dagger that I can recall)! I think Dagger's moment is better of course but Luke's character growth through the story is interesting. Once you realize his past him being an annoying brat for so long makes sense.

Oh, even one more thing: Jade is my favorite character from the game.  He's only old by the standards of JRPG cliche, but his cynicism is exactly what I love to hear.


Wheels

The game simply would not have been the same without Jade. I have to give major props to whoever did his English voice as well. He did a marvelous job.

Something's wrong... there have been no more reports from you about progress in Super Robot Taisen: Original Generation!  Precisely where did you leave off in your playthrough?  It was obviously before the showdown with Bian Zoldark in his intimidating Valsione, but was it before Ryoto joined your team? 


Wheels

Yeah, that kind of fell by the wayside by the end of the summer. I'll try and get back to it soon (I forget exactly where I was at) as I am in the mood for some tactical goodness. Keep pestering me about it!

I hope you weren't planning on maxing all your robots and pilot statistics out with one play, because it can't be done.  Gotta go with New Game + repeatedly to accrue more and more cash when starting if you really want to do that.  Four plays of Original Generation 2 still left me with tons of things to do, and I started with about $4 million for #4.


Wheels

I did not plan that! I'm not one for completionist stuff like that, so I what sweat maxing everything out. Maybe I'll feel different after one playthrough.

Dearie me, you've been without a connection challenge for too long.  Let's fix that by linking Moby Dick (1930) to Summon Night 4!


Wheels

I have a great idea. Let's save this for Alex's Q&A stint! That will be fun.

Prognosticate!  Will Project X Zone cross the Pacific? 


Wheels

Though my predicting abilities took a hit with the second DS Fire Emblem not getting localized, I'll still take a stab at this. I don't think there's any chance of it coming out in the US. I just don't think any of the three publishers involved in the project have any interest in trying to push a cross-over tactical game in the west. I think it could do decently, but I would expect us to miss it.

Okay, for a quick Shadow Hearts nugget, look at this picture and see if it reminds you of anything. Does that seem at all reminiscent of a certain Fox animated superhero from the arthropod family? Or am I just seeing things?


Wheels

I'm not sure, it doesn't seem to ring any bells for me.

What that has to do with the actual game is that the protagonist gains the ability to fuse in battle with various creatures, costing him nothing and gaining access to different abilities and elemental affinities depending on the fusion.  He can only have three choices per battle, which sucks, but it makes  him quite versatile.


Wheels

Sounds similar to switching between Personas, insaley similar in fact given that you also get the elemental affinities. Generally you have access to more Personas but this still sounds very similar.

Another character has an ability to make a heavy pan drop out of the sky onto the enemy's head, complete with Looney Tunes sound effect.  This is definitely a unique game. Ah yes, when we talk about Shadow Hearts the Judgment Ring must be mentioned.  You don't have awful reflexes, so it shouldn't be a problem for you to consistently hit a spinning mark to perform battle actions.  Here's the thing, though: if you screw up (and it'll happen every now and then) you don't do anything that turn.  Gotta hit the Judgment Ring right if you want to pull anything at all off, from a physical attack to using an item.  Since I don't play defensively (for a reason I'll mention shortly) I don't know if this is required to successfully defend, but it might be.


Wheels

That sounds pretty funny! The Shadow Hearts series didn't seem the type to include a lot of humor. The judgement ring always sounded like the selling point of the series for me, and I'm still interested because of it. I just wish the games weren't so damn expensive.

Apparently the Sanity Point statistic carries over to the following two games, also.  It's pretty simple: every round in combat drops your SP by one, and if they hit zero your character goes Berserk and cannot be controlled any longer.  Not much of an issue for random enemies, but bosses tend to have enough HP that SP replenishment will be required if you don't want to lose someone to madness. As for the history of the first game, I really didn't think the Austro Hungarian Empire was so backward that citizens of Prague would be casually dismissive of 'some Asian village' being destroyed.  I also didn't know Shanghai was pretty much obliterated in 1913, did you?  Nor did I know Prague is actually about where Munich is located on a map (having been to both, I probably would have noticed).  Maybe I just wasn't paying attention?  Yeah, that's gotta be it.


Wheels

I'm guessing they didn't quite do enough research when creating the game? Strange. When you use a real world setting you'd think you'd want to be accurate, right?

I keep bringing up Level-5 despite not really having much experience with the company.  Is Rogue Galaxy something I should seek out?  Aside from it and Dragon Quest VIII and Ni no Kuni I'm running a blank on other output of the company that isn't called Dark Cloud, though a quick Google search would doubtless refresh my memory.  Or I could leave it to you.  Yeah, I think I'll do that.


Wheels

Well, as for the worthwhile output you've got most of their big titles there. Above all other games Dragon Quest VIII is undoubtedly Level-5's finest work and is a must-play. Rogue Galaxy is an interesting little Action RPG that is worth checking out as well. It can get repetitive and boring at times but not enough to derail the game completely. Avoid the White Knight series at all costs. If you ever get a PSP the SRPG Jeanne d'Arc is another one of their best games. Finally there's always the Layton series but I sadly have no knowledge of their quality.

Can you find a way to put Humphrey Bogart into an RPG?  Probably!  Let's hear it!


Wheels

Rat Pack the RPG, in which you play as the various famous members of that group in a fictional historical setting where they entertain by day and go on Oceans 11 type heists by night.

Suikoden II.  I didn't care for the new army battles, finding them time-consuming and usually concerned only with waiting out a required number of turns until the fight automatically ended.  The translation does lack a lot, but at least I understood it almost all the time, which is more than I can say for many Square games of the same era.  Having said those things, I enjoyed it much more than the first.  Did having ZcDohl (so named because of the localization bugs and my naming the hero in the first game Zorro) on my team warrant spending time with the original game?  Not necessarily, but he did make pounding down everyone in Highland Castle a joke. 


Wheels

Well, at the very least I like the ability to import a save and get a bonus if you completed everything in the first game. It might not be much, but it keeps the feeling that you yourself have made changes to the game world. I agree with you on the new army battles, they were a bit lame. Still they provided what they needed to in terms of emphasizing big story moments. If Konami ever finds it in its black heart to remake this game I hope they completely redo the army battles.

Did you choose Kasumi or Valeria?  My not doing something quite right, just before fighting with Jowy one last time (watch me avoid spoilers for something that actually caught me by surprise!) made me glad to have an earlier save to see how both worked.  Not that either has a huge effect, but Valeria survived a lot better for me.


Wheels

I went with Kasumi. I forget the reason why, but that's who I went with. I never went back and did it with Valeria so I'll have to try that on a future playthrough!

Apple sure changed between games, didn't she?  From being essentially a groupie-wannabe, she turns into a strategist.  Must've been an eventful time in her life.


Wheels

She had ... OTHER aspects change as well but yeah things did change in the three years between the two games. Listen to the upcoming RPG Backtrack to hear me make a really awful pun about Apple.

Oh yes, those damn glitches occasionally didn't make me happy.  Annallee had a surprisingly affecting plight, and then she's become mute when it comes time to listen to her sing.  Stupid Konami localizers, that was supposed to be a moving moment.


Wheels

Though they don't break the game in any way, I'm still annoyed these issues are in the game. I wonder if they are the reason that Suikoden II hasn't showed up on PSN. Then again I'm not sure it even made it onto the Japanese PSN!

I don't really know WHY Neclord had to come back, but at least he's gone for good after this game.  Maybe so Sierra could be introduced?


Wheels

I would imagine so. He's kind of an odd inclusion in the game's story, and I feel like he's a bit out of place. That said, there's some good moments involving him so at the most it is a very minor complaint.

Also, Lucia comes close to setting a record (not among JRPGs as a whole, but maybe within the Suikoden series)  of being whaled to a pulp and getting up with no lasting harm done.  Counting army fights, I think I beat her senseless six times, yet she didn't show a bit of wear.  Ai yi yi.


Wheels

A testament to one of the issues with RPGs: people seemingly left mostly unharmed after battles using sharp weapons and devastating magic. It works with the story but when you really think about it, it's very wonky. Kind of diminishes the final Luca fight when you think you actually spend more time beating up Lucia and she never seems much worse for wear.

Now, you for some reason haven't played Suikoden III, or so I am given to understand.  This makes discussing things both in text and verbally in the near future very difficult.  I'm going to anyway, though.


Wheels

I haven't because I just haven't gotten around to it yet. It has long been on my to play list and once I finish my current playthrough of II it is highly likely I will quickly move on to III. I may jump to V but we shall see!

Viki shows up comparatively late in the game.  That sucks for one main reason: it takes longer to walk around in 3D than with a 2D overworld.  It makes her eventual appearance very welcome though.


Wheels

Well at least she does show up. I can't imagine how slow it would be if she never showed up at all. Does she still misfire teleports? The first time that happened to me in II I didn't even realize it had. I just thought I selected the wrong location!

When you do finally play the game, see if Hugo's rage comes across as senseless or not.  I understand it, sure, but it made him seem rather like the 12 year old he is and less like someone I want to be the Flame Champion.  His mom is Lucia, and she definitely seems to have cooled down her temper in the 15 years between games.


Wheels

I will let you know, is it a problem with the story itself, or the localization do you think?

One definite plus in this game is the skill system, which I loved.  You won't get Emily until fairly late in the game, but her abilities using the skill system often let her attack seven or eight times per turn.  That's definitely someone I want on my team. 

Gosh, I can't talk too much more without probably making you bury your head in the sand.  Go play it,  won't you?


Wheels

I will! I promise. You'll probably see me tweet about it once I finally fire it up. You don't have to do much convincing to get me to play some Suikoden.

Have we ever discussed Skies of Arcadia and it being awesome?  If not, here's a fine  opportunity to do it!  Didn't it seem like the purple and yellow Moon Stones came a lot easier than the massive struggles required to net Red, Green and Blue?


Wheels

I think we may have, but seeing as I haven't played it quite yet I still wouldn't know. I have GameCube version ready and waiting whenever I get the urge to play it. I've said I'm saving it for a rainy day. Perhaps another 7th Dragon being announced that's unlikely to come here will convince me to fire up a classic Sega RPG?

More fun with connection challenges!  Link L'Atalante to Lunar Magic School!


Wheels

Get ready for this one Alex!

Having never experienced Baldur's Gate II, should I be enticed by this retooled version coming out very soon?


Wheels

I have and Baldur's Gate II remains my vote for best PC RPG of all time. That game has an incredible story, great voice acting, some of my favorite D&D locations, and even avoids the pitfalls of many Dungeons and Dragons based games by starting you at a higher level. Sure, you can import your character from the first game, but with extra classes available you may be happier making a new character. Truly it is BioWare's finest work. Please do not skip this game. I might even suggest skipping the first game! More D&D based games need to realize that low level adventures don't translate well to the video game world.

I enjoyed Sword of Vermilion initially, only to despise it with the heat of the sun by the time it came to an end far later than the developers would have done if using all of their brains. From braindead regular battles that I ran from consistently near the end because I had reached the maximum level and could profit NOTHING by fighting, to idiotic boss battles that did look good for 1989 but allowed you all the controls of the worst fighting games circa the period (you can duck and attack, all while facing in one direction! That's it!) the combat sure made me unhappy. It's not like a Genesis RPG in 1989 with bad combat would be countered by any other aspect, either (Phantasy Star II got hard, but at least its battles were interesting). You probably sampled it at some point, didn't you? Let the bad feelings out so everyone can empathize and assure you it will never happen again.


Wheels

I sampled it seeing as how it's shown up on classic Sega collections, but didn't play it anywhere near as much as you did. I got out while the getting was good! I'm not sure what they were thinking with that game. It just is not very good! Looking at some bad Sega games I'm sometimes amazed at all the great games they were able to produce.

Are we up to Dragon Age in its third incarnation already?  Do we count any of the expansions or whatever they were to the first game as separate titles?  I really don't know, I haven't played the things.  It could happen sometime though.


Wheels

No, we wouldn't count any the expansions as separate, none of them were quite that elaborate. Honestly the series should really only be at the second entry by this point. As much as I liked Dragon Age 2, it lacked a lot of the depth and choices that made the first game so fantastic. I don't quite get why EA and BioWare rushed it out so quickly. Surely they could have just done some more expansions to the first game while taking their time with the follow up. At the least I am glad to see they seem to be taking their time with the third title. I hope it ends up being far better.

Is there a reason you've skipped Etrian Odyssey 2 thus far?  I haven't played any of the series since my desire for old-school dungeon hacks was sapped by The Dark Spire.  That may be different now, but at the time I was in no mood to sample even something more modernistic than an early Wizardry derivative.


Wheels

There's no big reason at all actually. I had just finished up the first game before the third entry came out so I decided to jump right to that one since it had a brand new setting and new classes while Etrian Odyssey 2 still closely resembles the first game. You really should try the series as it is night and day between Etrian Odyssey and Wizardry clones. The Etrian Odyssey games do a great job taking the conventions of the old dungeon crawlers and applying them to a more modern template. The games are no cake walk obviously, but unlike many similar games the difficulty comes from actual gameplay challenges, and not archaic interfaces and mechanics. I highly recommend the series!

I'm going to assume you read my Paper Mario: Sticker Star review, because my words are awesome and deserve to be experienced by everyone possible.  Apparently my stance, ebullient early-on, did not match your own as I progressed further.  Is your experience as uniformly positive after proceeding deeper into the game as it was at the first rush?


Wheels

It is still more positive than yours, though at times I've gotten annoyed when I can't figure out where to go. Some of those times it has been my own fault, but at others I just needed a little bit of help and a certain stick companion had nothing to offer me. I'm still having a good time and haven't gotten sick of the battles yet. As much as liked Super Paper Mario it is good to have a classic styled Paper Mario to play again. I doubt I'll enjoy it as much as Thousand Year Door but that is an insanely difficult game to top.

Uhhh - this probably takes me back to the days when Matt dreaded my letter length.  Should give you plenty of material, though!
JuMeSyn


Wheels

Thank you sir! I always enjoy responding to one of these long letters so never fear about sending them in. Let me know if you give the Etrian series a try!
IN CLOSING

See you all in a few weeks, and make sure to pester Alex with questions (I sure will)!

-Wheels


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