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ASK WHEELS
Year End Spectacular
December 22nd, 2011

12/22- 12:00PM EST

Welcome to the final Q&A of 2011! It has been a great year, with a ton of RPGs released, so it should make voting for the end of year awards quite interesting. I'm also continuing to make my way through Dark Souls, and have reached what sounds like the most difficult portion of the game. Still, I'm hoping to be able to get a review out there in the very near future! Also, some great guesses on my top five Zelda games so far, but I will provide everyone who's guessed so far with a minor hint: none of you have guessed all five games, though your order of the correct ones has been quite close on many occasions. So take a stab at which of your list may be incorrect and try again! I will be taking guesses next week, even though there is no Q&A and I will let you know via e-mail if your guess is incorrect.

Now then, on to the letters!





The Letters
History Lesson Part Three

Gather around everyone, as I, Strawberry Eggs continue to discuss a series of video game I've barely touched. As promised, this letter is on the Majin Tensei sub-series. If you're familiar with the Devil Survivor games, you may be surprised to hear that they are not the first attempt by Atlus to combine strategy RPG elements with their flagship franchise. These games could be considered more straight-forward SRPGs than their spiritual descendants, for reasons I will discuss next.


Wheels

This is pretty surprising, it almost seems like everything about the series that seems "new" to us is actually old hat for the series. It is really a shame that it took so long for the series to make it over.

Majin Tensei, or "Mahsin Tensei" translates to "Demon God Resurrection" (compare to the usual title, Megami Tensei, meaning "Goddess Reincarnation"). Majin Tensei greatly resembles the Fire Emblem games on the Super Famicom graphically and in gameplay. Like traditional MegaTen games, players can recruits demons into their ranks and fuse them to create more powerful demons. There is also a moon phase system, present in most other MegaTen games. You move units across a map, then engage in battle with enemy units. The story seems simplistic, with your hero (presumably of the silent, nameable variety, though don't quote me on that) living in a city overrun by demons. He must recruit demons to fight back. He also apparently finds a woman in hibernation that has some relevance to the plot. One thing that differentiates this game from Fire Emblem is the use of magnetite. In traditional MegaTen games, magnetite is used up when summoning demons in battle and while walking around in dungeons. It is earned by defeating opponents, much like EXP and money. In Majin Tensei, it has that use as well, so too many demons cannot be summoned at once, and battles need to be finished quickly before the magnetite runs out. The game also sports large and very detailed battle scenes.


Wheels

This game sounds amazing, especially being a fan of the Fire Emblem series. Considering we didn't even get that series until the Gameboy Advance era, I'm not shocked we never saw this game either. Still quite disappointing, as this sounds like a nice twist on the classic SRPG gameplay formula. The use of magnetite is especially interesting, reminding me a bit of Phantom Brave, where your phantoms were only around for a limited number of turns.

Majin Tensei II: Spiral Nemesis (as far as I know, this game has no connection to Gurren Laggan :P) is also for the Super Famicom. It curiously uses an isometric view (though it looks more like Front Mission than Final Fantasy Tactics or the Luminous Arc games) rather than the top-down view of the first game.  The main character is named  Naoki Takauchi, and no matter how hard I try, I keep reading his name as "Naoko Takeuchi," the manga artist who created Sailor Moon. :P Like the first game, he has to defend his city, in this case, Tokyo from invading demons along with his friends. However, they become separated after a shady group attacks their base and Naoki has to find them again . The story is apparently more involving than this, though I can't find very many details. Combat is almost identical to the first game, but now terrain can factor into the defense stat of your and enemy units. Also, battles now sport scenes with both your unit and your opponent together side by side, though in much less detail than the first game. This game seems to be more popular among those who have played both.


Wheels

Dang it, now I can't picture this game as anything but a Sailor Moon SRPG! Sounds like this game was a nice evolution of the first. I'm surprised they didn't remake this on the DS, given how many isometric SRPGs ended up on the system. I suppose getting a new game was better. Still, its yet another awesome SMT game that we may never see in English.

The third game, Ronde for the Sega Saturn (it's apparently part of the sub-series despite not having the words "Majin Tensei" in the title), is apparently worst out of the three, at least according to many people who've played it. The thing that really sticks out about this game are the ugly, bloby-looking 3D Saturn graphics, which if you'd like, you can see for yourself here and here.  The battles also take about 30 seconds to load, though animations can be turned off. The story of this game takes place in the near future, where the main characters are visiting a demon museum. After being attacked by a demon named Moluck, the main character Asuka's younger brother is kidnapped, so Asuka and his friends set out to save him and beat back the demons.  Unlike the other two Majin games, and indeed most MegaTen games, you don't negotiate with demons to recruit them. Instead, they might randomly decide to join you after defeating them in battle. It is also possible for human characters to learn demon magic by making contracts with the creatures. Interesting mechanics to be sure, but Ronde is apparently not a very good game. I guess this is one Saturn RPG we shouldn't be upset over not getting.


Wheels

Ahh, good old Saturn 3D graphics. Nothing involving the Saturn's 3D chip has aged very well, even some of the system's best games! Still I'm shocked by the length of the loading times, as that was not a major weakness for the system. Anyway, sounds like this was just a dud. As you said, not a big loss!

Though there is a cellphone game called Majin Tensei: Blind Thinker out there, Majin Tensei has been laying dormant. It wouldn't be another 11 years before Atlus would make another  tactical Megami Tensei game in the form of Devil Survivor. Even though Devil Survivor is excellent,  it would be cool to see remakes of the first two games, or perhaps some sort of modern entry. Though considering how long this sub-series has been left dormant, perhaps we should just be happy we got the Devil Survivor games at all. In my next letter, I shall discuss the two Devil Summoner games that don't have the name "Raidou Kuzunoha" in their titles.

-Strawberry Eggs


Wheels

Sounds like these games are a bit different than Devil Survivor, so I think there could be a place for both. Perhaps a nice little remake of the first two games for Vita or 3DS? Could be a nice game to do in between the inevitable Persona 5 and whatever new title will follow that. Come on Atlus!

Thanks for more history! I'm looking forward to learning about the Devil Summoner games.

Back to the Future...of RPGs

Yo Wheel-io,

So February and March are looking completely ka-raaazy for RPGs.  I'm particularly looking forward to Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning and Ni No Kuni.  Both games look amazingly fun, and I'm super jazzed to have the chance to play a Studio Ghibli film come to life on my PS3.  I'll also be picking up Tales of Graces F and Hakuoki: Demon of the Fleeting Blossom (which isn't an RPG, but it should be of interest to a lot of RPG fans).  I know Mass Effect 3 is coming out as well, but since I haven't gotten around to the first two games yet (I know, I know!) I'll be waiting a while before I pick it up.


Wheels

You haven't what? You haven't played either Mass Effect? You need to get on that! Anyway you are spot on, there are a ton of RPGs coming out early next year. I can particularly vouch for Graces F having imported it and enjoyed its fantastic battle system. You really need to play those Mass Effect games. Though the first is a little rough around the edges (on the Xbox), the story is fantastic, and the different variations on the way things can play out is just amazing.

What am I forgetting here?  Which Feb.-Mar. releases are at the top of your priority list and why?

Cheers,
Ocelot


Wheels

You're missing Tales of the Abyss 3D but I don't think that's a huge release. Also I think Grand Knights History is coming out around then. The releases I'm most looking forward to in that period would have to be Mass Effect 3 and Graces F. Though I have a feeling Amalur will be quite good, those two are "known quantities" in that I've played Graces F and Mass Effect 3 follows closely to the style of 2. Ni No Kuni looks beautiful, but I'm going to wait on that one. It should be a very interesting release period, especially for fans of Japanese RPGs! Just imagine if Xenoblade were shipping a month earlier!

Even More Chrono Crossings

Hey Wheels,
I see that you are replaying Chrono Cross. I'm replaying it myself, hopefully I will finish it for the first time ever. Did you like the game when it came out and are you liking it more this time? This is how I feel about it, I guess I wasn't in the right mindset to enjoy it back in 2000.


Wheels

I wouldn't say I disliked it back in the day, I had a tough time getting into it. I wasn't as receptive to non-standard battle systems at that time, so I was pretty apathetic about the elements system, and wished for the original game's simple style. After some time I eventually grew fond of the game, and have really come to enjoy its battle system. There's a lot to like about the game, but I think Chrono Trigger fans needed to go into the game with an open mind, which I didn't do initially.

What are your favourite characters to use in your party? I've been using Harle most of the time and switching off the third character a bunch.


Wheels

I very much enjoy Harle, along with some of the other oddball characters! One of my favorites so far has been Fargo, since he's got great attacks and his innate element is blue, providing access to many great healing spells. Lately I've been mainly sticking to those with innate elements white, blue, and green, that way I have the strongest healing magic. This is one of the great things about this game, that you can make so many different kinds of parties!

And do you prefer Chrono Trigger or Chrono Cross?

~Cid


Wheels

I would have to say Chrono Trigger. It has such a great story, and a fun battle system. It is one of my all time favorite games of all time. Now Chrono Cross is a fine game, and does some things better than its predecessor, but there is no doubt Trigger is the stronger game. Anyway, good to hear from you! I'd like to hear back more of your thoughts on the two games.


Lightning Round

Dear Wheels,

WHEELS TOP 5 ZELDA GAMES: (part deux)

I'd thought I'd try again, you did say 1 entry a week right?) it is the 16th excatly 1 week since my last:)

*LIST OMITTED*

I am an avid game collector as viewed from the list I sent you long ago, (thanks for Tomb raider 2:) BTW, and I love all things Zelda, I got almost all the us releases except for minish cap (dang it) lol anywho, how do you find the time to play all those awsome rpg's??? for me, its hard with life, work, family ect gettin in the dang way (I kid, I love my wifey) any advice to help balance this issue, thanks...play well, play, hard, play games...

Gameremporium


Wheels

Close, but no cigar! I can tell you easily how I find the time to play so many games (and you're welcome for Tomb Raider), I don't sleep that much! Seriously, I find I function better on less sleep, which gives me plenty of time to stay up later and play lots of games. I'm sure once I have kids that time will decrease, but at the moment, late night gaming is where it's at. If time is your enemy, I recommend really focusing on one game at a time, that way you save money and will be less tempted to buy a bunch of games! Hope you get a copy of Minish Cap at some point, that is a fine Zelda game!

Keeping on this topic, do you find that RPGs are too long nowadays? Good to hear from you!

Dear Wheels,

I'd be willing to bet your top five favorite Zelda games are as follows:

*LIST OMITTED*

Anyway, this question might come out of nowhere, but I was wondering if you ever played much of the Etrian Odyssey series? As I continue to devote all my gaming time to Mario Kart (dang new job - have no time!), I occasionally want some slow-paced dungeon crawling goodness to break up the action. I look back fondly on Etrian Odyssey III, and
hope the 3DS title announced by Atlus like forever ago isn't the rumored remake and is instead Etrian 4. I also hope it allows us to subclass again. With the poor showing of RPGs on the 3DS (Devil Survivor Overclocked notwithstanding), I think EO would be perfect right about now...

-Bucktwenty


Wheels

Oh Mario Kart 7, that game is so fun (even though I'm terrible). I have actually been playing so much multiplayer when I do play it, that I haven't even gotten around to unlocking all the courses! Great entry in that series, even though there isn't much new. Now, on to Etrian Odyssey. I am actually very much a fan of the series, so much so that it is what got me into the Shin Megami Tensei games, since Strange Journey looked similar to Etrian Odyssey! I finished the first game and have played the third title on and off since then (they are massive so I find breaks useful). I've yet to play the second game, but I have it for when I finish three. Anyway, the series is a great throwback to old first person dungeon crawlers, and yet at the same time has a lot of modern niceties to make it much more user friendly, such as the map tools. I think a remake of the first EO would be sad, given it isn't even that old. So I'm really hoping they make a new entry. The 3D effect will be a great touch for the series' stylish dungeons. Regardless, more EO is not a bad thing, so I hope we hear more about the next entry soon.
IN CLOSING

That's it for this week, and this year! As always, thank you all for the support this year, I couldn't do this without so many fantastic readers.

See you in two weeks!

P.S. Delaying those connection challenges another week (well two)

-Wheels


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What I can't wait for:

1. Mass Effect 3

2. Tales of Graces F

3. Final Fantasy XIII-2

4. Grand Knights History

5. Tales of the Abyss 3D

On my Playlist:

1. Homestuck music

2. Etrian Odyssey 3 soundtrack

3. Zelda music



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