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The Readers are Coming! The Readers are Coming!
December 29th, 2010

12/29 - 12:00PM EST

  When Wheels asked me to write an introduction for the special Ensemble Cast Q&A, I was honored.  I had already written a large amount of letters that were featured in his excellent column, as well as done a full-length guest column for the week he took off, but contributing to his weekly writings is a joy that has yet to lose even a hint of it's luster.  Needless to say, I jumped at the chance, and said I would write it imediately.

Then a day passed

Then another.

And another.  Emboldedned by my experiences wtih procrastination, I told myself I would just throw something together the morning it was set to go up and went to bed.

It's now 3 AM in the basement of an unfamliar house.  The ancient radiator creaks and groans, each gutteral noise a harsh denouncement of my amazing capacity for sloth.  I cling to my laptop like it was the only famliar thing left in the world, as I beg for forgiveness, dispite knowing that I am the only human to hear it.

Had I written this introduction three days ago, before my lackadasical vice had angered Wheels and caused me to be imprisoned in this nightmarish chamber, I would have told you all that my Name is Beat, and that it was my pleasure to introduce you to a special ensemble cast Q&A starring the literay talents of Lokii, Garrison, FBM, Nodal, Hito, Adam, and myself.  I would have done my very best to expound upon how all these men are accomplished writers, humorists, and video game players, or barring that, totally cool guys who are both knowledgeable and funny.  I would have said many things was I still in posession of the full range of my emotions.

But right now?  All I have is fear.  Fear of an angry Q&A god that in my arrogance, I have slighted!  Fear that the noises in this terrible place are growing closer!  Fear that the second my battery dies and the darkness is complete the very walls of this improvised cell will swallow me whole!

I feel so cold.  I wish the noise would st...

The Letters
Ask Hito

Dear Hito,

Let's start with a question from one of the readers, Nodal:

Dear Wheels.  If you could had to choose a fruit for every Final Fantasy, what fruits would you pick and why.

XOXO Nodal


What...what is this question? Why would you ask this question? Alright, whatever. I'll bite.

Final Fantasy I: It is an apple because it's your introduction to fruit. It's a boring fruit that maybe you enjoy later on in life, but you grow up eating applesauce and then you try to eat whole apples later and it makes your mouth bleed, just like Final Fantasy the First did when you tried to play that later on in life and realized it's not as good as you remembered, but it's not really bad either.

Final Fantasy II: Durian. It stinks. Some people might even want it to be banned in places. It pops up in strange Asian restaurants. The flavor can be enjoyable if you can get past the stink, but it's best enjoyed blended with something else.

Final Fantasy III: Peaches. Delicious, juicy, succulent peaches. They are never bad. They are durable. They take on many roles in things like salsas, chutneys, desserts, and barbecue.

Final Fantasy IV: This would be a higher quality apple. Over-rated, people don't realize that it's really just the same boring fruit gussied up for a night out. Really, guys, there is nothing awesome about a moon whale. Get over it. This is a bad apple.

Final Fantasy V: Apricots. Peaches for grown-ups. More subtle flavors, more delicious, as versatile as your everyday peach.

Final Fantasy VI: Bananas, because of Cid's banana outfit.

Final Fantasy VII: Oranges. When you peel away the outer layer, you realize there is some pretty tasty flesh, but also bitter stuff that no one wants (Advent Children, Dirge of Cerberus). Maybe you get the occasional good product from it, but you still have to deal with the pulp.

Final Fantasy VIII: Grapes. They can turn in to a more delicious thing if you let them fester for a while. You'll pick up on subtleties you hadn't noticed before each time you go back, but in the beginning, they're pretty boring and there are parts you'll want to spit out.

Final Fantasy IX: Cherries. They're always charming, they top a sundae or make a cocktail that much more special. They remind you of childhood.

Final Fantasy X: Prunes. They make you want to crap on everything. There's nothing particularly enjoyable about them and they make you feel old and bitter. (Yes, I know they're not really a fruit on their own, but go with me here.)

Final Fantasy XI: Lychee. When you eat one, the flavor just keeps going, and going, and going, and you pay for it later when you try to eat something else and you end up with a lychee-and-whatever-else flavored burp that ruins your day and then you wish you never had the lychee to begin with.

Final Fantasy XII: Prickly pear. Some people really enjoy the flavor of it, but only in certain circles. Most find it a bit off-putting, but there's a lot to enjoy if you really try.

Final Fantasy XIII: Lemon. Unless you mix it with something else, you really can't enjoy this. It's sour, bitter, and stupid. But it's so yellow and pretty!

Final Fantasy XIV: Plantain. Let's hope you didn't mistake it for a banana. If you did, you're going to end up really disappointed. If you didn't, you knew what you were getting yourself in to and you deserve it. Maybe you can coax some deliciousness out of it, but good luck.

Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Those little red berries you see on bushes that your parents have to remind you not to eat because they're poisonous. Stay away.

Final Fantasy Tactics: All of the fruit. Every last one because it is delicious and amazing.

Next up, Square-Enix's bonus program essentially requires that you buy all of their games, for every released platform. What are your thoughts on this?


  My thoughts are that I'm going to point and laugh at you if you try your hardest to get all of the games to win an iPod that would've been cheaper on eBay in the end. It's good that Nintendo doesn't have multiple platforms to buy the same damned game three times even though there's no difference in gameplay. I'm looking at you, Front Mission Evolved/Just Cause 2/Kane and Lynch 2. Lower the point total, allow only one version of each game to be registered, and maybe you'll have a good program.

The SaGa series has been stuck with remakes since Unlimited Saga. Despite how interesting a game it is, did it kill the forward momentum of the series?


No, but Crystal Chronicles did. I think Square realized they shouldn't give Kawazu complete creative control over something after US, so they stuck him with a pretty talented team and let him stink up the place just a little bit less than he would have if he were all-powerful. It's nice to see remakes of the older SaGa games coming, but we'll never see them on these shores, so it doesn't really matter. But, perhaps we'll get lucky and it'll be enough to convince Square that Kawazu isn't that bad every now and then and they'll allow him to make a new SaGa thing. 

Finally, the attempt to move the Front Mission series to the action genre obviously failed. Was this just a case of good idea, bad execution, or was moving from the SRPG genre a bad idea for the series?


No, this wasn't a bad idea. In fact, it was a brilliant one. Unfortunately, Double Helix is not the studio to pull it off. Don't give an American company that likely knows little about the series control of your franchise. It ended up feeling like a severely unpolished Armored Core try-to-be. There was no nuance to the upgrade system. The mission variety was lacking. The graphics were pretty ugly, voice acting spotty, and the plot was a disaster. I wish this would have been handled in-house by Square, maybe it'd feel like a true part of the series if it had been.

Ask Beat from his Imprisonment

Dear Beat,

Let's talk frankly, shall we? I'm going to ask you some serious questions and I expect some serious answers.


Wheels, I'm a man who has never been serious about anything in his entire life.  Still, I hate to shatter your dreams.  Very well.  I will play this game.  Show me what you're made of!

1. Do you actually like RPGs?


I like games that entertain me.  The vast majority of the time, RPGs fall flat on their face in that regard.  All too often the plots are overwrought, self-important nonsense, the characters an array of uninteresting stock personalities, and the all important "gameplay" an incredibly slow ordeal consisting mostly of mindless, menu-based grinding.  Add in the fact that most of them last at least 30 hours, and you have a gaming experience that is totally unattractive to me.

That's not to say I hate RPGs, I just don't think very highly of most of them.  There have been RPGs that I found totally gripping and would play for hours on end, even ones that are arguably guilty of the issues I just outlined.  I am unapologetic about my love for games such as Chrono Trigger and Skies of Arcadia.  I also am much more tolerant of action RPGs, such as Terrangima, and Mass Effect 2.

2. If you could have one RPG on a deserted island, and nothing else to keep you entertained, what would you choose?


My first instinct would be to claim that all video games are games in which you play a roll, and bring Bangai-O DS.  But since you would surely reject that answer, let's go with Mass Effect 2.

God I hope Bioware stays smart and refuses to listen to "fan" demands that the upcoming ME3 contain more "RPG elements".  Mass Effect 2 was a brilliant exercise in cutting out the awful parts of the original, and leaving only awesome goodness.  Looking back I don't even know how I managed to play the first Mass Effect.  Compared to the second it's a clunky mess.

3. Wait a second, do I know you? You look an awful lot like my kidnapper....


That's impossible I wore a mask.

I mean... your kidnapper wore a mask.

4. If you could make an RPG about one rapper, whom would you choose,  and why would you choose them? Then describe the game. Bonus points if it's a Tupac futuristic game, just like that music video...


You've been paying attention!

Well the most obvious choice would be one of the leaders of a famous Rap group, such as RZA of the Wu Tang Clan.  I think a fictional account of how they gathered the MCs in their lineup (in our example, people like Method Man and Rakewon), and worked their way to the top of the rap game could make an interesting experience, especially if you included optional party members from their affiliated acts (in this case, Busta Rhymes and Redman).

But really, I sincerely doubt any of those guys play video games in general or RPGs in particular.  No, if you're gonna make an adventure about a Rapper, it should probably be a rapper who actually knows what "RPG" stands for.

That's why I have to go with Random.  For the uninitiated, Random is an underground rapper who that followed up his critically acclaimed first album "The Call" with a concept album about Mega Man.  The guy knows and loves his video games, and a chance to play as him working his way through the underground scene would be pretty amazing.  Bonus points if the party consists of frequent collaborators Storyville, DJ DN3 and K-Murdok.

The fact that he's my favorite underground rapper had nothing to do with my choice here.  Scouts honor.

5. Go watch this video.  Does this make you more or less interested in the associated game and why?


Okay so we've got a girl walking around high places dressed as little red riding hood.  The few glimpses we get of the background indicate that she lives in... I dunno, super-glowy London, or something.  Anyways, she apparently decides that being alive is for losers, and figures it's time to give suicide a try.  Then the dude from treasure planet saves the day, except, no he doesn't because the ropes in super-glowly London are utter garbage.  Then there's some weird dialouge that doesn't really make any sense, and suddenly we're watching Peter Pan.

Okay then.

Had the girl hit the ground, and we were then treated to a hard-boiled, detective going over her files and muttering to his young, naive partner about why it didn't make sense for an heiress to kill herself, hinting at an exciting conspiracy, where the only message a young billionaire could send was her own death, then I would be taken hook line and sinker.  Had they gone for a more surrealstic approach and shown me glimpes of her thouguts, or the a momentary peak at the events that brought her to this point, that might have been enough to get me curious.  But this?  This doesn't really tell me anything or give me any reason to care.  And finally, it doesn't really tell me anything about how the game is played, or the sort of things I could expect to see if I picked this game up.  I'm sorry Wheels, but I'm gonna go with "less interested".

6. Why haven't you played Nier yet?



7. No really, why not?


There's a trailer of the game on youtube.  It starts with some pissed off girl just belting out a train of obceneties.  That made me not want to buy the game.

No really.  The trailer is very important for making an impression, to get me interested in the characters and all that stuff.  This trailer showed me a girl who is ANGRY!  Saying lots of swear words because that's EDGY.

I've mentioned Mass Effect 2 a couple times now, so i think I should take a moment to mention that I think the absoulute worst character in that game is Jack.  To the uninformed, Jack is an ANGRY, EDGY girl who uses BAD WORDS.  It was so cliche it physically hurt me.  It was like the game designers seriously belived that I was 12 years old, and still capable of being impressed by the ANGRY EDGY sterotypes that ruled the 90s.

And this trailer essentially told me that this game had exactly the same thing, just with a few more F-bombs per line.  Wether or not they actually manage to handle the character with any level of grace in game itself is completely irrelevant at this point.  I havent' played the game and due to this sort of awful marketing, I don't really intend to.  if this game is intended for adults, (as its M rating suggests) the marketing for it shouldn't be so desperate to appeal to the immature.

<editors note: Did you watch the WHOLE trailer Beat?>



Always a pleasure Wheels.

Ask Nodal

Dear Wheels,

I'm sitting here thinking about questions past
And all the stupid questions I've asked
And while it was a blast too much time has passed
and we're scraping the bottom of the barrel at last


Don't worry Beat, this is a secure channel with no chance of this message being intercepted so I'm not going to bother with the code.  Yes, Wheels has been sealed into the barrel with no major problems of note, and he should be shipped out well before the explosion goes off.  I don't think there's any chance of him escaping before we get him out of here.

But really how far can one go with game questions
It's just me mocking topics of your affection
And through misdirection I demand insurrection!
So many columns later I will learn no lesson


Were taking him about 2000 miles, to a tiny island in the middle of nowhere just in case he can be of use to us in the future.  While he's gone we will commit a quiet rebellion and install the false Wheels, who will help us with our agendas.  He will take over the letter replying from now on, and finally get rid of those horrible JRPGs.

So now that we've accepted this letter is lame
Allow me to ask, what's your favorite game
On that note complain, what tropes drive you insane
yet persevere and persist dispite your great pain.


The false Wheels has been instructed to talk more and more about shooters, and his training has been extensive so there should be no issues with him.  The torture went through as planned and we have received the list of codes from Wheels.  I will send those to you with this message.

And on the topic of things that cause forum war
Why is writing in games so amazingly poor?
When they aren't a bore, it's excuse plot galore
It's been years, we don't have to accept anymore.


  With the help of the sample speeches you provided the replacement will sound exactly like Wheels.  There shouldn't be any chance of the readers finding out about the swap.  And it is indeed good to finally finish this.  The reign of the RPG is over.

It's common knowledge your word is your bond
So I'm eager to see just how you respond.



The messenger I gave this to has brown hair, blue eyes and stands at 5 feet 11 inches.  Make sure to eliminate him.  He has seen my face.

Ask Garrison

Dear Garrison,

For many, Nier was a surprise this year. Are there any other games that surprised you this year, that you didn't originally have interest in, or didn't think would be good?


Ah, what i fine way to start this out. There were a couple of games that truly surprised me, but only one of them was an actual RPG. Seeing as this website thing that I've been summoned to is focused on the RPGs, I guess I should let you in on it. I've been sick and tired of Action RPGs for a while and yet people talked me into purchasing Ys Seven. I had never really played an Ys game before and I was pretty skeptical that I'd have any fun with it at all. Twenty hours later, I had finished the game and I was left jonesing for more. Ys Seven was both a breath of fresh air and a faithful trip to RPGs past. It's kind of hard to explain how it can be both simulataneously, but it just was. It was everything I ever wanted out of a Mana game with really tight controls and fantastic music. It was my game of the year until I played Nier, but I'm still amazed that I liked it as much as I did. I can say that Ys Seven restored my faith in Action RPGs.

Oh, and Super Meat Boy was the other surprise this year, but just pretend I didn't say that.

Bioware is doing some crazy black magic on the PC version of Dragon Age 2, somehow making a battle system that can switch between Baldur's Gate style combat and action RPG combat. Can this work?


After playing Mass Effect 2, I'm willing to give Bioware the benefit of the doubt when it comes to the action in their games. Dragon Age: Origins was pretty much a straight turnbased RPG that gave you the illusion that there was more action going on than there really was. From what I've seen of this sequel, however, I'm thinking that the action element may play out pretty well. I'm not worried at all about taking things turnbased, but something about PC Action RPGs strikes me as an odd endeavor and I can't wait to see just how Bioware has changed things up. I guess we'll just have to stick with the combat video until Spring.

Level 5 has made some great games, yet when they make epic RPGs without someone else involved they often seem to fall flat. What gives?


Level 5 is kind of an odd company when it comes to their massive RPGs. You've got the flawed stuff Dark Cloud and White Knight Chronicles and then you have the ambitious yet somewhat boring games like Rogue Galaxy or Dark Cloud 2. I don't think I care for either of these games all that much, but it's their two other huge RPGs that most people seem to think about these days. Dragon Quest VIII and IX are quite simply two of the finest Eastern styled RPGs to ever have come out and for a lot of people, it seems kind of strange that a company that mostly produced subpar RPGs could reach this zenith. Several people seem to have theories about why, like saying that Square-Enix breathes down Level 5's backs more, therefor producing better games. I tend to think about it in a different light, although probably a little more naively. Dragon Quest isn't one of the absolute biggest names in RPGs and in Japan, it's THE biggest name. Ever since Dragon Quest III, Japan has been fixated on the series. The people have such a deep respect and such a great understanding about what makes them fantastic games. For a company like Level 5 to be handpicked to do Dragon Quest, it's a great honor and I assume they used every ounce of their being to make it the best game it can be.

If Kawazu were to somehow become the director of a direct sequel to your favorite RPG, how would you react?


Well, mainline Shin Megami Tensei is probably my favorite RPG series, so I'm not sure how Kawazu could really change things about it. From my brief experience with the SaGa series, it seems like Kawazu's main efforts are to try and bring the JRPG to its simplest form and build off of it. You can see it in pretty much all his games as he goes out of his way to remove the need for level grinding, stat gains, and equipment juggling and then he sort of builds off YOUR involvement in the world and with your character. Honestly, I think these would probably be a pretty good fit in Shin Megami Tensei. This series has toyed with removing levels or simplifying equipment from game to game and I think it'd be really interesting to see what an outside source could do. I mean, like him or hate him, Kawazu's games are always interesting. So yeah, I'd be pretty stoked.

(editor's note: best response ever)

Have you played Crystal Bearers?


I've been meaning to hunt down Crystal Bearers for the past year, but I guess I just haven't found it for an appealing price. This game seems wacky and I enjoy a good wacky game. Hey, I might even like it if I ever gave it a try. Who knows, maybe it's good?

Peter Molyneux's games are usually quite good, yet suffer from unrealistic expectations. Would they be received better if he left marketing to the marketing folk?



I can't help but love Peter Mulyneux for his RPGs. This is a dude who seems so in love with his concept, that he can't possibly ever live up to what he has in mind. I mean, I suppose you could just hire better marketers and cut down on the disappointment factor, but that's a boring solution for everyone. My proposal is that we cryogenically freeze Peter Molyneux and attach a note to him reminding whoever finds him to thaw him out. I think by this point in the future, whatever he has in mind for video games will be childs play and any game he creates will be the equivalent to that generation's Mega Man 9. This is a good plan.

Ask FanBoyMaster

Dear fanboymaster,

Resonance of Fate is an odd game, even by tri-Ace standards. Do you think Square-Enix punted on publishing it, Sega approached them about doing a game, or what? Seems strange that after all the success they had working together that tri-Ace would team with someone else.

- Wailin ' Wheels


Tri-Ace has always been an independent developer with their displeasure at (in their view) Namco's mangling of Tales of Phantasia likely informing their decisions as to what companies will be publishing their games. This is pure speculation but the possibility exists that Square-Enix would have requested changes to make the game more marketable that tri-Ace itself would have considered untennable. If pressed I'd guess they probably pitched the idea to Squenix at some point simply because they've been consistently partnered with Enix since long prior to the Square merger.

Tales of Graces F seems to have fixed the issues the Wii version had. Why, do you think, didn't they just go with the PS3 to begin with? Especially given the stellar sales of Vesperia on PS3.

- Caius from Tempest, Areura


Namco's never been shy about putting Tales games on any system to test their viability there. Graces would likely best be termed as  Namco seeing how well the series as a whole will fly there. Beyond that, Graces was nearly done (for a certain value of the word given the incomplete state of the Wii version) when Vesperia PS3 came out. Honestly, the success of Vesperia seems to have fast-tracked Graces F given that it came out within a year of the Wii version despite the fact that it likely wasn't started until just before or just after the Wii version came out.

Why has Square-Enix been able to do well with their PSP titles in the West, when others haven't?


Cult of Corporate Personality? Square-Enix fans are legion and very loyal even if they bemoan every change to SE's flagship franchises they will continue to buy them. Having a large fanbase tends to do that.

What is your opinion of Final Fantasy XIII?


I quite liked XIII despite having gone into it assuming I'd probably hate it.

Give us your predictions about Kingdom Hearts 3.


2013 release? I'm not even sure if Nomura's gonna go through with a game called "Kingdom Hearts 3" or just keep making games that, while continuing the story, have strange oft-times indecipherable titles.

Do you like the Fallout series?


Sir Roderick Ponce von Fontlebottom the Magnificent Bastard Sacrilege though it may be, I can't really get into old-school PC RPGs, but I did enjoy FO3 and look forward to trying New Vegas which for no known reason I still haven't gotten around to.

Ask Adam

Dear Adam,

What's your favorite RPG of all time and why?


My favorite RPG of all time is Final Fantasy IV, through the force of sheer nostalgia. The music, story, and graphics were all epic to my young mind. These days... the music is pretty good.

If someone were to say that game sucked, what would you do?


If someone were to say the game sucked, I'd probably say "right on" since they likely have excellent reasons for saying so.

Nier seems to connect with the people who play it, and I haven't seen many who have played it and disliked it. So why did it get killed by reviewers?


Nier had the misfortune of being interesting, rather than spectacular (that is, it isn't much of a spectacle). There aren't many things in the game that would make amazing back-of-the-box features, and what it has in common with more popular games tends to lack polish. Aside from the amazing soundtrack and story, there is nothing in the game, from graphics to gameplay, that excels individually, but Nier's strength is taking its disparate parts and weaving them together into something far greater. I think Nier's greatest weakness is that it requires investment to see where it truly shines, and video game reviewers really don't have the time to devote this to a singular game, especially one that isn't likely to draw many pageviews.

Why do you hate Kawazu?


I don't hate him. I just like to think that every time I make fun of someone for liking Kawazu, I'm helping level up their resistance to criticism.

Who do you think has done the best job at infusing comedy into a localization?


Of the games I've played recently, I'd say the team behind Dragon Quest IX has done an excellent job of taking cheesy, occasionally painfully so, dialogue and situations and making them just as horribly overwrought in English.

Did Mass Effect 2 go too far in stripping out RPG elements?


Until Mass Effect gets QTE sex, I think we're all okay.

Western or Japanese RPGs, which needs the most work and why?



I don't think either genre needs work. Western RPGs seem like they're on the rise on the consoles, and the PC stalwarts continue to thrive. JRPGs, while stereotyped as becoming more and more insular, still contain more than enough variety to just be written off as a genre. People like me can enjoy games like Dragon Quest 9, while others are perfectly okay with things I find just plain embarrassing.

Ask Loki

Dear Lokii,

Why do you hate Final Fantasy XIII? What did it ever do to you?


I don't hate it! Who said I hated it? I mean, it's not great or anything. I'd enjoy it more if the characters were likable, and if the story was told with more skill and nuance, and if it didn't try to be Sherif Anime of Animetown, but hey! At least it was pretty. I might have gotten to the White Woods with Grumpy and Dopey and said "yeah, I think I've had enough of this," but that doesn't mean I hate it.

Nier and Epic Mickey seem to be cases of great setting and flawed gameplay. Had they been done properly, would the fate of these games, perhaps the fate of developer Cavia been different?


Nier's picking up quite the little cult following, so it's doing pretty good considering. I'm not sure refined gameplay would have helped Cavia really. It's such a weird game, you know? I speaks to a certain type of player, and those people are captured by its story and characters. I don't know if the quests and the button-mashy combat had been polished if it would have attracted a larger audience. It found who it was going to, and those people like it so much they tend to overlook its flaws. As for Epic Mickey, it's doing pretty well from what I've heard. Who needs polished play when you've got brand marketability!

Alpha Protocol had many of the same issues that the first Mass Effect had, but got far lower scores. Did it get a raw deal?


Certainly, but it didn't have hot blue space butt either. Who would want to be Jason Borne when you can be Captain Kirk?

If you could make a dream team of developers, who would be on it?


Pheeeeeeeeeeeeeew. That's a tough one, but Yasumi Matsuno would be at the helm. Yoko Shimomura on drums, throw in some Kazuya Niinou for flavor, and round it out with Scott C. to make things pretty.

If you remade your favorite Final Fantasy, what would you change from the original game?


Well, my favorite is V, and being my favorite I think it's just about perfect. To change it would be to insult it. Others though... VI needs some remake love. I'd like to see it spruced up a la Final Fantasy IV DS. VII desperately needs better quality music. The graphics can stay, they're part of the charm. And I'd like to see XII with a more refined skill board, maybe with different boards for different job classes? Oh wait.

Zelda: RPG or not RPG? Doesn't matter?



Not an RPG and yes it does. Don't ask me to define it any further than that. Things get messy.


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