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ASK MATT
No Slimy Little Piles Here September 13, 2005

Matt Demers - 01:00 EST

I SALUTE you all as I kick off this fourth week of competition. Since I can't complain endlessly about my Internet connection anymore, I have nothing to talk about in the intro here- what am I supposed to do now?

Well, as my father used to say, and his father before him: "If you can't think of anything to say for the Q&A Intro, just start making up stories about things your father used to tell you!" I'm pretty sure there's a nice logical paradox hiding in that sentence... I leave it to all of you to unravel it before next week's column, if I can manage to dodge the faaaaacing weapon-of-choice yet again.

Anyway, get ready for number four... because we have a lot of questions to get through!




L E T T E R S
Disappointing Brownies


am i smoking something, or does magical vacation for GBA never make it to US?

Matt

I really can't tell if you're smoking anything from here, unless I dig out my crystal ball to spy on you with. Unfortunately (or fortunately?), I put that old thing away after my first column o' mediocrity-- and I'm really too lazy to get it back out and dust it off. So you're out of luck on the first part of your question. Sorry.

Magical Vacation would have been interesting had it made the leap across the Pacific, but information on a North American release seemed to ironically fizzle out quite soon after the game was announced for that very North American release. I don't know what Brownie Brown is doing these days, but nothing has been heard on this title in three long, cold years. You could always import, if you're an importer. In the likely case that you're not, though, I certainly would not get my hopes up, because if you do, you're only going to die a disappointed wo/man.



Alack- a lack of sprites


Dear Current Contestant,

I'm a rabid fan of the sprite. It was especially pulled off well with Star Ocean 2. But with the current passing of powerful technology and the majoritys demand for better graphics, sprites are taking a back seat more and more. Seeing Atelier Iris gave me a little bit of hope, but it looks like sprites will be mostly used for handhelds. So my question is which do you prefer, 3D models or sprites?


Matt

The mailbag is plump with graphicky questions today, it seems, but this is the only one from a hydrophobic fan. My advice would be to seek medical attention immediately.

I agree that sprites were pulled off very well with that game, in battle and out. It's funny that the sequel's flashy 3-D kewlie version of the battle system was to me less involving than that of Star Ocean: The Second Story, though one could argue that the graphical improvement made spells a bit smoother, in their ability to co-exist with the ongoing battle events. This isn't really answering your question at all though.

Yes, I much prefer sprites myself, though I don't mind the FFVII-through-IX-style either, using polygonal characters against predrawn backdrops. Sprites can allow for a lot more flexibility in conveying emotion or humour, and I just tend to be a bigger fan of non-realistic-looking games in the first place- which is probably a big reason why I love Disgaea, Earthbound and Dragon Quest as much as I do.

I think you're right: Sprites are going by the wayside slowly but surely, and it's kinda sad. With the dawn of new and ridiculous handheld graphical capabilities as well, I'm afraid that sprites will only become LESS common in the days to come. So, enjoy them while you can.



Haven't people had enough of remakes??


Well I glad I found some more Chrono Trigger fans out there Who knows maybe theyíll remake it for PSP well here is what I wanted to ask you, ok first off a couple of friends of mine told me that if CT was made for the GBA or better yet the DS it would rock hard core but I highly donít see that happening ( Maybe they havenít thought or come to it yet) I would like to know your opinion on it (because although happy but CT for the PS1 didnít give me the same feeling as CT for the SNES) another thing if CT came out as an Anime would you buy it? Oh one more thing I know this is a little too much to ask but can you tell me how to get to the Fan fiction section of the site because I wanna read the some of the stories that I havenít read.

Matt

Enough fanfics to last you the rest of your life.

I went right to the source for this one: the newly-appointed RPGamer fanfics curator! Apparently, the previous one quit awhile back, and since then the section has been defunct. However, sometime in the near future, there should be a link on the main page to the new and improved section. I've been told that if anyone would like to submit a story, they can still do so: Just send it to fanfic@rpgamer.com and it will be processed like Cheez Whiz in due time.
Thanks, Rebecca/lawngnomesorceress!

If Chrono Trigger came out as an anime, I might check it out if I saw it somewhere, but I wouldn't go out of my way to- I'm just not an anime kind of guy. The other contestants certainly might though, with ZForce being an avid Chrono Trigger fanatic, and Bucket being an anime-lover.

As for your Chrono Trigger worries, I'm not sure what to tell you. I will agree that the PSX version lacked some of the SNES version's charm, mostly due to unacceptable loading times. I'm sure that a handheld re-make may well "rock hardcore" if one were to be released, but you may have a large amount of time to wait-- there has been not a word from Square Enix about anything Chrono-related in quite some time. I WOULD say that considering the fact that Square Enix has pandered without cessation to remake-lovers in the recent past, anything is possible. Frankly, a nice sequel (gasp) would be better than yet another re-hashing... a freshly cooked dinner is always better than gooky leftovers. Really, though, it might be best to just hop into the nearest Telepod, go forward to A.D. 2010, find out if anything has happened by then, come back, and write in again to inform us all. I'll warn you once: DON'T lay a finger on my future self, or I'll never forgive you.



Take a Deep Breath


Ok, I'm getting sick of all the questions relating to RPGs/VideoGames becoming mainstream, and all the people who just go on and on about Chrono Trigger. Can't we all just acknowledge the fact that CT is a great game, but it was released over a decade ago? Loving the game is fine; continuing to bring it up time and time again is both redundant and irritating. It's alright with a game like Earthbound, because doubtless there are readers who have not played it in any incarnation, and have only witnessed the power of Ness in Super Smash Brothers. Saying something about Earthbound allows newer gamers to learn something; mentioning CT makes you a fanboy that is stuck in the past, and often won't even acknowledge the success of new generation RPGs because you continue to compare them to CT which in your mind is the quintessential, perfect game. But alas, I'm repeating myself.

Now that I've taunted the CT fanboys, its time to pick on Zelda lovers. While I have not played Wind Waker and therefore have no basis on which to judge, I've beaten every single other Zelda title, and in recent years have not been all that impressed. Perhaps the problem is that I've primarily played the handheld incarnations of the Zelda series, because I've boycotted all Nintendo consoles newer than the SNES, but the Zelda series has just become far too easy. The reason we play the platform genre of games is not for the battle system, nor do we typically expect an amazing plot. But the one necessity for the genre would be challenging puzzles. And in this respect, I find Zelda falls far short of games such as Wild Arms (1) and Alundra (1). If I site examples, I'm going to start really ranting, but suffice it to say that practically all the puzzles in the new Zelda games (*cough*MinishCap*cough*) are simply recycled puzzles with no element of challenge left in them, and weak story that tries to make everything stick together. It was entertaining, but overall I found myself disappointed with the lack of challenge presented. Even the SNES Zelda game, while far far stronger than the newer incarnations in every respect, pales in comparison to Alundra in Challenge (through puzzles and bosses), innovation, and plot.

Matt

Now now, nameless: People are allowed to discuss and enjoy popular games- there IS a reason that they became well-liked and well-known in the first place. I agree though, it is always nice to open discussion to a wide variety of games, because then I think everyone, including myself, would be more likely to learn something from it. That said, it's the readers that write in the questions! We can only publish what we receive, after all. So either sit on your haunches, grin and bear it, OR coax more friends to write in to talk about the "underdog games".

To the Zelda chapter of your letter-novel:
I haven't been able to keep track of the onslaught of new Zelda titles released in recent history. I'm sure that some of them might be of at least respectable quality, but a new Zelda release USED to be big news-- now, there's something for the current Nintendo handheld coming out every day, seemingly, and after looking at a friend's copy of Oracle of Ages a couple of years ago, I gave a decided "Phbhth" and vowed to pick up copies of handheld Zelda games only if observed on the sale rack for less than $15 (which hasn't happened).

Which brings me to my question: do you think they will start making difficult video games again? It seems like many of the new RPGs are catering to a younger audience, toning down the difficulty and throwing in quests for items that make the rest of the game ludicrously easy. In the original Dragonwarrior, if you tried fighting the final boss to the game, with the second best weapon because you didn't manage to wander your way into the room with Edrick's sword, the most damage you could do against him was 3 with a single attack. In Final Fantasy 1, you have to fight your way through an incredibly difficult dungeon, and then the final boss has a spell that fully restores his hp which, if he actually uses, makes your chances of victory slip down to zero.

The only difficult games I've found for the next gen systems would have to be BOF:DQ and Grandia Xtreme. And Grandia Xtreme was a terrible game, so that leaves BOF:DQ. Do you think that there will be a return to challenging, or at least games with difficult puzzles, in the future, or do you believe that the common consumer is either a third grader or a moron without the ability or the patience to put up with a real challenge?


Matt

While RPGs have come a long way in many respects, I share your grief about their easy-ness of late. If you ask me, Final Fantasy X, while a solid game overall, was ridiculously and disappointingly unchallenging. Three words: "Summon Bahamut, Yuna".

Certainly, RPGs often used to be hard for stupid reasons-- low hit-frequency and super-high random encounter rates come to mind. In this respect, I'm quite glad that things are easier than they were yesterday. I agree with you on the whole though: I definitely wish that many games were more challenging "in good ways", which is exactly why I enjoy Dragon Quarter and the Dragon Warrior series as much as I do.

There are several games out there though, older and newer, with some decent difficulty and good puzzles, that you might not have tried out. If you haven't played it already, Xenosaga is a pretty tough one, all things considered, if you're a willing victim. Lufia 1 and 2, elderly as they are, were packed full of puzzles. While I haven't played the games in years, I remember that I had quite a bit of difficulty with them outside of the puzzle aspect as well. Also, I personally enjoyed the puzzle-challenge that Golden Sun and its sequel offered. These games were only just on the good side of mediocre, but the dungeon design and puzzles therein were top-notch.

So, I don't think that game difficulty has entirely dissipated from our world, and I think that there is much hope for the future. Easy games will always exist, but I'm sure there will be a few tough ones here and there to give you a little bit of satisfaction. I actually believe that in the future, there will be a wider variety of more difficult games, as the huge number of Pokemon kids/budding RPGamers of today (NOT a knock on Pokemon; I love the games) become older, demanding new and harder games. At least, we can hope.



A Dragon Warrior/Quest-ion


Hey Q&Aer,

Dragon Quest 8 draws near.

Command?

Matt
Attack! Attack! Cast Fireb-er-Kafrizzle... and attack!

I've been a fan of Dragon Warrior all my life, and I'm definitely waiting for this title. Thing is, it really bothers me when a ton of people are just having a biased opinion over the entire series just because the graphics to this game are beautiful. Never before liking a Dragon Warrior game, they see Dragon Quest 8 and now go and play the titles(illegaly I might add,) and talk like they know everything about them and playing them all their lives, even though they previously put down the titles time and time again. Is that all there is to get people to enjoy good video games anymore? To add nothing but graphics to them?

Matt

I am also a HUGE Dragon Quest fan, so I'm glad I found this piece of mail in the bucket this week (not you, Bucket, sorry). Some people just can't get past the graphics- I said it last week, and I'll say it again this week. While good games should have nothing to do with graphical splendours, the graphical splendours are the magnets within games that draw new or random gamers, and attract such niceties as promotions from crappy video-game review shows on TV. How I hate such shows...

The answer to your question, however, is NO. People can certainly enjoy games for reasons other than graphics (REAL reasons, in my semi-valuable opinion)- good battle systems, good storylines, and the like are obviously good reasons to enjoy as well. However, that's obviously not the intent of your letter or your question... in reality, you're right: Many, many people out there are attracted to games for sheer graphical gluttony and nothing more; thus they wouldn't even try a potentially good RPG in the first place based solely on that criterion. Of course, how can a person enjoy a game if they don't even pick it up?

So I guess the answer is no, but really yes in the end.

Anyways, other than that, if you've ever played another Dragon Warrior game, which are your favorites to play, and which ones do you play most often. My favorite is Dragon Warrior 3, 7, and Monsters 2, which are actually the ones I play the most often as well. Also, what's your opinion on Dragon Quest 8. I already preordered it and I'm going to call in every few days to see if the demo is there in the store, so I can pick a copy of that up too(collectors item, it's a must.)

Also, I don't really feel like looking it up so I'd rather ask. Seeing as it's no longer named Dragon Warrior in the US, I'm wondering when the patent being unable to use the name Dragon Warrior was lifted(I'm really curious actually, but month and year, unless you really want to label the exact day?)

-andrew- -kupomogli-


Matt

Have I? I grew up on 'em, back when that was all we had. In fact, my grandma picked up a Nintendo at a yard sale, and got the original Dragon Warrior through that infamous Nintendo Power promotion (yes, my grandma did- at the age of 65-or-so). She spent much time showing me how to explore, telling me NOT to explore the south, and making sure I knew how to hold the RESET button in while turning the power off.

My personal favourites are Dragon Warriors 3 and 4. They're complex enough to be very involving, yet don't lose two major things: #1- the explorative feel, and #2- the challenge-- of the first two. To me, Dragon Warrior 7 lost most of the former, and a little of the latter, which made it a bit of a disappointment (albeit a good game).

Dragon Warrior Monsters, however, is somewhat abhorrent. It combines randomly generated dungeons ("for endless replayability", my rear end) with a pretty brainless storyline and an awkward version of traditional DW gameplay. The sequel was a fair bit better, but still-- Babbles should NOT have 150 HP, ever.

From what I've been able to find, Square Enix USA registered a trademark for the name "Dragon Quest" on August 8, 2003, so presumably, it was freed up sometime prior. I suspect that the conflict hasn't been present for awhile. Dragon Quest was originally the name of a Dungeons-and-Dragons-esque game in the early 80s, and since then, there may be divisions that weren't there before, distinguishing games of the video and non-video varieties apart. *DISCLAIMER: ONLY A HYPOTHESIS*

Of course, this little name-change is also an opportunity to help Square Enix market this puppy as a brand new animal altogether, and may help to shed Dragon Quest of its regrettably unpopular past in North America. The shiny graphical upgrades might help too...





C L O S I N G
IN CONCLUSION:

So long! Farewell! Auf Weidersehen, adieu! To yeu. And yeu. And yeu and yeu and yeu. I'm not going to flit or float away, but I may fleetly fly. Keep your shotguns to yourselves though... there are many game birds out there that aren't 6 feet tall that you can aim at, and besides- you don't want to shoot your second-favourite Q&A contestant anyway *I hope*. Go play Duck Hunt instead-- or better yet, the new Warioware games, in which Duck Hunt is featured. I like playing Warioware: Twisted! in the dizzy-making style the game tells you not to do in the opening screen... *collapses*

Goodbye... it's been fun.

Matt spent too much time thinking about doing the column in his PDEs class today.


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Keep it quiet, but I'm making "special cookies" this week... mwahaha, these should take care of ZForce...

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