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July 25th, 2014
Let's jump right into my second chance writeup for Final Fantasy X-2 (yes, this brief part is what you've been waiting for)!

Fantasy X was a an absolute favorite game of mine. I loved the characters, ate up the story, and pretty much reveled in the drama (oh early college years). So when I heard that a sequel was on the way I was pretty excited. Sadly it didn't take long for Final Fantasy X-2 to rub me the wrong way. I loved the opening song, that was easy enough. I couldn't get into the goofy tone of the game at all though. I wanted drama dang it! The battle system, neat as it was, didn't jive with me either. I kept trying to swap between jobs a ton each battle, which succeeded in slowing everything down, and meanwhile nothing was clicking for me. The mission structure also left me feeling like I had no direction. All in all, I just didn't enjoy myself at all.

So what changed exactly? Well me mostly. That and some distance from my awe filled play through of Final Fantasy X left me in a better position to play its goofy sequel. See goofy has pretty much become my thing since then. I love goofy! This could be why my appreciation for Dragon Quest and Paper Mario games has increased as time has gone on. So needless to say that element of the game immediately clicked with me this time. Besides that, I learned to simplify my approach to the battle system just a bit. I focus on a small number of jobs for each character to level them up, and don't do a lot of swapping in battles (except for boss fights when needed). The music, which I didn't really like at the time, has even grown on me, especially the menu theme. I'm still not a huge fan of the mission structure, but found myself having too much fun to get dragged down by that. All in all, I'm very glad I gave it another chance. Final Fantasy X-2 is a great game.

Let's move on to the letters.

- Michael "Wheels" Apps

This Edition's Contents:


Gear shift... what would you say are the chances Dragon Quest X will cross the ocean now are?

Wheels' Comment

Not too long ago I might have had a positive answer to this question, but as it stands the future of the series in the West seems extremely uncertain. While missing some of the side entries seemed harmless at the time, it now looks ominous. I really don't have any answer for this. My predictive powers haven't been accurate as of late either.

On a similar tangent... I just got to watch a little of Super Robot Taisen OG 2, as played by a friend of mine who bought the thing and then got a lot of help from me helping guide him through the changes, since the last one he played was on GBA.  Seeing the thing on a flat screen TV made me gush over how much better it looks than the YouTube videos I've watched appeared, but of course you now need to pontificate: will Atlus or someone else localize it?  You know you want it! 

Wheels' Comment

The answer is obvious. It's painful, but it's obvious. That series is a licensing nightmare, and at PAX East during a panel with some folks from various localization outlets even many of the crowd groaned when the topic of this series was brought up. Sorry to be a downer, I think that Dragon Quest question put me in a bad mood. Come on Nintendo and Square Enix, you seriously can't sell smiling slimes to the West?

It would appear Sega is doing its best to forget the Saturn ever happened, and even Treasure's ports of Radiant Silvergun and Guardian Heroes to XBLA don't seem to have rescued the company's bottom line.  So here you go: time to wax enthusiastically about all the Saturn exclusives people will most likely never play without owning the console.  I could do it, sure... but I don't really need to mention Panzer Dragoon Saga, Albert Odyssey, Dragon Force, and of course Shining Force III to get you started.  Think of all the goodies on the system that never came out of Japan - Wachenroder was good, for instance. 

Wheels' Comment

Well let's be fair here, if you or I had made that monstrosity of a developer's nightmare machine, we might want to distance ourselves from it as well. It isn't a well built console, and obviously emulation can be a mess because of it. Naturally this means the system somehow produced a wonderful library of classics. The system even saw versions of such things as Tactics Ogre and the first two Lunar games that never saw the light of day here. So many great games like the second and third parts of Shining Force III and all those fantastic 2D Fighters from Capcom. A greatest hits line of Saturn games from Sega would be full of many wonders. Doesn't seem likely at the moment though. While we're on the subject, why haven't they released the entire library of Sega CD games in any of their Genesis collections? Those games don't require anything special in the emulation department.

Probably should have asked this earlier, to keep things thematically strong, but... Dragon Age 2 gets a lot of flak.  How much of it is deserved?

Well, this on top of what I already gave you ought to be plenty of content to see your stint out.  Get crackin' on those retroviews!

Wheels' Comment

As is often the case, you should probably take a lot of the trashing of any modern game with a grain of salt. That said, the game does have its issues. The story and setting aren't quite as good as the original, and graphically many locations are largely reused. Still, there's some great characters and fast and fun combat to keep things going. All in all not a bad game in the slightest.

Those retroviews shall arrive post haste!

Mr. Sluice Wheels!  I'm making your sendoff far more involved than you ever expected, I'm sure!

Y'know, with all the letters I've sent, I don't think the subject of Climax ever came up.  So we'd better be sure to address it now!
Like Landstalker.  I didn't love the game, mostly because anything in which I have to deal with isometric jumping is impossible for me to unabashedly love.  It's a fairly extensive action title for the time though, most definitely something that Genesis fans could point to when trying to come up with good RPG content on the system, and one that held up pretty well (I played it about 5-6 years ago for the first time).

Wheels' Comment

It's a fine little game, though not a classic by any means. Without much in the way of Zelda-type games for the system it fit the bill nicely. I always hoped for a sequel that would continue the adventures of Nigel. The game certainly had its issues such as the viewpoint, but it was beefy, had a very cool opening sequence for the time, and had a relatively good story as well. I guess it's good this wasn't a Saturn game as it has been re-released in various collections. Shame the remake of it never saw the light of day.

Then came Lady Stalker, which has an awesome name if you think about it from the perspective of horror movie producers trying hard to use something different.  Climax gets minus points for actually naming the lead Lady - I remember exactly one character named Lady, and she was a cocker spaniel in a certain Disney movie.  Man, did Climax love the isometric viewpoint too, but at least this one didn't have jumping puzzles.  I could say a lot about it (and I'm trying to remember specifics), but it was a worthy import.  Someone has probably translated it by now for the internet audience, SNES action RPGs aren't known for taking a whole lot of time to localize.

Wheels' Comment

I think it may have gotten a fan translation, but for some reason I never got around to this one. Perhaps with my Retron 5 able to play import games I may have to grab a copy. That is after playing lots of Dragon Warrior of course.

After that was Dark Savior, which is not the best Saturn exclusive but was pretty darn interesting.  At the time I played it, I remember being flabbergasted at playing a lead character who was - gasp! - 28 years old!  Having since passed that age myself, it doesn't seem so monumental, but by Japanese standards it's still pretty interesting.  I'm sure you heard of this unique little morsel, didn't you?

Wheels' Comment

I have partaken of many hours of that strange game. This is a game with multiple storylines that are almost completely different, and they're based on how quickly you accomplish something in the first area of the game. I believe one of the storylines is even completely devoid of combat (not to mention the combat was bizarre as it played out much like a fighting game)! A very strange game to put it mildly.  It was called a spiritual successor to Landstalker but I didn't really see it aside from a similar viewpoint and a vaguely similar protagonist.

Then there was the Dreamcast's item, Time Stalkers.  I hated it at the time, and its mechanics still infuriate me in retrospect.  Seriously, if the only characters other than your current protagonist are monsters you recruit in the dungeons, doesn't it stink massively if one of them dies and then hours of work just vanish because the game takes deceased members away when you head to a new floor?  I guess it gets credit for stirring enough anger within my soul that I can clearly recall some of the specifics years after playing the thing, but that's hardly a recommendation.  You'd have to be pretty hard-up for Dreamcast RPGs to consider this thing. 

Wheels' Comment

The answer to this is to get a copy of Grandia II for your Dreamcast instead.

Speaking of Dreamcast RPGs, if I had the money I would attempt something called El Dorado Gate. Capcom put it out, and instead of making one longer title, the story was continued by buying new parts of it.  The Dreamcast's commercial death and the general reluctance of the public to buy a whole new game for not a lot of content put paid to that idea, but it was forward thinking.  Capcom made it to 7 installments before the end, but if I remember rightly 24 total was the plan.  Couldn't tell you any more specifics, not having played it when the later volumes are fairly expensive, but it's a nifty idea.

Wheels' Comment

I'm all for multi-part game stories, but in general it seems best to keep the number of games and the budget closely in check. We don't want to see another case of a certain Sega series do we? A neat idea at least.

Anyway, back to Climax... oh yeah, Kingdom of Paradise.  It's a PSP game that didn't get much press and I didn't play it, so I can't say anything about it except that it's from this company.  I CAN speak to Steal Princess.  That game stinks.  More puzzle than RPG, it was clearly designed so that there's one specific solution to each later level.  Get it wrong, start all over again.  I like puzzle games in short stints, but I don't like it when the developer treats me like a laboratory animal that must be disciplined until the right solution is achieved.  It was cute though.  Among ladies with eyepatches, that protagonist (I forgot her name) was tops.  What a distinguishing compliment!

Wheels' Comment

Climax didn't put out much of noticeable quality after Landstalker did they? That list of titles seems small and sad for a developer that was around way back in the 90s. They don't seem to have done much in recent memory. In fact, their Japanese website appears to still be advertising Steal Princess. Oh how the mighty have fallen.

As long as I'm emptying the memory banks, let me slam Sword of Vermilion a bit.  Most people have forgotten this early Genesis RPG, and those who haven't tend to err on the side of 'it wasn't very good, but it was okay for the time.'  I'm not going to say that.  I'm going to kick it in the butt until it can't sit down for a week. 

Look at that image, and realize that the visual on the left is completely superfluous.  That tiny bit in the upper right is all that matters.  Now, once you find a map for the area, the area is all visible instead of almost blank like that, but --- just look at it!  See how much wasted space there is?  Also, movement is choppy. 

Oh, and then we enter combat.  It's just you against up to 8 enemies - always the same type though, because the developers clearly couldn't be bothered to put the little extra bit of programming in to let more than one sprite exist onscreen simultaneously.  Don't tell me that's a technical limitation either - the Genesis could handle that kind of stuff, so could the freakin' NES!  As for combat itself... well, you walk around and whack things with your sword, which means this is some kind of action RPG.  It's always a screen with the same dimension (geez, did Idea Factory look at this as an inspiration for Agarest combat?), and if anything is pushing you too hard, just walk to the screen's edge and you run away.  It works every time.  Sure the hero has magic spells - you can have exactly one in combat and have to switch it out between battles.  Magic can make things a complete joke, incidentally, so be sure to spam it when enemies start getting cheap. 

I don't run away unless the game is really slamming me in the face, which meant that, oh, at least 5 hours before the end, I was at the maximum level.  Isn't that fun?  Sure is!

Then we have the boss battles, which were big in the advertising.  Here the best description is to picture a fighting game.  Now, take away the ability to jump.  Take away the ability to block.  Take away the ability to turn around even.  Sure you've got a big sprite against a big enemy sprite, but the controls just plain suck - your magic is taken away so it's just a matter of slowly plodding up to smack with a sword, backing away, and hopefully knowing the pattern to not get killed.  So - awful fighting game mechanics, that's about all we need to know.  Since fighting games of the late 80s were mostly terrible anyway I can't fault this one for being worse than usual, but I CAN fault it for introducing such a lousy mechanic into an RPG. 

I could keep kicking it, with complaints like dungeons that are just boring and being far longer than it needs to be (witness me reaching the max level without trying to), and that would be warranted.  Sure I could slam the story too, but it was 1989.  'Your parents were killed by this evil guy, go beat him up' was really all you needed.

Wheels' Comment

I can't add anything here, Sword of Vermillion is terrible!

Where's the remake of the original Megami Tensei games on NES?  Hell, these things were remade for the Super Famicom, but that was 20 years ago.  Does anyone remember that the series didn't have Shin in its title once upon a time?  Of course, as NES RPGs they probably aren't very friendly to the current crowd, but that means you'd probably love it if Atlus has a revival.

Wheels' Comment

Well they did release a nice version of Shin Megami Tensei on iOS, so perhaps there's a home for even earlier entries in the series there? I know we'd all prefer these things on console or portable consoles, but at least it'd be something. I'm sure those games are interesting historical curiosities!

I'd better send you off with another of these... put Jesse 'The Body' Ventura into an RPG!  Shouldn't be hard!
Now, now I'm done.



Wheels' Comment

That's not hard at all. I present to you, WRASTLING RPG, the RPG where you make your own character and then slowly rise up through the ranks to eventual main event Wrestlemania. Jesse could then be put in as a villain, the character's trainer, or many other roles that would be filled with many other legendary figures. I'd purchase such a game!

Hot Topics

- Sure, why wouldn't they experiment? See what sticks and what doesn't. It's all about refining ideas and tossing new ones out there.
- I actually prefer the Dragon Quest name a bit, but in the end I use them both mostly interchangeably. I grew up with Warrior, but its been Quest even in the west now for a lot longer.
- My guess, localization takes time. Also, DQ8 was a big seller in the west. Who knows if they will bother with the rest of them here. (Are the other games even all out in Japan on iOS/Android yet?)
- Nope. I'm a bit congested at the moment. But I'm kinda hungry.


Wheels' Comment

-On the one hand I agree, on the other I miss the more RPG-flavored goodness that was Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door.
-Tough call for me, but ultimately considering the series found found its biggest hits in the West with the Dragon Quest name, that's ultimately the correct choice.
-I'm pretty sure they actually released them all in order in Japan. Dragon Quest VIII was probably the easiest (aside from being a hit here) considering it doesn't appear to differ from the original PS2 localization (except for no voice acting or orchestrated music). Depending on if IV-VI were ports of the DS versions or something earlier  it would seem like most of the other games would need touch ups of some kind. So who knows what other ones they may release.
-That's a shame, the Rock is cooking a delicious classic Italian dish.

Top Tweets

Wheels' Comment

I can tell you I've had to skip through heaps of Japanese tutorial text, so there's definitely lots of instruction early on. That said, it's a hard series to get into, and Monster Hunter 4's increased weapon count will either make it easier to find a weapon that suits you, or just make things more confusing. On the whole though, the other enhancement touches like an increased focus on climbable terrain and jumping attacks make the game more dynamic and fun, providing more of an incentive to learn it well. On the whole, I'd say just start with Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate since it's already out here and cheap, but Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate should be a fine place to start once you can play it without a Japanese 3DS

Yes I am playing Disgaea 4 again, this time on the Vita! This won't be a full review, just some impressions on how the game has translated to Vita. So far I can say the game looks right at home on the Vita, thanks to the smaller resolution hiding some of the graphical blemishes the game had on PS3. It also suffers from the same issue the port of Disgaea 3 had, that being no way to import a PS3 save or some other way to quickly get a high level party to check out the added content. Not that I would complain too much about playing through again! Disgaea 4 is a blast, with a highly entertaining main character. I highly recommend it!

Hot Topics

Here are some hot topics I've seen around the net:

  • Has the combined popularity of both Mario RPG series caused the recent experimenting in the past two Paper Mario games?
  • Do you miss the Dragon Warrior title or is the original name for the series best?
  • Why has Square-Enix only released one of the iOS Dragon Quest ports in the West?
  • Do you smell what the Rock is cooking?

See you on the 29th for the Four Year Anniversary!

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