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Q & ABUSE
Penguin Mafia
Chapter XXI: Nous faisons ce que nous devons,
parce que nous le pouvons.
2008.03.28

Lusipurr - 19:30 GMT

I am feeling much better. As you are aware, I was ill last Friday--and indeed through the entire weekend. I began to feel better on Saturday morning, but became ill again later that day. It was not until Sunday evening that I began to feel wholly myself. Sadly, because of this I missed Good Friday mass and Easter Sunday mass for the first time ever. I was able to watch them on the telly, but it is a poor substitute.

Then Crisis Core came out and my spirits were lifted. Have any of you picked it up? Tell me what you think of it! I am thoroughly enjoying it, though I must admit I find the battle system a bit simplistic. Still, it is glorious and fun. I am playing two files simultaneously--Hard and Normal. I must say, Hard is significantly more difficult than Normal. Enemies have vastly more life and deal twice as much damage. The DMW hardly ever comes up, too. That said, I think I prefer Hard mode. Normal seems almost mindless in its ease. Hard mode presents a challenge--I died once!

I will now address your tiresome and annoying questions.





The Letters
Publish and be damned!


Hail President-to-be Lusipurr,

Seriously, what you said in last week's [Ed.: A few weeks ago now, because of the backlog.] intro makes you more qualified as a president than anyone I've seen right now. Sadly, to have your letter supply in yellow means that only a few people write in to this column, which also translates into few people only knowing of your existence as a qualified candidate. That just seems unfair somehow.

Concerning the latest from Currents, I wasn't surprised to see Ziff Davis file for bankruptcy, especially due to their willingness to continue printing videogame magazines in the face of people becoming increasingly technologically savvy. Your columnist predicted that in due time, EGM will cease production. Not because you will eventually rule the site and crush all opposition, mind you, but because inevitably all good things must come to an end.

Deriving from this, what do you think videogame magazines will do to get audiences to read their material in print, not just online? Do you think they might evolve as media to compensate for losing audiences to the internet? I know that eventually Ziff and other publishers will only publish online since its cheaper and less costly. Until then, they let their printed counterparts live out their profitable usefulness as print media until it costs more to produce than create due to dying interest from advertisers. By that point, they would have to deliver whatever material they produce about videogames online only. Again, I'm just speculating, but I'm hoping that Ziff Davis and other publishers do what they can to keep up the print magazines.

Lusipurr

We are yellow no more! In fact, we have been green for more than a week. The backlog has so many letters in it that I am considering moving back to two columns a week--but more about that in the outro.

I assume you want my honest opinion, so I will give it. I think, in the fullness of time, print will cease to be a viable medium. It is far more costly to produce a print publication both in terms of material expenses and in terms of service costs. In our increasingly eco-friendly developed world, I think pressure is going to be leveraged against wasteful use of paper when there are paperless alternatives (the internet). Moreover, one cannot watch a video in a print magazine. One cannot listen to audio. Granted, you can carry it with you, but you can carry your iPod with you, too.

Whatever the situation, one must remember that businesses tend to gravitate towards the bottom line. Perhaps ZD is willing to let unprofitability exist for a while, but they cannot keep it up forever. Eventually they will bow to pressure and the print magazines will fold up and move entirely online. Will this happen tomorrow? Likely not, but it is the future.

When reading my predictions about the future please keep in mind that I once said that 586s would be more popular and more successful than Pentiums. I also said that Windows 95 was a fad and most people would stick with Windows 3.1 instead.


With the gradual dying of print magazines, I'd hate to see what I'm familiar with go away in my lifetime and lose one more option of gaining news and opinions that helps me shape my opinion on what game I'd like to get next. With different options for information through print and digital media, I get enough variety to develop my own choices. And even though your site covers RPGs as much as possible, as evidenced by the 1000 or so RPGs you covered so far according to your 10 years feature, there's always going to be some you missed as evidenced through JuMeSyn's Sega quizzing of your staff sometimes. Plus, you're genre-specific with your game coverage-RPGs only. Action-puzzler-fighter Zelda (and maybe Okami) is honorary since it has an inventory screen, but that's the only exception. By that logic, you can't be that perfect in game coverage, although you have shown how to be the perfect dictator in previous column with your attempted assassinations on Sean.

Lusipurr

I have never attempted to assassinate Sean, and I bristle at the accusation! Clearly you have misunderstood. Sean is very accident-prone, that is all.

Zelda is probably best classed as an adventure game, which are often so similar to RPGs that they can well be covered. Of course, if we tried to cram the A for ADVENTURE into our name, we might end up with something like RAPGamer, which conveys rather the wrong impression.


If it wasn't for EGM, I wouldn't have learned of upcoming Real Time Strategy games like Plunder, or Universe at War: Earth at War. If I didn't read my Playstation magazine, I wouldn't have picked up on Katamari's spiritual successor Noby Noby Boy or the cutesy RTS PixelJunk Monsters. Without print media, I wouldn't have known about these games that I'd missed online. I'm glad I became aware of these games offline so I could know more online. I guess this rant might be meant more for Currents than QnA, but maybe its for the best since you take joy in ripping those who incoherently rant. However, I do have a point to show that print media can still help expand your knowledge and increase your interest as long as its out there. Because within all those people disregarding the print magazines as passé, there must still be a few dedicated people out there like me still appreciative of other magazines out there providing different opinion than my own.

Lusipurr

Do not misunderstand: I am not saying that print magazines have nothing to offer, only that they do not make much sense from the fiscal perspective of the operating company. Unfortunately, it is money that makes the world go 'round, all else be damned. It is a frustrating situation--one I routinely think about--but there is nothing to be done about it at present.

I still think print magazines will go--but at the same time I think online offerings will diversity and grow considerably to pick up the slack. I am hopeful for a time when online publications will provide everything previously obtained from the combined array of other mediums.


I'll end this with a question. Do you miss William Buckley since his passing? According to Newsweek, he was a refined musicologist, a self-taught harpsichord player, and lover of big words, aka a sesquipedalian. I'd assume you'd mourn genius like that passing away since your bio page mention some traits similar to his, except you're more piano than harpsichord anyday, huh?

Here's hoping you find this letter intelligent enough to post/publish,

BLG

Lusipurr

William F. Buckley was a great man with a great mind. He was brilliant and clever; a man of letters and art. He had many talents, many gifts, and many failings. He was flawed and imperfect, but he still strode the world as a colossus. In short, he was human, and we can well praise his triumphs whilst simultaneously mourning his failings.

The similarities between myself and Buckley are noted, but I feel I am not worth such praise. Musically, I can play harpsichord and piano very well, though I am an organist first and foremost.

I am surprised that we have readers who are familiar with Buckley. I fear I underestimate the lot of you. Keep up the excellent work!



Unparalleled Missive of Gargantuan Colossalness +5


Lusipurr,

I just want to warn you now, this is gonna be a long one. I'm gonna try to beat out the "Massive Letter of Massiveness", so brace yourself and bear with me. I promise that his will never happen again, I just want to challenge myself.

You want more letters from me, you've got them. But be careful what you wish for. I am known to get on people's nerves very quickly, so I just might send you five letters a day and expect you to answer all of them for every column you do. I wish you the best of luck, my friend. You're gonna need it.

Lusipurr

In an effort to counteract such prolixity, I am going to be as taciturn as possible.


Have you ever played ant of he Tales games? I recently finished playing my first, Tales of Symphonia. Though a bit old, I found the game quite enjoyable and I really want to continue with the series. I looked it up on Wikipedia (Yay!) and saw that in actuality only a few Tales games (Symphonia, Abyss, Legendia, and Phantasia) have been released on any recent-generation systems. Have you gotten word on any remakes that are heading their way out of Japan? I've heard that it's mostly a Japanese-exclusive series, but a guy can hope, right?

So, another question: you play lots of RPG's, right? So how do you keep track of your backlog and all the ones you want to play and when they're coming out? I, personally, have a "Wish List" of 40+ games that I want to play (mostly from Squeenix) but that's just me.

Lusipurr

Apart from the 'recent-gen' games you mention above, Tales of Vesperia will be released later this year on the 360 with a possible PS3 version to follow later.

As for being 'mostly Japanese-exclusive', that is not entirely true. Most of the Tales of games in their 'Mothership Series' have been released in North America, with the exception of Tales of Destiny 2, Tales of Rebirth, and Tales of Innocence. The 'Escort Series' games are another matter, of course. North America does not yet have Tales of the Tempest or any of the Tales of the World games except for the most recent Radiant Mythology. It goes without saying that North America does not have any of the mobile games, either.

Unfortunately, the only port on the radar was the PSP remake of Tales of Rebirth, released in Japan on the 18th instant. No North American release has been confirmed. Perhaps something will be said about it at E3.

I probably play fewer RPGs than many members of the staff, but I am one of the oldest staff members and have a pretty solid idea of what I will like (and what I will not like) by now. In general, I do not buy RPGs unless I am pretty sure I am going to thoroughly enjoy them. I am not usually disappointed. Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Ring of Fates is the most recent, and most daunting, failure of my judgement.

There are actually comparitively few upcoming games I want to buy. I still have a 'backlog' of sorts--limited to games I own but have not finished--but it is not so massive as others have. Coming up, I am looking ahead to Disgaea 3, Final Fantasy XIII, Final Fantasy IV DS, and a variety of other non-RPG titles like Mario Kart Wii, and Final Fantasy Dissidia. I always keep my eyes open, and I try to read up on other titles--that is how I learned about gems like Disgaea in the first place.

Drat, how can I be taciturn with questions like these?


What else to pack into this email...?

Oh yeah! I was really surprised by your reaction to my FFXI question. I was under the impression that you simply LOVED the game, but that was probably from a column that I read a while back. Anyways, I've decided to stay away from any MMO's in general. Paying a fee every month for a game I don't enjoy that much anyway really doesn't sound that appealing to me.

Ok, here's another question to lengthen this letter: what is your favorite RPG and non-RPG? I bet you get this question asked almost every day, but again, I'm just doing this for filling purposes. I am a bit curious, though. Mine is without a doubt Kingdom Hearts. Something about that game just captivates me. I'm gonna tell you that it's NOT those stupid Disney characters, though. I guess I really just like the story. I'm really looking forward to the new developments ASAP. KH actually started my undying love for Final Fantasy, so I am eternally in debt to that game. My favorite non-RPG is probably the Jak series. The story to that game is really great, and the game play if enjoyable and addictive.

Lusipurr

I do love Final Fantasy XI--but at the same time I cannot advise someone to go pick it up and start from square one--at least, not readers of this column. My friends, perhaps, whom I have the time to assist and to teach personally. Trying to do so for legions of RPGamer readers would put more than a little strain on this Editor.

That said, if someone does decide to play, I will do my best to get them into my guild where the various members can do their part to teach the ins and outs of FFXI.

I do get asked about my favourite games rather frequently. The answer changes with how I am feeling. There are times I think that Final Fantasy IV or VI are best, and there are times I want to say Final Fantasy Tactics. Today, I think I will say Final Fantasy VII. When I play it, I find it generally holds up very well and maintains my interest throughout. It has a truly impressive storyline which Crisis Core has only built and improved upon. It also brought Cait Sith to the world. I really have nothing bad to say about it.

My favourite non-RPG is a much more difficult question because there are so many games that I have thoroughly enjoyed. Metroid and Kid Icarus got me into platformers, Tetris and Dr. Mario gave me an undying love for puzzlers, and so on. Recently, I think I would have to say Smash Bros. (in its latest incarnation) is my favourite non-RPG. Of course, if you ask me later I will probably say something like Metroid or Mega Man--classic games which I still play and enjoy today.


Still not done... : ]

This sure is taking a lot out of me. Oh boy. Better keep typing.

How about FFXII and FFVersusXIII? How do you think they look? For me, they seem AMAZING, that is, if they EVER come out... SO many release dates have been speculated for the pair that I am completely lost of the topic of Fabula Nova Crystallus or what ever it's called. Square-Enix really should really keep their fans updated..

OK I'm going to stop ranting now. I don't even care if this letter's the longest of them all. Oh well. This happens to the lot of us. We work towards our wildest dreams and we devote our entire lives to them only to be shot down or fail. We all act like it's OK that we never did what we wanted to do, but we're really torn up inside, and we refuse the help of anyone around us. I guess that is just the pride of human nature.

Thanks.

C.No

Lusipurr

I will take the liberty of assuming you mean FFXIII above. We can rest assured (especially after seeing the visuals in Crisis Core) that they will have first-rate production quality. The battle system is my primary concern, as this is one direction in which I feel the Final Fantasy series has been devolving following the release of Final Fantasy XI. I was willing to live with FFXII's active system, but now with the simplism of Crisis Core and the thoroughly basic systems employed in other spin-off titles (Dirge of Cerberus, Ring of Fates, Revenant Wings) I have my concerns. If they are wise, they will continue to make games for their target audience: traditional J-RPG fans. I want to see some menus, boys!

I think the merger with Square and Enix has done a lot to making the company more monolithic and impersonal, disconnecting it from its fans. Look at NISA today and you can see what Square was like more than ten years ago. Part of this is the sheer number of their fans, but the other part of it is a feeling of imperviousness that comes out of those numbers. After all, they can afford to lose a few.

I am not trying to slight SE, of course. I think this is just the natural result of their phenomenal (and deserved) growth. Hopefully they are aware of it and are doing what they can to maintain close ties to their fanbase, whether they 'need' to or not.

I surely hope that writing a megalithic letter to RPGamer's Q&A column was not a life-long goal requiring years of devotion. If it was, well, perhaps I can find a position for you in my staff.



A Mana Fan Speaks Out


Lusipurr,

The recent release of Crystal Chronicles: ring of fates, has had me pining for the good old days of multiplayer RPG's. I am of course speaking of the original Secret of Mana, which had severe cult following within my social group, many a late night we spent playing that game. Am I the only one that thinks Squeenix has been beating that dead rabite with a stick, resurrecting it, and then beating the poor cute zombified thing down again?

Lusipurr

Sadly this seems to be the case lately with more than just the Mana series. Various spin-offs in the Final Fantasy series have been badly treated (see above). The Mana series has been hit especially hard, however.


I'm a huge fan of the overall art and design of the Mana series, as well as the gameplay and storytelling. It's a sad thing that the next game in the series never managed to make it to the states, as it was quite true to its predecessor, and desipite its less then perfect multiplayer aspect and at time confusing free range form of story telling, Legend of Mana managed to be a fairly decent game as well (the game was MUCH better if you took the time to unlock all the story arcs)... But since then?

I got so exited when i first heard of sword of mana and viscously lept upon that title like a fat kid on cake, This game managed to accomplish the traditional mana feel, yet lacked the multiplayer aspect that gave the original its full appeal to me.

Finally, square announced its release of Children of Mana, having several friends with a DS, i felt we could once again fully embrace the series that seemed long lost to us. Boy were we let down, the game was ok, but got frustrating and very repetitive, it lacked the storytelling element we fell in love with, and the multiplayer aspect was worse then any of its predecessors.

Lusipurr

I am not certain what you mean by the multiplayer of the 'original' Sword of Mana, as it was a remake of Seiken Densetsu (aka Final Fantasy Adventure) which had no multiplayer--unless you are perhaps simply referring to the original Secret of Mana. As for Children of Mana, it was a letdown to be sure. That was the point where I stopped paying attention to the Mana series. Too many failures.


Throw me a bone here Square! Heroes of Mana finally hit the scene, ok..ok.. a mana game with a combat system more along the lines of a traditional strategy game. I'll give it a try.... The less said about this game the better, i spent one weekend with it, and wanted to run the cartridge through with the antiquated katana I had hanging on my wall. I was very dissapointed

-Mark Miller

Lusipurr

Perhaps some time away from the Mana series will give SE a chance to freshen themselves up. When they next produce a game, it will be worth attending to. Yes, I am the King of Optimism.

Note to readers: do not stab your games with sharp implements. Mark Miller is a trained professional. Do not attempt these stunts at home.



Pet Tales


To my dear Kitty Cat,

Looking for well developed pets in rpgs, huh. Well, I just finished playing Tales of Legendia, and one of the main characters named Moses has a pet named Geit. He's kind of a dog/wolf type creature. He is fairly well developed through most of the first half of the game, considering he can't speak, only howl/growl, however once the character quests start in the second half of the game, there is an entire chapter devoted to Geit and Moses. It explains how they met, how their relationship is more than just master/pet, and actually has a somewhat emotional end to the chapter.

Lusipurr

Another note to readers: do not call me 'Kitty Cat' or any variation thereof.

I have not played Tales of Legendia, so Geit was off my radar. Perhaps I should create an official RPGamer "Pet Database" with all the information readers have sent in. You could type the name of a game, pet, or character, and see everything worth knowing about related pets.

What a terribly useful idea.


I'm next going to play Xenosaga 2. I realize I'm a little late in getting to this game, but other games just pulled at me more. Anyhow, when I ordered this game way back when, I received a bonus disk that had nearly 5 hrs of movie sequences from Xenosaga 1. I watched this last night and it brought the plot from part 1 back into my memory quite well. Just wondering your thoughts on extras like these. I feel they really help, since before viewing this disk, I really couldn't remember Xenosaga 1 at all. I feel that more series that are direct sequels to previous releases should include something similar to this. What do you think, Kitty Cat?

Until we meet again,

Mr. Snuggles

Lusipurr

I remember purchasing Xenosaga II and receiving the same disc. When I watched the DVD summary, I found myself in a similar situation, remembering things I had entirely forgotten from Xenosaga I--and this despite that I played both games at release.

I would certainly be willing to spend an extra $5 to get a DVD summary of 'the story thus far' when I purchase direct sequels. This assumes, of course, that it will be comprehensive and lengthy, and not a five minute summary of cutscenes with some text on the screen.

Perhaps I should put together a summary of all the Q&A columns thus far each week.

Nah.



The Buyout Sellout


Dear Sir,

A reader wrote in about EA's attempt to buy out Take-Two buyout and I thought I'd contribute some feedback.

If I recall the situation correctly, the original bid was for EA to buy all of Take-Two's stock for about $26 per share. It wasn't a straightforward cash offer, but rather a public buyout, which is a little different. At the time it was a ridiculously good offer because their stock was rated at like $13 or so per share, so the publisher's stockholders stood to gain an enormous amount of money. The publisher refused the offer, saying, "Let's talk after Grand Theft Auto 4 is released". Hilariously the company's stock doubled overnight in the wake of the news (investors go crazy over mergers) and now EA's offer isn't actually good for much of anything. As far as I know, Rockstar games isn't even part of the acquisition deal so it seems like a pretty stupid move (unless they want to liquidate sports franchises). But really I'm just paraphrasing videogame blogs right now so whatever.

Lusipurr

My opinion on this whole matter is simple to express: EA is a giant, company-eating monolith which needs to be stopped by whatever means necessary. They are terrified of competition, which is a sign that they know they are producing rubbish.


Anyway, while EA has published a few good games here and there, it seems like the standards of their subsidiaries drop significantly immediately after being incorporated into the company. Release dates are usually not prone to negotiation and it seems like they push teams to put out a new title every year instead of giving them time to sit on a product and polish it. While it can get pretty ridiculous when a team will sit on a game like a Final Fantasy title for an entire decade it really isn't good for the medium when video games are a mass-produced commodity. EA is hardly the Satan of videogames or whatever people on the internet like to accuse them of being but it is my opinion that being bought out by EA will directly result in a studio's creativity being crippled.

Lusipurr

You are correct.

I have several friends who work for EA. One went into the videogame industry because he loved RPGs. He wanted to make RPGs more than anything.

Last I heard, he makes NASCAR games. He is overworked and underpaid, no doubt. I hope to God he gets to do an RPG soon. He was a brilliant fellow and I feel certain if he were to make an RPG it would be worth playing--assuming EA has not robbed him of his creativity.


So what about you? Do you think that publishers merging and amalgamating is a bad thing for the industry? Or, do you think that studios merging and being bought up, and thus having access to larger revenue streams, gives developers more resources to put out more games and keep us happier and busier as gamers? I'm not sure where I stand on the issue in general, but I'm familiar with at least one cast where a big buyout was bad for the industry. RPGamer fan-favorite Square-Enix has published or announced like literally over 50 Final Fantasy titles since their merger just a few years ago (I'm not sure I am even exaggerating). Where I used to love nearly every game either studio published, since they came together and botched game after game I've really started to look at the S-E logo as a suggestion that the game is much more likely to suck than it is to be any good.

Regards,

Brandon Abley

Lusipurr

I think buyouts and mergers do not help gamers or the industry as a whole. Yes, studios have access to larger revenue streams, but this does not usually equate to larger production budgets across the board. Rather, it means bigger paycheques and large dividends for stock-holders. After all, if they do not have anyone to compete with, why should they bother to improve, innovate, or expand more than absolutely necessary?

Despite being a dyed-in-the-wool Square-fanboy since way-back-when, I am forced to concur with your assessment of post-merger Square-Enix. They have produced some excellent titles, to be sure, but by and large the games they have released have been average or worse. Gone are the days when excellence was the hallmark of the brand. The very best games still seem to come from SE, only now they are surrounded by a plethora of mediocre games as well. People now have to consider reviews before purchasing an SE title--something that was far less necessary in the past.

Luckily, we are here to play crap so you can avoid it.



Closing Thoughts

HUGE COLUMN TODAY OHMYGOSH.

I am considering moving to a double-column again. Time constraints being what they are, I will have to think on it quite a bit. It may be better to increase the column size, instead. Having two three-letter columns requires considerably more work than one six-letter column.

Perhaps next week I will increase the column size to seven letters. We will see how it goes, perhaps a weekly ten-letter (or more!) column is not impossible.

Whatever the case, continue to send your letters and they will get printed. Write well, and I will answer you without too much rudeness. Write poorly and you will be publicly humiliated. Those are the rules, my friends. Those are the rules. I cannot do anything about it!

Okay, so I could do something about it, but I refuse.

Pip pip!


Lusipurr is surrounded by French.

Non jamais mais maintenant!

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