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Q & ABUSE
Mortarboard Calamity
Chapter XXIII: In Which the Aestival Season is Anticipated
2008.04.18

Lusipurr - 20:10 GMT on the 17th instant

Letters. Send them to me.

I have instructed our human resources manager to begin looking for a replacement column host--not because I am bored or dissatisfied with my position, but because my senior year is rapidly approaching. I am double-majoring, and because I am graduating on time despite this, I will be sitting senior seminars for both of my majors, completing research classes, and finalising my knowledge of French. In a word, it will be difficult.

I have instructed that a replacement should be found, with my personal involvement in the hiring, by the end of August at the latest. Thus, our time together is limited. It has been an exciting and interesting journey. No doubt, my successor will surpass me in every way, but until then let's enjoy what little time we have left together--if 'enjoyment' is the right word for it.

I will now address your tiresome and annoying questions.





The Letters
New Letter +


Greetings Mighty QA Host,

I, a long time reader, first time writer, shall heed your call for letters. Let your incessant letter bashing begin.

So, you have presented me with the topic of New Game+ you say? I have to say that I do enjoy them. It is good if you just want to relive the story, or see something that you missed on the first playthrough, without having to go through that annoying leveling up thing a second time. I don't think that I would have played through something like Persona 3 a second time (And a third when FES comes out, cause I'm crazy like that) if there wasn't new game+. And of course the origin of all things New Game+ had multiple endings, adding to the replay value right there. So depending on if there is more to see and do (or you missed a lot) New Game+ is much appreciated in my book. Now if you'll excuse me now that I've done my duty as a loyal reader, Atlus seems to be claiming to be sending me free money. Voting for you in the next election, S. Reinbach IV

Lusipurr

Ahh, Scholtenheim Reinbach and his illustrious descendants--quite possibly the finest name in video game history. Of course, Clavicus Knavingham is a strong contender for the title.

New Game+, when combined with a Hard Mode, seems to me an ideal combination. One can spend some time being a completionist whilst still experiencing a challenge and without much of the excess levelling up. (Hint: Crisis Core)

Continue to send letters. More first-time readers, take up your keyboards and send me your thoughts! Follow the commendable example of Master Reinbach, fourth of that redoubtable name.



On Boobies


Lusipurr,

are you turned down by women at an alarming rate? there is really no reason to whine about a women displaying her sexuality and beauty. That is what makes them so neato. To deny that is to deny our very DNA. Please try and examine the politically correct and emasculated concepts that you've probably unknowingly adopted because they sounded good. Boob Liker

Lusipurr

Before we begin, let me state for the record that I do not adopt beliefs because they sound good. I adopt them because they are logically redoubtable. This is a necessary attitude if one believes in an objective reality.

That established, allow me to say that I do appreciate feminine beauty. I do not appreciate vulgar or gratuitous displays. There is a difference between a tasteful display of the attractiveness of the female form, and the vulgar and excessive display of such. To draw an analogy, I like rice pudding. I do not like smearing it all over my face and body. In my opinion (and clearly that of other readers) Lost Odyssey occasionally crosses this line.

If anyone on Terra can be accused of being politically correct, it is not I. Even a brief listen to our podcasts should make this evident. I could not care less about what is politically correct, what the majority of people think, or what is currently fashionable. Socrates proved the valuelessness of public opinion two thousand years ago, and his logic still stands.

Boob-likers of the world, do you think there is a limit to the display of sexuality in games? Is there a point where you are repulsed by it? Is there a tasteful amount? Is any too much, is none too little? Your forthcoming letters should bespeak your appreciation or indignation at the inclusion of glorious boobies.



75% Cod Liver Oil, 10% Lead Acetate, 10% Essence of Mercury, 5% Caustic Soda -- 100% Healthful Goodness


Sir Lusipurr, good day.

I crave your pardon for the lapse in submissions by me of late. As you have never professed any ability or inclination towards medical studies, the details shall not be revealed for my unexpected writer's block. Save for a mention that having a flu would actually be welcomed at this point, for it would mean a definite ailment with known treatment

Albert Odyssey

Lusipurr

This letter ends abruptly. There was no signature on the original, so it seems like it was sent before the author finished expressing himself.

If you are sick I recommend a daily dose of Lusipurr's Marvelous Sanative. A panacaea for all your ills, it cures the dropsy, alleviates the vapours, and dispels perplexing thoughts. Only 20,5s,6d. Order yours today!



Part the First (The Hard Part)


What up lusi?

How is the whole sky with diamonds locale thing workin' out for ya? Before I begin, you mentioned something about Ming (I believe that's her name--no interest in purchasing a 360 yet or possibly ever since I'm sure a simple Windows program will emulate it in a year anyway) having bustin'-outa-control-status knockers with nasty veins. Is vericose the correct term? I do not know why, nor do I have even the slightest desire to dictionary.com the real definition of the term, but I thought vericose could only describe the raised veins on the back of one's calf? If I'm right, feel orrected. If I'm not, then a hearty ha-ha to you for wasting time on dictionary-related websites or--god forbid--opening the spine of a *shudder* book. So analog...

Lusipurr

My Shorter Oxford gives the following definition for varicose

1 MEDICINE. Esp. of a vein: abnormally swollen or distended and tortuous; affected with or characterised by such swelling. LME.

I have only ever heard of people talking about varicose veins in their legs, but the word varicose can be applied to any abnormally swollen vein anywhere, it seems. There's even an adjective form: varicosed. Use it in conversation today!


So actual letter topic. I've read a lot of posts of people complaining about the "IMMEEEENSE" difficulty of Hard mode on FFVII CC and your subsequent recommendation to try it on Normal first, then replay on Hard.

I am thrown into a Dragon Warrior 3-esque surround spell state with this bafflingly awful suggestion. I cannot even attack the Man-Eater Moths from which this affliction was born. Aside from the Ifrit fight, which, I will admit, is maddening until you realize when during his attack animations to dodge...and not to just continue attacking until he attacks.... and you summarily destroy him. I feel that this game should have included Easy and Normal- the aforementioned Hard mode being my after...fore...mentioned....? Normal mode. Since there are so many save points littered about, I think the only true way to get the amount of enjoyment out of this battle system one should truly get is to tough out the hard mode. The only "replaying" you really do is missions and bosses--which sounds like the bulk of the game, but a replayed mission in this game's case (for those who aren't aware) is really this game's excuse for leveling so it isn't too bad.

Not that insane difficulty is everyone's thing--I'm one of those guys that beat Ikaruga on Hard and beat FF IV with a level 24-29 party, so I tend to love masochism in my gaming preferences, but there's just something almost inconcievably fantastic about beating each and every chapter when 3 hits from any enemy will kill you. I played it on Normal and was disgusted--like FFIV played normally, there's no incentive to do anything but Fight Fight Fight--on hard I found myself switching materia to use death on certain crazily-high HP enemies, putting high-ATK boosting gear and saying hell with status effect protection and getting good at dodging to make mincemeat of 4x HP hard bosses, and generally having an absolute BLAST with this somewhat-criticized pseudo-random levelling and battling system. I feel you're slapping the battle system designers in the face, or possibly knuckle-punching their genitalia, by not playing on a mode that actually makes you use the adaptive strategy this battle system so expertly provides. Nothing ever kills you on normal.

And playing through easier areas with high-HP monsters once you're already way overpowered for them won't really make the game any more fun the second time through...I have a 30 hour save file that hasn't even gotten to Chapter 7 (i'll spare plot spoilers in that description) because I needed to do all those missions to upgrade equipment so I'd be able to equip myself to deal with the somewhat fiendish (yet maaassively rewarding) difficulty. I had fun through my first 81 hour playthrough of the game--all the grinding was somewhat varied due to the mission structure, I appreciated each and every new piece of equipment that much more, and generally loved every minute (minus that Ifrit battle at the beginning) so much more due to my hard mode playthrough, and I think people deserve to see it adequately defended.

Hopefully this letter just did that. What are your oppinions kind sir? Oh and to clear something up--materia levelling is completely random (until a certain materia becomes available, and even then you only augment your chances) but actual levelling is not. There is a calculated experience system for enemies, it's just not shown in-game. As you reach certain "benchmarks" for level-gains, your chances of spinning triple 7's increases. Rather than bore you with my inadequate explanation of a system I don't fully understand, check out gamefaqs and read the levelling guide--it all makes sense there, not to mention all the monster guides and other guides list EXP earned values for killed monsters.

Lusipurr

With regard to the non-randomness of levelling up, I have noticed that there are certain 'minimum threshholds' at which Crisis Core will more or less force you to level up if you are not a certain level already. I think I mentioned this on the podcast a few weeks ago. My complaint is that if it is not random, it should not be made to appear as if it is, as in being overt it would allow people to proceed as they do in Chrono Cross, where levels are given you at major fights (as Stars), but some important but less decisive progression is made in the meantime by raising stats to caps through normal battles. This would, I think, be an improvement on the current system, but not as much of an improvement as a simple XP system similar to that found in Final Fantasy VII.

As for my suggestion to the reader, I stand by it. He was clearly not progressing well with Ifrit, and that battle is quite easy compared to some that come later. I do think Crisis Core is too easy on Normal, but if one is being frustrated--not entertained--by Hard mode, there is no reason not to play Normal mode instead. The rewards are the same. The purpose of games is to provide fun. If one is being endlessly frustrated and annoyed, then something is amiss.

For my part, I simply do not have the time to invest in endlessly replaying missions and bosses. There are too many games to play and, as implied in my intro to this column, far too little time to play them. For most people, I think Hard Mode is an excellent chance to use New Game+, though those who want a challenge (like you) may well play Hard Mode from the start.


Oh and thanks for all the amusing commentary on the podcast--I have a buddy (actually playing Crisis Core along with me right now) that could be your twin....well mental-workings twin. You guys play very well off of each other--and i love how Tidwell always seems 3 seconds behind and Chris seems 3 seconds ahead--the banter between the new "stock 4" is a phenomenal way to get me through my 2 8-hour gas station shifts every weekend) And I agree that FFXI was the Wow-killer before Wow even happened. 6 million fans!? I'm sure there are at least 6 million people in Arkansas too--but I ignore them, just like I ignore WOW's existence...and William Shatner's cashing in on his own name....and stop lights....

God I miss Naked Gun, and if you caught the above referrence Leslie Neilson appreciates you. I'm sure he still looks the same age...

-Swerd Murderous

Lusipurr

Leslie Nielsen is one of the greats, but I also think Bill Shatner is hilarious. He is the world's biggest ham, and he knows it. The fact that he is willing to laugh about it, along with all of us, is a compliment to him.

There has been a fortnight of sustained compliments on the podcast, and I am deeply grateful to everyone who has written, commented, messaged, queried, or otherwise contacted me to let me know that I provide some small amusement in their otherwise sad, dismal lives.

Seriously though, I genuinely appreciate the positive feedback--as does our entire panel. To be sure, there are a [very, very] few haters out there who seem determined to complain about the podcast every week because it doesn't cater to their own personal whims, but the vast majority of people love it, enjoy it, and are eager to tell us so. You guys are who we do it for, and we love doing it.

And for the haters, whose incessant, facile, intellectually bankrupt, puerile, vapid, mind-numbingly idiotic bilge I read every week--primarily as a way to remind myself that being retarded is a very real and present problem--I have just one thing to say:



Part the Second (The New Part)


It's 2:20am so why not write another letter hot on the heels of my last one!?

And another hello to you kind lusipur...sir...lusisir.

Lusir.

I'll just use loser.

Lusipurr

We are not amused.


New Game + tends to be largely overlooked, at least in my playing experience, except in cases like Chrono Trigger/Cross where there was some new content to do. What I REALLY liked was the pseudo-New Game + mode in the GBA version of FF II - the Soul of Rebirth dungeon. Given the structure of the game and character levelling system, that game was more conducive to this sort of mode than most, but the fact that you essentially got a completely different mini-game with new characters, different enemy order, harder monsters, ramped difficulty, and the fact that it (sort of?) tied into the story was awesome! To spare spoilers from that game, you get 4 characters that died in the main story back, complete with the level they died with, in a sort of amalgamated version of the whole game you already played--and it's way more fun than FF II's yawn-fest of a main storyline.

Lusipurr

I think Chrono Trigger is probably the single best example of New Game + being employed well. Though, I had forgotten about the second storyline of Final Fantasy II--a worthy addition, especially as it had a better storyline than the original game. I am still holding out hope that one day they will remake FFII and fix the battle system and storyline.


I think New Game + is too ubiquitous and not every game needs it--it works for people that like collecting everything the game has to offer, but (like Chrono Trigger taught me) playing through a game with hugely boosted stats isn't fun even when the storyline is pristine goodness, plus you've already seen the story and solved the puzzles. I think an alternate storyline or super-hard version should get unlocked--I haven't played Disgaea but I heard it has something to this effect.

Cheers like Ted Dansen.

-Swerd Murderous

Lusipurr

I agree that New Game + is not something which every game needs. As I touched on earlier, it is something best employed when trying to obtain a complete file. Chrono Trigger's best ending practically required New Game +, which was a source of some ire on my part. Of course, if the game is good and if the system works with it, why not include it? Someone will get something out of it, that much is certain.

You should play Disgaea. If you like a challenge, you can play Disgaea in a way so as to make it either extremely difficult or reasonably easy. Pick it up right away!

What about you, readers? What are the best implementations of New Game +, and what are the worst? Can you think of some games that would have benefitted from it, or some that would have been better off without it? What other additions would you like to see in games. Send your letters!



Closing Thoughts

The letter bag is empty again. I beseech ye, readers fair, send me your heartfelt missives.

So ends the last week of the Winter semester here at Oakland. After exams there will be a fortnight's holiday because Summer classes will begin. I am looking forward to the classes at the same time that I am dreading them. They are all on topics I am deeply interested in, but the idea of sitting through four-hour long classes every night is altogether abhorrent to me. I hate long classes and I hate compressed schedules, so my trepidation is understandable.

There are Pokémon to catch, but alas, I have exams to review for.

Send me letters for next week or I'll just post my comparative exegesis on Job 23:11-12 and Psalms 17:4-5.

Pip pip!


Lusipurr is ready for holiday.

Summer cannot arrive soon enough!

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CVII (XXIII-XXX)

qui descendunt in mare navibus facientes opus in aquis multis

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clamabunt autem ad Dominum in tribulatione sua et de angustia educet eos

statuet turbinem in tranquillitatem et silebunt fluctus eius

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