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ASK OLIVER
Boring Paradise
June 1, 2008

May 30 - 1:00 CST

Man, BioShock is all different kinds of awesome. Why aren't all first-person shooters this fun? That's why it took me so long to try the game: the simple fact that it's first-person. But BioShock is hardly a typical FPS. There's so much more to it. The story is excellent, the voice acting is among the strongest I've heard, the atmosphere is unrivalled, and the plasmids are still just plain awesome. RPGamer should cover the game. I'll be happy to submit a review upon completion!

Got that dental stuff taken care of. Hopefully I'll never have to go back there again, ever. At least, not to address this particular problem. Next time a tooth falls out of my head, I'll repair it myself with superglue.

And that's about all I have to say for now. Let us dive into the letters!





The Letters
Ah, the ninth fantasy


Hey, Oliver,

Before I start, first I have to say that it's nice to have another fan of Baten Kaitos Origins around these parts. That quick succession of plot twists during Sagi's last dream sequence totally blew me away. However, I wasn't thrilled that they scrapped the original BK's battle system for something vastly simpler and ultimately less rewarding. Still, let us hope there will be a third installment someday--hopefully for the Wii, which we've already established is sorely in need of some RPG love.

Oliver

I enjoyed the original Baten Kaitos, but Origins was an incredible improvement. Where the first one was simply average, (if that) the sequel is easily one of the best GameCube titles ever released. The combat system (while slightly dumbed down) was a lot of fun, and the plot was truly impressive. And thank God, while the voice acting wasn't anything amazing, it was miles better than what we heard in the first game. (I actually turned off the voices for Eternal Wings.)

I agree that we need another one. It's simply not fair to release such an improved sequel, and then kill the series. The Wii would be a fine place for it, as would the DS.

Now to the question: As a well-versed member of the RPG community, where do you think all this FFIX hating comes from? Personally, I found it an incredibly engaging game (my second favorite FF, after my beloved FFVII), and though I'm always open to alternate opinions if they're well-reasoned, there are many FFIX haters who seem to fall short of this standard. So where do you fall in this spectrum? Lover? Hater? Or something else altogether?

Oliver

I sit precisely in the middle of the two extremes. I look at the haters, and I don't understand them. I look at those who would call it the finest in the series, and I don't understand them either. Final Fantasy IX was a great game, and I have few complaints about it, but I didn't enjoy it as much as other games in the series. Continue, and I shall elaborate somewhat.

The characters were for me, the most redeeming part of the game by far, and the way they're scripted truly brings them to life (barring Amarant...). Sure, the plot is based partly off of an amalgamation of past FF's, but the game still manages to touch on previously vague themes and really flesh them out.

Oliver

By and large, I liked the characters in FFIX. In my opinion, though, they fell short of characters featured in other Final Fantasy titles such as VI, VII, and X. I liked Steiner, Dagger, and Vivi a lot, while Zidane actually annoyed me somewhat. In my opinion, the weakest character in the game was actually Kuja, who struck me as a very lacking villain overall. (I mean, shoot... seems like we hardly ever SAW the guy.) Anyways, continue.

Watching Vivi struggle with his mortality was a truly emotional experience for me, and Garnet's character development was some of the most skillfully handled in the FF series (my favorite FF heroine, bar none). Steiner appears to be just a shallow source of comic relief at first, but his struggles with the bounds of his duty add a great deal to his character. And Zidane? A refreshing break from the emotionally repressed killing machines of the two FF's past. I could go on to the rest of the cast, but I feel as if I'm rambling already. Suffice it to say that I'm thoroughly endeared to the FFIX main cast. And Beatrix (and her piano theme) just seals the deal. One of the best main casts in FF history.

Oliver

I liked Vivi a lot, and his struggles with mortality were interesting, although they became awkwardly emo at times. Garnet was an excellent character, miles better than most females featured in the Final Fantasy series. Steiner was both hilarious, and a well-rounded character at the same time, which I greatly appreciated. Character development is oft forsaken for laughs in comic relief characters.

As I briefly mentioned earlier, I didn't really care too much for Zidane. I didn't dislike him, but I much prefer Cloud and Squall. There just wasn't much substance to Zidane, in my opinion; he was just a resident goofball. And then, towards the end, he goes bonkers in a scene that is approximately fifteen times more EMO than all of FFVII/FFVIII combined. That actually might have been a cool scene, if it featured anyone aside from Zidane. (I'm just an empty shell... I'm just an empty shell... I'm just an empty shell...)

Beatrix was an excellent supporting character, and her piano theme is among the more beautiful compositions in the Final Fantasy series. I just wish the game had given me the opportunity to best her in battle. I was very frustrated at the repeated ass-kickings she dished out to my party, and I was most wroth when she joined my side before I was given the opportunity to redeem myself.

Of course, "characters" is only one aspect of the game, but I'm just too lazy to recount everything I liked about the game. I will say, though, that I enjoyed the strictly-enforced class system in FFIX. It felt incredibly rewarding to use each character in their own special way, and the unique skill sets just added to their sense of individuality as characters.

Not a big fan of the License Grid, you can probably guess.

Oliver

Final Fantasy IX's skill system was a solid one, albeit somewhat unexciting. It was very, very simplistic, which is a slight turn-off to me. However, I concede that it is miles better than that of FFXII. I loved FFXII, but the License Grid was a giant piece of crap, in my opinion. Barely halfway through the game, I had a party differentiated only by their weapons of choice. This is NOT a good thing, and while I didn't love the skill system in FFIX, at least it kept the characters distinct. And in all honesty, that's the most important thing.

My only gripe with FFIX, really, is that godforsaken Trance Bar. It's even more counterintuitive than the Digital Mind Wave. Why should I not be able to choose when I release devastatingly effective attacks? Why does Zidane go all psychedelic when I'm fighting a weak little Goblin, but sits inert when I'm getting thrashed by Deathguise?

Oliver

Heheh, this I agree with 100%. Didn't the Limit Breaks work fine? Why did they feel the need to re-tool them so? And why turn them into something so random? Trance is a perfect example of random combat elements gone wrong: it's nigh-impossible to figure it into your battle strategy, which makes it nearly USELESS. At least the DMW came up consistently; i.e, you could count on it to appear more than once during every boss battle. In FFIX, entire boss battles will go by without a single trance, which is FRUSTRATING TO THE EXTREME.

Thanks for the input, Oliver. Another glowing reccomendation for RPGCast here might come off as a bit repetitive, so... Oh, wait, I think that might count as a recommendation anyway. Just go listen to it, people! No excuses!

FFIX forever!

Cornman89

Oliver

Thank you, oh man of corn, for your contribution to Q&A. Here's the long and short of it, as far as FFIX is concerned: I thoroughly enjoyed the game from beginning to end, but it didn't impact me like other games in the series did. The story was wildly entertaining, and yet it seemed to lack the emotional depth found in installments such as VII, VIII or X. The gameplay was solid, yet managed to fall short of other installments, if only in a few respects. I don't understand the haters of FFIX, but I don't understand those who worship the game either.

Let's hear MORE FFIX talk! Write in, and tell me your thoughts on the last Final Fantasy of the PlayStation era!



Waking up early for work kinda stinks


Hi once more Oliver. A cool gray day greets me here, and I like it. Given where you live and the time of year, I doubt either 'cool' or 'gray' is a suitable adjective for the weather.

Oliver

"Hot" and "sticky" would be more appropriate words in describing middle Tennessee's weather at this time of year. It's not unbearably hot, but it recently reached the point where I found it necessary to install my window AC unit.

Since RUFiO mentioned me by name in his letter, I must return the disfavor. Yes, many of my editorials are inconsequential to the majority of the site's viewers. Far from all however. In fact I was already thinking about writing another that is of little consequence to most, and your gumption has cemented the urge. And RUFiO, there is a simple solution should you find what I write worthless: write something yourself. I know that Macstorm isn't a stickler for details in the editorials department, and the main reason mine get so much play is because I consistently contribute. Attempts to garner more of a life outside of games having failed for me recently, look forward to more of my material.

Oliver

Yes, this is true. You have every right to submit your editorials and reviews, JuMeSyn, even if they focus on games of relative obscurity. I'm sure they appeal to somebody else out there; surely you're not the only RPGamer who enjoys Sega titles.

Oh, and worry not, all my attempts to garner a life outside of a) work, and b) games, have ended in failure. This is largely due to a lack of both time and desire on my part, but in any case, you're not alone.

So here's more on Terra Phantastica, since the final battle proved more trying than expected. The goddess that must be defeated is certainly the strongest opponent in the game, and her possession of seven action points means that if the player ends the turn in range she will unleash a great torrent of pain. The major difficulty I ran into is that, once she's been beaten down to 1 HP, she becomes invincible. As the adage runs, the third time was the charm. It turns out that beating her requires shuffling Deene's combat formation around to 'Jyuyrubal' (no I don't know what the hell that means) in order to seal the goddess. Shuffling the combat formation around is the one option I'd never had to use in battle before and am still a little puzzled about because it's different from the usual formation shuffle that enemies use all the time. This explanation probably doesn't make much sense, essentially I had to use the one thing in combat the rest of the game never required the use of in order to win and this explains why the goddess beat me into the ground twice.

Oliver

Terra Phantastica provides living proof that Wikipedia isn't as infallible as we often think. Would you believe they don't have a blasted page for it? The game actually sounds somewhat intriguing, and I greatly enjoy SRPGs. The boss you're describing reminds me of the final boss in Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn. She actually recovers all her hit points after being defeated once, and utilizes a variety of awful AOE attacks. It's a bit disorienting, since no enemies in the game use AOE attacks until the very final stages.

Well Oliver; you brought up a subject I've already written at length on. I COULD rewrite this editorial but since almost nothing has changed I'll just link you to it: http://www.rpgamer.com/editor/2007/q4/100807mm.html Reading this ought to explain pretty well why I don't have a PS2. And let me reiterate: I WILL acquire a worthy game library for any system I own. In the case of a Sony system this would require money I don't have, but never mind, that is what debt is for.

Oliver

Bah, but PS2s are CHEAP. In the editorial you linked, you brought up eBay and the cheap gaming treasures available for purchase. This being the case, you should know better than I do that you could buy a slimline PS2 along with a ton of extras on eBay for significantly less than $100. Games are cheap too! Final Fantasy X, X-2 and XII are all available for $20 or less, as are the Xenosaga titles. I can see where you're coming from, JuMeSyn, but I don't think a PS2 purchase would break you, and I think you'd find it a very rewarding venture in the end.

Damn all, I'm starting to run into serious problems with my DS. The thing works pretty well save for one horrible flaw, which is that the shoulder buttons don't sense input anymore. Oh, and the stylus went missing. Games that don't require either are not a majority of the library.

Oliver

Ouch, that hurts. You must have been playing the hell out of that thing. I believe you can buy new stylus pens, but there's not much you can do about the nonresponsive shoulder buttons. Try some WD-40 if you dare, but it sounds like a new DS purchase may soon be necessary.

Well, time to start another obscure Saturn RPG. Madou Monogatari, you're up.

JuMeSyn

Oliver

Go for it, man. Let me know how it is! Talk to you later, JuMeSyn.



THE SCOOP on Dawn of the New World


Hey Oliver, I couldn't help but notice my name came up several times in your last Q&A segment. Stop talking about me behind my back!

Oliver

Wha? I have done NO SUCH THING.

Oh, wait... okay, so I mentioned you a few times. But in a POSITIVE manner! Or an indifferent manner, I suppose. Whatever! On with your letter!

But anyways, Tales of Symphonia: I love it. Most people know that I love it, since my bio says so with vehement enthusiasm. So, needless to say, Dawn of the New World is one of my most highly anticipated titles for the fall. I've been reading up on the title whenever new information comes up, and there have been several developer interviews in gaming magazines for the past few months that shed a lot of the details that you seem to be unaware of, so I figured I'd let you in on them.

Oliver

I loved Tales of Symphonia. It was a great game, and I should really replay it sometime. (Like I have time for that). I have to say, though, I don't really understand people who claim it's the greatest RPG ever made. The funny thing is, you're not the only person I've met who's made that claim; you are, in fact, the third. I loved the game, but some people REALLY love it.

But yes, please shed some light on this upcoming sequel! I wasn't aware there WAS much information available for the game, so this should be educational.

First of all, there is no cheesy Wiimote waggling. This was mentioned in one of the interviews. Apparently the motion controls won't be used except for simple point and click systems, possibly the menu. Honestly though, I think I'm a bit disappointed about that. Am I the only one who likes waggle controls for action RPGs? I loved how Twilight Princess and Okami did it, and I think it would carry over to Tales really well.

Oliver

Nah, you're not the only one Adriaan. There are lots of eight-year-olds and grandmothers who love it as well!

I jest, I jest. The truth is, I loved the Wii controls for Twilight Princess, and in fact, I love the Wii controls if they are done right. I think Tales really COULD translate well to Wii controls, given the action battle system. But given the bad track record of Wii controls, I'm glad that Namco is opting to play it safe in this case. It's both disappointing and comforting at the same time, if that makes any sense.

As for the monster collection system, put your fears to rest. They are being designed as an integral part of the gameplay, not some cheap gimmick. Apparently there are well over 200 unique monsters to collect, and by unique I mean unique, not just palette swaps like most Tales games make use of. This will, of course, give the game the most diverse array of monsters in Tales history, which is certainly something to look forward to. As for ignoring them and going with human party members, that just won't be possible. There are apparently only two permanent human party members: Emil and Marta, the two new characters seen here: http://www.rpgamer.com/games/tales/toskor/propaganda/toskor3.jpg. Characters from the original Tales of Symphonia will be making guest party appearances, but they won't be sticking around. Your last two party slots will have to be filled in with monsters.

Oliver

Well, once again, that's both good news and bad news. I'm glad the monster collecting will be a fully realized gameplay element, but shoot... I was looking forward to re-assembling my old team! Ah well. Monster teams can be a lot of fun to play around with, and I'm eager to see how it all works out in the end.

I will say though, I really like guest party members in RPGs. They tend to add a very dramatic flair whenever they're implemented, so I can't wait to see how it all plays out in Dawn of the New World.

The monster collection system is actually what I'm looking forward to the most. The method for collecting them sounds quite intriguing. It's not a simple "throw a Pokéball" gimmick. You actually have to manipulate the elemental states in the battle field to match the monster you want to catch before you can even attempt it. I don't know exactly how it's going to work, but it sounds really fun, and a collection game with a fun battle system is alright in my book. Plus, I want to see what happens to turn Lloyd into a villain. It's a really delicious mirror of the Tales of Symphonia storyline.

Oliver

Huh. Well, if the mechanic for collecting monsters is fun, then all the better. We'll just have to wait and see for ourselves!

Lloyd, a VILLAIN? MADNESS! I'm unsure if he's a "villain," in the purest sense of the word, though. From what I've seen, he just seems to have, er DIFFERENCES with the new main character. But yes, it will be interesting to see how that plays out, and I look forward to doing battle with him. Perhaps Dawn of the New World will flesh him out a little more, too, because the original didn't portray him as much more than a stereotypical hyperactive 17-year-old RPG hero. (I know you likely disagree with me, but in my opinion, that was one of Symphonia's biggest flaws.)

Anyways, other Wii games. How could you forget Oboro Muramasa Youtouden? I mean, sure, it's a ridiculously hard name to remember, but still! It's made by the guys who made Odin Sphere! Odin Sphere, you lunatic! At the very least the game is going to be a feast for the eyes. I can't wait to give it a shot. Perhaps the Wii can actually handle the graphics this time, unlike the PS2. I, too, am looking forward to Fragile. I love Tri-Crescendo to death after Eternal Sonata, and if it's even half as good as that game was, we're in for a treat. Plus, it looks to have a really interesting post-apocalyptic world. And a flashlight!!!

Oliver

Oboro Muramasa... what now? I've never even heard of this game.

*does some quick research*

Wow... a Google search for Oboro Murumasa Youtouden returns ONE result. That's right, ONE. I think my perception of reality was just altered a little bit...

With the extremely limited information available, I have determined that the game looks intriguing. But since I have never played Odin Sphere, (shame on me, I know) I likely don't have the same level of anticipation that you do. Also, it looks to me like we'll be lucky to get a North American release. And if they DO bring it over here, let's pray to God that they give it a new title.

Fragile looks very interesting, and it also turns up approximately 35,999 more matches than Oboro Murumasa Youtouden when searched for in Google. (Although I actually entered "Fragile Wii, since the word "fragile" tends to apply to far more than just this game.) I love post-apocalyptic settings, and the flashlight sounds cool. It seems like the game could get pretty creepy, actually: searching through dark areas in a ruined world, with naught but a flashlight to illuminate your path. I love Tri-Crescendo solely for their work on the Baten Kaitos games, as I've never played Eternal Sonata. (Once again: SHAME! I shall have to remedy that sometime!)

So, what RPGs have you been playing lately? I finally finished my downloadable title spree, so I can get back to Persona. Anything you're going to review? You should. I can always use more reviews over here in Points of View (end shameless plug.) In fact, I'm expecting it now. I took the time to write you, after all! You owe me.

Adriaan
Review Guy

Oliver

Due mostly to the hearty recommendations the game received from our staff (including you) I picked up Persona 3: FES. Unfortunately, I haven't had much time to play it, and in fact I've been ignoring lately it in favor of BioShock. I fully plan to go back to it, though. It was a lot of fun, and I want to see the game through. (Lord knows, that will probably take up the entirety of my summer.)

In addition, about ten years after the fact, I am finally playing Final Fantasy Tactics. (The PSP version, naturally). It is absolutely spectacular, and I have no idea why I waited so long to play it. I love SRPGs, and Tactics is one of the best I've ever played. I'm only 25 hours in, but at this rate, it could very well take down Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn.

I'd love to write a review sometime! I often buy new RPGs that come out, and during the six months or so I've been here, there have been more than a few I'd have liked to review. But, my gametime being so piddly, I tend to finish weeks (if not months) after other reviewers. And between Currents, Q&A, and 50+ hours per week at my "real" job, it's hard to find the time to write anything else. But who knows? Maybe I will at some point in the future. And, of course, I AM in your debt now.

Thanks very much for the letter and info, Review Guy! Take it easy, and write in again anytime.



I'd be dead in far less than three weeks


Hi, Ollie,

I finally got my closing date - it'll be the same day you're posting your Q&A column - this Friday, the 30th. I'll be without internet for about 3 weeks. I'll miss my homepage the most - RPGamer!

Oliver

Three weeks? Damn, that hurts. I'm unsure if I could survive that long without an internet connection. Although, as you've likely noticed, this column did not go up on Friday the 30th, but on Sunday the 1st. Seems to me that Sunday will be the designated Q&A day for the foreseeable future.

I wanted to make a couple of comments to RUFiO regarding his letter. First, just because you (or I for that matter) are not interested in import Sega games doesn't mean that JuMeSyn shouldn't have the opportunity to discuss his RPG passion at an RPG site (my, what a novel concept!). Second, I just wanted to thank you for a really good laugh. Your comment, "... as lifelong players of literary & strategically complex games.." I can't tell you how many poorly translated games I've played - not only was the grammar poor, but there were times I couldn't even figure out what they were trying to impart!! I make this statement as someone who has only played official English releases. I love this site because the people working on it are not snobbish as I've found on a number of other RPG sites. I find it much more irritating when a site such as 1UP, whose paid writers are supposed to professionals, has articles with writing that rivals some of the poor translations I mentioned earlier.

Oliver

Thank you for your support, Jbumi, although we don't want to deprecate Mr. RUFiO. He's a reader of the site just like you, and he wrote in with some honest concerns. But then, I certainly can't blame you for disagreeing with him, and I thank you for your kind words. I'm sure JuMeSyn appreciates your support as well.

Quite some time ago I'd heard that Eternal Sonata was going to be ported to the PS3. Has there been any word about that?

Oliver

Bandai Namco said it would be coming to the PS3 in Japan (and only Japan) in "Spring 2008." Spring is fast approaching its end, and there has been no further news whatsoever. A shame, because I'd very much like to see it come over here. The new content would be a nice plus, and as I've stated before, I prefer playing with the DualShock, especially when playing an RPG. The chances of a North American release are quite small, however, so I suppose we'll just have to settle with the Xbox 360 version. Perhaps a sequel would see release on both consoles.

If it were in my power, I'd tell your boss to give you a raise! Have a great month. I'll write again when I'm settled.

Jbumi

Oliver

A raise, you say... sounds appealing. But then, at this point, $0.01 an hour would be considered a raise. Yes, for those of you who don't know, staff positions at RPGamer are currently unpaid. In addition, Neist (my boss) is a heartless, money-grubbing bastard who would sooner see me starve in a gutter than raise my salary.

Good luck with the move, Jbumi, and I hope you write in again soon!



Fanmail!


Riddles!

Oliver

Ethylene!

I'm not sure if it's typical for staff to write to staff on Q&A but I finally got around to catching up on your work as host. Doing this compelled me to write you a congratulatory message for your dedication to a quality, honest Q&A column. We are Lusi fans over on this side of the border too, but with the disappointment of his departure from the column comes the sweet arrival of our own "Ollie" Riddles. So consider this fan mail!

Oliver

Just for the record, letters that sing my praises are always published, no matter who wrote them.

Thanks for the encouraging words, Ethan, I appreciate them, especially from another staff member. And worry not, it's perfectly acceptable for staff members to send Q&A letters, as evidenced by Omega's sizeable contribution above. I'm glad you're enjoying the column, and I hope others are as well.

Also, to the primarily valid e-mail of criticism I say this: expect great things from the future of RPGamer! There are some extremely dedicated and truly talented minds hard at work to perpetually improve the site.

That is all!

_ethos

Oliver

Indeed, I second what Mr. Pipher has said! We are hardly perfect at this point, but what keeps so many of us going is the desire to improve and grow this site, and see what it can become. I mean shoot, it's already come a helluva long way if you ask me. Who knows to what heights it could achieve?

Thank you for your contribution today, sir! Now go work on a review or something.



IN CLOSING

Sometimes I'm very tempted just to dump whatever is on my mind onto these intros/outros. But if I did, things would fast become unacceptably awkward, because there are some heavy things on my mind right now. I'm not saying I'm miserable, (in fact, I'm having a good day) but I have a veritable crap-ton of stuff in my head, and it requires much pondering. Yargh!

I suppose I can relate a small part of it here: tomorrow is my last day at my current job, (I'm talking of my REAL job here) and soon afterwards I'll be starting a new one. This new job of mine will be paying me a pretty penny extra, but that doesn't make it much less difficult to take leave of my current one. Sometimes I wish that money didn't make the WORLD go 'round, ya know? But it does. Jobs come and go, friends come and go, and yet the need for money stays with us always. It's a tough situation, and it makes me happy and unhappy at the same time.

But hey, that's LIFE for ya! And in any case, I'm still here at RPGamer, doing what I've always done. I don't plan on stopping anytime soon, either!

Take it easy folks. I'll see you in the upcoming Currents #83.

-Oliver



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