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ASK OLIVER
The Column Comes Back
June 23, 2008

Oliver Motok - 6/21 - 1:55 AM CST

It's very late... or very early, depending on how you view it. In any case, I should be abed right now, but I decided that I really must try to get this thing rollin' tonight, since I'll have very little time to work on it later. Damn weekends, always taken up with work! But I am making TEH MONIEZ, so it's all good.

Yes, I am back on Q&A after a very unfortunate two-week absence, and I'll be here for the foreseeable future. Be assured, good people, I am RPGamer's Q&A host. It may not say so next to my name in the bio page, but it's the truth. Send your letters my way and they shall be answered! Unless they're some pathetic excercise in retardery, in which case they'll be laughed at and sent to the garbage bin. But hey, you might as well send stuff like that my way as well; I can always use a laugh. (Good stress-reliever, as it were.)

Still playing Fire Emblem and DMC2. FE is TEH AWESOMENESS, as always, and DMC2 is improving. Somewhat. I don't think I'll even bother with the chick's disc; I'm kinda put off by the idea of running through the same environments again, even while playing as a different character. I just want to get it done and say I beat it, so I can move on to 3 and 4, both of which reportedly ROCK.

Onward and forward... the letters await us.





The Letters
Suketoudara


Oliver, good day to you. I'm feeling happier than usual after a particularly good day on the job (a large part of that having to do with me getting to hide in the back and deal with very few customers today). Tomorrow might see me quite grumpy so let's get a letter written before I have another 5AM shift.

Oliver

And a very good day to you, JuMeSyn. You sent me this letter over two weeks ago, and it seems Ethos wasn't MAN enough to handle it during his guest hosting. So, I'm giving you the coveted SLOT ONE in today's column! Don't you feel SPECIAL?

(Slot one IS coveted... right? I mean, come on... I'd covet it.)

What was I last playing on the DS... well, with the options severely limited thanks to the shoulder buttons not working I replayed both the Super Robot Taisen: Original Generation games. I'll go on about how awesome they are either further down or in another letter, possibly both. Then I replayed Riviera. Now I'm going to try something new for the DS: FFVI Advance. Not being able to multi-target spells thanks to no shoulder buttons is going to hurt, but I intend to use this thing as long as possible before buying a new one. The first fifteen minutes reveal that the music sounds a bit different thanks to the system's cruddy speakers and that the Star Wars reference of Biggs and Wedge has been properly translated at last.

Oliver

Wow, now THERE'S a man for you... playing his DS, busted shoulder buttons NOTWITHSTANDING. You have my respect, sir.

Good luck with FFVI. Multi-targeting is, uh, kinda important. But I'm sure you'll find a way. And yeah, the music in the game has been changed up a bit. I'm unsure how much of it has to do with the DS's inferior sound, and how much has to do with remixing. I'm almost positive some of it was remixed slightly...

Well, you requested a report on Madoh Monogatari, so I'd best deliver one. In short: this is a very charming traditional RPG that Working Designs could have done a great job with, and Atlus also. The game features all the characters of the Puyo Puyo games, which means a bit to me after reading up on those. Wanna do the same? A quick perusal here should fill you in. Everything is very well animated and the sprites are about the size of those in some fighting games, though not Princess Crown-huge. Everything is easy to figure out due to it being pretty uncomplicated, but that's a large part of the appeal. One small shame; when Harpy joined my party the lack of voice acting made it hard to discern that her singing voice is supposed to be horrifying. True there is in-battle voice acting, and I can gain a small glimmer of what her sonic prowess is from that, but this is one reason I mentioned Working Designs since they had been known to add some voice acting in games that had none.

And then there's Suketoudara, the bizarre fish/baby amalgam. Just the character design alone is baffling; who puts baby-proportioned, HUMAN arms and legs onto a fish? He(?) is actually pretty good in combat with moves like the Rhythmic Beat and Dance Fever. Oh boy. Rest assured I'll be reviewing this one for the site in the near future. And by this time the Terra Phantastica review ought to be posted, should you want some more information on it.

Oliver

Intriguing. (Yes, I perused the link.) The main bad guy is totally named SATAN. That's... kinda awesome. These games don't play coy!

Suketoudara is, without question, one of the most bizarre creatures I've ever seen in an RPG party. I can tell THAT much just by looking at his little JPEG. FREAKY.

Oh, Working Designs... I never knew ye. Until you died. Yes, I confess, that was the first I ever heard of them. Since then, I've heard nothing but lamentations due to their passing. They must have been all kinds of awesome. And yeah, I agree, this game has Atlus written all over it.

Ah yes, I'd best fulfill my need to recommend Super Robot Taisen to everybody. In short: go onto eBay or Amazon, whatever you want, and buy those two Original Generation games before they get price-inflated the way so many Atlus games do.

But you probably want some more information before jumping in. I'll describe the character and weapon/robot improvement systems then. For each character, Pilot Points are awarded for every enemy defeated by him/her. Pilot Points can be used either to upgrade individual statistics at a cost of 4PP for each increase of one, or they can be used to grant different skills. Each pilot has at least one default skill and six total slots for skills, with the options quite varied. Take Revenge; this skill makes every counterattack do 120% damage. Or SP Regenerate; this restores 10 SP (which are essentially magic points, so think of them like that) every turn. Since the only other way to restore SP requires the robot to have an SP-restoring item equipped (an item that is one-time-use-only) this is an incredibly useful skill. With an attendant cost: 100PP. Then there are the robots. Each robot has four statistics; HP, armor, evade, and energy. The first three are self-explanatory while the fourth is used by any weapon that does not consume ammunition, and there are quite a lot of them. Each of these can be increased by throwing money at it, but money is a finite resource earned by killing the finite number of enemies. And each subsequent upgrade to a statistic costs more than the prior. Weapons can also be increased in power by this method, and save for any weapon that is inherent to a robot they can be shuffled around from unit to unit. Note that several pilots have a spell that will double the money earned from the next kill of the unit the spell is cast upon; this can be quite handy but is expensive enough in SP not to be abused easily.

I can and probably will in future go on about these games further (only fitting when I've invested at least 250 hours into my double playthroughs of both) but that should be enough to whet your appetite. Go forth and grab! They shall reward your investment many times over!

Oliver

S-stop! Please! I'll buy them, I swear it! Just please, make it stop!

Kidding. SRT is a series I've always meant to try at some point, and somehow I've never gotten to it. There are two on the GBA that look like they're relatively easy to acquire. (They're both on Amazon for cheap.) Would they be a good place to start? From the quick research I performed, they seem to be the ONLY SRT games that have seen release in North America...? That's just Atlus for you, I guess. Give me the thumbs-up or thumbs-down on the GBA titles though, and then I'll see about purchasing them.

I don't think Madoh Monogatari will last much longer, so next up will probably be me grabbing a Langrisser game on Saturn and taking it for a spin. Langrisser games are deep and lengthy, so expect me to be playing it for quite awhile.
JuMeSyn

Oliver

Considering how long ago this letter was written, I'd guess that you're done with MM at this point. So, write in and tell me how it was!

Thanks for writing, JuMeSyn.



Like-mindedness


Although I didnít like FF9 as much as 6,7 & 8 (my fav) I still think the game had tons of personality, charm and polish. I really enjoyed playing through it. However, when I hear fans claiming that it was the best FF, that strikes me as absurd.

Oliver

Huh? What? Who?

Fine, just skip the introductions why don't you?

Kidding. So far, your opinion seems to mirror my own, more or less. (Automatic 10 points.)

The biggest problem with 9 is that the game strikes me as very forgettable. I felt overall the story, the battle system were very generic, almost something Square had planned for a non FF title. However, because of Square's FF treatment they were able to give the game top notch presentation and production values, a great soundtrack and in the end made it worthy of the FF moniker. I think around that time lot of the FF oldschool fans were upset with the sci-fi approach the series was taking. This installment was obviously meant to appease those fans and at the same time serve as a farewell to the "world" that was a staple part of the series since the NES & SNES days.

Oliver

Heh. "...almost something Square had planned for a non FF title."

Funny you should say that, since it's closer to the truth than you might think. Originally, Final Fantasy IX was NOT intended to be an entry in the main series. (i.e, it wasn't supposed to have a roman numeral.) Development for the game began before FFVIII was even completed, and the intent was - as you conjectured - to bring the series back to its "roots," thereby appeasing those who were turned off by the sci-fi atmosphere of VII and VIII. (Whiners, each and every one.) Obviously this changed, and the game was released as Final Fantasy IX. I'm glad, personally, as I think it more than deserves to be a part of the main series. I may not have enjoyed the game as much as others in the series, but it would be a lie to say that FFIX didn't shine with the same loving polish applied to all FF titles.

Funnily enough though, (and I know I'm not alone in this opinion) I think FFIX failed miserably at capturing the essence of the "old-school" Final Fantasy titles. Simply put, it was not similar to IV, V, or VI in any way. Understand, this is not a COMPLAINT that I have, it's just a simple fact. And, in a sense, it's one of the game's greatest achievements - without a doubt, it contains one of the most unique atmospheres ever created for a Final Fantasy title. It completely differentiates itself from the sci-fi environments of VII, VIII, (and X to a lesser extent) as well as the fantasy environments of IV, V and VI. I honestly do not understand those who praise IX for its so-called return to the series' "roots," because it just... isn't. It's something totally new.

To digress a little, Im really surprised though that 8 has such an alienating quality to it. I thought the SEED missions and the sorceress assassination were amongst the greatest gaming moments. The character personalities were probably the best written and most fleshed out I had seen in a game. Yes the story was sacrificed as a result of it but I thought overall it worked exceedingly well. While normally I choose my party to make sure every member stays at around the same level, here I was choosing on the basis of who I liked! Already much has been said about the junction system so I wont get into it, but after coming to terms with it, I loved the feeling of being overpowered. You really felt you were leading an elite trained force (but thatís probably just me).

Oliver

I think you may be my new best friend.

Final Fantasy VIII is likely the most polarizing entry in the series. People either love it or hate it, and an inordinate number of people seem to hate it. This makes me very, very sad, since I'm among those who absolutely love the game. I much prefer it to IX, and in fact, I prefer it to most others in the series.

FFVIII contains some of RPGaming's greatest moments, bar none. The Sorceress Assassination is an absolutely incredible sequence from beginning to end; a stunning achievement in dramatic storytelling. In fact, FFVIII is laden with such moments, and those moments are what make the game. Sadly, the plot IS a bit weak, but I hardly consider it rubbish. The journey in FFVIII is its own reward, an exhilarating ride from beginning to end.

The characters, I admit, are a bit of a mixed bag. Some of them just plain suck, but others are extremely well-developed. Squall is anything but a stereotypical emo kid in my opinion. The development of his character is handled very well, and as a result, we as the player know exactly why Squall acts the way he does, and we sympathize with him. Furthermore, the gradual change in his character over the course of the game's events is very rewarding to watch. Oh, and Laguna should totally have a game devoted to him.

I could go ON AND ON here about the game, but I won't. We'd best continue.

One thing I really need to commend Square for is that they have maintained the quality of the series and kept it fresh. I hated 10 the first time I played it, but after understanding the how to get the most out of the battle system and customization, something just clicked and I had a blast playing it. I guess I have the same advice for those who hated a particular installment - to revisit the game and see if by adapting your own play style you enjoy it more.

-Rahul

Oliver

Very, very sage advice, and I echo it 100%. Sometimes, you just totally miss what a game has to offer the first time through, usually due to misled preconceptions. If you go back to it with an open mind, you're likely to have a COMPLETELY different experience. It's happened to me a few times, trust me!

Thank you for writing in, Rahul! Me and you, we seem to think alike! If you ever find the time, don't hesitate to send another letter my way.



The crystals are gone, get over it


Word up! Word word up! (To whoever gets this letter, maybe Oliver, maybe someone else?)

Oliver

Oh, it's Oliver alright. What's the word, my good man?

So in my grand youthful naivity, when I was playing Final Fantasy IX in my sophomore year of high school, I thought that game was the end-all-be-all Final Fantasy ever. I never have played through it since. I've tried countless times to go back through it, but other games always came up, things happen, you know. This is never the case with Final Fantasy VI. To me, Final Fantasy VI is by far the best. I hailed this as the greatest game of all time, until Chrono Trigger was born, and THAT game still stands of my favorite game of all time. The storyline in VI by far the darkest of any to date, and I doubt even XIII will go where VI did. Kefka is such an evil S.O.B. I mean come on, the man kills all of his top generals, poisons an entire kingdom, kills the parents of the herion and raises her as a pawn. Hands down the best storyline there ever was for a Final Fantasy title, especially given the all of the characters and how extensively they developed all of them. I probably will roll through IX again some super rainy day, but as of now, I couldn't even tell you the plot line, except it had some watered down, wannabe return of the bad @ss crystals from old school days...

Oliver

Haha, "THE CRYSTAL COMES BACK." Such a cool tagline, but... nope. The so-called return of the crystals was weak. It had practically nothing to do with the storyline, and it didn't occur until the very freaking end.

Ah, Final Fantasy VI. The best 2-D game ever created in my opinion. I prefer it to IX, if only slightly. I don't believe it's the best in the series, though.

I'm unsure if I agree that VI has the darkest storyline in the series, but it was pretty intense. Shockingly so, at times. Kefka is, without question, one of the most evil bastards ever to play the role of a villain. The fact that he dressed and acted like a clown only made him creepier. Final Fantasy VI isn't really a game that needs loving, though, since it's showered with it on a regular basis. I love the game, you love the game, it's one of the best ever made... moving on!

So my question to you is, what is your favorite Final Fantasy? Tactics excluded because that beats all anyway :P plus is it's super different, like those pridelers. And what is your favorite game of all time? Come on, just boil it down, you know deep down you have one...

Oliver

I was WONDERING when somebody would ask this question!

My favorite Final Fantasy is VII, and it always will be! All the haters can go get stuffed, I'm sorry. The best storyline in the series, the greatest universe ever concieved for a videogame, the best soundtrack in the series... I could go on. And I would have to disagree with you, and claim that FFVII is the darkest game in the series. It has a delightfully somber psycho-thriller element to it that no other game in the series has, and the world is overbearingly gritty and dark... hence why I love it!

As for my favorite GAME of all time? It's consistently a toss-up between FFVII and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. TLOZ is my favorite videogame series ever created, and in my opinion, OOT represents the PINNACLE of 3D action adventure gameplay. To me, there is no other game that comes in such a brilliantly polished overall package. It's practically flawless. And, in truth, I can't really say the same about VII, so... today, Ocarina of Time is my all-time favorite game.

Droppin the O-Bomb til' November,

E N W B

Oliver

Thank you for the short, sweet letter my friend! Take it easy, and write me again sometime.



Our Man from Japan!


Hey man, sorry to be so long in writing in. Congrats on the Q&A gig!

Oliver

Thank you! No need to apologize. In fact, I should be apologizing for taking this long to answer your letter! As I've stated before, contributions from our staff are always much appreciated.

I'm with JuMeSyn when it comes to Japanese titles, and not only because my entire job at RPGamer depends on them. There's just a lot of interesting stuff out there, games that should have come over here, but for a twist of marketing or dumb bad luck.

Oliver

See, JuMeSyn? There IS someone out there who understands you!

I jest, I jest. It's true, there is a massive number of games that deserve North American localizations, yet never see them. They're not all obscure little things either, and that's when I really get angry. I mean, come on Namco, why the hell wouldn't you bring Tales of Innocence to North America? Releasing a Tales game on the DS is akin to printing your own damn money, and yet they refuse to do so. There are countless examples, of course, but that's the one I'm most bitter about at the moment.

More importantly, there are a lot of interesting titles that MAY come over some time in the future. Look through the Japandemonium archives -- devoted to games which, at the time, looked to be Japan-exclusive -- and see how many are now set for American release. Many of them came as complete surprises when they were announced for the US. Many more wouldn't have had any presence on this site prior to the announcement if it weren't for folks who wanted to write in about them, or read about them.

Oliver

Yes indeed. It only makes sense, after all, that publishers will only localize titles that North American audiences show an INTEREST in. Stuff like Final Fantasy is a given. But there are countless obscure little gems that never make their way over here because the demand simply isn't there. And it SHOULD be. What I'm getting at, I suppose, is that we shouldn't necessarily diss people like JuMeSyn, who play and discuss games that most people know nothing about. If there were more people like him, maybe we'd actually GET that stuff over here, and it WOULDN'T be obscure.

It's nice that Dokapon Kingdom is coming over, though. From what I've seen of the game (not much, but I've seen a lot of the similar Dokapon Journey for the DS), it's going to be one of those little cult favorites. I'm curious to see what else will be announced in the next few months.

Oliver

Dokapon Kingdom looks like a ton of fun. Unless the consensus upon release is a poor one, I'll be picking it up with the intent of playing it with my brothers. It's just a cool concept at its core... duking it out using RPG mechanics. It looks really weird, but really fun. And to say the least, I'm quite surprised that it's coming over here.

And don't be embarrassed about not finding much on Oboro Muramasa Youtoden -- I had to use Japanese search engines to find any news on it at all, after I figured out what kanji to use for the title. Unfortunately, all that could be found was about 8 months old, and identical to what we already have on the site. I'm keeping an eye out for more on this. There's gotta be something about it soon, at least as a teaser for a bigger showing at TGS this October.

Oliver

Yes, let us hope. Lots of Odin Sphere fans are doubtless awaiting more info with bated breath, as are all who currently starve for a quality Wii RPG. (Such as myself.) It's kinda strange that there's so little info... it's like they just threw the name out there so we'd know of its existence, and didn't feel like telling us much more.

I'd also keep an eye out for King Story. I haven't talked about this one in Japandemonium because I figured it would be better as a main-line item. So, I'm still a little miffed that we haven't used all the content we have about it. More especially because it has apparently been announced for the US, and its home site is in English.

Oliver

Heh, I'd say it's become a main line item by this point. (Gaijin sent me this letter before that story came out, just to clarify.) Once again, it looks interesting. I note that this announcement came soon after the largely positive reception that Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: My Life as a King received upon its release. It may be entirely unrelated, but then, it may not. I still haven't played MLAAK, as I'm just not sure it's my kind of game. But hey, who knows, I may pick up Little King's Story just to give my lonely Wii some company. Lord knows it needs it.

Well, I'd also weigh in on the FFIX debate (strongly in favor of ensemble casts), but I'm getting kicked off the computer right now. Talk to you later!

--Your man in Japan
Gaijin Monogatari

Oliver

Aw, come on... he was about to talk about a game I'm familiar with! Shoot. Oh well, perhaps later? Thanks for the letter Gaijin, and keep up the good work on Japandemonium!

P.S, thank you so much for using the proper HTML for your links. That little act of kindness totally saved me about 30 seconds or so while answering this letter.



OMY


Dear Oliver, Your search for Oboro Murumasa Youtouden yielded one result, because your friend Adriaan spelled it Murumasa instead of Oboro Muramasa Youtouden. Let's just say that I wouldn't be surprised to see Muramasa make it to the US. After all, we seem to get a ton of stuff these days. Only time will tell, but my foresight says that it is a prime candidate for an NA release.

Oliver

Who is this masked man? He speaks like he has knowledge hidden from the rest of the world. But yes, I wouldn't be surprised at all if OMY (funny acronym) came to North America. We DID like Odin Sphere, after all. Surely they took note of that.

Enjoy the following Youtubeden videos:

Video 1
Video 2
Video 3

- Secret Agent Rick

Oliver

Now, you see, this is what I was talking about. Secret Agent Rick, as he seems to call himself, did NOT take the time to use the proper HTML for his links. I had to set it up myself, and it took me over a minute. Perhaps Rick doesn't know HTML. If so, then he needs to be sure and acquire at least a RUDIMENTARY understanding of it before he sends me any more links.

But I digress. We should be thanking Rick for these links, and for the letter. My goodness, that's some beautiful artwork. And if the musical score is as good as the second video implies, we may be in for a real treat!

Write in again my good man, if you ever find the time!



IN CLOSING

6/22 - 11:05 PM CST
Aaahhh... I just got off a hard day's work. This column was largely completed yesterday, so tonight I just have to write this outro, and give it all a good polishing.

Huh... I'm drawing a serious blank here. There's just not much to discuss. I'm just happy I was able to get this thing written and indexed! I love this column, and I don't wish to see it SUFFER under my care.

I'VE GOT IT. I'll share this semi-interesting story with you. The other night, (Wednesday, I believe?) I got off work, said goodbye to my buddies, and then began walking towards my car. Everyone else had left at this point. Well, there was a car still parked next to mine. I took little notice of it until this bright flash of light came shining forth from the interior, scaring the living hell out of me. I looked inside to see a certain female co-worker of mine sitting in her car, fixated on her MacBook. Of especial note was the fact that, on this MacBook, she was playing World of Warcraft. She saw me and opened the door. I asked her what the bloody hell she was doing, naturally. She was, in fact, playing WoW on a random unsecured Wi-Fi connection, because the internet at her home was down. We talked for a while, she related some WoW knowledge to me, and I took my leave.

"Ollie, that's hardly an interesting story," you might be saying. Well, it is to ME. Why? Because she is possibly the sole videogame-playing girl I've EVER MET. I kid you not. And she seems pretty hardcore about it too, as she was willing to sit in a dark parking lot for the sake of playing WoW. She didn't stop until her battery died.

Okay... so it wasn't too terribly interesting. I had to fill up this outro SOMEHOW.

Later folks. Send letters!

-Oliver



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What I can't wait for:

1. Prince of Persia: Heir Apparent

2. Tales of Vesperia

3. Fire Emblem DS

4. Final Fantasy IV DS

5. Soul Calibur IV



On my Playlist:

1. Devil May Cry 2

2. Fire Emblem

3. Final Fantasy Tactics



Hot Topics:

1. Final Fantasy IX

2. Tecmo's getting SO SUED

3. So, do you require additional Wii storage?

4. Square Enix sure knows how to throw a party, don't they?

5. Should I ask the WoW-playing girl out? (God, I hope she doesn't read this.)



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