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ASK OLIVER
The Quiet Before Sleep
September 01, 2008

9/01 - 2:08 AM CST

School is back. I had so hoped that it would stay gone, but no such luck.

I purchased and began Tales of Vesperia! I've only played five hours or so thus far, but I am greatly enjoying it. Obviously I can't say too much at this point, but it seems to be very much the same as all other Tales games, which isn't a bad thing. If you're a hater, this one won't change your mind. If you're a fan, you're in for a treat... this time in HD!

I don't have a whole lot to say. On to the letters!





The Letters
Hot Topic Abuse... Not the goth store. Your hot topics


S'up All-Of-Her? Hah, see what I did there? It's like your name but... Y'know. Not.

Anyway. Thought I'd write a short letter to mention all of the 'hot topics' you've got up from the Q&A on the 26th as they are really some interesting ones.

Oliver

ROFL. ROFL, ROFL, ROFL.

Dude, as soon as I saw your letter's title (which I utilized above), I knew I had to print it straight away. We have a few Hot Topic stores here in Middle TN, and it IS a goth store. I knew - er, well I suppose I still know - a girl who shopped there religiously. She was a STRAIGHT UP GOTH. She's kinda past that now, but I believe she still visits Hot Topic on a regular basis. But, uh, yeah. Me and that girl are a bit of a long story.

Anyway. Clever title. I liked it. And I didn't have to come up with my own, so that's ten points for you. Moving on!

1. Do current RPGs place too much emphasis on 'side' material?
In my opinion they really, really do. I find myself struggling by the time I'm halfway through the game because I get overwhelmed with all of the things there are to do. For instance I recently played through Wild Arms: Alter Code F and the number of side quests in that game is staggering. At some point I just got tired of doing them and opted to beat the game because I wasn't having any fun anymore. Final Fantasy XII was the same way and there are so many others. It seems like the games are losing themselves and losing our interests. Or maybe it is just my short attention span? I dunno.

Oliver

I have a real problem with games that include side material purely for the sake of including... well, side material. One of the best examples of this would be the optional "missions" in Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII. Literally hundreds of stupid, pointless, boring sidemissions that gained you almost nothing. If developers don't have the time or desire to create some worthwhile, engaging, and rewarding sidequests, then they shouldn't include them at all. Xenosaga Episode II's "Global Samaritan" sidequests are also worthy of ridicule for the same reason. But it's important to realize that sidequests are optional, and sometimes it's best to ignore them and focus on the main game.

2. Who else can't wait for a FFVII remake?
Me! My thoughts are that they are dangling it above our heads like warm chicken. Sure we want it warm, but sometimes chicken is better cold. I dunno where I'm going with this except that I believe they will be making another FFVII sequel that is more true to the original and they are waiting for the right moment to drop news of them both. Imagine for a moment from a business perspective... If you were having a less than great year, which Square-Enix has had trouble with in the past (moreso just Squaresoft really), then how awesome would it be to drop one game that you know would bump your sales up substantially? Then follow it up with another sequel that you know people will buy? Made sense to me anyway...

Oliver

Yeah, well like I said, it will happen. Give it time, and it will happen. From a business perspective it makes sense, and it would be a great service to their many fans. Except for the Remake Haters of course, but they are in far shorter supply than the internet would have us believe. And besides, most of them will buy the game anyway, if only to hate on it. But that goes back to the business side. There are few who wouldn't buy a FFVII remake.

3. So who's played Prince of Persia?
I haven't...

Oliver

A fact infinitely to your detriment. Go do so, with haste.

4. What do you think of Square's recent shift to a Western market focus?
I think the Xbox is going to dominate the current generation of consoles. The Wii is having less and less to offer and the PS3 was a joke from the start. Considering I don't even own an Xbox, from the sidelines it seriously looks like it is going for a 'come from behind' victory and Square seems aware of it. As did Mistwalker and anyone else that cares about the games their company makes.

Oliver

From where I stand, the Xbox 360 has been on top since the start, and will remain on top. Sure, the Wii may have sold a few million more, but if you were to ask me, the Wii is a joke. It was supposed to be an amusing change of pace, and it ended up being a really bad joke. A bad joke that everyone wants to hear, but a bad joke nonetheless. Attacks aside, the 360's software library pwns the Wii's software library, and that's a fact. You don't see all these RPGs coming to the Wii, now do you?

5. Would YOU buy a German copy of Chrono Trigger DS?
No. No I wouldn't. To go further, I have no idea why anyone would when they would theoretically already own an English and Japanese copy.. I'm sure it would be interesting to study the translation differences though.

Oliver

Well, fanboyism does strange things to people. I can't really explain it any other way. Perhaps if you were a German student, or interested in German culture on some level. That's the only other reason I can think of.

That's all for me. What started as a short letter ended up being a pain in your... Something large. Anyway, have fun with it.

Lataz,
Kain Vinosec

Oliver

Actually, it was quite brief. But still more than substantial. Thanks for the letter Kain, write again soon.



Weasels Ripped My Flesh


Oliver, howdy. I've got a lot on my mind today, so be prepared for a fairly lengthy letter. Ready? Here we go!

Oliver

LET'S DO THIS THANG!

And hey, JuMeSyn! Been a while! That's my fault of course, but hey... it's been a while.

First up: praise be to my little laptop that could. I just bought this thing last October after my previous model inexplicably melted down (not literally, but close enough) and then the cat managed to knock a glass of water onto the keyboard! BUT - 24 hours of drying time later it worked and still works! When the only damage seems to be the touchpad not working, I can deal. Mice are cheap, laptops are not.

Oliver

If your laptop was a human being, I'd be inclined to shake its hand. What a trooper, what a trooper indeed. And a damn good thing too, because if it had died, you likely wouldn't have written this letter.

Way back when my last letter appeared, I blathered on about Shinobi. But that was unnecessary when this http://hg101.classicgaming.gamespy.com/shinobi/shinobi.htm does the job without as much typing from me. So feast your eyes upon this knowledge, and I hope it tantalizes you.

Oliver

Hmmm... well, I may have to give this a closer look at a later date. Strangely enough, I've been hearing a lot of people talk about Shinobi lately. So honestly, it's hardly necessary for you to do so.

So you arrived at the point in Fire Emblem where, as some GameFAQs forum users so eloquently phrased it, Eliwood pulls a horse out of his pants upon promotion? I don't remember it being that hard but then I had made a point of using Eliwood a fair amount and throwing him into the Arena a few times for cash. I can't blame you for benching him though, since the RNG is quite fond of making Eliwood mediocre. All the more reason for you to anticipate Hector mode; Hector rules.

Oliver

I made a point NOT to use Eliwood, because he blew chunks from the very start. Honestly, it pissed me off that the main character was so damn weak, so in an act of rebellion against the game, I just didn't use him. Now, I am paying the price. I don't see myself returning to Fire Emblem for quite some time.

I played through Izuna last week. What this game taught me was how fond I am of uttering obscenities when galled into it by flagrant cheapness, which Izuna possesses in spades. Maybe this means I should avoid Rogue-likes, eh? At any rate I found it very infuriating to be at full health only to trip a damn trap that summons six enemies to almost surround me, and they proceeded to massacre me because I didn't have the Talisman to teleport elsewhere on the floor and running away means they get plenty of hits in. Izuna has every enemy take one move for an action you do, meaning that if you move one space and enemies still abut you they can and will attack.

Actually it was Izuna that finally caused my old DS with the nonfunctional shoulder buttons to die; I had deliberately not been gentle with it for months, but allowed rage to overcome me and smashed the lower screen in a fit of pique at one horrible enemy that actually causes you to lose a level. Now I have a shiny new red & black DS, and I'll trust Nintendo's usual sturdy workmanship to keep this one functional.

Oliver

I will take heed of the horror stories people such as yourself have related to me, and never bother with games like Izuna. "Rogue-likes" sound utterly and entirely unappealing to me. I do not like being punished by my videogames. That is, I don't like being punished for no reason. Some people consider perma-death in games like Fire Emblem to be "punishment," but honestly, it's what you get for poor strategy and planning, or foolish moves.

Bahaha, took out your frustration on your handicapped DS, eh? Well, 'twas time for a new one anyway. I love the red and black model... I wish I had it. (I have the black model.) Glad to hear you were able to purchase another one!

In a much more pleasant bout of playing, Langrisser: Dramatic Edition is one to seek out if you ever get interested in really good tactical titles that aren't in English. Langrisser 1 has the odd sensation of Ledin, its main character, being voiced by the same seiyuu who voiced Vegeta in Dragon Ball. I found that interesting. Langrisser 2 I had played in the Light configuration on the Mega Drive, where you do the hero thing and beat down the people who want power to control the world. Then in its Der Langrisser incarnation on Super Famicom, since I'd more-or-less played the Light story, I took advantage of the new branching paths option and joined the Imperial side. The Imperials are not bad people, even though you have to kill all of them if you take the Light path. They simply have a different worldview, one of exploiting power with an eye towards ending the conflict rending the world. Then on the Saturn I betrayed the Imperials in favor of the Chaotic path. See, Langrisser stories revolve around the conflict between Light and Chaos, with both of them having a recurring character in all the games popping up to represent them. And what was my reward for taking the Chaotic path? Not only did I have to kill all my potential Light and Imperial allies (the people who WERE my allies in different paths), but I was responsible for unleashing a wave of darkness upon the land as monsters swarmed forth thanks to Light's utter defeat. I could say a lot more about Dramatic Edition, but why write a review if I just repeat it later on?

Oliver

What's all this about Star Wars? Yes, they're excellent films, I've been a fan since I was - oh, wait. Langrisser. Well shoot, all this talk about Empires, light sides, and other such things had me confused.

I've always enjoyed plots and plot twists that pit you against former allies. To me, there's nothing more dramatic than a bloody battle with someone who once fought by your side.

And since I'm almost done replaying Super Robot Taisen: Original Generation 2 again, I've got lots to say about those two games. Perhaps if I go on at length regarding their awesomeness I can wear down your resistance to acquiring them off eBay... the power of my telepathy compels you!

The concept of Will needs explanation in these games. Most tactical games only offer experience and money as the reward for killing off the grunts that litter each battlefield. Hardly a worthless incentive, but in SRT those grunts serve a vital purpose. Upon starting a battle your characters have 100 Will, and most of the best weapons are unusable at 100 Will. Getting Will to go up requires different things for different people, but they all require fighting and taking down those grunts. Every character's Will goes up 5 with a kill, and just about everyone will go up 1 Will when someone else makes a kill. Some characters' Will goes up merely for hitting the enemy, dodging an attack, or taking a hit. But this should make clear how necessary some grunts are for every boss battle: without them your best attacks are inaccessible, and that's never good.

Getting 50 kills for a character also makes that pilot an Ace. In Original Generation 1, becoming an Ace means Will starts at 105 instead of 100. This is good. In Original Generation 2 every character has a specific Ace bonus along with the extra starting Will. These bonuses are quite varied and some are far more useful than others (Carla gets more experience and money with each kill, Ryusei deals 10% more damage with any weapon requiring Telekinetic powers, Ibis gets an extra square of movement).

And then there are the skills, which I addressed in passing awhile back but wish to do so with more depth now. Each character has six skill slots; some skills exist on one level only (Attacker makes a character deal 20% more damage once past 130 Will, for example) while a few have multiple levels. Take Gunfight and In-fight. Each of these have 9 potential levels. Gunfight makes ranged weapons deal more damage, and at a couple of levels instead of making the weapons deal more damage it actually extends their range by one. Thus a level 9 Gunfight-enabled character will have all ranged weapons hitting at a range two longer than the weapon usually can, and the damage will be considerably higher. In-fight works similarly in that it increases the damage melee weapons deal, with the exception of a couple of levels increasing a character's movement range.

Then there is Prevail, also able to hit 9 levels in total. Prevail makes a character more agile after taking damage than when at full HP: it increases evade, hit, and critical odds. The higher the level of Prevail, the more effective it is when a character's HP go down. And naturally lots of bosses have Prevail at a high level, which makes them more and more formidable the closer to death they get.

Oliver

Well, JuMeSyn, if I was ever to pick up an SRT game, I likely would not have to look at the manual, or even read the in-game tutorials. Your letters provided far more in-depth explanations than they ever could. (And yes, I actually read all of that.) Sounds like some good, solid TRPG mechanics are present in the games... outside of that, there's not much I can say.

I may have gone longer than you were prepared for... but I'll chime in on one of the Hot Topics for a change. I can very easily wait for a FFVII remake, because I don't know what I'm missing. Why not a FFV remake? The poor game never got the attention it deserves in my view.

Oliver

Yes, FFV is a great game, but FFVII is, in fact, quite a bit better. You should play it for yourself and see what I mean.

My only Prince of Persia experience comes from back in elementary school when the computer had the original PC game. Playing it with a keyboard ticked me off. That game was/is hard.

Oliver

See, I've never played the PoP games of yore. I'd kinda like to, but they don't really look anything like the modern trilogy I know and love. And I'm not a big fan of punishingly difficult 2-D platformers. Hell, I'm not even a fan of the so-called "easy" 2-D platformers...

Warum soll ich Chrono Trigger auf Deutsch haben? Ich spreche nur ein bisschen Deutsch, und ich werde zu viele in das Game nicht verstehen.

Oliver

wut?

Wish me luck. I guess it's time to stop dropping hints about how much I hate POS (aka standing around the register and picking up after people) and start being very blunt about how much I hate it to the managers responsible for writing schedules, because whoever did it this week gave me nothing but that displeasing activity. School is many things but it's better than working full time, as I only understand fully now that I'm not in school.
JuMeSyn

Oliver

Heh, well how about working full-time AND going to school? Is that any better? Actually, I don't think I'll be quite full-time during the semester. At least, I certainly hope not. I'd rather live.

Thanks for the letter JuMeSyn, and good luck POS-ing. Write again when the fancy strikes you.



A letter from home


Hey Ollie! It's me Jamie, your lovable little sister! I was reading your QNA column and I thought I'd make a small contribution.

Oliver

Wha? Sister? I have no family. Obviously there's been some mistake.

As you know, I'm no gamer. I just never could get into it. But Ollie, I want you to know something: I TRIED.

My first venture into the world of video games was very frustrating. The game was /Finding Nemo: The Video Game /or something like that. Do you remember it? Mom rented it to keep the kids happy.

Oliver

Hmmm... no, can't say I remember that. Finding Nemo was an excellent film, but I can't imagine that the videogame was anything more than cash-in rubbish. That's what most movie-based games are. But naive as you are, I suppose you can't be expected to know that.

Anyhoo, I was supposed to hop Dory from jellyfish to jellyfish without her getting stung. I tried many times. I did my very best. But poor Dory just got stung and stung and stung. Finally, Dory asked me, in urgent, pleading tones, to stop. "NO MORE! I BEG YOU!" she cried. "I CAN TAKE IT NO LONGER!"

Oliver

Shoot. Sounds intense.

My second venture in video games was when I played the game Spider Man 2. Joe (our dear brother) patiently demonstrated the proper controller technique. "This button makes Spider Man shoot out his web," he told me, "and this one makes him jump off a building." (He said something to that effect, though I can't recall the exact words.)

Confidently, I took the purple plastic controller in hand, convinced that victory was going to be soon and sweet. What did it matter that I couldn't bounce Dory on jellyfishes? This wasn't jellyfish bouncing! This was WEB SWINGING, a vastly different and much more interesting endeavor!

Oliver

Ah yes, the Spider-Man 2 videogame! I played the hell out of that, I won't lie. It managed, somehow, to avoid earning the label of "rubbish." In fact, I'd go so far as to call it "good." It was fun, it really was. That was the first Spider-Man game to feature the open-world style of gameplay, as well as the revamped web-swinging mechanics. Sure, the story was crap, the graphics were crap, the voice acting was awful, and the combat was monotonous, but when swinging around town was so much fun, I didn't really care.

I failed as miserably as before. I gave up and started to whack Spidey against buildings on purpose instead of by accident. At least that way it felt like I was succeeding in something. "What's WRONG with you? Spidey's getting battered!" Joe exclaimed. "I'm doing it on purpose!" I answered, gleeful. "Your turn's up," he replied.

Oliver

Well shoot. Maybe you just aren't built for this stuff. In your defense, few females are.

My third venture occurred when I was babysitting a couple of kids: an eleven year old and an eight year old. They challenged me to a Mario match-off. I accepted the challenge and was creamed without mercy.

I repeat: I TRIED. But Ollie, I just couldn't do it.

In closing: I love you loads! Have a great day and be sure to eat your fruits and vegetables!
Sincerely(!),
Jamie

Oliver

Okay, so I lied. I do have a family, and Jamie is my younger sister. She's the second-born in the house, about two years younger than I am. I don't believe we've ever had an honest-to-God NON-GAMER write to our column, so this is a first! And she's my sister, so I suppose I can spare some room for her. See, readers? You want your letter to be printed? Well, establish blood relations with me in some way, and your chances will go up quite a bit. BA-HAHAHAHAHA.

Heh... I crack myself up. Thanks for writing in, Jamie! Who knows, perhaps one day you'll be properly introduced to the wonderful world of videogaming, and find out what you've been missing. Honestly though, I doubt that will happen. But that's not a bad thing, methinks. You have far more important things to focus on! Er, rather, things that are far more important to you. From where I stand, few things are more important than games.



Back to the fold


Hey Q&A guys!

It's been a while since last I wrote. So long in fact the last time I wrote was when Matt was still the Q&A guy.

Oliver

Ahoy! A lost sheep has returned to the fold! I remember you. You wrote to Matt fairly often, did you not? Well, I am hardly a substitute for Matt, but I will try to accommodate you.

Anyways, I'm wondering why you guys haven't reviewed the iPod TRPG by Squeenix called "Song Summoner" I've been wondering if it's any good or not. Sure the platform its on is a little unorthodox but we could be seeing more iPod RPGs in the future.

Oliver

Don't ask me, man. I'm not in charge of that stuff. I'm guessing that nobody on the review staff owns a capable iPod...? Again, I don't really know. Lusipurr has played a bit of it, but he never finishes games, so don't count on a review from him. From what I heard, he enjoyed what he played.

Also, any news about Tales of Destiny DX coming to the states at all? Is it just going to hide in Japan forever? There's still PS2 games coming out over there!! Why isn't someone smacking SCEA reps upside the head for holding back on us and keeping releases from coming over here, which SCEJ seems to have no problem publishing. I've heard so many negative rumors about them "blocking" games from being released here it's not even funny, even Capcom had to pull a few strings to get some games over here for themselves. I keep hearing the excuse is that it's too expensive to port or that it's not fit for the market or whatever, or that it's not 3D...ugh... I really don't know. I just wish there was some way to get my favorite games over here short of buying imports online myself (not that I don't do that already). Do you guys know of any RPGs or other games struggling to get stateside and is there anything we gamers can do to encourage the developers to send it stateside? Heck, I don't care if some games don't do voicework, if it's translated with subtitles, I'll take it!

Oliver

Bah, I've heard nothing about Tales of Destiny DX since its initial announcement. I'm 99.9 percent sure that it will not be coming to North America, much to my chagrin. That's what sucks about being a JRPG fan in America, though. There are always, ALWAYS games that we want, and never get. And there always will be. What can we do to encourage developers? Complain in forums such as this, I suppose. In fact, let's type it out in big, bold letters:

TO NAMCO: WHERE IN THE BLOODY HELL IS THE NORTH AMERICAN RELEASE OF TALES OF DESTINY DX?

One more thing: why is it that stores like Gamestop are kept in the dark about release dates until the last second? You guys know release dates and a bunch of other info I find on other sites... why don't they keep track of this stuff and have an updated information database?

See ya, for now,
Blade

Oliver

Huh. Can't say I've ever noticed that about GameStop. But then, I don't tend to ask them for release dates, so I wouldn't really know.

Thanks for the letter, Blade. It's good to see you around these parts again!



IN CLOSING

Bleh. I have even less to say now.

Tomorrow is Labor Day here in the states, so my restaurant is closed. Hilariously enough, it's my only day off from work this week. So it's almost like not getting a day off at all. But oh well, it's not like I have much else to do. Besides school. And RPGamer. And, you know, occasionally something fun, like playing a game.

It's late! I need to finish this up and go to bed! Goodbye dear readers, I'll see you in a week.

-Oliver



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What I can't wait for:

1. The Last Remnant

2. Persona 4

3. Infinite Undiscovery

4. Valkyria Chronicles

5. Prince of Persia



On my Playlist:

1. Tales of Vesperia



Hot Topics:

1. Do current RPGs place too much emphasis on "side" material?

2. Who else can't wait for a FFVII remake?

3. Holy crap, Square Enix plans to take over Tecmo?

4. What do you think of Square's recent shift to a Western market focus?

5. Has ANYONE else played these Super Robot Taisen games I keep hearing about?



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