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ASK OLIVER
Rebirth
October 30, 2008

10/30 - 8:11 PM CST

Gods, I suck. You fine people have been made to suffer 18 DAYS without even the slightest hint of a Q&A column. And who is to blame for that? Me, and me alone. The only consolation is that, since I am now the Head of Interaction, I do not have to cringe before the wrath of the mighty Lusipurr. I have only myself to answer to. But then, I can be a pretty harsh mistress at times.

OLIVER THE GREAT: META-MORON! HEARKEN TO ME, YOU SNIVELLING TOAD!

oliver the peon: Y-yes, mighty Oliver?

OLIVER THE GREAT: WHERE HAS THE Q&A COLUMN BEEN, YOU WORTHLESS CLOD?

oliver the peon I-I- that is, I've been busy! Work! Work and school have been-

OLIVER THE GREAT: YOU WORTHLESS LAZY BASTARD! YOU ARE FIRED! FIRED, I SAY!

oliver the peon: But-but I-

OLIVER THE GREAT: STOP YOUR PATHETIC BLITHERING! BEEEEEGOOOOONE!

The peon is gone, never to return. In his place stands a new Oliver, a mighty Oliver; one who will not let the evildoers go UNPUN-

Er, let's just move on to the letters.





The Letters
Swim in the sea of dreams


Hello Oliver,

I finished Tales of Vesperia about a week ago! And not a second too soon. Midterms are leaving little time for games now... Regrettably, the last Part of the game did nothing to elevate the views I stated last time: the story is a bit of a disappointment after about the halfway mark. The story quality falls precipitously in Part 3, partly due to the hasty emergence of an 11th hour villain, but the characters, visuals, hidden extras, and battle system ultimately make it 60 hours well spent.

(While we're on the topic of Tales, what did you make of Tales of Vesperia? If youíve beaten it, of course.)

Oliver

Hello to you, Man-'O-Corn.

Yeah, truthfully, the storyline in Tales of Vesperia is a tad disappointing, although by no means a total loss. The "11th hour villain" you refer to, who we cannot name for fear of spoilerz, is actually the best villain in the game. Or I think so, at least. And damn could he ever put up a fight - had to go level grinding after realizing that it was hopeless, and then it still took multiple tries to take down his second form. Apparently, if you complete the Fell Arms sidequest you get to fight another, even MORE powerful form. But I did not do the Fell Arms sidequest. I actually didn't do ANY sidequests in ToV. Don't have the time for such things these days.

My thoughts are largely positive. Fun Tales gameplay, and a story that, while unoriginal, had some exciting moments and fun characters. For a more complete opinion be sure to check up my review, which is coming... uh... sometime.

First on the agenda is Bioshock 2: Sea of Dreams! Yes, although the leaked trailer proliferating across YouTube has not been commented upon by 2K Games, by looks alone it is undeniably genuine. Naturally, Iím very excited at the extension of what was a truly fantastic game, but on the other hand, I canít help but think Bioshock is the sort of game that has no real room for a sequel, story-wise... But sequels are big business, and if thereís a way to make a profit off of an already established series, then somebodyíll find some way to get it done, regardless of minor impediments like IF IT WILL EVEN WORK. Well... letís just keep our fingers crossed for a good show from 2K Games, shall we?

Oliver

Yeah, I think I've discussed my feelings on a BioShock sequel before. In short, I think the same as you do. I'm wondering how, exactly, a sequel will place us back in Rapture - or if it even will. And if it doesn't, then they'll be faced with quite a challenge, because the city of Rapture was undoubtedly the star of the original game.

The trailer, as you surely know, has been confirmed as legit by this point. You can also watch it in HD quality rather than the crappy YouTube quality video that had been going around. It's extremely short and painfully uninformative - and yet, somehow, it makes me want the game more than anything else in the world right now. I'm just left wondering if the Little Sisters managed shake off their ugliness as they grew older. I certainly hope so, but the trailer didn't show her face, so we'll just have to wait and see.

What do you make of that White Knight Chronicles? Iím wondering because... well, having dug up every scrap of media I could find about it, I have to say that Iím supremely unimpressed. The most off-putting thing for me by far is the White Knight itself: whenever the main character transforms in the videos, I always get this really horrible Super Sentai vibe from it. I mean, he could seriously be a medieval White Ranger... complete with obnoxiously flamboyant transformation dances!=2 Other areas Iím willing to be more flexible about, such as the generally unappealing visuals -- it might just be that the artistic design isnít my cuppa tea. Even the clunky MMO-looking battle system, Iím willing to reserve judgment on until later in its dev cycle. It could look better in a few months, maybe. But I will not stand for Super Sentai in my games! This time Level 5 has gone too far!

Oliver

First off, I have no idea what Super Sentai is, so that complaint doesn't really resonate. Everything I've seen from the game has just made me want it MOAR.

It's Level 5. They did Dark Cloud and Dragon Quest VIII. What could we possibly have to worry about? Granted, I haven't played either of the Dark Cloud games, but I hear they're good. Plus, the game has been in development so long, surely they've managed to turn out something halfway decent.

My last question is, what upcoming RPG has you salivating the most -- no, besides The Last Remnant! It canít be The Last Remnant! (Obviously, it can be, but Iíd prefer to hear a perspective Iím not already aware of. Your choice.) As for me, the answer would be Fallout 3. I was once an incredibly closed-minded gamer, and looking back, Iím thankful to every game that went toward convincing my 10-year-old self "well, maybe Final Fantasy isnít the only RPG out there worth playing." Mass Effect, for instance, went a long way toward bringing WRPGs into my line of sight, which is part of the reason I reserved a copy of Fallout 3 a few weeks ago. Oddly, I hadnít paid much attention to the game before then, but after I reserved it on a whim, I started researching, and now Iím convinced that it will be a thoroughly engrossing experience. The gameís nuked-out D.C. really looks like a world I could get lost in for days, and enjoy every misdirected second of it. So again, what RPG are you most looking forward to playing?

Oliver

Other than The Last Remnant, it's a bit of a toss-up between Valkyria Chronicles and Persona 4. I know P4 is going to rock like nothing else, but I also know that it will, for the most part, be the same as Persona 3. Valkyria Chronicles, on the other hand, has the potential to be something ground-breaking. I recently played the demo, and was rather impressed. To say that I've never played a game quite like it would be an understatement.

I also think The Last Remnant has the potential to be something groundbreaking, but seeing as how I haven't actually experienced the gameplay myself, that's mostly a gut feeling on my part. I'm hoping though; I really am.

Brace yourselves, only twelve days until nuclear fallout...
Cornman89

Oliver

Fallout 3 looks awesome, but it's too close to the release of Valkyria Chronicles. Plus, I haven't played the first two. I actually downloaded the original on GameTap, created a character, then realized I had a metric ton of homework to do, so I saved and got off. And I haven't touched it since. It's only been a few days though, so hopefully I'll have some time to get into it. I doubt I'll play it very long, though. Seems like I can never finish PC games for some reason.

Thanks for the letter, friend.



Hidden Adoration


Hey Oliver!

I know I keep saying this every time I send a letter, but well, it's been a while since I sent a letter! Heh. My last letter wasn't even read by you, but by Ethan that time he did Q&A sometime in June. Do forgive me if I ramble in this letter!

Oliver

It has been a while! And an even longer while since I answered one of your letters. Ethan did his best, but no doubt you were disappointed when you found that I, the great Oliver, failed to answer your previous letter. But now is the chance to rectify certain inequities. Let us continue, and feel free to ramble.

First off, it took you 50 hours to complete Tales of Symphonia? I spent a ridiculous 170 hours on that game the first time I played it! Seriously though, I have an uncanny ability to stretch out almost any game to beyond the amount of time it is "suppose" to take to complete it! I maxed out the time in the original Paper Mario, spent 110 hours on Skies of Arcadia, a little over 100 on Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door, over 70 hours on Final Fantasy IV (DS), 90ish hours on Final Fantasy VI (for the GBA), over 60 hours for my first Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance playthrough, over 80 hours on Sword of Mana, 160 hours on Baten Kaitos: Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean....the list goes on! I was actually taken aback when I completed Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Ring of Fates in a little more than 20 hours! I was thinking "good lord, this game must be short if I can complete it in 20 hours". I'm something of a completist, but even other completists that I know don't spend over one hundred hours on their first playthrough!

Oliver

Wow. Don't take this the wrong way, but that's insane. 160 hours on Baten Kaitos? 70 on Final Fantasy IV? Do you literally spend time running your little avatar around in circles? Because otherwise, I can't see how you could elongate the games by such a huge amount of time.

This, of course, is coming from someone who generally completes only what is necessary to finish a game. Not because I don't want to do sidequests and such, but because I don't have the time for sidequests and such these days. It took me two months to finish Tales of Vesperia, and my final time was a mere 47 hours. I don't think I've ever spent 100 hours on a game, though I've come close. Final Fantasy XII took me 95 or so, although I did do a lot of optional stuff in that game. (Those were the days of high school, after all. Ah, reminisce...) Dragon Quest VIII and Persona 3 both took me around 85 hours, if my memory serves me, but that's because both of those games are absurdly long.

As for your question about my take on children in RPGs, to me they are just characters, not much different from any others. I'm assuming that by children you mean anyone who isn't a teenager or older, since children can also mean anyone under 18 or 21 or whatnot, and most RPG characters tend to be under or around 18. Regardless, I have yet to meet a child character I've disliked. I actually liked Genis. He's not really a favorite, but he had his moments. Mel from Luminous Arc was a bit annoying at times, but I thought she was kind of funny. Mizuti from Baten Kaitos was, well, strange but an interesting character nonetheless (and really, who didn't want to try to talk like her? Or maybe that's just me again). Relm and Gau from Final Fantasy VI were all right. I should say though that I rarely find myself disliking or being annoyed by any playable characters in RPGs. Either I like them, I really like them, or I'm indifferent to them.

Oliver

You don't find yourself annoyed by certain RPG characters? Count yourself lucky I suppose, because nothing can ruin an experience like crappy, annoying characters. Genis was annoying as hell, although he has nothing on Karol. Ken from Persona 3 was actually a fairly decent character, but he still annoyed me. Localization companies really need to look into finding alternatives to the standard of females voicing all male children. It's getting reeeally old.

By the way, Palom and Porom did have voice actors, though I think they only had two voiced scene in the game.

Oliver

Ah, but they didn't in the original version, now did they? And that's the only version I've played. FFIV DS has been collecting dust since the day I bought it, unfortunately.

I am so excited that Arc Rise Fantasia is coming to North America! My sister is already moaning a bit that the battles are turn-based rather real-time. She'll still play it because, like me, she likes anime-style JRPGs, but I do wish she would be more open-minded about turn-based battles. Oh well, I'm sure she'll still enjoy it, though I can just here her complain "this game would be so much better if it were an action RPG!"

Oliver

Bah. Tell your sister to get a grip. Turn-based gameplay is a wonderful thing, and will always contain a level of depth and strategy that action games will eternally lack. Not that I dislike action games. I recognize that games with action battle systems are often more than simplistic hack-and-slash affairs. But in my opinion, the depth that can be found in turn-based gameplay cannot be matched by an action system!

Okay, I think I'll wrap up this letter with one of my many randomish question (though maybe this one is not so random since it concerns liking and disliking characters.) Are there are any main/playable RPG characters that you like that most people tend to hate (or just not consider a favorite)? I've got a few myself, but I I'll only mention my most favorite one: Xelha from Baten Kaitos! I can understand why people dislike her so much, but it also seems like people are being too short-sighted with her. Okay so her voice isn't the best (though I don't really think it is that much worse than any of the other characters' voices), she's something of a goody-two-shoes, and at first she seems like the stereotypical mysterious young blonde woman who joins and becomes the/a love interest for the main hero early on who is or is later revealed to be a princess/queen and uses magic, especially of the light and/or healing kind. By the time they got to the middle of the game, though, people would see how she turns those cliches on their heads! Though Xelha is kidnapped once, she's hardly a damsel-in-distress. She's very strong-willed and does what she thinks is right depending on the situation rather than what "what should be the right thing to do". She has a big responsibility that I can't get into for spoiler reasons, but she neither fully accepts it nor tries to run away from it. Instead she finds some other way to define herself than just by that responsibility, to protect something/someone in addition to what she is suppose to be protecting. Further more, she actually saves the main character from eternal damnation! In Baten Kaitos Kalas is not as confident or strong-willed like other RPG protagonists tend to be and Xelha helps and supports him. Maybe it's just the games I've played, but I haven't seen that before in RPGs. Xelhs is not just my favorite unpopular character, but one of my most favorite female RPG characters ever.

Oliver

Xelha? Meh. I didn't hate her any more than I did the other cast members of Eternal Wings. I guess she wasn't horrible, but there are far better female leads out there. The story of Cloud and Tifa in FFVII, for example.

Although, I can relate to liking a much-maligned videogame character. Mine is Tidus from Final Fantasy X. First of all, I really don't think James Arnold Taylor did a bad job voicing him. Occasionally his voice came off as slightly, ah, feminine, but it really wasn't bad. And his voice while narrating was always flawless and deep and... and... and anyway, let's drop that. Tidus was actually a really good character in my opinion. People always called him "whiny", but I didn't really see that. I saw a rich-kid, hot-shot, sports star who was suddenly thrown into a world completely foreign to him. He wasn't the typical hero type who set out from his humble hometown to save a damsel in distress. Watching him change and come to terms with a lot of difficult things during the course of his journey was very rewarding. But I probably have a lot of people laughing at me now, so I'll end it here.

Erm, do forgive me for that last paragraph. I tend to get a little carried away when it comes to disliked characters, or anything else that is underrated. In any case, I think I've droned on long enough. Take care, Oliver! Thanks for reading!

-Strawberry Eggs

Oliver

Your last paragraph was beautiful, as was the entirety of your letter. Write again soon!



Opinions are like... opinions


Hello Oliver,

A few points you commented on or had brought up I thought I'd offer my take on.

Oliver

Excellent! Opinions, opinions, opinions. That's what I want. In terms of this column, at least. When it comes to other portions of my life, I often find the opinions of others to be most unwelcome.

Anyway. Please continue.

First on the talk of Lunar Games, I don't have experience with the later releases, having only played Lunar 1 and 2 when they were rereleased on the PS1 (or 2, forget) Long time ago, but they are still some of my favorite games of all time, they certainly rank up their in my top 3 rpgs of all time. Yes they were a bit clichť, and very jrpg in style, which is a problem for some. It was the story that got to me though (clichť too maybe but I laughed, I cried, I connected with the characters, any game that does that gets an A+ on the story in my book) and, of course, the music was fantastic. Might be the Japanese voiced songs would have been better, but I still get all nostalgic when I run into Lunaís boat song, or the opening for Lunar 2. I may very well be in the minority on that, but there were some great fans of the original games. If you have not played them, they really are worth giving a try if youíre a fan of old school rpgs at all.

Oliver

I am a huge fan of old-school rpgs, and I've been told about the awesomeness of Lunar on more than one occasion. They were indeed PS1 games, both originally released for the Sega Saturn in Japan. They really do need to make another Lunar game. I haven't played any of them, but I still think it's a damnable shame that gamers have been left with the sour taste of Lunar: Dragon Song in their mouths.

As far as SotN, Metal Gear and such. I enjoyed the first and loved the second. Indeed I bought a ps3 for the sole reason of playing MGS4 (a year and a half before it got finally released, and then it over heated so I had to fix it before the game came out, and the game was so awesome it over heated again! Haha) MG4 especially was for the long term fans like myself though. Personally, the major focus on story, the 30 minute plot pieces between game play were great for me, made the game, but the story of a game has always been what appealed to me most, and being in the minority on that I can see how so many people disliked a feature that made me happy hehe.

Oliver

I notice you say nothing of the third. I haven't played any of them, but most people I talk to seem to agree that MGS3 was the best, at least besides MGS4. And some even say that 3 is superior to 4.

See, I totally bought that Essentials collection with all three games earlier this year, and I haven't played a single one. I really need to get on that someday. I almost bought MGS4 just for the hell of it, but I managed to restrain myself. It would look really nice in my collection, though...

Finally, on Sephiroth. I liked him as a villain. Sure he was clichť, but the clichť was new too me when I was first introduced to him, or at least new enough I didnít recognize it as a clichť. Looking back he isnít as cool as I recall, but he was by no means bad. Since FF7 though, Iíve not been a fan of most of the villains. I hated ff8, and the story did nothing for me, I loved FF9 for its retro feel, but the villains left a great deal to be desired. FF10 was a good game, with Sin at least having a compelling plot. Canít comment on 12 as I gave up on it when I was constantly left without enough money, and no foreseeable way to earn it except to spend 3+ hours grinding through enemies. After the 3rd time of that I gave up. Honestly though, nothing comes close to Kefka, (so awesome) so its hard to rate them as fantastic when you have to compete with a villain who was certainly unique, and actually managed to get what he wanted! (he did blow up the world, died in the end but yah)

Oliver

Ah, Sephiroth. I can admit that he wasn't a perfect villain, but he came quite a bit closer than most other Final Fantasy baddies out there. Kefka is honestly the only one who can stand neck-to-neck with him, in my opinion. Nobody else comes close. Edea? No. Kuja? Nope. Sin? Nah. Vayne? Uh, no. Final Fantasy XIII really needs to work on bringing a well-done villain back to the series, because we've been lacking that for some time now.

And SHAME ON YOU for giving up on FFXII. I concede that it was occasionally necessary to grind for money, but it was VERY rare. You were obviously avoiding too many encounters! And when you have a battle system as wonderful as FFXII's, I am forced to ask: WHY?

Thanks for reading.
D.

Oliver

Always a pleasure, D. Always a pleasure. Write again soon!



The REAL reason Ethan loves FFIX


FF9 was a very disorientating game for me. I was about halfway through when I finally figured out that the mysterious guy Kuja and the on-screen chick were IN FACT ONE AND THE SAME. A rather disturbing revelation.

I'm actually looking forward to playing as Kuja in that Dissidia game. It'll be great fun to humiliate people with him/her/it.

Carabbit

Oliver

rofl

rofl

rofl

ROFL.

Somewhere, at this moment, Ethan Pipher is weeping.

IN CLOSING

I finished Tales of Vesperia about a week ago. Very good game; look forward to my up-and-coming review.

I've been taking a bit of a break from videogames lately, in order to focus on getting some actual work done. So far it hasn't really contributed to my productiveness. But it is starting to make me cranky. (Sigh.) I think I might tough it out until Valkyria Chronicles is released, though. That game looks HEAVENLY, and the demo I recently played has piqued my interest all the more.

That's all for now, folks. Look for me around this time next week!

-Oliver



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