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ASK OLIVER
Wake Me Up when November Ends
November 9, 2008

11/09 - 12:09 a.m. CST

This final month will manage to be the longest, I just know it. Final month of what, you may ask? The Fall semester, of course. I've only a month left before a month of FREEDOM. Freedom from higher education, at least. That little restaurant I work for will be opening a new location in Brentwood, Tennessee next month, and doubtless, I will be forced to devote many hours of my life to helping them get it off the ground.

I HAVE TEH VALKYRIA CHRONICLES! Bought it Wednesday, and I've pumped about ten hours into it already. How have I found the time? I don't know, but I did, because I had to. The game is rather addicting. To all who own a PS3, I recommend that you acquire a copy of Valkyria Chronicles with great haste, and then write to me about it! Understood? Good. Now off with you.





The Letters
FEAR TEH DESTROYER


All Hail Montok the Destroyer!

Oliver

Who?

I enjoy the column, keep up the good work!

Oliver

Oh... you're talking to me.

Sigh. I can't believe that name stuck.

I've been spending most of my gaming time with MMOs lately, but would like to get back into some single player ones. I'm specifically thinking of picking up Persona 3. I haven't played a Persona game since the first one on the PSX. Which I remember being OK for the time, but the first person dungeons were fairly annoying and the battle system was kind of clunky. Definitely not a FFVII. I was probably too busy playing the hell out of FFVII to get around to buying Persona 2 which apparently was much improved over the original. I doubt I could find that now anyway. I've been putting off picking up Persona 3 for a while now, but seeing a fourth on the horizon makes me wonder if I should pick up Persona 3 before then or just wait for Persona 4? You seem to be a fan of the third, what say you?

Oliver

It's safe to go either route, but I'd try to grab a copy of FES before it vanishes entirely. Persona 4 will be great, no doubt, but Persona 3 is great as well and deserves your attention. Personally, I always think it's best to introduce oneself to a series with the earliest installment that is possible, so I'd go with 3.

And you'd better buy it too! Don't fall back into your comfy chair of MMOs and forget!

I'm also wondering if you've played Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne? While Googling Persona games it came up a few times. I don't think I had even heard of it before, but everything I've seen says it's *incredibly* hard. Other people say it's just cheap and you can expect to get drawn into a random encounter and lose the two hours you spent since you saw a save point. Have you tried it? I kind of suspect it's somewhere in the middle and I've heard people describe Final Fantasy 1 as insanely hard too, so I'm not sure what to think.

Oliver

You may already know, but the Persona series is a spin-off of the Shin Megami Tensei games. Nocturne is a proper entry in the SMT series, so that's why you came across it whilst browsing.

I've heard horror stories about Nocturne's difficulty as well, and I've also heard that such reports are greatly exaggerated. It's a strange thing when certain people find certain games easy, while the majority of the gaming population finds them difficult, but it certainly happens. Or, in the case of Nocturne, it may be the loud voices of a select few, and not really indicative of the popular opinion. Who knows? I certainly don't because I haven't played the game. However, I do indeed own it, and it's slated to be played sometime in 2009.

Cheers,
Evilpaul

Oliver

Always a pleasure, EvilPaul.



How Many Boards Would the Mongols Hoard if the Mongol Hoards got Bored?


Oliver, been a little while. What major do you have that usurps so much of your time in studies? My own did not require nearly so much of a commitment, save around tests and papers.

Oliver

I'm a journalism major. For some strange reason, this semester has been a far more trying experience than my previous two... I managed to get stuck with a bunch of classes that pile the work on. And of course, I still work a job, albeit only 35-40 hours per week now. It ain't easy, lemme tell ya.

I had an interview at Borders last week but haven't been called in to an actual job yet, though the augurs are good. In the meanwhile I've made enough cash by thinning down my collection of useless stuff on eBay. A sealed copy of Donkey Kong Country on SNES went for $140, can you believe it? That was my top seller but others have served the double purpose of accruing cash for me and thinning my shelves without going into the garbage. Final Fantasy Mystic Quest may have gone for $15.50 but that was $15.50 more than I would have gotten with it sitting around.

Oliver

Ugh... you're breaking my heart, talking to me about selling such off such classics. I know you probably need the money, but damn... it's still heart-wrenching. Having watched my dad live a life of regret after selling off his old comic collection (and subsequently spending years buying it all back), I vowed never to sell my videogame collection, under any circumstances. If I run out of money I'll sell my clothes. If I run out of room, I'll dig an underground storage cavern.

While I'm talking about eBay, I must mention that if you want to broaden your backlog a cheaper way of doing so is the eBay way. Dragon Quest IV I picked up for $32 with shipping (and since California has sales tax that saved me $10), Final Fantasy IV for $30 with free shipping. Significant savings, eh? Now don't expect me to immediately play them - my pattern of plentiful retro playing must continue.

Oliver

Oh, I know all about the wonders of eBay, believe me. I actually try to avoid the place, because I always, ALWAYS end up spending more money there than I should. Granted, that's what I do in most places.

Something I did quite a lot in seasons past of Q&A was the inclusion of musical links. You've mentioned that the majority of your musical collection comes from game soundtracks, but I went rather overboard in the past with this tendency and am hesitant to try it again without your permission. Would you be okay with the inclusion of a link or two from me per letter? I find that, particularly for games you will most likely never play, the music is a very useful way of conveying information that words alone cannot express.

Oliver

Oh... sure, why not. You can send me a link or two. Although, I should tell you that, depending on my mood or how busy I am, I may or may not actually click on said links. But hey, including the link in the first place certainly raises the odds, now doesn't it?

Amazingly enough, I played a new release! Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia is not the top Castlevania title I've played but it was a rocking good time. Even with one infuriating boss that no one else seems to have had a problem with - Blackmore. This utter jerk has a monstrous shadow that will completely rip you apart inside of 30 seconds, and I finally gave up learning his patterns for the most part to just spam healing items and blow the bastard away. I must have died 12 times to him, very quickly, before I at last conceded my inadequate reflexes and used the cheap method to win. Look for a review from me on this very soon - since I still have plenty of free time.

Oliver

Egads! JuMeSyn is playing something NEW? Could this be a sign of the END TIMES?

I am glad that you, and many others it seems, are enjoying Order of Ecclesia. However, as has been determined in the past, sadistic 2-D platformers are not my thing. I realize that the games are supposed to be challanging, and require nigh-inhuman reflexes from the player. But I don't find such challenges entertaining, only frustrating.

You probably looked at my Front Mission: Gun Hazard review several weeks ago. Going over it again is kind of pointless, but I would just like to mention again one of its oddest features. Imagine if, in any given action game, the enemies exploded upon death and their explosive residue caused you damage. Picture if, in a Metroid game, you needed to wait a moment after killing something not to take damage from its residue.

Oliver

It's kinda funny you should say that, because in the Metroid Prime series there are actually a few enemies that emit harmful residue or particles when they die. And yes, it's quite an annoyance at times.

I will be playing Fire Emblem 3 and 4 in a little bit - don't ask me how my playing schedule is derived, it owes a lot to my whims at the time of choosing the next game. I can give you a little bit of information on those two right now however. 3 is a remake of the original Fire Emblem, only it deletes a few of the battles from that game and adds a second half full of new content. The new DS Fire Emblem is based on the original NES game, thus it will not contain any of the added content in 3's second half. 3 is also lacking the weapons triangle, so I'm uncertain how precisely it will play. 4 is notable for having far fewer battles than most of the games, but apparently these are much longer battles - so much longer that saving mid-battle is possible. 4 also features a generation system where midway through the story skips ahead 20 years and the children of the people in the first half take up the fight.

Then there is the final SNES Fire Emblem, which I do not currently own. There is a good reason for my not owning it - as a 1999 Super Famicom release in limited quantities the game commands over $100 routinely. It also has a reputation of being the hardest Fire Emblem, though my understanding is that the difficulty comes partly from enemies with tons of Berserk and Poison abilities. That game does bear the distinction of one being able to steal weapons and not just items from enemies.

Oliver

...No weapons triangle? Isn't that like... the basis of Fire Emblem combat?

Also, I find it a bit odd that they would remake the first game so soon, and include it as a part of the numbered series. Furthermore, I had no idea that they even released any Super Famicom games as late as 1999. Hell, the PS2 was practically out by then. All in all, I'm beginning to see why it took the series so long to find its way to North America... it seemed to suffer from a sort of identity crisis for quite some time.

Before you joined RPGamer's staff, I wrote an editorial that for some reason I'm thinking about lately. Here's the editorial and I hope I did the html correctly there. I'm curious about your thoughts regarding this concept, and must explain that I do not intend to join any modern day guilt trip bandwagon looking to recompense today's people for the actions of the dead. I do think the reverse concept, that of the United States stomping all over people who had no hope of successfully opposing consistent attacks by overwhelming force, would not make for much of a game.

Oliver

Well, I don't really know how marketable an idea like that would be, although I suppose it could be interesting. I doubt we'd ever see anything like that made, though. You never see any World War II shooters told from the perspective of the Nazis, now do you? How unpatriotic would it be to make a game that sided with the Native Americans?

As far as historical settings go, WWII is really the only one that's proved marketable. I personally think it would be great if some upstanding developer would tap into a different time period, but in this day and age, risks like that are rarely taken.

I take it that your lack of comment on Tales of Phantasia means you haven't played it? Whether you would enjoy it as I did is hard to say, given that the combat system in Tales games appears to have evolved quite a bit since. Particularly with your lack of time lately, I cannot recommend the game over certain other choices (like Super Robot Taisen: Original Generation) - but that is not meant to a diss. Not every game can entice the ardour from me that those Original Generation titles do. And you must acquire them!

That's all for now. Be well, good sir.
JuMeSyn

Oliver

I've played a very small portion of Phantasia; basically enough to realize that the combat differs quite a bit from what I got used to in the last iterations in the series. So yeah, it didn't really hold my interest or make me want to purchase it. If I gave it a fair shake I might enjoy it, who knows; but I've much more important things to worry about for now.

As always, thanks for writing JMS.



Forgotten Gems


Dear Oliver,

This is my first time writing a letter to RPGamer, but that is more a function of the fact that I prefer to say things as few times as possible rather than a lack of things to say.

Oliver

Aaaand I'm a terrible person. This is an OLD letter, one that somehow never found its way into my columns. When you start running low, old letters like this begin to surface.

The first thing I'd like to comment on is the bad wrap that rpg's and jrpg's in particular get in reviews from most gaming periodicals these days. I've played a ridiculous number of games in the past few years that I loved and adored that got mediocre or terrible reviews from supposedly respectable reviewers. While I know there is a need to appeal to the likes and dislikes of the general public, I also feel that it has gone to far and created a group of jaded gamers looking down on every other gamer from on high.

Oliver

It's a bit of a spirit-breaker, isn't it? Seeing a game like Lost Odyssey awarded scores in the 7s, knowing full well that it deserves more. There have been times when I've honestly wondered if today's game journalists just hate JRPGs. There can be no doubt that they are harsher on JRPGs than just about any other genre on the market right now, and it really isn't fair.

Honestly, and not to toot our own horn or anything, but that's why you come to a site like RPGamer. We understand RPGs, we know what a true RPGamer expects from them, and we review them accordingly. We don't necessarily review for the FPS crowd or the sports game fanatics.

Now, the first series I want make a comment on is Final Fantasy, the most famous jrpg series in the US. I started playing Final Fantasy with FF2 (FFIV) and FF3 (FFVI) on the SNES. FF2 was, of course, a revelation for a guy who had up to that point played only the purely turn-based Breath of Fire games, and it turned me from 'a mildly interested in rpgs' fellow to an 'rpg addict who stares at the TV screen for hours at a time while he kills monsters for gold'. However, even more of a revelation was FFVI, which had a story and characters that blew me out of the water. I can't tell you how much I loved that game, or well... I can but it would take several hours of writing and would probably waste a lot of both of our time.

Oliver

Ah, but not much needs to be said about FFVI. We all love it, and we all know why.

At the end of the day, you really can't beat the Final Fantasy series when taken as a whole. At least, that's my opinion.

Now, to the most famous of the series, FFVII. VII was my introduction to the combination between polygon graphics and rpgs, so you can probably guess how I felt about it. I saved before every FMV scene and watched them over and over again, especially the scene where Sephiroth kills Aeris, which is both one of the coolest and one of the better cathartic scenes in the FF series.

Oliver

Ah, FFVII. Still my favorite RPG of all time, and it probably always will be.

It's funny, one of the most popular accusations about FFVII fans is that they were impressed only by the game's graphics and FMVs, and because of that, failed to judge the rest of the game properly. When I first played FFVII, it was almost ten years old. The game was, and still is, one of the ugliest games I've ever played. Certain scenes, such as Aeris's death, are still amazing. Not because of how they look, but what they convey.

Final Fantasy Tactics was my introduction into baroque politics, and since I read Machiavelli right afterward, you can tell what kind of an impact it had on me. However, from my point of view, every game after that was a disappointment, with the exception of 9, which surprised me by being quite enjoyable. As I am aware of your opinions on XII, I won't comment on it except to say that I loathed the battle system.

Oliver

Sigh. So, you're another hater of VIII/X? That's an unfortunate thing. X-2 I can understand, because it was largely rubbish, but I happen to love X and VIII more than most other entries in the series; they rank 3rd and 4th, respectively.

What's truly surprising, though, is that you hated XII. Most people who hated VII and X enjoyed XII, from what I've seen. XII, in my opinion, stands second only to VII. And, I will say this till the day I die, but how could a Final Fantasy fan hate XII's battle system? It was, for all intents and purposes, the SAME ATB SYSTEM WE'D COME TO KNOW AND LOVE!

I have a feeling that a mail server may have eaten off a portion of your letter, and I apologize for that. Or who knows, maybe you were done. In any case, thanks for the letter dude.

IN CLOSING

Blargh... I need a vacation.

Wish I had more to say here. The weekend is practically done and I've accomplished almost nothing, which is always encouraging. I shall have to haul some of my junk to work tomorrow and attempt to get some of this pesky homework done. Bringing homework to work is a bit of a crapshoot, unfortunately; sometimes I get lucky, and manage to get a fair amount accomplished. And sometimes I don't even have the time to get the stuff from my car.

But hey, life will go on. That's the amazing thing; somehow, I always get by, even when faced with impossible odds. I guess someone upstairs has a vested interest in my success.

-Oliver



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What I can't wait for:

1. The Last Remnant

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5. Chrono Trigger DS



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