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ASK ANDREW
Hold Your Colour February 5th, 2006

Andrew Long - 2:55 EST

15 RELEASES BY THE END OF NEXT MONTH. That's a little crazy if you ask me, considering this time of year is not generally chock-full of RPG goodness, although I don't mean to complain, since it gives us something to talk about. That said, I am somewhat bitter, given the fact that I have no moneys with which to purchase this plethora of gaming goodness.

Another thing saddening me: the hefty system requirements for Oblivion. There is no way that this poor orange crate of mine will be able to run that game, and I dearly want to play it. I rather suspect it will come down to the following decision in May: ask for upgrades, or ask for E3 funding. That, of course, assumes that my exam schedule doesn't knacker the latter, but as it stands, that is a tough call for me :(




L E T T E R S
A discrepancy? Unpossible!


First off, I've been a big RPGamer fan for years. I was curious as to why "Tales of Phantasia" isn't listed as a future GameBoy Advance game yet? I was under the impression it was already confirmed by Nintendo for US release.

Keep up the great work!

Corbie Dillard
MobileTechReview


ANDREW


Hmm. Our release database has already been updated to reflect this information, but the game hasn't been added to our upcoming page yet. Sounds like a job for... Vigi! Or possibly Xero! Our content staffers of doom will look into the problem, I am sure, and fix it, as the game is indeed set for 03-06-2006. Thanks for the heads-up.



Gotta catch em some


"In other news, more information about Pokémon Diamond/Pearl was revealed from Korokoro. These two Nintendo DS games will be compatible with the GBA titles, and will allow you to transport your pokémon from the GBA games to the DS games. Specific new pokémon types weren't described exactly, but it was said there would be "lots" of new pokémon as well as the introduction of various new types from the different Pokémon movies." The question is how can you trade pokemon or any other game for the GBA and the DS when the DS wireless and GBA wireless adapter and cord doesn't work with each other. The paragraph at the begin of this e-mail I took from web site how the GBA and DS are suppose to be able to trade when my experience of owning both system,wireless adapter as well and that not possible, or is Nintendo is planning to have new wireless adapter for GBA that work with the DS?

thank for taking my question
Justin O.


ANDREW

Nintendo has been known to do such things, but I'm not quite sure how they're planning to pull this one off. All I can think of are arcane saving-dealies, all of which would require the GC, which if memory serves does not compute where the DS is concerned. As such, I will resort to my stock answer: lasers.

No, wait. Laser sharks.

AN ANGRY SQUID

PFAUGH! PITIFUL HUMAN! WHY DO YOU NOT CONSIDER THE POSSIBILITY OF LASER SQUIDS? SSSPPTHHHHAAAGHHHH! I INK IN THE GENERAL DIRECTION OF SHARKS, FOR NOTHING IS DIRTIER THAN A GIANT BALL OF SQUID! SPPPPLOOOOOORB!

ANDREW

..Isn't that supposed to be oil?

AN ANGRY SQUID

BLOOOORP! INK BEATS OIL! SNRAFFFFLORB!



Hwhat indeed


What brought about the RPG convention that by the end of the game you will have traversed the entire planet? I can understand that you may need to do some traveling if the storyline follows the typical "save the world" formula. What bothers me is that these worlds seem awfully empty. There are just long stretches of empty wilderness punctuated by the occasional landmark or town. It just feels like there is not much there that is even worth saving from cataclysmic evil in the first place.

Big worlds offer lots of opportunities for exploration but how often are you rewarded for your effort? Many games hide secrets this way but too often they just feel arbitrary. Many games fail to give logical motivation for characters to go off exploring.

I tend to appreciate the games that have fewer accessible locations. It means that more care was taken with each area to include points of interest rather than just recycling the same tree template that becomes so familiar. At the same time, backgrounds become important in creating the illusion that there is more to the world (it's just that the characters don't have a reason to go off taking random paths).

I think that this is probably a key point in the success of the Zelda series. The world feels big but doesn't try to tackle exploring an entire planet. Exploration is encouraged to find the many treasures hidden throughout the game. The plot also tends to deal with searching for something so of course Link would be found spelunking about the nooks and crannies of Hyrule to achieve his goals.


ANDREW

I don't quite get the gist of your argument. You can say that Zelda eliminates this convention by doing away with a world map, but in reality, even if there are only certain areas on display in that game, in order to max everything out, the search-every-nook-and-cranny imperative is still in play, and in fact, I would argue that it is what made the first few Zelda games so much fun, because back then the various means in which the developers would hide secrets were still fresh and new, to some extent.

To be sure, Zelda lacks the vast emptiness, but there is still dead space, and in the end, the only difference between Zelda and other RPGs in this regard is that it is an action RPG. As for the logical motivations, well, if you're looking for logic in the average meat of an RPG quest, you're going to come away sorely disappointed. Few games manage to provide a truly convincing rationale for wandering the world, and ultimately the convention exists because you wouldn't have much of a game if the stalwart adventurer, upon the destruction of his town, chose to camp out in the ruins of Mom's kitchen until the whole mess blew over.

Regardless, few games have more than 40 actual locations, and you will almost never find important crap scattered in bits around the map, at least not anything crucial to the completion of a game. I say almost, incidentally, because of a Zelda title; that's right, Wind Waker, I'm looking at you and your stupidity Triforce. You can't tell me that there wasn't a better way to do that - heck, I would have settled for throwback NES dungeons! Anything but hauling it up from the ocean bed!

But I digress; in the end, the convention serves to remind you that as the hero, your job is to see the world, and in such an all-encompassing quest, why bother saving something you've never seen (and would you really want to do fifteen consecutive quests in the same setting?) I guess what you're saying is, you like linear action RPGs, and if that's your cup-of-tea, all the more power to you. I just don't see how this is exactly a bad or even unnecessary convention, because like it or not, the archetypal heroic epic will always involve a quest in which the fearless hero must wander about in order to achieve his ends. Otherwise you have no story.



"Randomblings" tag trumps "Noveletter"


Dear Matt, or Andrew, or guest host, or whomever decided to answer this nugget of wisdom.

(The views in this letter are my own, defamatory as they may seem)

Long time listener, first time submitter,

I have been visiting RPGamer since the days when you first started long ago in 1996, at least that's when it started for me. I have found the information contained within your site to be knowledgeable and insightful when I need information about new and old games alike.

Shameful praise aside, I am a VERY longtime RPGamer with over 550 total games completed, more than 200 of which are RPGs. I was there at the beginning, and diety of choice willing, I'll be ther at the end of RPG's. I began with the wonderful adventure game ADVENTURE for the archaic Atari 2600. I still have the game and an Atari to use it on too. I was amazed by Dragon Warrior, Befuddled by Ultima Exodus (to this day, I still have it and haven't completed it, stupid dungeons), and pleased by the ORIGINAL Original Final Fantasy. The plus I saw in it over the vaulted Dragon Warrior franchise was the ability to see your characters in battle. A smalltime plus, however this is my letter, it's my plusses. I would have to say, however, that my favorite series tag lies with the Dragon Warrior and Castlevania series, with an honorable mention nod to the FF series. They are the only series that have survived intact over the years of trading and selling games. (Thank you EB and McVans for providing those services)

Now for an observation. What was the brief downfall of Squaresoft. My simple answer is not Final Fantasy VII. My true answer is the taint that was aquired from the merging with Electronic Arts. Look at EA...mass producing crap and then cramming it down the public's throat. EA saw the popularity of FF7 and said, lets get Square, mass produce some substandard RPG's (Just look at all the bad Square games before FF7, and then the MASSIVE number of bad games after the EA aquisition, granted there were a few good ones too) , sell them for a rediculous profit because everyone will buy it as long as SQUARESOFT is on the label, and then run away when the going gets tough. Unfortuntely their attempt to run was successful...and a blessing if you look at it in a certain light.
ANDREW

Which would all make perfect sense if EA had any say in development, but EA Square was a production arm, not a development one, so it never really had very much say in what the boys back in Japan cooked up. Sorry to say, that mess lies on their doorstep; apparently Japanese business moguls are just as adept at corporate whoorery as their North American counterparts. EA Square was an arrangement of mutual convenience, and the only reason you can possibly call it on "mass producing crap" is because it released a much higher percentage of Square's titles than Squaresoft ever did, meaning we ended up with both the good games and the mediocre, as opposed to just the good ones.

Also, you have failed to adequately explain why it's a blessing. much as I would agree it was one for the RPG market. EA Square, so far as I can see, was a matter of convenience more than anything for both companies. EA increased Square's market presence, and once Square was sufficiently established, it bought back EA's shares and continued on its merry way.

But I digress. My current pet project is Legaia II. This game is not as horrible as I first thought, it takes some time to grow on you. This is the same with Beyond the Beyond, I just recently defeated this game after a 3 year hiatus, and while I hated it 3 years ago, It wasn't so excruciating now. Although I know that no one feels that same way.
ANDREW

Yeah... I played that stinker all the way through, so you can throw me in the "hatehatehate" camp. There is no redeeming feature to it as far as I'm concerned; it's pure Camelot crap, poorly balanced, overfilled with puzzles, terrible graphics and bad sound, and has a story that makes me want to cry. You just can't convince me that it's anything but torture.

Anyway, I guess I'll sate your hunger for a question with the following...How many games have any of you whom answer this e-mail completed. I'm curious if I'm on the low end, in the middle of the pack, or so high that it truely shows how much of life I have missed.

Thanks,
Talon


ANDREW

You're on the high end (I myself have completed somewhere in the neighbourhood of 50 games, while having played varying amounts of around 80 and would say, judging from the applications we get on which we ask "how many RPGs have you completed," that that is around average or possibly slightly above it, placing you in the stratosphere), but it would seem you haven't really been paying our news much attention over your 7 years of readership. Cmon man! Our news department owns! </plug>



Geez guys... don't all send long letters at once now!


Greetings Andrew,

First off, I'm going to talk about random dungeons and get it out of my system:

Random dungeons should only be reserved for games that have a reason for them. Dark Cloud? Perfect. Not only did the dungeons randomize, but they looked beautiful (even if I never actually managed to beat the dark genie...)

That and they're better suited for games that you can play on those boring car trips to drown out annoying travel music that you didn't get to pick, *glares evilly at sister as she passes by* as well as massaging one's otherwise sterile brain.
ANDREW

Pfft. You can't possibly top the annoying travel music I've had to put up with over my 24 years. The catalogue includes Garth Brooks, Billy Rae Cyrus, Sun Jammin', the soundtracks to the musicals Evita and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (no, musicals do not count as culture no matter how many people try to claim they do, especially not those written by Andrew Lloyd Webber who I hate and want to see perish miserably in the worst possible way), and an ungodly amount of Nora Jones, who, although not terrible, is nonetheless not my cuppa tea. Did I mention this lovely bunch all came in the same trip? On several occasions?

Moving along...

As for FFVIII? Wouldn't know, since it was like some kind of uberhellish torture just to get to the second cd, whereupon I've pretty much given up for now. Why, oh why did that game get spared from my evil PS2, yet my soul calibur 3 was murdurized????
ANDREW

It's a sign, man. For all the bad rap FFVIII accrues, it's really not that bad a game if you just play it proper. Work on levelling up your GFs, and once you get abilities that convert items, cards, and such into spells, you'll never have to worry about drawing again (except, of course, on boss fights where it almost always pays off, and that's no problem, cuz FFVIII has the best boss music in any game, ever.)

*ahem* Anyways, a question or too should get things away from my incessant ramblings: Your thoughts on being able/not being able to switch the main character? I'd like to, on account of the main character always being the 10-levels above everyone else powerhouse that makes the game too easy from day one...
ANDREW

Yeah, I think characters should be switched in and out to promote balance, cuz it is sort of annoying when you've got the one juggernaut doing all the work and the other two or three struggling to stay alive. That's one of the (many) reasons I love FFX so much. In other news, you have somehow inspired me to use far too many parentheses. Bad! Me, that is.

Any games on the horizon got your attention? If so, what are their odds of being PALized and sent to us poor european-dependant gamers?
ANDREW

There'd probably be a couple if I had any prospects of acquiring them, but as it stands I'll likely be hoarding my cash for FFXII and hoping it comes out as late this year as possible.

Well, I'm out of ranting. I'd better get going before I chew up more of your delicious column...

'Till next the power of ranting overtakes,

Peter 'It seems my sword is lodged in your brain. Can I have it back?' Brennan.


ANDREW

Not at all, Petey. Write in anytime!





q u i c k i e s


Matt,

Quina is the third greatest character ever. That is all.
Mr. Snuggles

ANDREW: Thanks for sharing, Mr. Snuggles. In other news, I hate Quina like pestilence.
C L O S I N G
IN CONCLUSION:

Okay, so for tomorrow, what are your thoughts. E3 money, or upgrade for Oblivion. This of course assumes a hefty birthday present, but hey, it's a decent hypothetical, so send me your thoughts, bearing in mind that E3 sorta bored me on day 3 last year, especially since there were so many people in lines that day. Incidentally, my days are now Sunday and Monday. Saturday? Oh, it's dead to me.

castomel@rpgamer.com
Andrew Long has placed bears on notice as a sign of solidarity.

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