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ASK ANDREW
If I Could Just Lay A Hand On Him... Just A Fingernail! I WOULD STAB HIM IN THE HEAD WITH IT! April 28, 2006

Andrew Long - 4:18 EST

SEE THAT, PEOPLE? I got the date right on the first try! Isn't that exciting? Am I not impressive? No? Well, screw you. I've lost all track of time since retiring from this space and I think it's only fitting that I should regain my chronological cognizance, however briefly, immediately upon my return. Yes, it seems Matt has to go get himself gussied up for some "stupid" party, which he assures me is neither "stupid" nor a party, whatever that means. So they've trotted me out of the Q&A retirement dungeonbasement for today. Did you miss me? I know I haven't done much of anything at all since leaving you as I did, but that shouldn't stop this from being an enjoyable romp through the fields of yesterday. Yes, let's frolic! FROLIC I SAY!

You gotta help me... They keep me pumped full of stale old prozac cookies (did that Lorelai character ever do anything but bake?) and I have nothing to look at all day except these old fanarts of Thor and Google, which make an uninspiring tapestry set, to say the least. It's a nightmare. WHY AM I CHAINED IN THIS BASEMENT FULL OF MONKEY SKELETONS? WHY???? WHAT DID I DO TO DESERVE THIS?




L E T T E R S
Yes, because Canadian film is a fast-paced roller coaster of... underfunding, mostly


Hi Matt

My condolences I extend to you on your programming experience. I spend largish chunks of my time either modifying existing programs, so called maintenance, or dealing with the results of changing demands, feature creep. Good luck. (I hope you donít need it!)
ANDREW


Interesting fact: my one and only experience with programming came in Grade 11, when I "programmed," by which I mean "got my friend to program for me" a card-battle game. Lest you think I did nothing at all, I spent far too much time drawing the pictures for said cards, which was why, combined with a healthy dose of incompetence, I eventually had to appeal for outside assistance. Isn't that super?

I enjoyed FF7AC (Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children) quite a bit. I canít say that it brought back fond memories of FF7 since I really found doing that game hard. Great music but... It was nice to see that they could redeem themselves in a movie without ending up doing another ďspirits withinĒ. The way they dealt with the whole Aeris (or is it Aerith) issue really showed some maturity. And what fight scenes. If you havenít seen it do so. I donít think it is a must own since the movie has some rather odd pacing issues from a Canadian eye.
ANDREW


Please to be explaining how having a Canadian eye can influence one's notion of pacing issues. Film Canada grants have gone towards funding a lovely vibrant homegrown film industry in Quebec, to be sure, but since nobody outside that province gets much chance to experience that vibrancy, Film Canada's net effect on the rest of us is The Littlest Hobo, Beachcombers, and The Smoggies, which I should think provide a poor footing at best upon which to criticize any aspect of a film, at least from a strict standpoint of nationality.

As for Wii, I can see the endless bathroom jokes now. I do hope this means something else in Japan since over here I think that they must have lost their heads. Revolution was such an interesting name while Wii sounds so much like it has lost its ending syllable. Perhaps even its wit.

Thanks for your column!
Angus


ANDREW


Yeah... I devoutly hope they change that from Wii, because if not, we're all going to be subjected to talking heads looking quizzically at each other, saying "and Nintendo has released its... Wii today. With all the tiny details, here's Tom!"
TOM


Oh, YOU! Yes, Andrew, Nintendo has launched its latest system, and while most industry insiders say it's got a long way to go towards claiming even a small chunk of the market, others are touting it as the LITTLE system that could! With more, here's Liza!
LIZA


Oh, YOU! So how does Nintendo fit so much goodness into such a tiny space? SIMPLE! They simply reach into the heads of news correspondents, pull out the sweet sweet juices within, and with all that unused synapse space, map a neural network of pure, tiny AWESOME! The Nintendo Wii hits shelves next Wii-k! Andrew?
ANDREW


So you see, something clearly has to be done.


Ah, Noveletters... How I have missed you


Matt,

I sent a letter to the QnA/rant column months ago, but I don't think you ever got it. It's too bad, because I was all ramped up to get in on the Dragon Quest VIII love and blah blah. Oh well, you know how it is.

One important thing in that letter was concerning a certain undocumented feature in Star Ocean 3 that would have probably made you think it sucked a bit less. You mentioned that every character had terrible AI, right? There's a solution that was never mentioned in the instruction book and isn't presented very clearly in-game. Each character has two skills called "attack" and "defend" or something like that.

These skills are actually AI controls; every level you buy in those skills makes them better AI allies. At higher levels, they're actually a lot better than you could ever hope to be as a player (at least, they were way more effective than I was, and I generally consider myself to be amazing at action games). I got halfway through the game by the time I realized this; I noticed that Fayt, whom I had given a lot of attack points to, kicked ass when I was not in control of him. I checked online, and there you go. What is interesting is that if you have someone achieve level 10 in attack and remain at level 0 in defense, they'll be quite reckless and incredibly effective; if they have level 10 in both skills, they'll be too balanced and cautious for their own good.
ANDREW

Thanks for sharing, Brandon. Now, I know SO3 is a game, but I have to question a skill that effectively declares the characters in a game to be thoughtless automatons. There's just no real-life process you can use to compare to such a skill, because when you're playing, say, a team sport, it's not as though you have any control over the actions of the other players, nor the ability to plug skill points into them to make them better. They're their own people and in theory, if they're playing with you they should have a commensurate skill level (so if they're playing with me, that level is low) which should be independent of any of your actions, beyond the small "bonus" caused by teamwork.

I dunno. I know RPG stats can't always mirror real life but I have a problem with this particular one, I guess.

The fact is the matter is that Star Ocean 3 isn't that great, and there's a certain plot twist 2/3 of the way through that convinces most people to never play the game again. So, it's probably not worth reviewing. But, I thought I'd let you know because the stupid AI seemed to be a big problem for you.
ANDREW

Now hold on just a second there! There's a big difference between "not worth playing" and "not worth reviewing." A game like Rhapsody, for instance, is most certainly not worth playing, but it makes up for it in spades in its reviewability. I want you to do an experiment. Go to Rottentomatoes.com and look up the worst movie you can think of. Then read a few reviews for it. You'll probably notice, in all likelihood, that the reviewers there take a great deal of relish in trashing that bad movie, because that's pretty much the only advantage they gain out of the experience. Not only does their job force them to watch this bad film, it also forces them to watch the whole thing. As such, the only enjoyment comes from trying to coin the perfect phrase to express one's disgust with a film. (Note: if you want a perfect illustration of this, search for reviews of "Get Rich or Die Tryin';" my favorite one-liner there is probably "50 spends the film with one look on his face, and itís the look that you imagine a caveman would have when confronted with a cellphone.")

Now type in the name of the best movie you can think of (and for the sake of this experiment, make sure it is a film that you are fairly certain 90% of critics would agree on as being good.) Read a few of these reviews. I think you will conclude that for a reviewer, the joy of a good film is largely experienced in viewing it rather than in writing about it. That's because language, on the whole, tends to allow for a lot more creativity in bashing something than in praising it, probably because people on the whole are absolutely addicted to schadenfreude and beating down the works of others. So I guess what I wasted all this time saying is that SO3 is most definitely worth reviewing, especially if Matt doesn't like it one bit.

I totally agree with you as far as WA: ACF is concerned. The dungeon design was okay, and the story was pretty good at times. The boss battles were balanced to perfection. But everything else was really disappointing. I don't understand why they made such huge changes to an already solid game. The worst part is that the original WA had graphics that were loads better -- sure, the battles were kind of bizarre-looking, but the field graphics consisted of some of the finest pixel art out there. Just look at the depth of shading on the trees and all the detail in the cliffs. The pixel artists in the original clearly loved their jobs and poured every ounce of their staggering talent into those sprites.

So you know what I want? The original Wild Arms on a handheld, with the battles redone with 2D sprites in the same style. Now *THAT* would be a lovely game.
ANDREW

Only if they hire someone who actually speaks English to do the localization.

It just goes to show you; a cartoon will always be a cartoon, and a sprite will always be a sprite, but 3D technology is rarely timeless in any sense of the word!
ANDREW

Oh, please. A 3D game can look just as good as a 2D game and exhibit equally timeless qualities. You're just not far enough removed from the earlier generations of 3D graphics to appreciate fully how crappy PSX graphics are compared with the currently dawning generation of consoles.

I totally feel you as far as programming goes. I've had experience with a few languages and I've developed an independent game with RPGMaker on PC (don't worry, I actually have a legal license to use the program), and I've been there as far as bugfixing etc goes. Try adding, on top of programming, spriting, art, music, dialogue, scripted cutscenes, overall game design AND working with a team of other people (or one other person in my case LOLZ), and you'll want to kill yourself. At least, outside of the class I've found that when I'm programming something meaningful and useful, it's be easier to not get discouraged. Especially when it's my own game. Look around for Wilfed the Hero if you're interested, but I doubt you are. Hahah.

I don't have any questions. I am sorry.

PS: Xenosaga II's soundtrack sucked. The few decent cues in there were totally ruined by the godawful pop music permeating most of the field maps. Thankfully, the cutscene composer is going full-time with the next game; that intro track was brilliant, and I definitely wouldn't mind an entire soundtrack like that.

PPS: I love your column. I haven't missed a single one.


ANDREW

While you cannot be forgiven for asking me no questions, I will tell you no lies and say that you can never go wrong heaping praise on a columnist.



Sure, there's not much difference between Eyes on Me and My Heart Will Go On


Sir Matt, Lord of Q&A,

I'll have to say that you have some good taste in gaming. I'm looking at your most wanted list and all three of those are right up there for me as well. Mine actually goes FFXII, FFIII, MGS4 and then New Super Mario Bros.

As I look toward the future I have to wonder, with the inclusion of more and more RPGs have lyrical songs included during the game, how far will it go? Will the US eventually have major recording artists on board for RPG songs? I know with most RPGs originating out of Japan, that it might be difficult, but I can see it happening eventually.

- Macstorm


ANDREW

I think it's a possibility, but only if such songs are marketed in such a way that their connection to RPGs is disguised entirely. Why? Well, in Japan, gamers make up a sufficient portion of the music-buying population that pop chart success there is possible, whereas here, RPGs are still looked upon in a somewhat desultory light by the general population. As such, someone saying "oh, it's that RPG song" would more likely be followed by "losers" than "OMG BUY THAT CD." Essentially, until game soundtracks have the capacity to go platinum here, we're pretty much stuck on the outside looking in.



Health and / or gaming issues: somewhat less catchy than Rock and / or Roll issues


Dear Mr. Matt,

Okay. I know you're pro'lly gettin' tired of hearin' from me on this...but Cap's (I think it was Cap's) just *screamed* for a response from me, because Cerebral Palsy is exactly the malady I possess. I have played most every RPG I've seen over the years, but he's absolutely right. CP, as it's more commonly known, is varying in it's severity and dibilitations. Mine is quite mild, comparitively.
ANDREW

Thanks for sharing, Donovan, and take heart! I've never even heard you mention CP, so it'll take at least a few more mentions before I get tired of it!

That being said, I feel compelled to suggest an RPG for his friend. I'd sayBreath of Fire III would be good, as it doesn't require very fast movement, and allows for ample time to think...or maybe Xenogears? I'd suggest the Persona series...but they're hard to locate. If his friend is anything like me at all, she'd probably appriciate a nice lengthy distraction. Barring that, I'd agree with Earthbound...or maybe any of the earlier Final Fantasies (4-6), or maybe even Lufia or Arcana. I do encourage her to try whatever RPG strikes her. Only her tastes will tell her what's good.

I too have seen Advent Children and I loved it. It's so beautiful, and yet poingiant in its execution. Very memorable and a welcome reform to the Squeenix movie foray.

As for wii...well...I just won't go there. *Thinks of several jokes*.

Aidios, Matt.
~Donovan


ANDREW

A fine list of suggestions. If it's slow-paced games you seek that don't require much in the way of reflex action, Suikoden V doesn't appear to move along very fast, so you might wanna suggest she pick that up if she's looking for something more contemporary. I'm six hours in and I still haven't encountered anything that would require particularly fast response time, if in fact that is the prerequisite you are looking for.



Randomblings


Hello Matt,

I'm a long time reader first time Questioner. I really enjoyed the Final Fantasy VII:Advent Children DVD, but I was really hoping the anime OAV The Last Order would be on there. Do you know if they have any plans to localize it, perhaps as part of Before Brisis or Crisis Core?
ANDREW

So far as I am aware no such plans exist; you might check an anime site such as animenation, but at this time I don't think it's planned.

At first the idea of returning to a world of Final Fantasy and expanding the universe with new material, movies games what have you seemed like it would just be a rehash and not worthwhile but after looking at disk two of the FFVII:AC compilation of FFVII plan it actually looks kind of cool. Do you think the other games will have as much sucess as the movie seems to have had? How do you think Final Fantasy will work as a shooter game in Dirge of Cerberus and is it technically an RPG?
ANDREW

If it's a shooter it ain't an RPG, but shh, don't tell that to our games page. Seriously though, I imagine that conceptually the gameplay will end up something like Parasite Eve's, so if this is the case, then yes. If not, well... As I say, we tend to cover anything with Final Fantasy in the title, so you'll probably still be able to find coverage of it here.

In terms of the potential success of the games, well, anything's possible, but I don't know that you can say the movie has had great success yet, at least not in North America, since it was only released here recently. In Japan, certainly, I think there is a good chance that DoC will have good success, simply because Before Crisis has been around long enough to whet people's appetites for more FFVII gaming. The levels of success even approaching a regular FF title, however, seems a much less likely proposition.

SOCKS answers

Just read about the Wii thing also today. I imagine the serial numbers will still begin with REV as an omage to the working title. Wii seems very Japanese. Is this Nintendo trying to set itself apart from the XBox 360 since Microsoft is very American? Wii doesn't even make sense as a word or phrase in English. But I guess the only real important question is will anyone know how to pronounce it Why or We or We-ee or why-eye? it likes like WiFi missing the F.

#184 d) Cinnamon, also what's turmeric?
#185 b) Axe

Thanks a bunch,
~Kyrelar


ANDREW

You will note that this is the only question with SOCKS answers printed; this is because I have been saving any letters with SOCKS in them for Matt to duly tabulate when he returns. I leave it here only to answer the ticklish question of what oh what is turmeric. Turmeric is that chunky yellow powder you see at the bottom of most spice racks (curse you alphabetical order!) and is generally what gives curries its yellowish colour. It can be used as a substitute for saffron since it turns stuff bright yellow. It cannot be used as a substitute for tarragon, an unfortunate discovery I made quite by accident when one day I was shopping for spices for chicken breasts in an Italian wine sauce. Tarragon? Sweet and minty. Turmeric? Earthy, acidic, and... not suited to that particular sort of Italian cooking, to say the least. I thought I still had the packet somewhere, but it appears as though my sweet sister made off with it when she moved out. Easy come, easy go, I suppose - at least the rest of my spices remain where they should be.



There ain't nothing wrong with shouting drunkenly across campus!


Hey Matt,

I liked your slightly disoriented response to Nintendo's new console name. For me, it brought up a very strong college memory. There is a somewhat tacky creation on a distant website that combines a squirrel, a song, and a lot of "WHEEEEEEEEE!!!" I had a friend in college a few years ago stumble across it while drunk, and let me tell you, for a bunch of drunk college guys, it is the funniest thing in the world. It became our catchphrase, sober or drunk, to randomly yell "WHEEEEEE" at each other across great distances, or directly in each other's faces. The boundless maturity of college, let me tell you.

For those of you interested, here's the link to the website (http://www.threebrain.com). Go to the "Rock videos", and the first one should be "WEEEEEEEE" I warn you now, there is strong language and sexual content. And, while I cannot condone the consumption of alcohol, it is very funny while intoxicated. Probably not the impression that Nintendo wanted me to get from their new console...

P.S. Out of curiosity, did anyone get my question right the other day? A little digging could probably pull it up pretty easy, but I'm wondering if anyone put the effort into it.

Thanks!
BigWook


ANDREW

Thanks for sharing, BigWook. And I think you've got it all wrong - just think of the marketing campaign you could build around gonads and strife!



I probably shouldn't print this, but eh


Firstly, (SOCK).

No no time for secondlies, must go for pointless trip to Ballarat so mum doersn't get lonely, not that i'm complaining 'cause i'll get the whole XX hours in labour speech. Ar Mothers!

Bai (Nick hurry up and have a shower we have to go soon!) Yes Mum


ANDREW

I don't know what this labour speech business is, but for your sake I hope it involves ice cream of some sort. Enjoy your shopping trip - if it's any consolation my mom seems bent on furnishing me with most of the elements of a new suit this weekend, so my Sunday promises to be an enjoyment spectacular.





C L O S I N G
IN CONCLUSION:

Well, I had planned on longer, but it seems Matt failed to take into account the volume of email that was directly involved in attempting to convince me to purchase shares in a certain cosmetics concern. In an entirely unrelated note, personal to Pingchuan Cosmetics: If I have to read another junk email about how your stock is going to explode any day now from trading at 45 cents to $1, I will personally fly to China and bomb your factory. Thank you.

So anyway, I had a fine time filling in, but now I'm off to be locked in the retirement dungeon again. Hopefully they'll call on me before too long - I think Brad needs to inspect this basement for mold, cuz I gots the lungrot going on. HACK! HACK! COUGH! I DEMAND FISH!

castomel@rpgamer.com
Andrew Long will die if you feed him rotten fish, though.

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