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ASK MATT
Return to Paradise February 28, 2006

Matt Demers - 22:54 EST

ALL HAIL!

Yes, that's correct; I have returned after a week at home to resume my duties of answering your questions and questioning your answers. You wouldn't believe how much mail and how many messages I've had from people wondering what has happened to Q&A! I apologize for being away, but Reading Week at home meant that updating would require the use of the archaic dial-up connection o' despair, and besides, I needed a week off anyway.

"And what about Tiptail?!" you might all say. Yes, I advertised her coming a lot before I left, but it seems that she lacked a certain password to get into the cookie jar that is the Q&A e-mail inbox... whoops. She will be coming soon.

What else can I report here? Oh, right! My week off allowed me to be finally FINISHED with Dragon Quest VIII, which in turn granted me the ability to concentrate my efforts on other games, such as Wild Arms: Alter Code F, Megaman X Collection, and Mario Kart DS, all of which are far better than I initially gave them credit for (with emphasis on the Mario Kart). That dreaded backlog is slowly, slowly shrinking!

I guess I'll answer a few of your letters right about now. I'm glad to be back, and I'm looking forward to the weeks ahead!




L E T T E R S
The latest on the emulation front...


Ahoy oh slime master,

I shall indeed answer the call to speak of emulation, since you asked so elequently. Or however that word is spelled. Is there an 'o' in it?


Matt

Well, it is "eloquently", but I'm only a spelling nazi on the worst of days, and usually only when it involves commercial billboards. One florist back home in Dresden actually advertised "Fresh Bokays: $9.99!" on their windows a couple of years back. I haven't given them an ounce of business since.

Anyways, there is very simple justification for emulation. Well, at least in my case. I do indeed follow the honor system, if you can call it that, and am more than happy to buy a copy of a game I emulate if it gets a rerelease. The problem is, most of the games that are really good, on the SNES in particular, are not being rereleased, and not being sold any more. Now, you suggested buying games on ebay, or used, or what have you, but that itself doesnt fufill the basic problem with emulation, in theory anyway: when people emulate, they do it instead of buying the game. When a person buys a game used, how much does the company that made it get? Not a cent. And usually the game is bought at cut throat prices to boot. The simple fact is that when a game stops producing copies of a game, and no new copies are to be found, there is little alternative. Oh, and I do have my whole ps1 library backed up on my comp, legally. Its like 40 gigs =(. But, considering the increasing number of scratches on the discs, and the playstations being, yknow... made by sony, any hope I have of playing them again really is squarely on emulation. Unless you encourage buying a brand new system every two or three years to keep up with the systems breaking. And even then, I recall severe issues with FF5 on the ps1 being played on a ps2. Lets be fair, games on discs arent as long lasting as cartriges. NES games will still run fine. Ps1 games have issues. Hell, ps2 games have issues! You seem to be quite the intellectual (speaking of which, I think you should give us more mathy soaps) so Im sure you can see the reasoning. Or futile attempts to feel not bad about what Im doing...depends on the view you take. To be fair, Ive bought so many games in my life that the 3 or 4 that were released here that I just have no access to dont really seem so bad. Especailly when I buy a really bad game by that company. (I bought Unlimited saga when it first came out, for full price. I still feel the shame. Though I enjoyed Romancing Saga)

Matt

You're absolutely right, you know... there are several good arguments behind emulation. It is absolutely true that the workmanship of both games and consoles is far below what it should be; if ANY other product in our commercial world today had a lifespan of five years, it would be unacceptable. We were told upon the release of the PS2 that the console could do just about anything. We were never told that the console could do just about anything... but only for six months, upon which we'd instead have Disc-Read errors "up the wazoo", as they say. Crooks!

You're also right that companies won't see any re-sale profit from used games anyway. The same logic, though, applies to movies, music, and other things you might want to think of. It's still illegal. With used movies or used games in bargain bins, the company did see the profit from it originally, since it WAS new at one time. With ROMs, though, the same can't be assumed; it is certainly true that not all ROM-downloaders have paid for the original games.

It's a tough topic, I know, especially when older or unreleased games are concerned. Do understand that there isn't really a way that I can say "Yeah! ROMs are good! Go and download the world!" Since the practice is, in general, an illegal one, I have a responsibility to not condone it.

To be fair, your point is quite true though, many people will download games instead of buy them, but again you have to consider: would they have bought the game anyway if they couldnt play it? Probably not. It sucks for those of us who DO pay, but realistically the companies that make the games dont suffer as much as it seems. For instance, just about every rom I have is of games that I either own ports of (all of the final fantasies coincidentally) or games that were never released here, and have been out of print for years. Tales of Phantasia is a great example of this. The whole series is positively wonderful, as I hope you know first hand, and if it werent for emulation I wouldnt have been able to play it--at least before they announced the ports translation. But before they did that, which was relatively surprising considering how long its been since said port was released (in 2001 I believe) we had no oppurtunity to play, and worse, no forseeable chance in the future. Of course now that I hear its coming out over here im gonna get it, although the font looks pretty ugly from what Ive seen. Though the rest of the game is very pretty, which calls into question your remark about people not playing SNES games after playing the ps1. At the time they were indeed "top of the line" but realistically they look really ugly. I think its just that some people assume 2d<3d, which is absolutely rediculous, but there you have it. At least Tales of Legendia is fun. I hope it does well and they release Tales of the Abyss here...that one looks VERY well done.

Matt

I picked up my brother's Nintendo Power last week while lazing on the couch and flipped through horrendously-biased page after horrendously-biased page to the section they had on Tales of Phantasia. I've been intrigued, too, to be honest... and I'll be damned; another game to add to the backlog is NOT what I need right now!

I've heard good things about ToL too. The series seems to be making a really good impression on North Americans, so I wouldn't be surprised if they did indeed release Tales of the Abyss in the end. At the very least, we can hope!

So...now that Ive rambled semi-coherently (I hope it was at least partially so) lets ask important philosophical questions. Like...are fire arrows ecologically safe, or morally ethical? I mean, fire burns trees, and arrows kill people. I asume a tree people slaughter is emminent.

Matt

Yeah, and watch out... eco-freaks wearing biodegradable clothing might come chasing after us if we mention that Zelda games show kiddies how to burn things with fire arrows. Powerful (or not-so-powerful) politicians might just introduce legislation to ban such things, too, in order to appease the enormous-and-ever-increasing crazy lawsuit-happy yuppie population; you never know these days.

I think that thanks to the fact that fire arrows haven't caused a forest fire yet, Smokey the bear should be happily sitting on his contented behind. On an almost-unrelated note, has anyone seen those ridiculous seemingly-hand-drawn toilet paper commercials involving super happy bears? I think if I see just three more, I'm going to vomit.

More importantly, since you live in the nether regions up there, do you enjoy snowboarding? I know I do! Im going this weekend and I cant wait. Its quite a wonderful sport. They should make an RPG about it so we can talk about it more. Whee snow!


Matt

"Nether Regions"... pssh. I really enjoy watching snowboarding, and I loved following it during the olympics. I also have several friends who are quite avid snowboarders and have travelled far and wide to places where there is actual geography; see, I grew up in Chatham-Kent, Ontario, where the world is unimaginably flat. There isn't much snowboarding to do there, but I used to be on my high school curling team! Imagine that the year I quit the team was the year that the team was so successful that they went all the way to the all-Ontario curling finals. I keep telling myself "correlation... not causation" but thems are bygones by now anyway.

Thanks for the letter, good sir! Do write again sometime.



Those darn influential games...


Howdy Matt In The Hat, if indeed you ARE wearing a hat....

I haven't written in a question or an answer since the days of Google, so you know it's been a cold age, and I felt that the time was right for me to come back, I have read your columns, and I find you to be quite a stellar fill for the Q and A spot, I have enjoyed reading the columns again!

Matt

And isn't it a little bit ironic that the day you finally wrote in to say "hello", I took off, never to be seen again for a whole ten days? I hope you're only moderately embittered as a result. Oh, and my hair is in such great need of getting a cut that well, I guess you could say I'm wearing a kind of natural hat.

On to the point:

I had been doing some thinking the other day whilst admiring my new copy of Grandia III, (Which has crippled my social life and almost got me fired from work for being late 3 days in a row.) when I happened to notice that in the case behind the counter, next to the other couple copies of Grandia III, was GTA: SA. Having at one point owned (And subsequently traded in for Xenosaga II, OH! How I still lament!) this game and having played it for hours upon hours and enjoyed all the yummy chaos contained within, and also having seen all the "Hot Coffee" mumbo-jumbo and the following legal goings on I had a few thoughts, and seeing as how I haven't been around in awhile, I may have missed (check that, most definitely missed) the conversations on that.

Matt

Oh, right. That was all before my time anyway, but I'm sure there was quite a bit of ruckus caused by that... the story sent ripples through the video game community. Not being a fan of Grand Theft Auto at all, I thought it looked good on the people behind the game, even if the video game industry on the whole might have suffered some fallout.

Well, my question more really has less to do with that and more to do with the future and what not.

How do you, as a seasoned gamer, feel about the governments claims about how video game violence affects children and turns them into violent heathens and the like? Do you think that Hilary Clinton and company realizes that the next generation of world leaders and politicians and policemen and woman and judges and presidents and ambassadors will be kids who grew up on GTA? On the next gen craze and the most graphic, bloody, and provocative era in gaming ever seen? The citizens of the world of tomorrow will be made up of you and me, people who have allowed their imaginations to run wild in fantasy worlds, the likes of which people 30-40 years our senior could never even BEGIN to believe in.

Matt

I think that the crazies that make claims like these are absolutely copping out; the blame for violent children falls squarely on parents and, gosh gee, the kids themselves. My mommy told me a long time ago that yes, it's impolite to run people over with automobiles, back up over them and then shoot ambulance drivers arbitrarily. Playing a game isn't going to change that, and it shouldn't for any non-sociopathic being who was brought up with any skeletal sense of basic moral values. That's why the parents should be held responsible, but I hate the idea of the children themselves getting off scot free; I was twelve years old once, and my my, I can remember being able to think for myself and make my own decisions. I don't like GTA because I think it's a stupid, idiotic game lacking most everything I actually appreciate about video games, but by no means do I believe that people shouldn't be able to play it if they want to.

While many, or even most of the "elders" of today have a lack of understanding of video-gaming and its alleged consequences, I don't really think things will change. Forty years from now, there are still going to be people that think games are too bloody, too gorey, too violent, too whatever... and I'm sure, just like today, those people would much rather have their kids turn on the TV instead, since we all know how much less violent that is.

To wrap this up, I think the adults of today forget what it was like to be a kid. When your a kid, you don't want to be sheltered from new, exciting things, you want to get out there and do as much as you can. And maybe if the government realized this and tried to work WITH the media outlets of today, instead of scaring everyone with their exaggerated tirades, then maybe the old generation could leave the new generation a world worth living in.

Sorry for the length, but when I get impassioned, I ramble, ha!

~Frammy


Matt

But, Frammy, you forget! The world of today is now run by exaggerations, fear-mongering, and putting political spins on everything where none are required. You're out of luck.

Many adults of today DO make that very mistake, though, of not letting kids be kids. I have a prime example of this, entirely unrelated to video games: Thirteen years ago, when I was a wee gaffer, my mother headed the Parents' Council at my elementary school, and worked together with students to raise over $10,000 in order to install new playground equipment in the schoolyard. Two years ago, it was ripped out without warning by the regional school board along with the swingsets that had existed since the school was built. Why? "Kids might get injured, and parents might sue." Somehow, over the last twenty years or so, it has become intolerable to let kids get banged up in any way, shape, or form, without pointing the finger and someone and screaming "YOU'RE RESPONSIBLE FOR THIS!!?!"

It's absolutely ridiculous, but it's out of a shielding kind of love, and this same kind of overprotection overlaps into the video game discussion. I could go on for hours about much, much, MUCH more, but I'm sure I'd bore some people. Besides, other writers-in might want to contribute to the discussion too. Yes...?

Thanks for the letter! This is an interesting issue that we haven't really touched much upon before, and I'm glad you brought it up.



Games ingrained grainily in your brain


Hi there

I was just reading through your q&a page and I saw you mention FF9 being really pixelly on a replay - I noticed that too! My understanding is that it's due to the ps2 using a software emulator to play some ps1 games and not through hardware, and this title didn't fare to well in the process - not sure how true this is and I've never got my hands on a ps1 again to see if it actually always looked like that. Anyways, just thought I'd share. Keep up the good work

Joe.


Matt

Enh, I suppose that anything is possible! Whether it is or not, I couldn't believe it... Final Fantasy IX seemed very much worse than I remembered after all those years; I suspect, though, that it's just because in the interim, I became accustomed to games like Final Fantasy X and X-2, with very smooth animation and sharp graphics. Thus, I would guess that it's an entirely psychological phenomenon, though it's very interesting when you notice. I found the same thing with Super Mario 64, and with several other games too. If so, then our mind's eye isn't very trustworthy, I guess! If not, then perhaps your explanation is certainly a plausible one. I don't have a PSX to test my copy on either, or I'd tell you outright!



Short and sweet, for contrast


Hi Matt,

#121. a) Blue
#122. d) Chun-Li

Quick question: If you had to chose an rpg character's theme song as your own theme song, who's theme would it be and why?

Thanks,
Dermot


Matt

Oh, wow... I haven't thought about this one before!

Let me think...

*CALCULATING... CALCULATING... *

In all honesty, one of my very favourite character themes of all time is probably one of the least well-known. The hero from Dragon Warrior IV's theme- i.e. the overworld theme while controlling him/her, is one that I fell in love with from the beginning. It's so sad... but really hopeful at the same time, and it makes me think of being alone in the decisions I make to carve the path ahead through my life to come. Yeah, it's a little over-the-top for a description, maybe, but that might be my theme.

Another possibility, though, would be the theme "Unfathomed Reminiscence" from Final Fantasy IX. I associate it with Garnet in my mind, but I can't even place if it actually is "her" theme or not... but I always think of that music when I feel stressed out about life, especially when the stress involves great expectations that have been placed on me, usually by school. It's a wonderful piece of music, no matter what... it makes me breathe very deeply just listening to it now.



Ah, Final Fantasy II


Two Ts said " What IS the point of spells in that game, anyway? They're so incredibly underpowered that the game gives Final Fantasy II a run for its money in that respect. "

Matt

Yes yes, I seem to remember that. It's been awhile, but my memory isn't failing me too badly... yet.

Oh? That also sounded like you were trying to bait someone into asking about FF2. With an exaggeration that outragous, you must have a view you wanted to put forward. So lets bite...

Matt

Ha ha... outrageous, huh? And why would you say that? Don't bite too hard... I'm not quite "back into the groove" yet around here, and I'm not a fan of tooth marks, generally.

Assuming naturally that the player isn't doing something stupid, such as:

- Spending all the "Mage"'s time on physical attacking. (It may save all their MP, but that really isn't a Mage they've made, it's a Fighter with a some magic ability.)

Matt

Firstly, who is the "mage" character? Indeed, why must one even exist, especially when physical attacks do far more damage right from the beginning of the game yet cost nothing at all?

- Equipping their "Mage" as a Tank. (Of course, all that heavy equipment only goes and severely interferes with the spell-casting. Why else do you see frail Wizards wearing flimsy robes, instead of some plate mail protection!)

Matt

Again, I argue that having a "Mage" character at all is unnecessary. I had a "most magical" character- the girl- on my last run through the game, just because I wanted to discover if it really WAS worth it, and it takes far too much effort to level up spells. You really honestly have to use them during every single attack in every single battle to get them to even respectably powerful strengths. And yes, she was wearing magician's garb, as far as I can remember.

- Over-leveling too much in the very beginning. Such that you would waltz through the whole game regardless. (That favours weapons and leaves magic as tiresome.)

Matt

Not only is non-level-gaining a policy of mine in all RPGs, the only reason I stopped to build my strength was just TO increase the effectiveness of spells. I only wanted my girl to be on par with the strength of my other characters, and she certainly never achieved that, even though it would cost her MP to use her attacks.

... then in what ways are you saying, that the FF2 spells are "incredibly underpowered"?

Matt

You have to employ vast amounts of effort and go waayyyy out of your way to get a magician who is as powerful with his/her magic as opposed to the effort you have to put in to get a powerful warrior, where you can easily just attack, attack, attack every turn! That, my friend, is what I am saying.

I guess you might indeed have to play favourites as for which to level, but the other customizable Final Fantasy's have pretty much the same thing. (I.e. With weapons so powerful, that you barely use spells beyond Cure, Haste and the latest Summon Monsters!)

Matt

Yeah... Final Fantasy VIII is almost arguably worse; I distinctly remember trying to cast Ultima for the first time in order to "best" some scary boss, losing 100 Max HP or something as a result, and having the spell do something like 800 damage (as opposed to my regular attack, which would have done 3000 or so, without any cost to my stats). Sure, the strength of the spells depends on how high you make your magic stat, but I found almost no use for casting spells in FFVIII either.

P.s. "Nelley & Tthewy" didn't really have the same ring to it. So (as you see,) I've gone back to your good old suggestion for now. ("Tiptails & Two Ts" is more delightful!) And yes, Drewy will be missed. I still even miss Googles too. (Someone mentioned battle frequency in Skies of Arcadia and no-one said about staying in the area too long!)


Two Ts

Two Ts is one of the best nicknames I've ever heard, and it goes quite well with the Tiptail name, or so it seems. Two Ts it is! To address your other comment, I actually have no first-hand Skies of Arcadia experience, but if the encounter rate is anything close to Wild Arms: ACF's, I could understand the pain, especially if there weren't random escape-dots available to help you out.





C L O S I N G
IN CONCLUSION:

So, I'm all olympicked out. It was an amazing couple of weeks, though! I never would have thought Canada had a shot at placing third overall in the medal count! Both the US and Canada did wonderfully during the games, and I watched faithfully quite a good bit. To bring up curling for a second time during this column today, I thought that the Gold Medal game in men's curling was one of the most wonderful moments... I've never seen such amazing plays by anyone before, or such a high scoring end for that matter as the one where Canada scored an incredible SIX points only after missing the last shot.

Anyway... next part, NOW:


Flashay!


Let us remember back, back, back to the questions that were posed before my break of horror...

#121 asked what the complementary colour of Pierre the lawyer's hat was. Firstly, Pierre the lawyer is a random dude you can talk to in Guardia castle of Chrono Trigger. His hat is BLUE, so the complementary colour of his hat is thus d) Orange, for 115 points.

According to MagRowan, also, the Capcom Fighting character appearing as an NPC in Breath of Fire is d) Chun-Li, and that was worth 75 points (150 for Mag). And if you think that my double-D day was unfair, then you can eat my shorts, in the words of a certain Simpson. I like standing around in my undies anyway.

Question #123:
Which spell did King Slimes know originally that they don't know now? (90 points)

a) StopSpell (Fizzle)
b) Blazemore (Frizzle)
c) FendSpell
d) Ironize
e) Sleepmore (Kasnooze)

Question #124:
Ask Bainick!-->Which of the following main characters from an RPG starred FIRST in a game called "Radical Dreamers"? (75 points)

a) Zidane
b) Reid
c) Dart
d) Serge
e) Ramza

Things to work for (the SOCK item shop!):

800 points: Tilde (infinite number remaining!)
2,000 points: Guest-co-host Opportunity #2 (4 remaining!)
5,000 points: Guest-co-host Opportunity #3 (5 remaining!)


More tomorrow, folks! If you have any thoughts on any of today's topics, give me a shout! I'm sure some of you have something to say about spell usefulness in select Final Fantasy games, or crazy lawsuit-loving parents. Better yet, what character theme would best suit YOU? By all means, let me know what's on your mind!

Gootbye, all!


slimey@rpgamer.com
***Matt is listening to FFIX's boss music in the background!


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