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ASK MATT
Gleaming, Icy Gust of Wind
January 25, 2007

Matt Demers - 23:50 EST

OKAYYYYY... that's quite enough. To anybody in their right mind living in the Great Lakes region, I hope you didn't step outside today if you didn't need to. It's a disgusting -15 degrees outside - that's 5 or so, Fahrenheit - and I really, really want summer to come back. Thank goodness I'm off to the Dominican Republic in a few weeks for a sunny (hopefully) vacation.

One funny thing about the iciness: There is a very clear inverse correlation between the temperature and attendance at the school's gym. It's usually a zoo in there, but today I walked in and literally hopped on one of the usually-impossible-to-get-on treadmills.

By the by, it seems very unlikely that I'll be around for a Friday column this week, because I'm heading home to celebrate my "big" 24th birthday. What did you get me?

Ah, letters will do. Watch now, as I answer some!




LETTERS
Not so hot on FFXII, this guy is.


Hi Matt

I agree with you that the story in FF 12 was underwhelming. At the moment I haven’t even generated the energy to finish it but have a party stuck in limbo. I think it is a sad tale since this is the first Final Fantasy that I have run into that has given me this result. I mean that I have no trouble spending inordinate amounts of time trying to find the ruddy statues in Oblivion but I can’t muster the energy to care what happens to Ashe, Basche, Vaan or Penelo. I mean that I found even FF X-2 to have better developed characters. It is depressing.

Matt

I'm sorry to hear. I do think, though, that while the characters aren't as lovable as those of pretty much the rest of the series, the game is still worth playing. Hopefully you find the energy to finish the game off, and maybe then your opinion will change. If not, oh well.

I do have the question for Bigwook as to how he/she came up with the handle. Bigwook?

Matt

Aha... this goes to show you just how far back my backlog goes. Not bad, eh? BigWook, Angus is calling you!

As for FFXIII I really hope that they put the fascinating stories back in. This business of creative play mechanics is fine and well but the clincher for making FF’s so important to my understanding of role-playing is having some need to know what happens to the characters. I want to be drawn into the story and find it essential that I solve the problems associated with beating the bad guy. I leave the empire building to the real time strategy folks. Come on Square lets make an adventure that I really want to play.

A

Matt

I'm sure you've noticed, but Final Fantasy games do tend to change a lot from one game to the next. Out of the last five, not a single one is at all close to any of the others, because different types of games appeal to different people. And I'm glad that just because XII isn't your favourite that you still have hope for XIII. I really wasn't a huge fan of FFX, but I was pleasantly surprised by XII. Who knows what the future will bring?



Beware... even more FFXII spoilers below!


Hey Matt,

Thanks for your Radiata Stories recommendation. I just ordered it (although who knows when I'll actually have time to play it!). By in large, I agreed with Adam's excellent critique of FFXII, but I had some additional thoughts, and a question.

Matt

Whoo, hopefully Radiata doesn't turn out to be a flop. Different people think different things about that game, but I'm betting that you'll enjoy it.

**WARNING: FFXII SPOILERS FOLLOW**, natch.

(1) Unlike Adam, I was less frustrated by the absence of a major plot twist. Quite frankly, I'm more than a little sick of the whole cliched, "wow, you mean the ostensible enemy I set out to vanquish was really just a figurehead for some disgruntled god/demigod/undefined-force that's read too much Nietzsche/Schopenhauer and now wants to eliminate/ethnically-cleanse/time-kompress humanity" plot. Yeah, there was still a bit of that in FFXII, but less than most other recent FFs, imo.

Matt

That's true. Admittedly, Final Fantasy hasn't been TOO bad in that department outside of Final Fantasies VIII and IX respectively. Well, IV and III were pretty bad, too. The series has had some very acceptable final-final villains too: Sephiroth, Exdeath, Kefka, and EMPEROR, to name a few.

No, what really, REALLY bothered me about the plot was the complete and utter absence of Rozaria. I mean, it's only like the other major empire on the verge of war with Archades -- the war that providing the main plot device for the otherwise nonexistent story. It would be nice to have actually, you know, SEEN it. I kept thinking throughout the game that I would eventually head to Rozaria; even after I beat the game I figured, "wow, I must have taken a wrong turn somewhere. Maybe there's a hunt that will take me there..." But no, I'm left to conclude that they just completely left it out. Mind-boggling, really.

Matt

Oh yeah, I definitely hear you on that one. I finished off one storyline event, and after a couple of cutscenes, I was completely convinced that I was going to be travelling out there to roam a brand new city. Not so, huh? It feels a little lazy, I'll agree with you. Not quite as obviously lazy as just leaving out Bevelle entirely in FFX, but close.

(2) I found there was very little zaniness/silliness/mirth to be found in FFXII. Admittedly, recent FFs have favored the portentious over the goofy: long gone are the days of "do you care to see me dance?" But seriously, when the best the game can muster for a funny moment is commenting on a bard's "spooniness" -- oh yeah, that was funny, like, EIGHT GAMES AGO -- it's a bit disappointing.

Matt

Heh, you're absolutely right. There's a lot of, you know, "quaint" humour around when you talk to NPCs in towns, but it's always polite humour that makes you want to do a fake British laugh in response rather than a good, genuine belly laugh. I miss the humour too; there wasn't much of it in FFX either.

Besides Skies of Arcadia, what RPGs would you recommend for their joie de vivre?

Matt

If you mean "their light-hearted style" then there are all sorts out there. Even though I'm not a huge fan of it, Atelier Iris is cute and full of happiness and funny dialogue. Get any RPG with "Mario" in the name and be prepared to enjoy the ride. Earthbound, back in the day, was another genuinely happy game... especially in the town where everything is blue. If you're a tactical RPGamer, anything made by Nippon Ichi - La Pucelle, Disgaea, etc - will send you home with a smile. If you own a DS, grab Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime, or Magical Starsign. There are so many to choose from!

(3) The best thing FFXII has going for it, imo, is Ivalice itself. I thought in a lot of ways that it was the "main character" of the game, and so I was perhaps less frustrated than some at the lack of general character development. Wandering around Ivalice reminded me of what I loved about old Zelda games, which were as much about pure exploration as about plot-development or beating a dungeon. (Ironically, Twilight Princess reminds me of FFX for its essential linearity.) Whereas Adam felt that the hunts and esper sidequests were not sufficiently integrated into the story and didn't provide good enough rewards, I came to see the hunts (and, again, wandering Ivalice in general) as the main point of the game, with the main plot of the story something to do on the side.

Matt

Absolutely. And while I'm not quite sure about your Zelda reference, I'm in 100% agreement with you that the rich world of FFXII is one of the game's biggest assets. Some people complain that "it's all friggin' desert" but that's kind of the point. It seems more realistic that way, somehow. And that whole huge sweeping realistic world feels even more real when you're immersed in the culture, the architecture, the language, and more. That is, to me, the truly fantastic achievement of FFXII; not the storyline, and I'm afraid, not the battle system either, despite the qualities of each.

Which made me think of another "existential" RPG question for you: how much plot should an RPG have? I mean, if an RPG is fundamentally about making your own choices and creating your own stories, an RPG with a strictly-regimented, plot-twisty narrative may not be so conducive. I guess this dovetails with my earlier question about RPGs that force you to make major, game-altering choices. I'm curious as to how open-ended or strictly-structured a narrative you would create in designing your ideal RPG.

Thanks for taking my letter!

Foolicus

Matt

Oh, it totally depends on who you are. I think that that question is exactly the reason why there are different types of RPGs out there. Some people really prefer a good thick plot full of layers and extras to figure out. Others would rather have a game that's heavy on the gameplay, and would be perfectly happy to have a storyline backdrop covered only on the front page of the instruction manual. And you know, though I think that the stories have become more important over the years, that difference will always be present. There will always be the Xenosaga lovers and the Pokémon lovers, and I think that broad variety is a good thing. It'll challenge developers to continue to release a diverse range of creative games in an attempt to appeal to everybody. And well, that's good for everybody, isn't it?

Thanks, Foolicus! I appreciate the letter.



It's "PSU", not "P-U" ...


Hey Matt!

I remember last week that underrated RPGs were a topic of discussion. Well, sorry for being late, but I found one that no one really talked about: Phantasy Star Universe.

I read the reviews for PSU and they made the game seem like complete and utter tripe. I was leary, but I had a few extra bucks left over from Christmas and decided to pick it up anyway. I can't believe how wrong the reviewers were! This game was what Phantasy Star Online should have been on the single player front. The story is stereotypical RPG (Boy saves world from immense evil !), but at least the characters are reletively fun (They are a bit hackneyed, though) and the worlds are gorgeous. It is a Diablo colne, no doubt about it, but a reletively good one. My only complaints are that guns no longer have unlimited ammo (bummer!) and the voice acting is downright pain inducing (I'm looking at you, Ethen Waber!!). Fun game that any fan of PSO should pick up.

I didn't play it online, mostly because I don't have the network adaptor and I will not pay the monthly fee for a Diablo clone! At least you can create a character to play around with after you clear Chapter 5. Sure, you don't get any story, but at least they gave you an opportunity to play someone other than Ethen Waber.

Well, going back to play some more PSU. Then maybe I can finally finish Devil Summoner afterwords....

Witecat

Matt

It's kind of funny. You praised the game heavily, and then spent more time talking about what things were wrong with it! I'd like to hear a few more details from you! Why are the worlds gorgeous? Are they detailed and pretty, graphically? Or is it something else? How is the gameplay? I'm not really that familiar with Diablo myself, so it's difficult for me to say.

The only other thing I can say is that the reviewers aren't always going to agree with you. Games are out there to enjoy, whether or not they are rated highly, and no matter how bad any game might seem based on what you read, someone out there is going to find pleasure in them. It's nice to hear that you're proving those reviewers wrong, and I'm sure that there are others out there who will be inclined to agree with your opinion! This is why I always say, though, that if a game like Children of Mana or .hack//GU or any of these others that get mediocre ratings... if they still look interesting to you nonetheless, don't get scared off by a low score. At least give it a rental, play it at a friend's house, or somehow give it a fair shot first. Otherwise, you could miss out on something you'd really enjoy!

Thanks Witecat!! Write back soon.



Brain food.


Hi Matt.

My DS should be arriving (via a friend of a friend) this Tuesday, which means I'll get it no later than Thursday. I already took lots of games from another DS-owning friend I have and I can't wait! Oh time, why must you be so inflexible to slow-moving humans?

Matt

And at the rate at which I'm getting to people's letters, you'll probably already have it by the time you read this. Congrats! I'm glad you decided to jump on the DS bandwagon, because there are about three thousand great-looking games on the way, whether or not you're an RPGamer. D-D-Dragon Quest Nine... oooh (gives me chills).

Also, you should read the webcomic xkcd (surprisingly, the address is xkcd.com). It's pretty funny, especially if you know some math (but mostly it's not math, so other people can enjoy it too).

Matt

Thanks for the recommendation! The last time someone recommended a webcomic to me was at about the time I started doing this column, when someone showed me Nuklear Power. And I've been a huge fan ever since! Heh heh, having read a few of them, including the most recent, I'm actually really liking some of these. Wikipedia... oh, how true.

Say, do you read books? What's your favorite genres? Because my younger brother likes comic books, I get to read tons of them myself (although I do own a lot of Neil Gaiman and Alan Moore stuff, among others). However, what I read most is sci-fi. About half a meter of my bookshelf is dedicated to Asimov books but I have plenty of others. I counted my books the other day and was astounded to discover I own 140 books. I think that's cool (owning the books, not counting them. That was a bit pathetic. :-) ).

Zohar Gilboa

Matt

Well, I used to. Until the blitz of university sucked all of my time and part of my soul away. I have a fair library of books, to be honest. Not 140, to be sure, but I did garner a decent collection up until the end of high school, I think. I used to like a wide variety of things, from mysteries to sci-fi to Michael Crichton-style "realistic" sci-fi. I miss the days where I'd jump into bed early to polish off an extra chapter or three, but now, my desire to do so has just dropped off. It's pretty terrible, but it's the way it is.

Good to hear from you again, Zohar!



Oh no, he's one of them! RUNNN!!


Hiya Matt/Ouro,

After reading todays column, I'm feeling a little bit nervous....

Why?

Because yesterday, after finally conceding to the clamor of friends and peers, I ordered World of Warcraft. Yep, my soul is now forfeit.

Matt

It's your soul, man. You can smash it against the pearly gates with a rubber spatula for all I care.

However, I'm still pretty confident that I will still carry on playing on my Wii and PS2, seeing as Final Fantasy 12 comes out over here in just over a month, and Final Fantasy is still the series closest to my heart. If I still have a heart left after WoW, anyway. But never fear...there is hope. A friend (one of the ones who convinced me to play WoW) started WoW over a year ago, and has only played it 3 times. See, WoW isn't as powerful and all-consuming as its made out to be. =p

Matt

Maybe his "Will" statistic is maxed out at 255. Did you ever think of that? His ability to resist the guiles of the evil WoW may be stronger than most.

Seriously, there's nothing really evil about WoW except for the fact that it destroys relationships, jeopardizes friendships, stunts social life, and costs you $19.99/month all the while. Not bad.

Anyway, glad to have the Q&A hosts back, and I'll look forward to when SOCK 2 and THONG 2 start, seeing as I've given up on THONG as a lost cause.

Matt

Aww- some well-placed items and a lot of luck could get you right back into the game!

I'm really looking forward to the next SOCK as well! I've been spending a lot of time turning new ideas over in my head recently, and I even spent some quality time last weekend at the drawing board. Stay tuned for more in the weeks to come.

Gaming status: Nearly completed Twilight Princess, and its still pretty awesome. I'm currently playing Tales of Eternia on PSP, Suikoden V, Dragon Quest:tJotCK, Disgaea 1, KH2, and Psychonauts on PS2. Oh yeh, don't forget Tales of Symphonia, Skies of Arcadia and Paper Mario on GC, and Tales of Phantasia and the Minish Cap on GBA. Doesn't look too good with WoW on the horizon, does it?

Genjuu is fretting. See what you've done, you nasty people? You made me fret!

Matt

Enh, it's our job to do that, of course. You'll get through it. Just take them one at a time, and you'll be through them just in time for the next wave of great games, I assure you. Worry not, Genjuu, and take care 'til next time.



Back to the Hot Topics board!


Square Enix + PSP

Well I like Square-Enix but don't like the PSP. There are some RPGs for the system already but most were poorly reviewed. I'm sure Squeenix will change this though. The system's games tend to have long load times. I also don't care much for the graphics (They look like PSX graphics). On the plus side the PSP has the largest screen of any portable. This of course gives it the shortest battery life of any portable.

Matt

Exactly: Dreadfully short, in some cases. I've heard some accounts that the PSP's battery life can be as low as just a couple of hours, which is pretty disgusting if you ask me. I mean, it's cool that they can pack that much power into a little machine, but jeez. You can hardly call it "portable" if you can't take it on an average plane trip, can you?

That said, the DS isn't that much better. I get about 5 hours out of my DS Lite before the alarming red light comes on. I remember back in the days when my GBA would get as much as 20 or 25 hours without a battery change. Now those were the days. Except that lack of a backlight was more than a bit annoying, I'll admit.

FF12
I am about 75% of the way through. My comment is this game is much more difficult than FF10, for better or worse. I had to stop and level up one more than one occasion.

Matt

Me too. Exactly at the moment that I had no hope for the Final Fantasy to ever return into the realm of challenging RPGs, they go and pull this. Final Fantasy XII is, to be quite honest, one of the hardest Final Fantasy games in the entire series, if not the hardest.

Interestingly, this opinion seems to change very drastically depending on whether the player in question played the game on Active or Wait mode. I played on Active, because I *always* play Final Fantasy games on Active- they just don't feel right any other way. But wow, the game's difficulty level seems to fall drastically on Wait. I've seen it firsthand, because my sister played through the game that way, and had a far, far easier time than me in just about every area, on every boss, with everything. And no, it's not just because "I suck," so just shush.

Console Wars:
Game Informer magazine did an interesting interview with the new head of SCEA in this month's issue. I didn't agree with most of what he had to say. He was saying stuff like "PSP is for an older audience," basically spreading Sony propaganda.

Matt

It sounds pretty typical. When, exactly, did "fun games" become synonymous with "for younger audiences"? Not all adults require three of shooting, blood, partial nudity, or profane language in order to enjoy a game. That's been lost over the past ten years or so, and I think it's unfortunate.

The PS2 has won, at least for now. The NPD group says 1.4 million of these boxes were sold in the month of December. Thats more than twice PS3 sales numbers for that month (0.5M) and also more than twice Wii numbers (0.6M). In the future the situation might change, but for now the PS2 is the winner. I think for the generation seven consoles the Wii will be the winner due to its lower price and production cost, and to top it off, several RPGs titles are in development for the system. The 360 has a very big installed base, but RPG software for that system seems scarce.

On the handheld side of things, Nintendo has won AGAIN with their DS console. It seems they have been the leader in this segment forever. The DS sold 1.6M units in December with an installed base of 9.2M, while their closest competitor the PSP sold about 1M units with a base of 6.7M.

Matt

That sounds about right on both counts. The PS2 has had a really strong year yet again, and rightfully so with so many great releases. However, that's about to change drastically, because while the system is cheap as dirt now, there are relatively few new games slated for release over the next twelve months, and notably few packed with violence and gore, which will enhance that effect (I'm being slightly facetious here). When you add that to the fact that the new-generation systems are going to start really picking up momentum, presumably, things are going to cool off, at long last, for the PS2.

For handhelds, the DS is winning, but the PSP is enjoying a second surge in popularity. There have been a lot of good games released lately for both systems, but it feels like Nintendo hasn't really promoted some of their big titles lately. Yoshi's Island DS is absolutely wonderful, as is Final Fantasy III, Elite Beat Agents (so I've heard), and this Dusk Hotel thing that everyone is talking about lately, but I haven't seen a single DS commercial on the airwaves since The New Super Mario Bros craze passed us by. I think that Nintendo can do better. On the other hand, PSP owners are probably very glad for the recent games, and announcements of games to come, especially from the RPG giant itself.

And for the RPGamer: I would go with the PS2 for a home system right now, and NDS for a portable system due to the fact that there is a large amount of good RPG software for both of those at present.

Matt

Agreed. I think that at this point, just about everyone who wants a PS2 will have one already. As I say, they're super-cheap by now. If, of course, you don't have one, this is definitely the time to grab yourself one and catch up on the past few years of RPGs. There are a hell of a lot of them out there.

Upcoming PS2 RPGs:
I'm thinking Rogue Galaxy will be one to pick up. Seems to be getting very positive previews. I'm looking forward to RPGamer's review.

Matt

It will likely be up soon! Some other websites already have one up- I think Gamespot gave it an "okay" 8.0/10, but I usually take their reviews with a grain of salt.

FF12 took too long//FF13 Demo already:
It is my understanding that FF13 has been in development for awhile already. I am not sure exactly how long. I would be surprised if they did not have the demo by the end of this year.

The extraordinary length of the FF12 project is probably due to mistakes by the original executive producer, Mr. Sakaguchi.

Thanks,
Flamethrower

Matt

It's true. I recall that they announced back in 2003 or so that they were taking the whole project and reworking it to fix several major gameplay issues. Indeed, in the very first screenshots that we ever got of the game, doesn't it look like a more "traditional" battle system? Lookie here, if you don't believe me. I have the feeling that something like that was originally in the works, and was scrapped. (And probably for the better, by the sounds of it.)



Most wanted, most recommended, most whatever... it's all here.


To whoever's got Q&A's back today,

Matt

It's-a-me. Welcome to Q&A... may I take your order?

Well, just finished up The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (which I enjoyed an awful lot) and I'm patiently awaiting the release of Rogue Galaxy in the next several days so that I can finally sink my teeth into that one! I've been anticipating its release since the initial teasers, and upon finding out that Level-5 was the creative force behind its production (thanks to their excellent work on DQVIII: Journey of the Cursed King they became a fast favorite). Anyhow, it's been a couple of months since I've had the opportunity to play an RPG, so while I wait for Rogue Galaxy to hit, I thought I'd answer some of Ouru's questions to at least yack about the subject for a few minutes.

Matt

Sure. And yeah, isn't it funny? Level 5 has really become a force to be reckoned with in the RPG developers' world these days. They haven't made too many "misses" along the way, and just about everything they're currently in the process of developing looks absolutely awesome.

What games do you play to get a time-off RPGs?

A variety of them, to tell you the truth. I'm a big Legend of Zelda fan, and I missed out on some of the games in the series that were released while I was away at college, etc. during the mid-to-late 90's so I have the opportunity of playing a little catch-up there -- as is the case with a number of other classics that I'm getting to enjoy for the first time, such as the later Metroid & Castlevania games. A FPS or Third-Person shooter is also a nice break assuming that it's very well made from the ground up. I can't stomach each and every one of them, but when there's a good one I'm certainly game for it (for example, I'm currently chomping at the bit to play Rainbow Six Vegas). Action Platformers like Ratchet & Clank, Sly Cooper, etc. are also some of my favorite kind of games to play when I've got some time, and am not in the middle of an RPG.

Matt

Mmm... it sounds like you have a very well-rounded video game diet. Moreso than myself; if I'm not playing an RPG, I'm almost certainly playing a platformer or a puzzle game. The only FPS I've enjoyed is Metroid Prime; the only Fighting game I've enjoyed is Super Smash Brothers; the only racing games I've really loved were F-Zero, Mariokart, and Diddy Kong Racing (a game which is coming to DS very soon!) Call me a Nintendo fanboy if you will, but it's the honest truth, and I've tried many other racers, fighters, and "FPSesers" that haven't really moved me much.

Any series I'd like to see a sequel for?

Here, I'm assuming you mean sequels to games that aren't necessarily a given, like say, Final Fantasy. Where those are concerned, Xenosaga tops the list, but sadly if another one is made it'll likely be an awful long while before I'll be seeing it. Still, I couldn't have asked for more out of that "final" installment and it really went out in style should it actually be the last. Love that series! I'd also hope for another entry in the Shadow Hearts library as those have made for some excellent RPG's and are never run-of-the-mill. A number of others could apply here, but that's a start.

Matt

Oh, I love Xenosaga as well. And really, unlike a lot of people, I enjoyed all three episodes. Yes, I enjoyed some more than others, but in the end, I thought that the series was at least fairly good throughout the whole saga. It'll be sad to never see Shion and her friends again, don't you think?

Any games I'm playing that I think other people should be playing? Why?

I can't recommend the Fire Emblem series enough. My first introduction to this SRPG was the Game Boy Advance's FE8: The Sacred Stones when it was released, and once it sunk its talons in me it never let go. In each of the installments I've been able to enjoy so far, it has been the combination of intriguing storylines & characters, strategy, addictive combat, weapon/skill customization, leveling & CONSEQUENCE for your actions that have kept me coming back. Recently, after 30+ hours of playing FE7: The Blazing Sword, I came to the conclusion that I didn't really approach a few of the characters growth the way that I probably should have, and that I'd like to try another approach from the start. That I even thought that seems crazy to me given my time to devote to games is a little limited these days; but the FE games are so good that I literally welcome the chance.

Matt

I KNOW! The game offers such ridiculous replay value, it's hard to express. And it doesn't look like it's possible on the surface. Quite honestly, the first time I touched Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones (the FE I started with, too), I was taken aback by the shocking simplicity of the system, and I didn't think that it would grow on me. It took about an hour, and I was lost to the series for life. The whole package, especially in the GBA sequels, is just awesome, as far as I'm concerned, and I'd challenge any tactical-RPG fan who hasn't given it a try to do so, and quickly. You rock, by the way.

And in the case that the letter isn't long enough, like a number of your readers, I'm anxiously awaiting Blue Dragon for the Xbox 360. This was the game (along with the announcements of more than a few RPG's to come) that made me bite the bullet and purchase the system. The game looks too good to be true (as any number of Dragon Quest fans would likely attest) and if it plays even half as good then I imagine I'm in for some late, late nights playing this when by anyone's reckoning I should be sleeping. Cannae wait!

K.McCallister

Matt

I know. I hope nobody laughs at me if I "accidentally" come home with an Xbox 360 one of these days, after all my days of anti-Microsoft speech. I really don't want to own one, but I might not be able to help myself...

Thanks, my McCallister friend! It's good to hear from you- and sorry it took so long to get around to your letter.



Jeez, the end of FFIII is ridiculous: Beware, FFIII spoilers prevalent.


Hey Matt:

Congratulations on beating Final Fantasy III! Now if only I could follow suit...

Matt

Thank you! It was really damn hard, too. Jeez.

I trudged through the last hour of the game and faced the Cloud of Darkness. My characters promptly got their polygons handed to them. So I had to start again at the Ancients' Maze. When I faced the Cloud of Darkness, my party was a Sage, a Geomancer, a Dark Knight (like Batman!), and a Dragoon. The Sage was level 40, the other three were level 99, and I still got trounced. Now I've changed the party composition entirely, to Devout, Magus, Sage, and Ninja. I'm sure in about 25 more hours of game time, I'll be ready to face the boss again.

Matt

Wow, I'm sorry to hear. I assume that you mean "Job Level" when you're talking level, because I can't imagine levelling-up all the way to 99. That last dungeon is unbelievably evil. Not only does it take hours to get through, it is literally impossible to save, and furthermore, past a certain point, your Teleport spell is completely disabled! All the while, you have to fight multiple bosses, which makes things even more precarious.

My own experience was really scary, because I was playing it, expecting to get past it, and didn't realize how long it would take me. My batteries started to die on me after the first three hours and I panicked because I had never done the Quicksave thing before, and I didn't want to screw it up after all that time and effort. Thankfully things panned out, but in the end, I spent almost five hours getting through the final dungeon. That's five hours without saving my game, five hours of treasure-hunting, five hours of levels... it would have been absolutely depressing to lose then, and all it would have taken was one unlucky back attack at the wrong time.

So my question: What was your party's composition and levels as you faced off against the Cloud of Darkness?

-Jeffrey

Matt

Oooh, how fun. After beating the final boss, Luneth was a Level 57 Ninja: Job Level 47, Arc was a Level 56 Devout: Job Level 25, Refia was a Level 56 Sage: Job Level 31, and Ingus was a Level 56 Knight: Job Level 28. If Knight seems like an odd choice to you, I have to say that he saved the ass of different characters on many occasions with his auto-cover skill and shield-bearing prowess. He also doubled as an okay attacker and emergency-item-user.

Best of luck on your future attempts!



There's nothing as nostalgic as nostalgia...


Ah, I knew I was forgetting something in my lengthy letter in the Hung Up column. I saw you were playing Path of Radiance in your playlist. I was surprised to find you somewhat disappointed (responding to Laura, I believe). I've never played any other Fire Emblem title (handhelds are REALLY not my thing), but I really enjoyed the PoR. Its simple battle system reminded of my beloved Shining Force of yore (I'm talking old school...I and II for Genesis). Your disappointment with the game kinda makes me want to fire up the old emulator and get crackin' on some of the other Fire Emblems. Any you recommend in particular?

Matt

Well, but, it's not really anything "big" that bugs me about the game at all. It's all little minor seemingly insignificant stuff that drives me crazy. See, in the Game Boy Advance games, if an enemy attacked you, you could see their Hit chance and "Mt" and Crt% on the battle screen, so you'd sorta freak out in advance. Sure, there's not really anything you can do about it by the time they attack you anyway, but it was a nice thing to have. My other issues lie with music, which I just feel is way, way better on the GBA. Certainly, it's not of the same quality of sound, but the themes themselves just seemed to carry so much more emotion. And, the lack of separate Enemy Phase and Player Phase themes is just, aghhh, unforgivable.

So, all minor things. Maybe you'll feel differently if you play 'em someday, having played PoR first. I'm looking forward to seeing what you have to say.

And really, the only other ones I've played are The Sacred Stones, and the subtitle-less Fire Emblem that preceded it, which is my favourite of the three. You really have to give it a try.

Also, in response to Laura's never-having-played FFVII...I've recommended this game to many RPGamers, who haven't enjoyed the fruits (or froo-its, if you will), and the response is largely the same. They're underwhelmed. I get the sense that FFVII is like an inside joke. You had to be there...when it was released stateside, that is. The game's effect on the Western market was mind-blowing. People who had never touched an RPG in their lives, picked up the game (if only to satisfy their curiousities about the hype). Slews of RPGs flooded the U.S., hoping to cash in on what had gone from a niche genre to a mainstream market (for both better and worse). FFVII will always hold a special place in my heart and in the hearts of those who there when it hit. But I think you miss a lot by playing it now with no prior FFVII experience. Nostalgia is a powerful thing... That said, any RPG fan who hasn't yet, might check it out when his/her backlog dwindles just to have a sense of what people referencing, if nothing else.

Vicissitude

Matt

It's true. It's a recurring theme at Q&A, too, because nostalgia is a huge factor in why a lot of people find a lot of old games endearing, whether or not they're any good. Look at me! One of my favourite games ever is Dragon Warrior II, but if I had to do a Staff Retroview of the darn game, I'd likely give it a 3.0/5. I don't think there's anything wrong with that, though. This is a fan site; a place where we can all get together and play new RPGs while looking back fondly upon old ones. That's a major point of these games, I feel. And nostalgia or not, I still think that Final Fantasy VII is one of the greatest RPGs of all time, period. Those people are just weird. (Just kidding... everyone is entitled to their own opinions, grumble grumble.)



QUICKIES

Matt,

I hope you enjoy Link to the Past. I got it for my birthday with a Super Nintendo back in 1994 or 1995 and I spent many happy hours playing that game.

Matt
Oh, I intend to! It's been driving me nuts all week because Tom has been busy playing the crap out of it in the other room while I've been in here working. Hearing all those sound effects and background themes is enough to make me pine, baby, pine.

It seems that some people are having trouble finding extra controllers for the Wii. So... I got a tip for you guys! Try shopping at Dell. Most people don't know this but they actually sell some gaming stuff! Their shipping times say 6+ weeks though (I don't know how true that it personally), but it could be worth a try for the truly desperate Wii gamers out there. Good luck!

Thinkfreemind

Matt
Thanks for the tip! I had similar luck when my mom told me to look for PS2 accessories at Blockbuster video back in 2000, when I got the new console for Christmas. I didn't realize that they carried stuff like that for sale, and apparently, neither did many people, because they had memory cards galore available (which was exactly what I needed). Search high and low, but not too hard, right?

Fire Emblem + Riviera = Yggdra Union. Why don't you have this game yet?

--

Alexander M. DeMichiei

Matt
Because it made a lacklustre impression on me at E3. I've heard so many good things about it, though, and dammit, it feels like it's horribly underdoggish right now. I may have no choice but to add one to my growing list of games to play. I hate you. (Just kidding, Alexander... I've missed you dearly. <3)


MOGNET MAIL

No Mogmail today, kupo! If you have Final Fantasy III DS, my code is 515 480 192 117. Mail me your number, and I'll add you to my list! Then you can send all the letters you like! I'll continue this section until at least the end of February, and we'll see how it goes after that.



IN CLOSING

I hope you've enjoyed this extra-big version of Q&A today! I'm sorry, but I won't be back tomorrow; I'll be too busy celebrating my birthday by grabbing sixty assignments and taking Highway 401 to head home to the place of my birth. I'll be back next Tuesday though, so please do send in more mail, either for myself or for Ouro. We'll appreciate it very much! And if you're having trouble thinking up things to write about, I encourage you to take a peek at the sidebar's Hot Topics.

Have a great weekend, everybody!



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Matt is turning two dozen on Saturday!


NOT Baker's Dozens. Not for two years, anyway.

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What I Want to Play:

1. Fire Emblem: Goddess of Dawn

2. Pokémon Diamond/Pearl

3. Final Fantasy VI Advance

4. Metroid Prime 3

5. Super Smash Bros. Brawl



What I'm Playing:

1. The Legend of Zelda: Twilight PrincessI

2. Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance

3. Final Fantasy XII



Hot Topics:

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2. Super Paper Mario in April! But is it an RPG?

3. Maaan, those FFXII:Revenant Wings screens look amazing.

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5. Console Wars: Which should the RPGamer invest in?



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