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ASK MATT
Inundation o' Wonder
March 15, 2007

Matt Demers - 15:17 EST

WELL, PI DAY has come and gone, and I forgot completely to mention it yesterday. A math major. Forgot Pi Day! I'm slipping!

Okay, so I had such incredible response to my query on random battles yesterday that I feel a little like I blew too hard on the horn of hell to wake the dead from their graves to start writing in again. Thanks so much, guys, for stepping up! And whee, I like mail!

I also want to note that 25 contestants are already signed up for Sock 2! The game doesn't start until May sometime, but you can sign up too. There are an unlimited number of winners, and you could end up with anything from a chance to host the column yourself, to a DS Lite carrying case, to the brand new game of your choice. What have you got to lose? Click the link in the sidebar for more information. Plus, I reveal something new about the upcoming game with every Q&A update.

OK! Time to tackle this mountain of questions before it crashes down on me, crushing my internal organs and causing me to die a horrible, agonizing death.




LETTERS
Well, at least he answered one out of five!


Hey Matt!

I have finally returned from my Q+A archive reading quest (that's right folks, I read the entire lot!). It's strange in a way, it's constantly changing, but always managing to stay the same, what do you think? (A quick message to JuMeSyn - Congrats on having the longest ultra-length letter backlog in the history of Q+A!).

Matt

That's a pretty incredible feat there, sir! I dive into the archives now and then, whenever I want to remember how things used to be... you know, before I came along. It's been around for a long time, this place here.

As for JuMeSyn's congrats, I'm afraid that not everyone sees it this way. I appreciate the time that JMS spends on his letters, even if answering them can be a trial sometimes. See the next letter for more.

Anyway, swiftly moving on to another round of.... *cue drum roll* "TODAY'S HOT TOPICS!"

Matt

*insert theme music and models in sequined gowns*

*ahem*
Question 1 - Why did the motor torpedo boat cross the road?

I have no idea. To head to the lake?

Matt

To get to the other side! Not that I know how that could be accomplished, given that boats don't generally cross roads. Why do I have this question in hot topics again?

Question 2 - GDC 2007: What's your take?

Haha this is great. Now I get to prove my gaming stupidity (at least, I hope that's what the G stands for!). I ask of one question in return - What's the GDC?

Matt

GDC: Game Developers Conference. You know, the big gathering they had last week where all sorts of not-really-that-big announcements were made and neato trailers and pieces of game info were released? They have them every year, you know. It's no E3, but it's something.

Question 3 - Uh-oh! Square Enix only has two announced remakes left to release! What are they going to do?

I'm having a great time here. I missed this news completely! Anyone care to explain?

Matt

Um, sure. All through the last year, we've all been awaiting Final Fantasy V and VI for the GBA, as well as FFIII for the DS. Now that those have been released, the only remakes that are left on their list are the Final Fantasy Tactics remake for PSP, and the FFI+II remake, also for PSP, I think. Neither of those has been confirmed for North America though, it seems. But it feels strange, all of a sudden, to have the big Square Enix with so few remakes in development. Maybe it's just me.

Question 4 - What are your gaming plans for 2007, now that all three major consoles are going to be sucky?

Woohoo! A question I can actually answer! I don't really have a long list of games I want at the moment. For RPG's i'd like to give the new Pokémon games a go when they come out. For non-RPG's, i'm dying to get hold of Super Smash Bros. Melee followed by Command and Conquer Tiberian Wars (OK, so it's neither RPG nor Console, but since you correctly pointed out all 3 major consoles are going to be terrifically craptastic, I had to get in a non-console game in there somewhere!). Other than that, nothing else really.

Matt

Super Smash Brothers Melee or Brawl? Because I would give very much to be able to play Brawl sometime soon. Melee is good too, but you know, it's been out for a long time. (Has it really been five-plus years??)

I never thought about PC games, but I never do, and I should. I get into trouble for that from time to time. I still don't do any PC-gaming. Should I? Discuss!

Question 5 - Are you interested in Lunar Knights? Why not!?

Why not!? I'll tell you why not! Because i've never heard of it ^.^

Matt

And this, my friends, is the importance of advertising! This is why potentially great games like this and Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime and all sorts of others never get purchased. It's so annoying that random Dragon Ball Z games of limited quality sell so, so much better than some other awesome ones, just based on the name alone.

Anyway, Lunar Knights is a DS Action RPG which is supposed to be really good. It takes place in a futuristic setting where vampires have taken over the earth or something. No, it's nothing at -all- like Castlevania, either.

Hehe and that ends todays hot topics (wow, didn't that go well!), maybe i'll have better luck next time :). I'm very excited to see that SOCK II is starting to make an appearance! You can definitely be assured that i'll be one of the first to sign up!

Bon Voyage dude!
Dracus

Matt

And so you have! I'll be super-excited to start it up. The game is well into "development," but I have a lot of details left to iron out. (And this shirt I'm wearing... it's awfully wrinkly.)



Geek wars!


Hey Matt,

Yesterday in a quickie you said:

"Actually, I'm the biggest geek: Back in elementary school, I used to do the weather forecast over the daily announcements..."

Matt

Ahyes. I have to admit that indeed, I did say that.

I've got you beat. When I was in 6th grade, my class had a daily news report where several kids would get up in front of the class and talk about daily headlines, sports, weather, movies, etc. I was a huge weather nerd, and I ended up being elected to do the weather report every day for the rest of the year because no one else wanted to go to the lengths that I would. I had a dry-erase map of the US with little cold fronts and warm fronts and pressure systems. I would watch the evening news every night and take notes then work on this super-detailed weather forcast in the style of Tom Skilling (famous Chicago-area Meteorologist). So yeah, I was a nerd, and I don't think anyone except the teacher cared about the work I put into it. And I know this has absolutely nothing to to with RPGs, I just thought you might find that humorous.

Matt

Oh MAN! I wish I had had one of those maps! I would have been an excited little nerd ("dweebs" as they used to be called...)

Later,

Seth

P.S. So what's the word on Final Fantasy VII-2: Crisis Core Zero, the prequel/sequel to a yet-to-be released PSP game? I heard it's coming out for the Nintendo TS (Triple Screen).

And yes, that was a joke. Please don't put me in "unfit for print".

Matt

Actually, it's the PSP that's apparently getting the remake, according to rumours floating around online. I don't even want to know, though... if that baby comes out with two screens, I'm officially done with Sony.

Personally, though, I really think I've had enough of the Final Fantasy VII-related stuff, too, as much as I loved the original game. It's time to move on with life, wouldn't you agree?



The worst things about random battles are...


Hey Matt!

I thought I'd chip in because I'm not one to be particularly fond of random battles. It's not that I absolutely despise them - I have played and loved several games with random battles especially Rogue Galaxy and Suikoden V - it is that I think they could be better executed.

Chances are when you fight random battles, there are a number of "monster sets" - you know, Club Titan x3 and Wall Gigant x2 - that you wind up fighting over and over and over again. It so tedious and repetitive when you are fighting hundreds of battles throughout the game. This happens a lot if you have to kill a certain number of monsters to get something. For example, in Rogue Galaxy I spent five hours hunting 17 White Ghosts and managed to kill about a hundred of every other type of monster in the area before I reached the goal. I was REALLY sick of fighting the other six types of monsters.

Matt

That's a really good point. I didn't even think of that! I mean, I've complained about it before many times on here... notably, about Final Fantasy IX and earlier. FFIX seems especially guilty of that crime, for whatever reason. But I concur with you absolutely 100%, because argh, in "real life," monsters wouldn't come up to you in exactly the same formations each and every time. I always thought that my feelings on this were a direct result of being brought up on Dragon Warrior... a series where there are so many different battles in a single area that it can feel like they're just randomly generated. Anyway, I totally hear you. Good call, my rabbit.

It is also a must to give the player a way to avoid the battles entirely. Suikoden V and Rogue Galaxy use items that mask your presence from weak monsters, but that doesn't go far enough in my opinion. I like how they do it in the Tales games: the monsters are visible on screen to avoid (if you are alert enough when they come tearing after you.) Alternately, there are readily available items that let you wander around without attracting ANY unwanted battles. Even more brilliantly is the complete opposite item that actually causes you to attract more battles. Perhaps that Rogue Galaxy hunt wouldn't have taken five hours if I had been able to increase the occurrence of battles from every 30-60 seconds to something like 5-10 seconds. That would have helped a lot, I think.

Carabbit

Matt

Yes- a way of travelling really quickly helps too, when you just want to get from Point A to Point B. I definitely think that random battles CAN definitely be bad; it's just my feeling that they aren't necessarily so. Your examples help me prove exactly what I was going for, even if it's kinda funny, since I haven't played a single one of the games that your examples refer to. Hmm hmm *inept host*.



In defense of DQVIII!


Hi Matt,

I need to talk about DQ8. I spent a good 60 hours of my life on that game, and darn it, I want my opinion heard. I enjoyed the game on many levels. The story, the atmosphere, the music and the voice acting were all excellent. But there was not enough variety in the battles. By about the 10th hour, I was already getting bored with the battles, and by the end, I was running from enemies just so I wouldn't have to fight anymore.

Also, the way they made the bosses challenging was basically by giving them lots of hit points. Boss battles (except for the last one) consisted of attack, heal, attack, heal, for about 45 minutes! That's not my idea of a challenge -- that's what I call a waste of time. Now I've been playing RPG's since Dragon Warrior 1, so I don't have a problem with simple menu-based battle systems. But most games manage to come up with ways of making the battles interesting, even later in the game. Either that, or they're short -- like DW1. But DQ8 was too long for such a simple battle system. They should have jazzed it up by making status attacks really powerful or something. As it is, it's just a whole lot of attack, heal, attack, heal. You claim to love this game, so I want to know: did you actually find the battles fun, even 60 hours into the game? And what about those grinding boss battles?

Thanks for listening!

Dr. Slump

Matt

Did I think the battles were fun? Hmm... yeah, I think I did. But I often wonder if it's just because Dragon Quest runs in my blood. I've been playing those games forever, and for me, the exciting thing about DQ games is not any single battle. It's the endurance test of getting to the end of a cave without pressing your luck too much. Having to dig into your magic tricks in case of emergency. I love the fact, for some reason, that while any single battle in a cave or dungeon can be trivial, over time, it becomes more and more dangerous to press on as your item stash and MP get worn down. This isn't as exciting in Dragon Quest VIII, of course, where Jessica can feel like she has infinite MP and you can carry a huge number of Medicinal Herbs.

As for boss battles, I don't know. I feel like a lot of bosses in a lot of games are HP-grinds, so in that respect, I don't find DQVIII's to be terribly different. It would have been cool to have bosses change their attack patterns or something as their HP decreases, and you know, I do believe that the bosses felt kind of repetitive in Dragon Quest VIII, even compared to those of the quite-inferior DQVII. I did find that they all tended to use the similar attack patterns, and yeah, I guess I did find that to be a little bit disappointing. So, I can understand your impatience with bosses. But the battle system overall I loved. The balancing is fantastic, and hey, even the monsters are lovable. Through my Erdrick-coloured glasses, of course.



Nostalgia and Polygons~


Hey Matt

Currently, I'm playing Rogue Galaxy. So far, it has a decent storyline. The battle system is basically a better version of Dark Cloud's. I also have a sneaking suspicion that Square got their idea for the license board from RG. RG basically has the same thing as the license board, except that instead of spending points to gain abilities, you use items instead. For one, this means that more than likely, you'll get the best abilites later in the game. Also, every charater has their own unique abilities! Also, the version we have now is the same as the Directors Cut.

Matt

I don't know if I'd go as far as to say that Square Enix got their idea from Rogue Galaxy; after all, FFXII has been in development since pretty much the Stone Age.

I haven't heard many bad things about Rogue Galaxy. Hey, did you ever wonder if perhaps the big RPG console of the new generation will be the PS2... again? I think that the little machine has more than adequate power to fulfill our needs for a long time to come still, to be honest with you.

I very much reccomend playing the original Wild Arms if you can. The storyline is basically the same, although there are more dungeons that were left out. There are also equipable weapons and armor, and the music is MUCH better. Not to mention that there about 3x more abilities that you can learn. The main reason that I liked WA:ACF was the nostalgia factor, which Im' sure that you can relate to.

Matt

Yes, absolutely. I think that a few other RPGamer Staff feel the same way. I'm sure I would have felt differently about the remake if I had fallen in love with the original a long time ago, but alas; it wasn't meant to be. One thing is for sure... the hyper-deformed polygon-characters of the original are disgustingly cute.

As for what I plan on playing in the future, I still have plenty of games to go through. One of the most recent is Tales of Rebirth, which has inspired me greatly to learn the language. I aslo plan to aquire Tales of Destiny 2(PS2).

I think I would like to try the White Mage.

LufiaLvr

Matt

Japanese: The huge barrier between hardcore RPGamers and the games we desperately want to play. Life's so unfair. I once knew a little bit of kana, but it is long, long gone from this brain, replaced by such topics as Banach's Fixed Point Theorem, which you probably don't care too much about. (I wouldn't if I were you.)

Thanks for the letter, LufiaLvr... and welcome to the game! We'll have a fair number of white mageys running around for the first little while, from the looks of it.



SHH!


Hey Matt,

Guess you figured I'd be here to tell you I want to play again, right? It was fun last time, and I wanna see if I can do better (and I'm sure you do, too...you seem like the kind of guy who wants everyone to win if they could). From what I know now, I think I'll start as...a Fighter! I'm curious, are there going to be other jobs too? Or are these just the starting classes? (Or is that confidential information?)

Matt

You bet! I'm rooting for you all, but I'm mostly overcome with the twisted anticipation of seeing how the whole thing turns out in the end. A game like this is like a little world created by me; you'll see more very soon. And of course, that makes me the god of that world. It's so delightfully fun, and it feeds my ego just a little bit too.

As for other jobs? Well, you'll just have to figure that out, won't you?

Hey, might as well ask something for the column while I'm here, right? I got a new job recently, meaning I actually have money to buy more games again, so I'm thinking about investing in a DS. Now, I know everyone seems to be recommending Final Fantasy 3, but I've played it in NES patched ROM form before. My question is that apart from the obvious moral reasons of actually paying Square Enix for their hard work, is there are enough differences between the two versions to actually warrant a purchase here?

Matt

Yes. First, the remake is gorgeous; it almost brings a tear to your eye to see the care that they've brought to the world of FFIII. The game is easier, too, because you'll never fight more than two or three enemies at a time, and bosses will heal you fully upon their defeat. The job system has also been refined somewhat. You'll see. It's not the best game out there, but it's still a must-get for any old-school Final Fantasy fan. Add to that an official translation, and some extra dialogue/minor storyline additions, and I don't think you'll be disappointed at all.

Also, while I'm at it, any other RPG suggestions? The new Pokemon games I've got my eye on, Mario and Luigi: Partners In Time I'll probably pick up since I liked the original, and a friend recommended Lost Magic...there's probably a few other games I was thinking about picking up that I can't think of off the top of my head. Got any ideas or recommendations?

Matt

Magical Starsign and Contact are both quirky, funny, easy, and generally fun, from what I've heard. If that sounds like it's up your alley, then go for it. Either of the Castlevania games are good too, if of course you consider those to be RPGs.

And no, random battles aren't so bad, at least not when they're done excessively. It does annoy me when I can't walk the distance of the screen without getting a new battle unless the battle system's strong enough to encourage that. The trend of having enemies appearing on the field map was good, or having battles appear at fixed points on the map a la Chrono Trigger and Riviera was a good system...I guess it kinda depends on the game, though.

Nothing more to write for now, so I'll write in again...eh, when I feel like it, I suppose.

-- Arpijy

Matt

Yeah, I hate it when you take a *single* step and get into another battle. More accurately, I don't really mind it that much if it happens very occasionally, but when it happens multiple times in a row, it gets incredibly grating, especially if you're in the middle of trying to solve a puzzle or something. Then, oh yeah. Irritation city.

Awrighty! Good to hear from you! It's so fun to hear from all my old "peeps" again after so long.



QUICKIES

Alright Sir Slimey, which of the following do we need more of in RPG's: aircraft carriers, battleships, cruisers, destroyers, or submarines? Justify your answer!

Matt
Definitely not submarines; they appear way too often already, it seems. Battleships are fun, though, because well, too many swords-and-sorcery RPGs have air-based wars; it's a bit odd to me. I vote Battleships!

IN CLOSING

Tomorrow, Bainick is helping me host Q&A, so put on your best suit or pair of pyjama pants and prepare to be blown away by his Aussie points of view. I'm just quivering with anticipation!

New topic? We talked a bit about the disappointing bosses of Dragon Quest VIII above. What, then, do you look for in a boss fight? Give me an example or two of RPGs with great bosses, and make me a happy Q&A host!

Until happy Friday is here, I bid you all a fond farewell!



Send a Letter!

Unanswered Letter Backlog: 17 - whoa!



slimey@rpgamer.com
Matt is going to mail away Tabor's THONG prize in about half an hour!


I'm so excited... and I just can't hide it! Except for in this hidden text, that is.

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What I Want to Play:

1. Pokémon Diamond/Pearl

2. Super Paper Mario 3. Fire Emblem: Goddess of Dawn

4. Metroid Prime 3

5. Super Smash Bros. Brawl



What I'm Playing:

1. Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime

2. Final Fantasy VI

3. Final Fantasy XII



Hot Topics:

1. What "makes" a good boss fight?

2. GDC 2007: What's your take?

3. Random battles: They aren't so bad, are they? Oh, they are not!

4. What are your gaming plans for 2007, now that all three major consoles are going to be sucky?

5. Are you interested in Lunar Knights? Why not!?



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