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ASK MATT
Pickle War
March 21, 2007

Matt - 15:10 EST

SO, THE RUMOURS ARE FLYING, or so it would seem. Apparently in an interview last night, the exclusivity of Final Fantasy XIII was suddenly thrown into question in a moment. Wow. My crystal ball must not be failing me after all!

Microsoft has a ton to gain from this, and Sony has everything to lose. I've already said that this would be the dealbreaker; FFXIII for the 360 means Microsoft gets my money, and I suspect that a lot of other people out there would say the same. With a few other RPGs out there, it's not like the 360 will be rampant with our games, but it won't be devoid of them either. Of course, this is still very, very unconfirmed. But, one has to think about these things.

Phew. What an absolutely interesting time to follow the industry, no? Let's dive into the mailbag, as always!




LETTERS
What? I was supposed to LIVE? NOOOOO!!


Hot diggity damn, Lufia 2, Rise of the Sinstrals. It is THE game that got me into RPGs. Was awesome. Perfect amount of sidequests and mini games, the battlecave was fantastic, hunting for dragon eggs, raising capsule monsters, the list just goes on and on. Fantastic character development for it's time, and (possible spoiler alert) the fact that the 'unwinnable' battle with gades was actually winnable!!! It's a game that I actually still play through every couple of years. Oh, and then there's the puzzle solving, fantastically varied dungeons, the IP Attack system, DEAR GOD there is so much about that game that I love. The only thing I wasn’t a fan of were the sprites, because I thought the ones from the original Lufia looked much cooler.

Matt

It's a truly great, classic game, filled with cute character sprites, wicked dialogue, a funky battle system, neat puzzles, and more newts than you can count. And not nearly enough people have played the gem!

Just a quick question, do you also find it really irritating when you are fighting one of those 'unwinnable' battles (that the story requires you lose) and you use all your items because you didn't realise it was one of those battles?

Or just as bad, when you're sure that you are fighting one of those battles because you are getting smacked about so hard, only to face a game over screen when you die!

Matt

Yeah. I really appreciate it impossible bosses are so obscenely powerful that it's very obvious that you're not supposed to have a chance at all. On the other hand, I love it (somewhat sadistically, maybe) when your second case happens- when you die because of an uberstrong boss, but you weren't supposed to. Heh heh, that sort of thing fills me with shock, disbelief, with a pinch of glee and a dash of desperation.

Yeah, I'm not a big fan of that as a game mechanic.

Matt

Awwww.

Also, the 360. Initially, I was very anti X-Box. But given that there are now a few semi decent looking RPGs, and some other fun looking games I really want to play (Dead Rising, Crackdown, Viva Pinata) it's getting very very tempting. Also, I at least want to play the new bomberman on it, just once, to find out just how badly they have sullied something that was once so pure.

Anyways, back to FFXII

FinalDelerium

Matt

Yeah, I think that a lot of RPGamers out there are slowly changing their tune, this one included. It's a bit sad, because I once vowed never to support them. Why should Microsoft be able to waltz in and stomp all over the industry? Well, heh, just because they're in town doesn't mean that I'm going to stop wanting to play the games I want to play. 'Tis a reality. Have fun with FFXII! Whack a Coeurl for me.



FFXII stuff; possibly very minor spoilers involved, so watch out!


Slimer,

Congrats on the completion of FFXII!! I myself clocked un at just over 115 hours, and the only major thing I didn't accomplish was to get the last esper. I enjoyed the game moreso than FFIX, and maybe as much as FFX. I dunno why, maybe because I loved blitzball so much.

Matt

Why thank you! You clocked in at just a little bit less time than myself. I don't really know how so many other people apparently got through the game on their first try in sixty, unless they were using an FAQ or guide. There's just so much to explore and do and find, and going through only regular storyline places would, I think, be very difficult to do without a little bit of level-grinding on the side.

Blitzball was definitely an involving "not-so-mini"game, and a few friends of mine got completely lost in it for awhile. I didn't play more than a couple of games, just because I thought they got a little over-time-consuming for their own good. X wasn't a bad game... it just wasn't my favourite. I miss it from time to time, though.

Anyway, what was your impression of the ending? You don't have to give anything away, but in my own personal opinion, I felt that the last area, boss, and the ending video were a bit of a let down. Also, I didn't have to do any supplemental leveling up, as I was around level 60 by the time I finally made it to the end, and I basically breezed through the end.

Matt

It definitely wasn't the best ending of a Final Fantasy game, but it wasn't the worst either. We've come a long, long way from the single-screen finale of the original, haven't we? Just imagine the reaction if a modern game took that strategy!

The last boss was kind of disappointing, I'd agree. I won't make a secret of the fact that I did have a lot of trouble with it, though, when I first tried at Level 52-54 and failed miserably. It's such a relief to finally be done, though.

To end the rambling, I'm more or less getting to one of your questions, about random battles. I feel that random battles are, of course, an essential portion of any RPG, and it wouldn't be very good without them. The only gripe I have with the random battles in FFXII is the fact that with a persistent enemy, they'd follow you EVERYWHERE until you either killed them, or went into a new area. This especially sucks if you are low on mp, health, lower levels, etc... I missed the "any minute now!" random battles of FFX greatly during those moments, but on the whole, the "I can see'em!" system in FFXII was stellar.

Matt

It wasn't bad. It wasn't my favourite of all time, either, though, and I thought that every area was pretty much saturated with monsters, which got more than a little bit annoying from time to time.

I'm looking forward to seeing what FFXIII has in store. It sounds like it's changing to a more "Star Ocean" type format, where you see the enemy and then go into a special "arena" every time you get into a battle. Hopefully it doesn't follow the all-around suckiness of that game too, but I'm optimistic.

Random battles in RPG's are intigral, and unavoidable, so I really don't see why people complain much. I know that some games are worse than others, and that you can really get screwed up if you are in a bad area with limited supplies, but that's why the games are challanging and exciting. It's why, even if we don't like to admit it, we love the games, the challange, and the thrill.

-Frammy

P.S. - Now that FFXII is done, it's time to finish DQVIII, and yes, it's much better than DQVII.

Matt

In some games, yes, they're integral. In general, though, they aren't. While I prefer a random battle system myself, it is the case that some non-random battle systems can be of very high quality. As you say, it's the challenge, and the thrill of the challenge, that makes RPGs so likable, and any system, when developed with care, can make the game experience into a great one, I daresay.

Later, Frammy!



JMS o' the week.


Como esta, Senor Slimey! Apparently you need an anime theme that doesn't sound like the rest. I've got ya covered.

http://gh.ffshrine.org/song/2207/19 Hellsing's opening is rather unique. The show itself is interesting too, unless vampires running rampant in modern-day London bores you. The manga went on to have the vampires be led by resurgent Nazis operating from South America who then crossed the Atlantic in zeppelins to avenge Hitler's defeat. Yep, didn't make a bit of that up.

Matt

That's, uh, unique. Budding, immature historians, beware.

And yes, that opening theme is quite different than most others I've heard. It reminds me of something recentish in the world of pop music. Well, never mind, not really. The "Shoobi-doo-bi-doo" thing knocked that out of my mind. And that just reminded me of something else...

Shooby-dooby-doo: Where are you? We've got a [somethinggoeshere] for you now~

Quick apology to Bainick: I wrote you a letter way back when Ouro was first announcing your latest co-hosting, but apparently it got lost in the inbox. I crave your pardon.

Matt

One can only keep track of so many letters; I apologize if it got lost somewhere, but that's life.

You know, incidentally, that back in the early days of Q&A, hosts actually got like 30 or 40 e-mails per day, damn them, and they had to pick and choose which letters to publish? No one ever expected or was ever guaranteed to make it into the column like they pretty much are today, even if they wrote monster-huge letters. Seriously. So consider yourself lucky that I only miss the occasional one.

Summon Night: Swordcraft Story 2 has some amusing moments such as when the hero must be as sexy as possible to be admitted into a new area, but the boss fights aggravated me. See, they take place fighting-game style with weapons. Only problem with this is that the enemies seem to have much less recovery time than your character. One boss near the end has a weapon with the range of the spear and the speed of a fist, seems like. I only beat her by being cheap and using as much powerful magic as fast as I possibly could. Which worked just because I was lucky and she didn't heal. Let alone that damned battle with the TWO ninjas. I don't necessarily regret playing it, but bosses ripping me apart thanks to cheapness was irritating.

Matt

That's part of the fun of bosses, though. Bosses have bent the rules as long as RPGs have been around! It's part of the reason that you're filled with the urge to stick it to 'em.

I gave Boojum a track from Napple Tale, now I'll give you one. http://gh.ffshrine.org/song/766/17 This is one of the very few boss tracks that actually FEELS like a boss, which fits since the Toy Train actually puts up a good fight. Yoko Kanno writes fine music.

Matt

It's a little insanely chaotic. It sounds like a really bad dream where you're being chased by clowns wielding oversized pieces of cutlery and sporting big frozen smiles. Yikes.

Oh, and I tried ActRaiser 2. I very much doubt I'll ever finish it if playing just a few minutes made me so angry. The biggest problem is that the double jump makes the hero start gliding, except the glide is difficult to control and cannot be pulled out of easily. The game is honestly not an RPG in any sense, though, and should not be listed on RPGamer. The sim aspect of the first game is gone, disappointingly.

Matt

Alack. A lack of goodness, apparently. Frustrating play control is one of the biggest game-breakers to me, too; it's such a basic, fundamental aspect of any video game. How could anyone get something so wrong? Yargh.

Have a Tales of Phantasia track. http://gh.ffshrine.org/song/1189/58 As you can probably tell, this is the hidden Ninja village's music. Like it?

Matt

Yes, it sounds like a hidden ninja village's music. Nay, I can't say why I'd like it any more than your run-of-the-mill hidden ninja village music either. It's fine, but it's not exactly what I'd call outstanding. Perhaps I'd better appreciate these if I had played the actual games, you know?

Currently I have Sonic Rush and Drill Dozer in both slots of my DS. It was time for an action rush, and I'm getting it with both. Sonic Rush seems to be pretty cheap in stores, while Drill Dozer is worth tracking down.

Matt

So I've heard. So this month's issue of Nintendo Power told me. I'm getting three free issues for rocking so much, you see, and wow, that magazine has withered down to almost nothing over the years. Or so it seems.

Now, listen to this and judge where you think it comes from. http://gh.ffshrine.org/song/195/8 Don't read on until you have a pretty good idea of what game this seems to be from. I'll tell you it originates during an aerial battle with large airborne imperial forces. Answer: Panzer Dragoon Orta. Which is one of the reasons why an Xbox is not useless. That game is superb.

Matt

Aha. Yeah, that kind of makes sense. It definitely sounds in-step with the Panzer Dragoon Saga stuff you've sent me in the past. I can only assume they're composed by the same person/people?

It had to happen. With my Saturn returned, I had to start up the second disc of Tengai Makyou IV. Thusly did I travel through Carlsbad Caverns into Texas, whereupon I found the Alamo. Commanded by General Custer, the Alamo is a gigantic tank moving through Texas. Oh, and then I went to Mexico. The Mexicans sure like to say 'Amigo!' All of the Mexican men wear sombreros, also.

Matt

Hola. Muchos hielo por favor? Yes, this is about as much spanish as I learned during my little February excursion.

There is of course more, but I'll just share a little interesting music with you. Here's the theme to Oaxaca (which somehow sounds different from anything else I've heard) http://gh.ffshrine.org/song/6603/70 and the theme at night in Mexico City thanks to something evil going on: http://gh.ffshrine.org/song/6603/69 Comments?

Matt

The first one is a little different, isn't it? It sounds like a strange mix of like... Final Fantasy Tactics and Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door. Anybody else hear it? The second makes me feel like I'm in church or something... one with a choir that can actually sing (quite unlike the old ladies' that populated the choir at my old church, back in the days when I actually went...)

As I started the random battle debate of recent weeks, I'll expound a bit more. At BEST, random battles are just there to me. I do not get infuriated, but neither do I enjoy. Clearly the underlying game can make this mostly moot - witness the scores I've given a few titles with random battles. More to the point - if I throw logic into this, something snaps. How is there an infinite amount of enemies to slaughter? After enough killing of enemies shouldn't they get scarce? I realize along this road lies a game with a finite number of enemies - once they're dead, no more. And I wouldn't necessarily mind.

Matt

Logic and RPGs do not go hand in hand. When's the last time that you pointed your finger at an eight-eyed blob and had lightning stream out to zap them? Since when have you tripped and fallen and lost 8 HP on the sidewalk, only to wake up in the morning with all of your wounds completely healed?

Sword of Vermilion is on the Virtual Console now. If you do not believe my admonitions regarding its incredibly crappy nature, go ahead and test it. And I will laugh at the discomfiture!

Matt

Hey - at least we know now that Nintendo isn't afraid of putting other-console RPGs up for sale, now. We can be totally hopeful for Shining Force or Phantasy Star, now, I feel!

Heh heh - not today, not tomorrow, but soon... I shall unveil MY backlog to everyone. I guarantee titles on it no one else reading this has played. My current eBay binge will cease soon, and I shall have enough games to last for a couple of years without much new. I don't mind.

Matt

Before you do this unveiling, bear in mind the word limit!!! And think of the children!

In the meantime be glad you don't work retail (though the experience would doubtless change you). Crazy woman yesterday talked about her beautiful baby (which was a plastic doll). Disturbing.

JuMeSyn

Matt

Yes, I'm more than happy working in my comfy TA seat, though occasionally, it means that I have to mark about a hundred papers within a very short period of time. I'm not really complaining, though, because I get paid pretty darn well for doing it. Yay for yoonions! ("Yoo-" for alliterative purposes, of course.)



The contrast needs... adjusting.


Konban wa, Matt-san!

Out of curiosity-slash-boredom, I thought I might report on the Japanese game release list for March and April. This is just a few notes that I scribbled down in my local game store, nothing TOO detailed:

For March: The Wii has 8 games for March, none of them RPGs
The PS3 has 5 games for March, again no RPGs
The DS has -29- games for March, 7 of them RPGs
The PSP has 3 games, no RPGs
The PS2 has 22 games, 1 RPG (and a heck of a lot of pachinko and sports games)
The XBox 360 has 2 games. Just 2.

For April:
The Wii has 4 games, including Super Paper Mario (which seems to be accepted as a sort of RPG)
The PS3 has 1 game only, not an RPG
The DS has --37-- games, but only 2 RPGs this month (and one of those was delayed from March)
The PSP has only 1 game in April, but that game is Final Fantasy (out April 19th!)
The PS2 has 22 games, with 3 RPGs in the lineup.
The XBox 360 has again, just 2 games, no RPGs.

My decision to stick with my PS2 and DS seems to still be the smart option...

Your man in Japan,
Gaijin Monogatari

(PS Can I please be a Black Mage in SOCK2? Pretty please?)

Matt

You bet it is. The DS is ripe with games, and the number is just growing by the day. The most exciting releases aren't even due out for a very long time. Do you know what I'm looking forward to? Tetris Attack, over the summer. Holy crap... Tetris Attack, Wi-Fi style!? YES PLEASE.

PS2 games will likely slowly fade out by the end of this year, which would be highly unfortunate for Sony, given their situation. However, there are easily more RPGs slated for release on the PS2 yet than the PS3, and by a longshot. Sit on it for a year; it may become much clearer as to whether you "need" any of the new-gen systems at all by then.



A hero for you, a hero for me.


I just finished playing God of War 2 and it got me thinking about my favorite kind of role in rpgs. I like to play the role of the badass. I'm talking about characters like Cloud or Yuri from Shadow Hearts 2. They are tough as nails from the beginning and you have this feeling that whatever enemy comes after you that they are no match for your strength. I guess it gives me a feeling of empowerment. Instead most games give you this weak 14 year old kid with amnesia that lives in the smallest backwoods town in the world. A tragedy strikes and he or she feels that they need to do something about it and every time this hero is almost killed some strange power welled up inside of them lets loose and saves the day. These characters are not as much fun to play as. It usually seems that they have no right to be saving the world in the first place.

Matt

Aww, come on! It's the unsure, unconfident little lamb that finds his or her inner strengths to overcome those hesitations and grow into a true hero! Those brash bigshot badasses are best in the dumb-physical-attacks-but-no-magic supporting roles, I feel. That said, I don't think that Cloud is completely bad-ass. Yuri, yes, but Cloud has a lot of inner insecurities to overcome, and a little hint of a related "feminine" personality. Not that females can't be badasses, for sure... it's just that they almost never are.

Switching to another topic, I read some article about more video game to movie titles like Castlevania and Metal Gear and realized that they should do that with an rpg. I am not talking about a sequel to an rpg like Final Fantasy Advent Children but a retelling of the story in movie form. I think that Suikoden 2 would make a good choice on this. It has an excellent story along with a ton of characters and military battles. What they would need to do with this title is to break it up into multiple movies. In the middle of Suikoden 2 is one huge plot twist that could serve to be the end of the first movie and setting up for the second. What are your thoughts on this?

jbrown

Matt

Surely! Games-to-movies are not nearly as despicable as movies-to-games, that's for sure. The transition isn't always wonderful, as FF: The Spirits Within and Mario Brothers demonstrate quite clearly. Well, I don't think I can compare anything to the Mario Bros. movie, actually... that was absolute filth.

Thanks for the letter!



Another question on the big game!


Hey Matt,

It was only a matter of time wasn't it? But before I sign up for SOCK 2, I have some questions...

My friend is also playing the game. My question: if players want to create an unofficial "party," wherein one player heals a damaged comrade, or one comrade defends another against a monster, will that be possible? I dunno if this is allowed but I'd like to do it... it would make the game more fun for both of us, whether or not we win. Because a party isn't a party without being able to form parties

A second question: will we be able to use sub-classes in the game? I'm debating whether to be a Fighter or White Mage, but if I can't team up with someone, or if I can use White Mage as a sub-class, then I won't bother making it my main class...

I need answers to both of these questions before I can decide which job class I want to pick.

Thanks for your help,
- Waterfiend33

Matt

Not only is partnering up allowed in Sock 2... it's encouraged! Communication is a huge part of this game, so I have absolutely nothing against you joining up to work with someone else. In fact, you can even join a more formalized alliance, called a guild, in which you work with lots of other competitors in order to divide experience obtained from KO-ing other contestants and enemies. Someone just needs to find a guild permit, first. Not only will guild members get to share their e-mail addresses with each other; guild leaders will be able to make public announcements like "Stay away from that monster, or you're toast!" or any other thing... creativity will definitely be key!

Also, you are totally free to gain levels in any class you choose, as you go along, and you can change gears and go with any other at any time. Thus, if you start as a Level 1 White Mage, you can spend Experience points to gain a level, and a job level to go with it. You could then end up as any of the following:

  • Level 2; White Mage Lv. 2
  • Level 2; White Mage Lv. 1, Fighter Lv. 1
  • Level 2; White Mage Lv. 1, Defender Lv. 1
  • Level 2; White Mage Lv. 1, Black Mage Lv. 1

So, quite literally, you can build any sort of character with any combination of skills you wish over time.

Such is Sock 2, coming to a Q&A column near you in a mere six weeks or so. Keep abreast of developments by checking out today's tidbit, updated every day. Check it out through the link on the sidebar.



QUICKIES

Hey Matt,

I suppose I'll give Sock 2 a chance. Sign me up as a Black Mage. I look forward to seeing how this turns out. I've been reading Q&A for a long time, but I've never felt compelled to write in. Maybe getting involved in this will change that. Who knows?

- Tasukete, he who dances with moogles kupo!

Matt
Do so! I'm always lusty for letters, and the weekend people are constantly deprived of them too, for some weekend reason that is potentially black hole-related. Writing in with actual letters could in fact net you in-game bonuses, if you have certain accessories equipped, too...

IN CLOSING

We touched on it above, but now I want to hear your opinion: What is your favourite type of RPG hero? Do you like the moody, cool, emo heroes? Do you like the cute orphaned youngster version? Or maybe you're also a fan of the badass overstrong destroyers, too. Let me know! I'll be waiting.



Send a Letter!

Unanswered Letter Backlog: 9 - approaching iffy



slimey@rpgamer.com
Matt is one-third done! Almost.


Final Fantasy XII's soundtrack is going through my head almost constantly these days. It's good, actually.

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