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ASK MATT
Day of Rebuttal
March 29, 2007

Matt - 18:09 EST

YIKES! I haven't had so much strongly-phrased mail in a little while! You'll see what I mean in a few seconds. I'm so used to people just blindly agreeing with me, I barely know how to handle this.

*brzrzrztEXPLODES*




LETTERS
Bzzzt.


Hi, Matt.

Responses to a few things from the other day:

Matt

Heya. Have at it!

Whitney wrote: "Being a girl myself I someday hope to play an RPG with a strong female whose strength is not measured by the size of her boobs, but that's just me."

As another woman who feels the same way, may I suggest Valkyrie Profile? It's far from the only example - just look at FF6 - but it's a good one.

Matt

That IS a good one, and I should have thought of it. Luckily, given that the original was remade for the PSP last year, and its sequel was released on PS2 a few months later, they should still be pretty easy to find. Thanks for pointing that out.

In response to Seth's question about the benefits of owning both a GBA and a DS, you wrote: "There are none, and those people are just whacked."

Pardon me, but the DS cannot play Gameboy and Gameboy Color games. The GBA can. That matters to some people.

Buying a DS and a GBA is EXACTLY the same thing as buying a DS and the Gamecube's Gameboy Player peripheral, the only difference being the portability... and the added GBA multiplayer connectivity, and the added connectivity for things like FF:Crystal Chronicles and Zelda: Four Swords Adventures. Whether or not you like those games, I completely fail to see how that's whacked.

(Disclaimer: I owned my GBA well before I owned my DS.)

--Andrea

Matt

Ayaaa! Well, that is a good point, and for whatever reason, it never even crossed my mind. It's funny, because all I played on my GBA for the first year were Game Boy Color games, so I shouldn't have missed it. Nobody's perfect though.

However, the idea is still a little bit "whacked" and I use that word without real knowledge of what it means in cool-speak. My reasoning? While I agree with you that there are all sorts of great GBC and original GB games out there, I think that 99% of people out there looking for handhelds today aren't looking at them for that reason. Further, it's going to be really difficult to find some of those old games by this point; it's not as if your local Gamestop still carries them, for sure. That said, if you're seeking a piece of the past, then perhaps it's not so whacked... or "whacky" or "wacky" or "quacky" as I thought.

Thanks, Andrea, for keeping me in line! I appreciate your letter.



Strike Two.


Hello

I'd like to point out that following is entirely wrong.

"Well, if it's any solace, Final Fantasy XIII looks like it might do just that. Lightning will be the first female protagonist of the entire main series, and suffice it to say, it's about time."

What about Terra from Final Fantasy 6?

Other than that, thank you for some nice reading.

Niclas

Matt

Yeeeeah, but what I really meant was this: Yes, while Terra is a protagonist... she's not the protagonist. Final Fantasy VI is a unique entry in the series in that there isn't just one central character. Locke and Celes both have leading roles as well, I feel, so I often say that FFVI is the game without any single main hero. If you see it my way, then you'll agree that there hasn't yet been a main series Final Fantasy featuring a woman as the sole leading role.

Is that an acceptable explanation? If not, feel free to feed more letters to my great inbox! It's always hungry.



Strike Three! You're out.


There are a couple reasons you might buy a GBA if you already have a DS. Check out the compatibility section of the Wikipedia article on Nintendo DS. Here is a summary:

The DS:
Cannot play multiplayer GBA games or use a GBA link cable.
Cannot use a Gamecube link cable.
Cannot play Game Boy or Game Boy Color games.
If you want to do any of those three things (The first two are quite rare) then you need a GBA, the DS will not do.

Flamethrower

Matt

Ah yes... how could I forget the Cube link cable?! Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles lovers, unite! All eight of you.

Actually, joking aside, I kind of liked Final Fantasy: CC myself. It really was a ton of fun to play with four GBA owners. My main gripes were, as usual, with gameplay. An oversimplified battle system with a total of like eight spells did not make for a happy Matt. Still, you just can't ignore the awesome co-operation aspect that really isn't easy to come by in many (even "any") other games.

I'm a-rambling on, in any case. Thanks for pointing that additional oversight out, Flamethrower! Yes, I might be many things, and one of those things is "imperfect."



Back to the age-old (or couple-year-old) Suikoden IV debate!


Hello again,

It is I, Arkadysmile, with yet another ramble about a game and series that many don't seem to care about anymore. You'll have to forgive me for being so late to the gate. Yesterday I finally got around to finishing Suikoden IV. Now before you go, "Wow, someone finished THAT.", I would like to say that not only did I finish it, but I enjoyed. Not that anything was all that great but I was invested enough to see where it would all end up. The game had many problems, many of which have been discussed by far more eloquent persons than myself, but the one I feel I need to adress is the fact that when the game finally picks up the next thing you know its over. Guess I'll find out if Tactics adds anything to it.

Matt

Wow... someone finished TH- oh, okay, I won't say it. Actually, it's funny you're going on about this, because about a year ago or so, I actually asked everybody who played and liked Suikoden IV to write in and defend their game. I got an overwhelming response, and about seven or eight letters from different people who genuinely liked the poor black sheep of the series. So, you aren't alone in enjoying it on some level; not at all. If everybody agreed with everybody else's opinion, there would be no need for a Points of View section with different reviews in it, or a Q&A column, where people can toss ideas and arguments back and forth. I'd guess, though, that a large majority of Suikoden players would agree that at the very least, IV was not the series' strongest entry.

***Suikoden IV spoilers ahead- BEWARE!!*** (hee hee)

The one note that I would like to add... spoilers ahead... is that Snowe Vingerhut was an interestinging character. A spoiled rich boy who could never understand why nobody liked him or understood him. A character who would see what the main character was doing then do it himself with little thought to wheather it was the correct thing to do. Who in the end realized that he was nothing and only wanted to help. Humbled by the experences he had had. I don't know why but I found his story to be the one I enjoyed most.

Matt

Surely some pieces of almost every game are good, no matter how bad the other pieces might be; the darkest of clouds has a silver lining. Damn, I'm out of metaphors. You get my point, though; just because a game might be mediocre overall doesn't mean that there aren't any, or even many, great things about it too!

So all this being said, I wonder, who so you think has had, in all the countless rpgs out there, the best story arc? Not for the story in general, but for them as a character. Some of my favs are Luke for ToA and fromthe Shadow Hearts games.

Once again and always thanks for listening to me rant. As Dennis Miller always said, "Thats just my opinion, I could be wrong."

Arkadysmile out :D

Matt

That's a really subjective question, one that's up for a lot of debate. Some people prefer multi-layered, complicated, sweeping plots that cause you to sit and think about them for hours afterwards. Some others prefer the simple, clichéd traditional storylines without much depth. I think that for me, it depends on my mood. I can appreciate both, but sometimes, I don't have patience for the first or I get bored with the second. My favourite storyline, though, has to be that of Final Fantasy VI, which is simultaneously simple and multilayered. It's also well-told, though, and I think that's important. What's your favourite game, plotwise? (Yes, I'm asking you, Random-Reader-F! Especially if your name is Ryan. Respond!)



Heroes in a half shell.


Hey Matt,

Just thought I'd write in to give my opinion on those hot topics you have listed.

Matt

Good! 'Tis what they're there for.

1. My fav type of hero is the dark and mysterious type, the type that usually fall into the anti-hero category. Basically, it's the type of main character who is the 'hero' in the sense that he is ultimately saving the world (or what have you), but at the same time isn't afraid to admit that he has a darker side that he likes to give in to. *chuckles* So, obviously, I'm a fan of the Shin Megami Tensei series.

Matt

Are there any other games with heroes that fall into this, though? This kind of hero sounds Castlevania-y, somehow, or better yet, Disgaea! Maybe a bit Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter as well, come to think of it, in a way, though you aren't really saving the world in that one. Eh, there are a couple of others out there too, I'm sure. It's cool when you know that heroes aren't just saints; they're imperfect people that at times, we might be able to relate to.

2. My #1 game this year so far is easy - Puzzle Quest for the DS. I am so addicted to this game right now that it is totally ridiculous! In fact, I will tell everyone out there reading this - if you like bejeweled and always wondered what it would be like to play a puzzle game with RPG elements, then find a copy of this game right now. It will likely be difficult to do so, I know four people who also bought this game after I told them how cool it was (and they are also completely addicted with it right now) and all of them, including myself, had to go to several stores before we could find a copy. Those of you who may have seen a review for this game in Nintendo Power and saw that it recieved a 4 out of 10 - I would like to point out the fact that the reviewer admits to not liking bejeweled.

Matt

So I've heard! It's taken over the lives of a few of RPGamer's staff members, actually. We'll be lucky to get them back alive. The funny thing is, this game came out of nowhere; I really don't recall ever hearing about it until it was released last week. Strange. But potentially deadly. Look for it on PSP, too, for a much nicer-looking version, but at the price of potentially annoying loading time.

3. Games are an art form and entertainment. Look at Okami on the PS2 and you will see that more and more, game designers are trying to truly mold the two into one. Although, it could be argued that most forms of entertainment are art forms themselves. Movies can certainly be described as an art form. I myself write novels in my spare time, so I certainly believe that stories are an art form as well.

Matt

Fair enough. But do you think that they are an art form before they are a source of fun? The interview in question was from a guy over in Sony-land who accused Nintendo of making crappy-looking games just for fun while completely missing the point that games are, allegedly, a form of art. This, I think, is highly contentious. While games might be a form of art, I think it's more important that you have fun playing them than anything else; the fun IS the art more than anything else, as far as I'm concerned.

4. The 360 is certainly shaping up and I for one will likely be buying one (as soon as I get an HDTV). I had already been planning on picking up one for Fable 2 when it comes out, but with Mass Effect, Lost Odessy and a handful of other titles coming out exclusive for the system, there is no question left in my mind taht I will be purchasing one. I'm just surprised at the news that they are porting over Devil May Cry 4 as well as possibly Metal Gear Solid 4 and FFXIII. *chuckles* Especially considering the fact that in an interviewer with Game Informer, Capcom made a big deal that DMC4 would most definitely NEVER be ported over to 360 due to the fact that the game had been designed with the PS3 in mind from the very beginning. Just goes to show you - never say never.

Matt

I'm still not sure what in the world is going to happen. Surely we can't bet on a 360 port of a game like Final Fantasy XI, but yeah, I definitely would not rule it out either. A long time ago, now, I made up a random list of probabilities, and said back then that there was a fifty-fifty shot of an Xbox 360 FFXIII. I think I still stand by that, today. One thing is for sure; an announcement like that would have me marching down to the local EB Games to purchase one of my own, even though I once vowed never to. Never say never, as you just told me...

5. You simply can't have too many healing/save points in RPGs. Why? Because you don't have to use them if you don't want to - on the other hand, if you don't have enough of them, then you are most likely going to have a lot of frustration in your near future. I''m sure some people will argue that having a lot of save or healing points makes the game too easy, but when you play games like SMT: Nocturne, where you can easily have your entire party wiped out with an instant death move, then the number of save points really doesn't change the difficulty all that much. I guess what I'm trying to say is - if it's done well enough, an RPG can be challenging irregardless of how many save points you have.

Matt

Bah... weak!! If they're there, you're going to use them, because you never know when there's going to be a boss to fight or a sudden turn of events. I'm not a fan of the save/heal anywhere thing, though, because it trivializes the whole game. If you can just save after any battle, then who really cares if the battles are difficult or dangerous? There's no sense or risk or excitement if you know that you'll be okay one way or the other, and I think that risk and excitement are key in getting into a game. What would those difficult games be like without that overwhelming sense of relief you get upon finding a save point... only to have your heart LEAP because you get into a random battle just two steps away from it? Those are the moments to live for!

Boy, hope this letter didn't run too long. Question - did you catch the TMNT movie? I saw it last Friday, and I rather enjoyed it (I was a huge fan of the old cartoon series and I've actually read the original comic, albiet only the first issue). Talk to ya later.

Kolphyre

Matt

Ah, I did, once upon a dream, long long ago, but I remember little about it. Cowabunga, dude. Now I want pizza.



Last letter for today!


Hi Matt

Hmm I guess that my favorite type of hero is that rarest of breed who is not dewy eyed and in the first blush of youth. Seems to me we had a run of this topic in the fall of last year but I find it really hard to believe that some poor shmuck of a teenager is going to a) be reliable with a sword, b) be reliable with judgment and c) be able to think out the greatest puzzles while not being distracted by d) the female companions who seem to be wearing zip squared for clothing. My nephews, who are about the right age to be mythic heroes of the type found in RPG's, spend more of their time playing sports and/or fighting with each other than they do of b or c let alone d.

Matt

No kidding, eh? Swords are heavy! I actually loved Tidus' reaction at the beginning of Final Fantasy X, actually, for that very reason; the fact that they aren't trivial to wield is noted at the beginning, when he is incredibly awkward with the weapon Auron throws him... if I'm remembering correctly.

Truly, sword-wielding just has to require some post-pubescent muscle mass. Maybe in these other worlds, people simply grow up earlier. It certainly would explain why Eiko is so self-sufficient, and so hot for Zidane, in FFIX... at what, the age of six? Five? Yikes! The five-year-old girls in my Kindergarten class all thought that boys were slimy, smelly, and had cooties.

The idea of games as an art form is not new to this flashy present but seems rather ridiculous to me. I, and I suspect most of your readers, play games as an entertainment. Game play seems, from the conversations, to be the most important thing in games. So then the concept that games should be considered art is a bit less interesting than whether the programmers and designers get the basic engine right and the game play interesting. I will leave the scholarly discussions of art to somebody else and go back to FF12 myself.

Matt

Sounds fine to me. I personally think that if the graphical beauty of the game is the front-and-centre area of importance, the point has been missed. It's not to say that I can't appreciate a game that looks nice, of course, but the fun-factor just has to come first.

Healing and saving are an interesting problem in their own right. I like to be able to save anywhere so that I don't have to repeat the four hundred steps it takes to get to the boss only to discover that I really should have equipped that poison thingy before entering the battle. I don't often get what I want here. As to the idea that you recover all of your health at a save point I really wish that designers would drop this. I think that having mana points recovering over time makes sense and that being able to have your healers heal the party makes game play more structured and resembling a real challenge. In the present time when developers are targeting wider audiences however I suspect that we are going to see a lot more of this. Too bad.

Matt

I actually feel that tougher games are becoming a little more stylish these days. It feels like there are more of them than there were a few years back. Maybe that's just because there are more RPGs in general than there used to be.

Matt, why did it take you 30 extra hours of leveling to get the final boss in FF12. I went out with my poor level 48 party and trashed him without even using any quickenings let alone summons. I was rather afraid to go up against him given your response yet he was no difficulty at all. What gives?

A

Matt

Hahahaha, I've heard this from so many people. Really, when I had difficulty with the final boss of Final Fantasy XII, I used that as an excuse to pull back, hunt around for some more marks, talk to everyone in Rabanastre to try and do some side quests, and all in all, that stuff took up the bulk of my time. Those thirty hours were not rooted in power leveling or anything- I'm not much for leveling up just for the sake of leveling up. And zat is the reason.

In Level 48, though?! That seems quite incredible indeed. I do find that based on my sister's Wait-Mode experiences, there is a remarkable difference between the Wait and Active modes though, in terms of difficulty; perhaps you were playing on Wait Mode? Anyway, if I had the time, I'd love to play through the game on WM just to see if I could get through the game at a far lower level. This, of course, will likely never happen.



QUICKIES

Hey Matt,

Lufia II has got to be one of my favoritest games for so many reasons, but today I thought I'd mention one in particular, the boss battle theme. For some reason, I can remember it off the top of my head faster than that of any other RPG. And it's so quick and catchy! I was a fan of the music as a whole in that game, too. What did you think?

Joshua

Matt
I love Lufia II's music too, and the boss music is one of my favourites of any game, ever, really! It isn't the most dramatic or the most panicky, but it's somehow one of the most "emotional" ones, and the theme just perfectly suits the game.

IN CLOSING

As always, I apologize to those of you who have waited a good while for a letter to go up, but realize that I'm doing the best that I can! Don't lose hope.

One more day will round out yet another week of Questions & Answers and bring us one step closer to the summer of destiny. May it arrive with haste!

For tomorrow, I'm interested to know which games have your favourite storylines. Complex and thick, or simple and clean, do you feel that a plotline in particular just rises above all the others? I'm waiting to hear from you!

That's all. Later, everybody!



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Matt regrets mango pickles.


Salty and spicier than hell, you want to think twice before you add these to your dinner. Believe me.

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On my Wishlist:

1. Pokémon Diamond/Pearl

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

4. Metroid Prime 3

5. Super Smash Bros. Brawl



On my Portable Playlist:

1. Final Fantasy VI

2. Lunar Knights

3. Mega Man ZX



On my Console Roster:

1. Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess

2. Valkyrie Profile 2: Silmeria

3. Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance



Hot Topics:

1. What's your favourite type of hero?

2. What's your number one game of 2007 so far?

3. Which game has your favourite storyline?

4. The Xbox 360... in new light?

5. Are there too many healing/save points in RPGs these days?



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