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Wistful Thinking June 21, 2006

Matthew Demers - 17:52 EST

I LANDED A LITTLE mini-job for Maple over the next couple of weeks. What is Maple, you ask? It's a mathematics-geared programming language-of-sorts that can do all sorts of things, like integrate complex functions, solve Differential Equations numerically, and... well, almost anything in math, it seems. Obviously, given the name, it was created by Canadians at the University of Waterloo, originally, and it has since grown to become a rather major thing. I don't really like it that much, to be honest, but I'm going to get a few hundred bucks and a free copy of the latest version of Maple just to test out some worksheets for a new program they're working on.

That money should support my video gaming habit quite soundly, giving me the extra leeway I need to purchase Disgaea II, Xenosaga III, and about 24562 DS games before the end of the year. At this point, I think I'm going to put the Wii on my Christmas list, though I'm not sure about Final Fantasy XII... I really should just buy it from the start, because if I don't, I'm going to have things spoiled for me. It's just the nature of my job, I'm afraid.




L E T T E R S
Vagrant Fantasy?


Hi,

I noticed the recent comment that many people had drawn parallels between Vagrant Story and FFXII, going as far as to call the latter a 'sequel' to the former. I've also heard people talking about how FFXII took some inspiration from Star Wars, what with a wide eyed blond haired kid in the lead role, a feisty princess, a brash sky pirate and his non-human partner (read: Han and Chewie, albeit a less hairy Chewie with a nicer rear), Vader-esque Judges, and all set against the backdrop of a huge war involving an evil Empire.

Well, as a huge fan of Final Fantasy, Vagrant Story and Star Wars, to say I'm excited is an understatement. There has been much dancing and suspiciously girly screaming in this house. What I'm really pleased about is that Square-Enix aren't scared to return to good ideas. The way I see it, VS was a masterpiece but for whatever reason didn't sell as well as it should have. So instead of abandoning that style altogether, they've reworked some of the best bits into a franchise that will always sell. Good for them! And as for the heavier-than-usual SW influence, that can only be a good thing. I mean, everyone loves the Original Trilogy, right? Just as long as the game doesn't become too derivative, I'm happy.

Matt

Startling Admission #Next: I've only seen the first movie out of the original trilogy. Eep!

Add those points together, recall that people are also comparing this heavily to Skies of Arcadia, and remember too that this game is set in the same world as Final Fantasy Tactics games. While Final Fantasy has always borrowed little things from past games- spells, monsters, etc- never before has a FF game ever generated so much talk about taking things from other series. I don't think I'd say that it's "ripping anything off" exactly, but this game appears to at least be making little nods to many other titles within (and out of?) the Square Enix library, and it sure is making a lot of people excited.

At the same time, Square's taking things in fresh directions for their flagship series (FFXII's battle system, for example, and judging from the brief glimpses we've seen, the FFXIII projects too) . Such changes do not always work- FFX-2 was an abomination. But it's good to see they're not hell bent on returning to the old formula. I always hear traditionalists going on about how 'it's not Final Fantasy anymore'. But I think it is. The core elements of the series will always stay recognisable at least. But change is going to happen- Square can't make FFVI forever.

Matt

And wouldn't you know... I actually really liked FFX-2's battle system an incredible amount. It was a wonderfully fast-paced refinement of the ATB system, and while many, many things about the rest of the game left a lot to be desired, I have to admit that not only did I really like the battle system, I think it's one of the best of the entire series.

I wouldn't be nearly as worried about the changes if they had only chosen to employ a battle theme. What's a Final Fantasy game without a wicked battle theme!? ARGH. Oh well. I'm still optimistic, despite all of these changes.

Having said that, they're certainly trying with FFVII. An overrated game in my opinion but still enjoyable. Iin one sense they're milking it for all it's worth, but as long as what they produce is high quality (and Advent Children certainly was) it's cool. A PS3 remake is inevitable. I mean, from the moment that 'tech demo' came out all we needed was a release date. But because there's so much pressure to make it live up to the original, surely they'll make it so amazingly good that it blows us all away?

Matt

They need to, only because Final Fantasy VII is already viewed by many to be the greatest RPG of all time. If the remake sullied that in any way, Square Enix would be given holy hell by part of its central fanbase, and that would definitely not be desirable for them. My only worry for a remake would be that they'd fiddle with the wonderful battle system a little too much. If they remade the game in the style of, say, FFXII, I think I'd cry myself to sleep on my bed.

So there we go. It's confusing. Are Square moving forwards or treading back along old paths? I'm glad to say that they're doing both, because it means they please as many FF fans as they possibly can. On one hand they're doing some brave new stuff but they're also re-using the best ideas from the past and openly returning to the world of FFVII. So I think there's something there for everyone.

Matt

I hope so. And I think you're right, especially in consideration of the fact that despite the new direction that Final Fantasy is spinning off in, they're remaking Valkyrie Profile for the PSP, they're remaking FFIII for the DS, we have a wonderfully old-school Mana game on the way for the DS as well, and we have remakes of FFV and VI to look forward to for the GBA in the not-so-distant future!

Personally, the only other thing I could want from them is an eventual remake of my favourite game of all time- the much maligned FFVIII. I have a certain sentimental attachment to it as it was my first ever RPG, but that aside, it's just so good! The originality of it is stunning, especially looking back now at how it compares with other games in the genre- it's completely different. I loved the characters, loved the little details like the mini-games, the magazines and the minimalistic approach to menus and bars in battle, loved the music, loved the storyline (by the way, what do you think of the Ultimecia/Rinoa theory? I'm a believer myself). I even loved the junction system. By other fans, it must surely be the most hated installment of the series, but my defense of it is long and passionate, so I'll spare you and leave it for another time.

I hope my ramblings have been coherent, and cheers for your time.

WingedJedi


Matt

Oh, I would definitely be a believer too, except that I don't understand at all why time would give poor Rinoa a heavy and bizarre akcent. Despite the flaws of Final Fantasy VIII, I love the game, and I enjoyed it more when I played it the first time than I did IX or X, to be honest.

There are many things that are very strong about FFVIII. The characters are well-developed, the Junction system is so wonderfully in-depth (my second-favourite system of the series), the music is absolutely fantastic, some of the scenarios are incredibly exciting and dramatic, and what else can I say? I can't blame you for liking it so much.

In any event, you don't need to worry about your ramblings; it's MY ramblings that had better be coherent, because I'm the guy in charge here, and if I'm not coherent, well, that wouldn't be good. Thanks for the letter!



On slimes


Greetings Slimer

I was curious as to what forces does it take to maintain a slimes shape? Normally it would just ozze out and be a puddle due to planetary gravity. That and the point is an oddity as well.

Matt

Ah, nothing too exciting. Some simple surface tension does the trick; it's the same principle as wondering why every single drop of water on the ground doesn't immediately spread out infinitely.

I don't have much time since i'm taking a hazardous waste training course and I'm on the road for that. It just got me thinking what would happen if you poke a slime with your finger? Would there be any toxic effects?

Imperial Mog


Matt

Well, Mog, it depends largely on the slime! Normal slimes wouldn't do much at all, but metal slime residue is known to be carcinogenic if ingested, and bubble slimes contain a highly toxic, less viscous gel. Call your Poison Control Centre immediately if you come into contact with one of those!



Lots of Final Fantasy X-2 mail, today, for some reason...


So, what's the deal with everyone hating on Suikoden? I mean, honestly...I know 108 characters may seem overwhelming and really, only a handful of them get any sort of character development...and they don't have the greatest graphics and the normal gameplay is rather simple, but holy crap! The Suikoden games are my favorites ever. The stories they delve into are so deep and complex and all that. I really like the fact that there generally isn't a true evil in the games. The world isn't black and white as it is in most RPGs, but shades of gray. And they mix it up with the occasional duel(my personal favorites) and the stratigic war battles that offer a nice change of pace during the game. I can go on and on about these games, but I won't.

Matt

I don't know what to tell you. I can't really play the best judge, because the only experience I have with Suikoden is a couple of hours that I played back in my youth, when I borrowed it and a Playstation from my friend Ken, along with Final Fantasy VIII, Final Fantasy Tactics, and a few other random games. I wasn't really all that impressed, but in retrospect, I don't think I gave it much of a chance. You're right, though; Suikoden is not by any means a game that everyone loves, and it isn't just confined to the more universally disliked III and especially IV. I'm not sure why!

I've also been noticing people talking about gameplay vs. plot and I'll have to throw my hat in the plot corner. Gameplay is nice, but I don't play RPGs for gameplay. If I want good gameplay, I'll pick up an action title or FPS. Plot is where the RPG genre really shines. I've experienced all emotions playing RPGs and I've even cried at several parts in many games. That's never quite happened with other types of games. I'm not saying RPGs are necessarily better than other genres, but they just fill a different role for me. That's probably why I prefer plot based games over the super awesome and complex gameplay of...well, honestly I can't think of any RPG where I would say it has GOOD gameplay. I mean, how exciting is gameplay going to be when you just get into random battles and take turns hitting each other? Of course there are always action RPGs like Kingdom Hearts and the Mana series. The action-ness of KH is probably one of the reasons I didn't really like it.

Matt

Grrr. If you feel that all that battle systems have to offer in RPGs is "taking turns hitting each other", then that's perfect evidence that the games you might be playing have craptacular or boring game mechanics. There are many games out there WITH good gameplay, and those are the ones that are absorbing; those are the ones that hooked me into the genre in the first place. There's a certain amount of planning, logic, strategy, and risk involved in any good RPG battle system, and when put together in the right way, a wonderful experience is created. Also, I could easily argue a similar path as you, by saying "If I wanted a good plotline, I'd pick up a novel or watch a movie." Yes, there is more story to be told in RPGs than in most other kinds of games, but the gameplay in RPGs is different from that of every other genre as well. It's the marriage of that unique gameplay with the amazing plot you speak of that makes these games incredible. Am I right? To me, there's no question.

Another thing I wanted to talk about was everyone's obsession with Final Fantasy 7. The game is good, but people put it up on this pedistal and it does not belong there. I realize that many people got started with this game, but there are so many better games out there. It seems that most Final Fantasy fans are split into 2 groups: Final Fantasy 6 is the best and Final Fantasy 7 is the best. I belong to the former, of course. 6 is so much better than 7, I can write 300 pages as to why...but I don't have that kind of time. Let's just say the materia system was retarded, summon animations were too long(and kept getting longer), and the plot was rather weak. Cloud looks kinda goofy, too. Cid was better in 7, though.

Matt

Well, I definitely agree with you when you say that Final Fantasy VI is the superior of the two games, but VII is still a great title, and I have to say that I'm PAINED when you say that the Materia system is retarded. It was so wonderfully complex, and there was nothing more exciting than to find new and weird Materia laying around! I don't really believe that the plot was that weak, honestly, though VI's was better, I think, in comparison. Cloud might have looked a little goofy, but that's not really anything new for Final Fantasy characters, is it? The whole polygonal thing helped to make just about everyone goofier than they might have otherwise, too.

And while we are talking about Final Fantasy, I'll go on the record and say I enjoyed Final Fantasy X-2 alot...but I'm a sucker for love stories that end on a happy note. I also thought the combat system was the best of any FF game. I've always enjoyed the class changing FFs over the others.

In closing, I think everyone should go out, buy and play all Suikoden games. They rock. Plot over gameplay. FF7 is overrated(but still good). FFX-2 is awesome.


Matt

About FFX-2, I think that a lot of the game's detractors (and there are many of them!) don't give credit where credit is due. X-2 was far from being my favourite game, but as I mentioned above, I think that the battle system was quite something.

In any event, we don't really see eye-to-eye on a few matters, but that's okay; different points of view is an important part of this column. I'm glad you wrote in to convey your opinions, and I hope you'll write back sometime soon!



A mistranslation can mean a thousand words!


I've heard that in the Japanese language version of FFX, Yuna does not say "I love you" at the end but "Thank you" to Tidus. Do you know if that's true? If so it does put a bit of a different spin on things.

--Teresa--


Matt

Perhaps it has some more symbolic meaning when paired with the details of Final Fantasy X-2's plotline, but to me, I guess it would make a bit of a difference regardless; namely, was that "episode" in the forest just a quickie, or something more meaningful? I did a couple of quick Google searches to try and find the answer for you, but I couldn't really locate an answer. I'll keep my eyes open for you, though!



A Wii little tactical RPG


Ah, the talk of Fire Emblem is like a sweet breeze. I'm one of those people that has to get every possible character and keep them all alive even if I never use them. I truly love Sacred Stones for the branching class system. It was such an improvement over the first US GBA version. I was really sad that Path of Radiance didn't have that.

Matt

I know! It's so addictive to try and obtain everyone, but I greatly fear that I've missed a couple along the way, and it pains me so. At the very least, I haven't allowed anyone to die just yet, though it's taken me about six or seven retries to make that happen. Small price to pay, I figure.

I can't wait to get my hands on the first US release as well as the Gamecube version, which I've heard to be described as the best of the series so far, despite your little disappointment over the class system that you mention. It's just SO exciting.

I'm very excited to see what Fire Emblem Wii holds. Honestly, I would much rather have a Fire Emblem DS game, but I will take what I can get. Nothing against the Wii, but ever since I started playing Fire Emblem for the GBA I just really like taking it wherever I go. Tactical RPGs on the go. Such a great invention. Bring me more portable Fire Emblem.

- Macstorm


Matt

Agreed. And you have no idea how quickly that game makes three-hour train trips go by. It's really quite shocking, in fact. One would think that the half-hour to forty-five minute battles would make it a very unattractive game for portability, but the fact that you can perform temporary saves and resume combat just about anywhere is quite the feature as well.

Fire Emblem enthusiasts unite! And here's to the best launch-lineup of RPGs in the history of Nintendo!



Which one, which one?


Hello! I just have a couple brief questions that can hopefully be answered quickly. First, I've read in seperate parts of this site that Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner is for PS2 and PSP. Which one will it be for? In the 'upcoming games' section, it says PSP. But I clicked on a link to the game's page from a news update (I think back when E3 was going on) and it said it was for PS2. Also, Gamestop.com says it's for PS2. Can you clear this up for me? I'm definitely hoping it's for PS2...but if not there's always Persona 3 to satisfy me.

Secondly...well I forgot my other question so I guess I'll save it for another time. Thanks!


Matt

While Persona 3 will definitely be coming out for the Playstation 2, I wasn't so sure about SMT: Devil Summoner, because there does appear to be a lot of conflicting information out there. Thus, I went... to the source. I checked out www.atlus.com to discover that indeed, it will be a PS2 title, and I assume that that will cause you to be filled with joy and happiness, while causing poor PSP owners to grimace yet again. Hopefully, that helps!



More on music!


Hey Matt, I just got the soundtrack for Final Fantasy 12 (imported it), and I must say, it is very very good. I didn't expect it to be that nice. I got the limited edition, but even if I hadn't, I'd still be impressed.

This may actually change my outlook on FF12. I replayed the demo, and made it through both scenarios. I wasn't so morose this time. Matt, are there any upcoming games that you're excited about musically? Have you just went "Ooooh. If the game's as nice as the music, it'll be sweet." I'm still counting down to Persona 3. Yay! What do you think of Valkyrie Profile, Matt? Have you played it?

Matt

I've certainly heard good things about the soundtrack, but I almost don't want to get my hopes up too high, just for fear that they'll come crashing down just because of some irritating thing. The thing is, there haven't really been any FF games that I haven't loved the music of, so I'm almost naturally fairly confident that whatever the game does hold will be very good at the very least.

Musically, I can't wait to hear what the music is like in Xenosaga: Episode III. After seeing how much the music improved (and it did improve!!) in Episode II, I really hope that Kajiura can take on the last chapter and bring the series home in a phenomenal way from a musical point of view.

There's no denying, though, that what I CAN'T wait for at all is Final Fantasy III. I'm so anxious to hear what has been done with all of the great themes of that game, and it's one of the very many things I'm looking forward to with regards to that amazing game.

As for Valkyrie Profile, I never played the original; however, I played almost a half-hour of Silmeria's demo at E3 to try and build a perspective so I could talk about the darn franchise. It's a really unique blend of styles, honestly-- a sidescrolling RPG? Who'd have thought!? It was absolutely gorgeous, graphically, and the battle system, while complicated, seemed to be a lot of fun. I'm really looking forward to playing the new game, but I'll be damned if I have the time to do so. If only I could muster the strength to polish off Radiata Stories, I could move on with my life!

All kinds of curiousty abounds, so let me know!
Later!

~Donovan


Matt

Curiosity killed the cat! Luckily, I don't know of a similar statement that applies to humans, so I think we're in the clear. Thanks, Donovan!





C L O S I N G
IN CONCLUSION:

I just don't understand why some guys have the desire to shave their legs. I never will, either, I'm afraid.


Flashay!


***Answers to June 20th's Questions***

#232. a) Lemonte - 405 points (So many of you guessed "Firesmite", from Wizards & Warriors II, that it left my head spinning. The clip isn't a slowed-down version of the background theme inside the volcano, though; it's a part of the absolutely eerie background music that plays while you're trucking around Planet 6, Lemonte, in Solar Jetman. Good try, everyone!)

#233. b) Final Fantasy - 375 points/750 for Dermot (This absolutely awesome question was submitted by Dermot. The letters you get spell LILTY, and anyone who has played Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles knows where that creature comes from. Thanks for the submission!)


***Today's New Questions***

#234: "Forget about going to Guadosalam. It's so quiet, you'll..." what, according to a girl in a little red dress? (340 points)

a) ...think you arrived in a ghost town.
b) ...jump out of your skin!
c) ...go crazy.
d) ...go deaf.
e) ...scream!


Reader-Submitted #235: Which columnist published my (Bainick's) very first letter?
(325 points)

a) Ask Google
b) Ask Heath
c) Ask Roku
d) Ask Andrew
e) Ask Sensei


Some new items have been added today! Thunder spells are now dangerous attacks to watch out for, and with Haste and Slow status, things are bound to pick up soon. Some competitors are frothing with the notion that an apocalypse is near in the competition... everyone, get ready!


--------------------------
STRAGGLERS: (people who need to check their e-mail or somehow get in touch with me because they have unclaimed items- if you fall off the list, it's TOO LATE FOR YOU! Check your spam/trash folders for my messages if you're not getting them, and I'll check mine, too!)
  • Gaijin
  • Gilgamesh
--------------------------

SOCK's Item List

*You may obtain these items upon reaching the listed point benchmarks!*

2,000 points: Your choice of Blind Spell(1 left) or Quick Spell(1 left)
3,500 points: Your choice of Confuse Spell (2 left) or Slow Spell (2 left)
5,000 points: Your choice of Thunder Spell(2 left) or Fira Spell (2 left)
7,000 points: Your choice of Haste Spell (2 left) or Super Sneak Glove (2 left)
10,000 points: Your choice of Point Tripler (2 left) or Light Converter (1 left)
14,000 points: Your choice of Hyper Beam (1 left) or Annoying Curse (1 left)
19,000 points: Your choice of Rename Card (2 left) or Vanish Spell (2 left)


Click Here For Item Descriptions and Contest Rules!

SOCK's Prize Shop

*You may SPEND points here in order to obtain any of the following prizes- new ones may appear at any time*

2,000 points: Matt's Mom's Cookie Compilation- 6 fantastic recipes right out of Matt's mom's amazing kitchen! Yours, upon request. (5 left)

4,000 points: Intro Paragraph Cameo- If you feel like having a piece of Q&A all to yourself for a day, but you're not up for answering a bunch of questions, this option might be just for you! Say the word, and the Intro Paragraph is yours to do whatever you want with for a day. (5 left)

15,000 points: Nintendo Wii Canvas Carrying Bag- It's simple and white, with blue print, and two drawstrings; I picked this up while waiting in the nigh-infinitely long line to play Nintendo's new console at E3 2006. If you'd like it, I'll mail it to you free of charge! (1 left)

15,000 points: Pokémon 10th Anniversary game case- Not as special as it sounds, but useful for carrying up to 4 DS games or 2 DS games and 2 Game Boy Advance games. Translucent plastic with a silver Pikachu and print on the front. (1 left)

15,000 points: Bonus Cohost Opportunity- I like giving these out because I don't have to pay for shipping. (3 left)

20,000 points: Cohost Opportunity #4- It might sound like a lot, but it'll be here before you know it. Your next chance to reign over Q&A with yours truly. (5 left)

22,000 points: Slime Keychain Dangler- Fresh from the Square Enix booth at E3 2006, this cute little guy can be yours. (1 left)

22,000 points: Slime Snail Keychain Dangler- Anyone remember Slime Snails from Dragon Warrior III? I managed to snag one of these, too. Strut with Dragon Quest pride!! (1 left)

25,000 points: Full Host Opportunity #1- This is it. Write your own Q&A section, without having me interrupt, break in, or steal your sunshine. Be RPGamer's new idol for a day! (1 left)

30,000 points: Nintendo DS Lite Carrying Case- This won't quite fit old-model DS handhelds, but it's lightweight and flashy. White and black with an extra zippered pocket for carrying games, and a hook to attach to clothes, backpacks, or whatnot. I received this at Nintendo's Pre-E3 Media Briefing. (1 left)

30,000 points: Your choice of Megaman X4, X5, or X6 for the PSX. If you're into the Megaman series as much as I am, and you don't own any of these, I don't need them any more, now that I have purchased the collection. You can take your pick, and I'll send it to you in the mail with a handwritten note of congratulations from myself. They aren't RPGs, for sure, but I'm working on it for the future. (Sorry, NTSC-format only) (3 left)

50,000 points: Suikoden for the PSX. Play the game that started off the entire series! Josh was generous enough to donate this exciting prize, so it would be cool to send this to a good and loving home. (Sorry, NTSC-format only) (1 left)

100,000 points: Arc the Lad Collection, for the PSX. Donated by ~Sean~~, so thank him! This collection contains four RPGs from an often-overlooked series. If you can get to 100,000 first, you can call this your own. (Sorry, NTSC-format only) (1 left) *********************************************************


Well, well, well. Prepare yourselves, for there will be more Q&A to speak of tomorrow! Do you have something to contribute to the conversation at hand? Do you want to get involved with the SOCK? It's never too late to start, and I love hearing from new voices. Whether you're a Q&A writer, or just a reader, please come back for more sometime soon!

slimey@rpgamer.com
***Matt needs some fresh air.


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