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ASK MATT
As I Feel, You Feel
April 12, 2007

Matt - 22:27 EST

OH, WHY NOT? I'll start today with a bit of a big announcement. Sock 2 will officially begin on Tuesday, May 8! If you're interested in signing up, do so now, because you can only join in the fun until the end of May, when I slam shut the gateway to fun. The potential is there to win a Q&A host position, perhaps a piece of merchandise, or even brand new games of your very own! If you're interested, hunt down the link in the sidebar, or just click here if you're lazy. I'm going to run a trial version of things in tomorrow's column... a "beta test" of sorts, to make sure everyone knows how to submit answers and such. Anyway, all Sock 2 updates will show up on that page, so keep it bookmarked for new information!

It's a late column, so let's begin right NOW.




LETTERS
Oh heavens, maybe.


Salutations,

So currently my backlog consists of .hack//GU and not much else. It seems that over the last few months I have finished more games than I can remember. Unfortunatly it seems as if it will be awhile before I can afford a new system.

So my question is this... other than Persona 3 and the .hack//GU sequels, are there any good rpgs coming out for the PS2?

Matt

Yes. In fact, the PS2 will have one of the strongest showings over the next few months in comparison to its baby brother and the rest of the shiny new systems. There's Wild Arms 5 coming out, the Kingdom Hearts Remake thing, Atelier Iris 3, and holy crap, Dawn of Mana! That's exciting. I swear, if only Sony had stuck to the PS2, they would have won this "war" hands-down.

Another question I have is this... do you listen to music while playing rpgs? I tend to put on the subtitles, turn down the volume and listen to the newest music I have. Voice acting is much better today and many of the musical pieces are really good, but to be honest I really wouldn't know. Whenever I think about Suikoden 3 for instance, my mind wonders to Nine Inch Nails, because that all I seemed to listen to. Its a habit I got into back in the day when the same bit of music would play forever. Smashing Pumpkins always reminds me of Chrono Trigger for instance.

Matt

Oh heavens no. In fact, I'm the opposite. I can't play a game without its original music turned up to reasonably-loud levels, and the majority of music on my computer is in fact video game music. Yeah, really. For me, sound that is even mediocre helps to three-dimensionalize a game's atmosphere. What are the other two dimensions? Uhh... I dunno, "three-dimensionalize" just sounded cool.

What games would you like to see rereleased on a current console? Suiko1 and 2 are obvious ones for me, but I would really like a copy of Earthbound to play on my shiny DS.

Matt

Oh heavens yes. What I wouldn't do...

Unfortunately, your chances of such a dream coming to fruition are only slightly better than having the next Mario game appear on the Xbox 360... it likely ain't happening. They just tried to bring over Suikoden I+II's remake for the PSP a little while back, but Sony apparently deemed them not good enough to make the cut, and we never saw them. And the creator of Mother hates North Americans, and from an interview I remember only vaguely now, is refusing to make another Mother game ever. No, really. What a sorry state of affairs...

Once again I have rambled on about things for to long. So I will bid you a fond farewell until next time.

Arkadysmile "Screwed over by the Man on his tax refunds :("

Matt

I'm still awaiting my tax refund; I could buy a PS3 with them, and have some money left over! But I won't...



Ouch!


I bought Super Paper Mario on my way to work yesterday - and then I left the bag at work!!! *screams in anguish* Okay, I feel better now. God, I hope nobody decides to 'borrow' it before I get there tommorrow (I am definitely getting there early).

Matt

And then it was raining on you all the way home, you didn't have your umbrella, you got home to discover your fridge was broken, and then discovered at an unfortunate moment later in the evening that you forgot to buy new toilet paper. Yes, I've had a few days where the world seems to hate me. The key, I've found, is to make like Squall or somebody and hate it back.

The wait will be worth it, if my five hours of gameplay is any indication. Have fun!



1, 2, 3, streeeeetch!


Hey Matt!

When it comes to a heroine that can totally hold her own, my choice has been and always will be Lenneth Valkyrie from Valkyrie Profile. To me, she is one of those characters that you can get attached to by exploring her story. She is a goddess that is in charge of guarding Midgard from the forces of evil, and initially does it without questioning the fact that she has no memory of the past. As the story goes on, you feel for her when she makes the startling revelation of her past and then tries to do something about it. I see in her a character that has the strength to overcome any obstica, whether it is physical or emotional, and do it in an outfit that doesn't come from Victoria's Secret (unless they have an armor division catering to the ladies of Valhalla...). My girlfriend and I loved Valkyrie Profile because of a strong character like Lenneth. To this day we still pop it in to the old PS1 and still feel that she is one of the best characters ever in an RPG.

Witecat

Matt

And there's no doubt in my mind that the game has received such a very strong following because of that great characterization. It shouldn't take an unrealistically-positioned wedgie to get gamers to appreciate female heroes, but sadly, many game developers don't seem to have caught onto that. I'm slowly working towards starting Valkyrie Profile 2, myself, but I've never played the original. Have you played the sequel yet? If so, what are your thoughts?



Wah, I'm behind.


Hey Matt,

Also, once again I'll try to keep this related to the current round of Q&A but keep it brief: my answers to the current hot topics are, in order: No, but it looks fun; Haven't actually played any of this year's new games yet due to excessive backlog of last year's games; The ones that don't take themselves too seriously like Disgaea but still manage to have some depth and creativity to them like Suikoden; Sounds likely, especially with how many PS3 exclusives jumped ship; And, save points no, healing points no, but combination healing/save points yes, because it takes the challenge of having to manage your abilities out of the game and lets you go into boss battles a little too easily. Or at least they should beef up the boss battles to compensate.

Keeping it short but easy this time...take it easy!

-- Arpijy

Matt

Yuck, I don't even remember the hot topics from over a week ago. Anyway, to respond to a couple of things, yes, last year had an uncharacteristic glut of games, especially compared to 2005, which featured exactly one release worth talking about (okay, maybe two). It makes you wonder if we'll be caught up in a few years, or whether we'll still be playing Final Fantasy XII and Zelda: TP in 2010. It's funny, because for so long in the 1990s, my main source of gaming was to replay previously-finished-off-RPG over and over again. There's just no time for that anymore.

Annnyway, g'day to you, Arpijy. Hopefully you get a chance to finish up that co-host position of yours sometime soon!



Minor Zelda: Twilight Princess spoilers, so tread a bit cautiously.


Hey Matt-san! Inquiring minds want to know: what exactly is your most recently acquired Zelda item, and why does it, in fact, bite?

Matt

It's that darn spinner. It's not that the idea isn't cool... I just hate items that only really come in handy in extra-specific places. "Oh, me, there just happens to be special grooves in the wall right here! I WONDER how they conveniently got there?" I dunno, I'm weird. A big, fat, weirdo.

I like some variety in my heroes. Folks out to save the world? Can be fun. Especially if they lose mightily at the very beginning (DQVI, anyone?). However, I do like it more when things only gradually build up to that point. A nice example in my mind is the original Grandia. Your hero is just a kid who wants to explore, and over half the game is geared towards that aspiration. You don't really have the "save the world" bit hammered into the storyline until you reach the fourth and final major map region, but even so, there's been a logical, steady progression and escalation of events that have led you to that point. It lends a kind of subtlety to the storyline that you don't see much in your pure save-the-world formula games.

For another good example, I'm almost finished with Wild ARMs 3 as well, and while exploring old areas I keep coming across books and other texts that I know I must have read before, but which make a hell of a lot more sense near the end of the game. Still, there are various clues to pretty much every plot point in the game hidden in various books, without unduly tipping the player off until after the fact. Again, I like.

Matt

Yes, I love that too. An RPG feels far more realistic when in any given town, people talk about more than just "the cave to the southeast" or the next town on the map. The little hints through books, NPCs, etc, also help to make a game so much cooler when playing it for a second time. How many times have you gone "OH, I didn't realize that ______!!" ? It's not that it happens often or anything- it's just cool when it does.

Now, as for villains, I like ones with a bit of personality. It doesn't have to be a particularly GOOD personality, but anything is better than 2D "Whoops, where was I hiding till just now?" super bad-guys. For those few surprise final bosses I did like, however, each time there were clues to something else being out there, without really telling me what. That sense of "what the hell am I getting myself into" really adds to the boss. A nice example here would be The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening. You're kicking boss butt, finding the things you need to escape the island, and even though the final boss is mentioned nowhere in the game before you meet it (which is not usual for Zelda games, after all), you still have the strong feeling that SOMETHING will happen which you will not like very much. Some of the parting messages from the dungeon bosses really help with that.

Matt

Mmm yes. Again, you're right; when some completely random monstrous entity takes centre stage as the last boss, I find that it detracts from your feelings. You're supposed to be fighting this final battle passionately because you feel strongly against this villain! But how can you feel passionate hatred for a villain that you've only known for a matter of minutes? Silliness. I have to admit, though, that I get a bit of a shiver when I get past what I think could be a final boss only to find out that there's still something more difficult I need to get through to see those credits!

Back to personality. Have you played Devil Summoner: Kuzunoha Raidou for the PS2? The villains in that game have fairly well-developed personalities and motives that are revealed to you as you go on, and even though the last boss is quite a surprise when first revealed (just before the final dungeon), it still makes sense in an odd way.

Matt

Nay, I haven't, I'm afraid. I do my best.

So, on a hypothetical note, what would you think of a game based on the villain's point of view? Not an insane Kefka or Sephiroth type, but a generally sane, calculating warlord who just happens to desire the entire world in the palm of his hand, and is willing to kill a lot of folks in order to get it? Or a fallen hero sort of situation, where the character starts off as a near-stereotypical do-gooder, who eventually gets fed up with it all and switches allegiances? And more importantly, is allowed by the game designer to actually follow up with his villainous tendencies, instead of getting picked up by a railroad plot and forced to still do the good thing? I've known some games that allow you to do this to an extent, but even then you still have to follow the good guy plot at the end.

Matt

Oh, I'd love it! I'm all for creatively-told games, and playing from the other side would be really neat for a change. And hey, I wouldn't even mind taking the reins of Kefka for awhile. Imagine the great minigames! "Fry Mobliz" and "Try to zap Gestahl" would be great games, especially with something like the Wii remote. "Where're you aiming??" I love it!

Hmm.. on to other topics now...

Due to lack of funds, I really can't comment on most of your current hot topics, so let's skip to the bottom. Healing Points and save points. Yes on the former, not important (or perhaps too important) on the latter. If you make healing points too abundant, then obviously you reduce the actual challenge of the game. As well, healing point abuse really eliminates the need for inns, a staple of the genre. The Grandia series made a really good compromise on this, with the mealtime conversation at the inns, which added a lot to the story.

Matt

Oh yeah, that's a fun idea. I've often wondered how on earth RPG heroes can go for the entire adventure often without taking a single bite of food, especially given a typical burly hero's physique.

The problem can also be extended to healing ITEMS however. Rocket Slime is a good case in point. From the very beginning, it's pretty hard to take out your little slimy buddy because he's got twice the health of anything else on the field, but then the designers compound the difficulty problem by making healing herbs really, really common.

Matt

Yes, it's pretty much impossible to die in that game. I really thought that as the adventure went on, enemy attacks would get more powerful, but no, they only ever do half a heart of damage. Silly. But, then again, difficulty really isn't the point of that game... and the tank battles help to make up for that shortcoming anyway.

Save points are a different matter. If the game uses them at all, then their placement and numbers become very critical to the difficulty of the game (see: Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter). On the other hand, many of the games I like most have a save-anywhere feature, either on the worldmap or just wherever. While convenient, many of these games also feature times where prematurely saving, or saving in the wrong place at the wrong time, can get you stuck in a situation where you cannot beat the current challenge, and yet cannot exit to build your strength otherwise. The SaGa series in particular has put me over the barrel in that fashion quite a few times. It also taught me the wisdom of multiple save-files, and that I should be damn sure I know I'm prepared to take on the final boss before I pass the point of no return.

Matt

I think that many of us have experienced that at one point or another. I learned the hard way to keep an extra save file when I got stuck in the midst of a sequence of very, very hard battles in Final Fantasy Tactics, back in the day. (You know which one I'm talking about, probably...) I had to restart after more than thirty hours, and I didn't play it again for at least six months.

And finally, if you're interested in an untranslated DQ game, which one tickles your fancy the most? Not that I'm going to get you anything (food comes first in this apartment), but I'm curious now.

Your man in Japan,
Gaijin Monogatari

Matt

Hahaha, damn! Yeah, as of yet, there's no admission fee for reading my column, nor will there be. But man, if I ever had the chance, I would have loved to see the Dragon Quest V remake in North America. It's tragic that it didn't make it here. I can long all I want, but Square Enix seems too preoccupied with their main macho moneymaker, the mean Final Fantasy series. Oh... welll.....

Thanks, Gaijin! Good to hear from you!



From the horse's mouth!


Heyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy Matt!

First of all, to the guy who was bugging out about the 5/5 for Super Paper Mario - I gave it a 5 not because it's a perfect game, because it's not; I gave it a 5 because of the sheer amount of fun that I had while playing it. Very few recent games have been as much fun as Mario's latest, and its score should reflect that. Of course the game has flaws, which I mention in the review, but they don't take away from the fun factor. After all, at the end of the day we're just playing games to have a good time.

Matt

True, and it must be said that many reviewers have different world-views. Some people don't think that an RPG can even be taken seriously unless it has a sprawling plot and deep characters. Some people think that a "perfect" RPG can still have a mediocre battle system as long as the other parts of the game are out-of-this-world. What's fun for you might not be fun for someone else, and that's where the issues lie. Reviews are at least somewhat subjective by default. The important thing is that the scores are all backed up by reasonable supporting statements, and indeed, the written portion of a review, to me, is far more important than the set of numbers.

Ramble, ramble, goes me.

OK, so as a reviewer, I feel obliged to weigh in my opinions on the topic of reviews. Personally, I wish that I could write reviews without scores, but unfortunately, scores are what people seem to care about most. When I write a review I know how I feel about the game, but I'm often forced to arbitrarily decide what score to assign each section of the game; it's hard to turn a game's features and flaws into a simple number. I believe that games can't be quantified, but it's my job to do just that. I'm not going to try to change things, but I ask that you, the precious precious readers, take the time to read reviews rather than just glance at the numbers. In fairness, if you guys are taking the time to read this Q&A, chances are you're not the glancing type anyway. :P

Matt

Hear, hear. Oh, and speaking of which, here (hear) is the review, if you haven't read it yourself, yet.

On that note, and while I'm here, let me propose an interesting question. In order to write an official staff review for RPGamer, we have to complete the entire game, which makes a lot of sense. However, I have a nasty tendency to stop mid-RPG when I'm caught up with something else to do, usually taking the form of a new and shinier game. This doesn't necessarily mean a game is bad, but it can't be great either if it doesn't hook me enough to complete it. How far into a game do you think is sufficient in order to make a really informed judgment about a game? Do you think that a review really can't be written unless a game is completed 100%? Should us poor reviewers really have to play all the way through games like Spectrobes and Valhalla Knights?

Matt

Personally, I feel like it's only fair to the developers. Yeah, you can make the argument that "a good game would never require this much effort to get through" but you never know when a game will turn around by the end and leave you with a warm, fuzzy feeling inside. I've had it happen before. If, of course, you get to the end and the whole thing was a mess, well, then you can totally dig in and have a field day.

I'm currently playing the DS version of Puzzle Quest, and am taking my time with it, but will write up a review as soon as I'm done. It's frustrating at times, but it's definitely one of the most addictive games I've ever played. I literally almost got hit by a car today because I was playing it while walking from the subway to work. :D

- Ishmael

Matt

Priorities, man! Life or Puzzle Quest, life or Puzzle Quest...? Difficult choice. I tried playing my DS on walks before at home, but I don't know what it is- the bobbing up and down, or what, but I felt dizzy and headachey after a short while, and gave up. Of course, I didn't have to avoid oncoming traffic; my gravel road back on the farm isn't exactly what you'd call "high volume."

P.S. Buffy > Castomel.

Matt

Ack, I hope he's not reading!

Thanks, Ish!! Good to hear from yon fellow co-worker extraordinaire!



QUICKIES

Got Puzzle Quest yesterday. Horrible music, adequate graphics, seems like a sub-standard story. Tons of fun, slightly more difficult than I would've thought. What do you think?

Zohar Gilboa

Matt
Well, it's almost killed a staffer, and mesmerized a few others. Play at your own risk!

Beware!

For I am the quickie...

The Quickie of DOOOOOM!

Tremble before my might!!!

*Ahem*
Bye!

Matt
*trembles*
And so it (what?) begins...

Quickies rock my world. I wish people would write them more often. How about that FFXII: Revenent Wings?

Matt
RevenAnt Wings, yes? It looks awesome. I originally felt sick at the idea of yet another spinoff, but the game looks like a sprite-based Final Fantasy XII in terms of game mechanics, and well, this is just another reason that the DS is going to have an awesome year, eye emm aitch oh.

IN CLOSING

Friday is almost here! The end of the week! Much happiness! Now, now to think of something new for the hot topics. Hmmm. Think, think. Oh, OK. Earlier this week, we talked a bit about how it's a little bit sad that overworld maps are disappearing and games like FFXII would rather have you fly around majestically on a menu screen of destinations than through the breezy air. What do you think? Is the loss of the overworld a great one? Or is it a minor tradeoff for fancy graphics and shiny movies? Let me know!

Have a good day, all!



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That sounds reeeeal great.

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On my Wishlist:

1. Pokémon Diamond/Pearl

2. Fire Emblem: Goddess of Dawn

3. Super Smash Bros. Brawl

4. Dawn of Mana

5. Metroid Prime 3



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/Super Paper Mario

2. Valkyrie Profile 2: Silmeria

3. Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance



Hot Topics:

1. Have you been bitten by Puzzle Quest yet?

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

3. Which game has your favourite storyline?

4. What things make up a good review?

5. Where have all the overworlds gone?



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