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May 16, 2007

Matthew Demers - 22:26 EST

THE THUNDERSTORMS THAT rolled through here last night were like nothing else I've ever been in, ever. I was just tabulating Sock 2 for the day when the sky grew incredibly dark and then a horrifying shade of gold-green-grey. Within a minute, the rain was coming down in such incredible torrents and the wind was blowing with such incredible force that I genuinely thought that our windows were going to shatter inwards. Incredible. And scary.

I curled up in the corner like a scared puppy, and played DS. Good ol' DS, comforting me in times of duress. As it turns out, there were tornadoes in Michigan as well as in the southwest of the province. So, really scary.

It's time for the question-answering to begin.




LETTERS
T minus minus one day!


Hey Matt,

Sean asked if anyone remembered the old Might & Magic games -- well not only do I remember them, but my anticipation for Etrian Odyssey has triggered enough of a nostalgia for that style of RPG that I just went back back and started a new game of Might & Magic IV-V: World of Xeen last week, and am finding it every bit as fun as I remembered. For those that don't know, M&M4: Clouds of Xeen and M&M5: Darkside of Xeen each have their own self-contained quest and world, but when installed together, you can travel back and forth between them at will, and new areas and quests are available. As far as I know, this is the only game where you can not just import your characters into the sequel, but seamlessly jump between them and progress in both at the same time. Ever heard of anything else like that?

Matt

That is really neat. I know there are other games out there where you can import characters to the next game. Golden Sun for the GBA comes to mind, and I think that's the way that the Quest for Glory series worked too. Never, though, have I heard of a game that can integrate itself and its sequels together, unless you count an idea that's currently way more popular/mainstream: Expansion packs. Anyway, that's really nifty.

By the way, I'm going to have to disagree with you on Etrian Odyssey not being of a similar style. In my opinion, the defining characteristics of that sub-genre of RPGs (in addition to traits common to all RPGs) are 1) Creating your own full party from scratch, with enough variety in available character types that different players will have substantially different experiences depending on the party they make; 2) exploration (usually but not necessarily first-person and grid-based), where the dungeon itself is as much of an obstacle to be overcome as the monsters are. This might be because of complicated layouts that require mapping, puzzles, or tricks like teleporters. They also tend to have a pretty stiff challenge level. This covers classic PC series like Wizardy, Bard's Tale, Might & Magic, and a number of D&D-based games. As for console titles, the only one that really comes to mind is the Shin Megami Tensei series. Etrian Odyssey strikes me as a lot closer to this family than to either Dragon Quest (with set characters, overhead view, and comparatively simple dungeons) or Dark Cloud (action-style, single-character, and simple dungeons that are really de-emphasized, serving as just a backdrop for the fighting and collecting gameplay). In particular, the touch-screen mapping clearly hearkens back to the grid-paper maps players had to make to get through the early Wizardry games. Are there any other games or series in this vein that I'm overlooking?

Matt

Yes, and that's the problem. There are games in the Dragon Quest series (DQIII), for example, where you do create your own party from scratch, choosing from a number of character classes; where dungeons can be difficult to navigate and the difficulty level is high. The 7th Saga is another game that fits the bill, the original Final Fantasy game does too, and there are others as well. Overhead view... well, I don't think that the first-person aspect is the most necessary thing (plus, I think that in fact, some old video games directly based on D&D were sidescrollers)! Maybe I have it wrong, though; perhaps games like those should be included in a D&D-like subgenre of some kind.

I don't think I've seen anyone on RPGamer mention GameTap. The Might & Magic games are old enough that they're difficult to get running on a modern system, but I signed up for a free trial of GameTap, and have been pretty impressed with the way that it removes the painful setup process of getting them to work. If you haven't heard of it, it's a PC-based subscription service where you pay a flat monthly fee ($6-10 depending on how many months you buy), and get unlimited access to a full catalogue of 800+ older games. Everything I've tried so far has worked without a hiccup, and it's been a lot of fun to test out a bunch of games that I had never wound up playing when they were first out. For RPGs, the selection is very Sega-heavy on the console side (Phantasy Star I-IV, Shining Force, Landstalker, Beyond Oasis, and Shining in the Darkness). For PCs, it has the early Ultima and Might and Magic games, as well as the full set of Infinity engine D&D games, which includes some real classics. So the selection isn't comprehensive by any means, but there's some good quality there, including 3 of my personal all-time top-10 RPGs (M&M: World of Xeen, Baldur's Gate I & II, and Planescape: Torment), so I'd recommend it to anyone looking to get some quality older games for a reasonable price. Since the games are pretty old, pretty much any PC from the last 5 years should be able to handle it -- you might want to check it out if you ever have time.

Matt

I see! That's interesting. It'd be neat to obtain, but for me, anyway, I already have the Wii's Virtual Console. Seeing how often I get the chance to sit down and play with those older games, getting a "sister" Virtual Console would be not a good move.

Ooh, I wonder if they have King's Quest games? Or Space Quest? Or really old arcade-style games like Round 42? That game ROCKED!

Moving on, I did wind up getting Pokemon, but shortly after getting the first badge, I was seduced away by the siren song of Puzzle Quest, which is one of the best DS games I've played so far. Combining puzzle and RPG mechanics seems like a wierd idea at first, but they actually go together very well, and fix some of the niggles with each genre (lack of structure and progression in puzzle games, occasionally passive and repetitive battle systems in RPGs). There's a surprising amount of strategy in the battles, too, with different types of mana to try to get, lots of different spells to use, and of course, the need to think about what the board will look like after your move so you don't give the opponent an advantage. I just wish that it had online multiplayer -- the battle system seems like it would be great fun with a human opponent. Now I just need to finish it before Etrian Odyssey comes out.

Good luck with your teaching.

--Boojum

Matt

Wow- those are high praises! From many people that I've talked to, Puzzle Quest sounds like it's a game that, while imperfect, is one of the most addictive things on the planet. At least, though, Puzzle Quest hasn't been shown to cause lung cancer or liver damage over long periods of use.

Also, you'll have to defy Einsteinian mechanics in order to finish up the game before Etrian Odyssey is released; it came out yesterday. Have fun!!



The philosophical debate behind real-life save points.


The savepoints question is an interesting one. I think we all have a personal list of things we would do if there were no risk to doing them, but to me the moral questions are more interesting. Would it still be immoral to, say, rape or kill somebody if you were capable of going back afterwords and undo all of the damage you caused, stopping even the momory of it from ever existing. Alternatively, would it be "good" to cure somebody of a disease on one path, if you could then go back to a point when they were still suffering from it and choose not to help them? Without consequences the basis of any moral frame breaks down entirely.

Matt

And alternatively, you could look at it this way: If you're the victim of any such horrendous act, you could just hit "Reset" and do things differently to avoid the situation in question. The result is, I guess, that in the end, everybody ends up resetting until they get the life they want. Unfortunately, while other people won't remember any terrible things that YOU do, you might still remember the terrible things that happen to you because of others. Those experiences could still have a profound negative effect on your psychology.

So, I think that in the end, because of that fact, the concept of "morality" will still have its place. What an odd philosophical conversation, I must say.

I do indeed hate when I buy games I know I won't play for a long long time, but it can have some advantages. I'm currently snapping up the cream of the last-gen crop for about $20 a pop and at the rate I play I won't run out of games until we're all trying to decide between the Playstation 4 and Xbox 720.

Matt

Only that long? I'm pretty much resigned to the fact that I'll be dead and buried long before I ever get around to playing the games I've accumulated. In ZOMBIE form!

Finally, is it too late to get in on SOCK 2?
Eakin

Matt

Nope! You can sign up anytime before the end of May. Just let me know, and I'll stick you on the scoreboard to fight for the chance to win something cooool.

Thanks for your letter, Eakin!



A newbie Pokéfan, Fire Emblem lover and Dragon Quest enthusiast!? This is my kind of guy...


To the Q&A host 'o the day,

There were some great questions on Matt's page the last few weeks, so I thought I'd take a gander at some of them...

Matt

Yay! Like the refreshments on the table at a fun party, that's what they're there for.

1. Playing Pokemon?

This was the question that I wanted to write-in about right-off-the-bat...

Honestly, until a few weeks ago, I had never played a Pokemon game in my life. But after hearing over and over again how good the actual GBA games were, and after doing some "research" into the series -- I thought I'd give it a try with Pokemon: Diamond for the Nintendo DS.

But let me explain myself for a second...I was certainly aware of the marketing, the craze, and the anime throughout the 90's - but I've never actually sat down and played the games, themselves. Like more than a few other series' I missed out on them at their height while "I was out of the loop" on the game front doing mission-related work and attending college in the 90's. After looking into the series further, I found that there seemed to be elements that reminded me of the great times I have with favorites like Fire Emblem, and other great hand-held RPG's, including: an original concept/approach, a slick presentation, the ability to recruit multiple characters, leveling capabilities, new abilities, skirmishes, taking advantage of the various elemental strategies, etc.

Long story short, I also decided to go ahead and order Pokemon: FireRed (GBA) so that I'd have an idea of what to expect out of Diamond in the general sense, and so as to see what the original game & storyline was like -- if even with the beefed-up visuals, extras, et al. I think it was a good choice! Since, I've logged ~ 30 hours on FireRed and am having an awful lot of fun. I'm probably going a little slower than I could/should, but that's only because I'm enjoying leveling the little buggers up so much (I've got a little over 50 of them). I've got a great game on my hands, it appears, and I'm sure Diamond will be just as good, and maybe even better, once I fire it up. Really look forward to it, and nobody can claim I never tried something new!

Matt

Good for you! Now, the real fun begins. When you find a friend (or brother) to compete against, the addictiveness level goes through the roof, because it becomes incredibly fun to try and raise new "surprises" to send out in the heat of a battle. The Wi-Fi addition for Diamond/Pearl is absolutely awesome for that reason.

If you ever need a trading or battle partner or anything... I'm your man.

2. Which games are your "comfort games"?

Good question. For me, I seem to return to a number of series' when I just want to pick up the controller and play a great game that's FUN which would be my definition of a "comfort game". Here's a sampling:

- Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King
- Fire Emblem: "The Blazing Sword" & "The Sacred Stones"
- Mario's various games (often Mario Kart)
- Ratchet & Clank: "Going Commando" & "Up Your Arsenal"

Matt

Ohoho, yes. These days, as I said a few days ago, pretty much any gaming at all is comfort gaming. Fire Emblem is a game with such awesome replay value, too, though, you know. Depending a little on chance, and a little on the strategies you choose, you can really make any of your characters into powerful warriors, and thus get a unique set of superstars every time you play. Plus, the game is just so awesome for strategy RPG fans like you and me and some guy named Dave reading this column right now. (Hi, Dave! Yes, I'm talking to you.)

To clarify, there are a ton of other great RPG's that I enjoy immensely, but not a lot of them do I just fire up at will due to the time investment & immersive nature. Those I play straight through with an additional focus, perhaps to return to them again in a few years after I've completed them. DQVIII & Fire Emblem are exceptions, often, due to unique features that allow you to play certain functions of the game at will, including random map encounters, leveling side-quests, etc.

Matt

It's true. Man, I've wanted to replay Dragon Quest VIII since the moment I finished, just to see what Angelo and Jessica would be like if I invested most of their skill points into Fisticuffs. It would be, how do you say... 'crazy.'

3. Don't you hate it when you're addicted to buying games you can't play?

Yes, yes I do. Like the majority of your readers (it seems), I have a massive backlog of games that I've yet to complete, as is, but there are too many games that I'd love to add to my collection so I really don't hesitate to pick up new releases if I'm really excited about the game. That said, I've never been one to try to fly through a game only to get to the next...so I know that they're patiently waiting when I can finally get to them. I have tried to reduce purchases as of late, and have even traded in a lot of games that I've lost some interest in over time, or that I don't think I'll ever play, so as to help myself a little. I'm actually working on my backlog right now, and besides playing Pokemon: FireRed (GBA), I've fired up Metroid Prime (GC), and Super Robot Taisen (GBA) again recently. All are awesome!

Matt

See, I could totally use a semi-apocalyptic event (with few casualties, preferably) to disrupt the flow of the world for, you know, a year or two, so that I just have to exist rather than carry out responsibilities. Assuming that the power stays on, it would totally give me time to catch up on the gaming I've put on that roster of things to play. Then, by the time the world starts to return to normal, and companies start to produce games once more, I'll be ready and waiting!

And how about the recent Dragon Quest news! Both DQM: Joker (DS), and DQ: Swords (Wii) will be hitting U.S. shores! Hopefully at some point in 2007. Wa-hoo!

Matt

Total excitement! Just last week I mused that Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker was probably never going to be released here. How wrong I was! I nearly choked on my breakfast cereal when I read the news, because between that, Swords, and the big DQIX, the series' future has never looked so bright! Here's hoping that Dragon Quest can snowball into something massively popular over here one day. (It could happen!)

Anyhow, the other questions were worthwhile, as well, but I figured I'd better limit this so as to meet y'alls length requirements (if I somehow managed it, as is).

K.D. McCallister
Fort Worth, Texas

Matt

I appreciate the letter, Mr. McCallister. More later? I hope so!



When I'm not with you I lose my mind...


Mister Matt -

First things first, thanks for the popsicle the other day, I chose to believe it was my favorite Sir Isaac Lime style Otterpop. Gotta love Otterpops, you can eat 'em two, three, even four at a time, and there's no stick which is great because I find scraping my teeth on a popsicle stick akin to fingernails on a chalkboard, or that weird sound rubbing styrofoam makes.

Matt

B-but, how do you hold such a pop? Do you keep them half-wrapped while you eat them, or what? Mmm, ice cream sandwiches just crossed my mind.

So, Pokemon. I just can't bring myself to even give it a fair try. I think it's mostly because when pokemon really got big over here I was working at the late Tower Records which is dearly missed. I had no idea how poor the music selection at Borders was until they shut down, although I had no shame in looting the corpse, so to speak, during the going out of business sale. Anyways, I worked as the recieving clerk, mostly scanning everything into inventory, purchasing used music, creating sku's for new product, and was one half of the team responsible for buying for the rap music section (the other cat did the popular rap, I was responsible for the trickier task of buying the local northern califoolya stuff (I listened to Hyphy music before Keek invented the term and was still saying highly reactional instead.) I also ocassionally worked the register.

Anyways between every parent coming through there having their kid whine for pokemon cards and get them, spoiled brats (and to quote you, yes I know they're just kids, but. . .)to the fact that having to make new sku's for every damn toy or poster that came through I unwillingly learned the name of all, 150 was it?, pokemon despite the fact that I was, you know, the local rap guy where it's all about street cred, knowing who's really real and who's a studio gangsta, I don't think I could actually stomach playing one of the games. Silly, I know, but my pride would be irrepairably damaged.

Matt

I can't say I know much about this street cred that you speak of. Actually, using the terms makes me feel like I'm a mom or something.

Anyway, I also can't say that I blame you for your feelings. I mean, if somebody fed you pickles eight hours per day, every day of the week, you likely wouldn't want to sit down to a nice meal at the end of each day that includes pickles on the side.

Funny thing is when I talk to people about this I invariably refer to it as the Brittney Spears effect. That's because when every other dude I knew had , well not a crush, but more like animal lust for this sweet young pop princess, I was telling people if I ever saw her in the street I'd punch her in that fat nose and make it even fatter, just for having to scan 500 copies of Oops, I Did It Again into inventory on the first shipment. And watching it sell out in the first few days in this small(albeit college) town.

Matt

...and do you remember how overplayed her first hit was? Holy crap. I really liked it when I first heard it (and there's a rather embarrassing incident tied to that, by the way, which I won't get into), but it quickly drove me insane. Now she's shaving her head and randomly flashing her privates, apparently, what a dear.

Now if the pokemon could just breakdown, shave their heads bald, and check into rehab, I would be a happy man.

kezzy

Matt

Oh, there you go- haha, I guess that teaches me not to read down the page before responding. Though, you know, I think I'd be thrilled to see what a rebellious Jigglypuff would look like, completely hammered/stoned/both and out on the town behaving like a badass. Perhaps there's money there for Nintendo after all!

Hee hee, thanks. Hit me baby one more time with some mail, if you please.



QUICKIES

There is also a carnicorous goat you can talk to in Terranigma, it eats its partner.

Bainick still goes for knowledge points, 'cause they look cool!

Matt
Um yes. My friend Tyler has some KP and they're purply-coloured. <3

IN CLOSING

Okay, that does it. If you don't feel like continuing the discussion about the implications of save points in real life, then please, I'd like to hear what you think about the idea of Etrian Odyssey. Is it going to put dungeon crawlers and traditional RPGaming back on the map? Or are you uninterested? If so, why? Tomorrow is designated EO day, so give me your letters!

Until tomorrow, ciao.



Send a Letter!

Unanswered Letter Backlog: 5 - not good



slimey@rpgamer.com
Matt had a power-nap of destiny this evening! It was good.


Yggdrasil Labyrinth... I wonder why the name was changed in the end?

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On my Wishlist:

1. Dragon Quest IX

2. Fire Emblem: Goddess of Dawn

3. Super Smash Bros. Brawl

4. Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker

5. Metroid Prime 3



On my Portable Playlist:

1. Pokémon Diamond

2. Lunar Knights/Final Fantasy VI

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:

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2. Summer '07: What are you looking forward to?

3. Do you DESPISE Pokémon? Tell me why!

4. Etrian Odyssey: Excited about a new dungeon-crawler?

5. Don't you hate it when you're addicted to buying games you can't play?



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