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May 24, 2007

Matthew Demers - 21:21 EST

NASTASIA WOULD SAY "If you want some decent columns, you'd better get on the letter-writing, 'K?"

As it stands, I just don't know if I'll have enough to pass on to poor Arpijy, who may or may not be coming in to do a guest-host tomorrow. Fie!

At this rate, I might just have to start offering special super-rewards for people who write in letters, like an all-expenses-paid trip to Guelph, where you could spend an evening with me playing two-player Secret of Mana. If I was rolling in money, I could...

But no! Write me something, for *@#@'s sakes, or these rants will intensify to CATEGORY FIVE-- in other words, a Major Rant.

And with that, I present to you a condensed column that is thirty-three and one-third percent JuMeSyn.




LETTERS
Weird random humourous little bits, and Jamaican bobsled RPG characters.


I somewhat suspected a supersaturation of sublime soundtrack snippets had been spliced soundly into the signal supremacy of my signature style. Having learned where to leave things be, I shall limit myself to three, the number of musical links in letters henceforth - you see? Today they come from games starting with 'T'. This is okay, hopefully. If not speak to me! Tengai Makyou Zero has a surprising level of challenge. I actually resorted to level-grinding in order to down Ninigi (the final boss), because I never found a way to heal the group at once and he killed me several times. But you want to hear a bit of the series' signature craziness, so a fairy on my team for most of the game is named Subaru. I have yet to see if Camry or Hyundai become popular RPG names.

I will include one more piece of music from this game, because I find it distinctively different and quite interesting.

http://gh.ffshrine.org/song/7248/38 This is for big boss battles, and I find it nicely dark. I seem to recall you liking the boss themes....

I'm gonna talk a bit more about Tengai Makyou IV now, because the game has SO MUCH crazy stuff going on. Such as the character of Bob, the Jamaican bobsleigh rider. Who joins your team for the Mexican jaunt. Remember back when we were discussing the lack of black characters in RPGs? Well, Bob is black (naturally). Exactly why he's training to ride bobsleighs in El Paso is not quite explained (something about it's not snow but SPIRIT that's important).

Matt

Well, it's not totally out there. Don't you remember the 1988/92 Olympic Winter Games and that Jamaican bobsled team?? There was a movie made about them sometime in the '90s, too. "Cool" something. "Cool Runnings," that's it.

I don't really get why Bob would "naturally" be black, though, unless you're being facetious. I'm not very good at reading that sort of thing. Isn't there a large black population in Jamaica to begin with?

Anyway, there's nothing wrong with a little randomness in our RPGs. It's been there for years, and in mainstream series. Take Final Fantasy: The 4 delusional little old men in FFIII who just happen to think they're the heroes instead of your party? Octopus royalty running around trying to drop five-ton-weights on opera stages?!? Yeah.

There's a moment in Oaxaca that demonstrates just how insane this game is though. The Indians on the enemy's side have determined what Bob's weakness is, and are going to use it! His weakness, because he is from Jamaica, is reggae. Yes, those evil Indians have a boombox that plays reggae - and he can't resist! He spins in circles and chants 'Rastafarian!' Then he gets really mad and determines to break the hold reggae has over him, and learns a new special, 'Rasta'.

Matt

It's a good thing that Jamaicans are a laid-back people. If somebody off in China made a game that poked such fun at American culture, the U.S. would probably put out a security watch or something. Very interesting, nonetheless.

I'm going to send you another piece of music from IV, and you will like it. http://gh.ffshrine.org/song/6603/101 This is from the final area of the game: New York. Wandering through several ruined skyscrapers and then entering the enemy stronghold, which appears to be in the Statue of Liberty, New York looks damn good and feels intense thanks to this dark melody. Oh, and New York is apparently an island off the coast of Michigan. Did you know that?

Matt

I can't say I did.

I just finished Treasure Hunter G. The story is unimpressive at best, but the fighting is unique. Each fight looks like a tactical battle, with the player's team and the enemies moving around a grid of squares and being able to strike from the side and behind, with movement costs and a number of other facets more familiar to a tactical game. The review ought to be out in the final PoV update of May, since I can't very well review it in a letter to you.

Matt

Yep! And of course, let me take this chance to give a shout out to anybody else. If you feel like reviewing a game for our site yourself, it's just a matter of writing into Points of View. JuMeSyn knows... he cranks out about seven per week. (That's one for every day!)

Interesting note regarding its soundtrack: though seven composers contributed, the largest number of individual pieces appear to have been done by John Pee. Who is, obviously, not Japanese. Yet his work stayed in Japan. One sample of a boss fight: http://gh.ffshrine.org/song/893/31 Oh, and I'm fairly certain that a translated ROM of the game is out there. Which you could just peruse and delete after 24 hours, of course. This is the first game Sting developed, and you know Sting from Riviera. I also have Yggdra Union but haven't played it yet. Based on these games, Sting does something interesting with each of its titles.

Matt

Oooh. Yeah, I wish I had Yggdra Union, because it's one of those games that has kind of just been swept quietly under the rug. It hardly made a *bing*, let alone a bang, on its release, and it's unfortunate, because I've heard it's pretty darn neat. Plus, I loved Riviera. If there's one regret that I have about not having a PSP, it would be that I won't get the chance to play the remake, assuming it ends up being released in North America.

And speaking of Sting doing interesting things... did you look at that link to Baroque I sent? That WASN'T a music link.

Dearie me, I had to shift things around this morning. I finally cleared out a space for my 24 DS games instead of leaving them in a corner and getting knocked over. I keep my Japanese and English Saturn games separated because of the big cases the English ones have, but I've run out of room for both. Running out of room for Super Famicom boxes, maybe for GBA stuff, even Genesis. Don't think I keep my things in impeccable order, I just try to take good care of my extensive game collection.

JuMeSyn

Matt

As you should! I find it excruciating when I go to a friend's house and see them tossing game CDs or DVDs aside carelessly instead of putting them into their rightful cases. I'm hardly the most organized person either, but when it comes to my games, I'd be distraught if anything ever happened to them.

Thanks, JuMeSyn!



Errrruoouuuuuuuuuye!


Changing something about a series, let's see... I'd really like to give other RPG series the Final Fantasy over-exposure, can I do that? Sure most companies don't spend as much money on pretty FMV's, but I'd like to think that almost 10 years after FFVII broke ground over here, other series could be equally (if not almost) as popular. I believe there are other series that deserve it.(Suikoden and the Tales of series would be my votes)

Matt

Unfortunately though, let's look at reality: I honestly think that while RPGs have "bled" into other genres a little bit (a good thing!), the Final Fantasy series itself isn't as popular as it was at one time. The sales tell the whole story: Final Fantasy sales have fallen off considerably since the days of FFVII and VIII. I like to think that other series have come up in popularity, though, too, so maybe it's not all bleak. It can't be that bleak, or else we wouldn't have so many games in development right now.

I'd bet, however, that Final Fantasy will be dethroned as number one if they continue their plans for a PS3-only release. A lot of people just assume that the system will catch fire "eventually" but I'm not sold on the idea myself, and I'm sure that many people would agree with me: $700 is just way too much to spend on a Final Fantasy game.

As for the more specific changes I'd wanna make:
I'd like to make DQ8's battle theme longer, it just doesn't make sense that it's only a minute long, where as most battles aren't half that long.

Matt

It's true that it does tend to loop a lot. I still thought it was awesome; one of the reasons I'm so excited about a traditional-battle-system Dragon Quest IX is because there can't not be a new battle theme now, can('t?) there?

I'd like to cut the recruitable party members in Chrono Cross by about 1/3, I really think that game could have been much better without random people joining the team.

Matt

I fully agree with you here. I always felt the need to change my party in that game just to see what other people were like, but in the end, I wound up getting too frustrated because each party change resulted in a half-hour element-grid-allocation period that drove me nuts. (No, there's no way I'd ever use an Auto-Allocate option, so don't even say it.)

I'd really wanna put one save point in FFIII's World of Darkness, it's just, I died halfway through my first time and I'm not interested in starting all over again any time soon.

Matt

Ahhh! So true as well. That last dungeon was just cruel and unusual. I spent four hours getting to the end, and seven levels later, I knew that a Game Over screen would result in me not playing the game again for a long, long, LONG time. I don't have that kind of time to waste! I guess they just wanted to keep certain things true to the original... but you know, in the original, I don't think you were healed after bosses. Imagine how difficult would that be?

I'll leave you with words I just noticed on the back of the Tales of Phantasia box "Basic reading ability is needed to fully enjoy this game."

Whitney

Matt

:o Whoa, total coincidence: My copy of Pokémon Diamond says THE EXACT SAME THING! It's a good thing that I'm learning how to read in all of my spare minutes.

Thanks, Whitney, for coming through! Your letter is like gold to me.



I dunno what on earth that last subtitle was supposed to be... I am VEERD.


Dear Matt,

In a video game magazine's QnA, if you will, a person wrote in asking why most video games don't explore the potential for telling an incredible story. I bring this topic to you since he said quote, ""Sadly, only a few games have exploited this enormous potential, and these games are all RPGs (e.g., the Zeldas, Knights of the Old Republic I and II), so the aforementioned potential remained untapped. Furthermore, reading a book or watching a movie is a passive experience, while playing a game is an interactive one. Books and movies are supposed to immerse you in their stories, yet only games can truly do this. And yet, for the most part, they don't. Why?"

Then the vgm people responded with how Roger Ebert wrote how "videogames by their nature require player choices, which is the opposite of the strategy of serious film and literature, which requires authorial control...I believe the nature of the medium prevents it from moving beyond craftsmanship to the stature of art." They continued the response with how some games can prove him wrong like Shadow of the Colossus, but that ultimately we have a ways to go in terms of storytelling.

So, my question is how do you view RPGs--as a medium for storytelling, as a vehicle for entertainment, or a little of both?

Matt

My conclusion is that Roger Ebert is a one-dimensional idiot. I've discussed this in the past, but I have to say that while I don't see why they wouldn't be a form of art, it primarily doesn't matter. The chief purpose of a game is to be enjoyable, as far as I can tell, so I have to say that my view is that RPGs should be, first and foremost, a vehicle for entertainment. However, that's not to say that they can't be viewed as a storytelling medium as well; it's just that it's definitely true that NOT all RPGs tell great stories. I enjoyed the original Dragon Warrior, and I'm playing the crap out of Pokémon, both of which clearly emphasize other things over the plot.

The set of RPGs that do exist to chiefly tell stories well... well, I've (and most anyone reading this, I'd assume) long maintained that they're at least as gripping and emotion-invoking as all sorts of novels out there. Stuffy media people aside, I'd like to see ol' Roger actually PLAY a couple instead of making judgments based on absolutely zero first-hand information. Then let's interview the guy, and see if he's still in the "thumbs-down" category.

By the way, one would assume the Blue Mage class requires knowledge of (Black Mage and White Mage skills). Also, concerning access to the Grand Prize in SOCK2...my guess is either through special bosses, future planned sidequests, OR a secret benchmark acquired through certain classes, you find the (six medals told in your weekly story segments throughout Tuesday's SOCK2 updates) and in turn, get some kind of access to the Grand Prize. Am I close or far off?

Have a nice day,
BLG

(Concerning the second question, you can either cut the whole question completely OR cut out what's in parentheses just to toy around with SOCK2 contestants as you wish. My personal guess is you based the job classes on FFTA's job classes, and that the path to the grand prize is right in front of you from the start, but you wouldn't expect it to be shown until late in the game. Keep in mind I'm not asking you directly how to be a blue mage or how to get the grand prize, this is all guessing on my part that you can have fun with at your discretion. Hence, the opportunity to cut the stuff in parentheses or the question completely. That's all.)

Matt

Mwahahaha. All of you people assume that there's a Blue Mage class out there. But is there really? I've never actually said that there is, have I?

And yes. How do you win the competition? There might be clues right from the start, but I'll only say what I said before: You've got to excel in many different ways in order to come out on top, and win the Grand Prize... which is going to be really really good (worth $150, at least, it looks like!)

That is all. Have a good day!



QUICKIES

What things should be a part of every RPG review?

Obviously some sort of "how much will Carabbit like this game" category needs to be included. That would be so helpful!

Carabbit :D

Matt
The ultimate in personalized RPG reviews. I dunno, though... the technology might not exist until 2360 or so. Solution: YOU start writing all the reviews in the whole wide world! <3

IN CLOSING

If you will, write in a letter or two addressed to Arpijy for tomorrow. I won't suggest any new topics, because the old ones have barely been touched. And yes, this is the Q&A version of "you don't get dessert until you finish what's on your plate." Now, go to your rooms... and play some video games for me.

Bye guys!



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