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ASK MATT
Out of the Loop July 18, 2006

Matthew Demers - 17:03 EST

BACK TO NORMAL, for a few days anyway. Bainick will be joining us sometime later this week, so y'all could ask him whatever you'd like to know about Australian RPGaming, if you like.

Next week, though? NEXT WEEK will be no fun at all. I have to go to a Maple conference for the first four days (Maple is a sort of Math programming language, despite its more important role as national symbol and breakfast flavouring), which I hope will not be an incredible exercise in trying to stay awake. It was, largely, last year. So... my life next week will be pretty much divided between that, and RPGamer. Expect much in the way of complaints then! But not now. Nay, now is the time for letters!




L E T T E R S
This is familiar...


Holy sword Excalibur! Did you see the new FFIII video yet? This is the first video of it I've seen with an aural component, and let me just say I'm more eager to get it now than ever before. And I was really excited about it before. It alleviates my fears that it would be more Sword of Mana than Zero Mission. Look at all the little detail that are exactly as in the Famicom version: The damage numbers have the same color and font; the little stars and the sound at the spring, the orbs at the boss; the Southwind item has almost the same graphic, and the boss's dying sound is just a slightly updated version of before! The music is perfect as well. FFIII is my favorite Final Fantasy, even though it's not the best, and its boss music is my favorite music in the series. How much do I love it? I bought Chocobo Racing just because it had a remix of that song (and a good number of other good FFIII tracks). Watch it now!

--

Alexander M. DeMichiei out


Matt

Alexander!!! Isn't it exciting??

Not only have I seen that demo cave before, I saw it in English. And not only THAT, but I played through it in English, while controlling all four characters in the party! That moment was one of my first at E3 back in May, and I was absolutely overcome with joy. You're right; so many things have been kept from the original, the least of which is the old-style turn-based play. My gripes about the demo aren't evident in your video, though: Firstly, there was a rather surprising amount of loading at times, though that could just be an issue of a not-completely developed game's demo. Secondly, the encounter rate was quite a bit on the high side, though that might be tweaked in the end, too. All in all, though, this is one of the big titles of the year, as far as I'm concerned, and I've been more excited about this than even Final Fantasy XII from the getgo.

Hopefully, it won't be long before EVERYONE has had the chance to play it, too!! I'm so excited.



Essay-time!


Guten tag noch einmal Herr Demers,

Matt

Glückliche Mikrowelle, Herr JuMeSyn. Kann ich Sie für heute tun?

The initial thought I must clear from my mind has nothing really to do with RPGs, or games, or even technology in any sense. I would just like to declare for the record that all ticks, everywhere, must DIE. These are evil, disgusting, horrendous bloodsucking arthropods that must be exterminated! Anyone who disagrees: fine. Go play in the woods with your little bloodsucking pals. There's nothing like finding one of these cursed creatures on the stomach to make me remove all vestiges of mercy from my system. Aaaaargh, I hate these things so much!

Come to that, have ticks ever been featured creatures to kill in an RPG environment? I've seen myriad varieties of insects, plenty of arachnids, even some crustaceans, probably some centipedes at one point - but where are the ticks to slaughter??? If ever there was an enemy I would gladly slay umpteen times in random encounters, this is it!

Matt

Actually, no. I can't think of a single instance of tick villainry, in any form. Wait, wasn't there a game "The Tick" released a long time ago, based on the comic book? I guess you don't actually get to beat them up, though. I dunno. But yeah, real life ticks are disgusting and should take their Lyme disease to somewhere else. Wear full-length pants if treading through long grass!

I'll start the RPGamer-oriented content with a brief reminiscence regarding my attempt to play PAL technology on my little Super Nintendo. Back about 5 years ago I had been madly bidding upon Japanese RPGs via eBay, just because I foolishly assumed the time to play them all would be available. While pumping money into the pockets of importers it occurred to me that Terranigma was already available in English and ought to also be part of my collection. I had a converter; how hard could this be? Well, I found out. Someone in Germany sold the game to me and after playing through Soul Blazer and Illusion of Gaia I determined to complete the trilogy, whereupon I inserted the game into the converter and - nothing happened. I knocked out those irritating tabs that Nintendo put into the SNES to block non-North America software and tried again. Still nothing. It was through this means that I learned the incompatibility of PAL electronics with items from other regions. I eventually sold the game on eBay, but took a small loss. At least it wasn't at the level that horrible aborted Dublin trip turned into - but that's another story.

Matt

Well, that's unfortunate. To this day, I've never tried manipulating my systems to get them to play games they weren't meant to play. Of course, that means that I've never been able to play games that I wasn't meant to play. I guess my (very naughty!) emulation phase worked those kinks out of me, not that I mean to bring that topic up yet again.

In my last large message I broached the topic of popular music in RPGs. Now, I threw Zeromus into that because my imagination was taking a nap at the time, but I intended the discussion to revolve around future games being given an soundtrack consisting of extant popular (or not-so-popular) tunes. I agree with you about listening to the in-game music, the only time I might break this rule is if I'm doing something repetitive that requires me to listen to the same music for hours on end. But in the world of popular song exist plenty that could be readily appropriated to this cause. 'Gimme Shelter' is an awesome song anyway, and I can hear it hundreds of times without getting tired of it. 'Revolution,' 'Paranoid,' We Got the Beat,' 'Dead End Street,' 'God Save the Queen,' 'Strangers in the Night,' 'Ooby Dooby,' 'Great Balls of Fire,' and 'Come As You Are' are all vaguely applicable to the themes that occur in RPGs. Along with thousand of others... oh, yes, 'Personal Jesus' ought to be used by many games. On the other hand, perhaps an entirely classical score would be more appropriate. I'm not an expert on classical music but certain pieces - any of Beethoven's symphonies, the music from 'Carmen,' the 1812 overture - seem quite fitting for pieces of a game's score.

Matt

Mmmm. I'm unfamiliar with about half of the songs you've listed (or at least, their titles) but that's not really my forté, so I'm not too embarrassed about that. There are lots of great classical pieces, though, that could be used quite effectively.

Is that a tick crawling up my basement window!? Really, a tick-shaped bug is crawling up it on the outside. I really, really beg that you don't write about Death Stalker scorpions in your next letter.

Back to music, I'd love it if Prokofiev's Montagues & Capulets were included somehow at a dramatic moment of a game. I just get goosebumps when I hear the evil-soundingness of that piece of music. <3

Okay, getting back to actual games: why is Final Fantasy Tactics Advance so scorned? Is it because I haven't played the original FFT that I was compelled to drag my playthrough of FFTA out to ridiculous extremes, cursing the Thief ability Steal Exp for its maxing Marth out before anyone else in the army? Admittedly this came last year at a time when my GBA was my only gaming option, for reasons that will wait upon another write-in. But I managed to stretch my playthrough of FFTA out over 100 hours, so something was obviously done right there. My only experience with the original FFT would have been about 9 years ago, watching a guy making time pass by going back and forth between towns while hoping not to get into a random fight - which of course came. I didn't have any idea what was going on with such a brief snapshot.

Matt

For me, it was a combination of things. I shall provide them to you in a convenient easy-to-read list format!

  • I wasn't a fan of Final Fantasy IX's skill system, yet they pretty much brought it back for this title.
  • I was a HUGE fan of the original FFT's skill system, yet they ditched it.
  • The concept of laws were interesting, until they made some battles unwinnable (i.e. Dmg2Animal, or whatever it was called)
  • The epic storyline (though terrible translation) of the original was dropped in favour of something that felt "dumber".
  • The storyline ended up being almost entirely mission-based, and mission-basedness is never spectacular for me.
  • The make-your-own world thing never makes sense to me either. This is a world, not a sundae bar.
  • Battles were almost always trivially easy to win, especially compared to the original game.
  • Several spells suffered from the Tactical RPG spell-level syndrome (i.e. Fire might do 45 damage, but then Fira and Firaga will do just a little teensy bit more.) NIS TRPGs have the same damn problem and it drives me crazy.

It did have a few things going for it, and I DID enjoy the game, but it was, all in all, but I must confess that it was a big letdown compared to the original for me.

Here we go with another fabulous Dragon Force 2 update. I have now completed the game with 6 of the 8 monarchs, so by the end of July I should be done with the game. It packs outstanding replay however. And a true surprise; in my playthrough with Leni (elf queen, great magic but can't win a duel to save her life) she appears to die upon triumph. Every other character's playthrough thusfar brought a scene featuring said character rejoining the others and (presumably - I can't follow too much) planning for life after the end of the crisis. Leni had a few still images of her face forming a new constellation along with a bit of still text (in Kanji, so I have no idea what it said) and then the credits started. Think I'm right in presuming that my chosen heroine actually died for victory?

Matt

Perhaps. I honestly couldn't tell you.

A note that Dragon Force 2 brought to my thought processes; voice acting. Now, I enjoy it in the game because after watching enough anime there are certain phrases that I can pick out of the dialogue in hopes of making the overall plot slightly less obtuse. But the game's music never lowers in volume to make way for the speech, meaning that when the voices are coming over music completely unsuited to any competition I can't hear half of what is being said! Is this a common complaint?

Matt

Oh, dear. Yeah, that used to be a common complaint, and apparently it was a problem in the original Japanese version of Final Fantasy X, at least according to Gaijin, who wrote in about that very thing just a few weeks ago. I think developers have smartened up since then, but voice acting is, all in all, a relatively new thing for the genre, and when your Dragon Force 2 came out, it was even more so.

It's been awhile, but Panzer Dragoon Saga came up in conversation. Being one of the few, the proud, the unstingy who have actually played the English version, I thought enumerating why it's so very interesting would be in order. At this time I've played through it thrice, just because the title is so very much fun. The shooter/RPG hybrid concept may not seem like a good idea, but its execution certainly makes for an experience that is different from any other game I've ever played. The shooter roots are apparent in the battles. The player (Edge atop the dragon) occupies 90% of the screen at any one time, with a small display showing the screen divided into fourths at all times. This display is color-coded; green for relatively safe, yellow for dangerous, red for 'move now or get smacked HARD.' Movement can be done by the player at any time. The catch is that the action meter (it has a different name but I can't remember right now what the actual phrase is) only charges when the player is stationary. Absent a charge of some kind the player can only move. An RPG aspect is that the dragon's characteristics after a certain point are player-controlled, only within limits. Want an offensively-oriented dragon? Your defense will pay the price. The story is based within the Panzer Dragoon world and effectively differentiates itself from the general gamut of RPG storylines. And the ending ... it was quite sad. I'll have to play it again just to reacquaint myself with these developments.

Matt

Interesting to hear! You're of a rare breed, that's for sure; there are very few people, as you mention, who have had the experience of playing this game, and copies on eBay fetch hundreds of dollars at this point for that very reason. I really wonder how the game would have rated if it had been more exposed to gamers; would it still be regarded as being in such a class of its own?

Two more notes regarding Panzer Dragoon Saga. One, I recall Sega mulling over a followup if Panzer Dragoon Orta on Xbox sold acceptably. So for all the people who didn't buy that game - shame! And then there's the price aspect. Thanks to Sega of America's lunatic actions in the closing days of the Saturn, upon which I have remarked prior, either 2000 or 5000 copies were released to stores in English. I don't pretend to understand the vagaries of eBay's prices, but for some reason Panzer Dragoon Saga has risen to about the highest perch of Saturn titles in price (Radiant Silvergun is a Japan-only title that probably outreaches it - but that's not an RPG in any way). I got lucky and picked up my copy for 'only' a little over $100 US four years ago from a seller who didn't post a photograph. Good luck finding an eBay listing without a photo now....

Another topic that was addressed weeks ago dealt with people who only buy games for the supposed status conferred by owning rare titles. While I am proud to be one of the few who own an English Panzer Dragoon Saga, I didn't buy the game to put on the shelf and stare at behind a glass case. I bought it to play. And I have. People who buy games solely for their rarity are responsible for making the CD-i Zelda titles hellaciously expensive.

Matt

Yep. And, just for the record, there were slightly more copies released in English, at least according to Wikipedia. There was in fact an initial batch of 6,000 that was released to North American stores, followed by two subsequent batches of 12,000 more. So, there was a maximum of 30,000 English copies floating around the continent at one point in the past, though that number has surely fallen by now.

Also, I couldn't believe that Gamespot girl that said that she owned the NES Dragon Warrior titles just because they were rare, and she had absolutely no desire to actually play them. I'm sure some of you remember that one from awhile ago. It was a rather painful blow for a guy like me...

A series that has only occasionally been mentioned in Q&A is Castlevania. From your remarks I gather that your experience with the series has been frozen since the SNES days. I must confess to discovering Castlevania on GBA, of all things. Castlevania: Circle of the Moon is a fabulous title that must be played through five times to see it all - and I did. A former roommate of mine who is only interested in sports titles even played through it, and I distinctly recall him telling me 'I never got the point of gaining levels before this game.' Essentially the modern Castlevania games have added experience to the killing of monsters and items which can be used and equipped. Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance just didn't work with me for some reason. I finished it, but was so disinterested that I actively consulted GameFAQs while playing. Many more people seem to enjoy it however, so take my experience lightly. Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow is great though. I bought that in the spring of 2003 and played it for over a week solid.

Matt

THAT'S the one that my housemate rented a couple of years ago! Harmony of Dissonance. It looked remarkably different than the Castlevania I grew up with, but I liked the music so much that I went out on a fruitless hunt for it online after he brought the game back to Blockbuster. I've been toying with the idea of getting Dawn of Sorrow for the DS, but I'm saving up for the billion gaming-things that I "have" to buy this fall.

I could discuss further why those two aforementioned Castlevanias are so good, but instead I'll mention Symphony of the Night. Obviously I've never played the Playstation classic - which I label as such because I have played the Saturn port which never left Japan (damn you Sega of America!). In return for two extra areas, new music for the new areas, and a third playable character, the Saturn for some reason got lesser graphics than the PS (with a 2D game, mind you) and loading every time the player accesses the menu screen or goes to a new area. It's quite annoying. I would like to play the PS version for comparison - but that will doubtless be far in the future, so I comfort myself with the knowledge that I got to see things no Sony player can ever experience in the game. Oh, and it's really good. I shouldn't have to say that.

Matt

So everyone keeps telling me. In fact, the day I made that revelation (that I'd never played SotN) to the staff of RPGamer, I almost got virtually virtually beat up.

Tales of Phantasia I have played a bit of by now. I discovered something while playing it though; the GBA is ill-suited for playing in a line at Disneyland. Admittedly I should have remembered this from playing Fire Emblem in lines there almost three years ago, but for some reason I shunted those memories aside. Trying to play the GBA while constantly flitting in between sunlight and shade while the line keeps moving and people are talking to me and noise is everywhere impacts the experience massively. So far the title is reasonably engaging; or is that just my boredom with staring at other people in line talking? I think it's the former. I just thought to mention the game since no one else seems to on Q&A. While at Disneyland with three of my aunts, I noticed (hard not to) their appreciation of Johnny Depp's pictures plastered around the park prior to Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest's premiere. What's your take on Johnny Depp? And let me state uncategorically that I like the man a lot - he makes movies interesting.

Matt

Even taking the DS or DS Lite outside is bad news; it doesn't matter how backlit these handhelds seem to be, sunlight is just no contest for the screens. I tried it out the first day I got mine, and despite the wowingly-bright-ness of the screens, I still found myself squinting unpleasantly to see, unless, of course, a cloud passed overhead. Or a giant UFO, for that matter.

PC gaming for me is far too needful of precious hard drive space. Certainly I could install World of Warcraft, as a friend insists I do; or grab Civilization 4, or what have you. But the memory required! When I download like a madman all the time keeping the most space free is vital. Oh, and I have to agree that the keyboard just seems like an odd setup for controls. Certainly I've used it for ROMs (I own the original cartridges - butt out legal hawks!) but it never feels natural to me.

Matt

It is true that while keyboard control might feel icky, most games use largely mouse-based controls at this point. It still doesn't come close to a controller, as far as I'm concerned, but it's definitely an improvement over "press w to jump".

While I'm thinking about it, I'd like to voice my solidarity with Erika on weather issues. Maybe it comes from living in such a temperate place, but I just can't handle heat.

Matt

The heat ended up being quite livable, surprisingly, in my little basement hole here. It tends to get a bit moist down here over time, but despite the thirty-degree temperatures outside, it remained remarkably cool and dry inside, and yes, I'm still alive! That could be a good or bad thing, I suppose...

Glad to hear you've acquired the original English Fire Emblem off eBay. I'll deal with my many, many hours spent in its company immediately after talking about Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones.

The Sacred Stones came along for me last fall at a time when I was stuck in Arizona for several weeks with nothing much to do. So I had plenty of time to play it thoroughly (if you're interested in a different approach to Ross, Ameila and Ewan after beating it twice the option of keeping them in their trainee classes for different skill options becomes available). I'll probably attempt the Creature Campaign again soon, I had started it only to first get Knoll and then Natasha and then Colm killed in those damned Lagdou Ruins. It is easier than the first English Fire Emblem, which meant I didn't have to take up so much time with restarts on the game. And the class changes certainly kept me intrigued. Lute could be very useful as a Mage Knight, but not making her a Sage means giving up the high likelihood that she'll hit 30 magic naturally - is it worthwhile? Natasha is a good magic class either way, but being a Slayer is just so much more useful than a Valkyrie. Gerik is great no matter what he gets turned into. Joshua and Marisa I find make a dynamite sword-fighting combo. Neimi should pretty much always be a Ranger, just because Sure Shot is kind of pointless on an archer when their hit percentage is high anyway (sadly this means Innes is rather limited in most battles). Eirika and Ephraim don't have an option for class changing, but they're pretty good anyway. Seth is quite good for being super strong at the beginning. Yeesh, I spent a lot of time with the game.

Matt

Oh, I found Innes to be remarkably powerful, and I felt like I overused him through the game, especially compared to Joshua and Marisa, who I found to be largely useless; I really had to try to use them towards the end of the game, as their terribly low defensive abilites made them far too susceptible to everything.

The Sacred Stones was awesome.

Now: for the original English Fire Emblem I'll just go with a few differences you can expect once starting it. First; you won't have the option of delaying your main lord's promotion (and that promotion will be pretty late). So be sure to keep Eliwood well-leveled, and then when he's at level 20 just let others fight. Because another thing you can't do is fight random battles for extra experience; there aren't any. The enemies are finite unless you arena-level, but that carries risks of its own. Oh yes, and the game is rather more difficult than The Sacred Stones. Be prepared.

Matt

Excellent! I've been checking my mail every day; the package is due to arrive anytime now!

Now for a few of my own experiences with the game. The aforementioned playing it in line at Disneyland happened just after I had purchased the thing in November 2003, and I was obsessed. Certain battles sucked me in until I could finally complete them without fatalities. I did a pretty crappy job that first playthrough, and upon a cursory look at GameFAQs I learned of maybe 6 different characters I'd missed (the fact that dark tomes were for sale and I hadn't found anyone who could use them did sort of tip me off that I'd missed something).

I busied myself with a second playthrough on the regular difficulty level, trying to do it better. Upon finishing that I started up Hector mode. The first English Fire Emblem features three main lords, Lyn, Eliwood, and Hector. Lyn's quest is subtle cover for a tutorial in the early part of the game. Upon completing her short quest some time in the game's world passes and the player picks up with either Eliwood or Hector, Hector only being available after Eliwood has been completed. Upon playing the game I'm sure you'll discover that Hector is a great character - and be careful not to pump too much experience into him, else he'll be at level 20 when you can't quite promote. Hector's quest is similar to Eliwood's story but with several new battles, a few very different battles, and a story told from Hector's perspective instead of Eliwood's. Makes for a very interesting change and I liked it greatly.

Matt

You'd better watch it, there!! Don't go spoiling my game for me! Ah, the trials and tribulations of a Q&A host...

I busied myself through the spring with the very time-consuming process of obtaining 100% support conversations in Fire Emblem. This was done by having people at a C level conversation going into the final battle, and getting the B and A levels in the two parts of the final battle. Or by playing quickly through early battles... I don't know if I could do it again though. Then I set Fire Emblem aside for awhile, until the fall came and I decided to try out Hard Modes.

Matt

See, that's one of the main problems I had with The Sacred Stones; I got almost NO support conversations (about four, total) throughout the whole game, even though I did try to position certain units together quite frequently. I feel like I missed something because of that...

Eliwood Hard Mode isn't too bad, the difficulty mainly arises from the game suddenly making the player's character's level vis a vis the enemy's level matter a lot more. (If your character and the enemy are the same level, 30 experience from killing the enemy. If you character is one level higher, 27. Two higher, 24. Three higher, 21. It doesn't quite keep to that pattern but I've gotten single-digit experience from a kill at high levels). The enemies are stronger and more numerous though - death happens. Then I gathered the courage to try Hector Hard Mode. Now, I've not played non-English Fire Emblems, but I understand Hector Hard Mode compares with some of them difficulty-wise. And the difficulty of Fire Emblem has to be one of the reasons Nintendo waited so very long to bring the series out of Japan. Hector Hard Mode is one of the hardest things I've ever managed to complete. It sucked my attention in and tore it apart as with multiple battles I had to restart more than once. I'll save one story in particular from playing Hector Hard Mode for another time, just know that it ate me alive from time to time. And compared to Fire Emblem: Sword of Thracia that mode is positively easy!

Matt

Good to know. Hopefully it won't be long before I know what you're talking about. ^_^

I've probably sucked up way too much of the column again, so I'll end it shortly with this little thought to make us all feel much younger than the press likes us to feel. It comes, naturally, from Mystery Science Theater 3000 - 'It's the 80's, do a lot of coke and vote for Ronald Reagan!' So if you actually were old enough to vote for Reagan, please write in and comfort all us prematurely-aged people! Or Margaret Thatcher. For you, Matt, I suppose Martin Brian Mulroney is the 80's man. Bob Hawke for Australia, and I guess David Lange for New Zealand. If there are any Irish RPGamers out there reading this, maybe Garret Fitzgerald? Sorry I just don't feel like putting down any more politican names - I beg your pardon readers from other nations!

Matt

Ah, Brian Mulroney; one of the most hated politicians in Canadian history. I can't say I'm as well-versed as you in the 1980s international politics department, but uh, in my defense, I was rather young back then. The '80s occurred from the time I was a three-years pre-ripened ovum to the innocent age of six. Please, forgive me!

Better make this another addendum, then. I got caught up helping a friend try to raise his share rate on a private music site and made the problem worse because no one wants to share the music I like - philistines. Final Fantasy XIII seems to be a marquee title for Square-Enix, though. The game won't even be out for over a year and they've already got two spinoffs ready to launch? One cel phone game, - which requires that North American technology catch up to Japanese cel, and which I am distinctly loathe to participate in - and Final Fantasy Versus XIII, which seems a very odd title. If my Latin were better I could judge the appropriateness of Versus in the context Square-Enix has used it here. With so much already riding on FFXIII its success would appear to be critical for the bottom line. And of course with success further spinoffs would besiege us - yowza. Doesn't Square-Enix have people developing anything else for the PS3, or the Wii? Hell, even the Xbox 360, which has gotten FFXI and nothing else thus far? I share your predeliction towards playing Mega Man X - but of course had to stop after X4 because the remainder of the series has been a Sony exclusive. Please tell me what I missed by not playing X5-8.

Matt

You're right. Square Enix is definitely banking on the success of Final Fantasy XIII, which in turn will heavily depend on the success of the Playstation 3. I'll bet, too, that the timing of the game's release will end up depending a lot on how exactly the PS3 sells, a question that a lot of developers are probably nervously wondering about right now. I'm certain that it will do relatively well, and it's obviously a much-anticipated title, despite the fact that we know next to nothing about it.

As for Megaman X, you're not missing a whole lot; just some good music, the same storyline re-hashed again and again, a moment of horror (X7), and a return to goodness and much creativity with X8. I don't think Capcom has announced a further sequel, though, which is somewhat saddening.

My one experience with an online RPG came when just about everyone down at UCLA had finished finals and people in my dorm were determined to get me playing Warcraft III. I remember people coaching me, and while it seemed potentially fun I would have to play more to garner some notion of the addictive property that raged through my dorms in the 2002-2003 season. When people are telling you what to do in the game and I was essentially playing it with no knowledge whatsoever, the enjoyment is limited. Lastly: am I the only one disappointed by the absence of the victory theme in Final Fantasy XII? Certainly it would be harder to do without random battles - but that's no reason to excise it entirely! Even if just in the background after every enemy is slain, this is one of the good traditions in Final Fantasy.

JuMeSyn


Matt

Online RPGs have never turned me on for various reasons, the least of which is the fact that you might have to interact with other potentially asshatish players. Monthly fees are the real kicker for me.

Also, the victory theme IS present in FFXII; it just plays, apparently, when you complete a mission or defeat a boss. It even plays during the demo, though I wasn't terribly impressed with what I heard. At least it's there.

Phew! And with that, we come to the end of another of your horrendously long-winded letters. I swear, I need more credit whenever I include one of your letters in this column here. No matter, though; thanks for taking the time to construct your massive pile of thoughts! And, I'm sure I'll hear from you again soon.



Guess what the topic of this letter is?


I just got my copy of US OPM (Official Playstation Magazine); in this issue they were featuring a small blurb about the Sony Blu-Ray player. Guess what one of those babies are going to be retailing for in the US? $999. Hrmmm... Guess it's going to be more cost effective to just buy the fricken PS3.

Anyway...

SOCK - Yeay for random words and random guesses!

#258 - d) N_r%h Mrlb.urNe
#259 - c) Erngeons & bbbgons

Catch you later!
Maggie ^_^


Matt

Or you could resist! Resist the demon of advancing technology!!

I only hope that the PS3 ends up being a more reliable Blu-Ray player than the PS2 was a DVD player, because I was really disappointed with my original console when it stopped playing things correctly shortly after I got it during that first Christmas in 2000.

$599 might be "cheap" for a Blu-Ray player, but to me, it's just evidence that the technology isn't quite ready to be released on a mass level. Maybe Sony is right in this decision, though!! We shall see in the coming months, as I always say...



The Gospel on PC gaming, according to Zohar


Hi Matt!

Woohoo! I managed to pass my Real Analysis course (it was very interesting, but probably among my more difficult courses. Remeniscent of the first course in Calculus, which I also enjoyed). But that doesn't have much to do with RPGs.

Matt

Has it already been three years since I took Real Analysis? It has been. It feels like yesterday, though... and while I did really well in the course, and I learned a lot of important things in the course, it definitely wasn't my tastiest cup of tea, that's for sure. I'm still using many of the concepts from Real Analysis in my graduate studies, though. They've haunted me ever since!

I don't have a lot of experience in PC RPGs. I've tried playing Oblivion for a while, died of boredom. I don't really enjoy the huge worlds in some PC RPGs. I become overwhelmed by the task of exploring every nook and cranney in the game. I didn't mind how in Radiata Stories, for example, you start out in a pretty big town and some large areas to explore and only slowly do you discover the rest of the map.

Matt

It's pretty neat, and neatly pretty, Radiata Stories is. It's nice to actually have an RPG city have enough housing for all of the people that wander its streets. Too often, RPG towns consist of four shops, two houses, and 20 NPCs wandering about, with apparently nowhere to go home to. Star Ocean: Till the End of Time was good about that too, as was the original Summoner *shudder*. (I didn't play the sequel.)

But a game that's completely open-ended? Unless there was a story driving me, I don't think I'll progress in the plot too much. Sure, I might have some fun massacaring innocent bystanders for a while, but that would end there. I suppose that's why I don't like MMORPGs either. Tried WOW (and a few others) and mostly it's just "meh, another dungeon, another level".

I always prefer a great story to branching stories...

Matt

Largely, me too. And I KNOW that people will point out the fact that I've always said that gameplay comes before story for me, but it's true that I do tend to find that more "focused" stories lend themselves to more enjoyable games. Sure, the original Dragon Warriors kind of break that mold, but I'm certain that part of my love for those games stems from some serious nostalgia, all factored in nicely.

As for not being able to play console RPGs in the future, I agree that's somewhat of a problem. However, there are always emulators. By the time your PS2 will die, you'll probably be able to get a strong enough computer to run a PS2 emulator. You can't plug in game carts of older consoles, but you'll always be able to download the ROM for them. I even think it's legal if you actually own the original game. So that's not a real downside to console RPGs, IMO.

Zohar Gilboa


Matt

It's funny that emulation has come up twice in today's column now. I dread the emulation conversation because despite the fact that it's largely an illegal practice, there are definitely dozens of reasons that those laws should be loosened up a bit. Indeed, companies like Square Enix should realize that there is so much hype for games like Final Fantasy III DS exactly because fan-based translation groups took it upon themselves to do a lot of work a few years back.

In any case, I stray off-topic a little bit, but I agree with you; it will be a long time before the sun sets completely on older games. There's a market out there for retro-gaming, and the never-ending backwards compatability of Sony systems and the Wii's proposed Virtual Consoles are proof of that. I don't think that this trend is going to change dramatically, anytime soon.

Thanks, Zohar, for writing in again!



More on names, and games I have no time to actually play.


Hey Matt!

I was taking at look at your "Games Matt is Playing" list, and I was wondering, do you actually keep upwards of three games going at a time? How do you prioritize? Heck, how do you keep everything straight?

I can't play more than one game at a time (not counting non-linear games that I slip in now and then, like Madden or something.). I can barely keep track of what's going on in my games if I don't play them for a week, and that's only playing one at a time. I either have too many things going on in my life, or I'm ADD (actually, it may be both...).

Matt

I play when I can, and that's about it. I always try to have a couple of games on the go, though, in case one of them becomes tiresome, frustrating, or less interesting. Generally, I like to have at least one on a console and one on a handheld at any given time. Then I can play console during daytime, and handheld for an hour or two before bed!

Lately, though, that really hasn't happened. The last time I played anything on my PS2 was, man... almost two weeks ago. Pretty bad, eh? The worst part is, I don't feel like I've done much work in the meantime. I idly wish I were eleven, possessing few responsibilities.

Xlash, good name, my man! My middle name is David, and my parents very nearly gave me the first name of David (after my uncle). Then they realized that with that an my planned middle name of Anthony, my initials would be DAM, which was just screaming for abuse in elementary school. Thus, I became Christopher David.

Matt

DAM you! Good call by your parents. I was always "MRD" the nerd, and with a last name like "Demers", I could easily be labelled "from MARS" or "dumb arse" or many other things you might be able to imagine. I kinda wished in my childhood that I had been named something like "02032665" instead.

If you get all 108 stars in Suikoden III, you get one last flame on the story ring (or whatever they called it) at the end of the game. You could play through some sequences to fill out the backstory of the bad guys, as I recollect. What kind of nifty things do you get in the other Suikoden games?

258) D. North Melbourne
259) B. Tunnels & Trolls

This should be good. :)

Thanks!

BigWook


Matt

That's a neat idea. Villains are often underdeveloped in games, so that would be a pretty cool feature to see in many different games; kudos to Konami for that one. Since I'm notoriously under-knowledged when it comes to the Suikoden series, I'll throw your question out to everyone else, though. Surely there must be somebody out there who could provide a worthy answer to this perfectly fine inquiry!!

Thanks for your letter, as always!



Another question on names... but in a different context!


Hey there, Matt

I noticed you mentioned Jeopardy a few days ago. Well, on yesterday's show, a video game merchandiser won. I don't know what one does, but I joked with my family that video games make one smart.

Matt

Hey, you may joke, but I really do think that RPGs are quite responsible for a lot of the weird trivia that I know now. The puzzle-solving present in these games are good for the logical side of our brains, as are strategically-oriented battle systems. I've learned a huge amount of vocabulary over the last fifteen years of playing, and I'm sure that I'd lack a lot of the creativity I feel that I have today if I had never gotten into the genre.

I wonder if there's any particular reason that the Cure spell in Final Fantasy heals HP, and the Heal spell (later Esuna) cures status ailments. Seems to me like the Cure spell should cure, and the Heal spell should heal.

Meh, I blame my sleepy mind. I need sleep. Have a good day!
-CW


Matt

If that's true, though, we could step back into the earlier days of Final Fantasy, where the Heal spell actually did heal as well as Cure! But if we're going to get technically, what on earth should "LAMP" have done? Scarier still, how about "RUB"? "XXXX"? I don't even want to go there...

Have a good day yourself!





C L O S I N G
IN CONCLUSION:

I wandered into my kitchen to prepare my traditional morning cereal with blueberries, and noticed to my horror that a highway of ants had been constructed overnight, going from the edge of an electrical outlet plate to a small piece of strawberry that happened to be in the sink. My Raid got used again, for the second time in as many weeks... I'm on a murdering spree these days, it seems.

Flashay!


***Answers to July 14th's Questions***

#258. c) Melbourne (mW--b-rbe) - 400 points/800 for Bainick (The question asked "What is the oldest AFL/VFL club?" and the options were Collingwood, Geelong, Melbourne, North Melbourne, and Fitzroy. Congrats to those of you who saw through the obscuring mists of Xlash's Blind spell!)

#259. b) Tunnels & Trolls (TznNel. & yrollS)- 400 points (This question was a bit harder to figure out, and asked "Which of these is considered the first to use a spell point system?" The options were Bunnies & Burrows, Tunnels & Trolls, Dungeons & Dragons, Chivalry & Sorcery, and Castles & Crusaders. A few of you got this one right, despite the Blind spell, but not many.)


***Today's New Questions***

Reader-Submitted #260: The major hindrance facing any player wishing to make penguins a part of the main battle team is what? (375 points)

a) An alarming tendency to ignore orders in favor of eating fish when near water
b) The lack of flight ability
c) Slow movement thanks to those chicks hidden by skin folds
d) The arrival at such a pathetically low level relative to the rest of the force
e) The constant irritation that comes with their mistaking gold for food


#261: At the end of Final Fantasy VI, what colour does the magical pyramid surrouding Kefka glow with while everyone takes turns saying their final, self-help-booklet-like words? (420 points)

a) Red
b) Green
c) Violet
d) Blue
e) It is colourless


An important announcement: Starting with today's questions, I am increasing the consolation points to 200. Thus, several other items will also be affected; take a look at the items to see which ones will receive a boost in power!

--------------------------
STRAGGLERS: (people who I love, but who still need to check their e-mail or somehow get in touch with me because they have unclaimed items- if you fall off the list after a week, 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!)
  • none to speak of!
--------------------------

Click Here for a Complete List of SOCK Items and Rules!

SOCK's Item List

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

2,000 points: Your choice of Thunder Spell (2 left) or Mythril Shield (1 left)
3,500 points: Your choice of Point Tripler (1 left) or Mythril Armor (1 left)
5,000 points: Your choice of Drainra Spell (1 left) or Haste Spell (1 left)
7,000 points: Your choice of Firaga Spell (1 left) or Demi Spell (1 left)
10,000 points: Your choice of Item Destroyer (1 left) or Warp Stone (1 left)
14,000 points: Your choice of Magic Pearl (2 left) or Killer Sword (2 left)
19,000 points: Your choice of Rename Card (1 left) or Vanish Spell (1 left)
25,000 points: Your choice of Demiga Spell (2 left) or Nightmare Staff (2 left)


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. (3 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! [Pictured] (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. [Pictured] [Inside, Pictured] (1 left)

15,000 points: Bonus Cohost Opportunity- I like giving these out because I don't have to pay for shipping. (1 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 Danglers- Fresh from the Square Enix booth at E3 2006, this cute little guy can be yours. Not really a keychain as much as it is something to put ON a keychain, but better used as a figurine, I think. [Slime, Pictured] [Slime Snail, Pictured] (2 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. [Front, Pictured] [Back, Pictured] (2 left)

30,000 points: Your choice of Megaman X4, X5, or X6 for the PSX (NTSC). The instructions are in each, but the jewel cases are cracked from use. (3 left)

50,000 points: Vandal Hearts (PAL) for the PSX. One of the earliest tactical RPGs of the Playstation era. Latch onto this if you're a PAL gamer and you have enough points! Thanks to Sean for the donation. (1 left)

50,000 points: Final Fantasy VII (PAL) for the PSX. If you're a PAL gamer who still hasn't experienced the greatness of this game, this is your perfect chance! This is another donation by Sean! (1 left)

50,000 points: Suikoden for the PSX. Play the game that started off the entire series! Thanks so much to Ouro and Sean for donating these - it would be cool to send them to a good and loving home. (1 left in NTSC-format, 1 left in PAL-format!)

100,000 points: Arc the Lad Collection (NTSC), 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. (1 left) *********************************************************


That, as they say, is all!

Tune in tomorrow for some more Q&A fun. There are lots of letters still rustling around in the inbox, but I always welcome more mail, especially at such an exciting time in the world of RPGs! What are YOUR thoughts on Final Fantasy III? Are we all getting our hopes too high? Or will this prove to be one of the (many) must-have games of the year?

slimey@rpgamer.com
***Matt has been listening to FF3's battle music for too long...


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What is Matt playing?

1. Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones

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What does Matt want to play?

1. Final Fantasy III

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3. Disgaea II

SOCK's Top 25:

1. Alexander
22,322 pts

2. Macstorm
20,715 pts

3. Aurelius
18,776 pts

4. Alan Tse
18,473 pts

5. Kanato
16,952 pts

6. Erika
15,488 pts

7. MagRowan
14,017 pts

8. DMJewelle
13,435 pts

9. JokingChimer
13,238 pts

10. TV's Adam
11,495 pts

11. Cap
11,399 pts

12. Colabottle
11,196 pts

13. Dermot
11,021 pts

14. LufiaLvr
9,800 pts

15. FinalDelerium
9,147 pts

16. Xlash
9,142 pts

17. Belthasar2
9,113 pts

18. Flamethrower
7,753 pts

19. Leaper
7,705 pts

20. Purelunatic
7,570 pts

21. Arros Raikou
6,733 pts

22. Knighttrain
6,566 pts

23. CW
6,283 pts

24. Tabor
6,071 pts

25. BLG
6,052 pts

26. Gaijin
5,478 pts

27. Gilgamesh
5,168 pts

28. DDX
4,488 pts

29. Donovan
4,110 pts

30. Megan
2,955 pts

31. Bucket
2,860 pts

32. Kyre7Lar
2,520 pts

33. Rexy
2,284 pts

34. Bainick
2,181 pts

35. JuMeSyn
1,879 pts

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