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ASK MATT
Cliff of Time August 11, 2006

Matt Demers CW - 17:07 EST

YOU KNOW, IT'S hard coming up with something to put in the intro that you wouldn't want to write into the regular column. But while the thunderstorms have taken a break, I'd better think of something.

I'm beginning to think that someone else picked up my Breath of Fire jinx (as mentioned in yesterday's column). It couldn't possibly have anything to do with global warming, could it? Nah. But I wish they would stop playing BoF for a while so that I can enjoy some of the console games that I own!

Ah well. I'm sure Matt has a wonderful column cooked up for you today (which won't be plagued by intermittent power failures), but I can't see it until you guys do, too. I can't wait until I can pounce on one of those guest co-hosting positions available! Anyway, good luck with your gaming plans next week, Matt, and we'll look forward to when you return!

(But until then, here's Matt with today's Q&A!)
-CW




LETTERS
More on the so-called black sheep of Kingdom Hearts!


Hey Matt,

I'm glad to hear you had a good time on your trip, but I'm also glad to see you back.

Matt

Thanks, Laurie! I feel bad that I'm about to leave again, but after next week, we should be "back to our regularly scheduled programming", so to speak. I need the break from life! And I want to see my mommy...

Anyway, since you and JuMeSyn asked for it, here's my take on the whole Chain of Memories thing. I wrote in a while back about how much I ended up liking the game, but didn't go into much detail. Now I will.

I can definitely understand JuMeSyn's frustration. When I first started playing it, I wasn't that impressed. I found the card system confusing and the regular battles to be somewhat tiresome. But I sped through the first couple of levels, not really understanding what I was doing...and then I got to Hades. People who have played this game may rant about how difficult the Organization battles were for them, but Hades was...well, my own personal Hades. I resolved to try him 3 times a day until I beat him, and after a week I gave up. I was so aggravated that I put the game down for almost a whole year--never touched it, didn't look at it, rarely ever thought about it. Then around this past February, when KH2 was hanging over the horizon, I started thinking about it again and how I wished that I had the patience for it. I tried to ignore it, but it wouldn't go away. So finally one day I just picked the game up again and beat the crap out of Hades on my first time. I decided to go on the Internet and really learn the card battle system (I found the instruction booklet did not explain it clearly enough for me...I don't know, maybe I was just stupid). 2 weeks later I finished both stories of the game. I loved it so much! The regular battles were still kind of aggravating, but I suddenly found them useful for learning and practicing the system. Plus, I found the plot to be intriguing and totally worth the hassle. And some of the boss battles were killers, but I enjoyed changing up my decks to try to figure out what worked best for whom, and I never ended up fighting one more than 3 times. And in the end, I truly believe that KH2 would not have been as enjoyable without Chain of Memories (and I won't go into too much detail here so you won't *spoiler warning* me) simply because of Organization XIII. Then, and this is something I always find cool, once you play KH2 and go back and play Chain of Memories again, you see that quite a bit of the things that certain Organization members say in COM foreshadow the plot of KH2, but you can't appreciate it (or really catch it even) until you've played both games.

Matt

It's very interesting, and since many people say that the best part of Kingdom Hearts II is the plot and its intracacies, I think that many people would do well to follow your lead and give Chain of Memories another try. As I said yesterday, I believe that the main reason that people were put off was because of the change in gameplay style more than because of the gameplay itself. And perhaps you're right; the series might be left feeling a little emptier than it should without experiencing the piece of plot provided by CoM.

I'm very happy that you ended up liking it in the end!

So, should JuMeSyn have sold COM? I'm not sure. It depends on how far along he/she was and what his/her intentions are with KH2. I don't believe it's a game that everyone would enjoy, but maybe small doses at a time are necessary for some people to get through it. And it's not a long game. If I remember right, the first part took me about 25 hours, while the second took about 10, so it's not like you're sitting through 50-60 hours of hack-n-slash. The only other thing to do if you're interested in the plot, but can't tolerate the gameplay, would be to read the script that's posted on GameFAQs. But that's the easy way out and it's not as much fun...

Matt

Agreed. Reading game scripts is something that I've done before, and it isn't very fun at all. Out of context, a game script loses so much. The atmosphere provided by the artistic style, the music, the characters' actions or expressions, and everything else- they're all essential parts of any RPG, for me, and they're all dreadfully missing if all you're doing is reading through a script.

Sure; if you're just reading one to go back and check plot details, that's one thing... but if you're thinking about substituting a script for actually playing a game, think again unless you absolutely have no other choice!

Ok, moving on. While I'm here I figured I'd ask a question. Are there any unique "rituals" that you do when you finish a game? By "rituals" I don't necessarily mean burning black candles or anything, but things that you had to do to "make the most" out of your victory. For example, when my sister and I were younger and would finish a game, we would always watch the credits scroll by and try to pronounce as many of the Japanese names as we could. Then we wrote down the date and time in the back of the instruction booklet. Some of my friends would even take pictures of the "The End" screen. To this day, the only thing I do is write down the date. I really don't know why...I guess it's just a habit. So there it is and I hope it's useful.

Have a great day!

Laurie


Matt

Oh, my brother, sister, and I used to do the exact same thing for awhile! It was always fun to pick out the "funniest" names of the bunch, for whatever reason. I always insisted on sitting through the entire credits sequence though; I used to have friends that would see the credits start rolling and just shut the system off in response. Now, in the age of "New Game Pluses" and extra-crazy bonus material, I don't think anyone would dream of it! Besides, why wouldn't you want to sit back and watch the grand finale to a game you've spent fifty or more hours working hard on?

Thanks, Laurie, for writing in!



Simple and clean.


Hi Matt,

For SOCK today, guessing a) Final Fantasy XII and Final Fantasy XI for the first question... and saying e) because it's flaMe saber. Here's a question for you column: What non-main character has your favourite theme music in an RPG? I'm not sure what my answer would be, really.

-Kharamain


Matt

That's a really, really tough call.

In the end, though, I have to say that Relm's theme from FFVI has to take the cake for me. It's probably not what everybody would say, but it was so perfectly sweet and innocent. It gave the right picture of her, but at the same time, it helped make her personality even more humourous, once you discover that she's a bit more "rambunctious" than she might first appear to be. Seeing her grumble and say "GRR! I'm going to paint your portrait!" sinisterly was made all too cute by her theme song. And the battle with Uncle Ulty? It just would not be the same without it!



End-of-game doddlers... why condemn them?


Dearest Matt,

I don't get around to RPGamer as much as I used to (or as much as I'd like), but I used to love me some Q&A. I have to say, of what I've caught over the past number of months, I love what you all have done with the place :)

Matt

Thanks! Y'know, I was thinking of putting in a gazeebo and a rock garden too, but these things have to come with time. Let's just say that the place needed a little fixing up, and I think we have a good thing going here, now.

Now for my question (of sorts). I've gotten into this bad habit of not finishing games. With most I'll get right down to that time before the final boss fight, where usually everything is open for exploration, get overwhelmed and then move onto something else. I think there are some reasons for this, but I'm not quite sure how to combat them.

One of them was mentioned here recently: I just don't want the adventure to end. I've spent some much time with the characters that I really don't want to close the book on them just yet.

However, one of the biggest reasons, I think, is that I become quite a perfectionist with RPG's, which I don't think is too uncommon, but with a lot of RPG's, especially if have the entire world map to explore, I really don't know where to start. Recently I've experienced this with FFIX, which I'm playing (and greatly enjoying) for the first time. My mind wants to ensure that there's absolutely nothing left to discover/complete/re-discover before heading off to save the world. How can I set up guidelines, so I go about all this without losing it, or without feeling like I'm just plowing through one area to get to another?

Matt

My biggest piece of advice would be: DON'T INSERT DISC 4! If the game asks you to, then be on your guard, because Disc 4 closes the book on a lot of special things. Do you remember how in Final Fantasy VIII, progressing to the end of the game meant that you were never able to enter any towns again? Well, basically the same thing happens in FFIX, except for a really stupid reason. I won't spoil anything, but if you find yourself on Disc 3, about to travel somewhere ultra-dramatic, go out of your way to do some exploration first.

This will enable you to actually discover everything; to prevent yourself from going crazy, I would highly suggest taking a deep breath and laying off the coffee. I like finding everything too, and my sister does even more than I do. I think that laying out any formal guidelines for some sort of strict discovery-methodology takes the fun out of it. There's a lot of neat stuff to discover in that game, and letting it happen "naturally" would be the best approach, I think. Have fun with the game! If a world map is daunting, just take one continent at a time, and do your best to scout every nook and cranny. You never know what you might stumble upon!

Probably the other major reason, would be that usually at this point the story has dropped off, as the ending is really all that's left. Even if you want to continue around the world with your characters to find untold treasures or side-stories, you really have to be your own motivator. While in the main section of the game you often get a cut-scene or dialogue which shows other characters thoughts/feelings on the current situation, and gives you some direction to go with it, if you want to follow the story directly (though sometimes in main part of the game, obviously, you won't have a choice). All of that tends to keep me going forward, but near the end you tend to really be left to fend for yourself. I guess there's not much of a remedy for that, really.

Matt

Ending the reign of terror of xxxxxxx villain isn't reason enough to be inspired?

No, I know, it's true. Much of the time, I don't want to kill Mr. (or Mrs. or Miss, or Ms. for that matter) villain, because I just don't want the game to be over with. Then again, I absolutely love when a game throws some incredible, unexpected twist in near the end, and who you thought would be the final boss isn't ACTUALLY the final boss. If it's done well, I really appreciate it!

I can say though, that one good example of a game keeping me involved throughout would be Shadow Hearts: Covenant. The locations of the side-quests made sense and really involved at least one of the characters in your party. Maybe there's more games out there like it, but with this one I was really "in tune" with the characters and how the game operated as a whole, if that makes sense.

Matt

Shadow Hearts: Covenant has been touted by many as a fantastic game, so I'll be willing to bet that in reality, there actually aren't many games like it. I was supposed to get my own copy awhile back, as some of you know, but those plans have been scrapped, thanks to a couple of lazy numbskulls. Oh well, I have enough other games to worry about!

Anyway, I really didn't mean for this to be so long. In closing, I really want to enjoy my time with games, since I tend not to have too much to spare on them, but of late I really enjoy starting (or re-starting) games, more than sticking it out through the end. Any advice?


Matt

No worries! I'm just glad you took the time to write to me.

I guess the only point I really want to stress is to not worry so much! Just have fun doing what you like doing in the games you like to play, even if that means that you never do get to the end of any particular one. Let's not lose focus here; what's the point of RPGaming if you aren't enjoying it?

Take care, in any case, and thanks for sending a letter!



A little SOCK observation


Hey Matt,

[...] I just noticed that the question numbers start with an even number every day. If you start at #1 and have two per day, then the first one on each day should be odd. I was just wondering when and how the pattern got changed. Was there only one question one day or something?

--Boojum


Matt

Good eye, Boojum!

The reason is that it has happened in the past that a column has featured three SOCK questions; I think that on one occasion, early on in the game, I included five, in order to make up for missing a couple of days or something. The evenness/oddness has been messed up as a result, and so there you have it! A mini-history lesson on the ongoing contest.



RPGaming. MMORPGaming, to be specific.


What do you think the popularity of MMORPGs has done to affect the popularity of all other types of computer or console RPGs? On one hand, it's introducing the genre to a wider audience, which is good for everything from D&D to Squenix. On the other hand, it may also make people EXPECT that style, story type, and controls everywhere (some argue that FFXII is an example). If MMORPGs helped get DQ8 over here, I'm all for it... But did it? I'm not sure.

Matt

How was popularity of other types affected? Honestly? Not too much. I think that the only possibility would be the few players that picked up Final Fantasy XI as their first RPG. If they enjoyed the game, they might have been inclined to seek out other games in the series. However, I don't think that this is the case for 94% of the people that bought that game (or maybe even 95%!).

Doing this column has made something very clear to me: There are, has been, and always will be people who just prefer console RPGs, and there are some people whose only RPGs are the online variety. Perhaps that's why Square Enix has taken the route to creating a Final Fantasy XII that blurs the line a little bit in terms of gameplay, but it's really hard to say. That change could be to try and appease the millions of gamers out there that complain that typical RPGs are "just too slow-paced", right?

I don't, however, think that MMORPGs helped games like DQVIII get brought over, because to me, that gameplay style might as well be a different genre of gaming altogether.

Speaking of MMORPGs, what do you think of them in general? I've been tempted by Final Fantasy XI, but ONLY now that they've introduced the Blue Mage.

SOCK:

282: Uhhhh... (e)?
283: (e)


Matt

I talk about it from time to time, but MMORPGs really turn me off for one really big reason: Monthly fees. Yes, I know that they don't all have them, but the most popular ones do, and Final Fantasy XI certainly does. I often think that it would be a shame to miss out entirely on FFXI; I've never even had the chance to WATCH someone play it, let alone play it myself. I just can't justify paying upwards of $200 per year even after I've paid for the game itself; that's like FOUR other games! And with so many other great titles coming out in the months to come, I'd rather play a variety of games that are guaranteed to have a stronger story and character development than a MMORPG that doesn't ever end and features a bunch of generic characters roaming around. I don't have time for finite games as it is- how on earth would I have enough time to play a game that doesn't end? Yikes!



If two's a couple and three's a crowd, what on earth is six?


Hey Matt!

I find it irritating that we should ever have to worry about leveling up lower level characters at all. It has always struck me as silly that some characters sit on the sidelines while you have a "main party." Admittedly, it wouldn't be feasible gamewise to have 40 characters at once, a la Chrono Cross, or 108 as in Suikoden, but there is no reason that you should only be able to fight with three of your six party members, or some similar amount. I love a game such as the two Lunars, or FFIV, where you fight with all of the characters available to you.

Matt

I agree! The worst part is, in games like Final Fantasy X or Wild Arms: ACF, if your "front" party falls, you get a Game Over screen! Just because the others are presumably standing perhaps twenty feet behind the battle scene, they are suddenly unable to swoop in and save the day? Come on!

My only problem with games that let you use all available characters is that it's very easy for parties to feel unnaturally constructed. Final Fantasy IV generally does this incredibly well, but games like Dragon Quest VII do NOT. Is it any coincidence, for instance, that Maribel gets sick JUST in time for Ayla to join the party? It makes it so dumbly obvious that it's just an inserted plot bit in order to ensure that your party never exceeds four people, since I guess the world would just explode if that happened. Stuff like that seems incredibly ill-conceived, and makes a game feel very artificial.

Middle-aged Dragon Quest games, including the wagon, were the games that got it right. If the people in front died, those in the wagon would leap up to the plate to save the day. Also, they gained experience even if not used in battle, because they were supposedly "practicing combat skills in the wagon", or so the instruction manual for DWIV read. And you're right, I'm enjoying how the system is working in Lunar so far. It feels very natural, and it's nice to have the chance to control such a wide variety of different characters. Why haven't more games taken the lead of Dragon Warrior and Lunar??

If I remember right, the deleted scene in Xenosaga 1 involved Albedo's attack on MOMO. There's a scene in which he pretty much metally assaults her, but the way it comes across, it could easily be perceived in an almost sexual manner. And, considering that MOMO had the appearance of a little girl, was a particularly disturbing scene.

Thanks!

BigWook

Matt

I suppose that could indeed be pretty disturbing. I've heard that in our version, he put his hand over her, while in the original, he thrust it right into her, which just sounds awful even typing it. I think that the scene was disturbing enough, if I remember correctly, with the non-thrusting, though my memory is a bit hazy...

Thanks yourself, BigWook, and have a great week.





THE NEXUS

Gah! Two days in a row where I haven't had the chance to get at my own Intro! Oh well, I have to fill this spot up with something or another.

I've made the decision to extend my graduate studies by an extra semester, to finish in April instead of December. My lease agreement doesn't expire until May, anyway, so if I finished grad school too soon, I could be left scrambling to find some sorry excuse for a job for potentially a four-month period of time, if I choose to go on and do a Ph.D. somewhere else. Since that isn't very attractive next to guaranteed T.A. pay, I think it's a wise decision, especially since it would also give me more time to do the things I love doing, like working here, and playing games that I otherwise would have zero time to play this fall. And this fall? It's a big fall for video gamers!!

Another thing: I'd like to apologize for making some comments about Konami in a recent Q&A. It has been brought to my attention that it was not their decision to not have Suikoden I+II translated; apparently they wanted to, but were not permitted to by SCEA, because SCEA is apparently both evil and stupid. Thanks for the heads-up, Aethelred.

Take a looksee at Sean's list of games he has for sale! He has generously donated prizes to the SOCK and THONG competitions, so please support him! Take a look at the used games, including some rarer titles, all to be sold for $40 or less. Some of them come with bonus art books, strategy guides, or more. So, if you're looking for something that's hard to find, Sean might be the one to talk to! Get in touch with him at BuddyWingnut@yahoo.com, and he'll be sure to tell you more. Thanks!


Caption


For complete contest rules, click here!


Answers to August 10th's Questions

#282. a) Final Fantasy XII and Final Fantasy XI - 470 points
More than half of you managed to do enough background research to figure this one out. His first EVER question to be featured in Q&A was not one of his co-hosting letters, as a couple of you made the mistake of assuming.

#283. e) Red Wolf Sam - 450 points/900 for Kharamain
For awhile yesterday, I had to change the option to "Rad Flowers" because a couple of you believed the answer to be "Flare Sword". Since my brother currently has my copy of the game, I couldn't check it directly, and MORE than one FAQ out there has this option listed as "Flare Sword" for some bizarre reason. Thus, I changed it, but Kharamain quickly contacted me and assured me that FLAME is what is actually in the game. This is yet another reason why FAQS ARE EVIL!! Despite the mixup, virtually everybody got this one correct. Thanks, Kharamain, for the submission!



Today's New Questions

#284:
At La Piazzetta, a Pizza Bistro in Montréal, the paper placemats are very distinctive. "Piazzetta" is arranged in a neat fashion on the placemats, and is written in black, except for a single letter that is red. Which letter is the red one? (550 points)

a) P
b) I
c) the first A
d) the second Z
e) the last A


Reader-Submitted #285:
Which game allows you to learn a very powerful attack whose name could be translated as "free bullet"? (450 points)

a) Grandia III
b) Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne
c) Xenogears
d) Dragon Quest VIII
e) Rudra no Hihou


And now, the unveiling! I'm so excited to announce that as of the Tuesday I return, SUMMONS will be introduced to the competition! The rule guide has been updated to tell you lots more (read it here). Summons may be put into play by any SOCK member at any time, if the right conditions are fulfilled, and those summons can grant incredible advantages to the summoner. It's anyone's game at this point!



SOCK's Item List

Obtain these items upon reaching the listed point benchmarks!

2,000 points: Point Doubler (2 left) or Drain Spell (1 left)
3,500 points: Mythril Armor (1 left) or Rename Card (1 left)
5,000 points: Thundara Spell (2 left) or Confuse Spell (2 left)
7,000 points: Blizzaga Spell (2 left) or Damage Deflector (1 left)
10,000 points: Merton Spell (1 left) or Hyper Beam (2 left)
14,000 points: Slowga Spell (2 left) or Killer Sword (1 left)
19,000 points: Point Tripler (2 left) or Gold Armor (1 left)
25,000 points: Demiga Spell (1 left) or Nightmare Staff (2 left)
32,000 points: Point Quadrupler (2 left) or Hastega Spell (2 left)

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!)

  • Prismatic


SOCK's Prize Shop

Obtain enough points, and you may buy merchandise or guest-hosting positions.

Click here for the current list of potential prizes!


IN CLOSING

And that's it for me! I'm off to the land of games, food, and doing nothing; I couldn't be happier!

Roku will be stepping in very soon to help Ourobolus cohost, and he's my boss. If you don't send him lots of letters, I just don't know what will happen! So keep him happy, keep me happy, and keep sending your best questions and answers into the column. It's only because of all of you that this place is what it is.

I shall return, a week from Tuesday, to resume! Everyone, be good until then! And be prepared for some serious summoning action in the SOCK!


slimey@rpgamer.com
***Matt is goin' on a train ride...


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Farewell, all~

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7,285 pts

20. Megan
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21. Alexander
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22. JuMeSyn
5,969 pts

23. BLG
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24. Gilgamesh
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25. FinalDelerium
5,557 pts

26. CW
5,241 pts

27. Flamethrower
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28. BigWook
4,727 pts

29. Draconn
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31. Knighttrain
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31. Macstorm
3,725 pts

33. Bainick
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34. Hunter B
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35. Boojum
3,020 pts

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