August 23, 2006
Matt Demers - 21:56 EST
IT'S JUST ONE THING after another in my life! After a week of freedom (a week that felt more like a couple of days), I returned to Guelph immediately faced with a day trip with my beloved Tom's family to the Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto. We got back late last night, and bingo! What do you know? A friend randomly surprised us and showed up; he's in town for the week, so I'll have to do something with him. At the same time, my professor contacted me through e-mail wanting to meet up today, another friend I haven't spoken to in awhile called me up for lunch later in the week, I got a message from a girl desperate for some emergency tutoring help, and the Math & Stats Department at the university is breathing down my neck about my TA duties to come in the fall! What can I say? I feel like a hot commodity. Perhaps not as hot as crude oil or gold, but that's a topic for another site's Q&A column.
I hope that everyone is doing well! Allow me to launch into today's selection:
I just watched my brother beat this game...
Hi Matty Matt Matt
I'm currently approaching the end of Digital Devil Saga 2, which I have to
say, has r0xx0r3d my b0xx0rz (oh God, i can't believe I just typed that...).
As DDS and DDS2 are pretty much 2 halves of the same game, you can assume
that if I'm talking about one, I'm talking about both. OK, good. The
storyline is awesome - this is one of the darker RPGS in recent history, and
it defintely earns its M-rating. At the risk of spoilers, in terms of
emotionally-involving player-character deaths, FFVII has NOTHING on DDS2. I
just learned a whole buttload of awesome character backstory, and I think
I'm on the verge of finding out what's up with that damn cat, too... and
NOBODY better spoil it for me, or there's going to be hurting.
There's lots of the kind of pseudo-religiosity you'll find in the Xeno
games or the Evangelion anime, though it's focused on Asian/Indian religions
rather than the usual Christianity, which I thought was pretty neat. Karma
is a really important aspect of the plot - in fact, experience points are
called "karma points" in this game. Kill a monster and the universe will
reward you with a level-up - it makes perfect sense!
Battles involve quite a bit of strategy due to an interesting battle system
where characters get an extra turn when they hit an enemy with an attack
it's weak to, but enemies also get an extra turn if they hit you with an
attack you're weak to. (It's the same system as the recent SMT; Nocturne,
complete with that awesome auto-attack option. Just hit Triangle, and your
characters will attack the enemy over and over again. It's great for shorter
random encounters.) As a result,the DDS games are two of the harder RPGs
released in recent memory - you'll often get your ass handed to you by
random monsters that are exploiting your weaknesses for a bunch of extra
turns, and bosses require lots of strategy. I'm always annoyed by RPGs where
you wind up with lots of extra money at the end of the game and nothing to
spend it on. DDS is not one of those games. DDS uses something like FFX's
Sphere Grid system, but it costs you money to move from space to space, and
the ones containing the best ailities are ludicrously expensive, but they're
so awesome that I actually put maybe 10-15 extra hours into the first game
in order to earn enough money to learn them all, which is pretty unlike me.
(I was pretty disappointed at being busted back down to Level 1 in the
second game, even though, plot-wise, there's a reasonable explanation.)
Anyway, if you liked the aforementioned Xeno games or anything with a good
solid plot, you'll probably enjoy the DDS games, though the second one in
particular might be a bit hard to find. Can't wait for that new Persona game
- any word on whether that's getting a North American release, by the way?
It's been a SMT-spoutfest lately! If I'm not getting it from readers like yourself, I'm receiving an earful from my brother. Like you, he was very near the end of Digital Devil Saga 2 while I was vacationing at home last week, and as luck would have it, I caught a glimpse of him as he fought the final boss. From what I've seen, and from what he's told me, it looks fantastically interesting, and luckily, the fact that it might be a difficult-to-find game shouldn't affect my ability to play it, thanks to the fact that my brother owns it. Sure, tearing games away from siblings can often be a difficult task, but we've been getting along, and he's been practically begging me to play in recent times. This might be a game that I go back to after I finish with the bulge of games this fall, if and when that ever happens.
Thanks for your little synopsis. I'm sure that many people out there will learn a lot from it!
Now to the question portion of my letter: As an "RPGaymer," what do you
think of the whole yaoi/shonen ai trend? I refer to the male/male pairings
you often see in (mostly female-oriented) anime, manga, etc., as well as the
tendency of female (I'm assuming) fans to come up with pairings between male
characters. Do you enjoy that kind of thing, or do you find it annoying to
have your sexual orientation used for the gratification of fangirls who
might not even know any real gay people? I've hear that in Japan, there's
quite a stigma towards real-life homosexuals, even though fans seem quite
willing to embrace gay characters, even creating homosexual fan-pairings for
completely straight ones. I open this question to any gay readers as well,
because it's something I've been curious about, but have never known any
RPGaymers (or, um, "Otagayku?" I'm reaching here) to ask.
Well, that's about all I gots to say. Oh, um, and keep up the good work!
All in all, if people want to write comics about homosexuals, I don't really care that much. Honestly, how many MORE comics, fanfics and whatnot are there that focus on heterosexual couplings? And the resulting action, for that matter? Surely I'm not an expert on the matter, but I'd guess that there are plenty.
Besides, it's not just giggly fangirls that are coming up with random male-male pairings. I would have loved to see Zell profess his love for Irvine somewhere along the line as a nice Final Fantasy VIII plot twist; I won't lie! Ohhhhh wellll... I guess I'll have to stick with the blahdiblah Rinoa/Squall business (yawn) until Square Enix grows some balls and does something more controversial than action-RPGing their battle systems.
Thanks, Mr. Guacamole! You're my number one favourite condiment, by the way... I make it wonderfully, if you or anybody else ever wants to stop by, it'll be my treat.
An alternative solution for Chain of Memories loathers?
285) b ?
The idea of the summons sounds awesome, btw!
Also, on the topic of the KH:COM, I know there's a video out there of all the cutscenes and dialogue, which would be slightly better than reading the game script- though probably still only recommended if you ONLY wanted to know the story without actually playing the game. I think the video is 3+ hrs though...
Well, Hunter, since Youtube somehow suddenly has virtually every single video clip in the history of the universe, it might be a likely prospect that the one you speak of might be found there. Random question of the day: Where did Youtube come from, anyway? It went from being nothing to being one of the top sites in the world in just about three days, it seems.
If anyone can find this, it might be useful for a lot of Kingdom Hearts fans who just can't stomach Chain of Memories. Sure, there are a few people who love the game, but it would be a shame for those who just can't do it to completely miss out on the storyline's connecting steps, if you will.
Thanks much, for writing in!
Phantasy Star Universe is supposed to be coming out in 2 months, why arent we hearing anything about it?
Well, if it's any consolation, Nintendo's Next-Gen Console is supposed to be coming out in two months, too, and we haven't heard anything about IT either! Patience, my child. If we don't hear anything by the beginning of October, I give you my personal permission to enter Panic Mode.
Are dual shock controllers made of purring kittens?
Hey Zohar! Goes for how today it you?
Actually, no, that's not true, or they wouldn't be infringing upon other companies' copyrights. HOWEVER, little did you all know, this is the real reason that the PS3 controller won't have a vibration function. See, they wanted to employ the latest in kitten technology as a response to the gaming world's calls for some fresh ideas not ripped off from other video gaming companies, but when the ASPCA found this out, they were, shall we say, less than enthused.
It's funny that you should ask about the original Dragon Warrior, as I just played through it again last week. It had been about 15 years since I had last played it, and my original cartridge is probably in my parents' attic somewhere, but I was feeling nostalgic and needed something that could easily be played on a low-spec computer. Also, your praise for the series had infected me and reminded me of enjoying I-III as a kid.
Surprisingly, despite being in the middle of a number of good-to-great relatively recent games (FF IX, Phantom Brave, Dark Cloud 2, Tales of Symphonia, and Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga), I found myself constantly looking forward to playing Dragon Warrior.
Me too, Boojum! Me too. It sometimes feels like you and I are of a fading brand, though, so why do you feel this way?
There are quite a few things it did that seem to have fallen out of fashion in modern game design, and made playing through it a refreshing experience:
-The world being completely open to exploration from the start was great. I love the process of heading out into the unknown and finding out what's over the next hill. Most modern games, if they have world maps at all, dole out access to them a little chunk at a time as you progress through the plot. This makes it feel less like a continent/world and more like a series of confined levels. By contrast, in DW, if I want to leave the starting area and wander off to a high-level zone, I technically can, I'll just get killed by the monsters there. While this serves the same purpose, it just feels more organic than the typical "The bridge to the next town is out, and won't be fixed until you do this task for us."
Ah yes. The "artificial blockade" syndrome. The worst kind of this happens in RPGs where someone (or someTHING, like a random sleeping Snorlax) is conveniently placed in the way of the only new path out of a location, preventing you from exploring anywhere that programmers don't really want you to go. Also annoying is when you're heading out a certain path when someone in your party says "Uh, I don't think we're supposed to go here yet" and you get automatically turned around. I despise this too, and I think that's one of the more disappointing ways that the Dragon Quest series has evolved. Later Dragon Quest games aren't nearly as open to explore as the first few, though they're perhaps still "better than average" in that respect. Dragon Warrior VII is especially bad, since there IS no overworld to explore until you open it up, one small piece at a time.
-Going along with the above is the lack of handholding. I really appreciate the fact that it's possible to get in over my head and have to run away. So often it seems like every location you are taken to has monsters that are exactly the right level for you to fight, and you are never seriously challenged by a non-boss fight. Having it possible to try to go places where the regular foes are a serious threat is quite refreshing, and again makes it feel like a world rather than a series of levels.
Absolutely! The fact that you can fight Magidrakees in many different areas of the world, and even good old slimes over a good quarter of the world makes the monsters seem more "natural", in a way. Does it make sense that any place west of a town should contain an entirely different set of monster species than any place east of a town? Of course not.
You're right; Dragon Warrior can be very challenging if you want it to be, and I agree that it's nice to genuinely feel a little bit of panic every now and then while traversing the world. Of course, Dragon Warrior isn't the only game out there with non-boss challenges, but you're right in that it helps to create the primitive NES-styled world into a more immersive one.
-Limited resources. On any given trip out of town, the most you will ever be able to heal yourself is one full tank of MP's worth of healing spells, plus 6 healing herbs. There's no way to restore MP other than resting in an inn. This helps make every foray feel truly dangerous, as you know you can only last so long. The last portion of my first trip to Rimuldar was utterly tense, as I was down to my last few HP and out of healing, and had to run from the last few monsters. I can't remember the last time it came down to the wire like this in a modern game, as it seems like I always have a large stockpile of ethers or the equivalent.
Yes!! How realistic is that "Oh, just buy 99 of every item before you go" strategy that is employable in many different games out there? To me, it's a bit unfortunate, in a certain sense, that Dragon Quest introduced the bottomless item bag in later games, even if it does make the game more "user-friendly". Bah.
The knot in your stomach that occurs when you KNOW you might have gotten in too deep but makes you want to press on just to see if you're nearing your goal is almost exclusive to Dragon Quest games. Exploring to the bottom of that cave, trying to find your way to certain faraway towns, and knowing that there is a real possibility that you may not make it is all part of the experience. That sense of real risk is completely missing from almost all modern RPGs, but to me, it makes you connect to your character in a very unique way, in that when you DO succeed, there is a such a wonderful overwashing feeling of accomplishment that you just don't feel very often in other games. Is "overwashing" a word?
-Forgiving save system. There's nothing more frustrating than losing the last half-hour's worth of progress to an untimely death. In DW, losing half your gold is a small price to pay for keeping the experience and items you have acquired since you last saved. This is what makes it possible for the likelihood of being killed to be a fun challenge rather than an irritation.
Amen. I once read some online reviews of Dragon Quest games with fairly negative spins; more than a few dismissed the save system as draconian, evil, and ridiculous. Why? Because a) you can only save in towns, or in the original, the first castle; and b) because you lose half your gold. One of these reviews said something about "preparing yourself to hit Reset quite often if you're going to play" which makes absolutely zero sense. Firstly, if you're careful and patient, you probably won't die in the first place. Secondly, if you DO die in any DQ/DW game, hitting Reset would be a stupid thing to do, because you'd lose your progress and items, as you say. If you keep your personal financial holdings to a minimum, the money you lose should be negligible in comparison to the time spent, the experience gained, and the treasures earned up to the time of your defeat.
I think that it's far more "draconian" to have a game like Star Ocean or Radiata Stories rip away two hours of your life simply because save points aren't placed close enough together. I find it infinitely frustrating to get into a sudden tight spot and lose everything in an instant, and I have no idea how anyone could argue that this sort of save system, which has become "the norm", could be more forgiving than that of Dragon Quest.
-Sharp power curve. In many RPGs, gaining a level amounts to a +3% boost in your HP and damage, and is barely even noticeable in a typical fight. In DW, every time I gained a level or got a significant equipment upgrade, the monsters that had been threatening to kill me every time I fought them became much more manageable, and the ones that I had had to run from became beatable. I also appreciated the fact that the layout of the world meant that I would end up occasionally running into the enemies that had given me trouble a few levels back and easily dispatch them. This is in contrast to most games, in which once you make your way through an area, you'll never see the monsters there again, and never appreciate how much your power has grown in relation to them. Making your character stronger is one of the primal draws of RPGs, and DW's big boosts at each level feel like a tangible reward for progress.
Absolutely! You can actually feel your character grow and change with every level achieved and every piece of equipment purchased. It helps to add to the feeling of success and accomplishment, I think, in a big way.
And yes; the fact that you will always run into old enemies means that you become quite familiar with them and their habits. I could easily list off every single monster AND their attacks in every game, Dragon Warrior I through IV, because they're easy to remember after enough time has passed. You learn about them just as if you, yourself, were the hero fighting for your life. On the flip side of the same coin, it makes fighting new, foreign foes all the more intimidating (and exciting).
-The translation - this is more of a cosmetic thing, but I found the archaic English to be charming, and to add to the atmosphere immensely.
Indeed. It was a bit of a shame to see it disappear after DWII, but the translation for DQVIII is one of the best (if not the best) I've ever experienced. If you enjoyed the translations for the original DW games, I guarantee you that you'll love the british style and the attention paid to detail in the localization of DQVIII.
The game certainly isn't perfect. The one-on-one combat isn't terribly exciting from a tactical standpoint, and grinding to gain levels can get dull (especially the stretch from 17 to 21, where I had already fully explored the world and was just trying to get strong enough to beat the Dragon Lord).
I couldn't agree more. Despite the fact that I'm obviously a huge Dragon Quest fans, I'd be the first to stand up and mention that it is, after all, the game that really got console RPGaming on its feet, and thus is fairly primitive. While I enjoy some of the level-building, it can indeed get quite monotonous at times. Stylistically, it would have been nice to have a bit more variety in dungeons, since most of them are fairly simple mazes. And, of course, the game is rather short, too.
Anyway, sorry about the overly long letter. As for a question, my experience with the DW/DQ franchise is relatively limited. I played I-III as a kid, but nothing more recent (As I remember, IV came out at about the same time as the SNES, and we never ended up getting it), and I don't remember any of the specifics of II or III, or even if I finished them. With the great experience I had with I, I am interested in getting back into the series, and am trying to figure out the best way to do it. Since I know you are a huge fan of the series, I figured I'd pick your brain about it. I have both VII and VIII sitting in my backlog at the moment, and was wondering to what extent they retain the elements that I loved about the original (I know you love VIII, but am curious about how much the series has changed over the years). What are your thoughts? Should I bump them up to the front of the queue? In what order? If I play VII after VIII, will it be too much of a step down to tolerate? Should I play II and III again, and/or track down IV-VI?
Thanks a lot,
To answer your questions, let's see... VII is perhaps the biggest departure from the series. The game is entirely too linear for a Dragon Quest game, and I found several small things disappointing. What things? Well, everything from minor translation annoyances (Red Slimes should NOT be called "RedSlimes") to the fact that monsters often "didn't make sense". You could fight Goopis and Horks in a Robot Factory, for example. Why not bring in Metal Hunters, Killer Machines, or other more "fitting" creatures from past DQ games, or make up some new ones? While the game wasn't a complete write-off, it was anything but a typical Dragon Quest.
On the other hand, VIII took a fantastic storyline and packaged it into a wonderfully traditional game. While you're not quite as free to explore the world as non-linearly as you might have been able to in the original games, the completely open world is gorgeous and can be a lot of fun to run through. Even though several elements of the game received a huge modernization-of-sorts, I found that many things, including dungeon design, monster battles, and more, felt almost MORE old-school in some ways. You'll see.
IV would be a great thing to find if you ever could, though at this point, it would be very difficult to do so legally. English versions of V and VI exist only in the emulation world at this time. And finally, I'd say that if you do approach DWVII after playing DQVIII, do so with an open mind, because it will be a very different experience for you.
In any event, Boojum, thanks very much for the opportunity to blab on and on about my favourite series. I wouldn't shamelessly promote it just for the sake of doing so, either; I genuinely think that the series is highly underrated by North American RPGamers. While it might seem archaic at first glance, it's the bunch of little things we've talked about above that make DQ games a pleasure to play.
Gamestop isn't called GameSTOP for nothing.
Matt, I have to talk to someone about my experience with Gamestop.com and Dirge of Cerberus. Will you lend me your ear?
I ordered DoC on the 15th when it was due out, and the website had a special going that allowed you to get free three day shipping. I took advantage of that, and ordered the game and the guide (I collect strategy guides), and expected it Friday the 18th. I got my guide on Thursday the 17th, but not the game. I figured the game would come the next day, but it did not. After checking the website, I discovered that my game had not even been processed to be shipped.After a few more days, I called and asked a rep at Gamestop.com's customer service about the order, and they informed me that they were having problems shipping this game. When I asked for a prospective ship date, they said they had no idea. I canceled my order. Have you ever had any experiences like mine? It was just poor service and it makes me sad.
Ugh. I'm terribly sorry about your bad luck, Donovan. If there's a release that I'm particularly anxious for, I almost always go out of my way to get it in person, for exactly that reason. I totally fear that something will go wrong, be it the postal service, the store itself, or anything else that Murphy's Law could throw at me.
I haven't really had anything like that happen to me, except for once, about a year and a half ago, when I bought a soundtrack from somebody else on eBay. I waited, and waited, and waited, and since it was coming from Singapore, I figured I'd have to wait awhile. After three months, though, I was highly suspicious, and soon thereafter discovered that yes, I had provided the wrong address- so it was actually my own damn fault. GRUMBULAR, I was.
Try to hang in there. You've got to get it sooner or later; you paid for it, after all!
In any event, welcome home Matt. We missed you!!
Thanks, Donovan! I missed you and everyone else, too! This column is a part of me. It's like a cancer. A good version that doesn't kill me, that is.
Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete: Complete!
Hey there, Matt
SOCK is coming along well. It's still a lot of fun, and the addition of an additional item per point threshold is certainly interesting.
Ho-ho! Well, you see, since summons are going to be involved, I wanted a greater potential variety of items to be available for sacrifice, in case anyone had any interesting combinations in mind. With only two possibilities at every level, there's not enough room for people to shoot for certain somethings, and gathering specific items would be likely a more difficult task. With eighty-five items described in the rule guide now, it just doesn't make much sense to have so few of them available at any one time.
Anyway, you mentioned finishing Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete, but you didn't mention what you thought of it! So... what did you think of it?
What did I think of it? Well, it wasn't the best game I've ever played. It was oddly engaging, though. Despite what I consider to be a fairly unbalanced battle system, the cheapest save system in the history of RPGaming, and a "typical" storyline, it was remarkably addictive once I got into it. There were a few neat plot twists, and the characters were quite likable, on the whole, but the translation of Working Designs is, I think, what made the game into a light-hearted and lovable one. Perhaps I'll write an RPGamer retroview on it sometime soon.
A little message to everybody who has e-mailed Sean about his list of games: Apparently, he received a rather overwhelming amount of response, and thanks to some complications in his employment and such, he has been backed up a bit. He has, however, assured me that he will get through everybody's e-mail eventually. Hopefully, that happens soon!
(Note/Disclaimer: Myself and RPGamer are in no way responsible for any complications or inconveniences here, and I'm not personally affiliated with Sean at all. I just thought that he presented a great opportunity for some people here!)
For complete contest rules, click here!
Answers to August 22nd's Questions
#286. b) courage and wit - 525 points
...for thou hast been promoted to the next level! Good job, everyone.
#287. c) Googleshng - 475 points/950 for Draconn
While the topic of "<3" came up in one of my old columns, thanks mainly to the signing habits of Aurelius, Googleshng actually talked about the juxtaposition of less than and three for an extended period of time, back in the day.
In the most recently-released Grandia game's instruction manual, there are four feathers pictured in the background of each set of two pages. Which of the four feathers is biggest?
a) the topmost feather
b) the second feather from the top
c) the second feather from the bottom
d) the bottommost feather
e) all of the feathers are roughly the same size
Consider the following:
The hidden path in the mansion can be opened with a furniture switch. The
power of the invisible spirits can be calmed with holy water, by doing so
the book will be yours... When the non-ticking hand says tea-time, and if
the gray knight...
Which of the following options completes this set of instructions?
a) who challenges everyone to a duel, can be made to serve
b) who demands a sacrifice, can be brought to bay
c) who boggles the mind with logic, can be outwitted
d) who seeks to bar the intruders, can be removed from the path
e) who runs a race to determine worthiness, can be outpaced
Obtain these items upon reaching the listed point benchmarks!
2,000 points: Fire Spell (2 left), Blizzard Spell (1 left), or Water Spell (1 left)
3,500 points: Mythril Sword (1 left), Regen Spell (2 left), or Point Doubler (3 left)
5,000 points: Slowra Spell (2 left), Reflect Spell (2 left), or Blind Spell (2 left)
7,000 points: Ultra Sneak Glove (1 left), Item Bomb (1 left), or Thundara Spell (2 left)
10,000 points: Merton Spell (1 left), Hyper Beam (2 left), or Light Converter (1 left)
14,000 points: Red Gem (2 left), Force Field (1 left), or Killer Sword (1 left)
19,000 points: Esuna Spell (3 left), Point Tripler (2 left), or Drainra Spell (2 left)
25,000 points: Summon Encyclopedia (2 left), Holy Spell (2 left), or Nightmare Staff (2 left)
32,000 points: Point Quadrupler (2 left), Diamond Armor (2 left), or Hastega Spell (2 left)
(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!)
Obtain enough points, and you may buy merchandise or guest-hosting positions.
Click here for the current list of potential prizes!
And so ends another day!
For tomorrow, let me hear what your thoughts are on what seems to be the black hole of Square Enix releases, beginning about, oh, nine or ten weeks from now. Final Fantasy XII, V, and III, all in two weeks!? What in the world are they thinking? Or are they geniuses? Please! I can't wait to hear what you have to say. Until then, take good care of yourselves, and I'll see you next time in Q&A.
***Matt had a random back spasm earlier tonight...
Oog... while I was yawning/stretching, at that! Among all dangerous things to do, that's not what I would have expected would be the trigger.
Aug. 22: Matt
Aug. 21: Josh
Aug. 20: Josh
Aug. 19: Josh
About the Host
What am I playing?
1. Fire Emblem GBA
2. Radiata Stories
3. Lunar: SSSC
What do I want to play?
1. Final Fantasy III
2. Xenosaga: Episode III
3. Disgaea II
SOCK's Top 35:
5. Alan Tse
11. Arros Raikou
12. TV's Adam
29. Hunter B