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ASK MATT
Escargot Express September 20, 2006

Matt Demers - 19:01 EST

WELL, I've got my Intro section back for a single day before Erika välses in and snags it away from me again tomorrow. I don't think that a single SOCK reader has managed to be featured in two of a single week's columns, but Erika has done many amazing things in the contest so far; that's for sure!

How's life for me? Ah, it's been okay. With a good school schedule underway forcing me to get up and go to campus every single day, my sleep patterns are humanizing. I've been getting to bed between twelve and two, rather than at four or five, as was the case for much of the summer. It's so nice to be able to get things DONE in the morning hours for a change!

Gamewise, I think I'm going to buy Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime. I was going to wait, but I'm just compelled to throw my support for all things Dragon Quest to let Square Enix know that yes, I'm looking for more than just Final Fantasy games and their direct sequels. As much as I love 'em, there's more to life!

I don't have too much more to say, so viva la something, and let's get started.




LETTERS
The trials and tribulations of this time of year...


Hey there, Matt!

Ugh, lots of games coming... makes me glad I'm poor right now. Why do I say that? Because NaNoWriMo is also coming in November, and I don't want any distractions while I'm doing that. My birthday is next month, and I'm hoping no one buys me any games, or if they do, they wait until Christmas to give them to me.

Do you have to worry about which games not to buy, because you know you're going to get them for Christmas?
-CW

Matt

EVERY year, CW!!

In fact, I've already caught hell from half of my family members, who are going on and on about how I "can't buy all of the games!! You have to leave a couple for us to get you!"

Of course, this year, my response has been "There's about a gajillion games coming out this fall that I'd like if I had $infinity.99 in my bank account, so just hush!" I had to think carefully about what was going to go on my Christmas list; naturally, because of my job, I decided not to put anything Final Fantasy on it so that I could grab them and not be faced with as many spoilers from unknowing fans and writers-in. If Final Fantasy XII's story gets wrecked for me, I'm going to scream bloody murder, and maybe snatch all of someone's SOCK points away. Not you, necessarily.

I have to take off my hat to anyone involved in NaNoWriMo, though. I think that if I wrote that much every day, I'd probably die. After all, I'll bet I already write 50,000 words in this column every month!!



Cautious Optimism: The "safe" state of mind.


Having played FFXI for over a year, I can tell you that the Demo for FFXII isn't really like FFXI. There are more than a few similarities, but it's not really the same battle system. If you play with the gambits, and let your other characters use those correctly, it does feel like you have other people playing with you. The more gambits you have, the less "n00bish" those "people" are. More importantly, you can get "adds" (Nearby enemies that join in the fight and help the one you are currently fighting). That seems to be the biggest thing they took from MMORPGs.

Matt

I'm really curious as to exactly how precise you can get with the gambits. I'm the slightest bit worried that they won't be flexible enough. For example, can you program an ally to cast Cure magic only if another's HP falls below, say, 38% of the maximum? Can you program that ally to ONLY cure certain characters? Characters that don't have a "Regen" status on? Characters that you know are going to die anyway? Can you cancel one of their programmed moves or just tell them NOT to do something in certain situations? I typically don't heal other characters in many of these situations, depending on the battle, and while you can jump in and give any character special commands at any time, I want to know that you can tell them not to perform certain actions at certain times. It feels like there are literally hundreds of possible situations, so I'm hoping that the gambit system is expansive enough to tackle them all.

But the overall feel is much more fast paced than FFXI, or any MMORPG I've seen, especially with the ability to slowly gain MP mid-battle. It feels like they took the idea of being able to see your enemies and fighting them in real time (On the world map, no loading screens), which is what most MMORPGs do, but took away the need for down time, which wouldn't fly in a normal RPG. It felt odd in the demo, but the demo was so short you really didn't get a whole lot of time to get used to it. Plus, just having the battle system by itself, without being able to know the story, or play around with the level up system, doesn't really give a good picture of what the game will be. I'm cautiously optimistic.

#318: d) Lufia II: Rise of the Sinistrals
#319: c) 14

-MrMSTy


Matt

I'm hoping that despite the fast-pacedness, it becomes natural after awhile. I didn't like the "chaotic" feel of any of the demos I've played so far. Much of the time, battles just seemed to be over before I could figure out what was going on, making me feel a little bit like an old man (scary). I think, though, that like you, I'm cautiously optimistic too. I've never been dissatisfied about any previous Final Fantasy battle system, so I'd be quite surprised if I hated this one completely in the end.

Thanks, MrMSty! I hope your Curse wears off soon. (Just so everyone knows, this poor guy was laden with a Curse after last week's Apocalypse, forcing him to write in with letters or lose points. I feel bad, but as they say, that's the game!)



This one had me hmmming and hawing.


Matt,

I have a question. Since you seem to like the same types of RPGs as me, could you let me know of any new games that I might like? The problem is that I've been playing RPGs since the original Dragon Warrior and have gotten VERY picky when it comes to games that I like. This is my criteria:

Matt

Picky, picky! I hope I'll be able to answer you well enough, but I promise I'll do my best.

I really like games that allow exploration. That doesn't mean that they have to be completely open ended, but I can't stand completely linear games like Final Fantasy X and Lufia II. I really like the Dragon Quest games (though the middle third of DQ6 bored me) for this reason, as well as most of the earlier FFs. I also really liked the first two Breath of Fire games as well as Lufia I and Wild Arms.

I don't play RPGs just for story, but a good story can make an otherwise good game even better.

Matt

Exploration, and story isn't essential, hmm? I'd almost say that if you liked the original Wild Arms, to try out Alter Code F. I could never actually recommend it to anybody though, because I personally think that it's a boring game that was lazily made. However, some people did enjoy it nonetheless, if that's worth anything to you. Otherwise, you could try out Wild Arms III, which is almost certainly not as bad; I found a used copy at the local EB games for eleven bucks last November.

I like RPGs that have a fun diversion to do throughout the game that still affects the game. I like learning as many spells (including blue spells) and abilities as possible in several of the FF games, and I really liked messing with the alchemy pot (such as figuring out the best use of several of the rare materials) in DQ8. I also liked trying to get as many voice samples as possible in Star Ocean 2.

I also like RPGs that provide a decent level of difficulty. DQ4-7, FF3 and BOF2 are just about right in terms of difficulty, while DQ8, FF4-6, FF9 and Wild Arms are a little bit on the easy side but not too easy.

I know that I'm being picky, but if you could help me find a new RPG to play, that would be great. Even if a game doesn't fit all of my criteria, if it fits 2-3, please let me know.

Thanks in advance,

Brad

Matt

Let me think for a second or two. Because you're really picky, I'd suggest that you do some renting to figure out what you like. Try out Atelier Iris or Atelier Iris 2. The storyline is somewhat linear, but you're free to roam the world and do things at your own pace, generally. There are lots of things to do on the side, too, like advancing the backstories of different merchants and creating new items with different ingredients. It might be absorbing for you, but I'll warn you that it wasn't terribly engaging for myself.

You might be better off trying Suikoden. The games are reportedly not terribly easy, and while I've never played them, I know that there is a tremendous amount of "stuff" to do along the way, the least of which consists of recruiting the semi-famous "108 Stars of Destiny" through a variety of different means. It might be really absorbing for you, and me too, since I have yet to play through an entire game, unforgivably.

Finally, I just have to recommend Pokémon to you. Linear? Not at all. Challenging? It can be. Stuff to do? Hell yes. There is more than the game than meets the eye, and there is a shocking amount to explore and discover in the more recent games. There's a unique element of excitement to the game, whenever you run into a less-common pokémon in your travels, or when an opponent unleashes something you've never seen before. It doesn't have to be just a little kid's game, that's for sure!

Thanks for writing in, Brad. Hopefully some of my recommendations (and blind recommendations!) will work out for you!



No, G4, it is NOT "Slimeria". Ugh.


I'd like to address Erika's query of her introductory paragraph:

Matt

I was going to give this letter TO Erika for Thursday, but I think that she already has one floating in the inbox about VP: Silmeria. So, I decided to take it upon myself.

Yes, I am very interested/excited for Valkyrie Profile: Silmeria! I very much enjoyed the first iteration, and I've been blown away by what I've seen so far of the graphics. I'm interested in seeing how they change the combat system, not to mention the game flow in general - in other words, what lessons they've learned from the original VP. Not to mention the fact that I enjoyed the "Big Magic" graphics, and I'd love to see what they can do now, in the PS2 generation.

Matt

Indeed! I'm planning on getting VP: Silmeria myself, as long as things work out better than they did for Shadow Hearts: Covenant. The gameplay is truly unique, and even at E3 months ago, several fleshed-out story sequences were present in the demos.

The game's battle system is going to differ a fair amount from the original, because you're now transported to a 3-D battle arena. It seemed pretty complex, and ten or fifteen minutes was not nearly enough to be able to figure everything out, but I'll say that it definitely looked promising!

Valkyrie Profile: Silmeria is set to debut in stores in North America in just a week's time!

Plus, the presence of Silmeria implies Valkyrie Profile: Hrist one of these days, and I'm very curious to see how they can redeem her after her actions in VP: Lenneth!

Another game I'm interested in, but haven't heard much about, is ..hack//GU. Apparently, it's going to be a multi-parter like the original .hack games (although I hope each part has more gameplay than the originals), and I'm very much wondering how that's going to be, especially since the only reason I know it's gonna be released this year is the back of the Xenosaga III manual.


Matt

It hasn't really received as much publicity as Xenosaga has, but G.U. looks to combine some familiar ideas into a new package. Indeed, //G.U. is going to be released in three installments, so the triple-tech on the wallet should feel a bit familiar to .hack fans as well.

Thanks, Leaper, as always!



Falling leaves, and falling bank accounts.


Hey Matt!

With the fall comes many things: School, the leaves turning colors, Haloween, and for the videogame world, new consoles in time for Christmas. As the new consoles come out, most of us will be freezing our butts off waiting in line to be the owner of a brand new console. I for one, will not.

Matt

Well, maybe not "most". Many, perhaps. And my EB games is in a mall, so no chilliness for me! Whoo-hoo! Oh, except that I forgot that I'm not getting one at launch either.

"Why?" you ask? It is quite simple: I can neither afford any of them, nor are there any launch games that will pull me (Well, except Zelda, but that's besides the point). This is the quandry for all consoles that are released from now 'till Ragnarock : New technology or great games. Sadly the console makers tend to ere on the side of shiny new technology than great games to showcase the potential of the consoles. My take is to wait at least a year or two to see what the console has to offer game wise, because that is the reason to own one, not the shiny new Blue Ray player or the innovative controle scheme. Remember the last generation of consoles? Sure, we got introduced to some sweet graphics on all fronts, but of the games, only one of the launch titles is still being talked about, and that was Halo. Back then, the consoles were high, but affordable ($300 is still too much for a console...), but now the Xbox 360 and PS3 take things to a new low in high prices ($600 for the tricked out version of the PS3? And for what? A larger hard drive and some flash card slots???).

Matt

I'm totally with you. $600 sounds suspiciously more like a mortgage payment than the price of a video game console. Sure, people with a career that make a thousand bucks per week might be able to buy one without much pain, but what about the rest of us? I'm not willing to pay that much either, and neither are most of the people reading right now. Luckily, in a backwards way, there doesn't appear to be anything great on the PS3's lineup anyway unless you like blah sports, blah racing, or shooting things, so I don't really care. Final Fantasy XIII is at least a year and a half away anyway, and probably more.

I'm very glad that Nintendo has chosen a cheaper route, but I'm still somewhat irked that to buy a full extra controller, it will cost $60. Sixty!? I think that the simple "Wii-mote" by itself is rather overpriced at $39.99, don't you? I would be much happier if they had set the remote at $29 and the nunchuck at $15, because I'm almost willing to say that $60 for a stupid controller is downright unreasonable, especially if Wii is going to be multiplayer heaven.

Anyway, now I'm babbling, so I'll give the floor back to you.

Instead of running to buy the shiny new toy, I am going to go and play with my old friends for a bit longer. They got better games at this point, and are still getting some sweet stuff for good old yuletide (FF XII! Valkyrie Profile 2! and a ton of other stuff!). Besides, if I don't get them when they first come out, it's not like its gonna kill me!

Matt

That sounds like a fantastic plan. Not considering any new consoles, the number of games coming out this fall for the PS2 and the DS is absolutely phenomenal. This is exactly why my plan is to bank on a Wii Christmas present and to instead invest in other games until then. If I don't get it for Christmas, there's nothing stopping me from marching out and buying one sometime early next year. I might own a PS3 one day, especially if more than just one Final Fantasy game makes an appearance on the system. I'd be far happier if I could just get away with buying one, though, even if Wii-Final Fantasy seems like an unlikely prospect for Square Enix.

For the SOCK Questions:

#318: E. None of the Above. This tune was from the game Terranigma, a game I totally wish was released to North America (it's not like they didn't localize it. It was released in Europe, those lucky bums! And in ENGLISH!)

#319: B. I am taking a guess at this one.

Witecat

"I once tried to eat time, but it just left me with some serious indegestion!"


Matt

Thanks, Witecat!



A Q&A reunion... is this a first?


Hey Matt,
Guess I get to add myself to the list of "long time reader, first time writers". Everyone has some reason that sends them to the other side of the fence, I guess I just needed a few.

Matt

Welcome to the club, in that case!

You know what's funny? I read Q&A for a couple of years before I ever started hosting, and not once during that time did I ever write a letter. I wanted to on several occasions, but I was 90% worried that my question would seem "stupid" and 10% worried that Andrew would grab hold of such a stupid question and rip into me for fun. Don't get me wrong; I love Andrew and I loved his columns. I'm glad you decided to take the plunge.

First off, I wanna give a big shout-out to Alexander M. DeMichiei. I knew him back when we were in high school together. Who knew that we would meet again after all this time on QnA of all places. It's kinda interesting that it was his most recent letter that encouraged me to write.

Matt

*gasp*

All of a sudden, this feels like an old episode of Sally Jesse Raphael! I just wish I had some semi-emotional theme music to play right now...

Kingdom Hearts II is not the only game that was easier to complete on the "harder" difficulty. I bring in Valkyrie Profile. Hard was the preferred difficulty because it gave you access to all of the characters instead of some of them. Not only that, but everyone joined at level 1, so you could train them to become powerful instead of being forced to accept the default levelups. An accessory called the Bracelet of Zoe gives you 300 extra HP with every levelup. Imagine that on a character for a full 100 levels!

Matt

Interesting. And slightly weird. I don't know if this is exactly the case for Valkyrie Profile or not, but it sounds as though some things you really, really have to go out of your way to get in "Normal" mode are just handed to you in a more difficult mode. To me, being able to similarly have to go out of your way through a more difficult world to find that special character or extra item would be more challenging, unless of course there's something even MORE special awaiting you in their places as a reward. I don't know!

That being said, I'm gonna turn my attention to why people like an RPG. Does it need to have good game play, a solid story, or a combination of both? For me, its mostly a good story and good game play to go along with it. I've been known on numerous an occasion to forgive the system for the story (Xenosaga II anyone?). Yet I have only once forgiven the story because I liked the battle system. Final Fantasy X-2. This game has sparked a decent bit of controversy on its own and I suppose I'm just adding fuel to the fire. I really liked how the system was evolved version of the job/ATB system. Basically, substitute "dress" for "job" and everything else is identical. But the thing I really liked was having the ATB bar adjust its length based on the power of the action. Simpler actions took less ATB recovery time, complex actions took longer. It was a simple change that made ATB a lot more bearable, especially after FF9 turned it into an action queue.

Matt

Definitely! We're on exactly the same page here. While I'm not sure I would call Final Fantasy X-2 the greatest game of all time, what it did have was an absolutely kick-ass battle system. I loved the modified ATB as well; it expertly made a very familiar format into a fast-paced masterpiece. I'm not quite as sure about the class system and the super-jobs, but for me, the gameplay is what made FFX-2 into a good game.

But I digress. I think I'll end this by throwing my 2 cents into the running debates. Star Ocean isn't and action RPG (it's the battle transition), neither is Zelda (it's an adventure game). And I enjoy JuMeSyn's letters, as long as there aren't 15 other letters to read (I can't imagine what you go through).

Adios,
Nick D.
here forth known as venus577


Matt

OK, Nick, or venus! I'm sure JuMeSyn will be delighted to hear about it; I do believe I've got one ready to go into tomorrow's column, actually, and it's quite reasonable in length, believe it or not.

Take care!





THE NEXUS

My luck in Fire Emblem is quickly deteriorating. My Rank is falling through the floor, and my Survival Rating has been chopped to one star, embarrassingly. I've lost six allies so far, the most recent of which was a she-Paladin that should never have fallen in battle, except that an enemy Druid just happened to overcome terrible odds to place a terminal Critical Hit. *sigh*


Caption


For complete contest rules, click here!


Answers to September 19th's Questions

#318. e) None of the above - 625 points
I thought a few of you might slip up, since I chose the other options pretty carefully. But no, it's not a 7th Saga, Lufia II, Illusion of Gaia, or Ogre Battle theme. This one was the underworld music from Terranigma, the well-known Super Nintendo game that was never released in North America.

#319. c) 14 - 525 points/1,050 for Bucket
This question came to us from Bucket, who, as many of us know, is an avid Harvest Moon player. If anyone would know this one, it would be she! Thanks for the submission!!



Today's New Questions

#320:
Consider the following image:

yawn


This is an image of a sign found in an RPG. Which of the following may also be found in the same game?
(675 points)

a) A villain named "Mother"
b) A ship named "Durandal"
c) A hero named "Ike"
d) A planet named "Kashyyyk"
e) A spell named "Ultima"


Reader-Submitted #321:
To get an orc at the local oddities parlor to reveal his true intelligence, what should you ask him about? (525 points)

a) Mathematics
b) Battle Strategy
c) Politics
d) Tea
e) None of the above


An interesting pair of questions today... and tomorrow's should feature one from the great Erika! Prepare yourselves.



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IN CLOSING

That's all I've got to say! Join Erika and I tomorrow for another edition of Q&A, if you please, and I promise you another satisfying dose of debate, discussion, questions, and answers!

Adieu.


slimey@rpgamer.com
***Matt feels like cracking his neck!


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Yes, I can do it, and often do. It's not an earth-shattering "crack" sound, but it helps ease a bit of tension every now and then!

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