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Always Use Protectga
July 25, 2007

Matt Demers - 16:57 EST

THIS SUMMER IS flying by at such a rapid pace that I'm finding it almost depressing. I complain about the snow, the cold, and the school all winter long. Now summer's here, and whoops, it's half over with. Terrible!

RPG Update: Lunar Knights is a really addictive game. It's kind of short, but so unique, and so wonderfully intricate in some neat ways. The only downfall is that the controls are really wonky at times, but it's a minor issue in the scheme of things. I'm going to be finished with this game soon, and moving on to ETRIAN ODYSSEY (which I cannot wait for)!

Thanks again to Boojum for a job well done yesterday. Now, we shall turn our attention towards the next few messages, and see what random goodies the old mailbag has in store.




LETTERS
Not popular? Final Fantasy? Really? No, really?


Hey Matt,

I am very opinionated on some of topics in your column lately and I thought I would force those opinions into your mailbox.

Matt

Resistance is futile. For me. Because as you can see, you were successful in infiltrating my column! *shakes fist*

It seems funny to me that liking Final Fantasy was considered cool until a few years ago. The webpages I read and real humans I talk to all agreed that Final Fantasy X was fantastic when it came out, but once FFXI became online and FFXII was in production for 12 years and FFX-2 was... well, you know... after all that, now only mainstream, simpleminded Mario huggers are supposed to enjoy Final Fantasy games. The reasoning for this confuses me. Hardcore RPG fans complain that FFX was too easy, but FFVI was both the easiest and one of the best Final Fantasy games. Final Fantasy games have not been difficult since the unforgiving NES days. The Final Fantasy series has consistently changed itself from game to game, so I do not understand the issue gamers have with there being 13 of them. This is not like Tales where every game is identical and usually bad - this is a series where every game is reasonably different and usually excellent.

Matt

Do you really think that? I disagree heartily. I mean, I criticize both Final Fantasy X and XII a lot, and I really wasn't a fan of the FFXI online idea at all. However, many people have written in with high praises for both games, and I still think that they were two of the best games for the PlayStation 2, despite their weaknesses. If we were having a similar conversation about the Playstation 1 Final Fantasy games, I'd have a list of things to gripe about too; no game is without its faults, even the mighty Final Fantasies. However, I think that all of the games are strong in their own right.

If you're still unconvinced of their "coolness," you only need to look at the sales figures. They sell incredibly well in comparison to just about every other RPG save Pokémon. Indeed, a couple of million others would definitely agree with you that the Final Fantasy series is definitely still very cool.

Fallout is a good example of a non-linear game in my book. My definition of "linear" versus "nonlinear" primarily involves choice. Can I kill the shop owner? Can I give the Tome of Annihilation to the lich? Also, giving a me a choice between 50 different, short quests which do not interact with each other in any way feels linear. Sure I can pick between nearly infinite side quests, but none of them matter in the world. If only the long, rigid main quest affects the gameworld then I consider the game to be linear. This definition is flawed, I know, and so I have a big exception - if the side quests can be longer than the main quest then I'll concede that it is a nonlinear game. This is a bit of a silly debate though because so many RPGs aim for the grey area between linear and nonlinear.. To me, Oblivion is a linear RPG with many, many short side quests. Chrono Trigger and the entire Final Fantasy series are linear RPGs that overload the endgame with optional side quests. Planescape:Torment is nonlinear because you could probably complete it in half a day, but the lengthy and choice filled side quests fill out the entire experience.

Matt

Yeah- overly-contrived definitions like this are exactly why I think it's better to think of games as having some interesting continuum of linearity. It is rare these days that games are ever totally linear or totally non-linear, but somewhere in-between.

Which Zelda is my favorite? Either Link to the Past or Ocarina of Time. Both were excellent and different enough that I have trouble saying which one was better. Link's Awakening is my 3rd favorite Zelda game, although no one remembers it. If it weren't for Pokemon, Link's Awakening would undoubtedly be the best Game Boy game made.

Matt

Gah!! I certainly remember it, and many people do! That game was a neat little Game Boy game, and I talked about it a bit last week. I almost got to the end, and I loved the absolutely eerie feel to some of the dungeons; the simple yet really mysterious music really accented it well.

To end this long, linear e-mail - a question for you: What RPGs have you played for over 20 hours, but stopped because the game was so bad you couldn't take it any more? Tales of Legendia is the only RPG where this happened to me in the last few years.

~7thCircle

Matt

Huh. Not many, that's for sure. Usually, if I put down a game, it's sooner than that. The only game that I can think of that I might have gone longer on before putting it down might be Zelda: Majora's Mask, but there were extenuating circumstances there- it wasn't because I couldn't stand the game by any means.

I've heard similarly disappointing things about Legendia, but let us hope that the new wave of Tales games will be nothing like that alleged abomination. Come, to the Tower of Wishes, and we shall send our pleas to the stars!

Thanks, 7thCircle! I'm glad you took the time to write in.



One day, when you're bored...


Hey Matt,

I was letting my friend play my DS and while he was getting into FFIII I decided to play some FF I Dawn of Souls with an all White Mage party. I remember back in the day when this used to be a challenge but with the changes made to the original like MP and everything being much cheaper it wasn't much of a challenge at all. Especially after defeating Lich. I guess I will have to find some other challenge to make it interesting or I guess I will have to find another classic fall back game for times like this. What are your fall back games and/or challenges.

--
Xlash the dwarf berserker

Matt

Ugh! When I first learned that Dawn of Souls would abandon the traditional spell system in favour of an MP system, I doubled over in a painful, agonizing grief. I mean, come on! Changing that system so significantly is one thing, but to change it to a system that seems to be done in every other RPG out there? It's absolutely insulting, both to the original game and to the people that loved it. Suffice it to say, I'm happy that I got my FF1 remake happiness through Final Fantasy: Origins, where things remained nice and intact.

As for fallback games and challenges? I don't really have a challenge, per se, that I like going back to, but I do like to replay the NES Dragon Warrior games just about annually. Sometimes, I'll try and rush through to see if I can do it in the lowest level possible, and other times just for fun. The SNES Final Fantasy games are also games that I've replayed a few thousand times. In recent attempts, I tried to 'beat the clock' for the first time ever on Final Fantasy IV, and got to the final dungeon with just under 7 hours, 30 minutes on the clock.

Fun times. But, I wish I had more TIME in the first place to make these "fun times" out of, you know?



The future of North America's big gaming event...


Even with how this E3 turned out, they will not go back to the spectacle. It may not have had buzz, but it had press. E3 still got a lot of attention, and that's just fine for the devs who did show up. Besides, a smaller show means less competition. Devs like EA don't have to worry about some original game stealing hard bought attention from their latest Madden game. I think what they really didn't like about E3 2006 was that they spent all that money only to be upstaged by Nintendo's Wii. This way it's cheaper, the stakes are lower, and all the big guys can get a share of the coverage.

Matt

The problem is, though, that it sounds like the media wasn't very impressed. The whole event was scattered throughout different hotels, so from accounts I've heard, some people had no time to actually spend quality time with any demos; they had to pick up and shuttle off to the next place after a half-hour trek to find it. It would be a really frustrating balance! Having done E3 2006, it was nice to know that I could just go back to any booth and try things out later if I needed to, but it doesn't sound like that was feasible at all this time. I think it was Aethelred who did an Editorial on the whole thing: Go check it out in the eds section.

My point is, it won't be much of an event at all in the future if the press doesn't have the time or patience to cover it. There are several other gaming conferences over the year that are done in a more convenient way. And, I bet, if the people who coordinate E3 don't take lessons from this year and make some big changes for the 2008 event, the future of the Electronics Entertainment Expo may indeed be grim.

I have a feeling they're just fine with it, provided the press still comes next year. And they probably will. Don't worry though, there still is the TGS, which will have all the RPGs we're waiting for. And in the meantime, we got Disgaea 3 news!!!

Matt

Oh yes, the announcement that came after E3 was over with... along with those Tales games. Interesting timing, that... I'm still getting my head around it. I figure that some companies didn't want to make some of their big announcements during the height of E3 for fear of being overshadowed by some bigger news. As luck would have it, there were no big announcements, really, anyway. Bo-ring.



A profile on VP2


Matt,

Just a quickie about VP2's battle system. I'm not sure how far you are into the game but after the first two chapters button mashing and mindless play will only leading to difficulties. The things that you really need to take advantage of with VP2's system is creating the correct runes for the bonuses, dashing is extremely important from Chapter 3 onward, and for the combo system you need to make sure you're not bouncing guys up in the air while half your team is doing sweeping ground attacks. Also releasing the einjeinher (or however its spelt) and finding the best ones to use make things interesting as well. I just completed the game recently and enjoyed it more and more the further I got it, hopefully it does the same for you.

Ryan

Matt

Hi Ryan! Yeah, it looks like the game does have a few things going for it. The rune system looks highly intriguing, though I felt like I had to figure it out mostly for myself... the instruction manual and in-game tutorial is very, very concise and a bit unclear. Tri-Ace is really good at that (*cough* Star Ocean 3's workshop tragedy *cough*), so I might have known, but I think I have it mostly figured out.

I'm sure that the more I play, the better the battle system will become. I already dash everywhere, so I have that mostly mastered. I think that my main issue is that the system is so different. The game feels like the developers couldn't decide whether it's turn-based or action-based, and so the result is something in-between, quite unlike anything I've played before. I'll have a better report for you once I have more than 3 hours on the clock!



Shining Force Neo: HELP!


Hi! I hope you can help!! We have looked EVERYWHERE online, and to no avail!! We have finished the game, and beat the 50 levels of the bonus dungeon at the end. We were sent after some dragon, and started back in the beginning - but the orbs are much stronger and we're at a lost! Where do we go?? What are we looking for?? No one has any tips, info, direction - NOTHING and we're just aimlessly warping around from board to board - please help! What comes after the bonus dungeon?????

Thanks!!!!!!

Rebecca

Matt

Yikes, it sounds like you're in a bit of a juicy, salty pickle. Perhaps this is one reason why Shining Force Neo never received fantastic review grades. I never played the game myself, even though I wanted to. Check out http://www.gamefaqs.com/, though, because they're often a great place to look for walkthroughs and FAQs. If you've already been there, I'm sorry!

Failing that... can anyone else lend this poor lost Rebecca a hand? Just give me a ring! Or an e-mail, rather.



Yet another Final Fantasy X-lover!


Matt,

I didn't find X's story any more linear than the others in the franchise; it's not like in VIII the choices that you made would give you an alternate ending. Sure there were places you were urged to go in order to get on with the story, but there was plenty of freedom once you got the airship to explore and do sidequests. Also, I agree with Mike that the story more than made up for any linearity. X's story, while a bit weird towards the end, was engaging and emotional; it felt real enough that you could actually relate to the characters, but there was enough fantasy to keep you engaged in the world.

Matt

Well, if you could follow along. Yeah, the emotional stuff was good and worked most of the time, but the creative stuff went a little crazy near the end, as you say. Tidus is a dead guy who was sent into the future as a "dream" by a bunch of little fayth-thingies... for why? I don't know, and I didn't know at the time, but I remember thinking that whatever it was, it was different and kind of interesting. While those ideas may have been neat, for sure, I don't think the storyline was any better than, say, Final Fantasy IX's. But actually, no, I think the storyline WAS slightly better than many others of late; Final Fantasy XII's plot needed salt in the worst way, and Final Fantasy VIII's could have been good, but was very poorly presented, I feel. So yeah, no, I'll agree with you here.

That the game was too easy, I disagree. I really haven't found any game after FF VI terribly difficult; you could say VIII was "too easy" because all you had to do was draw magic and arrange stats in such a way to make your characters powerhouses. There were definitely parts of X (the monster arena) that were so long and difficult that you had to take advantage of the "cheap" abilities like no MP Cost and break damage limits or you'd never finish the battle.

Matt

And here, I disagree with you. I just do. The Monster Arena in Final Fantasy X is extra; it isn't part of the main quest, so it's not really part of what I feel is the game, and you never need to touch it to get to the end. The fact that Yuna automatically gets a summon that she can bring forth at ANY time to do quintuple-digit damage on demand is utterly disgusting, and the boss of the game can be taken out with just a very few hits, which was terribly disappointing to me. And THEN, the final final boss with Yu Yevon and all of your Aeons? I was doubly disappointed by the fact that they stuck permanent halos on your party members' heads, making those battles utterly trivial. Now, to this mix, add in a pinch of normal enemies that were almost always one-hit-KO-able, and the insta-character-switch aspect of the battle system, and you get a pretty darn easy game.

It's not a bad thing, necessarily... a lot of people really don't like challenging games. I just do, and so I gripe about it all the time like a broken record.

Final Fantasy VIII, in contrast, had a lot of difficult battles, a lot of the time. It was easy in a different way, though, that irritated me almost as much: The "storyline" areas' enemies didn't gain levels with you like those on the overworld, making some of the last challenges more than a bit unbalanced. However, on the whole, I found that the game had a much more satisfying level of difficulty than its sequel's sequel. Perhaps it's just me, I dunno.

I agree with you that Seymour was a weak villain, but compared to Seifer/Adel/Ultimecia (honestly, Ultimecia popped up out of no where), Kuja, and Vayne, I thought Seymour had just the right amount of "annoying" to keep you hating him. Plus, in X, there were actually two "villains," -- Seymour and Sin/Yu Yevon/Jecht. Seymour wasn't nearly as complex as Sephiroth but he had an interesting motive; Sin was more complex because Tidus' father was within him. Ultimately the game was about Tidus facing his father, which I thought was very clever.

Matt

Now to this, I have to agree with you too. It's not just Seymour... it's many Final Fantasy villains in recent games. Ultimecia WOULD have been cool if you had received a bit of a hint earlier in the game that she was behind the scenes. This is what I'm talking about when I say the game had poor presentation- if I had been in charge of storyline events, I would have provided a little foreshadowing for certain aspects of the game. For example, how difficult would it have been for Squall to take a look at Selphie in the beginning and say "Gosh, you look familiar..."? With that simple one-liner, it would make the "oh, we used to know each other way back when we were kids" twist seem a lot more believable.

As for Vayne? Yeah, he's about as boring of a villain as they come, I found. Like, he was evil and all, but there was nothing terribly shocking or twisted associated with that evil. I won't go into details in case anyone is still working on the game, but the twists that do occur just aren't very compelling... or, at least, they weren't for me. No matter what anyone says, I think that Kuja is a neat villain, and I don't know why people don't like him.

Anyway, I think that my problem with Seymour lies with the fact that yeah, he does just kind of get in the way of the CORE relationship between Tidus and daddy, doing little but detracting from that more important main theme.

Something I thought could have improved X would be more sidequests. I thought blitzball was a ton of fun, but it seems as though sidequests have been missing since VII. VIII and IX had the card games, but I'd like to see more thought put into sidequests so that you can take a break from the battles and the main story, and dig deeper into the characters (main as well as NPCs) and the world. X-2 and XII went a little crazy with sidequests in that they came off more as irritating than what they should be: fun and rewarding.

Matt

See, as I mentioned in my previous column, I felt that they tried a bit too hard with Blitzball, and made their entire game centre around it. If you were into the game, then great! You had fun. If you weren't, though, then it wasn't so grand. There were several other diversions, though, from your beloved battle arena to dodging lightning bolts mindlessly to finding secret Aeons, of which there were a few. Now that I think of it, the game did have several sidequests; it's just that they just weren't as FUN as some of those in previous games.

Anyway, goes to say that X is my favorite in the Final Fantasy franchise. In RPGs, I'm all about the characters and the story, and X did a great job with those elements, and NOT at the expense of other elements (battle system, leveling system, and overall gameplay).

Look forward to seeing your follow up on Final Fantasy X.

-Riv

Matt

Well, you know how I feel now. I'm more of a core battle system/skill system/challenge freak, so that's what I look for first in most of my RPGs, even though a good plot can still sometimes sweep me away. Final Fantasy X had other great things going for it too: It looked great, of course, and the music was phenomenal. The Sphere Grid remains one of my favourite Final Fantasy skill systems, too. Despite the gripes that I have, there's little doubt that the game is epic, and I still consider it to be really great. It's just not as great as some others in the series, for me.

Thanks for contributing, Riv!!



QUICKIES

Ah, Banjo-Tooie. Actually bought it for $10 just last year. I like how it avoids the sequel cliche of "starting at level 1" in that you actually still have all your abilities from Banjo-Kazooie at the beginning of the game and just have to learn new ones.

Vyselocke

Matt

I TOTALLY agree!! That aspect was so awesome and so wonderfully refreshing. I mean, it really doesn't make much sense that with every Episode of Xenosaga, all of your characters just magically lose everything they knew. It'd be so much fun if more games allowed characters to carry their abilities forward in time, you know, like they would in the real world.

I liked FF10 for the most part. Hated the mini-games though. Being an avid item collector made me hate the game designers for making those games mandatory for the "best" weapons. How about you?

Ken

Matt

Gragh, I never even bothered. My opinion on the topic at the time was something like "Why make an easy game even easier?" Besides, I really didn't like the customizable weapons aspect of the game- that was something I forgot to mention above.



IN CLOSING

Well, that was fun. Tomorrow, Q&A comes back and the clock resumes on Sock 2. Sock players: I have important information for you, so make sure to tune in and see what it is!

For next time... what shall we talk about? Oh, I know. I've been picking on poor Final Fantasy X for a long time now, but let's turn our attention towards Final Fantasy XI? This is a game that almost never gets talked about in this column, but I think it's time to start. Did you play it? Did you like it? Why, or why not? I've never played it or seen it being played before, so I'm really looking forward to what you have to say!

Get your letters to me, and I'll do my best to respond: That's how we do things in Q&A. Until next time!



Send a Letter!

Unanswered Letter Backlog: In the vicinity of 35.



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Matt is going home on Friday!


Chinese food alert on the way home! Mandarin: Locked-on. Zeroing in. Will consume much.

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