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ASK MATT
In Spite of Me
September 4, 2007

Matthew Demers - 13:40 EST

SINCE I'M SO SICK of reading things or watching TV and seeing/hearing the phrase "Back to School" with regards to this week, I'll do my very best to avoid using those words.

Instead, happy post-Labo(u)r Day week everybody. My weekend was all right- a pretty low key affair that saw me buzz down to the third stratum in Etrian Odyssey. There is a 90% chance, also, that I forgot my PS2 memory card at home, meaning Valkyrie Profile 2 is on mega-hiatus- not a healthy thing. I did discover with my brother on the weekend how the battle system works. Yeah, I've played for seven hours, and I never really realized that monsters don't move if you don't move. Was that explained to me at one point in-game? Either it wasn't, or I fell asleep while playing. I'd believe either.

Yep, I just checked. No memory card in the box. Ah well... with Metroid Prime 3 and Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance to play, I can make myself busy.

Let's see. Letters, anyone?




LETTERS
Bugs!


Hi Matt,

I suppose for being a player of RPGs for years, I should be happy I've had as few gaming glitches as I have. But they're still annoying when they do happen.

Matt

Aye. And sometimes "annoying" is better described as "oh my god, I'm so frustrated that if I had a shotput in my hand right now, I would seriously chuck it at either a) the wall, b) the TV, or c) a passer-by's head." Some games are challenging enough, without having this artificial extra layer of hardness that exists purely because of developer-laziness.

My first glitch happened when I was young and impressionable and afraid of everything. I was playing Final Fantasy VI, back when I only knew it as Final Fantasy III, and I was in the Phoenix Cave, going along, fight fight fight, puzzle puzzle puzzle, when suddenly, mid battle, SOMETHING happened. That something, I don't really know what it was. The music froze and my characters suddenly had strange combinations of status ailments and random numbers of HP. It was just eerie, seeing Setzer suddenly an imp spinning in circles, inexplicably with zero HP, while Terra floated, petrified. Weird. Gave me nightmares. Yep, I was impressionable all right. Anyway, I reset the game and fortunately hadn't lost data entirely (that fate was to be bestowed upon me several times with various SNES games, just not then and there; I guess I was supposed to know that leaving the cartridge in the player would do that?).

Matt

Ugh, at that cave no less? I feel your pain. I discovered Relm's sketch bug on my own, long before my online days, and realized the poor command's glitchiness well. As you probably know, it causes a similar array of strangenesses, and, as you say, a very big fear that your info (or your SNES) could just go up in smoke. Mine didn't, thankfully.

As for leaving cartridges in the player? Perhaps I'm just lucky, since I left games in my SNES for long periods of time without ever experiencing a dreaded erasure. I didn't know that either, though.

The most recent annoying glitch I've dealt with was with the little-discussed original X-Men Legends game. Surfing a forum or two, I guess the green screen of no return would randomly plague players from time to time. I don't know why. There wasn't much rhyme nor reason for its occurrences while I played, to be certain. They happened just enough that I wasn't infuriated into quitting the game entirely, but they were annoying nonetheless. I'm alright with having to restart a game because I'm an idiot and got myself killed, but when the game just freezes for no discernible reason, that's another story entirely.

Matt

Indeed- it's a difficulty that shouldn't even be there. With finite time in my life right now, it is extremely trying when a game steals some of the time I have because of poor, poor reasons like this.

Anywho. Those are my stories. I guess I asked one whole question (in parenthesis) already, so this letter fits the bill. A hot topic addressed and with a related question at that! That's a rarity from me. Heh.

'Til next time!

Joshua

Matt

Thanks Joshua! Glitches are, unfortunately, a reality. Games are complex pieces of software, so it's inconceivable that every single little problem would get discovered before a release. Sometimes, however, rampant glitchery is an indication of a careless rushjob. Developers would be well-advised to take note of this little conversation we're having, but I doubt we'll ever see the day where we can play any game risk-free (in the data-loss sense).



This isn't really what I had in mind...


The days almost over and I can't remember if I sent an email for the bonus points. So here I am writing nothing important yet again. Vicious cycle I hope to break. I need to find a replacement accessory.

--
Xlash the dwarf berserker

Matt

I bet you didn't think I'd publish this, did you? The funny thing is, this e-mail will make absolutely no sense to 90% of the people who read this column.



Big numbers, bad games.


There was a Super Famicom RPG called Kouryu Densetsu Villgust based off of some anime of the same name. It's not terribly good, but interesting in the fact that HP and Damage values seemed to grow at an exponential rate, each increasing about 50% in each new area. Your characters start with about 30-50 HP at Level one but exceed fifty thousand by the final boss. Definitely a level-grinder, since the enemies in each new area far surpass the previous one. Yet, enemy encounters and EXP value decrease as your level increases, thus making grinding difficult as you eventually encountered NOTHING until moving on, only to be crushed in doing so... Like I said, not very good.

--

Alexander M. DeMichiei

Matt

Oh dear... so it's one of those games that fails to reward vigilant level-uppers, even though the level-upping feels more necessary than it does in most games. (For more on this topic, see Fire Emblem, though at least that game is FUN.)

I don't know how you feel, but to me, a proper game balance can make or break an RPG. If the system is built so poorly, you'd think that the game's creators would discover this before unleashing it on the public. Like- and I have to ask this about games with glitches, too- are these games not playtested? Playtesting should almost be as important of a phase, in my mind, as the game creation itself. Why would a company spend hundreds of thousands, or millions of dollars creating a preventably shitty product, whatever the preventable reason may be? I do not understand.



Those darn ship-sinking god-summon little brothers...


Hi Matt!

On yesterday's Q&A, Sean got a letter from Zohar Gilboa about siblings stealing consoles. Well, when I was a kid, my older brother had a SNES and he was crazy possessive about it. I had "The Magical Quest starring Mickey Mouse" (I still love the game, check out some of its music!) and I had to sneak into his room when he was away at school to play. A few times he came back early and got really mad at me for being in his room. Ah, the good old days...

Matt

Hee hee, I love it. I think this territorial-sibling thing is exactly why mom and dad refused to allow us to have a TV or video games in our room when we were young. If we wanted to play, we had to play in the family room! It was a doubly-bad thing because there, we would be perfectly in sight of mom, and thus under the constant threat of having to do favours/help with dinner/etc etc, interrupting our precious gaming minutes. Grr.

I've been playing Suikoden Tactics after finding a new copy in a Toys'R'Us for $11. It's kinda slow and restrictive. I wish the movement was similar to FFTactics (one of my favorites) in which you can open up a little menu for party management from the world map. It's my first foray into the Suikoden universe, but it's still too early for me to say whether I like it.

Matt

I've heard interesting things, good and bad, about Suikoden Tactics. It's likely highly unreflective of the rest of the series, though, so if it doesn't turn you on, don't give up on other Suikodens. I can't say for certain, since I haven't played any of them. Proof positive: You can sit here from atop the Q&A mountain (more like Q&A pretty-small-hill) and preach without knowing dick-all.

Alright, time for band! Thanks for all the hard work on SOCK2 by the way, it's great!! Seeya,

-Leviathan

Matt

Not a problem...It's been fun for me too. I'll be awaiting your next letter!



A quest... to defeat the even BACKLOGGEX


Hey Matt -

I know you've been talking about which games you have on your "to be played list" and got to thinking of which I should play next. Then I came to the conclusion that I should probably finish one of the 15+ games that I've started and not finished. So this letter/question is two fold:

1. How long do you give a game to "hook" you before you find yourself getting distracted or disinterested? I know for me, if I'm not invested in the characters within the first 5-10 hours, I'm probably going to start something else when I can find it. Disgaea, for example, lost me when it got to the point where I NEEDED to go into the Item World or back to old levels in order to get my current characters strong enough to progress.

Matt

Lately, I've been a bit of an idiot by not setting out such times. I've done a lot of trudging through games that I don't really care about, partly because I feel oddly obligated to- either from a time standpoint or a money standpoint. I've also been actively trying to broaden my RPG experience over the past few years, so I've stuck out boring or bad games, such as Atelier Iris: Eternal Mana, and Wild Arms: ACF respectively. A part of me thinks that it's been good for me (and for my ability to answer questions in this column), while a much bigger part of me wants to shake my actual self by the shoulders and ask myself what the hell I'm doing by wasting my time. I dunno.

By the way, I totally agree that being forced to go to the item world at that one point early on is really lame and stupid. You should stick with it, though, because you never have to do it again if you don't want to, and the rest of the game is hilarious, even if it does feel a bit repetitive.

2. I wasn't kidding when I said I have 15+ games that I haven't finished. Which of these would you (or other readers) recommend I give another shot?

PS2 - Atelier Iris: Eternal Mana, Arc the Lad: Twilight of Spirits, Dawn of Mana, Disgaea, Disgaea 2, Dragon Quest VIII, FFVII: Dirge of Cerberus, Final Fantasy X-2, La Pucelle Tactics, Legaia 2, Lord of the Rings: The Third Age, Radiata Stories, Rogue Galaxy, Star Ocean IV, Suikoden V, Valkryie Profile 2, Ys: Ark of Nepishtim

Gamecube - Baten Kaitos

PSP - Valkryie Profile 1, Popolocrois, Brave Story/Jeanne D'Arc (just got these two)

DS - Final Fantasy III

Matt

I nudged above for Disgaea, a little bit, because the game really does have some good things to offer if you're willing to put up with the repetitive gameplay formula (this isn't really a BAD thing for me, and there are some interesting maps towards the end of the game). Let's go through the rest of your lists now. Atelier Iris? Yawn. Arc the Lad? I don't know, maybe give it a shot and report back to feed my thirst for information. Dawn of Mana? I've heard horror stories. Disgaea 2? Finish the first one first. Dragon Quest VIII? You put this one down??? AHHH! My brother just started a new adventure on that game over the weekend, and I just had to sit and watch him because I love it so much.

OK, I'm sick of the format I've been using, because it's annoying. I'll just move on: I don't know anything about Legaia or Ys, so those are crapshoots. The Final Fantasy titles on your list... I don't really care about much. Lord of the Rings was supposed to be better-than-expected, but seeing as I "expected" it to be a trashpit of a licensed game, I don't really know what that means. Radiata Stories isn't too bad if you're patient and you like tri-Ace games (both of which may or may not be true, fairly). Rogue Galaxy is supposed to have a lot going for it, and Star Ocean: Till the End of Time isn't devoid of fun either. Suikoden V is apparently great too, as well as Baten Kaitos, which has a rather cult-like following. The older PSP games on your list make me shrug in disinterest, but your new ones are both interestingly tantalizing. Of course, FFIII is a gem to see and play, even if it does get a little boring.

Phew.

In the end, what are my top picks? What would *I* be playing if I were you? I'd go with Suikoden V, Dragon Quest VIII, and since I'm interested in 'em... Brave Story, Jeanne d'Arc, and Rogue Galaxy. There, I narrowed down your list for you. Now, get to work!

Sorry bout the listing and whatnot, but wanted to give you a good choice to make sure there were as many as possible that you and the readers have actually played.

Long time reader,
nse360

Matt

No problem- I'm happy to help! If anybody has anything else to contribute, then by all means. If not, then good luck! You have a lot of games to get through, but we can work together to make sure you can tackle this all-important challenge.



QUICKIES

Wow, the screenshots for Crisis Core almost make me want to run out and buy a PSP. Almost, as I'd need about four more good games to justify the purchase.

Matt

They DO look great, don't they? Actually, I didn't realize that Zack was so awesome until I saw him in those screens. Grr.



IN CLOSING

What happened to all of my Quickies? I thought I had a bunch saved up, and then I went into my mail to discover that really, I don't. Either that, or they're all hiding on me.

With the end of the summer and the start of the busy time of year upon us, what games are you looking forward to playing this fall, RPG or otherwise? It's a simple question, but one that I'd love to hear the answer to. If you're planning on playing anything new in the next few months, tell me what and why! I'll give you my warm appreciation in return.

Thanks, everyone! I'll be back tomorrow.



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Matt is dreading yet anxious for the fall!


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On my Wishlist:

1. Dragon Quest IX

2. Metroid Prime 3

3. Fire Emblem: Goddess of Dawn

4. Super Smash Bros. Brawl

5. Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker



On my Portable/VC Playlist:

1. Etrian Odyssey

2. Shining Force

3. The Legend of Zelda (NES)



On my Console Roster:

1. Metroid Prime 3

2. Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance/Valkyrie Profile 2(?)

3. Tales of Symphonia



Hot Topics:

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4. How badly do game glitches affect the RPGs you've played?

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