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Raindrops on Kittens December 1, 2005

Matt Demers - 00:57 EST

CANDY CANE #1 of the 2005 holiday season was consumed today, one day short of the start of the month of December. This is likely the very first year of history that the first candy cane has not been peppermint-flavoured, though! This one was some fruity, Madagascar-themed piece of candy: Madagascar, the movie, of course.

I definitely prefer minty candy canes... I'm not sure if it's a function of nostalgia, or something in the coloration; blue candy canes just don't cut it, for some reason. Green and red stripes are just necessary for a candy cane to be fully Christmasy. While I'm appreciative of the gift (one of my students gave it to me along with a card and a lottery ticket... what a sweetheart!! I couldn't believe it), I'm a little disappointed that I wrecked my Christmas 2005 candy cane virginity with a blue, nonminty one.

Oh well... there's always next year. Have you ever had one of the butterscotch-flavoured ones that are striped with yellow and purplish-brownish-burgundy? I'm definitely not a fan... those are certainly the worst of Christmas tasties, kind of like the Christmas version of those DISGUSTING orange/yellow/black-wrapped Halloween toffees that taste absolutely hideous. At least the candy canes are a tad classier, or so it would seem.

I won't put you through any more of my potential encyclopedia entry on festive sugary treats, though. It's time to answer some questions!




L E T T E R S
A meaty start


Hi Matt!

Just wanted to write in and cast my support for the Grandia series. I'm one of those people who absolutely loves Grandia's battle system. I'd try to describe it, but I'm generally not good at doing so, and any number of people have described it quite well. I tend to look at it as a more advanced form of Chrono Trigger's, since both are turn based and have varying emphasis on a character's position on the field. That's oversimplifying it, perhaps grossly so, but it's the best I can do without writing a mini-review in here. Character positioning, foot speed, casting time, and timing your attacks (to go off at a specific time, not timing LoD style) are huge elements to Grandia. The only problem with it is that it becomes pretty easy to exploit after a while, the final bosses in both Grandia and Grandia 2 are absolute jokes. And while the stories aren't great, they're still good. Both games have some very memorable characters. I found Ryudo in Grandia 2 absolutely hilarious, and everything in 1 has kind of a 'fun' feel to it. So....yeah. Good stuff. I will snap if Grandia 3 doesn't come over, especially after all the hype behind it's announcement. The whole "announcement that we're going to make an announcment" thing from last year. What the heck was that?

Matt

What the heck WAS that, anyway? Well, it's been more or less confirmed by now for North America, which certainly isn't quite the same as actually having it released, though it's a step in the direction.

The battle-system exploitation thing is true for a few games; you find some cheap way to make things easier, and then keep doing it again and again until it's an addiction. Xenosaga: Episode II comes to mind. Sure, the POINT was to find enemy break points, but once you figure it out, it gets pretty old quickly. The only way they ever make things more difficult for you, too, is by increasing the number of enemies to four or five by the end, and that, in my opinion, is ultralame. They could have made it much more interesting or in-depth... or put a few variations in the combinations (maybe with weapon changes or something?) Anyway, this is definitely not a letter about Xenosaga, so I'll stop ranting now, but only after saying that EASY FINAL BOSSES ARE REALLY STUPID and can totally make decent games into disappointments. :P

Back to you, Jeremy.

Are there any DS titles you've played lately or are looking forward to that you would recommend? Doesn't have to be RPG...there's a ton of stuff I would like to get for it once I get one. Any reinforcement you give for anything at all is something I will keep in mind once I get one. So plug away!

Thanks, Jeremy

Matt

YES! SO MANY games that are good! I only own three right now, and I haven't opened one of them... it's some urban asphalt stupidhead racing game that I got for free with the system back in July, and I really closed-mindedly don't care about it. Super Mario 64 DS is a little bit cheap and stupid; the game was clearly not designed for touch-pad control, though the changes here and there are interesting. My current favourite game is Warioware: Touched, which requires a very short attention span to play. I LOVE Warioware games too much.

What am I looking forward to, though? Mario Kart, man... Mario Kart!!! I'll be a disappointed man if I don't get this for Christmas, that's for sure. Even more, though, I'm looking forward to Final Fantasy III, a title I've waited YEARS to have translated. I've been quite impressed by everything I've heard up until this point, and this is the game I'm most looking forward to right now. Mario & Luigi, though, is something that's out NOW that I would have bought already if I hadn't stupidly included it as well on my Christmas list. The Mario RPGs have been spectacular -ALL of them- and hilariously funny, too; I have never finished one of those as a disappointed gamer. Twenty-four days to go...



Mmm... another readerguy with the Australian flavour!


Hello again Wondermatt,

First of all, I'd just like to say that I'm one of them. Yep, I've actually finished Grandia 2 (first game finished on my PS2,) although I have to admit, I was somewhat disappointed in their choice of final boss. Storyline wise, it was great, but geez, I've seen scarier things in a biology textbook. (Well, a major tinea infection is quite disgusting.)

Matt

Hmm... 2/2 = 100% of the letter-sender-inners have been disappointed in this way so far! Intriguing. Maybe the plot designer had a bad day or something, since the rest of the game seems so, er, infectious.

Secondly, yes I do have MegaMan X8 and quite enjoyed it. It was the first X game aside from Command mission I ever finished. Thanks for suggesting anyways.

Matt

You're welcome! I sincerely thought that it was a huge step in the right direction from Capcom, and that it was severely underrated by many review sites. Megaman X7 was absolutely terrible, for sure, but X8 changed so much, put it back in 2-D like it should have been, and added more special stuff, more plot twists, and more interesting gameplay than most of the recent games in the series. It's too bad that an X9 doesn't seem to be in the works, at least, anytime soon.

Also, since I'm in Australia, my comment about not being able to play DQ VIII for a while still stands. Haven't managed to find a lick of info about it coming out, but it looks like the kind of game I could make my thumbs fall off to and I know you're loving it, yes?

Matt

Do you Aussies have detachable thumbs, too?? Crazy... I bet you can do some pretty cool party tricks with that ability, hmm? Ahhh, how I would love to come and visit someday...

Right, Dragon Quest VIII is, to be quite honest, one of the best games I have EVER played. It may be my favourite Dragon Quest game I've experienced, and I think for sure that it's the best Playstation 2 game to have been released. It's so nice and challenging, and perfectly blends the old and the new in an altogether wonderful combination of goodness. AH, I want to play!

Also, Thanks to your QnA segments, I found out something very important-I am as old as Dragon Quest! The ideas for next-year's birthday party are already milling around in my head as I type. Oh, that'll be a fun bash for all.

Well, I guess I should go now. Good luck with that exam of yours!

Regards,
Peter 'I may be a bard, but I am not spoony' Brennan.

Matt

Thank you very much, Peter!

I think that all bards are spoony inside... they just have to admit it to themselves first.



Star Ocean: More? Four?


Are any rumors beginning to circulate about a possible 4th Star Ocean Game? The last one, Till the End of Time, was excellent and with a lot of gameplay. Some games get to the point where you wish it would just end, but I wanted that one to keep going. Also, any word about Ys: The Oath in Felghana being ported to the PS2 for a US release?

Matt

Believe it or not, you've already played the fourth Star Ocean game.

*inserts mysterious Earthbound noise*

I'll let you chew on that one... check out the Games section for the listing, and discover a secret of the past.

As for a NEXT Star Ocean game, no. I'm sure there might be some fans milling around on forums here and there going OMG THE NEXT ONE WILL BE SO KEWL, but officially, there hasn't even been a hinting. By the way, I also didn't want the game to end, mostly because they pretty much forgot to finish the storyline.



SO DOC, what's up?


Hey Matt,

There's been talk of Star Ocean and Dirge of Cerberus in past columns, so I figured I'd go ahead and put in my input and actually write for once.

I, personally, never had any really large problems with the battle system in Star Ocean. However, when I did, I found it rather engaging to switch between characters and direct them more fully. I'd done the same with Star Ocean 2 a lot, especially during boss battles. It might seem like a whole lot of tedium, but as I'm used to RPGs where it's completely turn based and you control your other party members anyway, this didn't seem like too much for it to ask of me to keep an eye on the other party members.

Matt

Should they be just standing completely still, though? Of course, I'd switch to them too, if need be. It's just that need WAS, *ALL* the time for me. You know, I'm wondering if something just went awry with my game, for some bizarre reason... I really wish I had a recording of how idiotic things became at times, because I feel pretty lonely on the issue, with all you fans writing in, day after day.

As for Dirge of Cerberus, it was asked what characters would be in it other than Vincent. Yuffie, Cid and Cait Sith are all in it, Cait Sith evidently being used as a playable character for stealth missions.

Erin

Matt

They picked the only character in Final Fantasy history with a megaphone to carry out stealth missions...

Is it just me, or is this a trifle strange?



Speaking of mimes...


Ramza Beoulve had a problem, besides the usual one of no one knowing how to spell or pronounce his last name. All of his soldiers with the useful skill Copy seemed prone to running into misfortune. One had slipped and fallen into Zirekile Falls. Another, through a series of unlucky moves, was now getting far more familiar with the disgestive process of a Marlboro than anyone ever should. When yet another was struck by lightning right in the middle of the Sweegy Woods, Ramza threw up his arms and shouted,

"What is it that makes this keep happening?!"

Orlandu nodded and said gravely,

"Heaven's wish to destroy all mimes."

Matt

Ramza Beoulve had a problem, besides the usual one of no one knowing how to spell or pronounce his last name. All of his soldiers with the useful skill Copy seemed prone to running into misfortune. One had slipped and fallen into Zirekile Falls. Another, through a series of unlucky moves, was now getting far more familiar with the disgestive process of a Marlboro than anyone ever should. When yet another was struck by lightning right in the middle of the Sweegy Woods, Ramza threw up his arms and shouted,

"What is it that makes this keep happening?!"

Orlandu nodded and said gravely,

"Heaven's wish to destroy all mimes."

HAHAHAHA... now, ye gods above, I DARE you to strike me dBRAZZPZAAAAP



Matt answers KnightTrain's question!


Hey Matthew,

I just wanted to complement on your enlightening editorial that you wrote titled, "$10,600". I cannot, after much painful caculations, why in the world someone would pay that amount of money for an XBOX 360. It doens't make any sense. I figure that if that person wanted it that badly, he would have reserved it at his local electronic store. And if he/she was lower on the list and had to wait another couple of weeks for the store to get another shipment . . . confound it it doesn't make any sense. With that much money, you could buy and XBOX 360, all of the games currently released for it, and probably all of the rest of the games in the store. GAAhgg it makes me so confused. After reading your editorial I checked on ebay to see what the bids were going for, and though I didn't see any going for that price, I did see some bids a little over $1,000, which is still insane.

Matt

Well, thanks! 'Twas my first pitiful attempt at an editorial, anyway, so I'm glad someone was touched.

A friend of mine actually gave me the link to the eBay listing while I was on IRC. I've heard of higher bids since then for different sellers, but I don't actually know if any of these actually sold. Just imagine how much you could DO, productive or unproductive, with that quantity of cash. Stuff like this makes me absolutely speechless... especially for such an unworthy console.

Anyway, enough bantering. I still haven't got to play DQ8, but I want it bad, for it looks so tasty. But I have a question. If it's true that Eight (wierd name by the way) doesn't talk, what are your thoughts on that? In the past, it used to annoy me very much that characters like Ness and Link never spoke a word. But then I realized its ok in those games because they aren't very diologue driven. The only people that talk are npc that give you clues as to what to do next. But there are certain games where it still bothers me. Take Chrono Trigger, everyone talks in that game, all the time except Crono. Why? In Mario RPG, Mario was struck dumb somewhere and has to communicate via charades (although it is kinda funny). Again, why? I know that the answer is usually, "the character is supposed to be you, so you speak for him/her." But that doesn't make any sense. Crono is not me, he's crono. Likewise, Mario is Mario. In games such as DW1, I understand, for the character is whoever you want him to be. But it's no fun when character's like Crono have the personality of cardboard. Just wondering what your thoughts are.

Struck dumb in Gaurdia,
KnightTrain

P.S. By the way, Chrono Trigger, Earthbound, Zelda, and Mario RPG are all among the best games ever in my oppinion. Silent Protagonists are only a minor pet peave.

Matt

It is quite tasty! The hero's name really isn't Eight at all; he was just called Eight for the demo, presumably because the game is the eighth of the series.

Anyway, you probably hate mimes, don't you? I don't mind silent heroes... I think it can be done very amusingly, sometimes, though not really in Dragon Quest VIII at all. Crono and Mario, though, whether imitating chickens or recounting events, are great!

Also, you have to think... hmm... metaphorically. You have to "immerse" yourself in the game. "Become" the hero. Make the sword-swinging motions as you attack, and go crazy when you reach a state of high tension! Or, don't. In Dragon Quest VIII's case, I don't really think that the silent-hero syndrome really takes away from anything, personally, though it's too bad we don't get to hear another great cry-of-death. "Alistair!!"



A comforting chat


Matt,

Hey what's up, oh slime of wonder? I just wanted to answer your call for letters, as I am a very devoted fan. Dragonquest 8 is wonderful, that's no lie, however I must admit that right now I'm pullin' some major time on Alter Code F.

Matt, I'm really worried about Final Fantasy as a series.

I mean, Final Fantasy 4 (2 in the US) was my all-time favorite of them all, with 6 (3 in the US) being a very close second. I was a little skeptical when FF VI came out for the SNES though. When I heard something about machines that you rode in, (referring to Magitek Armor) I said to myself "Oh man. They're gonna make it futuristic. Magic is gonna be done by machines. Great." Fortunately, however it retained the charm of the series quite well, and my fears were alievieated. When FF VII Came out, I felt the mystique kind of slipping. Yes it is a great game. Yes I own it and yes I play it quite a bit, but to me, learing magic through an outward means, be it espers or materia, just seems to cheapen the importance of magic. Wanna teach someone Ultima? Give them the proper esper or materia and they'll learn it. Wanna teach Rydia Meteo? Get her to LVL 60 and she'll learn it. It just feels like so much more of an accomplishment...so much more of an investment.

And now people use guns, Cloud's riding a motorcycle...everybody can use magic if you choose to let them. Isn't magic supposed to be one of the most powerful forces ever known in RPGs? I realize it offers some customization, but it takes away from the uniqueness of the character, to a degree. Now they're doing spinoffs of FF VII, and FF XII just didn't phase me really (at least not the demo). Talk through this with me Matt, and put an old-schooler's mind at ease. Please.

~Donovan

Matt

The demo was underwhelming for me too, honestly, and I'm sorry to break it to you, Donovan, but the series just isn't what it used to be.

The Super Nintendo version of Final Fantasy was an evolutionary phase that happened to arise out of its NES roots, and the evolution has continued to twist and change the series with each and every new game. It's unfortunate, to me, that they've chosen to make it an Action RPG, because Final Fantasy has always been the crux, to me, of the "core" RPG genre. If Final Fantasy is taking this route, will other games follow? Are old-styled RPGs going to become even less common and less popular because of this?

I don't know. Anyway, your question was about magic and technology and such. Let me ask you something: How did you like Final Fantasy IX? The characters are fully segregated, if you will, except that Eiko renders Garnet completely pointless once she joins you. However, I don't think that it helps the characters, really; certainly not like it does in Final Fantasy IV, where Rydia actually casts Fire to get through an icy mountain range, and Rosa yells out "Cure Two!" to try and heal a fallen comrade during a storyline bit. I'm not sure.

Try to stay open-minded, I guess, and don't let yourself get too sour about the genre in general. Try to take the changes with grace, and remember: If you don't like the new games, there's nothing stopping you from going back and enjoying the ones you've always loved!



Bubble, bubble...


Hi, Matt, Glad the email's working again. I'm a Grandia fan. I think the first, so far, was the best in the series. Two was fun, but on the easy side. Grandia Extreme was the worst - it's a dungeon crawl, & I'm not fond of those. I do hope they bring three over.

Matt

Noted. Is that three letters now, in response to Grandia? Good work, people!

Anyway, I'm glad the e-mail is working again too. I thought it would be funnier and more fun to come up with and answer my own questions, but it didn't really turn out that way.

Also, I just got the biggest craving for a Reuben sandwich... Angel's Diner, going downtown, stacks them SUPER high (to the point of ridiculousness), and man-oh-man they're good. What does this have to do with anything?? Absolutely nothing, that's what. Why am I talking about this now? Hells if I know. Moving on...

I don't understand how none (not counting cell phone nonsense) of the FFVII remakes are RPGs. What were they thinking? Oh, well, I have DQVIII to keep me happy!

Speaking of DQVIII, when I'm running around (which I do a lot because I like to cover as much of the area as possible before I move on to the next town) I hear a "ding" that sounds a lot like a kitchen timer going off. Do you know what that's supposed to signify? Also, do you know how they determine how many skill points you get when you go up a level? Sometimes I get 2, other times 5 - how does it decide or is it random?

Matt

Oh, you silly goose, you... you're going to laugh at this answer. What are kitchen timers used for, anyway? Think about that for a second, and then have it dawn upon you that the bell simply indicates that whatever you're cooking must be done! Then, smack yourself across the face for being so silly!

Otherwise, I'm quite sure that skill points are set, just like other stat increases at level-ups. Dragon Quest games have always fixed the stat increases at level-ups to give you extra boosts just when you probably need them, so it's very fun to get the "bigbig levels" that come up every now and then.



A good bundle of questions to conclude!


Happy turn of the month Matt!

I sincerely wish you good luck with your final and with the prepping of the first years for theirs. Reading about other people's finals makes me glad that I am no longer required to take them myself. I always had the ill luck to have my final pop up on the last day at 8pm in the evening, so I have a specific reason for my abhorrence of the evil things.

Matt

Why thank you! I have put a truly remarkable number of hours towards studying so far, but it's only remarkable because that number is equal to zero. We'll see how it goes, but my foremost thought is "One week from today, I'll be FINISHED."

One quick rant, and then I'm on to FF VII spin-offs. Here goes - Sometimes I really dislike the holiday season. The only reason for this is that I cannot purchase games for myself for the months of November and December. It's a rule in my household, enforced by my family, so I don't end up buying myself a game that a relative has gotten me for Christmas. So I'm stuck playing my older games for the duration of these two months. *sigh*

Matt

Yours is not the only household, m'dear.

You don't want to KNOW how upset my parents were when they found out that I had pre-ordered Dragon Quest VIII for myself. With the inevitable number of spoilers flying around, though, I had no choice in the matter!

So, back to FF VII spin-offs. The only thing I was ever interested in was Advent Children, but I was thoroughly thwarted by the bump back of the release date in the U.S. Cursed fiends! Way to ruin it! I was so amped, too... Have you heard anything new in the rumor mills about a release state side cause I surely haven't? Better yet, have you even seen the movie yourself on *ahem* bootleg? The NA S-E site for FF:AC hasn't been updated in forever even... grr...

Matt

Nah, I haven't really paid much attention. It looks cool, perhaps, but I dunno. I like leaving my RPGs alone, and adding something to the original storyline might just take away from what my imagination had to say about the game, possibly.

Also, I'm not big on such illegalities, mostly because I'm a good boy who is afraid that men in dark glasses will knock on the door one day to drag me away, never to see the light of day again!

As for the others, not so much. I'm not usually a spin-off person. I prefer thinking of the FF's as singular and solitary in their first run. I might rent one of the spin-offs if they make it state side out of loyalty to the series, but it's not on my top ten list of things to play.

Matt

Yes, exactly as I said. I'm not really salivating over any of the titles either, though I might pick them up one day. Between Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles, Tactics Advance, and X-2, my faith in these random additions to the series has deteriorated significantly, which is unfortunate, perhaps.

Oh! By the by, I did get to play a good chunk of Katamari Damacy this Thanksgiving, and even got the relatives playing, too. I didn't get to show of KH though. I'll do that the next time they visit. Christmas game marathon anyone?

>From Oldie-but-Goodie Game Land,
MagRowan

Matt

Possibly! I'm sure mom will have Miracle on 34th Street running all day, every day while I'm home... or National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, for that matter. The amount of TV time I'll get while in Chatham-Kent is certainly a questionable thing, but maybe I can distract her by pointing out the window, exclaiming, and then changing the channel while she isn't paying attention!





C L O S I N G
IN CONCLUSION:

Oh, finally... a "real" update! We haven't had one of these in a long time, it seems, and I miss them so, even if they take a little longer to write up.

Let me take this opportunity to recommend Blistex's Lip Medex. It is a remarkable product, and I can't believe how quickly it works. This medicated lip balm clears up cold sores, canker sores, cuts due to chapping, or other ouchies on your lips in an incredibly short period of time. Indeed, my lips felt like they were going to explode and bleed everywhere as of yesterday afternoon, but after only 24 hours of use, they look and feel as if nothing was ever wrong with them!

Note: Avoid contact with eyes. Discontinue use if signs of rash or irritation appear. Eviter tout contact avec les yeux. S'il y a éruption ou irritation, cesser l'usage.

I'd also like to say that I have much happier evenings when I go to the gym, and eat more fruits and vegetables during the day. I feel like nine-hundred ninety-nine thousand, nine hundred and ninety-nine bucks, really!

Flashay!


Finally! The socks are back, and we end the week with our first FAN SUBMISSION! Congratulations to Jbumi, who submitted a most intriguing question. To get YOUR question posted, send in your ideas! Generally, the best questions are the kind that can't easily be looked-up, so make them original and creative, and they might be featured (and you may thus win double the question's point value! Audience: OOohhh! AAhhhhh!)

Before we get to today's, though, we must answer the questions that were asked a full week ago, now. Question #59 was something that just about everyone got right. Of course, the answer is c) Ayla/Frog, which was made evident in one of the funniest Chrono Trigger quotes, in my opinion. Twenty points to everyone who got that one not incorrect!

Question #60 was a bit trickier, but it wasn't that hard: The factors of sixty are:

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 10, 12, 15, 20, 30, and 60.

Some of you forgot the 60, and thus answered d, but the correct answer was e) 46656000000, for 25 points.

And now, we begin a new era, where readers exist with me. Er... Co-exist, that is... in producing this thinger.

Question #61: Follow me!--> Which of the following five types of pasta rhymes with the name of the Earthbound Ones' Town in the 12,000 BC era of Chrono Trigger? (25 points)

a) Spaghetti
b) Lasagna
c) Orzo
d) Penne
e) Vermicelli

Question #62: (30 points) Ask Jbumi!--> How many years were there between the invention of the tin can & the invention of the can opener? (30 points)

a) 2
b) 5
c) 10
d) 25
e) 50


Unfortunately, my own e-mail is still not up, so QNA is still your best bet. Send your responses to this place here and you'll be guaranteed, as promised, a minimum of EIGHT points (increased from four, due to inflation).

Things to work for (the SOCK item shop!):

200 points: Tilde (infinite number remaining!)
500 points: Guest-co-host Opportunity #1 (5 remaining!)
700 points: The Final Fantasy 1 "Official" Crazed-Chipmunk-Hold-your-Ears Soundtrack (5 remaining!)
1000 points: The Mattie's Mom Cookie Recipe Compilation (5 remaining!)
2000 points: Guest-co-host Opportunity #2 (5 remaining!)



Annnnd that's a wrap! Enjoy the weekend without me! I know how difficult it can be sometimes, but next week should be great, what with the being finished the exam and all.

May your first days of December be happy ones indeed! Good bye, for now.

wonderslime@rpgamer.com
***Matt likes his veggies


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I need some final boss music, people!! It's almost that time of year again...!!!

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Matt's Top 3 Current Games:

1. Dragon Quest VIII

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Cookie o' the Week:

Mattie's Site Paralysis cookies

What to do when rpgamer is paralyzed? Well, of course... you dig into the Doctor's Book of Home Remedies and look up a cure to paralysis. Hmm... maybe that's not feasible in real life, but in the RPG world? Oh ho ho!!

-3 Moonwort Herbs
-12 Golden Needles
-1 cup of powdered Robaxacet
-1 cup of vanilla-scented massage oil

Crush the herbs and blend with half of the oil. After dipping a needle into the oil, roll in the herbal mixture until it is the width of a finger. Dip in the Robaxacet. Repeat for all of the needles, and then bake in a 400 degree oven until the medicinal coating is slightly charred. Try not to throw it up, and you might just recover from whatever ailment ails you, provided it's a movement-hindering one.

SOCK standings:

1. Ourobolus
580 pts

2. Jbumi
523 pts

3. DDX
522 pts

4. Flamethrower
389 pts

5. MagRowan
315 pts

6. Arros Raikou
314 pts

7. Bainick
301 pts

8. Xlash
300 pts

9. Jeremy
287 pts

10. ~Sean~~
264 pts

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