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ASK JBUMI & MATT
Juggling Act December 13, 2005

Jbumi - 01:27 EST

HAPPY TUESDAY! I'm all a-quiver with excitement. This is my favorite site (& my home page). I'm honored to be co-hosting with the Wonderslime himself.

In the stupid real world I'm a working stiff. Trying to get everything done at work in order to get some time off for the holidays has had me working 10 hour days. Also, this past weekend was so hectic I didn't get a chance to game at all!! This must end soon - I get cranky if I don't get any gaming in.

Now that I've bowed out of SOCK I'd like to share a tip with you. When you don't know the answer use The Power of Convoluted Thinking. You'll be surprised how well you'll do if you just use your mad mental magic. It worked for me!

On to today's letters.




L E T T E R S
A matter of taste


Up till now, I have only watched the blossoming of SOCK with more-than-average interest. But when I saw DDX's word puzzle, I just had to email my answer. I'm almost positive the answer is E. And man, that was a tricky question. By the by, I do indeed have an RPG question. Since the letters indicate that FF12's battle system is less then desireable, what do you think it should be like? Standard turn-based? ATB? I personally adore the Tales of Symphonia battle system, but many here seem to be into the straight-up old-school simplicity of turn-based combat. Wow, that was three hyphens in a sentence...is it a sign?

Anyway, thanks!

Undeniably,
Ganon0

Jbumi

I'm glad you asked, Ganon. Yes, I am a big fan of turn based battles. I think they're more strategic. I would have liked FFXII to have a system that allowed me to control each of my party members actions. Of course, just because that's what I enjoy doesn't mean that other people don't prefer the more action oriented style. I just wish that turn based wasn't dwindling in favor of action - there's room for both.



Anyone want some rock candy?


Greetings from one cold place to another!

Brrr... I'm with you on this winter thing. Cold is highly overrated. Especially cold without snow. 6degF and not a drop of moisture to be found. Grr...

Matt

Ugh, I know! I'm about ready to take a trip to some random Caribbean island to blow a cool grand. My sister developed an infatuation with resorts in the Domican Republic at about my age, and I'm slowly following her lead, I think.

We've had a ridiculously moisture-filled December so far. I can't recall the last time we had eight inches of snow on the ground in the first half of the month, and the temperature has fallen to an antihellish minus twenty at this very moment (that's four below zero or thereabouts to you backwards Farenheit people).

Anyway, I just wanted to say I was incredibly stoked for the release of FF IV on the GBA! I know I already have the game for the SNES and the PSX, but one can never have to many copies of the game, right? I'm even going to get a copy of VI for the GBA when that come stateside as well!

Matt

It is a good game, for sure, and anyone who HASN'T played it before had better take this opportunity to try it out. I used to be dead-set against the remakes of FFIV/V/VI, as many of you will probably remember, but I've softened my viewpoint over time. Why? Well, my main worry was that the re-releases would be yet another round of direct ports lacking any substance at all. It seems, though, that Square Enix has pumped some actual effort into these titles, lifting the graphics up a notch, and doing a complete retranslation (among all of the other interesting changes). I'm looking forward to IV, V, and VI, now... hopefully Square Enix gives V and VI the same treatment.

Actually, I'm looking forward to both games on a portable system as a way to pass the time when I find myself on long road trips, which I do find myself on at least once a year. Usually I take along KH:COM (don't cringe), one of the Zeldas for GBC, or the 'FF' games for the GB. Having another couple of games, especially ones I love so much, to add to the repertoire shall make me most happy.

Matt

Mmmm... one of the greatest purposes for the handheld video game system: The road trip!! Warioware is such a wonderful way to make time pass quickly in cars (or, for me, the cars of a train). Of course, it's one of the most embarrassing things to play as well; if you get into it as much as I tend to, people start looking at you a little bit strangely after a short time.

I used to play Final Fantasy Legend III a LOT when my brother first got his Game Boy Color, and I really liked Link's Awakening. Ah, that was back in the day when there weren't a ridiculous overabundance of two-bit Zelda games released twice annually (Note: I generalize terribly, since the only one I ever even looked at was Oracle of Seasons. Perhaps they're wonderful... I'm really in no position to pass judgment at all, tee-hee.)

You know I am extremely pleased that someone other than me likes the Mario RPG lineup. I haven't found too many people around here that like it, and the magazines I've read have rated the later GC installment not to highly. After reading your comparison of M&L for the GBA and PM for the GC, I really want to pickup these games again.

Matt

I find that a lot of people just aren't willing to give it a chance in the first place. I remember how much I enjoyed playing Super Mario RPG... and how unbelievably CRUSHED I was to discover that the sequel would be fleshed out in a "Paper" 2-D style, and at one time, I think I vowed never to touch it. I've never been more wrong about a game, though, because the Paper Mario series is now one of my all-time favourites. You just need to approach it with an open mind and a sense of humour... the game is less cutesy and more clever than many are willing to give it credit for.

So, I must ask since you've played the original SM:RPG, what is your favorite part of the storyline? I'd have to say mine is the whole section with Booster's Tower. Man, Booster makes me fall off my chair with laughter every time! He goes down as one of my all time favorite 'villains'.

Your commiserator in cold,
MagRowan (soon to be known as Mag-Cicle)

Matt

Heh heh. Between Booster, Kammy, the Three Sirens, and Fawful, the villains of EVERY Mario RPG are incredibly hilarious. Howzabout one of the greatest edible villains of all time, though? Bundt's Blizzard attack was brutal, if I remember correctly.

My favourite part of Super Mario RPG is definitely when you get to Nimbus Land. I love going wandering through the castle, fighting Birdo, avoiding the wrath of Dodo's beak, and watching Valentina shake her stuff while holding a martini during battle. Do note that it's been about five years since I've played through the game, so a few details might be hazy... maybe it was a wine glass?



People don't notice MY heroism either


Hey there.

Actually, this letter is about The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, despite the fact that I'm currently playing through a sheer truckload of console-RPG's. I adored Morrowind; I truly did. But, I'll admit that it was a flawed game, and no matter how much I modded it nor how many times I played through it, the whole thing felt, well... cold. The combat system was serviceable enough, if entirely uninteresting, but the whole world was missing any sort of feeling.

It was static and it never truly felt like you were an important part of it, no matter what you did. Your character formed 'invisible bonds' with other characters through persuasion and it was as if you, as a player, weren't allowed to view them... it was strange. Like your own creation was keeping secrets from you.

After the thousandth time being referred to as 'outlander' by a crazy Dunmer whose land I saved by vanquishing a great evil, I started to truly resent Vvardenfell and everyone in it. No matter what you did, you couldn't become a part of its society. You were an outsider and no one dared to defend you about it, even if they were practically proposing to you every time you talked to them otherwise.

I would most certainly hope that I wasn't the only one who noticed this.. Has anything been heard regarding PC/NPC Interaction? Or how a 'Reputation' system might work? It's all well and good that NPC's carry on with their daily lives, but I really wouldn't mind being treated like I was a part of them for once, as Morrowind had a way of preventing you from inserting yourself into the role of a participant in the world that people truly recognized, wouldn't you agree?

Sincerely, Althnizar

Jbumi

I've never played any of the Elder Scrolls games (don't really game on my PC). So I wandered around the internet a bit. It would appear that since the game is supposed to be so open ended that this causes your feeling of being an outsider. Even the people who said they really liked the game said that if your looking for a more interrealted feeling to go play a Final Fantasy type game.

Matt

I've never played it either, but it seems like a pretty counter-productive thing; as an RPG, you should feel like you have a front-and-center vantage point into the goings-on around you, and the world around you SHOULD change as you progress. I mean, for heaven's sakes... even Final Fantasy 1 changed the townspeople text after great achievements were um, achieved. Didn't it?

Regardless, your interaction/reputation system sounds like an ambitious venture that the minds behind Fable would take on with limited success, but the idea is dripping with juicy untapped potential. One day, one day...



More FFXII Demo stuff, and a sprinkling of Twilight Princess, topped with an XBox 360 sauce


Hey Matt!

I started DQ8 and have found a certain ball and an annoying fish. I am ridiculously powerful with a boomerang that smites slimes wherever I go. Then I find a Knight on a Slime... who owns me in 1 attack. Yay. It's a fun game, just not nearly as engrossing as I thought it would be. But oh man... encounter rate is high... I play DQ8 while idle in FFXI, so it isn't too bad.

Matt

Certainly, the random battles will probably be a little bit of a shock to the system, especially if you're not used to them, but I still think that they'll grow on you over time; you'll mind them less and less.

Also, I found the first few hours to be a bit slow, too... though as soon as the story starts with vigour, you'll notice. It speeds up for about the next 5-10 hours after that, slows down for a few more, and then really picks up for most of the rest of the game, or at least, I found. If you're not finding yourself as engrossed as you wanted to be, give it a bit of time!

To me, it's the world itself and the battle system/difficulty that is most engrossing. It's soooo exciting to travel to new places and find new scary monsters that make you sweat... I LIVE for the panicky feeling that close battles in Dragon Quest games give you like no other game quite can.

The lab in Lunar DS is by the port city on the middle continent (forget the name). Its next to the Althena Cathedral. Its an annoying level.

Anyways, byw for now!

~Sean~~

Matt

There you go, person from yesterday! I hope you're reading today.

Anyway, Mr. Sean, thanks for writing in. I hope that Dragon Quest VIII becomes more engrossing (grosser?) for you in the hours ahead!



A smattering of topics


Hello Matt,
This is my fourth letter to this column, and with two previous letters being published (with marvelous responses I must add!) I feel like I can get good feedback on my questions and comments. Anyway, onto the letter....!

Matt

Bah, you flatten me. Er, flatter. I'm glad you enjoy it, of course!

I'm about 40 hours into DQ8 and I can't explain in any earthly spoken language how GREAT this game really is! Really, who cares about the hero not speaking? Why nit-pick a game of stellar proportions? The overworld is the best I've ever explored in any RPG, the voice acting is superb (I love the English accents!), and the game brings something to the table lacking in most of today's RPGs... COMEDY that WORKS!

These are just a few of the reasons why Dragon Quest is literally the best series of RPGs ever. I know I'll get heat from that comment by some of your readers, but think about it. Ever since Dragon Warrior 1, the series has left me captivated. Even if I'm wrong in my opinions here, which games offer more fun in the fundamental cornerstone of simply exploring new lands, unearthing treasures?

This game was well worth the $50 I shelled out.. People, with all things considered, get this game now, and be prepared to feel the rush of excitement that only a few games before truly delivered.

Matt

True, but this isn't something that all RPGamers are looking for, right? To me, exploring and discovering are some of the things I love most about RPGs, but many others play RPGs for an interesting storyline experience, and still others play it for other reasons, be they online interaction, character building, or graphical splendours. Dragon Quest isn't necessarily the number one choice for many RPGamers, then, though I'm still convinced that just about everyone could easily appreciate at least some of the things that Dragon Quest VIII has to offer.

Next, I have a question for you Matt. Did you ever play Atelier Iris: Eternal Mana? I picked this game up along with DQ8, and its very interesting. Unique systems of game play lead to a pretty good time with this one. I'd say its worth playing, although not on DQ8's level. What do you think of this game?

Matt

A decided "meh" in the end. I had difficulties staying interested in the game, and I thought that the battle system felt like a lethargic version of Final Fantasy X's. I'm not sure why, but the storyline didn't really keep me hooked, and I cared very little about any of the characters... in fact, by the end, I couldn't even recall why some of them had chosen to come with me in the first place, which is pretty bad. Also, while I don't like griping about the graphics, the complete lack of depth matched with the poor play control to make a few maps annoyingly difficult to traverse at times.

The game wasn't without its highlights; the background stories to the shopkeepers were interesting (more interesting than any of the playable characters, might I add) and the item synthesis was mesmerizing to say the least. Overall, though, I just found the game to be largely bland and disappointing... I would have invested my money in something else, given the choice.

Oh, and on a side-note, I'd like to say that I did not enjoy the demo of FF XII, yet will most likely still purchase the game, because I just love the whole FF series. May sound like a stupid reason, but I like to give the actual game a chance. Who knows? I'm open to changes, even in the FF games, with the new battle system and whatnot, if it is pulled off effectively.

Matt

Hey, you; meet me. I'm in the exact same position, so... no worries. I haven't played a "terrible" Final Fantasy game yet, and I'm very hesitant to judge the entire game based on a ten-minute demo experience, so I have to concur with you wholeheartedly; I'll certainly be picking it up as soon as I can when it comes out, and I sincerely hope that it turns out to be really great.

Finally, I'd like to ask your opinion on the dot.hack games. I own the first four, but still need to finish them, since I moved on to other games (which are backing up! Gah!). I feel they are also fun, and offer promise.

Well, I'll close now. Thank you very much, and great columns as always!

-Greg in Philly

P.S. - sorry for the long letter, but to your readers : Pick up Shadow Hearts : Covenant as well. Its not a video game, its an experience. Trust me on this one!

Matt

I'm unfamiliar with .hack personally, but I've heard that if you get into them, you can't escape... a dangerous phenomenon, considering how expensive it was to stay on top of the series back when the installments were released originally. There's quite a cult-like fanbase for the series, it seems, so there must be something likable there, but it's not something I've discovered yet (and probably not anytime soon, unfortunately; the backlog strikes again).



Holiday woes...


Dear fellow canadian,

Jbumi

Sorry, Al (I can call you Al, right?! If you want you can call me Betty!), but I'm from northern New York (which is practically in Canada). Anyway, I know you had something to say.

First off, I love the Q&A. I check it every chance I get. Which is pretty much everyday. Hmmm, makes me wonder if I need to get a life....*pushes silly thoughts away*

Jbumi

You're right - that is a silly thought. Checking here every day is just a part of your life. A great, gleaming part that puts a smile on your face & a melody in your heart.... Sorry, started to get a bit daydreamy there. On with your letter.

Also, this is actually the second time I've written. First was before they changed the Q&A host. Well, enough about me...

I managed to rent Dragon Quest VIII little while ago, and I sort of regret it. Not because I hated it, it was amazing! The graphics, the gameplay, Jessica's..errr....Forget I said that.

Anyway the reason I regreted renting it was that now I can't get it out of my head! And with christmas this month, I won't be able buy it for way too long. *cries* I am planning on renting again, but that'll only be a temopary fix.

Well, just thought I'd share. And maybe rant about how much I hate canadian winters. Which I just did, if that counts.

Anyway, thanks for hearing my story.

From an Albertan fan.

Jbumi

Why don't you ask for it for Christmas, or if you're getting any cash, buy it? If you can't, then you really have my sympathy because I'm hurting simply because I didn't get to play this weekend, and I own it.

Northern New York winters also suck. I had to drive to stupid work Friday morning in a white out. I mistakenly pulled into someone's driveway thinking it was my turn off. I hate, loathe & dispise winter.



PSP games are terrible! Can you use it?


Hey, Matt,

I've got an answer to the question you posed at the end of the last column, as well as another that was brought up by your answer to a previous letter. (This is my first time writing, so please forgive me if I violate Official and/or Unwritten RPGamer Q&A Etiquette, or something like that.)

Matt

I'd refer you to my "Big Book o' Q&A Manners", but I can't recall where I put it. If you do anything severely out of line, I'll let you know... don't worry. ;)

*cracks knuckles*

Regarding FFIV, I can't say I'm looking forward to it, but it's not because I'm sick of remakes; I've just never really cared for FFIV. I didn't play it when it first came out, and when I bought the port for the PS1, I just had trouble getting into it. It'll make me sound like a bad gamer, but it was too hard for me to really enjoy it, especially since I had other games lined up to play that were easier and had better graphics. If a game is just difficult, or just time-consuming, or has mediocre graphics or a bad soundtrack but is otherwise great, I can handle it, but when two or more of those problems get together and go out for drinks it messes things up for me.

Matt

Now now (good gods above, I'm about to publicly endorse the FFIV remake)! This might be a prime opportunity to get into it; the graphics have undergone an update, so they'll be at least of typical Game Boy Advance quality, so they shouldn't get in the way of your fun, though they shouldn't have in the first place, if you ask me.

You really think that Final Fantasy IV was a difficult game, though? To me... it's one of the very easiest in the series, and certainly the shortest. Perhaps, though, it's just because I've played through it three hundred times, or somewhere in that vicinity. I argue that Final Fantasy IV is a game that every single RPGamer MUST play through at some point during their lives... it's one of the few games that created the "old school" definition.

FFVI, on the other hand, is something I'm eagerly awaiting. I love that game, but I don't have a reliably functioning copy of it anymore. The cartridge is gone, the emulators aren't the same, and the PS1 port has those annoying load times during battle transitions. I wouldn't call myself a fan of handhelds, but having a (hopefully) quick, faithful port of it in my hands will be a good thing.

Matt

Mmhmm. I'm interested to know when Square Enix will choose to divulge any information related to Final Fantasy V or VI. They've been announced... but other than that, there's little information on the table.

The second thing I had to add to this was about DQVIII, since you mentioned that negative comments about it tend to come from people who haven't played it. I have played it, but I'm stuck in a bit of a quandary, here. The game's got a beautiful soundtrack, a huge, dynamic world, a well-constructed battle and skill system, and excellent graphics; all the same, for some reason, I'm just not having fun playing it. It's reminding me of Star Ocean: 'Til the End of Time, in that I love the package but can't seem to get into the product itself. It's not a bad game by any standard, though, so I can't say that I regret purchasing it. (The FFXII demo helps with that, too.)

Well, time to go back to cursing tri-Ace for choosing to rerelease Valkyrie Profile on the PSP; being broke and without all the HOT NEW SYSTEMS sucks. Good luck digging yourself out from underneath all the snow.

Matt

Well, there you go! If this column is any indication, there are a huge variety of ways that Dragon Quest VIII is "good". I said it earlier on, but Dragon Quest VIII won't be everyone's favourite game, but most anyone should be able to recognize some of the amazing things about it. Many others, including me, Jbumi, Greg up a question or two ago, and lots of other readers would agree that this is one of the greatest games the Playstation 2 has to offer.

Of course, it's just a matter of taste, like every other RPG series out there. You can't know if you love something, or just "like" it, or don't care much about it at all, or downright despise it... unless you try it out and see. Someone's gold might be someone else's pyrite, as they say (???).

In other news, I KNOW. The PSP isn't so hot and new though. Well, it might be new, but it's certainly not HOT in the eyes of most RPGamers, I think. I've heard tell that all of the RPGs released for it thus far have been rather stinky indeed, and with so much MORE on the horizon for the DS, that is certainly my hot new system of choice.





C L O S I N G
IN CONCLUSION:

Oh me, oh my. The horrible longest-day-of-the-semester is upon me. Tomorrow, I head onto campus to oversee my first FINAL exam in Wonderslime history. After the little runts finish up their tests, I get to spend the entire rest of the day with only semi-likable people marking the darn things. At least the professor will be buying us pizza and wings or something else tasty for (anti?)nutritional purposes... free food? Anything is worth free food! Well, almost anything.


Flashay!


Since I must hop into bed shortly, let's zip right to the answers from yesterday! By and large, many people took greedy numbers of points away, so you should all give yourselves big pats on your respective backs.

The answer to #71 was of course e) 65,000,000 BC, since the item needed to open them wasn't exactly invented until sometime just before 12,000 BC. 25 points for the right-answer-guessers!

As for #72, a curious number of you are evidently Monty Python fans. It's been years since I've seen the movie myself, but the answer, according to our friend Jeremy (and most of you), was c) one, when the famous historian is killed, for another 40 points.

Those points sent TWO more contestants over the key 200 mark: Two newer participants too, no less, who have managed to answer questions correctly with considerable accuracy. Rexy! Belthasar2! Fight over this pair of congratulatory tildes!

~ ~

Of course, those who guessed both without success but still took the time to send an e-mail will receive 8 consolation points. You're always a winner with my socks! Also: Expect an inflationary increase to 16 next week!

The new'uns:

Question #73: Ask KnightTrain!--> In the upcoming movie, Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children, the English voice actor for Sephiroth also was once part of a well known band. The name of the band, roughly translated, means what? (30 points)

a) in time and in tune
b) in tune and in key
c) in harmony and in time
d) in time and in key.
e) none of the above

Question #74: Ask Jbumi!--> On Dec. 4, 2005, the Oakland Raiders had their first penalty free game since which year? (35 points)

a) 1968
b) 1971
c) 1976
d) 1980
e) 1985


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

200 points: Tilde (infinite number remaining!)
700 points: The Final Fantasy 1 "Official" Crazed-Chipmunk-Hold-your-Ears Zipfile Soundtrack (4 remaining!)
1000 points: The Mattie's Mom Cookie Recipe Compilation (5 remaining!)
2000 points: Guest-co-host Opportunity #2 (5 remaining!)


Keep sending your best questions in! Here's a topic for you all to ponder, one that might be interesting to some. Does anyone own a PSP? If so, how about those PSP RPGs? Are they really that bad, or are they enjoyable? Are they worth the purchase of a PSP? How much likelier are you to buy a PSP now that Valkyrie Profile games have been announced for the system?

I hope this column finds you well! Thanks Jbumi, for being a great sport and a splendid third co-host! I'll be back tomorrow, as always, but for now, I must say goodbye.

wonderslime@rpgamer.com
***Matt loves the music from Final Fantasy IX's Branbul more than his own soul...


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My soul... he's a despicable chap sometimes.

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Cookie o' the Week:

Mattie's cookies of ridiculous chilliness

Your nipples couldn't get any harder!

-6 to 8 inches of snow, drifting to 1-2 feet
-2 cups of sugar

Walk outside in your underwear on a day when the expected high temperature is below freezing and when the wind is expected to be blowing. With your bare hands, gather a bunch of snow (a few cups) into a large metal bowl and mix it lightly with the sugar (colder snow = powderier snow = better for mixing). Roll up palm-sized portions of the mixture and pat them down into cookie-shapes. Wait outside with them for an hour or longer until they've iced over, and then enjoy with ice cream.

SOCK standings:

1. Ourobolus
915 pts

2. Jbumi
703 pts

3. Flamethrower
669 pts

4. MagRowan
620 pts

5. DDX
522 pts

6. Bainick
514 pts

7. Arros Raikou
450 pts

8. Xlash
435 pts

9. ~Sean~~
422 pts

10. Jeremy
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