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Nighttime Crawlies December 14, 2005

Matt Demers - 02:52 EST

BOY, AM I SLEEPY. Really, really sleepy. In fact, I don't rememeber the last time I was as sleepy as I am right now. Today was just fantastic; after doing some tutoring, setting up for an exam, invigilating for two hours, and then marking for another SEVEN straight, I feel a little bit like I just faced off against some monster red-pen final boss as I sit here and type this. At least the worst day of the week is DONE, which makes me really gleeful indeed.

The thing that will be nicest about this week SHOULD be Friday night, a night where I'll be able to sleep as long as I want to and sleep in as LATE as I like. Sleep is one of those things that you don't appreciate at all until you stop getting enough of it, and believe me: Over the past two years, I've appreciated sleep A LOT!

Something else I appreciate is the great response I've been getting from you all, lately! So many of your letters have been long and thoughtful, you make it very easy for me to do what I have to do every day. I appreciate your many questions!! Now, let me try to answer some of them.




L E T T E R S
Can't decide on FFXII's demo? Oh, Level 5 just gained a level!


This response is more intended for Matt, but may end up in the Andrew column...

I've been resisting the urge to write in about FFXII for several days, but, well, I'm weak. So here's a little story...

Matt

Once upon a time, in a faraway land, there lived a...a...aaaa...achoo? Please don't mind me.

Last Wednesday, I got paid unexpectedly early. Being the irresponsible 25-year-old that I am, I begged my way out of work 3 hours early, went to the mall, and bought DQ8. I had already played the DQ8 demo and gotten a taste of the game, so I figured I could hold off and try the FFXII demo first. So I did, salivated over the FMV, played through the Phon Coast mission, drooled a bit over the character models, but was mostly frustrated/mystified by the battle system and controls. The I tried the Stilshrine of Miriam mission, made it halfway through the first hallway, got bored, and gave up.

Matt

The first FMV was kinda droolworthy, wasn't it? The graphical quality has got to have a limit somewhere, but Final Fantasy has certainly not hit any ceilings yet in that respect, that's for sure. I may not have liked much of the actual gameplay in the demo, but I didn't really find it boring. Perhaps it was a little bit repetitive, come to think of it, though...

So I played DQ8 for a few hours, and then before bed, I decided to try the FFXII demo again. Most of my initial "new game" excitement was over and I was able to focus a bit more. And honestly, I liked it quite a bit. The gambits actually seemed to work pretty well, with the exception of Basch's gambit in the Phon Coast mission, which was apparently "cast spells until you have 0 MP," because within a minute he was down to 1 MP (and honesly, look at the character--he's rugged warrior type who looks to be at least in his late 20s, so why the heck did they give him a magic-heavy gambit?! Whatever.). I've gotten the impression that there will be several different types of gambits, so I'm sure I'll be bale to avoud using that particular one. I was actually pretty satisfied with the gambits/AI in the Silshrine mission. And I kept thinking, "Hmmm, this reminds me of something...." People keep saying it's reminiscent of MMORPGs, specifically FFXI.. I play FFXI, and I really didn't think it felt the same at all. But something about the mechanics did feel familiar... and then it hit me--I felt like I was playing a souped-up version of Secret of Mana.

Matt

Secret of Mana, hmm? My brother said that he thought it felt more like Kingdom Hearts, and based on what I've played of both, I'd say that it feels more like Kingdom Hearts meself. There's even a BOSS HP BAR, for heaven's sakes... I have forgotten to mention that lame element to this point of the discussion.

It's easy for me to say "It looks/plays like Final Fantasy XI" when I haven't actually played Final Fantasy XI. Secret of Mana, though?? I'm not sure about that one...

Overall, I was pretty happy with the demo. Graphically, it's one of loveliest games I've seen in a while. I love the color palette, and the highly-detailed character costumes are also beautiful. And I've been hoping for a moveable camera in a FF game for years, so I'm thrilled with that, as well. I even got the characters up really close to the walls and cliffs and played around with the camera so that I could see the characters up close, and they still looked nearly flawless. However, despite the fact that I was pretty okay with the battle system--it wasn't difficult once I caught on--I'm still not sure whether it's actually *fun.* But then again, I'm one of those weirdos that doesn't play RPGs for the battle system and rarely ever thinks battles are "fun," so it may not even affect how much I like the game.

Matt

I don't know if I'll ever feel "good" about giving up the controls to the computer. I've never NOT been in charge of all of my allies before in a Final Fantasy game, and I don't really care to hand over the reins at this point. I'm worried though, that in trying to control everyone all the time, the game won't play as smoothly... constantly switching from ally to ally constantly to give them commands seemed to make the battle feel very jerky and awkward in the Wait-mode mission I played through. *shrug*

Oh yeah, I'm supposed to ask a question. What do you think of Level-5? I'm thinking they might be my new favorite developer, mostly because of little things that illustrate their attention to detail... The way they use colors just makes me tingly, and I love having a detailed picture of every item in the game in the menu screen. I also loved that you could change the characters' outfits in Dark Cloud 2 (which is the only suggestion I would've made for DQ8, especially since the amazing nipple-free Jessica looks like a doll anyway). Dark Cloud 2 is probably one of the most fun games I've ever played, and DQ8 is gorgeous and fun as well, so I'm hoping that we'll get to see Rogue Galaxy in North America, too. I don't think localization has been confirmed yet, so do you think the chances of that are pretty good?

La Matadita

Matt

I've been very impressed with Level 5's work, obviously, for Dragon Quest VIII. I'd have to agree that they've proven themselves to be quite worthy. Perhaps their more recent successes will act as a launchpad for future achievements! I'm sure that we haven't heard the last of these guys, anyway.

You're right, though... there isn't any word on a localization as of yet, but be assured that if there is any news, we'll let you know pronto. As for my personal opinion... it's hard to judge. Dark Cloud wasn't the BIGGEST moneymaker in North American gaming history, for sure, and while Dragon Quest VIII looks to have been a bigger hit, Rogue Galaxy wouldn't have the Square Enix name attached to it to help bolster sales, as sad as that may sound. Cross your fingers!



Standing up


Greetings Matt,

I'm a long time RPGamer, but my roots lie deep within the Final Fantasy series much like yours lie deep within the Dragon Quest series.

I have to start off by saying that I loved the FFXII demo. I've been a fan of the series since the original NES version, but I am no zealot. I am no FFVII fanboy, that's for sure. I am thankful for the boost it gave the series, but it is not the best Final Fantasy by far. Back to the FFXII demo, I'm concerned with all the negativity people are giving it.

Matt

Like that coming from me? I'm trying to remain positive about the game on the whole, and I've been looking for the good points (and there are many, I think) but I have to be honest... it came with a lot of disappointments for me. Anyway, continue.

I'm not saying that everyone should love it, but I'm worried about why people are claiming not to like it. It is not an action RPG. It involves no random button mashing as does Kingdom Hearts, etc. It's a traditional RPG with a progressive battle system. I'm not sure if people don't like it because it is lacking random battles or what. I'm just puzzled. Was the battle system too complex? You've said yourself that you've only played the Wait Mode section of the demo. I could understand your calling it an action RPG if the Active Mode was all you have played, because it is a lot more hectic. The Wait Mode has a traditional feel to it, you just get to choose when and what you fight. If you turn the Gambits off it's as turn based as you want it to be.

Matt

To me, there's nothing traditional at all about it. If it were, I wouldn't have to spend time being preoccupied with camera-correcting and getting confused by chaotically scrambled enemies/allies. You know, I found it difficult to see how much damage my attacks were doing, because everything felt like it was happening so quickly- all three allies would attack an enemy at once while something off the screen and out of camera-shot would get in an irritating assault of its own. It was disturbing, in a way. A "traditional" battle system, in my opinion, doesn't feature this frantic feeling. A traditional RPG doesn't feature battle screens cluttered with attack trajectories and three different damage numbers and four different attacks occurring simultaneously. A traditional RPG doesn't lack battle music (which to me is one of the most disturbing things of all that FFXII's demo lacks). To me, the only thing that I CAN label this is an "Action RPG", because whether it's "progressive" or not, that is what it feels like, period. I don't like Action RPGs that much, but many other people prefer them to classic-feel RPGs. Maybe I'm not looking at it in the right way, though... I don't know.

I think that people that aren't liking it don't really want to like it and are using the "action RPG" reason as a cover. People are either bitter over it taking so long or are still angry over FFXI being an MMORPG. I went into FFXI's release wanting to dislike it. I even wrote an editorial here about how anti-FFXI I was, but then I gave it a chance. It wasn't as bad as I had imagined it would be. I know FFXII could have some major failings, but the battle system just doesn't seem to be one of them.

After all my droning on, I just want to know, did you even give the demo a try before you decided that you were not going to like it?

Matt

I think, honestly, that that's a bit of a short-sighted way of looking at things. I'll tell you now outright that yes, I think that Final Fantasy XII took too long, and YES, Final Fantasy XI should not have been an online phenomenon. That said, though, I personally try to keep a completely open mind when I approach a new game, and while that of COURSE isn't true of everybody, I think that it's a bit of an overgeneralization to say that "the only way people can't like this game is if they don't want to like it". That's ridiculous... of course people want to like it; they've been waiting for FIVE years for it! I want to like it; there's no question about that.

Also, I don't see how it being an action RPG would be useful as a cover. There's nothing WRONG with action RPGs, is there? How are they inferior to other games? To me, they aren't as fun, but that's certainly not true for everyone. Look at the number of people that write in praising Star Ocean: Till the End of Time, or Tales of Symphonia; the proof is in the pudding, as the old strange saying goes.

So, to answer your question, of course not!

*smack smack*

I'd never seriously judge a game or its demo until I sat down and tried it out. I'm sure you're right, though... there probably ARE a lot of people that went into the demo initially without giving it much of a chance, and it's too bad for them... they might really miss out in the end.

Changing topics, I'm very excited about FFIV for the GBA. It is one of my all-time favorite RPGs. As I was composing this e-mail I received a call saying that my copy should be available for pickup tomorrow. I can't wait for it and FFV and FFVI to come out.

I would like to know which FFs out of the eleven main ones have you played and to what extent?

Matt

As a huge Final Fantasy fan myself, I have played and finished each and every one with the exception of XI, which I just can't afford (timewise or moneywise). I didn't ever invest the energy into finishing all the sidequests in Final Fantasy 7-10, but I always did at least "some" of the extra things, which I think can be said for most of us. My favourite? Definitely Final Fantasy VI, though every single FF game is significantly above average to me. The SNES bunch, though, holds a special place near and dear to my heart.

And here's a question I like to ask any RPGamer that I meet. What would your ultimate party of five playable characters be? Pick from any RPGs.

Thanks for your time,
Macstorm

Matt

Five playable characters? If I had to choose any five to make an ULTIMATE party, I'd have to include...

Ness: We need some ridiculously overpowered hero with the most powerful attack AND healing spells, AND physical attack to boot...

Rosa: Only the best White Wizard of all time...

Dragon Warrior IV's hero: Nah, I'm not replacing it with DQVIII's, at least not yet. For some reason, I like this hero more than any other, and he/she is really damn powerful too.

Princess: The strongest character in Mario RPG, with both massive frying-pan attack power AND the cheapest party-heal in video game history. Uh, yes please?

Squall: For the purpose of sheer ass-kickage. Lion Heart... need I say more?

Anyway, I really appreciate the time YOU took to write in. Try not to stress too much about what everyone else thinks of a silly demo. The real judgment will come next year when the actual game hits the stores, right?



PSP and random games I haven't played


Anyway, might as well ask something for once.

What's your opinion on the SaGa games? I recently bought Romancing SaGa: Minstrel Song, and I love it (the open-endedness of it is somewhat annoying...but SaGa games don't have incredible plots anyway). The music is awesome, the graphics are actually pretty good (I'm a fan of Sketch Motion, what can I say), and the battles are challenging...not Unlimited SaGa challenging, but still hard.

I'm gonna have to wait till Christmas to play DQVIII, though...sigh.. I'm looking forward to the FFXII demo, so it can either reinforce or dispel any fears I may have for the game. Hopefully I can bask in wealth of time I have to play games after my 4 finals are over. A side note: There should really be a law against having two math exams scheduled for the same day; not just any math classes - frickin' Analysis classes. Ugh...someone send me cookies :'(.

Matt

Wow... it does indeed sound like fate is out to get you! Your terrible scheduling has a small bright side, of course: ALL the pain (or, a great deal of it, anyway) will be over with in a hurry. Your holidays await! I'd send you cookies if you really wanted them... but only if you REALLY wanted them, though, in caps.

Anyway, what you say about SaGa seems to ring true in most people's opinions. I haven't played the game outside of Final Fantasy Legend III, if that counts. I have no firsthand experience with the more modern entries into the series, though I've heard at least decent things about the games.

I noticed that Valkyrie Profile was getting ported (remade?) to the PSP, and I've always regretted not playing it back in its heyday, so maybe I'll get another chance, should I ever cough up the funds for a PSP. If you've played it, what do you think of it?

On that note, I'm annoyed with the two handhelds. I mean, PSP is made by Sony, who's reputation precedes itself, as well as the large number of great titles they've got in store for the system, and the system specs to boot, make it a great handheld. But...DS is getting FF3. Sigh. I mean, I've already beaten the original NES version, but who can resist an entire reworking of a game? It's the same theory behind WA:ACF. But I digress. I'll probably end up getting the PSP, but man...does that bug me.

Matt

Bah, I haven't played Valkyrie Profile EITHER, though it's one of those games that I remember turning over in the video game store many times in my late adolescence. What can I say about the PSP? I'm not going to get it unless I have to. There aren't really many games that I feel like caring about that have been released or announced for the system; Valkyrie Profile would be the only one so far, though perhaps someone could convince me to care about Suikoden I & II (that was announced a little while ago, wasn't it?). In the end though, I just don't have an extra $300 to cough up right now, or anytime in the near future, to invest in a system that offers nothing that I'm really CRAVING playing. Also, with the DS offering so MUCH in the short and long terms, there's just no competition, to me.

I realize that this letter is filled with rants and digressions, but...I'm in the middle of studying, and my brain is fried! :D

Oh yeah, thanks for the guest hosting, again. I put some Bactine on those whip marks, and they are healing up nicely.

~Ourobolus

Matt

Please... you know by now that that's all this column is about. Rants and digressions?? Without them, I'm nothing!! NOTHING!! Also, don't make me look like the bad guy here...you begged for more, admit it.

Bye bye, Mr.Sock Expert extraordinaire! Best of luck, as well.



Right to the point


What is your position on emulation?

Thanks,
Flamethrower

Matt

Ah, a curveball! This is an issue I generally like to shy away from, because it's obviously pretty touchy.

The arguments for and against emulation both have a lot of good points. Why should emulation be allowed? Many people take the position that emulation is the only way to play the old classics again. That's not necessarily true, though, for a couple of reasons. Video game companies have begun to cater some of their "leftovers" to the next generation. We've seen more remakes in recent years than ever before in RPG (and videogame) history, giving old titles new freshness. Also, if Nintendo keeps its ambitious promise, all SORTS of old titles will be made available to gamers upon the release of their mysterious upcoming console. Those arguments aren't valid anymore.

I don't like the idea of emulation myself in the first place because to me, any game in particular just wouldn't be the same through the computer screen, unless, of course, the original game was played on a computer. Without a controller, and with random graphical or sound glitches here and there, it just doesn't appeal to me at all. You can't enjoy a game the way it SHOULD be enjoyed if you enjoy it through emulation. Also, emulated games are illegal, and since I like being a good boy, I try to bide by the rules. I guess, too, that that's about all I have to say.

Interesting Q, Flamethrower, for a one-liner!



Lightning round!


Goodevening/morning Matt.

Answers first as per the usual.
73: A
74: B

Anyway i'm in a inquisitive mood tonight (which is better then the mood I was in at work!) so i'll fire away!

Matt

Should I brace myself?

What was the first console you ever played and the game?

Matt

Time for a boring answer, Bainick! The NES was my first system, and I began it all with the original Super Mario Brothers. Ohhh the memories... it was also at my friend Kim's house, and I'd ALWAYS want to play when I went over. The problem, however, was that her attention span wasn't quite what mine was, and she hated the idea that I might want to get somewhere in any game, as I remember her always whining at me to get off of her "machine". Ugh, I'd hate her so much during those times!

Do you own any Game and Watch games (I own Cake Factory still with that new game smell)?

Matt

Nooope. Super Smash Bros. is about my only experience with Mr. Game and Watch, regretfully.

Which game was/still is the hardest game you have ever played?

Matt

The 7th Saga: What a disgustingly, impossibly, annoyingly difficult game. I like hard games... but to an extent. That point was well exceeded for that game, though.

What is the oldest game you own (Again Cake Factory being two years older then me)?

Matt

And again, the original Mario Brothers...it's been twenty years now since its American release. Unbelievable, hmm? I feel so OLD!

What game do you still go back too even though you've passed it a thousand times?

Matt

Oh man... ALL four of the NES Dragon Warrior games, and the three SNES Final Fantasy games. I've played through each and every one of those seven titles at least three times, and some as many as eight or ten. I'll just never get sick of playing them, and I really hope that I never do!

How many consoles do you own including handhelds?

Matt

Including handhelds, I have an NES, SNES, N64, PS2, Game Boy Advance, and Nintendo DS. I guess that makes six total, doesn't it? Sure, it's not the most expansive collection in history, but they've done me well.

So I probably won't be getting a PSP, unless its second hand and less then $200 Australian. I already have a DS and I do know someone who owns one and that I can borrow from. And Valkyrie wise, theres another guy who owns it so I hopefully will have played it before the end of the year.

Matt

Mmm, and given that it's still $300 Canadian (is that REALLY $345 after tax here?!?), and that the Australian dollar is worth only about 86 Canadian cents (according to latest market data!), I highly doubt you'll find a PSP for under $200 (a new one, anyway). If you've got a friend with Valkyrie Profile already, then yeah... go that route instead.

And with Morrowind (It hasn't deleted itself YET on that useless Micro' Machine), The problem for me was that there was no abilities to create a family, or actually recruit people you like into your fort, or create a personalised fort (X Box version). Hopefully this will be addressed in number 4 (Can't wait to ride a horse!)

Thanks as always, the number one Australian ticket holder
Bainick

Matt

Mmhmm... you'd hope that a sequel would address issues presented in previous games, but developers don't always learn their lessons, do they? Here's hoping, at any rate!





C L O S I N G
IN CONCLUSION:

Whuhhh... you guys were long-winded today, which is always great to see! I, however, have little wind left in my own sails. After the busiest marking day of the semester (that's right... seven consecutive hours, after overseeing the exam for three more) I'm truly a beat man. I should be full of vim and vigour next week, though, as I'll finally officially be on those great things we like to call "holidays". It is my hope that much chocolate and sleep will be involved!


Flashay!


The answers to last time, you would like? I could do that. The pair of questions were rather uncharacteristic of the contest, since I'm not a sports buff and I know next to nothing about FF:AC. Here's how it went, though:

#73 was proposed by our friend KnightTrain, who let me know that Sephiroth's voice is being played by the timeless (??) Lance Bass, who used to be a prominent member of the "boy band" dubbed N Sync, with an apostrophe in there somewhere. Of course, the word sync or synchronization is defined as harmony or likeness in timing, so the answer was c) in harmony and in time, for 30 points. Thanks, KnightTrain, for your submission! You'll get 60 points for that one!

#74 was Jbumi's turn in the spotlight. The question was "On Dec. 4, 2005, the Oakland Raiders had their first penalty free game since which year?" According to her great knowledge on the subject, the correct answer, for 30 points, was b) 1971. I was certainly clueless on that one, I'll tell you that much.

And now... for the next two! Where's my drumroll guy? Jeez...

Question #75: Follow Me!--> Which of the following characters of Chrono Trigger has a name that has an anagram meaning "to hum or sing softly"? (40 points)

a) Crono
b) Belthasar
c) Lucca
d) Robo
e) Schala

Question #76: Ask Bainick!--> In an Australian Football League game, how many umpires are on the field at the same time? (30 points)

a) 4
b) 5
c) 6
d) 7
e) 8


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!)


A little bit of news: There are rumours flying that a certain Andrew might be back soon! Make sure that the inbox is full of letters just in case! Don't you have anything to write in about? I'm still accepting opinions about any of the current topics, but especially Final Fantasy IV. Do you have it? Do you think it's the greatest thing in the world? How about that Game Boy Advance? Despite the DS' fire, it seems to still be trucking along; does the GBA still have a lot of life ahead of it? Please, discuss!

wonderslime@rpgamer.com
***Matt's eyelids are getting ever droopier!


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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.

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1. Ourobolus
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2. Flamethrower
704 pts

3. Jbumi
703 pts

4. MagRowan
628 pts

5. Bainick
549 pts

6. DDX
522 pts

7. Xlash
470 pts

8. Arros Raikou
458 pts

9. ~Sean~~
422 pts

10. Jeremy
400 pts

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