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Allan Milligan

Okay, okay, time for something new and exciting. My SaGa Frontier comments, promised last time, have been sunk into the body of the column, leaving this space free to talk about something else. Namely, Atlus.

Up until a few weeks ago, I didn't pay much attention to Atlus. Their RPG releases for the Playstation had been not my cuppa (Persona), or disappointing due to the lack of improvements made from the originals (Ogre Battle and Tactics Ogre). Not exactly something that inspired my confidence. And then they unveiled Kartia, via the Blockbuster thing, and I became intrigued. I've got a soft spot for strategy/RPGs, and for Amano's artwork, so I promised myself I'd give it a look. (Which I still need to do, but that's not the point.)

Then Atlus announced Brigandine, which was compared to Dragon Force, which I loved. And Guilty Gear, which isn't an RPG, but utterly rocks anyway. So I gave Tactics Ogre another rental, and noted that the text translation was surprisingly good. Not perfect, but good. And that, to me, sums up the company: they're not the Big Guns yet, they've yet to release a game that totally blew me away, but they're up-and-comers. I hope to see great things from them soon. That's my hope, at least.

Q: Ok, so it's not "really" cocaine and it doesn't permanently raise your attributes, but (and I'm sure this will be one of many notes mentioning this) in Exile: Wicked Phenomenon you get to use the following items-

1) Coca Level 1 healing power

2) Cannavis Level 2 healing power

3) Peyote Level 3 helaing power

4) Hareesh Level 1 attack for 30 seconds

5) Pika Level 2 attack for 30 seconds

6) Boracelo Level 3 attack for 30 seconds

7) Joyaco Level 1 defense for 30 seconds

8) Cavass Level 2 defense for 30 seconds

9) Cantharos Level 3 defense for 30 seconds

I know up to #4 what the real items are, but beyond that I'm kind of stumped on what they should be, if anything. And yes, I double checked the spelling on the items, no typos in the lot. They also have a god (in a desert culture) called Fallah. Wonder who that might be? :)

- James Cunningham

Allan: Count on Working Designs to slip cocaine into a fantasy RPG. :) Thanks for the list - it's been ages since I played Exile: WP, and I'd completely forgotten about all these things. I'm stumped past #4 as well, but it's neat anyway.

Q: Greeting Mr. RPGuru,

I love you comentary with all of these questions and all. It shows how committed you are to the RPG fans of the Internet, and how patient you are with some of these people. Now I have a question and I think an answer, but I want to see what the Guru thinks about it.

Have you seen all seven of Shadow's dreams in FF VI or is that just a stupid rumor of the world? It kind of ticks me off, for I sleep in the inn a thousand times, but I can only get four, maybe five, I've lost count for goodness sake! So have you? Please share your wisdom with me, so I may be enlightened.

-Fish


Allan: I've only ever seen five dreams, which trace Shadow's life from early times as Clyde the thief, with his pal Baram, clear up to the point where he leaves infant Relm with Strago in Thamasa. I've heard claims that there are seven dreams, but I'm a "believe it when I see it" kinda guy, and the strategy guide says there's only five, so that's what I'd say: five dreams.

Q: About the pronounciation of Ramza's last name, Beoulve.. if I didn't know better, I'd say that the name looks French. I asked my mom about it, who speaks a little French herself, and she said that it looked French. She also said IF it were meant to be a French name, it would most likely be pronounced "Bow-vay". Just thought you'd like to know!..

Bye.

-JaRRaL

Allan: Interesting. As an aside, Shawners wrote in, suggesting that it'd be pronounced "bwelve." It hadn't occurred to me that it'd be a French name, but that sounds about right. I'll probably still end up saying it "bay-oolve" like always, but now I have two slightly less silly versions to fall back on. Heh. Thanks for writing in.

Q: Allan:

1. I really enjoyed the article on what challenge is, some very good points were brought up. But from what I read, apparently Dragon Warrior III (one of my favorite in the series) is not much of a challenge, but rather a level gaining bazaar. While in some cases this can be true, I've found that with a party of 4 you don't have to gain as many levels during the game as Dragon Warrior IV's chapters (not to knock DW4, another favorite). If you really want a challenge, do what I'm trying... a party consisting of the following: Hero. Level 44 and I'm about to kick Baramos' bum.... hehe. Anyhow, got any input on this? :)

2. I've recently read about several of the more recent Enix Games, DW5 and 6 as well as Mystic Ark. The latter of which sounds like a better sequel than the original. My question is, Enix has, sadly, seemingly abandoned the American RPG market of late... in fact Ogre Battle is the only thing in recent memory that they've released here. What gives?

3. My question is, will RPGamer ever have coverage on the PC market? It seems to me that you'll stay Console oriented, but you never know...

Thanks for the time, hope to write back soon!

Slayer of Llamas

Allan: (Had to snip out some material, since it was taking up the entire column. Apologies, m'man.) Anyhow, answers:

1) First off, I'm very impressed by your taking on Baramos with just the Hero. Of course, a more fun way to do it would be a party with the Hero, and three Goof-Offs. :) As for difficulty, I suspect that DWIII's reputation as "level-gaining bazaar" may stem from the fact that there's no time spent on character stuff, which means that proprtionately, the level-gaining to "story" ratio is tipped more towards the former, which makes it seem more like the former is the point, rather than the method, which irks some people. Does that make any sense?

2) Enix of America shut down because nobody liked or bought their games. Simple as that. Dragon Warrior sold decently, but not great (DW1 aside), and the rest were savaged in reviews and ignored by gamers. So Enix essentially said "to hell with this," and put their efforts into the Japanese market, where they clean house.

3) We're a console RPG site, first and foremost. We have enough of those already to cover to even consider expanding to PC games. Sorry.

Q: I personally did not like Final Fantasy 3 nearly as much as 7. This opinion comes from playing both games until my eyes bled. I just finished demolishing ff3 because i just got a super nintendo. There were mainly 3 reasons i didn't like ff3 as much. They were that

a) There was no real main character

b) The ending in 3 was so incredibly boring because there was no impending danger like meteor in ff7.

and c) The "evil" villian in ff3, Kefka, was such a loser. I mean c'mon he was a clown for gods sake. Now Sephiroth, there is a real villian.

Dont get me wrong, ff3 is still a very good game, but just not THAT good.

Allan: Well, I actually prefer FF3/6j to FF7. The lack of a main character, to my mind, was an advantage: it forced Square to spend time developing several focal characters intead of just one (Celes, Locke, Terra), which created a better-developed cast overall. By contrast, Cloud was a huge focal point for most of FF7's plot, leaving characters like Red XIII, Yuffie, and Vincent quite two-dimensional. FF6 had its share of cardboard characters too, but the split focus gave us more really well-developed ones, which balanced that.

Second, I don't think having a tense ending sequence is neccessarily a Good Thing. I liked FF7's ending, but there's nothing wrong with having a happy ending to a game. The vingette scenes of the characters, plus the triumphant flight at the end of FF3's ending left me quite exhilarated - not as pat as FF4's ending, not as vague and tense as FF7's, but interesting in its own way.

And lastly, I loved Kefka. He was such a Caligula sort of character, totally insane and genocidal, but laughable and absurd. It's easy to pull off a mwah-ha-ha, dresses all in black villains, but to create a psychotic clown that can destroy a world? That's tough, and Kefka's murder of Leo in FF6, to me, is a classic RPG moment.

Q: I've been waiting for you to beat FFT so I can assault you with FFT questions . . .

SPOILERS FOR FF TACTICS START HERE

1) In FFT, there's all this talk about Lucavi. I had the feeling that Lucavi was the big bad guy demon, and I expected to square off with him (it?) at the end of the game. Then I saw somewhere that Lucavi was just a general name for all the big demons like Velius. What's the real story?

2) Do you think that fighting 'bosses' in FFT (eg Velius) and battles where the goal is to beat one guy are dumb? Strategy is abandoned in these battles and there's no satisfaction in winning.

3) Do you think that FFT got way too easy near the end?

4) What's the deal with Delita? Good guy? Bad guy? Retard?

5) How long do you think you can keep updating daily for?

-CS-

Allan: 1) According to the cutscene just after you get Meliadoul, Lucavi is a general name for the demons caused/summoned by the Zodiac stone. The legend of Lucavi the singular monster was of one of them, who was given the name of the species (or whatever) as its given name.

2) Velius certainly required strategy, but the rest of the bosses in FFT were fairly lame. It often made sense story-wise, but especially once Orlandu joins up, "Kill Person" battles ended up being an invitation for a one-turn battle.

3) If you used Orlandu? Yeah. I'd be curious to give it a shot without using him, though.

4) Delita is the focus of the most systematic character assassination I've ever seen in a game. The whole game starts off with the explanation that he's known to be this legendary hero, but that Ramza was the "true" hero, obscured by time and the Church. And he seems decent enough in the first chapter, but from then on, culminating with his murder of Ovelia, he's set up as a power-hungry maniac. He's someone who's so totally sure of his righteousness, that he knows what's best, that he manipulates everyone else into doing what he thinks needs to be done. He's complex, he's not very likeable, but very interesting.

5) I'll be keeping it up until Friday, on which night I'll be leaving for a family trip to my cottage for the long weekend (Canadian Thanksgiving, eh). I'll be gone for two days, and return for a column on Monday night. After that, I should be clear until Christmas.

HERE ENDETH THE FFT SPOILERS

Q: A Shaft RPG???? AWESOME!! Why, just this Friday I made a Shaft computer theme. Many people might not know who Shaft is. Well, just check out his THREE(!) movies: Shaft, Shaft Goes to Africa, and Shaft's Big Score. The RPG would be great. Picture this: The Isaac Hayes them song plays in it's entirety whil you guide Shaft out of the subway to the shoe shine shop. Instead of making rude gestures and pulling out your badge, you get in PE like fights. Cabbie almost hit you? Fight. Guy tries to fence a watch? Fight. At the Shoe Shine, you spend some money for info regarding some people looking for you. I could go on, but people will have to see these movies. Richard Roundtree kicks!!!

Oh, and I'd like to know what the one kick-butt RPG for this year is (After Zelda). X-Mas is coming....Your thoughts influence people Allan.

King Adrock

Allan: I normally try to avoid printing letters from the same person two days in a row, but this Shaft bit was priceless. Anyhow, not being much of a Zelda fan, the three RPGs I'm looking forward to most for the rest of the year are Xenogears (I'm such a sucker for mecha), Lunar: Complete, and in the import scene, Climax Lander for Dreamcast.

Q: Ok this is my view on the credibility of one of the few squaresoft titles that can be truely called below average. Every game has those who love it and those who hate it, especially Square games, but like Secret of Evermore and the FF Lengends series, along with FF Mystic Quest (kinda long list huh?) it had too many flaws too really be called a true Square title. Each of these games has its plusses but one or more crucial flaws completely destroyed the game. Saga Frrontier has three notable flaws that severely detract from the game. Another list is just going to make your day, n'est ce pas?

1. The lack of a true leveling system made you feel like you were never getting anywhere especially when it seems, although im not sure, that the better you get the more insanely hard the enemies become.

2. When trying to play as a character whose main attacks are technique based like Red's the fact that you can't regain the points they use makes fighting several battles to that require you to use techniques almost imposible.

3. The inability to dodge enemies while trying to see a faint passage way also got on my nerves. At least in Chronotrigger if you were fast enough or careful enough you could dodge most enemies but in Saga Frontier the passage ways were so small you could barely run 5 steps without accendentally bumping into a wall. This is one of the most annoying flaws I've ever seen in a game.

The game did have its plus points like the vast amount of secrets, different PCs, huge parties, and alot of exploration possible but these flaws made anything but the basics extremely annoying to me. So I never finished the one quest I started because of a bad memory card and probably will never try. I pray Saga Frontier 2 will improve upon these flays because the graphics look very interesting and the whole concept behind the series is actually quite good. Square has made a few flawed games but to the person wondering about PE from what I've played its wonderful but renting might be safer first.

First time writer,

Josh Justice

Allan: I have an admission to make. I've never finished SaGa Frontier. I come down heavily on the side of those that were really disappointed with it. I love the concept. I love the idea of a free scenario RPG, a go-anywhere-do-anything RPG with multiple characters. I even love the power gain system. But SaGa Frontier lacked two things, in my eyes: characterization and cohesiveness. The characters never captured my imagination at all: the free-scenario system, by its nature, stifled the preplanned dramatic sequences that I love so much in RPGs, making the core cast fall flat as dramatically interesting characters compared to a game like Lunar: EB or FF6. I didn't care about the characters, and that led to me not caring about the game. Secondly, I never felt like things fit together properly in the game. There was the concept of different islands with different cultures and environments, and it all seemed haphazard to me. My logic sensors were going wild at a high-tech urban land co-existing with a rural, traditional fantasy land.

All in all, SaGa Frontier just never pulled me in like my favourite RPGs did, and with a game that lacks a strong central plotline to carry it along, meant that I simply didn't play it. I just didn't care. But that's me.

Q: Going against what you said in the "This is the way" article, there is a two-year RPG coming out. A company in Japan in planning a small PRG to some out each 2 months for 2 years. They are each kind of like novellas, but video games. I think that I saw this in the Dreamcast section of Gamers' Republic in their second issue.

The QuakeII-playing, RPG-loving, "I'll play Tactics 'till my eyes bleed", Radiohead -loving informer

Allan: Another letter writer mentioned this article, which I've never seen, and said that it was being developed by Capcom. To me, it sounds sort of interesting, but I can't imagine it'd be cheap, which worries me - 12 installments at fifteen bucks a pop might be worth it, but if it breaks the thirty dollars per chapter mark, I'd just as soon buy a used game instead, you know? Anyhow, thanks for the info, and if anyone could tell me what issue of GR this article was in, I'd appreciate it.

Q: I suppose I'll just skip all the comments I have about how great you and all the other <cough, cough> hard-working guys (and gals) at RPGamer are doing and just get right down to the nitty-gritty. A long while ago, (when I still had a subscription to Nintendo Power) I read an article in the beforementioned magazine about a game called Star Ocean. Now, this game sounded like RPG-heaven. However, I never saw it down here. Of course, that's not anything new, as lots of great RPG's are released in Japan, and not down here. However, I when I saw that a sequal was coming out, and it might be released down here, I got all curious. So, I figured I'd ask you a few questions about it, like what system was it released for? (I always figured SNES, but, the way the mag. said it has speech and all that, it might also had been for the N64, but I doubt that...) Have you or anyone else at RPGamer ever played it, and if so was it as good as it sounded? And, finally, If you guys are going to put up info. about the game, as I'd love to read about it, and I'm sure others would too. Anyway, keep up the great work, and try not to get sick again!

-ShadowCaster13

Allan: Star Ocean was indeed for the Super Famicom, and did indeed include speech. The last few RPGs for the SFC were really amazing: Tales of Phantasia included a song as the title theme. With vocals and everything. On a cartridge. Amazing.

Star Ocean was, from what I've played of it, a really fantastic game, but incredibly daunting fo someone who doesn't understand Japanese. Many of its best features are in the mind-bogglingly complex and intricate Skill and Item Creation features, and I couldn't even begin to make heads or tails of them. The graphics were good, the music superb, the gameplay good, and so on. I've never met anyone who played and disliked the game, and know some who swear by it. We might cover it eventually, but an older RPG that will never be translated for US release isn't really high on our priorities list: there's simply more demand for us to cover current and upcoming games, followed by older RPGs that our readers (and staff) can actually understand.

Q: Everyone wants info on Parasite Eve (the novel) .. Here's a link to Brain Valley, Hideki Sena's website (in Japanese, of course): http://kadokawa.channel.or.jp/brain/

In addition to novel information, there's also a little bit on the manga version and the video! Video?? Yep, you heard me right. There are even a few shots of it on the website. ^_^

(http://kadokawa.channel.or.jp/brain/parasite_video.html)

Hope that helps everyone!

~Vera

Allan: I can't read Japanese, but figured I'd post these links anyway, since others probably can. Thanks for the links, Vera.

Quick 'n Dirty Tidbits: Reeve asks why FF5 wasn't released in the US (probably a lot of reasons, but concerns over it being "too complex" for US gamers were cited), Kupi wants help with the Lord of the Rings RPG for SNES (despite its high suck-factor, we'll be covering it here eventually, but GameFaqs has some help for it here), DarkNu and lots of others point out that Drain Sword's effectiveness depends on the max HP of the target, hence the 896 damage against the last boss in FFTactics (thanks), Mike asks if I have Pokémon yet (I got Blue today) whether Lunar: EB will come out for PSX (not officially announced yet, but implied with hydrogen bomb-like subtlety), Chris asks if RPG Maker is coming out in the US (I've been told that news in that area is "coming soon"), and The Jargonaut asks where to find FF4 and FF6 soundtracks (check our Merchandise Links), about a game called Bastard!! Utsuro Naru Kamigami no Utsawa for PSX (I don't know what it means, but Bastard!! is a well-known anime series, so a quick trip to the Anime Web Turnpike should help) and what I think of Sword of Vermillion for Genesis (a classic, but I honestly haven't played it recently enough to judge fairly).

A more diverse set of letters this time. Longer, too, and a bit more serious than in the past few days. Hope you enjoyed the slight change of pace, feel free to send silly letters, and I'll see y'all tomorrow.

- Allan Milligan, giving forth the call: AVENGERS ASSEMBLE!

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