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ASK SEAN
Column 14: This Heavenly Feeling
September 15th, 2007

Sean - 9:18pm EDT

Ok, so my suggestion to write in didn't have much of an impact on you all. Oh well, read on to see the results! I am quite happy with the results, nonetheless.

Last night I killed the "impossible boss" in Dragoneer's Aria at level 44-48. It took close to an hour and I used all my healing items, but he is dead and I have since progressed. The game is getting better, actually. In fact, I will be playing it throughout the column-writing process tonight. It is easy when each round in combat takes enough time for the PSP screen to lower in brightness...

The big news for the day is that I did both start and finish Heavenly Sword today. The game was amazing, but a little short. It is easy for me to ignore--games of its type usually bore me after ten or so hours anyways. This one I finished. Oh, I loved the bad guys--Flying Fox is just too damn cool. I might need to play through his levels again.

Let's get to the letters!




LETTERS
And the winner is...


Hey there Sean;

So, I donít really have any answers for you today, but I do have a question that sort of relates to Unbeatable Bosses.

Sean

Hi Shawn! It looks like you are the only one who wanted to win a prize today, so you did! Why? I decided a good benchmark would be 24th posted letter. And there you have it. Lemme know what you want.

First though, the back-story:

I was playing La Pucelle Tactics for no real reason whatsoever, and I decided that I would kill that giant whale monster that they toss at you near the beginning of the game. If youíve not played it before, itís one of those battles youíre supposed to run away from, but if you do kill it you get one of the better items in the game.

Sean

Yeah, I played it. And killed both the fish and the tree. My Prier was all-powerful for the remainder of the game. The Goddess Shoes were just too good. Of course, I did the little "reload until the fish is easy" trick to get it killable.

Well, I dove into the fight about twenty levels below that of the monster, so the battle took very close to an hour. Unfortunately, due to my playing this game- I was a tad late for work.

Sean

The tree was two, if I recall. And I wasn't in danger of missing work.

My question is, has this ever happened to you? Been late to work, or anything really, due to "Just one more minute" or "I have to find a save point" syndrome?

As for me, it happens more than Iíd like it to.

Till next time, enjoy your easy class;

Shawn

Sean

I have never missed work because of a game. Class a few times though. Not recently though. Although, I do think of skipping work to play, but it hasn't happened yet. I wouldn't be able to get away with it--my boss's boss is my dad.

I have skipped family events to play and lost a lot of sleep for it though. And I mean A LOT of sleep. Heck, even Dragoneer's Aria cost me close to two hours of it last night. But usually it is worth it. Even Kingdom of Paradise (a three hour loss on a work night...). The reason? I suffer from "need to try that boss one more time" syndrome.

Anyone else suffer from either or all of these conditions? Enquiring minds want to know! Thanks for the letter, Sean 2!



Dragoneer's Aria: Valen Level 56


Hey there, Matt!

I feel like I should mention how long it's been since I wrote in with an actual letter and how I missed you and Q&A so... but I'm still reading the column every day and I'm having mad fun with SOCK II.

(Leaper, you may have some competition in regards to the Blue Mage class...) But it's about time I use my automatic generator for the purpose it was intended.

Sean

Welcome back to the world of writing letters, man. We all know we need more of those to make the world go round!

I think my origin story is probably going to be a bit different than most people. You see, my first RPG, indeed my gateway drug to the Final Fantasies and Dragon Warriors of the video game world, was Chrono Trigger.

"But CW," I hear you say, "how could that be any different than anyone else who tried Chrono Trigger and became addicted to RPGs?"

And you would be justified in asking such a question. The answer brings me to the second topic I wanted to address. You see, it was in the era of the PS2 that I got into gaming, by playing sprite-based games from the SNES era, via emulation. During the column that I co-hosted with you, Matt, I mentioned how reluctant I was to bring up the topic of emulation, but I never explained why. Over the course of your Q&A column, I feel as if I've mentioned it, directly or in passing, one too many times. I wish to talk about other aspects of gaming, and somehow, inevitably, emulation comes up whenever I write a long letter. I understand that you don't want to sweep it under the carpet, and that it's a topic that really needs to be explored in a public forum such as Q&A at RPGamer, where many gamers from many different walks of life converge together and write to you about the hot topics of the day. I admit it may have been a bit unfair of me to arbitrarily decide on what I was and was not willing to talk about in the column. I was just getting tired of the monotony of always bringing up the questionable topic of emulation. Perhaps if it was openly discussed in a couple columns, then I'd feel better about it.

Sean

I don't mind talking about it. Feel free to discuss it freely. I've played a few fan-translated games in my day, but I don't have time to play anything I haven't bought lately, so emulation went out the window years ago.

In those early days, I would download as many SNES games as caught my fancy. I asked friends what the best RPGs were from the SNES era, and I would try them. I then branched out to the NES and to the Genesis/Megadrive, and I even tried to look for PS1 games (but at the time, I didn't have a large enough hard drive to hold even one downloaded PS1 game, and although I did download an emulator, I found that the computer wasn't even good enough to play a game I had rented as an experiment).

Sean

I stopped before it really went into PS1 emulation. Mind you, I have done some of that before, but it was games that I owned. I played them at work while I had the weekend shifts. Someone had to sit there and by God I wasn't going to be bored while doing it!

This went on for a little while until a friend from the US (I live in Canada, for those who didn't know) sent me his PS1 and Final Fantasy VIII, because he didn't feel right sending it to me without including a game. Somehow I instinctively knew how to hook the system up to the TV, and away I went. The game was amazing, and I played it for over a hundred hours before I was able to beat the final boss. I was literally shaking after the battle with Ultimecia. After defeating her first form, and seeing her bring out a second, and then a third... and then every time I would defeat it another one would pop up in its place... my 3-D RPG cherry was popped in a most spectacular fashion. I couldn't believe it when I'd finally defeated her for good and watched the ending. In the meantime, my girlfriend sent me Final Fantasy IX, and it quickly became my favourite game of all time.

Sean

That is quite a nice friend you have. I remember giving that game to my sister for Christmas. I didn't hear about anything but for Laguna for the longest time. Please tell me why you like FFIX so much--I need to know as it is also one of my favorites of all time too! Let me know!

There was just something about the characters, the setting, the rich colours of the world... I didn't want the game to end. The longest I've ever spent playing a video game in one sitting was a ten hour (approximate) session of FF9. I say approximate because I only know that I stopped when it told me to insert disc 2, that disc 1 took me 15 hours to play through, and that I'd already played a little of FF9 before my marathon session.

Sean

I played through FFIX over a long weekend. It was long not because of a holiday, but by me taking a day off of classes. It was worth it too! My longest game session was terrible. I started a Theurgist in Dark Age of Camelot with my brother. We then played in eight hour shifts until we hit the top level. Be both lived down in the basement while doing it. It took seven days. And for the record, level fifty during my shift and I was fast asleep at the time--head on the keyboard and all.

Since then, I've bought a GBA and PS2 used, and a DS new. I also bought a GameCube new just last week, thanks to my getting paid a little early this month. And lately I've found that I prefer to do my gaming on actual gaming systems and with games I legitimately own.

Sean

It is a nice feeling. Why buy a GameCube when you could just get a Wii?

I've told myself it's because it's more fun to buy my games than to download them, but the real reason is much simpler: I need a better, more comfortable chair for the computer. I can spend a couple hundred dollars on a gaming system and some games, but I'm too lazy to go out and research reasonably priced, comfortable computer chairs. It's not that I don't have time for games on the computer. It's merely that I am more comfortable lounging on my bed playing Front Mission 4 this autumn, than making my behind sore trying to play an emulated SNES game, and I'm too busy with gaming to bother spending money to make gaming on the computer just as comfortable as gaming on the PS2.

Sean

My ass is nice and comfortable on this chair. I do all my gaming from it. Are there even PS2/GC/Xbox emulators for the PC? You can also look at the other side of things. I don't think there is a PC today that can emulate a PS3 or Xbox360. And if it were possible, the cost would be higher than just buying the consoles--all of them.

Well, it's getting late, so maybe I'll tell the tale of my very first meeting with the Warmech from FF1 another time. So many games, so little time...

-CW

Hargon doesn't sleep... that must come in handy when he's caught up in a good book!

Sean

Ummm who is Hargon? Warmech stories, I love them all. My first meeting with him occured on my first trip to Tiamat. I was within sight of the orb and I got ambushed by Warmech. I didn't live to tell the tale. I did later go back for revenge, but I believed it took a few tries to get the guy to appear and slay it.

Thanks for writing in CW!



Dragoneer's Aria: Valen: Level 61


Hey Sean,

Since it seems like you're answering my mail, I might as well send one to you. I just wanted to warn you that Wild Arms 5 is a very easy game. I was also a bit disappointed with the hex battles this time. In WA4, most of the boss fights were against actual people in the story and each required a different strategy to beat. In WA5, ninety percent of the bosses are random monsters, and even against characters there is no special tricks to the fights.

Nightwolf

Sean

Yep, you send them, and I will post them. Eventually.

As a recent Matt topic went over, I really do believe that challenge is subjective. Easy for you, is hard for someone else. Anyways, yes--I see where you are coming from here. I haven't had to sweat in any boss battles except for one. The boss was resistant to physical attacks, and it seemed like to my magic attacks too. I must admit that I am in love with the game and its characters. It surprised me, as I had written off the series after my love/hate relationship with the third game. I guess in this case the "hype" machine worked. By hype machine, I mean my friends and fellow Q&Aers..

Sometimes I wonder why certain monsters end up being bosses. Does anyone have an example of a really strange boss that caught you completely by surprise? My best example that I can come up with at this time is the little bunny from Monty Python's Quest for the Holy Grail. That bunny was just weird.



Dragoneer's Aria: Valen: Level 62


Hey-o Sean,

Man I miss a month and we've got a new weekend columnist! Good luck, glad to have you aboard.

Sean

Oh God! Hold on a minute. A nasty random encounter has shown up. Four demon spellcasters. I almost died, but recovered. The very next battle was the same setup. I had to run from that one.

Ok, so back to the letter now that I have that under control! Thank you! I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I like writing it!

I wanted to say something on the role of heros. Should certain people be leading your party, and do other people even make sense in a group of heroes.

I personally have a beef with young heroes. I'm looking at a bunch of RPGs right now where the heroes are all minors. What the hell? If I send a 17 year-old at a 32 year-old war veteran I should honestly hope that the kid gets his handed his rear. But that's not how the games work. Invariably a group of plucky young kids gets to smash their way through far more experienced enemies. I'm sick of it.

Sean

I have the same problems as you do. Of course, the minor might be a prodigy, but hell they all can't be. Of course, there is always luck, but once again... it shouldn't always happen. One of children in A Game of Thrones was kind of like the same way, but I really liked the kid. He showed more maturity than a lot of adult leads in RPGs.

Now people will argue age demographic of the players in a hope to bring the players into a connection with the heroes. This is a fair argument, but for one flaw. I'm now 25, I have older friends who play games. Where is our connection? Having heroes that are older and more experienced as main characters; rather than side characters giving our plucky young group advice.

Sean

Unless there is a really good reason, I don't see why all the leads need to be young. Brave Story has a good reason for it, but most games usually don't.

My comment on people not making sense in your party is directed at the whiners. Those that complain that the task is too large, there's too much risk or that this simply isn't their problem. They need to leave. And everyone in a party needs to be seeing to booting them out. Characters that do nothing but complain(and this applies to some main characters) need to go home. Saving the world isn't a job for the pessimist. Realist sure, but pessimists need not apply in my party.

Sean

Good point. I don't like those types either. They just rub me the wrong way.

I will say that characters that make no sense in a group happen way too much. Oh that shadowy individual who may or may not be the one who killed my parents wants to help save the world! That should be setting off alarm bells. Or perhaps you like the cute fluffy animal characters that serve no purpose other than to be cute and make stupid noises (Chu-chu anyone?)

Sean

Heh, I remember my confusion at Chu-chu's addition to this day. And more importantly... why does the thing grow to robot size? And how many times have we seen the dark guys join the party, hear warning bells in our own heads and then shake our heads when the eventual betrayal occurs?

Damn, I wandered into a boss fight. It looks easy. Stay tuned for the results!

Now story can make a argument for any character, but some are put in simply for the fact that it's expected. You need one plucky young hero(or depressed anti-hero), one love interest, one elder mentor, one rival love interest, one tough guy who is really a big softie, one mascot/cute thing, and you can mix and match these together as you see fit. It doesn't always make sense. Like in Grandia 2 when both the love interest and the rival were the same character.

Anyway, that's my two bits. Am I simply crazy or do I make a good point?

Ken

Sean

You do make a few good points. It does appear that most RPGs use the tried-and-true formula of making sure that you are given the right character types. Of course a few just stick the concept of character roles, but each role is usually filled by a personality archtype.

Thanks for writing in, Ken!



Dragoneer's Aria: Valen: Level 63


Sean,

Hi this is my first time writing into rpgamer Q&A, I figure you deserve some more letters addressed to you so here goes. You asked for Neil Gaiman recommendations; both American Gods and Neverwhere by him are pretty good, and deal with magic/fantasy themes coexisting with the modern world. American Gods in particular I thought had an interesting premise.

Sean

Yay! Thanks for writing in! As you mention American Gods a second time, I will add that to my list of books to try. Althought, I don't usually like reading about the modern day, I might still give it a try!

I am probably going to buy a PSP soon because I really want to play Valkyrie Profile: Lenneth, and I must play the new (old) Castlevania when it comes out.So about Brave Story, is its combat just straight up traditional, or is there anything about it that really sets it apart? Are there any other PSP games that you would recommend?

Sean

Brave Story's combat is traditional turn-based with a couple twists. First of all, it reminds me a lot of the old Batman tv show. Second, your party gets bonus attacks for slaying enemies. Third, there are lots of interesting combination moves that are learned by being friendly with the other party members. Fourth... you can piss off monsters. This last part is what makes the game unpredictable and can make the going very, very tough. Pissed off monsters are like three to fives times stronger than their regular versions. Even easy enemies can get super nasty, if pissed off. My only death came about when I pissed off three enemies at the same time. They were a lot stronger than I thought they would be...

Other games for the PSP? I just recently got mine and I have collected a lot of games for it. I really enjoyed Legend of Heroes despite its horrid translation, as well as Valhalla Knights. Puzzle Quest was a lot of fun, but I have outgrown that addiction. I have heard that the Ratchet and Clank and Daxter games are quite good, as is Jeanne d'Arc. And of course, Crisis Core is coming eventually.

How big is your backlog, what an evil question. This is really the reason I am slightly on the fence about buying a PSP: if I can't even finish my games from last gen (and let's not even get into old NES and SNES carts), why do I need to buy another system? I am personally pretty bad about giving my handhelds enough playtime, so the good thing for me about the new PSP is the composite out. As far as limits I set on my backlog, I am trying not to replay any old games while I whittle down the unplayed ones, and I am trying to to not buy any more games unless they are must haves or they will likely become rare down the road.

Sean

I try to do what you say you do, but it never works. I keep coming up with rules, but they are quickly forgotten as I see something new and shiny. I do try to limit what I buy though, and it works for the ones I sort of want. I call it my thirty dollar pile--if I see it for under thirty dollars, I buy it. That is where Bioshock is right now. ^_^

Of course, I do try to play some new games from time to time, but I also try to knock out the old ones on my backlog. There are no NES games on it, thank God.

The main reason I wanted to write in to you was to get your views on FFXI vs. FFXII. When I played FFXII for the first couple of hours, I was pretty disappointed. Now I love the game, but I went into it with some false expectations. A lot of reviews and forum comments led me to believe the game would be very similar to FFXI. Superficially it was: lots of enemies in a field who respawn, rather than random encounters; combat playing out with characters auto-attacking enemies unless you tell them to do otherwise. But inside, it was much different.

Sean

I originally resubscribed to FFXI after playing the demo for FFXII. It felt like a single-player FFXI, and I liked it. Of course, I would still love a fully offline FFXI done in the same style as XII. Imagine playing it without the downtime!

I was a tank in FFXI (70 PLD and yes I beat Maat), so my first disappointment in FFXII was a lack of Provoke or other taunting ability. Sure there is the spell Decoy, but you don't get that until at least halfway through the game. So for the first half of the game, the enemy just attacks whoever. Lame. I also wish they would have had some other cool class abilities: Sneak Attack would have been great. Refresh, Convert. Instead we just get Technics, most of which I never used.

Sean

I agree with you there. I think the International version of it added some job templates, so Convert may indeed be in there. For those that don't know, Convert is an excellent ability used by mid-level Red Mages. All it does is switch their MP and HP totals.

How about races? Honestly the only FFXII races I liked were Hume, Viera, Moogle, and Occuria. That game seriously needed a lot more Tarutaru.

Sean

I thought that zero was the perfect number, thank you very much.

Mist Quickenings? Seems like some timed slot machine. Give me skillchains and magic bursts any day, so my timing and skill affects my results, rather than bad luck not making a mist charge come up again.

Sean

Yep, they made no sense. I hated that I needed to pray that I would get someone's name to show up and not just have everything gray all the time...

Memorable zones? Dunes. Qufim. Yhoator. CN. Maybe I just remember these because I spent too many hours of my life in them though.

Sean

I hate those places. All of them. They are the newbie zones. I also hate the Ulguerand Range. I hate getting into there AND the mobs there. Ugh.

Honestly I do love FFXII though. Only relying on yourself (no pullers saying "Incoming Gigas!" "Oops link" "Oh god there's like 5 of them" "Zone!"). No messed up economy. No elitism based on what language you speak. No hours just to gain one level. No waiting to find other people who want to level. Not having to run across a whole zone to lose aggro. Being able to fight multiple enemies without sleeping all but one or wiping. Even when I consider it on its own, without referring to FFXI, it's a great game: good gameplay, great music, decent story. My expectations eventually faded as I played XII and I enjoyed it greatly.

Still though, I would love to make Basch provoke enemies. Oh well.

EJ

Sean

That downtime is all that stops me from picking up the game again. I don't mind it taking five hours to get a single level. Now I do mind the five hour wait to get a party so I can grind. Meh. That is sort of the reason why I went with more soloable MMOs recently. LOTRO I can play by myself or with groups. Thanks for writing in!



Dragoneer's Aria: Still fighting the boss


Hey, Matt.

In answering your question about which game series you'd like to see revitalized, I'd have to say that my choice would be a traditional Lunar game. Not that Lunar 3 that I've heard all sorts of unfavorable things about. One that grabs from Silver Star Story or Eternal Blue for the gameplay premise, perhaps upgrading where necessary in order to fit into current gen expectations. I love Working Design's translations as well, making the story a good, light-hearted, amusing romp that still held the gamer's attention in place. Ah, Silver Star Story. Probably my favorite PS1 game ever.

Sean

I have good memories of those two games. I would like to see a real third part that is done in the same style and with none of the flaws that Dragon Song had. Man, that game was horrible.

Just a little something I remembered: One day I thought to myself that if there was a fire that consumed my house (heaven-forbid), and if I had just a few moments to save some personal belongings that were important to me, what would they be? Of course, I thought about my gaming stuff among all the other things I own, and I wondered if and what I would save from my collection. Perhaps any games that are considered 'rare'. I might save those. But if I could save only one thing from my gaming collection, it would not be my systems, neither my games. I would save my memory cards. You can buy systems again fairly easily. You can hunt down games, and probably restock most of your library. But you can never, ever get those save files that you spent hours on back again. I don't know what people think of when they think, 'Hey, I just put 75 hours into this game.' To me, that translates to roughly three entire days of my life that I will never get back again. On my slow march towards death, the hours I spend on stuff matter to me, and the thought of losing those hours, that progress on my games is something that would be hard for me to stomach. I'm somebody that likes to be in the process of playing a billion games at once, so I have 4 memory cards loaded with save files which translates to a heck of a lot of hours of my life. Yes, definitely if I could save a handful of my belongings, my memory cards would be among them (but don't worry, I'd make sure my family and pets weren't trapped and going to burn to death while I was worrying about my cards. I'm not THAT insane, surprisingly). And now I'm wondering why I felt I had to confirm that. Hmmmm....

Later,

animetayl

Sean

That is a somewhat weird topic to be discussing. But I will play along. Me, I would save as many as my hardcover books as I can. They are my true treasures. Oh, and my PSP--I need something to play when I wait for the firetrucks to arrive. Thanks for writing in!



QUICKIES

Hey Sean,
Sorry, but I need to chime in again. I guess I should finish reading your column before writing in a letter. Your backlog is small and pitiful. Mine pwns yours. I have over 300 games. Closer to 400 actually. If I was writing this from home, I could give you the exact count. All but about 100 of those are in my backlog. I have an addiction to buying the games that I want that is countered by having a full-time job, trying to get a graduate degree, and spending time with my fortunately very understanding wife. I figure some day I will be able to retire, and then play all of my old games until I am blue in the face. If nothing else, I suppose I can try to get my kids to finish it for me. *Sigh*
Draconn

Sean
That is me all the way. That number scares me Draconn. It sounds like you need to get rid of some of them, or at least pack them in a box somewhere and just forget that they exist. Or... play them. I do like the idea of passing on the collection to the kids--I intend to do that one day too.

As to why Matt refused you: Perhaps itís because of the fact that in Pokemon you need to have a certain badge in order to have Pokemon at a certain level obey you. And traded Pokemon can be REALLY rebellious even if you do have the correct badge.
(And apologies for using a meme in the subject.)
Bucket

Sean
I don't know what a meme is, sorry. Also, I didn't know that about Pokemon. Thanks for the info! With my backlog as it is, I don't think I will bother with the series.

To Sean,
I guess your favorite pizza toppings are bacon, green peppers, and sausage. I'm guessing, though, so I know I'm wrong.
BLG

Sean
Wrong. I actually ordered a Pepperoni and Mushroom pizza tonight. It was yummy.

I was wondering: Which Final Fantasy 1 party is easiest to complete the game with? My personal opinion is 3 fighters and 1 white mage.
Flamethrower

Sean
I do see your point, but in the early game you will be really lacking in the firepower department. I would put my vote with: 2 fighters, 1 black mage and a white mage. The hardest part of the game for me is the Marsh Cave, so I like having the offensive spells.

Howdy,
I'm a bit surprised a new Suikoden game hasn't been announced by Konami in ages, and I'd be shocked if Suikoden VI weren't announced at TGS, since I really don't think they'd want to abandon their flagship RPG franchise, and Suikoden V really seemed to be a revival of the series...
-Duke Gallison

Sean
I haven't played the newest one yet. I too would be shocked, if there isn't an announcement. But then again, Konami might just be biding its time to see which system it would be better for. Only time will tell.

Unwinnable bosses aside, I hate it when in a cutscene you get captured by ten or so guards when you were just wading through those same guys a few minutes ago. Like I couldn't take them on...
Carabbit

Sean
Yep, I get you on this one. Oh no ten guards! I just killed 50,000 of you on my way here! Oh my, better put down my sword!



IN CLOSING

My brain hurts. I did end up beating that boss battle and it did end up being pretty easy. It was just long. The boss did use one mass sleep spell, but I survived it.

Well I am going to bed now--this will be posted in the am. Until Monday, everyone have a nice weekend and may you have much enjoyment playing RPGs!

Peace out!



Send a Letter!

Unanswered Letter Backlog: will likely have a quickie extravanganza tomorrow



gorne@rpgamer.com
Sean is just plain tired.


I drank an entire bottle of Dr Pepper while writing this column.

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