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ASK TIPTAIL
Out Like a Lamb March 27, 2006

Janelle Berscheid - 00:00 EST

So usually I don't buy into that whole cliché about March "going in like a lion, and out like a lamb." Whoever made that one up obviously has no real experience with Saskatchewan weather. I've enjoyed blizzards at the end of this month in past years. But this year it seems like whoever made that one up knew what they were talking about. We did in fact have some horrible snowfalls and generally icky cold spells in the beginning. And if the massive pools of slush at the end of our driveway are any indication, the weather will be surprisingly mild as this month draws to a close.

I say this, of course, because the next time I see you again it will be April, and I'll be griping about the snowstorm that hit right after the month ended. Saskatchewan weather at its finest.




L E T T E R S
Documented Frustration #1: Parental Involvement


Good Evening (Nearly the next day) Tiptail

As a first time writer to yourself (See Matts column) I welcome you, and hope that you have much success in the columns to come!

Anywho Frustration, does that count not being able to play PS games because your Mum is working towards battling Luca? Probably not, but true frustration belongs to FF 8, which although was good that you didn't have to work up to win it, made sure that the final boss was very tough without winning a certain card, and made you work up to make sure those Summon monsters were good enough. Or does frustration mean the sort of pain that games like Suikoden 4 cause us players when Sub-standard games in great franchises makes us lose confidense in said franchises. Or finally does frustration mean the great feeling of finally conquering an extremely tough boss that you had previously died on 20 times.

Anyway see you in my guest host spot, coming soon to a space near you!

Bainick's alarm clock has been known to be heard 3 km's away!

Janelle

I wouldn't really say that frustration comes from finally beating a very tough boss--I associate that more with triumph. The dying twenty times part, though? That's definitely a source of frustration. The Four Fiends battle from Final Fantasy II US comes to mind. I've played that cartridge up, left, back, front, sideways and upside-down, and seen played through twice that amount, and that battle still gives me grief. It doesn't even matter that you have two sources of ultimate magical devastation. Rubicant and Valvalis absolutely lay waste to even the best-prepared parties nine times out of ten.

The other examples certainly do carry a certain frustration with them. I have personal experience with FF8 anger where I spent hours and hours crawling through the PC version only to hit Disk 4 and not be able to go anywhere. And then after trekking through the castle and getting to the last boss, I got toasted for more HP than any of my characters had. As if that wasn't bad enough, we reformatted our computer shortly after that and I lost my game completely. As for your mom hogging the system, wow. Your mom automatically just became ten times cooler than mine. Mostly because the only game my mom will touch is the original Dr. Mario, and then only if persuaded to do so.

But I guess it could be likened to trying to kick my sister off the computer. That's quite the challenge.

Oh, and congratulations on the guest host spot!



Villainy at its Finest


Hi there Tiptail,

First off regarding the clothes comment about the sidebar, that was a joke I wasn't actually requesting you put info about clothes on there ^^;;

Janelle

Oh, I figured it was all a joke. But I have to comment on those sorts of things, because, you know, I'm here to say stuff in response to what you say. No harm done. ^^

Secondly, I'm sorry about your mechanical pencil, I snuck into your house and used it as a weapon of OompaLoompa homicide, then returned it I hope the police don't find out anytime soon

Janelle

Now, the question is, which OoompaLoompas are you speaking of? Because there are the ones from the old film, and the ones from the new film, and...

Well, wait, I guess they're both pretty creepy. In this case, I full endorse the use of the pencil for such things.

Thirdly, whenever a game has me frustrated I usually rattle of a string of obscenities that would make a sailor with terret's(sp?) syndrome blush, followed by turning off the game and not returning to it for a few days

And now for a question from the Arros

In regards to humanoid villians in rpgs, do you perfer the ones that are just pure evil that massacres a good chunk of the game's population just because they can, or the villian that is only evil because of his tragic past that doesn't kill as many people but you never forget how he offed the ones he did kill? So in short Kefka-type villian vs Sephiroth-type villian?

Arros Raikou

Slayer of those @#%^-@!*&ed little OompaLoompas

Janelle

Well, I'm always a fan of the psychological stuff, but too many games nowadays only half pull it off, and try to mix both, and the result is overall slightly unsatisfying. The insane villains are the ones who are more fun to off, in the end, so I always enjoy those for a plot with a wider scope. For the narrower plots, I prefer the villains that are debatably evil because of their tragic past or whatnot. What disappoints me is that there aren't that many females in the role of insane destroyer. That's something I would definitely love to see--Parasite Eve springs to mind on that note, as does Breath of Fire I, but I'm finding myself strapped to find any other examples. My favorite villains overall would have to be the aforementioned Eve, for her creepiness, and Stan in his capacity as a villain in Okage Shadow King. The two runner-ups are probably Kefka, and Ghaleon from Lunar SSS. Ghaleon came across really cheesy sometimes, but he still has that coolness factor that comes out on top.

Going beyond humanoid villains, I've always loved the Man vs. Nature kind of plot, where the only villain is the environment and natural elements.

The real villains, though, will always be those OompaLoompas.



Documented Frustration #2: Pointless Length


Nell,

A recent frustration in my RPGaming has been the slow movement of MS Saga. Holy crap, that game should be about 20 hours shorter than it is. Maybe my view is tainted because I knew its length before I went in, but that game drags worse than most I've played.

Since the story is about getting revenge on the man who burned down the hero's orphanage, that's how I've chosen to take out my anger, as seen here. I'm doing them all a favor really; the lives of those in that place would have been so boring without me giving them reason to get in a giant robot and spend 68 hours tracking me down. Now they all have the chance to be anime heroes, thanks to me.

-Heath

Janelle

Before I proceed with the "A" portion of this letter, I'll just add a little disclaimer here that RPGamer does not condone arson as a means of anger management. In any way, shape, or form. Thank you.

Yes, unfortunately I have heard of the general dragginess of MS Saga. I can't offer any testimony one way or another, since I have never played it, but I know that games that are long should be long for a reason, not just long for the sake of it. Destiny of an Emperor, for example, didn't really have a reason for being long. It kind of became a Pokémon-esque thing near the end, except instead of catching cute animated creatures, you were recruiting pixellated Chinese warriors with names like "Song Yong", "Xiao Fu", and "Chow Mein." At least Xenosaga had the excuse of the lengthy cutscenes to bolster its playing time.

I wish you the best of luck in completing it while repressing the urge to either a) Turn off the game and play something else with slightly more entertainment value, like StellaDeus; b) Use the game as an outdoor device for scaring pesky crows or magpies; or c) Stab yourself in the head with the jagged remnants of your PS2 disk drive.



Fighting for the Sake of Fighting


After starting to play WA4, I've been reminded of how often I've played through RPGs whose battle systems are generally just merely okay. It's nice to see fresh ideas that liven things up... not saying that there haven't been fresh ideas out there, but sometimes they don't do much to improve things or actually make things worse. Replaying Parasite Eve also brought up the same thoughts. While I like many of the traditional battle systems, they aren't actually so good that I actually kinda look forward to random battles, but Wild Arms 4 and Parasite Eve actually had me feeling exactly that.

So, are there are games that actually made you want to get attacked? Are there games you actually play more for the battles rather than story or some other element of the game?

- Nwash

Janelle

Hmmm, there have been quite a few battle systems that I've enjoyed in my day. Secret of Mana definitely springs to mind, but I'm not sure if an action RPG would count in this instance. I've always enjoyed the simple, clean ATB of Final Fantasy IV, but I think I have a slight bias towards it, so we'll let that one slide.

Now Robotrek. That was one fun battle system, and if the game wasn't so bloody hard I'd have taken great pleasure in the destruction of the game's slightly bizarre foes. The element of strategy was refreshing, in that to not die you would have to outfit your robots with shields, meaning one method of attack would be entirely eliminated, and so picking which robot would sacrifice which weapon made it interesting to plan out your battles for particular dungeons. The Pokéball-like capsules were a fun gamble during the beginning of each battle as well. Sadly, the difficulty of that game scarred my soul, and I fear I may never actually be able to beat that game due to the rareness of copies nowadays. I would pay dearly to play around with that battle system again. Especially since the rest of the game borders on slightly lame, story-wise.



Documented Frustrations #3: Bonus Gauge


Evening Tip,

Right now the most annoying thing I'm dealing with is the bonus gague in Star Ocean 3. Then bonuses themselves are a welcome addition, but when I'm fighting enemies without it I just feel like I'm wasting my time because of the immense increase in exp etc. that fighting with the bonuses offers. It's not that hard to get the bonus gague going, but it takes 15 battles to max out the bonuses and even the weakest hits can break it. It's just kind of bothersome to have to rebuild the bonus chain from scratch after getting hit by some random attack that deals less than 1% of my max hp. What did/do you think about the bonus gague?

I realize that this may simply be due to the way I play, but I found that fighting ultra defensively to avoid minor attacks that I would normally shrug off for the sake of preserving that gague takes away some of the fun. I prefer to bolster my defense (or healing spells) so I do n't have to worry about weak attacks while I unleash massive combos and dodge major attacks. Did you have to alter your playing style to accommodate the gague?

-Roku

Janelle

Star Ocean 3's bonus gauge was a mixed bag, really. I found I enjoyed it both early and late in the game as in order to get the bonus I was typically aiming for (300% EXP), I'd have to do more than just button mash to raise the gauge and defeat the enemies. I know that later in the game, after I started abusing Side Kick, that I was levelling up more slowly than usual for not paying attention to the gauge, and I see this as a good thing. However, tweaking the bonus gauge to your liking while your allies pound away indiscriminately on the enemies does add a lot of frustration, as if they max it out with a spell or special ability then you're going to have to put up with a lame bonus for a while.

My advice to you would be to ignore the bonus gauge in dungeons and the like, and save it for the sole purpose of levelling up. What you'll want to do then, if you're really frustrating by losing that chain, is to set your allies to manual when your gauge gets higher, so you can personally max it out with a minor attack to get that coveted bonus of super EXP. After that, you'll want to turn your allies back on and let them win that particular fight for you. Then, select exactly which groups of enemies you'll want to take down. You want enemies that give decent experience, but don't have any large area attacks or quick, unpredictable ones. I liked fighting the porcupine things just before the entrance to the mountains of Barr at that point in the game, and currently I'm using the ice mermaid things in the Ursa Cave Temple to prepare myself for the bonus dungeons. Trees are a bad choice. Do not fight the trees if you're wanting to keep that chain up.

That's about all of the advice I have to give to eliminate the annoyance of the bonus gauge breaking. Beyond that, I'd just suggest maybe keeping an eye on your fighting style and seeing if maybe you can't be more careful while you're fighting. Make use of that sidestep.





C L O S I N G
IN CONCLUSION:

All right guys and gals, that ends my Q&A tenure for this week. Matt will be picking up tomorrow with all of his lovely SOCK goodness. But of course, I love getting letters any day of the week, and I've got a topic for you that will hopefully get you typing. When I reappear on Sunday April 2, we're going to be talking about...HAIR. Tell me your views on spikey-haired RPG protagonists, or Musashi's gravity defying do in Samurai Legend Musashi, or the recent tendencies for extremely long hair for both female and male characters. Which character has the ultimate hair? What style are you sick of? Any style or color you'd like to see?

I hope you all have a wonderful week, and enjoy these last couple days of March.


***Janelle passes on the torch.

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