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ASK WHEELS
Legend of Tales
April 7th, 2011

04/07- 12:00PM EST

  So obviously last Friday's column did NOT contain an actual letter from Kawazu. I hope you all enjoyed it! Thanks to reader Adam for provided the hilarious faux-Kawazu text. I thought RPGamer as a whole came up with some fun stuff this April Fools day, so I hope we got some laughs out of you fine readers. Anyway, like many JRPG fans I am completely sucked into Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky at the moment, and having a grand time with it. For a game that originally came out 7 years ago on Japanese PCs, it feels shockingly fresh.  Who else is playing it? Anyway, on to your letters!





The Letters
Whoops

Good day!

I just finished reading with fascination your letter from Akitoshi Kawazu. I have to say it was incredible.


Wheels

Errr, I'm glad you liked it...because, well, how to put this? It wasn't real! I guess we succeeded in making it look convincing.

I would like to add that his works have at least one devoted fan in my household. I've been playing SaGa II (FF Legend II) on my Game Boy essentially since it was released, and to this day I find it a stunning example of RPG design, one where I'm STILL bumping into new things! It's battle system, for instance, seems simple on the outset- seemingly random ability bumps, spells awarded to your Mutants almost randomly and monster meat allows novices to get through the story without much difficulty. But delve into it, and you discover an absolute wealth of fantastic, innovative design implementations that make it truly spectacular.


Wheels

I am glad to see another who really appreciates how great SaGa II is. I mean, they didn't even have to change the gameplay systems that much for the remake. They just needed to tweak things  (and rework the presentation obviously). For a game on a tiny black and white cartridge, it's quite impressive.

For instance, each spell has a hidden "level" to it, and each enemy can award a spell of that "level" or below at the end battle. With that knowledge, you can actually receive the most powerful-magic spell in the game, Flare, as far back as Apollos World!
 

Wheels

Wow, I didn't even know that! I wonder if it's still true in the remake. I'm really going to have to spend the time sometime soon to play through it. After all, even remade it's still on the shorter side. Not that this is a bad thing, there's too many incredibly long games theses days!

Not to mention an absolutely essential innovation I have yet to see in other RPGs- The Memo Function! Accessible from the main menu, it saves automatically the most important conversations and hints your characters get, preventing the oh-so-frustrating "Where the heck should I go next" syndrome present in a lot of these types of RPGs


Wheels

Really, in the modern era all RPGs should have this. Having been someone who often puts down RPGs for a long time, I can't tell you how much I appreciate this kind of feature. So why don't more games have this? It just boggles the mind. Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky has an extensive memo type feature that I really love for example. I can think of a lot of games that would do quite well with this kind of feature (Dragon Quest VII!), and yet it's still not something that all RPGs include. I think it's past the time where this is a must for all RPGs.

Anywho, I just wanted to say, thank you for publishing Akitoshi Kawazu's letter. It really shows why your site is head and shoulders above the competition, that's for sure.
 
Sincerely,
Daniel


Wheels

I'm not sure whether to say thank you, or apologize profusely since the letter was a complete fake.

I'm just going to say thanks!


Of Tales and Fantasies

hello again wheel's
 
   Let's start with tale's, the first one i played was on the snes i don't remember the name of it anymore it had something to do with magic sword's and i really enjoyed it. I've been a fan since then and played those i managed to get ahold of. Most recently i got ahold of vesperia and i really loved it especially the main character i can't think of another rpg out there with a main character like him. can you? i was excited to hear tale's of grace's is coming out and look forward to playing it.

Wheels
That was actually for PS1. The game you're thinking of is Tales of Destiny, and it does involve talking magical swords. Yuri is quite a fun character, and of course is well-voiced in English. Based on my playtime with Tales of Graces F in Japanese, I can tell you that it will be well worth the wait.

Next final fantasy I've lost interest in versus after seeing the new trailer's I'm not really sure why, tho I'm excited for xiii-2 and can't wait to find out more about it. my favorite ff is number 6 it's one that I've replayed many time's i love the story and character's in that one as well as the magic system, it's actually my favorite rpg ever. the only one i really disliked was 8 i didn't like the character's in that one and shortly after they revealed everyone had amnesia i just stopped playing. with ff 12 i really liked the battle system and most of the game but i found the story boring and i hated the main character vaan.


Wheels

Well I have to start with Final Fantasy XII here, as I did not love the story, but the game was amazing in the gameplay department. Vaan isn't even really the main character, you can tell that he was basically forced into the game. I hope we learn all the details of what happened during the development of XII some day. Anyway, I'm not sure why you've lost interest in Versus. I think it looks quite amazing. XIII-2 I have high hopes for, but will wait and see what the battle system in the game looks like.

Final Fantasy VI is the best, so I am pleased to see you say this. It has one of the best casts of characters in a game ever.

Now, Final Fantasy VIII I can understand you not liking. I think you gave up on it too early. It's got one of the more interesting battle systems in the series, and I suggest that you give it another shot.

  Xenogears i remember playing the first one and really enjoyed it i hadn't seen a combat system like that before and the story seemed very different from what i was used to. i played all 3 xenosaga game's because i liked xenogears so much. the first xenosaga was a decent game tho it had it's flaw's, the second one i remember being confused by the story and i hated the combat system tho i still beat it, then when the third one came out i was amazed, I enjoyed the story and i really enjoyed playing the game too after finishing it i was actually kind of sad it would be the end of the saga.


Wheels

I can't speak much about these games other than Xenogears. The cut-scenes were just too much for me, and I'm one who likes long cut-scenes. I've been told by a fellow staffer just to go straight to the third Xenosaga, what do you think of that?

   You've mentioned the SaGa series several time's i don't think I've played the ones your talking about, but every time you mention them i think of a game i played on the ps1 called SaGa Frontier it was an interesting game i liked the art style it used and it had 7 different main character's each with there own story and ability's it was a good game. i know it had a couple of sequels tho i never real got into them. did you ever play it? if so what did you think of it?


Wheels

I have played SaGa Frontier, it was one of my favorite games for the PS1 in fact. Being the first game from the SaGa series localized since SaGa 3, it was great to finally get to try many of the changes the series had undergone during the SNES era. Despite the game's simple graphics, it was quite the meaty RPG.

   I didn't know the psp could be hooked up to a TV that's something i need to look into as i have several game's I'd love to play more for it. i remember the snes and the gamecube having accessories that let you play gameboy game's on them do you think portables will keep doing this now that there adding the touch screen's to them?
 

   Nonauno


Wheels

You should check it out! I hear that apparently with the PSP Go you can even connect a PS3 controller to it and use that. Overall it's a really nice feature to have. Will this be in portables going forward? not sure, but we shall see.


Tales of Twisted Tropes

Hey Wheels!

Last time I wrote in, I posed a little challenge for you. Feel free to hold onto this email until after you've replied. As to turning plot concepts on their ear, there was one in particular that I had in mind when I made the challenge. Got a minute?

Wheels

I have replied, but I will respond to this one before you get to my crazy and dark "twisted tropes" idea. So let's see what you've got.

The plot concept I wanted to play with was the idea of ancient weapons from a lost time becoming central to the plot in the present. Series and games that have used this include Wild ARMs, Tales of Destiny, White Knight Chronicles, Shining Force Feather, Xenogears, and I'm not sure how many others. In some games, these weapons seem almost to have a personality of their own, or in the case of ToD, actually have more personality than some of the major characters. Let's work with this.

Wheels

I like this idea a lot. There's a lot of JRPGs that use the whole "ancient weapon" storyline, so I'm interested to see how you switch things up.

The world I'd imagine would be one in a post-industrial state of neo-barbarism — that is, civilization has fallen but the old technology was so well made that it still works in some regions. Maintenance is done by rote repetition and ceremonial adherence to procedures that few if any understand. Once something breaks down, it cannot be fixed.

Wheels

A very nice setup, gives it a somewhat typical RPG feel, so people won't expect...well whatever it is you're going to throw at them. Let's see...

This decline began five centuries before, in the aftermath of a devastating conflict between continents. At that time, several nations devised weapons so advanced that when equipped they could direct a warrior's attacks by their own volition, essentially making any yokel a master swordsman.

Wheels

All right that seems pretty typical...wait, what? A weapon that uses you? That put this joke in my head: "In Soviet Russia, weapon wields YOU!".

These are the main characters of my story. Not the yokels. The weapons. Five hundred years later, the surviving sapient weaponry of the last war hide themselves from the public. Every government in the world has declared them illegal and/or blasphemous, and they're to be destroyed on sight. In order to stay hidden, the weapons need to take hosts, and here's where the fun begins. In this game, the weapons equip people. Scattered across the world are cloning facilities. Originally meant for medical purposes, they have been converted into clandestine "meat markets" catering to the sapient weapon population.

Wheels

All right that is pretty twisted. Are these meat puppets, like real people with thoughts and emotions etc. or just mindless host bodies? Either way that's a really cool concept. So what would the ultimate weapons in the game be, clones on steroids or something?

Most weapons have a preferred physical type, but otherwise everything else about the "equipment" is customizable. Each clone type has its own set of unchangeable base stats, and all experience and leveling are done on the part of the weapon. HP is a measure of how well the weapon can protect its "meat" from critical harm. Over time, a body builds up wear and tear until it becomes unable to perform powerful moves. At that point it can be swapped out or upgraded to a better model.

Wheels

All this talk is making me think of the character Meat from Mortal Kombat. Now all I can picture is a bunch of "Meat" characters running around a JRPG world. That's probably not what you had in mind though...

For tradition's sake I'd say make the main character a sword, but really, any sort of weapon would work here. In fact, the weirder it is, the better. For an extra bit of insanity, I'd nominate as a major antagonist the Super Happy Fun Ball.

Do not taunt the Super Happy Fun Ball.

Wheels

Oh man, a sentient ball? That would be creepy. I'm imagining Wakka from Final Fantasy X, except of course it's the ball who's in charge...

But what to do for a plot hook? I can't really use the weapons as the MacGuffin for the game if they're the protagonists. Among all these sapient weapons, there's one that stands out. The reason for this is because it's not actually a weapon. The Sapient Monkey Wrench was the last artifact created in the great war, and it has only one use. In its vast memory lie the knowledge and the skill needed to repair any piece of ancient machinery. Left to its own devices, it could eventually bring the world out of its current dark age. The human governments all consider it to be a weapon, however, and wish to have it destroyed.

Wheels

I like that idea. The weapons have a noble goal in restoring the world to its former glory, and have to contend with pre-conceived notions that happen to be untrue. A story type that's been used in the past, but it's a good one, and would work very well here.

The weapons need it, however. Because, one by one, the meat markets are beginning to fail.

Wheels

Scratch my "noble goal" idea. Damn weapons just want their meat puppets? These don't sound like good guys at all!

So, how about that idea?

Your fellow columnist,

Gaijinmonogatari

Wheels

I think this could be a fantastic game if done right, and would be beast if the sentient weapons you control aren't exactly the most noble characters. stories with moral ambiguity are always fan. I'd pre-order such a game right away!

A Reply Months In the Making

Wheels,
I see you have this weeks edition of Q and A up!! like the miz says in WWE "I'm the miz and I'm awwwsome!!" now you can say; "I'm Wheels and I'm awwwsome!!" sorry for the other sad email I sent all is well now in the land of Q and A LOL, anywho, I have almost all the tales games released in the U.S. except tales of destiny (my sis has it so it's in the family at lest:) and yes she is an avid RPG gal thanks to your truly:) more WOW now though. The other one that I'm missing is tales of symphonia 2 for the wii. AND NOW Tales of graces f will be a Tale that Forever Graces my ps 3 sometime this year:) get it, get it, lol.

Gamer emporium


Wheels

Whoops, this letter is actually from months ago when I was delayed in posting Q&A by a day. At least The Miz just retained his title, so that still appears timely. Anyway, Tales of Destiny isn't the best in the series (the remake we never got has a great reputation), so I wouldn't worry about that. Symphonia 2 seems to be somewhat well liked, so I would say that's well worth your time. My copy is still sealed until I actually finish the first one. Gives me some motivation to do so!

Now Tales of Graces F I know you'll love, and I think the fanbase as a whole will. I'm a bit disappointed with the reaction so far. There's been far too much complaining that they aren't also bringing over the PS3 port of Tales of Vesperia. I just don't get how people could pass up excitement of a brand new title because of a missed enhanced port of a nearly three year old game. What gives? The best thing for the series in the west going forward is for new games to come out here, not ports, no matter how enhanced they are. Come on people, Graces F is great!

IN CLOSING

That's all for this episode! Still wait for new hot topic suggestions, so feel free to send those in, or whatever else is on your mind.

'Til next week

-Wheels

Current Backlog: So Many PSP Games

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What I can't wait for:

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