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Akumajō Dracula: Ubawareta Q&A
  April 12th, 2013

04/12- 7:00PM EST

Welcome to another edition of Q&A! I've been busy with Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate, which I should have a review for early next week. I've also continued my nostalgia trip into the Castlevania series, where I've been playing the great Castlevania II: Belmont's Revenge and the not so great Castlevania Legends. Belmont's Revenge actually holds up surprisingly well despite its age. It may not be as good as the best of the NES titles, but it's still a lot of fun! I've also been playing some Symphony of the Night and Order of Ecclesia, which are more to the tastes of RPGamers obviously. If anyone has any more thoughts about these games or the series in general, let me know! Also I'd love to discuss Monster Hunter after my review is done.

Anyway, on to the questions!





The Letters
Shin Megami Online

So...I remembered long ago that...oh wait...how are you doing Wheels my good man?  Been a little while, eh? 


Wheels

It has been a while! Good to hear from you again. I hope all is well?

So, ahem, I remembered long ago that there was Shin Megami Tensei Online.  I just started playing it tonight.  It's totally Nocturne (SMTIII) style.  It's pretty cool so far, I can't really argue since it's free.  Have you played it at all Wheels?  What are your thoughts on it? 

A big fan of the Wheels column @ rpgamer.com,

Ian Bathelt


Wheels

I did try it a while ago, way back before Atlus took over the reins, and then again after they had. I think just my general distaste for MMOs prevented me from playing more, but you could certainly see the series' influence there despite being unconnected to the rest of the series. A lot about it I would describe as "generic MMO", but as a free game I guess I couldn't complain that much? I think I need to give it another go and spend some real time with it to get a better feel for it. I am glad the Atlus is in control of it now. I'll give it a download again. A post apocalyptic world full of demons is a great setting for an MMO. I would love to hear back from you with your own experiences with the game!

On that same note, what other Atlus properties would make a good MMO or could find a cool home in a different genre or sub-genre Q&A readers?

Monster Hunting For All

Wheels,

I've read a few opinion editorials regarding multiplayer and cooperative gameplay modes becoming increasingly undesired by gamers in games that aren't designed specifically for multiplay and the opposite being true as well (games that were centered around their multiplayer features and tacking on single player campaigns).  Personally it seems to me that it's more of a AAA title concern and possibly a changing culture regarding with whom we prefer to play.  I have always hated playing pickup with "random folks" in any multiplayer game as you don't have the group dynamic that you would normally get with friends and/or long-term teammates, not to mention the sheer number of horrors that can be found with some people who turn off their filters amongst anonymous company online.  Now that hasn't kept me from playing online when there is good cooperative to be had (my personal experience has been way more positive when you work WITH other people towards a common goal set in the game that has little to no competition from other people) or spending an increased amount of time in a more single player fashion when both are offered to me.  Do you see this as an actual trend (the desire to cut out multiplayer unless the game is solely designed for it and thus cutting out single player) developing or is it perhaps just some people's imaginations?


Wheels

This is very much an active topic in games, and not something from people's imagination. The problem is there doesn't seem to be any trend in one direction. On the one hand you have successful Bioshock Infinite that ditches the multiplayer shoehorned into the previous game in the series and seemed to be applauded for doing so. Despite being lauded for this fact well before release we have the recent example of Square Enix forcing multiplayer into Tomb Raider, a mostly pointless mode that wasted the talent of one of their best developers. So it's hard for me to see what the trend is. I think in the past multiplayer was a way to add value, as you could then sell add-on maps and such. As DLC as become more common in games that has become less of the case. Still, for every example like Bioshock Infinite or DmC:Devil May Cry that don't try to shoehorn in multiplayer you have other games that try to force it in like Mass Effect 3 and Assassin's Creed Brotherhood. Even if those modes end up being popular, is it worth the development cost? I think the one kind of game that hasn't really changed would be co-op based games like Borderlands. Games with co-op as a focus provide different options to do so, but given their base multiplayer nature they don't have to shorehorn anything in except for a decent way to play the game by yourself.

So this may not be much of an answer, but I think developers and publishers are learning that games don't have to have a robust multiplayer component just because that's what Call of Duty does. There have been plenty of games that have done just fine without it so I think we'll see the trend go the opposite way as costs of development increase. I don't think anything has changed regarding players moving away from multiplayer though. Some have been turned off by online play, but these services are as healthy and busy as ever. I really think the only think we may be trending towards is fewer games forcing it as a feature. I mean I'll just put it this way, do you think any of the 3.4 million who bought Tomb Raider did so because it had multiplayer?

Following the recent sales reports for the Vita and Wii U, what (other than the obvious: GAMES) do you think could be done to improve the situation of both consoles in the next couple years?  How can they improve their competitive edges against the PS4 and 720 (or whatever MS decides to call it)?  Do they have the long term lifecycle needed to build and maintain a momentum or have they been hobbled since release?


Wheels

Well, there's a lot of different potential answers here so I'm going to respond to each console's situation individually. They have similar issues, but I don't think they can be fixed the same way. Let's start with the Vita. As far as Japan goes, I think the only thing needed for the Vita to pick up there is the obvious answer of games. As for the rest of the world, I don't know that anything will ever be able to drive sales to the point where it will be an overwhelming success. There just doesn't seem to be a huge portable gaming market at this point. That said, the number one thing they can do to improve sales out of the gutter is to drop the price. $250 is just too much for a portable system when the HD consoles go for less than that much. We already saw this same problem with the 3DS. I don't think even a better selection of games will help the Vita in the West if the base system price does not go down. That said, it hasn't been a complete disaster. Indie games have found an audience on the system as have niche publishers, so there is a big enough audience out there to keep releasing smaller budget games for. Sony needs to do something. Another Uncharted and perhaps an Infamous game could do wonders for the system, but only if such releases coincide with a price drop!

Now on to the Wii U. The Wii U could also stand to use a price drop, but I don't consider that essential in this case. Here, Nintendo needs to do the same thing they did with the 3DS and get a ton of content on the system. There's been some interesting third party games like Monster Hunter and Lego City Undercover but first party games are still what will drive people to the system. Since most third party games on the system are available for existing consoles, that's not really going to drive sales. I'll be buying all multi-platform games on the Wii U, but most people have one of the two consoles those types of games will appear on so it doesn't exactly make the Wii U look enticing, you know what I mean? Nintendo put a lot of resources into driving content on the 3DS, now they need to do the same for the Wii U. That's all it needs to compete against the upcoming consoles. There's still a lot of question marks about the PS4 and 720, so a cheaper Wii U with lots of great HD Nintendo games may end up being a nice option for gamers. I doubt the system will have the success the Wii did, but I also don't think it needs to as long as Nintendo budgets things right. I think similar to the GBA in the GameCube era, this may be another generation where Nintendo is much bigger in the portable realm. There's still always the chance the Wii U could be a total bomb that Nintendo will just have to cut their losses with, but I would be surprised if that happens. Nintendo needs a big E3!

Looking forward to some online hunts after this semester ends :P
-Monster Hunter Relias


Wheels

Me too! There's an insane amount of multiplayer content in Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate so I have no doubt we'll have some fun hunts. I look forward to hearing from you again. Thanks for the great questions.

Continued From Last Week

(This is a continuation from JuMeSyn's letter last week)

I will now make you relive something you'd rather not. It's time to talk Drakengard. Starting with its really stupid Japanese name: Drag-On Dragoon. Honestly, what bonehead at Cavia came up with that name? The localized one isn't great but it's better than atrocious. I will deliver faint praise to the narrative of Drakengard though. It's not often, especially in Japanese titles, that one sees incest and child abuse forthrightly addressed. Nor does it get any better. Of the four endings I saw in the game, one involves more dragons swooping in and killing humanity, another finds the sister your protagonist is so protective of being revived by the stupid actions of someone else into demonic form that must be slain before its tentacles tear everything apart. Happy times and sunshine will not be found within.


Wheels

You may be surprised, but I never played the game! It looked awful enough to keep me away so my only real experience was reading through a "let's play" and experiencing the insane endings that way. This was enough to show how bad this game is.

Now, I should state that 3D cameras in games bother me. While I'm sure it's possible to have one constantly show me what I need to see, it hasn't happened yet. Drakengard's camera is bad. This is a flat statement, and I look forward to people writing in trying to argue with it. The camera seems to operate on the assumption that its perspective does not need to shift until Caim has stopped moving. Sorry, that's not gonna hold water with me. Apparently the soundtrack has garnered quite a bit of acclaim. I will concede that, listened to outside of the game, it's interesting and possibly worth hearing. Within the game it struck me as senseless repetitions of chords far past the point of tolerance, when it could even be heard over the slaughter. As for that slaughter, a certain mission struck me as beyond redundant. Now, an hour time limit would be just fine for most games. This particular battle, which found me with over 1400 dead foes to my credit by its conclusion, actually came close to running out of time. Wouldn't that be a kick in the teeth, to lose an hour's worth of game time simply because the clock ran out? At any rate, killing hundreds of identical foes becomes boring pretty fast. I love Streets of Rage because it's to the point and doesn't outstay its welcome.


Wheels

Sounds like the exact reason a lot of people don't like the Dynasty Warriors series. As for the 3D camera, I can't say this is something third-person games have ever done perfectly, but the best bet is usually a setup closely resembling the controls of a first-person shooter, which it doesn't sound like this game uses. I can't say that anything about the game sounds enjoyable.

Diversion time!  Put Burt Reynolds in an RPG!


Wheels

Well, he guest starred on Burn Notice as an absent minded ex-CIA agent being hunted down by Russian Assassins. I'm thinking we could turn that into an RPG! It could be a game like Alpha Protocol, using the absent mindedness as some sort of plot device. Of course, Burt Reynolds would have to lend his voice to the character. You know what, this could actually make for a really cool Alpha Protocol 2...

Okay, Drakengard 2. Can't remember if you tried this, given your reputed bad time with the first. Anyway. The action is faster. That's a good thing. The camera still stinks though. Killing things is a little less monotonous than the first game. Not that it can hold up over the thirty hours minimum required to win, but it's something.


Wheels

I didn't expect to hear that. I thought I had recalled the second game getting a far worse reception. Of course depending on what else you have to tell me about the game that still may have been the case. At least they improved something?

Now for the bad parts. Much touted is the ability to switch between characters on the fly, with each character's weapon type being effective against certain types of foes. That's good, right? Yes it is! Which makes Cavia's boneheaded decision to have plot considerations close off the ability to switch between your cast most of the time really really annoying! What good does it do me if Eris is really good against the undead when SHE'S GONE 90% OF THE GAME? Ai yi yi! Why does my axe man have to die just in time to make him unavailable for the rest of the game? Gaaaah! Why is my staff user afraid enough to run away and become inaccessible? Seriously, the woman is a dynamo who just shredded thousands of soldiers, but I guess one guy in the right place makes her fear complex spring up.

Note that all of them are accessible if you feel the desire to go through New Game +. Only thing is that the difficulty automatically goes up to Hard when doing so. Isn't that nice?


Wheels

How nice of them to automatically up the difficulty for you! See this is the biggest failing of a many RPGs that have you in control of a large cast. They don't seem to get that people want to have that diversity of selection for a long period of time. Plots are great and all, but they should never ruin the gameplay like this.

Oh, and the plot is stupid.   Endless exposition for Nowe our protagonist happens because, despite being trained for THREE YEARS he apparently couldn't be bothered to learn a damn thing about the world around him.  Then his leader attempts to kill him for being a threat - something that his best friend Eris spots but he can't be bothered to explain (Hey Eris, notice this HOLE IN MY BODY?  I didn't make that!), so she's his enemy for a loooooooong time thanks to loophole writing.  Oh, and the people who depended on Nowe to clear the path for them suddenly sprout an air armada out of a black hole or something to dog the protagonist.


Wheels

This does not sound like something that I have any interest in experiencing.

One other thing about the plot in general, and that's voice acting.  Is a British accent enough to mark your performance as inherently good?  I wouldn't think so, since things like tone and modulation to the volume are also necessary.  A few reviews from the time of release chalk the voice acting up as good though, seemingly mystified by that accent.  Sorry, not enough to reel me in.

My scorn may be showing.  Oops.


Wheels

I don't think this is a series that too many would blame you for showing some scorn to. I would hope people don't just assume British accents make everything alright. That said we have seen some recent games with great British voice actors such as in The Last Story. I'm going to take a wild guess that Drakengard 2 wasn't on that level.

One other thing on this pair: the dragon battles. As so few people have played both Panzer Dragoon games and these in order to compare, the side-by-side doesn't seem to occur to many. You've played both though, so I'll let you describe how this attempt to ape Panzer Dragoon doesn't compare to the real thing. I could do it, but you're probably eager to get something in by now.


Wheels

Sadly (or gladly) I have never had to experience this, but I have experienced other games described as similar to Panzer Dragoon that weren't similar at all! The Panzer Dragoon games were linear on-rails flying affairs that still somehow fit in branching paths, alternate upgrades for your dragon (in the second game) and just really captured the feeling of flight. Those games also managed to created some engrossing environments despite the limitations of the Saturn. All it takes is one look at a video of Drakengard's flying sections to see that they completely failed at creating the same experience despite superior hardware.

How goes the Super Robot Taisen: Original Generation endeavor? There's been a distinct lack of news on that front which makes me think you need another goad to get back on it!


Wheels

You are correct! My GBA has mostly been getting use for Castlevania games but I suppose while I have it warmed up I should get back to SRT. I assure you I do not dislike the game!

My thoughts on Etrian Odyssey IV are easy to find on the site right now. Reaction?


Wheels

I probably like it a bit more than you but we both enjoyed it so that's all that matters there. I'm glad you got to review this game, I think I remember a while back recommending the series to you for some reason or another. I don't really have any other reaction to your review than that it is spot on. I jumped from the archaic Elminage to EOIV and it is impressive to see just how much better Atlus handles this sub-class of RPGs. This one isn't perfect of course (you mention some issues such as the inventory limit at times) in your review. Overall though they've somehow managed to make first-person dungeon crawling feel both modern and nostalgic at the same time. I would encourage you to try the other games in the series at some point.

Of all the things I could say about Jade Empire, one that springs right to the top is John Cleese makes damn near anything better. Maybe not Steve Martin's ill-advised Pink Panther movies (no, I'm not about to go see one of those just because Mr. Cleese is in it), but in general. Also, having 10 styles to choose from at an instant thanks to the 10 key pad on a keyboard almost makes the crippled input of using directional keys superior to a controller. Not really, but it's nice.


Wheels

John Cleese is fantastic. What more can I say? I loved those ill-advised Pink Panther movies by the way. Maybe just because I think Steve Martin is hilarious (just watched Dirty Rotten Scoundrels recently). Jade Empire couldn't be saved for me by Mr. Cleeses' presence though. Just something about the game bored me. Might be time for a second look though.

Defend the indefensible! Justify the lack of a real Lunar 3 despite 18 years now having elapsed since Eternal Blue was new!

Talking about John Cleese makes me look up him apparently acting in Fable III. Can you speak at all with regard to that series?

Is Vagrant Story worth a look at some point?


Wheels

How the heck do I defend that? I guess after the remakes which retouched the early Sega CD versions the company was likely ready to do something other than Lunar so different types of projects were in order. With no interest for the creators in a Lunar 3 perhaps any effort they tried then would have turned out as bad as Lunar on the DS did? By the time Lunar 3 would have been a viable option chances are much of the original staff had left. Still, they should try now as a tribute to the passing of Takeshi Miyaji if nothing else. Sorry I can't do much of a job defending that one!

I don't have much nice to say about the Fable series beyond the first game. I loved the original for its fun combat that had lots of neat magic options, good melee action, and solid ranged attacks. The second game completely gimped the combat and I could never get over that fact even if the story elements were far better. The best I can say is to try the first game and then see if that creates enough interest in the other games.

Vagrant Story is one of Matsuno's finest works and you need to play it at your earliest convenience.

You've been dying for a connection challenge, haven't you? Let's link Border Radio to Waku Waku Puyo Puyo Dungeon! I think you have plenty of content now.

JuMeSyn


Wheels

I'm saving this for next week! It's been so long since I had one of these that I was not prepared for it.

As always, thank you for the great questions!

BEAT IS DRUNK

@AskWheels YO I GOT MORE QUESTIONS FOR YOUR BRANE HOLD UP


Wheels

You can't spell man, you're drunk. Give me your keys.

@AskWheels WHERE CAN I GET A HALFWAY DECENT SAMMICH AT 2AM?


Wheels

Just look for a 24-hour Subway. There's gotta be one near you. Then you can get a five dollar foot loooooonnnnnnnnnnnnngggggg.

@AskWheels SHOULD I DRINK MORE

@BEAT_TWITTAR


Wheels

Yes, then you should fire up a copy of Unlimited Saga and let me know how that goes.
IN CLOSING

See you next week!

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