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ASK WHEELS
Department 7th Heaven
June 15th, 2012

06/15- 12:00PM EST

Q&A returns! A backlog has built up so there's plenty of great letters to get to. What have I been playing why Q&A was away? Besides more Shiren I've been trying to finish up Knights in the Nightmare before the next Dept. Heaven game, Gungnir, comes out. It is such a wierd and fun game (PSP version), and I'm quite glad I gave it a try. I've also been playing Gravity Rush. This super hero adventure is absolutely a must buy for anyone with a Vita. I've also given Growlanser II a try, but we'll get into that shortly.

Anyway, letter time!





The Letters
Tales of Growlanser

I'm a long-time lover of the Growlanser series, having started it with the Growlanser Generations pack that condemned Working Designs to its ignominious end due to Sony's unwillingness to let them sell Growlanser 2 and 3 separately. 


Wheels

I remember that whole fiasco. I'll never fully understand Sony's refusals with some of these games. For example didn't they prevent Atlus bringing over Soul Hackers for PS1 at one point? Anyway, at least this one was able to come out in some form, I know Working Designs was never able to release that Goemon game that they had actually finished translating. I picked this up a few years ago, but sadly never got around to it. This letter spurned me to finally give Growlanser 2 a try, and I will share my thoughts on that shortly.

In many ways, this series redefined what I considered good in a Japanese-style rpg with tactical elements.  Up until I played Growlanser 2 my experience with tactical rpgs had been limited to the FFT/Tactics Ogre style of game that is the main for the genre.  However, with Growlanser 2 I actually found that it was possible to play a tactical-style rpg that didn't feel like a slogfest.  Fulfilling the extra objectives, like preventing villagers and other NPC's from being killed, and being able to save characters that can potentially die as part of the story gave me a sense of accomplishment that was lacking in a lot of other games in the genre.  In particular, the rewards for getting all 'mission complete' ratings were a great motivator, as they opened up extra paths with interesting twists on the story.


Wheels

I have to say, I was similarly completely surprised by the game. When I first went in, I was expecting just another turn-based strategy game. What I got instead was a pseudo real-time strategy type experience, with all kinds of things going on in battle. In the third battle you have to deal with closing walls and an extra party member showing up in the middle of this happening. I've also enjoyed the story so far, despite some less than stellar voice acting. I'm looking forward to seeing what other twists they throw into battles throughout the game. I have to say I love the idea of objectives that change the story based on whether you complete them or not. More RPGs need to do this. Anyway, I shall continue to update Q&A with other thoughts on the game as I continue to play it.

This trend was continued in Growlanser 3, which had - in many ways - a far more epic story than 2 and used the 'silent protagonist' rpg plot device in the way it was meant to, as a way of helping you get into the story thinking of yourself as the protagonist. 


Wheels

This sounds interesting, and I can't wait to see how it accomplishes this. Though it obviously hurt Working Designs, this is looking more and more to be quite the amazing collection of two games. I'm looking forward to further epicness in the third game. Are the games connected in terms of story?

The great misfortune of the series was that Atlus chose to bring over the fifth game of the series in the disaster known as Heritage of War, rather than any of the other games that had yet to be localized.  The worst game in the series and it came to be the standard by which the series was judged in many younger rpg-gamers' minds... it was incredibly frustrating for fans of the series to see the possibility of future localizations being forced to the wayside by this poor decision on the part of Atlus USA. 


Wheels

Well, I don't think the decisions around bringing games over are that simple, they never really are. It sucks that the one they got to bring over is the worst in the series, but its also possible that it was the only they realistically could. I'd like to know exactly what went on with this title. At the very least it sounds like they tried to improve it over the original Japanese version. Anyway, given that Atlus owns the developer of the series I'm surprised they haven't done more with the series over here, given how well they've done with their other series. We've gotten all of the main Dept. Heaven games from Sting, so why not more Growlanser? Anyway, they're bringing over the PSP version of Growlanser IV, so hopefully this is just the beginning. They've become a much better publisher since the days of Heritage of War.

However, as you probably know, the fourth game in the series, considered by many to be the absolute best of the six games, is coming to the PSP in July, finally giving US gamers the opportunity to play it with added story and characters.  As a fan of the series, I felt a serious need not to allow this game to be forgotten merely because it is coming out in the last days of the PSP's twilight, as it would be a waste for any rpg-fan to overlook it merely because of this reality.  I hope that gamers will give it a chance and find the same interest I did in this somewhat minor but interesting series.

-Travis


Wheels

While it is coming out in the twilight days of the PSP, don't forget that it will be there for Vita games who never even owned a PSP. Not only that, but with so few PSP releases it will be a prominent release among niche RPG games. I don't think it will be overlooked at all, and I'm really hoping it will be the first of many future Growlanser games to come. I'm still early in II, but I am certainly already a fan of this unique series.

EA Makes Everything an RPG

Wheels, I'm going to be the first one to ask you an RPGamer column question about Madden: Dear Wheels, TOUCHDOWN???

Love,
Bongo Bill


Wheels

You know, Madden with RPG features is actually a pretty cool idea. MLB The Show already does this for the most part with the Road to the Show mode, so it seems only natural here. Level up your player as he gets better and eventually becomes a Hall of Famer. The last boss could be Brett Favre!

Dear Wheels, GOOOOOOAAAAAAL???

love,
Bongo Bill


Wheels

Well, the same thing certainly applies for FIFA, and you could even have a bunch of different classes! You could be a flopper, a striker, or "married to a spice girl"! I think this would work out even better than Madden because there are so many different leagues with so many different storylines to work with. Of course it won't be anywhere near as good as this, but a man can dream!

Dear Wheels, VRRRRMM, VRRMMMM VRRRMMMMMMM???

Love (with mouth),
Bongo Bill


Wheels

Whoa, listen I love RPGs, but I assume the EA game you're talking about is that new Need for Speed game. That is actually a clear sequel to Burnout Paradise based on the gameplay videos, and it doesn't need RPG elements you crazy fool. Two out of three is fine sir!

Ys Ys Goose

Dear Wheels,
 
While I appreciate the gesture, I am not going to be taking that Ys Origins code based on my pathetic attempt with that bit of history I wrote you about. That wasn't even my intention anyways. Gameremporium seemed like he (or she) was a real die hard fan and I would feel terrible if I snatched the code from under him (or her). It's for Steam right? I don't even have an account for that so let that make the choice a little easier for you. Besides, I still need to finish the last prize I won, so... Congrats to him! :)


Wheels

No worries! He's got the code and was quite happy about it, so I'm glad everything worked out in the end. I'll see if I can make you an Ys fan at some point, but that's for another day!

Anyways, about Game of Thrones. I think I was a bit vague last time around. I very much don't mind politics in fantasy. One of my all-time fave games is Final Fantasy Tactics, and I consider that one to be pretty political. I just felt that they basically took as much of the politics they could cram into the TV series, without adding anything else, and still make it too rushed because they only had 10 episodes. I'd rather they either go all-out with far more episodes, or create an eye-candy series with cool monsters more often. They didn't have enough room for the politics.


Wheels

I agree, though I doubt they have the budget for such an effort. That said, I think you should give the first book a try. You may just find it much more to your liking. The series does a great job showing you politics from different characters perspectives, and leaves you liking characters you never thought you would. I guarantee you'll enjoy it much more than the show!

So, I probably won't be reviewing RPG products, but our little talk on retroviews did get me thinking. Seeing as I am lucky to have a copy of Terranigma right here, I could do a guest retroview of Terranigma for you guys? I already have a really funny and clever introduction ready! Let me know if that's something you guys would appreciate.


Wheels

Well, we used to do reader reviews, I can't say that staff would be completely opposed to the idea. I say write it up, and send it in. In the worst case you can post it in the forums to tell people about the game. You'd have at least one reader in me!

So, you have been playing Shiren a lot, eh? I do like Roguelike games, I played a lot of Powder, but it doesn't do it for me enough. There are a lot of cool features in these games, especially the scare of equipping new items. They are cursed so often. But I find the games to be far too unforgiving. The DS games (Shiren and others) focus too much on giving fancy graphics which to me don't work with the gameplay, so I kind of avoid those. I don't have a lot of time to play games right now, so to answer your pondering what we are playing... I am not really playing anything currently. No RPGs anyways.
 
Well, gotta hang!
 
May your sword always be sharp, your shield always protective... Man, that was lame...
Daniel


Wheels

I'd have to disagree on Shiren. It keeps the speedy gameplay of Roguelikes along with the punishing difficulty. The graphics just make it easier to look at, and personally I just can't deal with ASCII graphics. Plus it has a rescue feature that can be quite fun. I can't argue about the other Roguelikes on the system since they aren't as good. I love that such a simple game has spawned an entire genre of interesting games.

Sorry to hear you don't have time for many games at the moment, here's hoping you find the time soon (and a less lame outro :) )!

Romancing SaGa

Hey Wheels,

How are you? I know that you are a Kawazu fan and wanted to tell you that I am playing Romancing Saga for the ps2 right now. What a great game! I am pretty impressed by the graphics and the music, and obviously the story in its own way. I am really enjoying this game because it is so different.


Wheels

I am glad to hear that! I think many ignored it due to the throw-back style graphics, but it really is a good looking game with some of the best music you'll find in RPGs. This has to be one of the most overlooked classics on the PS2.

I really enjoy the sense of freedom, even right up to what  team members you can recruit. In any case, I wanted to ask if you have  played it, and how you think it compares to the other Saga/Kawazu games.


Wheels

I have played it! It compares quite well to the other games in the series, and could easily be argued as the best SaGa game released in the west. They're all based on some semblance of freedom, with SaGa Frontier 2 being the only real linear one. Of course that let's you choose what parts of the story to play, so even it has some freedom to it. Romancing SaGa has a large world and tons of great story lines to experience. I wish it had a better localization but it's not horrible.

I remember playing Saga Frontier 1 and 2 but I never really "got" them. I think I was pretty young at the time and the lack of concrete  direction was a liability for my young brain. But now I think it is  really the perfect rpg for an adult jrpg fan. RS is more like a game that gives you an invitation to enter its world, and once your inside it you can experience the world in a variety of ways. Anyway, I'm not that  far in, but I am really looking forward to playing it through with a different lead character and seeing how the world responds. So my follow up question would be what other SaGa game is worth the time?


Wheels

Well, the problem right off the bat with those two games is they just received sub-standard localizations, making them more confusing than they should be. I had similar troubles with the first SaGa Frontier game in my youth. I kept with it because I loved the battles and world, but always had trouble finding out what to do next. SaGa Frontier 2 I have only jumped into recently, but I find it to be a spectacular experience. I suggest you give it another try, despite the linearity! I think you've described the SaGa experience quite well. They have fun worlds to explore, and for more experiences like that I suggest you track down the original three games which were released with the title Final Fantasy Legend in the US.

Is Unlimited Saga any good? I hear its the black sheep of the family. And finally, one thing I have noticed is that you need to approach the SaGa games with a different mindset. Instead of aiming for quests, it is as if the game asks you to embrace the world and its characters, and the questing is actually secondary. Its a strange approach to the rpg genre, but I think it works really well. So what advice would you give someone just getting into the SaGa games "again for the first time" about how to approach them?

Thanks!
joe


Wheels

Buried underneath a mountain of interface and design issues, Unlimited Saga is at its heart a good game. Will you be able to dig through all the issues to enjoy it? Probably not. It's important to realize that it is not much like the other games in the series, so I wouldn't jump on that before other Saga games.

Now as for your second point, I think you are absolutely correct in looking for a different approach for these games. While I don't think the questing is necessarily secondary, this games are all about exploring the world and its various locations. My best advice would be to just go in and play, don't worry about completing everything, finishing every story, or finding the best weapons. Just go in and explore, and have a good time!

Thanks for the letter, hope you keep enjoying Romancing SaGa!
IN CLOSING

That's it for this week!

I'm off to play some Gungnir.

See you next week!

-Wheels


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What I can't wait for:

1. Growlanser IV

2. Kingdom Hearts 3D

3. Ys IV Vita

4. Persona 4 Vita

5. Persona 4 Arena

On my Playlist:

1. Romancing SaGa soundtrack

2. Ys Origins soundtrack

3. Atelier soundtracks



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