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ASK WHEELS
Welcome to the Year of Threes
June 24th, 2011

06/10- 12:00PM EST

  There sure are a lot of third games in series coming out this year. We've got Battlefield 3, Deus Ex 3, Modern Warfare 3, F.3.A.R., and I'm probably forgetting a few. With that in mind, are there any series you'd like to see get a third entry? Personally I'd have to go with Resonance of Fate. Yes, I know there isn't a second game, but that needs fixing too!

OK, on to your letters/tweets...





The Letters
Of Avadons and SaGas

Hey Wheels!  Sorry it's taken me so long to write in again.  For some reason I was assuming you wouldn't have a Q&A up for E3 week.  Dunno why I thought so, since it certainly didn't stop me from putting anything up.


Wheels

Certainly not, I even waited and made sure to title it with an appropriate Wii-U related pun.

First, Avadon. I've got a question about this one, which has nothing to do with gameplay. I've saturated my brain with far too many fantasy worlds over the years, and made up quite a few myself, so I'm a little hesitant on this one. Not because the premise isn't interesting or the graphics are bad (because really, a graphical purist I am not), but because of the names on the map. Replacing vowels willy-nilly with the letter Y in what would otherwise be a normal English-sounding word, i.e. Wyldrylm for Wild Realm? Red flag for me. Please tell me the name schemes got better.


Wheels

To be honest I didn't even notice that one until you mentioned it, so I can't really say if the other names in the game will pass your naming standards. The others certainly aren't as obvious. As far as character names go, they're pretty standard, but certainly not bad. I've never been a stickler for names being unique and all, but I'll grant you names like Wyldrylm certainly could use some work.

Second, there was a Banpresto tactical title called Battle Robot Retsuden that made use of hexagonal grids, way back in the Super Famicom era. It was a sort of alternative version of Super Robot Wars featuring many of the same classic series mecha.


Wheels

  Interesting, I should have figured there would be some kind of robot/mech type game that used hex grids. I wonder if there's ever been a similar Mechwarrior title? Seems like a title like this, will all kinds of variables and different sorts of weapons would be best suited for a hex grid style setup. Is there a whole robot/mech tactics game genre in Japan that the West isn't even aware of with more games like this?

Also... SaGa spin-off?  Too easy. Also, I can't win this contest anyway. So instead I'm going to talk about Kaijuu RamPaGe instead. Remember that one from back in May? In my regular commuter free time, I've had far too much fun elaborating on this idea.


Wheels

Oh man, more Rampage craziness, I love it. Speaking of which, whatever happened to that series? I know it hasn't really evolved at all as a series since the arcade games, but you'd think they'd have Rampage titles all over the downloadable space, and on iPhones right? Anyway, back to your ideas.

I was imagining a battle system that had four major stats: Bash, Grapple, Heft, and Action%.  That last one is the measure of how much the character can still do in a turn, and is reduced by moving, jumping, grabbing, or hitting things, in a set percentage depending on the type or duration of action. It replenishes at a set (but adjustable) amount every round, and can be stored up for later use in a battle.  Bash would be the stat governing all direct physical damage, both to enemies and infrastructure. When hitting an enemy, there would be a choice of Light, Medium, or Heavy hits, with accuracy and critical hit chance being inversely proportionate.  Light blows hit faster, but rarely hit hard.  Heavy hits are powerful, but likely to miss.  Linking a sequence of hits together boosts the accuracy of all, though.  Critical hits include the possibility that an enemy will be knocked off its feet. If a unit, friendly or otherwise, is knocked over, it spends the rest of the time till its next turn in that condition. Any unit that has an action before that time can walk over, grab it, and throw it into the nearest wall. The amount of Action% necessary for the throw depends on how high the thrower's Grapple stat is, versus how hefty the throwee happens to be.  Alternately, the attacker can jump on top of the downed character, and then proceed to stomp it into the dirt (damage based on the attacker's Heft). Heftier units can't move as fast or jump as far, however.


Wheels

  OK you really need to get hired by some game company so these ideas can get made into games. Seriously, this sounds pretty fantastic to me. Sounds like it could be similar to a battle system like the one in Xenogears, where combos are a big focus. That combined with movement and probably various terrain concerns (such as jumping down on a foe from on top of a building) could make for quite the fun game.

The next thing to consider is what monsters to populate the world with. I need to address something you said in the May 26 Q&A first, though:
That's all well and good (always with the giant robots), but couldn't you ditch towns entirely, or at least, make some kind of giant monster town or something? Also, based solely on the characters in Rampage shrinking down to humans, couldn't that be an option as well? Of course towns could just be sequences of destruction, I'd be down for that.
Making a giant monster town would take something away from the overall story, I believe. Assuming that we have people-turned-kaijuu as characters, a big theme would be the fact that there's no place for them in the world, and providing such a place (in this scenario, when monsters appear out of the blue) would cheapen the impact. Same goes for letting the characters shrink down to normal. There's no pathos if it's possible for everyone to suddenly change back to normal. Now for the monsters. The small fry are easy. There are just tons of cheesy monster movies to borrow from. How about fire ants? Tarantulas? Hordes of locusts attacking Chicago? Killer snails in SoCal? Giant cockroaches devouring Cincinnati? How about an extraterrestrial turkey buzzard with an antimatter shield? Nah... that'd just be too silly. Of course, there's also the matter of local governments or citizens not knowing (or not caring) if the monsters are on their side.


Wheels

  Sounds like going with no towns would be the best option then. Creating a sense of isolation, even from the people our monster hero is trying to protect would be quite interesting. Also I absolutely vote for "The Claw" to be the hero out of the monsters you listed.

Main characters and foes need some extra thought though, so here's what I
have so far:

Major William Thom was the first to pilot the XLCR-1, the space-capable fighter craft intended to take the war to the aliens. However, he was hit en route by a missile carrying one of the aliens'kaijuu-making energy pods, and crashed-landed in the middle of the Great Basin.  The pod's energy made him merge with the high-tech alloys of the XLCR-1, as well as with every other bit of metal in a 10-mile radius. Thus was born the Magnetic Man, a 18-meter tall ambulating junkyard in reasonably human form. His special ability is magnetism. He can forcibly attract all metal within a given radius of his position, damaging infrastructure and
metallic units (both friend and foe) while adding material to himself.  This increases his Heft considerably, while all his ranged attacks involve ripping parts of himself off and throwing them at the enemy, thus reducing
his weight.

Sybil Hayes was a college junior with a sports scholarship to a state school.  At 6'3" she was used to standing out in a crowd. On an early morning jog, she came across an alien energy pod, and soon found herself magnified to ten times her original size. As the 64-Foot (rounded down) Woman, she's now one of the tallest kaijuu on record. While she doesn't have any special attacks like electricity or fire breath, she does have three years of self-defense judo classes under her belt, and she can lift and throw things that other party members can't. Her biggest asset is sympathy. Human, or formerly human, units are less likely to attack her.

Little Gizmo was given to Faye and Raye Vina for their tenth birthday -- a darling little terrier, happy and energetic.  Until the day a bright green rock fell from the sky and pulverized Gizmo's doghouse, and suddenly the
little puppy wasn't so little anymore.  Now she's Canine Kong -- wild, hairy, and huge.  She only listens to the twins, and will do anything to make them safe and happy.  While she's now bipedal, she still prefers to run on all fours, making her one of the fastest units available. Pretty much all her attacks are speed-based, though she does have a mean howl attack.


Wheels

Now that is a set of interesting monsters, to be sure. I think The 64-Foot (rounded down) Woman would make a hilarious movie title for the record. These are a nice change from what people expect, that being giant lizards or apes etc. 

Not long after the monstrous onslaught began, New York City went quiet. The citizens went about their business in strange, subdued silence. Scourge had taken over the city. This giant, multipart monster had originally been a group of nine alley cats, now grotesque and joined at the tail. The alien pod had affected not only the cats, however, but also their parasites. With its very breath, Scourge spread a powerful strain of toxoplasmosis across the city. The parasites transform rats into lesser kaijuu and make humans into obedient thralls who defend Scourge even as it devours them. Once defeated, however, three mutant kittens split off from Scourge to become Trickitty, an ally that shares the original's ability to strike from multiple angles simultaneously.

The town of Gerania, a few miles east of Binger, OK, was celebrating. A new oil field had just been discovered beneath the town, and its few dozen families all had a stake in the action. That night, an unscheduled meteor shower lit up the sky, and the next day a small, smoking crater was found in the middle of Main Street. From that hole flowed the Ebon Ichor. By the time the specialists are called in, the entire town has been engulfed in the black sludge, and the few survivors told tales of strange shapes roaming the streets. In this scenario, the Ichor is both an environmental factor and the main enemy. All enemy units are actually extensions of it -- they can seemingly teleport to any location covered by the Ichor, they cannot be knocked down or thrown because they're attached to it, and whenever one is defeated, a new one is spawned to replace it on the next turn. Every time one is spawned, however, its HP are taken directly from the Ichor's. Also, while the Ichor is completely immune to throws, it is not immune to stomping, so a unit can be moved to an ichor-covered hex and simply jump up and down until the sludge retreats a bit. And since it's technically kaijuu-fied petroleum, it's also highly flammable... But that might just put the property damage above acceptable levels.


Wheels

Two fantastic villains. I'm a big fan of cats, and evil mutant kittens infecting with some kind of weird scourge sounds fantastic. Combine that with something that sounds like an extreme version of a certain black ooze from the Spider-Man series, and I think we've got a winner here. How about a title though? I propose Rampage RPG: The Black Ooze Kitten Conundrum.

Wow, once you think of a good monster, the scenarios just sorta write themselves, don't they?

To finish this off (because really, it's getting kinda long at this point), it's time for a challenge.  Take something that is not normally associated with RPGs, and make that one thing the central point of the entire game.  For an example, there's Inazuma Eleven. It's not just an RPG with a soccer mini-game. It's a game where the battles are soccer scrimmages, where the enemies try to dominate through sport, and where all the items and equipment match the theme perfectly.  A different sort of example, though still sports-based, would be Barkley's Shut Up and Jam Gaiden, which had a gritty post-apocalyptic feel centered entirely on the mystic and destructive power of the slam dunk.  Bonus points if you can come up with something that doesn't involve sports.

Your fellow columnist,
Gaijin



Wheels

But...I wanted to make some kind of crazy post-apocalyptic baseball game! Alright, let me ponder this one for a bit and I will try and come up with something for next week!


Wheels, the Answerer of All

I met this Japanese chick while playing Red Dead Redemption a while back. Her PSN avatar is that of Terra from FFVI. I asked her about it and she told me to go to the Playstation store. I looked around, it wasn't there, and she really couldn't help me since her english wasn't very good. Are FF Amano art avatars only available to people with a Japanese PSN account? Or what?

-Brad


Wheels

That would be correct. There's a lot of cool stuff that is sadly only available on the Japanese PSN store. You can buy Japanese PSN cards from places such as play-asia and there are many available guides on the net that can tell you how to create a Japanese PSN account. The only issue you may run into is I don't know if PSN avatars are a download available to any PSN account on your PS3, or tied to whichever PSN account you purchased them with. I'd test this out by creating a second US account and seeing if any avatars you've purchased on that PS3 are available to that account. If that works, go for it. Hope this helped!


Content With a Capital C

Mr. Square Wheels, it seems time to submit some more Q&A content.  Are you ready?

Wheels

I am as ready as I'll ever be

There actually is a hex grid tactical game, though I'm not surprised you wouldn't remember it.  Dark Wizard on the Sega CD uses that system, and sometime I'll go back to it.  Of course, Sega has ignored the Sega CD's library ever since the system died, and it doesn't have the kind of following consoles that worked without being attached to other consoles do. 

Wheels

Wow, I knew of some RPGs on Sega CD (for example, there's a Sega CD version of  Eye of the Beholder), but I've never heard of this one. It looks like a neat little tactical game, but I can't see why it even needed to be on Sega CD. I hope it had some great music or something.s

Connection game time!  Link Masculine/Feminine to Growlanser Generations!

Wheels

You won't rest until you've broken me, will you? A 1960s French movie to a game from a smaller Japanese publisher... let's see what we can do with this. Alright, now try to keep up with this one:

Masculine/Feminine was directed by Jean-Luc Godard->Godard directed the 1987 film King Lear->King Lear was released in Italy on DVD by 20th Century Fox->20th Century Fox produces the Aliens films->Sega published Aliens vs. Predator using said franchise->Sega published Dragon Force in Japan-> Working Designs published Dragon Force in the US-> Working Designs published Growlancer Generations in the US.

I'll rant a bit more about the fifth Fire Emblem, just for you.  The subject this time is the game's refusal to guarantee anything when it comes to the chance of an attack hitting.  If you've played a game in this series (and I think you have), then you know that anything between 0 and 100% is just a little bit dangerous.  Well, in this game, you will never see either 0 or 100% for the chance an attack will hit.  Enemies will always have at least a 1% chance to hit you (and usually quite a bit more than that), while your characters will never have more than 99% accuracy.  As someone who has seen attacks with 99% chance to hit nevertheless miss, this aspect of the game just makes for a bigger headache.
Also, yes, Thracia 776 was released on the Super Nintendo in 1999.  Apparently it was on a service (in Japan only) whereby customers could write games onto blank cartridges in game stores.  Its retail release was so limited (again, a 1999 SNES game) as to become very expensive.  The N64 could certainly have used something, anything, to expand its RPG library, but Intelligent Systems was having none of it.

Wheels

Sounds like it was a pretty frustrating game, not just because of the aforementioned lack of guaranteed hits, but also because of the strange refusal to move the series off the then ancient SNES. I wonder if the series would have made it overseas earlier had a game shown up on the N64? It's not like it would have had much competition, with the lack of RPGs on the system.

Oh, and the aforementioned Fatigue system of the game.  What bothers me most about this system is how random it can be, based on whether a lot of enemies dodged when the RNG decided not to play ball.  If the RNG flipped you the bird enough times, a character you might actually need in the next battle will be unavailable.  The kicker, of course, is that you won't know which characters you need for the next battle until that battle has arrived and you've (presumably) saved over the file for the previous fight.  Or you can just constantly consult a FAQ, but that's not too much fun.

Wheels

It almost sounds like they intentionally made this game as frustrating as they possibly could, which is strange, given how good the other games in the series are. I just don't get it. I think it's safe to say this is the black sheep of the series?

Wild speculation on your part time!  Dragon Quest X is on the horizon, as it has been for several years now.  You are assigned to prognosticate about what it COULD be, and what you realistically think it WILL be.  Go!

Wheels

Based on some comments I've seen, I think it will have more in common with Dragon Quest VIII than it does with Dragon Quest IX. I foresee a greater focus on story, with voice acting, and a huge world for players to explore. I also predict that there will be no multiplayer features of any kind. In the near future I also expect to see Dragon Quest XI on 3DS. Hopefully we'll actually see Dragon Quest X some time this year.

If I asked you to come up with a scenario in which all the people who played Unlimited Saga and loathed it were somehow made to like it, what kind of frenzied rant would result?

Wheels

You may be disappointed to find that there would be no such frenzied rant. As much as I enjoy Unlimited Saga, I must admit that the game is so obtuse that there is no conceivable scenario where all the haters could be made to like it. The time investment required to understand the game is simply far too large. It's a real shame.

Okay, since you didn't remember enough about Shining Force III, I'll have to talk more about parts of the game you haven't even seen yet, just 'cause. 
Remember the railroad battle with Synbios, in which you have to try to guide civilians away from some Imperial soldiers who want them dead?  Medion has a battle similar to that, in which a group of civilians have escaped from the temple of Elbesem, and the Bulzome masked monks are quite willing to discipline them in the harshest possible manner.  Fortunately you'll have Hera, a monk of Elbesem with abilities similar to those of Khan, for assistance in this fight, since she also escaped from the monks. 
Oh, and remember that little matter with Fiale dropping a key to a ship when he tries to trap Synbios after killing Conrad?  The lead-in to that situation occurred on a ship at sea, where Fiale trapped Medion's friend general Rogan, and since the ship is sinking time is of the essence. 

Wheels

I remember that railroad in Shining Force III! That was one of my favorites in the game. Makes me very interested that there is another one like that in another part of the series. I don't quite fully remember this key-dropping situation fully, but it does sounds somewhat familiar.

After you've uncovered the location of Emperor Domaric and saved him, he actually accompanies Medion into battle along with Rogan (if you got that ship's key back, otherwise Rogan drowned) and a few troops.  Domaric is pretty thin-skinned though, so you'd better keep an eye on him and clear out the enemies first, or else he might get killed and have the same effect Medion getting killed does.  Good thing he moves after all of your regular Shining Force is done.
Having Domaric along does spawn an interesting battle in which a couple of people who remember him ruling what's now the Republic become bosses, though.  One of them supplies a plot moment, in which Domaric orders Medion to kill the opposition, and when Medion hesitates along comes Yasha to do it.  I'll grant that I didn't understand this scene when I first played the game, thanks to Sega of America's inexplicable and inexcusable lack of an official translation, but it's just one of the things that makes this the best example of storytelling I've seen Camelot do.

Wheels

I think it's hard to argue against Shining Force III being Camelot's finest game, even just looking at the first part of the game that we did get localized. It's clear they love what they do, and I think it's why they've developed such a loyal fanbase. As good as their sports games can be, I hope they focus more on RPGs in the near future.

Also I will absolutely have to make sure I get Domaric so I can take part in that optional battle. That sounds quite good!

For dimortuisunt: the giant turtle would have to be Gamera, friend to children.  Those of you unfamiliar with Gamera (that would apparently include you, Wheels) - think of a low-rent version of Godzilla.  Most Gamera movies made back in the golden age of kaiju films are pretty bad, though the horrid English dubbing certainly doesn't help matters.  The 90's revival of Gamera brought three pretty decent films with it, though I haven't seen the most recent movie from the 2000s.

Wheels

I am completely unfamiliar with this genre of films as a whole really, I don't think I've even seen a complete Godzilla film!

Hm, another connection game... link The Cosmic Monster (also known as The Strange World of Planet X) to Tengai Makyou 2: Manjimaru

Wheels

This is going to require more research than I expected, so I'm going to save this one for next week.

Incidentally, Valkyrie Profile is a great game.  I'm not going to say any more than that - my review and support of Nyx on a recent Backtrack regarding the matter renders extra material redundant.  Go play it sometime, and see what tri-Ace can do on its best day.
Done... yep, I'm done.  For now.
JuMeSyn

Wheels

Well if Resonance of Fate is any indication of how good Valkyrie Profile is, then I have no doubt of its quality. It is a wonder that the same company can make such brilliant games, and then turn around and make some truly horrible games. I don't get it. I'm not going to complain though, I'll just enjoy the great games they do make, and I'll be sure to get to VP as soon as I can!

Until next time sir!

Tweeting About 3D

 @AskWheels ?: Do you think that the 3d will spur gameplay and design in any meaningful way or is it merely the gimmick it is in movies

@dimortuisunt



Wheels

This is a fine question. Sadly, I think only a few developers will do some neat things with the technology. The biggest issue here is that the systems which play host to 3D essentially require games to be able to run without the 3D on. I suppose some 3DS games may have features only available with the 3D on, but I can't see that being a regular occurrence. After all, why put a 3D slider on your system, if you're going to allow games that require it on? This isn't getting into the issues with 3D TVs still being quite expensive, or the issues some people have with the technology (not being able to see it, or causing headaches etc). Perhaps it's best left as a gimmick that people can use if they so choose. What are your thoughts on the matter?

IN CLOSING

That's it for this week! Keep the crazy sequel ideas for the contest coming in. Next week we've got some great sequel pitches, including a SaGa one!

See you all next week, and keep an eye out for my review of Avadon!

-Wheels


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